The buggy has arrived!

The running buggy arriving has been a complete game changer for me.  No more having to get up at 4:15am to fit runs in, or running solo in the dark from home during time that I should actually be spending with my family.

Having a running buggy and Oscar now being big enough and sturdy enough to fit and come out for a run with me is fantastic.  It means I can get my runs in during daylight hours (although that wouldn’t have been an issue for too much longer now that the evenings are getting lighter anyway) and combine my daily outside time with Oscar along with my runs.  Does it bother me that I’m not able to run at my regular training paces?  Not really.  I’m pretty sure that running up hills and off-road whilst pushing a buggy and a 15 pound baby will see an improved pace for me on days that I don’t run with it!

Oscar in the running buggy

I will get round to writing a proper post about the buggy and how I’m getting on with at some point.  I’ve kind of become a once-a-week blogger over the past couple of months as I’ve struggled to find the time during the week to sit down and write.  Dan and I are trialing something slightly different with Oscar’s bedtime at the moment though and the past few nights have seen us baby-free from 8:30pm rather than our usual 11pm (or even later!) so fingers crossed for some more free time heading my way over the coming weeks!

Oscar’s new buggy was ordered on the Saturday, arrived on the Tuesday and immediately unboxed and put together!

I headed out on a test run with it the following afternoon and Oscar slept through almost the entire run.  This was a good job as it allowed me to practice running whilst pushing without the extra worry of him no longer being able to see me when heading out.  I probably should have practiced heading out with him facing away from me in his regular buggy first, but it didn’t seem to faze him too much.

Thursdays and Fridays I spend in Norfolk at my parents’ so the next time I ran with the buggy was when I went to Northampton parkrun at the weekend.  As the park has been so crowded during recent weeks I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to navigate the paths whilst pushing a buggy.  During my test run on the Wednesday I had repeatedly stopped to alter features of the buggy, check on Oscar and even picked up Dan’s lunch for the following day from the Co-op on the way back home again!  Ignoring my stops I ran somewhere in the region of an 11 minute mile pace and running with the buggy was much, much easier than I had anticipated it would be.

I ran with Laura at parkrun again and the aim was just to keep running and chatting as I went round.  This I did!

I still need to learn the boundaries of the buggy.  A couple of times Laura pointed out that the buggy wheels were very close to the runner in front!  I hate getting stuck behind another runner when I’m running on my own and am dreadful at clipping the heels of other runners with my own feet.  It’s going to be 1000 times worse now that I’ve also got to maneuver the buggy!

Garmin time: 32:41
Official time: 32:41
Position: 402/547
Gender position: 122/221
Age category position: 19/34

I didn’t expect to finish in 32 minutes, and feel that if there had been clear pathways and I hadn’t been chatting as much as I was, I probably could have finished around the 30-31 minute mark instead.  I hadn’t really thought properly beforehand about the sort of finishing time I would come in at, but thinking about it now, I would have assumed I would be closer to 35 minutes whilst pushing the buggy.  Apparently not the case!

Northampton parkrun is having a real problem with parking at the moment.  With nearly 550 runners descending on it each week and somewhere in the region of 40-50 car parking spaces, which now also have to be shared with Saturday morning footballers, there isn’t a hope of me parking on the car park unless I leave before 8am.  I have friends that live in Northampton who leave at that time to get a space!  This week there was added drama when a van with a flat tyre was blocking several spaces in the already small car park.  Lindsay, among others ended up helping to push the van across the car park so that cars were still able to park.  Nightmare!

Van blocking the car parking spaces at Northampton parkrun(Lindsay’s pic)

Oscar got to have another ride in the buggy that afternoon when Laura offered to take him so that Dan and I were able to head over to Harlestone Firs and have our photograph taken.

