Northampton parkrun #52

It was parkrun number 52 for me on Saturday.  I spent Friday evening supporting at the Colworth Marathon Challenge 5 mile event, and Sunday morning supporting at the Colworth Marathon Challenge half marathon event, so it was a full on weekend of running fun (without any fun running!) for me last weekend!

It seems like ages ago that I hit the milestone 50 parkruns mark.  I did eventually get my parkrun t-shirt, but the baby belly is too big for me to really wear it out in public now unfortunately.  I shall have to save it for post-baby running fun instead.

I wanted to get a few extra miles at the weekend in so decided to head down to parkrun slightly early and warm up with a lap of the park in reverse (1.7 miles) to try and loosen my legs up a little before the run.

Could not believe that despite arriving so early more than half of the car parking spaces had already been taken!  Our area is crying out for more parkrun events at the moment.

Once again, like last time I went to parkrun my upper legs were very sore when I first set off.  It was almost like I had been running long distances during the days beforehand.  I put no pressure on myself to run fast or hard and set off at a gentle jog around the outside of the park.  There were several other runners I recognised from parkrun or local races also doing the same and we exchanged greetings on the way round.  It was nice to run around the park in reverse for a change.  I really noticed the slight long downhill we get from running the other way on a Saturday morning.  Uphill for my warmup!

Laura met me as I reached the startline and we headed over for a loo trip before walking half a lap to stay loose ready for the start.

We set off at a very steady pace, one which was very easy to maintain whilst chatting for the whole distance.  In fact, I ended up with a royal flush negative split on my pacing for the run with the following minute mile timings:

Mile 1: 11:25
Mile 2:
Mile 3: 11:12
Nubbin (0.17m): 10:06mm

The only thing which disrupted my consistency was having to stop to retie my lace two miles into the run.  Frustratingly my belly is now at the point that I struggle to bend forwards in order to tie my laces, so I had to run with a flapping left lace for several hundred metres until we came across a bench where I could prop my foot up.  Laura did offer to tie it for me, but I politely declined!  My lace then came undone again 300 metres before the finish, but I didn’t think I was going quick enough to trip anyway, so ran over the line still flapping, looking for a bench once I’d collected my token.

Official time: 35:42
Garmin time:
Gender position:
Age category position: 12/15

A long way from my days of hoping for a sub 26minute parkrun time at the start of 2016!  Fingers crossed I’ll get my speed back post-baby though.  I hear women runners are meant to be much stronger after going through childbirth.  (Fingers crossed at least!)

Hot chocolate from Magee Street Bakery in Northampton

Post parkrun salted caramel tart and hot chocolate were had at Magee’s following the parkrun.  It had been quite a while since I’d devoured one of those tarts!

Salted caramel tart from Magee Street Bakery in NorthamptonIn the afternoon Dan and I went to see the new Independence Day film (Resurgence) at Odeon.  It was a film I had been looking forward to for months having loved the first one, but it was actually a bit of a let down to be honest.  There seemed to be no real build up to the storyline, and there were several side stories which didn’t really seem to serve a purpose.  Disappointing.  :(  The next film I’m looking forward to is Now You See Me 2.  Again, having been a big fan of the first film – I can only hope that the second continues in a similar style.

It poured it down on Saturday afternoon, so I was glad that we were safely tucked away in the dry cinema and that I had picked Friday and Sunday to support at the weekend marathon challenge rather than the Saturday and Sunday!  All of the rain we’ve been having just lately made things rather muddy for the runners at the race (although I would have loved this!)  It has also made everything shoot up in the garden.

Yellow liliesI believe that these lilies were originally destined to be part of our collection of wedding flowers (seventeen months ago!)  However, they never made it and my Mum potted them up for me to have at our new house earlier this year instead.  They have been growing super tall (they are up to my shoulders almost!) and last weekend they started sprouting with colour.

Yellow liliesMy patio is looking very bright now that they have all come out!

What films have you seen lately/are looking forward to next?
Do you do much gardening?
Any tips for making shoelaces stay done up?!  (Other than a double knot which I can never undo again!)

