Lee Valley half marathon 2017- running with my dad

As I have mentioned before, I had signed up to run the Lee Valley half marathon on Sunday. The main reason was that my dad decided he wanted to run a half marathon. I had suggested a lot of different ones to him, and in the end this one ticked the boxes- local so we could go there on the morning, late enough in spring so that he would have time after his holiday to train, an interesting sounding route, and he would be allowed to raise money for a charity of his choice. He had run a half marathon before when he was younger (the Berkhamsted half for anyone local, although back then it was two laps so the awful mile long steep hill was repeated) but had really struggled and not enjoyed it at all.

He has been keeping me updated on his training (and our family via his Just Giving Page- raising money for MNDA as his cousin has recently been diagnosed)- he’s been sensible as he has a slight ligament issue (he had around a year when he couldn’t even run a parkrun as his knee had to heal, he had to give up tennis because of the twisting and turning, and now he runs with a knee brace the whole time) and also he does a lot of cycling so was making sure to have rest days and not run long the day after a long bike ride. He’d managed an 18k run a week and a half ago, a bit later than he had planned because he’d had a virus, and although he’d completed it he had to walk sections of the final few km. I felt like that was plenty but he was a bit apprehensive on the morning of the race.

I had toast for breakfast, and even put on suncream as it was already very sunny. Dad picked me up just after 8am and drove to the water park. Lee Valley is where the water sports were held in the Olympics, and now it is used as a sports venue for white water rafting and kayaking. There are also miles of pathways by rivers and canals, lots of bird spotting hides and picnic areas. We had to park on a field but as it was so dry this wasn’t an issue. It was a short walk to the main building- the reception was downstairs and there were clear signs directing you upstairs to the cafe and sun terrace, where you could collect your number.

It was a gorgeous morning for a race – sunny but quite chilly first thing. We had to collect our numbers in the morning and that was very easy with about a 5 minute queue, and then we waited outside on the terrace looking out across the fields and waterways. We decided to visit the toilets (as it was a building they had real ones and not port-a-loos which means I will actually use them) before finally going to the bag drop so we could keep our jumpers on for as long as possible. The bag drop was right next to the registration desk, so it was all very handy. We bumped into a few girls from the club- lots doing the 10K and a few doing the half. The 10K started at 9.45, so they all headed off to the start. There was a little confusion as the 10k start was in a slightly different place to the half, added to that the inflatable finish arch having the word “Start” emblazoned across it. But they have said they were aware of this so would sort that out next year (this was it’s first year).

The half began at 10am, and we started off fairly near the back. A while ago we were thinking of around 2.10, but after Dad was ill and then had a bit of a struggle at the end of his longest run, we took all time off the table and just said we would run steadily- he didn’t want to need to walk any of it. We enjoy running parkrun together, and this was just extended really. We kept at a pace where we could chat the whole time, and just enjoyed the scenery. The Lee Valley park was lovely and well worth a visit- I was so impressed that instead of being left to rot, something good for the community and nature has come of it. We ran along canal towpaths, by the side of rivers, past a huge weir, past wetlands and through little wooded areas. We saw plenty of people out walking and cycling and at one point there was even a sort of dog training park with A-frames and hoops and things for the dogs to jump over and through.

The course was two laps, although they weren’t identical as you didn’t run through the finish area in the first lap- there was a bit of an out-and-back before you joined the loop, which you then repeated in reverse at the end of the second loop to get back. It was clearly signposted and there were mile markers (and km markers for the 10K)- it is never good seeing the 8 mile marker when you are only a few miles in, but as it was so flat and so pretty it didn’t ever feel too long. There were lots of marshals out on the course, and arrows all over the place too. We stopped at three water stations for a sip of water (around mile 4, 8 and 11) as it was fairly warm and at the final one ended up chatting to a girl who was struggling- she told us many of her injuries and illnesses that had happened during her training, but at least by this point there were only a few miles to go so we could encourage her with that thought.

I just felt so happy during the run- the sun was shining, the breeze was keeping me fairly cool, I was chatting with Dad and thanking all the marshals. One of them commented (in a jokey way) that we weren’t running hard enough as we were still talking, and at the end Dad asked if the time was OK for me. It’s hard to explain, but (despite my moan about Brighton half last week) I don’t run for time. I could have run faster, but then I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much, and sometimes it is just good to properly enjoy the race. At 10 miles I said “just a parkrun to go” which Dad found very amusing. When we got to 11 miles Dad mentioned it was uncharted territory for him as this was beyond the 18k he had managed in training, but he was still feeling fine (a bit achey) and we didn’t need to walk.

As we neared the finish line we saw a group of OH ladies (who had run the 10K) and gave them a big shout.

One of them took a few photos of us as we were running and they are just great as they totally sum up the race- we just enjoyed the whole thing.

