Kew Gardens and Manic Street Preachers

As I mentioned in the last post, we were off to London on Saturday afternoon. For my birthday Andy had got us tickets to see the Manic Street Preachers, and we decided to head to Kew Gardens for the afternoon, as we would be in West London. We parked in the Westfield shopping centre, picked up a few bits for a lunch and then got the train out to Kew.

After a lovely long walk around we shared some lemon cake in the tea room (which was ridiculously expensive at £4 for a little loaf cake..).

Look at the size of those hibiscus flowers! It’s like being in Hawaii!

It was a bit different seeing it in the light of day- we went at Christmas for the lights, and we have been but years ago, and I think in the autumn, so it was good to see the gardens so alive.

We went up to the tree canopy walk (not so keen on that as it was a bit wobbly, but it did have some interesting facts carved into it) and in lots of the greenhouses.

There was a sculpture exhibition on (called something like Reflections of Nature, which just reminded me of the Epcot Illuminations, Reflections of Earth, they shall be sadly missed)- some amazing glass structures around the park.

After a good few hours of walking we got the train back, had a quick dinner in Leon and then headed to the concert. We’ve been to see them for the last few years, as they have been touring playing complete albums (I think 20 years after they were first released or something like that- making me feel old!). This was the This is my Truth Tell me Yours tour, although they did change the order of the songs a little. It was great hearing them play live, but the actual venue was really crowded. Somehow I always managed to have the tallest men stood in front of me, and this time we had a group of men behind us, one of whom kept jumping around and bashing his beer belly into my back. During one of the songs he managed to pour loads of his (2 pints- they were doing beer in 2 pint glasses) all over me. Urgh. I tried inching forwards whenever anyone else moved around, but it was a real squash and not easy. Thankfully he moved away at one point and didn’t come back and we could enjoy the excellent live music. It was great, but we both said after how crowded it felt compared to other gigs we’ve been to.

We got back pretty late so I didn’t set an alarm the next morning, and as I got up fairly late I did a shorter 7 miles faster than my usual long run pace.

My post-run red face made a return! I ran past these roses which smell amazing- they are next to a roundabout on council ground (not in front gardens) and they have such a summery perfume to them.

Then we did a lot more gardening- my parents bought me a lovely silver birch tree for my birthday (although the bark isn’t silver yet) so we planted that, and I did a ton of weeding.

Not quite Kew Gardens, but relaxing just the same. (The new tree is in front of the brown shed- but that shed is going once our bike shed turns up so there will be more space for the tree).

We were going to see Andy’s parents later in the day, so I made some cookie bars, basically this recipe but with chocolate chips and coconut in place of the mini eggs. They were very well received!

Our treat in the evening was a delicious marzipan truffle bar thing- we had these when we went to Copenhagen last summer, so when I saw that there was a Danish bakery in Westfield and they did the marzipan truffles of course I could not resist getting a takeaway for later!

Have you been to Kew Gardens?  Do you need a lot of personal space?  Do you like seeing bands play live? I love watching people play instruments- it’s such an amazing skill, so anything like orchestras or bands I find so fascinating and impressive. I could see the band at times if I stood on tip toes and if the people in front moved a little, so I would have liked a big screen to be able to see it all of the time.

Running and tea drinking- standard fare

The Sunday after my Ellenbrook parkrun pb, I was off on a long run. At that point I had no other races booked, but since then I have booked the Ware 10 (mile this time, not k) and I quite like to keep my Sunday long run at around 10 miles so that when I start half marathon training it isn’t such a big jump.

I had heard there was a different way to run to Panshanger park, so I did a bit of exploring, running to a new-to-me park, around the boundary trying to find the cycle path, before carrying on with my normal long run route. This meant I did 11 miles in the end- I was happy with that. I wore my Bristol 10k top as the colour was nice and summery, and I thought as it was loose it might be good for summer, but the fabric really rubbed under my arms- I’ve never had chafing there before so it’s now going to be consigned to the gardening and decorating clothing section!

I’d not made French toast for ages, but found some pieces of brioche in the freezer so I had a lovely relaxed brunch after a shower.

I was very excited that the Bird&Blend tea election votes were in and Peach Cobbler (one of my favourite teas) won a permanent place on their tea wall (they have lots of seasonal blends)- along with Eton Mess which is a lovely fruity tea and perfect for iced tea. Coincidentally before the results were out, I had cold brewed some Peach Cobbler in almond milk to have after my run, and also brewed up a batch of Eton Mess to be cooled and had as iced tea later.

I got on with a fair amount of weeding, and then opened my Easter Egg to have some with some tea in the afternoon.

Monday was a rest day, with the excitement of my May tea club arriving- all the teas are perfect blends for being iced so perfect timing with the weather.

