Getting my V with a plan B

So after seeing The Muppets at the O2, the plan was to stay in London nearby, so I could do Victoria Docks parkrun and of course a bonus would be to tick off the V. I had checked it was on via the future roster (they seem to cancel a fair bit) and followed them on facebook just to be sure. On Wednesday someone shared to the parkrun tourist page that it was cancelled due to some works going on that they just found out about. Totally not the teams fault at all, but so frustrating! Luckily we hadn’t actually booked a hotel at that point (there were a few options and it was depending on where I would least likely get lost from) and the hive mind of the tourist group helped with suggestions. Beckton would have been the closest but I don’t need a B, Mile End would have been close too but I went there in December. Thankfully someone suggested Valentine’s- before Victoria Dock that was the only option for a V and I’d looked at it but from home I would have needed to drive somewhere and get the underground, and it was on a loop so a bit complicated.

Once Valentine’s was the choice, someone sent a link through to this website (which is easier to use than the TfL website I find) and then told me to get on a central line train to Gants Hill via Hainault. If I had not been told that I would have spent ages on the platform dithering about which train to get on. As it was I had a fairly simple journey- run up the road from the hotel to Aldgate East, get to Mile End on one tube, then change to the central line for to Gants Hill. I had allowed plenty of time for getting lost, plus it was “10-15 min walk” from the station to the start at the other end.

As I got to the Mile End there was another platform going eastbound where I got off, so I didn’t even need to wander around the station. There weren’t totally clear signs on the platform though, but the station I needed was on the map and as a train turned up after a few minutes I got on it and just kept checking the map at each station to make sure it was going where I thought it was. When I thought I was OK I put on a podcast- I listened to the parkrun adventurers which is an Australian parkrun tourist podcast. One of the presenters had been to the UK annual conference so it was an interesting listen.

The directions on the website told you to follow signs for the park from the tube station, which helped with which exit to leave from. I’d looked at a map beforehand (how unlike me…) and so I knew the road name I needed too (Cranbrook Road) so I just followed the road down to the park.

Once in the park I had to get out google maps on my phone because I couldn’t work out the map in the park.

There were some lovely ponds in the park but when I tried to go closer to take a photo some geese started to chase me which rather alarmed me!

When I got to the start I saw three people with cow cowls having a photo taken together. I thought they were all together but when I went to say hi it turned out they were all from different places (Essex, Bristol and Peterborough) and jokingly told me off for missing the photo! Then the tail walker came over and chatted to us about the course, giving us an informal tourist briefing. He asked if people were getting their V, and of course we were. When I explained about Victoria Dock, he did mention the cable car being a cool way to get to a parkrun, but I explained that I am not that keen on them so was quite relieved to arrive by land!

Then it was time for the main briefing before we were off. The route is two laps- you start in the middle and head out to the edge, repeating two anti-clockwise loops and then head back in (so you finish in the other direction). There was lots to see on the way around- boating lakes, tennis courts, outdoor gyms- and lots of shade so it was enjoyable and passed by quickly.

I put on a bit of a sprint at the end but it was hot and I didn’t want to push too hard. 28:50 was my official time, but it seemed like it could be a fast course (with a few gentle up and down bits to add variation but no hills or tough bits).

On the second lap I overtook the tail walker who called out to me something like “it’s better with no cable car”- I love the friendliness of parkrun.

When I finished a guy a few places ahead was being sick in the finish funnel so I had to look away, but thankfully one of the marshals took his token for him so we could all move on.

I briefly chatted to one of the tourists who had finished ahead of me, before scanning my barcode. They had this sorting tray for the tokens which I thought was a great idea- I think they are little seedling trays- one for each token.

Then it was time to run back to the station and get the tube home- much easier because all the Central Line trains were going to the station I needed.

I was pretty thirsty by this point so got some coconut water in Pret to drink on the way back to the hotel, had a quick shower and then we checked out to get breakfast.

Andy booked Bill’s near Borough market so we walked there and enjoyed delicious pancakes for brunch to give us energy to walk around London for the rest of the day.

So, another letter completed! For the UK I have D and K left of the more normal letters, Q (hopefully going there in September) and then I (which is either Inverness or Ipswich) and J (which is only Jersey as I don’t think I can persuade Andy to go all the way to Boston for Jamaica Pond parkrun just yet….)