The finish area was right by where people were canoeing, so it was brilliant to see everyone using the rapids and flipping upside-down. They had a cool conveyor belt thing that people sat on in their canoes, and it carried them to the top of course so they could then canoe downhill through the rapids, and then repeat.

At the finish area we had a drink (I’d packed nuun tabs in my pocket) and they gave us a banana so we stretched and watched other people finish for a bit. Of course we had to attempt a sweaty selfie- it is not easy to take a photo as neither of us are good at keeping our eyes open when there is a camera about!

We then walked back to the cafe area (bumping into two of the club half marathon runners- one had managed a pb despite it being a training run for the London marathon!), picked up our bag, and then we decided to have a drink in the cafe. The car park didn’t close until 2pm and we didn’t end up leaving until around 1pm (we did some more stretches on the grass by the car before heading home).

The medal is lovely too (although I do sort of wish it wasn’t the same as the 10K one…). It was their first event and I hope they do it again next year as it was well organised and such a pretty route. One I would look at doing again for sure.

Our finish times were 2:17:42 (and 4), but that wasn’t why we did it. Dad was totally chuffed as it was a pb for him, but he was over the moon to finish feeling strong and not struggling, not needing to walk at all, and of course raising money for MNDA (£600 at last count).

What do you most enjoy about races? How was your weekend?

So did I still run a sub 2 hour half?

But first, the Easter holidays are here!

As I got back late on Thursday we had a nice walk, and then on Friday I had a lovely 4 mile run along the old railway line- it was funny weather though- blue skies in one direction and black skies in the other.

I was pretty hungry when I got home so I had my favourite post-run snack- a couple of dates dipped in peanut butter.

Now the evenings are lighter, we have a lovely view of the garden while we are eating our dinner. Although the garden isn’t a priority (we still need to decorate a lot of inside) I would like some more colour.

Onto the Brighton half. Andy ran it in 2012 (I was signed up but was then waiting for an op so was not allowed to run- and couldn’t run even if I had wanted to), I ran it in 2013 and got myself a pb (2:12:47), I ran it in 2015 as part of my marathon training and got an unexpected pb (2:04:10), in 2016 I was aiming for my first sub 2 hour half, and managed it (1:59:09), and then in 2017 where I was aiming for an enjoyable 2 hours 10 ish (2:03:23).

I had heard rumblings that it was short this year, but when people go on about GPS not being accurate I don’t tend to listen. I know usually people complain that the course was long, and forget about the weaving between crowds, but GPS watches are not 100% accurate, and can get confused by tall buildings, underpasses etc. Plus very frequently my Garmin will say a round figure (e.g. 5 miles) and when I upload it to Strava it will round down and say 4.9 miles (which was very annoying when I was doing 100 mile months as I always had to run a bit further to make up for the bit that would be taken off.). On Friday it was confirmed:

It’s been short by 0.09 mile in 2015, 2016 and 2017. So basically for 3/4 times I have run it, it hasn’t been the right length. This has really annoyed me. I know on the outside that times really don’t matter, but since I started running half marathons (and read in that book that a 2 hour half was “average”) I have been aiming to achieve one. It was tough, I had mental battles during the run and I really didn’t know if I could manage it. So now I have to think theoretically could I have run 0.09 miles in 50 seconds? I think I could have done- my average pace for my fastest one was 9.08.

According to one site, I would need 49.32 seconds at my average pace, which would get me in 1 second under 2 hours. But it doesn’t really matter because who knows if I would have been able to carry on? If it was a small, local race with a cheap entry then I would not mind as much, but it’s one of the Vitality series, it isn’t cheap (and yes I know they need to close roads, but we didn’t get a t-shirt this year, despite the other Vitality ones getting one) and they advertise that it’s a UKA certified course. I think it’s terrible that they don’t check the course length each year- having it short for one year is bad enough (Manchester marathon) but for three years? At least they are owning up to it rather than trying to sweep it under the carpet, but it is disappointing all the same as I thought I had achieved something, and now I haven’t. 2:06:58 I suppose is now my official half pb, run at Bath in 2014 (a race I would rather forget as it was a pretty bad experience).  I did run a short 10k race once (In Nottingham- we had run it previously and it was a two lap going through the finish area, but when it was short- 5.7 miles, you began the second lap before getting to the finish area, but they later came out and said it was because of flooding on the field so at least they owned up right away).

I really love running in Brighton because of the great views, the brilliant crowd support and I don’t need much of an excuse to have a weekend there. Next year I was going to run Cambridge instead (as I think I get a guaranteed place from marshaling) and so their gesture of a discount for 2018 is not helpful.

I am not a runner who chases a pb each week or month or even year, and I don’t get worried about my pace- I run because I enjoy it, and occasionally because I want to achieve a specific goal. So at the end of the day I still ran a long way, had some nice weekends away and had some fab medals to add to my collection. It would make me think twice about signing up to a Vitality event though.

