An all time parkrun pb and celebrating with cake!

On Saturday I left the choice of parkrun up to Dad, so we decided to meet at Ellenbrook fields. I hadn’t left particularly early so by the time I parked I had time for a quick warm up jog around the streets (basically going the long way around from the car park to the start).

As I walked in I saw Lynne, one of our regular volunteers, and mum to Danny Norman (from With Me Now/ parkrun show podcast)- he had mentioned it was her birthday this week so I stopped to have a quick chat with her, before seeing Dad and Tony locking up their bikes.

Dad decided that he wanted to run on his own as he wanted to work on his fitness a bit, and if we run together I am slower so it isn’t such a workout for him.  I decided I would try and keep him in my sight for as long as possible, and I managed it for around the first mile.

I was wearing a long sleeved top over my t-shirt but I soon warmed up, and the beauty of Ellenbrook Fields is that you do a small loop of about a mile, which brings you past the finish area, before you head off for a longer loop. As I was running I took the top off, tied the sleeve and then as we ran past the finish area I briefly slowed to loop it around one of the fence posts.

As I was running I overtook one of the runners from my club, and she is normally a fair bit quicker than me, but of course you never can tell because she might be running slower than usual. I did feel like I was going quite fast, but I also felt OK, and could speed up to overtake people as I came across them. I’d worn my old road trainers in case it was a bit muddy (I couldn’t wear my trail shoes because I hadn’t cleaned out the mud from last week) but the ground was OK- fairly firm and although a few bits of mud here and there, no huge puddles to avoid or anything.

The final km is along a runway and I can make the mistake of speeding up too soon, as you feel closer to the finish than you actually are, so I told myself that when I reached the start area, I would speed up. As I reached that part I could hear someone coming up behind me, breathing really heavily, so I decided to try and speed up and try to stay ahead of them. I ended up speeding up and was so close to catching the lady in front of me, but I was within a metre or so of the line and it felt rude. As she reached the line, she stopped dead and I nearly crashed into her! She mumbled something but didn’t move (and the funnel is a good few metres long) and was fiddling with her watch- I should have overtaken her after all! As I walked to collect my token I stopped my watch and immediately got a notification on my watch saying new record. I then saw that my time was 26 something, which I hardly ever manage (I’ve managed it 5 other times), but I couldn’t remember my pb so it was a long wait for the email to come through!

I asked Lynne if I could have a picture with her (in her cow bob hat- something that her son isn’t a big fan of) and we chatted a little longer before I met up with Dad and Tony.

I then went over to my parents and Mum cooked us pancakes, and we then watched the Watford match (they had taped it from Friday as they had been out)- it was near the end of that when I received the text and email confirming a course and all-time parkrun pb of 26:18! It beats my best Ellenbrook Fields time of 26:33 set in April 2017, and it also beats my all time pb of 26:29 set at St Albans way back in November 2013!

But the best thing? My penultimate number for stopwatch bingo! The final number I need is number 17 (eg a run finishing with 17 seconds).

My splits were 8:44, 8:37 and 8:27, so a nice royal flush there too.

After heading home and having a shower, we walked into town and decided to have some cake to celebrate. There is a lovely looking cafe in the town centre, but we have never been to it, because either I have made a cake, or we have John Lewis cake vouchers to use up, but this weekend I didn’t have anything left over, and John Lewis are a bit more stingy with the cake vouchers now (you used to get one a month, but now one is valid for 3 months). Anyway, the cafe had so many amazing looking cakes, all made on the premises, as well as loads of tasty sounding wraps and sandwiches. I went for a peppermint tea and we shared a piece of orange and chocolate cake which was delicious.

On Sunday morning I headed out for 10 miles, keeping it easy with two 5 mile loops (I have learnt the 5 mile loop now). It was so gorgeous out there and I wished I’d worn my sunglasses.  My legs did feel heavy, but after running so fast on the Saturday that wasn’t a surprise. Hopefully it hasn’t negatively impacted my training at all as I did complete the run and felt fine. I saw so many signs of spring including a lovely carpet of crocus flowers in some woodland near home.

