A catch up and happy birthday NHS!

How is the weekend over already?

Last weekend was full of unpacking, weeding, a little visit to the garden centre and a 10 mile run (my first in double figures for a while). This peach cobbler tea is delicious (in my new mug).

I’ve been having success with the viridian sports mix- I have been adding it to either coconut water or iced tea (this was lemonade iced tea) and so far I’ve not had a headache when using it.

I saw this Hazelnut milk in the shops and could not resist- it is pretty amazing and although it’s been way too warm for it this week, would make a delicious hot chocolate.

This week looked like this:

Monday- 10 mile run, plus a walk into town later on

Tuesday- 3 mile run (I was feeling pretty shattered so just took it slowly)

Wednesday- yoga including a bit of time outside on the grass attempting handstands- it was the closest I have got and my shoulders were really achy the next day from it.

Thursday- 3 miles in the morning (I was on a course so made the most of needing to leave a little later)

Friday- home to find that Andy had bought these little peanut butter caramel things from M&S- so a couple plus a cup of tea made the perfect start to the weekend. We had a nice walk after dinner once it wasn’t quite as warm.

Saturday was parkrun celebrating 70 years of the NHS. I was going to go to Panshanger as I’ve not been there for a while, and then early on Saturday morning I got a message saying we’d be out on Sunday morning, so I decided to run there and back on Saturday (parkrun sandwich) to get my long run in then.

The run there is just over 4 miles, and I always panic about missing the start, although I got there at about 8.50 so good timing really. There was bunting up all over the car park entrance, by the finish funnel and where the scanners stand. It was brilliant to read so many of the amazing achievements- vaccines/ transplants/ screenings (although how was it that in 1954 the link between smoking and cancer was discovered, and smoking wasn’t banned in public places until 2007???). Before the start they asked everyone who worked for the NHS to come up so we could give them a clap, and a local nurse (who I think they said was an MBE) did a little speech. A few people had paper on their backs saying things like “thank you NHS for saving my life” and listing various illnesses.  It was brilliant to hear that some GP’s in Hertfordshire are exploring prescribing parkrun to people- I really think that being involved in a community like this is way better for your mental health than your physical health, and just getting people outside for some fresh air is so beneficial.

Then we were off. I was in no hurry, knowing I had to run the 4 miles home, and just really enjoyed the scenery. I saw someone from my running club but she was ahead of me and I didn’t catch her up.

I finished with 30:30, and made sure that as soon as I was scanned I started running home so I would not get too stiff.

I saw this pretty plant on the way back- lovely red leaves and layers of pink flowers- I need to work out how to search google for it.

Did your parkrun celebrate the NHS?

Why York parkrun? Yes

I was rather happy that we stayed in York for the final night of our trip to Scotland, because this meant not only more parkrun tourism, but ticking off a rather tricky letter. I think the only other one is Yeovil?

After leaving Newcastle, we drove down to York, stopping off at a NT place for a walk around the gardens. As a side point we found it good to break up the journeys with stops this time, as our default setting is to power through and then feel all stiff when we finally get out of the car. We managed good amounts of steps each day, with a high of 27,000 steps on the Thursday and a low of 13,000 on the first Saturday.

I was very pleased to see amazing looking scones, so I treated myself to a cream tea as a sort of late lunch- it was so good.

Once in York we had a wander around- it was jam packed with people, and such a hot and sunny day. We went for dinner in Source, which had loads of veggie and vegan options, I was spoilt for choice. We shared a lime-grilled avocado to begin with. I’ve not had warm avocado before (I don’t think) but it was really tasty. It was served with a little bit of crusty bread, so it was a bit like warm guacamole or something. Very creamy and delicious.

On a rather damp and drizzly morning, I set off to the parkrun on the Saturday morning. It was around 1.7 miles from the hotel, so good distance for a warm up. I’d much rather run than have to navigate bus timetables and that sort of thing, and although I needed my phone out at first (the roads in York are a bit twisty) once I was on the main road heading out of the town, it was all fine. York parkrun is held on the racecourse, so there were signs once I got close which helped too.

