ALL the walkies

If you follow me on Instagram you will probably have already picked up on the fact that I am going out on a lot of walks just lately.


My family are going through rather a tough time at the moment so I am heading back to Norfolk as often as I realistically can at the moment to help out my Dad. Having Oscar with me when I travel back means that I am rather limited in ways that I can help out, although his cheeky grin usually brightens up everyone’s day when we are back.  He has started walking completely on his own this week and likes to run towards me full pelt, before dive bombing his face into my lap!

I am usually limited to nap times when I can actually be of much use around the house.  Oscar always seems to sleep in when we stay over, although I never can! He really enjoys playing peek-a-boo around the hospital bed in the lounge and loves the fact that there is a keyboard in the hallway for him to play.Oscar playing the piano Just lately I have been heading back to Norfolk four days each week, sometimes staying over between the days when I can’t face another two hours of traveling.  With Oscar’s weekly swimming lessons and nursery days, staying over isn’t always very practical as I’ve had to rush around quite a lot.  From next week I’ve decided to cut my visits back to 2-3 days a week.  The traveling and constant packing and unpacking of the car (it’s impossible to travel light with traveling with a baby!) was wearing me out and I was starting to feel the pressure to keep up with my own home and commitments back in Northamptonshire.

After all the recent rushing around, last weekend I very much appreciated the chance to get away and have a proper break in Gower with my friends. Dan spent much of the following week working over in Dublin, and my car spent a couple of days in the garage so this past week has been a little different from the norm, but it felt nice to have a brief change.Oscar and Blue out on a walk One of the easiest ways I can help out when I’m in Norfolk is by taking my Dad’s dog Blue out for a walk.  Around 2pm Oscar starts to get crabby and I know that he needs his nap.  I feel that it is important for him to spend some time outside every day and he adores dogs and dog-spotting as I push his buggy around the village I grew up in.  I usually aim for about an hour’s walk with Blue each afternoon, and sometimes, when Oscar sleeps in, I can also take Blue out on a short run with me in the morning too.  He’s a fairly good dog, so although I always start by juggling both the dog lead and the buggy in my hands, as long as I choose my route wisely I can let him off and then not worry about finding myself wound up in a dog lead which has also been wrapped around the buggy first! Oscar and Blue out on a walkI adore Autumn.  It is absolutely my favourite season.  Wrapped up all cosy and warm in scarves and gloves, rambling to pubs with log fires and enjoying hot chocolate to warm up your hands.  Nothing better.  And the leaves are so beautiful at this time of year too.Oscar and Blue out on a walkMy friend Amanda thought that I had actually arranged the leaves in this picture I took the other week… Autumn leavesBut that wasn’t the case.  They had arranged themselves!  Such a beautiful mix of colours and shapes. Good job the leaves have been photogenic, because I definitely haven’t been with the winds the way they have been just lately! Windy dog walk…My hair was rather knotty that night!

A little while into our walks, Oscar usually puts his feet up on the front bar of his buggy and begins his nap.  When I return after an hour or so, rather than wake him, I then try to get on and help out with any jobs I can do in the house, as I can keep an eye on him through the window in the kitchen.  Although now that it’s getting colder, I might have to drag the buggy up the step and inside the front door so that he doesn’t get too chilly during his nap.Oscar asleep in the buggyMy friend Amanda also has a little boy, Charles, who is just five weeks older than Oscar.  Oscar and I met up with Amanda and Charles at Holt Country Park a couple of weeks back to have a catch up and to take both boys out for an Autumnal spin in their buggies.

We took a leisurely stroll around the park and out into the town to visit Folly Tearoom for hot chocolate and cake. Hot chocolate at Folly tearoomChocolate cake at Folly tearoomThe boys shared a scone and enjoyed swinging their legs in their highchairs. Both Amanda and I agreed that however delicious the drink and cake had been, it was probably a mistake to go for a double whammy of chocolate and so we both downed glasses of water before heading back on our return journey.Oscar and Me at Pearson road in Holt, NorfolkAmanda even spotted a sign made for us on the way back, so we had to stop for a photo!

Which is your favourite season?
Do you enjoy walking?
Do you have a dog?

The EnduranceLife Gower Marathon (Pt 1)

When people say they are put off joining a running club I find it such a shame.  Joining my running club was definitely one of the very best things I ever did, and it helped me to fall in love with running.
My running club are so supportive, helpful and friendly…and they hold a huge amount of social events and weekends away too!

I first went on the November Gower weekend away in 2014, although the yearly trip had already been running for a few years before I first joined in.  I ran my sixth marathon that weekend, – my first one on trail.

