Geneva and parkrun du Lac de Divonne

I am back from my holiday adventures! I have so much to talk about I don’t even know where to begin.

I’ll start with my little trip to Geneva. James and I arrived in Geneva Friday evening. Our hotel was actually in France though (Geneva is right next to the border). We got a taxi and headed for the nearest restaurant that would still be open (funnily enough, it was an America-style grill place) and then we had to lug our bags a mile to the hotel afterwards. It was a bit of a ball ache it must be said but hey ho. The little town we stayed in was very pretty and ridiculously French – like you definitely knew you were in France! It was gorgeous.The next morning was the time time for me to execute my genius “get to parkrun” plan. The nearest one was the parkrun du Lac de Divonne (again located in France). There weren’t any buses that came near our hotel and went to the parkrun which caused some complications but I’d found that in Geneva you could hire bikes for free. Geneva was only four miles from our hotel so the plan was to run in, grab the bikes and then cycle the roughly 11 miles to parkrun. Eeeeeeasy. Simple!

The four miles (which I’d already planned out and put onto my watch before the trip – check me out being all organised) were super easy. A real novelty was running through a tunnel which went under the Geneva airport runway which was rather cool – and ran from France into Switzerland. One for the memories!We passed the Place des Nations with all the flags lined up at the front. There was also the Broken Chair in front and the water fountain things.I didn’t realise but the Broken Chair was to commemorate the landmine victims and encourage countries to prohibit their use. Quite poignant.Because we were there so early there weren’t many people. It was nice to see some of the key touristy areas in the quieter times. And obviously get good photo opportunities! And then we got back to running to the bike hire place, which was about a mile or so away.The bike hire spot took a bit of time to actually find. And then we found it was closed and not open until 8am which was about 15 minutes away and meaning that suddenly 11 miles on a hired bike was going to be quite the ask. When we finally got inside the shop we were then informed that we’d need ID. Ah. We had money and our phones, but no ID. No bikes for us then.I take the full responsibility for this idiotic planning because, let’s face it, it was my fault for not checking the website (standard Anna-ism). After some discussion we decided to just take the hit and call an Uber – annoyingly now to be more expensive than if we’d have just done that from the hotel as we were now further away. Oh well, the things you do for parkrun tourism eh (ironically a free 5k event…).We arrived in good time and had a wander around the lake and then a quick visit to the single public toilet. The toilet was very odd. When it flushed it apparently washed out the entire room… you needed to make sure that you weren’t in there when that happened basically. We then headed over to the start…to find that we were surrounded by quite a few fellow Brits. In fact, there were so many British people compared to the French locals that it felt like the Benidorm of parkrun. That said, it was interesting to have the parkrun course explained in both French and English. Very cool.Then we were off. The parkrun was super flat. It was basically an out and back along the tarmac road next to the lake. It was very pretty but completely out of any shade and, as it was a rather hot and sunny day, this was quite taxing. I wanted to try hard but I just couldn’t seem to get my legs to go particularly fast (relative to what I’ve previously been running). I felt a little bit demoralised and that I’d wasted a decent course. But then I told myself to get over myself and just enjoy running in a different country in a beautiful place. Perspective certainly helps!So I whipped out my phone for some mid race snaps. I find this is a sure fire way to turn a hard run into an enjoyable experience. It takes the pressure off and I started enjoying myself a lot more.The finish line was a long straight strip of road which was great if you fancied yourself a sprint finish but reminded me horribly of the long and never-ending finish of the Dubai Marathon… *shudders*. Anyway I finished in 22:43 and first female. Though the field was very small – there were only 50 or so people actually running in total. I also came 6th as well which is definitely my best position ever.From the parkrun website they’d mention a café and given some directions so James and I headed over there – which was quite a walk. When we got there we realised it was part of a small children’s adventure park thing. We could see a café inside but the whole place was locked until 10am. So we hung around until they opened up. We were hoping to get some food but, using my very limited French (i.e. “petit déjeuner?”), we found they were only serving drinks. Well, the server did offer me Tiramisu but I politely declined.

