Snow good for running in

Luckily we travelled back from Winchester last Saturday night instead of the Sunday morning. I was due to run the Festive Five (a local 5 mile race put on by the local running club) and then we had booked breakfast at Bill’s after- Andy was going to walk into town and meet me. The forecast was to be bitterly cold with maybe a sprinkling of snow, so I was keeping an eye out in case it was cancelled due to ice. Imagine my surprise when I woke up to a text message saying it was cancelled due to snow- I then looked outside and saw why! Everywhere was completely covered and the snow was still coming down pretty fast- you couldn’t see the kerb because the snow was already deeper.

Crazily the big Hebe bush outside our front door (bottom right) had blown over and snapped due to the weight of the snow, and the aerial of my car was only just visible. I suppose I could have attempted a run, but it seemed silly as I wasn’t training for anything and the potential to slip over (or to just get so cold- my cough was still lingering). I tried to see if Bill’s would be open (I couldn’t find anything) so we decided to walk into town and see what was open. The walk took us much longer as the snow was quite deep, and we saw so many cars stuck, wheels spinning, skidding all over the place (and don’t get me started on the idiots that don’t properly clear the snow from their vehicles…)- had we not been able to walk in we would not have been attempting to go anywhere as it just seemed dangerous. As we got to town all the shops were open, and Bill’s was actually really busy.

After a lovely breakfast (pancakes of course) we walked home and then I just had to make a snowman in the garden.

In the end I attempted a snow-lar bear and also a Snowtoro (Toroto of snow)- this proved tricky as the willow leaves for his whiskers kept blowing off! While I was having fun in the cold, Andy was busy making a fire in the wood burner. I had a fair bit of work to get through so I got on with that in the warm.

After that I did a bit of baking- white chocolate and cranberry cookies, some maple spiced nuts and the favourite, Christmas pudding fudge. I also got a few jobs done like finally labelling the lemon and ginger marmalade that I;d made a few weeks ago.

School was shut on Monday which in a way I was relieved about (I didn’t fancy driving in it) but it’s my day out of class so I lost a lot of time. I worked at home for a bit (with some candles on the windows to make it feel cosy) but I hadn’t brought loads home as the snow wasn’t forecast, and then later the internet at home went down so I couldn’t do a lot of things anyway. Late morning (to warm up after sitting in my cold office doing as much work as I could) I walked to the post office – the pavements were pretty icy. Andy had done a great jobs of clearing our driveway and the pavement in front of our house, but not many people had done the same so mostly the paths were slippery and icy. I saw more trees that had split from the weight of the snow too. It was an OK walk but pretty slow- I knew a few people who had been out for runs but again I don’t think the risk of a fall and potentially a broken wrist or ankle was worth it.

As I couldn’t do any more work, I got on with a few projects in the afternoon, including making a more natural room diffuser. I love having these as they are quite subtle, but I’ve been reading a bit about the amount of chemicals in them- the last one I bought was a Beefayre one which is a bit more natural, but I had thought I could make my own. I found this how-to guide, and used the old jar and sticks.

In the set of oils that I bought (it was a sort of starter set) it had a list of different ways to mix them- Christmas eve was made using lemongrass, lavender and peppermint, so I gave that a try, along with almond oil to dilute it. I’m pretty pleased with how it has turned out.

Late afternoon we headed to the cinema to see The Disaster Artist (which was really funny- I’ve not seen The Room and had only heard of it when we went to see Skid Row as the Prince Charles theatre is the one that shows it at midnight each week)- the sunset was amazing and all the fields covered in snow were so beautiful.

The side roads on the way to work on Tuesday were not fun at all (compacted snow that had frozen into smooth ice overnight) but thankfully the main roads were fine and most cars were driving a little slower than usual to be a bit safer. The pavements were still awful and so our club run was called off (which I totally agree with).

