September – what a month

I always knew that September would be a tough month.  That basically I would have to just put my head down, keep fighting until the very end and then hopefully emerge from the other side still kicking.

Having given my notice to finish teaching at the end of the Summer, I was offered a further month of work with a bonus to help ease the transition for new members of staff within the department.  With a finish date of four weeks, after having just had the six weeks of Summer off, I decided to go ahead and accept the proposal.  The extra money I was being offered would be nice in the build up to Christmas if nothing else!

I knew it would be tougher than when I had originally returned to work back in May.  A May timetable with no year 11 or 13 and countless trips across other year groups is very different to a September timetable, when new courses are starting up and resources need creating or adapting to suit different classes.  My September timetable contained six year 11 classes and a year 10 class, amongst others, so I would also spend lunchtimes holding coursework catchup sessions for those GCSE students.

Not only would my workload be higher, but my personal life at the weekends was also looking rather full during September.  For each of the weekends my calendar was pretty jam-packed full of activities.

Week 1: Marshaling at Go Beyond Northampton Half Marathon
Week 2: At a friend’s wedding
Week 3: Round Norfolk Relay
Week 4: Ealing half marathon
Week 5: Oscar’s birthday party/christening

There wouldn’t be a lot of time for sleep, running or baby cuddles.  With my Mum very poorly I also wanted to try and fit in as many visits back to Norfolk as was practical.
As a new ambassador for Decathlon I was also really looking forward to the Decathlon blogger meet up at the end of the month, although was concerned that I would be burnt out by that point and unable to fully enjoy the activities that had been planned for us all.

As it turned out though, things didn’t really go quite to plan for September.  I had severe back pain from the second week of the month, managing to run the Round Norfolk Relay only having dosed myself up with double-strength Ibuprofen first, and then unable to run any further miles in September.  The day after the Round Norfolk Relay, my Mum was once again admitted into hospital with a serious infection and so many trips were made over to Norwich hospital for visits during the week, as well as twice-daily phone calls to help support my Dad.  Following one weekend visit and eating in the questionable hospital canteen I ended up throwing up over and over.  My Dad was also left feeling poorly that evening.  I made the difficult decision to pull from Ealing Half Marathon – I hadn’t been able to walk with a straight back for ten days by that point and also I felt it was more important to be with my family in Norfolk.

By the time I began the final week of my contract, I was really struggling.  By Wednesday lunch time my face was hot to touch – burning up, whilst my coat-clad body shivered uncontrollably from the cold.  At 3pm that day I made the decision to head for home, leaving my half-finished marking laid out on the shared office desk with a post-it note stuck to the top reading “Really sorry, – feeling totally pants this afternoon.  Will clear in the morning.”

Oscar's first birthday

That Wednesday was Oscar’s birthday, only I never saw him that day as I rang to cancel my physio appointment on the way home, before curling up into a little ball in my bed, texting Dan to ask if he would be able to pick Oscar up from nursery on his way home from work later that night instead.

The following day I couldn’t even get out of bed, and napped on and off all day, feeling very sorry for myself.  I left emailing Decathlon until the very last minute to say that I wouldn’t be able to make it that evening, just in case I perked up a little and was able to still attend.  I so wanted to attend.  I knew deep down that I would be too poorly to go though, and even if I did manage to sit through the train journey down, I would not be well enough to enjoy the activities they had planned for us once down there.

Friday, my last day at school and I was still too poorly to attend.  What a funny end to my time at the school.  I’ve been in this week to clear my desk and tidy up a few loose ends, but the end of my time there wasn’t how I imagined it to be at all.Oscar's first birthdayThe Saturday was spent opening up Oscar’s birthday presents and last minute cleaning and tidying ready for Oscar’s guests the following day.  I managed to get through the weekend somehow, although I still don’t feel 100%.

…But we did make it through the other side.

Our life will be better now.  That hard work was worthwhile, as it has put a nice pot of money into our bank which we can fall back on if necessary and I’ve been told any future reference requests will be glowing following the work I put into my role.  I’m very glad that my time in school is over now though.  Despite working full pelt, I never felt like I was totally doing my best job of being a Mum or my best job of being a teacher or a daughter or wife.  I always just felt like I was getting by – existing and doing my best to not sink in the madness that was going on around me.  The last fortnight of the month contained several days where I managed only to grab something from the petrol station for lunch, and skipped tea altogether as I knew Oscar was being looked after at nursery for food and I really needed to get on with work.

This is the start of our new chapter now.  One hopefully filled with healthy living, three meals a day, a tidy house, family fun, lots of running, a return to blogging, and a better work-life balance for us all.  I struggle with that work-life balance, as I know many do.  But at the end of the day, life is short.  {How is Oscar one year old already?!}  I don’t want to look back and feel like I missed out because I was too busy working or wishing Oscar would go to sleep so that I could get some marking done.

