Our first family holiday to York

Dan, Oscar and I headed away on our first family holiday to York earlier this month.

Dan, Me and Oscar on holiday in York

When I was younger, every June my parents would bundle my brother and I in the back of a car surrounded by luggage, sandwiches and carrier bags (to act as sick bags) before heading off to the same farmyard cottage in Derbyshire for a week’s holiday.  I loved my family holidays growing up and Dan always spent a similar week with his family when they visited the Isle of Wight in the Summer.

As a family Dan, Oscar and I have been in desperate need of a holiday for several months now.  It feels like Dan and I have barely spent any quality time together since Oscar was born.  The newborn days were a cycle of grasping at sleep whenever we could fit it in and then last year I spent a lot of time traveling over to Norfolk to visit my Mum when she was really poorly.  Since November, I’ve been working nightshifts and so it always seems like one of us is working and the other is looking after Oscar.  Dan and I are never both together at the same time.

We have been trying to stash away some savings this year.  One of my targets for the year was to raise an extra £500 each month.  So far, I’ve been hitting this target really well although more on that another time.  Therefore, in order that we didn’t dig too deeply into our fresh savings we needed to work our holiday travel on a budget.

Our holiday planning began checking our Tesco clubcard account.  When Dan and I first got together (11 years ago tomorrow!) we regularly used our clubcard points for stays away, but with everything that has gone on during the last couple of years we had just been accumulating points, so had quite a few saved up.

We need a suite rather than just a room now that we have Oscar as it means we can put him down to bed at his usual time of 7:30pm and then go into our room and hang out or watch TV until we’re ready to go to bed ourselves.  We ended up booking a very nice suite in York for just £80 from Monday-Thursday including breakfast, using our Tesco points to pay for the rest of our stay.

The hotel was so nice that they even lent us umbrellas for our stay and we were handed three warm chocolate cookies on our arrival.

York holiday - Oscar with a chocolate cookie

I’m pretty sure Oscar enjoyed his first experience of a chocolate cookie!

We also saved money on our trip by transferring some of our clubcard points into £40 of Cafe Rouge vouchers and £40 of Zizzis vouchers so that our dinner was ‘free’ for two of the nights that we stayed.

Oscar’s daily nap tends to fall between 10-11:30am at the moment and so we decided to work around his schedule for our holiday, heading down for an early breakfast each day, letting him nap whilst we showered and packed up his bag for our travels and then heading out on an adventure each afternoon. Me and Oscar at The Shambles in York On our first full day we headed over to the National Railway Museum. Me, Dan and Oscar at the Train museumOscar loves trains at the moment and can often be found pulling out his small train set and shouting out ‘CHOO CHOO!’ as he pushes the train around the track.  Dan treated him to a lovely wooden pull along train from the museum and Oscar has been obsessed with it ever since. Wooden pull along trainWe also visited the Jorvik Viking Centre on one of the days and Oscar enjoyed riding around the exhibition and pointing out all of the animals to us both as the car glided past.  Both Dan and I remembered the Centre as being much larger than it felt this time round.  I’m not sure if that was because we were both much younger and smaller when we visited as children ourselves?!

We also spent time walking along the river and enjoying the parks.  Oscar is obsessed with slides at the moment and we found one park with six slides.  We knew we were onto a winner! Dan and Oscar at the park in York It was so lovely to be able to completely switch off from everything that has been going on and just hang out as a family, making lots of lovely memories together.  I had initially planned to take my trainers along to get some runs in on a couple of the days, but had injured my calf on the Sunday at Milton Keynes Half, so in the end decided that four days without running wasn’t the end of the world and left my trainers at home.  To be honest, I’m glad I did.Oscar and I in York On the last morning, once we had loaded our car up and checked out of the hotel we headed out for the final time along the length of the York Wall.  Umbrellas were required, as there was a light drizzle when we set off.  We had been so lucky up until that point with the weather though with no rain at all.

