Easter fun

I have six boxes of year 11 coursework to finish marking by Friday, a house to tidy, emails to respond to, blogs to catch up on, posts of my own to write (I’ve run a marathon, Magic Mile, two parkruns AND a 10k race I’m yet to blog about) but the end is finally in sight!  My coursework deadline is this coming Friday and then my evenings and mornings will be mine once again!

For now, here is a long overdue post about our first holiday as a family of three (eight!)…

Dan and I somehow managed to squeeze in a four day holiday to Shropshire with friends over the Easter weekend.  I say ‘somehow’ but the fixture was firmly in the calendar minutes after it had been suggested and was talked about for months leading up to our stay away.

Dan, I, Oscar, two other couples from our friendship group and a dog all made our way over to a beautiful quirky little cottage in the middle of nowhere on Good Friday afternoon.

Holiday house in Shropshire

The plan was to fill our days with long walks, good food, pubs, late night drinking and board games.  The weekend did not disappoint.

The weekend away was Oscar’s first holiday and I filled the boot of Dan’s car with toys, spare baby bedding and clothes, the running buggy and somewhere I managed to fit in a bag full of clothes for Dan and me as well!

Oscar playing with stacking cups

One of our friends suggested some parkrun tourism at Ludlow parkrun on the Saturday and both Dan and I jumped at the chance to join in.

On the drive over, we appeared to be driving more and more into the depths of a valley.  I think all four of us questioned our eagerness to be up and out for a parkrun at this point!

The course appeared to be a giant figure of eight loop which we ran twice.

Ludlow parkrunIt was rather hilly.

Ludlow parkrun

We were warned about the hills as part of the briefing, but it wasn’t until we were about 3k into the event that all four of us realised just how much the hills were taking effect!

Ludlow parkrun

It was a really nice event though, and seemed to have a proper community feel to it.Ludlow parkrun with Dan, John and LynnGarmin time: 30:33
Official time: 30:34
Position: 72/129
Gender position: 17/53
Age category position: 4/7

There seemed to be quite a lot of tourists at Ludlow for the Easter weekend, and I even bumped into another runner wearing a St Neots half marathon t-shirt, which is a race local to us.

As we were staying away for three nights, each couple cooked dinner for one night and breakfast on one morning which was a lovely way of splitting up the responsibility of the meals.

Although I cook every night of the week for Dan and I back at home, my meals are nothing fancy, so I decided to let him take on the task of cooking the meal for the Saturday night.  He went for marinated chicken with tomatoes on the vine and sweet potato wedges.

Chicken with tomato on the vine

I followed up on Sunday morning with my signature dish – American pancakes with blueberries.

American pancakes with blueberriesAs my turn fell on Easter morning, I also added little chocolate Lindt bunnies to all the placemats for breakfast too.  We were all pretty full that morning!

Each of the days we all headed out on a long walk with the dog, whilst I wore Oscar out in the baby carrier.

Oscar, Dan and I in ShropshireFYI Shropshire: those walks are not buggy friendly!

Walking in Shropshire

(This was a stile, about 400m into our ‘buggy friendly’ walk on the Saturday afternoon!)

Castle in Shropshire

There was lots to see on our walks; a castle, bluebells, and we even saw a couple of deer out on our Sunday afternoon walk.

Bluebells in Shropshire

Oscar behaved perfectly and pretty much stuck to his down-to-bed-by-8pm-and-up-again-at-7am routine, with just a slight blip on the last night when we woke him at 2am by banging around too loudly in the kitchen.  Dan got the brunt of it, staying up with him until after 4am so that I could sleep ready for the early morning feed.  Not cool Oscar.  Not cool!

Hanging out on holiday in Shropshire

We all decided that the Easter weekend getaway should be pencilled in to our calendars for the rest of forever, with all future children and pets to join us!

Walking in Shropshire

(A couple of the above pictures were stolen from John and Lynn, and the Ludlow parkrun pictures were taken from their Facebook page.)
Did you go away over the Easter weekend?  (Feels like forever ago now!)
What have been your favourite holidays away with friends?

A week of good intentions

I had such a great week of running the week before last, and then this last week all my running plans went to pot!

After the trail race on Sunday I was straight back out again with strong legs for 6.5 road miles on Monday night.  A good start to the week at least!

Tuesday was always going to be a rest day.

Wednesday was supposed to be the club trail run, but Oscar hadn’t settled at all during the entire day and I had gotten nothing done.  I really just needed to hand him over to Dan as soon as Dan walked through the door home from work so that I could catch up on life admin and cleaning, so that is what I did.  I must admit, the driving rain and wind screaming outside our porch door really didn’t make me regret my choice that evening!

