Panshanger parkrun Ware 10 miles and a trip to the lavender farm

Two weeks ago on Saturday I headed to Panshanger for a parkrun. It was the first time I’d run one in ages, having missed one when I fell over, been tail walker the week after that and then marshalling the week after that. I had a bit of a warm up through a field, trying to spot the new long,  horned cattle that had been introduced (there was a bit on Countryfile about it- I don’t usually watch it but I’d seen on the tourist page that it was about Panshanger). Anyway I couldn’t find them at the start so kept an eye out whilst running. I started at the back which means a lot of run/walking to begin with, but as I had a 10 mile race the next day I didn’t want to get carried away.

I found the cows just over half way around- in a field next to the lakes at the bottom, so I popped off the route to take a photo before carrying on.  I was glad that they were behind the fence (not a fan of cows in the same field as me)! As I was coming up to the finish I looked at my watch to see if I could get my final stopwatch bingo number (I need a 17) and I think my watch was on something like 30, but I had no idea how long it would take me to run up the final part, and then I heard someone coming up behind me so decided to have a little push to the finish line. My time was 32:54 so no-where near the number that I need!

I didn’t hang about and quickly got back home for a shower, coconut water and a croissant from the freezer (I think that was my last one, sad times).

I had some work to do in the afternoon and then we walked to the park to meet our niece and nephew with Andy’s parents (as they were looking after them for the weekend). After chasing them around the park for a few hours, we walked home via Starbucks so I could get my free drink. It was a bit chilly by then so I had a warm drink- we even got caught in a few spots of rain. I remembered to paint my nails (my pre race ritual) and enjoyed a cookie in the evening.

The next morning was a fairly leisurely start for a race as it didn’t start until 10am and is only maybe a 20 min drive away. You have to pick up the race pack in the morning, but there aren’t big queues. The parking is right by the start, and it’s all so relaxed. I picked up my number (and t-shirt), wandered about a bit, looked at all the cakes, and then put my bag in the bag drop tent. By the way, big races could learn a lot from this race- when you sign up you choose your t-shirt size, and it’s printed on the envelope with your number, so after getting your number the person sees the t-shirt size and you get it (other years it’s been printed on your number if you collect it when you finish)- then everyone gets the size they need plus there must be much less waste.

The Ware Joggers are something like a baking club that runs, or similar. If only I lived a little nearer! They always have loads of home-made cakes, and a cake + drink at the end is £1, raising money for the Herts Air Ambulance. There are free kids races- it’s just great all round.

I loved these tops I saw (Shut up I’m not almost there!). The race is two laps, with the first part of each lap being a little hilly, and the second being totally flat along the canal (or river?). It’s so pretty, the marshals are brilliant, I just love it.

I wasn’t aiming for a particular time as it was warm (although not as hot as it could have been), I took photos on the way (being careful not to on the bumpy bits- I’m still wary of tripping over) and just loved it.

Although I did not love the people throwing their cups on the floor despite being asked to put them in the bins and there being loads of bin bags by each water station. Some even chucked them in hedges- how are they meant to be spotted by the poor volunteers cleaning up???

The two laps went by fairly quickly, although in the final few miles I had that thing when there is someone walk running, and what they do it run past you, slow to a walk, wait for you to run past (it seems) and then run straight away to overtake. It was a guy doing this, and it was driving me mad especially as at times it was a narrow towpath with lots of walkers too, so it was annoying that he would seem to stop right in front of me and then I’d have to squeeze past him. I was pretty glad that with around a mile to go he slowed and I got a bit of space between us!

The finish is a lap of the field and that always seems to take a while as you can hear the names being announced and see everyone milling about with their medals and cakes but you still have to run further! Anyway, as soon as I finished I was given a medal and a bottle of water, and after picking up my bag from the bag drop I joined the queue for cake. Usually I’d have a tea but it was really warm by this point so I opted for tea bread and squash (squash really reminds me of giving blood but I wanted something cold). I then found somewhere to sit down and watch the runners come in, enjoy my cake and also do a few stretches. I saw loads of people eating bananas and thought that perhaps they’d been organised and brought one with them, but when I left to go to the car park I realised that by the medals there were also bananas, I just didn’t see them. Ah well.

