Finally a sub-21 parkrun and the Lavender Tea Rooms

On Saturday morning I headed to Netley parkrun as per usual. For the second week in a row it was the cricket pitch course.

The cricket pitch is only used when the other field has an event going on. The course is 5.5 laps of a cricket pitch so has been named as the “Marmite Course” because though it’s super flat, it’s very dull and mentally a tough run. It’s great if you’re going for a fast time, but the enjoyment factor is low because it’s so monotonous. It’s also actually quite tough to remember how many laps you’ve done!

It’s recently been slightly amended to ensure it’s an accurate course as previously it’s measured about 130 metres short. I intended on giving it my best that morning but when I ran across the field to the store cupboard to help with getting the signs and cones out to set the course up (I was running late…) my legs felt heavy. I felt myself immediately back-tracking on my desire to beat last week’s time (21:38).The good thing about the cricket pitch is that it takes far less time to set everything up so this gave me a bit more time to actually do a proper warm-up (well, one lap of the cricket pitch) and get me more in confident frame of mind. The weather was also fairly cool and sunny but with a slight breeze. So conditions were good!

My friend, Mike, also wanted to aim for a good time and though we’re around the same times at the moment I decided to run with my music. I know Mike likes to go like a bat out of hell at the start whereas I’m now more of a “builder upper”. I didn’t want to toast my energy right at the start. There were pacers as well which was good but I knew I needed to run my own game rather than depend on someone else.

Though I’d had limited confidence earlier that morning, as soon as we started and my music got playing it was like I had an injection of energy. I no longer felt heavy or slow. At around half a mile I checked my pace and saw I was running around 7 minutes. To beat last week’s time I knew I needed to stay there abouts around this speed to get under 21:38. The pace felt tough but not impossibly so so I just hung on and kept going. I saw the sub-22 pacer ahead and slowly pushed ahead of him as the laps went on.

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

This photo makes me laugh because it looks like I’m side-eyeing the photographer. I really wasn’t in a “let’s wave and smile” kind of zone!

I started confusing myself with how many laps I’d done, despite keeping count on my fingers. I didn’t know whether I needed to do 5 laps then finish or 5 laps then another to finish. Basically my brain felt a bit addled with the exertion!

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

OK I lied, I did do a bit of smiling. Sort of! I felt myself gaining in confidence as I overtook people. Sadly I overtook my friend Chris who is usually so much faster than me who wasn’t having a good run. He’s been aiming for a sub -20 for a few weeks and by rights should be there but it just hasn’t panned out yet. I also noticed Mike a fair way behind me – I wondered if he was having a “bad” run like Chris (it turned out he too didn’t have the parkrun he wanted unfortunately).

Photo credit: Chris Stapleford

And the pain was setting in now… I worked out from my time and who was in front when I’d be heading to the finish and just pushed through the last bit. As I crossed the line and stopped my watched I was shocked to see 20:57. A 20!!! I haven’t seen one of those in a good long while.And a negative split! I just prayed and prayed that my official parkrun time would be sub-21 too…After finishing I immediately laid down to catch my breath. I gave everything and I’m really proud of myself. I feel myself getting more and more back in good shape. I just hope I don’t get injured. To be honest though, I’m just loving running at the moment. parkrun times naturally coming down is such a bonus, but just running without issues is literally the best thing ever right now. And the email later from parkrun confirmed that I did indeed get 21:57, and second female! Not too shabby 🙂 Injury free and a speedy time (for me)!

I felt buoyed for the rest of the day and fully enjoyed some tasty treats for lunch at the New Forest Lavender Tea Rooms with my parents.I ordered a cheese scone with a salad, followed by a Mint Aero rocky road slice and a pot of tea. It was divine! If you’re ever in the New Forest area, you must go to the Lavender Farm as it’s such a beautiful place. A small garden centre with an absolutely fantastic tea room serving home-baked treats and delicious light bites.My cheese scone was absolutely SUPERB. Warm, crumbly and delicately cheesy without being overwhelmingly so. My Mint Aero rocky road was obviously divine as well. My dad ordered a Lavender scone with cream and jam and only ate half (he’s being so good with his healthy eating) so I got to nibble on the rest. You could taste the lavender but it was a nice subtle taste rather than being overpowering or strange. All round delicious!We had a mosey round the garden centre and then headed off to Beaulie for a little walk and more moseying round another garden centre and little shops (so quintessentially British right? Looking round garden centres in spring after tea and cakes).It was a lovely way to spend a sunny day! And to prepare me for Tough Mudder the next day which I had only found out I was doing only on Thursday…

Do you prefer a savoury or sweet scone?

