Seriously snow, what is the deal???

Yes, I know we have had snow in April before, but really I feel like we have had enough of snow now, and spring really needs to sort itself out.

The snow started sticking to the bench and falling through the gaps and our poor palm tree had several inches collecting in the leaves.

During the last bout of snow, I ordered some snow boots from Decathlon (I had ordered them in the first lot of snow and then cancelled it because they wouldn’t arrive in time, and then realised that I would probably use them a lot, even when marshalling at parkrun on cold days, so I re-ordered them). The snow delayed their delivery (of course) and I thought I’d be putting them away until next winter, but I’ve been wearing them this weekend!

They are lovely and cosy, with good grips on the soles, but are not too heavy so comfy for walking into town or longer walks.

At Panshanger on Saturday I was running along and a dog kept running in front of me and around me. The park is popular with dog walkers so you do get some off the lead as you run, but after a while I realised that a guy was running along the parkrun route, putting the dog on the lead when he went near a marshal and taking the dog off the lead as soon as he passed. This happened a few times and so as I was running alongside him I just asked “are you running the parkrun?” He told me he was, so I said “the dog needs to be on a short lead the whole time, not just when you pass a marshal”. He then said to me “well she’s a nightmare on the lead” so I just replied “it’s the rules for parkrun- if you don’t like it run somewhere else”. He sped up after that (and I got one of those horrible adrenaline rushes- I really hate confrontation so I am not sure why I did it really)- he did keep the dog on the lead after that and I only finished about 5 spots behind him. I did consider mentioning it to the RD, but in the end because he followed the rules after that I hoped that perhaps he would from now on. It  just annoys me when people don’t follow the rules and there are always people who think the rules apply to everyone else but not them. Anyway, rant over.

After parkrun on Saturday we went out on a walk together as then I was off to a “pamper” (not a party), for the company Tropics, who make natural skincare, free from things like parabens, SLS, palm oils, alcohol, microbeads, lanolin- all the products are vegan and not tested on animals.

I was keen to find out about the suncream mainly, but we got to try cleanser, toner (which I don’t think I’d used since trying one as a teenager and finding that it stung so much), facial oil, moisturisers and face masks. It was good to sample the products and of course I ended up ordering more than the suncream, but I did manage to stick to products I will actually use.

When I got home I wasn’t feeling very well, so Saturday evening was spent dozing in front of the fire and not doing much else. I was originally planning a run on Sunday but as I still didn’t feel 100% I decided to watch some TV and have a bit of a walk later instead.

Once in town I decided to get my free drink from Starbucks and enjoyed just sitting and people watching for a bit, before walking home. I got back just in time as once home the snow started coming down really hard- my car had been clear earlier but then it was covered, as was our road.

The dry air has been making my hands so cold- I had a little sample pack of these hand creams and have been putting them in all my pockets and bags so that one is always close by.

On Sunday evening we went to see Game Night, which was very refreshing after the last few serious/gory films (Red Sparrow being particularly graphic and I am really surprised that it was a 15 and not an 18). At one point they referenced Cyberdyne Systems and I laughed (because of going on the Terminator ride in Florida many times)- literally no-one else in the cinema laughed! Anyway, it was fairly funny and a bit farcical, which I like (although the girl sitting next to me eating nachos really loudly was driving me crazy- I really do not like hearing people eat at the best of times).

Do you have a good skincare routine? Do you think that is the end of the snow now??? I hope so- I’ve got a 10k race on Sunday and I really hope it goes ahead.

What’s making me happy

Taking a cue from a podcast I usually listen to (Pop Culture Happy Hour), I thought I’d list some things that are making me happy right now (they do this at the end of the podcast but it’s usually pop culture things like books, music or TV shows).

The longer days

Personally, I would rather have more light in the evening than the morning- yes getting up in the dark isn’t great but when it’s dark at 4pm it feels like the day has already ended. But now the days feel like they are really stretching out. Driving home in the (nearly) light feels so much better, and soon I won’t need to be donning all the high viz gear and lights when I go out on a run after work.