Running at 25 weeks pregnant

I’m a few weeks behind with pregnancy running updates.  Partly because I haven’t run a whole lot just lately, and that has mainly been due to my school workload, rather than issues with the baby this time.

23 weeks pregnant(Above picture taken at 23 weeks pregnant)

I’ve discovered that running in tights or compression shorts is much more comfortable than running in my regular loose-fitting shorts.  I think perhaps because skin-tight clothes kind of hold the bump in place?  My tights sit comfortably underneath my bump and I can then tighten the drawstring as much or as little as required so that my belly is supported without adding pressure where the string ties.  There were several weeks (around sixteen weeks onwards) as my belly started to grow where the feeling of my belly jumping up and down during runs was just so uncomfortable that I struggled to run for much more than a mile at a time.  Changing my bottom half seems to have helped though, and I think with all the walking I’ve been doing lately, my stomach has remained fairly firm, and doesn’t jump around like Santa’s belly quite as much as it perhaps used to! 😉

24 weeks 2 days pregnant

(Above picture taken at 24 weeks 2 days pregnant – starting to look more ‘bumpy’)

Every time I head out for a run now I’m nervous that it’s not going to go well, it’s going to be my last run for a while, I’m going to need twenty-seven loo stops or that I’m going to hold people up out on the run.
I headed out on a club trail run last Sunday morning and was terrified that I would end up right at the back, desperately needing the toilet and puffing and panting the whole way round.  As it turned out, last Sunday we had gorgeous weather, resulting in 21 runners attending from various different ability groups at the club and I didn’t end up at the back of the pack.  With so many runners out, it meant we bottlenecked occasionally at stiles and gates, whilst waiting for everyone to file through openings, and giving me the chance to have a bit of a breather!
It was a nice chatty run, with the hot and muggy weather affecting everyone that day, meaning I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t enthusiastic to be running all the hills out on the course!  The group were running ten miles, so to stay on the safe side I had arranged beforehand to turn off after just three along with another runner so that I didn’t overdo things, resulting in my run coming somewhere between five and six miles.  I don’t mind calling Dan up to collect me from a run if I’m out on my own but if I’m out with others I don’t want them all to feel like they have to wait with me to be collected.  To be honest I would probably have been alright out there running the ten on Sunday though.  I’d purposefully not had a huge amount to drink that morning, made sure to visit the toilet at least twice before leaving home and had a minimal amount of breakfast before leaving so as not to fill my ever-shrinking stomach.  I’d been able to chat the whole way with ease and was enjoying running with others again after a few weeks of missing out.

I actually walked down to the Co-op in our town the other night after work to get a few things for tea.  The supermarket is about a 20 minute walk from our house, but by the time I had done the shopping, paid and headed out of the shop door for home I knew I would never be able to make it back without a toilet stop!  Luckily Dan was home by that point, so came to rescue me in the car!  I really must remember to visit the loo before leaving the house every time now!

On Wednesday evening this week I headed out for another trail run with a friend.  We set off on a route which was new to me and at a slightly faster pace than I had been prepared for.  (Still, really not quick, but closer to 9mm than 10!)  The night was fairly muggy when we began our run, and resulted in me taking a few more walk breaks than I had intended to, but it turned into a really nice night, and cooled off dramatically towards the end of our run.  I could feel my face getting redder and redder as we ran and every time I felt unable to chat we would walk for a little way until I had reined my pace back in again.  It’s very difficult to judge a pace which is comfortable at the minute as it seems to vary so much even within each run.

I had my next midwife appointment this past Thursday at 25 weeks and 2 days. Unlike earlier appointments which appeared to mainly just be data collecting, this appointment was jam packed with information and booking of future appointments and when I left half an hour later it was with dates for my next midwife appointment at 29 weeks, three dates for antenatal appointments in July, a whooping cough vaccination date and instructions to book an appointment for antenatal physio at a time that suited me!  No social life for me next month then!

