Two parkruns and some big news

Firstly, the parkruns.
Both at Northampton, both with the buggy.

Last week I headed over to run with Laura and Steph, who has been out with an injury for almost a year now.  Every runner’s worst nightmare.  Steph was hoping to run the whole parkrun and then intended on rewarding herself with a new pair of trainers if she succeeded in doing so.  Spoiler alert: a new pair of trainers were purchased!

We started at the back and kept things super slow so that we could catch up on the gossip.  I can’t remember the last time I ran properly without chatting at parkrun to be honest.  I’m due a proper hard run soon I’m sure!
Northampton parkrun with the running buggy

We used to regularly have a photographer at Northampton parkrun but it’s been a bit hit and miss for the last year or so and it was nice to see one out and about last weekend.  He was literally everywhere as well.  Popped up so many times out on the course!  According to a post he shared on the parkrun Facebook page, he took more than 2000 images during the run!

Garmin time: 35:37
Official time: 35:42
Position: 449/539
Gender position: 173/234
Age category position: 22/27

We obviously headed to The Good Loaf for cake afterwards, although for some reason I forgot to take any pictures.  Very unlike me!

As I was loading up the buggy back at my car again, a tiny little mouse came running out from underneath my car and just pottered around on the pavement.  He kept stopping and looking at me, but really wasn’t scared at all.

Mouse in Northampton

This past weekend, Oscar and I headed to Northampton parkrun again with Laura and this time Dan joined us too, although ran his own ‘race’.  Now that Dan has decided to give up football on a Saturday morning he thought it would be a good idea to get back out to parkrun for as many events as he can make, starting with the one at the weekend.

Dan, Me and Oscar on the way to parkrun

On the drive over Dan asked if I would like him to head back and collect Oscar from me once he had crossed the finish line.  I said that he could do if he wanted, although we may not be too far behind, depending on how busy it was that day.

Laura, Oscar and I at Northampton parkrunIt was pretty busy.

We got very stuck behind other runners at the beginning.  I’ve naturally got a very long stride and it’s very hard to keep clipping it continuously.  The paths are very narrow at Northampton and so I kept whizzing Oscar out on the grassy verges and over the bumpy bits where I was able, so that I could overtake runners who stopped or slowed as we went along.  Oscar didn’t seem to care though.  I get the impression (from all the fab smiling he does as everyone runs by) that he adores being in the buggy!

Garmin time: 31:40
Official time: 31:43
Position: 361/523
Gender position: 105/217
Age category position: 17/31

I was really surprised to see 31m 40s on my Garmin as I crossed the line, as once again I’d chatted the whole way round and we really had been going so very slowly (for us) at the beginning of the run.  Dan finished in just under 31 minutes and didn’t make it back to relieve me of the buggy!

We had a busy weekend actually as Dan, Oscar and I met friends, along with their 11-month-old baby at Beckworth Emporium for lunch.  Well, we met them at 2pm, and were seated a little after 3.  The queuing was insane!  Luckily, the babies behaved.

Beckworth Emporium queueI definitely deserved burger and cake for my lunch/tea by the time we were seated!

Burger from Beckworth EmporiumThat fudge cake was a killer though…I wolfed it down as Oscar needed feeding by that point, but by the time I got up I could barely move I was so full!

Chocolate fudge cake from Beckworth Emporium

On Sunday morning Dan managed a lay in, and then I got him breakfast in bed.  (I thought it was supposed to be Mother’s Day?!  Haha!)  We had planned to go swimming so that Dan could see Oscar in the pool, as, other than his first swimming lesson back at the start of January, Dan hasn’t seen Oscar in the water.

Oscar absolutely adores swimming.  Over the past three months his confidence has grown so much in the pool and he is now perfectly happy to dive in from the side of the pool, go underwater, and he kicks his legs and doggy-paddles with his arms.  He’s pretty easy to spot in the pool as he’s the one that will be shrieking with excitement each lesson!

