Pilates, Whole Foods, bloggers and Coombe Abbey

This weekend was a busy one. I do love busy weekends but really struggle with getting back into the working week again afterwards when I haven’t made time for the housework, schoolwork and admin stuff I would normally slot in over the weekend.

On Friday evening I headed to Wellingborough Rugby Club where one of my old coaches was holding a charity race night (all races were pre-recorded and shown on the big screen).  Dan and I didn’t have much luck with the actual betting, but we did pick a winner in the raffle!  Dan graciously let me have the free one to one pilates session (I really couldn’t imagine him giving it a go!)Pilates win in the raffle

I’m a little nervous about somebody seeing just how weak and inflexible my body is, but at least in a one-to-one session I won’t be able to compare myself against lots of super supple people.  This week is a little busy with a 10k race on the calendar tomorrow evening, trail run with friends on Wednesday after school and then a parents evening on Thursday but hopefully I shall manage to book my pilates session for the start of the Summer holidays and it will work out as a nice way to wind down at the end of term.

On Saturday morning I headed to London to meet up with several other foodie/fitness/running bloggers and some classes from Vie Fitness & Spa of Ann Arbor. It was something I had both looked forward to and been incredibly nervous about for a long time. Some of the bloggers that I knew were going I regularly communicate with over blog comments/Twitter/Instagram but there were a few bloggers that I hadn’t heard of before, so most likely would not know who I was either. My biggest worry was that when we met up (outside Whole Foods at 1pm) that I would be stood right next to other bloggers without noticing and then there would be that awkward realisation a little while later, followed by an awkward silence coming from the embarrassment of not realising…  Awkward!

In the end I decided to give parkrun a miss in the morning rather than rushing back home following the run, showering and changing super quick, leaping in the car and storming off to London probably leaving my directions on the kitchen counter and forgetting my purse – which would without a doubt have stressed me out.
Instead, I decided to give myself a lot of extra time, enjoyed a little lay in and went through my directions in great detail with Dan. I decided it was probably easiest to drive down to Camden and so Dan found me directions to a parking lot not far from the station and I ended up arriving with plenty of time to kill at a little before 11am, long before our meeting.

Whole Foods was easy to find and after some brief stressful moments pushing through the crowds in the city I decided it would be best to find a pub with WiFi and perch up with my iPad until a little nearer the time. I am really not a London fan and much prefer to live life as a country bumpkin!

I hate London screenshot(As you can tell from my phone screenshot I’m rubbish at responding to social media alerts!)

Just before 1pm I headed back over to Whole Foods. There was someone outside.  Should I recognise them? (I didn’t!) I panicked, rang Dan and continued to walk round the corner on the phone. Turns out I shouldn’t have recognised them (unless they repeated the same ridiculous panic procedure as me but then instead of returning, left completely!) and as I turned back onto the street a few minutes later I spotted Anna. I recognised Anna from having read her blog for the past few years and so immediately felt a bit more relaxed.  As I got closer I could see that she was stood with Pip and Cat and not long after Ceri joined us as well.  I felt very silly for having a moment and being shy. I’d been looking forward to meeting up with the other bloggers for ages.

Our first task was to grab some lunch from Whole Foods to take to the park. This should be easy right? Apparently not! It did make me smile that all five of us spent a long time deliberating over what to choose. There was certainly much more choice than when I pop to Tesco on a Saturday lunchtime! I walked by as Pip was ordering a burrito box without the burrito and decided to follow suit. I am all about the variety when it comes to meals and so I got the guy behind the counter to throw everything in that box; rice, black beans, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, sweetcorn, red onion, sour cream… My box was overflowing with delicious food and I made a mental note to recreate this box for some of my lunches this week. I also picked up a pot of mixed fruit salad.

Whole foods burrito counter

Claire joined us before we headed to the park and the six of us found a nice half-shady-half-sunny spot out on the grass.  It was so hot out there on Saturday, the shade was a welcome break.  The chat was nice and relaxed over lunch. Mainly food natter with a bit of running thrown in. Anna had brought along her Cakeathon medal and my jealousy grew for how beautiful and HUGE and heavy it was in real life!