Our garden

When it was really cold I moved my laptop into the dining room as my office was quite cold. I’ve left it there for now, and it means that when I am doing work (or reading blogs while eating my breakfast) I can watch the birds in the garden. There are always lots of visitors to the seeds and fat balls, and Mum had given me some nyjer seeds which are supposed to attract finches (they do in her garden). She did say I needed to be patient, and this week I am sure I saw a bullfinch in a tree (thought it was a chaffinch but it was more red than that), and then the next day I saw two goldfinches feeding on the nyjer seeds. This was very exciting- I am hoping they tell all their friends so I see more finches. I also saw what I am pretty sure are coal tits today. Lots of bulbs are poking through too, and lots of buds everywhere, so it feels like it’s beginning to come back to life. Although the snow this weekend had really put back my plans to add to the plant life- I managed to plant some geraniums last week and I was going to start off some seeds this week but it’s way too cold to be pottering around outside.


parkrun in general makes me happy. This weekend was my first run in 3 weeks, as it was cancelled two weeks ago and last weekend I marshalled. I went to Panshanger which is just a beautiful park. There was a dusting of snow and it was freezing, but being out in nature is good for my soul.

Pots of tea

I do have a rather large tea collection (I can’t resist new Bluebird teas). We used to only have pots at the weekend but now sometimes we will have one on a weeknight- there is something about the ritual of making tea in a teapot which feels more special as you have to take the time to do it instead of quickly shoving a teabag into a cup.

Rooibos tea from Bluebird (of course)

The fire

I got back on Saturday evening to find Andy putting the fire on- when it’s snowy the fire seems to warm you through more than the central heating does. (Although I would be equally happy with spring weather where I don’t need to warm up!)

What is making you happy at the moment?


Marshalling and memories

First of all, thanks for all the lovely comments on my last post about the Cambridge half. I’ve not done a race for a while (as the lovely festive five was cancelled due to snow) and it was nice to carry the post-race feel into the week.

My legs did take a while to recover, and I felt really tired all through the week. I wasn’t going to be back in time for our club run on Tuesday (and I felt pretty stiff still) so I met Andy in town and we tried the new Starbucks rooibos tea lattes- I’d had a normal one in South Africa so I went for the red apple one, which I actually quite liked although it is fairly sweet. The chai latte is still king. I did a fair bit of foam rolling, and of course walking around helped too.

On Wednesday yoga was just what I needed, with a focus of twists and back bends- I felt so much better after.

On Thursday I actually managed a run- it’s been weeks since I’ve managed one on a Thursday for one reason or another. I wasn’t home particularly early and I still felt so tired so I did just over 3 miles (I have a bit of a mental block where I don’t want to run for less time than it takes me to wash my hair after, so 3 miles is normally my lower limit).

On Friday I had booked a shoulder and back massage- I find these really help with my lower back too as I have had issues with it before, and having fairly regular massages (and I am sure yoga) has helped loads. The masseuse kept apologising to me as she kept finding huge knots- I normally have a few as she will mention it to me after and check I am OK, so it had to be bad for her to talk to me about it during the massage!

The other bonus of booking a massage is that it’s in St Albans, so I am just around the corner from The Pudding Stop. I hadn’t done any baking and so I treated us to the peanut butter and salted caramel brownie- honestly it’s just divine (we shared it because they are massive).

On Friday I was still feeling tired, but I wanted to go to parkrun as the memorial for Taff, the runner who had passed away, had been put back to this week (as last week was cancelled due to the snow). I checked the roster and they still had one marshal gap, and as I was meant to marshal last weekend when it was cancelled I felt like I owed them one, so I messaged Carrie (our run leader and the RD for that day)- she was happy to have another volunteer.

I had worn wellies so when I got there and was told I was at “the boggy bit” I was very glad of my preparation! It was so wet and muddy everywhere, but I was by the bit where the course goes around a right angled corner and then down a narrow, rutted path (I actually fell over there during a Sweatshop run and badly banged my head and cut up my shoulder- I still have a big scar there)- so a marshal to shout warnings to the runners was much needed.

I nearly didn’t bring a hat but it was pretty windy out there (I was trying to show it in the pic with my hair going everywhere)- I only grabbed it at the last minute. We were all given daffodils to put out on the course, as the runner was Welsh. My marshal point was probably less than a km from the start as the crow flies, and I could hear the clapping at the start (they did a speech and applause for him). My point was around 3.5km in, so I had a while to wait, and I did think for a while about him. I didn’t know him well, but at the parkrun volunteer evening last year I spoke to him for ages about his life and how he got into running, and he was just so friendly towards everyone. Sometimes if I got to parkrun early I would head off on a short warm up run around the housing estate nearby, and he would jog up from where he lived, so if we crossed paths he would run the rest of the way with me (once I had run past in the other direction as I wanted to run to the roundabout and back, and I didn’t realise until I turned around that he was waiting for me to run back). The last time this happened was only a month or so ago- he was training for the London marathon so I was hearing about how his long runs were going.  It was good to have time on my own to reflect- something about being out in nature, and also out at a parkrun (which he loved) felt like time well spent.