Thursday was Storm Doris day.  Dan had to work late and I really didn’t fancy tackling Storm Doris in the pitch black hours after Oscar had gone to bed.  Oscar also finally spent his first night in his own bedroom, so I kind of needed to be at hand in case he didn’t agree with us that he was ready!

Friday – Dan and I were taking Oscar to meet up with some of Dan’s work colleagues at Nandos in Cambridge.Top Gun Top Son - Dan with OscarI did melt a little taking this photo on the night.  A few people pointed out that I should have a ‘Top Wife’ t-shirt to go along with the theme, but I think there’s probably a fine line between ‘cute’ and ‘loser!  Haha!
The plan was for me to run on our return from Nandos, whilst Dan watched Oscar along with the football on TV.  An accident on the A14 meant miles of tailbacks and not returning home until gone 9pm with a then-grumpy husband though as he had missed most of the football!  By the time Oscar was fed and changed I was too exhausted to even consider going out, especially knowing that I had to get up early to make parkrun the following day.  An early night for me!

Saturday – I finally managed to get a run in!  I was Oscar-free for parkrun this week so got up a little earlier and arrived at the Racecourse in Northampton with plenty of time to park (or to manage to grab the last parking space at 8:10am!) so that I could fit a few warm-up miles in to start with.  I ended up just short of 3 miles run at sub 10mm pace in the end.
I decided not to run around the park for my warm-up miles as I’ve run around the park so many times for parkrun before.  Instead, I headed off out of the far end of the park and planned to just keep turning left until I ended up back where I started.  After twenty minutes though and with me still unable to recognise any of the streets I was running down, I started to get a bit of a panic on!  As I was sporting my bright red ’50 parkruns’ t-shirt it was clear that I was out to run parkrun that morning – so if I was heading in completely the opposite direction I would have looked a bit of a wally!  Luckily I finally stumbled upon The Good Loaf and found my way back from there.  Sometimes it pays to know all the bakeries in town! 😉
There were several branches and large twigs strewn across the paths of the parkrun in places and one (fairly) large tree lay completely across the path at one point early on in the run.  I had been aware of this before rocking up to parkrun that morning as Dan had spotted it on his Facebook feed the previous evening.  The tree was runnable round, but it didn’t make for a fast course on Saturday.  This was partly what made my mind up to get some extra miles in beforehand and then take the parkrun itself fairly steadily.
So I ran round and chatted with Laura for a fairly easy 32 minutes and 7 seconds instead.

Northampton parkrun tree(Picture from the Northampton parkrun Facebook page)

Garmin time: 32:07
Official time: 
Gender position: 
Age category position: 

Laura and I both commented on how busy the course had felt the whole way round and we only just managed to cross the finish line before the end of the funnel queue spilled out past the line.  It was another new attendance record at Northampton this week with 549 runners!
That was parkrun number 73 for me.  No bakery afterwards this week as Laura and I were meeting our friend Steph at Beckworth Emporium for cake later on after showers instead.

Berry pavlova from Beckworth Emporium

And what a cake it was!  Berry pavlova?…Yum!

Sunday – I felt rather guilty asking Dan if I could head out for an organised long run two Sundays in a row, but he did say I could!  Running from home never takes so long or is as faffy so I don’t feel quite as guilty on those days, but I much prefer running with others at the weekend.  Organised runs or races mean I end up being away for a lot longer and I need to be a little more choosy about which events/social occasions I attend now that we have Oscar to look after.
On Sunday our club trail run was headed round the course route from the half marathon we had run the previous week.  The dozen or so of us ran the two loops of the course in the opposite order though – running the 8 mile loop first, followed by the shorter 6 mile loop.  The idea was to double check that no rubbish had been left behind from the race and also clarify the route where several of us had gone wrong the week before.
I had intended on running wearing my running bag the week before (The Ultimate Direction PB vest) so that I could get used to running with it ready for my upcoming ultra and also check that it still fit over my boobs since having a baby!  Annoyingly, having not needed to wear it for the best part of a year I couldn’t put my hands on it come race morning, so had to go without.  I did manage to find it for my long run on Sunday though.

I replaced the water in the bottles and discovered two naked bars, a running cap and an emergency £5 in various pockets of the vest!  Gotta love finding emergency cash in places you’d forgotten you ever stored it!
I found running with the bag so much tougher than I remembered.  Obviously it should be tougher carrying extra weight and it was a fairly warm day on Sunday too.  I could still easily run the 14.8 miles we covered, but it wasn’t at the pace I would have run at usually.
We did manage to establish that we had gone wrong on the course the previous week though – not that someone had moved the tape as previously reported.

