More early morning runs, parakeets and The Muppets!

So last Monday was a rest day (following on from the very hot Ware 10k), and then yoga was moved to Tuesday evening so we could watch the football. It was my last yoga session before the summer (they are term time classes only)- we did a bit inside and then lots outside which I love so much.

There was a t-shirt I ummed and ahhed over at FOTC- I didn’t get it but luckily Andy’s brother was going on a different night so got it for me. (There was a very funny song sung by a seagull…)

I got up super early on Wednesday (5am) for a run before work, as I knew I wouldn’t have time after. I think I did 4 miles at a fairly leisurely pace, but I felt better after. (Also, because of our hot water problems I needed to put the immersion on for a while before having a shower, so I may as well go on a run while it heats up).

I was a huge flock of parakeets flying overhead- I’ve seen them in St Albans before but not here. Since then I’ve seen them a few times when I’ve been walking around.

Thursday we had yoga at work, and then I stopped for a quick run on my way home- I was going to do a 2 mile loop. When I got back to my car, it had been blocked in on both sides- with about 2cm on either side. Loads of people were walking past and one guy commented on how close the other cars were, so I asked him if he would help me try and get out. He stood at the back but even after a few forwards and backwards I wasn’t really getting anywhere. It turned out there was an event at the secondary school around the corner, so I wrote down both number plates and ran up there, found a member of staff and very apologetically asked if they would make an announcement (I think it was some sort of open evening so I did feel bad speaking to the staff when they were so busy). Thankfully they made an announcement and one guy started going back to the car. He was the one parked behind me, although he had the cheek to tell me that I wasn’t very well parked and that’s why he had to park so closely behind me! When I had parked there had been a van in front, so I had parked with space between me and the van, but the van had obviously driven off it was a huge 4×4 in front. I did explain this, and he then “let me off”. The cheek! I was fuming- but I couldn’t really argue as at least  he had come to move his car unlike the other person.

Anyway, all that faff added loads of time on (probably about half an hour) so I got home pretty late. After a shower and dinner we had a bit of a walk (saw more parakeets).

Then on Friday I had to head home super quick because we were going to see The Muppets!

I love it when the tube do signs like this

I quickly packed as we were staying overnight in London, walked to the station and got the train to Moorgate before the tube to near our hotel. After checking in and dropping our bags off, we headed to the DLR (don’t ask me what we did because I get very confused on there- why are all the lines the same colour???) and picked up a sandwich in Canary Wharf. We ate them outside the O2 and then headed in to join the enormous queue. Everyone was having to go through metal detectors and bag searches, but for some reason they were so slow and the queue would not move an inch for 5 mins. There were no announcements for the people in the queue though, and I have no idea why it took so long (for FOTC they did bag searches and had metal detectors for people to walk through, and the queue moved the whole time). The show started at 8 and in the end we got inside at about ten past, just as they announced the show would be starting so we had to run up the stairs, find the door, run down the stairs as we were on the floor near the front, and then apologetically squeeze past people as the show was about to begin.

Anyway, the show was brilliant, with puppets on stage (a bit like Avenue Q, you can see the puppeteers all dressed in black but you just tend to watch the muppet- some of them had 3 puppeteers to one puppet), bits happening on the screen, and of course the very special guests including David Tennant, Charles Dance and Kylie (she was singing Manamanah and then Rainbow Connection). We were sat quite close to where the special guests were, so could see when they were about to be needed on stage again. One of the films was a Netflix parody with things like The Walking Bread (with the Swedish Chef) and my favourite- Frogglebox! I am sure you can guess what that was! It reminded me of many happy times at Disney watching the Muppet show there, and it was just such a fun evening.

I didn’t dilly dally and decided to get a t-shirt. As we were staying in London we didn’t have too long a journey, so we got a mint tea from the Starbucks just outside, and then headed back to the hotel.

I shall save my Saturday morning adventure for another post!

Do you like The Muppets? I think their shows are funny, but the two most recent films (particularly Muppets Most Wanted) are such funny films with brilliant songs.

Have you seen parakeets where you live? A while ago I would only see them in Richmond park or parks in London, whereas they seem to be really spreading now.

Tail walking with a tail, a garden show and a hot race

So on Saturday morning I was off to Letchworth parkrun, to tail walk.  I’ve run it once before, and it’s a lovely two lap route around farm fields and playing fields. As I had a race on Sunday I wanted to tail walk, and I also wanted to visit the town centre as a “weigh and pay” shop had recently opened and I wanted to visit it.

I was very excited to be given an actual tail to wear as tail walker! A giraffe tail! I had to have someone help me to clip it on, and then it was so long it dangled on the floor so I held it over my arm! I didn’t want to lose it out on the course.

It was absolutely baking- 23 degrees when I got out of the car at 8.30, and 27 by the time I finished. The views were stunning across the open countryside, and I could hear so many crickets/grasshoppers in the fields. I was behind a couple of women and then a little further up a lady who announced at the end that she was a 70 year old grandmother. All three of them were running at times and walking at others, it was a tough one and I was really hot and bothered by the end. I finished in 54:16 and headed into town.