Anna and I blindly followed the London-based folk back out of the park and to inSpiral, a nearby vegan cafe, to meet up with a couple of other bloggers a little later.  I was glad it wasn’t just me that was a bit overwhelmed with navigating the streets of London!  I was amazed at how many runners were out on the streets in the middle of the afternoon.  It was so hot outside and the streets were so crowded I couldn’t imagine that getting a very consistent run in would have been particularly easy.  I’m glad I live where I do.

Once in inSpiral we met Laureen and Lily for drinks and cake.

Blogger meetup in inSpiral

Despite the eight of us having all blogged regularly for a while now we only managed to take one photo between us which included actual people.  (Picture above stolen from Cat!) But, we did all manage to take photos of our meals from the day.  But of course(!)

It was a great debate over what to drink.  In the end I settled on an inSpiral shake – ‘Made from a tub of our raw vegan cashew-based ice cream and blended with your choice of milk and a dash of agave nectar.’  I went for mint choc chip with almond milk and it was lovely and refreshing.  I do much prefer almond milk to cows milk since I have begun drinking it.  If only more places offered a choice like this!

My cake of choice was a Raw Hazelnut Tart – ‘creamy hazelnut and vanilla filling on an activated buckwheat, cacoe and hazelnut crust topped with a raw chocolate ganache.’

inSpiral Raw Hazlenut Tart

…I made the right choice!

I had a great day and chatted to so many lovely people.  I can’t believe how nervous I had been at the start of the morning now and wished I had chatted more.  With so much in common with everybody I’m not sure how I expected us to have nothing to talk about, because there was not a moment of silence once we had all met.  It was just a shame that the day seemed to go by so quickly.  I shall definitely be putting my name down for another meet up! :)

The drive home was a little eventful, as the fuel gauge display in my car would not display anything and I had no idea how much petrol was remaining in my car, or at what speed I was driving!  Once out of London I managed to pull over and turn off my car.  When I started it back up again the display seemed to work so I asked no more questions!

The following morning I was up bright and early to marshal at the Coombe Abbey running festival for Go Beyond.  The day was completely different to the Saturday and this time I had awoken to grey skies and constant drizzle.  The A14 being closed off and adding an extra 35minutes to my journey didn’t brighten my mood at all. Coombe Abbey running festival start line Go BeyondI was managing the registration tent on Sunday; directing runners to the right queues and running over to the chip guys with details of runners entering on the day.  The weather did pick up a lot later on in the day and I’m pretty sure my face got a little burnt in the afternoon.  I did get a few odd questions whilst chatting to runners before they collected their entry packs.  One runner had forgotten his money and wondered if he could pay in euros?!  (The answer, for anyone thinking of doing the same in future, was ‘no’ I’m afraid.)  Apparently the day before someone had asked the question ‘If it doesn’t rain this evening, will the course be dry?’  ?!

After seeing the last runner off over the finish line (10 minutes after the marathon had begun, as he had misjudged how long it would take him to get to the event!) I broke down the registration desk and moved over to the finish line where my next station point was at.  I do enjoy being on the finish line – giving out medals and seeing people achieve what they set out to do.

Go Beyond Coombe Abbey running festival medals

One runner really stood out on race day.  Rosanna Andrews from Northampton Road Runners was running the half marathon and won it.  Outright.  First lady, but also the first person to cross the finish line for the half marathon distance!  Her Mum was also the third lady over the marathon finish line. I’ve never watched a race before where a woman has come first!  There was actually less than two minutes between the first guy and the first lady for the marathon as well.  With the course set on loops (12 loops for the marathon distance) it was really exciting to monitor the current placings as runners started each new lap and to keep track of who was in the lead.

I was absolutely knackered by the end of the day though and enjoyed a little nap back at home before tea!

How do you prefer your weekends?  Busy or relaxed?
Have you ever met people through their blog before?
Favourite random question you have been asked as a marshal?!
Have you ever witnessed a woman beating all of the men in a race?

Six Snippets Saturday

It was really draining trying to write three race recaps back-to-back last week.  Probably actually more draining blogging about them than it was running them!  I haven’t felt very inspired to blog much else this week but in fact, lots of stuff has happened just lately.  Summer is coming (three weeks and three days away to be exact) and I’m hoping to improve my time management schedule – some sort of routine for both the blog and life – as once again, life has been all over the place just lately!