Now to see how the next chapter of our life turns out…

Busy parkruns

I finally feel like I’ve started to regain my fitness levels following the really bad batch of flu I had mid-February.  As someone that rarely gets sick and is used to powering through when beginning to feel a little run down, it was such a surreal situation for me to have to call in sick to work for two days in a row.  In fact I had lost my voice almost completely and had been up half of the Sunday night so when I called in to work on the Monday morning somewhere around 5-6am in the morning I struggled to croak out to the school answer phone that it was ‘Mary Moore’ and that I wouldn’t be in that day but would email across cover for my lessons now.  I was finding it really difficult to get much sound out and it wasn’t until I was about to end the phone call that I realised in my ill and half-with-it state that I had given my maiden name instead of my married name, despite having been married for eighteen months now.  When I headed back into work on the Wednesday the cover office told me that they had barely been able to make out my voicemail message but had heard the name at the start so sent cover for a teacher called Miss Moore  (in a different department) instead!  Whoops!

Anyway, despite having been back for three full weeks now my energy levels have struggled to return and I was left feeing pretty run down.  My cough was so bad for the first fortnight that the one or two runs I did head out on were followed by severe coughing fits so bad that I had to head straight to bed on my return home as I gave myself such a bad headache from coughing.  There have been several nights when I’ve been in bed by 9-9:30pm and my usual 4:15am alarm has been swapped to 5:30am so all school work has been completed in the evening instead of some getting crossed off before school begins.  I haven’t had the energy to fit in many runs or felt creative enough to get much writing in either and I’ve struggled to concentrate to read much online at all.  :(

Like I said though, I’m finally beginning to feel more on top of things again.  It has been nice to tick off a few more parkruns over the past couple of weeks and not have the pressure of time at them, knowing that I wasn’t 100%.

Last week I decided to head to Peterborough parkrun for a change.  I needed to nip into Peterborough to see a friend whose birthday it had been during the week and really didn’t fancy a third week in a row of getting stuck in roadworks on the way to the Northampton parkrun.

It’s been a while since I have been to the Peterborough parkrun and for the first time they were operating a new charge to park at Ferry Meadows – the parkrun venue.  The parkrun team had done a good job of negotiating a discount for parkrunners with the car park team but it was still a bit off-putting to have to pay for parking at a parkrun, although I can understand why it is necessary in some places.  Still, I would prefer if the money, or some of the money went to maintaining parkrun.  The Race Director made sure to explain how runners could access the discounted prices by entering a parkrun discount code when paying for the parking at the end of the run and it ended up costing runners just £1 to park in the car park that day.

We headed down to the start of the run on time and I moved myself closer to the back than I would normally place myself, aware that having been ill for so long my times would not be up to my usual standard.  When we began though it actually took 22 seconds for me to cross the start line!  Even after I crossed the line the route was so tightly packed of runners that I struggled to get past anyone or extend my usually quite long stride.

It took until my second lap of the park before I felt I could really stretch my legs out a little.

Peterborough parkrunAnd even then it was still fairly crowded.  The second lap went by marginally faster, probably because I wasn’t having to force such a choppy stride and dodge in and out of other runners as much as I had been.

When I headed up the slight incline that leads through to the finish funnel I decided to push it a bit and gave a sprint finish, but my lungs, head and chest regretted it as soon as I crossed the line.  The hard finish caused me to cough violently making both my head and chest pound for several minutes before calming down.Peterborough parkrun finish

Annoyingly, when I checked my watch I hadn’t even hit the 30 minute mark, finishing slightly over.

Garmin time: 30:12 (over 3.22m)
Official time: 30:15
Position: 257/426
Gender position: 72/189
Age category position: 13/29

There were 426 runners at Peterborough parkrun last week which I thought was quite a lot, but as I was listing all the parkrun results on my running club website on Monday afternoon I checked how many had run at Bushy parkrun, as one of our runners had made his way there for a bit of tourism. – 1060 runners!  That is insane.  Apparently the highest number of runners they have ever had is 1705!

I have felt rather envious of everyone out completing their 20 milers over the past couple of weeks but my body won’t be ready for a marathon this Spring now.  I did spend a spare twenty minutes earlier in the week logging all of my marathon and ultras to date onto the 100 Marathon Club application form ready for the day (way in the future!) when I apply though!

100 Marathon Club

What is the longest distance you are running at the moment?
How far has being ill put your training back in the past?

Can females get man flu?

…If so I definitely had it this week.

It started last Friday afternoon with a really annoying cough.  No matter how much I coughed, I could still feel something in my throat, like there was something permanently lodged in there.  I headed out on a seven mile trail run with a friend in the evening, returning to a slow cooker casserole I’d popped in earlier in the day.  The run was fine, but I couldn’t finish my meal at the table and had to keep taking breaks in between mouthfuls whilst lying down on the sofa.  Not the best of signs for a good weekend ahead, and we were due to head up North to Huddersfield to visit our friends Stew and Julie the following morning.