Do you get many tourists at your parkrun? Often I speak to people who have been to Ellenbrook Fields but we don’t get particularly big numbers each week (under 200 usually).  Best post run breakfast?

More early morning runs, parakeets and The Muppets!

So last Monday was a rest day (following on from the very hot Ware 10k), and then yoga was moved to Tuesday evening so we could watch the football. It was my last yoga session before the summer (they are term time classes only)- we did a bit inside and then lots outside which I love so much.

There was a t-shirt I ummed and ahhed over at FOTC- I didn’t get it but luckily Andy’s brother was going on a different night so got it for me. (There was a very funny song sung by a seagull…)

I got up super early on Wednesday (5am) for a run before work, as I knew I wouldn’t have time after. I think I did 4 miles at a fairly leisurely pace, but I felt better after. (Also, because of our hot water problems I needed to put the immersion on for a while before having a shower, so I may as well go on a run while it heats up).

I was a huge flock of parakeets flying overhead- I’ve seen them in St Albans before but not here. Since then I’ve seen them a few times when I’ve been walking around.

Thursday we had yoga at work, and then I stopped for a quick run on my way home- I was going to do a 2 mile loop. When I got back to my car, it had been blocked in on both sides- with about 2cm on either side. Loads of people were walking past and one guy commented on how close the other cars were, so I asked him if he would help me try and get out. He stood at the back but even after a few forwards and backwards I wasn’t really getting anywhere. It turned out there was an event at the secondary school around the corner, so I wrote down both number plates and ran up there, found a member of staff and very apologetically asked if they would make an announcement (I think it was some sort of open evening so I did feel bad speaking to the staff when they were so busy). Thankfully they made an announcement and one guy started going back to the car. He was the one parked behind me, although he had the cheek to tell me that I wasn’t very well parked and that’s why he had to park so closely behind me! When I had parked there had been a van in front, so I had parked with space between me and the van, but the van had obviously driven off it was a huge 4×4 in front. I did explain this, and he then “let me off”. The cheek! I was fuming- but I couldn’t really argue as at least  he had come to move his car unlike the other person.

Anyway, all that faff added loads of time on (probably about half an hour) so I got home pretty late. After a shower and dinner we had a bit of a walk (saw more parakeets).

Then on Friday I had to head home super quick because we were going to see The Muppets!

I love it when the tube do signs like this

I quickly packed as we were staying overnight in London, walked to the station and got the train to Moorgate before the tube to near our hotel. After checking in and dropping our bags off, we headed to the DLR (don’t ask me what we did because I get very confused on there- why are all the lines the same colour???) and picked up a sandwich in Canary Wharf. We ate them outside the O2 and then headed in to join the enormous queue. Everyone was having to go through metal detectors and bag searches, but for some reason they were so slow and the queue would not move an inch for 5 mins. There were no announcements for the people in the queue though, and I have no idea why it took so long (for FOTC they did bag searches and had metal detectors for people to walk through, and the queue moved the whole time). The show started at 8 and in the end we got inside at about ten past, just as they announced the show would be starting so we had to run up the stairs, find the door, run down the stairs as we were on the floor near the front, and then apologetically squeeze past people as the show was about to begin.

Anyway, the show was brilliant, with puppets on stage (a bit like Avenue Q, you can see the puppeteers all dressed in black but you just tend to watch the muppet- some of them had 3 puppeteers to one puppet), bits happening on the screen, and of course the very special guests including David Tennant, Charles Dance and Kylie (she was singing Manamanah and then Rainbow Connection). We were sat quite close to where the special guests were, so could see when they were about to be needed on stage again. One of the films was a Netflix parody with things like The Walking Bread (with the Swedish Chef) and my favourite- Frogglebox! I am sure you can guess what that was! It reminded me of many happy times at Disney watching the Muppet show there, and it was just such a fun evening.

I didn’t dilly dally and decided to get a t-shirt. As we were staying in London we didn’t have too long a journey, so we got a mint tea from the Starbucks just outside, and then headed back to the hotel.

I shall save my Saturday morning adventure for another post!

Do you like The Muppets? I think their shows are funny, but the two most recent films (particularly Muppets Most Wanted) are such funny films with brilliant songs.