I drove home for a shower and lunch, and then we were off to the lavender farm.

It is just so gorgeous there. If you want to go into the fields you pay £6 and get a paper bag and some scissors, so I did that and Andy waited for me in the show field and shop area (it makes his hay-fever bad).

It is just so relaxing to be out there with all the bees buzzing around and the smell of lavender as you brush past the flowers. Some sections had big drifts of wildflowers too.

(I had a bit of fun with the timer on my phone for some photos- also showing off my new Totoro top).

I filled my bag and then headed back down to see Andy in the cafe.

The cafe sells lavender everything (ice-cream, lemonade, plenty of cakes) so we got some lemon and lavender cake to share, plus lavender lemonade (which I really liked), plus a piece of shortbread (lavender, of course) to have later on.

I bought a couple of plants to go in the garden, some peach and lavender jam and some lavender lip balm. Not too overboard!

When I got home I had fun arranging the flowers in various jars. I found a few really pretty little beetles that were living on them too, so I put them outside.

Do you have a local favourite race? Have you ever been to a lavender farm?

Marshalling in the heat = easier than running

On Saturday morning (two weeks ago- I keep thinking I’m catching up but I’m clearly not) I was marshalling at Ellenbrook Fields, so after I’d parked I had a little run around the business park. I changed out of my vest into my volunteer top and then headed to my marshal spot.

It was such a hot day. I’d brought my water bottle with me, but hadn’t filled it up all the way which was a mistake. I ended up marshalling in one of the big fields, with no shade around me at all. Luckily I had my visor on, but it was totally baking.

I was at about the half way point so I had plenty of time before even the front runners came through, so to pass the time I mucked about with the timer on my camera.

I quite liked it when the strands of grass looked gigantic (as I’d propped my phone up in the grass).

I saw so many beautiful wildflowers, and there was a constant buzz of bees and so many butterflies flitting past. The little black bugs (thunder bugs?) loved the high viz- I really should have taken it off and just waved it about instead.

Dad was running so I got to cheer him on, and then walked back to the start once the tail walker had gone through. At the finish area I chatted to a few people from our club for ages- since I don’t go to the evening run any more (they moved from Tuesday to Wednesday evenings so it’s yoga night) I feel like I hardly see anyone apart from at parkrun.

I went around to have breakfast at Mum and Dad’s and then quickly headed home as we were off to the Baseball in the afternoon.

We got the overground train in, and that was very unpleasant as it was so hot and even though the windows were open no air seemed to be coming in. I was so sweaty (this is my “I am so hot and sweaty” face). We had a bit of time before meeting Andy’s brother and his wife, so we went into Westfield to get a picnic dinner and ended up getting some frozen yoghurt to cool down a bit more.

The baseball was really fun. We’ve been to a few games when we’ve been abroad (Toronto Blue Jays, Charleston Riverdogs, somewhere in LA which was the most terrifying thing as we had to get the bus there and that was probably the scariest bus journey I’ve ever been on) and so you know it’s a long game with lots of other thins going on. As it was linked to the Invictus Games, Harry and Megan were there along with someone from the games to do the first pitch. Of course there were flames too- lots of things to hype up the crowd!

We had a great view across the stadium- it was so interesting to see how it had been changed since being an athletics stadium (although the less said the better about it being now a football stadium on the tax payers expense)- they had to put in a load of earth for the mound, and from where we were we could see the warm up areas. I won’t go into details with the scores, but the first innings had 12 runs (6 each)- we have been to games where the final scores isn’t that high. They had loads of funny graphics (First home run in London!!),  and loads of facts about the players. There were things like mascot races (Freddie Mercury racing Nessie…), a “beat the freeze” race  (a guy had to beat a mystery runner dressed in one of those all in one stretchy suit things) and crowd competitions in between the innings. My favourite was videos of the players being asked to name British people- one of them said “all the Harry Potters”… The 7th Inning Stretch where they all sing that song is always my favourite part (not sure why, I find it really funny).