Where we went wrong on the Welly trail half marathon courseIt’s kind of hard to describe but using the map above to help I’ll give it a go!  Last week we came in from the right hand side of that map (the red line).  We headed right, along the outside of one of the field boundaries and all the way back up the hill towards the way we had come in.  Here (marked by a blue star above) there were a couple of pieces of red and white tape marking the course on our right so we were convinced that we were following the correct path.  We went up and back down that hill two more times before heading back out of the field to the bottom left on the map above following somebody’s instructions over the phone.  What we actually should have done on the day is followed the dark green line along the left hand side of the field, heading down the hill, with the tape on our left hand side guiding us out the other way!  Great way of adding extra race miles in though!  Whoops!

Were any of your running routes affected by Storm Doris/Ewan?

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?

59 parkruns, 10 courses

On Saturday I took my parkrun course total up to 10.  The last three new parkrun courses I’ve added to my total have been ticked off over these Summer holidays…I’ve really gotten into this parkrun tourism malarkey!  Just need some more to pop up nearby now!  The new Kettering parkrun course (about a 20 minute drive away) has been announced to start on 24th September.  Best just hope I’m still running by then!

Kettering parkrun start date

As most weeks, this week I headed to parkrun with Laura, who had already run the Market Harborough course, so filled me in on the route as we were walking over for the briefing.

At the briefing we were told that the Market Harborough parkrun had recently put in a bid to the British Heart Foundation for a grant for a defib and training kit which had been successful.  The parkrun will be putting on sessions to train anybody who is interested in learning how to use the kit.  At their very first parkrun back in April 2015 a man collapsed, and the air ambulance had to attend the event.  The gentleman recovered, but not what you expect to happen at your first event.  Makes you realise just how important it is to keep your ICE number on your barcode up to date.

Laura tried to explain the course to me on the way over but I got confused, although being towards the back of the pack is never an issue as you can always just follow the person in front of you!  Basically, I think we ran a little section, then three big loops before cutting off to head towards the finish.  I think(!)  I just kept running until my watch said 3 miles and then took the finish turn!

Market Harborough parkrun course

The route takes you through the beautiful gardens at Welland park along a narrow track.  Although completely flat (just 4ft elevation in total), I can’t imagine it being a particularly fast course as there were quite a lot of turns and the path was only wide enough for two people to run alongside each other.  We were slightly bottlenecked at the beginning, but it gave me a chance to warm up properly and let my legs wake up a little.  Everybody overtaking had to step off the track and run along the grass to get past those in front of them.  Despite this, and the large numbers of runners (273 in total), the run had a lovely atmosphere, and a proper community vibe about it.  As the course was three laps, it meant that nobody was ever alone and you weren’t always entirely sure which lap those around you were on either!

There was a little bit of a queue to get scanned at the finish, but nobody seemed to mind, and everybody was chatting to those around them in the queue.  One of the barcode scanners was actually the guy who came through the finish first, which is always nice to see.

Finish at the Market Harborough parkrun course

Mile 1: 11:10
Mile 2: 10:53
Mile 3: 10:24
Nubbin (0.11m): 8:20mm pace

Another Royal Flush Negative Split and my fastest parkrun since April!  I’ll take that at nearly 35 weeks pregnant!

Market Harborough parkrun garmin time

Garmin time: 33:21
Official time: 
Gender position: 
Age category position: 

Sweaty pic of me at the finish.

Market Harborough parkrun finish

Copies of Runner’s World and Men’s Health magazines were being given out at the finish, although as we were a little while getting there, Laura got the last copy of Runner’s World.  I spotted quite a few runners dotted around the park on various perches settling down to read through the magazines after their run!

We couldn’t spend too long mooching around Market Harborough (which incidentally seemed like a really nice town) as Laura and I were heading to Jeyes in Earls Barton with Steph to celebrate her engagement.  This called for Afternoon Tea.

Afternoon tea at Jeyes, Earls BartonWe’ve decided that it is our mission to test out all of the Afternoon Teas in Northamptonshire during the coming months.  Laura is returning from injury, Steph is still injured and I’m about to have a few weeks where I won’t be able to run following childbirth…but we can still all eat cake!

Afternoon tea at Jeyes, Earls Barton(Pic stolen from Laura)

Sandwiches were; egg and cucumber, ham and tomato, salmon and cream cheese and cheese and pickle.  I couldn’t have the salmon ones, and I don’t like pickle, but Laura swapped me one of her ham and tomatoes instead.  Sandwiches were accompanied by a helping of salted crisps and salad.

Next up was the scone layer.  Jam always goes on before the cream.

Top layer was a mini brownie, a mini macaroon (I went for the coffee one), an eton mess (best dessert ever) and a cupcake.  We were all struggling by the end, and it took a long while to pick through the final desserts!

Do you enjoy Afternoon Tea?  What must it include in your opinion?
Scones – jam then cream?  Or cream then jam?
Are your ICE details on your parkrun barcode up to date?