A long run, and afternoon tea to recover!

After going to Castle Park parkrun last Saturday (and all the petrol panic that happened after) it was fairly late by the time I’d got home and showered. I needed to pop over to my brother’s and collect some plants (Mum had planted us some winter pansies in her greenhouse and they needed to be planted out), so I drove over there and had a little catch up with him. By the time I got home, it was time for lunch- soup and toasted sourdough.

We then had a long walk (about 4 miles) through town and via a launderette as we wanted to wash the winter duvet before putting it back on (although the cost of having it cleaned is more than a new one actually costs…). After some work in the garden (more leaf sweeping, and planting out the pansies) I did a bit of work at home and was treated to a gorgeous pink sky at sunset.

On Sunday I was up early (thanks to the clocks changing) as I needed to fit in a long run and we had cinema tickets booked for midday. I was going to go for 11, as I had a week off long runs the previous weekend, and didn’t know if I would manage one next weekend- I took some Clif shot blocks with me in case I needed a boost- I had a few after about 10 miles in the end as I felt a bit tired. It was a bit of a loopy run, going out and back on myself a bit as I kept an eye on the miles (and avoided the woods and the park where I last got bothered by dogs…)- in the end when I got home it was at around 11.5 miles so I ran around the block to make it up to 12- my longest run for this half marathon I think.

Once home it was time for a speedy shower and breakfast in front of some Bake Off (and a big cup of tea) before heading to see Breathe.

The film was brilliant (it tells the true story of a guy who contracted polio, and shows his battle to be able to live as full a life as possible instead of being confined to a hospital)- it was very emotional and the people in with us were not quiet- very loud sobbing at times! I took a cereal bar with me and got a drink to take in as I knew I would be hungry otherwise.

Then I was off for afternoon tea- a year or so ago I’d been to a local place (Brocket Hall) with some friends- the food was good (apart from my poor friend who had ordered gluten free food) but the service was terrible, so we had vouchers to go back there.

It was lovely to catch up with everyone (we all started teaching in the same school, but now most of them have moved to other schools so we don’t see each other as regularly) and the food was good, however the service was still poor (plus, if we didn’t have vouchers we would have had to pay in advance which is not very common and not that appealing)- I don’t think we’ll be back!

We did end up with a lot of food to take home though- the lemon tart and Battenberg cakes were particularly delicious!

I was a bit worried that after sitting down in the cinema my legs would be sore, but I was actually OK. I had worn my calf sleeves to the cinema (but not to afternoon tea as they showed through my tights!) and that helped a lot I think. I won’t be racing the half, but at least I know I will be OK at doing that many miles in one go, as I think the last time for me was April.

Do you like afternoon tea? I find it more relaxing than a meal out as it feels like you can take your time.

Fun and not so fun half term jobs (and another dog incident)

So last Wednesday (in half term) I headed out for a run first thing- it was all going well and I was enjoying the lovely autumnal day.

I was around a mile from home, running through a park when I saw a large group of women with dogs going through the middle. I watched them as I carried on running on the path, when three of the dogs noticed me and raced across the field towards me. I stood still, and two of them ran back, but the third (a big dog, a bit like a greyhound but more chunky) leapt up onto me- straightaway I shouted over “can you please call your dog” and one of the women started to call, but the dog carried on jumping- it had it’s paws on my hips and was sticking it’s nose into my back. I shouted at her again to come and get it if it wouldn’t come, but the thankfully it went back to her. I was really cross- it was a big dog and it could have knocked me over. I told her that she needed to keep it on a lead if she could not control it, and she kindly told me “I can’t be up it’s arse the whole time”- I think I was very calm when I pointed out to her that all the other dogs were off leads and under control, but hers wasn’t so she was being irresponsible.  None of the other women said anything but I hope that they told her that she was in the wrong (they were all walking in a big group so it looked like a sort of dog walking club or something). I totally understand that people are allowed to let their dogs off leads, and I know that dogs find people running exciting, but it’s not acceptable that a dog can jump up at someone twice and not be under control. The rest of my run was not good as I was feeling annoyed about it, and wishing I hadn’t gone into the park, and then being annoyed at myself for thinking that because (I don’t think…) the incident was not my fault. I’ve always been told to stand still (and tuck your hands in) if approached by a dog as they are more likely to chase and jump if you are moving, and so I don’t think I am being antagonistic or anything towards the dogs.

Anyway, after that it was a normal day of getting some work done, as well as clearing up the leaves that are just everywhere at the moment.