Although we had a good view, it also meant we were right in the sun for most of it so I was really dripping in sweat- not so nice!

They had a water refill station so at one point we popped down to refill our bottles- the queue was 30 mins long! It was good fun, although to catch our train we missed the final innings (but didn’t miss anything major)- it was the second longest baseball game ever I think.

On Sunday morning I did 10 miles but issues with Strava meant that it just wouldn’t come up- I tried adding walks and things to bump it along, and they would pop up but my run wouldn’t. Eventually I went on my laptop and manually added it that way- if it isn’t on Strava it didn’t happen! (And I just like to keep track of the miles, and as my memory is so terrible it means I can find out what I did last week…).

Breakfast was a croissant and tea, and then I did a bit of pottering in the garden- standard Sunday!

In the afternoon we went to see Apollo 11, which is a film made up of remastered footage and all the original recordings of the moon landings. It was absolutely amazing. To get more into the moon landing, we listened to some of the Public Service Broadcasting album once home.

On Monday I had a package as I’d ordered some end of term gifts from Wideye (I’d bought some things from their Brighton store recently and really liked them), plus I thought I’d give their natural deodorant a go. They came beautifully boxed up, and all the packaging was compostable so that’s always good.

On Tuesday I was home fairly late but needed a run to clear my head- it was a super busy week at work. I did 3.5 miles and attempted to stay in the shade the whole time but didn’t quite manage it.

We’d got these vegan Magnums so I tried one- it was so delicious and really creamy.

On Wednesday yoga was mostly outside- we’ve done hardly any outdoors this year as it just hasn’t been as warm, but it was perfect this week as it was fairly cool.

On Thursday I did another hot run of 4 miles- I did consider getting up early and doing my run first thing instead, but that would mean really getting up close to 5am to give me enough time to wash and dry my hair etc.

On Friday I had another delivery, this time of some t-shirts- annoyingly as they were from the US I had to collect them as I needed to pay the VAT- if only that could be added at checkout it would be so much easier.

I did some baking on Friday evening- peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. It’s a Hummingbird recipe and it was only when I was putting them on the baking trays that I remembered that I usually halve the recipe as it makes so many. I had to cook them in batches!

Have you ever been to a Baseball game? Did you see Apollo 11?

Tail walking as strength training, and back running

On Friday after work I was meeting a friend at The Waffle House. The residential school trip was due back, and the coach blocks the exit to the car park while they all unload, so I left work as soon as I could and had a lovely walk through the park to the cathedral and back again.  I saw so many ducklings and goslings.

The time also allowed me to decide on my waffle of choice (my friend always knows what she is having, and in other places I usually do, but I find it so hard to choose here…)- this time it was a banana flapjack waffle, which is a waffle with banana, toffee sauce and flapjack crumbles.

This was on a teaching resource website (twinkl) and and that point we had 4 (my friend 4 and a half) weeks to go with what feels like a million things to do (moderation, assessment, data analysis, transition prep and meetings, sports day, school trip)- we both needed the sugar to keep us going! My friend is moving away (sad face) so I shall miss our regular catch ups- this was a fab way to spend a Friday evening.

For Saturday morning I had volunteered at Westmill, which is a lovely but small parkrun close to Ware, in an activity centre. I think I’ve run it 3 times before, and been a marshal once. I didn’t think my dad would be around as he was up in Birmingham doing a tennis tournament, but he came back on Friday night and said he’d come over and run it. I then offered to make breakfast- any excuse for baked French toast! So my mum and dad met me there with Mum watching and chatting to everyone at the finish area, while Dad ran it.

The poppies at Westmill looked stunning

When I got to Westmill we were directed to park in a different car park, and the start was in a slightly different place to when I’ve been before. It is still just under 2 laps, but the start/finish were closer to the car park. As tail walker I was asked to pick up an IKEA bag as I went through the finish area after my first lap, and pick up all the cones. So on my first lap I looked out for the cones, and also chatted to a few of the runners/walkers at the bac (including one lady who had missed the start and it turned out was her first ever parkrun- I didn’t get her name so I wasn’t sure if she finished as she was tempted to just do the one lap).

