My favourite new lunch, slopestyle and half pipe

Half term has been lovely and chilled out so far.  On Monday I walked into town to meet Andy at lunch, where we got our free Starbucks and walked home. My sister and her baby came over in the afternoon, and of course in the evening I’ve been watching snowboarding!

I’ve also spent time just watching the garden- my parents have lent me a pair of binoculars which means I can properly identify more birds (with the help of the guide on the RSPB website)- I have regular visitors of robins, blackbirds, blue tits and great tits, but I have also seen some redwing (redwings?), a wren, and the jay came back. It’s so relaxing to sit and watch them flit about and makes me feel like spring is on the way.

On Tuesday I managed a quick run first thing (before it started raining) and then a friend came over and visited- I’d not seen her for a while so it was lovely to catch up (and meet her newest baby).

I have been loving having lunch at home- my favourite thing this week has been a quesadilla. I have filled mine with caramelised onion chutney, cheddar and sliced apple- it is so easy (just put inside the wrap and heat in a dry frying pan) and so tasty.

In the afternoon I walked the long way into town for some more fresh air- I love having the time to just have a walk when I fancy it. (I did also meet Andy as we had a voucher for free tea and cake in John Lewis so of course we had to use it up).

On Wednesday I had a slightly longer mid-week run- it ended up being 7.5 miles. It was lovely and sunny, although cold, and I decided to have pancakes for breakfast when I got home (made with buckwheat flour so they went a bit dark brown- they are not burnt I promise!)- I was pretty hungry as we had watched a bit more snowboarding before I headed off so I’d been awake for ages before even going out.

With the men’s snowboard slopestyle they had this racer called Red (Redmond) Gerrard, and all I could think of was the bit in Peep Show when they got the football cake for the funeral (“Gerrard loved the reds…”).

Of course the rain came later- I was going to see my mum, and stopped off at Dunelm on the way as I have wanted new cushions since we have moved (nearly 2 years now!)- I did look at some in John Lewis as I have a voucher, but I could get 4 from Dunelm for less than one in JL so I am going to save the voucher for another time. I was pretty pleased with the colour matching as we have curtain and a rug that need to be a similar shade (it’s called duck egg but it is more seagrass or pale teal or something).

The rain was bucketing down, so having a cup of tea with Mum (and my brother who got home early from work) was the best way to spend the rainy afternoon.

On Thursday morning I attempted to watch the snowboard cross. Now, if you are not that interested in the Olympics, I would still recommend this sport as it’s so exciting to watch. Basically a load of snowboarders race down a bumpy course at the same time. I love watching the slopestyle and half pipe for the cool tricks and flips, but with a proper race you can see who is winning at all times. Although the BBC are driving me mad- as it’s over night I’ve been watching most of it on i-player, and you would think they would just organise them by sports- (if anyone wants to watch curling, select this show, for ice dancing click here and so on) but no, they just have these 4 hour long shows that you have to fast forward through. I think I fast forwarded for 2 hours, saw the seeding bit of the snowboard cross (where they go one at a time- like heats- to sort out who they race against) and then it changed to ice dancing! Argh!

Anyway, after that I was off for a massage. I parked about a mile and a half from the town centre (St Albans) and walked in, listening to some podcasts.

After a very much needed back, neck and shoulder massage I wandered around town and through the park. It was such a gorgeous sunny day, although with a very cold wind. I saw loads of snowdrops everywhere- come on spring!

I treated myself to a scone from Gail’s (a chocolate and cherry one) to enjoy after lunch- this ended up keeping me going as we went to see The Shape of Water and we didn’t get home until around 8.30 (it started at 5.30).

The film- I’m not sure how to sum it up or describe it. It wasn’t my kind of thing entirely, but there were tense parts and funny parts, however one of the main characters kept eating boiled sweets so noisily, and I really really hate hearing people eat, so this irritated me so much it may have clouded my thoughts.

Now I am off to Brighton for some sunshine and walks by the sea- have a lovely weekend everyone!

Is spring peeping out where you are?  Do you have any irrational hates/annoyances? 

Happy cake, the winter olympics and a little cake disaster

Happy half term to all the teachers out there! I met up with a friend at The Waffle House after work on Friday as an end of half term treat- I was very pleased to see their mulled apple juice on the menu, as last time I had already ordered my standard Earl Grey (you get a pot and some extra hot water so tea is always a good choice) when I spotted it on the menu. Once home I watched a bit of the opening ceremony- those drones were impressive. I have started a count of how many times Gangnam Style is played on the TV- I think I’m up to 5 and I haven’t seen that much of it!