We then tried the second café that was given on the website… another long walk away. But we eventually arrived and found the only place to buy food was a bakery. We could buy something from there and then sit in the café next door with a coffee and eat it (apparently a very acceptable thing to do). Obviously I wasn’t expecting a greasy spoon but I did fancy something a bit more than a croissant or cake (shocking I know).I managed to get myself a beef and cheese panini though and that helped tame the runger. Because we’d faffed so much with the different cafés we found the other parkrunners had since left. This was somewhat problematic for us later when we could have done with a bit of advice on how to get back…

Uber apparently did not want to pick us up from our location. To be fair, we were in a fairly quiet a remote French village. The thought of having problems getting back to our hotel hadn’t really crossed my mind. Now, as we started walking around the small town, it suddenly became apparent that this was a very real situation. Having previously checked for bus routes as a method to get to parkrun, I knew there would be no direct or easy route through public transport. And we certainly couldn’t find any bus stops with anything remotely near our destination. Right.

After getting not much help from two police men who spoke limited English (but were very nice) we felt a bit stuck. Two stupid Brits with no local knowledge or French… our own fault but frustrating nonetheless. We asked in a local café and the waiter, though friendly, wasn’t entirely helpful. He sort of shrugged in that very French way. He did eventually give me two numbers to try ringing for a taxi. Neither of which were any good – one couldn’t understand my request and the other laughed saying he wasn’t a taxi.

Panic now set in a little. It was over eight miles back and getting very hot. Sure we could run back but having run seven miles and feeling quite exhausted by the whole charade that morning, neither of us fancied it. Walking would be ridiculous too. Both our phone batteries were getting dangerous low and we decided to stop using them for anything other than emergency map use.

Finally we found a hotel and managed to beg the owner to ring us a taxi. She was super helpful and very apologetic when she told us it would be 50 Euros to get back. Well we had no choice! What a mess eh?

We did manage to arrive safely back at the hotel. Thank God. Another one for the Anna Book of Idiocy… but HEY I got a cool parkrun done!! Swings and roundabouts.For the rest of the day we spent walking round Geneva in the sunshine. Handily we’d gotten a decent piece of information from the taxi driver who told us about a place called Plainpalais where we could watch the football in a big outdoors area with food and drink.I’ve been really enjoying the World Cup and as it was Argentina vs. France it was definitely a game to catch, being that we were right on the French border as well. The atmosphere was bound to be good.We arrived luckily about 10 minutes before the match began and then queued to get in. I was highly affronted when the security guard told me I wasn’t allowed to take my apple in with me (no food and drink other than what you buy within apparently). I was so annoyed at having to throw a perfectly good apple away (I even offered to her but she didn’t fancy it. Hmm). Luckily though she was too concerned with the one apple in my hand she didn’t spot the other one hidden away in the depths of my handbag. Always good to have a safety apple 😉 James and I found ourselves two decent seats next to pop-up bar in the shade and settled in to watch the match. We had a few beers and enjoyed the atmosphere and cheering. It was good fun. By half time though we were both fairly hungry, having not eaten since ‘breakfast’ and it was now closing into the evening.We found ourselves a pizzeria (that happily had a TV) and continued watching there before moving on to a crêperie for some crêpes (when near France, eh). I had a delicious chocolate brownie one.It was divine. By this point I was steadily becoming rather merry – being quite the lightweight and having being drinking on an empty stomach.We watched the next match in the evening before calling it a day and heading back to a bus to take us back to the hotel. By the time we arrived back at the hotel (after passing through a weird carnival in the local town where our hotel was – very trippy in my tipsy state) we’d done over 42,000 steps. Jeeze. I was absolutely shattered!

Have you ever been to Geneva?

Would you have paid for a taxi to get to the parkrun?

Have you been enjoying the football?

Tooting Common parkrun and the Harry Potter escape room

On Saturday I headed to the Tooting Common parkrun in London. This meant another early morning catching the 6.39am train.

Luckily it wasn’t ridiculously cold, but it was still fairly chilly. I was in my running gear plus a jumper (which I’d wear later after the run) and a big winter jacket with a fresh travel mug of coffee to take with me. I was going to meet my friends at 11 after parkrun for some escape room fun (more on that later) so I had a big bag with me as well full of a spare set of clothes, baby wipes, deodorant etc. The best you can do when you don’t have a shower!

On the train I chilled with my iPad watching Mudbound (really good film!) and my coffee. But in the back of my mind I was feeling a little stressed. The thing is, the parkrun I’d chosen wasn’t exactly the quickest one to get to. It was about 20 or so minutes on the tube and then a mile from the tube station. And as my train didn’t get in until 8.23am I was cutting it fine. Not only this but the tube I absolutely needed to get in order to get there in time was the 8.28 one. GAH. I could have made life so much easier on myself by choosing a parkrun that was a little closer to Waterloo, but I wanted to get another letter done for my alphabet parkrun challenge. There are no easy ‘T’s around where I live so this was perfect (I say “perfect” loosely here).

