Bath Christmas market trip (and of course more of a catch up)

I do keep on getting behind with posts at the moment, so before Bath I shall rewind to the week before.

My November tea club came a while back as the Christmas theme- Snowball ( a classic and now all vegan instead of having to get the one without gelatin- black tea with chocolate, coconut and marshmallows), Fairytale of New York (not so much my kind of tea as it’s rooibos with coffee beans) and then Mint Choc Rooibos, which I do like, but I was a teeny bit miffed because on their facebook page they’d posted it and the tea club contained Mince Pie tea- I’d had a sample last year and it was so good- black tea with almond and orange peel. Anyway, I commented on their page and they replied that some tea club subscriptions were different, and I was worried that the mince pie tea wasn’t vegetarian (some of their teas used to not be veggie, but since last year they had changed them all over so they were)-  it turned out that as I was down for a veggie one, that was linked to an allergy one, so I didn’t get the tea containing nuts. They then offered to send some mince pie tea to me, which was just so kind of them (and it is super delicious).

Following on from the Brighton 10k I had a rest day on Monday with a walk around town in the evening (after a much needed back and shoulder massage) to stretch out the legs a bit. My legs were a bit stiff but sometimes a run helps with this, so I had  3 mile run after work on Tuesday- it was freezing out there! Wednesday was lovely yoga, and then on Thursday although I’d planned a run, I just felt so tired and had lots of work to do, so we went on a walk before dinner instead. On the Friday as soon as I got home from work it was time to pack, quickly have dinner and then drive to Reading (on the way to Bath).

After doing Dinton Pastures parkrun it was time to head to the station. I love a bit of a train journey- chilling out to podcasts and watching the scenery. We arrived in Bath around lunch time so we headed to Pret and shared a wrap and a drink before going on a walk around the markets. Often we go to the spa but decided to give it a miss this year as last year the queues were so huge that we felt like we wasted a bit of time there.

The markets were all around the city centre, and there was also an ice rink and glow in the dark mini golf in a park close by. The markets were pretty rammed (with a one way system going on) so we had a general look from afar and decided which ones we’d visit again later. It was fairly cold, although luckily the rain from the morning had stopped, so we went for tea and cake in a cafe to warm up for a bit. We sat by the window upstairs so had a great view of everyone wandering past and perusing the stalls. I braved a few shops to tick off a few items on my list, but we saved the markets for after dinner.

We’d booked a meal at The Ivy (which had a separate vegetarian menu with lots of options)- I went for a delicious sweet potato dish with aubergine, coconut yoghurt, grains and a spicy tomato sauce- it was very warming for a wintery day.

Then we visited some of the stalls- I couldn’t resist some gingerbread brownies from a stall (3 for £3 which didn’t seem too expensive compared to what you would usually pay), maple butter and syrup, and also some chocolate peanut butter from a Cornish company (we’d bought some of theirs before at the Eden Project).

Our train wasn’t until just before 9pm, so we had a long time to wander around and the markets were much quieter by then. I do love wandering around and seeing everything lit up. I managed to get a few gifts (Secret Santa type ones) so I was pleased to start ticking things off the list (someone at work had already finished all of her Christmas shopping-I mean, what???). After getting the train and then driving home it was pretty late, and quite cold at home (even though we did switch the heating on once we were on the train).

On the Sunday I headed out on a run (6 miles) but when I got home Andy told me that there was some sort of problem with the pressure due to a burst water main, so I couldn’t have a shower. We could at least get water from the tap but the pressure wasn’t high enough for the boiler to work. I changed into some un-sweaty clothes and had breakfast and tried to warm up by making some mini pumpkin pies (the oven always warms  up the kitchen pretty well), but it didn’t start working until well into the afternoon. We went to see Andy’s parents for a bit but I still hadn’t properly warmed up so when we got home we put the fire on, ready for Escape to the Chateau (if you don’t watch this, then why not???).

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This turned out to be funny because I posted a pic on facebook and I thought everyone knew about our wedding by now, but clearly some people didn’t, but they spotted the Mr and Mrs cards on the mantle piece!

I was feeling pretty festive (or maybe hygge) by the end of the weekend.

Have you started (or I dread to ask, finished) your Christmas shopping yet? 