Did you have much snow near you? This was the most we have had here in years. Can you work from home? Which films have you seen recently? I feel like I’ve seen loads of fab ones recently- Battle of the Sexes (which I didn’t know the outcome of before I went, but really enjoyed), Paddington, The Florida Project, Disaster Artist…

A catch up, Eastleigh parkrun and another Christmas market

Last weekend, after getting home on Saturday night after the Bath Christmas markets, I had a fairly busy Sunday as I was meeting some friends in London (Emma and Vicki). One of my friends (Emma) can’t have dairy at the moment (so our usual of afternoon tea was out) so she’d been looking for a nice veggie place for us to meet at- we settled on Mildred’s as one of them is close to where my other friend (Vicki) lives. I walked into town and got the train into Kings Cross, and as I was walking up the road I met them- sadly Mildred’s had a power cut (again!!!- not Mildred’s but the veggie place in Brighton….) so we wandered along to Upper Street and ended up in Ottelenghi’s.  I had some lovely salads (including an amazing roasted pumpkin one) and then an amazing piece of apple, vanilla and sultana cake with maple frosting- delicious. Emma (who also has an allergy to peppers) was perfectly accommodated- they even got some cake for her (pre frosting) so she was a very happy bunny. Vicki had recommended the brownie (and she is an amazing baker so I trust her opinion on anything like this), and ended up buying one for me (and one for her) to take away.

I shared it with Andy on Monday and it was amazing– the hazelnuts are caramelised so it was like a praline filled brownie, and properly squidgy too, none of this chocolate-cake-pretending-to-be-a-brownie that you get sometimes.

Last week I managed a couple of runs after work, enjoying stopping to take photos of the best (worst?) decorations out there- giant inflatable Santa anyone? Luckily I’d been out on Monday after work, as I had a particularly tiring day on Tuesday so didn’t know if I would fancy a run. In fact the traffic was so bad I didn’t get home until 7pm (the run starts at 6.30) so that made the decision for me!

Some of these can be seen from space…

Yoga was of course great- we have been told we will be practising a headstand each week- I’d had a bit of a sore back on Tuesday and so wasn’t sure how I would cope, but with Josie the teacher steadying my hips, I managed to get my legs all the way up briefly- it always feels like a great achievement and one day I’ll manage it on my own!

On Friday after dinner we drove down to Southampton- we stayed in the Eastleigh Premier Inn (perfectly located for parkrun tourism), and so on Saturday I didn’t even have to get up early as it was around half a mile to the start! No trains or parking or complications!

As I crossed the main road I looked at my phone (the map was upside-down) feeling a little confused as I looked at some large construction fencing. A guy in a vegan runner vest asked me if I was OK, so I asked if he was going to parkrun- hooray, he was, so he showed me the way (a little way past the fencing was the park entrance so I was close). We had a nice chat on the walk about different parkruns around there, and although I explained I don’t really run for a particular time (under 30 mins is a good estimate) once I’d told him my Winchester time he added a couple of minutes on for the hill (hills? It’s one hill you run 3 times). I’d worn my jacket and taken a bag with me so I could leave it at the start/finish, as even though it wasn’t far, it was so cold, and although my cold has pretty much gone, I’m still coughing a bit.

The parkrun was on an old golf course, so all on grass, which was looking beautiful covered in frost. I’d worn trail shoes as I had read it was all on grass, and this was a good decision for the frost too. The route is three laps that sort of wind their way up and around.

The person doing the new runner briefing even mentioned Strava, saying that the hill was a segment so you had three attempts (in my mind that means I get 1st, 2nd and 3rd best time for me!). I was aiming for under 30 mins and so I felt like I took it steadily- I managed to get back to the negative split again (last week I didn’t do that)- 9.50, 9.09, 9.00 and 8.40- I think I went faster as the feeling came back into my legs!

It was really enjoyable- the marshals were particularly cheery, I saw someone in very cool dinosaur leggings (and as I ran by her to tell her I liked them, she mentioned my Christmas leggings which I had forgotten I was wearing!).  As soon as I had finished I got my jacket back on before I started to cool too much- I saw the runner who showed me the way and he asked my time- I knew it was a little over 29 mins (it was 29.08- position 138/239) so he was pleased to have estimated it fairly accurately!

After taking a few more photos I quickly headed back to the hotel to warm up- Andy had been out and got us a big cup of tea to share which was really the best thing ever. We visited his Grandma and then drove up to to Winchester for the afternoon.

Image may contain: 4 people, sky, tree and outdoor

I’ve only been there once before and it’s a nice town to have a wander around. I had a few things to get (last minute secret Santa’s that have only just been organised) and I wanted to look for a few gift ideas too. We ended up having to queue to get into the actual market- it was all around the grounds of the cathedral, lit up beautifully, and although it was busy it didn’t feel too bad and I could always get to a stall if I wanted a closer look. There were a few food options but when we’d got into town we got lunch straight away (I had a really good hot wrap from Pret) because the first park and ride car park was full so going to the other one took time. I did see an amazing looking gourmet grilled cheese stand, and of course there were the usual things like crepes (again, very tempting but I was sadly too full from lunch). I did manage to get some of the secret Santa gifts so it was a successful shop, and at around 6ish we headed back to the car to drive home.