I have hardly any photographs of me with my Mum from when I was growing up and I really regret not taking the opportunity to snap more shots of us together as I got older. . Now that I’m a Mum myself I’m trying my hardest to ensure that I feature in photos of Oscar as often as possible so that we can share memories of our time together as he grows up. . Here’s a picture of us along the town wall in York last week. It rained constantly on our final lday in the city but armed with a large umbrella it was just so lovely to be able to switch off fully and truly enjoy just spending time with Oscar and Dan. . I’m already thinking about holidays for next year! . #York #Yorkwall #17monthsold #babywearing #familyholiday #littlemoments #mumandson A post shared by Mary (@fromteachertomum) on

Dan and I both agreed that a week-long break is required at least once a year to give us the opportunity to fully switch off and reconnect as a family.  I’m already thinking about plans for our next adventure!

Did your family go away every year when you were growing up?
Where was the last place you went on holiday?
Can you recommend any other lovely areas in the UK to head away on a mini break as a family?

A dizzy spell at parkrun

Last Saturday was my friend Laura’s 100th parkrun.  I had been given the Friday and Saturday night off from work that week in order to not be overtired for the Oakley 20 race that I had booked in on Sunday, so decided that I would volunteer at parkrun instead to support my friend.

Since working night shifts I’ve found it difficult to fit in a parkrun on a Saturday morning.  It involves changing in the back of my car, hanging around from 7am until 9am (or getting a few extra miles in before parkrun first), then rushing home to collect Oscar from Dan so that he can travel to Wolverhampton for the football at lunchtime.  The sensible head that rarely surfaces in me knows that it makes much more sense to head straight home following my night shift so that I can get a couple of hours sleep before Dan leaves and I am left in charge of an energetic toddler on my own for the day(!) so this is what I’ve been doing lately.  (Although I can’t wait until I can finish working nights and get back to parkrunning every week again!)

One of the volunteer roles I have always wanted to have a go at is barcode scanning.  It’s something a bit different to marshaling, which I have done so much of in the past.  I want to try out several different volunteer roles this year, and so when I spotted that there was still space for a barcode scanner last week, I put my name forward.  Last year, with a new baby I ended up not volunteering at all for parkrun.  I know when I first signed up to the event several years ago it was suggested that every parkrunner volunteered three times per year in order that the events could go ahead, so I felt a little bad that I was unable to help out as much as I would like.  This year I’m hoping to top up my list of volunteering roles and give something back again for all the support I received in being able to get out each week when I had a young baby.

To date I have volunteered in the following roles; marshal (twice), tail walker, pacer, photographer (twice) and now also barcode scanner.

It was a ridiculously cold day last Saturday, with The Beast from the East V2 on it’s way to Northamptonshire later that evening.  I wore my duvet(!) (a thick Superdry coat) over the top of several layers, along with stone jeans and a pair of gloves.  My body didn’t feel too cold with all of the layers on, but my fingers did start to lose feeling after a little while.

As well as running her 100th event that morning Laura had also volunteered to give the 1st timer briefing.

Laura and I volunteering at Northampton parkrunI was rather glad that I could keep my layers on after the briefing and clapped rather vigorously once the runners set off in order to try and keep my hands nice and warm.

I collected my barcode scanner and bucket, and appreciated being mistaken for one of the several Duke of Edinburgh students who had also volunteered that week.  So glad that I can still pass as someone 18 years younger than I actually am(!)

The first runner stormed through the finish after 17 minutes but problems with a dodgy printer meant that his barcode wouldn’t scan so we had to get his number jotted down the old fashioned way with pen and paper instead.  There were four of us on barcode scanning duty and so things were a little slow for me to begin with, but soon runners began flooding my way and I really enjoyed being able to chat to each one and congratulate them on their run as I scanned their barcodes.  Laura came through in just over 30 minutes and went to collect the tub of sweets she’d brought along to celebrate her 100th event.  She passed me a mini pack of Haribo Fangtastics and I continued to scan barcodes but I was very conscious that I was losing the feeling completely in my fingers.  I have Raynaud’s syndrome, losing the feeling in the tips of my fingers on both hands during the Winter months.  This isn’t normally an issue when I run as I find my hands heat up very quickly as I gain pace, but outside of running I find it hard to get them warm again.