It doesn’t look that bad in the photo, but the leaves had collected all around the bottom of my car and went half way up the tyres. I also enjoyed looking at the flowers that are still going strong, even at this time of year.

The willow tree in our back garden is shedding leaves everywhere so I did a load of raking and sweeping, and managed to fill three bags with leaves (apparently it will make good compost), fill up one compost bin and also leave a big pile on the lawn to sort at the weekend.

On Thursday I had a short run before walking to the train station to go into London- Andy had a meeting so I was going to wander about a bit and then we’d have lunch together. In contrast to the lovely sunny weather of Wednesday, it was grey and damp and drizzly.

I wandered around Covent Garden, amused myself watching a lady do a rather inappropriate fake striptease to a load of parents and kids (she put up a screen and was throwing clothes over the top while singing “Big Spender”)- she had certainly misjudged her audience! I had a delicious hazelnut hot chocolate from the Hotel Chocolat cafe (they basically heat up coconut milk and then stir in flakes of chocolate- it’s amazing) and then tried on a load of things in Lululemon. To be fair, I had a £20 voucher, but of course that doesn’t go very far! I was half looking for a top for yoga- I really don’t like a tight top, but then I really hate it when my top rides up (down?) when you are in an inversion- no-one needs to see my stomach and I know that no-one cares, but it makes me feel uncomfortable.  The elastic banding around my SB top has gone loose so it’s not as good any more, but I couldn’t find anything suitable, so got some more leggings- amazingly these have pockets big enough for my phone (which is too big really, but I bought it on the internet after looking at one in a shop, not realising I was getting the newer model…)- anyway, they’ll be good for parkrun as I like being able to get my phone out quickly.

After lunch at Leon we headed home and I pottered about, soaking the fruits ready for Christmas cake baking. We then went to the cinema in the evening and saw Death of Stalin, which was just so funny. A much more successful cinema trip than our recent weeks.

On Friday after having our boiler serviced (I know how to live) and a walk into town, I got on with making the Christmas cakes- my favourite half term tradition.

It made the house smell pretty amazing, although I’ve also been using some special oil in my diffuser at the moment, which smells pretty similar.

A while back a running coach contacted me and offered to send me a few doTERRA essential oils; a lavender oil, some muscle rub (which I have used after a couple of my long runs- it had a cooling effect although after the first application I learnt that less is more!), and then On Guard, which is a blend of Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Leaf, and Rosemary Leaf/Flower essential oils. It smells amazing, and apparently can be used to make mulled wine if you were inclined.

I’ve just been enjoying it in my diffuser to make the room smell all festive and comforting.

I was also sent some clever powder to help clean your teeth.

Swish to go is basically a little sachet of powder that you sprinkle into your mouth, it then turns to liquid (no need to add water), you swish it about a bit and then swallow. I have tried it a couple of times- it takes a big of getting used to as it is a weird sensation to pour onto your tongue, and the mint flavour is quite strong, but it seemed to work pretty well. Although it would not replace brushing your teeth, it would work quite well if you wanted to freshen up and couldn’t clean your teeth- for example we have parents evening straight after work, and you can’t really clean your teeth or use mouthwash in the staff toilets, so one of these would work nicely then. I’m not a big fan of eating mints because then you are left with the sugar in your mouth anyway, so these seem like a good solution. I might take one with me when I do a half marathon next month as it is nice to freshen up afterwards sometimes too.

Back to the jobs- the final half term job we completed was putting up our pictures- we bought these from Hawaii and so the one on the left was from 2012- but we had not found frames that we liked until recently. They are all by an artist called Heather Brown who has just an amazing and really distinctive style (click on the link to see as my photo of course doesn’t do the art any justice)- I could have bought so many more!

What are your favourite and least favourite jobs? Do you have many photos or prints on your walls? We have a Totoro print in our bedroom and a few holiday photos up in some other rooms, but we still have some walls that need filling.

*I was sent the samples in exchange for a mention on my blog- all opinions are my own

Cream teas and not such a good cinema trip

Last Saturday (the first one of half term) we had to drive to Exeter and were originally going to visit Stourhead- the leaves at this time of year are meant to be amazing- but with storm Brian on the way they had closed the gardens, so we went to Montacute house instead. It had a cool wobbly hedge, and some nice gardens to wander through.

The traffic was pretty bad, so we headed into Exeter after that for a mooch around the town and dinner at Bill’s before going to our hotel, which was out in the middle of nowhere it seemed (single track roads to get there- we had some air miles which were going to expire and we could use them for the hotel- I don’t think we would have chosen it otherwise as it was a bit remote).

On Sunday we were up early to drive to the Eden project.