So, a successful Saturday with a new parkrun ticked off, new Christmas markets visited and things ticked off the gift list.

Are you enjoying seeing the decorations being up now? I love seeing them, although I am always glad when the super flashy ones are not opposite my house!

Chippenham parkrun, Christmas markets and lots of trains

This weekend was time for our annual trip to the Bath Christmas markets. On Friday we had dinner at home and then drove to Swindon, where we were staying for the night. Last year we stayed around the corner from Swindon parkrun, and then we drove to the park and ride. This year we were going to get the train in from Swindon, so we stayed around the corner from the station instead. I had driven, and our hotel meant the parking could be validated and so cheaper for 24 hours, so I didn’t want to get the car out of the  car park (and I didn’t fancy driving across Swindon)- Chippenham was one stop on the train and the parkrun was right by the station so it seemed an easier option.

The train was at 8.15 (there was a later one but I didn’t want to take chances) so I left the hotel fairly early to run there and to give me time to buy my ticket. Annoyingly when I got ready I realised I hadn’t packed a running jacket/ jumper, and I knew I needed to take something with me as I’d be cold after finishing, so I had to wear my big Totoro hoodie which I’d been wearing the night before- not the easiest to run in. When I got to the station there were big queues by rail replacement buses and then I could not find the train I needed on the screens, but luckily there was a member of staff who I could ask, so I got my ticket and waited (if it was a bus I wasn’t going to go, as it would take a lot longer to get there and back). The train was 15 minutes and the walk from the station (following the most excellent instructions on their website) took barely two minutes, so I stood about taking a few photos. I ended up chatting to someone who was coming to a parkrun for the first time. There was a big map of the route on the fence so we looked at that and one of the marshals came over and explained it, and then later the RD did the new runners briefing.

The course was two laps of a field (with an uphill and downhill bit), then out along the river, and then two laps of some meadows (“muddy meadows” they told us) before returning along the river to the start/finish area.

I’d not run since Tuesday and had not been 100%, having lost my voice and developed a cough (and my cold has still not gone), so I was sensible and took the pace comfortably.

The first loop (repeated twice) was fine- they warned us that the hill didn’t look like much but would be tough as you ran up it, but it wasn’t too long and as I was aiming for around 10 min miles it was fine.  After running along the brow of the hill the course then went down to the start/finish area, so at the top you had a lovely view of all the runners snaking ahead, and when you ran past all the time keepers and scanners you had lovely encouragement. After running that lap twice there was a short run alongside the river before coming into some meadows (bottom right)- here the mud was very sticky and I wished I had my trail shoes on. I tried to look around and enjoy the views- as the meadow was filled with grass you could see other runners further around the loop- but I slipped so decided to focus on my footing. They had asked in the briefing to keep left if possible as you could get lapped in both sections (I did) so I tried to keep over but sometimes there wasn’t much path to run on!

After running the meadow twice I pushed the pace for a fast finish spurt along the riverside path, as that turned to tarmac near the finish. I got token 111 (I do like numbers like that) (31.19 so pretty much bang on for 10 min miles), and as I didn’t have too long before the next train I got my chip scanned and headed back to the station (and no chance of me getting lost as it was literally opposite the park). The train was a little delayed so I did get a bit cold stood on the platform, but thankfully it wasn’t as delayed as the sign originally said.

Once back at the hotel it was time for a shower and breakfast before going back to the train station to go to Bath (we did look at Andy meeting me in Chippenham but as we have a rail card it would have worked out a lot more expensive as I would have had to get singles for all 3 journeys). This was so much easier than getting the park and ride- particularly last year where we went to a different one and had trouble finding a space and then had to queue for ages. The train took 30 mins and it was lovely to just look out of the window and relax.

After a quick wander of the markets, we headed to the spa. There was a big queue, so I think we waited about 45 mins, but there was a guy playing guitar and singing, and lots to look at.