Now, I’ve been tail walker at Ellenbrook Fields and St Albans, (where you don’t collect anything as the only signs are ones held by marshals), and Panshanger, where you have to get a few of  the laminated arrows and make sure that you shut the gates. Westmill was on another level! Dad had run past me on his way to the finish, so as I got the bag he came over and said he’d  come with me on my second lap.  I am not sure how I would have managed on my own. There were so many cones (the little ones we have at school for PE, but also large orange cones, arrow signs, big solid plastic flags sunk into the ground…)- in the end Dad carried the bag and I carried the things that would not fit in the bag. Every now and then we had to run to make sure the back runner was in sight (because the tail walker should be there in case of any issues too)- it was hard work! I am not sure I would have managed to carry all the equipment on my own- I think it was a 2 person job for sure!

As I finished I put the bag down and went through the finish funnel- the timer beeped and the guy with the tokens said to me “you would have been number 88”, so I said to him “well, I am number 88”, and after what felt like a very long pause, he gave me the token. The first time I was tail walker I didn’t take a token so it still annoys me that I’ve done one more run than shows up on the results, and of course the point that no-one finishes last because there is a tail walker at the back is also an important one. parkrun 201 done. I was very happy as I hadn’t run since falling over (not even the daily mile at school) and when I did have to run to catch up, my knee felt fine.

Mum and Dad came back for breakfast, and my brother also came over (he hadn’t run as he was playing football in the afternoon).

I did a bit of baking later on- this was a raspberry bakewell cake from the Lucy Bee website.

On Sunday morning I was up early for a long run. I was starting to worry that I hadn’t run a long run for a while and the 10 mile was creeping up on me. I would not be racing the 10 miles, but I don’t want to find it a huge struggle. The bruise on my right shin was turning more yellow, but the swelling was all gone and they felt much better. It was pretty hot so I opted for shorts- the scabs did make me feel more self conscious than usual about my legs/ knees, but it was fairly quiet where I was running.

I did 8 miles of loops near my house, meaning that I could head back home if I felt like I needed to. They were super slow (around 12 min miles) but I didn’t want to push it and because my knee still felt sore if I touched it, I didn’t want to make it stiffen up.  Also I hadn’t run for 11 days so my muscles were going to be sore too. There were a few bits of brioche left over so I made some French toast when I got home. I also got a Strava badge- Race to the Moon (running 50 miles in 50 days to celebrate 50 years since the moon landing).

Then we were off to London as for my birthday I’d been given tickets to see the Reasons to be Cheerful podcast do a live recording. We had a wander around London (got an iced chai in Bird&Blend by Borough Market) and walked along the river.

The show was really good (I think some of their topics sound a bit heavy going but they are done in such an interesting and accessible way)- all about whether we should have a constitution in Britain. Ed Miliband had parkrun as his reason to be cheerful for the week (since they did an episode about parkrun he’s been a fairly regular parkrunnner), and at the end the comedian guest was Nish Kumar who was so funny.

Monday was our school trip, which is an exciting but also mega tiring day (not even having time to go to the toilet between 8am and 3.30pm shows how on the go it was), so when I got home I just wanted to sit down with a cup of tea and was very glad of my Monday rest day!

Tuesday was a 3 mile run in the muggy heat (it felt like a storm was coming to clear the air but never materialised), and Wednesday was yoga.

I went out on a walk at lunch time on Wednesday and saw that a few of the podcasts I’d been following had updates so it was interesting to hear the latest news. I also saw these pretty sweet pea flowers growing up a hedgerow.

On Thursday lunch we went out for a planning meeting and as it was hot and I thought I’d fancy an iced drink, I remembered to take my metal straw with me- I’ve now got a case which means I can carry it with me without it getting dirty, and also when it’s finished with, I can just rinse the case out (I got it from Ebay here, and the case also came with  different metal straws and a cleaning brush, whereas I thought it was just the case).

Thursday after work I went out for 4.5 miles catching up on the new With Me Now (with a bit of a local slant as a parkrun tourist had come to St Albans to do Jersey Farm parkrun (in a suburb of St Albans), and ended up doing St Albans parkrun instead)- again for my run doing a few loops in case I didn’t want to go as far in the heat, but all was good. I’d bought a watermelon and that is the perfect snack after a hot run.

