Gunpowder parkrun!

On the last Saturday of 2018, Dad picked me up at 8am and we drove around to Gunpowder parkrun which is by Waltham Abbey (close to the Lee Valley park). It had been my NENDY for ages (nearest event not done yet) and Dad fancied it too, as we had spoken to a few people at Panshanger who were from Gunpowder.

It was fairly overcast and with a cold wind, even though the weather was mild (maybe 9 degrees). We got chatting to a brand new parkrunner, and I ended up explaining the finish token system to her because there wasn’t a new runners briefing, just a normal briefing. We then walked a short way to the start, as the route was just over 2 laps.

The route was all on paved paths within the park, and very flat. There were a few signs in the park (I think about local wildlife) but I didn’t see anything about the Gunpowder mills- we had passed them on the way so I think they are perhaps not in the same place. Anyway, I was glad we had spoken to the first time runner as there weren’t any marshals out on the course either. I’ve seen this once at Black Park (they also didn’t have a new runner briefing), and I find it to appear less welcoming when events are like this. To me it’s fine because I know I will just follow the person in front and I know how the finishing funnel works, but at Black Park I was introducing my friend to parkrun for the first time, and I feel that without the new runners briefing and the enthusiastic cheers from the marshals, it feels less of a community event. I had explained to the new runner that there would be a tail walker, as she was a bit worried about completing the distance having only run up to 2 k at that point, and then I didn’t actually see the tail walker (having checked the results, the final runner got a volunteer credit so that must have been it).

Anyway, neither of us were planning on going fast as Dad had a bit of a niggle and I was just wanting to take it easy. We ended up chatting but as we neared the end of the second lap I realised we were going pretty fast- my finish time was 27:16 which is very speedy for me, and a nice royal flush negative split of 9:10, 8:45, 8:20 and 7:53. Annoyingly I needed 17 and 18 for stopwatch bingo!

It did earn me my second G, and I already have 3 B’s which means I only need one more G to complete the Stayin’ Alive challenge!

We chatted a bit to some of the volunteers (Dad was admiring their token sorting system as they used little seed pots and had one pot for each token). After a bit of stretching we drove home via St Albans to pick up Mum, and then headed here to breakfast. I had prepped the night before some awesome baked French toast from the Pip and Nut recipe book (which is online here if you want to take a look). It was meant to be with brioche but I used panettone- you basically sliced it and spread one side with peanut butter, then put it in a dish with a mixture of eggs, milk, sugar (plus cinnamon), and scattered blueberries over the top. It soaked in the fridge overnight and then in the morning while we were driving back Andy put the oven on so it was cooking away when we got back. According to my dad it was a success, and there wasn’t any left which means it will be one I will make again. We had it with some extra fruit, optional maple syrup and some Oatly creme fraiche (which was really good).

If I fancied a super flat run I would probably head to Gunpowder rather than St Albans because it was much quieter (around 200 runners) and distance wise it’s similar, and if I was fed up with mud in the winter it would be a good option too. The car park was only free for an hour (thankfully we arrived just after 8.30 and the run had a prompt start), otherwise it was £2.50 so I think I would be tempted to look at nearby parking options and run the rest of the way to avoid that next time.

Do you have any prepare ahead breakfast ideas? 

A look back on 2018

I always like reading these sorts of posts, and writing them is lovely because you get to look back and remind yourself what has happened in the past year.

Running

Running wise, I kept going with the theme from 2017 of doing less races, but keeping the ones that I enjoyed.  My first race was the Cambridge Half marathon – I wasn’t even sure if it would go ahead as we had more snow that weekend, but it did, and it was freezing, and somehow I managed a fast for me time of 2:04:40- just as well as the big crowds meant we only just made it to breakfast on time after!

In March I did the 10K Runfest at Lee Valley (but decided that next year I’d probably do the half marathon again) and in May the Hitchin 10k with my dad – running with him is always a highlight.

In July it was time for the Ware 10k in the middle of the heatwave, and then the Panshanger 5 mile race with Dad (thankfully an evening race).