We stopped in at Asda to pick up some coloured plastic balls and a plastic watering can for him to play with in the pool and although he was quite distracted by all of the other children in the public swimming pool, Dan still got to see him enjoying the water which was nice.

We followed our swim up with a picnic at Irchester Country Park, where we were going to give Oscar his first experience of the swings, but it was so incredibly busy as it was such a lovely, sunny weekend that we decided to give it a miss and headed out on a little walk instead.

Dan, Oscar and I out for a walk on Mother's Day

On Sunday I also handed in my notice at work.  I’ve been at the same school for the last two and a half years, although it feels like much longer.  Despite having been on maternity leave since the end of September, I still find myself logging in to the system every couple of days to work on resources for Year 11 (my subject responsibility), and I check my email daily.  I just can’t switch off as a teacher, despite not being in the classroom!

It was a huge decision for Dan and I to make, but ultimately I know that we have made the best decision for our little family.  I will still be returning to school at the end of May to work my notice until the end of the school year, during which time Oscar will attend nursery, but after that I will become a full-time stay-at-home/work-odd-jobs-from-home Mum.

I was so worried about sending the email with my resignation that it took me more than two hours to write the message, and then nearly another 30 minutes before I felt able to hit the send button!  The response from my Head of Department summed up how I was feeling though, and I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing this paragraph…
“I know that you won’t have made this decision lightly.  I also know that you couldn’t possibly be just an ‘OK’ teacher and just an ‘OK’ Mum, so it’s about priorities.  It’s so important to be happy in life Mary.”

I want to be the very best Mum that I can be to Oscar, and I don’t feel like I would be able to do that with 60+ hour working weeks and without any down-time to run or write.  I don’t know quite how things will work out come-September, but I do know that we will adjust just fine and our new way of life will become the new normal.  I’m looking forward to the next chapter!

Just recently there have been several things that I have wanted to write about that I feel don’t really ‘fit’ this blog.  AHM has always been a) very run-focused and b) written more like a diary.  I feel like at the moment there are quite a few ‘topics’ I want to write about.  Some of them baby, some of them just life-things, and they don’t really fit here.  I hurriedly set up a new baby blog back when I first announced my pregnancy online, although decided to continue writing on AHM as my pregnancy journey often had a running-focus.  I think I’m now ready to start running the two blogs alongside each other though, so if you would like to read about a slightly different side of my life, then please visit me over at From Teacher to Mum.  It’s very new, I haven’t played with the design yet and I’m not sure how often I’ll post at the moment.  Getting long blocks of time in front of the computer with a six month old is pretty tough!  I still intend on writing about Oscar-things here when it is running related though.

How did you spend Mother’s Day at the weekend?
Did you learn to swim as a child?
When did you last hand your notice in at a job?

Plans for 2017

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend and enjoyed time off with family and friends.

I love the Christmas holidays. It always feels like the first week is a mad rush with the lead up to Christmas, with the second week then nice and relaxed; catching up with friends, lots of trail runs and playing with all the gifts we got for Christmas.

2017 running calendar

With a new year always comes new resolutions.  The madness of Christmas helps to instil a desire to get back into regular eating, healthy living and an organised way of life.

Several of the goals I set myself for 2016 were unachievable due to my pregnancy:

  • Fit in some double days of running

  • Slot in a midweek long run as well as a weekend long run each week

  • Run a marathon distance at least every 4-6 weeks

  • Get started with some regular core work

When I discovered I was pregnant at the start of the year I knew I needed to be sensible if I wanted to be able to continue running throughout and so scaled back my running distance wise and speed wise.  Core work was out of the question.

  • Continue to run parkrun as often as possible

Finally, a goal I could, and did achieve. I ran 26 parkruns throughout 2016. They started out as tempo runs at the beginning of the year and became chatty social runs towards the end as Oscar grew bigger and bigger in my belly.  I got in lots of parkrun tourism and finished the year having run eleven different events in total.