It was such a sunny day when we arrived.

It was really interesting- there are these huge domes that contain plants from different parts of the world- we spent ages in the rainforest one. You could even walk up these wobbly stairs suspended across the roof to get to the very top (apparently a rainforest canopy walkway)- it was boiling up there! As it was half term they had some Roald Dahl themed activities going on, like a show about how to spot a real witch, but there was enough for us too. The food choices were not easy to find- they were a bit spread out and didn’t all seem open all the time- once I had eaten my (fairly nice but nothing special) beetroot and something wrap, I found the burrito stall which could have tempted me as it was cold. All the stands sold Pukka tea so I had a lovely lemon, ginger and honey tea to warm up with.

I also bought a few bits in the shop including ginger muscle rub (it warms as you rub it in) and lemongrass hand cream.

One of the exhibits was closed over the winter, and by the afternoon we felt we had seen it all, so we drove back via another National Trust place (Lanhydrock).

We had a walk around the huge grounds (filled with cows), walked through the house as quickly as is polite, and then went for a cream tea. I don’t usually go for cream with a scone (I usually go for just jam) but I had a little cream on top and it was actually really nice. I might have been converted. Maybe it’s a different type of cream?

Then we headed back to Exeter- we had cinema tickets that would expire, and the only thing that was on at that time (well apart from It which I do not want to see) was a film called Happy Death Day, which we thought might be funny. It was basically Groundhog day crossed with Scream. I am not a horror fan, but I don’t mind thrillers or black comedies (I just close my eyes in the tense bits)- this however, was just terrible. It made me feel so old-it was aimed at teenagers for sure. Plus the bits that were repeated were all terrible lines, so you had to listen to the same awful dialogue over and over. At least it was free (and out of the rain!). Afterwards we went to Pizza Express before heading back to the hotel- a busy day.

On Monday we made it to Stourhead- it really was beautiful there and well worth a stop. We’d bought some lunch to take with us and although it rained on the walk around the lake, it eased off for a bit so we could sit outside and enjoy our picnic before driving to the next hotel. We’d booked a spa hotel (Bowood, near to Chippenham- a free night from Hotel.com), and the spa was available for use for hotel guests, so after checking in we headed straight down. The pool felt a bit cold, so both of us (with incorrect logic) thought “we’ll warm up in the steam room first, and then swim”- no, that doesn’t work! I could only stand the steam room for a few minutes, and then of course when we got into the pool it felt freezing! After swimming for a bit, we used the sauna and the jacuzzi (which was extremely violent) before going for a final (and of course cold) swim. The pool area had huge windows overlooking the hotel grounds and golf course, so it did feel relaxing. They did treatments such as massages, but I’d had one on Friday so we just used the normal facilities. The hotel was not near a town, but it had a few options for dinner so we ended up in the Brasserie.

The next morning we had breakfast in the same place and then drove to Windsor to break up the journey home (we know a nice tea room in a garden centre…). As we had mainly sat in the car that day we walked the long way into town- it was about 4 and a half miles in the end- before braving the unpacking. Why does unpacking take so much longer than packing?

Are you a fan of a cream tea? Do you like using a steam room or sauna? Have you been to the Eden project? Apparently there’s a parkrun starting there soon, although I can’t work out where the course would be. What is the worst film you have seen at the cinema? 

Castle Park parkrun- Queen of Herts!

This Saturday I decided to visit Castle Park parkrun, to finally achieve my aim of running all of the parkruns in Hertfordshire. Castle Park is in Bishop’s Stortford, a town close to Stansted airport, and close to the Essex border.  It only began a month or so ago, when the team moved over from the original Hatfield Forest venue (in Essex).

The info on the website was handy and in the morning I put in one of the car-park post codes into my sat-nav and set off. I then remembered that I didn’t have much petrol left, but due to leaving the blowers on cold (so the wind screen didn’t clear until I noticed and turned on the heat) I didn’t really have time to get some beforehand. Anyway, the drive was fine; it’s around 30 minutes from home and fairly quiet roads. However, when I parked I then realised I had no idea where the start actually was…. such poor planning! I looked at the course  page on my phone, but that didn’t help as I had only been to the town centre once before (after we went to Hatfield Forest we went for breakfast in Bishop’s Stortford after as it’s only a few miles away). I started walking towards the town centre, hoping to see some runners to follow, and thankfully spotted some people in high-viz across a road- hooray! And phew!

There were lots of people collecting in the park, near to a big mound (the castle that the park is named after- an old motte and bailey castle) and next to the band stand.