In September Andy ran the New Forest 10k with me, in preparation for our trip to Disney. I made a last minute decision (well a few weeks before) to sign up for the Wimpole half marathon- this was a beautiful race but fairly hilly and took me about 2 1/2 hours.

In November we ran the Disney Wine and Dine 10k together, celebrating 20 years together (and having just got married).

Later that month we went to Brighton where I somehow got a 10k pb of 54:11, and then in December I enjoyed running the local festive 5 race.

parkrun

Of course I have loved going to my local parkruns of Panshanger and Ellenbrook Fields. If Dad is around we usually meet at EF, and if not I pop to Panshanger as it’s closer. We’ve also been on a few tourist trips together, gradually ticking off those nearest events not yet done (and mainly ones with 2 or less laps that take our fancy) going to Houghton Hall in January, Rushmere (with the gong!) in September, and Jersey Farm and Gunpowder in December.  Dad reached 20 events on a trip up to Huddersfield so I got him a cow cowl buff for his birthday for our tourist trips.

In February I achieved Queen of Herts when I ran Letchworth parkrun (all the parkruns in Herts done). In March I noticed that Oak Hill wasn’t too far away and would tick off the O, and then on a trip to Southampton I visited Portsmouth Lakeside (originally I was going to drive to the Queen Elizabeth Country park but seeing as the  lakeside run started right outside the hotel it seemed a bit silly to go all that way).  I also got to wear my 100 t-shirt and am now over half way to the next milestone of 250.

I got rather obsessed with the running challenges badges on the chrome extension. After downloading it I noticed I only need a north for the compass challenge, having already run at Southampton, Eastleigh and Westmill, so in April I headed to Northala Fields (which also happily ticked off the N for me).  I was halfheartedly filling in the parkrun alphabet before, and started to actively chase it a little more. At the end of April I introduced a friend to parkrun at Black Park parkrun, and then on our trip to Scotland I managed to tick off the Y at York on the way home. A couple of weeks later I drove around to Upton Court to tick off the U (coincidentally meeting another regular from EF parkrun) and then in July I got my V as we were staying in London- it was meant to be Victoria Dock but that was cancelled so I got the train to Valentines.

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On a trip to Copenhagen I earned a Danish flag by running at Amager Fælled, and then in another trip to Brighton I ticked off my 4th Brighton parkrun with the beautiful but hilly Bevendean Down parkrun. Trips to Rushmoor and Rushmere (with the gong!!) ticked off two more times on the bingo list, and earned my cow (half cowel- 50 events) at Wendover Woods.

I visited Dinton Pastures for the D, and then Jersey Farm for the J later in December, and finished the year at Gunpowder, earning another  G for the Stayin’ Alive badge.

I have run at 17 new events this year, and while I love touring around, my favourite moments from parkrun will be the times I have run around with Dad, or gone back to breakfast at Mum’s after.

Fun Times

We went to see Gomez at the Royal Albert Hall- time spent at live music is always well spent in my opinion. Andy got us tickets for the Foo Fighters at the Olympic Park, and they totally rocked! We also saw the Manic Street Preachers at the Penn festival in the summer. One of the major highlights was going to see the Muppets Take the O2 and then seeing Flight of the Conchords was also a hilarious evening. With my parents we went to see Joe Lycett on tour and again that was a pretty funny evening.

We’ve been to the cinema a lot this year too (making the most of our free tickets)- Mission Impossible and Ocean’s Eight were good fun, A Star is Born and First Man were “totes emosh”, Isle of Dogs and Ladybird were quirky, Game Night was a lot funnier than I expected, A Simple Favour was super creepy, Thoroughbreds was dark, Tully was exhausting, and The Mis-education of Cameron Post was brilliant but also infuriating. We’ve got Mary Poppins tickets for NYE so I have high hopes for that too.

