Getting away on a budget

For the last few years, Dan and I have treated ourselves to a break away on Tesco points at least once a year.

Tesco is known for having one of the best reward schemes in the UK.  When I was refused a mortgage in 2010 on the back of having never owed any money it didn’t take me long to pick from the best banks with free checking and to decide which credit card company I was going to go with to build up my credit rating.  Using my credit card now I get 1 point for every £4 spent, WHEREVER I SPEND IT.  When you first buy a new house, go on holiday to New York and get married, Tesco points quickly add up and points mean prizes!  Or in this case, nights away.

On Tuesday morning, Dan and I loaded up the car with a holdall of clothes and toiletries that weren’t packed in the every growing pile of boxes collecting in our dining room.  All of our money is being hoarded away at the minute ready for the house move and inevitable redecoration so we didn’t have a lot to spare but were in desperate need of a break away together.  We received Foo Fighters tickets for Christmas, so this time round Manchester was the chosen location and we transferred enough Tesco points into vouchers to book a two night stay, and have £30 each of Pizza Express and Zizzis for our evening meals.

We did have a little spend on arrival in Altrincham, as, after a quick change cocktails were obviously necessary.  Time to relax and actually see each other for a change.  Life has been so busy just lately!

Date night in ManchesterLuckily, we stumbled upon a little cocktail bar in the town centre displaying Happy Hour signs from 6-8pm.  We wandered in a few minutes past six…

Cocktails in Manchester Cocktails in Manchester…before heading over to Zizzi for a lovely free three-course meal which included this pizza that was so big it could barely fit in the photo…

Rustica Primavera at ZizziThis was the Rustica Primavera – I’m a sucker for any dish containing goat’s cheese, green pesto and a selection of veg.

Dessert was all about the Chocolate, praline and sea-salt torte.  This was amazing and definitely requires another taste test immediately!

Zizzi chocolate tartWe had a fairly early night on the Tuesday, before a leisurely 8am get-up the next morning.  Eight AM.  I never sleep in this late.  Whenever we go away for a few days, I always make use of the buffet breakfast to grab a Full English.  Dan usually tries to encourage me to have fruit and yoghurt as he thinks I will enjoy it more, but I am too lazy to ever put together a breakfast like this first thing in the morning so I take full advantage of the fact that it is all laid out for me in the hotel.
I don’t like bacon, but eggs came in both the scrambled and fried variety so I took both as an extra protein dose for all the walking we had planned that day.

Fry up for breakfastWe spent the morning out at Dunham Massey – exploring the gardens and the house.  It was lovely and sunny out.  I felt awful in the morning – my cold had developed into a full on coughing and sneezing fit and so it was nice to get outside and with no time pressures for the day.  We also treated ourselves to some fantastic icecreams whilst out exploring the gardens.  I’ve decided that our next house move needs to be to somewhere with a garden this size(!)  Everywhere looked so pretty.

Dunham MasseyWe headed back to the hotel for 3:30pm, threw on our waterproofs and headed on the mile long walk to Pizza Express.  It started tipping it down just before we arrived so we were very glad of our forward-thinking and that we wore our coats!

As we arrived, the waiter greeted us in Italian.  Dan, having learnt a few phrases whilst we were away on honeymoon last year decided to respond in Italian.  The waiter, then interested, asked Dan if his Italian was good.  Dan fluently replied in Italian stating that ‘His Italian was a little patchy so if possible it would be easier to speak in English.’  (A phrase he used on numerous occasions whilst we were away in August!)  Clearly he did a very good job of replying to the waiter as the waiter then paid special attention to our table and spoke to us several times in Italian.  Dan got rather worried after the first conversation that he wouldn’t be able to understand anything said to us, but luckily the conversation centred around food, and that was where Dan had learnt the majority of his phrases from.  We started with some garlic dough balls because seriously, they are our weakness when we head for a meal out.

Pizza Express garlic dough ballsAnd the salad I chose is going to be recreated at home repeatedly this month…

Pizza Express Pollo VerdurePollo Verdure – Warm chicken and mixed vegetables in a honey & mustard dressing served on a bed of spinach and rocket with balsamic syrup and goat’s cheese, a wedge of lemon and warm dough sticks.  I could literally eat this for days on end and not get bored!

After dinner we headed back out to the tram station to catch a tram to Old Trafford, where the Foo Fighters gig was to be held.  Somehow I managed to fall asleep on Dan’s lap for pretty much the whole 20 minute journey here, whilst in our carriage on the tram people were pressed in up against the glass and winding up the noise with excitement for the gig.  I literally could fall asleep anywhere!

