Letchworth parkrun and a Very Good Idea

On Friday night I made the last minute decision to visit Letchworth parkrun. I had messaged my dad, but he was away for the weekend (and ran at Bakewell parkrun)- next weekend I am volunteering as it’s the day before the half marathon, and then they are off on holiday for a bit, so I decided to re-claim Queen of Herts, as this was the newest Hertfordshire event. They launched at the end of January to a big crowd (388) but since then numbers have levelled off a bit (135 last week, 136 this week). I’d seen pictures and it looked like a very muddy course, so the frost this weekend also added to my decision. It’s not my NENDY (nearest event not done yet)  as I live too close to London, so using the parkrun tourist tool (google it- you can add in your parkrun number, it looks at your location and shows the parkruns nearby) I still have 8 that are closer including Ally Pally) but it is the easiest one to get to (no idea what acronym that could have)- I just need to drive up the A1 a bit further than Stevenage.

Thankfully the parkrun flag was on the verge by the road to direct runners into the park.

Of course as it was a last minute decision I hadn’t even looked properly at where to park. Their website showed a small car park, but when I looked into it, it was for 25 cars, so I didn’t think I’d find a space. Nearby were what looked like residential roads so I thought I would leave plenty of time and once I found the car park, drive away from it and find a space in the street. Of course I left later than planned, and had to scrape my car. Google maps thought it would be 30 mins, so I was going to leave just after 8am, but by the time I’d scraped my car it was 8.15, and then when I plugged in the satnav it said it would take 40 mins which was cutting it very fine. In the end the journey was quick, and as soon as I realised (by the road name) that I was on the road for the car park, I found a space and ran along- I was only a third of a mile away so no need to panic, and when I got there the car park had loads of spaces. It was a bit like a flashmob parkrun- at 8.50 there were hardly any people about- I chatted to another tourist for a few minutes (he’d come from Wimpole), but then as we headed across the field to the new run briefing, the field was suddenly packed with runners. The weather probably had a lot to do with that- I had on three layers and kept them all on for the run as it was freezing, and I would have waited in the car for longer had I known how close I was.

The course was really enjoyable. The run briefing started on some playing fields, but to start we walked through a gap in the hedge to farm fields. The route was two laps, running down the side of the farm fields (with lovely countryside views), along a track, then up the other side, then through some trees, a short section across the playing fields (I think this was a change from previous weeks as they were still working on the best route and welcoming feedback) before running along a path lined with trees at the edge of the field (then repeat). The ground was very rutted in places, with some huge icy puddles, and I would imagine that on wet days it would be really slippery and tough. A few people ran through the puddles and must have been in up to their ankles. Even when I was walking back to the car, any grass in the shade was still frozen solid and crunchy. I quite like two lapped courses as for the first lap the scenery is great and everything is new, and then the second lap you know you only have this and that to go before the finish. I stopped a few times to take a few pictures too, and was pleased to get in under 30 mins with 29.41. I’m sure I’ll be back as it is one that Dad would enjoy too- we like less laps and less busy ones.

Onto the Very Good Idea. A few weeks ago, walking back to my car after running at Panshanger I saw someone sitting in their car drinking from a hot flask. What a good idea! I usually take water with me, and although these parkruns do have coffee vans, the hot drink is then too hot to drink and so I would end up taking it home, where I may as well make one there.

This time I made a cup of tea before I left – I use these cups at work and usually make my tea at about 6.45 and drink it at about 10/10.15 and it’s still nice and warm.

It was waiting for my in my car (not with the lid off…)- it did fog up the windscreen when I took the lid off though! I’d taken a jumper with me to put on after, so I put that on and had my tea quickly before driving home. It was so good to have something warm so soon after I had finished running- I shall be doing this again I am sure.

The other thing I liked was that Letchworth had new style finisher tokens- they are purple and say “I belong to parkrun” on one side, and “please return me” on the other side. This seems a good idea to me seeing how many tokens get lost each week.