A while back I saw a competition on Facebook for a ‘Day in the Life’ free photoshoot.  Maxine, from Do You Realise? photography had some new photography gear and wanted to update her portfolio so was offering a session where she would follow your family for the day and take shots of all the little things you took for granted but had never thought to capture.  I loved the concept, but I didn’t win that competition.  Rather luckily, Dan said, as it would have meant an incredibly quick tidy and finish up of our ongoing building site!  I followed the Do You Realise? Facebook page and when another competition came up for a couple photoshoot, I entered that too.  This time, winning!

Do You Realise photography couple shoot at Harlestone FirsMaxine was fab.  Really friendly and down to earth and made us feel super relaxed.  It was literally just like we had headed out on a walk through the woods with friends.  Although we had professional photos taken for our wedding back in 2014 I’m not really a big fan of any of the photos of just Dan and Me.  I love the day shots and the shots of our guests, and the photos of us with our guests.  The photos of just us were just too posed and felt awkward though.  Something I never felt when out in the woods on Saturday.  This is the only photo I’ve seen of the shoot so far, but I am confident that the rest will be just as fab!

Are there any parking problems at your parkrun?
Have you ever had professional photos taken before?

Three events in one weekend

This weekend was a busy one. For the first time since the start of the year I didn’t spend my Thursday and Friday in Norfolk with Oscar at my parents’ house. Instead, Dan joined Oscar and I for Saturday and Sunday so that we could celebrate my Mum’s 70th birthday back in Norfolk with my family.
We met up with my Mum, along with my Dad and brother at Saturday lunchtime for a lovely meal at The Hare Arms in Stow Bardolph.

I had a gorgeous vegetarian halloumi burger with fudge cake for dessert.

Halloumi burger from The Hare Arms(Best picture I could manage whilst trying to stop a five month old pulling the lettuce from my burger bun!)

The pub part of the building was fairly busy, but we were placed in the back room with just one other young family. It had a more restauranty feel in this room and Oscar really found his voice chatting and squealing with his Nanny, Grandad and Uncle Mark. There were several peacocks in the grounds of the pub and Oscar enjoyed watching them shake their feathers through the giant windows on either side of the room we were in.

Before we headed over for the meal on Saturday lunchtime I made it over to the Racecourse in Northampton for my 74th parkrun. My friend Lindsay had a baby last July. I’d helped her get into running a couple of years ago and it was great to see her progress from somebody who struggled to get round the 5k at all, to somebody who ran 10k non-stop and who achieved her first sub 30 minute 5k parkrun! She had initially been signed up to run the Milton Keynes half marathon last Autumn before finding out that she was pregnant and deciding not to continue her training through her pregnancy. Since Stanley has arrived though she has once again begun the couch to 5k program and has begun to fit in jogging with him in a buggy on the school run now that he is a little older.
So when Lindsay said that she was able to make parkrun at the weekend I offered to run with her. Initially she told me she aimed to achieve a sub 38 minute parkrun, but when I arrived she had changed her mind and said that she would be happy with anything under 40 minutes.

She smashed that time goal. AND she chatted the whole way round, so I know she’s capable of much more now!
I knew that we would roughly have to stick to 12ish minute miles to achieve Lindsay’s initial goal of under 38 minutes, and was prepared for her to walk large sections of the course, but she didn’t take a walk break until we came to the hill for the second time (at 2.2 miles) and only took three small walk breaks in total, with her pacing staying so consistent!
Mile 1: 10:51
Mile 2: 10:43
Mile 3: 10:54
Nubbin: 9:54 pace
She was pretty chuffed to finish with an official time of 33:25!  (And rightly so!)  You can read her recap on her blog.

Garmin time: 33:37
Official time: 33:30
Position: 408/542 (Just seven short of the attendance record and Northampton had problems with lots of people ducking out before the finish this week, so I’m sure they would have smashed it otherwise!)
Gender position: 134/228
Age category position: 19/29

Busy at Northampton parkrunThis is me trying to show how busy it was at parkrun, but it’s not a very good shot.  It was pretty rammed out there again this week though!