When we arrived it was still raining which was a shame, but it didn’t stop us from having a little rock out of our own whilst waiting for Foos to arrive.

Wet and rainy at Foo Fighters gig in ManchesterBecause we arrived not long after 5:30pm it was still pretty empty when we first got there, meaning that we could pretty much pick our spot for the evening, although I wasn’t hugely taken by the support bands.

Foo Fighters in ManchesterAt 8:00pm on the dot we were treated to a really good show though and non-stop amazing music and entertainment for the next two and a half hours.  Dan was looking on Twitter the next day and discovered that apparently the gig was heard from almost ten miles away!  He took lots of video footage on his phone so we only have a few photos.
Foo Fighters in ManchesterGetting out of the grounds after the gig was a little out of my comfort zone.  People were pushing everywhere and police ended up closing one of the exits to give the movement outside time to die down.  We queued for a long while to get on the tram and then we were really crammed on.  I was glad to get off and back in to the hotel.

I was a little sad to head home on Thursday morning, but having received a phone call on the Wednesday to hear that our move would not be going ahead on the Friday as originally planned we really needed to head back and unpack essentials for at least one more week at work.  It was lovely to spend some time together though and not have to worry about spending too much money as we had been money savvy a couple of months back when planning our trip.

Is a Full English breakfast on the cards when you go away?
What is the best gig you have ever been to?
Do you use any reward schemes at all?  What has been the your favourite reward?

Moving stress

Two weeks ago I rang our solicitors to establish that we would be moving on the 29th May (this coming Friday).  I asked them if I could book the Friday beforehand (22nd May) off from work as my entitled ‘moving day’ to give me a chance to pack and get organised and they agreed that the move would be going ahead and that it would make sense to have that day off.

Last week was incredibly busy for me.  On the Tuesday evening I was sent details of the Northamptonshire Track & Field events and asked to turn them into a programme ready for printing at 9am the following morning.  I was sent the last of the details at 11pm, and was up until 3:30am copying and pasting, adding details and clarifying what information should go where on the 48 page booklet.  Back up again for work at the slightly-later-than-normal time of 6am the following day.  When I returned home that night I curled straight up in bed and slept for three hours until 9pm, when I woke up, made us some tea and promptly fell straight back asleep again!

Northamptonshire Track and Field programme

On the Thursday our school had Ofsted in, who were focusing on marking and feedback, so all boxes of children’s folders (all 512 of them!) had to perfect.  Part of one of my year 8 lessons was observed from the doorway but no interaction with my class was made.  Preliminary feedback about the school from the visit has been positive and we are now waiting for the full report.

So, I was knackered by the time it came to Friday morning.  It wasn’t until then that I realised I hadn’t yet heard anymore from the solicitors regarding our move, and we were due to move in just seven days time now.  I gave them a call.

Me: “Hi there, we are due to move on Friday, but I haven’t heard any details yet, so I am just checking that everything is still OK.”
Them: “Erm, let me just go and grab your file.” [Long wait] “If you want to move on Friday, then we really need to apply for the money today as there is a bank holiday before then and the money usually takes four days to process.”
Me: “OK, well, is that a problem?  We have always had 29th May down as our moving day.”
Them: “Have you signed the paperwork for that date?”
Me: “Yes, yes we have.”
Them: “OK, let me just check…the other party don’t seem to have signed their paperwork yet for the sale of their house.”
Me: “Why not?!”
Them: “I’m not sure.  I’ll try phoning now quickly, as we really will need to apply for the money very shortly if the sale is to go ahead next week.”

[Calls back]

Them: “I’ve just discovered that they have not yet received their mortgage offer.”
Me: “What?!  But we’ve had this process going for two months now.  Has it been refused?  What happens next?  Why was I told that the moving date was OK for next week?”
Them: I shall chase it up and find out what is happening and get back to you.

[I waited until 3pm.  There was no call back so I rang back.  There was no answer.  I rang again.  This time I got a different lady on the phone.]

Me: “Hi there, please may I speak to ****?”
Them: “I’m afraid she finished work about half an hour ago and won’t be back in now until next Wednesday.”
Me: “OK, then I need to speak to [boss] quite urgently please.”
Boss: “Hi there, how may I help?”
Me: We were told that we were OK to move house this coming Friday, but  on speaking to **** she tells me the other party haven’t received their mortgage offer yet?!”

