Birthday celebrations

So after running with Dad at Jersey Farm parkrun on the Saturday, I decided to have a 6 or 7 mile run, as the following week I was doing a 10K race so thought a medium run at a slightly faster pace would be more sensible than a long plodding run.  Despite just getting new shoes, I opted for my old ones as I didn’t think I would be wearing new ones for a race, just in case.

In the end I did 7 miles, and then after a shower was ready to watch the London marathon on TV (I taped it so I didn’t need to rush back and could fast forward the bits I wasn’t so fussed about). Annoyingly when I pressed play, the women’s race had started but the start hadn’t been recorded (not sure if it started before the coverage started?) but I really enjoyed watching the races, especially Charlotte Purdue and Callum Hawkins. I still wouldn’t want to run it myself though- those crowds make it look so noisy and stressful.

Later in the afternoon we met Andy’s parents at the garden centre and picked up a few bargains for the garden.

Monday was the usual rest day and so we had a walk after school, and then Tuesday I went out on a 4 mile run in my new shoes- feeling comfy but I needed to fiddle with the laces as they weren’t feeling quite right.

On Wednesday when I got home I remembered that as it was my birthday the next day, I needed to bake something for work- not sure how that had slipped my mind! I walked around to Morrison’s to pick up a few ingredients, started making brownies, headed to yoga (a good focus on hips which is always much needed) and then finished baking when I got home. I think I finished baking them at about 11pm! Work were happy anyway- one batch of pb&j brownies, and one batch of chocolate orange brownies.

Someone at work baked me some peanut butter brownies- how amazing and thoughtful! 

I actually get a bit anxious on my birthday when I have to go to work because I don’t like people making a fuss (when we got married I sent a quick message before I drove to work, the plan being that people could get over the excitement and then be normal once I arrived… who was I kidding?). The people I work with are lovely, and I was given some lovely flowers and gifts, including the book of Totoro (one of my favourite films)- I’ve been reading it and it is such a lovely change from the usual detective books. We went to Starbucks for lunch which is always a treat too.

When I got home Andy was at the cinema (this has been arranged and he knew I’d want to have a run) and it turned out I needed to pick up a parcel from the Post Office, so I headed out on a run, with a bag so I could put my parcel in it on the run home.

It turned out to be a parcel from Bird and Blend tea co – I’d won a mug and some carrot cake tea on Instagram! What perfect timing! (I had a cup of tea along with a little chocolate lamb I’d been given).

They had included some samples too (they usually do if you order online). They always include little handwritten notes which is such a personal touch. As a side point if you order online there is a space for comments, and I usually say something related to their tea- last time I asked about their rooibos matcha honey, as they used to sell it and it was gorgeous, but they don’t stock it any more. They replied in my last order to say that they might bring it back. These little touches help make them such a great company (and I’m not sponsored by them or anything, I just love them!).

Anyway, once home (and dried off as it rained a lot on my run)  it turned out I had a bit of a Totoro theme as Andy had got me an amazing silhouette card and a cushion, plus tickets to see the Manic Street Preachers in a few weeks time.

On Friday we were heading to Bristol after dinner for the long weekend, and as I’d had a busy week I hadn’t packed anything. I left work fairly early, and when I checked the traffic it told me 45 mins to home (it should be 30-35 mins really during rush hour)- there was clearly an awful crash somewhere as everywhere was gridlocked- I put the satnav on my phone as it keeps updating with the quickest route- I finally got home 2 and a half hours after leaving work. Not good! Thankfully Andy was driving to Bristol so I sort of snoozed in the car as we didn’t arrive at our hotel until about 11.30pm.

I shall save my Bristol recap for another day.

How do you like to celebrate your birthday?  Do you like watching races on TV? 

The reason why I have a rest day after a long run!

We got back from Wales on the Sunday, so I had Easter Monday as a bonus weekend day, so I treated it like a Sunday and headed out on a long run. I’d seen on social media that Bill’s had hidden golden Easter eggs around various towns with vouchers inside, so I went the long way around to town, and then spent a while meandering around the fountain and flower beds seeing if I could spot one, but no luck. It was a beautiful day, so I made sure to put on suncream and wear my visor. In the end my run was 11 miles- I like to run longish before the weather gets too hot.

Once home, showered and breakfasted, we went out on a long walk and I pottered around in the garden for a bit later in the evening- the lighter evenings are perfect for this.

Tuesday was a back to work day, and I usually love my Tuesday evening runs as I have a couple of meetings and need to clear my mind a little, but my legs knew they had run the day before. Some runs you start off a little tired but then you get into it and it’s OK, but this run was a slog the whole time. And then Strava has the cheek to tell me it was easier than my usual effort- I can tell you it wasn’t!