Anyway, here are six snippets from my week…

#1.  Colworth Marathon Times.  On Thursday evening I got into a discussion with a couple of other runners from my running club about the Colworth Marathon weekend.  It seems to be the general consensus that the cumulative time achieved by runners at Colworth over the three days (5miles, 8.1miles and 13.1miles) is roughly what they should be achieving in an actual road marathon.  Although the Colworth ‘marathon’ is run over the three days of the weekend and your body has time to recover slightly before attempting the next distance the following day, the courses are challenging, with plenty of hills and technical, rutted ground in places so the difficulty of the event almost cancels out the fact that it is run over three days.
This made me quite happy.  4:37:49 was my collective time for the weekend challenge, a long way under my current marathon time of 5:00:28.  Obviously, the Colworth Marathon Challenge does not count as an actual marathon time as it was run over three days but it gives me an aim to work towards for my next marathon – Mablethorpe in October.

#2.  My Mother-In-Law has lost more than 30lbs so far with a combination of Weight Watchers, C25k and using her FitBit.  I’m super proud of her for sticking at it and she has really noticeably lost the weight over the past couple of months.  She has mentioned hoping to go for a run at some point with Dan and I and I intend on holding her to that!  She has actually lost 33.5lbs in total now since the Spring.

Weight Watches 30lb loss

#3.  House move progress?  On Friday we had a phone call from our estate agents to say that the mortgage had finally been approved for the woman that is buying our house and that we should get in touch with our solicitors to find out more.  Our solicitors didn’t know anything about this yet, as the other set of solicitors hadn’t contacted them directly.  I feel like I’ve been quite pushy with the whole house moving thing – I often ring several times a week to check on progress, but it hasn’t seemed to get us anywhere!  As I left it on Friday afternoon, our solicitors were going to get in touch with our buyer’s solicitors and suggest a date for completion.  I suggested the 23rd July as it is three weeks away (hopefully giving them plenty of time to organise the exchange!) and the first day of my Summer holiday, so hopefully preventing a melt-down from me as it won’t involve moving one night after work.  Dan would happily have signed up to move on Monday if they would let us.  He seems to be oblivious to the amount of work that is required on the actual move day itself!House sold sign

#4.  Running on my own.  A couple of times this week I have headed out on an easy run on my own and really enjoyed it.  I run with others so often that sometimes I forget how nice it is just to head out with my own thoughts and come up with my own route for a run.  I’m still feeling strong (touch wood that this continues!) and was hopeful for a 10k PB at Milton Keynes on Tuesday night.  Obviously it goes without saying that as I am aiming for a PB the weather begins to heat up…

Milton Keynes 10k weatherAt the moment, the temperature is showing as only dropping to 21 degrees by 10pm that evening.  I think I need to wipe all thoughts of a good race from my head immediately.  I don’t hold out much hope of it going well if the weather is as hot and muggy as it appears it is going to be.

#5.  Places were released for the EnduranceLife Gower events this week.  A shout out was made on our club Facebook page and we already have more than twenty members with their names down for one of the cottages we rented out last year.  I had such a good time last year that my name was one of the first back on the list for 2015!  We’ve worked out that the three cottages will probably sleep about 30 people between them at a push (with a few runners crashing on the floor/sofa).  Quite a few runners are bringing partners again this year, but Dan was perfectly happy to let me go on my own and had no intentions of even entering the 10k event to keep him occupied whilst I was out running the marathon again.  He’ll probably spend the weekend at home playing football, watching football and choosing food I would never cook!

Gower marathon crew

#6.  Co-op £10 meals are a life saver.  The majority of our kitchen items are packed away in boxes and have been for several weeks.  It seems a long while ago now that I planned out the last of our food into meals for the week so that we could make sure we had eaten it all before we moved back in May.  Back before the estate agents decided that May 29th would no longer be our moving date…!
Washing up is now done on a nightly basis, sometimes twice a day as we only have two sets of everything left in the cupboards.  Lots of kitchen items we didn’t think we would be using again (such as scales and roasting dishes) have been packed and so I have gone from enjoying planning and cooking our meal each night to desperately working out what is the least effort and requires the least amount of utensils/space in our now tiny living space that is filled with boxes.

