Wendover Woods parkrun and a Gruffalo!

The past week was a pretty standard week- rest day on Monday (a walk after work), a run on Tuesday (cut short because the traffic was so bad that my journey home took around 90 mins), and yoga on Wednesday. I was going to run after work on Thursday too, but I was feeling pretty tired, so when Andy suggested a long walk I decided that would be a better option. We went out for about 3 miles, very enjoyable in the mild weather and evening light.

On Friday I met Andy in town after work because we realised that our John Lewis cake vouchers were about to run out (they were only valid from 9th October or something) so we shared a piece of cake (chocolate, orange and redcurrant or something- very tasty) and a hot chocolate.

Earlier in the week I had been looking on the parkrun tourist tool (you can google it and it magically tells you your nearest parkruns, and you can select to remove ones you have been to if you want to see your nearest new ones). I still have half an eye on the alphabet, but really a journey to a D or K is too far at the moment. If I get a couple more G’s, I can get the “Stayin’ Alive” badge on the chrome extension (you need 3 B’s and 3 G’s), but the G closest didn’t grab my attention. Since doing all of the Hertfordshire ones, I did look to other counties to see if I could add another one to my list. Buckinghamshire is one bordering county, and when I wrote down the list (9, plus one prison one which I can’t include) I’d already run at 3 of them (Black Park, Linford Wood and Rushmere) so I thought I’d tick another one off. Wendover Woods caught my eye as it is probably the closest (just beyond Tring), it was one lap, through woods and looked really pretty.

The next morning on my way to work, I put on the newest With Me Now podcast (it’s the reincarnation of the old parkrun Show podcast with the same two presenters- Danny Norman and Nicola Forwood- and if you are interested in parkrun tourism, then I would really recommend it- it is much more for parkrun fans than the official one because the two of them are so passionate about parkrun but also very involved in their local ones) and anyway, the episode was entitled Bendover Woods- yup- Danny Norman had visited there last weekend! I didn’t realise how new the parkrun was- when we went on Saturday (I picked up my brother) it was event number 6. They seemed to have loads of tourists, and I heard someone else mention that they heard about it on the parkrun podcast, so maybe that upped the numbers a bit too?

Anyway, onto the parkrun. The journey was straightforward, and we arrived at about 8.40am- just before the exit we passed under the bridge which goes from the Tring car park to the parkrun and saw someone in a high-viz jacket walking over it. I think they would make a good (but super hilly) NYD double! There was loads of parking at the woods (run by National Forestry I think) and the area where people met for the briefing was right by the car park. We saw a sign for a Gruffalo (I think it said monument/ sculpture) but we wandered about a bit and couldn’t find it. We had the new runners briefing promptly, which turned out to be most people there I think. There were a few milestone runs, and as they were announced the photographer came into the crowd and took some photos of the people celebrating which was a lovely touch. The RD then did the main briefing, with a warning about a short course deviation as there was building work going on.

We then had to walk a short distance (they said 400m ish) along a track to the start. We had been warned that the start was mainly downhill, with the second half being mainly uphill, so we knew to take it fairly steadily.

I quite like that the course map looks a bit like a baby hippo

As we ran down a track we passed the Gruffalo model, so I said to Tony we’d have to go back at the end so we could have a photo.

The course went down through woods with some quite steep sections, and then steadily up again- there was one short steep bit where most people were walking, but we just ran very slowly up- you then got to a bit of a ridge-line with gorgeous views across a valley, before heading up more gently towards the finish. I think it wouldn’t be too bad once you got to know where the up and down bits were, although I am never that fast on the downhills either as I worry about slipping or tripping. The final mile was +123ft, compared to the +202ft in Bevendean Down (which you do twice) or +219ft of the first mile of Tring, so although it seemed hilly, it wasn’t that bad. We took our time and enjoyed chatting to each other, and of course the lovely views.

Once we finished (34:38) and had our barcodes scanned, we walked down the hill to where the Gruffalo was standing, for me to get my photo. There was a trail there, and we saw this amazing owl bench (a bit like the carvings at Heartwood Forest) so I wonder if the trail had the other animals from the story? Anyway, Mum was making us pancakes so we didn’t hang about- a quick visit to the car park machines and then off we headed. It would be a good place to visit at another time, and we have suggested to Mum that if we go back in the spring she could come along and enjoy a bit of bird watching while we run.

