Enjoying the final week of the holidays

I mean, I say it every year, but the summer just flies by so fast. It’s now September. I got an email from Starbucks about pumpkin spice lattes. I do love autumn but I am not sure how it’s got here so quickly!

Last week was the final week of the holidays. After getting back from France around lunch time on Monday, we headed out on a walk- along the old railway line and then back along some paths- some were very overgrown with stinging nettles.

My quest to run 100 miles in August continued on Monday with a 9 mile run- I sorted a new route made up of the beginning of the route with the big hill (but avoiding it) and finishing up with most of my 5 mile route, but backwards. At one point in the woods I ran along new paths and found this interesting bench.

I was very hot by the end, and although I had originally hoped for 10 miles, I could not be bothered to run up the road to make up the numbers.

After a shower, breakfast and lots of cold drinks we headed off for some shopping- first to get the paint for the living room, and then to the garden centre as I still had some vouchers from my birthday and wanted to put plants in before it gets too cold.

Then my parents came over- Dad helped me with doing the first coat of paint on the living room walls, and Mum sat outside and read/ chatted to Andy while he was cutting up wood and planting stuff in the garden.

On Tuesday I headed into work first thing as the cleaners do a deep clean over the summer which involves them moving all of the furniture to the middle of the room- I spent a few hours moving back tables, drawer units and cupboards, as well as doing some printing and sorting a few other bits out.

This is one of my little summer projects- I bought a set of drawers (they are sold for screws and things)  and have made labels for all of the bits and bobs like pens, whiteboard pens, blue tac, hairbands- I even have a drawer for my teabags! I attached the labels with little sticky pad things and I am maybe a bit too excited about how neat my desk will look!

After getting home later than planned (closer to 1pm than the 11am I had imagined), I needed to do another coat of paint on the walls. I was supposed to be meeting some friends for a picnic/cake in the afternoon, so I got straight on with it instead of having lunch but painting the walls by myself took a lot longer than the day before when Dad had been helping (or more accurately, when I was helping Dad), and by the time I had finished and messaged them they were going to be leaving (it was a 40 min drive away too)- a shame but we have some other dates to meet up. I had a super quick shower and a change as decorating in the warm weather was very hot work!

As I’d got straight on with painting I hadn’t eaten lunch, and we had a cake voucher for John Lewis that ran out at the end of August, so we walked into town and shared this strawberry and rose cake. I very much needed the tea at that point too! We also had a look at curtains and rugs, and when I got home I ordered a rug for the living room as I had some vouchers for there too.

On Wednesday I had a bit of touching up of the paint to do- I wanted to get it finished as Andy’s parents were coming over in the evening and we had left the living room with all the sheets covering everything for the past few days as the prep just takes so long. I went on a run first, and then when I got back I needed to wait for the hot water to heat up (we only have a small tank but usually it’s OK as I tend to have a shower in the evenings), I decided to get on with that before a shower.

I had a message saying that the rug was ready to collect, so I drove into town (it’s just over a mile away, so I would usually walk but it was pouring with rain and the rug was heavy).

Later on we finally took away all of the sheets and put the furniture back and the new rug down- I love it!

I did a spot of baking in the afternoon- a cherry and almond cake- ready for Andy’s parents in the evening.

As it was pretty rainy out, I made myself a chai latte with the Bluebird tea sticky chai- I had much more success this time (using some common sense..)- I put the chai into the milk before I heated it, and then strained it into the mug after. It was delicious. I had that while I watched Bake Off (and I do miss Mel and Sue, but Noel and Sandy are funny too, so I think it’s going to be OK!).

On Thursday I had a run first thing- I thought I needed to do 5 miles to get to the 100 miles, but just in case I went for 6 miles, so instead of the 5 mile loop I did an out and back into the woods- lovely.

It had rained a lot in the night and the ground was fairly damp in places- it was also a bit misty in places and the light streaming through the gaps in the trees was so gorgeous.

I also found that I could post a sort of update on Strava, so to celebrate my first 100 mile month of 2017 I posted this photo on there.

As well as a bit of admin for work, I got on with a lot of baking, as it was Dad’s 100th parkrun on Saturday! The final list includes white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate orange brownies and a lemon and blueberry cake. I bought some gluten free cookies as I always worry about having trace bits of flour in my kitchen.

On Friday I was having my hair cut in the morning, so I walked into town and had a bit of a mooch around. I ended up getting a dress in the Fat Face sale and some new work trousers.

