Prague!

Two weeks ago, during the half term holiday I headed to Prague for a few days on a city break with Dan.  (How is it that we’ve already been home for over a week?  Where did that time go?!)

We had debated whether or not to take a holiday this Summer since long before I fell pregnant.  Despite having been together for more than 9 years our holiday experiences have been rather limited.  We headed to New York for New Year a few years back, and we took our honeymoon in Italy in the Summer of 2014.

New York with Vick and AlexAlthough I also spent several months in Idaho upon finishing High School, and helped organise a school trip to Malawi in 2012, there is a lot of Europe that I am yet to see, and as we would be traveling when I was almost six months pregnant, we thought it best to stay relatively close to our home country for our proposed trip!

sunriseThe original plan had been to sort something for August, when our two year wedding anniversary will fall, but an early investigation online meant that we soon realised I would no longer be able to fly at that stage of pregnancy.  So instead, two weeks before half term we booked our flights to Prague during the holiday – a city Dan had visited previously, but one I had only read about.

We traveled out from Birmingham airport on the Bank Holiday Monday, and our hotel was then a 40 minute journey from the airport by taxi.  Everything struck me as being incredibly cheap very early on in the trip.  Our taxi ride came to less than £20!

We couldn’t believe our hotel ‘apartment’ when we arrived.  Our motto has always been to not use too much of our holiday money on the accommodation, but to save our pennies for the fun memories instead.  Our hotel rooms are usually on the small side, with just enough space between the bed and the wall that we are able to shimmy around to climb into bed after a day of adventure!

So after we had checked in at our Prague hotel and climbed the six(!) flights of stairs we were very shocked to see that our usually very tight holiday quarters was this time made up of several incredibly large rooms, with our own kitchen area, lounge, a bedroom that was twice the size of our own back in England and a nice sized bathroom.

It didn’t take long for us to unpack and head out for a little walk in the surrounding area.  Purchasing a large pack of bottled water was a must.  It was super hot and I was already gasping for a drink!

Exploring Prague

On the first night we headed out for pizza at the restaurant next to the hotel.  Our meal consisted of one large pizza each, two pints of beer for Dan, two bottles of ice cold still water for me and a dessert for Dan.  In total, our meal out came to the equivalent of less than £18.  My two waters actually came to more than Dan’s two beers in price!

Beer and water in Prague

Day two and we ventured right into the town, where we waited to see the figurines appear on the astronomical clock.

Astronomical clock in PragueWe arrived a little before the midday appearance, and the square was packed with tourists, also waiting to view the figurines circle around the top of the clock when the hour was chimed.  The square cleared afterwards as quickly as it had crowded and already feeling rather peckish we decided to pick up a mid-morning snack.

Dan had managed to see some epic donut pictures on LadBible from Prague the week before our trip and so we were on a mission to find the magic looking doughnut cones, with insides covered in chocolate spread, and then filled with strawberries and icecream, topped with chocolate sauce.  In his preparation, Dan had even written down the address of the bakery we could find these magic desserts, but there was no need.  It turns out that the doughnut icecream cone is Prague’s speciality and we were spoilt for choice when it came to finding one.

Prague icecream cone

Dan had a few issues when it came to ordering his though…

The woman on the stall didn’t speak the best English and when Dan tried to explain to her that he didn’t want strawberries, just the chocolate inside his cone, she didn’t grasp that he was also still after the icecream.  She selected a cone straight from the hot grill which didn’t meet at a point at the bottom, proceeding to coat the insides with chocolate spread before handing the warm cone to Dan.  Dan pointed out that he did still want the icecream inside, but rather than pick up another fresh cone to fill she continued to fill the piping hot cone without a bottom with icecream.  Even before Dan had collected his change the bottom of his napkin had started to turn soggy with the melting mess!

We quickly found a set of steps to perch on so that we could try and consume our cones whilst making as little mess as possible.  I turned to see that there was a long trail of icecream drips from the stand to where Dan was sat though, and he had managed to get icecream all over his hands, his face, his jeans and his jacket.  Funniest thing ever!

Prague icecream coneSide-by-side comparison of my icecream cone and Dan’s one!

Most of our second day abroad was spent exploring.  After purchasing our icecreams we headed up to look at the Cathedral on top of the hill.  It was such a steep climb up to the very top in the heat and it seemed like every other person was heading back down in the other direction!  We made it eventually though and were treated to some beautiful views and a walk through the slightly sheltered gardens.  The forecast had threatened thunder since we arrived and so I had brought an umbrella along with us.  Good job, as, when we began our steep climb back down the hill again, the sky turned rather black and we could see fork lightning around us in several directions.  We hurried down the hill to try and miss the rain and managed to make it with just a few drips on the top of our umbrella.