Raynaud's syndrome - fingers(This is a picture of my right hand an hour after finishing marshaling duties – you can see that the tip of my index finger is still bright white!)

I bunched up the fingers of my left hand inside my glove to try and keep them warm which definitely helped, but I was unable to do the same with my right hand as, being right-handed I was using this hand to operate the scanner.

I started to feel a bit light-headed.  When I was younger I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope.  This basically means that I am prone to collapsing from triggers which are usually within my control.  If I worry myself over something or think about something I don’t like for a period of time, my body reacts by passing out.  I also pass out by if I am stood still for a long period of time as my blood will settle and not pump around the body very efficiently.  Combine the two factors and it’s a guaranteed blackout for me!  Dan and I went to see Stereophonics several years ago and things were fine until I realised that I had stood for quite a long while in the middle of a bunch of other fans with no way of getting out to sit down should I need to!

I couldn’t get how cold I was out of my head and began to worry that I had been stood still for too long, so I started to become restless and began tapping my feet.  I ripped into my packet of sweets, partly to try and distract myself from my thoughts and partly to up the sugar in my system.  I grabbed Laura and told her that I felt really nauseous and a little dizzy and said I needed to rest against the closest tree for a little while, but Laura must have seen the blood drain from my face and suggested she help me to the nearby bench instead.  As she helped guide me towards the bench I started to begin losing my sight – with tunnel vision and under-the-water echoy sounds, launching towards the side of the bench before I collapsed and cursing myself for wearing light coloured jeans on a day when it was actually muddy and there was a good chance that I might not make it to the bench!  I grasped onto the side of the bench and Laura called out for help.  Somehow a couple of other runners/marshals helped me onto the bench where I managed to lay out and slowly my vision and hearing returned to normal.

Several parkrunners stopped by to check that I was OK and see if there was anything that they could do to help.  Lovely people offered me lifts home and to help get me to my car and all along all I could think about was how much I was letting everyone down by not being able to finish the final 5 minutes of scanning and helping to clear away after the event!  The Run Director’s wife turned out to be a nurse so she came over and I tried to sit up.  I had intended on getting straight up and then heading back to my car but in actual fact it took me rather longer than I thought to adjust to just sitting up and so she told me that I wasn’t to drive home, but to call Dan to collect me instead, and then she insisted on walking me to Magee’s for a hot drink whilst I waited.  I couldn’t stop apologising.  Everybody was so lovely.

Magee Street hot chocolate

After my lie down and a hot chocolate from Magee’s I felt a fair bit better but I did take it easy the rest of the day and was very grateful that I was not due to work that evening.

It’s rubbish feeling rubbish!

What is your favourite parkrun volunteering role?
Do you suffer with Raynaud’s?
  It seems to be more and more common now.
Have you ever passed out before?

When a race doesn’t go to plan

Last Sunday was the Milton Keynes Running Festival.  An event of 20 mile, half marathon, 10k and 5k distance races all starting from the Xscape Centre in Milton Keynes.

MK half race number

I had entered the event a while back almost on a whim.  I knew I should be halfway into some serious mileage by this point in the build up to the ultras I have coming up for 2018.  I also knew that my half marathon PB is from a very long time ago (December 2013) and was in desperate need of an update.

My training had been going really well since the start of the year, but as always when I intend to race a short distance event I had a few nerves before the start of the race.  A lot of my miles in recent weeks had been treadmill miles due to childcare issues, and I was concerned about transferring my running from a flat, no bumps treadmill to the ups and downs of Milton Keynes redways.  A quick chat on Twitter with some other treadmill runners eased my nerves though, and ultimately I was feeling rather confident with my race plan when I set off for Milton Keynes on Sunday morning.

The plan was to run 9:30mm pace for the first 10 miles, and then if I could, to pick it up to 9mm for the remaining 5k, pushing for those final few miles, finishing somewhere between 2 hours and 2h 5m.  My current PB is 2h 9m 16s.  Just under 10 minute miling which, on paper is so far away from where I feel I actually am at the moment.