As the train pulled into the station I was like a runner at the start of an Olympic race, I was ready to go go go. As soon as the doors opened I leapt out and stormed it down to the barrier and then out down to the tube. My big bag didn’t help but I had to just move quickly. I thankfully got on the right tube and then was just left catching my breath and standing around for the next sprint. It’s amazing how stressed you can get just standing around waiting and not being able to do anything. The train arrived at almost 10 to and I raced out. I had a map screenshotted on my phone and had memorised the roads I needed to know. I saw another runner running from the tube so assumed I was in good company as they headed in the same direction as me. Though it was slightly awkward as I was running just behind them like some stalker girl.I remember running past a really nice coffee/cake shop and thinking “ooh” and then “FOCUS ANNA”. I got to the Tooting Bec Commons where the parkrun would take place and saw a number of runners. I asked one girl who was running if she was heading to parkrun and she said no. This stumped me a little as I just assume anyone running near to a parkrun would do it! Luckily though I could see a crowd of people in the distance and the welcoming signs of high-vis.I arrived with a few minutes to spare, so quickly stripped off my jacket and jumper and dumped my bag on a big canvas sheet that had been laid out especially for this purpose. I’d done a little bit of research beforehand and knew the course was flat and three laps, but also that it was narrow at points so if you wanted a speedy run you needed to be near the front. This always makes me nervous as “speedy” is so subjective. But I DID want a good time (for me) so tried to position myself in a spot that was behind the clearly very speedy types (you can always recognise them) and in front of the more casual runners. It’s a hard judgement and I was sure I’d probably get overtaken but there we go, you just have to guess!

I got my music sorted (always a requirement for a fast run for me) and then we were off. Tooting Common parkrun is run mostly on tarmac and basically in a triangle. The first bit you run down a path to get onto the “triangle” that you do three laps of. This starts as a long tarmac path, which is great for getting the speed up and finding your place in the crowd. Then you make a fairly sharp turn onto a more mud/compacted trail path. This felt *very* slightly uphill but I might be imagining it. Then you turn left again and run down a nice flat straight of tarmac. The first lap felt quite comfortable (comfortably tough I hasten to add). The second lap begun and I felt the effort of maintaining the speed (around 6.40min/miles) start to become tough. I remember starting to notice more of the course on this lap as the first lap was a complete blur. Like, oh look there’s a nice pond, a children’s play area and nice trees. The marshals, as always, were really energetic and friendly in their support. I tried to thank them all verbally or give a thumbs up as I passed – even if you’re going for a time, they deserve it because they’re standing in the cold! I also feel like they gave me a lot of cheers and support as they could see my gurning face and pain train grimace.

The third lap I managed to overtake a girl who’d been in front of me for a while but had to stop and stretch her calf, then I was on the heels of a guy who was running the same pace. He started looking behind him and then guiding me through other people and giving me the odd encouraging comment. I could barley respond. As the songs changed to the next one on my iPhone I could hear my gasping breath. Not a fun noise it must be said. I managed to drop the last lap to 6.30min/mile and was literally counting down the 0.1s to the end. I saw a girl just ahead of me ask which way to go as we finished out last lap of the triangle and saw we turned off to the right to head to the funnel. I was glad she asked as I hadn’t a clue! As I saw the funnel ahead and made my final sprint I genuinely thought I was about to hurl. That horrible, horrible feeling of almost being sick because you’re trying so hard is awful and one of the main reasons I hate short distance running. You don’t get that in a marathon (or at least the way I run a marathon!). I crossed the finishing funnel in 20:17 (but actually 20:18 officially and second female) with the contents of my stomach still thankfully inside.It took me about five solid minutes to get myself together though. I was absolutely rinsed. I was OVER THE MOON though. My third fastest parkrun (20:06 being my PB and 20:17 from Chelmsford parkrun so many years ago). I couldn’t have given anymore. But it does give me encouragement that a sub-20 minute parkrun might be achievable before the end of the year. As long as I remain uninjured and healthy!I caught my breath and then found my stuff and put my jacket back on as I started getting cold again. As I cheerfully walked back to the tube I noticed that cake shop again (called Crepes and Cakes by Nazish Omar – very nice indeed). Well, it would be rude not to! So I popped in and bought myself a very nice looking slice of rainbow cake. A little “well done me” present. I didn’t eat it then though as I wasn’t quite ready for solids yet 😉 (Actually I haven’t eaten it yet at all because of later foods. It’s safe in my freezer though for a day in need. My parkrun rainbow cake).From there I headed to Liverpool Street on the tube (smiling like a Cheshire cat, looking a bit of a loon in my short shorts it must be said). I had a bit of time before I met my friends so I scoped around for a coffee shop where I could grab a warm drink and a loo to change in. After walking around for ages – so many places closed! – I finally found somewhere that looked ideal. I was cold and really hungry by this point and saw they did fresh porridge, I was sold! Unfortunately after I ordered a coffee and the porridge I found they didn’t have a toilet. Great. Oh well.Anyway I ate the lovely steaming porridge before meeting with the first friend who’d arrived. We found a Costa and I managed to get changed there. Suitably attired for our Harry Potter themed escape room 😉 (Terrible loo selfie there, apologies).