Travelling Tales

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We have managed several trips to Brighton this year (always a favourite place and then as we found somewhere to get our wedding rings from, we had to do a few visits to order and collect them). A few running related weekends to Cambridge and the New Forest, as well as trips down to Southampton to see family, a lovely week going up to Scotland and catching up with one of my oldest friends, a festive weekend in Bath and a few festive days in Berlin.  In the summer holidays we had a long weekend in Copenhagen and another in Amsterdam, plus a week in France. The highlight would have to be our half term trip to Florida, where we got married at the botanical gardens.

All in all a pretty good year.

How was 2018 for you? What are you looking forward to in 2019?

That lovely time between Christmas and New Year

I love this time of year. I am usually a busy person, and like it that way, but for some reason at this point I am always ready to just slow down, have a pot of tea in the afternoon, watch a bit of TV during the day or just not worry about rushing about. During term time I feel like I am hardly at home in the daylight so it’s been lovely to sit in the dining room looking out at the garden, seeing all the birds and just letting my mind wander.

I’d been given some lovely Christmas gifts from friends, including this cute “Married in 2018” mug (with penguin socks, because, penguins <3 ). When we had been on holiday in Florida I’d seen this print of Stitch (Lilo and Stitch is one of my favourite films), so Andy had bought that for me, plus some penguin PJ’s and some Ghibli films to add to the collection. We unwrapped our presents on Wednesday evening while watching the Escape to the Chateau Christmas episode to add to the festive feelings.

After getting back quite late on Wednesday evening, I pottered around at home for a bit before heading off on a run. To make the most of running in the light I headed down to the lakes.

It was a really beautiful wintery day with lovely skies and clouds. It felt really early in the morning but I don’t think I left until about 9.30am! I did around 6.5 miles but had to take it slowly as one of my knees was feeling rather stiff- I had fallen asleep on the plane on the way home so I wonder if it was in an awkward position or something.

I was excited to find my With me Now t-shirt had arrived (team cool down for me)- it is super soft but I realised I should have got a long sleeved top as I only have a couple of long sleeved t-shirts (one of which is a Christmas themed one) and I like wearing them after a run. So now, do I order a long sleeved one too and then risk never wearing the short sleeved one?

Andy’s parents were coming over in the evening so I did a bit of tidying and sorting (along to the Muppets Most Wanted soundtrack of course), before walking into town for an opticians appointment. Although my eyes were pretty much the same, it turned out I’d had my current ones for over 4 years now so a new pair was probably a good idea (I keep worrying I will drop them and I don’t have a spare pair as the ones I like are the ones with plastic frames and not included in the 2 for 1 deal). Anyway, they had a clever app which scanned your face and then worked out which glasses would suit you. I’d been browsing before my appointment but hadn’t seen any I liked, but in using the app (and explaining that I only like plastic frames as I don’t like the little things that rest on your nose, plus I don’t like thick  arms as I don’t want to feel like I have blinkers on) the lady found 2 pairs straight away that were pretty much the same as my current ones but in slightly different colours. I was a bit sceptical but it was really useful.  Andy’s parents came over after dinner to watch the football. They gave us a lovely bag filled with all sorts of treats including piccalilli (my favourite), pesto and crackers which will keep us going for a while.

On Friday I went out on a long walk first thing, and then headed over to my parents to see family (my auntie and cousins were all going around there). It got a bit complicated because I had to leave in the afternoon to go and get my hair cut (I’d left it late to book and when I asked for an appointment she only had one left until March as she was going on holiday)-also Andy was working so when he finished my haircut was done and he picked me up on the way back to my parents.  It was lovely to catch up with everyone and just a really relaxing afternoon/evening.

Saturday morning was spent at a new parkrun (more on that another time) and then in the afternoon we parked outside of St Albans town and walked in. There were lots of postboxes with decorations on them raising money for some local charities so it was quite fun to spot some of them.

We then popped in to give our niece and nephew their Christmas presents and then headed home. It was a bit warm for the fire so we put some candles in front of it instead- nearly as cosy! We watched one of the Ellen standups on Netflix which was very funny.