I rocked up on my own with a little over an hour before the start, cursing the fact that I hadn’t researched cheaper places to park beforehand as I handed over the £8.32 it cost me to park for four hours by the race start.  A positive being that I was in a car park literally right by the race start though, so there really was no chance of me getting lost trying to find my car again after the race!

I placed myself somewhere between the two hour and two hour ten minute pacer on the start line and planned to constantly check my watch during the first few miles to ensure I was running the pace I had set out to race and not get swept away with people running by too quickly or get stuck behind other runners who had set off too slow.

The gun went.  We all started pretty much on time and my first mile went by spot on as planned in 9 minutes and 30 seconds.  Lots of people from behind where I had started were rushing past me but I stuck to my guns and stayed at the pace I had set out to run.  I ran the second mile in 9m 20s.  With much of the mile either flat or at a slight downhill I struggled to slow any further without feeling like I was ‘braking’ all the time and I didn’t want to end up injured, so leant into the downhill, whilst trying to remain light on my feet.

My third mile went by in 9:41 (so still an average pace of 9:30mm).  Milton Keynes is actually a lovely area to run around.  There are lots of parks and green spaces.  You would never know that you were so close to such a large city.  (It’s not such a lovely area to drive around though.  All the MK roundabouts look the same to me!)

Mile four – 9m 29s.  I was actually feeling nervously excited by this point.  I began to pass by all those people who had raced off at the start in a hurry to get going and had already burnt out too quickly.  I was definitely going to smash my PB.  I felt so strong and the pace felt so easy.  I knew there were still nine miles to go, but I had never run a race before where the pace I started out at was so conserved and still felt so easy after four miles.

Mile five – still going strong.  The top of my left calf started to feel a little tight and I silently vowed to get the foam roller and compression socks out as soon as I got home that night, trying not to think any more about it.

Within metres of the five mile marker pain shot through the top of my calf and ground me to a complete halt.  I desperately tried to flex my leg before setting off at a jog again only to collapse back into a slump as I realised I could no longer run using that leg.  Glancing at my watch in despair, seeing the average pace creep up I hurriedly took myself to the side of the path where I fully stretched out my left leg, desperate for it to let me run the final miles of the race.

I let a few tears trickle down my face when I realised my leg wasn’t going to let me run and a few more fell as I watched my average pace creep up into the 10s.  I rang Dan, upset and angry that the race hadn’t gone to plan, and so desperate for him to give me some magic words of advice to get my leg working again.

He didn’t have any.  And neither did the running friend I chose to ring to cry to about my bodged race attempt, whilst seeing my watch now display an 11mm average pace.  But they did both calm me down and make me realise that this wasn’t my goal race, – that much better any problems rise now, before my goal race so that I could deal with them before they became an issue.

I was limping along the side of the path whilst I tried to ease the pain in my calf.  I wanted to smack every spectator who shouted in an attempt to get me to carry on running (although I do realise they thought they were probably being encouraging) but on the flip side I was so touched by the amount of runners who came past and genuinely asked me if I was OK.  One guy offered me paracetamol, another a spare layer, and several shared words of ‘Tough Luck’ or something to that effect.

By mile six I realised that I would be silly to try and hobble a further seven miles to the finish so stopped to ask a marshal the quickest way to get to the finish line.  He told me that I could either turn around and go back the way I had come, or continue the way I was going.  I figured that at least if I continued the way I was going then I would get a goodie bag containing food at the finish, so traipsed on.

Next panic: I rang Dan to fret that I wouldn’t have enough time on my parking ticket.  I had only gotten four hours from the time I arrived, and with some quick calculations I realised that I would be coming in somewhere around three hours for the half marathon that afternoon.

As Dan was calming me for the second time that morning I overheard a man wearing a 20 mile bib telling a woman that he was hoping to pull at the next marshal point and that he would not be completing the full distance that day.  I ended my conversation with Dan and joined in with the conversation the runners were having, sharing the information that had been given to me by the marshal I had spoken to.  This man (never learnt his name!) lived not too far from me and was honest in saying that he hadn’t put in the training to run 20 miles.  He was suffering with a painful stomach and had done too little, too late when it came to trying to fix it.  I fell into step beside him and having someone to chat to made miles 7-10 go by a whole lot quicker than the 45 minutes it took us to walk.

