Millennium Country parkrun with a few milestones

Or, to give it the full name, Millennium Country parkrun, Forest of Marston Vale.

I fancied heading there this weekend as it was event number 4 (I needed a 4 for my Wilson Index…) but it was around 45 mins from St Albans, so getting up early in the holidays isn’t as bad as after a week at work. My dad and brother decided to come too, and we offered to have them back here for breakfast after, so I prepped the baked French toast the night before (brioche loaf spread with peanut butter, a mixture of eggs and almond milk to soak in, and sprinkled with blueberries). I gave our ETA to Andy so he knew when to put the oven on.

I drove to St Albans, then Dad drove us up from there. Millenium Country parkrun is between Milton Keynes and Bedford, and not far off the M1, so most of the journey was very easy.  It is made up of woodlands, grasslands, meadows and a wetlands nature reserve, with a car park (pay and display- £1 for the hour) and visitor centre (with toilets and cafe) right by the start.

The welcome centre had a lovely circular skylight above the entrance hall, as well as information boards about the various birds and animals that had been seen in the park.

As it was fairly new (this was the 4th event) the new runners briefing was for people new to parkrun- the RD explained the course to everyone at the main briefing. It was super simple- out and back next to the water- we just had to remember to keep left because of runners coming the other way.

Dad was taking it gently as he was coming back from a little calf strain, and my brother hadn’t run a parkrun for a few weeks, so we ran together and chatted, while Dad ran behind (so he wasn’t tempted to go faster). I really loved this parkrun- I love running by water and the out and back is good as you see people going the other way. The gorgeous sunny weather helped too! It was super flat, and the paths are fairly wide (not like the narrow one of Maidstone which is flat but isn’t good for pb potential) so I think it would be a very fast one if you wanted to go for a super fast time.

I took a few photos as we ran and they came out pretty well. Although we ran by the water, often we were running next to trees and every now and then it would clear and you would see the lovely lake.  At the turnaround point we began to look out for Dad, but saw the tail walker and we hadn’t seen him, so we did wonder if his leg had meant he had to pull out, but we crossed the finish line, got our tokens scanned and then Dad appeared in the finish funnel- my time was 30:24, and he finished in 31:05 so he must have been right behind us at the turn around! It was Dad’s 150th parkrun, and my 60th different event, so it was nice to have some (arbitrary) milestones to celebrate together.

After some stretches in the car park (next to someone sitting with their car engine on idling away and polluting the air- why do people think it is OK to sit and have their engine idling away???) we hopped back in the car, drove back to St Albans where we picked up Mum and then headed home for breakfast.

Strava told me off though, saying that my run was easier than usual- I need a button to say “yes,  I was chatting and I’m fine with that”. My 10 mile run on Sunday, although slower, was apparently harder than my usual effort. I’ve not noticed this feature on Strava before, not sure if it’s trying to get me to upgrade to the premium one, but I really just like tracking the routes and my monthly mileage.

Anyone else got these messages on Strava? I’ve not had one yet telling me it’s the same as my usual effort…

Which parkrun course do you think is the fastest that you’ve run, and where have you run your fastest time? 

Puddings, pancakes, plants, podcasts- part of the holidays

After going to QE parkrun on the Saturday, we headed into Southampton to see Andy’s grandma, and then into the town centre for a wander around the shops. It was really cold, so we popped into Caffe Nero for a chai latte to warm up. We had to get some bits in IKEA, and then went for dinner at Bill’s- I had a really good salad with beetroot and lentils and falafels and all sorts of tasty things.

We then headed to Sprinkled for dessert- I’d seen they did baked cookie dough,  so we shared one with peanut butter ice cream. It was really tasty- not as good as The Pudding Stop cookie dough, but still pretty tasty and perfectly gooey in the middle.

In the morning we headed to Chichester for a wander and brunch (we went to Boston Tea Party where I had some lovely blueberry pancakes), and then stopped off at Uppark National Trust Gardens for a walk around, and of course I could not resist a scone in the tearoom (shared with Andy).

It was a beautiful day, but very hazy, so we couldn’t see all the way across the Downs.

As I didn’t run on Sunday, I had a nice long run on Monday morning instead- 10 miles mostly avoiding the drizzle and forecast heavy rain.  The tulips looked beautiful with big drops of water on them.