Have you seen parakeets where you live? A while ago I would only see them in Richmond park or parks in London, whereas they seem to be really spreading now.

Tail walking with a tail, a garden show and a hot race

So on Saturday morning I was off to Letchworth parkrun, to tail walk.  I’ve run it once before, and it’s a lovely two lap route around farm fields and playing fields. As I had a race on Sunday I wanted to tail walk, and I also wanted to visit the town centre as a “weigh and pay” shop had recently opened and I wanted to visit it.

I was very excited to be given an actual tail to wear as tail walker! A giraffe tail! I had to have someone help me to clip it on, and then it was so long it dangled on the floor so I held it over my arm! I didn’t want to lose it out on the course.

It was absolutely baking- 23 degrees when I got out of the car at 8.30, and 27 by the time I finished. The views were stunning across the open countryside, and I could hear so many crickets/grasshoppers in the fields. I was behind a couple of women and then a little further up a lady who announced at the end that she was a 70 year old grandmother. All three of them were running at times and walking at others, it was a tough one and I was really hot and bothered by the end. I finished in 54:16 and headed into town.

I was heading to Bamboo Turtle, which is aiming to be a zero waste shop.  When I was little we always used to go to the weigh and pay shop to get things like cereals and flour, but those sorts of things all closed. This one in Letchworth recently opened- the idea is you bring your own containers, weigh them, write down the weight, then fill them with whatever you are buying (everything was priced per 100g) and then pay. The lady in there was very helpful, saying she could put things back if I had weighed out too much.

They did have jars and things for sale if you didn’t have your own though. I got some coconut chips, almonds and dark chocolate buttons for baking, plus a bamboo straw, although I need something to carry it in (so that if I get an iced drink in town I can use that straw instead of a plastic one).

Once I got home I had a lovely breakfast of a chocolate almond croissant (I bought it in town on Friday as a post crazy-work week treat) and watermelon. Seriously, nothing is better than watermelon when it’s hot.

Then we were off to London with Andy’s parents for the Hampton Court Palace flower show.

Again it was absolutely baking hot.

The gardens were good to see, and we picked up a few ideas for our own. There were also loads of stalls but we didn’t buy any plants as the ground is rock hard at the moment so I don’t think anything would survive for long.

We had thought we might avoid the score from the match, but there was a big screen up showing it, so we heard the two massive cheers which gave away the score somewhat!

Normally I find scarecrows pretty creepy, but this one was very clever- different parts of the body were represented by different vegetables (I think the liver was a butternut squash?).

I’d packed a clif bar and had that at around 5pm. We also took loads of water with us (and there were a few places to refill) but it was just so hot everywhere that I wasn’t feeling great by the end, really craving something salty. I think we did about 12,000 steps walking around (plus to and from the car) and all of that was really in the sun as there wasn’t much shade. By the time we got home it was so late we decided to get a takeaway pizza- something we only normally do if we are with other people. I think the only other time we had one was the day we moved into our house in Hatfield 12 or so years ago! We ended up eating it at 9pm in front of the TV.

Then on Sunday I was off to Ware for a 10k race. I love this race (there’s a 10 mile too, but since it’s been in the summer and not the autumn the 10k is the better option as it’s one lap not two, and there isn’t much shade).

After picking up my number I sat in the shade and seriously considered not running. It was just so hot. I had a nuun tab in water before I left, but hadn’t bothered with breakfast so I could sleep for longer, plus I knew I would not be racing it and I wouldn’t eat breakfast before a training run. It didn’t begin until 10am though the heat was building all the time.

Once we started it was OK, but so hot. I had decided to walk up the hills to save myself from getting overheated and overtired. My legs were not happy though, just lacking energy.

I took a few photos on the way around and enjoyed thanking the marshals. As well as water stations they had splash buckets with sponges so you could cool yourself down. At one point we ran through a housing estate and loads of people were out with their garden hoses offering to spray the runners- it felt so good to be momentarily cooled.

At around 4 miles I bumped into a couple of girls from the club, so I chatted to them for a bit but eventually lost them. The second part of the route is very flat, so apart from walking at the water stations I kept on going. I ended up overtaking a lot of people in the final couple of miles, so I think I paced it OK for me as I didn’t feel awful at the end. I did get overtaken by the lead runners in the 10 mile race, which I don’t think has happened to me before, but it was about finish lines and not finish times for me.

