Working in the garden and lots of nature

After parkrun on Saturday I went back to my parents house for pancakes. Once we had finished breakfast, we headed into the garden to have a look at some plants that mum has been growing for us in the greenhouse. As we went outside, we could hear some chirping from one of their bird boxes, and then we saw a great tit flying in and out of the box- the chirping got so loud each time the bird came back.

We moved away a little, and then while we were watching that we saw two red kites courting (is it called that? sort of flying into each other and then away), and then a buzzard really low, being chased away by two jackdaws- it was all go!

When I got home I was so chuffed to see a goldfinch on the nyjer seeds- I’ve only seen them being eaten a handful of times, but it seems at long last that the finches have learnt that there is food here, as I’ve seen one or two every day for the past week, sometimes for a good ten minutes at a time.

Any had been busy cutting up the final pile of wood and moving it off the circle of paving slabs in the middle of the lawn, and then he’d moved some plant pots onto it- it has made a huge difference.

We headed off to the garden centre, thinking it might be empty (according to Andy, people that like garden centres probably like the royal wedding, so it would be emptier than usual, but of course ignoring the fact that we like garden centres and not the royal wedding….)- anyway, we have been planning a garden project for a while so wanted to get a few plants to add to the project. I then had a few hours of work to do before the day was out, so we left the actual garden work until Sunday.

On Sunday I went out on a lovely run- in the end I did 9.5 miles and although it was warm, there was a light breeze which really helped.

I passed this field with an amazing streak of purple flowers in it- I could not work out what they were as I couldn’t get close enough, but it looked so pretty.

Once home, I quickly had a shower and breakfast as it was time to get on with the garden project. We went to B&Q to get some soil and trellises, and then did a few hours of work but it got so hot, so we had a break and headed into town to get a few bits (and use my Starbucks free drink voucher) and then went back into the garden once it was a bit cooler- we didn’t stop until 7pm when we were both totally shattered.

It doesn’t look so big here, but this is the root that he finally dug up- it left a bit of a crater!

My parents had given me a pot with an olive tree, buddleia and foxglove growing in it- they wanted the pot but not the plants so I divided that up and planted them (which involved poor Andy digging holes in very solid ground). We filled in the big hole left when he finally dug out a huge tree root, and then added loads of plants including a little fig tree, lavender grown by my mum and a few plants we bought on Saturday. The tulips and winter pansies in the pots had finished flowering so we dug those into the ground. Mum had given us a load of bedding plants so we planted them around the garden and in a few of the pots- I’ve put some in the stump of the willow tree as it’s a u-shape so I thought that might look good (at the foot of the bird bath).

Clockwise from top right- geraniums in the willow tree stump, patio pots ready for the trellis, view from the living room, pots moved to the middle of the lawn.

I’d been given lots of garden things this year including a little ladybird, thermometer and bird box, so we put those up.

As well as a load of weeding, we also got on with the garden project of putting up the trellis (although we finished that on Monday night) and planting out some climbers in pots so they will cover the wall.

The plan is to fix the mirror above the bench- we are nearly finished!

On Monday we finished some of the bits off, and had a nice walk in the sunshine in the evening. I started sneezing a bit on Monday afternoon, and on Tuesday was feeling a bit more cold-like. I was OK at work so decided to have a gentle run on my own instead of going to the club run, which I think helped to clear away the cobwebs in a way. When I got home, I made a drink (iced tea with some of the salt drops) and then sat on the bench in the garden and enjoyed it- we definitely need to sort out the ratio of working in the garden to actually just using it.

Do you like gardening? I find it very satisfying seeing all the changes. Do you have much wildlife where you live? The fox cubs have been back in our garden which is always lovely to see.

A parkrun countdown t-shirt!

(sort of)

Last Monday evening we went to the cinema to see Tully, which was good, but also a hard watch.  When we got back I saw that I had my email from parkrun saying that I could claim my 100 t-shirt! I celebrated my 100th parkrun back in March 2017, but under the old system, each time they were in stock they didn’t have the size I needed. For the new ones I had read that they had changed the female sizing a bit, so I checked the size guide which gave a measurement across the t-shirt. Compared to my 50 top (which is a small and perfect for me with a big of room), it seemed the medium would be the one to go for. All that was left was for me to wait for it to arrive!