This morning I had another enjoyable run to the lakes and back- I made it a little longer by adding on a small loop at the start so by the time I got home I’d run 8.5 miles. I realised I hadn’t run much further than a 10k for a long time now, and have the Brighton half at the end of Feb so needed to start getting my long runs a little longer. As I got home I had a text to say my glasses were ready so after a breakfast (porridge with meridian mince pie filling stirred in) we walked into town to pick them up. Then it’s been more pottering and the afternoon will probably involve a pot of tea and a little bit of TV.

How do you like to spend your days off? 

Frohe Weihnachten!

So our trip to Berlin wasn’t quite as planned, but we managed to fit a lot into the few days that we ended up with. We flew out on Sunday in the end, and as we landed at lunch time we had time to check in to our hotel and then wander around a couple of Christmas markets close to our hotel.

On the Monday (Christmas Eve) shops were open first thing, so we got a few picnic foods, but then everything seemed to close down (apart from the markets thankfully). We had popped into a shopping centre to warm up (it was snowing at one point and so so cold) and Andy spotted a Mozart cake (Mozart seemed to love marzipan because all of the things named after him seem to have marzipan in them)- so we bought it to share later in the hotel. We also bought a stollen (with a gold seal on it) for my parents and some marzipan chocolates. There was a bit of a theme!

Everywhere was beautifully decorated, and felt very festive. We walked a lot as although the trains and trams were running, it was nice to take our time and see the sights again.

We walked to the Brandenburg gate (via a few markets), through the park to a couple more markets.  To continue the marzipan theme I found that a few of the markets did marzipan crepes- I’d had one in Cologne once and it was pretty amazing, so I may have had one one 3 out of the 4 days! All the markets had the gingerbread stall, gluhwien stalls, bratwurst and so on, as well as some local things that we’d not seen anywhere else. Lots of places did these quarkballchen things which seemed to be a bit like doughnuts  but I assume with quark in the dough (one place had a clear window so you could see the baker rolling the dough).

After walking around all day on Christmas Eve and taking in several markets, we headed back to an evening of Christmas movies in the hotel room.

To make up for not going to a German parkrun, I did my own run on Christmas day. I could run from our hotel to the Brandenburg Gate and back again (out and back minimises the chance of me getting lost)- it was around 2 miles each way so a good start to the morning. Our hotel had breakfast which is always a nice treat- they even had little slices of stollen out with the ham (as you do).

We did more walking on Christmas day (ending up at Checkpoint Charlie which was a bit surreal with the Christmas tree marking the spot where lots of people would have been shot for trying to cross the wall) and then got the train out to Charlottenburg Palace for the Christmas market there. It was so pretty and very busy, with lots of locals eating and drinking together.

Andy was enjoying the Gluhwein, and lots of the places did variations on hot apple juice with spices, so I had one to warm up (I think it had bits of orange peel and ginger in it too). I bought a new decoration for our tree (a little moose one) so at least we didn’t spend all of our money on food!

Side note- I have emailed both Bath and St Albans Christmas markets asking if they could consider using the cup deposit scheme that every single European market seems to have- you pay a few Euros for your cup, and then when you are finished you get the money back. I was shocked at Bath this year how overflowing the bins were, but it is no surprise when the stalls are not giving anyone the option of washable ones.

After heading back to the hotel to warm up for a bit, we headed out as we were off to a concert at the concert hall. The Philharmonic Orchestra were playing music from movies, and it was just brilliant. I love seeing orchestras play as I just find it fascinating, and it was great to hear classics like Indiana Jones, Star Wars (they did a good few songs from Star Wars), ET, the music from the Great Movie Ride (Gone with the Wind), Game of Thrones (not strictly a movie but an impressive piece of music) and finishing with Soul Bossa Nova from Austin Powers.

On Boxing Day we had the morning and early afternoon before we needed to get to the airport. It was drizzling so we got the train instead of walking, and ended up at another market. This one was by a huge church that had been badly damaged in the war, but they had decided to not repair it (but with a lot of preservation work). I think the last time we were in Berlin it must have been undergoing the renovations because the building was surrounded in perspex so it looked like a normal office building (there were photos of the work inside). It was an interesting place to visit.

