Running without my Garmin (sort of)

This week I have eased back into my routine- I did a club run on Tuesday- we had a lovely run down to Stanborough lakes and back. It’s so good being lighter later as we can go off road more.

Yoga wasn’t on, and I had a course on Wednesday which meant a later start (9.30!)- I walked into town first thing to get a few bits, and after staring at a screen all day (how do people with office jobs manage?) we had a walk in the evening as my eyes just felt so weird.

On Thursday I decided to do some hill reps- there is a short but fairly steep hill along the old railway line- so I ran the mile there, then spent time running up and down the same section. The sky was blue when I left but turned black and then rained- I ran my fastest Strava segment on the way home as the rain wasn’t heavy but it looked like it could bucket it down any minute!

I mean, it doesn’t look at all steep here, but it is.

On Saturday some of our new runners were “graduating” at parkrun. I had offered to do the new runners briefing, and there ended up being loads of first timers, plus a few tourists (including one I chatted to who was from Brighton Hove Prom- it’s not often you know of a course that someone else has run as there are so many out there now).

Image may contain: people standing, sky, outdoor and nature

No idea why but I had decided to start my Garmin in the car park- I think I was thinking that if I was doing the briefing at 8.55 it wouldn’t leave much time for it to find the satellite, and I didn’t want it to be beeping through the briefing. It was fairly cold but I knew I would warm up so left my jumper in my bag hanging on the fence by the finish area.

Anyway, after finding out where the tourists were from (Blackhill- they would enjoy our flat course/ Panshanger- very local but still good to try a new one), welcoming the new runners and explaining the course, I headed to the start and chatted to a few of our club runners. I’ve had a sore shoulder this week and when it has been bad, breathing hard has hurt as the pain is sort of in the back, so I wasn’t really expecting anything speedy.

I’d seen one of our club runners (Milena) a bit ahead of me, and we can usually run a similar speed, so I decided to try and catch up with her. She was on a total mission- arms pumping and long legs striding out and going for it, so it took me until the 3km point to catch her. A few of our club were marshals – one who had run Brighton a few weeks ago, and two running London on Sunday, so I’d called out to them on my way past (either have you recovered/ good luck tomorrow).

I’d noticed that as we had started it was exactly 9am on my watch, and as I was going down the runway towards the end the time was 9.24, so I did wonder if I was going fairly fast. I was also completely surrounded by men (apart from Milena who was just behind me at that point). But then I worked out that I had just gone past the 4km point, so that was around 6 min per km, which would equal a 30 min 5k, which to be honest felt wrong as I felt I was going faster. But I know I can’t trust my maths when I run anyway! I didn’t bother looking at my Garmin, even though with hindsight it shows the current average so I think it would have shown how fast I was going.

I was pushing hard for the final half km, and still managed to overtake a couple of people. With the finish line in sight (maybe 20 metres to go) I decided to go for it and went past another guy. I was place 51 but that is hard to work out if it’s good or bad- it seems high up the field (and it was still mainly men finishing) but who knows. (It turns out I was 6th lady which must be one of my highest placings, and 2nd in my age cat- all those speedy runners are probably running London and so having a rest today!).

I saw a few of the runners from the briefing at the end- the guy had come from Blackhill it turns out was down because he was running the London marathon on the Sunday. I think with regards to the course we are lucky- I’ve been to quite a few now and lots of them, while being perfectly nice, as still really city centre parks closely surrounded by roads and buildings. Both Ellenbrook and Panshanger are wilder and more like countryside running- really pretty scenery.

Back to my time- My Strava gave me a clue- the first mile was 10.40 but that included walking and doing the briefing, the others were 8.46, 8.34 and then 8.30 for the final 0.4. Strava also thought I did one mile in 8.15 which sounds ridiculously fast.