Some of the spa had been re-done since our last visit- the bottom floor is a big pool (the same) with a sort of jacuzzi part to it and some sort of current, but the middle floor, which used to contain 3 (or 4?) steam rooms with different scented oils had been upgraded. It had a couple of big steam rooms, an electric sauna (lower temp than normal- I could actually stand to be in there for more than a couple of mins!), an ice room (I didn’t fancy that!) and this very cool space themed relaxation room with stars on the ceiling, loungers to lie on and relaxing music. I really liked that! We did’t brave the rooftop pool though- too cold. After a couple of hours it was time to shower and get changed. We had somehow not thought the times through- by the time we left it was nearly 4.30 and we were both so hungry as we’d been in the spa at lunch time.

We had a table at Bill’s for a little later, so we went to get a hot drink and have a cereal bar, and wandered around the shops and markets for a bit.

Then after dinner we had a longer wander- I didn’t buy any presents this year but saw a few nice ideas. We got the train back to Swindon at 7.45 (there was one at 8.15, and then every hour but we didn’t want to be driving back too late) so we got home at around 10.15 which was much quicker than driving all the way back from the park and ride. Next weekend we are going to Winchester for their markets (and hopefully I’m going to Eastleigh parkrun first) so I’ll see what they have too.

Do you like going to Christmas markets? Have you been to the Bath spa?

A solution for an icy car, too many Christmas trees and not a Christmas jumper!

I used to park my car in our garage, but since we moved we don’t have a garage. It’s obviously much quicker to leave in the mornings (no more opening the door, reversing out, getting out to shut the door) but when it’s frosty it means scraping the car. I have covered the car in an old sheet before, but then it gets all soggy and it’s hard to find somewhere to leave it for it to dry out. Anyway, I was looking on Amazon and came across a car cover- it has little hooks to grip onto the wheels, and even little pockets for the  wing mirrors! It is some sort of woven fabric, but you can just shake it and most of the frost comes off, and then it folds up into a little bag that stays in the boot. I’ve only used it a couple of times but it is saving me time in the morning which is fab. It even has little reflective bits on the cover, in case you park it in the road I suppose.

I wore this jumper a few times last week and ended up having to explain to many people that it isn’t a Christmas jumper- it has penguins on it (what are they to do with Christmas??)- in fact penguins live in the South Pole, pretty much as far from Father Christmas as is possible…

Talking of Christmas, I have seen so many decorations up in the past few weeks (some around Halloween)- people have their trees up and flashing lights going. I feel like they are peaking too early. I feel like perhaps I am getting old, but honestly our tree didn’t go up until the school holidays, and sometimes not even until Christmas Eve (but if you got a real one too soon the needles would drop off anyway- although even when we got a fake one it was still late to go up as my parents aren’t big on Christmas and often don’t even have one any more). Down our road there are flashing lights and santa’s on the roof and all sorts.

Last week the big tree in town was turned on (I didn’t go) so on a run this week I ran past it, and I do like how it looks- all white lights and  there are fairy lights in the normal trees too.

Earlier in the week I had to go to a meeting and as the traffic was good I had a few minutes, so I stopped off to get a warm drink as it’s been so cold. The last hot chocolate I had from Costa tasted like coffee, so I was pleased when it was actually chocolate  flavoured.

During these cold days we have been loving the fire- it’s so toasty, although it does seem to dry out the air so I’ve been putting a little bowl of water next to it, with some essential oils in there to help with the humidity.

Not very wintery, but I was sent some Savse smoothies a while back. I really like these as they are made with veggies as well as fruits, so don’t seem as sugary as a normal smoothie.

They are all really good- the orange one contains mango, celery, apple, lemon, orange, passion fruit and carrot, and although I could taste the celery a little, it didn’t overpower. Even though I don’t like the idea of drinking beetroot (no idea why, because I love eating it), the purple one has been my favourite so far (with beetroot, apple, lemon, lime, mango, avocado and coconut). They are cold pressed and have a really good shelf life, so I’ve still got a couple in the fridge. I find them really good after a long run, or just when I fancy a bit of extra fruit. I think because of the veggies they are lower in calories than other 100% fruit smoothies too, with just over 100 cals per bottle, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

If I was out and about and fancied something like this I’d keep an eye out for them too.

When do you put your Christmas tree up? Have you noticed more being up earlier recently or is it just me? Do you have any Christmas or winter jumpers/ clothes? I’ll be cracking out my Christmas leggings once December is here!

*I was sent the smoothies in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.