A lovely run, almond milk yoghurt, yoga with a tree view and warmer weather

After my parkrun on Saturday (and breakfast at my parents’) Andy and I walked the long way into town via a blind showroom (the decorating might start up again soon). We had a John Lewis cake voucher so we shared a slice as I hadn’t actually eaten any of my own parkrun cake- too busy chatting!

When we got back I had some work to do- usually I work in my office but I decided to bring my laptop downstairs so we watched (well I half watched) a 24 and then an episode of 100k house- it was nice to watch a bit of “junk” TV- probably the work took me longer but it was nicer. We’ve been alternating it with Location (when we were house hunting we had to have a Phil and Kirstie hiatus as it was too stressful watching house-hunting shows at the same time).

On Sunday morning I headed off on a run along the old railway line.

Google photos make it look even prettier for me.

The blues skies make me feel very happy indeed. I think I did 8 miles, or maybe 8.5, something like that. Long enough to be OK for the half marathon this Sunday, but not too far to be tired. I felt good during the run, but took it fairly easily with a few photo stops along the way.

I’d seen this almond milk yoghurt on Ocado so I had the peach melba flavour for breakfast with some raspberries and granola. It was very tasty, and not too sweet, but it is expensive so I think it would be an occasional treat. They also do a hibiscus and something flavour which I also bought but didn’t try yet- as it’s an unusual flavour I was intrigued.

After popping in to see Andy’s family, we had tickets at The Odyssey (which is a lovely independent cinema in St Albans- used to be an old Odeon or something, got left to crumble and then finally was taken on a few years ago- they have sofas and armchairs and things)- to see 20th Century Women- a story about three women in California in the late 60’s/ early 70’s- and how their lives were sort of tangled together for a few years of their life. It was interesting, but also a bit melancholy.

We’ve seen some brilliant films recently (Hidden Figures, Lion) and some pretty good ones (Patriot’s Day about the Boston marathon bombing was very well done, and we also watched a documentary about it) and although this was good, it wasn’t one I felt that everyone needs to see. I did feel it was aimed at slightly older people too. Anyway, it’s a lovely treat to go there and relax in a comfy chair with a cup of tea.

On Wednesday when I got to yoga it was still light, and it was amazing to see that the little community room looks out onto a lovely patch of woodland. We ended up turning our mats around so we were facing outside, and at the end they even put on a lovely chain of fairy lights. It was a tough class at times (downward dog press ups anyone?) but the final relaxation is just so rejuvenating and I always feel loads better once I get home- it’s like a little reset button half way through the week. We all quite liked the new aspect to the class and as the evenings will be even lighter for the next class we’ll have the tree view for even longer- bliss.

And talking of lighter evenings and spring in general- the weather this week has suddenly warmed up- it was 20 degrees at 6pm today on my drive home! (Don’t worry, I took this photo in the Tesco car park as I stopped off to return something). I just want to sit in the garden and read- just hoping it isn’t too warm for the half marathon on Sunday.

How has your week been? Which films have you seen lately? We also finally got around to watching The King’s Speech which I really enjoyed- many years too late!  What sort of “junk” TV shows do you like? I do like a documentary-type thing (but an easy one)- the Channel 5 one about Kings Cross has been good, there’s The Secret Life of the Zoo (I have a load of them recorded ready for report writing time!), and there was one about the Mandarin Oriental Hotel that was quite easy watching too.


100 parkruns!

So I have been working towards this milestone for a while now and it was such a fantastic morning. I stopped at the shop on the way to get some napkins, and then met my mum in the car park. She had made around 60 fairy cakes (carrot cakes, chocolate cakes and cherry cakes)- all in an IKEA bag for easy transportation to the start line (I on the other hand had two tins in a bag, but my tub wouldn’t fit in any bag so I had to awkwardly carry it).

Ellenbrook have a table (they use it mainly for token sorting and organising the volunteer jobs) so when we got there they moved it to next to the finish line and we piled all the cakes on (I forgot to take a photo until after running so there was already a lot gone by then). I introduced mum to Lynne who pretty much volunteers each week, as she usually marshals at the loop so they would be able to chat while we were running.