I thought it was my 50th parkrun course, but wasn’t 100% sure, so when I got home I checked that I was correct. A very enjoyable venue for my 50th different one (and 168 in total). I still have 5 of the Buckinghamshire ones to visit, so it will take a while, but it’s nice to have a different focus to help me choose where to visit.

Bottom right is where the statue was- overlooking a valley, very scenic indeed

Breakfast was lovely (of course)- although I’d packed tracksuit bottoms (after last week when Mum had to lend me some legging) but stupidly I’d put them in the same bag as my water bottle which then leaked all over them, so when I got them out of my bag they were all damp. At least it was fairly warm on Saturday so I was OK to stay in my kit and just put an extra jumper on.

In the afternoon I had some work to do, and then once that was finished I pottered in the garden a bit before walking to the shops to get some salad for dinner.

On Sunday morning I went out on a run- I ended up doing 8 miles in perfect running weather; cold but bright, virtually no wind. Everywhere was looking amazing.

After a shower and breakfast we walked into town and it was so warm I got an iced chai for my free Vitality drink- October is nearly over and this is just crazy. On a sad point I watched a bit of Autumn watch- it’s in the US but they were saying that the later winters are having adverse consequences for some animals- some birds would usually migrate once the lakes freeze over, but because that is happening later their winter feathers have grown and they can’t fly the distance.

How do you choose which parkrun to go to?  Are you working on any challenges at the moment? 

An amazing rainbow!

After doing Wimpole half the other week, we had a fairly chilled out Sunday – home for a shower, a bit of pottering around at home, an early dinner and then off to the cinema to see A Star Is Born. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would- from the advert I thought it would be a very typical “rush to stardom” film with the usual cliche romance stuff stuck in (it feels like they show half the film in the advert) and I hadn’t seen the other films, so it was a nice surprise to enjoy it so much- the live music was particularly impressive (versus the new Queen film which looks awesome, but the crowd effects look so CGI). We’ve seen some good films recently- the Mis-education of Cameron Post (about a girl in the US forced to go to a camp to change her from being gay to being straight), Adrift (which was sold to me as a bit like Wild, but was much more tragic), A Simple Favour (a bit like Gone Girl or something), Crazy Rich Asians (good fun) and then this.

I had booked a shoulder and back massage on the Monday evening, which was perfect timing. After I finished I popped into town to get a few bits (and a few treats- I can’t resist an almond chocolate croissant from Gail’s to put in the freezer) before heading home. Since our boiler has been changed, we now have enough hot water to run a bath, so I had a bath with Epsom salts which does seem to help the leg aches a lot. On Tuesday I did a short run on my own, and felt OK (thanks to the bath maybe).

By the way, how cute are these Ghibli socks? 

Wednesday was yoga, and this was well-needed although some of the warrior poses were so tough to hold (you are lunging with your legs and we hold them for a while)-oof. Walking back to the car after we saw a hedgehog crossing the road- I was so excited as I don’t think I have seen a hedgehog for years (not since we moved house at least).

On Thursday I had an appointment to get my hair cut, and as I had left plenty of time (my journey has ranged from 25 mins to 1 hour 20 mins recently) I parked a fair way out and walked in. This was all good, but when I left it was raining so I had a long walk trying to keep my hair looking nice!

On Friday my tea club arrived! This is a highlight of my month! I went for a cup of “coco chai number 5” which was black tea with chai spices and coconut- I am not always a fan of coconut in tea, but this was gorgeous and creamy and perfect.

Saturday was of course parkrun-day, and we were meeting at Ellenbrook Fields this week. I got there early (we had been warned that there was a uni open day so it might be busy) so I had a little run beforehand, and it was gorgeous- blue skies, with red kites circling above.

I met up with Dad and we ran together- in the distance we could see big black clouds and we wondered how close we were to the rain. As we turned a corner and began running across the fields, we saw a huge rainbow up ahead, so I took out my phone and attempted a mid-run photo (not too shabby I don’t think).

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature

It was just stunning with the black clouds, the rainbow and the sun still shining on the runners and trees up ahead.