After breakfast we quickly walked into town to get a few bits. I had a fair amount of work to get through, so I took my laptop into the dining room so I could look out at the garden (it’s also warmer there than in my office).

This may make the work take slightly longer as every time I would see something flitting about I would stop and look at it (the wren came back!) but it makes it more enjoyable.

Sunday was the final long run before the half next weekend. Ideally I wanted to have done another 13 miles (or maybe 14) in training, but last weekend I only did 10, so I decided to do 11 this week. I am terrible at knowing the routes at the moment, so the one I did ended up being 11.5 miles. All nice and slow (although according to Strava I have run it already and this time was faster)- once home I had a short amount of time to shower and have breakfast as we were off to see I,Tonya (which I found very interesting).

So, another parkrun visited and I re-gain being able to say I’ve done all of the parkruns in Herts. However, I didn’t need it for the parkrun alphabet as I already have already been to Linford Wood (Milton Keynes).


Another lovely weekend in Brighton (and a course pb!!!)

On Friday after lunch we headed down to Brighton. The train takes just under 2 hours, so as soon as we arrived we checked in to the hotel and then headed out for two Brighton essentials- tea lattes from Bluebird tea (I got the Earl Grey creme latte which reminds me of the gorgeous London fog lattes you get in Canada), and a walk by the sea.

The weather was perfect- clear skies and no winds so the sea was like a millpond. We walked along to the beach huts by Hove and then walked back and went for dinner.

I didn’t actually sleep that well- the room was warm despite having the window open, and it sounded like lorries going past (I think it was rail replacement buses from early in the morning), but of course I was off to parkrun in the morning.

I’d been to Preston Park before, and last time tried to keep up with the 28 min pacer, and finshed with 27.55. I thought I would aim for something similar as a measure of fitness, and when I got there it turned out they were having a pacing event.  It was super busy though, with (I think) their second highest attendance of 588 as they had events from several running clubs on. Anyway, I could not see the pacer once I got to the start area, although they do have signs up near the start area to help you know where to line up according to your estimated finish time.

It was the perfect morning for running- nice and cool, sunny skies, no breeze, and I think all of the super speedy runners somehow pulled me along. I didn’t look at my watch at all, but just focused on keeping a high pace and trying to overtake the person in front, steadying for a bit and then going to overtake the next person. I was pretty surprised when I peeped at my watch a few metres from the line and saw a 26 on there!

My official time was 26.47! Anything beginning with 26 is a rarity for me so I was over the moon! I had offered to write the run report, so it’s here if you are interested. After finishing I jogged back to the hotel, and after a shower it was time for breakfast at the best place- Cafe Coho. They always do amazing pancakes- the last few times I have had them with berries and greek yoghurt, but I spied a new option this time- caramelised banana, chocolate marscapone and hazelnut praline. Oh yes. It was really good, but very sweet (obvs), so I think probably the more sensible choice was the berries. Anyway, good to try.

The weather was just as beautiful, so we walked along to Hove, then back along the seafront, this time getting iced drinks from Bluebird (we shared a strawberry lemonade and an iced chai as decisions are too tough in there).

As we’d had a late breakfast, we didn’t have lunch, stopping for a bit of tea and cake a few hours before dinner, and then we got the train home on Saturday evening. I ended up with a headache, I think probably from not drinking enough, so instead of my planned 13 mile run on Sunday I thought I would see how far I would manage.

I was actually OK when I woke up on Sunday but I went out a bit later than planned (around 9am) so I did just under 10 miles.

When I got home it was time for a nuun tab in water, a smoothie, and a date filled with peanut butter- these are quite salty because I made with the peanut butter at the bottom of the tub and it all seems to sink there. That was enough to keep me going so I could have a shower before breakfast.

As it was such a lovely day we had planned a walk for Sunday afternoon, and we ended up doing 5 miles, so I still had a lot of time on my feet.