I’d made some porridge the night before because I knew I would fancy something quick when I got back- oats, chia seeds, cinnamon and raisins soaked overnight in almond milk, cooked for a couple of minutes and then topped with almond butter (which is so amazing) and a little extra milk. Plus of course some tea (Honey, I’m Comb).

Then it was on to enjoy half term!

Do you get pb’s very often? Out of 185 runs I have managed 13 pb’s (and some of those are course pb’s and not overall ones, because I’ve run at several parkruns than once). If Dad and I chat to a new runner at parkrun we always tell them to start out slowly, so that they can chip away at their time each week, whereas my first parkrun was a 5k attempt for Jantastic, so I ran 27:12 which still now would be a speedy time for me!

Walks in the sunshine and a Waffle House trip

On Monday after work I had a short walk to stretch out my legs- they weren’t feeling too bad after the 14 miles on the Sunday, but I had worn compression sleeves all day just to help, and I think a walk always helps to ease out any stiffness.

On Tuesday I made the most of having no meeting (due to parents evening later in the week) and stopped on my way home for a run- it wasn’t quite dark when I set out, and it felt like spring might be around the corner as I spotted lots of snowdrops.

On Wednesday we had meetings all evening, so I decided to head out at lunch time to get a bit of sunshine. I saw loads more snowdrops and spotted so many birds out (I was walking mainly through woodland). Usually lunch times are so busy setting up for the afternoon and catching up on paperwork, but I try to get out once a week if I can and it always makes such a difference to how I feel.

I had sorted my baking into tins for each day- some blondies for the Wednesday meetings and then the caramel shortbread for the Thursday (saving the best ’til last).  It seemed to help everyone get through the extra busy week!

The teachers at work were treated to a little package from another member of staff- these were left for us in the staffroom before the final parents evening and it was just such a lovely gesture (and I also loved the picture of the person collapsed on their back- it can feel a bit like that by the end of each term!).

On Friday I was meeting a friend at The Waffle House. I arrived a little early (you can never tell how the traffic will be), so I had a quick walk around the lakes, enjoying more spring sunshine.

I had a bit of time to peruse the menu, and decided on the pecan and butterscotch waffle (pecans are baked into the waffle) and then added a banana on top. They had a special warm elder-flower and apple juice, so I went for that instead of my usual tea.  Of course the food was delicious, and it’s always so lovely to catch up with my friend and know that we are looking forward to a relaxing week.

What would your ideal waffle topping be?  What do you do in your lunch break? Does your work do anything to help with staff wellbeing?

Afternoon tea, a muddy parkrun and a long run

Earlier on last week I caved and ordered some tea from Bird&Blend- I get a little box each month (the subscription thing) but they released their Valentine’s blends (the day after we were in Brighton, I shall note- it seems their launches are always on a Sunday…) and they were all my favourite. They also did something on Instagram which added a little bag of Red Velvet tea to my basket, so I had to order something really.

I’ve not tried the Black Forest tea before (black tea with cocoa and cherries) although I had a similar blend from David’s Tea (a Canadian tea shop) years ago, so I had high hopes, and it has not disappointed.

On Monday I just had a short walk in the evening (I seemed to have done a million steps at work that day and just had to pop to the post box). I also spent the day feeling really hungry- I think it was from the 12 miles on the Sunday- if I don’t eat something as soon as I get back then I seem to pay for it later (and as Andy’s parents had come over I spent a bit of time chatting to them before showering and then cooking my porridge, so it was probably nearly an hour after getting back that I finally ate breakfast).

On Tuesday I headed out for a run, and after a few minutes it started raining. I’d not worn a visor but thought I’d be OK. Wrong. The rain was sticking to my glasses, and then the torch I was wearing seemed to be reflecting off the rain, and also diffusing in the droplets on my glasses making it very hard to see at times- I really had to stop in a few places. Anyway, I got 4 miles done and that felt like plenty as seeing where I was going was such hard work.

A little walk on Wednesday morning in the fog and I was treated to some pretty views.

