Number of runs times llamas equals finish position (?) plus a weekend rucksack

On Saturday morning I was off to Panshanger parkrun. It was so dark when I got up and the sky was glowing in all sorts of beautiful colours.

In getting out my 100 top I was sad to see that the second zero was getting a few cracks on it. It was my 180th parkrun so it’s got to last quite a few more!

The parking at Panshanger is very busy now, so I tend to get there early, and I decided that I’d run out a bit for a nice warm up. I ran past the llama field and was very excited to see the llamas in there- the last time I saw them I think was on Christmas day last year (I think I made a fa la llama joke about it?) and I’ve run past the field plenty of times since then and not seen them.

(My terrible attempt at getting a selfie with a llama in the background- I just can’t work out how to turn the phone to actually get what I want to be there!).

After seeing them it was time to head back to the park as the parkrun would be starting soon. The car park (where people start- you can’t park there) was packed- I suppose lots of people are starting a healthkick in January so perhaps the events  have a bit of a boost in numbers? I was just going for a steady run so started fairly far back, meaning that I had to stop and start a bit as the course is fairly narrow at the start. I enjoyed the run- it’s such beautiful scenery there. I kept being overtaken by the same man pushing a running buggy, but I never noticed when I ran past him so it kept confusing me each time he overtook me!

I finished with token number 360 which greatly pleased me as 180 x2 = 360 so there must be some sort of fun with the numbers (someone on the With me Now page pointed out that it could be total number of runs x number of llamas = finish token) although when the results came through I was number 260. I had to double and triple check my photo, and it was 360, so there must have been a bit of a mix up with the tokens. Just under 400 runners (398), with Ellenbrook Fields (which is usually around half that size) getting a new attendance record of 346.

I did a little cool down before getting in the car (how long will this last?- probably until I can’t remember that my knee was sore…) and quickly heading home as my brother was coming over for breakfast. He was invited to parkrun but was playing football in the afternoon (and he doesn’t usually do both on one day). I’d prepped the baked French toast again, this time with a chocolate panettone (another Christmas gift), and cherries as well as blueberries.

I didn’t add any sugar to the egg mix this time as the panettone is already very sweet, and I think that worked better. Andy had put it in the oven so when I got home I had time to change, make tea and then a warm breakfast was ready.

In the afternoon we walked into town, mainly to get my free Starbucks drink plus some bits for dinner, and then did a bit more sorting out at home (tackling my office is less enjoyable than sorting clothes because you find all sorts of things like old phone cases that you don’t really know what to do with but don’t need, but probably can’t sell/give to a charity shop either). It’s done now though.

Onto the rucksack:

Recently I was sent the Kyte 36 bag from Osprey. I was originally looking for a bag to take on the plane with me when we go away for the weekend, and as there was a 36 and a 46 I thought it would be small…  Of course I just looked at the measurements  and thought “that seems about right” without looking at a tape measure or anything. So, it didn’t come to Berlin with me as I like a rucksack that is guaranteed to be hand luggage (so can fit under the seat in front). However, for a weekend away in this country it’s great. I love the colour first of all. As well as shoulder straps it has hip straps (it’s really meant for hiking)- this took me back to my DofE days when you had to do an expedition (basically walk many miles to a camp site carrying all the camping gear, camp one night and then go home)- the hip straps were an absolute saviour as the weight went into your legs and not your back. It’s also fitted specifically for women.

It’s hard to see but the hip strap also has two small pockets at the front/side so you could have things like your phone, wallet, keys, lip balm etc. handy without needing to take the pack off. This is one of my favourite features as often I end up wearing a small handbag under the rucksack to keep those things handy, whereas I don’t need to do that with this bag as it’s all to hand.

Inside it has a separate sleeping bag compartment (good for running kit and shoes also) and as it has side compression straps so that when it isn’t full you can pull the straps to make it more compact. All in all a good bag for a running weekend away as there is loads of space for running kit and shoes as well as the regular weekend things.