With two more of my friends we got to the Enigma Escape Rooms for what has to be described as the most awesome escape room we’ve done yet (this was our fourth). If you like Harry Potter and like this sort of clue-based puzzle room thing it is definitely for you! It was SO much fun. You’re not actually locked in in this one, it’s more about passing the different classes (e.g. Potions, History of Magic, etc.). God it was awesome. We had put ourselves into the different houses and were wearing our corresponding t-shirts (I’m in Griffindor).We also managed to do the escape room without any clues (these rooms can actually be quite tough and in the previous ones we’ve done we’ve had to ask for help) and finished with 11 minutes to spare. We got a special little wristband thing because we didn’t need any clues and an “Outstanding” level of achievement in our overall OWL (right, I know I sound like a loser right now but I DON’T CARE).After this we headed to the Strut and Cluck where we met the final friend for a lovely lunch. I had a pulled turkey shawarma which was just delicious. It was a little small in my usual portion sizes so I ordered some bread and pita to go with it. But for normal appetites it would be fine.
Obviously an occasion like this will always require pudding so we headed to Shoreditch, not too far away, where the Boxpark is. Apparently this is the world’s first ever pop-up mall. It was very quirky. In fact, it was full of people so hipster it made my teeth hurt. Like you know if you ever walk into Topshop and you see a lot of the clothing and think “who on earth would wear this?”, well pretty much everyone in Shoreditch. It was quite a fun place to look around. It was full of quirky vegan eateries, street-food and, yes, lots of dessert spots. We first went into the Dum Dum Donutterie.After seeing so many cool artisan doughnuts on Instagram and always being so sad they’re always in London I was chuffed to finally see some amazing looking donuts. It was tough to choose but I went for the salted caramel one – I mean, technically it was a “cronut”. It was very dense.
Then, as not everyone wanted a doughnut, we headed to Nosteagia, which is a Hong Kong themed dessert bar (not sure if this is the right term but whatever) which made “bubble waffles”. Basically waffles full of deliciousness. One friend went for a Nutella one and another friend went for a peanut butter themed one, whereas I went for a honeycomb one.Yes, I know. I just couldn’t decide between the doughnut and this. In my head I was sure I’d eat half of each. Hummm.I started with the waffle which was delicious. The waffle itself wasn’t that sweet, but the ice cream, cream, popcorn and salted caramel sauce made it the ultimate pudding. After having about half I decided to try the doughnut. I’m actually not a huge doughnut fan (I really don’t like the jam-filled ones that are predominately popular in the UK) but this was no simple doughnut. It was dense and delicious, a bit like a very dense cake. SO good. (Un)fortunately though, both puddings were far too good to not eat the entirety of. I’m just far too greedy for my own good and finished them both. I’m not even mad. Life is too short to not eat the good stuff. Memories not calories 😉

And then I headed home. It was a lovely, lovely Saturday full of my favourite things 🙂

What did you get up to at the weekend?

Do you like Harry Potter? Which house would you put yourself in?

What pudding would you have gone for?