I was heading to Bamboo Turtle, which is aiming to be a zero waste shop.  When I was little we always used to go to the weigh and pay shop to get things like cereals and flour, but those sorts of things all closed. This one in Letchworth recently opened- the idea is you bring your own containers, weigh them, write down the weight, then fill them with whatever you are buying (everything was priced per 100g) and then pay. The lady in there was very helpful, saying she could put things back if I had weighed out too much.

They did have jars and things for sale if you didn’t have your own though. I got some coconut chips, almonds and dark chocolate buttons for baking, plus a bamboo straw, although I need something to carry it in (so that if I get an iced drink in town I can use that straw instead of a plastic one).

Once I got home I had a lovely breakfast of a chocolate almond croissant (I bought it in town on Friday as a post crazy-work week treat) and watermelon. Seriously, nothing is better than watermelon when it’s hot.

Then we were off to London with Andy’s parents for the Hampton Court Palace flower show.

Again it was absolutely baking hot.

The gardens were good to see, and we picked up a few ideas for our own. There were also loads of stalls but we didn’t buy any plants as the ground is rock hard at the moment so I don’t think anything would survive for long.

We had thought we might avoid the score from the match, but there was a big screen up showing it, so we heard the two massive cheers which gave away the score somewhat!

Normally I find scarecrows pretty creepy, but this one was very clever- different parts of the body were represented by different vegetables (I think the liver was a butternut squash?).

I’d packed a clif bar and had that at around 5pm. We also took loads of water with us (and there were a few places to refill) but it was just so hot everywhere that I wasn’t feeling great by the end, really craving something salty. I think we did about 12,000 steps walking around (plus to and from the car) and all of that was really in the sun as there wasn’t much shade. By the time we got home it was so late we decided to get a takeaway pizza- something we only normally do if we are with other people. I think the only other time we had one was the day we moved into our house in Hatfield 12 or so years ago! We ended up eating it at 9pm in front of the TV.

Then on Sunday I was off to Ware for a 10k race. I love this race (there’s a 10 mile too, but since it’s been in the summer and not the autumn the 10k is the better option as it’s one lap not two, and there isn’t much shade).

After picking up my number I sat in the shade and seriously considered not running. It was just so hot. I had a nuun tab in water before I left, but hadn’t bothered with breakfast so I could sleep for longer, plus I knew I would not be racing it and I wouldn’t eat breakfast before a training run. It didn’t begin until 10am though the heat was building all the time.

Once we started it was OK, but so hot. I had decided to walk up the hills to save myself from getting overheated and overtired. My legs were not happy though, just lacking energy.

I took a few photos on the way around and enjoyed thanking the marshals. As well as water stations they had splash buckets with sponges so you could cool yourself down. At one point we ran through a housing estate and loads of people were out with their garden hoses offering to spray the runners- it felt so good to be momentarily cooled.

At around 4 miles I bumped into a couple of girls from the club, so I chatted to them for a bit but eventually lost them. The second part of the route is very flat, so apart from walking at the water stations I kept on going. I ended up overtaking a lot of people in the final couple of miles, so I think I paced it OK for me as I didn’t feel awful at the end. I did get overtaken by the lead runners in the 10 mile race, which I don’t think has happened to me before, but it was about finish lines and not finish times for me.

Near the end some children were manning the final splash bucket and had cups, basically offering to throw cups of water over you as you ran past. I said “go on then” and was drenched, but it was so hot that the water dried pretty much instantly.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

I saw Donna (my lovely running club leader) at the end (her boyfriend had finished ahead of me and she’d been cheering people on) so we chatted for a bit once I’d got myself drink and cake for £1- that’s the whole point of this race! Lemon cake was just what I fancied (brunch by then). I got a text pretty much as I crossed the line saying my time was 1:07:40, and they announced your name as you ran in which was a nice touch.

This year as it was the 10th anniversary, you got a t-shirt and a medal. It’s a pretty smart top with black down the sides, although red isn’t really my colour (especially when my face matches it after a run!).

While we were chatting, Daniel, the guy from Ellenbrook Fields parkrun (who I met at Upton parkrun) came up to say hi- he’d run the 10 miles in not much longer than the 10k had taken me. I was very glad I wasn’t going any further. After a chat it was time to head home for a lovely shower (the water worked, hooray) and then basically trying to stay as cool as possible inside. I ended up having a little lie down in the afternoon as I was still feeling tired from the busy week at work, and then after an early dinner we went to the cinema to see Tag (which was sort of OK and funny in places, and then took a weird turn at the end which just seemed inappropriate for that sort of comedy film). At least it was cool in there.

Did you manage to stay cool over the weekend?

Have you seen anything good in the cinema recently? I am looking forward to The Incredibles!

Foo Fighters and then a quieter weekend!