Dinton Pastures parkrun on the way to the Bath Christmas markets

We quite like our yearly trip to the Bath Christmas markets, but not the long drive. For the last couple of years we have stayed in Swindon- the first year I went to Swindon parkrun (and we then drove to the park and ride but had a nightmare finding a space) and last year we stayed in Swindon and I got the train to Chippenham parkrun, before we got the train to Bath. This year we decided to stay in Reading, as the train was just under an hour. It also meant that I could get a new letter for my parkrun alphabet challenge!

Dinton Pastures parkrun was fairly close to the Holiday Inn (well, it looked close on the map but was actually over 1.5 miles away, which is OK but not when you have booked a train that morning…). It’s only been going since July- this was event 20- which explains why I hadn’t found it when looking for events beginning with D back in the summer.

We drove to Reading on the Friday night and then on Saturday morning I left for parkrun, armed with my phone and google maps. It was gently raining at first, but by the time I got there it was raining pretty hard. The entrance to the park had a separate pedestrian path, and I had seen some arrows in the distance so I headed there, but hesitated as I couldn’t see anyone around and wondered if it was the route marker and not an arrow to the start. A guy walking along saw me hesitate and offered the directions, and we chatted as we walked to the start. Weirdly it turns out he had run at Ellenbrook Fields before as his daughter is at uni in Herts (it’s right by the uni campus), so we could chat about the course! I love coincidences like that.

The new runner brief and main run brief were pretty quick- no-one wanted to hang about in that weather (I briefly chatted to a tourist who was from Bristol and on her way to Sussex- somehow we ended up talking about Crissy Field parkrun in San Fran) and soon we were off. The course is apparently two laps, but because you don’t run on exactly the same paths, it feels like one lap. At one point there was an arrow for lap 1 in one direction, and lap 2 in the other, but that was all I saw.

I just followed the people in front as always! There were lots of enthusiastic marshals on the way around- even more impressive on a damp and rainy day. At one point I stopped to take the photo (below, top left) because it was a really pretty view. I would love to go back on a sunnier day! I think trail shoes would have been a good idea (something which only occurred to me when I was driving to Reading), although the paths were sort of hard packed gravel with a few puddles and lots of leaves to contend with- it was all very flat apart from one short slope so it was all fine in road shoes really. My trail shoes would have kept my feet a little drier but that’s all.

I didn’t hang about once I finished, as I needed to get back for a shower and to make our train.  I knew I needed to get over the motorway straight away, but after that the route took me through a housing estate and then onto a bit of nature reserve- here I got very confused and the map just kept recalculating as it didn’t think I was on a road, so I went around in circles and back on myself for a bit- I ended up running 2 miles back- whoops!

Andy had made a cup of tea for me, so I jumped in the shower and then had the tea to warm up (plus an almond croissant and some satsumas).

Then we had just enough time for me to dry my hair before we checked out and drove to the station, to catch our train to Bath- I’ll get to that another day. My text came through to say my time was 29:19, and annoyingly for the stopwatch bingo I only need 17 and 18- so close! (By the way, the parkrun adventurers podcast had an interview last week with the creators of the running challenges chrome extension which I am using to keep track of all sorts of parkrun challenges including the alphabet one, so it’s worth a listen if you are interested).

So,  after a long hiatus I have ticked off another letter, and now *only* need I, J, K, Q and (international tourism) Z.

Do you like to chat to other people at parkrun? I am not usually very confident at chatting to people I don’t know, but because we always have a shared interest it always seems much easier at parkrun. Also the saying goodbye bit is always weird but there’s a natural cut off with the start of the run so that seems to help a bit too.

Brighton 10K 2018

We stayed in the centre of Brighton so it meant I could get up pretty late on Sunday morning as the race started at 9.30, so I left the hotel at around 9.10. Andy walked with me so I could give him my jacket at the last possible moment- it was beautiful blue skies but felt colder than the Saturday with a cold wind. We saw a few more snails on the way so of course I couldn’t resist a few more photos.

I’d looked up my 10k pb 54:53 from the Brighton 10k back in 2015, and originally I was thinking of going for one, but when I wrote down the mile splits it seemed I would need to run faster than my parkrun pb for twice the distance (and beat my 5 mile pb) so I just thought I’d try to keep an 8 on each mile and see how I got on.