The website does say to allow time to get from the road to the start, and it ended up being a kilometre, so you do need to be aware of this. Confusingly there were signs for a cycle event (cue a slight bit of panic in case all the lycra people were cyclists) but then I saw a couple of milestone t’s so I knew I was OK.

By then it had started to rain a bit harder, and there is really no shelter here at all either. Everyone was trekking along the edge of the track to the start, and of course as soon as I stopped running my glasses steamed up more.

The new runners briefing was very welcoming, and they had a few pacers including a run/walk pacer who came and introduced herself in case anyone wanted to go with her.

Now, I had read it was pretty much pancake flat, so thought it might be good for a pb, or at least a fast time, but I wasn’t feeling it, so in the end I decided to aim for the 28 min pacer. The route starts at one side of the race track, you do a full lap (3 k approx) and then a final 2/3 of a loop (around 2km) to the finish. I must admit that if I ran here each week I would find it mentally very tough. It started off feeling a bit interesting to be running next to the race track – we were inside the fence on a path, with the track going around the outside (although my thoughts wandered over to the morbid side of horse racing, wondering how many poor horses had been shot on the course), but you could see the whole route the entire time. It was amazing how quickly the front runners steamed ahead of everyone else, and although I managed to get to the finish on my first lap without being lapped I don’t think I’d need to be much slower to be overtaken (this doesn’t bother me but just makes it more congested and surely more confusing for the volunteers).

The scenery around the outside changed a little bit- there was a lovely wooded area to one side and you passed the grandstand near the finish area. But it was pretty much the same view all the time. I am not a huge fan of long straight roads as I just feel like I am not moving. The finish at Ellenbrook Fields is along the old taxiway and it’s a km from start to finish,  and that can feel like a slog. I must admit when I got to the 3km point I wasn’t enthused about running 2 more with the same views. I do think it would be tough on a sunny day too, as there was little shade on the course.

There were however some lovely cheerful marshals out on the course, and a few runners milling around the finish area cheering people in. The pacers did a great job too- I started further back and so took a while to catch up the 29 min pacer, only getting the 28 min pacer in sight near the end.

I finished in 28:07 in the end, so not too far from my aim, and although I didn’t look at my watch I managed nice negative splits of 9:10, 9:03, 8:59 and 7:56 for the bit. (Position 279/474)

I tried to take a pondering selfie for the “Y/Why” question…

Then it was time to head back- the rain that had eased off during the parkrun was back so by the time I got back to the hotel I was totally drenched- the hot shower afterwards felt so good (or could I have saved time by just putting the shampoo on my hair while I was running?).

We headed to The Cosy Club for breakfast- lovely pancakes with bananas, berries and creme fraiche, plus a pot of tea, and then it was time to drive home- in keeping with tradition we of course stopped off at a final NT place for a walk around some woods and gardens.

Are you a fan of parkrun tourism? Are you hunting any particular letters or doing other challenges? I quite like the pirates challenge (7 c’s and one r) but I’ve done all the local C’s already. I enjoyed my Herts challenge too (running all the parkruns in Hertfordshire) so I feel like maybe a new county would be good to consider.  I still mainly aim to be a tourist if I happen to be away somewhere, although the closer I get to finishing the alphabet, the more likely I am to become more serious about it!

Sunny Scotland!

For half term we headed up to Scotland for a bit of a whistle-stop tour. We could not have been any luckier with the weather. My theory is that if you go to Scotland (or the Lake District, or pretty much anywhere north of where we live) then if you get rain, then that’s what you expected, and anything better is a bonus. After work on Friday we had dinner, packed up the car and headed up north.

Andy had diligently researched hotels close to parkruns – originally we were going to stay in Leeds on the Friday night so I could go to Temple Newsam, but our route in Scotland changed so we stayed in Warrington. A few weeks ago they announced on their facebook page that the event wouldn’t go ahead on Saturday due to a community event taking part in the park- annoying, but I was glad I knew in advance. It meant we set off fairly early the next morning. We stopped in Sizergh castle (a NT place) to stretch our legs and of course sample some cake- we shared a piece of sticky toffee cake (a local speciality apparently) and it was so good although I think if you had a piece to yourself the sugar crash would be epic.