Strawberry & Pomegranate, Lemon & Raspberry, Peach & Orange

On Tuesday I had a 4 and a bit mile run and got very very warm- the weather seemed to be really hotting up. I wandered around the garden when I got home to cool down a bit and stretch.

Yoga on Wednesday had a focus on twists which really felt good, although it was warm and felt quite hard at times too. On Thursday I did another 4 and a bit miles after work. On Friday I was meant to be meeting a friend at The Waffle House but we had to postpone, so it was an evening at home with some TV.

My new With Me Now (my favourite parkrun podcast- all about parkrun and tourism with interviews from ED’s etc) hoodie arrived, and as we were heading into London on Saturday I popped to Panshanger to test it out at parkrun. It was overcast and cool, but once I finished my warm up I was boiling!

At about 1.5k I heard a “hi Maria”, and turned to see Milena, a friend from my running club, running alongside me. I hadn’t seen her in ages as she had moved house, so we ran together, catching up about things. (She was the one who persuaded me to do the Ware 10 miles as she’s only done the 10k before but was tempted by the 10 miles). We were just chatting about how parkrun could be so many things to so many people- a fast pb attempt, a chance to visit other places, bumping into people- when a runner from Sweatshop (Tom) ran past and said hi, perfectly illustrating our point!

Do you like iced tea? Have you tried cold brew tea? (This is even easier than iced tea because you just leave the tea leaves in for 8-12 hours so the flavour slowly develops and it’s already cold).

A gong bath and a new parkrun pb!

I really thought I was doing so well with my blog posts but actually the Bristol 10k was on the first May bank holiday weekend, so it was a while ago now!

Anyway, my yoga teacher had arranged a gong bath on the Tuesday night, held at the same place where we go for yoga, and I’d heard good things about the last one, so I decided to sign up.

We’d been told to wear warm and comfortable clothes, and bring a pillow and blanket, and I had also had advice from the lovely Tess to get an eye pillow- Josie (the yoga teacher) had a bag of them so I got one of them for the class.

Eye pillow, blanket and then some of the gongs

When I arrived the guy was setting up- this took him a while as there were loads of gongs! Huge ones, ones on their own frame things, plus a whole row of other instruments and beaters. He put on some candles and had a little talk to everyone about what to expect. He explained that people new to gong baths might prefer to lay with their feet closest to the gongs as otherwise it can be overwhelming, but we should be perpendicular to the gongs (e.g. feet or head closest, not side on).

I really love the final relaxation part of our yoga classes, and this was similar to that, but a little deeper. We lay down and then he played the gongs, sometimes loud, sometimes softly, as well as other instruments. I found that I went to that place where you are not quite asleep, but your head feels a long way from your body if that makes sense. My mind wandered a little at times (to work issues) but the sound of the gong meant I could re-focus, and I had some sort of dream images about being in woods. Towards the end my back got sore (the floor is hard and we were just on thin mats) and I wanted to bend my knees to put my legs up, but as he had talked at the start about the sort of waves of the gong, I didn’t want to disrupt that or disturb other people, but of course when we finished and I looked, the person next to me had their knees up so I am sure it would have been fine. I felt a bit floaty afterwards, but then I found that I didn’t sleep as well as I do after a normal yoga session. In speaking to someone else later, we hypothesised that perhaps as I had spent a good 90 mins in a very relaxed state, maybe I didn’t need as much deep sleep as usual. Anyway, I’d go again when they organise the next one.

On the Wednesday I had a run after work (instead of my usual yoga) and it was rather rainy- thankfully I didn’t get caught in a super heavy shower as it really bucketed it down once I was home.

I was planning a run on the Thursday but when I got home Andy had made me a cup of tea, and I can’t run after drinking tea, so I had it and then we went on a long walk instead.

Also lunch out with colleagues- we sat outside as the weather was gorgeous.

Then on Friday I had booked a massage after work, so I headed into town for that. It’s always so relaxing and I was complimented on how I only had one really bad knot!  I think the gong bath had relaxed me for the whole week!

I could not resist a visit to The Pudding Stop either- we shared a pb and salted caramel brownie one day, and I got us a cornflake tart for another day (as it was one of their specials).

I’ve been loving my cute rabbit mug- it’s so cute and nothing cheers me up more than a cup of tea in a cute mug.