The route starts by the seafront and you first head out towards Hove (this time with the wind behind), turning at just after 2 miles to come back along the seafront, past the start/finish area at about 4.5 miles, with a second turnaround point to head to the finish.

As the wind was behind at the beginning, I made the most of it and tried to keep a fairly sharp pace from the start- 8:56 then 8:45 were mile 1 and 2. As we turned we ran into the wind and it felt a lot harder by the beach huts. As I’d run parkrun there the day before I thought a bit about that and how close I was to a course pb. After the Hove lawns you head up onto the road (I heard someone say “I hate this hill” which made me laugh so much because it’s a tiny slope  from the prom to the road, no where near a hill!) and there it was easier because we were a little more sheltered. 8:51 and 8:47 for miles 3 and 4. Each time I glanced at my watch I could see 8 something, and I think I had in my head I needed 8:40 ish for a pb, and although I was sometimes quicker, I was often behind it, so decided not to stress. Mile 5 was quite tough as we ran past the finish area and of course could see loads of people who had finished- the wind seemed harder here too so it felt a little bit of a slog (nothing awful but just hard work)- I had the standard maths confusion as there were km markers and I thought I’d seen them all, and to add to that near here a marshal was shouting 1.5km to go, when after that I got to the 8 km point and realised he had meant 2.5 km- I was very confused about my maths converting from km to miles before I saw the sign!

I managed 8:43 for mile 5 so I felt I was speeding up. At the turning point thankfully the wind was then behind me and with less than a mile to go I tried to speed up. I’d looked at my watch at the 9km point and thought I was within a shout of going under 55 mins again, so I tried to push on and kept my mind busy with a combination of overtaking people in front and counting up to 100. Mile 6 was 8:23 and then the final bit was 7:31 pace so I did put in a speedy finish!

I stopped my watch in the finish area (showing 54:16) but I had no idea what my official time was, and I also couldn’t remember exactly what my pb was! I then had a bit of a shocker as I’d arranged to meet Andy by the tent with the flag, and waited around a bit, taking a photo of my watch and with my medal, and in the end texted him and it turned out he was in the meeting place- I was at a different tent- whoops!

It was time to head back to the hotel for a shower- we stopped at Pret for a hot drink because I was getting quite cold again (despite having my lovely run Disney top to put on).  When I got my text through, my chip time was 54:11, which made it an official pb! For some reason Strava thinks I ran the 2015 one in 52 something (I definitely didn’t!). I realised that this was the first time I had run it since 2015, because in 2016 it was cancelled due to a storm, and then I didn’t do it last year because I think it clashed with a half marathon.  Anyway, I’m very pleased with that because when I looked at my pb I did wonder how on earth I had managed to run it, so to actually beat it was a great feeling. (Just need to somehow transfer that over to parkrun, although usually when it comes down to it I’d rather just run around and enjoy a parkrun rather than aiming for a time…Runner’s World pace calculator thinks I should be able to do 25:59,  and if I use my best ever half time it says 25:55!)

On our way back we saw vegan runners wearing these amazing enormous animal costumes- the one above is a massive chicken but there were other animals too- big kudos to them for running in something that would be easily caught by the wind.

I had bought a Christmas bun at Gail’s on the Saturday (they are a bit like cinnamon buns, but with christmassy things like dark chocolate, candied orange and frangipane- so delicious) so I had that for breakfast before a shower and drying my hair. We then went for a little wander around the shops, had lunch at Leon (vegan Christmas wrap for me, plus hummus and waffle fries to share) before getting the train back home.


Christmas food in November- yay or nay?  What do you think your best distance for a pb is? I suppose I don’t tend to properly race a parkrun, but I think I am better at the slightly longer distances where I can warm up and get into it a bit.

A catch up and another visit to Brighton

So the weeks have just been flying by. On the Sunday after getting home and unpacking we walked into town for our free Starbucks drinks. I was worried I’d feel tired or need a sleep in the day, but I think the combination of the super early start (3.30am) and the run plus walking around the  park meant that I slept fine on the plane and so was OK. In the early evening I felt a bit sleepy but nothing too bad, and the week was OK- it took me a bit of time to get to sleep each night but I wasn’t waking up any more than usual. I did feel very sleepy when I was driving, so I did have to have the window down a few times!