I was busy chatting to a few runners and I was about to head up to the start when I saw Denise- she wanted to try on a milestone shirt (she was the one who managed to order her 100th as a child size) so I had brought one with me. She quickly tried it on and then we headed to the start line. I hadn’t seen my dad or brother at that point, and when I was catching up with some other OH runners Dad came up and said that Tony had got a puncture on the cycle over. Dad had run 18km on Thursday (his longest run before our half next weekend) and found it a bit of a struggle at the end, so he was going to walk/run parkrun. Tony wheeled his bike up to us and Dad took it from him to wheel it up to the start. He said later that he did the first loop behind the tail runner and quite enjoyed seeing them encourage the children at the back. Anyway, back to the run. In the run briefing Tim, the RD, got me to wave and mentioned that not only was it my 100th parkrun, but I had volunteered 36 times- I didn’t realise as you don’t get a total in your emails like you do with your run. They are trying to encourage more volunteers at Ellenbrook so he was pointing out that you can volunteer without giving up your run.

We set off and I waved at mum (as you run past the finish area on both the little and big loop).

The run went well- it was a gorgeous day- sunny but with a strong breeze (which only hit you at certain points), and the mud had dried in most places making the running surface nice and firm. I ran with Tony for a bit, and tried to keep in sight a group of OH ladies. A few of the marshals congratulated me on my way around which was lovely. I also spotted 3 of the km marker posts, so I only need to find where the 1km one is now! I managed to catch up with the OH ladies at around 3km (just past the cow fields) and kept pace with them until the runway. At the start of the runway you see the 4km marker, and that was strange as normally I feel like I am nearly finished, but the thought of a whole kilometre (although as I run in miles I spent some time wondering how many minutes that would be- 6 maybe?) made it feel like the end was further.

I nearly caught Zoe (one of the OH ladies) right at the end- I finished (position 69/127) in 27.53. I am so pleased with this too, as the parkrun I ran the week after Brighton half was hard and I felt tired the whole way. This one (the week after WGC half) I felt strong and although I felt like it was fast and I was breathing hard and pushing myself, I didn’t have that heavy legged feeling (which I did have on our Tuesday night club run this week).

My post-run red face! I was very excited to have actually run my 100th as you can see!

After having my barcode scanned I went straight over to Mum and saw how she was getting on- lots of the cakes were already gone (and like a pro she had been topping up from the supplies in her bag under the table).

Tony finished in 30 minutes and went to get his bike, and Dad came in at 37 minutes, in his words being “captain sensible” and run-walking it.

While we were telling people about the cakes (next time I would also do labels I think) Tony and Dad tried to repair the puncture but they could not find the thorn- luckily mum had driven and could put his bike in her car, as it wouldn’t fit in mine. Some people had brought money with them, and were surprised that we weren’t asking for anything. I did think after that I should have asked if we could mention my dad’s fundraising page,  and the RD did say he might be able to share it on their facebook page which would be good. But really it was just such an enjoyable social occasion. I think Ellenbrook misses out on the post-parkrun cake culture a bit, as there isn’t really a cafe that people go to. I think there is a Starbucks somewhere on the uni campus, so I think they sometimes go there to process the results, but it’s not right by the finish so I think a lot of people just head home. Mum really enjoyed herself as she just loves to chat to people, and I suppose after seeing us go by on our second loop, it wouldn’t be long before the first people finished and she started giving out cakes.

I briefly chatted to someone with one of the cow cowls, and so I asked her how many she had done (26 I think)- some of the runners with her said they had a debate over whether the number should be 21, because your home parkrun doesn’t count. Dad then said we would need 22, as we sort of have two home parkruns really.

As well as seeing lots of regular runners and club friends, some of our club had been off on super long runs- the first few came back after running 11 miles so of course a piece of cake was in order.

Paula and Jan had run 15 miles- they arrived a little later for very sweaty hugs and of course some cake. They were so sweet as they had said they wanted to make it back in time to celebrate with me.

After most people had left we helped with the token sorting before heading back to the car park- I have a few bits left which I’ll take into work this week, but we didn’t have much left (always better that than to run out).

The results were processed really quickly, and I got my “welcome to the 100 club” email too. I can’t claim the t-shirt yet, but there is no rush as I’ll be wearing it for 3 years at least! (250 is the next milestone, so perhaps I’ll get that before I am 40…).