I had planned on going fairly easy at the parkrun so that I could run the Magic Mile afterwards. One of my aims this year is to run Magic Mile on the first Saturday of each month as often as possible so that I can see how my speed returns post pregnancy. I ran my first MM back in December, and annoyingly had to miss February’s event as Dan and I were away, so this was the third time of running it.
December (Month 1): 8:57
January (Month 2): 8:26
March (Month 3): 8:09

48 seconds off my mile time over three months! :)

Unfortunately there were a few problems with the timing at the event this month – I believe somebody called through to the timer’s phone mid-run! So we had to submit any Garmin times we had along with our names and positions at the finish. I submitted 8:09 before remembering that I had fumbled with my watch and not been able to stop it immediately after crossing the line, so I was probably a few seconds faster than that in reality.
It was a little frustrating as I had secretly hoped that my mile time would start with a 7, but it wasn’t meant to be obviously! Although I was so close. Fingers crossed for a 7:xx time in April!
There was still the tree across the path from Storm Doris which we had to avoid (although the majority of the smaller branches had been removed since the previous week by this point). My Garmin actually reads that I ran 1.03 miles (every 0.01 of a mile counts on a mile distance!) at an average pace of 7:55, so according to my Garmin I ran a sub 8 minute mile! :)
It’s weird, because you expect running fast to hurt but in actual fact I found it very easy to distract myself for those eight minutes and just concentrate on continuing to turn my legs over as fast as I could. It never actually ‘hurt’ as such and I felt that my legs were going at their top speed on the day which was rather satisfying!

I was exhausted on Saturday evening and left Oscar with Dan to put to bed after he had finishing watching Match of the Day.  Oscar had other ideas though.  Having been rather excited at seeing family all day, he was now overtired and not ready for bed!  I took over from Dan and got him down a little after midnight, before being woken not long after 4am the following morning!  Luckily, my Dad was up and offered to take over from me.  I gratefully accepted the offer and quickly headed back to bed for another hour or so before he could change his mind!

Dad and OscarDad apparently introduced Oscar to Peppa Pig and when I came down for the second time that morning they were both drifting in and out of sleep on the chair in the lounge!

Part of the reason I had been so eager to hand Oscar over and return to bed was that I was due to run the Hunny Bell cross-country that morning – only a few miles from where my parents live.  I’d seen the race advertised the previous year but had been a few months pregnant at the time, so decided not to enter.  I was really looking forward to it this year though, and it promised to be a muddy one!

Crazy hair on the way to the Hunny Bell cross-country #hbxc17I’m so looking forward to getting my club vest out for a few more events this year!

It was a lovely morning as I arrived at Hunworth village hall.  I’d arrived rather early (9:30ish for a 10:30am start).  I’m used to knowing loads of people at local events, and it felt rather bizarre to be stood alone sheltering under the overhang of the hall roof as the wind started to pick up.  I found somebody in the same situation as me though and we soon struck up a conversation, as I find is so easy to do with other runners.  A little later on we added two others to our loner-crowd too!

In actual fact I did end up knowing three others at the event – all people I knew through my Mum – and I happened to bump into them all before the race began.

Not knowing many people at the event has it’s good and bad points and I was looking forward to a pressure-free run without having to worry about where I placed in comparison to others.  I’d roughly estimated that it would take me about 50 minutes to finish the hilly 5ish mile course (Somewhere I read it was 4.7 miles, somewhere else said 5 and another place said 5.1, so I wasn’t really sure how far we’d be running in total!)  Both my parents, Dan and Oscar were hoping to come and see me finish.

I was a little concerned that the ground would be rough going, as the car park field at the event had been rutty with large tufts of long grass which overhung the tufts and made it difficult to judge where to place your feet.  Luckily though, the ground was very good out on the course.Hunny Bell cross-country race(Picture from the Hunny Bell XC Facebook page)

We started with a steep grassy uphill which soon wound round back down and through into woodland.  It was narrow in places but I think there was only one real point where there was a bottleneck on the course.  Coming out of the far end of the woodland involved a climb down some steep, uneven steps, which those infront of me chose to walk.  I imagine that the front runners had ran down them and I was glad that the decision had been made for me that I was to walk, as there was no getting past the runners ahead anyway.