On Saturday both Dad and I had suggested we visit Panshanger parkrun- Dad could not even remember the last time he had run there (it was part of the NYD double for me) and I absolutely love it there so needed no persuading. We usually meet at Ellenbrook as it’s half way between where we live, and they can cycle, but Dad isn’t cycling there and back yet so would be driving anyway.

We ran the run together, enjoying catching up on news and also loving the scenery there. I know that all parkruns are great, but Panshanger has such variety of scenery with woods, fields, lakes, streams, and although it feels touch at times (as you start and end uphill) it’s fairly fast. As the finish line came into sight (at the bottom of the hill) I had said to Dad that if he felt like sprinting ahead, he should, and a split second after telling me it was a good pace, he started to overtake more people and sped up the hill. In fact (according to strava) it was my fastest Panshanger with the alternative ending, and 28.14 was quicker than the flat (but muddy) Ellenbrook from the week before.

There was a cake sale for a local charity, so I bought a piece of banana bread for me, and some ginger cake for Dad.

My cake (which I enjoyed after lunch) had a smiley face in it!

Once home and showered it was time for some breakfast and winter Olympics- I am really excited about this. I can leave a lot of the sports (curling, hockey…) but things like the slopestyle with snowboards and skis with all the flips and jumps, and the snowboard cross where they race are just so exciting to watch.

Hot cross bun + tea + winter Olympics = happy Saturday morning

I have to say I am getting an expert at the commentary too- all you do is choose a word and add a number to it (e.g. “That’s a great frontside 180 there”/ “wow, look at that roast beef 360″/ “that backside 100 is the best I’ve seen today” and so on).

We walked into town before lunch (to avoid the heavy rain mainly) and then I spent the afternoon pottering around, making a cake and watching a bit more TV. All very relaxing. Although the cake didn’t turn out so well. I had seen a recipe for a ginger cake with lingonberries, and although the cake turned out well, the icing was super runny and also there was way too much. The icing was a cream cheese one, and even as I was weighing it out I thought there was too much sugar (this makes it thinner) but I just carried on regardless. Even after leaving it in the fridge it was still runny. I used raspberries instead of lingonberries, but as I had some lingonberry jam (good old Ikea) I spread a little in the middle to give it that tart flavour.

What I should have done is just leave the jam in the middle and then add the icing to the top, but because the instructions said to put icing in the middle too, that’s what I did. I must still be tired from the last week at work! Of course all the icing slid out, and then the top layer of cake started to make a bid for freedom too. We did have a slice on Sunday evening (and it was tasty) but it doesn’t look good enough for guests (and I had loads of icing left) so I ended up making little cupcakes on Monday to use up the icing and to have for guests instead.

On Sunday morning (after not sleeping well- I think maybe I was worried about the impending long run) I wrapped up warm (after seeing that it was 2C but felt like -3 due to windchill) and headed out for 13 miles. This is my favourite street- at the end there are three houses and their cars colour-coordinate with their garage and front doors (left to right it goes grey car and doors,, white car and doors, blue car and doors)- I always spend a while wondering if it was on purpose and perhaps do more people colour code their cars? Or do they just like that colour?

It could indeed be “a thing”, as it was only by chance that I found out that wedding invites hint at the colour scheme (when I wore the same colour to a wedding and although the bride didn’t mind at all, other people wondered why I had not avoided it seeing as it was on the invite- I had no idea…). I also got to see the factory (this time with blue sky) although now it’s just the rubble piles that are getting smaller it’s less dramatic.

I also got to know what it was like to win a race. There was a local race (Love Welwyn 10K) happening- I sort of knew this but had forgotten, as really what I could have done it sign up, run to the race, run it, and then run home to make up the miles, as I’ve not done it before as often we go away for this weekend of half term. Anyway, I didn’t exactly know where the route went, and at one point I was running down a road and I saw the 7km sign and a “water station ahead” sign. There were no runners about (It can’t have long started) but the marshals at the station kindly offered me a drink. I ran along the road and saw the 8km mark, and then the road turns a corner and you run downhill to the end- at the bottom of the hill were loads of people in high-viz who started to nudge each other and look at me. Someone official-looking started taking photos of me with a huge camera- uh oh- they think I’m doing the race. I mean, no men had gone past and I am clearly not a fast runner when you see me (standing still or running)- especially at this point of my long run where it’s more of a 11min/mile shuffle than any sort of fast 10 speed. There was no way of avoiding the crowd so I tried to make it obvious (yes, I could have just said “I’m not in the race” but then what if they actually didn’t think that and it got all awkward..)- one lady even stepped out onto the pavement and made a show of looking for my non-existent number. Thankfully as I got to them my route peeled away from the race route and no-one chased me. I then bumped into a few of the runners from my club who were coming along to cheer on the runners- they told me I should have tried to win it for the club and at least get a medal (of course they were joking). It turned out that our club actually won the trophy for first ladies (Go OH Ladies Whoop Whoop)- so if I had actually entered I would have sort of won. One year!