I couldn’t make the school summer fair so had offered to make some cakes, so in the evening I made 4 batches of brownies- two with chocolate chips, and 2 with raspberries and white chocolate.

When I was buying the cake ingredients I saw this raw millionaire shortbread and had that as a post-run snack- loving the recyclable packaging too. To counteract that, I had some lovely Pret mango which is the best dried mango (the sulphites in all the other brands give me stomach ache) but probably buying it in the little plastic packets isn’t the best.

Do you like to tail walk? Are there lots of signs on your parkrun course to be put out/collected? What sort of podcasts are you listening to at the moment?

Limping around RHS Wisley and seeing Rocketman

Two weeks ago on Saturday I didn’t go to parkrun as I’d fallen over and was limping around (when you have to go up the stairs one at a time, going to a running event isn’t a good idea). We’d planned to head to RHS Wisley on the Saturday anyway, so we drove down late morning.

It was a lovely place to wander (limp) around, with beautiful flowers, some amazing carvings, and some test beds where they try out different types of the same plant to see how they cope with various weather conditions.

After a few hours of walking my knee was really throbbing so we went to the cafe. Andy wanted a piece of cake and I fancied a scone, and after paying for all of our bits, the lady told me they had no cream, but she had charged me for it. I thought she’d ask me to put my card back in and refund it to me, but she told me to “hurry up and choose” and it turned out she was giving me another cake instead. I clearly dithered too much, so she put a brownie in a paper bag and told me it was the best thing there. Something to save for later.

We walked around the big glasshouse, and along by the river to the bird hide (had a great view of a woodpecker feeding), and then headed to our hotel for a bit of a rest before walking over to the cinema to see Rocketman. I really loved this film- I found it very emotional, but I thought it was done really well- no rose tinted spectacles looking back on the past.

As we’d gone to an early evening screening, we then watched a bit of TV (the Isle of Wight festival, and then some Friends) while I propped my knee on a cushion to try and make it feel better.

On the Sunday morning we drove to Windsor for a wander in the sunshine.

Windsor, Gail’s cinnamon roll for breakfast, using a shower cap to keep my hand dry in the shower)

It turned out there was some sort of triathlon event going on, so we saw loads of people wandering around in wet suits. It was a beautiful day, although as soon as the sun went in the breeze made it chilly, and you’d put your coat on and then the sun would come out and it would be baking!

That week I would have had a few runs in the evening, but I was not even walking properly on it until the Wednesday so that of course was not a good idea. I had signed up for yoga and nearly didn’t go, as my hand was still a little weepy (I was keeping it covered at work to stop germs getting in), but in the end I decided to go and see how I got on. It was a summer solstice special, so we started off outside, focusing on our connection to the ground (rather damp and muddy- the teacher had brought a towel so we could wipe our feet when we went back inside). We didn’t do too many downward dogs and I could stay on my fingertips on my left hand for the ones we did, so it was OK. The most uncomfortable pose was child’s pose as my knee was still a little swollen.

I went out on a few gentle walks in the evenings (got to keep the 10,000 step per day streak going) as I didn’t want to stiffen up. I thought I’d manage a run on Thursday but it was still sore, so I decided to tail walk at parkrun on the Saturday and then I could see how I got on and give it the extra few days off.

I spent a few evenings pottering in the garden. We have a rose and it really appears as if it is luminous- I think it must have some sort of pigment that reflects UV light (or something similar) because especially as dusk it just appears to glow, and is so much brighter than any of the other flowers of a similar colour.

Which films have you enjoyed lately?

Rain, running magazine moans, parkrun forever and rainbow runs

On the Sunday after running Milton Keynes parkrun I headed out on a long run. I ran 10 miles in the end but it felt like hard work. Although it’s not been really hot, it was fairly muggy so I wonder if that made it feel harder. Something popped up on Strava to say that if you added the rainbow emoji then it would turn your route rainbow coloured, to celebrate Pride month, so I did that. I do like the pretty colours!

