January sale spending

Erm yep, I am aware that we are infact in March now, and will be entering April in just a few days.  This draft post has been sat on my computer since the start of the year though and I did make a few little purchases right back at the start of 2016 that I planned on sharing with the blog world.

I have never been a massive sale shopper, even when I was younger.  There might have been a few years as a teenager when I rummaged around the shops along the high street in Norwich, but I’ve never really been one for spending hours sliding top after top along the sale rail until I found something that worked out to be vaguely a bargain, and was something I would probably wear only the once.

Even if I did ‘waste’ my money on that one wear top, it would never have come to more than a few pounds at a time that I was throwing into the high street pocket.  Fast forward a few years to now and January sales shopping has suddenly become a whole lot more expensive as an adult.  You know all those boring couch adverts that pop up in-between the Christmas shows on Boxing Day morning?  (Or over the last few years seem to have even crept in on Christmas Day evening?!)  Well, turns out that adult-Mary sees those sales as much more interesting now since buying a larger house and still needing to kit out a large portion of it!

…January sale sofa shopping is way more expensive than January sale clothes shopping!

I treated myself a lot in the first month of 2016, and for somebody who often finds it hard to part with their cash, it was a little worrying how quickly a chunk of my savings pot disappeared during those first few weeks!

For the house:

A new bed for our back spare room

(This is an image of it in the shop, we’re yet to complete this room in our house, although the bed is up in the back of the room now, the room still needs a lot of work doing to it.)

Bed in the back spare roomThe ‘drawers’ under the bed are actually a pull-out single bed so that we can have more people stay over when it gets to Summer BBQ season.  Our back spare room is actually one of the largest in the house and we ummed and ahhhed for quite a while trying to decide between a double and a single or something different, before both falling in love with this solution.  We also got a large mirror to match which still needs to go up behind the bed in the room.

A new bed, bedside tables and chest of drawers for our bedroom

New bed and bedside tables in our bedroomDan and I spent a few days towards the end of the Christmas holidays painting out and putting up the furniture and curtains in our bedroom.  Eventually we will have carpet in our room, but we’re waiting until the rest of our house is complete before laying any new carpet down on the floors.  This is probably our most complete room in the house, despite still needing carpet, skirting, coving and the ceiling to be skimmed!

Running:

Ultimate Direction PB Vest

Ultimate Direction PB vestI’d been on the lookout for a new running vest for a while and this one came recommended to me by a friend following the Gower Marathon back in November.  Although pricey (just over £100) it has so far been worth every penny and I managed to get quite a bit of use out of it on long runs and at events at the start of the year.

Running in the snowMy main issue when running long distance had been that I always carried my water bottle by hand previously.  I’m not a big fan of using bladders in bags as I like to know how much water I have remaining at all times on a run.  The two front pockets which came with water bottles suit me perfectly in this vest and there is a multitude of different zip and tie pockets all around the vest in various sizes so that I can hide away my money, phone, waterproof and food essentials!  There are quite a few front facing pockets which is really handy for when I am in a race and don’t want to have to lug my back off my back every time I want a handful of pretzels!  The bag sits snugly on my back and is yet to move at all whilst out on a run so rubbing is not an issue.

Another pair of Asics Nimbus 16s

Brand new Asics Nimbus 16s

I got two emails over Christmas from Strava to say that two of the pairs of trainers I was running in had reached the 500 mile guideline of miles that means they should become everyday household trainers rather than ones used for running.
There is something about fresh new road shoes and I love the feeling of ‘springing’ along the road.  It often takes a new pair of road shoes to realise just how old and worn out my old trainers were and I’m very glad of my snug and super comfy Asics.  I am very much an Asics girl and I’m not sure I’d even look at another brand of trainer now following how well my feet seem to get on with my previous pairs of Asics shoes.

Weights

Pro Fitness barbell dumbbell set

One of the parts of running I always neglect is strength work.  Because Dan and I share lifts into work it means I arrive at my school rather early each morning (I leave home at 6:20 to arrive around 7am).  Although I currently spend this time working on school work I did look into the cost and practicality of using the attached gym before work in the mornings, but I felt that to be gymed, showered, changed and back in my form room by 8:15 might leave me in a bit of a panic so I decided against it for the time being.  Instead, purchasing a set of dumbbell weights for use at home.  I bought these just as I got sick so I haven’t made much use of them yet, although I already know that I shall get more use out of the money spent than one month of gym membership!