Anyway, back to the parkrun. The photographer position was empty on the roster too (they don’t tend to have someone each week) so I got my phone out and decided to try and photograph everyone as they ran past. I was having to call out warnings as it was slippery, so I wasn’t looking at my phone screen at all. Within the first 10 people, 2 had already slipped but they called out to say they were fine when I shouted after them- they were just covered in mud.

A few runners had worn Welsh flags or colours, and that dog covered in cotton wool is apparently dressed as a sheep. The finish area was decorated with photos, flags and daffodils.

It didn’t feel like long before the tail walker came through, although this was probably around 9.45. I walked through a shortcut to the finish with another marshal- he’d seen a walker slip down and scrape her face on the barbed wire fencing that she was holding on to, but he’d spoken to her and she said she was OK to finish, so he’d rang the RD to warn them to get the first aid kit ready.

The rest of Saturday was spent walking to Aldi (it’s not far from the parking at parkrun), getting on with a load of work, walking into town to stretch the legs, and then more work, finishing at around 7pm.

On Sunday I had planned a 5 mile run, but as is the way at the moment, it turned out to be 6.5 miles. I just can’t seem to remember routes, or add segments together to work out the total distance.

I only needed a t-shirt and although it was cold (I could see my breath) it felt like spring was on the way- loads of crocuses poking through.

On our walk back from town on Saturday we saw people painting these cool murals on the factory, and they were finished on Sunday morning. I have no idea if they are keeping them or it’s just to look interesting while all the building work is going on.

I had a lovely breakfast of panettone French toast with some maple butter and summer berries (Aldi do some lovely frozen mango, which I’d gone to buy, and then saw the summer fruits which was blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants- nice and tart), and then we were off to the cinema. We’d booked an 11.30 showing of Red Sparrow. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most cheerful of films, and some of the more gory scenes meant I had to close my eyes and block my ears!

We spent the rest of the day at mine and then Andy’s parents, all very relaxing.

Did you have a good weekend?

Cambridge half 2018

On Saturday there was still plenty of snow on the ground, but the main roads looked clear, so in the afternoon we headed to Cambridge. I didn’t think the race would be cancelled- the cynical part of me thought that a big company like that wouldn’t want to deal with the fallout, but also the race takes places on closed roads, and the traffic does a good job of clearing snow away. The Welwyn half marathon was due to happen on the same day, but they postponed it (until September) on Friday as it is run on pavements and paths so they couldn’t clear it all.

After leaving our bags in the hotel, we walked into the centre, to the race HQ, and around some of the parks. There were loads of very sad looking ducks wandering about on the grass and it turned out that the rivers were frozen solid- poor ducks!

We went out for dinner (pizza) and then to the cinema, to see Ladybird (which I really enjoyed). The cinema were trialling new recliner style seats, so there were only 8 seats per row. The seats had buttons to recline them and lift the footrest up, and even a huge tray to move around (a bit like when you are on the exit row of  a plane) and rest all your snacks on. We’d smuggled in a few m n m’s, but the people next to us took up the entire tray with very noisy food like hot dogs, nachos, and something in a foil wrapper.

When we got back it was time to get my race kit out.

I had packed a range of clothes as I could not decide what to wear. Initially it was due to be milder but raining, but by Saturday evening the rain wasn’t due until gone midday, and as the race started at 9.30 I should be OK. (I’d spent ages looking for my gloves with the flap cover as those are waterproof, and could not find them anywhere- they turned up in the boot of my car on Wednesday so they must have been there since a parkrun)

I found my OH Snow top, which was made for the London Winter run- I thought  it was appropriate!

I opted for a long sleeved top, the vest (and number) over the top, a long sleeved zip up to tie around my waist, and a headband to keep my ears warm. I wore my rain jacket to the start and Andy took it off with him (we had read that last year the bag drop queues were horrendous and I didn’t want to be waiting for 45 mins after finishing).

I had a bit of malt loaf and a nuun tab in some water for breakfast. We’d timed the walk from the start to the hotel, so we left at 9am and had plenty of time in the race village to find the start pen (there were big inflatable arches corresponding to the colour of your bib).

I was fairly warm on the walk there, but I got quite cold stood around in the pen. They had been handing out foil blankets but I thought I was OK with my extra top, although I took it off at 9.30, thinking we would be heading off promptly. When I crossed the line the race had been going for 12 minutes already so I was a bit colder by then.