After more baking (I made the lemon cake on Friday) I walked around to the amazon locker to pick up an online order- I saw these tins online and thought they would be perfect to store clif bars and also maybe some nice chocolate.

While I was walking back I was listening to a podcast, and it started making a weird beeping noise. I couldn’t work out what it was, and when I got my phone out of my bag it turned out to be my brother ringing me- I’d never had that happen with my headphones in before.

I’ll get to the weekend in another post- but the final week was pretty satisfying with a nice mixture of relaxing and getting things done.

Running in France (including some shoe surgery)

As I mentioned before, I took my running things with me to France as I thought I would get the opportunity to run.

So- my first run was on Monday. We’d walked along the cycle path the evening before- it was right at the end of the track that our gite was on, so not hard to find at all. I went left, and decided to do an out and back. I got slightly confused as I ran beyond where we had walked (we’d only walked for 3 miles in total) and at one point the signs directed me up to  a road, across it, back down again only for me to end up where the signs had started. As I got back to our road I had run 4.5 miles so I ran out in the other direction for a bit to round it up to 5.

The early morning sunlight was just gorgeous on the rows of trees and the river. There was so much bird life there too- as I was leaving I saw a red woodpecker on the tree out the front, and later on a jay flying across the path (I also saw a red squirrel on the roof of the gite when I was reading one morning).

On Tuesday I headed out, this time turning right. The tarmac path quickly changed to a rutted track so I kept switching from one side to the other trying to find the smoothest path. After I had run out for 2 miles, I turned around and came back, and then decided that as I was feeling good I would go for 1 mile along the tarmac before turning back, for 6 miles. All good.

More beautiful flowers to spot along the way too.

I spent some time on Strava on my phone trying to find my monthly mileage, as trying to do 100 miles in August had briefly crossed my mind. Of course when running maths is harder, and I could not remember all of the runs I had been on. When I look at Strava on my laptop I can see my monthly and yearly miles, and this year I have not been doing such high mileage (whereas in 2016 I did 1000 miles in total including 100 miles in July, September and December). This year I managed 93 in January and 85 in February (half marathon training) but then I’ve hovered around the 60-70 mile range. All fine, but I fancied a challenge.

Anyway, you can’t see this on the app (well I couldn’t work out how to anyway) and by scrolling through and adding up my runs it ranged from 60-70 miles- with only a few days left in August once I got home I didn’t know if it was possible.

Anyway, Wednesday was a rest day (walking around gardens instead) and then on Thursday I decided to go on a bit of a longer run. I headed along the track, and after a few miles I kept feeling like a had a tiny sharp stone moving about under the ball of my right foot. It would make me hop as it was so tender. A few times I stopped to take off my shoe and shake it, but then a bit later I would feel it again. It was as if there was a tiny stone that was moving about a bit as I couldn’t always feel it. I took my sock off in case it was stuck in there, and then carried on. It happened again and was so painful that it worried me, so I limped over to some logs and sat down. I took off my sock, and then took the insole out of my shoe. Inside I could see something dark and sharp sticking up- it looked like a huge rose thorn. I tried to get it out but it was really hard to get any grip- I’d undone all the laces to get the tongue out of the way, but I couldn’t pull it out. It was really hard and then I started to worry it was a rusty nail or something- when did I last have a tetanus injection??? I knew I couldn’t walk back without my shoe on as the path was so stony, so I picked up a stone and tried to push it back down into the shoe, hoping that I had done enough for it not to make another appearance. I should have messaged Andy really because the 7 mile run took me 90 minutes and he was starting to wonder where I had got to.

When I got back I got some scissors and managed to poke the offending item out by pushing the scissors up into the sole of the shoe. It turned out to be a shard of (brown) glass. Now, it doesn’t look that big in the picture, it was maybe 1cm long, but having that digging into your foot when you are running is pretty painful.

On Friday I had my last run in France- a very enjoyable 6 miles along the tracks again. My left calf was super tense though- I think it had taken a bit of a battering from all my hopping the day before.

The morning was fairly overcast (storms had been predicted) and it was really muggy- sweat was pouring off my when I got back and I hadn’t even gone very fast!