What’s your parkrun goal?

How did you spend your weekend?

Superheroes everywhere

I do love a bit of fancy dress, you might have noticed. I don’t know why, maybe because it’s good fun and a laugh. So when it was announced (though not too widely it seems) that for Netley Abbey parkrun’s 5th birthday they’d be a superhero fancy dress I was all game.

My friend Mike decided to go as Robin and my friend Geoff decided to go as Batman. Well, I’d been Batgirl before so I hunted online and found that superhero females were somewhat limited. I could be Supergirl or Catwoman it seemed. Catwoman’s outfit looked far easier to run in (streamline if you like) so I went with that.My friend, Tom, was also joining me for parkrun on Saturday so I skipped setting the course up and picked him up at 8.15am. So I had a bit of a longer lie-in which was nice. Tom is a fairly new runner and had been doing Lee-On-Solent parkrun so I was chuffed to be able to show him Netley. Though Netley is a harder course than the lovely flat LoS!We got there to find not many people had embraced the superhero theme, which was a shame but kind of understandable as a few people had asked where the notice of fancy dress had been posted as they weren’t aware. *Sighs*

Photo credit: Sheryl James

But I didn’t mind. I love fancy dress regardless. I was going to run with Mike as we’re kind of around the same speed at the moment, though I’m perhaps a little faster. I didn’t want to go to speedy so it would work out well. All week I’ve been being very careful with my ankle and though it was feeling pretty much back to normal I didn’t want to risk it. I say this, but really I didn’t fancy running fast and the ankle was a good excuse 😉

Catwoman, Robin and Batman

Anyway as we lined up I lost Mike in the crowds. Tom stayed with me and was planning on “hanging on” for as long as he could. His PB is around 25 minutes.

As we started I just decided to run as I fancied, which turned out to be a fair clip in comparison to what I’d intended. My other friend, Mark, caught me up with his buggy and ran with me which was nice. He’s a lot faster so running my speed with his buggy was probably a walk in the park for him.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

It was nice running with Mark as we could chat and I could take my mind off the fact that I was running faster than I’d planned.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

The final lap I stepped it up a gear… I was thinking of all the cake at the end. As it was Netley’s birthday a cake sale had been organised (that info had been far more widely circulated…) and I was keen to get a few pieces.

I finished in 22:43 which I was pleased with considering how windy it was. I scanned my barcode pronto and then headed to grab some cake.

Photo credit: Ken Grist

I love this photo because it shows me in my happy place 🙂 The cake sale was to raise money for the defibrillator that we’re trying to buy, so I was only doing my good deed of the day really.I had a slice of Victoria Sponge (exceptionally tasty I must say. I had spotted this cake on Twitter beforehand and was glad to be able to grab a slice!), a white chocolate fudge slice thing and a white chocolate cookie. Pretty good haul! Though nothing like the five slices of the week before. The cake sale raised just over £366!! This is fantastic. Well done to all the bakers! The real superheroes of the day.

Tom did really well, coming in around 27 minutes which he was pleased with given how much more hilly Netley is compared to LoS and how windy it was. He showed me the bottom of his trainer afterwards; the sole was coming off! I told him off for wearing such old trainers, tsk!

After parkrun, showering and all that jazz I met up with my dad later in the day for a spot of Nando’s and a cinema trip to see Logan. I decided to change my usual whole chicken order at Nando’s and be slightly more healthy and opt for half a chicken and a Mediterranean salad.The salad was delicious. It had huge juicy olives, lots of sundried tomatoes and good chunks of feta. But I was a bit disappointed with the size of the chicken (I KNOW, I told you I’m greedy). My dad had gotten half a chicken with a side salad and a cob so we both felt we could share five wings between us 😉

And then we headed to the cinema…where I met a few more superhero friends.Logan was fantastic. Very violent but really different to the normal superhero films. I mean, I love X-Men anyway but this was very different.

The next day I met up with Robin Mike and we headed out for a long run together. I’ve become such a fan of running with other people again. Normally I’m like a lone wolf but having people to run with is a nice change, especially my long run. Running a long run with Mike is also good because as he’s slightly slower than me it means he keeps my pace in check.

