Pumpkin Spice Season is here! Plus a parkrun, seeing Hamilton, a rainy run and a waffle

I don’t drink coffee (and the bright orange Starbucks PSL does look rather day-glo), but the arrival of pumpkin spice season still excites me as I love a lot of things about autumn!

First up, Bird & Blend (my fave tea company) do a sticky chai, which is basically a jar of black tea, honey and spices, which you brew in warm milk to make the most amazing chai latte. Well, they released a pumpkin chai blend this autumn and it is absolutely gorgeous.

I have been having a cup some evenings and it is just perfection. Also check out the cute illustration on the postcard- each month (with the tea club) you get a little postcard with the teas listed on the back, and they feature a different artist each time. These animals are just too cute.

Then, Pip & Nut (makers of amazing nut butter with no palm oil) released pumpkin spice almond butter. Their last special was a cherry bakewell flavour, and I thought that was peak nut butter, but honestly this stuff is king. Maybe it’s the nutmeg? I don’t know. It’s just so good.

I also treated myself to a parkrun flatband. I had been wanting to get a new one for while, as my old wristband had my pre-married name, and as it’s for ICE I thought it was sensible to have my new name on it. I kept thinking about it, but couldn’t decide because I’d heard some of the new ones didn’t scan so well, and I didn’t like some of the colours. Anyway, the blue one popped up as a special one to celebrate their 15th birthday, so I went for it.

It came super quickly (I think I ordered it on the Monday and it came on the Thursday maybe). It’s a bit of a faff to put it on, with the barcode on the inside, but it can be flipped around so you don’t have to take it off to scan it. I do think it comes undone easily though so I don’t think I’d wear it all the time (I hear some people do).

I was tail walking at Ellenbrook on the Saturday so I tested it out (with my old band on my other arm and my back up card in my phone case)- it scanned just fine- phew.

Tail walking at Ellenbrook was lovely- although it was chilly. I’d worn a long sleeved top, my purple t-shirt and then taken a hoodie to wear at the end, but in fact I kept the hoodie on the whole time and my fingers were really cold by the end.

After a quick breakfast and shower we were off to London as we had tickets to see Hamilton with Andy’s brothers and wives (eg he has 2 brothers and they each have one wife… not sure how else to word it!).

We’d seen it before so knew it would be brilliant, but the others hadn’t so it’s always a bit of a risk in case they don’t enjoy something that you have recommended. Luckily they all loved it too.

After we went for dinner ( at a place called Bone Daddies which is a horrible name in my opinion)- they did a vegan poke bowl which was just so good- sticky rice (not such a fan of that) topped with all sorts of veggies, pickled veggies, guacamole, crunchy carrots, crunchy noodles and sesame seeds.

Leaves so pink they match my trainers! 

On the Sunday morning the weather was forecast to be awful and I had to set an alarm because we were meeting my parents at The Waffle House at 11, but in the end it didn’t rain that much on my run. I ended up doing loops near my house because I knew I needed to be home by a certain time to have a shower and dry my hair, and in the end just managed 10 miles which I was pleased with (ahead of the 10 mile race the weekend after). A couple of times it bucketed down but only for a few minutes, and thankfully it wasn’t too cold so I was OK in my t-shirt.

I had a lovely pecan nut waffle with sliced banana, and it was so nice to have a relaxing start (well, second start) to the day, as my sister, brother in law and niece came along too. Then we popped by to see Andy’s parents for his mum’s birthday- a nice family day.

I do love seeing the leaves change colour and I don’t think I can go on a walk or run without taking a photo at the moment! I do not like the darker evenings- when I get home from work a walk is much less appealing when it’s so gloomy. But I am embracing the change (we talked about this at yoga last week) and am looking forward to purposefully slowing down a bit, cosy evenings, Bake Off, a bit more baking, and of course many sticky chai lattes!

Are you a pumpkin spice fan? What do you like about autumn? 

The streetlights aren’t on!