We’re not big takeaway people, but a couple of times over the last couple of weeks on nights we haven’t fancied turning around and washing up, using every remaining pot and pan in the kitchen and then clearing space for us to eat we have turned to our local Co-op.

We live in a very small town, but we do have a Co-op within walking distance.  Co-op have been running a £10 meal-for-two deal for a little while now which includes a main dish, a side, a dessert and a bottle of wine.  (Non-alcoholic drinks are also available but I find, if it has been one of those days, then often the wine is what is calling!)  There are usually about three or four varieties of each course to choose from.

This week we went for chicken coated in cheese with crispy sliced potatoes, carrots, green beans, chocolate melt-in-the-middle puddings and a bottle of rosé.Chicken, green beans, potatoes and carrots from the Co-op £10 meal deal

I do enjoy cooking most of the time, but sometimes it’s nice to have something completely different and be told exactly what to put in the oven and when.  I am hoping to try out Hello Fresh as recommended by Anna when we finally move, although I’m a bit wary about doing so yet, in case we need any utensils or more than two plates for the meals!

So, that is my week, summed up into six bullet points!  Work has been rather busy just lately with term winding down and all assessments needing to be marked.  I am so looking forward to the Summer and filling my days with non-school related things.  My weekend this week has been/is in the process of being just as jam packed as the week was and much more fun so I shall recap it in another post.

Do you get many takeaways/meal deals?
Tell me a PB success story from a hot day.

Colworth Marathon Challenge – Day 3

I had meant to get this recap up earlier in the week, but taking a weekend off from completing housework and schoolwork so that I could run has it’s repercussions and as a result, I was up working until 11:30pm Monday and Tuesday evening, followed by being completely knackered last night.

Yesterday I managed to slot an easy 5 mile run in with Dan after work as my head was telling me that schoolwork was very much over for the day once I got home!  I was rather useless afterwards and headed to bed not much later.  Now it’s time to complete the final day of my recap of the Colworth Marathon Challenge I ran over the weekend.  The half marathon.

I didn’t have the best of races on the Sunday.  I could probably sum this post up in a couple of short sentences and move swiftly on, but the Colworth Marathon Challenge is one I would like to take on again and therefore, I need to document and learn from my mistakes!

I’d had great runs on both the Friday night and Saturday afternoon, leaving me feeling good and filled with confidence for the final race of the weekend.  Unfortunately, the added confidence meant I ended up going into the final day a little too relaxed.  I’d run the five mile race on day one at an average heart rate of 166bpm.  I’d run the 8.1mile race on the Saturday at a 160bpm HR.  I didn’t stop to work out what I needed to be running at for a half marathon, I just knocked 5 beats off from the previous race and roughly aimed to be working with a 155bpm heart rate.

The first mile was spent chatting with a friend who is a much quicker runner than me, as he had wanted to ensure he didn’t start off too fast.  We kept things steady but as we wished each other luck a mile up the road and he pushed on, I realised I was yet to check in on my HR.  Luckily, I appeared to be a good judge of effort and I was bang on the target I had set for myself.  I was finding things relatively easy.  The terrain was much easier going than it had been the day before and as I had started off perhaps even slightly slower than my target HR I was picking people in front of me off one by one.

Confidence boost.  My legs felt strong after racing the last two days and I didn’t think twice about reassessing my pace.  155bpm seemed easy.  I was cruising along and I picked up the pace slightly.

By mile four a lady had fallen into step with me and commented on what a nice, steady pace I had.  That I just ‘looked comfortable’.  I certainly felt it at that stage and mentioned that I had been running to a consistent heart rate throughout.  She mentioned that she had struggled to get into a rhythm so I said that she was welcome to stay with me if she liked and continued to run alongside or just behind me for the next couple of miles.

Mile 1: 10:17
Mile 2:
10:34
Mile 3: 10:05
Mile 4: 9:59
Mile 5: 10:45
Mile 6: 10:56
Mile 7: 10:28

(Although this doesn’t appear  consistent, it was over a very hilly course, so the effort levels were consistent.)

The half marathon course was two laps and it was nice to see a hoard of club support back at the start line as we passed through ready to take on the second lap.  I was yet to take any drinks on from the water stations.  Water was passed out in plastic cups like it had been on the day before and so when I decided that I did infact need some water at the halfway point, I made the decision that I was going to slow to a walk to drink it, rather than gulp it and choke myself like I had done on the Saturday.  The first sip still went down the wrong way.  I walked for long enough until I had finished the cup and then broke back into a run again.  Why does running feel so much harder after a walk break?!