I had an almond croissant in the freezer for a post long run breakfast, and decided to turn it into a chocolate almond croissant (the king of all pastries) by adding some chocolate buttons before heating it in the oven- the buttons melted a bit and it was rather heavenly.

Refuelled I then spent a couple of hours in the garden. Thankfully the rain meant that the ground was soft so weeding was pretty easy, although all that crouching gave me rather sore legs later on!  I saw an advert for this podcast- Paradise- about a couple who were murdered in the 70’s and the one suspect being arrested 38 years later. I listened to a few podcasts and the time flew by.

I made some hot cross bun dough, ready to prove in the fridge overnight, as we were having visitors on Tuesday.

I headed out on a quick walk first thing and then my sister-in-law visited with my niece and nephew. We headed to the local park but the rain just got harder so in the end we retreated to home for hot cross buns and tea. After they left we headed into town as we were meeting Andy’s parents for lunch (it was Andy’s birthday).  While Andy was working I decorated his birthday cake (it’s a Christmas cake as he loves fruit cake, so I just make an extra and then hide it somewhere- honestly this year I had a hard time finding it and did have to consider making a new one!). After a big lunch we had a long walk in the  evening.

On Wednesday I had a 7 mile run first thing, then I was in the zone, ticking loads off my list. I managed to clean the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, clean the hard floors and vacuum everywhere (even moving the mattress and cleaning out the floor under the bed which you can’t normally get to because it has a solid frame with drawers).  I had to pop and get some petrol and then pick up my mum to take her for a hospital appointment, and when I got home I started report writing.

On Thursday morning I did a 5 mile run, had to wait in for a delivery (which meant I couldn’t dry my hair until the parcel had come as I wouldn’t hear the knock at the door over the noise of the hairdryer)  and then headed to visit a friend and her new baby. I got home early afternoon and got on with yet more reports.

On Friday morning I drove over to St Albans and walked into to the town centre as I had booked a massage. As always it was very relaxing (and the lovely masseuse actually commented that apart from my left shoulder I actually wasn’t too bad! Progress!) and then I wandered into town for some breakfast (tea and almond croissant).

I won some Sweaty Betty vouchers via The Scientist Runs, so I popped in there to try on some leggings- I’ve only had their running bras (which I love) and I think a vest from there before, so wasn’t sure on sizing or fit. I found a pair of glasses in the changing room- that’s the second pair of glasses I’ve found this year.

I ended up buying two pairs of leggings- one cropped (power leggings) and one slightly longer. They both have big zipped pockets which I love, as so many leggings don’t have pockets. I could fit my phone in the zipped pocket which is an added bonus, and the cropped pair also have a side pocket in one of the legs. You can never have too many pockets!

When I got home I also found that my tea club for April had arrived- hooray! They are holding a tea election to find out which of their specials should become a permanent member- I am keeping my fingers crossed for peach cobbler tea because it is delicious.

More report writing happened in the afternoon, and then we had a walk in the evening before watching The Dawn Wall which was another fantastic documentary about climbing in Yosemite (like Free Solo)- I’ve no interest in climbing at all (I don’t do heights) but these films are so inspiring, and the scenery is just beautiful.

Do you like documentaries?

Pockets in clothes- yay or nay?

Any good podcast recommendations? I quite like series like these.

Finally getting the Q ticked off!

Last year I got more into parkrun tourism, and with that came all the little extra challenges that go alongside it. I was keeping half an eye on the alphabet, noticing that I was gradually ticking a few off, but not really actively chasing any letters. Then last Easter I fancied visiting a new parkrun and decided to look into the letters that were close by. I ticked off O at Oak Hill, and then N at Northala Fields. Handily on our trip up to Scotland last year we came home via York (on the Friday night) so I ticked off the Y, and then in the summer we had a weekend booked in London (to see The Muppets) and so I went to Valentine’s (it was going to be Victoria Dock as we were staying close by, but they had to cancel the event that week). I also made the trip around the M25 to Upton Court and got my D at Dinton Pastures on the way to the Bath Christmas markets.  Jersey Farm started in St Albans, so I’ve been there a few times, ticking off the hard-to-get J. As I have ticked more letters off, I’ve paid more attention to other letters, although of course it could happen more naturally (Dunstable Downs started more recently, so I now have two D’s).

