Another lovely weekend in Brighton (and a course pb!!!)

On Friday after lunch we headed down to Brighton. The train takes just under 2 hours, so as soon as we arrived we checked in to the hotel and then headed out for two Brighton essentials- tea lattes from Bluebird tea (I got the Earl Grey creme latte which reminds me of the gorgeous London fog lattes you get in Canada), and a walk by the sea.

The weather was perfect- clear skies and no winds so the sea was like a millpond. We walked along to the beach huts by Hove and then walked back and went for dinner.

I didn’t actually sleep that well- the room was warm despite having the window open, and it sounded like lorries going past (I think it was rail replacement buses from early in the morning), but of course I was off to parkrun in the morning.

I’d been to Preston Park before, and last time tried to keep up with the 28 min pacer, and finshed with 27.55. I thought I would aim for something similar as a measure of fitness, and when I got there it turned out they were having a pacing event.  It was super busy though, with (I think) their second highest attendance of 588 as they had events from several running clubs on. Anyway, I could not see the pacer once I got to the start area, although they do have signs up near the start area to help you know where to line up according to your estimated finish time.

It was the perfect morning for running- nice and cool, sunny skies, no breeze, and I think all of the super speedy runners somehow pulled me along. I didn’t look at my watch at all, but just focused on keeping a high pace and trying to overtake the person in front, steadying for a bit and then going to overtake the next person. I was pretty surprised when I peeped at my watch a few metres from the line and saw a 26 on there!

My official time was 26.47! Anything beginning with 26 is a rarity for me so I was over the moon! I had offered to write the run report, so it’s here if you are interested. After finishing I jogged back to the hotel, and after a shower it was time for breakfast at the best place- Cafe Coho. They always do amazing pancakes- the last few times I have had them with berries and greek yoghurt, but I spied a new option this time- caramelised banana, chocolate marscapone and hazelnut praline. Oh yes. It was really good, but very sweet (obvs), so I think probably the more sensible choice was the berries. Anyway, good to try.

The weather was just as beautiful, so we walked along to Hove, then back along the seafront, this time getting iced drinks from Bluebird (we shared a strawberry lemonade and an iced chai as decisions are too tough in there).

As we’d had a late breakfast, we didn’t have lunch, stopping for a bit of tea and cake a few hours before dinner, and then we got the train home on Saturday evening. I ended up with a headache, I think probably from not drinking enough, so instead of my planned 13 mile run on Sunday I thought I would see how far I would manage.

I was actually OK when I woke up on Sunday but I went out a bit later than planned (around 9am) so I did just under 10 miles.

When I got home it was time for a nuun tab in water, a smoothie, and a date filled with peanut butter- these are quite salty because I made with the peanut butter at the bottom of the tub and it all seems to sink there. That was enough to keep me going so I could have a shower before breakfast.

As it was such a lovely day we had planned a walk for Sunday afternoon, and we ended up doing 5 miles, so I still had a lot of time on my feet.

The rest of this week has been very busy with work things- I managed one run after work on Tuesday, and a couple of walks in the evening, but yoga wasn’t on and I was home too late for a run on Thursday. A few photos: (Clockwise from top)-I tried the blueberry nakd bar and was pleasantly surprised- I don’t  always like blueberry muffins as the blueberry flavour can be a bit fake/sweet. A few Bluebird purchases including lovely red velvet tea. Wuntu were doing free Costa drinks so I stopped on Friday on my way home. Crisps made with chickpeas- I approve of the salt and vinegar flavour!

What do you have planned for this weekend?

