Hitchin 10K 2018

A while ago my dad mentioned that he fancied doing another 10K run, but he just has so many weekends booked with tennis things, so the few that I knew and liked (like the fab Ware 10k/ 10 mile) were on days he couldn’t do. By chance I was chatting to a member of our running club and she mentioned the Hitchin 10k. It turned out to be a day we could both do, so we signed up and ran it together.

It was the best kind of race in my opinion. You could either collect your numbers the day before, or on the morning of the race. On the Saturday and and I headed to Wimpole so I could spend my vouchers (I got a nice mirror for the garden and a little bird bath) and on the way back we stopped off so I could collect them. The guy said to me “it starts at 9, so get there at about ten to”- so much better than the races that say to arrive 90 mins before.

After I had a bit of toast for breakfast, Dad picked me up and we drove to Hitchin (which according to Balcony Shirts, is “Bitchin’). We got slightly lost trying to find a car park – we kept seeing signs but then it would not appear, so we drove around in a circle 3 times before deciding on another little car park instead. It was around the corner from the town centre, and so we had half an hour to wander around in the sunshine and chat to other runners.

We were aiming for under an hour, so I kept an eye on my watch for the pace. The first mile went through the town and along a narrow path, and so it was a bit busier and we were slower, but it’s no bad thing to begin slowly (and it was slightly uphill so it was fine to slow a bit). At one point we ran along a residential road with one of those speed cameras with the smiley faces- it was smiling green at all the runners and either showing 5 or 6 which was pretty accurate. I tried to take a picture as we ran but it was a bit blurry.

After the residential bit we were out in the countryside for nice views and a very enjoyable run. Hitchin is known to be in a hilly area, but the route was meant to avoid all the big hills, and I think it did a good job. You could call it undulating, but there were no huge hills and nothing too bad. There was one little p shaped section where runners were on the other side of the road- we had to run downhill slightly so we knew we’d be heading back up again soon. There was one water station and as it was fairly warm we stopped to have a quick drink (they had cups which always pleases me- I know some people find them harder to drink from but I feel the waste element and environmental impact of bottles only used for a sip is just so awful, plus I hate them being all over the road and tripping on them) but I was glad I only had 2 sips as I started to get a bit of a stitch after. The final mile was back down the narrow  path (but the field was more spread out) so we got up a good amount of speed. As we got into the town centre I told Dad to sprint off and that I’d try to catch him, but he is way too fast at the end for that. He had finished and turned around just to cheer me in- I’m giving him a thumbs up in the photo below (he’s in his apricot parkrun t-shirt).

The photos were emailed out to us soon after

Our splits were so close to the royal flush negative split (10:53, 9:22, 9:27, 9:16, 9:10, 8:50 and then 8:18 for the final sprint). As soon as we had finished we could collect a bottle of water from the side, get a medal and then queue up for the t-shirt. I’m actually holding Dad’s one in the photo, but I went for the female medium and it’s a good fit- loose but not too baggy. 58:41 was my chip time, with Dad being a bit ahead of me at the end, so nicely under the hour like we had hoped for.

I love the medal too- it’s black metal with funky colours.

We were going to get a drink before heading home, and on out way we walked past a little cafe, so decided to sit down and in the end both ordered marmalade on toast alongside our drinks. I put the t-shirt on over my top as there was a bit of a breeze and we were sat in the shade. As we sat there loads of runners kept walking past wearing their medals and t-shirts. It had such a nice feel to it- so relaxed but also well organised. I think it started a few minutes late, but I wasn’t bothered by that as it could have only been a couple.

After getting home and showering, we needed to walk into town and once there I realised how hungry I was. We were going to get our free drinks from Starbucks and when Andy suggested sharing a cinnamon roll I could not resist!

For lunch our options at home were yet more toast, so I popped into M&S and picked up one of their lovely salads to have as a treat (they do a lovely one with roasted veggies and a sort of carrot hummus dip thing).

Then it was time for more gardening.

I had to build a little brick tower for the bird bath as it was just the bath bit. I did a lot of weeding, and then planted these seed balls- they are clever little balls with bee friendly seeds in them, coasted in chilli powder so mice and birds won’t eat them before the seeds germinate.

I think all the moving about after helps to combat the post-race stiffness, but I was pretty tired by the evening- I think the crouching down whilst weeding is the most painful thing to do after a race!

How do you normally recover from a race?