Upon waking on Saturday morning, the cough seemed to have worsened, so I forwent the easy run I had planned before leaving for our trip.  Dan offered to drive the three hour journey, and I took a couple of little snoozes in the passenger seat on the way up there.  (Life is great as passenger!)

The boys had planned to head off to watch the footy (Wolves were playing in Huddersfield last Saturday – the real reason we took our long-overdue trip last weekend!) and so Julie and I headed in to town to paint some pottery, a recent addiction Julie confessed to having!

Initially we had planned to head outdoors to a local nature walk place with our cameras, but as the weather was so poor (it literally rained for our entire visit!) an inside plan was made instead.  I wasn’t prepared with an idea for painting, but luckily I could get some signal on my phone in the pottery shop, and turned to Pinterest for some inspiration, settling on painting a watermelon bowl for my breakfasts.

Painted watermelon pottery bowlAs Julie pointed out, I was all set then for future visits with an orange, kiwi, and every other type of fruit bowl still to be painted!

Painted watermelon pottery bowl

We headed out for dinner to a Mediterranean restaurant in the evening.  It’s the first time I’ve been able to eat three courses in a very long while.  We all left feeling absolutely stuffed though, and I took no photos of the delicious food.  :(  Bad blogger!

When I woke up on Sunday I was no longer able to talk.  I’d lost my voice completely.  :(  It came back in patches throughout the day though.  Julie already had plans for the day, so Stew had planned a surprise activity for Dan and I, the only clue being that he ‘hoped we weren’t claustrophobic’!  Luckily, neither of us were, and we were perfectly comfortable travelling down into one of the local mines in the area.  I’m not sure I would have felt quite so comfortable had the activity been crawling through caves though!

Dan and I didn’t arrive back to Northamptonshire until late so arranged for a takeaway to be delivered upon our arrival just after 7pm.  Once again though, I had to take small breaks between mouthfuls whilst lying on the sofa.  My energy was wiped and my cough was getting worse.  I dipped in and out of schoolwork whilst lying on the sofa, finally waking at 6am on Monday morning (still on the sofa!) once again with no voice, and feeling absolutely awful.  I didn’t go into work and the day was spent dozing in-between episodes of Dexter on Netflix.  I was in a vicious cycle of not having enough energy to head to the kitchen and prepare any food, but food might have given me the energy boost which I needed to get by.

I was feeling marginally better by Tuesday, so made the decision to head back into school on Wednesday.  I was incredibly weak though, and could not stand for very long at all.  I only went back purely to try and build some strength up for parent’s evening the following night, where I was in school from 7am until nearly 8pm!

I was very lucky as Bella has looked after me during the days this week, and Dan the nights.  Bella didn’t leave my side and kept me entertained with a variety of random positions!

Bella asleep on Dan's lapBella asleep on Dan's lap

I didn’t get any runs in though and eating was a selection of oven-food which Dan threw together for us after work each evening.  I managed to knock back quite a few cartons of orange juice for a Vitamin C hit though.  I’m still not 100%, but I did manage to slot in a parkrun yesterday and a very short, easy run this afternoon.  Being ill all week had really taken it out of me though and even though both runs were incredibly short, I was ready for them to be over by the time I arrived back home again.

My running just isn’t going to plan so far this year!

When was the last time you had ‘man flu’?!
What do you do to try and aid recovery when you are sick?

Festive running and eating

I’ll start off with the festive running.

Every Christmas, our running club holds it’s annual Christmas Eve Run at our local park.  We all meet up sporting an array of Christmas-themed hats and tinsel by 9:30am, run in small groups for up to an hour before returning to the park cafe where the club pays for a bacon/sausage/veggie roll and hot chocolate/tea/coffee for each member as a Christmas gift.

Christmas Eve club runI’m second from left in blue doing my hair…always seems to be the case in group photos lately!

I thought I was going to have to miss it to be honest.  I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling rubbish – typical sore throat, cold, bad headache, feeling sick…I really didn’t want to eat anything and when I woke up several times through the night unable to breath and coughing so hard I thought I was going to be sick, I genuinely didn’t think I would be able to make the run the following morning.
When I woke though I felt a little better, so ‘manned up’ and headed out before I could change my mind.  Glad I did obviously!

For the social runs like this, we don’t split into formal groups, but instead run with who we choose.  As per the last couple of years I opted for Kev’s ‘Mud and Mayhem’ tour of the park.  And there was very definitely mud!!!

Mud and mayhem on the Christmas Eve run - Tom and MeAs always, I got picked on by the boys.  I made sure to give as good as I got though!

