Come help me marshal!

Next Sunday I shall once again be a sector lead for race company Go Beyond at Northampton Half Marathon.  I will be out on the same section of course as last year at Great Houghton between miles 7-9.5.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a briefing with the other sector leads and Race Director Steve Adams to ensure we understood what was to happen on raceday itself and that we were able to relay any information down to marshals within our section.Go Beyond crew hoodie

I am still a couple of marshals short across my stretch of the course so if you are free next Sunday (6th September), live near to Northampton and would like a race t-shirt and free entry to another Go Beyond race then please leave a comment on this post, drop me an email or send me a tweet.

Go Beyond host a variety of races across the year from 10ks to duathlons to ultras to triathlons.  The Shires and Spires 35m race is always one of the first to be added to my race calendar each year, but I have also marshaled at Coombe Abbey and Northampton Running Festivals, Mud & Mayhem Duathlon in Thetford, Thames Trot and Country to Capital.  (Click links to read my blog posts).  Take a look at the Go Beyond full events calendar to see if any events take your fancy in the upcoming year.

The marshaling itself won’t be too taxing and will involve standing on a corner and warning runners about a turn or traffic as they approach.  It would be lovely to meet some more runners from the area so if you are available to help, please let me know!  Also, entries are still being taken so if you wanted to enter and then wave at me as you zoom past somewhere along the Great Houghton stretch, I would be sure to wave back too!  :)

Changing subject slightly, has anyone downloaded the new parkrun app yet?  It’s currently only available for Apple devices annoyingly, but I have an iPad for work so I downloaded it to test it out.

iPad screenYou can set yourself targets that you wish to achieve and the app also lets you hunt out other parkruns near to you, telling you details about each of the courses so you can assess whether or not they have PB potential!parkrun app for iPadYou can keep track of all of your parkrun times and volunteering weeks.  It also lets you ‘make friends’ with other parkrunners so you can see their progress easily.

parkrun app for iPad

It’s a shame there isn’t an Android version yet, but I’m sure the demand for one will be high enough that one will be developed soon.

Are you free next Sunday for a few hours and fancy helping me marshal?
Do you have the parkrun app on your phone/iPad?

Our home, six weeks in

I can’t believe we’ve already been living in our new house for six weeks.  In some ways it feels like hardly any time has passed since bundling all our belongings into boxes and piling them high into the garage of our new house.  Yet, at other times it feels like we have been here forever and that this is now very much our home.

New home card

Our new house is just three roads away from our last house but only once have we accidentally made a wrong turn and headed in the direction of where we used to live, and that was when we were on our way home from the pub so surely that can be excused!

I’ve been working hard on the upstairs rooms whilst Dan has been at work over the Summer.  Two of them were painted/wallpapered a dark red, and the other two were painted a dark purple.  It’s been my mission to peel the wallpaper, in some places scrape the paint, refill the walls where necessary and apply several coats of new paint so that we may turn them into our own.

The upstairs office is my favourite room in the house.  It has two large windows that take up most of the front-facing wall which let a lot of light through into the room first thing in the morning.  When we arrived, this room was covered with two walls in bright red wallpaper, and the other two sides in bright yellow.

The original office in our house(By the way, the fact that BBC iPlayer now lets you catch up with programs online for a month, rather than just a week was a lifesaver at keeping me sane during all the wallpaper-peeling and painting of the last six weeks!  I think that is a bit of Casualty you can see on the laptop in the background there!)

I had visions of our office being very plain – white/magnolia walls with a little colour in the room coming from pictures hung on the walls.  I didn’t want anything too bright or distracting whilst we were trying to concentrate and get work done.  (Office ideas on my Pinterest board here)

The walls were fairly easy to peel of wallpaper in this room by dampening them and using a scraper.  It’s quite satisfying when you get a big chunk to come off in one go!

Scraping off wallpaper in the officeAs we had decided to have the walls painted in magnolia it meant three coats of paint.  We soon discovered that I was not a fan of rolling, and Dan was not a fan of cutting in with the paintbrush, so we had our jobs set out for us and I became the cutter-in!