Ah, I love the leaves at this time of year- each time I go on a walk I cannot resist taking a picture or two! The other weekend I made some tea bread and have been enjoying it topped with a little peanut butter (most things are improved with peanut butter).

The last few weeks have been a bit out of routine too- I did my usual Tuesday after work run but I got home fairly late and so did jut short of 4 miles.  I’ve signed up to the Wimpole 10 miles this year (last year I did the half marathon, which I loved, but it was tough as both races ran together, and then at 9 miles, which I tend to find a tough point in a half, the 10 milers headed to the finish and we did an out and back down a big hill to make up the distance). Anyway, the shorter  distance means I don’t need to worry so much about doing 5 mile runs midweek.

Yoga was on Wednesday in that week, and then we had tickets to the cinema (Ad Astra) on the Thursday, so I decided to get up and go on a run before work. As I leave around 7.20am, it means getting up just after 5am to make sure I have enough time to wash (and dry) my hair etc. Anyway, I got dressed, realised it was super dark, got my torch, found it had no battery, and then looked outside properly and realised that the streetlights weren’t on! This really made me reconsider- the pavements aren’t the most even, and you never know who’s lurking in the shadows. If I hadn’t already got dressed (and needed to wash my hair) I would have watched TV instead. Near our house is a more main road, and the junctions were still lit, so I ran up and down the same stretch of road to stay in the light, and when my 3 miles were up I have never felt so relieved to be back home. At one point a van pulled over to the pavement ahead of me, so I turned around and ran back the other way. I’m not taking any chances. I know the council are on an awful budget, but it did make me think about people who do shift work (the hospital is around the corner from us) and how they feel going to work in the pitch dark.

It did mean I could catch up on a bit of Bake Off when I got home from work, before we went to the cinema. I took some gorgeous Doisy&Dam almond butter cups (they are so good) as a cinema snack, and that was the most interesting thing. I actually fell asleep in the cinema at one point, but I don’t think I missed anything. It was weird, in that there were some impressive visual ideas, but the story made me think a bit of Lord of the Rings-  let’s have a problem here, sort it, then go somewhere else, have a problem, repeat endlessly …. not my kind of film but at least we didn’t pay for the tickets!

Friday I had booked a massage and it was just what I needed to chill out and get ready for the weekend.

Of course whilst in town I couldn’t resist popping to The Pudding Stop- they had little banoffee pie cookie cups so I got us one to share for later. I’m not a big banana fan usually (I like actual bananas every now and then but not flavoured things) but this was really good with gooey sauce and a few fresh banana slices.

On Saturday I went back to Westmill again (inching ever closer to the p-index of 6- still on 5 currently)- another glorious day, I wore longer socks so my trail shoes didn’t hurt my ankles, and I managed a bit of a quicker time than the previous week.

In the afternoon I had some work to do, so I made my office a bit more cosy by lighting some candles. We’d got some of the gorgeous Nush cream cheese (it’s made from almonds and it’s amazing) and some bagels for lunch, and them later walked to town to get my glasses adjusted (again) and get my free drink. Writing this in October it seems hard to remember when an iced drink seemed like a good idea!

After my run on Sunday (9 and a bit miles in my Run Disney top as the Disneyland Paris half marathon was happening on the same day) I had Peach Cobbler tea and I found some IKEA cinnamon buns in the freezer.

I had a bit more work to do, then needed to walk into town to meet someone (selling things in Gumtree is not my favourite), get my glasses adjusted again and also donate old pairs to the charity box. I never know what to do with old pairs, and I usually keep the most recent old pair for emergencies, but the other ones it seems a shame to get rid when they just don’t fit my prescription any more. Anyway, Specsavers have tubs to collect them and they send them to a charity. While I was in town it bucketed down with rain, so I decided to go to Caffe Nero and wait it out!

I also did rather a lot of sorting through old paperwork (payslips from 10 years ago, credit card statements from cards I don’t have any more…)- a few small piles turned into 3 bags full of shredding! I got to the point where I wished I hadn’t started but it was too late to turn back!