The rest of this week has been very busy with work things- I managed one run after work on Tuesday, and a couple of walks in the evening, but yoga wasn’t on and I was home too late for a run on Thursday. A few photos: (Clockwise from top)-I tried the blueberry nakd bar and was pleasantly surprised- I don’t  always like blueberry muffins as the blueberry flavour can be a bit fake/sweet. A few Bluebird purchases including lovely red velvet tea. Wuntu were doing free Costa drinks so I stopped on Friday on my way home. Crisps made with chickpeas- I approve of the salt and vinegar flavour!

What do you have planned for this weekend?

My favourite new lunch, slopestyle and half pipe

Half term has been lovely and chilled out so far.  On Monday I walked into town to meet Andy at lunch, where we got our free Starbucks and walked home. My sister and her baby came over in the afternoon, and of course in the evening I’ve been watching snowboarding!

I’ve also spent time just watching the garden- my parents have lent me a pair of binoculars which means I can properly identify more birds (with the help of the guide on the RSPB website)- I have regular visitors of robins, blackbirds, blue tits and great tits, but I have also seen some redwing (redwings?), a wren, and the jay came back. It’s so relaxing to sit and watch them flit about and makes me feel like spring is on the way.

On Tuesday I managed a quick run first thing (before it started raining) and then a friend came over and visited- I’d not seen her for a while so it was lovely to catch up (and meet her newest baby).

I have been loving having lunch at home- my favourite thing this week has been a quesadilla. I have filled mine with caramelised onion chutney, cheddar and sliced apple- it is so easy (just put inside the wrap and heat in a dry frying pan) and so tasty.

In the afternoon I walked the long way into town for some more fresh air- I love having the time to just have a walk when I fancy it. (I did also meet Andy as we had a voucher for free tea and cake in John Lewis so of course we had to use it up).

On Wednesday I had a slightly longer mid-week run- it ended up being 7.5 miles. It was lovely and sunny, although cold, and I decided to have pancakes for breakfast when I got home (made with buckwheat flour so they went a bit dark brown- they are not burnt I promise!)- I was pretty hungry as we had watched a bit more snowboarding before I headed off so I’d been awake for ages before even going out.

With the men’s snowboard slopestyle they had this racer called Red (Redmond) Gerrard, and all I could think of was the bit in Peep Show when they got the football cake for the funeral (“Gerrard loved the reds…”).

Of course the rain came later- I was going to see my mum, and stopped off at Dunelm on the way as I have wanted new cushions since we have moved (nearly 2 years now!)- I did look at some in John Lewis as I have a voucher, but I could get 4 from Dunelm for less than one in JL so I am going to save the voucher for another time. I was pretty pleased with the colour matching as we have curtain and a rug that need to be a similar shade (it’s called duck egg but it is more seagrass or pale teal or something).

The rain was bucketing down, so having a cup of tea with Mum (and my brother who got home early from work) was the best way to spend the rainy afternoon.

On Thursday morning I attempted to watch the snowboard cross. Now, if you are not that interested in the Olympics, I would still recommend this sport as it’s so exciting to watch. Basically a load of snowboarders race down a bumpy course at the same time. I love watching the slopestyle and half pipe for the cool tricks and flips, but with a proper race you can see who is winning at all times. Although the BBC are driving me mad- as it’s over night I’ve been watching most of it on i-player, and you would think they would just organise them by sports- (if anyone wants to watch curling, select this show, for ice dancing click here and so on) but no, they just have these 4 hour long shows that you have to fast forward through. I think I fast forwarded for 2 hours, saw the seeding bit of the snowboard cross (where they go one at a time- like heats- to sort out who they race against) and then it changed to ice dancing! Argh!

Anyway, after that I was off for a massage. I parked about a mile and a half from the town centre (St Albans) and walked in, listening to some podcasts.

After a very much needed back, neck and shoulder massage I wandered around town and through the park. It was such a gorgeous sunny day, although with a very cold wind. I saw loads of snowdrops everywhere- come on spring!