Shrewsbury parkrun – number 20 parkrun tourism

I finished work on Thursday night and was on holiday for a week and a day, woohoo! On Friday I was driving up to Bishop’s Castle with my parents (it’s just under an hour from Shrewsbury). One of the reasons Chester Marathon worked so well for me was because my parents were going to see my grandparents for the week and stay in a holiday cottage (they had the upstairs apartment and my parents had the downstairs one) and they’d invited me to join. The locations and timings worked perfectly.

What also worked perfectly was the fact that I could do another new-to-me parkrun as well on the Saturday. Though there wasn’t one in very close proximity to Bishop’s Castle, Shrewsbury wasn’t too far away. My dad was happy to drive and support me (as always, bless him). It wasn’t too early a morning either which was nice. Up at 7am and on the road by 7.30am. We got to Shrewsbury in enough time to find a car park just across the road from Quarry Park where the parkrun was located.

In my head I assumed it would look like an actual quarry but it was actually a really beautiful park with lots of trees, grass, lovely winding paths and right next to River Severn.

shrewsbury-parkrun-1The top left picture is where we parked the car just outside the church hall

It was raining and cold. Distinctly autumnal morning. I reminded myself to warm-up and did a few loops round the park. This was mainly because I was so cold and wanted to feel human again.shrewsbury-parkrun-2The parkrun crew were setting everything up and I was getting slowly more wet. I had no time goals but I wasn’t going to hold myself back. A faster paced parkrun has helped previously the day before races so I’m happy to stretch my legs, knowing I won’t be going anywhere near those paces the next day!img_0811

The course sounded a little confusing but better than a five lapper! It was one lap of the top of the park and then an out and back along the river before doing the first lap again and then back along the river to the finishing funnel. Nice and varied I thought.

The first part of the course went down a fairly steep decline which with the wet ground was a little precarious… I was slightly worried I’d slip.shrewsbury-parkrun

Photo credit: Colin Williamson

Then it was off along the flat. I felt quite comfortable with the pace I was going though annoyingly my calf was a bit tight. It seems a recurring thing for me when it gets to high mileage that my left calf starts to grumble. But it was just a mild discomfort rather than pain so I wasn’t panicking (OK that’s a lie, I will always panic when some part of my body feels anything but perfect when I near a big race but I was confident it wasn’t serious).

Then we curved back up to go past the start again. There was a fairly nasty incline (to match the previous decline I suppose) but it wasn’t too bad. It was still raining but I was feeling warmer, though my hands weren’t.img_5517My dad cheered me on and it was back down the decline and off along the river. This was lovely and flat and I gained some speed. It was a nice pace actually. Surprisingly I didn’t feel the “Omg how much longer?” pain but rather a comfortable tolerance of the pain.

It was nice knowing exactly what I had left as I came back down the path from the out-and-back. I really enjoyed the variety of the course.img_5522I’m really pleased with how I felt during this run. Albeit a slightly niggling calf, I enjoyed the burst of speed and didn’t feel like I was dying. Always a plus!img_5425

My time was 21:41 which blew my mind as I haven’t broken 22 minutes since March. The course was good it must be said but I can’t believe how comfortable it felt. A photographer was standing at the end of the finisher’s funnel so the photo he got of me was literally just after I’d finished.photo-credit-colin-williamson

Photo credit: Colin Williamson

The finishing area next to the River Severn was so picturesque, even in the rain.img_5501Then we made quick haste to get back to the car and then to find somewhere for brunch to warm-up.img_5503We found a lovely little cafe/restaurant called The Loopy Shrew (love that name) and we both ordered a English breakfast (subbing the hasbrowns for extra tomatoes because we’re so healthy ;-)).img_5526It was honestly one of the best fry-ups I’ve ever had. I love that they separated the baked beans in a little bowl as I hate beans touching my eggs. The black pudding was to die for. And the service was fantastic. The bacon was super crispy and it wasn’t swimming in a pool of grease. Lovely.

The rest of the day was fairly relaxed. We wandered around Bishop’s Castle, despite it being rather drizzly and cold. I couldn’t believe it was forecasted to be lovely and sunny the next day!img_5529And in the evening we had a nice meal in another pub (I didn’t need lunch after my mammoth breakfast!). I had a very taste starter of sardines (random I know but nice) and a goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomato salad with a side of sweet potato fries because #carbs 😉pre-marathon-mealAnd because I needed more carbs I had a brownie with ice cream for pudding. SO good.

And then it was off to bed for an early-ish night before the marathon the next day!

What’s your favourite restaurant starter?

Do you like running in the rain?

Favourite brunch foods?