After all my prep Andy painted the tiles in the kitchen (top right shows the old weird beige colour)- they look so much better, but now it just makes the floor look worse! It’s so much fresher and brighter in there and the paint went on the tiles really well (I was sceptical about how well it would take).

Wednesday was a day for a walk and then yoga- we’d not been for a few weeks as they don’t run classes in the holidays, so we did a “yoga MOT” where we worked gently on each area (sometimes our classes have more of a focus such as hips or shoulders or breathing).

On Thursday I was still fairly tired so just had a 3 mile run and that was plenty. I did get to try out my new shoes- I’d ordered some online (I know you aren’t meant to, but these were in the sale and the updated version of my current favourites, and although with Vitality I can get 50% off a pair, we are no-where near a store so will wait for my next Brighton trip to get some).  I had a discount voucher from good old Wiggle so I bought a new pair of trail shoes too (the bottom pair) as mine have seen better days and even though I do wash them in the garden, they are all crunchy and stiff.

On Friday we watched Saving Mr Banks, which I totally love- even with the tough flashbacks to her early life, it’s a real feel good film.

On Saturday I’d arranged to meet with Dad and walk to Jersey Farm parkrun- it was their first time on their summer course this year which is a larger and smaller lap as opposed to the two identical laps of the winter course. I really enjoyed it- the first lap followed similar paths to the  winter route on bridle-paths and through woods, but then the second lap went out onto the fields so you had views across the park and countryside. There is a bit of a hill towards the finish line so it’s not the easiest, and Dad had been running at a good pace. I can never keep up with him at the end, but when I try I finish faster usually, and I ended up with a course pb with a 29:31.

There was a photographer on the course who actually got some nice photos (so often when I see pictures of me running I am appalled by how wonky my body goes as my hips just seem to collapse to one side).

Then it was a walk back home for pancakes cooked by my mum, and a long time chatting with my family as my sister and my niece came over too. Good times!

Do you buy shoes online? Do you usually have the same rest day? How many days in a row can you run for? I think my limit is 3, any more and I just feel like I am running through treacle.


A weekend in Wales

We were off to Wales for the long Easter weekend, so on Thursday night we drove up to somewhere near Birmingham (Walsall?), stayed overnight in a hotel with a bed possibly made of concrete (a Village hotel- they aren’t normally too bad so I think we were just unlucky) and then spent the Friday stopping off at a few places on the way to our B&B in Betys-y-Coed (no idea how you say it still).

We stopped off at a couple of lovely places en route, having nice long walks through woods.

National Trust places were doing Hot Cross Bun scones for Easter- had to be done! Their scones are always good anyway, so with added spices and raisins- a pretty tasty alternative.

The weather was pretty amazing- it was forecast to be warm but I didn’t think it would be that warm- I didn’t pack shorts or cropped trousers, only very dark jeans and waterproof trousers. Thankfully I had packed suncream.

We went for dinner at a gorgeous pizzeria in town- I had a mild panic as we’d chosen and Andy was going to the counter to order, and I then read that their mozzarella wasn’t suitable for veggies- luckily he saw my message and I could order a vegan one instead (which was amazing).

Our B&B was lovely- beautiful views of the countryside, with armchairs by the big bay window and bird feeders on the front lawn. It served breakfast between 8 and 9am and initially when we booked the weekend I was kind of hoping for a welsh parkrun, but the nearest one was about a half an hour drive away, and the logistics of that combined with the breakfast time meant I gave it a miss.  On Saturday we headed up to Anglesey to look for red squirrels- we didn’t see any of those but we did see loads of bluebells, heard woodpeckers and also saw “Easter egg rolling” which turned out to be children log-rolling down a hill in return for an Easter egg (I was picturing something more horrific, like the cheese-rolling).

We headed to Conwy, had delicious ice-cream (where we were warned by the shop keeper to be aware of the seagulls because they just fly down and eat it out of your hands), and walked on the castle walls for brilliant views of the water.

For dinner with had a rather weird picnic of chips and hummus (actual chip shop chips, not crisps being called chips in that fancy way) and some fruit salad.

On Sunday we started to make our way home- stopping at a couple of National Trust places to break up the journey. I had started to get a bit of a sore back, and after going to this beautiful castle (which was interesting on the inside as it was used as a school for children evacuated during WW2) it was really sore and I had to do some yoga in the car park to try and stretch it out a bit. That and then rolling up a jumper to sit on seemed to help and it wasn’t so bad for the rest of the journey.