I enjoyed watching the goslings, and we had a good wander around the grounds before heading to Glasgow.

All the sunshine!

It was such gorgeous weather, and so after dropping off our bags we walked through the town centre out to one of the parks (Glasgow Green) and along by the river. I was also very excited to find that the Hotel Chocolat had a cafe, so we had to share a hazelnut hot chocolate.

On the Sunday morning I went on a run, to the same park,enjoying the somewhat quieter streets.

After breakfast we walked along the river in the opposite direction to where we went on Saturday, then drove to the botanical gardens for a walk and picnic lunch. The park was rammed!

Then it was time to head off to Loch Lomond- another place crowded with people out enjoying the spectacular sunshine.

We walked along the lake for a bit, and then also through a loop in some woodland.

Our hotel was on the shore of the loch with more amazing views. It was light until so late in the evening too.

On Monday we had a longer drive to Inverness. We broke it up by stopping in Aviemore for lunch- we’d been to the amazing Mountain Cafe last year (possibly the same day) so we were keen to go there again. I had a delicious falafel and hummus sandwich, but the slices of bread were about a thick as two normal pieces of bread- we didn’t need dinner that day!

We did however have room to share a piece of caramel shortbread- it had the thickest caramel ever- so good.

One of my friends lives in Inverness, so I had asked her for recomendations- she told us about the Ness Island Walks, basically paths linked by bridges going over the river, up to the town. Again, beautiful weather and such a fantastic place for an evening walk.

On Tuesday we had arranged to meet up with my friend and her two little children. We went to middle school together, and by a weird coincidence moved up to Scotland the same week that my family moved to St Albans. Despite only knowing each other for three and a half years, we kept in touch and often used to visit each other in the holidays, although as we have got older it has become harder to meet up. We had arranged to meet in Nairn (apparently the Brighton of the north) but the sea mist (I forget the Scottish word for it) had rolled in, so after a walk up and down the prom, we headed to Logie Steading, a farm with a cafe, shops and art gallery in the old stables, next to a river with lots of marked footpaths, where we had lunch in the cafe, a long walk by the river to the canyon, and then back to the cafe for ice cream. It was so lovely to catch up- of course we are in touch via social media and all of that, but in person it is different.

From there we drove to Aberdeen, although we didn’t end up seeing much of the town. We parked in the centre and went for dinner, but our hotel was on the outskirts and as we were headed to Edinburgh the next day, we didn’t go back into the centre in the morning.

In Edinburgh we visited the botanical gardens before heading to the centre. It was a bit overcast that day, but still warm.

As it was rather overcast, of course we went to the Hotel Chocolat cafe, this time for a mint one (we shared a large each time but I am very sure that the Edinburgh large was bigger than the Glasgow large).

On Wednesday morning I had a run in Edinburgh- stupidly I was remembering my run in Glasgow, thinking I’d be out before it got busy, but of course forgetting it was a work day. The run had a lot of stop-starts as I had to wait to cross roads, but I still managed to do around 4 miles looping around the city centre. It was so misty that morning that I could hardly see the castle, although it did clear during the morning.

Then it was time for my favourite- breakfast (well, brunch really by the time I’d had a shower, we’d checked out and left our bags in the car and walked there..) at Loudon’s.

I love French toast, and so of course had to have it- I went for banana, salted caramel and toasted coconut. They do special blends of tea too, so I had one with black tea, cocoa nibs and coconut, which was delicious.

After a final walk around the park, it was time to head south and leave Scotland behind. We stopped off in Alnwick for a bit of a walk, and then drove to Newscastle for our penultimate stop.

The blue skies were out in force, and it was enjoyable to wander around by the river, remembering when we were last here (for the Great North Run).

I’ll save our final stop for another blog post as it involved some parkrun tourism.

Have you ever been to Scotland? I suppose having a friend living there meant I had a reason to visit, but I have been a fair few times. It always surprises me when people haven’t been when it’s so close (and easy with options for going by plane, rail, even bus).

A parkrun countdown t-shirt!