I headed back to run the marathon in 2015, although poor weather (horrific hill fog, hail and wind) meant that a large number of us were pulled from the course when it was deemed too unsafe to run along the edge of the cliffs for the final few miles of the race.

Last year Oscar was only a few weeks old, and although I obviously loved spending time as part of our new little family unit, I still really missed the yearly getaway with other runners from my club.

My name was one of the first on the list for Gower this year and, no longer tied down to term time hours through school, I was able to go for the full weekend this year for the first time.  Traveling down on the Friday morning, and returning at lunchtime on the Monday.  Oscar usually attends nursery on a Friday and I just added a one-off extra nursery day to his routine on the Monday for this week as well.

Once again, this year I entered the marathon distance.  In total for the weekend, there were two others from our club running the marathon, one running the ultra, thirteen running the half marathon, two running the 10k distance, two injured runners who had decided to support as they were no longer able to run and one runner’s Mum.
We had quite the crowd in our three large cottages for the weekend!

Oscar’s nursery had messaged me earlier in the week to say that for Children in Need they were going to host a breakfast for parents along with their children on the Friday morning, so I loaded up my car that morning with running gear as my tummy rumbled away.  Not having to feed either Oscar or myself was a big timesaver as I had spent all morning finishing off my packing, but I was HUNGRY by the time I arrived outside the nursery doors at 7:30am.  I passed several parents walking back out in the other direction as I arrived but thought nothing of it, assuming they had been unable to get an hour off from work for the charity event.  It wasn’t until I arrived inside and realised that there were no other parents in sight that I must have gotten the week wrong!  I hurriedly made an excuse about having not been able to give Oscar any breakfast that morning, so he still needed to be fed and rushed out to Tesco to pick something up for me!  Turns out the breakfast event is this Friday instead!

It did mean that I arrived at my friend Steph’s house (who I was giving a lift to) in plenty of time and we had set away long before 9:30am though.  When usually, I would most likely have been late!  😉

We had a fairly easy journey, and even passed a car containing three of our runners along the way (although they still managed to arrive before us!)

When we arrived at the cottages there was enough time to all hang out for a bit and grab a quick drink before walking the mile down to Rhossili for dinner at the pub.  Those who couldn’t take the day off work on the Friday joined us at the pub for food and drinks as soon as they arrived.

Alarms were set before bed and I woke feeling rather refreshed on Saturday morning at 6:30am, having slept right through the night.

I walked the mile to the Race HQ along with one of the other marathon runners, the ultra runner, and our support crew of two.  We made our way down the road with a slight wind behind us, occasionally glancing up at the steep hills around which we knew were part of the marathon route, arriving to a long queue of runners snaking out of the registration tent.  Spots of rain had begun and all we wanted to do was to huddle up in the tent until our race was due to begin!  Tom, our ultra runner was fast tracked through the queue, as the briefing for the ultra race was now imminent. When it was my turn to pass through the registration desk process it became apparent that the marshals were unable to locate my chip, so ended up changing my race number – crossing the number off my hand, and giving me a brand new race number with my details written on in marker pen.

Having declared how much I love the Clif bars to several others before the race, I managed to acquire three in total from friends which I then tucked away into my bag for the race! :)  Winning!

The ultra runners were late setting off meaning that us marathon runners were very late starting our race briefing.  The briefing then seemed to last forever.  I, along with a few others were getting rather agitated by the time the briefing had finished and the race director told us to congregate at the start line in about 5 minutes time.  (Why not head straight to the start now?  We were already 20 minutes past our start time!)

One of the marathon runners from our club was concerned about the cut off times on the course so, as we now had a further 5 minutes to wait for the start, she headed over to look at the course map to see if it would be possible to turn off at the half marathon marker point instead, and if so, at what point that fell on the course.  As we headed over, I heard another female runner in discussion with the RD over what time the cut off was. He was reminding her that we needed to arrive by 2:15pm – 5 hours 15 minutes – at mile 19.9 on the course.  I butted in and asked if the 2:15pm cut off would actually be extended to reflect the fact that we were now so late starting the race and was told that no, it wouldn’t.  That there would be plenty of time to cover the ground if we were to run all the flats and downhills on the course.  Knowing the course, and knowing how technical the downhills on the route are, I knew that having 4 hours and 45 minutes to get to 20 miles would actually be a tough ask for plenty more runners than just me.

EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017

I was a little antsy as I stood on the start line waiting for the start of the race, knowing that half an hour of my time to get to the one and only cut off point at mile 20 had already been taken up by the briefing.  To add to things, when I had turned my Garmin on during briefing, it had flashed ‘Low battery’ at me repeatedly, before turning off.  I decided to try and use the Strava app on my phone to record my run – something which I hadn’t done before.

EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017

We bottlenecked as we all left the field before heading down a little farm track.

The first year I had run the marathon course the start line had actually been located at Middleton, the village we stay in.  (The start was literally right opposite our cottages.  We rolled out of bed and headed over for our numbers still in our pyjamas that year!)  But since 2015 the course has started further up the road, meaning that the first sharp hill is now very early on in the course.  One of my strengths is uphills.  I have long legs and can use them to my advantage to power up past those runners around me.  Much harder when you are still surrounded by all the other runners though, and it was difficult to get into any real stride here.

It didn’t last forever though and we did space out a little after this.  With so few of us from my running club running the marathon this year, this would be the first year where I was running the course completely on my own (something which I usually prefer), and I was surprised that at no point during the 28 miles of the marathon was I ever not in sight of another runner.

Coming back down the other side of that first hill is rather tough.  The descent is steep, with rocks sticking out in random places and a stream usually pours out of the side of this hill, although I didn’t see any evidence of that this year.  I saw one woman whose dog was attached to her waist actually leave the ground and go slamming into the hillside as the dog took off at a faster pace than her legs could keep up.  She got up and released the dog before continuing.
It must be an amazing sight to see the serious front runners agilely run down this first hill.  Most of the runners around (me included) were cautiously picking their way down the less slippy parts and looking less than impressive!

You hit the first beach of three around mile 3.5.  I passed the other female marathon runner from our club just before arriving at the sand.  I hate running along the beach.  These beaches are wide enough that you have plenty of space to pick your running line – along the grassland at the top or down by the shore.  The sand was actually fairly firm mid-way along and so I stuck to this line, along with the majority of other runners.  The beaches on this course are my nemesis and the point at which I lost my running mates last time I ran the event.
The beach stretches out far into the distance.  My pace always begins to pick up automatically as it sees the longest flat piece of ground it has done for a while and I really struggle to either hold myself back, or be able to maintain the pace my body wants me to run at.

This year I decided that I wasn’t going to let the beaches defeat me, and I was actually going to maintain a steady pace across all three, which I did manage to do, passing several runners who had chosen to walk sections of the sand along the way.  Running events like these it becomes all about the mind games, and I won on this occasion!

After the beach there was another short climb and then we were out onto grassland again.

EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017

We ran for a little way along a boardwalk made up of short planks to act as a path for pedestrians cut into the sandy track.  We had been warned that it would be slippy here.  The track was fairly narrow and there were still lots of runners around at this point.  The wooden slats were pretty uneven and jutted up in several places.  I figured that as they were so uneven I wouldn’t be able to slip on them.
That was a mistake.  I slipped and went down hard onto my knee.  (My knee is sporting a fantastic dark-coloured bruise now.)  Both the guy in front of me and the one behind checked that I was OK before continuing after I went down.  I got up quickly and could feel the stiffness in my leg immediately, limping briefing for a few strides before it loosened up.

(I’ll get the rest of the race recap up later this week)

Have you fallen during a race before?
Do you prefer up or downhill running?

All over the UK

When I first fell pregnant last year Dan and I agreed that it was time we stopped travelling around the country to see friends and family.  Instead we decided that it was time they came to see us, or that we met in a mutual location, we saw them less often or all of the above.

We do feel really settled in our little town in Northamptonshire, but when Dan and I took the leap of moving in together we made the unwise decision to move halfway between both Dan’s family and mine so that one of us would never be a four hour journey from their friends and family.  All it actually means though is that we end up traveling ALL THE TIME!  Every time one of our nieces or nephew has a birthday, it requires four hours of driving.  Each time we fancy going out for coffee or a beer (or in my case a hot chocolate or wine) with our best friends it becomes a proper long trek, normally tied in with an overnight stay at parents’ houses, fitting in visits to as many people as practically possible during the time that we are back.  The task is made much more difficult now that Oscar is on the scene too.

Of course we have both made fantastic friends in our new area, having lived here for nearly seven years, but that has added to our growing list of commitments!

Over the past two weeks we have attended a wedding in Birmingham, been to celebrate a friend’s son’s first birthday party in Norwich and then headed to Huddersfield for another friend’s son’s first birthday party…

Sarah and Treble's wedding - Oscar in braces(The Pearsons looking all smart for our first wedding of 2017)

Dinosaur cake for Charles' birthday at the Dinosaur Park

(Check out that cake for a first birthday bash held at the Dinosaur Park in Norwich!)