I treated myself to a scone from Gail’s (a chocolate and cherry one) to enjoy after lunch- this ended up keeping me going as we went to see The Shape of Water and we didn’t get home until around 8.30 (it started at 5.30).

The film- I’m not sure how to sum it up or describe it. It wasn’t my kind of thing entirely, but there were tense parts and funny parts, however one of the main characters kept eating boiled sweets so noisily, and I really really hate hearing people eat, so this irritated me so much it may have clouded my thoughts.

Now I am off to Brighton for some sunshine and walks by the sea- have a lovely weekend everyone!

Is spring peeping out where you are?  Do you have any irrational hates/annoyances? 

Happy cake, the winter olympics and a little cake disaster

Happy half term to all the teachers out there! I met up with a friend at The Waffle House after work on Friday as an end of half term treat- I was very pleased to see their mulled apple juice on the menu, as last time I had already ordered my standard Earl Grey (you get a pot and some extra hot water so tea is always a good choice) when I spotted it on the menu. Once home I watched a bit of the opening ceremony- those drones were impressive. I have started a count of how many times Gangnam Style is played on the TV- I think I’m up to 5 and I haven’t seen that much of it!

On Saturday both Dad and I had suggested we visit Panshanger parkrun- Dad could not even remember the last time he had run there (it was part of the NYD double for me) and I absolutely love it there so needed no persuading. We usually meet at Ellenbrook as it’s half way between where we live, and they can cycle, but Dad isn’t cycling there and back yet so would be driving anyway.

We ran the run together, enjoying catching up on news and also loving the scenery there. I know that all parkruns are great, but Panshanger has such variety of scenery with woods, fields, lakes, streams, and although it feels touch at times (as you start and end uphill) it’s fairly fast. As the finish line came into sight (at the bottom of the hill) I had said to Dad that if he felt like sprinting ahead, he should, and a split second after telling me it was a good pace, he started to overtake more people and sped up the hill. In fact (according to strava) it was my fastest Panshanger with the alternative ending, and 28.14 was quicker than the flat (but muddy) Ellenbrook from the week before.

There was a cake sale for a local charity, so I bought a piece of banana bread for me, and some ginger cake for Dad.

My cake (which I enjoyed after lunch) had a smiley face in it!

Once home and showered it was time for some breakfast and winter Olympics- I am really excited about this. I can leave a lot of the sports (curling, hockey…) but things like the slopestyle with snowboards and skis with all the flips and jumps, and the snowboard cross where they race are just so exciting to watch.

Hot cross bun + tea + winter Olympics = happy Saturday morning

I have to say I am getting an expert at the commentary too- all you do is choose a word and add a number to it (e.g. “That’s a great frontside 180 there”/ “wow, look at that roast beef 360″/ “that backside 100 is the best I’ve seen today” and so on).

We walked into town before lunch (to avoid the heavy rain mainly) and then I spent the afternoon pottering around, making a cake and watching a bit more TV. All very relaxing. Although the cake didn’t turn out so well. I had seen a recipe for a ginger cake with lingonberries, and although the cake turned out well, the icing was super runny and also there was way too much. The icing was a cream cheese one, and even as I was weighing it out I thought there was too much sugar (this makes it thinner) but I just carried on regardless. Even after leaving it in the fridge it was still runny. I used raspberries instead of lingonberries, but as I had some lingonberry jam (good old Ikea) I spread a little in the middle to give it that tart flavour.

What I should have done is just leave the jam in the middle and then add the icing to the top, but because the instructions said to put icing in the middle too, that’s what I did. I must still be tired from the last week at work! Of course all the icing slid out, and then the top layer of cake started to make a bid for freedom too. We did have a slice on Sunday evening (and it was tasty) but it doesn’t look good enough for guests (and I had loads of icing left) so I ended up making little cupcakes on Monday to use up the icing and to have for guests instead.