On the Saturday I headed to Ellenbrook and said I’d meet Dad there. I was there a little early so had a short warm up. I wasn’t planning on running fast, and I was running with Dad and we were chatting away. By half way I was less chatty and Dad was doing more of the conversation, but it still felt OK (I don’t look at my watch when I run usually). Dad has had a bit of a calf strain but he felt it was all behind him, so as we got to the runway (1km to go) I told him to head off and said I’d try to keep him in sight. He sped off and I tried to keep going- it’s hard as you can see the finish from a long way out but you don’t want to sprint too soon. As I crossed the line I saw 26 something, so knew it was fast, and then stopped my watch as I got my token. It was stopped on 26:20  and my first thought was “argh, I needed a 17 to complete stopwatch bingo, why didn’t I start my sprint sooner?”! My watch told me it was my fastest mile, and on Strava I’ve got one “PR” segment and several 2nd places, but when the text came through my official time was 26:16 and a parkrun pb! (and annoyingly still not 17!).  Good splits of 8.41, 8.35 and 8.26! Woo! It must be to do with where I press stop and go, as Strava only thinks it’s my second fastest time, but this is again an all-time pb and not just course pb. I’ll take that!

Of course it was then back to my parents for pancakes. Luckily we didn’t need to go out for cake to celebrate the pb as I had bought some from The Pudding Stop the night before!

Would you be tempted by a gong bath? Do you warm up before a run or race? I usually have the thought that my first mile will be my warm up, but when will I learn that if I do an actual warm up I will feel better during the actual run?

Bristol weekend part 2- Bristol 10K


I got my number ready the night before, but totally forgot until the morning that I usually paint my nails- I had packed the nail varnish and everything- so I decided that if I got ready super quickly I could paint my nails before we left for the bus. We had to get the bus at just after 8am, as they were only every 40 mins on a Sunday, and the next busy wouldn’t get me to the centre in time. By the end the bus driver wasn’t letting people on as it was so full, so I think we were lucky that our stop was a long way out.

We had a wander around the race village and then I made my way to the start pen. I had a very precise start time (9:41 I think) and I had to be in the pen by 9.30. It was chilly so I left my top with Andy at the last possible moment, but then I couldn’t get into the pen because all of the entry points seemed to be closed. There was no way I could jump over a fence like some people were doing, but thankfully someone had opened one of the fences so I could get in. I was a bit confused as the warm up was at the opposite end to the start, so half the people were facing a different way. Jo Pavey was on the stage starting the race, which was exciting!

The race started like clockwork- I was very impressed as often the big events get delayed for one reason or another.

I really enjoyed this race- a lot more than I expected to. I am not always a big fan of the big races- I find the crowds stressful and I would rather have nice scenery than run through a load of streets. The route took us quickly through the city and along a gorge next to a river, with beautiful views. There were loads of bands en route, and I just felt immensely happy as I was running- some cheesy thoughts running through my head but happy that I am healthy enough to run, happy that even though Andy didn’t want to run it with me, he knew I’d enjoy it and suggested it for my birthday weekend, happy that so many people were out enjoying the run and enjoying spectating.

The route doubled back along the gorge at about 2.5 miles, and then at around 4 miles we were back in the city again.  We passed a water station in the out and back bit, but I didn’t need to stop. Side point- they were using plastic bottles and the number of runners that just took one sip and then flung the bottle to the side was ridiculous- it’s not only a waste of water and plastic, but think of all the fuel used to transport this heavy water around- it’s so bad for the environment on so many levels. I just don’t understand why races don’t use cups as not many people will be drinking 500ml water while running a 10k. Rant over.

I wasn’t aiming for a time and I had no idea it was actually flat, and I was feeling good with a couple of miles to go so decided to increase my pace a little. I didn’t quite manage the royal flush negative split- my mile splits were 9.33, 9.11, 9.03, 9.06, 8.55 and 8.46, with the final bit at 7.52. Not too shabby!

I was waiting for a text to come through, but in the end I had to look up my time on the internet- 56:40. This is a little bit of a shame as it must be so easy to do- so many times now you get a text almost as you cross the line, and this race wasn’t cheap. They did have a fantastic way to get pedestrians to cross the race route- the run route was split in half with fencing, and marshals would hold up tape and direct runners to one side only, and then the pedestrians would cross to half way, and then they would move the tape to the other side, directing runners to the other side of the track- very clever.

The finish area was packed- I picked up my finisher pack and enjoyed some water, before picking up my t-shirt. Mini rant alert- the smallest size available was a unisex small- it’s massive and there are plenty of runners slimmer than me. It’s such a nice colour but it feels so lazy to just have unisex sizing. Plus if I wore it on a run it’s a free advert for the race- I am not likely to wear it much when it’s so big.

I met Andy at Bill’s where we had breakfast, and then popped to Bird&Blend for an Earl Grey latte.

The t-shirt that is way too flappy to run in- not so good for the expensive entry fee

We then got the bus back to the hotel, had a shower and headed over to Bath for the afternoon- another one of my favourite places to visit.