Once home I watched a bit of Springwatch and had a hot cross bun and marmalade.

The foxes are totally trolling us right now- they left a green flannel hanging on a tree, and a hedgehog slipper (not a slipper for a hedgehog, but a slipper in the shape of the hedgehog) directly facing the little box Andy put in which is meant to detect motion and emit a high sound that they don’t like.

After a bit of pottering in the garden we went to meet up with Andy’s family at a local tearooms for some scones, tea and a walk around the woods.

(Right- the images are still upside down and I have no idea why… even if I edit them and turn them, they revert to being upside down again).

I got annoyed when reading a running magazine- on the same page were these two snippets- one promoting these “natural” energy gels (containing natural cane sugar- it’s still sugar)

and one warning that women risk premature death if they drink sweetened drinks each day. No wonder people get confused with nutrition.

That week yoga was on a Monday instead, and it totally poured with rain all day. I went on a short walk in the morning to stretch my legs after the 10 the day before, and that helped a lot. Yoga was lovely as always, and when I got home it was bucketing down so much I sat in my car for a few minutes to see if it would ease off a little (it didn’t), so I got drenched!

On Tuesday and Wednesday I went out on a run after work (4 miles and 3.6 miles)- but with fairly tired legs. I suppose I usually have a rest day on Monday, and although yoga is good for stretching, it is also a lot of strength work with planks, press ups, and when we hold the warrior poses you’re essentially doing lots of squats and lunge type moves. I was glad to have a rest on Thursday! I met Andy in town as we had a John Lewis cake voucher to use before Saturday, and I think I just sat there and stared into space. For some reason I felt so tired. I had been in a lot of meetings at work so I think my brain was running out of energy too.

My parkrun forever letter turned up- I had signed up a while back (you can do a monthly donation to help keep it sustainable), and I got a thank you letter and lovely parkrun pin badge. The only thing is I don’t want to wear it out in case it falls off, so I shall have to find somewhere for it to go at home I think.

(As a side rant, I have seen so many people recently on parkrun related comment threads moaning about the free t-shirts and how there is a back log (I got my 100 t-shirt on my 150th run- be patient!), but I have also seen people saying they would rather pay for a t-shirt than have to wait. This makes me angry because the point of parkrun is that it is free so it’s accessible to anyone- even if you charged £1 this would mean it would not be affordable to some people, and would go against their ethos. When I pointed out to someone that they could either make a donation to their event via their page, or set up a parkrun forever donation, they were very dismissive and wanted it linked to the t-shirt. I didn’t bother replying because it just seemed futile, but if you want to donate when you earn a t-shirt, then do it, and then you will know the link- who cares if no-one else knows? Rant over.)

I’ve been updating my blog a little- my parkrun touristing page now has all the latest links, and I’m up to 63 different events now which surprised me.

On Friday after work I had booked a massage as my neck had totally seized up. I left work on time but got stuck in a little bit of traffic, and as I ran up the road to make it on time, I tripped. As I fell, I really thought I’d get my foot out in time, so I was even more surprised when I hit the floor and skidded into the road.

I was so relieved that no-one was around to see, and hobbled up the road to the place. Thankfully Katie, the lovely masseuse, told me she was first aid trained so ushered me into the bathroom to wash my hand (I had to pull a flap of skin off my hand). My leggings hadn’t ripped so I didn’t even think to check my legs, but as the massage went on my knee started throbbing, and when I got dressed after I checked, and my knee looked rather bloody and swollen.

I had to get a few bits in town, and went to Starbucks to get my free drink, and when they told me they had no chai I thought I was going to cry. (I think this as left over emotion from falling over.)

Driving home was really hard as each time my hand touched the gear stick or handbrake it really hurt.

My weekend running plans were somewhat scuppered due to this, as even though I iced my knee when I got home, it was really swollen and I couldn’t bend it properly.

Have you ever fallen over? I have a few times, but they have always been when I’ve been out on a run before, not just walking along (well, I suppose I was running because I was late, but only half running). I’ve got a scar on my shoulder and one on my right hand from two other falls.