12 miles in torrential rain and a catch up

I am sure I say this all the time, but the weeks are flying by!

Last weekend (after Rushmere parkrun) I needed to do my final long run before the half marathon next weekend.

The route planning went a bit wrong before I started- I wanted to do 11 or ideally 12 miles, but I still don’t have the hang of how long each route is, so I mapped one out, saved it as an image and emailed it to myself so it was on my phone. When I got up in the morning I looked at it, and then realised that the image included mile times (when of course it wouldn’t have known the mile times when I mapped it) and this route went by the lake, and I wasn’t planning on going that way (as it would be very soggy/muddy) that it dawned on me that I had emailed a different image of a route from Strava. Whoops. It was already a bit late and I didn’t want to put the run off any longer as the weather was only going to get worse.

Because it was so rainy and windy, I decided to plait as much hair as possible. My hair is too thick for one plait so I did two on each side meeting around the back and a third with the rest, putting them all in a pony tail. It seemed to hold.

And onto the run. I made a mistake with clothes too- the day before had been chilly but I was OK in a t-shirt, and it was only a few degrees cooler so I thought I would be OK. I got a long sleeved top over my t-shirt to wear as I warmed up, thinking I’d take it off fairly soon- how wrong I was. It was so cold- within a few minutes my hands were so cold and my top just soaked through as it wasn’t a waterproof one.

I sort of enjoyed most of the run (the challenge of it perhaps) and caught up on some podcasts, but at times it was fairly miserable because the pavements were flooded and as cars drove past they would throw up a wall of water. A few times I waited until a gap in the traffic so I wouldn’t be totally soaked. Andy had messaged to say he would come and pick me up, but I didn’t see it (I got a new phone in the summer and I didn’t realise that the photos were uploading all the time instead of just on wifi so I’d used all my data and couldn’t get the whatsapp message)- not that I would have taken him up as once you are out there you may as well finish. As the following weekend we were away I knew it was my final chance for a long run so I wanted to finish it.

When I finally got home (2 and a quarter hours later I think) I was dripping so much I had to step inside onto the doormat and peel all my clothes off right there, jumping straight into the shower (I’d usually at least have a drink and a bit of a stretch). I was so cold that the water was stinging my skin, and after my shower I put my pj’s on and got back into bed (the only time I’ve done this before has been after crazy long runs during marathon training I used to have a little afternoon nap) to have breakfast and a massive cup of tea. Our heating still wasn’t fixed so this seemed the best option to warm up- it took a while! Once I finally warmed up (I think an episode of Location) we were heading into town to pick up a few bits on the way to Andy’s parents. Annoyingly, the weather had dried up and brightened up, but as we were going to theirs for dinner I didn’t have the option of delaying the run.

Anyway, it was done and I can tick it off, and have confidence that I can run a half next weekend.

Onto the catch up; yoga is term-time only so it’s been great getting back into it. This term each week we have been looking at a different chakra (a centre of spirituality in the body), doing poses and breathing exercises linked to the different areas.   It’s been good to have a different focus each week. I was doing the you-tube video once a week or so, but I realised that I have not managed this for the last week- it’s something I would like to do but just need to remember.

I’ve been mostly keeping up with 4 runs per week although I have not managed a club run in ages. A couple of weeks ago it was so windy which made the runs pretty tough. I’ve been mainly sticking to around 4 miles after work, 5 if I am not home too late, and a quick 3 before the cinema one evening.

We’ve been to see a few films including A Simple Favour which I really enjoyed- it was a lot like Gone Girl, but with some quirky characters and light-hearted bits to break the tension a bit.

My Bird & Blend Brighton mug has been the perfect size for tea in the mornings.

I met up with a friend after work one Friday for a waffle. I was a bit early so I wandered around the park for a bit and saw lots of debris from the strong winds that week. I went for a banana flapjack waffle, which is a waffle with banana, little bits of flapjack and caramel sauce- really good.