The conversation went on for some time.  I also nipped down to the estate agents who we are buying the house from, as they are only 500m from our current house and spoke to them extensively about what the hold up was.  Apparently they are waiting for some information regarding a pension.  Something which should be as simple as printing it off and sticking it in the post – and there has been more than eight weeks for them to do this in.

Because of all this drama happening late on Friday afternoon, with the next working day not until today, four days later, all we could do was continue with our plans for the week – travel back to my parents’ on the Saturday with Bella to leave her in Norfolk, and spend the best part of Monday finishing off boxing up our house ready for the potential move on Friday.  Dan and I are actually going away to Manchester today until Thursday as we received Foo Fighters tickets for Christmas and are in desperate need for a break.  We shall call the solicitors from our travels and establish if, when we return from our holiday on Thursday evening we need to start on a mad clean of the house, or if instead, we will need to start unpacking bits of crockery and work clothes ready for the week ahead.

Next weekend could either be spent decorating our new house, or it could be spent sat in the midst of piles of boxes eating takeaways as we’ve eaten up all of our cupboard food ready for the move!

Moving house boxes progress(The current state of our dining room!)

We were initially told that the other party needed to move by June 9th, and I will not be allowed any more time off work  to move as I have already had my allocated day.  I finish school at 3pm so one of the potential options involves me rushing home from work and us moving in an afternoon, after having already spent a full day at work, but I don’t want to think too much about it yet until we have spoken to the solicitors today.

I was rather stressed out by the time Dan returned home from work on Friday.  He gave me the car so that I could drive over to run the Blisworth 5 and luckily, getting my PB there helped me to forget all about the house moving drama we had been having all day.

The following morning we headed, with cat, over to my parents’ house for the weekend.   My Mum’s garden is looking very pretty at the moment.

Mum's pretty flowersIt was my friend Amanda’s 30th birthday whilst we were back so for part of the celebrations we headed over to Holkham Hall open air cinema where they were playing Top Gun.  As we arrived we were told of a competition for the best picture on entry, where the winners would get to watch the film from a double bed, complete with duvet and food on call.

Holkham Hall outdoor cinema Top GunWe gave it our best shot!

The cinema experience was good.  Dan and I have been to several outdoor cinemas now though, and this was by far the most expensive.  £13.50 each!  I’m pretty sure that we only paid £6 for the last one we went to.

Whilst we were back, my Dad also decided to bake us a cake.  We’d not been back to Norfolk since February so he hasn’t baked in a while now and had trouble remembering the recipe.  He threw the recipe book at me for me to check his measurements as he was pouring them into the bowl.
Dad: “I’ve used 800g of self raising flour.”
Me: “The recipe calls for 400g.”
Dad: “OK, well we’ll just double everything then.”
Me: “OK, well the recipe calls for one egg.”
Dad: “I’ve put five in so I’ve already doubled that.”
Me: “Five eggs is not double of one!…Why are you putting a tablespoon of baking powder in?…the recipe doesn’t call for any at all!”
Dad: “OK, cocoa powder…you quite like chocolate, we’ll tip a lot of this in.” [Pours directly from tin into the bowl.]

Dad's cake experiment

Haha!  I was a little nervous about how it would turn out, but it was actually not too bad.  Dan and I both had a slice with us in our picnic at Holkham Hall anyway!

I’d better go and get showered and ready for our Manchester adventure now.
Any suggestions of places to visit in Manchester whilst we are there?
Are you a tip-it-in-and-hope baker?!

Heart rate training bl***y works!

OK, spoiler, because I’m too happy and I can’t stop myself blurting it out.  PB alert!!!  :)

Last night was the Blisworth 5 mile race, part of the East Midlands Grand Prix series made up of several shorter distance races over the Summer months, each starting at 7:45pm.  My running has been going well lately so I was looking forward to a Summer of stronger racing.  Although, as always, wound up way more nervous due to the shorter distance of the race.  There’s no time for error in a 5 mile race!

After a stressful day encountering several house moving issues (post to follow) I ambled over to Blisworth where I met with Steph and Laura for a destress chat.  Steph was running, Laura was supporting and after Steph and I had collected numbers and queued for the loo we still managed to fit in a good 40minutes of chat.  The start line at Blisworth is about a 10 minute walk from the registration desk so we ambled over.  It was nice and relaxed – no time to stress over the distance coming up.

Blisworth 5 start and finish

I had spoken to another runner from club in the week and had told them that I had not run Blisworth before but looking back on race morning through my blog I realised that I had indeed run Blisworth last year, and it was pretty damn hilly out there!  Clearly I’d just blocked it from my mind.