…In our house we’ve managed to touch up final coats of paint on ceilings, doors, architrave and walls, and move furniture to have the carpet laid upstairs.  (Finally.  No more floorboards!)… Oscar's nursery bedroom(Oscar’s nursery when we first moved in)Oscar's nursery bedroom(And Oscar’s nursery now!)

…We’ve bought a new sofa and armchair set for our lounge and we’re about to take up the carpet in our lounge/diner to reveal the parquet floor underneath.  (Please let there be nothing wrong with it.  I want this house to be DONE!)… Angelic sofa from Dfs(Angelic sofa from Dfs)

…Dan and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary on the 9th August.  I bought Dan a new leather wallet and he gave me a gorgeous leather-bound notebook for my writing.  We stayed at Rutland Water for a night the following week with Oscar, who we took on a walk to Bugtopia the following day.Leather bound notebook for our third anniversary(It’s so lovely I’m not sure I want to spoil it with my handwriting!)

…Oscar also managed to knock my phone off the bed a fortnight ago and I have been phoneless ever since.  It has been sent off for repair, but I’m not sure how much longer I will be without, especially as it has been away during the Bank Holiday weekend.

The first time my phone failed to turn on I shrugged it off and was like ‘Meh.  I’m due an upgrade in November.  I can last until then.’  But actually there’s been several times I’ve wanted to take pictures and not been able to, I’ve fallen madly behind with my emails again and I haven’t read any blogs for days.  I could really have done with my phone over the weekend when Dan and I spent eleven hours in a car over three days attending childrens’ birthday parties!
I hope I get it back soon.

Our home computer is all in pieces at the moment as well, as we moved everything out of our office so that the carpet could go down and I’m waiting for Dan to put up our new desk before constructing the computer again.  I’ve still been out running, but the computer isn’t there for me to sync the runs from my Garmin to Strava at the moment.  I’ll have to do a big batch of them all next week.  Then I can add stats to a post about my snail-killer run, my all-the-paths-with-streetlights run and the run where I ran the same one mile loop on repeat for an hour.

Can you tell I’m about done of lonesome night-time running?!

How long could you survive for without a phone?!
Have you had a busy Summer?
When was the last time you bought new furniture for your house?

Ugh, a new PB and cake

dsfI’m pretty sure that the three of us came away with food poisoning last weekend. We’d taken Oscar out to a large indoor play area on Sunday afternoon. He was having so much fun, and we were having so much fun watching him enjoy himself that we completely didn’t realise how quickly the afternoon had flown by until Oscar started to whine that he was hungry, and we realised restaurant feeding options were minimal in the area.
It was a quick trip to the nearest one we could find, where Oscar sleepily, but thoroughly enjoyed chicken skewers with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob. Dan also went for chicken, and I demolished a mushroom burger.
Oscar with cornBecause Oscar was so tired he left quite a bit of his meal, which is unheard of for him, so we got it boxed up to take home for his lunch the following day.

The next morning, Dan groggily appeared downstairs for breakfast. By that point Oscar had already been through two nappies, and was about to fill his third. Dan managed to force some cereal down but Oscar just moved his breakfast around his tray looking rather sorry for himself.
Fast forward to lunch and, having not yet sussed out the link between the meal from the previous night and our poorly household, I pulled out the remainder of Oscar’s meal for him to have for lunch. When he once again, did not seem too fussed about eating any of it, I placed it onto my plate instead. Sweet potato fries are my favourite!

Ugh.

They are not my favourite any more. And neither is chicken.  :(

I spent the start of last week feeling rough, with a painful crampy stomach and zero energy. I sensibly decided to take a few days off from running until I fully recovered.  It was frustrating not getting out to run during the first week of the Summer holidays, but I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to hit any of my training paces, and would feel rubbish for attempting to do so in the first place.

The Thursday before had been our club’s annual Pre-Welly 5 BBQ run.  Always held 10 days before our club 5 mile road race, the idea is to check over the course, practice our marshaling and to give everybody a chance to run the event who might not be able to on the day if they were marshaling instead.

After a couple of rubbish BBQ runs in previous years I had a great run last year and set a new 5 mile PB of 45:55.  Although it’s not an official race – but instead more of a social event for our club, it is run on the race route, so I’m counting it as a PB!

Having run really strongly since starting my training using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, and having already achieved PBs in 6 mile and 10k events over recent weeks, I was hoping for another PB this year.

It didn’t start well when I arrived feeling knackered and hungry though.  I instantly had doubts for the run and began to talk myself out of it.

When we first set off I looked around and instantly felt like I had placed myself way too far forward, with runners usually much faster than me.  But my heart rate monitor told me that I could run faster, so I carried on.