Things I’ve been loving lately including parkrun number 150!

First- a recap of the week:

A four day week is always confusing because Tuesday feels like Monday and so on, and this was made more confusing by yoga being on Tuesday instead of Wednesday this week (the hall was booked for Wednesday)- I had no idea which day we were on!  We had to lock up earlier than usual on Tuesday and as I had worked solidly through lunch I thought I’d have a walk after work.

Andy met me at the lakes and we had a lovely walk before heading home. Yoga was great- as it was so warm we had a short warm up inside and then took our mats outside to the grass and did most of the class outside.  We did loads of rounds of sun salutations- there is something quite hypnotic about doing them, especially outside when you can feel the softer ground under your feet. We also practised hand stands in pairs- my shoulders aren’t strong enough to hold me up, but it was fun to have a go. I had to rescue a worm off someone else’s mat, and then later on someone else put a big spider outside as there was one when we went back in. All the bugs are coming out at this time of year.

On Wednesday I went for a run- I decided to go down the old railway line for a bit and go up and down a hill a few times. I’d got home later than planned so I didn’t do too many, but it is always good to do some hills.

I’ve started trying this after my runs to replace the nuun tabs. I do like the nuun tabs and they are portable, but they do contain artificial sweeteners- as it’s the only thing I have with them, it’s not too bad but they are also pretty expensive. I tried this liquid in plain water and it does taste a little salty, but in coconut water I can’t taste it at all.

On Thursday it was yoga at work- we did work on backs which was very helpful as my shoulder had been bothering me since the weekend. We also practised sitting, which sounds so easy but was the hardest thing we did- sitting on the floor with a straight back and legs out straight in front.

On Friday at lunch we went to Starbucks, and after seeing they had fruit toast I was sold (I was going to have it last week when we went for my birthday, but they had none). Then after work I had a lovely 4 mile run, working out a new route which I should be able to do in the winter too. As we are at the top of a hill I get a bit fed up with finishing on certain hills, so going in a different direction helped with the finish.

Onto things I’ve been loving:

I’ve been loving my new tea cup this week!

I’ve also been having some matcha in the mornings. A while ago I bought a sample back from Bluebird (now Bird & Blend). The winner for me so far is the cocoa matcha, which is just matcha blended with cocoa, but mixed with a little milk really tastes like chocolate milk. Even though I use a whisk, I still get little lumps though.

Coconut Collaborative also make the most amazing little dessert pots- the mini chocolate ganache pots are just so good, and I found this week double pots, which are basically two layers (one of mousse and one of ganache)- such a good treat.

Onto parkrun!

Because I was doing a race on Sunday I’d volunteered to tail walk at parkrun on the Saturday. It is one of the most popular roles so I had to get in early!

I realised a few weeks ago that all being well, it would coincide with my 150th parkrun- what a way to celebrate.

Even though it’s an unofficial milestone (e.g. no t-shirt), they still gave me a mention in the briefing which was nice. There was also someone doing their 250th- very impressive. They mentioned that a calf had just been born so the cow gates might be closed (they weren’t) as there are heritage breeds in one of the fields that you run through. I think one was born last summer on their 1st birthday too.

The weather was a bit overcast, but not too cold, and although I’d worn a top over my t-shirt, I took off one layer after the first loop. I was going alongside a lovely lady who is a regular at parkrun- she was going to be running for 10 mins and walking for one, but in fact we ended up chatting and she ran for 20 mins before her first walk break.  I really enjoy tail walking as you get to complete the whole course (the woods were so green this week) and see all of the marshals on the way around. I have been trying to persuade some people at work to come along to one, as I really think they would enjoy it and get a lot out of it, but no-one believes me when I say that you can walk the whole way. I finished in just under an hour, but I have taken longer than that before and it’s all good. I’ll keep trying anyway. Tail walking is a good way to stretch the legs before a race too.

What are you loving lately? Which roles at your parkrun are the most popular?

What a difference a week makes!

Last Sunday:

I managed to avoid the rain, having a run along the old railway line in drizzle and cold. Compare that to the glorious sunshine of this Sunday- just in time for the bank holiday weekend.

On Tuesday I had one of these (new to me) bars from Aldi- they are the closest thing I’ve had to the Larabars that I’ve bought in America before.  I didn’t get home in time for the club run, so I headed out for just over 4 miles.