The new runner’s briefing explained that it was pretty much two laps, with an out and back section at the start and end (like a lollipop really- you run up the stick, around the loop twice and then back down the stick)- and warned us to look out for bollards on some of the paths, and also that the finish was a bit of a loop around and not a straight line once you got back into the main park.

It was so cold- I’d worn my new leggings (hooray- with one zipped pocket for my car keys, one stretchy pocket for lip balm and hand sanitiser, and one stretchy pocket for my phone), a t-shirt and jacket, and I kept my jacket on for the first mile or so. My feet were also freezing as the long grass was damp, so after walking a few steps my socks were soaked through. Brrrr.

Lots of people were dressed in fancy dress- I was envious of people with gloves or hats as it was very chilly.  Anyway, it was a lovely sunny morning and I really enjoyed the route- it is very flat and not too busy after the first bit across the field. There were lots of things to notice in the park- particularly a few of those fitness centre things with benches for press ups and that sort of thing, as well as the football pitches to look at. I  had decided to not push too hard and just enjoy the scenery, aiming for under 30 minutes, so I was pretty pleased to finish at 28-something, with nice negative splits of 9.53, 9.12, 8.45 and then 7.34 for the little end bit.

When I had finished one of the volunteers saw me stopping my watch and asked me for my time, name and finish position- he had a list of around 10 so I wonder if they are doing that to check up on the timers? Although I didn’t stop mine until the end of the funnel when I was given my token so I did explain it was likely to be a few seconds out.

The sign at the end of the first lap amused me so after I finished I popped back to take a photo- it says Finish (left arrow), Lap of Deja Vu (right arrow)- it made me chuckle when I saw it the first time. The route went around a lot of football pitches and so on the second lap you had to watch out for stray balls- there were plenty of marshals out with their backs facing the pitches (rather them than me!). I didn’t notice getting lapped either- I think it’s less likely with a two lap course.

It was super cold so after taking a few photos of the park I headed to the nearby shopping centre and got myself some breakfast- I’d usually wait until I got home but I knew that the drive would take longer (and I needed to get petrol), plus I had a free drink that would run out soon so it would be rude not to, right?

Cinnamon swirl for breakfast, autumn leaves, the car park I used (just to remind me) and one of my stretchy pockets.

I was going to get some petrol there, as I only had something like 50 miles left, and it was 20 miles away (and it’s only an estimate- it seems to go down a bit faster usually), but I couldn’t find a petrol station and didn’t want to waste time driving around, so in the end I drove home, but without the heating on (to save fuel- not sure if that really makes a difference?)- at 30 miles left the display then changes to just lines, and the arrow was below the zero on the fuel gauge- this was all very stressful! Thankfully I made it to the petrol station near home without breaking down.

So, my final Herts parkrun completed! (There is one starting early next year, but it will be easier to just visit the new ones as they come along). I really enjoyed this challenge- I do like going to my local parkruns and seeing people I know, but I also love visiting new places, and seeing the friendly welcome that you get at every parkrun. I’ll do a separate post about them all I think, but for now I will enjoy my Queen of Herts status (credit to Gavin Nicholls on the UK parkrun tourists facebook page, as I had announced that I had “attacked Herts”- he came up with Queen of Herts which I very much prefer). Of course I’ll be re-visiting some of them- on my parkrun profile I’ve only been to 4 events more than once. Dad agrees with me that Tring is high on our list as when we went it was very foggy so we could not see the stunning views, and I quite fancy Aldenham again to chase a higher placing.

Have you been doing any parkrun challenges? Anna posted the other day about the parkrun alphabet– and if you are on the tourists facebook page there’s a file you can get to keep track of the ones you have done. I’ve got a parkrun tourist page to keep track of the ones I have visited, and also future ones planned, but at the moment I am not adding to any of the letters (e.g. hopefully next weekend I’ll visit Brighton and Hove for the first time, but I already have a B- Barclay).  There are some clever satellite challenges – if you look at your closest event they list the nearest events, so you can do all of those, and then all of those parkrun’s closest ones) but this takes me into London very quickly which to me is a hassle and not really enjoyable. I think probably the next thing for me to realistically aim for would be 50 different parkrun events, but that will take me a few years I would think. I’d also like to do some in other countries- so far the only countries I have run in have been England, Scotland and the US (Crissy Field), but I really fancy a Scandinavian one, and a German one once they get going, and of course Canada/ New Zealand but they are more wishful thinking at the moment!