Blisworth 5 elevation

With a few minutes to go before the start, Steph and I both wished each other luck and headed to our separate starting locations.  I started from the left hand side of the road which is very unusual for me.  The right side was so crowded I couldn’t squeeze in!

I had worked out before the race that I needed to stick somewhere around the 165bpm range when racing over 5 miles.  As the course was so hilly, it would mean my splits probably wouldn’t end up being very even but I would be consistently putting in the same amount of effort throughout the race and this meant that I (hopefully!) wouldn’t end up crashing and burning on the way round.

It took me 11 seconds to cross the start line and then the course starts off on an amazing downhill.  I really let my legs go down here.  I leaned forward and let my legs take long strides.

Blisworth 5 mile race start(You can tell this is at the start of the race because my hair is still nice and tidy in this photo!)

My heart rate remained fairly low, under 150bpm so I made use of the downhill because the course is very cruel in that you get to the bottom of the very large hill, have a short uphill which you head back down again almost immediately and then you loop back and run back up the very large uphill, with all your supporters still stood at the top and no chance of getting a sneaky walk in! 😛

My first mile (just before heading back up the large hill) ticked by in 8m 19s.  Super speedy for me, but it had contained a large downhill that I wouldn’t reap the benefits of anywhere else!  As we headed back up the large hill towards the farm where the start/finish line was held the sun was sitting just wrong in the sky and everything was so bright.  I could hear people shouting out my name as I ran past but couldn’t see a thing!

Blisworth 5 mile top of the hillThis was right at the top of the hill.  I just put my head down and pushed on to the very top, trying to keep my effort consistent on this section.  I knew it was the worst part of the course!

We got probably another half mile up the road and a car drove up behind us.  The runners were all still quite clustered and across the road at this point and rather than wait the couple of minutes it would take us to get to the turning, the woman beeped her horn at us for us to move out of the way before speeding a little further up the road.  Fag hanging out of the window in her hand.  I heard a few more beeps as she went up the road and did make a comment to the runners around me at the time.

We turned off and headed round to begin our loop back.  Here, a woman was running in front of me but her stride was shorter than mine, resulting in me having to keep clipping my stride, making me off balance.  I moved out to the right to overtake her, but she moved to the right at the same time as me.  I chopped my stride some more and moved over to the left to undertake her instead.  She moved back over infront of me!  I hadn’t thought it was deliberate the first time, but now I did!  This happened about ten times before another Wellingborough runner pulled up alongside the left of this lady, I saw my chance and gunned it to the right of her.  I didn’t see her again after that.  I was rather annoyed that she had tried to block me from coming past though.  We were only running at about 9mm pace so position in the race meant nothing to us!  There should have been no reason for her to not let me pass.

Miles two and three went by in 9m 45s (heading back up that hill!) and 9m 18s.  It was here that I realised I was in with a good chance of getting a PB.  I desperately wished at this point I had remembered to check what my PB was before setting off that evening.  I knew it was 47 minutes-something, but couldn’t for the life of me remember the something!  I had a feeling it was around 9:30minute miling, and knew it had been set way back in 2012.  (It was 47m 57s – 9:36minute miling.)  I instantly felt nervous as soon as I realised that I was heading towards a PB and ended up having to block the thought from my mind so that it didn’t alter my running.

Mile four went by without issue in 9m 26s and it was here that I knew I would definitely achieve a PB.  All of my miles (other than the hilly one) had come in well under the 9:30 pace I had ingrained in my mind to beat.  I vaguely worked out that I could run the last mile in 10 minutes and still beat my previous record, and I was definitely on target for smashing my previous time set at Blisworth the year before (49m 47s).  Just the one hill to go then!

A little way infront of me I could see a runner flat out on the grass verge.  She had two marshals holding her legs up high, looking to try to bring her back round.  On talking to Steph later, the lady had gone down not far infront of her with very laboured breathing.  The ambulance rushed out as I came through the finish line not long after but I do not know any more.  I hope she was OK.

We came out back onto the stretch of road where the farmyard was.  I only knew this from having run the course last year.  The marshals at this point shouted out “Only 500m to go!” though.  I didn’t kick as I am sure that it was further to go than this.  It actually ended up being half a mile from the finish, so I’m glad all I did was lengthen my stride slightly.  I overtook several people along this stretch of road here.  I kept checking my watch along this point, -my heart rate had crept up to 170bpm since being told that it was only 500m to go and as I passed the 400m to go sign and could see the gantry in the distance I was still feeling good so made the decision to pick up the pace and finish strong, continuing to pass other runners.  I doubted myself slightly on making the PB here.  Why is it impossible to work out simple maths problems in your head whilst running?!