Tuesday I wasn’t home in time for the club run, but that turned out to be lucky because I did around 4 miles but felt awful the whole way- I kept thinking “once I get going I’ll feel better” but I just felt sluggish and a bit sick at times. It was hot and I wonder if I didn’t drink enough on the Monday. I was very glad when I got home.

Wednesday was yoga- too cold this week to be outside! Lots of twists and some pretty tough poses which made my legs ache a lot- the final relaxation was very much needed.

On Thursday I was going to have a run, but then I got stuck in traffic and by the time I got home it was late, so I had a shower, we had dinner and then went out on a nice 3 mile walk in the evening- it was so much warmer than Wednesday.

My t-shirt arrived! It’s lovely fabric, but it is really long.

It’s a good few inches longer than my 50 shirt, but I would rather something was too long than too short. As I had exactly 100 to go until the next milestone (the next one is 250 which seems years away- 2 years at the absolute quickest if I go every weekend and only volunteer roles where I also get a run credit) it can be my countdown t-shirt. It will need to last me a while…

On Friday I had a massage booked as my shoulders have been getting worse and worse. I also had a few bits to pick up in town so afterwards I popped in to a few shops and got my errands sorted.

I spoke to Dad on the phone and we decided we would go to Heartwood Forest- it’s in St Albans and probably the closest to where they live, but it was stopped during the spring to let the paths recover a bit. It’s a gorgeous setting with wood carvings dotted along the route. It’s a very new forest, so the trees are only a few feet high in most places at the moment. The route it one and a half laps- you walk along from the finish to the start, half way up a hill, run to the top, around the top in a sort of p shape (with gorgeous views across the countryside), down to the finish and then do a complete lap.

You can’t park by it, so I parked about half a mile away, and heard Dad cycle up next to me as I was running to the start. When we got there and he took off his cycling jacket, he revealed he had his 100 top on too!

As we walked up to the start one of the two photographers asked if he could take our photo. We chatted to him and it turned out that although he now lived in St Albans, his home parkrun was Linford Wood, up in Milton Keynes, where my Dad’s cousin runs.

We set off at a fairly good pace, but the start is uphill so it wasn’t too fast. We were busy catching up- Dad had run on Wednesday and found it pretty tough too (and he’s cycled something like 50 miles last Saturday).

It was lovely to be there- the views are just fantastic up at the top, and the course is varied, twisting around so you can never see a long way ahead. In my mind the hill was as hard as Westmill, but it’s nowhere near that steep.

Last time I had forgotten to start my Garmin until partway in, so I made sure to press it on the start but then didn’t look at it again until I finished. We did a good negative split with 9:39, 9:01, 8:18, with a nice course pb of 27:38 (last time I ran 29:03)- I was pretty pleased with that. I don’t often get pb’s at parkrun!

Dad has a much faster sprint that me- I always tell him to go ahead and that I’ll try and catch him, this is just coming up to the final corner, but he then slowed so I crossed the line first anyway.

They also had their highest attendance (as far as I can see)- with  168 runners. It’s such a great course, and as the paths are pretty wide at the start there isn’t that stop-start you get on some courses.

After that it was back to Mum and Dad’s for a shower, pancakes and watching birds in their garden. I’ll save the weekend for another post.

Which milestone are you closest to now? Do you enjoy visiting different parkrun courses? I think this one might be a summer favourite for us.

Hitchin 10K 2018

A while ago my dad mentioned that he fancied doing another 10K run, but he just has so many weekends booked with tennis things, so the few that I knew and liked (like the fab Ware 10k/ 10 mile) were on days he couldn’t do. By chance I was chatting to a member of our running club and she mentioned the Hitchin 10k. It turned out to be a day we could both do, so we signed up and ran it together.