I soon realised that my 155bpm target was too high and lowered my expectations to 150bpm, dropping the pace substantially.  The half marathon was never too much but I should have planned better beforehand to have worked out my pacing more successfully as the second half was not as enjoyable as the first!

I did feel as though there were a lot of water stations on the course.  About four each lap I think?  Some were positioned in really random places as well.  One was half way up a steep hill that I really just wanted to power up, not stop and have to restart again (I skipped this station out!)

Mile 8: 10:57 
Mile 9:
11:40
Mile 10: 10:59
Mile 11: 11:47
Mile 12: 11:08
Mile 13: 12:33
Nubbin (0.33m): 9:46mm

All in all though, the race was a good one.  I still managed a sprint finish at the end, although not quite as speedy as it had been on the previous two days.  Not only were my legs a little more tired but this was the one day where I had no-one to race against at the end.

Colworth Marathon Challenge mug

After collecting my prize of a Colworth mug at the finish, I sat with the rest of the club relaxing in the sun and waiting for the other runners to come in.  Sunday was the first time in a long while I had run over ten miles without any food or drink other than water and my shorts were a little salty.  I wasn’t disappointed with my time.  I had estimated previously that I would come in at around 2h 30m and my official time was clocked as 2:25:27 (and 196/221 position), so I beat my estimate by almost five minutes and in the process gave myself a new target for next year! 😉

When the rest of our club had come through the finish line we headed over to the marquee where we could claim our prize for competing in all three of the events over the weekend.  This year the token was a slate coaster with the race marked on it.  I really like it.

Colworth Marathon Challenge slate coasterRunners started to drift off one by one.  I was then saying goodbye to a few others when I looked up to see Dan heading towards me.  He had come to see me race but missed me by about 40 minutes.  Clearly his expectations of my time were too low! 😛  When I first started running he used to come to all my races but now he often stays at home instead.  I guess I race quite a lot!  He did stick around so that we could cheer our club at the prize-giving though as they had achieved first female team.

I was hoping that some pictures would be available for me to add to my posts by now, but it appears not.  :(  The Colworth Marathon website seems to have uploaded to their website pictures of each runner from the half marathon at the finish.  But the last photo is the runner before me!  Hopefully they were just interrupted mid-load and the rest of the pictures will be added later today…

Overall Colworth Marathon Challenge time: 4:37:39.
Overall Colworth Marathon Challenge position: 135/150.

Do your parents/partner/pets come and watch you at races?
Have you ever misjudged the pace required for a race?

Colworth Marathon Challenge – Day 2

An 8.1 mile race.  What a random distance to run!  It fit in with the 5 miles from the Friday and the half marathon on the Sunday though to total the 26.2 mile marathon distance over the weekend, and I’m all about adding another PB to the list.  (After checking on both Facebook and Twitter, it appears that even obscure distances count for PBs! 😛 )

The course was described as a trail race, unlike the races on Friday and Sunday, which were both classified as off-road.  I wore my trails for the full weekend though.  I just find them comfortable to run in.  The day was very warm, but we were treated to a light drizzle of rain before the race which cooled things down.  It then absolutely tipped it down on the drive home, so we got in just in time!

We set off at the race heading out in a different direction to the night before.  We’d actually been silenced before the race this time as well to let us know about the tricky terrain and a klaxon was blown at the start.  On the Friday night, I’d had no clue until we were moving that the race had already begun!  The first couple of miles were easy – there was a hill, but the terrain was what I was used to – grassy verges of fields and well-trod footpaths.  I clocked up a 9:25mm and an 8:09mm for the first two miles.  I’m not entirely sure that the second mile was accurate.  I hadn’t felt like I was moving overly quickly, my heart rate remained stable and just before I hit the two mile point a pair of Northampton Road Runners came up behind me exclaiming that they were currently running at 9:09mm pacing.  So I’m not sure if my Garmin perhaps lost a little signal going through the woods?  Might account for being so out from the mile markers then as well.  I actually ran 8.48 miles instead of the intended 8.1.