Just after this we ran into the cow field and saw that one of the OH runners, Jan, had fallen over and had a big scrape on her head and leg. She said she was OK, and luckily was with a runner who is also a RD at Ellenbrook, so he said he would walk back with her. It’s easily done- thankfully we saw her at the finish and she was OK.

As we reached the woods, we felt a few spots of rain, and then the heavens opened and it bucketed down- so hard that the rain was filling up my eyes and I was struggling to see!

On the runway Dad decided to have a sprint finish, and I was around a minute behind him in the end (27:55).

We didn’t hang around for long- I ran back to the car and was back at 9.41- I had to do a double take as normally it’s more like 10am! I drove over to my parents for breakfast. I’d packed a t-shirt and hoodie, but didn’t think I’d need anything else because it was sunny when I left (and no rain was forecast) but I was drenched through so Mum lent me some leggings to change into!

Pancakes were enjoyed by all, and then I headed home for an afternoon of work, and then an evening watching a film- Only Yesterday, which was a very sweet love story.

On the Sunday morning it was raining, but not too hard, so I put on my rain jacket (don’t want to get wet and cold like the 12 miles of the other week) but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t waterproof any more. I had mapped out a 7 ish mile route and it was OK, thankfully the rain came in waves so I did dry a little in between the heavy showers.

The autumnal colours were still looking impressive, and the run was fine but I was glad to get home and jump in the shower to warm up.

In the afternoon we popped over to see Andy’s parents, came home for an early dinner and then went to see First Man at the cinema. The scenes inside the space rockets were so claustrophobic, but it was a bit of an epic story- I think they were trying to fit too much in to one film. I did really enjoy it too (the good film streak is still continuing).

Which films have you enjoyed recently?  Do you have a good waterproof running jacket? I don’t mind getting wet in the summer, but once it’s windy or cold I just won’t warm up while I am running at all- I think I need to invest in a new one.

Happy birthday parkrun! And Wimpole half marathon

And I thought I was doing so well- I am now a week behind again- how does it happen?

Last weekend was parkrun’s 14th birthday- when I first started going (back in 2013) I had to drive over to St Albans, so  I would tend to go when my dad and brother could make it, and pick them up. We tended to go around once a month. It was only when Panshanger launched (4 years ago this weekend) that I started going regularly, and on Panshanger’s first birthday I completed by 50th parkrun. It seemed fitting to be at Panshanger for parkrun’s birthday. I had offered to tail walk, as I was doing a half marathon the next day, and wanted to make sure I wasn’t tempted to run. Yes, you can turn up and walk, but I know if I got there without a job of walking to do, I would be tempted to run a bit.

I met Dad in the car park, as he was running, and we had a quick chat before the run started. At Panshanger the tail runner gets a bag to put all the signs in as they go around (at Ellenbrook this isn’t needed) and you also have to shut a couple of gates behind you. I started right at the back but there were so many latecomers- after I had gone probably 1km people were still catching me up. Some people were walking it, but as the people came late and I’d stop to get the signs, they would get a long way ahead of me, so I’d need to run and catch up. At one point I wasn’t sure if I could reach one of the signs as it was on a tall post surrounded by brambles and stinging nettles- after a bit of trampling and jumping I managed to get it down!

I took photos as I went around- I love how the park changes with the seasons- and finished in a fairly speedy 47:54 (sadly nothing towards the bingo this week). I then headed back to the car and drove over to Mum and Dad’s where Mum was making us pancakes- I know I say this whenever I go there, but parkrun followed by my mum’s pancakes is the best start to the weekend.

It was a bit of a rainy day after that- Andy’s parents came over with our niece and nephew for a bit (they were babysitting and needed a change of scenery) and we popped to town later on, before having a relaxing evening in front of the TV. I nearly forgot to pain my nails (I like doing that before a race) so it was a slightly later night than planned in the end.

Sunday morning was a gorgeous sunny day. Andy had decided to come with me, so after a bit of toast and some nuun, we drove up to Wimpole- it’s around a 40 min drive from home, and the parking was fine, using the overflow. I had to pick up my number in the morning, and at around 9am there were only short queues moving quickly.