Would you go for a sweet or savoury waffle? I love their hummus and avocado one, but after a week of work I needed the sugar boost! Did you have much damage from the storm? Thankfully most of the big trees in our garden are gone now, so we didn’t need to worry about them blowing down (something which has happened in the past).

Rushmere parkrun

Confusingly, in the space of a few weeks I have now been to Rushmoor and Rushmere parkrun. Rushmere was this past weekend. It’s close to Leighton Buzzard, in Bedfordshire, but apparently the route is actually in Buckinghamshire. Anyway, I went to my parents house and then my Dad drove me and my brother up to the country park where the parkrun is held. Parking was £3 which you paid on exit- there was plenty of parking for us and the field with the finish funnel was directly next to the car park so no chance of getting lost!

Finish funnel/ my attempt at a mid-run photo of the course/ the flag in the field by the start/finish

We got there with around 20 mins to spare, and waited in the car for a bit (it was so chilly!) before getting out and using the toilets (I wouldn’t usually, but it had been a good hour journey)- this meant we missed the tourist briefing- whoops!

We had looked it up in advance and knew it was two laps through woodland- it sounded perfect.

The main briefing was brilliant too- the RD stood on a picnic table and welcomed everyone, gave a special mention to the volunteers who had arrived early to clear the storm debris from the course, and then introduced the gong– this was so exciting! If you get a pb, or if it is your first time (automatically a pb anyway) or even if you’re having a good hair day you were allowed to ring the gong. I was very much looking forward to that! We were warned of other debris en route particularly conkers and apples (“It’s as if someone had thrown marbles all over the path”), particularly on the steep descent.

After the briefing we walked along a path a little way, as the route wasn’t quite 2 full laps, and then we were off. Dad whizzed off right away, and I ended up with a bit of back and forth with my brother- I’d overtake him on the up bits, and he’d overtaken me on the downhills. The course was through woodland and just wonderful- winding through trees, gently up and down. At one point we ran near the edge of the forest so you could see across fields on one side, before heading back into the woods again. I think there were only 4 marshals out there, but they were all great, clapping everyone past. The steep descent even had a warning sign, and it was so steep so I really slowed- lots of tree roots to look for too, and I didn’t fancy falling over. A two lap is always enjoyable (not quite as good as one lap, but close) because the 1.5 mile seems to go by so fast, and then you remember a few bits on the second loop and know what to look out for. Running through the finish area once is good too as all the timers and scanners cheer you on.

As I neared the finish one runner put in a great sprint finish so I cheered him as he overtook me. I could hear someone else coming, and it turned out to be Tony – it was quite fun having a mini battle. (He did say he wondered if it was OK to overtake me with metres to go but of course it’s all fine). I had sped up a little to try and stay as close to him as possible and when the results came through (30:21) I thought that maybe I needed 21 for my parkrun bingo, and I was right!

Of course we had to bang the gong afterwards- we all took turns while we took photos. I did a rather gentle one, and then Tony whacked it so hard! It was great though as people gave you a little clap, and after we moved away a few other people rang it, so we clapped them. I’ve seen a pb bell at Tring, but the gong takes some beating. I feel like Ellenbrook could do with something but I am not sure what else- maybe something linked to it being on an old airfield? Ideas on a postcard please!

That was my 49th parkrun venue! They seem to be mounting up so quickly now. I’m so close to finishing bingo now- I only need 17 and 18 seconds now (although it’s not something you can plan for, as even if you time it on your watch, you won’t know exactly when the timer for parkrun pressed “go”).

The RD chatted to us and invited us to the cafe for breakfast, but Mum had promised pancakes so we headed back to see her. We have planned a revisit in the spring and hopefully Mum will come with us to watch and we can go to the cafe after then.

Does your parkrun have anything to celebrate pb’s with?

A parkrun open sandwich

A few times I have run to and from parkrun, but the two parkruns closest to me are a little bit far away for it to be a regular thing- Panshanger is 4 miles away (equalling an 11 mile run) and Ellenbrook Fields is 5 miles (so the run there + back + parkrun = a half marathon) so I tend to run to and from parkruns when I am touring. Last weekend we were busy on Sunday, so I decided to have a long run on Saturday morning instead. I’d chatted to my Dad who had decided to go to Panshanger, as EF warned of a busy car park due to all the freshers arriving at Herts uni (you park in the Herts uni car park).