Thunder clouds in Prague

It waited until we hit the bridge before absolutely hammering down.  We could barely see the sky had become so dark and the wind was so ferocious I thought several times that I was going to go off the side of the bridge led by the umbrella!  We eventually made it to the other side of the bridge only to struggle to push our way through by the arch as it contained everybody that had made a run for it when the rain hit.

We squeezed our way through and found the Museum of medieval torture, so decided to pop inside and avoid the worst of the rainfall before heading back to the hotel.

We were soaked through!

Thunder and rain in Prague

In fact, somebody followed us round the museum with a mop we had brought that much water inside.  Whoops!  We were literally squelching with every step!  The museum was interesting, but rather gruesome in places!

We headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours in the afternoon to avoid the worst of the weather and got ready to head to the Hard Rock Cafe that evening for burgers and beer (and non-alcoholic cocktails!)

Me and Dan at the Hard Rock Cafe, Prague(Trying to see if my mouth would stretch wide enough to fit round my sweet potato and mozzarella burger!)Me and Dan at the Hard Rock Cafe, Prague

I love when cocktails come with a whole side of fruit on the glass!

Having been to HRC in New York on our last trip, Dan and I decided that the list of Hard Rock Cafes should determine where we went on holiday next, and spent some time closing our eyes and pointing out random places in the list on our table!

By Wednesday we had already managed to see the majority of landmarks we had set out to see, so took our time wandering a little further afield and taking lots of photos.

Curved building in PragueCheck out that very twisted building we came across!

Photographing from the top of the bridge in PragueWe paid to go up to the top of the bridge tower and view out across the city.

Bridge tower in PragueIt looked so different from the day before when hundreds of tourists had been sheltered underneath it from the storm!From the top of the bridge tower in Prague

In the evening, we had managed to get tickets for a performance in the Rudolfinum and so we dressed up a little before meandering back into town again later that night.

Dan and me at the Rudolfinum, PragueUnfortunately, confused by the language once more, the seats we had managed to book were ‘poor visibility’ and I ended up sat right behind a pillar!

Our view at the Rudolfinum, PragueThis is the view from Dan’s seat, I sat one seat to the left, and wasn’t even aware there was a piano on the stage my view was that blocked!  Luckily, the people to the right of us never showed for the performance, so we scooched across and enjoyed clear views for the rest of the night!

Dan and me at the Rudolfinum, PragueThe building itself was beautiful and dressed up throughout with blue carpet and trim.Dan and me at the Rudolfinum, Prague

Our tickets were the equivalent of £7 each (although I’m sure would have been much more expensive had we not had quite such restricted views for the seats we paid for!)  The performance finished around 9pm and so we strolled back into the city centre to grab some al fresco dinner, just as the rain started up again.  Only a little drizzle though, and the restaurant we had chosen was under parasols.Eating out in PragueWe used our final morning to purchase a few souvenirs and gifts for people, chilling out with a twenty-minute horse and carriage ride around the city centre before lunch.  I wasn’t really feeling too hungry at lunchtime, but when I spotted this platter advertised at the Carte D’or cafe I knew we wouldn’t be leaving without ordering!Carte D'or icecream fondue

Our icecream fondue set came with four balls each of vanilla, chocolate chip, raspberry ripple and cookie icecream.  We chose milk chocolate for our fondue (although other types of chocolate were available) and we also received a bowl of nuts and platter containing apple slices, kiwi, bananas, cookie pieces and brownies.  This-was-amazing!  The icecream began to melt fairly quickly once it was out of the frozen counter, so the order of our selection was dictated for us, but there were no regrets!  The platter came to about £15 in English money, but if you can’t treat yourself whilst on holiday, when can you eh?!

Our flight ended up being delayed by over an hour on the way home, then we hit roadworks on what seemed like every single A-road on the way back, so it was fairly late by the time we arrived back in Northamptonshire.  As a treat, Dan let Bella sleep up on the bed with us and she then did not leave my side at all the following day!
Bella asleep on meHow do you decide where to head on your holidays?
Do you prefer sight-seeing holidays or relaxing ones?
Any fabulous local specialities you’ve found to rave about?!

A Shires and Spires marshal

Shires and Spires 35

Shires and Spires was my first ultramarathon back in 2013.  I went on to run the race two more times in the following two years and this year, 2016, was my first year of not running the event since entering the world of ultramarathons.