Everybody has been telling me how small my bump is, particularly when I’ve been out running.  In fact, at my friend’s birthday last weekend it wasn’t until a couple of hours after arriving that he came over to say that he had just remembered he had seen on Instagram that I was pregnant and ‘Congratulations!’  He hadn’t spotted that I was pregnant despite me being more than six months so!  To be fair, my dress wasn’t particularly fitted, but even so!
It’s only really been the past fortnight that strangers, or people I wouldn’t normally talk to on a day-to-day basis have been commenting on the shape of my belly.  Although it would be fantastic if this meant my baby remained a nice small size ready for delivery in a few months, the large number of people commenting on my size did make me question it with the midwife.  Turns out, I was due to be measured at this appointment anyway, so she pulled out a tape measure and  declared that at 25cms I was spot bang in the middle of the 23-27cms that my belly should be at this week.

At each appointment now the midwife also listens to the heartbeat of the baby.
…or at least she tries to listen to the heartbeat.  This time, whenever she would find the baby and begin to focus in on it’s heartbeat, it would squirm and move away from her.  After 5 minutes of playing hide and seek around my insides she gave up, having heard snippets of a healthy heart several times.
I’m not too concerned anymore about waiting to hear the heartbeat at visits, as I can feel the baby all the time.  On Wednesday morning I was at the back of a classroom assisting in a lesson.  I was leaning back against the wall, with my iPad loosely in my hand and lightly touching the top of my bump (which is now not far from my boobs…it feels like I’m becoming one big round blob, despite apparently not being noticeable by others!)  The baby had been very active all morning and I had been able to feel it squirming around inside for several hours already.  All of a sudden, from nowhere there was a massive kick from inside, and I lost the grip on my iPad as it flew sideways from my bump!  I’d never felt a kick quite like that before and glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed.  They hadn’t – and it was a silent lesson.  Such a weird sensation though!

Currently missing; having a wide range of clothes to choose from, being able to bend forwards without it being uncomfortable, racing, having a training plan to work with, not being able to join my friends on long social runs, not being able to carry my boxes of books between classes and being able to finish meals.

Currently loving; that I only have eight teaching weeks left at work before maternity leave, still being able to run, planning out my training calendar for 2017 (seems so far away though!), looking forward to being able to finally sort our house out over the Summer and raspberry lemonade (my pub drink replacement!)

Centurion ultra runner in training baby onesieDan came home with this for me one evening last week.  I’d spotted one on Naomi’s Twitter feed the week before and thought it would be rather fitting!

Just 99 days left until my due date now…

You can read all of my previous pregnancy posts here.

All the delicious Summer foods

School, (as it has seemed to do a lot just lately) has managed to get in the way of my running and blogging over the past few weeks again.  Although I will be starting my maternity leave at the beginning of October, leaving me less than nine working weeks left before I disappear until June next year, another member of staff within our department has actually handed their notice in and this has meant that timetables and planning and classes have all been up in the year for the 2016-17 calendar for the rest of us within the department.  I’ve ended up taking on several year 11 classes for next year, many of whom I do not teach at the moment, resulting in hours upon hours of marking their coursework to come over the next few weeks, alongside my existing workload.  And I thought all the coursework marking was over for this year?!

Shhhh I'm marking teacher mugThis mug was given to me as a thankyou gift by one of my current year 11 students on the day of her last exam and was very fitting, especially when I actually ended up getting up at 2:30am the following morning to finish marking year 10 folders for a marking scrutiny within the department.  My hard work paid off and I aced the scrutiny with an ‘Outstanding’ grade.  But I was tired and miserable for the next few days, and not the sharpest for the rest of the week.  Dan cheered me up with a ‘Bee Happy’ bee from Waitrose.

Bee happy bee cookie

Luckily, this is the half term of trips and with year 8 currently abroad so out of lessons all of this week, and year 10 soon off for a fortnight of work experience fun, my workload should hopefully begin to balance out once more…

And then it will be the glorious long Summer holidays!