I ran about half a mile to meet him and then we did a 5 mile out and back route through some fairly quiet country roads. The route was quite hilly though so a nice challenge at times. It was a great run and the miles flew by, as they always do when you run with someone else. I must do this more! Then I added a little bit more on at the end as I ran home to get to 12 miles (8:38min/miles overall pace).

Happily my ankle felt absolutely fine (as it did the day before) and I enjoyed a normal run without issues. Ahh what a novelty eh!

As long as I remain running injury-free I’ve decided to do the London Marathon. I have a Good For Age place and was wondering whether to defer until next year as it was so close to Tokyo. But as Tokyo went well and, ankles aside, my recovery has been good I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. I’ll keep a watchful eye on any niggles that crop up or feelings of over-training but otherwise I’d love to do it. Again, no time goal but just to tick another Marathon Major off the list and FINALLY get London done.

How was your weekend?

What superhero would you choose to be?

Does your parkrun ever try and raise money?

Back to reality

Hello! I’m back from my holiday to Orlando. I do love going on holiday but eeeeesh is it a bitch getting over jet lag!

Luckily Orlando is only (only!) a five hour time difference so things could be a lot worse but it still significantly messes with your system. I flew back Monday evening, watched one film on the flight (Hell or High Water – very good) and then promptly fell asleep but was woken up regularly due to turbulence and the fact you’re in no way comfortable. I’m a very light sleeper so it was pretty much hourly I woke up. I think I got four hours sleep so that’s not too bad but you land Orlando time at 2am and suddenly have to acclimatise to reality rather sharply.

My parkrun friend, Geoff, is a taxi driver so he picked me up and he was lovely in bearing with my sleep deprived crazy chatter. Though I fell asleep for the last stretch of the journey which definitely helped pep me up a bit.

Then it was a case of just focus on the big jobs needing doing: washing, food shop and showering. I cooked a large chicken so that’s sorted out a lot of meals for this week. My parents still have Alfie as they’re on holiday in Wales and took their dogs and him with them so although it was sad to not see my furry little friend, I was glad to just have to sort me out.

I enjoyed a very large salad for lunch. My system is definitely crying out for some more ‘natural’ food after an onslaught of processed food, sugar and fatty meats. I’ll obviously do a holiday recap post soon (all the food…ommmmm so good).But I definitely appreciated something more simple on my return!

And then I was back at work the next day. The night before I went to bed and fell asleep very quickly at 8pm and though my alarm woke me at 7am (quite a lie-in for me on a work day) I still felt like I was spaced out and exhausted. At work I felt hot and cold, sick and shattered. I wish I’d have taken another day off but with my next holiday approaching very quickly (two weeks until I go to Tokyo!) I couldn’t really take the mic’. Plus I reckon I’d have just slept and delayed the jet lag another day…

Speaking of Tokyo, my race information has come. A nice little bit of post on my return. I won’t lie, it has made me very nervous. Only two weeks left. I fly on the Wednesday night and arrive Thursday, and then the race is Sunday 26th. Hopefully that’s enough time to get over the jet lag – which will feel the same as the jet lag I’ve felt post-Orlando (as it’s going the same direction across the world). Finger’s crossed, eh!

I really have planned things very badly as I also have the MarathonTalk Run Camp this weekend. I must be mad. MAD I tell you. It’s not like I needed the weekend to recover properly from Orlando and sort myself out for Tokyo. But hey, you only live once! I love the Run Camp and this will be my third time 🙂 I might not stay for the whole thing as I really do need some time. I might leave Saturday night, I haven’t decided yet. It’ll be a shame to miss the “informal” 10 mile race on the Sunday but we’ll see.

How do you recover from a holiday?

What’s the worst jet lag you’ve had?

What holidays do you have coming up?

A parkrun fail and trying new things

This weekend gone I headed up to Cheltenham. I’ve only been there once before for like a day to see my friend Shell so it was nice to see it again for a bit longer. It’s a lovely place – though strangely has lots of white buildings and lots of buildings with columns on, which to me is the height of poshness 😉

And clearly Cheltenham is very posh as they even have their own Wholefoods! Wholefoods is obviously a lot more popular in the States, but we have a few mostly in London and this random one in Cheltenham. Obviously I had to pop in there for lunch on Friday between working.

The salad bar was obviously a lot smaller than the amazing America ones and I was told the burritos were amazing so that’s what I went for. There was a little Mexican food stand where you could have burritos or quesadillas made up for you there and then with your choice of fillings. I went with a chicken, rice and extra guacamole burrito and it was HUGE. It was jam packed full of filling. So tasty. I also had a cheeky rocky road slice afterwards as well. I pretty much needed a nap afterwards though I was so full…but back to work I went!