The guy I was walking with hoped to be able to run the final 5k of his race, so once we reached the 10 mile mark we thanked each other, wished each other well and I saw him run off into the distance.  My leg had begun to ease a little by now and I was able to pick up the pace to a faster walk, completing my 11th mile in just over 13 minutes.  It’s quite satisfying to know that even if it gets to the point where running is no longer an option during the later miles of my 100 in June, I still have a fairly fast walking stride so won’t lose as much time as some by dropping down to a walking pace.

I decided to try and lightly jog the final couple of miles left to the finish, stopping to walk any hills (as these were pretty much impossible without a great deal of discomfort).  (11:10, 11:02)  I passed the guy I had walked with earlier somewhere around mile 12.

The start of the thirteenth mile is on a horrible, horrible uphill slope.  I’d walked it before when traveling between the two Milton Keynes parkruns on the New Year’s Day Double.  I made a point of lightly jogging my way up this time though.  On my toes so as not to stretch my calf to breaking point.  I didn’t need to prove myself to anybody!

500 metres left until the finish after the horrible hill and my leg was feeling a fair bit loser.  I was gliding past other runners – many of whom were walking by this point.  I knew that my leg wasn’t right though and the finish line couldn’t come quick enough!

MK half marathon finish(Image from here)

The commentator shouted out my name as I approached the finish which was a nice touch and I crossed the line to collect my goodies.  Rather disappointed to be given just a banana along with my medal though – I don’t even like bananas!  (It didn’t go to waste…Oscar happily munched on it for dessert later that evening.)

MK half banana and medal

Side note: I find it rather creepy that Strava knows the exact location I took the above picture as shown below in my Strava screenshot…

Strava map of MK Running Festival half marathon

Chip time: 2:50:42
Position: 1387/1436
Gender position:
570/607
Category position (SF):
223/240

I drove home in a grumpy fed-up, feeling-sorry-for-myself state.  Sunday was Mother’s Day and the afternoon before Dan, Oscar and I had been down to the churchyard where my Mum was buried to add flowers to her grave.  She would have been the first person I rang on the way home from the race to have a whinge to and provide a guaranteed pick-me-up.

Mum's grave and Mother's Day flowers

The ground still hasn’t settled enough for us to be able to have a headstone fitted, so Mum’s grave still displays just a standard wooden name cross.

Oscar insisted on choosing a flower from the bunch I had bought for the grave which he then walked around the graveyard holding, smelling from time to time.  Mum would have loved that he wanted to be a part of it all and, as we left, he placed the flower on top of the mound of earth that marks her grave.  Almost as if he knew that’s where he should place it.Oscar at Mum's graveRunning wise, I’m OK.  I feared the worst initially, but a four day family holiday with lots of walking followed by a trip to the physio this morning has actually done me the world of good and I feel refreshed both mentally and physically.  I’ve got some exercises to work on from the physio but essentially I’ve been given the all-clear to continue running high mileage and high volume, just not to include speedwork or hills for the time being, with a follow-up physio visit scheduled for just before Easter.

Milton Keynes Marathon and South Downs Way 100 remain firmly in the calendar.  As does South Downs Way 50, which is in just 3 weeks time.

Bring it on!

Have you ever pulled from or walked a large portion of a race before?
Did you choose flowers for your Mother on Mother’s Day?

 

Losing my confidence

I haven’t blogged for a whole month now.

The truth is, along with the madly busy lifestyle I seem to have adopted this year, I’ve also kind of lost my confidence when it comes to running.

I’m still managing to run 5 or 6 times most weeks, and I’m hitting all the paces I’m setting out to run, but I haven’t stepped foot outside my front door wearing running shoes since the 9th February.  Almost a whole month ago.

Run to Thrapston

I didn’t have a bad run that day.  In fact, I had a really lovely, enjoyable run.  The plan said 12 easy miles at a pace between 10:50-11:40mm.  I ran a total of 12.11 miles at an 11:02mm pace and enjoyed some beautiful picturesque views of the Lakes in the Winter sun.