I love our road trips- we caught up on loads of podcasts as we’d been falling behind in things like the Radio 5 film podcast. We’ve recently got into Off Menu, which is where James Acaster and Ed Gamble interview people about their favourite meals- it doesn’t sound that great but they have funny conversations revolving around their various opinions. I was super excited to see that a new Buckles podcast was out (Adam Buxton)- he always has interesting guests on. We heard Tina Fey on David Tennant’s podcast (again, very interesting) and then regular favourites like Judge John Hodgman and Athletico Mince (which is a really weird and at times hilarious sketch show by Bob Mortimer).

It was such a great trip, even though it was only for a couple of days. I’d not been to that part of Wales before and really loved it (the place we stayed reminded me a lot of Aviemore in Scotland), so we shall definitely have to go back another time and visit a few more places.

Where do you like to visit for a weekend in the UK?

Any recommendations for things to do in Bristol? (We are heading there next)

Taking some time for myself (Easter hols week 2)

I am naturally a very busy person- I can’t sit still for that long, and I am very happy to potter about all day. The idea of a duvet day fills me with dread- I can’t imagine sitting around all day. However, I do know that I do need to take some time out every now and then- forced relaxation if you will!

I love reading (and always read before I go to sleep) but will rarely sit in the garden or living room and read, because there will always be something that distracts me (hanging up washing, tidying up or de-cluttering somewhere, doing some baking…). I think this is reason why I like running, because once I am out running that’s all I can do, and I can listen to a podcast and chill out in a way that I don’t at home. I’ve tried the whole fitness DVD or you-tube workout, but I just get distracted by things that need doing- I need to be out!

In the first week of the holidays I’d arranged a few things (catching up with friends and so on) which I loved, but I purposely left the second week more empty.

Activity-wise the week went like this:

Sunday- 10 mile run. Pottering in the garden, a walk in the afternoon to get my free drink.

Monday- A walk and some yoga first thing, then an attempt to change my name at another bank (unsuccessful but should be sorted soon)- long walk to town and back.

Tuesday- 9 mile run to see the bluebells at Panshanger park (incidentally Panshanger was featured on Countryfile this week- looks like they are getting some long-horned cattle). I worked out how to use the timer (I had always looked at the bottom and accidentally did time lapse things before). A walk in the afternoon with Andy.

Wednesday- 5.5 mile run first thing, needed to collect an order in town to Andy dropped me off on his way to an afternoon meeting, and I walked home.

Thursday- 4 mile run first thing, French toast for breakfast, then a walk into town later to get my hair cut.

We then headed off as we had a long weekend in Wales so I’ll save that for another post.

Jobs I’ve completed and ticked off my list (or added to my list and then ticked off, because the ticking is important):

Cleared old leaves and weeded in the front garden

Weeded the back garden and moved some plants about

Made some date and peanut butter snacks (fill each date with peanut butter, then melt a little dark chocolate and pour over the top to seal in the chocolate)


Changed my name on our life insurance policy and with my mobile phone contract, and a few online shopping places (why is my name in so many places??)

Made some Easter fudge

Sanded and cleaned the tiles in the kitchen ready for painting them

Put the green tape everywhere in the kitchen (more decorating prep)

(Andy painted it on Monday and I am so pleased with how it has turned out- you can see the old tiles in the top right picture- they were a weird beige pink orange colour, and the grey just makes it look so much fresher)

Sorted out the bathroom cabinets, Marie Kondo style (this has made me so happy- I could never even find a plaster because I couldn’t remember where they were, so now the drawers are all sorted with one drawer for medical things, one for holiday items like suncream and bug bite cream etc)

Sorted out the kitchen cupboards and cutlery drawer

I also had to get a few bits from the shops (a plant for my mum’s birthday, Easter eggs for nieces and nephew, more green tape, tile paint and roller), popped over to see my dad and drop off my mum’s birthday presents….


But in between I did manage some forced relaxation. Walks are always good, and I had loads of those- I can listen to a podcast and just wander about and chill. The best way for me though is to go to a cafe and bring a magazine or book with me- if I’m at home I won’t just sit down, but if I am out somewhere I have to take that time to relax. There’s a lovely cafe in town and so after trying to change my name (online said I could go to a branch, but the branch said I needed to phone up, and when I phoned up they said I needed a form which they are now sending to me- might it be quicker if the form was available online?) I went and had a toasted teacake and a chai latte, and read a good half of the magazine.

After my haircut I went and got my free drink and sat outside in the sunshine, again with a magazine.