I went back to Mum and Dad’s- I had a quick shower, my sister came over with her baby, and Mum made us all pancakes for a very late breakfast (I think I got there at around 10.30)- a great start to the weekend.

So now the focus moves over to my 20 different UK events- my last count I was on 16, and I have one planned for April, and either one or two in May. There are still a few Hertfordshire ones that I haven’t been to, so I need to co-ordinate with Dad to see when he can fit in our next lot of tourism. I’m not sure when I will manage it, hopefully by the summer holidays.

One of the regulars took a lot of photos (here) and someone with a running buggy made an awesome time-lapse video of the course which is well worth a watch and may hopefully tempt some more tourists our way.

How many home parkruns do you have? Which courses would be in your top 3?

Baking for my 100th

This week my kitchen has been working overtime! On Saturday it will be my 100th parkrun, and so of course I need to bring cakes. I’ll be going to Ellenbrook Fields as that is where most of my club mates run and marshal, and Dad and Tony will cycle there to meet me. Mum has also offered to make some cakes so I will meet her in the car park.

Mum said she would make some carrot cakes and chocolate cakes, so I decided to add some variety (and also think about what I like after a run, in the hope that other people like that sort of thing too).

First up, tea loaf. I really love a fruity cake after a run- it feels more dense and filling than a normal sugary cake, so I made two tea loaves on Wednesday night- I soaked the fruit before I went to work, weighed out all the ingredients when I got back from work, and then after yoga baked them in the oven.

I had a short run on Thursday and stopped for a lot of photos- it didn’t come out that well but the sunlight was shining through the blossom and it was glowing.

I also tried to make a new route, partly through a park (hooray for lighter evenings) but it wasn’t quite long enough- I need to add a bit on still.

On Thursday I went for sticky gingerbread loaf cake.

I love making this- you add bicab into the dry ingredients, melt together treacle and syrup, and then when you pour the wet into the dry, it bubbles up (like when you make honeycomb)- it’s like alchemy in the kitchen. Although this one kept bubbling in the oven and ended up overflowing just a smidge.

Ah well, once they are all cut into pieces no-one will know.

On Friday night it was time for brownies and lemon drizzle cake.

I then got a text from my mum saying she had baked around 50 cupcakes- I hope a lot of people want some cake after!

They basically covered our entire kitchen worktop.

I then had a huge slicing session late on Friday night:

I thought I had some napkins in the cupboard but I can’t find them, so if I leave early enough I am going to stop at the shop and get some, as I think people will need them, especially for the brownies and ginger cake.

What sort of cake would you go for after a run or parkrun? 

Welwyn Garden City half marathon 2017

So my main aims were 1- Beat my time from last year (2.18 something) and not fall over. I also really wanted a t-shirt that fit better as last year I went straight from the finish line to the back of the paramedic car, and one of my friends grabbed me a t-shirt but it turned out to be unisex M which was too big for running in.

So in the morning I had some toast (two bits- one with jam and one with honey) and took my time getting ready. Even though it is not far to the start (2 miles) I drove in and parked about half a mile away as I thought I would struggle running 15. Some of our club runners were doing the hilly 8 mile route, then running to the start line, and then running the half for their super long marathon training run- hardcore! It was great though as it meant loads of our club were out either running, marshaling or supporting – some ran the first bit and then watched during the race.

First success- I remembered my timing chip (last year I left it in the envelope and threw it in the bin, and only when I saw other people putting theirs on did I realise and had to scrabble around and find it).

It was very windy- I considered a buff to keep my skin warm, but I knew I would just get sweaty and annoyed with it so I had to suck it up and be cold before the start. Luckily it starts in the ground of a sports centre so we stayed inside until about 8.45am. They had kids races going around the track and a few of our club’s kids had run them, so admiring their medals kept my mind off the cold. At the start it was very busy (as always) and we ran around the track, out of the sports centre complex and along to a pavement- suddenly the runner in front headed right and I headed straight into a huge bollard- luckily I saw it a split second before I hit it and managed to put both hands out to cushion the impact- it really hurt my wrist but I could have been much worse- they had marshals at the side and some bollards had coloured tape, but this one had none. I told Louise (who I was running with) at that point that maybe next year I should marshal to be on the safe side.