Stanwick Lakes

But since that sunny Friday afternoon, all of my runs have taken place on the treadmill in the corner of my dining room either super early in the morning or last thing at night.

Truth be told, my confidence began to waiver running through built up areas after I was egged whilst out on a run last Summer.  The ‘egging’ didn’t even happen in the county I live in, but suddenly I found myself no longer as eager to head out on my own around town at night.
A busy Winter, with Dan working away frequently during the week has meant that I often miss my beloved Wednesday night club trail run, and working night shifts to finish at 7am on Saturday mornings has meant that staying awake to parkrun with friends has become a painful experience rather than enjoyable one in recent weeks.

When Dan first announced back in January that he would have to travel a fair bit for work this year I decided to ask on the private Facebook page for my running club on the off-chance that somebody might have a treadmill that they would be willing to loan out to me so that I would still be able to get some quality mileage in during the build up to my 100 in June.  I didn’t really expect anyone to respond.  It definitely felt like a pity post if I’m honest!  However, one guy, who I’d never met before came back to me the following day and said that he wasn’t currently in a position to use his treadmill, – it was currently sat dormant in his garage.  I’d be welcome to it over the next few months if I wanted?

Of course I wanted!  I did check with Dan first that he didn’t mind a bulky treadmill cluttering up our dining room.  (I’m sure I mentioned that I planned on putting it in the dining room, not the garage, as Dan seemed to think after the treadmill was in and set up in position!)  I think he felt that I would quickly grow bored of the treadmill and it would end up covered in dust on the main walkway through to our kitchen from the lounge, but that has absolutely not been the case.  In fact, during the daytime when I’m not using the treadmill, Oscar likes to climb onto one end of the belt and run down to the other end before jumping off again, so it gets plenty of running use!

Testing out the treadmill

There are so many pros and cons to training with a treadmill.

PRO:  I’m really catching up on my Netflix watching!
Pretty Little Liars – almost two seasons down to be precise!

CON:  I’m really missing running out with my friends.
Running on a treadmill is a pretty lonely affair.  My treadmill faces the wall in the corner of the room.  I would be able to see out of the patio doors if I ever ran in daylight, but that has only been the case on one occasion so far.

PRO:  My speed sessions are spot on.
I had been enjoying my planned Hanson’s Marathon Method speed sessions anyway, even when I was running them around my estate.  I get a real buzz out of hitting all of my paces during a workout.  This was quite stressful in the early days of the training though and involved a lot of close Garmin-watching with speeding up or slowing down at the last minute!  Running on the treadmill, I don’t have to think about my pace.  I just run what the treadmill throws my way.

CON:  Hills aren’t really hills.
And running on treadmill does not exactly replicate running outside on the pavement or trails either.

PRO:  It means I actually get a quality session in.  There would have been at least 2-3 speed sessions and the same number of tempo runs missed during the last month had I not had the treadmill.  I can often make up runs with the running buggy during the daytime when Dan is working away, but they are runs at an ‘easy pace’ and wouldn’t do much to build my speed at all.  Although my core and biceps definitely benefit from running with the buggy!

CON:  It is so hot working out indoors!
I’m a shorts and t-shirt runner anyway.  There are some days that I am now a shorts and sports bra runner since I can run inside – I am still dripping in sweat!  Although maybe this could be a pro?  I’ll find it easier to run if the weather turns hot on the day?  (Always my Nemesis!)

Sweaty treadmill selfie

PRO:  If I have an urge to wee or remember I need to get the washing out of the machine to dry mid-run, I can do so, before continuing with my run!
In the past I’ve had to cut so many runs short for loo trips or because I’ve remembered something I’ve forgotten to do so head home in a panic that it won’t get done.

CON:  My hand is forever covered in scribbles.
The treadmill I have on loan works purely in km.  I work purely in miles.  Therefore I need to write down the conversions somewhere!  For speed sessions I tend to jot timings down on the back of envelopes, purely because my hand isn’t big enough to write down all the notes I need!

Treadmill paces

Are you a treadmill runner?
Have you ever lost your confidence when it comes to running?