The skies were so dark the whole time and it was really windy- I wished I’d worn gloves as my hands were cold at the start too.

It was my birthday on Wednesday so I hadn’t booked onto yoga- instead I met Andy in town and we shared a piece of cake, before having a little walk around. His parents came over later in the evening. Check out the cup he got for me- it’s the perfect tea size too.

On Thursday I had yoga at work and then rushed back as we were heading into London to see Gomez at the Royal Albert Hall. They were brilliant, and we had great seats almost next to the stage. I love seeing live music, and each member of the band seemed to play about 3 instruments so it was fascinating to watch them (one song, play bass, next song, play lead guitar, then keyboards). It was a great evening, but by the time we’d dropped off Andy’s brother and sister-in-law and then driven home, it was way past midnight.

On Friday evening we packed and drove down to Kent. We were staying right by Maidstone parkrun, so I headed there again on Saturday morning.

As I’d only been there once, a while ago, I went to the new runners briefing- the lady was brilliant, really enthusiastic and gave a lot of detail.

It was really busy (463) and didn’t start til about 9.15. They do the main briefing outside a building, and then move the runners onto the road (I think it’s a road) just before the start. They asked that the front 5 rows were for sub 18/sub 20 min runners, but then after that it was every runner for himself. I tried to place myself in the middle, but we kept on being told to step back as more people were flooding in from the sides. It’s not a great course for that many runners, as you run along a canal path, which at times is only wide enough for one or two people. You have to keep left the whole time, as you go over a bridge, around a playground and then back along the path. After a mile, the fastest runners were heading back in the other direction. I ended up feeling pretty frustrated- I don’t mind about the time, but I just could not get into a rhythm as I kept getting stuck behind people walking, or run/walking, and it wasn’t easy to get past. At times it went to a complete standstill as only one person at a time could file over a narrow bridge/ through sections of the path.

I was overtaking people the whole run, so I know I didn’t place myself correctly at the start. The thing is, they could easily have up signs for sub 20, sub 23, sub 26 etc, to give people a better idea. I’ve seen this at other parkruns and it seems to work a bit better than just the fastest people having the priority and everyone else just muck in. My time was 29.45, which was fine, but had I placed myself better I think I could have beaten my previous time of 29:31 (I did get some strava segment PR’s so all was not lost!). Anyway, it was a beautiful day and a lot of the route was shaded which was good.

After a shower and quick breakfast we were off to Brighton for the day.

It was gorgeous. We parked near to Preston Park and then walked in, and of course I then realised I had forgotten to pack any suncream. We went to a few shops (I needed to get a refill of perfume from the lovely Eden perfume shop, and of course we visited Bird and Blend- formerly Bluebird Tea co, for iced teas) and then walked along the seafront to Hove. There is a new statue along the seafront with things linked to Hove, like a seagull, beach hut and so on. Of course we stopped for tea and cake (the weekend had a bit of a cake theme)- we share carrot cake from FlowerPot Bakery and it was delicious.

What wasn’t so good was that I decided to wear new shoes- these are skechers and usually those are fine for me, and they felt comfy, but when I took them off I had rubbed the back of the skin raw on one foot. I totalled over 30,000 steps- not the best day to wear new shoes.

We went for dinner at Food For Friends- we shared a chickpea trio to start (which was basically some different types of hummus), and then I had a middle eastern style salad with sweet potato, pomegranate seeds and lots of other tasty bits.

On the Sunday we went to an NT place with a castle, moat, gardens and (most importantly) a tearoom. That is a peanut butter scone, so yes, we had to try it, plus some almond cherry cake.

Then we drove to Knole, another NT place with huge grounds. We’d been there before but I wanted to go again as you could just walk around the grounds for ages, and there were loads of deer to look at as you walked around.

Monday was a day for a long run (I don’t like how out and back routes look on Strava, and I finally worked out how to get to the old railway line the other way so it is a bit of a loop), gardening, and then going to see my parents and enjoying a delicious lemon cake that Mum had made, whilst sitting in their garden. Lovely.

How was your long weekend? How have you been enjoying the warmer weather? Do you get many blisters? 

Black Park parkrun and introducing newbies!

A while back one of my friends mentioned she had started running, and wanted me to message her every now and then to keep her going with it. She joined in with a virtual run (and got a very nice medal), and as well as messaging her every now and then to encourage her, I’d mentioned parkrun as a way for her to keep her motivation going.