Happy cake, the winter olympics and a little cake disaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The long runs are getting longer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tough yoga, a sore ankle and switching brands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long run day breakfast, some crocus flowers and the factory

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

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

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

Unexpected parkrun tourism- Houghton Hall parkrun

So the original plan for this Saturday was to meet my dad at Heartwood forest parkrun, run there together and then go back to theirs for breakfast. Last week however, our plans were scuppered when Heartwood forest announced that it would be closed until the spring to allow the paths to recover. As we had already pencilled in a trip somewhere other than the regular places, I had a little look around. Letchworth was starting today, but they had requested a small launch so we will visit later in the year (I need it for the Queen of Herts title!). I’d seen a few people on Strava run at Houghton Hall, which is located close to Dunstable (so basically very close to the M1)- it would be around a 25 min drive from my parents home. I’d also seen it on the fab blog, blog7t, and realised that the reason why I hadn’t heard of it before was that it only started in December. It was two laps (well, two and a bit) which is always good in our book- and the route looked flat, on paths (not muddy)- winning all around.

So I was up early on Saturday so I could pick up Dad on the way- I was treated to a beautiful sunrise- it was even more pink and purple than it looks.

Anyway, the journey was very easy, although the postcode that we used took us to a little industrial park that backs onto the actual park (some other runners/ people in high viz clothes also made the same mistake as us)- easily solved as I looked at google maps and so we were parked at 8.35am. The car park was fairly small (as I had read on the blog) and although there were plenty of spaces when we arrived, when we left it was full, with people having made up spaces too.  It was so cold though- I’d had to scrape ice from my car before leaving, and thankfully made a last minute decision to bring an extra layer, so we sat in the car until ten to.

The park was lovely- very flat with fields and trees, plus a wooded area. The wind was whipping across the park during the new runners briefing and we were so cold- we did a start line selfie instead of the usual finish line one so we didn’t need to hang about at the end!

The lady in the blue top then came over to apologise for photo-bombing us! I don’t think she really did but it was funny. I also chatted briefly to another cow-cowl wearer who came from High Wycombe- one we haven’t been to yet, but apparently is very flat and an out and back (no laps!) so that’s been added to the list too!

After the main briefing, everyone walked a very short (10m?) distance to the start, where suddenly we realised we were off! The route went through the fields (on hard paths- a bit like compacted gravel maybe?), briefly out of the park and up a sort of alleyway (a tarmac pedestrian path that backed onto gardens) and then back into the park. We seemed to pass the finish line very quickly, and then we knew we had two full laps to go. There was a tarpaulin for jumpers etc., they had said we could throw them on our way past, but it was way too cold and I kept my extra layer on the whole time. After running close to the start, we then headed off into a lovely woodland section (but again, very dry underfoot) before passing through the start again. I really enjoyed it- we ran at a fair pace to try and keep warm, but did manage to chat most of the way and ended up talking to a guy as we neared the end- this was now his local but he used to run at Luton and then Hemel- he’d been to a lot of the Herts ones so we compared notes. The poor marshals looked freezing though- one in particular was jumping up and down- the third time we saw her she told us she’d managed to warm up! The little alleyway bit was a slight uphill slope- the first time it seemed flat, the second time felt a bit uphill and the third time was harder but at least the end was nearly in sight. Dad had more speed left in him, so sped off and managed to finish 9 placed ahead of me in the end.

I was quite pleased with my finish- I think I am usually about half way through the tokens (e.g. 80/160 runners) but this time I was 77/196, only 12th lady, with 27.38. Any finish with 27 at the start is a fast time for me, and this was flat (and no mud) so it felt good to run comfortably at that pace.

We didn’t hang around- on the walk back to the car I saw this cool climbing wall made of old tree trunks- there seemed to be lots of things like that all around the park. We did do some stretches before getting back in the car though- then it was home to Mum and Dad’s for a quick shower and then pancakes- how all weekends should begin!

One I would happily run again anyway- nice and flat, pretty scenery (and if you were touring, very close to the M1 and there is a big Travelodge right by the M1 junction).

Do you chat to other people at parkrun? I am not really very outgoing with people I don’t know, but I find at parkrun people are always so friendly and there is always lots of common ground to talk about.