Painting the officePainting the office Painting the officeThe step ladders were great fun for Bella, and it still leaves me in stitches that she walks up them like she would do any set of stairs, before appearing to check over our freshly painted walls for error!

Bella sat on the step ladderBella sat on the step ladderWe had to take the radiator off the wall so that we could paint behind it, although the radiator itself still needs to be painted.  I’m not a fan of it staying the bright red colour that the walls once were!Red radiatorHere is our office at present.  Not complete by any means, but definitely on the way there now!The office getting thereIt’s actually really hard to photograph the office as it is built as an extension of the house.  The wall you can see jutting out on the left of the above photo was where the fourth bedroom used to end, until the extension was built and the room doubled in size.  Behind that wall I have stacked and now filled a bookcase.

Just before reaching the wall there is a box for where the stairs jut out (shown below).  Here, we are planning on installing more shelving so that all of my craft boxes are easy to get to.

The craft corner in the office

Despite having stripped wallpaper, painted walls (three times!), removed and replaced the inbuilt desk, removed curtain poles and removed and replaced the radiator, we still need to; skim the ceiling, add coving and replace the skirting boards, add long shelves above the desk, add pictures to the walls and my medal hanger(!), move the electric sockets (as currently they are behind the filing cabinet and the bookcase), add shelving to the top of the stairs for my craft boxes, resurface the desk, change the carpet and replace the curtain poles and add curtains.

Curtains are ridiculously expensive.  Because the windows in our house are all incredibly wide it has meant that we are looking at about £70 a set of curtains, and because there are rooms like the office, where we would need two sets of the same design, it works out rather expensive when you add it all up!  Luckily, my Mother-In-Law has offered to make us a few sets over the coming weeks, although the cost of the fabric still works out pretty expensive!

Big windows in the office

Our ‘back spare room’ is the other room that we have been working on and we didn’t have quite such an easy time with this one.  The wallpaper had been painted, and also laid on top of silk paint and was a nightmare to remove.  The walls were so dark and the paint underneath so thick, that we needed to remove as much of the paint as possible, so there were some aching arms for several days running!Back spare room

I let Dan choose the colours for the back spare room and he went for ‘Natural Hessian’ with a feature wall colour of ‘Intense Truffle’.

Feature wall in the back spare room

It feels like we’re much further off from finishing this one and still need to replace the curtain pole adding the curtains, add carpet, have the ceiling skimmed, add coving and replace the skirting boards, buy a small sofa bed for the front of the room and a set of wardrobes as this is the only room without inbuilt storage.

Back spare room

It was handy running the two rooms alongside each other.  It meant that rather than having to wait for things to dry we could move from one room to the other and back again, getting much more done in a day.

I could probably recall for you the layout of every DIY store within ten miles!  We have been to have our kitchen designed…

Designing our kitchen…although the design we received was almost identical to the one we had spoken about together previously.  (Although in olive green, not pink!)

We have also measured a million (probably not an exaggeration by very many!) items for the bathroom and ordered a bathroom suite which arrived yesterday.

Measuring up the sink and toilet for the new bathroomIt’s been a busy Summer!

Do you do your own DIY in the house?


Not feeling the long run love

I am a long distance runner.  I hold the record for the furthest distance run by any female at my running club.  I am aiming (eventually!) to become a member of the 100 Marathon Club, having run 8x marathons (with a further two booked in this year), 3x 35 mile races, a 12 hour race where I ran 70k and 2x 70 mile events.  (14 events down, just 86 to go!)  Yet at the moment I am struggling with my long runs.

My long run last weekend was due to be 15 miles, but due to a map-reading error I had to cut it short at 11.8 miles, followed by a quicker mile whilst waiting for a lift home.  I had run slowly as directed, but running so slow made my legs ache and didn’t fill me with huge amounts of confidence that I would be able to pick the speed up when it came to race day.

Still sticking within heart rate Zone 2, this week after several chats with others I moved my legs a little quicker and completed my long run with mile splits a little faster.  Or at least, it started out that way.

The plan was to run 18 miles this past Sunday.  I was fine for the first seven…

Long run part 1Between miles four and five I had to slow right down to cross the road, and then again just after mile seven.  I was stuck there for quite a long while.  Who would have thought the A45 would have been so busy first thing on a Sunday morning?!