Have your local parkruns been busier than usual? Do you have any unusual animals in fields near you? What type of bag do you usually use for a weekend away?  I used to have a holdall but converted to a rucksack after we started getting the train down to Brighton a lot as lugging  a holdall around is so much harder than wearing a rucksack.

*I was sent the bag to review, but as always all opinions are my own.

Aylesbury parkrun as a last minute decision, and resting my knee

Along with Dad, I’d pencilled in the two weekends of the holidays for some parkrun tourism.  We went to Gunpowder the other week as that’s still fairly near (around 25 min drive from me) but it is starting to get harder to find events that are close enough that we haven’t done.

I suggested Aylesbury, but Dad looked and thought it was a bit far. He suggested Houghton Hall, so we arranged that I’d pick him up just after 8 and we’d head there. It sounded familiar, and when I looked at my blog, I realised I had already run it, and more crucially so had Dad. I write down the postcode for Wendover Woods as I ran that with my brother, thinking I’d say to Dad we could head there instead as it was new to him at least. On Saturday morning I got a text from him saying that if I was a few minutes early we would go to Aylesbury, so of course the most haste less speed thing happened, and I got stuck behind a recovery truck. I’d not had time to look up the new postcode, but thankfully when I picked up Dad he’d written down the directions and postcode and we were good to go!

The car park was right by the finish area, and thankfully we parked at 8.50am- a bit later than I’d like but just in time. There was a tarpaulin where people were leaving jumpers, and I decided to leave mine there because although it was cold, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and I knew I’d warm up once I started.

The info on the page warned you to be there in time because the start was a little way away so they walk there early to ensure a prompt start. (You can see below the green start was a bit of a walk from the finish).

The route was very flat, out along a hard gravel path (road shoes were fine), two loops and then back along the path to the finish area. It was varied parkland, with some of the path being through woods but most of it in more open parkland. It had a nice feel to it, with the marshals on the loops having a bit of a chat with runners on their first and second passing. We were lapped by the front runner just as we came up to repeat our second lap- impressive!

We chatted on the way around, and achieved a nice royal flush of 9:22, 8:53, 8:34, 8:24, for a time of 27:42. The lady behind us as we finished said “I managed to keep up with you” and then commented that we must be running comfortably if we could still be talking at the end! We walked back to collect our tops, did some stretches and then headed back to the car.

When we got out of the car my knee felt a little stiff, but after walking around a bit in the kitchen (while Mum cooked pancakes) it was fine. Later on, after driving home and having a shower, we walked into town and at first my knee felt weird again- after stopping and rubbing it a bit it was fine.

I had to get one of my glasses adjusted (side point- my opticians appointment was on the Thursday and they were in the store for me to pick up on the Sunday- so speedy!). I clearly have a style that I like because when they are side by side my old pair and two new pairs are the same shape and size. I’m looking forward to sunshine to try out my Minnie style sunglasses too, as my last pair of sunglasses were so big and kept slipping down so I just never wore them.

We watched BlackkKlansman which was very well done but also pretty terrifying, particularly the last few minutes as it makes you think about how little has changed in so many places.

On Sunday morning the little catch on my Garmin finally gave up- it’s been splitting for a while, so I repaired it  with a hairband. I also chose my Run Disney top from the Disneyland Paris half marathon as now all my running tops are organised by colour it makes choosing the nice tops very easy, instead of choosing the top that is on top of the pile!  I headed out on my run, but at first my knee felt weird- it felt as though my knee was bending the wrong way (which I know is impossible) when I put my foot down. I had walked a mile, every now and then trying to run, and was about to cut through the park and head home, but on the run I tried in the park my knee suddenly felt fine. I took it gently but ended up running 8 miles (well 1 mile walk, 7 mile run).

Sunday evening was time for a treat- we bought a Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser before Christmas and it is so good- you add little flakes of chocolate and whichever milk you like and it swirls around, blending and heating it, to make a perfect cup. (We had an offer to get the little sample packs which give you the right amount, but they also do tubs which will work out better in the end once we decide on the best flavours).

We watched Spirited Away, which I found rather weird! I think some of the Ghibli films are a little too much fantasy/magic for my tastes.