We also spotted a few of the brass plaques (stumbling stones) which show the last address of each victim of the holocaust- there is a little article here which explains them. My cousin had mentioned them to me before we went, and I think if I hadn’t looked out for them I would have seem them out of the corner of my eye and assumed they were the normal street furniture of water main hatches and so on.

The rain got heavier so after a final market treat (marzipan crepe) we got our bags and headed to the bus for the airport.

Time to put the new decorations on the tree and the treats in the cupboard!

Do you like visiting Christmas market? Do you know of any in the UK that have the cup deposit scheme? 

Did you have a good Christmas?

The final countdown and a not quite to plan parkrun

Originally last Saturday I was going to be heading into London to meet a couple of friends for a parkrun and breakfast, but one of them couldn’t make it so we have postponed until January. It probably turned out for the best because I hadn’t run all week and although I was feeling better, I opted for Panshanger which meant I could get up pretty late and drive around the corner, as opposed to getting up super early to run to the train station.

I saw on their facebook page that they would be collecting old trainers and sports kit for Kit Aid, so I loaded up a bag with 3 pairs of trainers and some old race tops (is it just me that saves trainers?). It was absolutely freezing at parkrun, and I headed around fairly gently, with many a tissue stop!

In the afternoon the rain started tipping down. We had tickets to see Reef in Oxford and were going to head to Waddesdon Manor on the way (an NT place) to see the Christmas lights, but we thought it would be pretty miserable wandering about in the rain, so we just headed into the centre of Oxford instead.  A quick dinner in Leon and then a fun evening listening to them play the classics.

On Sunday morning it was time for the running club Christmas bRUNch- there is a club run (from Hatfield) and then we meet at Bill’s in WGC for brunch (some people just come from the breakfast without running too). It’s only a mile and a half from home, and as we had a pretty late night I only left at about 9am (the brunch was at 10). I thought I would meet them on the way but they ran a different way and it was rather slippery in places so I cut my run short, doing just over 4 miles in the end. Brunch was of course delicious, and it was lovely to catch up with people as I’ve not managed a club run in ages.

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Andy walked in and met me, and we walked home together. After a shower I did some cake decorating- I went for a Minnie Mouse theme for our cake this year to remind us of our Florida holiday.

I also made another batch of the Christmas pudding fudge, bagged them all up and got gifts ready for people at work.

On Monday I popped into town after work to collect an order (I was meant to be having a massage but it was cancelled but I still needed to collect my order). I felt OK but then after dinner I felt a bit weird and went to bed feeling a bit under the weather. I think the germs at work were all catching up with me as occasionally I was feeling a bit dizzy and I was still getting over my cold.

I had promised to come to the club run on Tuesday because it is moving to Wednesdays so I won’t be going any more, but it was cancelled at the last minute. The weather was pretty horrendous with sideways rain and winds, and I nearly didn’t go, but as I was already changed and needed to wash my hair I thought I’d just do a short one to get some (very) fresh air.

I got absolutely soaked through- this running jacket isn’t waterproof (I really need to invest in a good one I think) and I got splashed by a van driving too close to the kerb. I did find a street that reminded me of Home Alone as every single house had really pretty white lights, although the photo didn’t really come out. I had to peel my clothes off they were so drenched when I got home!

I had another short run on Wednesday, and in the evening we watched the final episode of Narcos and enjoyed a hot chocolate.

This week I’ve been cracking out my Christmas hats-  I feel like I probably could wear the Minnie Mouse one at other times, but the Rudolph one really only has a short window to be worn in!

On Thursday headed back into town for the massage. It was the most painful once since my first one I think- the amount of crunching coming from my shoulders was awful.  I could move better afterwards, but I also have a few bruises on my back. The end of term stress is high!