I struggled to get going again.  Not physically, my legs were fine and felt so much better for having run at a slightly faster pace this week.  I think perhaps the previous week I had altered my running stride to ensure that I remained slow, but by retaining my usual style I could still run within Zone 2 and it felt much more comfortable for doing so.

No, physically I was OK.  There was nothing wrong with me.  My heart rate was spot on, I had no injuries, my legs weren’t tired, I wasn’t out of breath…but my head was not having any of it and refused to co-operate.  I’d convinced myself by this point that I could fill up my water bottle at the Stanwick Lake Visitor Centre but when I arrived it was too early and although I could see lights on inside, there was nobody about.  I decided to take a time out for 10 minutes on a nearby bench and recollect myself.

Sat on a bench in the middle of my run

After setting off once more, there was nothing wrong but again I just found myself pulling up after 1.39 miles.

Long run part 2(Love my pace consistency for that little run though!)

I rang Dan.  Dan has this knack of making me see rationally and calming me down when things aren’t going to plan.  He suggested that I come home and attempt a long run midweek instead.  This would have been a good suggestion normally but I was worried about overdoing the mileage, having already run 10 miles that morning.  (This really would not have worried me earlier in the year but I am trying to do everything by the book this time round, desperate to bag a sub 5 hour marathon having been just 28 seconds short at Milton Keynes in May.)  His next suggestion was that he would bike down to meet me and ride alongside me as I ran the remaining eight miles of my run.  I decided that I would like this very much and ran back to the Visitor Centre so that he could find me easily.

Long run part 3(The first part of this section was me walking whilst on the phone.)

I only had to wait a few minutes before he arrived.

Long run Twitter messageIt was still tough mentally to keep going but I got home, making the total just over 16 miles in the end.  Not the 18 miles I had initially planned for the day, but much better than what could have been.  It was incredibly hot out there on Sunday again which didn’t help things, but my head had gone and wasn’t where it needed to be which was the real issue.

My stubbornness to keep going is something that I would normally consider one of my strengths.  It was definitely a factor in me doing so well and PBing at the 35 and 70 mile distances this year.  Perhaps it is the pressure to now switch from ultra running (constant forward moving, whether that is running or walking and walking all the hills) to marathon training (a constant pace on the roads).  I have no issue with covering the distance, it is just about ensuring that I am continually running for that distance!

Five and half weeks left to get it right…although I would like to think that I could pull my head together a little better than I did this past weekend for the race day itself.

The following day I went out for an easy three miler and the run could not have been more opposite.

Easy three milerI went out really relaxed, stuck to Zone 2 but barely checked my watch, it was raining, my legs felt good and I felt as though I could run forever.

Absolutely soaked after a runI was absolutely soaked through, but loved the run.  Maybe I was just having a bad day the day before?

Last night I was hoovering out our office, as we are almost there with the decorating in a couple of rooms now, (Pictures to follow) and I felt my Vivofit loosen around my wrist.  I looked down to see that the strap had broken through.  :(

Garmin Vivofit broken strapIt wasn’t even on a hole that I wear the Vivofit on, so I’m not sure how that happened, but Dan is going to collect another one for me on his way home from work this evening.  I take my Vivofit off each day to shower, but other than that (and during one wedding!) it has stayed on my wrist since I first put it on last October.  My arm feels very naked today!

Have you ever struggled mentally with completing a long run?
If you have one, is your Garmin Vivofit strap still going strong?


Going off food!

Food just hasn’t appealed to me in a while.  This is Summer, I’ve been on holiday from work for the past month and have had plenty of time to experiment in the kitchen but the last thing I’ve wanted to do each day is eat or spend time playing with food.

Evening meals have been a last minute whatever-is-in-the-freezer attempt unless we have been going out to dinner, which we have done a few times over the holiday.

Dan threw together these veggie burgers for me the evening after completing the Grim 70.  I much prefer my flavourful veggie burgers topped with fresh salad to his boring, bland beefburgers.  They really filled me up but at the same time I would have been fine without.  I only really ate because I knew I should be eating.