Andover parkrun and the start of a little holiday (not quite Croatia)

Last week was a busy one (two evenings at work) and I stopped by home on one day to pick up the curtains for our living room as my mum had shortened them for us. It has made a huge difference- making it much lighter in the day (the doors have these so-called clever blinds inside the glass, but in reality it takes about 20 minutes to wind them up or down, so we tend to leave them down but open, which cuts out so much light) and much cosier in the evenings.

I caught up on some of Bake Off one evening, enjoying how cosy the living room now feels (I did not like it before when people could potentially see in).

As a treat for a busy week Andy gave me these amazing peanut butter chocolates- they are possibly the king of chocolates.

We were meant to be going to Croatia on Friday for half term, but we were flying with Monarch, so when that went all wrong it basically meant we had to cancel (the only other airline that flew there were Ryanair and we are not risking them, plus they put the prices up loads anyway). Andy had the great idea of heading south-west to visit the Eden Project, as we’ve both wanted to go for ages but it’s so far (you could fly to New York in the same time pretty much).

After work on Friday I had booked a massage (which I arrived very stressed at, because there were no parking spaces in the normal car park, so I found one further one, ran to the pay machine but it was only a sign and not a machine, ran to the next one, paid, grabbed the ticket and ran back to my car only to realise it was the receipt of the person before me and not the ticket, so then ran back all the time worrying that someone would get there before me as I had no cash to buy a second one, got it out of the machine just in time, ran back to my car and then ran to the building feeling very flustered indeed), and then had a little wander around town to get us some breakfast for the next morning. After dinner we packed and drove to the hotel. We’d booked a Friday night stopover at the Premier Inn in Andover- normally I look into parkrun locations but being busier than usual Andy took this on for me, and found that the start of Andover parkrun was half a mile away- perfect!

The run from the hotel was along an industrial looking road with loads of warehouses and things (Portway industrial estate according to the map)- I was really wondering if I was in the right place. But at the end of the road I could see cars (and people wearing high-viz driving them) turning off down another road, and there was suddenly a huge park. It was a lovely location, but I really should have worn trail shoes as it was pretty muddy in places. I had a bit of a grump (not really a panic) on the run down as my watch wouldn’t find the GPS- I decided I could use Strava on my phone instead (because otherwise it didn’t happen…), but once I got there and googled, I did a soft reset which seemed to work- phew!

My cow cowl worked (once you have run 20 UK events you can buy one- it’s not an official parkrun item like the milestone t-shirts, but it means tourists can identify each other)- I ended up chatting to a guy called Kevin who usually ran at Bedfont Lakes, but was travelling to Exeter to watch the football. He was a total uber tourist- this was his 99th different parkrun event! I had my Panshanger top on and he’d been to the inaugural event there and we chatted about the finish (it used to be straight up a horrible hill, but now they’ve changed it to a zig zag  which I think is just as tough as it goes on for longer).

The new runners briefing was great as usual- they had a map but as they were following a different course due to works around the lake, it didn’t matter. Although the person did say the parkrun sin of “winner” (gasp- it’s not a race…)- basically saying that unless you’re going to run it in 15 minutes, just follow the person ahead. It was two laps which I always find passes fairly quickly, and you don’t have the monotony of a higher amount of laps. Plus in the middle you pass by the start/finish area and get a big boost from all the scanners, timers and funnel people.

The course had a few out and back sections with tight turns- it was narrow in places as we had to keep to the right of the path (as other runners were coming in the other direction) but I wasn’t in a hurry so I didn’t mind being stuck behind people for a bit. The lakes had been partially drained, but I imagine that normally it would be really pretty. On the second lap I took my phone out to take a photo of all the mud on the field- it didn’t seem that bad on the first lap but I suppose by the time I got to my second lap it had been churned up several hundred times.

I ended up running 28.35, 162/293- I didn’t expect it to be that busy. As I was on my second lap it began drizzling a bit before easing off, and as I finished it started to rain pretty heavily. I was going to stay around for a bit of a chat, but the rain made my decision for me. On the run back my watch beeped to tell me it was going into power saving mode- argh- I thought I had pressed go but clearly not (for the run back). It was raining pretty hard so I put my cowl/buff thing over my head to keep my hair dry.

After a shower we had a breakfast of a chocolate almond croissant (plus a nuun tab in water for me), before heading towards Exeter for the rest of our little holiday (I’ll save that for another post).

So that was my 31st different parkrun event (30th UK one). To keep track of my parkrun touristing I have made a page of all the links here, which you might find useful if you are planning on visiting any of them.

Do you know of any good hotel and parkrun combos? Any car park stresses? I really don’t like pay and display anyway, I’d much rather pay when I leave because then I am in no hurry and if I need to get change I can get it while I am in town.