On Monday my knee was feeling a bit odd when I was trying to run at work, but it was a rest day so I just had a short walk in the evening. We were then off to the cinema to see The Favourite. This was a totally weird film. I quite liked most of it, as it was a bit quirky and the battle between the female leads was interesting, but towards the end it was starting to feel a bit long and I was slightly losing interest.

As there was no yoga on Wednesday, I decided to have an extra day of rest on Tuesday and run on Wednesday instead. I was feeling OK, so decided to head out for a gentle one and see. I was very excited to see that the new With Me Now podcast was out.

My run got off to a bad start though as I thought I was ready, then realised I needed gloves, ran back upstairs to get them, was about to leave and then realised I needed my torch so had to run back upstairs and find that. As I could run in the daytime in the holidays I’d got out of the dark-running routine! Anyway, 4 miles listening to parkrun tourism chatter under a beautiful sliver of a moon and I was feeling very happy. It was so cold out there though!

On Thursday I decided to run a little further and managed 5 miles, again it was freezing! This time catching up on Marathon Talk podcasts from the holidays. My knee was feeling much better, so I think it must have been a muscle pulling on the knee in a weird way. Sometimes with stiff legs a run helps because it gets the blood flowing and you can warm up and cool down.

On Friday I had to stop off at the shops on the way home from work, and in the evening we ended up watching the Bros documentary from I-player. I didn’t really know anything about them (it would not have been the type of music my parents would have listened to) and it almost seemed like it was a bit of a parody (or like The Disaster Artist). Some very David Brent-like gems in there.

Are you a hot chocolate fan?  How do you decide on which parkruns to tour to? I saw a cool idea on the tourist page with a tin where the person had written down the parkruns on folded bits of paper and they would choose one on the Friday night which could work for close by ones.

 Which films have you seen lately? I loved Mary Poppins but the funny thing was in the cinema they didn’t turn the lights on at the end, so we sat there right until the very end (I usually sit for a bit as I like to enjoy the music and sort of let the end of the film wash over me) thinking that there would be a funny end to the credits, but no, the lights weren’t even turned on when the whole thing finished!

Things I’ve been loving and a general catch up

With a few days spare at the end of the holidays, I got into sorting out/ early spring cleaning mode. The cupboard under the stairs has not been properly sorted since we moved house- we store the bags for life in there, and random things like an old heater, wrapping paper, kindling and extension leads have also ended up there. It’s hard to get to because the door is at one end, so there is a long shelf which you have to reach around the corner to get to, so it isn’t easy to store things neatly. I was tidying up downstairs and decided to get everything out and sort through it- we definitely don’t need to buy any more bags for life!

I sorted the bags into sizes and wrote on the bags so I knew what was inside each one, although we are going to get some big boxes next time we go to IKEA.

I then sorted out the cupboard under the kitchen sink and the cupboard where the boiler used to be.

During the afternoon I’d been looking through Netflix (watching Nailed it- I am still confused as to who would actually go on a baking show designed for people who make rubbish versions of cakes??) and first of all came across Instant Hotel, which is basically the Aussie version of Four in a Bed (which is Come Dine with Me for B&B owners), and then to my excitement, Tidying Up, which is where Marie Kondo visits people and they sort through their houses and tidy them up. OK, it sounds a bit weird, but I love it.


I was going to sort through my clothes drawers anyway, and now I have started going through them and folding them so that you can see each one (instead of having them in little piles which is what I’ve done before).

I’ve been steadily working my way through all the drawers, and it is so therapeutic. I just have to tackle my office drawers and then I’ll be done!

A few photos from last week:

Christmas treats of Snow Fairy and Cinders (smells like marzipan) shower gel in the sale, plus Christmas tiffin (a slight addiction although I tend to leave it in a drawer so one is there just in case) and Pret chocolate almonds.

I finally finished my delicious Red Velvet tea- I am hoping that Bird&Blend bring it back for Valentine’s day this year. I enjoyed it with one piece of Christmas tiffin from the emergency drawer.

More Netflix, this time Ellen doing stand up, and making the most of the  Christmas tree before we had to take the decorations down.