Then it was back to Monday again. I visited my parents after work, got home just as it was getting dark and had a quick walk (got to keep the steps streak up) and then Andy was out so of course it was beans on toast (and marmite and violife cheese). A friend had lent me a film (The Dream House) and after I worked out how to play a DVD, it turned out it wasn’t the best film to watch when home alone!

On Tuesday it poured with rain but by the time I got home it was beautiful so I had a lovely run (4 miles) of course taking more pictures of trees!

Also the new flowers in our garden are blending beautifully with the autumnal colours.

Wednesday was yoga and then Thursday we had cinema tickets- this time for Hustlers. I didn’t fancy another run without streetlights, so had a walk and put the run back to Friday. I took some cinema snacks with me (this time the hazelnut butter cups).

I wasn’t a big fan of the film. I thought it would be more like Ocean’s 8, a sort of girl power thing, but the main story bothered me and I kept thinking that if things we reversed and it was men taking advantage of women in this way there would be outcry. Anyway, the nut butter cups were good!

On Friday a few of us went out for lunch at Starbucks- I went for the toasted fruit bread. I love the little jam pots and always save them- not sure what for (any ideas?). I wasn’t home too late, so I had a quick 3 mile run and then an evening of chilling- after a busy few weekends it was good to have a Friday evening at home.

Have you seen good films lately?

Are the streetlights on near you the whole time?

What do you do with your old glasses?

Local parkrun tourism and a wedding

So, Great North Run recovery went like this:

Monday- 

Home to tea and a gingerbread man, plus trying to work out if my medal hanger can take the weight of another one!

Tuesday-

I needed to get a few bits in town so walked there instead of having a run- I had forgotten my lunch and this is what you end up buying when shopping hungry!

Wednesday-

The most beautiful sunset when driving to yoga- I actually pulled over and parked so I could take a photo. Plus pumpkin sprinkles in my Bird&Blend September tea club tea!

Thursday- 

A short run looking at the gorgeous autumn leaves, tea, and a notification that I had another 60 days of my step streak (10,000+ per day)- all good!

Friday- 

A rush to get home in time, to catch a train into London as we had tickets to see Adam Buxton at the London Podcast festival. We went to Leon first for dinner- I really love their vegan burgers (and so does Andy)- we have perfected our order which is two burgers, one portion of fries and one pot of hummus (to dip the fries into)- mmmmmm, so good. The podcast was really good too- the guest was George the Poet, who I didn’t know much about, but was really interesting. Originally we were going to be going straight from there to somewhere further south (like Basingstoke) as we had a wedding in Southampton on Saturday, but Andy had to work on Saturday morning so we came home.

As I was expecting a different parkrun, I decided to go to Westmill instead of my most local Panshanger or Ellenbrook.

I thought I would wear my new trail shoes, as Westmill is mainly off road. I’ve been there a few times before (most recently as tail walker) and if I go a few more times (plus a visit to Preston Park and Jersey Farm) I can up my p-index to 6 (this means I will have been to 6 different parkruns at least 6 times)- it’s a long game challenge but keeping my occupied on the run up to 250.

I also wore my fairly new Sweaty Betty capris- I won a competition on the fab FitBits blog a while back, and for ages I couldn’t decide what to get (I knew I would get a running bra as theirs are so much better than the Shock Absorber ones I used to wear)- just before holiday I finally ordered some bits, including a yoga brick and these lovely capris. I’d painted my nails ready for the wedding and they matched perfectly!

Anyway, back to Westmill. It’s a fairly hilly two lap course, but beautiful views really help spur you on. You have to drive there really- I don’t think there are paths nearby, and it doesn’t get a huge amount of people each week. Considering it is so close to Panshanger, it’s far less busy.

Once home I made some pancakes- I bought this mix (from Superfood Bakery) made with various things including chickpea flour- they were so tasty- I knew I’d need something to keep me going as you never know exactly when the wedding breakfast will be.