Argh! Why won’t the photos be the right way up??? I liked the green cup that Andy had which is why I took the photo.

After letting friends and colleagues know about our holiday, the messages and cards haven’t stopped coming, which is so lovely (but unexpected in a way). My favourite one was from one of Andy’s aunts, who put on the inside “Congratulations (at last)” which did make me chuckle!

The first week back was very busy- I had a course on Tuesday with a later start, so I did a run first thing. On Wednesday I had to travel to a meeting after work and so didn’t sign up to yoga as I didn’t think I’d make it back in time (in fact I could have made it, so when I got home I had a run, although it was so dark and even though I chose routes that I thought were well lit, they weren’t in places so after that I found my torch), and then on Thursday I had a meeting somewhere else in the afternoon. We’d booked to see Bohemian Rhapsody which I just loved. We also had shutters fitted in our dining room- we ordered them back in the summer but they took a while to be made so we’ve had no curtains or anything in there since Easter- it’s made it feel so much cosier.

Friday was a nice evening at home, catching up on TV and relaxing. On Saturday I’d arranged to meet Dad at Ellenbrook Fields parkrun (we were so close to going to the inaugural Jersey Farm parkrun, as it is less than a mile from where they live- the new event from when Heartwood Forest had to close- but they had asked for a quiet launch because reading between the lines it was complaints from locals which meant the other event had to close, so we are going in a few weeks)- anyway, it was a lovely morning for a run, and despite us chatting (me less so the further around we got) we managed a speedy (for me) 27:29. Then it was back to Mum and Dad’s for pancakes.

I had a fair bit of work to do, but also needed to do some jobs in the garden, and luckily I decided on the garden first (clearing leaves and a bit of cutting back) because once I came inside and showered it pelted it down.

I needed to pop to town, but it was still hammering down so I drove a little closer and then walked the rest of the way- I’d signed up to the Caffe Nero app (you got a free drink) so I got myself a winter spiced hot chocolate, which may be my favourite so far, not too sweet. If you bring your own cup you get an extra stamp on your reward card too.

On Sunday morning thankfully the weather was better, so I had a nice 8 mile run, past the fountain (with a lovely display of poppies in the centre), before heading over to see Andy’s family in the afternoon.

OK, so now I think the photos are trolling me…. 

Week 2 was more standard- a walk after work on Monday to pick up a lamp from John Lewis, a run on Tuesday (with my torch), yoga on Wednesday and another run on Thursday- I had a lot of bad traffic so the runs were cut short due to being home later than planned and having a lot of work to do later on in the evening.

I did get to wear my new Run Disney top as it’s a long sleeved one- perfect for this time of year.

Then on Friday it was time to pack, have dinner and then head to the station as we were going down to Brighton for the weekend.

I’d decided on Hove Prom parkrun as it was the nearest to the hotel, and very easy to find. I’d also not been to it for ages as recently I’ve been ticking off the other Brighton parkruns/ staying further away. It was sunny but very cold as I ran down there. I had seen there was a snail trail for a local hospice (the same one that did the snowdogs a few years ago) and so my run down here had a few deviations while I took photos. As I went to take a picture of the snail by the big i360 tower, someone else was taking photos of it so I had to wait. She apologised (I said I was fine to wait of course) and then she told me she was the artist- we chatted for a bit about the process- they had to submit their designs and then the sponsors chose the design which would reflect their company- her design was Quadrosnailia (love the play on words).

Anyway, time for parkrun- it was so busy! There were a load of students from Warwick uni down, but maybe the race on Sunday made the numbers swell too. Out of interest I looked back at my past Hove Prom results- I first ran it in 2015 (my first UK parkrun tourism) and I ran 27:39, and 108 people ran it, in 2016 I went back and ran it in 28:11, with 136 people running, and then this year there were 373 runners- such a huge difference! I hadn’t looked at my pb in advance, and wasn’t really pushing it (I had a race on the Sunday) but in the end I was close to a course, with 27:52. Ah well, I wasn’t after one. I was a bit annoyed at some of the people during the run briefing though, as some people just would not be quiet, despite some volunteers walking through the crowd and shushing. There was also a really yappy dog which was so high pitched it was hurting my ears. It’s just so rude to talk over the briefing as well as meaning you might miss important information- this time for example they had to talk about a slight course deviation because they had tried to sweep the pebbles off the prom but couldn’t get rid of them all.