When I got home I was feeling pretty tired- I had meant to take a nakd bar with me but forgot it, and I think for the final mile I could have done with some sort of energy. On the actual race I’ll have breakfast so that should be fine. I made sure I did some stretches as soon as I got in, and then had a smoothie before I went for a shower. This does seem to help and means I get a bit of energy in when I don’t feel like eating. We went on a little walk (2 miles) as I didn’t want to stiffen up too much, and then went for a cup of tea at Andy’s parents. The walk was perfect timing as the clouds were getting darker, and when we came out of the shop (we went into Morrison’s to get three things so it wasn’t long) the ground was all wet and there were hail stones all over the verges, but it didn’t snow or hail again until we were round at their house.  I was glad of a day off today to recover from the long run- I was fairly stiff when I woke up but I walked the long way into town in the morning and have done a lot of pottering about at home so I’ve not been too bad so far.

Do you like doing races as part of longer runs? Have you been enjoying the winter Olympics? 

The long runs are getting longer

Last week was a fairly normal week although I missed the club run on Tuesday as I got home too late.  We did go to the cinema on Monday to see Early Man (which, despite seeing adverts for, the football theme had totally passed me by- anyway it was enjoyable and lots of chuckles). It was the super blue moon on Wednesday and things had been feeling frantic. At yoga we were told that energy builds up as the moon waxes (I am not really sure about this, although often the kids go a bit crazy around a full moon so who knows!), and so it was a more calming session which was what was needed.

On Thursday I got home pretty late, and decided to have a long walk (well, a couple of miles) instead of a run.  I did have time for a run, but it would have felt like a rush to get changed, and probably would have just ended up being a short plod (more like junk miles I suppose)- a cup of tea, dinner, and then a walk felt like the right thing at the time.

We opted for Ellenbrook Fields on Saturday- I was there early again so had a little run first- I kept my coat on because it was so cold!

It was also fairly muddy- one guy fell over right into a massive puddle on the first loop (I think pretty much every runner around him checked he was OK) so we didn’t go too quickly. When we got to the runway (still with a km to go) we were steadily increasing the pace, and Dad had a burst of energy so closer to the end he sprinted off. It’s funny, it looked to me like he was so far ahead by the time I finished, but he was only 11 seconds (and 3 people) ahead of me. Did anyone hear the More or Less Episode about parkrun this Friday? They were trying to find the easiest and hardest parkrun course in the UK (although they did call it a race and not a run- tut tut!). I hadn’t been to the courses that they visited, but it was interesting hearing about how they tried to do it, by looking at average finish times and average age grading. This does seem a bit flawed to me, because the parkrun could just be closer to a load of running clubs or the average might go up or down over time with more runners.  Andy had bought some hot cross buns so I toasted them for breakfast, plus tea, and finally started to warm up.

I had a lot of work to get through, so after a shower I powered through for several hours, had a break where we walked into town, and then carried on working once home- I think I finished at about half six but I wanted a break on Sunday so I was pleased to get it all done.

On Sunday I was off on a long run- this week was 12 miles. I have found that if I run further than 13 miles in my training, I enjoy the actual race more, so I am trying to work up to that.  I used the same route as last week but added a little bit at the beginning and end, and it ended up being 12.1 miles- I was impressed with my guesswork! The run was pretty cold- the wind seemed very cold so my cheek bones felt like they turned to ice. I did see more crocuses though- I love spotting the signs of spring.

Of course I had to stop and take a photo of the factory- I think they are leaving these last few silos to be part of the new building, so I think the next few changes are going to be them getting rid of the big piles of rubble, and not quite so dramatic.

Anyway, the run took ages (2 hours 15) but they are supposed to be slow. I made sure to do some stretches when I got home, especially the downward dog- this seems to bring a lot of relief to my legs and shoulders, particularly after a long run.