I was aiming for around 10 minute miles but I knew that it wasn’t flat, and of course the wind would be a factor. I didn’t set off too fast, and it’s always good at the beginning as lots of people you know are passing around you so you can have little chats here and there. I ran with Louise for the first 3 miles, and we even saw Andy as the route goes very close to where we live, so he’d walked down to cheer us on.

At the first water stop Louise had a drink and I carried on- I thought she was just behind me but I didn’t see her again. I saw a girl in a bright orange top and her friend in grey, and they seemed to be going a similar pace to me, so I stuck behind them for a fair bit. The course is sort of an out and back with a loop at the end- we ran out along the old railway line (with a great OH lady cheering station partway along), and here we were sheltered from the wind, so I felt like I was doing OK. At each mile marker I was just shy of 10 minute miles- all good. I had been doing (unintentionally) long runs along the route- either along the old railway line (the way out) or more recently, along the country roads (the way back). The last time I ran along the old railway line it was super muddy, but it had really dried out so it’s good to know I can head back there again when I fancy it.

At the half way point you come out of the path and along some roads (the way I can run back from Panshanger parkrun)- this is not sheltered as it goes between fields, and the wind here was awful- really tough. The girls ahead of me slowed too, so I kept them in my sights. When I looked on Strava I could tell exactly where the wind hit us- my times crept over 10 minutes (not by much- 10.03/ 10.14) but it felt harder. I actually surprised myself that I mainly felt OK, although I did start to dread the next half (in two weeks time). I stopped to walk up a hill for a few paces, and the girls ahead had walked too. As I ran past them they commented that we were sort of pacing each other! Anyway- at the final water station I stopped to have a drink (just before 10 miles)- they had cups (which I prefer) and only a little bit of water, so I stopped to have a few sips before carrying on. At this point I lost the girls ahead of me, but as we ran along the streets I could see them ahead and gradually caught up. I think if they hadn’t mentioned anything I think I would have slowed down a lot more.

I felt like I was being so careful along the pavements as last year I had tripped and really hurt myself (a lot of blood, cuts on my hands and a massive bruise on my hip). The final part felt long- as we came out of the pathway section and re-joined the road, I was just around the corner from home but still had 3 miles to go and I had already used my “just a parkrun to go” at mile 9 (where I told myself that I had a warm up and a parkrun to go).

With a mile to go we headed along a grassy path by the side of the road, and of course I managed to trip here- I just managed to catch myself so I didn’t hit the ground. So I suppose I can count it as a success. I felt a bit sick at that point and the two girls (who kindly checked I was OK after my stumble) gave me some motivation for the final push- by this point I was counting to 100 in my head to try and distract myself. I think maybe knowing the route and running it in training runs doesn’t help me because although we feel near, seeing the signs means you know you have another mile left or whatever. It’s also gently uphill which is really mean for the finish of a half! The final few metres is downhill into the track area and onto the track.

I was very happy to see the finish line! I got a hug from Donna, my run leader (she loves a sweaty finish line hug!), collected my medal, a bottle of water and a banana. I also got a t-shirt (a better size this year too) and then joined the queue to get the print out of my chip time- 2.11.18. I’m very pleased with that- it’s not a flat course and the wind made it very tough today, and I suppose with the half being 0.1 over, I probably averaged 10 minute miles. Some of the super long runners had already finished, and some were just behind me so I hung around for a bit to chat to them, but my jumper was in my car, and we had brunch booked, so I didn’t stay for all of the runners. I put the t-shirt on and was very glad of an extra layer.

I jogged slowly back to my car, put a nuun tab in my water, put on my jumper and wiped my face before walking into town to meet Andy.

Ah, Bill’s pancakes and a huge pot of tea- this was what I did the run for!

So I feel I can call it a success- I beat my time from last year, and I didn’t fall over (well not properly). And my t-shirt is a much better fit- I do love a technical t-shirt.


Red kite spotting at Ellenbrook Fields

This Saturday was going to be my 100th parkrun, but then I found out that my dad and brother had planned some tourism in London (before a football match) so I offered to marshal instead. Probably a very good idea as I have a half marathon on Sunday and a rest day before won’t do any harm.