End of term

My teaching timetable is much lighter at this time of year, as my six year eleven classes and two year thirteen groups have finished now, and I am lucky(!) in that some days I have now been freed up to mark or plan for three-hour stints without a break.  By the end of the school day though, I have been ready to head home and never look at a computer again.

Dan and I had talked about getting a second car for the Summer, so that I would be able to head out and visit friends/shop/stay sane whilst he was still at work.  With a friend’s wedding up near Manchester at the start of July though, and Dan needing to head up in the day on Friday, whilst I would still be at work, we started the great car hunt of 2016 slightly early and managed to find Dan a new car at the weekend.

Dan’s priorities were that the car had a large boot for the buggy and space inside for our future children.  How priorities have changed!  He was also rather excited to see that the car had cruise control as well!

Going back to a two-car family means that if I know I will be working on the computer for long portions during the school day I can pre-empt this the night before, arranging to drive myself into work and thus enabling me to leave at 3pm on the dot, instead of having to hang around, forcing work from my tired brain before Dan would be able to collect me at 5, before reaching home at 6pm, after getting stuck in the post-work traffic.  Home by 3:45 means all things running and blogging and brain-break activities can take place, before returning to work in the evenings when my brain is hopefully ready for it again.  I’m super excited to have the option to commute home alone once more, although we will be spending slightly more money on petrol and it will mean two hours less that I see Dan during the day.

Anyway, I’ve written more than 500 words so far and without a single picture of any delicious Summer food as promised in my blog title!

Here goes…

Beckworth Emporium afternoon teaThis…was…amazing…!  I’ve heard lots of fabulous things about the afternoon teas at Beckworth Emporium before, but have never had the opportunity to give one a try.  (Dan won’t touch half the stuff on that slate!)  The day after heading down to marshal at South Downs Way 100, I headed out for afternoon tea and a long-overdue catchup with two of my running mates.  Somehow we managed to make this delicious slate (and another, smaller slate for one) of sandwiches, crisps, scones, tarts and cakes last for nearly three hours over our catchup.  It went down very well!

Beckworth Emporium afternoon tea

This last weekend was a busy one too.  On the Saturday I headed back down South to Basingstoke.  This time for a friend from Uni’s surprise 30th birthday party.Dan and me at Rich's birthday

A long way to go, but I hadn’t seen him for one reason or another since my wedding nearly two years ago, so it was good to catch up over the birthday BBQ.

Check out this awesome bar that his girlfriend’s Dad had knocked up out of the old logshed over the previous couple of days.

The outside bar at Rich's birthdayI made Dan take a sneaky picture so that we could recreate it at our house for next Summer…!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to join in with the Pimms drinking, or the cocktail drinking, but I still made the most of the fab cocktail umbrellas that were out for use!

Cocktail umbrella in the shape of a peacockI’m really addicted to Raspberry lemonade at the moment.  This was also probably our first BBQ of the Summer?  I can’t remember having been to any so far in 2016 anyway!

We drove back on the Saturday evening, and I headed out for a long-overdue run in the morning.  Trail, out with friends and it was a gorgeous sunny day.  It was the best run I’ve had in a long while.  :)  More to come on that in my running round-up post later in the week though.

On Sunday afternoon we were off to Cambridge for Dan’s fancy work do.

His school had hired out Trinity College and welcomed all staff, along with partners and young children to a Summer Celebration.  There was a free bar, party food and a photographer doing the rounds to take group shots of anybody who asked.  For those not local to Cambridge, the Trinity College is in a beautiful setting overlooking the river and apparently is where the original copy of Winnie the Pooh is kept?  My school will give us each half a glass of wine on the last day of term and expect us to sing “We’re happy and we know it.” (!)

Finger food buffet at work doUnfortunately there weren’t many sandwiches I could eat at 25 weeks pregnant, as lots contained parma ham or salmon.  I made do with a cucumber sandwich instead, along with a selection of asparagus spears (never been to buffet where there has been asparagus spears as an option before!), cheese straws (these were the tastiest cheese straws I’ve ever had), bread, grapes, crackers and cheese (had to avoid the brie and blue cheese too.)  I’m not a fan of macaroons but wanted to know what the flavour ‘green’ tasted like.  (Playdoh if anyone is interested!)