I went for a back and shoulder massage at the end of the holidays and seriously needed it (as always). It makes such a difference though- I can look over my left shoulder when reversing onto the driveway afterwards.

My new t-shirt/ a Gail’s scone with jam and Oatly creme fraiche (needed using up)/ another favourite snack of dates filled with peanut butter (Pip and Nut Hazelnut) and then a little melted chocolate on top.

Stollen.  This went a bit wrong as I usually make 3- one for us, one for my parents and one for Andy’s parents. I merrily set about making the dough, soaking the fruit and so on, and could not work out why it was so hard to fit in the mixer. The loaves were mammoth, and it was only when I re-read the recipe that I realised it said “Makes 2 loaves”. Yup, I normally make one batch and make it into 3 not 2. A mistake I hopefully won’t make again!

More baked French toast. We had one random pain au chocolate, so I sliced it, spread it with peanut butter and then put it in a dish with a mixture of egg and milk (plus blueberries) while I went out for a run, and then baked it while I had a shower. Pretty delicious.

Running wise, following on from the NYDD, I had a rest day on Wednesday with a couple of walks (I’m managing to keep to 10,000 or more steps per day and am now on 173 days in a row), a 5.5 mile run on Thursday morning, more walking on Friday, parkrun on Saturday and then a longer run on Sunday. My knee was feeling weird on my run (and it had felt this way on the walk into town on Saturday afternoon- when I put my leg out in front it felt like the joint was bending the wrong way, which of course it wasn’t, but it was just strange) so I walked for a bit and stretched it. I kept trying to run, as it felt fine when walking, but each time I tried it just felt wrong. I was going to call it off and head home as after a mile I can cut back through the park to home, but I attempted a little run in the park and it felt OK, so I went gently but ran 7 miles, feeling OK. I’m not sure what it was, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it and at least Monday was a rest day so I could give it a break, and I swapped a run for a walk on Tuesday.

Do you love having a big clear up? 

A New Year Double parkrun (NYDD)

(New Year’s Day Double)

After a pretty chilled out weekend with an 8.5 mile run on Sunday morning and a little walk in the afternoon (followed by watching one of my Christmas presents, Whisper of the Heart) we packed up on Monday to head up to Nottingham. We’d not been for a few years and had a free night to use up, and it meant I could do some parkrun tourism to make up for missing out on Berlin!

On the Monday afternoon we had a nice wander around the centre- they have a Bird&Blend (they shall always be Bluebird to me) so we got a delicious tea latte each while we walked around the city centre, and later on a dinner at Bill’s, and then we had booked to see Mary Poppins Returns (which I really enjoyed- it felt like slipping under a cosy warm blanket and snuggling up with a cup of tea- all very soothing and relaxing because you know it will be alright in the end).

For a while I was just going to do one parkrun on NYD, and had looked at the later starts so Andy could pick me up after. Forest Rec (which I have been to before) wasn’t on, but it would have been the easiest to get to because it was on the main tram line. The trams were running on NYD but the buses weren’t, so the later start would mean Andy could pick me up after and we’d just head home.  However, when I started looking to find out which ones were on, I was using the double finder and of course got tempted by a double. Added to that was that Gedling (9am start) would mean I’d get my Stayin’ Alive badge and I soon decided to attempt the double.

The two runs didn’t seem that far apart (3 or 4 miles) and as one was 9 and the other 10.30, theoretically I’d have lots of time. As no buses were running I got an uber out to the park, having left it rather late (I never want to call it before I leave in case there is one right there, but of course there never is) so only arrived at 8:50am. Thankfully the start is right by the car park and so as I walked up I heard the call for the new runners briefing. I was hoping to find some people running between the two, as I’d asked a question about it on the tourist facebook group (as to whether it was all pavements as I couldn’t tell on google maps) and was told lots of people ran it last  year. Anyway, the only people I spoke to were doing the double but driving. Ah well.