On Wednesday at yoga we had a bit of a focus on inversions (being upside-down) and were told to practise the handstand. We go into the downward dog position, move one leg a little further towards our hands, and then kick the legs up- the idea being that if you are super strong and balanced you can get your legs up and hold it (none of the throwing your hands down that other kids did when I was at school). We also practised against a wall, and some people were paired up, with one person holding the hips of the other person to steady them. I have never managed this, but the yoga teacher told me that she would hold my hips and that I was strong enough (on a few occasions I’ve nearly got there and then panicked as one shoulder has collapsed and I end up crumpling onto my head). Anyway, I feel like I don’t kick up very high but somehow she managed to hold my hips and so I managed to hold a handstand! I held it for a few breaths before coming back down and I felt so chuffed with myself. We then went on to headstands- I can only manage the tripod (well I say manage, I can get one leg up at a time)- I am more confident in this though and can hold each leg for a little bit- one day I’ll get there.

On Thursday I did a 4 mile run- it was pretty windy out there which made it hard, but thankfully no rain so at least I could see where I was going!

On Friday our team at work were off to have an afternoon tea together. We’d booked a local hotel and spent a couple of hours catching up and relaxing. Before we had got to the scones, a new round of sandwiches were brought out, so we ended up taking all the cakes home for later.

? Up early watching the trees get blown about on Saturday morning. It’s upside down again, what joy.

On Saturday Dad had suggested Jersey Farm parkrun as he needed to pick up his car from a nearby pub. I kept an eye on facebook as a few runs were being cancelled due to the high winds, but locally we were all OK. I drove round just as Dad was getting on his bike- he thought I was going to meet him there, but we ended up walking there together, running around (in the mud) and then walking up to the pub before he drove us back. I do like the Jersey Farm route- it’s two laps and laps aren’t my favourite, but it’s varied scenery and fairly undulating, so it keeps you interested. It was very muddy and quite slippery in places, so I was glad of my trail shoes, but then ended up with wet socks because some of it was too boggy. I am pretty sure all the core team listen to With Me Now as they always seem to do arbitrary shout-outs- it was someone’s 400th this week (not a thing..) and they got a clap.

Of course it was then pancakes made by Mum, while I heard about their holiday (a cruise on the Panama Canal and then some time in Costa Rica)- all amazing.

After driving home and having a shower, I ploughed through my work, and then walked into town to warm up again and get my free drink.

Once home I had some mince pie tea (so good) and a scone leftover from the afternoon tea, and watched a bit of Winter Watch- so relaxing.

On Sunday morning I did some more excellent long run maths. 14 miles- so that is 2×7 miles, or two lots of the 3 mile loop and 2 lots of a 4 mile loop. I thought I’d do short-long-long-short loops, but then after doing 3 miles, the longer loop turned out to be more like 5.5 miles (which somehow I calculated to be a bit short). On my second long loop I realised that I would not need the second short loop, because I was already coming up to 13 miles, so I just took a bit of a meandering route back home to make the 14. Honestly I am not sure how I manage to make these things so confusing for myself.  It was raining on and off, fairly heavily at times, so I was glad to be home in the warm, but made the mistake of getting in the shower too quickly. My skin just felt like it was on fire and got so itchy.

After getting out I realised that my skin was basically the same colour as my orange top- not good! Time for porridge and tea to properly warm up.

I’d planned some baking for work this week, but in town on Saturday I had forgotten that I’d run out of baking paper, so after drying my hair I popped around to the local shop to get some, before getting baking. I’ve not had a proper baking day in ages and it was fab.

I made two lots of caramel shortbread and two lots of jammy dodger blondies as they always prove popular.

In a bit we are off to see the new Lego movie- I think I’ve earned a little sit down (and hopefully my legs won’t get too stiff).

Which bit of afternoon tea is your favourite? It’s always the scones for me, and of course tea in a pot.

Which bakes go down well at your work? White chocolate seems to always be popular with my colleagues.

Long run laps, artwork and more snow

Monday was a rest day after my long run on Sunday- I didn’t sleep well at all on the Sunday night and so felt pretty shattered- we had an early dinner and then went out on a walk to get some fresh air before it got too late. We also finally put up these pictures in our bedroom- we’d bought them over Christmas and just kept forgetting until too late in the evening (can’t be disturbing the neighbours with late night hammering).