I’d taken a jumper to wear and gave it to Andy right at the last minute because it was cold!

There was a 10 mile and a half, and we set off at the same time. Both routes took the same route until mile 9, where the 10 milers headed back to the finish and the half marathon did another loop. I was so cold when we first set off that my toes were a bit numb, but I soon warmed up, and the sun felt strong which helped.

It was rather confusing trying to work out where we were- often I would be running down a hill, thinking that I had run up it before, but I didn’t see any of the faster runners until the final loop.

The first half was all good- I knew it would be hilly and I was going to enjoy it, not aim for a particular time. The scenery around there is lovely; a mixture of farm fields, wooded areas and meadows filled with grazing animals. Some hills seemed to go on for a long time, but you knew you’d get a downhill as a reward. There were loads of marshals out, all super cheery and encouraging.

I took a few photos on the way around (trying to show the steep parts but of course that never works!).  I recognised a few parts from the parkrun course, and other places we had walked to on our various visits here- the grounds really are lovely and the scenery really made it enjoyable.

At the 9 mile point the marshals were saying you could change your mind and just do the 10 miles instead which was tempting- apparently you could just tell them when you finish and they would adjust your chip to show the right distance. It got fairly lonely then, as it seemed most of the people running at my pace were doing the 10 miles, so I was on my own for a fair bit. Then one of the muscles in my legs started to feel twisted (it happened in the Brighton 10 mile before) so I had to slow a fair bit to ease that. I think it was from the adverse camber earlier on, plus a lot of the farm fields were very rutted and sloped so that probably didn’t help either. My mind prefers trails but my legs prefer roads! At this point I was running down a hill and lots of people were running back up it (me on my 10th mile and them on their 12th)- it was quite a long one that looped up the hill, so I wasn’t massively looking forward to it.

At the bottom of the hill the route went through more woodland. My leg was still stiff but the flatter ground helped, and I was smiling at all of the marshals (seriously, there were loads).

Heading up the hill I decided to have a nuun shot block, as I’d taken half a pack with me- not such a good idea as because the packet had been open a while, the block had gone very hard and basically got stuck in my teeth! I knew there was a water station near the top of the hill, so I had some water after to try and wash it away (you are meant to have them with water anyway)- I was still smiling but the marshals “helpfully” told me I was still ahead of the back  runner (3 hour time limit- I had passed her coming up the hill for my mile 12 while she as going down for her 10th mile, so hopefully she wouldn’t catch me up!). This made me worry a bit, because I felt fine and thought I was smiling, but maybe I looked really bad?

I messaged Andy to say I was at 12.6 miles so he knew I’d be in soon, as he always thinks  I’ll be faster than I am, and this was a bit slower than I thought too.

The final mile was back on flat paths and I managed to pick up the pace and overtook quite a few people who had been a way ahead of me (my second fastest mile after the downhill at mile 8).

As I finished I was handed a massive flapjack, some water and the medal. I met up with Andy and we shared the flapjack and I popped to the bathrooms (where I saw how red my face was- maybe that’s why the marshals were telling me about the back runner) and then we joined the queue to the tea room because I had been looking forward to a scone since about mile 6!

I enjoyed that race so much. Yes it was tough, and not a pb course by any stretch of the imagination (well, unless it’s your first one), but the scenery was so lovely and varied, and there were loads of marshals out on the course. There are real toilets (always a bonus in my eyes) and a National Trust cafe at the end takes some beating!

Official chip time 2:29:39

How did you celebrate parkrun’s birthday? Would you choose scenery or a flat route?

A non-running weekend (and catching up in the week)

After the long and wet run of two weekends ago, I did get back into a bit of a  routine, but then last weekend we had to be out of the house the whole time where we had some works going on.

Back to the week before- Monday was a rest day (just a nice walk after work) and then I did a 5 mile run on Tuesday. Wednesday was lovely yoga (which was even more needed when the traffic was so bad it took me well over an hour to get home), and Thursday we had a leaving do at work so I had a walk when I got home and saved my run for Friday, where I had a lovely 4.5 mile run taking photos of all the autumnal leaves.