Near the end some children were manning the final splash bucket and had cups, basically offering to throw cups of water over you as you ran past. I said “go on then” and was drenched, but it was so hot that the water dried pretty much instantly.

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I saw Donna (my lovely running club leader) at the end (her boyfriend had finished ahead of me and she’d been cheering people on) so we chatted for a bit once I’d got myself drink and cake for £1- that’s the whole point of this race! Lemon cake was just what I fancied (brunch by then). I got a text pretty much as I crossed the line saying my time was 1:07:40, and they announced your name as you ran in which was a nice touch.

This year as it was the 10th anniversary, you got a t-shirt and a medal. It’s a pretty smart top with black down the sides, although red isn’t really my colour (especially when my face matches it after a run!).

While we were chatting, Daniel, the guy from Ellenbrook Fields parkrun (who I met at Upton parkrun) came up to say hi- he’d run the 10 miles in not much longer than the 10k had taken me. I was very glad I wasn’t going any further. After a chat it was time to head home for a lovely shower (the water worked, hooray) and then basically trying to stay as cool as possible inside. I ended up having a little lie down in the afternoon as I was still feeling tired from the busy week at work, and then after an early dinner we went to the cinema to see Tag (which was sort of OK and funny in places, and then took a weird turn at the end which just seemed inappropriate for that sort of comedy film). At least it was cool in there.

Did you manage to stay cool over the weekend?

Have you seen anything good in the cinema recently? I am looking forward to The Incredibles!

Work (and heat) induced taper

Last Sunday (after a super hot run) I spent a fair bit of time sitting in the shade in the garden, reading a magazine. Andy’s parents popped over for some iced tea, so we sat in the garden although the shade of course moved so we were all pretty hot in the end.

We had to have an early dinner as we were off to see Flight of the Conchords! We were meant to be going a while back, but Bret broke some bones in his hand…

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From their facebook page when the postponement was announced 

No way was he going to be playing guitar, keyboard etc with that.

If you’ve not heard of it, it’s a TV show (started as a radio show) about a band from New Zealand trying to make it in New York. They  write original songs and are brilliant at capturing the essence of other styles of music (they do a song called Inner City Pressure which is a lot like West End Girls by The Pet Shop Boys)- also as Bret has worked on the Muppets Most Wanted soundtrack (one of my favourites) and Moana there is a lot of music pedigree right there (Jermaine is the crab in Moana and also one of the prisoners in Muppets). For the show they stay in character and talk about their music, their touring, and then play new and old songs. They are so multi talented, playing guitars, bass, keyboard, various percussion instruments and even doing the most hilarious rock and roll recorder playing. It was a brilliant evening but a late night as by the time we had driven back it was gone midnight.

Then at work on Monday we had “the call”- Ofsted were coming on Tuesday (I hadn’t packed any lunch due to the late night, instead thinking I’d walk up to the local shops at lunch time, but then once the call came in I didn’t fancy anything funnily enough). Instead of the early night planned, I was at work until late on Monday night and then back in for 6am on Tuesday morning. My original plan was an early morning run on Tuesday (as the club run clashed with the England match) but instead I was up early for a different reason!

Tuesday was a pretty stressful day (although when I got up at 5am and attempted to eat some breakfast I saw the fox cub mooch around our garden, so I enjoyed that part of the day), with lots of meetings during the day- I felt quite nauseous at times and managed to eat an apple and a biscuit at lunch (in between meetings) but that was enough. I got home on Tuesday in time to watch the football, had a shower at half time and was planning to go to bed at 9pm- then of course they went to extra time so even when the football finished I was pretty full of adrenaline again and found it hard to get to sleep.

Then we had sports day which is always fun but really tiring- luckily it was the morning and it was probably the coolest morning of the week. When I got home on Wednesday I sat in the garden for ages, just feeling a bit like I had jet lag.

There were lots of bees buzzing about so I just enjoyed a little time watching them bumble around.

I nearly didn’t go to yoga as it is such hard work, but I knew I’d feel better in the end (plus I pay in advance so I was on the register)- we did lots of twists and held some poses for longer which helped, and then for the final relaxation we had the option of some eye pillows (a bit like beanbags) which really helped to filter out everything else.