Anyway, after going to the post office, having a shower and having a breakfast of hot cross buns and tea, I got my text through- a new course pb! 26.33! It’s a good 30 seconds quicker than my previous Ellenbrook pb, and only 4 seconds behind my all time pb set at St Albans back in 2013 (26.29). This time of year must be good for my running- nice and cool, solid ground (no mud). I was so pleased!

I have recently realised I can sort my results by time, so I could see I have now managed three beginning with 26, but the other two were both at St Albans in 2013.  I’d been inching closer to a sub 27 minute 5k for a bit, but this totally smashed it!

In effect running without my Garmin was interesting because I think sometimes I can see a fast number and then worry that I can’t keep it up, whereas this one was honestly run on feel- I should trust myself. Or maybe it was luck as it has only happened once!

We had a lovely walk around Panshanger later on, admiring the bluebells. I just need two Saturdays in a week so I can parkrun at both places.

Image may contain: plant, tree, sky, flower, outdoor and nature

Later in the afternoon I had some work to catch up on, and also went through my blog emails- I found out that I had been chosen as one of the Vuelio top ten running blogs here– how lovely. A few blogs that I enjoy are also on the list (A Healthier Moo, The PhD Runner) and there are a few that I haven’t read but I always like to find new blogs to read so I’ll be checking the other ones out.

On Sunday I had an 8 mile out and back run and then watched a bit of the London marathon- I happened to be watching it as they were following a guy who was massively struggling to get to the finish- his legs had totally seized up and I really felt like the camera should cut away as he didn’t look good. Amazingly another runner wearing a Swansea Harriers vest stopped to help him (they were under the 3 hour finish time and so were all rocketing past him)- it was pretty emotional to watch. At first you could see the runner talking to him, pointing to the finish line and clearly telling him that he could do it. A marshal then came out and they draped his arms over their backs and helped him for the last few hundred metres- it just encapsulates how fantastic the running community is- I don’t think I would notice anyone in the last bit of a marathon, being so focused on just keeping the legs going and getting to the end, so the fact that this guy not only noticed him but stopped when he was so close himself to help someone else out was just fantastic. (BBC story here)

Which running blogs do you like to read? I much prefer blogs that are more in a personal diary form- ones with magazine style articles don’t tend to interest me as much.

What is your favourite volunteer role and which one have you benefited most from doing? I was so nervous before I did the first new runners briefing that my knees were actually shaking- I really hate public speaking. But doing a few of them has really helped (and I think going to other parkruns helps as you listen to the same briefing and realise that people just want to know about the course, no-one is being critical)- and probably this has helped my confidence when I have to do that sort of speaking at work too. I still don’t relish public speaking, but I don’t worry about the briefings any more which must be a good thing.

Did you watch any of the London marathon? (Or watch the Southampton/any other) Or were you running a marathon?  I did think that the guy who finished third in the men’s race looked pretty trashed by the end, whereas often they run so smoothly it looks fairly effortless. I had to rewind as by the time I had started watching the women’s race had finished- some impressive times recorded, and some great performances by Aly Dixon and Charlotte Purdue, although it was a shame that Jo Pavey didn’t finish. I still don’t think I would like to run London personally- the huge crowds really put me off, but it is an inspiring event to see on the TV.

A lovely week in the north- part 1

It always makes me laugh when I drive anywhere north from here as the road sign just says

“Stevenage

The North”

as if “The North” was one place. We did a fair bit of travelling about and managed to see lots of sights.

After our trip to Harrogate and Fountains Abbey, we drove to Durham.

We had a lovely day there, wandering around the town centre and walking by the river. We went into the cathedral too which was so impressive.

The river is in a sort of a u-bend shape so you could enter from one side of the town, walk along it for a while and end up not far from where you started- or cross over and walk back along the other side.

After a quick breakfast on the Monday morning we drove further north to our next destination, stopping off at a National Trust place on the way.

Cragside was the first house to be lit by electric lights, and was powered by hydroelectric power. I usually much prefer the gardens to the house, but this one was very interesting (some of the inventions were a bit Wallace and Gromit).