So on Friday night we were off to London to see The Foo Fighters- Andy had got me tickets for my birthday. Before that I had one of the most stressful journeys driving home- mainly traffic at a standstill everywhere I turned, and then a dramatic bit: I got overtaken by a car driving at a mental speed along a narrow country lane, and then a split second later three police 4×4’s went passed with their sirens on (I just thought they were pulling the car over for dangerous driving)- the car didn’t pull over and they zoomed off into the distance, closely followed by three more police cars, and then one more. There was a helicopter circling overhead, and when I arrived in the village there were cars all over the road and the route I needed was closed (I think some cars had crashed- one had a wing mirror missing) so I took yet another diversion, and then got stuck in some roadworks (turned out it was armed police chasing a car all the way from Luton). My journey which is 35 mins on a good day and 45 mins on a bad day was around 85 mins- argh! Andy had been in London for 3 days so as soon as I got home I had to get back in the car and pick him up from the station- his trains had been bad that day too, and the way we were going to go was out of bounds as there were no trains running any more, so we had to leave asap, drive to Cheshunt and get the overground in. We made it to the stadium (the Olympic park) with 10 mins to spare!

What can I say? They were awesome! It was a totally rocking night, Dave Grohl was on top form, leaping about the stage, running up the catwalk style thing into the crowd, screaming into the mic. At one point the drumkit was raised on vertical pedestals, and Taylor Hawkins did the most immense drum solo (when we last saw them at Brixton Academy, they had two drum kits and did a sort of drum-off battle). To showcase each band member they played little sections of songs, even singing some of Grease Lightning to showcase the bass- something I never thought I’d see. Taylor Hawkins did a mean Freddie Mercury impression (the call and response bit- see this video for what I mean) (he was wearing the same swim trunks on Friday!) and then the two of them swapped places and sang Under Pressure (my fave Queen song), with Taylor Hawkins doing the Freddie Mercury bit and Dave Grohl doing the David Bowie bit and the drumming. Totally amazing. There was lots of Dave Grohl playing the crowd, and lots of f-bombs. At one point I mentioned to Andy that this was the total opposite of our last gig (Gomez- they are super chilled out)- he said back to me “Whippin’ Picadilly Mother F**ers”- this was the style from the Foos! A proper stadium rock show anyway.

It finished with fireworks as they played Everlong- just fantastic. When it finished we had 13 mins to get the next train (or a long wait for the next one) so we ran, dodging the crowds, getting on the train with 30 seconds to spare!

A late night on Friday meant I was glad of a local parkrun on Saturday morning. Dad was off out later in the morning so we met at Heartwood Forest- he can cycle there from home. I left it a little late (also, saw the fox cub in my garden at 8.30 right before I left) and could not find parking right away, so only just made the meeting place with 5 mins to spare, but as the actual start is a little walk from the meeting place and finish area, they usually begin a little late so I was fine. Herts were celebrating This Girl Can by having women as RD’s for all the parkruns that day, and they asked all the girls to step forwards at the start for a photo. Most men didn’t mind, but there were one or two who did not want to give up their starting position (even though everyone moved back after the photo…).

Heartwood Forest is nearly two laps- you start half way up a hill, run to the top for gorgeous views of the countryside, down to the finish area, and then do a complete lap (with the hill being longer)- I ran with Dad for the first lap but he mentioned to me that he wanted to push the pace for the second lap as he hadn’t done much exercise this week, and that was fine with me as I was tired. It’s amazing how fast he ends up going- he finished in 25:36 and I came in at 28:56, so he was way ahead in the end considering we ran the first 3k ish together. I did walk on the long hill for a bit and used the time to take a few photos (the ones above).

After I finished the RD was trying to hold up the big This Girl Can frame and take photos through it, so I offered to hold it for her, and then as it was still wobbly Dad held the other side. She managed to get a few snaps of runners coming towards the finish line.

They then asked to take a pic of me too- I felt all sweaty and hot but actually it looks OK (and bonus, I’ve kept my eyes open which is a Very Hard Thing for me in photos).

I mentioned the other day that I had been feeling unusually tired, and the lovely CT (check out her blog if you like to read about running with a dog combined with lots of amazing nature photos) commented that I could possibly have a virus. There have been a few going around at work, including slapped cheek, and when I actually looked at the symptoms, I think it could have been something like that, as I had a headache for several days (putting that down to be tired) and I have a rash on my arms but put it down to heat rash. Anyway, other than the late night on Friday, the weekend was a chilled affair. I watched a bit of TV while I had my breakfast, then pottered around a bit.

We then headed off to the Hitchin lavender farm- the main fields weren’t quite all purple yet, and we got there fairly late in the afternoon, so we just had a look at the display fields and then went to the cafe.

I had a lovely pot of rooibos tea  with lavender and bergamot, and we shared some lemon cake. We were spoilt for choice over the cakes though- beetroot chocolate cake looked good, as did the honey and lavender cake. I bought a couple of little lavender plants to put in an empty pot, and so when we got home and it was cooler I did a little bit of weeding and planted out the lavender.

On Sunday morning I had a slow and steady 10k run (no walking, but a very slow pace overall), sat in the garden and read a magazine while my hair started to dry, watched the football and then walked into town to get my free Vitality Starbucks (and some vitamins). We’re off to the cinema in a bit to see Ocean’s 8 which I am looking forward to- hopefully good fun and nothing too taxing.

I hope you had a good weekend?


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!

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.