It did make me sad that the build up to race day this year wasn’t packed with recce runs of the route and mid-morning café stops for milk and cake along the course for me.  No sunny days filled with jokes and friends and beautiful scenery.  It was nice, however, to see things from the other side of the race tape and marshal for a change.

I’ve marshaled at nearly all of the Go Beyond events before.  (The Race Director runs with our running club) but never marshaled at a Go Beyond event that I have run beforehand or know as inside-out as I do the Shires and Spires 35mile course.  I was very capable of answering all questions directed my way by the runners on Sunday!

I was scheduled to work on the registration desk from 6:30am and then make my way over to checkpoint 2 to log runners on their way through the checkpoint in case of chip timing failure.  (To my knowledge, there has never been a failure of the chips during a race.)

A few days before the race I checked the forecast to see that the weather Gods had decided not to break the tradition of race day being super hot and sunny.

Lamport sunAlthough when I arrived at Lamport Hall a little before 6:30am to help set up the registration desk I was freezing, despite being bundled up in jeans and two layers under my Go Beyond crew hoodie.

Having worked at several of the Go Beyond races now, I always get runners coming up and saying hello which is really nice, especially those runners that come back year on year.  A couple even congratulated me on my pregnancy this past weekend although commiserated with me that I wasn’t running the event.

There were no pre-race issues and so at 8:20, ten minutes before runners were due to set off, I moved over to the edge of the hall to direct runners away from the car park and out onto the road at the start of the race.

The start this morning at the #ShiresandSpires 35m #ultramarathon #northants35 #gobeyondultra

A video posted by Mary (@ahealthiermoo) on

(Full video on my Facebook page)

I managed to remember not to cheer runners past as I stood filming behind the phone.  However, it is clear when the Wellingborough runners passed as the mad waving I did at them with my free hand clearly affected my filming abilities – the picture is all over the place!

It’s hard to tell in the video how foggy it was out there at the start of the race, but you get a bit of an idea from this picture taken by Adrian Howes, the official photographer.

Shires and Spires foggyI was the first of the marshals to arrive at checkpoint two – situated just before mile 9 on the course.  Even the van with supplies had yet to arrive, which made me a little nervous!  All I had to offer runners was two half-full bottles of water I found lurking in my car from previous events, a pre-packaged croissant that Dan hadn’t had for lunch the week before and two softmints at the bottom of my left pocket.

Luckily, the other three marshals soon arrived, closely followed by the Go Beyond van which delivered 21 packs of water bottles, a few boxes of jelly babies and a supply of GU gels along with two portions of the famous Go Beyond fruit cake.

Go Beyond fruit cake

I pulled a couple of the new Chocolate Peanut Butter GU gels from the checkpoint to try in the Autumn as the flavour sounds so yummy, but they are apparently not suitable for pregnant women so I have to hold off for now.  :(

I took charge of writing down the race numbers of runners which Kelly shouted out to me as she directed the runners to dib in to the timing device on their way through to the checkpoint.  Donna and Trevor were in charge of topping up the supplies on the table and helping runners fill up their bottles where necessary.

All runners made it through the checkpoint on time and we had cleared all leftovers back onto the van by 10:30 ready to head home.  I decided not to head to the finish line to see runners in this year as;
a) even the front runners were still three hours away from the finish
b) it was still very cold (although apparently the sun got out to really heat things up later on in the day)
c) I was starting to hear my belly rumble out loud after having only fed it a handful of jelly babies since leaving the house that morning
d) I didn’t want to have more race/medal envy from having not run the race this year
e) my parents were up helping Dan organise tiles for the bathroom and kitchen storage
f) Dan and I hadn’t returned home until gone 3am that morning so I had only just managed a little over an hour of sleep before waking to get ready for the race

The previous day Dan and I had headed to Manchester as we had tickets to see Coldplay.

Coldplay crowds

Saturday was super hot so we started the afternoon off with a walk into the centre of Manchester for lunch about 30 minutes away.

After lunch and browsing of a few shops we walked back alongside the canal and met up with a couple Dan went to uni with.  We had quite a wait until Coldplay came on at 9pm.  As we went through the turnstiles we were each given a wristband to wear which came in a variety of colours.  When certain notes were played throughout the night, different wristbands flashed in different colours, which was really cool.  It doesn’t seem to have picked up the colours or lights very well on Dan’s phone camera, but you can kind of get an idea from this video I found on Youtube just now…

ColdplayGood times, but very tiring.  After a quick lunch on Sunday following the race marshaling I napped all afternoon!