Despite doing fairly similar routes all week, it was really enjoyable as the paths were very quiet- I passed a few cyclists and saw a couple of runners on my last day (up ahead just as I turned around). I listened to some podcasts while I ran, stopped to take photos when I fancied it and generally just enjoyed being out in the countryside. I would not want my running to get in the way of our holiday, so if we were sightseeing or traveling around I wouldn’t want to use that time for running, but as we were having fairly laid back days it was good to stretch the legs and see some scenery to start the days off.

When I got back and looked at Strava I had reached 81 miles, so I decided to still aim for the 100. I had a long run of 9 miles on Monday (boy that was hot) and then a 5 miler on Wednesday and Thursday to total 102 miles (I think it always rounds down so all the .2’s made the difference in the end).

How was your bank holiday weekend?

A week in France

Last week we got took the car on the tunnel (something I had never done before) and drove to the Loire Valley in France for a week in a self catering cottage/gite.

Fun fact- I also learnt how to make photo collages. So, look forward to seeing many of those over the next few weeks!

We left on Friday night and stayed right by the tunnel in France, as we got a very late train (11pm or something)- we were toying between staying there or nearer to Rouen, to break the journey up a bit, but in the end decided that a 2 hour drive would not be the best at that time of night. I then found out that a parkrun had just started there- it was so tempting to change our plans but as Andy was driving it wasn’t really fair on him. I took my running things with me as I knew I would have time to run while I was there- I’ll save that for a separate post though.

The drive to our gite took up most of Saturday- we had a brief stop to pick up some lunch (and to use the toilets in Ikea), and another brief stop later on to eat lunch, but it took us pretty much from 9am-5pm to get there.

On Sunday we had a wander around the town near to us (Chinon)- there was an antiques market going on by the river so we spent a while looking around before walking up to the castle. Later we had a walk along a cycle path (although cars did drive down it)- great for me to scope out an easy running route.

On Monday our first chateau visit was to Villandry- you could pay for just the gardens and they were very impressive. It was baking hot there but we spent a few hours walking around and admiring the views and the beautiful plants- some inspiration for our garden at home! The fruits and vegetables were grown in geometrical shapes, and each bed had a map so you could see what was being grown in each section.

Of course a visit to France could not be without croissants- I was looking forward to almond chocolate ones, but we only found these once in a little bakery in the town, and then on our final day. The owners of the gite also made their own jam, and we were given a couple of jars as a welcome- I very much enjoyed the strawberry vanilla jam, and I brought home the plum with juniper berries. They did all sorts including strawberry bergamot which sounded amazing. The shops were full of delicious fresh fruits- I ate a lot of peaches and nectarines that week, and one say we treated ourselves to a mango.

On Tuesday we stayed around the gite for the day- I’d been on a run and after breakfast I sat in the garden and let my hair dry (I didn’t need to use a hairdryer for the whole week as it was so warm) and read- I managed to finish one book, read another one and then start a third during that week so I read a lot! There was a pool so Andy did a bit of swimming but I was happy enough relaxing in the garden.

On Wednesday we had decided to visit a couple of chateau that were further away- the first one was about a 90 minute drive.

Chambord (bottom left) was more like a palace- it was huge and rammed with tourists. It was a bit like Versailles – a palace built for the royal family but hardly ever used as they traveled about. We shuffled through the rooms and saw more beds and tapestries than I have before in my life. It did have some amazing architecture- a double helix staircase and some very amazing turrets, but I much preferred being outside so we had a walk around the gardens afterwards. We then headed to Chenonceau which was very impressive- the building spanned a river with a ballroom being the room on the first floor over the water. Interestingly the river was the border between occupied France during WW2, so it was used to smuggle people out. The day was fairly overcast when we left, but between the two places the clouds disappeared and so we had a very hot walk around the beautiful gardens there too.

On Thursday we headed to a chateau very close to Chinon (Chateau du Rivau) which was possibly my favourite. It was really quirky, with  sculptures everywhere (including a hole mole coming out of a mole-hill at the castle entrance, plus giant wellies and watering cans in the garden). It had lots aimed at children such as flower fairy gardens (remember those?? I used to love the flower fairies) and had some really amazing sculpture gardens with animals made using garden equipment- my favourite was a peacock where the tail was made with spades and rakes.

On Friday we decided to stay closer to home- after popping to the shops for some lunch we drove out to a different town (Saumur- a town by the river with a chateau perched on a hill) for a little mooch around we had another walk along the cycle way.