As well as walking around the gardens there was a big estate drive where you could stop off and walk around lakes or along trails.

This put the Blur song “Trimm Trabb” in my head after seeing it. I think it was actually a walk with different types of fitness equipment to test balance, agility and so on.

We stayed in Alnwick for three nights- we had a lovely B&B right in the centre of the town. They did a lovely breakfast (I had their “eggy bread” each day as it was so delicious, but there were loads of other options too)- they even bought in almond/soya milk and yoghurt for another guest who could not have dairy.

Also, they had locally blended loose leaf teas in the rooms as well as being served at breakfast- this was a big thumbs up from me!

Some of the time we stayed close to Alnwick- we’d bought a book about walks in Northumberland and they had some close by including a 3 mile one in the countryside around the town.

Sometimes we drove out towards the coast- we saw a few different castles and drove on the causeway to Lindisfarne (this was not so good for someone who is a bit panicky about forgetting things- we double checked the times that we could get back by-1.50pm- and then I spent a while wondering if it was 12.50 instead..). This was not helped by the signs posted everywhere with a photo of a car surrounded by water- I did not want us to end up like that!

Once we’d driven back to the mainland (and with plenty of time) we drove up to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and it was so strange seeing signs for Edinburgh- it made me realise how far we had driven. It was also totally freezing cold- I had regretted not wearing a thermal top that day!

We went to the Bari tea room one day and it was so relaxed with delicious home-made cakes. We’d had a long walk in the morning so shared some lemon cake.

We had glorious weather although on this walk out to a castle it was super windy- I am sure at points my hair was going full troll (vertical).

On our last afternoon there we were back in the B&B fairly early (4pm ish I think) so I headed out on a run- previously we had walked in a loop around the town- it turned out to be about 2 miles so I repeated it twice (with a photo stop half way to take pictures of the old railway building that is now a large book shop)  before popping to the Costa for a drink (it was sunny but with a really cold and strong wind)- although I regretted it right away because the service in Costa is always never faster than a snail’s pace and usually worse than a sloth. (We have one at a local cinema and sometimes I get a drink, and then spend ages wondering if I am missing the film or just the adverts while they painstakingly make the drink in slow motion…).

Image may contain: sky, tree, plant, cloud, outdoor and nature

We went to this bookshop for dinner as it had a lovely cafe inside- it’s an old railway station and a very large second hand book shop so great for a wander too.

After our few days in Northumberland we drove to Yorkshire for our next B&B, but I’ll save that for another post.

What would your breakfast of choice be? Andy usually goes for scrambled eggs and bacon on toast, but he did have the eggy bread one day as mine was tempting him each morning.

Do you prefer visiting houses or gardens?

Are the Costa’s near you slow at serving people or is it just all the ones I have visited? 

Harrogate parkrun- lessons in how to get lost

Last week we were heading up north for a holiday, and as luck would have it staying in Harrogate on Friday night. Of course this means one thing- a new parkrun to add to my list!

I’d looked at the course on the map and seen it was not far from our hotel (less than a mile) and it seemed fairly straightforward. I left the hotel at around 8.15am, as I like to get to a new one early so I am not panicked about anything, and started walking instead of running so I could look at the directions on my phone more easily. Well, after about 10 minutes of walking I was helpfully told I had reached my destination. I most certainly hadn’t! I opened up maps and realised that I had put in directions to “The Stray”- where the parkrun started. But then in fact in Harrogate there are lots of parks with the same name, and the one I needed was in a different part of the town. Yes, I then started to panic a bit.

I was taken to the Stray which is the small triangle park on the bottom left of this photo. I didn’t realise that the parks joined up. I went to their parkrun course page, and noted that there was a bar or something called The Empress, that was on the roundabout near the start to parkrun, so I selected that and began running through the town centre. I was actually now further away than my hotel, having wandered in the wrong direction- argh! I started my watch just after this as I didn’t want to be fiddling with it if I was late, so I got part of my run recorded.