Pre Welly 5 BBQ run

I chatted to a couple of people early on in the first mile.  Again, projecting my doubts about a decent time to them.  Kev came alongside me and commented on how well I had been running just lately.  I told him that I was hoping for a good time again that day – perhaps something around 9 minute mile pace.  I could see him trying to work out the math!  We spent several minutes talking before he nipped into a bush following the pre-run pint of Guinness he’d enjoyed in the bar before setting off!

I had sat behind the same people for the whole run until we hit the slight hill at mile 3.5.  Here, still feeling strong, I managed to gradually pull past other runners one by one.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold a full on conversation any more, and this ended up being my slowest mile at 9:07.  (So happy that I can say a mile at this pace was my slowest mile now!)

In fact, I ran really consistently for the whole run.  My mile splits were 9:01, 9:06, 8:49, 9:07, 8:50 and then 7:20mm pace for the final 0.09 recorded on my Garmin.

I overtook a couple more runners who I never would have been able to overtake normally in the final mile and then opened up my stride to power through to the finish.  As I headed towards the finish line I struggled to remember my exact PB time, but knew I was in with a shot of hitting it, and so commented to the Group 4 running coach as I came alongside him, who then insisted we run through the finish holding hands.

Pre Welly 5 finish line pic

Watch stopped, 45:33.  A full 24 seconds faster than my previous best!

Despite not really looking it in this pic, I was completely comfortable and was barely breathing heavily at all, able to chat and laugh with other runners whilst heading down the finishing chute.  I guess this picture must have been taken literally as I pulled back from a run to a walk.  You can see the official finish line drawn on the floor just behind me.

Although initially disappointed that I didn’t come very close to 45 minutes, having set myself a rough target of 9 minute miling, I soon cheered up when I checked my watch to discover that with the slight over-distance run I had actually ran an average of 8:57 minute miling!  Hanson’s is definitely doing me some good!

For the first time since the BBQ run has been taking place, we didn’t actually have any BBQs.  Instead, a pizza van.  So I waited in line for my turn to demolish a hot, veggie pizza and sit nursing a drink at the bar.  Very satisfying mid-week and with just one day left of the school term.

So that was last week – poorly sick following a good 5 mile race.  This weekend was a little different again.

I started off this weekend by running Kettering parkrun with Laura whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy.

Kettering parkrun start(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

This was parkrun #87 for me and I completed it in 34:25.  I should really count the amount of parkruns Oscar has been to.  He must be coming up to 20 now?
{Position: 196/255 Gender position: 67/108 Age category position: 10/12 }

Kettering parkrun midrun

(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

Having come right from the very back of the run and Kettering being a very difficult course to overtake with a buggy, I’m fine with that.  Oscar stayed wide awake for the whole run, gripping onto his Sophie giraffe toy.  Good job, because I didn’t really want to have to keep stopping to pick her up along the way!

I’m hoping that at some point during August I will be able to run a parkrun hard and see what time I am currently capable of.  It’s been a while since I raced a parkrun and I’d like to think I’m a little quicker now.

In the afternoon I headed over to The Garden Deli with Laura and Steph for cake and a catch up.  The cake there is a good.  I went for this lemon and ginger sponge.  I don’t even really like lemon flavoured things.  I can’t stand it when bartenders add a lemon slice in your drink when you go out, but this looked too good not to try.

Lemon and ginger sponge cake

The drinks are also amazing!  I went for a strawberry and vanilla fruit crush and was not disappointed!

Strawberry and vanilla fruit crush

Then yesterday was the actual Wellingborough 5 race.

For the last few years my role at the race has been to direct cars down the driveway and onto the car park before the race begins.  I then take photos of the runners along the first 100 metres of the race, again in the final 200m as well as ensure runners turn safely into the final section along the field at the very end of the race.  There were a couple of other marshals with me at the end this year, which meant that I could take pictures without worrying about where runners were headed.

I love taking photos of the event.

Last year a runner suffered a cardiac arrest during the race and was air lifted to hospital, so it was a sigh of relief when all runners were back safe and sound this year.  The club invited Tom, the runner who had been hospitalised following the race last year to our BBQ run the other week, and he finished at a run/walk along with his wife and one of our members who happened to be a doctor who had stopped and helped him on the day.  He finally got the chance to finish the race route!

Wellingborough 5 trophies

This year I also took pictures of all of the prize winners.  Prize giving always seems to go on for ages.  I couldn’t even dream of ever being good enough to receive a prize at a race.

Welly 5 winnersHow did you spend your weekend?