Hunny Bell cross-country race

(Picture from the Hunny Bell XC Facebook page)

The course was one small lap and one large lap.  As we returned towards the end of the mini lap we had to climb high to the top of a hill where there was a water station before running right back down again to the bottom and starting lap number two.

The second lap headed out on a narrow track where I did get stuck behind one lady for a little while before the path widened and I was able to overtake.  There was a also a long, steep hill which seemed to go on forever alongside the edge of a field.  There ended up only being one really muddy section out on the course and this was at this point.  I could see runners up ahead tiptoeing around a large muddy section but I just splashed straight through the middle when I reached it! 😉

The end of the second lap was the same as the first.  Although I couldn’t see the finish as I ran up the hill, I could definitely hear it and there was a woman not too far in front me.

Hunny Bell XC finishI opened up my stride and aimed to pass her, before realising that there was a really sharp and muddy corner about 100 metres before the finish!  I scaled back my stride slightly as I’d taken the corner too tight to continue at the pace I was running at.  The woman just pipped me over the line, but we had a good sprint finish for it!

Hunny Bell XC finish

It started raining literally as I crossed the finish line.  Dan had stayed in the car with Oscar but both my parents had come to see me finish which was nice as they don’t often get to see me race.

Hunny Bell XC finish

My official time was 47:54 and I came 202/310.  55/114 Senior Female.

We were chip timed for the race (hence why my left shoe is untied in these two photos!)  I’m not entirely sure there was a need for chip timing though, as the race ended up being 4.65 miles so not a ‘real’ distance and it appears to only be a gun to chip time anyway, rather than chip to chip time, so it would still have made a difference how long it took me to get over the start line.Hunny Bell XC finishIt was a great race though.  Beautiful course, friendly marshals and superb organisation.  Already penciled in for next year! 😉

What do you call your Grandparents? Do you call both sets by the same name?
Have you witnessed runners ducking out of the funnel at the finish before?
Do you make conversation with runners you don’t know at events?
Do your parents watch you race?

Mud, glorious mud and lots of wool

I managed to get out with my Garmin strapped firmly on several times last week.  Always a challenge when there’s a baby involved!  I’m trying to increase my running frequency over the next couple of weeks.  I have an ultra coming up in April which presents enough challenges now that I’m a Mum without worrying that my mileage has been much lower than pre-pregnancy.

Monday was my first run of the week.  I usually get up early on a Monday morning and run before Dan heads off to work but I had already arranged to head over for the Monday evening group club run last week instead.  It’s the first time that I had run out with the group on a Monday night.  Before Oscar, Dan and I always used to head over to our local pub quiz on a Monday night, but we can no longer attend that now that O is here.

It absolutely tipped it down on Monday and at one point we were showered with freezing cold hail too.  I hate the feeling of hail hitting your face and your face being sent into completely numb shock!  I should have woken up early and got my run in first thing perhaps after all!  We didn’t bother with a cool down upon reaching our cars – it was quick goodbyes and car heaters turned up full blast for all before I drove quickly home for a nice warm bath and my tea.

Wednesday was the club trail run and we covered a further six miles across muddy fields and footpaths.  I’m feeling so strong on the Wednesday night trail runs just lately and it has really boosted my confidence to be running so far towards the front of the group of runners that I run out with.  My core strength has improved loads from carrying Oscar regularly during the day and I swear this is why my trail running has improved so much.  I would say that across trail I am definitely running back where I was pre-pregnancy, perhaps even stronger now.  (Good job my upcoming ultra will be run over trail!)

Saturday it was time for parkrun.  Annoyingly I managed to leave my breast pump at my parents’ house the day before so had to bring Oscar along, despite Dan offering to have him for the morning.