On Tuesday I went out on a run after work- I got home later than planned and still felt pretty tired so kept it shorter. It started raining while I was out- really cold sleety rain, so I was pretty pleased when I got back home. I had a handful of these salt and vinegar peanuts which sounds like a weird combination but as a fan of salt and vinegar anything they are pretty food for me (although these Tesco ones actually burn the inside of my lips a little bit- not so good).

On Wednesday I had a little walk around to the amazon locker to collect a parcel, before heading off to yoga- our teacher had brought a little electric heater with her so it wasn’t too cold in the room. I found it tough- my arms lose strength very quickly it seems- although when we practised the headstand I opted for the tripod one (I just can’t get anywhere close with the other one) and managed to lift one leg up at a time, and we’ve not done that since before Christmas so I was pretty pleased. I could have fallen asleep in the final relaxation!

On Thursday I had another really cold run, this time managing 4 miles, and had another favourite post-run snack of dates with peanut butter- at the moment I have a jar of Pip&Nut hazelnut chocolate spread, which is really good and the closest to nutella I can get without feeling guilt for the orangutans.

Funnily enough this came up on my facebook as a memory from 10 years ago- it seems snow at the end of January isn’t that uncommon.

Friday morning I was greeted with a fair bit of snow, and although loads of schools locally were closed (including the secondary school right by the one I work at) my school was open, so I had to spend ages clearing the snow off my car, which isn’t easy when you are as short as me. To get it off the roof I had to open the rear doors and stand on the back seats. Then when I was driving at one point I thought someone was throwing snowballs at my windscreen but it was just a van with a load of snow on the roof, and the snow was coming off in big clumps and hitting my windscreen. I was not amused.

After work I headed into town as I had a massage booked (very much needed after all that snow-clearing!) and then once home I warmed up with some Brighton treats- Bird&Blend Early grey and some Montezuma’s orange chocolate (dairy free milk-style chocolate).

We also put up this picture in our bathroom (I do love penguins and not sure why the image has rotated sideways). It’s good to refresh what is up on the walls a bit.

We’ve been watching a bit of Shipwrecked this week and who knows if I am watching with rose-tinted spectacles but it isn’t as good as I remember (it was a Sunday morning staple when I was younger). Although Andy found this rather horrifying article here from one of the original contestants. After watching the Fyre festival documentary on Netflix we’ve seen rather a lot of the perfect beach holiday images (and know that what’s going on behind the scenes isn’t what you see).

On Saturday morning there was still a fair bit of snow about, and lots of it had been compacted and then frozen overnight to make lovely smooth icy pavements, so when local parkruns started cancelling I knew I’d head to Panshanger as it is pretty much all off road and they don’t usually cancel for snow.

I got there a little early (mainly because I thought parking would be busier than usual because of people coming from their cancelled ones) so to keep warm I had a little run through one of the fields (not such a good idea because I got snow in my shoes which then melted and gave me cold wet feet).

Anyway, I had also seen on facebook that Wonky Bear (a bear made from old parkrun branded high-viz vests) was going to be at Panshanger, so I was keeping an eye out in the car park for him. I ended up chatting to one of the runners from my club, and then I wandered over as the new runner briefing was being held. I saw one person with the cow cowl on, so I asked her where she was from (Walmer and Deal parkrun) and we had a little chat about our local ones and what Panshanger was like (she’d also been to Ellenbrook before)- I was about to ask her if she owned a bear (she wasn’t holding a bear, but that is the parkrun where Wonky Bear is from- I was thinking how I would explain my strange question if she said no) when some people she knew came over and chatted to her, so the moment was a bit passed (and would have been even harder to explain in front of more people!). As we started I ran past the RD’s open car boot and saw Wonky Bear sitting in the boot so I thought I’d find him at the end instead.

The run was gorgeous- the park was covered in snow in places, and totally clear in others. I kept on taking my phone out to take photos, most of which turned out pretty well seeing as I was still running and watching my footing. Most of it was OK underfoot but the final part which runs alongside a field was tricky as the snow had been compacted and it was very smooth and slippery- I ended up running in the field again in an effort not to slip over.

After finishing I was looking around for the bear and met another runner from my club who I’ve not seen for ages, so we walked back to the car together. (The run report which came out today was written by Wonky Bear, and there’s a lovely picture of him sitting in the snow at the finish line by the parkrun flag- not quite sure how I missed him!).