(sort of)

Last Monday evening we went to the cinema to see Tully, which was good, but also a hard watch.  When we got back I saw that I had my email from parkrun saying that I could claim my 100 t-shirt! I celebrated my 100th parkrun back in March 2017, but under the old system, each time they were in stock they didn’t have the size I needed. For the new ones I had read that they had changed the female sizing a bit, so I checked the size guide which gave a measurement across the t-shirt. Compared to my 50 top (which is a small and perfect for me with a big of room), it seemed the medium would be the one to go for. All that was left was for me to wait for it to arrive!

Tuesday I wasn’t home in time for the club run, but that turned out to be lucky because I did around 4 miles but felt awful the whole way- I kept thinking “once I get going I’ll feel better” but I just felt sluggish and a bit sick at times. It was hot and I wonder if I didn’t drink enough on the Monday. I was very glad when I got home.

Wednesday was yoga- too cold this week to be outside! Lots of twists and some pretty tough poses which made my legs ache a lot- the final relaxation was very much needed.

On Thursday I was going to have a run, but then I got stuck in traffic and by the time I got home it was late, so I had a shower, we had dinner and then went out on a nice 3 mile walk in the evening- it was so much warmer than Wednesday.

My t-shirt arrived! It’s lovely fabric, but it is really long.

It’s a good few inches longer than my 50 shirt, but I would rather something was too long than too short. As I had exactly 100 to go until the next milestone (the next one is 250 which seems years away- 2 years at the absolute quickest if I go every weekend and only volunteer roles where I also get a run credit) it can be my countdown t-shirt. It will need to last me a while…

On Friday I had a massage booked as my shoulders have been getting worse and worse. I also had a few bits to pick up in town so afterwards I popped in to a few shops and got my errands sorted.

I spoke to Dad on the phone and we decided we would go to Heartwood Forest- it’s in St Albans and probably the closest to where they live, but it was stopped during the spring to let the paths recover a bit. It’s a gorgeous setting with wood carvings dotted along the route. It’s a very new forest, so the trees are only a few feet high in most places at the moment. The route it one and a half laps- you walk along from the finish to the start, half way up a hill, run to the top, around the top in a sort of p shape (with gorgeous views across the countryside), down to the finish and then do a complete lap.

You can’t park by it, so I parked about half a mile away, and heard Dad cycle up next to me as I was running to the start. When we got there and he took off his cycling jacket, he revealed he had his 100 top on too!

As we walked up to the start one of the two photographers asked if he could take our photo. We chatted to him and it turned out that although he now lived in St Albans, his home parkrun was Linford Wood, up in Milton Keynes, where my Dad’s cousin runs.

We set off at a fairly good pace, but the start is uphill so it wasn’t too fast. We were busy catching up- Dad had run on Wednesday and found it pretty tough too (and he’s cycled something like 50 miles last Saturday).

It was lovely to be there- the views are just fantastic up at the top, and the course is varied, twisting around so you can never see a long way ahead. In my mind the hill was as hard as Westmill, but it’s nowhere near that steep.

Last time I had forgotten to start my Garmin until partway in, so I made sure to press it on the start but then didn’t look at it again until I finished. We did a good negative split with 9:39, 9:01, 8:18, with a nice course pb of 27:38 (last time I ran 29:03)- I was pretty pleased with that. I don’t often get pb’s at parkrun!

Dad has a much faster sprint that me- I always tell him to go ahead and that I’ll try and catch him, this is just coming up to the final corner, but he then slowed so I crossed the line first anyway.

They also had their highest attendance (as far as I can see)- with  168 runners. It’s such a great course, and as the paths are pretty wide at the start there isn’t that stop-start you get on some courses.

After that it was back to Mum and Dad’s for a shower, pancakes and watching birds in their garden. I’ll save the weekend for another post.

Which milestone are you closest to now? Do you enjoy visiting different parkrun courses? I think this one might be a summer favourite for us.

Hitchin 10K 2018

A while ago my dad mentioned that he fancied doing another 10K run, but he just has so many weekends booked with tennis things, so the few that I knew and liked (like the fab Ware 10k/ 10 mile) were on days he couldn’t do. By chance I was chatting to a member of our running club and she mentioned the Hitchin 10k. It turned out to be a day we could both do, so we signed up and ran it together.