As I was crossing a road I noticed two guys in running gear (and one of them I had seen in the hotel lobby as I left)- I asked them if they were heading to parkrun and they said yes, and showed me a print out of a map- they were tourists from Preston. They were not sure whereabouts they were on their map, so we looked at my phone. The combination of my phone and their map eventually led us to parkrun (although they were walking and not running, and in no hurry, and I didn’t want to be rude and run ahead from them as they had helped me and I was sort of helping them with my phone)- as we neared we could see the comforting sights of many high viz clothes and people all heading to the middle of the park- phew. Although we arrived at 8.55am, and I just about heard the tail end of the new runners briefing- “three laps” were the magic words to remember.

We were all led  to the start area, but everyone stood about in a big circle and I ended up facing the back of the RD- I also couldn’t hear because people were chatting, but you know to clap each time (volunteers, local things, milestones…), you know to give way to other parkrunners, to say thanks etc.  They did point out pacers but I couldn’t see where they were.

Then we were moved again to the actual start- we would be running back the way we had just walked so it was a bit hard to position yourself- I wasn’t fussed about a time but I did start a bit far back in the end I think.

The parkrun was run around the outside of the park along this sort of path.

It was such a gorgeous day. The run was very flat- three laps of a park, surrounded by roads. The actual path was narrow, but usually you could just run on the grass to overtake- at a few points the path was a little higher so this was harder to do, but for the most part even though  it was super busy (507 parkrunners and a new record for them) it didn’t ever feel that busy. At the end of the  first lap I caught up with the 32 minute pacer- I was feeling very stressed about getting lost so I think that messed up my rhythm a bit.  I was overtaking people pretty much the whole way, catching up with the absolutely brilliant 30 minute pacer at the end of the second lap (and I was also being lapped for pretty much the entire second lap, but this was fine and everyone was very polite when passing). He was so good- I don’t know when he even took a breath as he was chatting and encouraging the whole time, and even yelling things up ahead to people who he had been running with.

I managed to overtake more people in my third lap (this helps me to speed up I think- pick a person up ahead and try to reel them in)- my Strava shows that my miles went 10.10, 9.11, 8.46 and 8.01 so a royal flush negative split by some margin! They clearly hadn’t expected this many people and when I reached the finish I had to stop just before the line as the queue to get a chip was so long- they were asking people to move over and snake sideways a bit. I was given token 351 (I tried to take a very blurry photo) but they did have a little trouble with the  results (I think they dropped some tokens, and initially instead of moving people up 11 places they deleted 11 results)- in the end I was given place 340 with a time of 28.55. I am not too bothered- I think maybe my time was a little quicker but as I had  left my watch running it is hard to tell, and people commenting on facebook (they asked people to let them know position and time if they recorded it) were saying that the second set of results was correct. The placing was correct as it matches with the 11 tokens missing.

Anyway, a fast course and not too much congestion at the start. I was enjoying the sunny weather when I had finished.

Then I started to run back to the hotel- I had stopped my watch and it had turned off so I left it, but I wish I had left it on as I am pretty sure I literally ran in circles for a bit of my journey back- the last bit of the way there was along some alleyways, so I headed to those, but once I got to the town centre I was so disoriented. I ran down a hill, around a corner, up a hill- I looked at a map on my phone, put in the Premier Inn address and for some reason I was not on the map (like Joey, I need to step into the map)- usually google maps shows you where you are, but whether it was getting confused with all the buildings I don’t know, but it kept showing a circle of streets around the outside of me, where my directions would then begin. I had plans of getting Andy a coffee (and myself a cold drink) on the way back to the hotel, as I typically do that, but I didn’t even pass a coffee shop (although I must have passed a Nero as we walked past it later )- I didn’t get back to the hotel until about 10.10 and according to my watch had run over 6 miles that morning. I found my way back in the end (and then realised that if I had looked up I could see the huge Majestic Hotel building that was next to the Premier Inn pretty much as soon as I came out of the alleyways- argh).