Last Saturday I found myself with a gap in my parkrun diary (I’d been to Ellenbrook for the last few weeks and Dad was away, so I could potentially head somewhere else), so I messaged her and said I would be up for any combination of running and walking. She was happy to join me with her baby in his buggy, so I looked into where to go. She lives near to Upton Court, so of course going there and getting a U would be great, but she had also mentioned Black Park being around the corner from her, and after a message on the lovely parkrun tourist facebook page it seemed that Black Park would be a better option for a buggy.

It wasn’t the best day to begin at parkrun (although my first parkrun was in pouring rain but I still loved it)- I did say things could only get better from then! I parked at 8.30am (the journey went around the M25 and then on either the M4 or M40, so I like to leave a lot of time just in case). It was a big pay and display car park, with parking being slightly cheaper before 9am, but it meant my ticket was only valid until 10.30 which scuppered things slightly later.

This sign somewhat terrified me as I am not the best at remembering routes, and it didn’t look that easy! I had seen that there were no marshals on the excellent Blog 7t, but as it was from many years ago I had thought that perhaps they would have changed it by now and put marshals out there (what if someone falls over or something?).

Anyway, I waited around and could see the signs for the start and finish area. I had a little jog up and down one of the paths to keep warm, as it was fairly chilly, but I didn’t want to go too far as I wanted to be there when my friend arrived. In they end they turned up at 8.59! Cutting it fine!

The start was a bit strange- I didn’t hear anything about a new runner briefing, and then the main briefing talked a bit about the barcodes, but it was hard to hear (partly because of there being 500+ people and us being at the back, but also due to the fact that they blew a whistle to get everyone’s attention which then set off a load of dogs barking and yapping all the way through the briefing). I was glad my friends hadn’t turned up on a different day because I think for a first timer, new to parkrun, it would have been a bit daunting and confusing. I didn’t see a tail walker but in looking at the results there was one, as the final runner was credited with a volunteer role.

Anyway, we set off (my friend’s wife also came along)- they took turns pushing the buggy, and we did a bit of running and a bit of walking. It was good to chat while we headed around the course.

My worries about the route were unfounded as it was well-marked. At one of the cross over points a speedy runner sped by the crossing but as the people around us were fairly spread out that didn’t cause any problems.

I wasn’t sure what to wear in the morning as it was so rainy. In the end I had gone for leggings, t-shirt, jacket and then my coat for the car, but it was so cold that I kept my coat on the whole time and should have really worn a running jacket (and gloves) as it was so cold.

As we neared the end we saw a person with a big camera, so we decided to do a big wave, and I shouted “it’s their first ever parkrun!”- as you can see in the photo I look rather excited.

(photo from the Black Park facebook page)

The finish funnel was a long one- they seem to get 500-600 runners each week, and when we got there (49:16) the scanner was at the end of the funnel so you had to get scanned (although my friend’s wife didn’t get a barcode as she only decided to come last minute) before exiting the funnel meaning hopefully no tokens would go missing.

We were then going to get a cup of tea in the cafe, but the one by the car park was busy, and the one further away was probably too far to get to and back before my parking ticket ran out (and I did offer to put more money on my ticket but after 9am it was more expensive)- so in the end I went back to theirs for a lovely cup of tea, before driving home.

So all in all, a successful visit to a parkrun and I have introduced two (or three if you count their baby) to the wonders of parkrun. I am hoping that they go back another time. The actual course was lovely- I do like a one lap course, and it was fairly flat, shaded and really scenic. I am not sure about there being no marshals though- they aren’t just there in case you get lost (I think, anyway). I also think that it was a shame there was no new runners briefing- as a tourist it’s just useful to hear about the course, but as a new runner it explains all sorts of things like the barcode, results and general rules, and is good reassurance for people who might be a bit nervous.

Have you introduced people to parkrun?  My Dad’s cousin went along for the first time a year or so ago as we had arranged to meet him at his local one, and since then he’s gone pretty regularly (40-something times) and is now volunteering as he is injured. Every now and then I get an email from him and he really does love the community side of it, so that makes me very happy too.  Do you know of courses without marshals? 

Easter holidays part 2 including number 100 at number 100!

Onto the next part of the Easter holidays (which was now over a week ago!): Saturday was Ellenbrook Field’s 100th parkrun! I met Dad there (he had cycled and I drove) and we ran together. At the start they remembered the runner and also the mayor who had both died recently and been involved in parkrun. They also mentioned something about the 100th runner, but I didn’t really hear that.