The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances book

The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distance - The OatmealI spent half term continuing to go in to school as I had so much work to do before year 11 exam season began.  Annoyingly, the school was locked up at 3pm each day though, so each afternoon whilst I waited for Dan to pick me up at 5 I wandered into town, popped into Costa and browsed some of the (very few) shops in the town.  I did spot this book in a charity shop for £2 and it made me laugh quite a few of the afternoons whilst I was waiting for my lift!
Probably best read once you are already a runner though, otherwise you might be put off from our sport!

Other:

Nexus 5x phone

Nexus 5xI am awful at dropping my phone!  On our wedding anniversary last year my phone managed to launch itself from my dressing gown pocket and onto the hard tiles in our kitchen, smashing the front screen.  In February I was finally due an upgrade and so went with the Nexus 5x.  I love it and it does everything I need my phone to do.  Dan managed to swing me an amazing contract for £23 with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 2G of data which I never go over.  Before I was always going over my call and data allowance and ending up with charges on top of my monthly bill.  The few apps I had downloaded onto my last phone took up most of the space and meant that on a daily basis I was having to delete texts and photos just to try and fit everything on, but I’ve had no complaints at all in the last couple of months with my Nexus.

What big purchases have you made this year?  Find any bargains or cant-live-withouts?
Are you a sales shopper?

Busy parkruns

I finally feel like I’ve started to regain my fitness levels following the really bad batch of flu I had mid-February.  As someone that rarely gets sick and is used to powering through when beginning to feel a little run down, it was such a surreal situation for me to have to call in sick to work for two days in a row.  In fact I had lost my voice almost completely and had been up half of the Sunday night so when I called in to work on the Monday morning somewhere around 5-6am in the morning I struggled to croak out to the school answer phone that it was ‘Mary Moore’ and that I wouldn’t be in that day but would email across cover for my lessons now.  I was finding it really difficult to get much sound out and it wasn’t until I was about to end the phone call that I realised in my ill and half-with-it state that I had given my maiden name instead of my married name, despite having been married for eighteen months now.  When I headed back into work on the Wednesday the cover office told me that they had barely been able to make out my voicemail message but had heard the name at the start so sent cover for a teacher called Miss Moore  (in a different department) instead!  Whoops!

Anyway, despite having been back for three full weeks now my energy levels have struggled to return and I was left feeing pretty run down.  My cough was so bad for the first fortnight that the one or two runs I did head out on were followed by severe coughing fits so bad that I had to head straight to bed on my return home as I gave myself such a bad headache from coughing.  There have been several nights when I’ve been in bed by 9-9:30pm and my usual 4:15am alarm has been swapped to 5:30am so all school work has been completed in the evening instead of some getting crossed off before school begins.  I haven’t had the energy to fit in many runs or felt creative enough to get much writing in either and I’ve struggled to concentrate to read much online at all.  :(

Like I said though, I’m finally beginning to feel more on top of things again.  It has been nice to tick off a few more parkruns over the past couple of weeks and not have the pressure of time at them, knowing that I wasn’t 100%.

Last week I decided to head to Peterborough parkrun for a change.  I needed to nip into Peterborough to see a friend whose birthday it had been during the week and really didn’t fancy a third week in a row of getting stuck in roadworks on the way to the Northampton parkrun.

It’s been a while since I have been to the Peterborough parkrun and for the first time they were operating a new charge to park at Ferry Meadows – the parkrun venue.  The parkrun team had done a good job of negotiating a discount for parkrunners with the car park team but it was still a bit off-putting to have to pay for parking at a parkrun, although I can understand why it is necessary in some places.  Still, I would prefer if the money, or some of the money went to maintaining parkrun.  The Race Director made sure to explain how runners could access the discounted prices by entering a parkrun discount code when paying for the parking at the end of the run and it ended up costing runners just £1 to park in the car park that day.