It was the best kind of race in my opinion. You could either collect your numbers the day before, or on the morning of the race. On the Saturday and and I headed to Wimpole so I could spend my vouchers (I got a nice mirror for the garden and a little bird bath) and on the way back we stopped off so I could collect them. The guy said to me “it starts at 9, so get there at about ten to”- so much better than the races that say to arrive 90 mins before.

After I had a bit of toast for breakfast, Dad picked me up and we drove to Hitchin (which according to Balcony Shirts, is “Bitchin’). We got slightly lost trying to find a car park – we kept seeing signs but then it would not appear, so we drove around in a circle 3 times before deciding on another little car park instead. It was around the corner from the town centre, and so we had half an hour to wander around in the sunshine and chat to other runners.

We were aiming for under an hour, so I kept an eye on my watch for the pace. The first mile went through the town and along a narrow path, and so it was a bit busier and we were slower, but it’s no bad thing to begin slowly (and it was slightly uphill so it was fine to slow a bit). At one point we ran along a residential road with one of those speed cameras with the smiley faces- it was smiling green at all the runners and either showing 5 or 6 which was pretty accurate. I tried to take a picture as we ran but it was a bit blurry.

After the residential bit we were out in the countryside for nice views and a very enjoyable run. Hitchin is known to be in a hilly area, but the route was meant to avoid all the big hills, and I think it did a good job. You could call it undulating, but there were no huge hills and nothing too bad. There was one little p shaped section where runners were on the other side of the road- we had to run downhill slightly so we knew we’d be heading back up again soon. There was one water station and as it was fairly warm we stopped to have a quick drink (they had cups which always pleases me- I know some people find them harder to drink from but I feel the waste element and environmental impact of bottles only used for a sip is just so awful, plus I hate them being all over the road and tripping on them) but I was glad I only had 2 sips as I started to get a bit of a stitch after. The final mile was back down the narrow  path (but the field was more spread out) so we got up a good amount of speed. As we got into the town centre I told Dad to sprint off and that I’d try to catch him, but he is way too fast at the end for that. He had finished and turned around just to cheer me in- I’m giving him a thumbs up in the photo below (he’s in his apricot parkrun t-shirt).

The photos were emailed out to us soon after

Our splits were so close to the royal flush negative split (10:53, 9:22, 9:27, 9:16, 9:10, 8:50 and then 8:18 for the final sprint). As soon as we had finished we could collect a bottle of water from the side, get a medal and then queue up for the t-shirt. I’m actually holding Dad’s one in the photo, but I went for the female medium and it’s a good fit- loose but not too baggy. 58:41 was my chip time, with Dad being a bit ahead of me at the end, so nicely under the hour like we had hoped for.

I love the medal too- it’s black metal with funky colours.

We were going to get a drink before heading home, and on out way we walked past a little cafe, so decided to sit down and in the end both ordered marmalade on toast alongside our drinks. I put the t-shirt on over my top as there was a bit of a breeze and we were sat in the shade. As we sat there loads of runners kept walking past wearing their medals and t-shirts. It had such a nice feel to it- so relaxed but also well organised. I think it started a few minutes late, but I wasn’t bothered by that as it could have only been a couple.

After getting home and showering, we needed to walk into town and once there I realised how hungry I was. We were going to get our free drinks from Starbucks and when Andy suggested sharing a cinnamon roll I could not resist!

For lunch our options at home were yet more toast, so I popped into M&S and picked up one of their lovely salads to have as a treat (they do a lovely one with roasted veggies and a sort of carrot hummus dip thing).

Then it was time for more gardening.

I had to build a little brick tower for the bird bath as it was just the bath bit. I did a lot of weeding, and then planted these seed balls- they are clever little balls with bee friendly seeds in them, coasted in chilli powder so mice and birds won’t eat them before the seeds germinate.

I think all the moving about after helps to combat the post-race stiffness, but I was pretty tired by the evening- I think the crouching down whilst weeding is the most painful thing to do after a race!

How do you normally recover from a race?

Things I’ve been loving lately including parkrun number 150!

First- a recap of the week:

A four day week is always confusing because Tuesday feels like Monday and so on, and this was made more confusing by yoga being on Tuesday instead of Wednesday this week (the hall was booked for Wednesday)- I had no idea which day we were on!  We had to lock up earlier than usual on Tuesday and as I had worked solidly through lunch I thought I’d have a walk after work.