We made full use of the kitchen in the gite and always had dinner there (we are doing up our living room and just had a wood burner installed so we are on a bit of an economy drive). I was very excited to find proper iced tea for sale (not just iced tea flavour which is what things usually are). We tried a few (mint, lemon and green tea) but the black tea with peach won- yes it did have some added sugar, but only a teeny bit- it was 94% black tea with sugar and peach juice concentrate and it tasted like proper brewed iced tea.

I was very excited to have a chocolate almond croissant too- alongside a huge yellow nectarine and some hot tea it made the perfect breakfast.

On Saturday we were up early to check out and drive to Giverny, where Monet’s garden is (tip- book online as the queue is massive otherwise as it seemed like a “one in, one out” policy too).

It was beautiful there- of course it had the huge lily pond with everyone trying to take selfies and photos on the bridges, but the more formal gardens were amazing with long rows of flowers- one row would be yellows and oranges, another blues, another purple. We then headed to a supermarket to load up on goodies to bring home (coffee and wine for our parents, jam and chocolate for us) before a night in a hotel. We had about 2 1/2 hours of driving to get back to the tunnel, so we got up early and were on the road before 7.30. Apart from a brief panic in Rouen (a tunnel was closed and no diversion was signed but thanks to google maps we were back on track) the journey was smooth and we managed to get on an earlier train too. We’d bought some chocolate almond croissants the day before and these were a welcome breakfast once we were aboard the train.

It was a very different type of holiday to the one we usually go for- we would rarely stay more than a couple of nights in one place usually- but it was really relaxing without me feeling like I had cabin fever!

What sort of holiday do you like best?  Have you ever been on the tunnel before? I’d only been in the Eurostar as when I was little we would always get the ferry when driving to anywhere on the continent. It was so easy to not even need to pack properly but just throw it all in the boot with no worries about the amounts of liquids or the weight of anything.

What I have been listening to, reading and watching lately

Listening to:

I have posted many times about some of the podcasts I enjoy, and I do tend to have a bit of a routine with them- some suit a commute, others I save for my runs. The podcast I am totally loving at the moment is the Judge John Hodgman Podcast– if you have not heard of it basically people take their domestic issues to him, give evidence, and then he gives his ruling. It is very funny, and as someone who loves an insight into the lives of other normal people (that is a polite way of saying I am nosy), I find that aspect of it brilliant. They are usually pretty “small” issues, such as who should feed the dog, whether you should ask permission before borrowing clothes from your sister and so on, but the way the show talks the issues through makes it entertaining.

Reading:

A while back I read Mr Mercedes, which is now being made into a TV show (or film- I can’t remember)- I won’t give away too many spoilers but it totally freaked me out because some of the terror events in the news could have been lifted directly from the book, and I was reading it while some of the events were going on.

After reading a few other detective novels (the latest Roy Grace one, and an old Bosch one) I fancied something a bit different, so now I am part-way through A Year of Living Danishly. I’d heard the author on a podcast recently and thought it sounded very interesting indeed. One word of warning- it will lead to cravings of cinnamon rolls and all things cosy.

I popped into Gail’s Bakery and noticed these cinnamon rolls- I was good enough to only eat half and save the other half for Andy- this took some willpower I assure you!

Watching:

After loving the athletics it was a bit of a come-down to watch the documentary Icarus (about the state-sponsored doping in Russia)- it was very interesting to see how it all unfolded, but also totally depressing that probably most drug-cheats won’t be caught, and that so many athletes were denied their medals at the time because of this.

Another brilliant documentary was The Keepers- this was several parts and was a bit like The Jinx or Making a Murderer- people were investigating the death of their teacher (who was a nun) as it happened years ago and was not solved. It was similar to Spotlight and was pretty infuriating, but very interesting.

For more light-hearted watching we’ve been going back through some old comedies. The order of watching these US comedies (for me anyway) went like this: 30 Rock- Parks and Rec– Master of None- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and then parallel to that for something a bit more off the wall, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We also watched Pitch Perfect 2 the other night (and did you know that John Hodgman- see above- is in it?).

What have you been reading, watching or listening to recently? 

Athletics 2017!

At Christmas Andy gave me tickets to the athletics championships in London. Of course at the time it seemed ages away but on Saturday the day was finally there. We’d watched some of it while we were away in Germany (Eurosport with German commentary turned out to be quite entertaining as they pronounced Mo Farah to rhyme with Que Sera Sera, and interspersed German with the word “Mo-Bot”) and then once home we had a week to watch the highlights each evening.