We drove down to Southampton in the afternoon for the wedding (Andy’s auntie was getting married) so we had a lovely time catching up with all the cousins etc.

Andy liked the wedding favours which were little bottles of whiskey and jars of jelly beans- I swapped my alcohol for his sweets! Each table had a Beauty and the Beast style table decoration of a rose inside a glass vase (it was Andy’s Auntie’s favourite film) which looked so pretty, although excuse my terrible photo!

The cakes were so pretty too- we took one home each instead and had them the next day with some tea- mine was a gingerbread/cinnamon flavour and really tasty.

We drove home after the wedding, getting home just before 2am- I am not sure when the last time I saw that time was (apart from getting up early for holidays!).

I did a 6.5 mile run on the Sunday, and then we popped to the garden centre to pick up some bargains (those dahlias on the picture were £3 each!) and to Starbucks for our free drinks.

Do you like going to weddings? Is the cake the best bit? (Although fruit cake is the best wedding cake and no-one seems to have that any more…)

Great North Run 2019- running for Ken

Sunday morning dawned bright and cold. After quickly getting ready we checked out and walked to the station, as we had a train at 8.15 to catch to Newcastle. After seeing hardly anyone on the walk, the platform was packed! The train company had left boxes and boxes of bananas out for the runners to help themselves to- such a lovely touch.

I couldn’t decide on breakfast, as I don’t usually eat before a long run, but my start time was 10.40am and of course it would be later than that, so I took some mini malt loaves with me and ate one after getting off the train.

Walking through Newcastle there was such a good atmosphere, after dropping our bags off (we found a Stasher location where you book online and pay for it to be locked away, as there were no left luggage facilities in Newcastle) we were soon at the start. The plan was to meet up with the whole of the fundraising team. I was running with MND as my Uncle Ken (who loved running and the GNR) wanted to run 20, but was sadly diagnosed with MND and passed away after running 19 of them. His son organised the team, including Ken’s wife, so 20 of us were running Ken’s 20th. Anyway, there had been lots of chat on the group Whatsapp, but when it came down to it we just couldn’t find them- originally they were going to be by the orange and white start, and then they messaged  to say they were somewhere else but we couldn’t find them.

Andy took my “before” photo (it was chilly, hence the hoodie and t-shirt on top of my running vest) and so sunny- I kept closing my eyes so the turning was the attempt to only have to stare in the direction of the sun for a split second before he took the photo!

Anyway, we spent so long looking for the team that despite us being at the start a good hour before it started, when I went to my pen they had closed and I had to climb over a fence (other people did that too)- last time I ran it I think I was 40 mins before crossing the start line and nearly missed my train home, so I didn’t want that to happen again.

I didn’t have a real plan for the race- I thought I could beat my previous time of 2:27 (which was my first half marathon after having a significant operation and I really didn’t know if I’d get to the finish) but other than that no ideas. I knew it wouldn’t be a pb course for me (plus I hadn’t trained for a fast time, just trained to get up to the mileage)- it’s fairly undulating and doesn’t compare to Brighton in that way.

Anyway, it was hot, and very soon after starting I was regretting not packing any suncream or my visor. I tried to run on the right hand side which was in the shade some of the time. Kudos to the crazy people in massive costumes- I took the Paw Patrol photos as my niece loves them!

Last time I ran it (2012) it was a drizzly day and I remember not really loving the route – you run over the bridge early on which feels like a bit of an early part of the race to have something so iconic. Also loads of kids were throwing bottles of water and energy drinks at the runners which wasn’t fun. This time, perhaps because of the sunny weather, there were more crowds on a lot of the route, so even though the scenery for the most part was pretty boring, there were lots of signs, cheer points and bands to keep me occupied. There were also loads of people giving out goodies such as slices of orange and watermelon, various sweets, and one brewery was even handing out cups of beer!

I didn’t look at my watch until I’d run 3 miles, and that was quite nice to think I “only” had 10 miles to go.