A couple of miles into the race we turned onto a track which had huge tyre tracks dug into it.  Several inches deep.  The actual track inbetween the tracks was also very rutted, and where vehicles had crossed from the main track at times, you were running with your feet literally one in front of the other.  There was no room for error!  I had never been very good at walking on the beam at school.  Wish I’d practiced more of it now!  This terrain went on for miles and miles.  Or at least it definitely felt like it did.

Mile 3: 9:39, mile 4: 10:30, mile 5: 10:34.

There were three water stations, which I thought was more than plenty on an eight mile course.  I took water from the first two and then left the last water station, as it wasn’t much further to go until the finish.  At both the first water stations I struggled to run and collect the water.  Stupid plastic cups.  I ended up getting it all over my hand and then it went down completely the wrong way when I did manage to gulp some down.  The second water station was at the bottom of a long hill.  I quite enjoyed running down here, as runners were also heading back up in the opposite direction.  The water was at the bottom at the turn-around point.  Somehow I managed to block from my head that enjoying the downhill would mean that we would soon have to endure the uphill and with other runners coming towards us, so no chance to slow our pace.  It didn’t matter though.  Although it was tough, other people were finding it tough by now and I overtook a few on this section, remaining in front of them until the end.

Mile 6: 10:41, Mile 7: 10:35.

By mile seven I was hungry.  Like really, really hungry.  All I could think about was what I was going to have for lunch.  The race had started at the really random time of midday.  I’d trialled out a sausage sandwich for breakfast – a breakfast recommended to me by many ultra runners in the past.  Clearly wasn’t working for me, or I needed to have had something between breakfast and my run because I’m pretty sure I could hear my stomach grumbling out there on the course by this point!

The majority of the last mile is a lovely long downhill section, although on road.  I didn’t want to pick the pace up too much knowing that I was nearly back and eager to save something for a sprint finish.  I could hear someone coming up behind me as we approached a narrow track which led onto the grassy field where the finish line was placed at the far end.  I turned to see Theresa, another lady from my club.  I offered my position up to let her go through the track first, as you couldn’t really fit two runners alongside each other here, but she motioned that I go ahead.

We came out onto the field together with probably about 400m to go?  (I’m rubbish when it comes to metres!)  I kept it nice and steady while Theresa picked the pace up a little and pulled in front.  Our ladies’ captain, along with a few others started really cheering me along from halfway down the field, shouting out “Come on Mary, keep with her!”, “Overtake her!”, “Sprint for the finish Mary!” and several other similar comments.  It gave me an adrenaline rush, and from much further out than I had done so the night before I pushed for the finish.  As I drew up behind her I heard Theresa say something along the lines of “Why are they shouting your name but not mine?” and I felt a little bad, but I still had a lot of energy that I wasn’t planning on using up after crossing the line.  I first tried to undertake her on the left hand side, as that was the side I had been running on, but as we turned the corner for the finishing straight Theresa tucked right into the cone markers.  I chopped my stride, pulled back out to the right and really put some power in for the finish, drawing over the line a couple of seconds in front again.  Immediately turning round to apologise for overtaking so close to the line.  I think she forgave me, and she did smash my half marathon time today (post to follow).

Mile 8: 10:51, Nubbin (0.48m) 8:28mm pace.

Garmin time: 1:24:32  (Gun time and stats to follow.)

The prize for completing the event was a boot bag for each runner.  They look small, but they were tested by Wellingborough runners after the event, and shoes do fit inside, even with my big feet!IMG_20150620_164822

I hung around after the race for the presentations, which were due to start at 2pm.  They still hadn’t started by 2pm though and by that point I really needed some food.  I made a quick stop off at ASDA on the way home.  ASDA isn’t our normally shop and one of my guilty pleasures is browsing new supermarkets for tasty foods.  I really enjoyed this Mexican chicken and flatbread salad as a late lunch.

Mexican chicken and flatbread saladMost of the rest of the day was a write off.  I had planned on getting lots of housework done, caught up on blog reading, get a bit of school work ticked off…

In reality my afternoon consisted of lots of Bella cuddles, catching up with Eastenders, a tiny bit of blog reading and slobbing out in the lounge.  Sometimes you just need one of those days I guess!

Bella cat snuggles

Have you run any obscure race distances before?