We had to be out all weekend for works on water tanks and boilers (this all harps back to the leak we had back in June/July- after that we uncovered a few more issues and so were swapping the normal boiler for a combi, which meant removing the old boiler and water tanks, installing a new boiler, diverting the gas and a few other things too)- basically if we could be out the whole weekend the plumber could keep working instead of having to turn the water back on for us to be home in between.

We headed up to Stowe (National Trust) for a long walk in the sunshine (I can’t find the photo of the beautiful autumnal trees though, so just this interesting building to look at), and then drove to Bicester village as I wanted to go to the Lululemon outlet.

Also on Sunday we had a Hotel Chocolat hot chocolate- a seasonal special with spices and pecans I think.

The dressing room was so huge I could have done a long jump in there (although I can’t jump that far… someone taller could have jumped a long way too)- I couldn’t decide on the shorts because they are a lot shorter than the capris which I usually wear, but this summer has been so hot that I thought a pair of shorts would be a good idea, and as they were much cheaper than normal I decided to give them a go.

In the end I got a long sleeved top for running in the winter (I already have one of these and they are so soft and warm), a jacket and the shorts.

By the time I’d finished there time was getting on, and we had cinema tickets for the evening, so we went to the Pret and got wraps and fruit for dinner. I inadvertently tried a turmeric latte, as I ordered a chai latte for us to share, and the guy on the till said to the barista “one soya golden”- I queried it and when he passed it back to me he called it a chai, but when I took the lid off it was yellow and when I tasted it, it tasted like how I imagine soil would taste. When I took it back he said again “we call it a golden” and I had to have a bit of an argument with him, saying turmeric is golden (they do also have a turmeric latte on their menu) but this one didn’t taste like a chai latte. When he said it to the barista again, the barista queried it and then he ordered the right drink- a bit of a faff! The weirdest thing was while I was waiting, there was no queue, so the guy on the till was stood there muttering to himself “chai latte” over and over again- a bit awkward.

After dropping our things off at the hotel we walked to the cinema (through some underpasses where I have never seen so many rats in my life) and saw Crazy Rich Asians, which was good fun- not the most hilarious film but good for a Saturday night. The main guy usually presents The Travel Show (on BBC) so it was weird seeing him act, although each time he was doing something vaguely travel related (going on a plane, eating in a restaurant) it felt like his day job.

On Sunday we wandered into the shopping centre to get some breakfast and have a look in a few shops. We were going to head to Willen lakes for a walk, but it was getting very overcast so we went to IKEA (to stock up on marzipan cakes as you do) and then drove back to St Albans so that we would be closer by when the plumber called.

By the time we got there we both fancied a cup of tea, so we went to The Pudding Stop for cake plus tea, and then walked around afterwards, finding that the main high street was closed to traffic as there was a food festival going on, so it was nice for a wander.

We popped to see my parents and then headed home when the plumber called- he was clearing up the final few bits and left at around 8.30 on Sunday night- a full weekend of work for him. Our hot water tank was about 75% full of limescale which is why we could never have a bath (the hot water would only last until about 2 inches).

I went out for a 7 mile run on Monday after work, as a sort of taper. I saw so many beautiful autumnal trees- it’s all looking so lovely at the moment.

Confusingly (for me) this was one of the weeks where yoga was on a Tuesday instead, which just makes me feel like the days are wrong for the rest of the week. It was lovely- at the end we sat in a circle in blankets and did some meditation with a candle. I love this and I find that if I am awake in the night, thinking of it and trying to picture the candle can help me go back to sleep.

On Wednesday I had 4.5 mile run (spotting more autumn colour) and on Thursday after work I met Andy in town and we walked around for a bit (I am still managing 10,000 steps a day since sometime in July- before then I wouldn’t usually make up the steps on my yoga day, but my average would be higher as I’d do more steps on other days- now I have a walk before I go to yoga to keep the steps up). I was going to run on Friday after work but I was tired and wanted to save some energy for the weekend so we had another walk instead.

When tidying up I discovered that these jam jars are the perfect size for 50g loose Bird&Blend tea. I finished the Peach Cobbler tea so I’ve opened a new one (Red Velvet) which is really good.

I’ll save the weekend for another post, but I’ve nearly caught up!

Is it looking autumnal near you now? Do you have some nice places nearby to appreciate nature at this time of year? Do you do a proper taper before races?