I’d planned a trip to Queen Elizabeth parkrun over a year ago, but it turned out where we were staying was right by Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun, and it seemed a little silly to get up and drive when I could just run around the corner (plus the check out was 11 so it was less time to get back after and shower etc). We then thought I could go on the weekend of the New Forest 10k, but that didn’t work out in the end. Anyway, I finally managed to tick it off last weekend!

I drove us down to Portsmouth on the Friday night, and then on the Saturday morning I drove up to the park. I did have a brief moment where I considered whether what I was doing was entirely sane or sensible, because the Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun route was right next to where I was, but it was only a 20 min drive (if that) so it wasn’t too far.

I had followed the postcode given on the course page, but then followed the brown signs once I got close, and inadvertently ended up parking in a different car park (I didn’t realise there was more than one). A few other runners were wandering about, asking where the start was. The directions said something about 100m along the gravel path from the corner of the car park, so we found a path and wandered along it.  After walking 1/3 of a mile (and slightly worrying that I’d miss the start) I saw the actual car park with the little path going from it up to the start area. Phew!

I was still a bit full of cold, so wasn’t going to go fast at all and was standing near the back of the runners so as not to get in anyone’s way. I saw someone who looked like one of the RD’s from Panshanger, and then at the run briefing it turned out it was him because some of the Panshanger core team were cycling the South Down Way and visiting the parkrun on their way. They are all super speedy and I was starting at the back so I didn’t get a chance to chat, but it was a bit of a coincidence.

I couldn’t hear the briefing that well down to a few barking dogs (even though the RD asked the noisy ones to go up the hill and wait at the start) and my ears were still a bit blocked. I heard words such as “hill”, “steep”, “loose ground”, “hill again”, “second lap”. I just follow the person in front and I knew it was vaguely two laps. The route we did started up a hill ( a bit like Heartwood Forest), along forest-lined tracks, down to the start area, up the hill again and then on a slightly bigger loop, so it could be like Ellenbrook Fields in that respect with a small then larger loop.

I kept having to slow down to get more tissues out of my pocket, and on the second go of the hill I stopped to take a few photos as the views were so pretty, even though it was fairly overcast. It reminded me of Wendover Woods in that respect.

From their facebook page- somehow they won’t rotate!

Although you can see from the Strava elevation profile that it goes up a fair bit, the final mile is fairly downhill (but with a bit of uneven ground here and there) and I did manage a speedier final mile, before heading back to the car.

There was a little mix up with results so although I had token 90 I ended up with position 89 and a time of 32:59.

It was then time to head back to the hotel- Andy  had been to the Starbucks in the lobby for a cinnamon roll- what good service!

If you are interested you can see the page with all my parkrun tourist visits here. I now only need I and K in this country, plus the Z- not quite sure how I can wrangle that just yet!

I’m enjoying all the various challenges available- I only need one time to complete stopwatch bingo, and if I visit two more C’s I’ll become a pirate. If only there was more than one Saturday each week!

Are you tempted by any of the parkrun challenges? 

Colder weather and making it to the holidays

On the Sunday morning after our trip to Brighton I didn’t set an alarm, and because of the clocks changing it was much later before I was ready to head out on a run. I didn’t need to run far- the only race I have now booked is the Bristol 10k in May, and I’d felt pretty tired on the Saturday after running to and from parkrun, and a lot of walking around Brighton and Hove. In the end I did 6 miles, which was enjoyable, but very cold! Where had the lovely spring weather gone?

Once home I pottered about, made some hot cross buns ( we were making them at work and I wanted to double check the recipe first) and then we popped over to see Andy’s and then my parents for Mother’s Day and a general catch up.

I also made some fudge for work (Sainsbury’s had some mini chocolate eggs, so I topped it with those to make it Easter fudge) and then we discovered the stollen that we brought back from Germany (only a few days past the best-before date, and that’s just  guide right?). It actually doesn’t have marzipan in it (what were they thinking?) but we also bought some marzipan honey at one of the Christmas markets, so decided to spread some of that on to make it back to the best type of stollen.

Monday was the standard walk after work/rest day, and then on Tuesday I went on a short run- I was starting to get a cold, but also knew it was my only chance of a run in the week, so took it gently. It was still light (yay) but the actual run felt very tough so I stopped at 3 miles. Andy got me some lovely tulips as I was having a very busy week at work- I love tulips as they always make me think of spring, and despite the colder weather we know it’s here.