I had a quick shower and then we headed for breakfast- we’d normally share a cinnamon roll but after all of that I was having one to myself!

We then had a lovely walk around Harrogate, past the huge queue for Betty’s tearooms, down to a botanical garden, before driving to Fountain’s Abbey.

We’d signed up to the National Trust and I had also seen about this via parkrun as they have one there (but it’s a good 10 miles outside of Harrogate so I wouldn’t have gone there on my own).

It was stunning. We’d bought some salads in town so sat and had a picnic for a bit before walking around the grounds- my steps total was 35,000 for the day so we did walk a lot. There was a cafe at the far end and we could not resist sharing a slice of carrot cake and sitting in the sunshine enjoying the tea.

After walking back to the car our next stop was Durham, but I will save that for another post. (Although I will add that on Saturday morning I noticed on the parkrun UK page they were asking people where they were running and someone said “the pink panther parkrun- Dur-ham, Dur-ham” which made me laugh, and also for a second I thought “me too” before I realised that I was in Harrogate but going to Durham later).

So, another successful parkrun tourism. My 17th UK event (3 more to go…), and my 101st parkrun in total. Lesson learned- I will check and double check directions and look at the road names or crossings and not just a generic park name! A well organised event, friendly marshals and a very flat course too.

Are you good with directions? I am not 100% sure of my left and right (I have a patch of freckles on the back of my right hand which I check for when I am not sure) so this doesn’t help things either!

What do you like to do on a sunny afternoon? Having a walk and then sitting in the sunshine for tea and cake is pretty ideal in my opinion.

Walking in the woods and Sol Wireless headphones

There are some woods not far from where I live, and now the evenings are lighter the route is back on my running route list.  It’s still a bit damp so my trainers are getting very muddy each time!

I was recently sent some headphones- Sol Republic Relay Sport Wireless– so I have been wearing them on walks and runs to give them a good go. I failed the first hurdle as I forgot that they would need charging (the one teeny drawback of wireless ones) but they didn’t take long to charge. It has an award-winning FreeFlex™ secure fit, 8 hours of playtime and 10 min quick charge feature, and is one of the lightest sports headphones on the market.

My first impressions- I loved the colour. And yes I know you shouldn’t worry about that sort of thing, but the minty green is just so pretty. (They also come in black or white). I always used to have headphones with wires and didn’t think the wire was that annoying. Then a while back the blue-tooth disconnected on my phone and so I went back to the wired ones- it was so annoying! It gave me an incentive to fix the blue-tooth as I didn’t realise how many times in one run I would tug on the wire as my arms were swinging.

It came with a load of earbuds, and I ended up choosing the smallest size which made them a perfect fit. With other headphones I have ended up using a headband slightly over my ears to hold them on- fine in winter but not ideal in the summer. So far, I haven’t needed anything with these.

They charge via a little USB cable- you peel back a little cover to insert the plug and wait for the light to turn blue to show they are charged.

Connecting to my phone was very easy too- just turn on the blue-tooth, turn the headphones on (via a little button on the control panel bit) and then they pair right away- I didn’t need to enter a code or anything like that.

The sound quality was good- I tend to listen to podcasts rather than music so I have no idea about bass or stereo sound quality, but it can be annoying if you miss what was said as a car drives past or something. I didn’t need the volume up too high, so I could still hear things which of course is much safer (cars, birds, leaves rustling in the wind), but I could hear the podcasts clearly too.

I tried to take a few photos to show how well they fit.

They even stayed in on a fairly sweaty run so that’s a good thing. The little wire goes around the back of my neck (although when I am walking I leave it at the front), and you can tighten if it you wish. The little control panel also has a + and – button for the volume which I have used when my phone has switched to a new podcast as sometimes the recording levels can be different.