It was fairly cloudy and overcast as I walked to my marshal point, but once I got there the sun came out and it was a gorgeous morning.

The runway/ taxiway is quite long! 1km I think- I could see the start line from here but it wouldn’t show up on the photo as it’s far in the distance. As I got to the end, my brother cycled up (basically my dad wasn’t well yesterday so they stayed at home and were going to head in just for the football). We had a quick chat before he headed off to the start and I promised him an extra loud cheer.

I love it that you get a handy lanyard with the map (and the RD’s phone numbers on the back just in case)- I am not the best at map ready though and did get a little confused at one point over how far back I needed to be. I was stationed on point 6 (“the muddy bit/ water feature”) and it’s a straight part of the course, but the point 7 person hadn’t turned up, and that is where runners turn left to head back to the runway. I waited there for a bit in the end as I thought that it was where runners were more likely to go wrong, but the guy turned up a little after me, so I could move into my position.

(The view from point 7).

The view from my point- the water feature has really dried up and is mostly rutted mud now as opposed to a huge puddle crossing the whole path.

There were lots of daffodils out, and once I was in position I got quite warm- I ended up taking my coat off.

Also three red kites were flying overhead- I tried to zoom in and get pictures but they were hard to capture as they kept flying towards the sun.

I was enjoying the sunshine and bird spotting so much I nearly forgot why I was there (nearly..). I put my coat on the huge blackberry bush so it wasn’t in the mud, and then it was time to cheer all the runners past.

It always amazes me how quickly the front runners come along. It is so impressive seeing them as they steam past.

There were not too many OH ladies running today as most of us are running the half tomorrow, but I saw a few familiar faces and of course cheered on everyone (and yes gave Tony an extra big shout out). It occurred to me as he was running past that I had yet again forgotten to look out for the km marker posts- they were installed a month or so ago, and I have run it since then, but have not noticed them (partly because I keep my watch to miles so I have little idea of when each km is). I asked him if he had spotted any but he hadn’t.

This photo to me looks like my feet are facing opposite ways, but they aren’t (the shoes are dark blue at the back, but I think the left one looks like the blue is the toe end)- they were a bit muddy. I have had them a while and wanted to muddy them up a bit, and also break them in a bit more- they are newer versions of a shoe I have had before but they are not quite as comfy and I can’t work out why. They were only cheap so if they are relegated to non-running trainers I can live with it.

And hooray- on my walk back to the start I found one of the markers! They are fab!

After handing back the jacket and lanyard, I popped into town as I had to get us some bread for dinner (we need to get to M&S before they sell out of sourdough), and I got half way home before realising I also needed to go to the post office to collect a parcel- argh!

I did some baking (Lemon and lavender blondies from the Swedish book), and then walked back into town for a haircut.

This patch of wasteland annoys me so much – it is the old Shredded Wheat factory, and it is just crumbling. It is right by town, right by the station and would be perfect for a load of houses and flats. When there are homes planned on beautiful patches of greenery between Hatfield and St Albans it is just ridiculous that somewhere like this is going to waste. By Hatfield station they have built a block of flats and they have all sold- the railway line isn’t that busy and being right by the station would be perfect for the people who commute into London. Off my soap-box now!

I tried to take a photo of my haircut (nothing exciting- just an inch or so off) because tomorrow it will be ruined! Why did I book it for the day before a half marathon??? Usually it would last a couple of days because I cannot style it properly. Ah well.

(The reason why is because I left it late and my lovely hairdresser was already booked up the last two weekends and then she goes away soon).

Now I just have to do some race prep (drink water, paint my nails and pack my bag).

Do you like seeing wildlife when you are out and about? Do you like floral cakes? I have had a gorgeous rose and pistachio cake before, and I love geranium (Montezuma’s do a lovely orange and geranium chocolate)- I am hoping that the lavender is not too strong in the blondies. What do you do with your running trainers once they are no good for running? I have a lot just in boxes as I don’t want to get rid of them- I can use one pair for PE at school, and one pair for gardening, but that’s about it. Do you have any pre-race rituals? I always like to paint my nails, but it has never been a “luck” thing, I just like them to match the medal. But then at the Welwyn half last year I forgot, and then I fell over, so now I am not so sure!