We drove to Loughton and then got the underground in, as it was then only a few stops. The instructions said that you could not bring in meals but you could bring in snacks (and of course food would be available at concessions) so we went to M&S to get a late lunch/ early dinner. It was so busy and as if a plague of locusts has descended upon the shopping centre- the shelves were pretty bare!

After eating our lunch we went into the stadium (and we could easily have brought the food in with us as people had loads with them) and browsed the merchandise (which, by the way, only had men’s technical running vests, no women’s at all which very much annoyed me) before finding our seats.

We were up fairly high and in the middle (opposite the final 100m of the track) so we had a good view of what was going on. I feel like the event was hosted really well- they had Ewan Thomas walking around talking on the microphone, and also commentators saying what was happening with the events. When we first arrived the men’s javelin from the decathlon was going on, and then women’s high jump started. At one point they had Martin Lewis (yes, from the money tips website) giving the crowd some stats and tips, which to me seemed rather pointless as he only appeared a couple of times and I am sure someone else could have told us the facts.

Of course the big ticket races were the 5,000m (with Mo on his final track race) and the 4x100m men’s relay (with Usain Bolt’s final appearance) but in fact everything else going on was really exciting. Some of the athletes would try to get the crowd going, and there were big screens with information on them, as well as the stadium announcer giving details of distance/ height and current standings. The crowd were great at supporting all of the athletes too- during the high jump  our two British women had missed the height once, so really we should have been hoping that the other nationalities would not clear the height either, but there were only cheers when the bar wasn’t knocked down.

After the decathlon javelin finished, they had to then extend the tape and move the TV cameras back ready for the javelin competition to start- the decathlon guys has 55 and 65m marked, whereas for the main event it went to something like 85m. I don’t find this sort of thing interesting on the TV, but I think partly it is because you can’t really get an idea of how far each one is thrown. Being there meant it was easy to compare each throw, and the crowd would go wild when a huge throw was recorded.

When the 5,000m started it was such a tense atmosphere- and I think the crowd pretty much kept up a mexican wave for the whole 13 minutes- as the main group came in front everyone would stand up and shout even louder, then as they passed they would sit back down again.  Of course it was disappointing that Mo didn’t get a gold medal, but a silver medal is still very impressive and he really gave it his all- it is always more surprising that other runners have not grouped together before to try and get him with tactics.

It was a very exciting race, and a little later they held the medal ceremony which was cause for more celebrations.

There was a small break so we popped out to get a drink. The info had said there would be water fountains, so bring a bottle to fill up, but we could not find one. We then thought we would buy some lemonade to share, but all the stands were sold out, so we ended up sharing a hot chocolate (our throats were hoarse after all that shouting and we had more to come…). As we were going back to our seats we saw one water fountain but it had such a huge queue and we didn’t want to miss any of the races so we left it.

In contrast to a rather long race, we then had the 4x100m women’s final- seeing the women take silver was brilliant.

Scattered throughout the evening were medal ceremonies and it was great to see everyone being very respectful of the winners- everyone clapped and stood for the national anthems. I was interested to find out what the ANA athletes would have (these are Russian, but as Russia was banned somehow they get to compete as neutral)- it turns out they get the IAAF anthem. A lot of the crowd didn’t seem to know what ANA stood for as there was a bit of a confused murmur as it was announced.

Then it was time for the final event- the men’s 4x100m relay. I knew we were in for a shout of a medal as I had heard the heats when I was driving back from my parents- the Brits were a whisker behind the USA team so bronze was going to be possible (we were assuming it would be USA and Jamaica battling first and second). Well, of course by now you know what happened- the British (and NI- why aren’t we Team UK?) men did brilliantly and although I saw Bolt trip I was more concerned with yelling at the top of  my voice for our men to bring it home. It was like (I imagine) seeing your team score the winning goal in the world cup- everyone was leaping up and down and cheering. It was a pretty perfect ending.

This is still a very ugly thing.

It was a long shuffle out of the stadium and back to the train station, but everyone was in great spirits- there was even one volunteer playing music through his phone into a loud speaker. It wasn’t quite like when the Disney parks close, but it was close!

Did you watch any of the athletics? Have you been to any live events like this? While Andy was getting our drink I was asked to do a survey- the only live athletics I have been to was this and the Olympics, but I think that if the tickets weren’t too expensive I would be more likely to take a chance and head along to a session.