Along the route were some shower stations, which were amazing! Basically tunnels a few metres long, spraying fine mists over the runners. After running in the heat and sun these felt like heaven! Not so good for people wearing glasses though! The first few bridges had motivational signs (one said something like You’ve done the training, now settle in to your pace, and then another one less friendly-Don’t stop now people are watching…).

I don’t usually drink anything in half marathons- maybe a sip of water in the final water station, because usually if I drink more I get a bit of a sloshy stomach, but it was so hot and I knew I needed to (seeing as I hadn’t had much in the morning before going to the train station), so for the final 2 water stations I ended up picking up a bottle (booo) of water, and keeping it with me. There was a Clif shot block station at around mile 9 (mile 8.5 according to Strava where I slowed!), and I picked some up there as I used to quite like them when doing long runs and knew that they were safe for me to eat. They had cut the packs in half which was quite good, so each person had 3 in a pack and didn’t need to try to open them. The ground at that point was super sticky though- as I think there were actual gels as well. Bleurgh!

I knew there was a big hill coming up- last time the Red Arrows were doing an air display so I got to watch them as I ran. This time they weren’t even there (so I thought it was VERY cheeky to have the photo of them at the end…) but I’d said I would message Andy so he could work out when I’d finish, so just after mile 11 I walked for a few strides to message him- 2 miles to go and one of those would be glorious!

Once the hill was done, there’s a short steep downhill and you can see the sea! This is the best bit in my opinion! The crowds are crazy, you turn left and see the 12 mile marker and know that you are nearly finished, with a flat mile along the seafront. At this point I suddenly felt really overwhelmed with emotions, thinking about how Ken loved this race so much, and how special it was that so many members of his family, and so many friends were there for him. I also remembered that last time I had run it, I was looking out for members of my family, as Ken and Brian (the one who we do parkrun with a bit) were running it and so I was looking out for them. I had to try and think about other things, and ended up counting up to 100 and back again. When I actually crossed the finish line I burst into tears (which I’ve only done at marathons before)- a guy in the finish funnel next to me gave me a pat on the shoulder which was really lovely.

It felt like I was in the funnel for ages, getting some water, a medal, a goodie bag, walking past the people queuing for photos in front of the Red Arrows… At least my tears dried and I felt alright once I’d got another bottle of water.

I have to say I love the medal- such a nice colour, but the t-shirt is rubbish! I was so disappointed! They were unisex and the smallest was small, and it’s huge- just like my Bristol 10k one- what a waste of fabric.

I found Andy fairly easily and we wandered over to the charity marquee- here they had “tea, chocolate and hugs”- I had a cup of tea which is just my favourite thing after a long run, followed by a banana (as the goodie bag had nothing that I fancied straight away). I had a lovely chat with some of the volunteers but no-one in my team was there- some of the faster runners had to head off, and others were still out on the course.

Last time we got the Metro back to the city centre, but the queues were awful, and Andy had seen that there were buses (to give you an idea, he had got the Metro out there, and even though my time was something like 2:15, he had only just arrived when I finished!), so we queued for a bus instead.

Once back in the city, we popped into Caffe Nero (it was right by the bus stop) and I got a chai latte and then used their toilets to change out of my really sweaty running vests (I wore my charity vest on top of my running club vest, as on its own it was too baggy and low cut), and also to throw out some of the heavy goodie bag (including a tub of tuna- no thanks!).

Also, look at what we could see from the bus- a giant teddy bear in a shop window!

We went to a burger place because I wanted something really salty- we did share those sweet potato fries because the portion was enormous! The pickles were so good too!

I took a lot of photos of the cute Elmer elephants around the city- I love things like this!

Then we picked up our bags from the hostel, I changed in the toilets and then popped to Pret for train snacks- I got a cookie and the lady saw my medal and gave us a second one for free- how kind!