We headed down to the start of the run on time and I moved myself closer to the back than I would normally place myself, aware that having been ill for so long my times would not be up to my usual standard.  When we began though it actually took 22 seconds for me to cross the start line!  Even after I crossed the line the route was so tightly packed of runners that I struggled to get past anyone or extend my usually quite long stride.

It took until my second lap of the park before I felt I could really stretch my legs out a little.

Peterborough parkrunAnd even then it was still fairly crowded.  The second lap went by marginally faster, probably because I wasn’t having to force such a choppy stride and dodge in and out of other runners as much as I had been.

When I headed up the slight incline that leads through to the finish funnel I decided to push it a bit and gave a sprint finish, but my lungs, head and chest regretted it as soon as I crossed the line.  The hard finish caused me to cough violently making both my head and chest pound for several minutes before calming down.Peterborough parkrun finish

Annoyingly, when I checked my watch I hadn’t even hit the 30 minute mark, finishing slightly over.

Garmin time: 30:12 (over 3.22m)
Official time: 30:15
Position: 257/426
Gender position: 72/189
Age category position: 13/29

There were 426 runners at Peterborough parkrun last week which I thought was quite a lot, but as I was listing all the parkrun results on my running club website on Monday afternoon I checked how many had run at Bushy parkrun, as one of our runners had made his way there for a bit of tourism. – 1060 runners!  That is insane.  Apparently the highest number of runners they have ever had is 1705!

I have felt rather envious of everyone out completing their 20 milers over the past couple of weeks but my body won’t be ready for a marathon this Spring now.  I did spend a spare twenty minutes earlier in the week logging all of my marathon and ultras to date onto the 100 Marathon Club application form ready for the day (way in the future!) when I apply though!

100 Marathon Club

What is the longest distance you are running at the moment?
How far has being ill put your training back in the past?

Lots of rain and the run in the park that wasn’t a parkrun

I’m going to start off by talking about the weather, as it has caused quite a few issues this week.

Like several parts of the UK, East Northants/Cambridgeshire was hit with constant rain all day and all night on Wednesday, resulting in severe flooding in some areas of the county by Thursday morning.  My usual 45 minute journey to work ended up taking two hours on Thursday.  Being stuck in a car on the A14 is not my favourite way to pass the time first thing in the morning!

Field on the A14Luckily, I’m on top of my workload at the moment, and all my lessons for the day had already been prepped, otherwise I would have been rather stressed!

A14 closed due to flooding

The left hand lane of the dual carriage was closed in several areas of the A14, due to the bad flooding and so traffic was moving incredibly slowly.  Several of the adjoining side roads and alternative routes we might otherwise have taken were closed altogether due to the excess rain that had fallen, making roads impassable.  It wasn’t until I had nearly reached school that I realised that the westbound side of the carriageway contained no cars at all and was in fact, shut completely.  That afternoon, I had a hospital appointment booked for 3:30pm.  As Dan and I share a car, I had put in a cover request for the last 30 minutes of my final lesson of the day, and had booked a car rental, with the car rental place due to pick me up from school at 2:30pm, to finish collecting and signing paperwork by 2:45, for the 45 minute journey back again.  When I finally arrived at school, I hurriedly checked the BBC traffic website to discover that the B-road diversion cars were being sent on was in fact a 90 minute journey on a normal day, never mind when every single car, bus and lorry was being told to head in that direction!  Luckily, school had accidentally covered my entire final lesson, instead of only half of it and I was able to move my rental car slot forward by half an hour.  They rushed through the paperwork and by the time I set off, there was barely anything on the road, so I made it in time.  Heading back for parent’s evening following my appointment was a different story though, and the journey took me another hour and a half!  I spent a lot of time stuck in the car on Thursday!

Somebody posted this picture on Facebook of the park where our cross-country event is run in the October half term.  The route sees you jump this brook four times, but I wouldn’t fancy jumping it at the moment!

Croyland park  Wellingborough - flooded

Dan and I were all ready for Friday morning to be a repeat performance of our horrific journey from the day before, but in actual fact the roads were much clearer, despite the fog having settled on the Cambridgeshire border!