There was also a bit of mayhem…

Mud and mayhem on the Christmas Eve run - hills

…those hills were pretty steep!

Gutted to find that all sausage baps had been eaten by the time we returned.  I don’t like bacon, so opted for veggie sausage instead and to be honest, couldn’t taste the difference.Mud and mayhem on the Christmas Eve runThe next issue was that I had to convince my friend Hayley to let me get in her car, as she’d given me a lift to the park.  Another runner took pity on me and we were lent some old blankets so I sat on those – problem solved!

I think we only ran about 2.5 miles in total but they were a fun and chatty 2.5 miles.

After the run and a (very muddy) bath Dan and I packed up the car and headed to my parents’ for the evening.  I felt a little like Santa once we’d loaded the boot of our car up!

Christmas presents in the boot of the car

Christmas morning and I woke up a very reluctant Dan to head to Sheringham parkrun.  As soon as we arrived he began whinging about the cold and how early it was.  I made the decision there and then not to run with him and avoid hearing about it for another 3.1 miles!  Haha!  Only joking – we decided on the way down to run our own races.  Despite still feeling nowhere near 100% I know my running has gotten stronger just lately and was hoping to beat my time from the last time I had run Sheringham parkrun back in September (31:44).  The course is a tough one and includes a lot of hills, with a killer hill 300 metres from the finish (the parkrun director is mean!)

Neither of us had spare parkrun barcodes with us so we printed them off in the morning on my Dad’s printer.  I was happy to see that the barcodes now include an in-case of emergency number on.  Very handy in case something does go wrong, as a parkrunner will always be carrying their barcode on their run.

parkrun ICE number

There was a fantastic turnout of 99 runners on Christmas morning and a lot of friendly banter and Merry Christmas wishes from all.  Hopefully I can make Christmas morning parkrun a tradition for future years…?

There is a five minute walk from the meeting point to the start line and we were set off pretty much as soon as we arrived.  The wind was very strong and it was rather chilly out.  I overtook quite a lot of people early on – the start of the course is filled with lovely downhills and uphills you barely notice.  Then it gets tougher as you turn into the wood and a few more hills pop up!  The first mile was easy and enjoyable – I completed it in just under 9minutes.  The plan had always been to positive split the run – I think it would be hard not to on a course like this with downhills at the beginning and steep hills at the end!

I did allow myself to walk up two of the bigger hills towards the end.  I was never intending on ‘racing’ it as such – so chatted to other runners around me at this point and regained my breath from all the coughing!

I was happy to see a 29:xx on the watch as I came up Heartbreak Hill at the finish though and sprinted through the funnel to grab a 30:38 finish.Sheringham parkrun timeTaking over a minute off from September, on a tough course and when I was ill.  I’ll take that!  My PB on the Sheringham course is 29:40 and that was when I was in under 27minute shape on a flat course, so there is about a 3 minute difference due to the terrain.

Dan came in at 33:45 – happy to have run a consistent race and all the way up Heartbreak Hill as well!

Then it was home and time for power washing the cars before lunch.  Not a Christmas tradition, but it might well become one.  My car looks so much better for it.

As usual, (and along with almost every other family I am sure) there was a lot of food to be had at Christmas!  There were six of us round the table – my parents, brother, Dan and my Great Aunt Mary.  I’m sure my parents still cooked as though there were the 10+ family members we used to have for dinner when we were younger though.

Mark and Mum at ChristmasWhen I was younger I hated Christmas food.  I don’t still don’t like mince pies, Christmas cake or Christmas pudding but at least I like the main course now.  For years I used to eat one chipolata sausage, a spoonful of sweetcorn and a raw carrot my Mum would save me!  This year my plate looked a lot fuller…

Christmas dinnerIt’s tradition in our family that no presents are opened until the afternoon when all washing up has been done and the Queen’s speech is over and then presents are dished out from under the tree.  I’ll write a separate post about gifts later on in the week, as this post is already pretty long, and about the food and running!

For tea it’s always been an afternoon tea – style tea for as long as I can remember.  And as much as I used to dislike Christmas dinner, I love Christmas tea.

Christmas teaChristmas tea roll

And of course all the desserts.  There was actually enough for one each this year – had we decided to thoroughly pig out!

Christmas cake made by Mum…

Christmas cakeBlack forest gateaux made by Aunt Mary…Black forest gateuxChocolate and vanilla sponge made by Dad…Christmas sponge cake Cranberry cheesecake made by Mum…Christmas cranberry cheesecake Jam tart also made by Mum…Jam tartThere was rumours of a chocolate Christmas log as well, although we really didn’t need it.  There was more than enough food for everyone and Dan and I have brought back a tin of food for our meals back at home today!

How was your Christmas?
Did you get any runs/workouts in?
What was the Christmas food like in your house?