I didn’t feel too bad after a shower and breakfast. I’ve bought pack of innocent kids smoothies to have when I get home from a long run (I know I could make a smoothie, but it is a faff to sort out the blender and chop fruit and then it takes time so I would just wait until after a shower)- having something like that seems to be good too as it gives me a little energy but I don’t always want food right away- I tend to have a shower and then breakfast, but then get a bit of an energy crash later. We had a walk in the sunshine in the afternoon, and then popped over to have a cup of tea at Andy’s parents, although I did get quite stiff sat down.

I’d caved and bought a cinnamon roll on the Saturday so we shared that in front of the TV.

I think the longer long runs have been making me a bit stronger- a few weeks ago I was fairly stiff on Mondays, but last week and this week haven’t been too bad. I’ve had a walk in the evening to help with this, but hopefully it’s a good sign. I want to enjoy this half more than I enjoyed the Hertfordshire half and although there were lots of issues (I wasn’t 100% well, it was freezing cold, I was all stressed because of the traffic jam) I also hadn’t managed very many long runs due to different things getting in the way.

This past week has been busy with work, so I only managed one run on Tuesday, and I kept that short as I knew I would be home late on Wednesday and Thursday (no yoga- sad face). I was surprised one morning to see a dusting of snow, but then that turned to annoyance when I had to chip the frozen show off the windscreen of my car because of course I had forgotten to put the cover on it.

I think my plan is 13 miles this weekend, then 14 miles next Friday (it’s half term- hooray!),  and then around 10 the following week, as that will be the  week before the race. It’s suddenly coming around quickly.

Do you have a pre or post long run routine?  Which is the hardest parkrun course that you have run?  For me, Tring is the toughest I have done with some huge hills (although it’s on my list to go back to as the views are meant to be amazing, but we went on a foggy day).

Some random questions to answer

So the lovely Allison from Running Princess tagged me in a post, to answer the following questions:

  1. What inspired you to start your blog?  I was reading a few blogs and had recently started running. I used to post on a forum, and really wish that my journey into running was recorded. I used to post a lot more about baking and recipes- my blog has changed a lot over the years I think.
  2. An elevator pitch for your blog? If you like reading ramblings about running, parkrun and random thoughts then come on by.
  3. If you could have a conversation with anyone (real or fictional) from any time, who would you choose and why? Michael Palin- I love reading his books (and watching the TV shows), and find his love of travel fantastic. I did see him tour a few years ago and it was such an interesting evening, and he comes across as being so personable. Although in real life as someone who got starstruck meeting Mickey Mouse (as an adult…) I am not sure I’d be much good!
  4. If you had a theme tune, what song would you pick and why? Maybe the song from The Muppets show- something not too serious.
  5. Where is your happy place? Nature. Anywhere outside makes me feel more relaxed- even the thought of being outside is calming. My garden, a walk, a park, some woods, or a holiday in the mountains or by the sea.
  6. Who would you most like to go for a run/cycle/workout with? I wish more of my friends would run, because I just love going for a chatty run and I also think that once people try it, they will find they actually do enjoy it (I only started running in my 20’s and definitely wasn’t a runner as a child). Although theoretically the presenters of Marathon Talk (my fave running podcast) should be good company on a run, I get way too star-struck and would be too nervous (I saw Martin Yelling at the Skid Row marathon screening but no way was I going up to him to say hi even though I am sure he is very friendly).
  7. Flying or invisibility? Flying 100% . I used to have dreams that I could fly- particularly when I was at first school- my dreams would often involve me running into the wind and then soaring above the playground and field. Plus, who wouldn’t want to fly over busy roads and skip the commute?
  8. If you could learn one new skill, what would you choose and why? I would love to be able to speak German- my dad’s mum was Austrian, and he did try to teach German to me, but I’d been learning French for several years at school by then so I didn’t manage much.
  9. What do you want to achieve in 2018?  I don’t have any major goals- last year with running I wanted to earn my 100 parkrun t-shirt (which I achieved back in March) and also get to 20 different UK events (achieved in May), and alongside that I wanted to do less races- I only signed up to favourite events which was better for me. I would like to do more parkrun tourism, including possibly one abroad (although that relies on finances), and keep on enjoying running and yoga.
  10. What made you smile today? I’ve been watching birds in my garden, and each time one of the robins comes into the garden it makes me smile.

So, over to you- pick a question or two and answer them!