On Sunday morning (after not sleeping well- I think maybe I was worried about the impending long run) I wrapped up warm (after seeing that it was 2C but felt like -3 due to windchill) and headed out for 13 miles. This is my favourite street- at the end there are three houses and their cars colour-coordinate with their garage and front doors (left to right it goes grey car and doors,, white car and doors, blue car and doors)- I always spend a while wondering if it was on purpose and perhaps do more people colour code their cars? Or do they just like that colour?

It could indeed be “a thing”, as it was only by chance that I found out that wedding invites hint at the colour scheme (when I wore the same colour to a wedding and although the bride didn’t mind at all, other people wondered why I had not avoided it seeing as it was on the invite- I had no idea…). I also got to see the factory (this time with blue sky) although now it’s just the rubble piles that are getting smaller it’s less dramatic.

I also got to know what it was like to win a race. There was a local race (Love Welwyn 10K) happening- I sort of knew this but had forgotten, as really what I could have done it sign up, run to the race, run it, and then run home to make up the miles, as I’ve not done it before as often we go away for this weekend of half term. Anyway, I didn’t exactly know where the route went, and at one point I was running down a road and I saw the 7km sign and a “water station ahead” sign. There were no runners about (It can’t have long started) but the marshals at the station kindly offered me a drink. I ran along the road and saw the 8km mark, and then the road turns a corner and you run downhill to the end- at the bottom of the hill were loads of people in high-viz who started to nudge each other and look at me. Someone official-looking started taking photos of me with a huge camera- uh oh- they think I’m doing the race. I mean, no men had gone past and I am clearly not a fast runner when you see me (standing still or running)- especially at this point of my long run where it’s more of a 11min/mile shuffle than any sort of fast 10 speed. There was no way of avoiding the crowd so I tried to make it obvious (yes, I could have just said “I’m not in the race” but then what if they actually didn’t think that and it got all awkward..)- one lady even stepped out onto the pavement and made a show of looking for my non-existent number. Thankfully as I got to them my route peeled away from the race route and no-one chased me. I then bumped into a few of the runners from my club who were coming along to cheer on the runners- they told me I should have tried to win it for the club and at least get a medal (of course they were joking). It turned out that our club actually won the trophy for first ladies (Go OH Ladies Whoop Whoop)- so if I had actually entered I would have sort of won. One year!

When I got home I was feeling pretty tired- I had meant to take a nakd bar with me but forgot it, and I think for the final mile I could have done with some sort of energy. On the actual race I’ll have breakfast so that should be fine. I made sure I did some stretches as soon as I got in, and then had a smoothie before I went for a shower. This does seem to help and means I get a bit of energy in when I don’t feel like eating. We went on a little walk (2 miles) as I didn’t want to stiffen up too much, and then went for a cup of tea at Andy’s parents. The walk was perfect timing as the clouds were getting darker, and when we came out of the shop (we went into Morrison’s to get three things so it wasn’t long) the ground was all wet and there were hail stones all over the verges, but it didn’t snow or hail again until we were round at their house.  I was glad of a day off today to recover from the long run- I was fairly stiff when I woke up but I walked the long way into town in the morning and have done a lot of pottering about at home so I’ve not been too bad so far.

Do you like doing races as part of longer runs? Have you been enjoying the winter Olympics? 

The long runs are getting longer

Last week was a fairly normal week although I missed the club run on Tuesday as I got home too late.  We did go to the cinema on Monday to see Early Man (which, despite seeing adverts for, the football theme had totally passed me by- anyway it was enjoyable and lots of chuckles). It was the super blue moon on Wednesday and things had been feeling frantic. At yoga we were told that energy builds up as the moon waxes (I am not really sure about this, although often the kids go a bit crazy around a full moon so who knows!), and so it was a more calming session which was what was needed.

On Thursday I got home pretty late, and decided to have a long walk (well, a couple of miles) instead of a run.  I did have time for a run, but it would have felt like a rush to get changed, and probably would have just ended up being a short plod (more like junk miles I suppose)- a cup of tea, dinner, and then a walk felt like the right thing at the time.