Andy told me off for wearing a Christmas t-shirt, but I maintain that penguins live a long way from the North Pole and are not way affiliated with Christmas…

If Andy has been around we’ve have been making a pot of tea in the afternoon (well, 5pm ish) and watching some TV together- something we won’t manage in term time. We’ve watched relaxing shows like Escape to the Chateau/ Ugly House to Lovely House/ Tiny House Hunters/ Queer Eye (Oh how I love the new series). If I sit in the big armchair I can see all the bird feeders in the garden so seeing all the little blue tits and sparrows is also very relaxing- who needs pets?

I do love a yoga class to properly relax at the end, but they are term time only (and I’ve done a few yoga sequences at home but they are not the same as a class), and a massage is always pretty relaxing but again funds only allow this to happen around once a month.

We’ve been working out way through some TV series in the evening too- the latest series of Trapped (set in beautiful Iceland), Borderland (which are lots of mini-series about crime in a town in Finland close to the Russian border), Follow the Money (about a Danish fraud squad)- subtitles can be rather fatal for me if I’m tired so we’ve been making the most of the holidays to get through some of these good series. We also watched The Dawn Wall (after watching Free Solo) which was so interesting and inspiring (and I am in no way ever tempted to rock climb – I don’t even like walking up steep paths in case I fall off!). Just for the scenery alone (it’s mainly in Yosemite) it’s worth a watch.

How do you relax?

Which TV series are you enjoying? (And please don’t tell me to start GOT- Andy watches it but fantasy/dragons/too much politics really isn’t my thing).

Penguins aren’t just for Christmas, right?

Millennium Country parkrun with a few milestones

Or, to give it the full name, Millennium Country parkrun, Forest of Marston Vale.

I fancied heading there this weekend as it was event number 4 (I needed a 4 for my Wilson Index…) but it was around 45 mins from St Albans, so getting up early in the holidays isn’t as bad as after a week at work. My dad and brother decided to come too, and we offered to have them back here for breakfast after, so I prepped the baked French toast the night before (brioche loaf spread with peanut butter, a mixture of eggs and almond milk to soak in, and sprinkled with blueberries). I gave our ETA to Andy so he knew when to put the oven on.

I drove to St Albans, then Dad drove us up from there. Millenium Country parkrun is between Milton Keynes and Bedford, and not far off the M1, so most of the journey was very easy.  It is made up of woodlands, grasslands, meadows and a wetlands nature reserve, with a car park (pay and display- £1 for the hour) and visitor centre (with toilets and cafe) right by the start.

The welcome centre had a lovely circular skylight above the entrance hall, as well as information boards about the various birds and animals that had been seen in the park.

As it was fairly new (this was the 4th event) the new runners briefing was for people new to parkrun- the RD explained the course to everyone at the main briefing. It was super simple- out and back next to the water- we just had to remember to keep left because of runners coming the other way.

Dad was taking it gently as he was coming back from a little calf strain, and my brother hadn’t run a parkrun for a few weeks, so we ran together and chatted, while Dad ran behind (so he wasn’t tempted to go faster). I really loved this parkrun- I love running by water and the out and back is good as you see people going the other way. The gorgeous sunny weather helped too! It was super flat, and the paths are fairly wide (not like the narrow one of Maidstone which is flat but isn’t good for pb potential) so I think it would be a very fast one if you wanted to go for a super fast time.

I took a few photos as we ran and they came out pretty well. Although we ran by the water, often we were running next to trees and every now and then it would clear and you would see the lovely lake.  At the turnaround point we began to look out for Dad, but saw the tail walker and we hadn’t seen him, so we did wonder if his leg had meant he had to pull out, but we crossed the finish line, got our tokens scanned and then Dad appeared in the finish funnel- my time was 30:24, and he finished in 31:05 so he must have been right behind us at the turn around! It was Dad’s 150th parkrun, and my 60th different event, so it was nice to have some (arbitrary) milestones to celebrate together.

After some stretches in the car park (next to someone sitting with their car engine on idling away and polluting the air- why do people think it is OK to sit and have their engine idling away???) we hopped back in the car, drove back to St Albans where we picked up Mum and then headed home for breakfast.

Strava told me off though, saying that my run was easier than usual- I need a button to say “yes,  I was chatting and I’m fine with that”. My 10 mile run on Sunday, although slower, was apparently harder than my usual effort. I’ve not noticed this feature on Strava before, not sure if it’s trying to get me to upgrade to the premium one, but I really just like tracking the routes and my monthly mileage.

Anyone else got these messages on Strava? I’ve not had one yet telling me it’s the same as my usual effort…

Which parkrun course do you think is the fastest that you’ve run, and where have you run your fastest time?