Our train journey was all good- we’d booked seats and although we had to change somewhere, and our second train was a bit delayed, it was OK. I think we got home just before 10pm, so it was time for a quick shower before bed time.

Not a bad number of steps, although I think I’d done nearly 10,000 before I even started the run!

Goodie bag was fairly well stocked- a lovely Clif bar (but probably the worst flavour- I like bananas but not banana flavoured things), random Special K things, face cream and SPF.

The total so far raised (from the team) is £9788 (out of £10,000 target)- if anyone feels they can spare a few pennies then please click here– the words written by Andrew (Ken’s son) are really special too.

My chip time was 2:14:49, so I was pretty pleased with that time because of the heat- solidly beating my time from before, although this run was not about finish times, it was about finish lines, and I felt so lucky to be able to make it to the finish line when so many people can’t.

Pink Panther parkrun!

(Sing to the Pink Panther theme tune) Durham, Durham, Durham-Durham-Durham-Durham, Durhaaaaaaam, etc.

After our late arrival to Durham the night before, I was thankful that Durham parkrun wasn’t too far from the town centre (just over a mile it seemed). However, I left plenty of time because I find Durham confusing as the river bends around in a horse shoe shape, so it just feels like you are spinning around the whole time (plus I didn’t want to be there, but on the other side of the river and no-where near a bridge). I had maps open on my phone (I put in headphones and listen to a podcast, as with the Pocket Cast app it pauses the podcast for each map direction, and means I can listen but not be wandering around looking at my phone making it obvious I am lost). Anyway, I think the satellites were having trouble locating me as I was often off road. I went wrong 3 times before going in the right direction, and then ended up taking the road route and not the riverside path that I had selected…

After running 1.65 miles I arrived!

The start and finish are in different places (see the map below)- the finish is much more central. It started by a running track at the Uni (a proper track- how fancy), and then began with an out and back section alongside the river, then crossed over “the noisy bridge”, went around some rugby fields, then back to the river, along one side, over a bridge and finishing on the other side. The last section (before you crossed over the final bridge) had amazing views of the castle and cathedral.

As I was running the GNR the next day (as were a lot of people judging by the number of tourists), I started near the back and tried to make myself take it gently.  I kept it nice and steady with a royal flush negative split- 10:02, 9:36, 9:12, 8:31 to finish in 29:43. I’ll happily take a sub 30 minute parkrun (and according to the usually nonsense on Strava, it was consistent with my usual efforts!).  The marshals were particularly cheerful, cheering everyone past with loads of energy.

We hadn’t made plans beforehand (I couldn’t decide between stopping on my way back to the hotel for croissants/ cinnamon rolls, or going back for a shower and going out for a proper breakfast), so I messaged Andy when I finished, and as the hotel was around half a mile from the finish, I went back for a shower and we went out to Bill’s for pancakes.

We then had a lovely day wandering around Durham – it’s such a pretty place. I love the river walk, and of course the beautiful weather helped.

A while back there was an interview with a guy on Marathon Talk who runs marathons in big dresses- there was a charity shop in Durham with a display of the dresses, and they are enormous! I had no idea that they were that big!

We didn’t have lunch (the Pret was no longer there) but we came across a lovely tea room so had a pick-me-up. I had some delicious vanilla Earl Grey tea, and a scone. All the cakes were home-made and were really good. The afternoon tea looked fab too- with one slice of cake (which you chose from the front) instead of all the little usual fancy ones.  And how pretty is the teacup wallpaper?

In the evening we went to an Italian for dinner (Prezzo I think?)- in the end I had a vegan pizza (really tasty) as I am not too keen on loads of cheese before a long run. We then headed back to the hotel to watch a bit of TV (we started the new Danish drama)- I’d done over 33,000 steps by then so I did need to put my feet up for a bit!

So, my 67th different parkrun event and a very nice one it was too. I do like a single lap (or point to point) route and the views were very impressive. I wonder how the event team get on with getting to the finish before the first runners though!

How was your weekend? How do you prep before a race?