Fog on the A14I guess after the previous day everyone had taken Friday off to work at home.  The roads are never this clear!

I went for a little walk after work though, along a route I sometimes run down.  I’m not sure I’m going to be heading through this field any time soon…! St Ives park - flooded

This morning I headed over for another Northampton parkrun.  I’m only a couple away from my 50 now, and had agreed to run another with Laura, who is returning from a back injury.  After my disastrous journey last week, I made sure to leave a little earlier, at 8:05am, – only to discover the A45 was shut yet again this weekend!  The fog was yet to clear and the roads were super busy.  I was never going to make it in time.  I turned into my magic side-street that has never let me down for parking before, but there were no spaces left!  By the time I had found another parking space the clock had already turned to 9:01am and I knew there was no way I would make the start in time.  I jogged down to cross the road before putting a spurt on once I reached the other side, with my average pace beginning with a 7:xx.  It took a while before my Garmin even kicked in.  Does fog affect finding satellites?  Everyone had been set off for at least a good 5 minutes by the time I arrived, and it wasn’t until a way after turning the first corner before I finally passed the tail runner.  Realising I should easily catch up with Laura and find my pace then, I settled into an 8:30ish pace, quickly passing large numbers of runners and eventually reaching Laura about a mile and a half into the route.  I could then let myself slow down to slightly faster than 11 min mile pace and get an overdue catch up in along with my run!

I had already decided that I wasn’t going to cross the line and take a token.  Although I am desperate to get my 50 parkruns in, and I did run the full distance, it would annoy me that I hadn’t set off at the same time as the others, so the stats wouldn’t be right and I didn’t feel that I could count it.  Stupid A14!

Laura was aiming for a sub 35min parkrun to beat her time from a fortnight ago.  She smashed it, finishing in 33:43 so her next target will now be sub 33 minutes.

Salted caramel tart from Magees in Northampton

Over a Magee’s (hot chocolate and salted caramel tart for me!) I agreed to run the MK 5k race on the Bank Holiday Sunday in May, followed by the half marathon on the Monday with Laura.  I have run the MK marathon three out of the last four years it has been going for, but it is not on my radar for this year.  However, when I discovered that there is an awesome cow medal up for grabs if you run both the 5k on the Sunday and the half or full marathon the following day…and then I realised that Dan is away that week on a stag do, I decided to also get myself a cool medal!

MK marathon medalsI plan on running the 5k on my own, but will run the half marathon round with Laura on the day, returning the favour from when she ran the last half of the marathon with me last May.

Have you ever entered a race for the medal?
Did the weather cause you any issues this week?

I’m jealous of runners living in a parkrun town

This Saturday, like most Saturday mornings, I had planned to head to Northampton parkrun for a nice social 5k run to start the weekend off. I’ve mentioned several times on the blog before but there is no parkrun in my hometown. In fact I seem to live an equal thirty minutes away from each of the three nearest parkruns to me; Northampton, Corby and Huntingdon. Northampton tends to be the course I visit most often, as it is the one closest to my running club so has the best club support. Lately though, it has just become so busy that any runners planning on parking on the racecourse site car park need to have arrived by 8:30am really at the latest. I have no intentions on setting out an hour before a 26-27 minute run begins, so have discovered a little nearby side street which so far *touch wood* has always had spaces on a Saturday morning. It means I can get away with leaving somewhere between 8:10-8:15am. Those fifteen minutes on a Saturday morning make all the difference!

This weekend, I popped out of the door at my usual 8:10 set off time, turned onto the A45 (the road I take pretty much the whole way to Northampton) and noticed some bright yellow diversion signs up ahead. The A45 was shut. I don’t know who thought it would be a great idea to shut several miles of the A45 on a busy Saturday morning but my head suddenly went into overdrive trying desperately to remember various routes I’d run before along backroads headed in the vague direction of Northampton. Somehow, using a mix of diversion signs, my running route knowledge and the satnav (Only helpful in patches, – the satnav and I have never gotten along), I made it onto a road I recognised and navigated my way to the side street, arriving at 8:56am. I leapt out of my car, locking it by vaguely pointing the key fob in the general direction of my car as I sped along the road headed for the racecourse, hoping the traffic wouldn’t be too busy.