This meant I could run there and ask Dad to give me a lift part of the way home. I had to do a slightly longer run as I wanted to total 9 miles, so in the end I did just under 6 miles on the way there- I got a bit panicked that I was cutting it fine as the last bit takes a deceptively long time, but in the end I got to the start with about 10 mins to spare- just enough time to hang my jumper on the fence and then chat to Dad.

The parkrun miles were my fastest (finishing with a 9.05 mile) so I was pretty pleased with that, having not run that far since August (as we were doing the 10k).

In the end Dad dropped me off at home, which was much appreciated- I did suggest a roundabout so he didn’t have to detour at all, but that was still a mile and a half from me (as the road is more direct than the path). Then it was time to have a quick shower and then time to head into London for the rest of the day.

For some reason all the pictures of just me were super windswept, while if it was the two of us my hair was all neat!

We got the train to Finsbury park and then the tube onwards to Oxford Street- we popped into a couple of shops and picked up a picnic to take to the park. (Side note, does anyone else hate that Pret don’t put the labels on the actual food packets? We were going to share a veggie flatbread, but it was by the shelf labels for a tuna flatbread-you could see that they were the wrong way around but I just didn’t quite trust it so we got a vegan special wrap instead).

Andy wanted to see the big sculpture in Hyde Park so we walked around the lake, before walking to Trafalgar Square and then Covent Garden. On our way we popped to the BB bakery and got a pistachio cupcake to take home for dessert. I wanted to go to Lululemon and try on some running shorts, and as we cut through a side street we both stopped as we could smell the most amazing smell. We realised we were right outside a Swedish bakery, so I could not resist buying a cinnamon roll for us to share too.

We also saw a few of these rhinos- I love it when there is a trail like this (I think the best I’ve done is the Snowdogs in Brighton). We then got the tube to Angel so I could go to Bird & Blend for some of the pumpkin spice tea, but yet again (am I cursed?) the tea wasn’t for sale until the Sunday- gah!

Annoyingly we just missed a train by about 5 mins, and then the next train we were going to get was cancelled, so we ended up sitting on the platform for nearly an hour.

By the time we got home I’d walked over 37,000 steps (because of the run first thing too) so I watched some of Extra Slice (I love the hedgehog cakes so much) and had a cup of tea and shared the cinnamon roll, which was amazing. (The cupcake for dessert later was also very good, but so much icing- I have no idea how people could eat one by themselves without having frosting overload). Although I felt quite tired by the evening, I was pretty pleased that I’d run a fairly long way and been walking all day and not felt too stiff or sore. I have signed up to a half marathon in a couple of weeks, and I realised that my long runs were really in August so I needed to do a few closer to it to check I can still manage it.

Sunday was spent out and about- in the garden centre, sorting out new plants (and the shed tidy- an idea stolen from Pinterest – it hangs on the door for all the gloves, trowels etc) and visiting family.

Which baked goods can you not resist? A warm cinnamon roll is one of my absolute favourites.  Are you an icing or a cake person?  I do like a little bit of icing, and I think they make cakes look prettier, but I really can’t eat the mountains that are usually on little cupcakes.

New Forest 10K

Our race didn’t start until 10.25am, and we weren’t too far away (and had picked up our numbers the day before), so we didn’t need to get up that early. Because of the other races (full and half marathon, a 5k I think) all starting at earlier times, we didn’t want to get there with the other racers. We decided to leave around 9am, knowing that it was around 25 mins but the traffic was doubling that. We did get a nice t-shirt in the pack (and a wrist sweatband) but I always think it’s a bit unlucky to wear it before- what if you don’t finish for some reason?