I also set some non-running related goals for 2016:

  • Purchase a second house

  • Get into a more regular posting schedule on the blog

  • Meal plan every week during term time

  • Stay on top of housework

Again, some of these were affected by the pregnancy.  (They really weren’t joking when they said having a baby changes your life forever!)

  • Rather than purchase a second house we put all our money in the pot so that we were able to improve the one we had bought the year before, ready for when Oscar arrived. (Or not ready, as the case may be!)  As I type there are currently two plasterers upstairs in the bedroom boarding our ceilings.  Dan and my Dad also fitted a new kitchen and bathroom for us this year.New kitchen(Still requiring a paint job, new light fittings and plinths, but it’s definitely getting there now!)  Buying a second property is still on my wish list, but it will just take a little longer to save up for now.
  • The early days of pregnancy left me feeling so tired that I wasn’t able to do anything but head straight for bed after work in the evenings, leaving my blog posts few and far between.  By the Summer I managed to post much more frequently again, but since Oscar’s arrival it’s been hard to find the time to sit down and spew out blog posts like I once did.  I’m such a perfectionist that it often takes me a couple of hours per blog post, and I like to write them in one go, uninterrupted.  Something which nobody seems to have told my child yet!  I want to get back to blogging regularly again, and I’ve sooo missed having the time to read blogs of friends these past few months.  It’s something I’d like to schedule in to the week so that I definitely make time for it again this year.
  • Meal planning was much better this year and I was chuffed that I’d managed to prepare for the early baby days by holding a couple of batch cooking days at the end of the Summer.
  • I have been so much better with the housework.  Now that I’m off on maternity leave it’s much easier to keep on top of, but even before that I didn’t do too badly at making sure the house was usually in a fairly respectable state if anybody dropped by (despite living in what seems like a permanent state of unfinishedness!)

I have high hopes for 2017.

Now that I’m no longer pregnant and *touch wood* currently not injured, I am back on the running bandwagon.  (Obviously!)  The long term goal is still to run a 100 mile race, although the SDW100 is no longer on the cards for June.  (Probably a little too soon!)  I shall see how my return to running goes over the next few months before committing to a 100 miler though.  I haven’t set any ‘time’ goals as such for this year as again, I need to assess how my return goes first of all.  Seven weeks back though and I’m feeling strong and happy.  As long as I remain sensible and build the mileage slowly, I’m hoping I shouldn’t have too many problems.
Running goals for 2017 as follows:

  • Achieve 100 parkruns and order my black parkrun t-shirt

    I’m currently sat at 67 parkruns, (that’s including having run two on New Year’s Day) so would have to run 33 this year.  A number I definitely think I am capable of.  I ran 24 parkruns in 2015 and 26 in 2016, hitting the 50 parkruns milestone back in April.  I just love the parkrun concept and how it is suitable for everyone, no matter their experience or training aim.My 50th parkrun top

  • Increase my parkrun tourism to twenty different courses

    I WILL get on this leaderboard in 2017!

  • Take my weekly mileage back up to at least 50 miles on average each week

    I know high mileage isn’t for everyone, but I find that I run better on more miles.  Most of my miles tend to be off-road and I feel stronger all round the more time I spend on the trails.  Win-win! 😉

  • Complete at least five more events of marathon distance and above

    One of my long term goals is to become a member of the 100 marathon club.  Between 2013-2015 I ran 10 marathons and 6 ultras from 35m-70m in distance.  I didn’t add any to my total during 2016.  There’s still quite a way to go before I reach the 100 marathon total!  At the moment I only have two events booked in.  The Pembrokeshire marathon in April, and the South Downs Way 50m during the same month.  I will leave it to see how I cope with those before booking anything else in for the Summer.

  • PB at the 5k distance

    Not technically a ‘time’ goal as I haven’t set a time(!)  My current 5k PB is 26:37, set at Northampton parkrun back in the Summer of 2015.  I know I am capable of beating this and plan on doing my very best to get there!