Andy met me at the lakes and we had a lovely walk before heading home. Yoga was great- as it was so warm we had a short warm up inside and then took our mats outside to the grass and did most of the class outside.  We did loads of rounds of sun salutations- there is something quite hypnotic about doing them, especially outside when you can feel the softer ground under your feet. We also practised hand stands in pairs- my shoulders aren’t strong enough to hold me up, but it was fun to have a go. I had to rescue a worm off someone else’s mat, and then later on someone else put a big spider outside as there was one when we went back in. All the bugs are coming out at this time of year.

On Wednesday I went for a run- I decided to go down the old railway line for a bit and go up and down a hill a few times. I’d got home later than planned so I didn’t do too many, but it is always good to do some hills.

I’ve started trying this after my runs to replace the nuun tabs. I do like the nuun tabs and they are portable, but they do contain artificial sweeteners- as it’s the only thing I have with them, it’s not too bad but they are also pretty expensive. I tried this liquid in plain water and it does taste a little salty, but in coconut water I can’t taste it at all.

On Thursday it was yoga at work- we did work on backs which was very helpful as my shoulder had been bothering me since the weekend. We also practised sitting, which sounds so easy but was the hardest thing we did- sitting on the floor with a straight back and legs out straight in front.

On Friday at lunch we went to Starbucks, and after seeing they had fruit toast I was sold (I was going to have it last week when we went for my birthday, but they had none). Then after work I had a lovely 4 mile run, working out a new route which I should be able to do in the winter too. As we are at the top of a hill I get a bit fed up with finishing on certain hills, so going in a different direction helped with the finish.

Onto things I’ve been loving:

I’ve been loving my new tea cup this week!

I’ve also been having some matcha in the mornings. A while ago I bought a sample back from Bluebird (now Bird & Blend). The winner for me so far is the cocoa matcha, which is just matcha blended with cocoa, but mixed with a little milk really tastes like chocolate milk. Even though I use a whisk, I still get little lumps though.

Coconut Collaborative also make the most amazing little dessert pots- the mini chocolate ganache pots are just so good, and I found this week double pots, which are basically two layers (one of mousse and one of ganache)- such a good treat.

Onto parkrun!

Because I was doing a race on Sunday I’d volunteered to tail walk at parkrun on the Saturday. It is one of the most popular roles so I had to get in early!

I realised a few weeks ago that all being well, it would coincide with my 150th parkrun- what a way to celebrate.

Even though it’s an unofficial milestone (e.g. no t-shirt), they still gave me a mention in the briefing which was nice. There was also someone doing their 250th- very impressive. They mentioned that a calf had just been born so the cow gates might be closed (they weren’t) as there are heritage breeds in one of the fields that you run through. I think one was born last summer on their 1st birthday too.

The weather was a bit overcast, but not too cold, and although I’d worn a top over my t-shirt, I took off one layer after the first loop. I was going alongside a lovely lady who is a regular at parkrun- she was going to be running for 10 mins and walking for one, but in fact we ended up chatting and she ran for 20 mins before her first walk break.  I really enjoy tail walking as you get to complete the whole course (the woods were so green this week) and see all of the marshals on the way around. I have been trying to persuade some people at work to come along to one, as I really think they would enjoy it and get a lot out of it, but no-one believes me when I say that you can walk the whole way. I finished in just under an hour, but I have taken longer than that before and it’s all good. I’ll keep trying anyway. Tail walking is a good way to stretch the legs before a race too.

What are you loving lately? Which roles at your parkrun are the most popular?

What a difference a week makes!

Last Sunday:

I managed to avoid the rain, having a run along the old railway line in drizzle and cold. Compare that to the glorious sunshine of this Sunday- just in time for the bank holiday weekend.

On Tuesday I had one of these (new to me) bars from Aldi- they are the closest thing I’ve had to the Larabars that I’ve bought in America before.  I didn’t get home in time for the club run, so I headed out for just over 4 miles.