Anyway, the traffic was fine until we got to the entrance to the car park where we joined a queue (this must have been at around 9.40am). It was moving all the time, but very slowly, and snaked through the forest. We had paid for parking when we picked up our numbers, but it seemed that each time one person had to pay, the entire queue stopped while the marshal sorted out the money and change. We ended up parking at 10.15am and then speed-walking though the fields to the start. We thought we had 10 mins, but in fact the race started around 10 mins late, so we got to join in with the rather enthusiastic warm up.

The plan was to run together and enjoy it with no time in mind (hopefully under an hour but not really minding). The route went through the forest, gently undulating but no big hills. There were some funny signs to read along the way (“Watch out for bears” being my favourite, as well as signs over a bridge saying “dry feet” and then another one pointing to the river saying “wet feet”) and the scenery was gorgeous. At first it was very congested as the paths seemed a little too narrow for the number of runners, but after a mile or so the paths opened up and we could stop the constant overtaking and settle a bit.

I’d be interested in seeing all the routes on the same map (as an overlay)- there was marathon and half happening at the same time, and every now and then we’d join with another lot of runners with different coloured numbers. Sometimes we’d follow them, other times we would peel off in a different direction. Our numbers were blue so we had to follow the blue signs- it was very well signed plus there were loads of marshals at every joining point so you couldn’t go wrong.

There were a couple of water stations but we avoided them. I did like it that they said if you were caught dropping litter you would be disqualified, but then at the water stations they had cups (good) but were telling people to throw their cups on the floor, even though they had a few bins- I really don’t think putting your cup in a bin is going to slow you down that much.

At times the paths were quite stony and a few times I twisted my ankle or got a big stone wedged in my shoe- I should have worn my trail shoes because the soles are thicker but as it had been dry I’d gone for my normal road shoes. It was fine as most of it was on soft forest paths and a few bits of tarmac. Although it was a bit cloudy, it got really warm and I really regretted not having a headband on to keep the sweat from my eyes. I had worn the sweatband on my wrist but that got soggy fairly quickly so wasn’t much use!

The miles ticked by quickly (they actually had km signs for the 10k but I used my watch) and it didn’t seem like long before we were heading around a field and into the finish area. Andy wanted to have a strong finish but my legs were feeling tired from the 7 miles on Saturday, so he ran off and I tried to catch up with him (flashbacks to every parkrun with my Dad!)- mile 6 was my fastest mile at 9.03 with an 8.37 for the mini bit.

My chip time was 58:42, and there was a lot of detailed info on the website (I was 98th women out of 747/ and position 364 out of 1259 runners). The text didn’t come through for a few days which was weird as usually the text things come instantly, but that doesn’t bother me as I could see my time on the website if I really needed to know asap (I didn’t).

The finish area was well organised too- lot of teenagers (in sort of army uniform) handing out medals, water, bananas and goodie bags. A banana after a race is my favourite. I was a bit miffed because Andy got some bourbon biscuits in his bag whereas I got some plain ones. The goodie bag had a big box of fish oil in it (not so good for vegetarians) as well as some sun cream which will come in handy. The medal is a lovely chunky one, with different coloured ribbons for each distance (to match the numbers and signs).

On the website they also had this cool image to show you the people finishing around you (I’m the blue dot).

We wandered around the stalls for a bit and bought some brownies from the Peachy Cakes stall- a vegan peanut butter one which we shared that evening, and then one with oreos and m’n’m’s which we shared on Monday.

I quite liked the magazine that we got with our numbers. I’d been to the New Forest before but never seen that many horses, however this time around we saw so many horses, plus wild donkeys and even wild cows. I wasn’t sure if some had just escaped but it said in the magazine that there were something like 150 wild donkeys and loads more cows.

After the wander we found the car (thankfully we’d parked near the end of a row as I think it would have taken us ages otherwise) and headed home. We stopped off at the services for a hot chocolate as for some reason I really fancied one, and made pretty good time (considering the M25 on a Sunday).

