Lee Valley 10K 2018

Last year I did the half marathon (with my Dad, it was great), but they also offer a 10k which starts a bit earlier (always my preference) and I could not decide which one to do, so I left the decision until after running Cambridge. I was pretty tired all that week, I picked up a cough which mostly affected me at night, and I was ill one weekend so I decided that the 10k was the most sensible option. The half marathon is a two lap course with the 10k being one lap (slight deviations in both cases as a half isn’t double a 10k), so I thought at least I would see all the pretty scenery.

I was more worried about driving there than the run- I was up early to have a piece of toast and some nuun in water, and had plenty of time to drive and park. The journey was actually fine and I had plenty of time to collect my number, use the toilets (there are real toilets as there is a cafe on site) and chat to a few running friends.

I took my jacket off and tied it around my waist so I was just wearing my vest, but it was really cold. The start was delayed by 15 mins due to queues inside, which I didn’t realise until I’d been waiting for 10 mins, so I got quite cold stood around, but soon we were off and running around the park.

I wasn’t going for a pb, but I wanted to push the pace a bit. I’m not good at racing 10k’s as I think I should be able to go faster but I hate that feeling of pushing hard. I was aiming to get in the low 9 min per mile, and ended up hovering around that mark (9.25 as the first mile was quite congested, then 8.59, 9.02, 9.04, 8.56, 8.52 and then 8.01 for the final bit) which I was pleased with. The route is pretty flat apart from some bridges that you run over- some of them are fairly gentle but some are pretty steep so a bit tough when you are trying to run fast.

At times the route curved around and so up ahead I could see runners and then their colourful tops reflected in the waterways. I tried to take some mid-run photos but I didn’t want to slow down too much! At one point I caught up with a runner from our club so chatted to her briefly, and then later I was overtaken by one of the speedy runners from our club- she’d started right at the back so had been working her way up the field for the whole race. I wondered if we would see any half marathon runners, but as the routes were a tiny bit different we didn’t end up getting lapped.

The finish felt long- you run through the field where the cars were parked, over a bridge and then down towards the main centre- everyone was saying “nearly there, final push” but then you seemed to go away from the finish a bit, veering around the building and through a small car park. I think I started my “sprint” finish too early.

As I finished I got given a medal and picked up a bottle of water and a banana. I suddenly felt really hungry, but then that piece of toast was a long time ago.

I chatted to the runners who had finished ahead, and we waited for the others to come in.  After a team photo we all headed home. On the way back there is a big retail park with a Starbucks in it, so I decided to stop and get a cinnamon roll and a chai latte as a sort of brunch as otherwise it would be a 30 min + journey and time was getting on.

When I got home I had a lovely hot shower and then looked up my results. My chip time was 56:23 so I am pretty pleased with that.

All in all a good race, although I think next year I might do the half marathon there as I did really enjoy the route and it seemed to finish really quickly this year. It would be such a good place to go for a walk too, as there are paths everywhere and lots of spots for picnics and things too.

Do you like lapped routes?  Are you good at driving to new places?  I was more nervous about the journey than the actual race!

Oak Hill parkrun for a new letter

Snow leftovers on Monday morning

This week has been super busy and felt longer than usual. Yoga was on Tuesday (the museum people had booked the hall for the Wednesday), so I spent all of Tuesday thinking it was Wednesday- the most disappointing way to have your days mixed up. This feeling continued during the week which is never good. I managed a short run after work on Wednesday, but got home late on Thursday and needed to walk around to the shop so decided to do that instead of rushing to fit in a run. I was going to head to Panshanger on Saturday, but then on Friday night I remembered that I had looked into Oak Hill parkrun before- it’s near to Cockfosters tube station (we sometimes drive to park there, or by Oakwood, when going into London) and seemed fairly straightforward to get to, with a car park at the start. Panshanger was really muddy last week and Oak Hill looked like it was all on paths (it was), so I decided if I woke up in time on Saturday I’d head there instead.

The journey was about 30 minutes, and in the end I left at around 8.10 (I need to leave lots of time for getting lost)- the journey was fine until the satnav told me I had reached my destination when I was driving along a residential road. I drove down a big hill and saw some runners running up it, and briefly considered putting the window down and shouting to see if they were going to parkrun, but I was too slow. As I looked for a place to pull over at the bottom of the hill, I saw the entrance to the car park and cars pulling in- phew!

It was about 8.45 but cold, so I sat in the car for a bit, watching loads of people with hockey-type bibs on gather around. It slowly dawned on me that they were some sort of fitness group and nothing to do with parkrun, so then I had a panic that I was in the wrong place. I got out of the car to look and then thankfully could see the finish area taping and the blue and white of the RD’s vest- phew!

It was a proper “flash mob” parkrun- stood around at 8.50 am there were maybe 30 people, and not many when they did the new runner briefing. The course was just under 3 laps, and the run briefing was done at the finish area, and then we walked the short way to the start. By the time we were at the start there were loads of people (239 in fact).

As I am running a 10k race tomorrow, I didn’t want to push the pace too much and just focused on going steadily and overtaking a few people in the final lap. I managed to speed up each mile, with 9.39, 9.17, 9.04 and 8.10. The park was quite pretty with a small river running through it with willow trees on the banks. It would be a fairly fast course I think – there was a gentle uphill and then a slightly steeper short bit, followed by a downhill to the finish area, but it was all on paths and although it was busy at the start you could always overtake by running into the grass. It reminded me a bit of Mile End parkrun- not pancake flat but felt like it could be fast.

Once finished I had my token scanned (the token said 265, but then had a sticker on it saying 143, and then when the results came through I had position 140) and then did a few stretches before heading home. Thankfully the forecast rain had stayed away. I’d worn my new apricot half zip top (I caved when they had them for 30% off)- I’d tied it around my waist after the first lap when I had warmed up, so as soon as I finished I put it back on again as it was fairly chilly.

The drive home took longer but I was still home at about 10.15 which wasn’t bad, and I had a lovely breakfast waiting for me at home.

Chocolate almond croissant, mango and berries, and some love potion tea from Bluebird.

I am sort of ticking off the letters from the alphabet for parkrun, although I am still really just doing parkruns that happen to be nearby when I am somewhere else. I was quite pleased with the time of 29.15, and another letter ticked off and my 39th different parkrun course.

Did you enjoy a parkrun today? Are you good at navigating to new places? I really find it hard to drive when I don’t know where I am going, and I have a terrible sense of direction so I can feel like I am going around in circles- going to places like this is good for me I have decided because it forces me to get out of my comfort zone and also show myself that I can usually find my way on my own.

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?