Ellenbrook at the moment has many puddles- last week the finish runway was completely submerged (you can see the photo on their news page), and this week the runway had totally dried up but there was a huge puddle at 3.5km.

We ran together, and when we reached the puddle there was a choice of a diversion through a field- we went for that as the puddle was knee deep on very tall people, and the ground is very rutted so as you could not see the ground it would have been easy to fall and twist an ankle (you can see the little diversion we took in the map above).

At the end of the runway I said to Dad that he could push on if he wanted to, as he is faster than me. We had kept a good pace (9.05, 9.07, 9.04) and he thought about it, but then decided that we would finish together. As we ran past the start, we pushed a little to try and overtake a couple of other runners, and as we reached the finish we could hear the volunteers shouting out numbers- 98, 99- I got a big cheer as Dad let me cross ahead of him and I was given token 100!

I thought that was it, but in chatting to people after it turned out I had won a prize – not one but two dresses (t-shirts) for the Herts Year of Physical Activity. Great- I needed new decorating clothes 😉

After chatting for ages, I headed to Mum and Dad’s for pancakes. My sister and niece were there, so it was lovely to spend time with the family.

Panettone French toast for breakfast one day (we still have some in the freezer left from Christmas), hot cross bun dough, pink tea (Bluebird Red Velvet), yummy Montezuma’s eggs, and home-made hot cross bun toasted and topped with marmalade.

Later on Saturday afternoon Andy’s parents came over, so I made some hot cross buns. We had asked to borrow some hedge cutters as we needed to trim a rather out of control hedge in preparation for our new fence being put up, and Andy’s dad ended up helping with it and spending a few hours in the  garden cutting it down with Andy.

The garden has started coming to life a bit more now- some of the tulips are flowering so there is a bit more colour.

On Sunday I had a longer run in the morning, 7.5 miles, before it started raining too hard. I spent the rest of the day doing work, before having a walk in the late afternoon to get a bit of fresh air and stop looking at a screen for a bit. I did a little more wallpaper stripping too- it’s getting there slowly.

It was Andy’s birthday on Monday, and he had taken the day off work so we walked into town to get the train into London. We went to the Museum of London, which I’d never been to before. It had the 2012 cauldron and lots of information about it (each part was shaped differently and given to the countries that took part after the Olympics finished). We walked all around London, and ended up having a late lunch at Mildred’s (a lovely veggie restaurant) before getting the train home.

On Tuesday I had to be in all day as the fence was being done. I went out on a quick run first thing, just to get some fresh air and steps, and then had to hang around at home, pottering about while the guys were in the garden.

That photo shows about half of the laurel bush that had to come down before the fence was put up (to be fair the guys said they could do it with the bush there, but it was easier for them if it was gone) and then the old fence panels- what a mess!

There’s a path under that puddle somewhere!

Wednesday was a quiet day- a 6 mile run first thing, breakfast and pottering at home including more wallpaper stripping and then the big job of sorting the tea cupboard. It was a total mess but I put a lot of the loose leaf teas into little jam jars (with the labels), and it looks so much neater now. I decided to use some of the peach cobbler tea to make a tea latte (you make the tea, leave to cool then top up with milk, ice and peach slices). It was really good-  I shall make it again for sure. I walked into town to meet Andy as we had a cake voucher for John Lewis, so we shared this fudge cake which was rather nice.

I also started a little job of painting some photo frames.

I was pretty pleased with how they turned out- they are going to go up in my office.

Thursday was a work day, and in the evening we went to the cinema to see Thoroughbreds, which was a bit like Strangers on a Train or something- dark and tense.

On Friday morning I walked into the station and then headed into London to meet with some friends. We had booked afternoon tea at the B Bakery (the one that also does the afternoon tea bus).

It was such good food (one of my friends can’t have dairy at the moment and they now do a vegan afternoon tea so she was very happy). I loved their teapots so much, especially the bird one. When they asked if we wanted more tea, instead of topping up with hot water (which is fine) they got fresh tea and teapots- we could have chosen a different blend but I stuck to the one I had chosen as it was so good- I think it was called After Five, it was black tea with cocoa and mint.

I shall save Saturday for another post as I decided to have a little parkrun adventure to finish the holidays with.

Do you like afternoon tea? Where is the best one that you have had?