On Wednesday I had a meeting all day, including through lunch, and knew I wouldn’t manage my usual lunch walk, so I popped out on a quick walk in the morning. It was just light, and I managed just under 2 miles which helped with the step count for the day (still on my step streak). I was wondering whether to stay at home rather than go to yoga, but in the end decided I’d feel better after, and I’m glad I did. We did a lot of pair work on shoulders which always makes me feel loads better. We also did some laughter yoga which is a bit weird but does make you feel better once you get into it!

Once home I put some oils (tea tree, peppermint) in the diffuser to help with breathing as I was getting more bunged up.

I also laughed at the Disney Food Blog post- yes Dole Whip shall always be the top Disney snack for me..

Dole whip float (in pineapple juice).

On Thursday morning I had another speedy walk- it was super frosty that morning and everywhere looked so pretty. After work I was helping on a craft stall at a PTA event, had a quick meeting and then was heading into town as our team had booked to have dinner together to celebrate (nearly) the end of term. We went to Pizza Express and then across the road to The Pudding Stop.

Now they do amazing desserts there, but in my opinion nothing beats the peanut butter and salted caramel brownie. Normally I’d share with Andy but he wasn’t there so I just about managed it (helped by some tea). Some people had brownie sundaes (you can choose your brownie + sauce + ice cream) but I don’t want to dilute the deliciousness!

Then Friday appeared and the end of term had arrived! But I’ll get to that another day.

What is your next race or event?  How do you manage the symptoms of a cold? Have you ever tried laughter yoga?

Half marathon recovery and another Brighton trip

I didn’t feel too stiff on the Monday following the half, but had a walk after work to stretch out the legs, plus some foam rolling. On Tuesday morning my left hamstring was super tight, so more foam rolling was endured. I had a run in the evening- just a short and gentle one, and it did help to ease out the aches a little more.

On Wednesday at work we walked through the woods and to the bakery at lunch time, and I caved and got a Belgium bun- I had half after yoga (which again was very much needed) and then half the next evening.

On Thursday we went for a team meeting lunch at Starbucks and sat outside in the sunshine- glorious!

Also, Sainsbury’s stock Larabars! And the best flavour- choc peanut butter- I was very excited to find this out as I usually bring back a few when I go to the USA.

On Thursday evening I had a lovely 4.5 mile run as the sun was going down- all the blossom looked so pretty in the late evening light.

On Friday I had a Very Embarrassing Incident in Sainsbury’s- I had to stop on my way home to get hot cross bun ingredients for work, and as I was unfolding one of the bag for life’s (lives?) a massive spider crawled out. I threw the bag on the floor and shrieked, before picking the bag up (and watching the spider crawl away)- luckily I didn’t throw the spider at the checkout lady, and she just laughed at me. The whole time I was packing the shopping up, she just kept laughing. I was very apologetic but it was a big spider! Urgh! I had to have a cup of tea and a biscuit when I got home to calm down!

After dinner and packing we headed down to Brighton for part of the weekend. On the Saturday morning I was off to Preston Park parkrun as it was the closest to the hotel. It was so sunny and warm, and the parkrun was absolutely jam packed! My legs still felt fairly heavy so I didn’t go too fast, keeping just in front of the 30 min pacer and enjoying it.

Of course it was then time for pancakes at the amazing Cafe Coho- I met Andy at the station and we headed to breakfast straight away.

I went for the banana and hazelnut ones this time- they are much sweeter than the normal berry ones, but they were a nice treat.

After a shower we headed to get a drink from Bird&Blend (iced drinks- spring is here) and then walked along to Hove. We had to be fairly quick as Andy was off to the football, so I then had a bit of time to wander around the shops. I’d packed my headphones and a magazine, and the weather was so gorgeous that I sat on the beach for a bit (and yes I had suncream on).

A bit later I headed to a cafe to have a cup of tea and read my magazine, as on the beach I listened to podcasts and collected a few pebbles.

Once the football was finished we met up and had a quick dinner at Leon (oh how I love their hummus) and then drove home. I’d picked up a peanut butter brownie in the afternoon so we shared that when we got home. A bit of a flying visit to Brighton, but just as lovely, especially with the amazing weather.

Are you a fan of spiders? Which brownie flavour is your favourite?