Veggie burgers in a bapFor our anniversary, I ordered the same burger I always order from The Holly Bush Inn in Staffordshire, but I left some of the meal on the side.  It was still delicious and filled with flavour just like a pub burger should be, I just wasn’t feeling the food love that day.
Burger from The Holly Bush Inn in SaltI did enjoy my Prima Vera salad from Pizza Express when we used up the last of our BP vouchers earlier in the month.  I’ve come to realise that there are some places you can’t order a salad from as it ends up being a few soggy, questionable-coloured, limp leaves on a plate.  At those restaurants I actively avoid the salad selection.  Pizza Express really know how to do a good salad though, and I’ve been working my way through their salad selection using our vouchers over the past few months.
Pizza Express salad - Prima VeraIt’s been a long while since I have had a caesar salad out at a restaurant.  I think perhaps I overdosed on them in my early twenties when they were the only ‘healthy’ option available at restaurants.  I didn’t mind this one from TGI Fridays when we headed to Milton Keynes for Dan’s indoor skydive last week but was glad that Dan’s dish contained tomatoes so that I could steal them for a bit of variety.  It’s been a long while, but I always thought that caesar salad contained tomatoes too?  Am I wrong?!Caesar Salad from TGI Fridays

The first meal I felt that I really enjoyed since running Grim was last weekend when we visited Fakenham Garden Centre for a meal for my Dad’s birthday.  It was just a simple cheese and bacon stuffed potato with side salad, but I cleared my plate feeling happy and satisfied.
Stuffed jackets with side salad

Last night we went out to a jazz restaurant in Olney called Cafe Brio for something different and for Dan to have something to look forward to after his first day back at work after a fortnight off(!)  We ordered our meals and as our mains arrived, Neal Astbury started up singing some Michael Buble hits.  He really was very good and it made a nice change to have entertainment over dinner.

I went for the Chevre pizza which consisted of; Goats cheese, sundried tomato, mozzarella, roast peppers and tomato sauce.Chevre pizza at Cafe Brio, Olney

The dough of the pizza was delicious – I like my pizza bases to be nice and soft and this was definitely that!  I dipped the crusts in a large ball of garlic butter that we had on our table, and this topped the flavours off perfectly!

Because we wanted to stay a little longer we also ordered dessert.  I went for the Chocolate Fudge Cake with icecream.  To me, fudge cake has to be eaten warm, so I asked for it to be heated up, only our waitress forgot.  I didn’t want to return it as the icecream had already been added to the dish.  It wasn’t quite the same served cold, although I did still scrape the plate.Chocolate fudge cake at Cafe Brio, OlneyI think I am more of a Winter-eater than a Summer one.  I love roasted vegetables and warm soups with crusty bread.  Homemade comfort food served in a big pot and dished out from the middle of the table.  Although I love salads, at home they take a lot of preparation, and with Dan not liking a single salad ingredient it can be rather faffy having to prepare a salad for just me.  I do have several tomatoes growing on my plants outside now though, so am looking forward to adding a few to upcoming meals and perhaps making some homemade tomato soup to store in the freezer over Winter.

Running does suppress my appetite as well.  I find that I have to really ensure that I am eating enough in the evening after a run as my body just craves nice cold milk.  (That, I could drink all day!)

My appetite has started to reappear this week but I am hoping I will also feel the desire to experiment in the kitchen again soon as well.  I have enjoyed cooking and trying new recipes in previous years and this is probably the longest I have gone without really feeling the love.

I am planning on signing up to Hello Fresh to try and give things a kickstart.  I was going to today, although their meals for next week don’t really appeal to me as much as some of the ones I have seen them advertise so I’m going to see what pops up for the following week before committing.  (Anna wrote a great post a while back reviewing Hello Fresh if you are unsure what it is all about.)  I’m hoping it will sharpen up my cooking skills and give me some new ideas for dishes to experiment with.

Have you tried Hello Fresh?
Chocolate fudge cake: hot or cold?
Do you find running suppresses your appetite or that you ever just ‘go off’ food?
Should Caesar salad come with tomatoes?