Tough yoga, a sore ankle and switching brands

This week was a fairly normal week- on Monday after work I popped in to see my sister and niece, and Tuesday was our club run. We ended up walking the last mile or so as one of the runners hadn’t been well, and was struggling- she had told us to go ahead but it was dark and we weren’t leaving anyone behind. On Wednesday yoga was good, but tough. We were focusing on breathing when holding the poses, so some of them were held for longer, and so even the downward dog felt like a bit of a rest!

On Thursday after work I headed out for a run, aiming to do some lamp post intervals, but after around a mile my ankle started to feel weird- on the outside of the right ankle bone it felt like something was clicking. It wasn’t painful, but it didn’t feel right. I walked and stretched for a bit, hoping it would click back into place, but after running again for a bit, the same thing happened. I didn’t want to make anything worse, and there was a shortcut back home (although a scary one through a park with no lights, and then an alleyway with no lights), so I admitted defeat and cut the run short.

I have no idea what it is- it’s not a sprain as I can put weight on it. I did ice it for a bit in the evening, and sat with it up, and on Friday put a bit of tubular bandage around just for a bit of extra support, but it felt fine. After work I had a deep tissue massage booked (much needed in my shoulders especially) and after had a bit of a wander around town. I need a new passport, and after filling the form in, decided to use the Post Office check and send service where they check it all for you. I was complemented on my form-filling in skills by the lady in there, who was also impressed that in her opinion I still look the same. I found the photo thing a bit depressing as there are definitely bags under my eyes that weren’t there ten years ago.

I had some Sweaty Betty vouchers to spend, so I popped into the shop to have a look around. While they had some very cool leggings and tops (one top, which I think was actually a skiing one, I think I would wear as normal casual wear!) but what I really could do with was a new sports bra. I had read loads of good reviews for their Victory bra, but these sorts of things need to be tried on.

I usually go for Shock Absorber (I’ve tried a few others, including M&S which in my opinion were terrible and as supportive as stuffing some tissue down your top), but recently they have been annoying me a bit. I have had a few malfunctions where the straps have come undone while running, and it does seem a design flaw that to adjust the straps you need to jut slide the clip out- it’s only held in place with a hook of a mm long. Plus the strap that goes across the top of your shoulders clips like a bikini top clip, and sometimes even clips undone when I put it over my shoulders.

Ideally I would like a thermal sports bra for the winter (muscle generates heat when you run, but fat does not), so when I started looking and the sales assistant showed me one with padding, I did like the sound of the extra insulation. It’s a similar shape to the Shock Absorber one, but the clip is way more secure as it’s a little metal hook. The sales assistant ended up coming into the cubicle to check the fitting (which was totally stressful and I ended up with lovely red blotches all over the skin on my chest and neck because I wasn’t expecting that- I’d just popped out to ask her for a different size)- I wasn’t sure if I would need a larger size but she thought the fit was good so I went ahead. I am really pleased I did – jumping up and down in the changing room doesn’t really give you much of an idea, but I wore it for parkrun on Saturday (where annoyingly I got a few more ankle click twinges at random times) and Sunday for my long run, just to try it out. So far, so good. I might be a convert, and if it washes well and lasts it might mean next time I need to replace an old sports bra, it will be with this one instead.

After parkrun on Saturday (and breakfast) I headed home for a few hours of work before walking the long way (the 5 mile route) into town, and then it was so cold we put the fire on for the evening- lovely.

Long run day breakfast, some crocus flowers and the factory

Sunday was a long run day- last week I had a bit of a cut back week so I knew I wanted to run at least 10 miles this week. The route I mapped out ended being just over 11 miles, but it was enjoyable, with some hilly bits first thing (before things get too tiring). I saw some snowdrops and crocuses poking up, and the factory demolition is still going strong. Once home and showered I had a delicious chocolate almond croissant (I’d been in to Gail’s on Friday) with some tea for breakfast- so good.

Then I had a bit of time to potter in the garden- I found some snowdrops (I don’t remember if we had them last year or if they were included in the bulbs that I planted). Our willow tree was taken down last week as it was rotten- the stump shows just how rotten it actually was- there’s just a horse-shoe shape of trunk left. I also topped up the bird feeders (and moved one as the pigeons seem to have worked out a way to get to the seeds and scare all the little birds away), and had a shorter walk around to the shops as I had decided to bake brownies so needed a few ingredients. My legs were pretty tired by the afternoon, but by Monday they were OK.

Do you stick to the same brands/labels for things or do you switch it up a bit?