12 miles in torrential rain and a catch up

I am sure I say this all the time, but the weeks are flying by!

Last weekend (after Rushmere parkrun) I needed to do my final long run before the half marathon next weekend.

The route planning went a bit wrong before I started- I wanted to do 11 or ideally 12 miles, but I still don’t have the hang of how long each route is, so I mapped one out, saved it as an image and emailed it to myself so it was on my phone. When I got up in the morning I looked at it, and then realised that the image included mile times (when of course it wouldn’t have known the mile times when I mapped it) and this route went by the lake, and I wasn’t planning on going that way (as it would be very soggy/muddy) that it dawned on me that I had emailed a different image of a route from Strava. Whoops. It was already a bit late and I didn’t want to put the run off any longer as the weather was only going to get worse.

Because it was so rainy and windy, I decided to plait as much hair as possible. My hair is too thick for one plait so I did two on each side meeting around the back and a third with the rest, putting them all in a pony tail. It seemed to hold.

And onto the run. I made a mistake with clothes too- the day before had been chilly but I was OK in a t-shirt, and it was only a few degrees cooler so I thought I would be OK. I got a long sleeved top over my t-shirt to wear as I warmed up, thinking I’d take it off fairly soon- how wrong I was. It was so cold- within a few minutes my hands were so cold and my top just soaked through as it wasn’t a waterproof one.

I sort of enjoyed most of the run (the challenge of it perhaps) and caught up on some podcasts, but at times it was fairly miserable because the pavements were flooded and as cars drove past they would throw up a wall of water. A few times I waited until a gap in the traffic so I wouldn’t be totally soaked. Andy had messaged to say he would come and pick me up, but I didn’t see it (I got a new phone in the summer and I didn’t realise that the photos were uploading all the time instead of just on wifi so I’d used all my data and couldn’t get the whatsapp message)- not that I would have taken him up as once you are out there you may as well finish. As the following weekend we were away I knew it was my final chance for a long run so I wanted to finish it.

When I finally got home (2 and a quarter hours later I think) I was dripping so much I had to step inside onto the doormat and peel all my clothes off right there, jumping straight into the shower (I’d usually at least have a drink and a bit of a stretch). I was so cold that the water was stinging my skin, and after my shower I put my pj’s on and got back into bed (the only time I’ve done this before has been after crazy long runs during marathon training I used to have a little afternoon nap) to have breakfast and a massive cup of tea. Our heating still wasn’t fixed so this seemed the best option to warm up- it took a while! Once I finally warmed up (I think an episode of Location) we were heading into town to pick up a few bits on the way to Andy’s parents. Annoyingly, the weather had dried up and brightened up, but as we were going to theirs for dinner I didn’t have the option of delaying the run.

Anyway, it was done and I can tick it off, and have confidence that I can run a half next weekend.

Onto the catch up; yoga is term-time only so it’s been great getting back into it. This term each week we have been looking at a different chakra (a centre of spirituality in the body), doing poses and breathing exercises linked to the different areas.   It’s been good to have a different focus each week. I was doing the you-tube video once a week or so, but I realised that I have not managed this for the last week- it’s something I would like to do but just need to remember.

I’ve been mostly keeping up with 4 runs per week although I have not managed a club run in ages. A couple of weeks ago it was so windy which made the runs pretty tough. I’ve been mainly sticking to around 4 miles after work, 5 if I am not home too late, and a quick 3 before the cinema one evening.

We’ve been to see a few films including A Simple Favour which I really enjoyed- it was a lot like Gone Girl, but with some quirky characters and light-hearted bits to break the tension a bit.

My Bird & Blend Brighton mug has been the perfect size for tea in the mornings.

I met up with a friend after work one Friday for a waffle. I was a bit early so I wandered around the park for a bit and saw lots of debris from the strong winds that week. I went for a banana flapjack waffle, which is a waffle with banana, little bits of flapjack and caramel sauce- really good.

Would you go for a sweet or savoury waffle? I love their hummus and avocado one, but after a week of work I needed the sugar boost! Did you have much damage from the storm? Thankfully most of the big trees in our garden are gone now, so we didn’t need to worry about them blowing down (something which has happened in the past).