Have you been to many gigs?
Who is the best band you have seen live?
What is your favourite gel flavour?
Do you cope well on little sleep?

 

Running at 21 and 22 weeks pregnant

I managed to get out for three runs last week which felt really great, – compared to this week when I didn’t run at all!  (Although I did do a lot of walking whilst away on holiday in Prague.  Some days Dan and I walked more than a half marathon distance around the city, and there were some tough hills out there in the heat!)

21 weeks pregnant - belly poppedHere’s a photo taken of me post-run the Tuesday before last when I was 21 weeks pregnant.  It felt like my belly really ‘popped’ out that week.

After a few busy weeks at school with the GCSE ICT exam and samples of coursework being called to be sent off to the moderator I really wanted to get back running with friends again, and vowed to attend the Wednesday night trail run, wherever it was held.  I hadn’t made it to a trail run for several weeks and feared I would be rather slow so headed out on a 3.23m offroad run on my own on the Tuesday night.  The run felt good, the pace felt easy, the baby was in a comfy position so I didn’t have to stop as frequently as I have done on some previous runs and I was looking forward to heading back out with friends the following evening.

Wednesday night and I met up with a handful of other runners at a new-to-me location for a 6.21 mile trail run.  The weather was perfect; nice and warm, but with a slight breeze and Kev didn’t throw too many hills into the mix, which is always a bonus since I’ve slowed down!

Trail run at 21 weeks pregnantAnd I wasn’t right at the back, which I feared I would be.  Not that it matters…(but it does a little…!)

It appears that the belly can no longer be hidden in any of the running tops I own and a couple of other runners commented on my bump for the first time since falling pregnant.

By the time Saturday rolled around I was ready to head to parkrun again.  Weekends have been so busy just lately, I hadn’t made it back for a parkrun since running my 50th 6 weeks earlier and I was getting itchy parkrun feet.

The course had changed slightly since I last ran, with the finish heading off to the right of the path instead of finishing along the field on the left hand side.  This was mainly put in place due to the high numbers of other activities that now take place at Northampton Racecourse on a Saturday morning, and not wanting runners to interrupt the other events on the field.  It was packed at the Racecourse though, with 414 runners that week.  That’s a lot of runners on a two-lap course and it makes me feel quite glad that I haven’t been aiming for a PB this season, as I think the attendance numbers would make it rather impossible at the moment.

As has frequently become the case just lately I left the house long before 8am arriving in Northampton a little before 8:30.  Even then, there was nowhere to park at the course, or even in the surrounding nearby streets.  Several club runners have also commented about the increased numbers making the run feel a little uncomfortable during recent months so I’ve done a little investigating this month…Watch this space…!

I set off from towards the back with Laura, who had been for a physio appointment the day before and was feeling rather tender so was in no urgency for a time.  We started at what felt like a fairly comfortable pace, but within quarter of a mile the tops of my legs really began to ache.  That post-marathon heavy leg feeling, despite having not run any great distance since back in February!  It was rather frustrating because baby was in a comfortable position, I didn’t need to pee (increasingly becoming a bigger issue lately!), I wasn’t tired…just, my legs really ached!  To the point that when I told Laura that it was really uncomfortable she suggested we walk the (really teeny tiny) hill at the back of the course a mile into the event.  After our hill walk we set off at a run again and for some reason the ache had faded and eventually disappeared, so I have no clue where that came from!  The second time round Laura was feeling the effects of the physio from the day before, so she requested another hill walk.

Garmin time: 34:24
Official time: 34:24 (Not sure I’ve ever recorded the same as the official time on my garmin before!)
Position: 355/414
Gender position: 124/169
Age category position: 24/30On the flight to Prague

This week Dan and I jetted off to Prague for a few days of escape from the real world, which was lovely, and very definitely required!  We walked everywhere whilst away.  With our hotel being a 30 minute walk into town we headed in during the day and then again for evening activities.  A few days it became a little tiring from the walking and at some points I did have to ask Dan to slow down so that I could keep up.  I’m not used to that, – normally I’m the one storming off ahead!  If I walk too fast lately though I get what feels like a really bad stitch but at the base of my belly, making walking rather uncomfortable until I slow down again.

I had been tempted to take my running kit over to Prague but a) I’m not sure I would have wanted to run round the streets of a city known for cheap beer in the early hours and b) Dan didn’t allow it!  It was a nice break though, and I kept active with all the walking instead.  I will probably end up with a higher step count during week 22 than I did during week 21 and my three runs!

Have you been involved with the setup of a new parkrun before?
Does running in foreign cities alone bother you?

You can read all of my previous pregnancy posts here.