Gedling is a lovely one lap undulating course (they described it as a figure of 8 as you repeated the belt bit). We were warned about the two hills, called The Beast and The Cobra (it rises up and bites you) but as I was taking it steady I didn’t find them too hard. Maybe similar to Wimpole if you’ve been there? Anyway it had the most gorgeous views as it was right on top of the hills looking across the countryside- the sky was incredible with light beaming down between gaps in the clouds. I would have stayed and taken a lot more photos had I not been pressed for time!

I did snap a few mid-run and am impressed with how they turned out. I finished with token 372 / 466 with a time of 33:20 (argh so close to 17 or 18 for the stopwatch bingo!).

I’d seen lots of these lovely wooden carvings around the route, and the fox was right by the finish area so I allowed myself a picture before loading up google maps and a podcast for the run between.

When I’d looked the other day, I had found a 4 mile route, and I’d written down the road names on a post it note so I knew that google maps was taking me the same way. There was one section on a country road without pavement, but thankfully not many cars were around and it had a fairly wide verge to hop onto when needed.  I had a bit of a panic when I thought I would need to cross the railway line but the directions (and my post-it) were sending me down a dead end road and I was cutting it fine with time and knew I wouldn’t have time to double back on myself if it was a proper dead end- the main road curved away from the park so in the end I followed the directions and found a pedestrian bridge further along. I was starting to worry a little bit by that point as it was getting closer to half 10 and I hadn’t seen anyone out running, and normally when you get close to a parkrun you start coming across people running. Just then a lady ran past me- I asked her if she was going to the parkrun, and she said something like she was, but didn’t think I was going the right way, so I asked if I could follow her. She nodded but then sprinted off so I had to up the speed to try and keep her in sight. I got to the park but then it turned out that the parkrun did not start on the edge, but in the middle of the park- basically another mile away!

The lady I had been following was long gone, but I ended up running with someone else for a bit, only she didn’t know where the start was either. We found a sign (a proper parkrun one) and then came across a marshal, who told us “just keep going around, you can’t miss it”. I made it to the start at about 10:29am in the end, and I really needed to sort out my shoe laces as one shoe felt a bit loose. Thankfully there were lots of milestones to be announced which meant the start was a little delayed (10.37 according to my Strava).

Colwick was another lovely course- starting out around the little lake, going around the big lake and then back around the little lake again. All very flat with gorgeous views. I was feeling tired by that point though, and the short stop before the second parkrun had made my legs a little stiff. What did cheer me up was the amount of people saying “aye up” to each other- it is always such a friendly-sounding saying.

Again I took a few pictures on the way around- I loved seeing all the changing views.  For my second one I finished in position 409/ 573 with a time of 33:25- a few seconds slower than the hillier but first one of the day.

The plan at the end was that Andy would drive out to meet me, but he messaged me while I was running to say he was in the car park and would see me soon. This turned out to be the car park at the entrance to the lakes, another mile away from where I was! I didn’t bother putting my watch on again, and half ran and half walked back. 12 miles done for the day- I was pretty shattered as I’ve not run that far in ages (and I was expecting more like 10 miles in total).

Anyway, a G meant that I had earned my Stayin’ Alive badge!

Third green one along!

Another C means I am one step closer to the pirates one too and I now have one R and 5 C’s so only need 2 more.

I’d packed a jumper, face wipes and coconut water, and Andy had got some almond croissants so I had breakfast as we drove back home, stopping to buy a cup of tea when we were a little closer.

There were some cool graphics on the internet showing all of the different NYDD options- as they were two of the closest in that area it is no surprise that more people did that double than other local ones (279 did the same double as me). If you are interested to look at ones local to you, the link is here.

A different NYDD from last year where I ran my two home events, but good to see two new courses- I’ve now run at 55 different parkrun locations.

Once home I had a shower and watched some TV, and then we headed out on a walk before it got dark. I felt pretty shattered but when I looked back at Strava my mileage had really dipped in the past 3 months- since doing Wimpole half marathon back in October I’ve only run over 8 miles 3 times, and then I ended up running 12 miles, so it isn’t a surprise that I felt it a bit. Brighton Half Marathon training has begun!

How did you spend New Years Day? Would you be tempted by a double parkrun? Which races are you looking forward to this year?

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?