I’m not sure how you check the battery (I have one pair where you can check and it says “battery full/ battery medium/ battery low”- although I don’t know how many hours that equals)- I have charged them every few runs to be on the safe side.

Overall I am really impressed with them- headphones are one thing you can’t really try on before you buy, so you have no idea how well they will fit. These have stayed in place during all of my recent runs and walks, so they will definitely be my choice of summer headphone.

What do you like to listen to when you run or walk? Where do you like walking? Are you swayed by what things look like or do you just focus on the function?

*I was sent these headphones in exchange for a review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Happy times in the sunshine

I love the Easter holidays. It feels like such a treat. I know that I am very lucky indeed to have a lot of holiday (and I am not going to go on about it, but in term time the hours are pretty much 8-5/5.30 including working most of lunch time, coming home and then doing more work in the evening, plus work at weekends, so it does even out during the year), and for some reason Easter is more chilled out than Christmas. I think over the Christmas break you are trying to fit in visiting family or hosting family, last minute shopping or gift wrapping (or cake decorating), and it seems to fly by. The summer holidays can be busy especially if you are moving to a new classroom, and we generally tend to have a longer holiday in the summer too. Easter is a perfect balance- two weeks off but with no real pressure to do anything. Next week we are off to the north for a week of walking outside and visiting new places, and this week has just been a perfect time to recharge my batteries.

I’ve had the perfect balance of time to myself, a little extra time with Andy (as he works from home some days we have had lunch together on a few days which feels like such a treat) and time to meet up with others. I’ve managed to catch up with a few friends (although some of my teacher friends are not off until next week so that has scuppered our usual meet up plans), and I’ve had plenty of walks- I am meeting my steps target every single day this holiday!

There are some woods fairly close by (half a mile up the road) so I’ve been there a few times to stretch my legs as a walk, or as a bit of a muddy run, listening to podcasts and enjoying being outside.

On principle I refused to do any work on the Monday (I managed three walks that day- one in the morning, one with friends when they visited and one with Andy around to the shops in the evening). He laughs at me for getting antsy but I just can’t sit around and to me a walk is relaxing.

On Tuesday I had a massage (perfect timing following the half marathon)- I was even told my shoulders weren’t too bad! I’ve never been told that before!  I was given a Costa voucher at Christmas in the Secret Santa, so I decided to walk into town and use it- I was going to get a toasted teacake but they had run out, so an almond croissant it was (more tasty anyway).

I’ve managed a few runs this week (the temptation is to run each day if I am not busy, but I know I am not good after 3 runs in a row)- I’ve just been taking them as gentle runs (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings). I was very impressed when I noticed that my nail polish matched my leggings! We must celebrate these matches when they happen! I’ve been trying out some newer trainers too- I do tend to favour Asics trainers but the last ones I bought were the wrong ones (GT1000 instead of GT2000)- they just felt a bit stiff and just not right so they are now my parkrun marshaling and gardening trainers. Sports Shoes had a sale so I got these black and pink ones (the right ones, GT 2000) as they are from the Autumn range, and they feel much more springy although sorting out the laces has taken a bit of fiddling. I wished that I had bought two pairs of the last ones I had, as they are nearing 500 miles and feel a bit more flat now, but by the time I think of it they have always sold out of my size everywhere I look.

I’ve also spent time with family (my sister-in-law and niece, and my parents), been out in the garden digging up yet more brambles, and alongside that managed a lot of work, making a big start on reports (they are not due until May but need to be proof read so it all takes a while). This lovely weather has helped no end. On Thursday I was out all morning, came home to get on with a few hours of work and then we decided to walk the long way into town as we needed to go to the library and get some shopping. The sun shining makes such a difference as it’s just great to be outside.

What do you like to do when you have time to yourself? Do you have any plans for the long weekend? What would your favourite cafe treat be? A Starbucks cinnamon roll takes some beating I think, but it is very closely followed by an almond croissant.