It was the best kind of race in my opinion. You could either collect your numbers the day before, or on the morning of the race. On the Saturday and and I headed to Wimpole so I could spend my vouchers (I got a nice mirror for the garden and a little bird bath) and on the way back we stopped off so I could collect them. The guy said to me “it starts at 9, so get there at about ten to”- so much better than the races that say to arrive 90 mins before.

After I had a bit of toast for breakfast, Dad picked me up and we drove to Hitchin (which according to Balcony Shirts, is “Bitchin’). We got slightly lost trying to find a car park – we kept seeing signs but then it would not appear, so we drove around in a circle 3 times before deciding on another little car park instead. It was around the corner from the town centre, and so we had half an hour to wander around in the sunshine and chat to other runners.

We were aiming for under an hour, so I kept an eye on my watch for the pace. The first mile went through the town and along a narrow path, and so it was a bit busier and we were slower, but it’s no bad thing to begin slowly (and it was slightly uphill so it was fine to slow a bit). At one point we ran along a residential road with one of those speed cameras with the smiley faces- it was smiling green at all the runners and either showing 5 or 6 which was pretty accurate. I tried to take a picture as we ran but it was a bit blurry.

After the residential bit we were out in the countryside for nice views and a very enjoyable run. Hitchin is known to be in a hilly area, but the route was meant to avoid all the big hills, and I think it did a good job. You could call it undulating, but there were no huge hills and nothing too bad. There was one little p shaped section where runners were on the other side of the road- we had to run downhill slightly so we knew we’d be heading back up again soon. There was one water station and as it was fairly warm we stopped to have a quick drink (they had cups which always pleases me- I know some people find them harder to drink from but I feel the waste element and environmental impact of bottles only used for a sip is just so awful, plus I hate them being all over the road and tripping on them) but I was glad I only had 2 sips as I started to get a bit of a stitch after. The final mile was back down the narrow  path (but the field was more spread out) so we got up a good amount of speed. As we got into the town centre I told Dad to sprint off and that I’d try to catch him, but he is way too fast at the end for that. He had finished and turned around just to cheer me in- I’m giving him a thumbs up in the photo below (he’s in his apricot parkrun t-shirt).

The photos were emailed out to us soon after

Our splits were so close to the royal flush negative split (10:53, 9:22, 9:27, 9:16, 9:10, 8:50 and then 8:18 for the final sprint). As soon as we had finished we could collect a bottle of water from the side, get a medal and then queue up for the t-shirt. I’m actually holding Dad’s one in the photo, but I went for the female medium and it’s a good fit- loose but not too baggy. 58:41 was my chip time, with Dad being a bit ahead of me at the end, so nicely under the hour like we had hoped for.

I love the medal too- it’s black metal with funky colours.

We were going to get a drink before heading home, and on out way we walked past a little cafe, so decided to sit down and in the end both ordered marmalade on toast alongside our drinks. I put the t-shirt on over my top as there was a bit of a breeze and we were sat in the shade. As we sat there loads of runners kept walking past wearing their medals and t-shirts. It had such a nice feel to it- so relaxed but also well organised. I think it started a few minutes late, but I wasn’t bothered by that as it could have only been a couple.

After getting home and showering, we needed to walk into town and once there I realised how hungry I was. We were going to get our free drinks from Starbucks and when Andy suggested sharing a cinnamon roll I could not resist!

For lunch our options at home were yet more toast, so I popped into M&S and picked up one of their lovely salads to have as a treat (they do a lovely one with roasted veggies and a sort of carrot hummus dip thing).

Then it was time for more gardening.

I had to build a little brick tower for the bird bath as it was just the bath bit. I did a lot of weeding, and then planted these seed balls- they are clever little balls with bee friendly seeds in them, coasted in chilli powder so mice and birds won’t eat them before the seeds germinate.

I think all the moving about after helps to combat the post-race stiffness, but I was pretty tired by the evening- I think the crouching down whilst weeding is the most painful thing to do after a race!

How do you normally recover from a race?