This morning I was having an early breakfast before marshaling at parkrun, and I was enjoying all the April Fool jokes coming up on parkrun pages.

I particularly liked Preston Park, who said that all Brighton parkruns would be 146cm shorter.

Tring seemed to catch a lot of people out, saying they would need to move their parkrun to make way for major tree planting.  They had gone to a lot of trouble by adding some detailed information on their “news” page including photos and artist’s impressions of what the woodland would look like.

Ellenbrook had decided to run their route in reverse this week, for some fun. It was a bit complicated as we have a small loop and then a large loop, so working out the logistics of when people turn and which way to direct them took a bit of sorting out. I was with Dad (we’re under the arrows in the photo) at the start of the looping bits- by the 2km post (so 2km to go this way around)- we had to direct runners left over the little bridge and around the loop, and then when they came back to us from the opposite direction, we had to get them to turn right and repeat that outside part of the loop again. We had some clackers each (Ellenbrook has a selection of instruments so I don’t need to bring any from work any more)- we saw my brother and a few runners from the club and had fun giving everyone cheers. The reversal seemed to go well with only one person going wrong – he got to one marshal who was directing people back to us on their first loop, and he decided to go straight to the finish before realising he had gone too soon, and so he went back and finished it properly.

We said after it seemed like fun so have requested that maybe for their birthday they would run it in reverse again so we would get a chance to do it.

The rest of Saturday went like this:

Get home and have a cup of tea (I was really cold from marshaling- I wished I had gloves with me). Watch a bit of TV with Andy before he left for the football. Have some toast and rooibos tea.

Make a simnel cake. While it was baking in the oven (for an hour), I went outside to plant some bulbs while listening to some podcasts. I needed to weed the area first. I found a lot of brambles and stinging nettles. The brambles stretched everywhere. When I had to come in to take the cake out of the oven I had not even begun with the bulbs. I hung the towels up outside. Ended up weeding for two hours and made several huge piles as our brown bin was basically full before I started.

Found a magnolia tree! I have always wanted one and it has just started to flower (which is lucky as otherwise we would have probably chopped it down). However it’s very close to the fence so I am not sure if we should move it in the autumn…

Took my car to the car wash (this was weird- it was a drive through hand car wash, so I sat inside while the men sprayed water and foam and then rubbed it with sponges- it felt very awkward!) on my way to the supermarket. Bought ingredients for hot cross buns (we made them at work this week which of course made me want to make them at home). Got home feeling very hungry- had pineapple, yoghurt and some coconut water. Made the hot cross bun dough.

While it was rising, had a walk catching up on some podcasts.

Had a cup of tea, rolled the dough into bun shapes, checked the travel arrangements for the half marathon tomorrow and then had dinner. I am hoping that 2 hours of gardening is good prep for a half marathon….

Have you ever run a race that ended up being officially short? Would you still keep the time/ pb? Did you see any good April Fools? Do you like hot cross buns? I was in M&S a few weeks ago perusing the many flavours (apple and cinnamon/ cranberry and orange) and a lady walked past and said “urgh, all these different flavours… hot cross buns should be traditional. Oh look, cheese ones, they sound nice“. I was laughing inside for a long time. And no, she is wrong, cheese hot cross buns sound disgusting and I do not use that word lightly.

A lovely run, almond milk yoghurt, yoga with a tree view and warmer weather

After my parkrun on Saturday (and breakfast at my parents’) Andy and I walked the long way into town via a blind showroom (the decorating might start up again soon). We had a John Lewis cake voucher so we shared a slice as I hadn’t actually eaten any of my own parkrun cake- too busy chatting!

When we got back I had some work to do- usually I work in my office but I decided to bring my laptop downstairs so we watched (well I half watched) a 24 and then an episode of 100k house- it was nice to watch a bit of “junk” TV- probably the work took me longer but it was nicer. We’ve been alternating it with Location (when we were house hunting we had to have a Phil and Kirstie hiatus as it was too stressful watching house-hunting shows at the same time).

On Sunday morning I headed off on a run along the old railway line.

Google photos make it look even prettier for me.

The blues skies make me feel very happy indeed. I think I did 8 miles, or maybe 8.5, something like that. Long enough to be OK for the half marathon this Sunday, but not too far to be tired. I felt good during the run, but took it fairly easily with a few photo stops along the way.

I’d seen this almond milk yoghurt on Ocado so I had the peach melba flavour for breakfast with some raspberries and granola. It was very tasty, and not too sweet, but it is expensive so I think it would be an occasional treat. They also do a hibiscus and something flavour which I also bought but didn’t try yet- as it’s an unusual flavour I was intrigued.