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IMG_20160305_081539(When I first hoped in the car, before realising the A45 was closed!  Notice the rain out of the windows.  :(  Luckily it didn’t rain at all whilst running though!)

In the distance I could see the runners headed along the short walk over to the run start. I knew I’d never make it in time if I headed right, towards the pedestrian crossing.  Luckily the traffic seemed to have come to a standstill just as I reached the road so I picked up speed and headed straight across.  As I reached the other side, the park side, I glanced across to my right to see and acknowledge another runner also putting a spurt on to make it on time for the start. Somehow we both made it to the front of the start line as the notices were finishing up. I located my friend Lindsay at the back of the pack and turned just as the word ‘Go’ was shouted, ready to head over the start line. Lindsay is currently 24 weeks pregnant so was the perfect choice for a run buddy following a fortnight of illness and a 7minute mile pace mad sprint to the start.

We caught up on lots of teaching gossip (Lindsay and I used to work at the same school last year), I helped pull Lindsay along a little and she helped me not overdo things follow my illness. I’d run seven trail miles one night during the week, and although fine whilst running, once the group slowed to regroup at points and when the run finished I suffered severe coughing fits, resulting in a very bad migraine that evening. I didn’t want a repeat of that evening to start off my weekend!

Me and Lindsay parkrun

Lindsay and I crossed the finish line together, so I’m pretty sure the result that was sent to me later that afternoon was wrong as it showed me finishing five seconds later than Lindsay did. I’m not going to kick up a fuss about five seconds, as I know how long it takes to get the results organised and published anyway, and it’s not like I was losing out on a PB!

Garmin time: 43:16
Official time: 43:22
Position: 268/284
Gender position: 112/126
Age category position: 16/19

A week earlier I had run parkrun with Laura, who was on her first run back following four months off with a busted back. Usually knocking out a 5k in 23 minutes, Laura was aiming for a 45 minute attempt last week mixing jogging with the odd walking stint. She had managed to run 15 minutes non-stop on the treadmill earlier in the week – her longest since November. She ran much better than planned though, and we crossed the line in 35:05, with Laura having run all the way.

Garmin time: 35:06
Official time: 35:05
Position: 288/350
Gender position: 100/143
Age category position: 18/23

Just a couple more to go until my 50th now!

This weekend was Mothers Day. My Mums birthday always falls around Mothers Day, this year falling on the Friday before. Oddly, my Mother-In-Law’s birthday also falls in the same week, this week falling on the Tuesday afterwards. Dan and I decided to have my parents over for lunch on Sunday, and then we will be headed over to visit his parents next weekend (so that Dan can also tie in the Wolves game whilst we are back!)

Dan did most of the cleaning and tidying, and I planned the meal and the presents. My favourite type of meal to put on when we have guests is an afternoon tea style meal. It’s easy as I can prep things beforehand, items will keep if we don’t eat it all and I don’t have to worry about portion sizes. I once cooked chicken in sauce with veg and our guests actually asked for two breasts each. (I had only cooked four in total for the four of us as I classed a breast as an appropriate one-person portion size!)

Amongst the sandwiches, grapes, salad, cheese straws, chocolate crispy cakes and selection of cold meats and cheese I also decided to make a cake for Mum’s birthday, inspired by something I had seen on Pinterest a few days earlier. I was rather happy with the end result!

Mum's musical birthday cakeTwo layers of chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream icing in the middle and fondant icing on top, with more buttercream icing for the ‘Happy Birthday’ notes.Mum's musical birthday cakeThis week the new edition of runABC magazine was released.  One of the members of our club is a distributor, and the magazine genuinely has some really good, relevant articles inside.  Much thicker than lots of running magazines, and completely free!  Bonus!  This month there is a feature about our running club (Wellingborough & District AC) inside, and also a section on trail running in Northamptonshire, which happens to include a photograph from a run I was on a couple of Summers back.

IMG_20160303_220143Here’s the original photo back from July 2014Trail run in Northamptonshire with clubWhat is your go-to meal to make when you have visitors?
Have road closures ever scuppered your plans for a race/run?
Have you read runABC before?