We opted for Ellenbrook Fields on Saturday- I was there early again so had a little run first- I kept my coat on because it was so cold!

It was also fairly muddy- one guy fell over right into a massive puddle on the first loop (I think pretty much every runner around him checked he was OK) so we didn’t go too quickly. When we got to the runway (still with a km to go) we were steadily increasing the pace, and Dad had a burst of energy so closer to the end he sprinted off. It’s funny, it looked to me like he was so far ahead by the time I finished, but he was only 11 seconds (and 3 people) ahead of me. Did anyone hear the More or Less Episode about parkrun this Friday? They were trying to find the easiest and hardest parkrun course in the UK (although they did call it a race and not a run- tut tut!). I hadn’t been to the courses that they visited, but it was interesting hearing about how they tried to do it, by looking at average finish times and average age grading. This does seem a bit flawed to me, because the parkrun could just be closer to a load of running clubs or the average might go up or down over time with more runners.  Andy had bought some hot cross buns so I toasted them for breakfast, plus tea, and finally started to warm up.

I had a lot of work to get through, so after a shower I powered through for several hours, had a break where we walked into town, and then carried on working once home- I think I finished at about half six but I wanted a break on Sunday so I was pleased to get it all done.

On Sunday I was off on a long run- this week was 12 miles. I have found that if I run further than 13 miles in my training, I enjoy the actual race more, so I am trying to work up to that.  I used the same route as last week but added a little bit at the beginning and end, and it ended up being 12.1 miles- I was impressed with my guesswork! The run was pretty cold- the wind seemed very cold so my cheek bones felt like they turned to ice. I did see more crocuses though- I love spotting the signs of spring.

Of course I had to stop and take a photo of the factory- I think they are leaving these last few silos to be part of the new building, so I think the next few changes are going to be them getting rid of the big piles of rubble, and not quite so dramatic.

Anyway, the run took ages (2 hours 15) but they are supposed to be slow. I made sure to do some stretches when I got home, especially the downward dog- this seems to bring a lot of relief to my legs and shoulders, particularly after a long run.

I didn’t feel too bad after a shower and breakfast. I’ve bought pack of innocent kids smoothies to have when I get home from a long run (I know I could make a smoothie, but it is a faff to sort out the blender and chop fruit and then it takes time so I would just wait until after a shower)- having something like that seems to be good too as it gives me a little energy but I don’t always want food right away- I tend to have a shower and then breakfast, but then get a bit of an energy crash later. We had a walk in the sunshine in the afternoon, and then popped over to have a cup of tea at Andy’s parents, although I did get quite stiff sat down.

I’d caved and bought a cinnamon roll on the Saturday so we shared that in front of the TV.

I think the longer long runs have been making me a bit stronger- a few weeks ago I was fairly stiff on Mondays, but last week and this week haven’t been too bad. I’ve had a walk in the evening to help with this, but hopefully it’s a good sign. I want to enjoy this half more than I enjoyed the Hertfordshire half and although there were lots of issues (I wasn’t 100% well, it was freezing cold, I was all stressed because of the traffic jam) I also hadn’t managed very many long runs due to different things getting in the way.

This past week has been busy with work, so I only managed one run on Tuesday, and I kept that short as I knew I would be home late on Wednesday and Thursday (no yoga- sad face). I was surprised one morning to see a dusting of snow, but then that turned to annoyance when I had to chip the frozen show off the windscreen of my car because of course I had forgotten to put the cover on it.

I think my plan is 13 miles this weekend, then 14 miles next Friday (it’s half term- hooray!),  and then around 10 the following week, as that will be the  week before the race. It’s suddenly coming around quickly.

Do you have a pre or post long run routine?  Which is the hardest parkrun course that you have run?  For me, Tring is the toughest I have done with some huge hills (although it’s on my list to go back to as the views are meant to be amazing, but we went on a foggy day).