Once home I had to pack, as I was being picked up on Friday after school to go straight to Heathrow as we were going to Berlin for a few days over Christmas. Of course everyone checked that we weren’t flying from Gatwick, and we felt pretty lucky that we were away from that chaos.

Gingerbread from someone at work/ hooray for the last day of term/ parkrun directions/ running kit packed up

I’d emailed to myself the map of Hasenheide parkrun, looked up the directions on the train, packed my barcode wristband and cow hat- I was all ready. Literally 5 minutes after checking our bags, Andy got a text to say our flight had been cancelled. Argh!

(Warning- ranty post alert)

This then turned into a massive palaver because we then had to get our bags back. I had to join a queue, use a phone, give the receipts to a customer service person, then get my passport (one person per party was allowed to collect the bags so Andy waited outside looking at flight options on his phone) and be accompanied into the baggage hall. It then turned out I had to go through full on security (if you ever wondered where they send the people who aren’t cheerful enough to work on the customer security, the answer turns out to be behind the scenes for the staff and lost baggage security…). If I had known, I would have left my rucksack with Andy, so I had to take off my boots, empty my rucksack, get out my liquids, all the time being overtaken by members of staff (some of whom literally took trays out from under me as I was about to put my belongings into them). I said to the person scanning that I didn’t have a bag for my liquids as I hadn’t been through security because my flight was cancelled, and the lady said it was fine as long as I left them in the tray. However, once scanned the man (who was about 2m away from the woman) told me off for not having a bag, even though I had just explained that I didn’t have a bag and that the lady told me it was OK.  He then stomped off to get me a bag, and then told me he now had to test the liquids . The lady who had accompanied the group of us had gone with everyone else and at this point I thought I was going to start crying- I find security stressful at the best of times and this was awful.  I had to wait in the security bit for ages before eventually she came back, and when I explained that if I’d known I needed to go through security I would have left my bag and coat outside, she said “oh don’t worry, I’m not in a hurry”- argh! That wasn’t my point!

In the baggage hall I had to join another queue at the customer service desk, to speak to the same lady again (I don’t understand the system at all)- she rang the baggage storage and our bags were released, so I had to wait by carousel 8. After waiting for half an hour and no sign of either bag, I went back to the  desk but of course there was no one there. After 45 mins Andy’s bag came through, and then it was another 15 mins before my bag appeared and I could go out of the baggage hall and find Andy. The entire process was 2 hours! I was feeling so thirsty and tired and I just wanted to sit down. This was around 6.30pm and Andy’s parents were heading back from Southampton and said they would pick us up (my Dad had driven us) so we had a bit of time to get some dinner. I had a very tasty toasted sandwich from Caffe Nero (it was vegan cheese, sundried tomatoes and basil) and we shared the gingerbread that I’d been given at work. After getting the train to Terminal 3 (where they were picking us up) we got a cup of tea. We didn’t get home until about 10.30pm as we had to be dropped off at my parents’ (where Andy’s car was) and then drive home from there.

This morning I went to Ellenbrook Fields for their festive parkrun- Dad and Tony cycled over and we ran around together. It was a gorgeous morning with blue skies- perfect for running. I went back to Mum and Dad’s for pancakes, so although not a Berlin parkrun, it was still a pretty good start to the weekend.

After a shower we walked into town to pick up the free gift from John Lewis (a little gingerbread biscuit) and I booked a haircut (which is so lucky I popped in then as my hairdresser had one slot left this week and then she goes on holiday until some time in February!). Then I chilled out in front of the TV, watching a load of things I’d recorded on the box including Liam Bakes, the Inside the Factory Christmas show and some Kirsty Homemade Christmas. I loved seeing the reflection of our Christmas tree in the door. I did a bit of present wrapping, and then in the afternoon made a pot of mince pie tea and warmed up a mince pie in the oven to enjoy. It may not be a German Christmas market but it’s still festive.

We are booked on a flight tomorrow, so fingers crossed nothing will go wrong!

How has your Christmas countdown been?  What are you planning for Christmas day?