On the Friday night I did a (beginner’s) salsa class. This is a bit crazy for me as, being ridiculously clumsy and generally an awkward person, I’m not a natural dancer. That said, I did ballroom dancing at school (in preparation for our prom) and I loved it so I was quite excited to give it a go.

Awful photo sorry but I tried to take it discreetly at the beginning!

Well, I wasn’t terrible. I was surprised at how quickly the instructors went through the steps but after a few attempts it was easy to pick up. I mean, I was rigid and awkward but I didn’t step on any toes. I think that’s a success! The guys stood in a circle and the girls would dance with one and the move on to the next after performing a certain move (very basic moves!). One guy, who later told me he was actually another teacher, laughed at my “furrowed brow of concentration”. Well I was concentrating! I might need to aim to not try and look at my feet the entire time I suppose… I’m keen to try a few more lessons, but we’ll see!

Then Saturday morning was going to be the Cheltenham parkrun. Annoyingly though I woke up to -5 temperatures and a Tweet from my Cheltenham-based friend saying it was cancelled. I’m very grateful for his Tweet (thanks Mat!) as otherwise I would have just gone there without checking and then been disappointed and very cold. So instead, a bit of shopping happened instead. I re-planned the run to be after lunch so I had a nice light Greek salad lunch in Patisserie Valerie, which I’ve never been to before but was really lovely (though can I just say, the salads are not filling for lunch. Not for me anyway. I was still hungry and would easily have had one of their very tasty looking cakes afterwards had I not needed to be careful of my run later).

I hate leaving my run until later but realistically it made sense with fitting it in the weekend and the fact that in the morning the paths everywhere were so icy and dangerous. I’m pretty sure I spent quite a significant portion of Saturday cold. At first I thought I was going to wear my compression socks and shorts but after feeling so cold all day I decided to go with leggings and compression socks. Luckily my leggings were long enough to cover my knees so I didn’t have that awkward knee exposure look 😉The run went well. I didn’t really intend to go very fast but as I was so cold I just wanted to get warm so I pushed the pace. I got to two miles and found I was really struggling though and thought maybe best to slow down a bit! I slowed a little and told myself I could take it easier.It did feel good to get a bit of a tempo run on as I had intended to blast parkrun that morning. I’d heard that Cheltenham parkrun was really flat and I was sad I missed out on seeing what time I could currently do. It wouldn’t have been crazy fast but it’s always nice to have a “check in” run to see what paces I’m hitting. I need it have a long think about how I’m going to approach Tokyo and this would have been handy. But I got in a longer run and was able to pick up the pace so that was good. I guess that just means another trip to Cheltenham to eventually do their parkrun! 😉

I ran around Pittville Park which is where the parkrun is located anyway and it was a really lovely run. I did a couple of laps and aside from dodging dog walkers and small children it was a perfect runner’s route next to a lovely lake (pond?) and trees.

That evening I saw the new M Night Shyamalan film, Split, with James McAvoy in it. It was brilliant. Well, I know that his films have never reached the lofty success of the Sixth Sense but I actually really like his films (though there are a select few I haven’t seen like Lady in the Water and the Light Bender thing…). I loved The Village, Signs, Unbreakable and The Happening. And I love James McAvoy. There also might have been a tub of Ben and Jerry’s (Cookie Dough) that was snuck into the cinema…thankfully outside was cold enough for it not to melt prematurely in my handbag!

The next day I left to drive home and, because I needed to get a long run in, decided that I would do it as soon as I got in to stop any temptation to avoid it. I also cleverly bought a whole chicken from Waitrose from a services and popped that in the oven so when I got back it was pretty much done and my flat smelt amazing.The run went really well. My shin only very slightly niggled (progress, progress). I was worried that having run the day before might cause my shin an issue but it felt alright. I also felt really good in terms of my fitness. I effortlessly remained around the 8min pace without feeling it was a push so that was comforting.I won’t be running at that speed for the marathon but it was nice to feel comfortable for 10 miles at that pace. I planned my route so that it was my usual 6 mile route and then another usual 4 mile route so I could break it up in my head. It worked perfectly. Then I got home and enjoyed carving up the freshly cooked chicken. A food coma promptly commenced 😉

When do you prefer to get your runs/workouts done? I always prefer the morning.

Have you ever been to Cheltenham before?

Have you ever done a salsa/dance class?

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?