From a non-running perspective there are a few other changes I would like to see this year:

  • Take more pictures with my DSLR

    The quality of pictures taken on my big camera is so much better than those taken on my phone, but it often ends up being a laziness thing.  My phone is usually within reach and doesn’t require setting up before each shot.  The phone may capture the moment but it does so in a much less attractive way.

  • Find an easier way of living

    My life has always been hectic.  I’ve always jumped at every possible opportunity and said yes to anyone who has asked for a favour.  It leads to me frequently feeling worn out, exhausted, stressed and teary.  Looking back across my blog posts from the past few years I can see the points each month where things had built up and gotten too much.  Before Oscar I was getting up at 3-4am some mornings and staying up until gone midnight to make sure that I got all of my work done.  I love teaching, I love my school and I love my job, but I also love running, I love blogging and I love my family.  At the moment I’m not sure how I’m going to fit all of these things in alongside teaching when I return from maternity leave in May.  Dan was recently offered a new job much, much closer to home which, whilst fantastic in the long run, has meant that he will not be able to work from home for the 6 weeks between the May half term and July end of year that I initially return to work before the Summer holidays begin, so we now need to look at childcare arrangements for those weeks.  I won’t be able (or want) to leave Oscar in childcare between 6:30am-6pm, so will have to get into school late for those weeks and leave early, working through the night to keep up with my workload.  It’s not ideal, but I’m yet to work out a way round it.

  • Make more time for my family

    This kind of ties in with the point above.  It’s taken the first few months with Oscar to get into any kind of routine.  In the early days Dan would arrive home from work and I’d hand over the baby so that I may sleep, only to be handed him back when I woke again so that Dan may have a break!  I feel like we know Oscar so much better now but we need to make time and plan our time out as a family of three and also time that Dan and I can spend together without Oscar.

What do you plan on achieving or working towards in 2017?

So that was Christmas!

How quickly did Christmas come and go?!  I can’t believe we’re already emptying old wrapping paper out into the recycling bin and thinking about taking the tree down over the next few days.

Oscar and Me in front of the Christmas tree

As always, we managed to cram loads in over Christmas week – here’s a little run down of what we got up to…

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without my running club’s annual Christmas Eve Run.Christmas Eve club runEvery Christmas Eve, runners from our club meet first thing in the morning at Irchester Country Park before splitting off into smaller groups and running the trails, finishing at the café for a club-complimentary bacon/sausage roll and a hot drink.  As Christmas Eve fell on a weekend this year it meant that we had a huge turn out.

As always, I stuck to the trail group which Kev led – guaranteed to contain lots of mud, banter and laughs.  Somehow, the communication didn’t get back to all the members about just where we were headed and once we set off I turned to see ALL of the club members following!  They had begun to split off away from our little group before the first mile was complete though…not so sure they would have all enjoyed some of the sections we ran along, which included the death-defying gullies which we hurtled down when our legs wouldn’t stop!

It wasn’t long before the splashing began and I found myself in the middle of a mud war.  The trick is to give all puddles a wide birth and make sure you are running behind the guys, rather than in front of them!  They cheated this year though, and began picking up the mud to throw rather than just kicking it up!

Muddy Christmas Eve runI got a massive clump of mud right on the top of my head.  Muddy Christmas Eve run - mud in my hairChanged my mind about heading to Tesco for some last minute shopping after that particular hit!

Christmas Eve club runThis photo really does not do justice to just how muddy we were after the run!

After a quick shower (where I tried not to shed too many dried flakes of mud on the floor, but in actual fact anyone would have been able to follow my muddy sock prints around the house) Dan, Oscar and I headed to Norfolk where we were spending Christmas with my parents.

My Mum had been lent a cot by a friend so that when we came to visit we didn’t need to lug that back as well as the pushchair, a stash of nappies and baby clothes alongside all of the Christmas gifts we were taking back for the weekend.  Oscar has been sleeping from about 10-10:30pm each night right through until at least 6am each morning for the past month.  Whilst fantastic that I no longer have uninterrupted sleep each night, I really want to get him out of the habit of staying up so late as I never get to see Dan anymore because one of us is always having to entertain Oscar in the evenings.