Then it was time for breakfast- we met at Cafe Coho and Andy had already ordered so when I got there my breakfast had just arrived- perfect timing! Delicious pancakes with berries, yoghurt and toasted coconut.

After a shower we had a super long walk along the prom to the lagoon at Hove, spotting more snails (even found the Fat Boy Slim one by his cafe) and then walked back to the centre of Brighton. We could not have been luckier with the weather- it was gorgeous, although it did get really cold once the sun went down.

We had a bit of cake to share in the afternoon, and then did a spot of shopping. I had to go to the jewellers as we’d got our wedding rings from a shop in Brighton (Ring)- we ordered them in May and then picked them up in September, and it fitted me fine, but now it has been colder it has been slipping off, so I wanted it re-sized. When we picked them up, Andy had his re-sized there and then, so I thought they would do the same for me. When the guy in the shop got out a packet and put my ring into it and asked for a contact number, I think I made a fool of myself by saying “oh, are you not going to do it right away?”- we did explain that they had done that for Andy and they were all very nice to me but they said mine would need to be sent to the workshop and they would post it to us! I’d only got used to wearing it!

We’d booked Food for Friends for dinner- sharing delicious tahini dips to start, and then I had a lovely sweet potato and pomegranate salad- good fuel for Sunday! I shall save the race for another post as this is rather long (yet again).

If you do use a reusable cup or metal straw, what do you do with them the rest of the time? If I know I am going to have a drink, I’ll take a cup with me (although the free  Starbucks drink is a medium and the cups I have are only small sized), but then if I am still out I’ll have a cup with dregs in it to either slosh around in my bag or hold the whole time. And the same with a straw- I have a bamboo and a metal straw, but then how do I keep it clean in my bag? I need some sort of pouch- no good using a plastic bag because then that will get thrown away once the milk or whatever gets on it, and then that’s more rubbish. Any clever ideas?

And the other reason for our Florida holiday

In my recap I mentioned that we had somewhere to be on the Tuesday morning. Well, it was a trip out to the Botanical gardens because we had our wedding to get to.

It was our 20th anniversary in the week, so everything just fell into place- we looked at a few places abroad but this just seemed the best option (it was legal in the UK, we wouldn’t need to go anywhere to pick up the license first, sunshine, a Disney race…).

All we had to do was sort out what we would be wearing, and bring the rings with us. (We also had to get some paperwork signed by a notary in the UK so that the licence was ready). In the end I had decided to have someone come to the hotel room and do my hair for me, and the person I chose included makeup (although I never wear makeup, I decided that some light makeup might be a good idea for the photos), and to be on the safe side they suggested allowing a couple of hours, so Andy went off to Magic Kingdom while I was sorted.

(This was quite funny because I had told her that I have quite thick hair, and when she arrived she said something about how it did look fairly thick, and we looked at a few hairstyle ideas, and then when she started to pin it up she went “woah, there is so much- it doesn’t look that thick”. Luckily we’d left plenty of time for everything and she even finished early.)

I even got a little touch up kit which I suppose I would have used had I been at an all day event.

We then got an uber from the hotel to the botanical gardens (we did hire a car but didn’t fancy navigating into downtown Orlando and the people who organised it said most couples get one down there) and then met the couple who organised it. They had my bouquet (I’d chosen them in advance) and a flower for Andy, and then we walked into the gardens to the gazebo where we met the officiant.

The couple who organised it for us also took photos, so after the ceremony we then had around an hour walking around the botanical gardens for various photos with one of them taking more posed photos, and one of them sort of hiding and taking the more natural ones.  They have all been sent to us electronically so we can decide which ones we might print out.

After that, we headed back to the hotel (another Uber), changed into  normal clothes (and I wiped the makeup off and just kept my hair) and we were off to Magic Kingdom!

We hadn’t told anyone, so from then on we had to be super careful about any photos in whatsapp in case our rings were on show (that’s not a good way for family to find out). We told our parents when we got back on Sunday, and then gradually started letting people know- that’s been the hardest bit in a way, because we did it abroad because I didn’t want a fuss and really could not imagine getting married in front of even a few people, but it seems to have created more excitement in a way.