I had decided to be optimistic and aim for between 2 hours and 2.05, similar to my time at Brighton last year, so I needed to keep between 9 and 9.30 min miles. The first few miles wove through the town, around fairly big roads with lots of crowd support. I thought it would thin out but it was very busy until around the 4 mile mark. For a lot of it we were running on one side of the road, with only cones separating us from the traffic on the other side, and at one point a guy jostled me with his elbow and nearly pushed me out into the road. I could manage the rather British response of muttering “excuse me” under my breath. I was already getting warm and so I rolled up my long sleeves and took off my headband and I did wonder if I had overdressed with the two layers- time would tell.

Miles 4-6 saw us running out of Cambridge and into the countryside toward Grantchester. There were some very empty parts, but then as soon as you got into a village there would be a big crowd of people cheering, with people playing music. The business of miles 2 and 3 had slowed me a little, but I picked up the pace once it thinned out a bit, and the various music stations lifted the spirits too.

Miles 7-9 saw us running back towards Cambridge. The route was fairly flat with a few gentle ups and downs but nothing taxing, just enough to get a bit of variation. At around mile 7 (over half way!) I bumped into Paula from my running club, although we only briefly ran together as she had a bit of a stomach ache from a gel. Of course there was the obligatory steel pan band, playing Octopus Garden which then got stuck in my head for the rest of the run (there are worse things to hum). At times we were quite exposed to the winds, and there was still snow on the ground in places- my worries about being too hot didn’t come true and I was fine with just me sleeves rolled up.

The final few miles were back in Cambridge, some of the beginning was run in reverse, but there were a few bridges to go up and down.  You always hear someone saying “only a parkrun to go” now, which does make me smile, and I started to visualise our parkrun routes although I am not sure if that makes it feel shorter or longer. At one point we ran through some meadows with wonderful views of a big building (either a college or a church). By this time my quads were really stiffening up and I was worried I would get cramp. I passed the final water station (close to 11 miles I think) and had a couple of sips of water, and then got a bit of a stitch. I spent the next mile feeling rather grumpy- the race handed out water bottles with the silly sports caps, and the little plastic wires from around the tops were all over the floor. There were big recycling bins and runners were trying to aim them into the bins, but they were also being filled with gel wrappers so the waste is probably contaminated anyway. Had there been cups I could have chosen a cup with hardly any in it, but instead of that the rest of the water in my bottle went to waste. I did consider carrying it, but it was so cold that it made my hand ache. Anyway, rant over. The crowds in the centre were big and so I occupied myself crowd-watching. I saw my favourite sign; “Pain is just a French word for bread” which made me smile and helped push me on to the end.

I knew that I wasn’t close enough to 2 hours, but that if I kept pushing I could get under 2.05, so I tried to use my arms as much as possible. As I came up to the final corner, lots of people (walking past wearing their medals) were saying “just around the corner and the finish line will be in sight” but in fact it wasn’t! The finish straight felt so long, and it took a while to even reach the 13 mile marker.

I crossed in 2.04.40, and pretty much as I crossed the line I got a text message confirming it. Then you had to walk for a bit down the finish funnel, through another funnel and finally to collect a bottle of water, a goodie bag, medal, foil blanket and can of (alcohol free) beer. They were handing out cups of beer too but I didn’t fancy any- I was ready for breakfast!

There was a banana in the goodie bag so I ate that while we were walking- I always love a banana once I have finished a race.

The field was a total quagmire of mud-  my legs were a bit jelly like at that point and it was hard to walk across the field to the hard path- I think all of the snow had melted  overnight and so the ground was totally sodden.

Andy met me on the path and we walked into the centre to Bill’s as we had booked a table. I changed clothes and then enjoyed pancakes and tea, we shared a carrot and ginger juice, and Andy even gave me some of his sweet potato fries- they make a good addition to the pancakes.

We had a walk around Cambridge after, and I was excited to find that the Cambridge Hotel Chocolat has a cafe (their hot chocolate is the best). This was an Easter special and even came with a little chocolate bunny- the lady in the shop handed it to me as I don’t have the cream on top so there’s no-where for it to balance.

Then it was time to walk back to the car, drive home and have a shower. I thought all of the walking was helpful, but by Sunday evening my legs were feeling pretty sore. I made sure to do plenty of foam rolling, but they only started to feel better after yoga on Wednesday.