Another bonus of going into town on Friday night was a little trip to Gail’s bakery for breakfast- I bought a chocolate almond croissant and a cinnamon bun and heated them up in the oven while I made tea, and then we had half of each for breakfast. They are both so good, but the almond filling contains loads of whole almonds- it is just divine.

Saturday was then mainly filled with getting a lot of work done, with a short break to walk into town and get my free Starbucks.

Then on Saturday evening, the final good reason for town was a Pudding Stop visit- we shared a pecan pie, made a hot chocolate, had the fire on and watched Laputa Castle in the Sky- so cosy.

On Sunday morning I had pencilled in 12 miles, but with all the snow and ice around I couldn’t decide on a route. I considered doing two laps of a 6 mile route, but a couple of the routes have parts that I didn’t think would have clear pavement, with no verges to run on, so in the end I decided to do 4 laps of a 3 mile route. I did wonder if it would be dreadfully dull, but with some podcasts for company it was actually OK. The lovely weather helped of course- everywhere was looking so beautiful with all the snow. There were a couple of places with ice on the pavement where I really had to slow down, but for the most part it was OK and I managed to keep a faster pace than my recent long runs. I don’t usually like running close to home mid-run as the temptation is to finish, but because the lap was only short it wasn’t too bad. I think partly why I managed to run a bit quicker was because I felt closer to home, so I felt like I was on a shorter run if that makes sense? It’s funny how the mind works.

When I got back (12 miles complete) Andy’s parents had come over- they were going to have a shower as their bathroom is being done. I had some porridge and tea while we caught up with them (they’ve been in India on holiday). Later we had a walk but after a couple of miles I felt very very tired- it was catching up with me a bit then I think.

I was fiddling about on my phone later in (while catching up with Winter Watch) and I noticed that my goal streak is now at 200 days! I’m really pleased with this- I have always had a daily average of over 10,000 steps, but I used to miss it on one or two days a week (particularly the day I went to yoga)- I’ve been trying hard to keep it going by having a walk when I get home from work, before I go to yoga and I have kept it up even during the horrible wet and cold days.

Do you have a steps target or something else that you aim to keep consistent? Did you have much snow? Do you have photos or art or anything on your walls at home?  How far do you think you could run in laps? I did a 6 mile event on a 400m track once, so I think I am OK with laps, although with a parkrun I will always choose a one lapper over multi-laps any day.

East Brighton parkrun, plus pancakes and walks by the sea

Before Christmas we took advantage of the Premier Inn sale and booked a Friday night in Brighton for the end of January, so we had something to look forward to.

I knew I’d head to a parkrun on Saturday morning, and when I was down in the summer I heard people talking about a new one starting up near the marina/ Kemp Town (and I did hope for Kemp Town as I still need a K…). Anyway, East Brighton parkrun started in early December, so to complete all of the Brighton ones (depending on where you draw the line) I decided I’d head there. It was a 2 mile run in pretty much a straight line (parallel to the sea) through Kemp Town and to the park. Andy had mentioned that he thought the start was in the middle of the park, so I was quite relieved when I got there and could see the parkrun flag peeping over the bushes.

I arrived at about 8.45 and ended up chatting to one of the runners who had been tail walker the week before. A couple of tourists came over and we all started chatting about where we had been and which courses we liked- they’d been to Ellenbrook fields which is always nice to hear, but I’d not been to any of their local ones (Guildford area). They’d completed their alphabet last year and were doing Wilson Index chasing and needed an event number 8- I just love that there are challenges like this to keep you going (although I  didn’t need an E, or an East, or the number, I just wanted to tick off all the Brighton ones again). The guy doing the new runners briefing had a big map where he tried to explain the course- it looked totally confusing! But you know that with a parkrun you just follow the person in front and all will be fine. I also couldn’t believe that it would be 3.1 miles because you could see all of the park from where we were standing and it looked like the size of two football pitches, and it was only 3 laps.

Then at the main briefing they warned us that if the air ambulance had to land on the football pitch then the parkrun would have to be stopped- a bit of added peril right there.