All in all I really enjoyed the race- it had a lovely atmosphere, loads of marshals, nice scenery and was well organised. I think if they made people pay for parking in advance then there would not have been the long queues to get in (or just add the fee on to the race entry as it was fairly reasonably priced).

Have you been to the New Forest? Would you wear a race t-shirt during the actual race?

Rushmoor parkrun- one step closer to Bingo!

Last weekend we headed to Aldershot/Farnborough on the Friday night, as it is on the way to the New Forest. Originally the plan was to stay further south so I could do the Queen Elizabeth Country Park parkrun, but we couldn’t find a hotel near/cheap enough, so this was plan B. The hotel (one of those Village hotels) was around a mile from the start of Rushmoor parkrun (not to be confused with Rushmere parkrun in Buckinghamshire….) so I didn’t need to leave that early.

Anyway, it turned out that the business park where the hotel is was a mile away, but the hotel to the parkrun start was more like 2 miles- whoops! Combined with a slight panic when I ran past some army signs about dog patrols and this meant I arrived more than a little flustered! When I was close I re-started the directions because I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the right place having seen basically no runners (and it gets several hundred runners).

They had a really friendly welcome board with some photos of the core team, the volunteer roster, and pace per km and per mile for a huge range of finish times.

They were having a junior takeover  (I think to promote their newly started junior parkrun) so all the main jobs (including the briefings) were by children (with their adults hovering and whispering hints). In the main briefing they asked for where the tourists were from- someone near me said “Southampton” and they then asked if anyone had come from further. I was about to say Hertfordshire, when someone behind me said “Germany” and then someone else said “South Africa”- I think they win!

The course began in some playing fields and was two laps, all fairly flat. The main paths were quite pebbly (bigger lumps than gravel) so I ended up running on the grass for the field bit. I’d imagine in winter it would be tougher to do that. The route then went out of the fields and along a pavement for a bit, before heading down next to a canal- this bit was lovely (and also shaded)- before running close to the start/finish area to do it all again. I find two lap courses seem to go by fairly quickly- it doesn’t seem long before you are back at the start and then you only have one lap to go.

I tried to keep in mind that I had a 10k race the next day and realised after the first two miles I was going a bit fast, so I tried to ease off a bit.  I finished in 28:51 and when I looked at the parkrun challenges chrome thingy I realised I’d filled in another slot on the parkrun bingo as I needed a 51! This sort of made up for the not ticking off the letter q- I only have 3 left for bingo now.

Anyway, I was pretty tired after that and Andy did message me to say he’d come and pick me up in the car, but with all the army stuff around I wasn’t quite sure where he’d park or where we would meet (there seemed to be lots of clearways with no stopping etc.), so I ran back (and instead of going back the way I came through the business park, blindly followed google maps on my phone which then took me into a bridge without a pavement – luckily a bit of the fence was trampled down so I could hop over it and get to an underpass!) – I got back around 10am so not too bad.

Anyway, after that it was time for tea and a cinnamon roll (the bonus of the Village hotels is that they tend to have a Starbucks in the lobby, and Andy had picked us up breakfast while I was running back) and a quick shower (they downside of those hotels is the 11am checkout time which doesn’t give much time for drying hair!).

We drove to some nearby gardens which were included in the National Trust pass (not actually NT though) and looked at the beautiful flowers. Then we drove into the New Forest and picked up our numbers (and paid for parking), before heading to Lepe, by the water, for a lovely walk along the coast. There was lots of info about the war as it was used to preparations for D-Day, so it was quite interesting. Despite being a bit overcast you could see across to the Isle of Wight and over to Portsmouth.

There was a nice looking tearoom by the water so we shared a piece of cherry and almond cake (a bit like a bakewell slice) and then drove to see Andy’s Grandma.

We’d booked Bill’s in Southampton for dinner, and then had a bit of a wander around IKEA after that (we know how to live!) before getting our kit out ready for the New Forest 10k the next morning.

Have you ever seen a junior takeover? Do you have a local junior parkrun? There is one around a mile from here, but I’ve never been as I’ve not got children- I think it might be a bit weird to turn up to one without any.