It was raining slightly, and there was even a bit of snow at one point, so I wrapped him up well with lots of layers, two blankets and a rain cover.  He was definitely very snuggly under all that lot and loved watching the other runners go by!

Going to parkrun with Oscar in the pramGarmin time: 45:08
Official time: 
45:11
Position: 
405/416
Gender position: 
154/160
Age category position: 
28/30

Quick side note to say that the blanket pictured above is the second one my friend Hollie has crocheted for Oscar.  Isn’t she super talented?!  I would love to be able to make something like this!  I did recently knit a monkey for a friend’s new baby, but I’ve never managed to master crochet or clothes.

Oliver's knitted monkey

There’s something special I think about receiving hand made gifts.  All the time and effort that went into creating them and the thought that goes along with it too.  Jane sent Oscar a lovely set of booties and a hat that she had made when he was first born in our club’s green colour.  When he gets a little bigger he will be fully decked out in WDAC green with his knitted items along with the mini club vest he was given from a friend.

Oscar's knitted hat and booties

On Sunday there was a six mile trail run organised.  I knew that if I got up early enough I would be able to feed Oscar twice before leaving, park a little way away at the local Tescos, run to the meeting point and then get in an extra couple of miles around the park before meeting up with the others.  5:30am alarm set for a 9am meet up!  I don’t think I’ll be accidentally leaving my pump at my parents’ house again!

There had been a lot of rain around these parts last week and it was fairly muddy once I hit the park.  Stupidly, I picked some of the muddiest trails for my warm-up run too.  It was down one of these muddy trails that I felt my foot slide out from under me and in slow-motion saw my right leg go down into a large muddy puddle!  Somehow I managed to keep my left leg standing so I never fully went in, but my right leg was absolutely covered!  Usually if you don’t pussy-foot around the edge of puddles and run straight through you miss the slippery mud, but on Sunday the bottom of the puddles seemed to be just as treacherous.

Muddy trail run legsAt least it was during my solo warm-up run when I fell so no-one was around to see me go down.  No hiding from it though with all that mud on my leg advertising my fall! One of the other ladies slipped over later too so it wasn’t just me.

I had to nip into Tesco for a few bits after my run so mooched around the aisles with my mud covered leg on show.  It wasn’t until I got home that I also had flecks of mud across my face – even covering my lips and eyelid!  Nobody stopped and stared at me anyway!

Annoyingly, despite feeling fine after the fall and for the remainder of my 10ish mile run my right thigh has felt rather bruised yesterday and today.  Going downstairs has been a little uncomfortable and it really doesn’t help that Oscar has been insisting on practising standing on the top of my legs this week!  Two days of rest and I’ll see how I am tomorrow evening at the trail run again.

As well as managing to fit several runs in last week, I also headed out on lots of walks with Oscar in the baby carrier.  I was gifted the We Made Me Pao Papoose 3-in-1 Front and Back Baby Carrier* from my work colleagues when I headed off on maternity leave in the Autumn and it has really come in so handy.  Once you know how to get it on and how to strap Oscar safely in, it’s so much quicker and easier than lugging a pram around.  It also means that we are able to go offroad without the worry about whether or not a buggy will fit down little tracks or if there will be any stiles to cross!

Walking with Oscar in the baby carrier

I’m really hoping that Oscar will grow up as an outdoorsy-child and not one obsessed with computer games or watching YouTube on the iPad.  Dan and I aren’t big television watchers.  I never have been really – always having preferred to be outside and doing something rather than sat down stationary in front of the box.  I hope I’m setting a good example to him with everything that I do.  I can only try my best, right?

Did you have an active childhood?
Do you mind going shopping in your running gear?