Dan and Me at his work doThe highlight of the meal was the dessert though.  It’s got to be about berries and icecream at this time of year, and this dish of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries was perfect topped with toffee icecream.

Berries and icecream

Berries and BBQs…proper British Summer food!

What do you consider to be British Summer food?
Have you been to any BBQs yet this Summer?

Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100

Last weekend was the South Downs Way 100 mile Centurion event, which runs from Winchester to Eastbourne along the bottom of the country.

I had earmarked the SDW100 as a goal race for 2017 earlier this year, but I wanted to get a bit of an idea of the course before fully committing to run it next year.  When I saw that Centurion were still requiring marshals for the event and that all marshals working longer than an eight hour shift would be ‘paid’ in the form of a 2017 entry, I put my name down to help out…before really thinking about the logistics of marshaling an event right down in the South of the country between two working weeks at school!

A fortnight before the event and the first shift draft was emailed through to the volunteers.  There were a lot of volunteers on that rota!  I was down to be at the start on the Saturday, with a very early start time!  This was then followed with a stint at checkpoint 3 (Harting Downs – mile 27) out on the course.

A 4am start time down in Winchester on Saturday morning meant an incredibly early bedtime for me on the Friday evening.  I planned to get my head down as soon as I returned home from school, but ended up having about an hour of work to do before I nodded off – heading to bed around 7pm and setting my alarm for 1:30am the following morning.

By 9:30 I was wide awake though.  I tried getting a drink, going to the toilet, counting sheep, moving onto the sofa.  Nothing did it, so in the end I gave up and read until 11:30pm, before getting a further two hours of sleep.  Not ideal, but my body wasn’t co-operating, and I figured it was all good practice for lack of sleep at the event the following year anyway!

Unhelpfully the venue did not have a postcode, and equally as unhelpful were the couple of new roads along the way which my satnav didn’t recognise, resulting in a few eeny-meeny-miny-moe moments.  At one point, after having arrived in Winchester I stopped at a garage to ask for directions.  The guy inside the garage said he didn’t know where I was trying to get directions to.  I read the directions out from the set I’d received from Nici the week before, taking several minutes to do so, but he wasn’t even listening, just waiting to tell me he didn’t know where I wanted to go.  Feeling rather desperate by this stage, and very aware that the time had already passed 4am, and was heading ever closer to 4:30am and the time I was supposed to start my shift, I even brought up the map on my phone which had the venue labeled on.  He barely glanced at it before telling me he didn’t know where the garage was on the map!  Very exasperating!

Eventually I made it, pulling onto the car park at 4:29am!  At least next year I will have removed the problem of locating the start.  Hopefully it will be a nice straight-forward journey down!Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100

I was introduced to Nici, who had emailed over the rotas and was in charge of us volunteers, given a crew t-shirt and then placed out on the car park to help direct the traffic as runners made their way to registration.

Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100

All runners who were leaving their cars at the start venue overnight, to be collected the following day after the race were to park their cars up on the grass alongside the football pitches.  Everybody that was just dropping off runners or was just there to see runners over the start line were to park on the hardstanding tarmac car park out front.  Apparently last year Centurion had got into a bit of trouble with the footballers the morning following the race when their car park had still been filled with cars and they couldn’t access their grounds!  (Hence why so many of us had been placed on car park duty for this year.)  There was a guy at the entrance to the car park directing cars in, one at the far end of the tarmac and one up on the grassy piece of land by the football fields.  I stood at the far end of the car park and would catch drivers on their way in, directing them either to the far end of the tarmac, or up onto the grass depending on whether they were heading off again afterwards.  Fairly straight forward, right?

Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100

Thirty minutes into this and the guy at the front of the car park raced over to tell me I was doing it all wrong, that cars staying overnight were to park on the tarmac, NOT the grass.  I debated this with him for several minutes before agreeing to clarify with the guy who had been assigned grass duty.  The poor chap I had been in the middle of directing was redirected onto the tarmac by the other marshal but looked so confused as to what was happening!

I rushed over to the chap on the grass, who told me that he had been under the same impression as me, that overnight parkers were to go on the grass.  I confirmed with James, the Race Director and, we had in fact been parking people correctly!  Panic over!  A few minutes later, the runner who had been caught in the confusion trotted past again with a grin saying “So, it was up on the grass that I was supposed to park then?!”

It was tight, but we managed to fit all the cars in.  Car parking duty is stressful!

Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100We were finished up just in time to head over for the race start, where I got talking to another marshal who had recently run a 100k and was also looking to enter the race for 2017.  A major part of me wanting to marshal last weekend was so that I could chat to more experienced ultra runners and pick up some tips about the SDW, and also ultrarunning in general.  It was great that other volunteers were so eager to do the same.

Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100

The race set off on time and runners headed out on a large lap of the field so we were able to see them for several minutes before they all disappeared off into the distance.  Then it was all hands on deck to break everything down and clear up before marshals relocated to their next stations.

I was off to checkpoint three at mile 27, where I met up with Emma, who was managing the aid station there.  Another volunteer, David, arrived with bagfuls of food for the runners and between us we loaded these into Emma’s car while we waited for the van to arrive with our checkpoint supplies.

It wasn’t long before the other three guys turned up, along with the van containing our supplies.  We were eager to set up ready for runners, as we were very conscious that they could appear at any time now.  Us girls headed to the busy road junction to mark out ‘Runner Crossing’ signs, leaving the guys to erect the two large tents on the field by the side of the footpath.  Emma and I then got to work making sandwiches and laying out the food on party plates ready for runners to snatch on their way through.Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100The guys prepped the drink – a choice of electrolytes, water or coke from our aid station.Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100

Once the food and drink were prepped we had a proper chance to chat ultras and experience.  It turns out that the others had all run at least one 100 mile event before, with two of the guys having attempted the South Downs 100 the previous year.  I was worried that I would be shunned when they found out that my experience only amounted to two 70 milers but they were just as interested in my experiences and what I had to say, as well as offering loads of advice about their first hundred mile events and about the SDW100 course.

Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100Runners had quite the view as they ran past our checkpoint as we were up rather high, looking down over Harting Downs.

Marshaling at the South Downs Way 100Having a checkpoint of all ultra runners was great, and everybody pulled their weight into ensuring the checkpoint was super efficient for runners as they came through.  Although we weren’t one of the main timing checkpoints, we still needed to log all runner numbers and times as they came through, in order that if anyone went missing whilst out on the course we would be able to narrow down when they had last been seen.

The weather was incredibly muggy, with only spots of occasional rain during our time on checkpoint 3.  This meant that the majority of runners coming through were on the sweaty side, and they were coming through much slower than we had initially predicted.  Our top ‘seller’ on the feeding table became the fresh fruit, and runners could not get enough of the sweet melon and pineapple that I was constantly chopping up into bite-sized pieces.  I even heard rumours that there had been watermelon dished out at checkpoint 2!  We had mountains of tangerines on our table, and these also went down well.  I peeled the skin off from so many tangerines that my hands had turned into a dirty orange colour by the time we packed up!  Topping up the food supplies was my full time job and every so often I would call Emma over from her station where she was helping the timekeeper identify runner numbers so that she was able to help top up our supply of sandwiches on the table.

A fab day, an awesome team and I learnt loads from marshaling at the event.  I definitely recommend marshaling at an ultra before running it.  There is always so much to be learnt from other runners.

I was exhausted by teatime when I arrived home.  Quick few hours of power-napping before waking up to get some more school work done.  If only school didn’t get in the way of running fun…!

Do you have any tips for getting to sleep when you don’t feel tired?
Any tips to remain awake whilst running long distance events?
Do you tend to often talk to other runners you don’t know at events?