For dinner on Christmas Eve, we headed over to my friend Hollie’s house for a Chinese takeaway where there were several of the people I went to sixth form with.  Oscar took a brief kip on a pile of blankets we laid out for him on the floor but ended up being very much awake when we returned to my parents’ a little after 9pm, and then continued to stay up until 1:30am the following morning!  I had to wake him up by 8am, and pointed out that it will probably be the only Christmas morning where I will have to wake him up!

My Mum had requested that Oscar and I join her in church on Sunday morning, and so Dan dropped us off with the pushchair and a bursting bag of baby ‘essentials’.  They did all end up being essential on Sunday to be fair though.  Oscar remained quiet for the first 10 minutes of the service before needing to be fed, then burped, then played with, then changed at the back of the church as his clothes were by this point covered in poo!  Oh the joys of having a baby(!)

Christmas day passed by in a blur.  We always eat lunch before retiring to the lounge by mid-afternoon to begin opening presents.  That part took slightly longer this year as between us we had to open all the presents for Oscar as well.  He had just the right amount of soft toys and books for Christmas.  I really don’t want him to end up having so many presents that he ends up opening them for several days afterwards like I’ve seen on so many Facebook statuses this week.

Dan and Oscar at Christmas

Another big meal for tea that evening.  All this food for just one day!  My belly was feeling rather full by the time we returned to Northamptonshire that night.

Christmas dinner

I managed a super long lay in on Boxing Day after Dan took over from me following the morning feed.  That lay in was required after several late nights of wrapping presents and then entertaining Oscar until late on Christmas Eve, with a whole week of setting my alarm early to express before Oscar wakes.  I felt so much better for the lazy day on Boxing Day.

Then on Tuesday morning I met with several club mates to run the course of the trail race that my club is putting on in February next year.December trail runThere were a load of guys out too, but we got a female-only shot first of all.

As there were so many of us it was rather slow to begin with as we waited for everyone to cross over stiles so that we were able to cut through to the starting point.  We soon settled into a steadier pace though and it was a gorgeous day to be out on the trails.December trail runThere were loads of hot air balloons out as the skies were so clear.  Although everyone had pointed out my bare legs at the start of the run, I was rather glad to be in shorts by the end as it wasn’t too chilly at all.

I didn’t bother with trail shoes (still not clean!) as it had been slightly frosty in the morning and so the ground was neither wet nor tacky.  Instead soft, yet firm enough to run on.

A lovely 6.8 miles to start the week off with!  :)

Have you been in a hot air balloon before?  I’ve never been but it’s something I’d love to do.
How was your Christmas?

Running – eleven weeks post baby

I’m currently sat upstairs in my office, plate of party food on the desk next to me and with half a glass of wine in my hand.

This year, Dan and I decided to play host to the Pearson clan for a Christmas buffet.  This involved filling our house with Oscar’s grandparents, Great-Grandma, Great-Aunt, Aunt, Uncle, and three of his five cousins who are all under the age of 6.

…I think I just found cake behind the radiator, there is definitely chocolate on the sofa and I have a post-it note stuck to my sock.Christmas dinner table

Me being me I decided to make all the food.  Therefore yesterday was a frenzy of baking cheese straws, chocolate shortbread and sausage rolls in between the standard parents-are-coming cleaning and tidying of the house.  It was very lovely seeing everyone but I’m exhausted now.  My nieces and nephew have so much energy!  I’m glad we just have the one baby!
It’s OK though – Isla tells us that she’ll “look after Baby Oscar”.

Isla and Oscar

On Tuesday Oscar turned eleven weeks old.  He’s still pretty tiny and has only just started wearing size 0-3 clothes, but I still find it amazing to think he ever fitted inside my belly just a few short months ago.