As I reached the turn onto the farm I could hear other runners from my club screaming out to both me and the lady just in front of me who was also a Wellingborough runner.  This was all I needed to pick my pace up even further and I really powered around the corner, skidding on the gravel that was on the surface.

Blisworth 5 mile finishI thought I was going to go down for a second, but somehow managed to use the skid to my advantage and take power from it to pick up the pace even further.

Blisworth 5 mile finishThe finish is about 50m from this point and I managed to power past that Wellingborough lady in front and just pip her to the post.  I immediately turned round and apologised for overtaking right at the end, that I knew I had been so close to a PB and wanted every last second to count.  She seemed OK about it though.

I couldn’t stop grinning when I walked through the tunnel.  Because I had run a smart race effort-wise I had no need to throw myself down onto the ground afterwards either (as so often happens!) so once I had grabbed my water and bourbon biscuit, I headed over to join my club mates and cheer the rest of our club in.  Still grinning ridiculously at achieving a new PB!

Mile 5 went by in 8m 53s and the 0.5 nubbin was run at 6:29 pace!

Super, super happy with the result!

Garmin time: 46:03
Official time:
Finishing position:
Female position:
Category position (senior female):

I found it quite interesting to compare splits to last year as well.

Mile #: 2014 2015
1  9:20  8:19
2  10:04  9:45
3  10:19  9:18
4  10:24  9:26
5  9:19  8:53
Nubbin  (0.04m) 7:29  (0.05m) 6:29

Clearly I’m much fitter this year!  No 10s in sight!  😀Blisworth 5 heart rate

Do you race to heart rate?  Lots of guides seem to advise against it due to the extra stress of race day, which raises your heart rate.

Lots of trail

Lots and lots of trail runs have been taking place just lately.

Last Tuesday evening I ran the mile and a half to a new pub that had opened up in Stanwick.  From here I tested out a 6.7m trail route I had previously mapped out so that I could lead the Friday night pub trail run that week for the first time.  The route had a nice mix of paths, field, stubble, grass, trees which had fallen over ditches we would have to cross and track.  It did have a section of about 0.25m in the middle where we ran alongside a fairly busy road which I worried about, but in the grand scheme of things it didn’t make up a large portion of the run at all so things worked out fine.  Once I returned to the pub (not open on a Tuesday night unfortunately!) I then headed the mile and a half back home again.9.5 miles on a school night

Wednesday night, after quickly packing three more boxes (our current nightly minimum) ready for the move I suddenly realised that I had never driven myself to the start point for the club trail run that evening.  Everytime I had run that route in the past I’d always been driven by others.  Not the most observant of passengers I realised that I had no idea how long it would take me to get there and quickly set off whilst hurredly trying to program the village name into my satnav.

I arrived as a herd of runners (is that the correct collective term?!) headed along the road towards me.  Luckily they spotted my car so waited as I launched myself out, grabbing my heartrate monitor, Garmin and phone as I ran.  There were 25 of us all together.  We’ve only ever beaten that number when free food has been involved!

I took my rest day on Thursday and then Friday was my turn to lead the club run out from the pub in Stanwick.  I was worried when another 25 runners (and a dog!) turned up.  My worry levels increased when quite a few of the faster runners turned up and everyone asked me to explain the route…I’m rubbish when it comes to giving directions!

I started off running at the front around 9mm pace and comfortably ran at this speed all of the way round, with various pauses for photos and turnbacks to regroup with the other runners.  Luckily I wasn’t panting out of breath at the back shouting out instructions to the front runners the whole way round!

My trail run in RaundsAlan, our membership secretary likes to take lots of photos so we have several from the night!

My trail run in RaundsAnd we couldn’t miss the photo opportunity from the bridge!

My trail run in RaundsObviously we then stopped in to enjoy a pint or two at the pub we had started out from (The Duke of Wellington) and I returned home much later than planned!

The next morning I headed over to Northampton for the parkrun with Dan.

Unfortunately after my run on Saturday morning I was unable to run again until last night due to packing for the house move, producing a programme for the upcoming Northamptonshire Track and Field event this weekend and Ofsted being in at school.  Busy times over here in the Pearson household!  Last night I made it out to club though and really enjoyed another great new route down by the river along Great Doddington for 7.4miles.  The weather has been perfect for lots of trail just lately.  The ground isn’t too hard but the evenings are nice and light and it’s warm enough still to head out in a t-shirt after work.

How have you been making the most of the light evenings?