Of course we stopped for tea and cake after a bit of a wander (we shared some delicious carrot cake) and then in the evening headed to the cinema to see Long Shot. I’d not been to the cinema for ages- we only get free tickets every two weeks now, as Vitality have changed the rules, and Andy has been using them for all the comic/ Marvel films recently, but they don’t interest me so I’ve not been. I took some sweets as a snack (the peach fizz Candy Kittens which are gelatin-free are so tasty), and really enjoyed the film. I’m not a huge rom-com fan, but it was funny enough without being all soppy.

On Monday we made our way back home via a couple of National Trust places. I tried my medal out on a wooden squirrel, and of course we visited a tearoom. All in all a lovely weekend.

Do you prefer big city races or smaller events? Did you enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend?

A weekend in Bristol- round 1, Eastville parkrun

We were staying in a Village hotel (which turned out to be a carbon copy of the Portsmouth one, complete with transparent bathroom doors- I don’t get it!) and I’d looked up the nearest parkrun, obviously (Eastville- we were actually very close to where Little Stoke used to be). Anyway, I am not sure if I used the postcode for the car park, or something else, but when I looked it up it was 3 miles away, which didn’t seem too bad for walking there, running the parkrun and running back. Thankfully I left a load of time, as when I left the hotel it told me it was 5 miles, but then it wanted me to go up the road and double back on myself (I am not sure if the maps knew  where the pavements were) so it would have been shorter, although me being confused looking at my phone meant that I did a complete circuit of the roads around the hotel (adding on nearly half a mile) before getting to the road and getting on my way.

And even though the route was basically go straight for a couple of miles, turn left and then run until you see the Shell garage, I’d not taken elevation into consideration and it turns out Bristol is quite hilly!

The way back would have been worse but I had decided at that point that I’d be getting an uber back to the hotel! I only just got to the parkrun in time- at about 8.52- I asked a marshal where the start was as some people were going clockwise and some anticlockwise from the park entrance, and he helpfully pointed out the start where I could see the new runner briefing just ending- gah! No matter, I know I can follow the person in front, and I had read the course description so I knew it was one small lap, one big lap and one small lap.

It was May the 4th, so a few people were dressed up as Star Wars characters. I could not hear the main briefing though because people near me kept talking. This drives me mad- it is so rude to all the volunteers, inconsiderate to those around you who want to hear, and also dangerous because even if this is your regular parkrun, there can be important safety announcements about course changes and so on. Grrr.

Anyway, we were soon off and around the park- the small lap meant running down, along the bottom, up a hill and then back past the start/finish area. There were handily placed signs with arrows for first, second and third laps, so no chance of going wrong. The second lap was lovely as it went around a lake- I did wonder why it wasn’t just two laps of that, but I suppose with narrow paths it isn’t easy with the big number of runners (477 on the day I ran it). There was a short steep section to get away from the lake and then you were back on the uphill again, and then the third lap went around the top section of the park (to avoid the start/finish area I imagine) before going down and up that hill for a third time. I didn’t feel the hill was too bad, but if it was my local perhaps I’d feel differently! I was running slowly too, conscious of my race the next day as well as the fact I’d just run 5 miles already. I finished in 31:20 and then wandered about trying to find a car park or somewhere that an uber could pick me up from- in the end I went to the petrol station opposite.

Once back at the hotel I was very happy to see that Andy had made me a cup of tea and popped to the Starbucks in the hotel lobby and got us cinnamon rolls for breakfast- I was feeling fairly hungry by that time.

Then it was time to head into Bristol. We had got a travel app which meant we could get an all day bus pass for £4, as the bus stop was right by our hotel, and the park and ride car parks were all on the other side of the city.

We had a lovely day wandering around the shops (stopping for lunch in Pret), walking out to the docks and then up to a park. I was very excited to visit my fave tea shop, Bird and Blend- for a chai latte.

Later in the afternoon we left in need of a cake break, and came across Pinkmans Bakery which promised a whole host of goodies including sourdough doughnuts. Neither of us are huge doughnut fans, but it seemed rude to not try their speciality, so we shared a honeycomb doughnut (filled with some sort of custard thing) along with some much-needed tea. It was pretty tasty.

For dinner we went out for a pizza (no idea which restaurant but it was a traditional Italian place with a wood-fired oven)- I had a vegan one in the end as I wan’t sure if their cheese was suitable for veggies and it was really delicious.

After an “interesting” bus journey back (first up was a lovely drunk lady shouting at everyone, but we would have had her back in exchange for the 3 guys who sat in front of us eating kebabs and sharing their drugs amongst themselves- especially as one kept turning around and staring at me but he clearly couldn’t even focus his eyes properly) we decided we were in need of some light relief and attempted to watch the Baywatch film. Not even the charisma of The Rock could save this film and I think we didn’t even last an hour. Dire.


Then it was time to get my number ready on my vest and set the alarm for the morning.

Have you been to Bristol? When is the latest that you have arrived for a parkrun? Are you a doughnut fan?