This is the first week where I’ve begun to start feeling ‘strong’ again when it comes to running.  I admit, I was so nervous following my rubbish six week check-up by the doctor, (where she didn’t even check my scar or examine any part of my body) that despite having been ‘cleared to run’ at that check, I didn’t venture out until week seven and then it was with lots of apprehension.

People are quick to say “Don’t come back too soon”, “Wait six months following a caesarean”, “Be sure to stock up with supplies because your pelvic floor won’t be what it once was”, “Start back run-walking”, “Take things easy”…Everybody had a different rule to announce, with lots of them being date-related.  I’d been advised to wait everything from two weeks to six months before gentle jogging could commence, when really, what I should be doing was listening to my body and letting it tell me when I could start running again.

The facts:

  • I had run regularly up until 39 weeks of my pregnancy without any problems
  • Following my operation I had challenged myself to walk a little further each day
  • My scar had healed well and I was no longer in any discomfort

There is a mile loop by my house which I often use to test out a new pair of trainers, and it was round this mile loop that I made my comeback run four weeks ago.  I wasn’t sure what to expect on that first run, but it wasn’t as horrific as I had feared – having been in so much pain a month earlier that I was unable to turn the bathroom light on!  My insides felt rather loose, but that was to be expected.  I guess they were still sliding back to their original positions after having housed Oscar for the best part of the year.

I’ve remained sensible and started off fairly slowly with my runs – just two or three runs a week, and nothing further than a 10k until this Thursday.  No speedwork or hard sessions planned until after Christmas, although I did push slightly harder than initially planned at the Magic Mile last weekend.

Just recently Oscar has begun sleeping through the night.  For the past fortnight he has been having his last feed at around 10-10:30pm and then not waking until Dan gets up for work at 6am the following morning.
Winning!  :)

I’m not sure how or why, or even how long it will last, but I fully intend on making the most of that solid block of his sleep by getting some runs in before it becomes too icy and Wintery in the mornings.
On Monday night I headed to bed when Oscar went down, with an alarm set for 4:45am.  It seems rather wrong that as a parent of a not even three month old baby I’m setting an alarm to get up so early in the morning!  Unfortunately, choosing to breastfeed means I have to get up 20 minutes earlier so that I am able to express before leaving for my run.

Once out there though, it was wonderful!  It felt fantastic to slot my run in before anybody else in the house was up, and then knowing all day that it didn’t matter what else I did, I had already gotten my workout in that morning.  This was the first run I really felt like I was back as a runner and almost forgot that I had a child back at home.  For the first time I wasn’t aware that my insides were slightly jiggly or weak and I was able to run strong.  I’d aimed for three miles but leaving slightly later than planned at 5:35am, I cut the run short at 2.33 miles instead.  Still, better some miles than none.
Oscar, Dan and Bella were all none the wiser when I snuck back in through the bedroom door and climbed back into bed to feed Oscar 25 minutes later.

The following day I headed for my first trail run with the club since Oscar was born.  I had been nominated to lead on the 7 mile route starting out from the village next to me.  Although I got a few comments and even surprised myself when I managed to set off at an 8:xx minute mile pace.  I did feel incredibly strong on Wednesday night.

7.2 miles and 14 people.  Not bad for my first trail run back!

Despite being closer to the front for the first half of the run I could feel my body beginning to tire by mile 6 – the furthest I’d run since having Oscar.  I allowed myself a couple of walk breaks at the back during the final mile, and my legs felt rather heavy the following day.  I decided to follow the trail run up with a rest day.  Sensible = strong.  I’ve decided that will be my motto this year!

Stupidly, I hadn’t cleaned my trail shoes beforehand, so was running in an old pair of road shoes along the rather muddy in places track.  I’m hoping to head over for the fourth cross-country of the season tomorrow, so that’s just reminded me that I need to pull out my trail shoes for cleaning.  They never had a thorough hose down after my last muddy run before I was pregnant, and I’m hoping they haven’t stiffened up too much…  :S

On that note I’d better shoot off and clean my shoes before bed!

How often do you clean your trail shoes?
Have you ‘hosted’ a Christmas before?