I shall try to explain it as best I can. We started on the edge of the first park part (just a big grassy field) and ran along to where the park had large steps/ levels cut into the sides of the slope. On the first lap you took the top level, on the second lap the middle, and the final lap the lower one (you can see that on the bottom right of the map above). The rest of each lap ran along the top of the park (to the bottom left of the picture), before a u-turn, running on a slightly lower ledge, then you ran along the middle bit, another u-turn and then a lap of the football pitch, before running back to the start/finish area. It was grassy and muddy in places- we were pre-warned of some muddy slopes, and I wished I’d worn my trail shoes as they give better grip, so I took it fairly steadily. It was really fun though- wherever you were on the route you could see people running above you, below you, around the pitch and so on.  The nature of the route meant that there weren’t a huge number of marshals but you passed each one many times- the lady by the slope (showing you were to go for lap 1, 2 and 3) had gold pom-poms and she did not stop cheering or shaking them the  entire time- she probably used more energy than the runners! Some of the marshals you passed a couple of times on each lap and they were constantly calling out warning people of the slippery slopes and cheering. As I ran past the finish on my second lap, three people had finished but I only noticed one of them lapping me, and I think that was because of how the course was that people were just all over it at any one time.

On my final lap there was a guy just ahead of me with a 50 t-shirt adapted to show 50 different parkrun venues, and he kept shouting at me “go tourist” and other friendly things and I would call back. As I came into the finish, he had finished and gave me another shout out.

I got one of my highest finishing tokens for a while (44 out of 70 runners and first in my age category!).  When I’d had my token scanned, I looked for the people I’d been chatting to at the start, and the tourist who was cheering me on, but I couldn’t see them, and as Andy was meeting me for breakfast I didn’t hang about. I would happily go back to this one- it is maybe a little further than Hove Prom (which is deceptively far from the town centre even though it’s perfectly run-able) but it was a really fun route. There’s a lovely run report here about how they are encouraging their community to use the park and join in.

I met him at Cafe Coho where I enjoyed their delicious pancakes plus an Earl grey (of course), before a quick shower at the hotel. We then popped to Bird&Blend to get chai lattes before walking along the seafront to Hove. We timed it pretty perfectly as we got back to the town centre as it started to rain.  I was feeling hungry again by that point so we sat in Pret and shared one of their delicious falafal and avocado wraps. We did a spot of shopping (I added to my tea collection and Andy treated me to some Montezuma’s chocolate)- we took the shopping back to the car and then went to a cafe for tea and a slice of lemon and blueberry cake. By then the rain had stopped so we had a bit more of a wander, although we tried to walk along the coast in the other direction but the wind had really picked up so we headed back to the lanes.

We’d booked Bill’s for dinner (we had a voucher for 2-for-1) and then drove back home (in the pouring rain). Such a nice 24 hours in Brighton.

On Sunday I put my head out of the window and my it was freezing! All my long leggings were in the wash, so I put on leg warmers so keep my ankles warm. I was originally planning 12 miles, but after all the running and walking on Saturday I felt quite tired, and then when I first started running my knee was fine, but I stopped to get around someone walking their dog, and then it started feeling weird again. I walked for a bit and after half a mile or so I was fine to run, so I carried on. I hadn’t planned a route (sounds familiar) and when I got to the usual cut through to the lakes I saw a guy running up the hill towards Hatfield, a route I used to do a lot with the club, so though I’d head that way instead. The club run must have just finished as I was beeped and waved at by about 3 different cars (I recognised two of them!).  The wind was so strong and I was so glad of my jacket- I’d worn it for the first few miles, thinking I’d take it off, but I kept it on the whole time.

I managed 10.5 miles in the end and I’m happy with that. Brighton half marathon is still about a month away so I have time to add on the final few miles.

I’d used the last of the panettone to make the baked French toast (this time with cherries and the Pip&Nut hazelnut chocolate butter which is pretty delicious) so while I had a shower that baked away. Like last week, Andy had been decorating the kitchen so he had elevenses (although it was more like twelveses) while it was my breakfast.

Later we walked into town (I picked up my free Starbucks drink) and then after getting home I tried to do the big garden birdwatch- I think perhaps the wind was keeping the birds away because I saw hardly anything (although I did see two red kites).

Where is your favourite place to head for a weekend away?