On Thursday our yoga at work was a special session focusing on restorative poses. We did some mobilising first (some squats and some other things which I have forgotten) and then spent 5 mins in each of 3 poses. I fell properly asleep in the final one!

I’d said I would do some baking for the summer fair (as I couldn’t make the date to help on a stall) so no time for a run that day either. Instead I walked around to the shops to get some ingredients, baked a couple of batches of cookies, had a shower (not sure if I have mentioned our water woes before but we have had this leak for a while now, something to do with the overflow tank, with various symptoms) which turned out to be a freezing cold shower so I couldn’t wash my hair because of something to do with the tank.

Before the week started I had thought I would have a run after work on Friday, but I needed to pop into town to pick up an order, and by the time I got home I felt so shattered that I decided that I would wash my hair and watch some Wimbledon. So a grand total of zero miles, and two yoga sessions for the week so far. I’d already volunteered to tail walk on Saturday as I had a 10k race on Sunday, so I decided to call it a taper.

Have you still managed running in this heat? 


(Well, maybe not quite, but it’s been very summery).

I love this weather, although I don’t love it for running quite so much! This week looked like this:

Monday- walk

Tuesday- got up at 5.30am so I could have a short run before work, avoiding the heat (club run was cancelled for the evening anyway)

Wednesday- walk plus yoga- we spent the whole time outside again and it was brilliant. We worked super hard with lots of tough warrior poses and lots of side planks and twists, so the final relaxation at the end was even better with the breeze gently rustling the leaves on the trees above us.

Thursday- yoga at work (we were introduced to the downward dog pose this week and I managed to impress everyone by doing it properly, lifting alternate legs up and going into a plank- it reminded me that  the yoga on a Wednesday is a lot of strength work and must be doing me some good). Plus 2 miles around town on my way home.

Friday- a walk in the park, a visit to The Waffle House and then a walk with Andy once I got home.

The lake in Veralanium park

Saturday was my dad’s choice of parkrun as it was his birthday. He had thought of going into Wimbledon Common (as we did last year) to meet up with some of the other tennis officials, but in the end only one of them might have been going, so we stayed local. We met at Panshanger, ran together (well, until the end when I told him to go ahead for the final 200m or so as I was struggling), I had a shower at home, and then we headed over to theirs for a birthday pancake brunch. All is good in the world when we can do parkrun together and then Mum makes us pancakes! Dad is now up to 21 UK courses, so officially a UK parkrun tourist, so I presented him with a cow cowl (tourists can wear them to identify each other) ready for our next outing.

This morning I went out on a 10k run, but it was super hot. After about 4 miles I just felt so boiling, so I walked for a while to cool down.

I love how brown all the grass verges are at the moment. It adds to the feeling of a long hot and dry spell of weather, something which we seem to rarely get any more. It reminds me of summers when I was little, but you know that all it takes is one day of rain for everything to turn green again (don’t get me started on people watering their lawn- our neighbours have set up a sprinkler system and seem to water their lawn for a good 3 hours each day- why???????).

We’ve been having some water woes at home with an overflow pipe first leaking onto our driveway (plus a saga with the first plumber cancelling as his van broke down, rescheduling twice but not coming, then another guy coming a few times to try and troubleshoot)- then last night a different pipe from a different overflow started leaking out the back. The hot water also stopped working (so after parkrun yesterday I managed to put shampoo on before it went freezing cold!) but luckily the immersion worked today.

The garden is still looking happy though- it seems that the dry weather is keeping the slugs at bay, and the bees seem to like these lovely blue delphiniums. I’ve even got a hibiscus flowering so I can pretend that I am in Hawaii.

Finally, a couple of new finds:

First up, these have been on offer in loads of shops. As a veggie I don’t usually eat jelly type sweets as they usually contain gelatin. These are a vegan recipe though, and are the perfect balance of sweet with a sour coating.

And then these- Coconut Collaborative already make amazing little dark chocolate pots, and then these popped up. They basically taste like some sort of amazing caramel cake frosting. The pots are fairly small, (not yoghurt pot size or anything like that) but they are so rich and tasty. Mmmm.

And finally, can I just say how amazing watermelon is? In this weather especially there is nothing better to eat after a hot run.

Are you enjoying this hot weather?