Goodie bag with a graze box, Eat Natural bar, quavers (so weird- took them to work), beer and a man’s razor (did some bags get female razors? It seemed a strange item to be in there)

Overall I enjoyed the Cambridge half marathon. The route was varied enough, well supported, and it generally seemed well organised. I didn’t use the bag drop but I didn’t see big queues so hopefully they have sorted that this year. It was nice to be able to get home fairly quickly (it’s about an hour drive), and of course having the hotel was a bonus. I’m not sure I would do it again, but it’s probably got pb potential as it is fairly flat, you’d just need to try to avoid the crowded parts. They did have pacer runners but I didn’t see any in my starting pen (and I am sure they ran to chip time as a  2 hour pacer finished a little behind me). When I finished I did think that I would like to run Brighton again next year- there is something about running by the sea that I do really enjoy.

Do you like to run the same routes/races again, or do you prefer to run new ones?  Did you have much disruption from the snow this weekend? What is your ideal post-race meal? What do you like to see in a goodie bag?

Snow-ga (don’t worry, we weren’t actually outside in the snow)

In case you have not seen more than 20 seconds of new footage this week, you will know we have had a fair bit of snow this week. I couldn’t run on Tuesday evening anyway, due to a late meeting, but because I was on a course that day (which started a bit later) I did think I could run first thing instead. When I woke up and saw snow and icy pavements, I gave that a miss!

It does make for some beautiful sunrises though.

On Wednesday yoga was on- my first time in a few weeks due to the half term break and work meetings- and I found it pretty tough in places. We look out over a communal garden lit with fairy lights so it looked so pretty in the snow.

Mostly my car has been showing -4 on my journeys to and from work, but to yoga it was down to -5! I made sure I took extra layers, but thankfully they were only needed for the journey as the room has a heated floor that had warmed up nicely.

We had some sad news this week – one of the regular Ellenbrook parkrunnners died in his sleep. He was such a friendly character and always chatted to everybody- I got to know him a bit better at the parkrun volunteer event last year and always said hi to him at parkrun. A few times during my warm up jogs he’d pass me in the other direction and jog back so we could run to the start together. He was training for the London marathon and appeared a very fit guy, only in his 50’s. The core team were planning a memorial to him at parkrun, but due to more snow the parkrun has been cancelled- I am sure they will have a tribute next weekend instead.

On Thursday I left work as soon as I could as the snow got heavier during the day and the roads were not great to drive on- there were gritters out but the snow was settling so I was basically trying to follow the tyre tracks left by other cars. Ages ago I had ordered a new chair for the living room and it was finally delivered.

I made the most of my longer evening by making a pot of tea (Bluebird rooibos), sitting in the new chair and looking out at the ever increasing snow (and spotting a few birds feeding). We even put the fire on in the evening.

School was closed on Friday, and luckily I had taken a folder of work home with me the other day, so I got some work done in the morning, and also had a look in the garden (loads of footprints were left overnight- some were pretty big – see my foot for comparison- and I did wonder if any were the foxes, but I think it’s all cats)- I also cleared the path and a bit of the driveway but as more snow was falling it seemed to be making things worse.

We walked into town to get a few bits for dinner before the worst of the weather set in- it was meant to get bad at around 1pm and that was pretty accurate.

After lunch (mmm, quesadilla with apple, chutney and cheddar) I did some more work- it was good to work while looking out at the garden- all the footprints that I had made in the morning were completely covered. (Late on Friday night we saw a fox walk through the garden- as it was all still snow-covered so it seemed so light) so I am pretty sure those are some of the footprints.)

The snow got really heavy- the road out the front was clear in the morning and it was then covered in snow after a few hours. I did try and take some photos of the birds feeding in the snow- the robins keep visiting the seeds and fat balls, and there is a very acrobatic blackbird who jumps up and almost hovers by the fat ball hanging from the little apple tree (top pic) but it’s all a blur.

The poor birds must be wondering what is up with the weather. It has been sending me a bit stir crazy- no running all week. I could have potentially run on Friday during the day, but even walking into town wasn’t easy as a lot of the pavements were slippery, and risking falling over just doesn’t seem sensible when in the long run I’ve done all my training. We are still going to Cambridge today even if the race is called off (although they keep on updating that it should be fine-  just wet and cold), as we have cinema tickets and can enjoy time wandering around the city (or maybe brisk walking if it’s still so cold). Although I was originally down to marshal at parkrun, Ellenbrook was cancelled, but Panshanger was on- it’s all off road and running through the snow sounded like fun, but having another rest before the half marathon isn’t going to do any harm (I hope- have my legs forgotten how to run in this short space of time??).

So, a week of no running (so far)- hopefully the thaw will happen sooner rather than later and things can get back to normal.

Did you have a lot of snow near you? Did you brave running in the snow?