No Magic Mile this month

The last two months I have been able to get out to the Magic Mile following the parkrun at Northampton.  It was great to see the improvement I had made between December and January, where I knocked 31 seconds from my mile time.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the Magic Mile this month.  Dan and I were Birmingham-bound for two friends’ birthdays at the weekend and needed to be in Birmingham by 12:30.  I could just about make the slightly-closer Kettering parkrun if I headed straight home to shower and change afterwards, but I definitely would not have had time to head to Northampton and run the Magic Mile, which doesn’t take place until 10am.

Anyway, I was looking forward to running another parkrun without baby in tow.  The last time I ran the parkrun in Kettering I had been almost 39 weeks pregnant and it had been the first event held at that park.  I was curious to see what my body was capable of now, but knew that basically, I only had to beat 33m 15s in order to get a course PB.  Pretty much guaranteed!

It was rather cold when I woke up on Saturday morning.  Although, as always I dressed in a t-shirt and shorts and whacked the heating up full blast for the drive over.  I did worry briefly that perhaps the event would be cancelled due to the ice like it had been last month when I had tried to make it over.  But the barrier into the car park lifted as I arrived and a whole stream of cars followed me in to the grounds.

I briefly chatted to one of the marshals whose daughter also goes to Oscar’s swimming class and then the Race Director stepped up to give us our briefing and count us down for the run…

“3…
2…
WAIT!  We have pacers!…”

False start!  He pointed out the two pacers that would be out on the run that morning and then we had a second, more successful count down to the start!

To be honest I went into the parkrun a little too relaxed.  I was cocky and thought I’d be able to easily hit a time somewhere in the region of 27 minutes on Saturday.  Whereas in reality I had felt rather light-headed for most of the Friday morning and I hadn’t gotten much sleep that night either.  Laying in until nearly 8am meant I then hadn’t had time for breakfast, and having stayed out late at a 40th birthday party the night before with just two sandwich triangles for my dinner wasn’t the best of plans.  Within minutes my heart rate was showing as in the 180s.  (I usually try to run a parkrun at 170bpm and it usually takes me about a mile before I come close to hitting that bpm).

Kettering parkrun heart rateThis was whilst running downhill as well, so I knew I needed to pull things back.

When my watch flashed up with 8m 36s as my first mile time split I knew I wasn’t running very well as it felt like I had been running much faster than that.

The course was much more ‘off-road’ than I remembered from having run it back in September.  Back then it was at the end of a hot Summer and I guess now we are mid-Winter and have had a fair amount of drizzle over recent weeks.

Kettering parkrun in the mud

(Image from the Kettering parkrun page)

I really don’t remember all that dirty, muddy track ever being there before.  Should have worn my trail shoes!

The Kettering parkrun course is run over two and a bit laps, and you cross the pontoon bridge twice.  I skidded as I leapt onto it for the first lap and almost went down, deciding at that point that I would be better to take little steps and sacrifice a few seconds of my time, but remain upright!

I was fairly confident that I was on track enough to still course-PB and so, in the interests of keeping my heart rate low I decided to walk up the slight hill after the muddy, grassy bank.  The woman at the top looked at me walking amongst all the runners and told me that I still had to do the distance again yet.  I felt like shouting out “I had a Caesarean 18 weeks ago!” but resisted.

Lap two was just as muddy, just as slippery on the bridge and just as cold.

Me running at Kettering parkrun

(Image from the Kettering parkrun page)

I think this picture captures just how much my legs were not impressed at the decision to wear shorts that morning!

Once you’re on the final bit-lap though, it’s pretty much all downhill to the finish, as my splits indicate…

Mile 1: 8:36
Mile 2: 9:26
Mile 3: 9:56
Nubbin (0.13m): 6:13 pace

A perfect example of rubbish pacing!

Garmin time: 28:49
Official time: 
28:52
Position: 
125/263
Gender position: 
26/116
Age category position: 
1/6

Somehow I still managed to come in the top half of the results table despite my poor run and even came first in my age category(!)

Are you still wearing shorts for workouts at this time of year?
Any courses to mention with a great downhill finish?