The skies were so dark the whole time and it was really windy- I wished I’d worn gloves as my hands were cold at the start too.

It was my birthday on Wednesday so I hadn’t booked onto yoga- instead I met Andy in town and we shared a piece of cake, before having a little walk around. His parents came over later in the evening. Check out the cup he got for me- it’s the perfect tea size too.

On Thursday I had yoga at work and then rushed back as we were heading into London to see Gomez at the Royal Albert Hall. They were brilliant, and we had great seats almost next to the stage. I love seeing live music, and each member of the band seemed to play about 3 instruments so it was fascinating to watch them (one song, play bass, next song, play lead guitar, then keyboards). It was a great evening, but by the time we’d dropped off Andy’s brother and sister-in-law and then driven home, it was way past midnight.

On Friday evening we packed and drove down to Kent. We were staying right by Maidstone parkrun, so I headed there again on Saturday morning.

As I’d only been there once, a while ago, I went to the new runners briefing- the lady was brilliant, really enthusiastic and gave a lot of detail.

It was really busy (463) and didn’t start til about 9.15. They do the main briefing outside a building, and then move the runners onto the road (I think it’s a road) just before the start. They asked that the front 5 rows were for sub 18/sub 20 min runners, but then after that it was every runner for himself. I tried to place myself in the middle, but we kept on being told to step back as more people were flooding in from the sides. It’s not a great course for that many runners, as you run along a canal path, which at times is only wide enough for one or two people. You have to keep left the whole time, as you go over a bridge, around a playground and then back along the path. After a mile, the fastest runners were heading back in the other direction. I ended up feeling pretty frustrated- I don’t mind about the time, but I just could not get into a rhythm as I kept getting stuck behind people walking, or run/walking, and it wasn’t easy to get past. At times it went to a complete standstill as only one person at a time could file over a narrow bridge/ through sections of the path.

I was overtaking people the whole run, so I know I didn’t place myself correctly at the start. The thing is, they could easily have up signs for sub 20, sub 23, sub 26 etc, to give people a better idea. I’ve seen this at other parkruns and it seems to work a bit better than just the fastest people having the priority and everyone else just muck in. My time was 29.45, which was fine, but had I placed myself better I think I could have beaten my previous time of 29:31 (I did get some strava segment PR’s so all was not lost!). Anyway, it was a beautiful day and a lot of the route was shaded which was good.

After a shower and quick breakfast we were off to Brighton for the day.

It was gorgeous. We parked near to Preston Park and then walked in, and of course I then realised I had forgotten to pack any suncream. We went to a few shops (I needed to get a refill of perfume from the lovely Eden perfume shop, and of course we visited Bird and Blend- formerly Bluebird Tea co, for iced teas) and then walked along the seafront to Hove. There is a new statue along the seafront with things linked to Hove, like a seagull, beach hut and so on. Of course we stopped for tea and cake (the weekend had a bit of a cake theme)- we share carrot cake from FlowerPot Bakery and it was delicious.

What wasn’t so good was that I decided to wear new shoes- these are skechers and usually those are fine for me, and they felt comfy, but when I took them off I had rubbed the back of the skin raw on one foot. I totalled over 30,000 steps- not the best day to wear new shoes.

We went for dinner at Food For Friends- we shared a chickpea trio to start (which was basically some different types of hummus), and then I had a middle eastern style salad with sweet potato, pomegranate seeds and lots of other tasty bits.

On the Sunday we went to an NT place with a castle, moat, gardens and (most importantly) a tearoom. That is a peanut butter scone, so yes, we had to try it, plus some almond cherry cake.

Then we drove to Knole, another NT place with huge grounds. We’d been there before but I wanted to go again as you could just walk around the grounds for ages, and there were loads of deer to look at as you walked around.

Monday was a day for a long run (I don’t like how out and back routes look on Strava, and I finally worked out how to get to the old railway line the other way so it is a bit of a loop), gardening, and then going to see my parents and enjoying a delicious lemon cake that Mum had made, whilst sitting in their garden. Lovely.

How was your long weekend? How have you been enjoying the warmer weather? Do you get many blisters?