After popping in to see Andy’s family, we had tickets at The Odyssey (which is a lovely independent cinema in St Albans- used to be an old Odeon or something, got left to crumble and then finally was taken on a few years ago- they have sofas and armchairs and things)- to see 20th Century Women- a story about three women in California in the late 60’s/ early 70’s- and how their lives were sort of tangled together for a few years of their life. It was interesting, but also a bit melancholy.

We’ve seen some brilliant films recently (Hidden Figures, Lion) and some pretty good ones (Patriot’s Day about the Boston marathon bombing was very well done, and we also watched a documentary about it) and although this was good, it wasn’t one I felt that everyone needs to see. I did feel it was aimed at slightly older people too. Anyway, it’s a lovely treat to go there and relax in a comfy chair with a cup of tea.

On Wednesday when I got to yoga it was still light, and it was amazing to see that the little community room looks out onto a lovely patch of woodland. We ended up turning our mats around so we were facing outside, and at the end they even put on a lovely chain of fairy lights. It was a tough class at times (downward dog press ups anyone?) but the final relaxation is just so rejuvenating and I always feel loads better once I get home- it’s like a little reset button half way through the week. We all quite liked the new aspect to the class and as the evenings will be even lighter for the next class we’ll have the tree view for even longer- bliss.

And talking of lighter evenings and spring in general- the weather this week has suddenly warmed up- it was 20 degrees at 6pm today on my drive home! (Don’t worry, I took this photo in the Tesco car park as I stopped off to return something). I just want to sit in the garden and read- just hoping it isn’t too warm for the half marathon on Sunday.

How has your week been? Which films have you seen lately? We also finally got around to watching The King’s Speech which I really enjoyed- many years too late!  What sort of “junk” TV shows do you like? I do like a documentary-type thing (but an easy one)- the Channel 5 one about Kings Cross has been good, there’s The Secret Life of the Zoo (I have a load of them recorded ready for report writing time!), and there was one about the Mandarin Oriental Hotel that was quite easy watching too.


100 parkruns!

So I have been working towards this milestone for a while now and it was such a fantastic morning. I stopped at the shop on the way to get some napkins, and then met my mum in the car park. She had made around 60 fairy cakes (carrot cakes, chocolate cakes and cherry cakes)- all in an IKEA bag for easy transportation to the start line (I on the other hand had two tins in a bag, but my tub wouldn’t fit in any bag so I had to awkwardly carry it).

Ellenbrook have a table (they use it mainly for token sorting and organising the volunteer jobs) so when we got there they moved it to next to the finish line and we piled all the cakes on (I forgot to take a photo until after running so there was already a lot gone by then). I introduced mum to Lynne who pretty much volunteers each week, as she usually marshals at the loop so they would be able to chat while we were running.

I was busy chatting to a few runners and I was about to head up to the start when I saw Denise- she wanted to try on a milestone shirt (she was the one who managed to order her 100th as a child size) so I had brought one with me. She quickly tried it on and then we headed to the start line. I hadn’t seen my dad or brother at that point, and when I was catching up with some other OH runners Dad came up and said that Tony had got a puncture on the cycle over. Dad had run 18km on Thursday (his longest run before our half next weekend) and found it a bit of a struggle at the end, so he was going to walk/run parkrun. Tony wheeled his bike up to us and Dad took it from him to wheel it up to the start. He said later that he did the first loop behind the tail runner and quite enjoyed seeing them encourage the children at the back. Anyway, back to the run. In the run briefing Tim, the RD, got me to wave and mentioned that not only was it my 100th parkrun, but I had volunteered 36 times- I didn’t realise as you don’t get a total in your emails like you do with your run. They are trying to encourage more volunteers at Ellenbrook so he was pointing out that you can volunteer without giving up your run.

We set off and I waved at mum (as you run past the finish area on both the little and big loop).

The run went well- it was a gorgeous day- sunny but with a strong breeze (which only hit you at certain points), and the mud had dried in most places making the running surface nice and firm. I ran with Tony for a bit, and tried to keep in sight a group of OH ladies. A few of the marshals congratulated me on my way around which was lovely. I also spotted 3 of the km marker posts, so I only need to find where the 1km one is now! I managed to catch up with the OH ladies at around 3km (just past the cow fields) and kept pace with them until the runway. At the start of the runway you see the 4km marker, and that was strange as normally I feel like I am nearly finished, but the thought of a whole kilometre (although as I run in miles I spent some time wondering how many minutes that would be- 6 maybe?) made it feel like the end was further.

I nearly caught Zoe (one of the OH ladies) right at the end- I finished (position 69/127) in 27.53. I am so pleased with this too, as the parkrun I ran the week after Brighton half was hard and I felt tired the whole way. This one (the week after WGC half) I felt strong and although I felt like it was fast and I was breathing hard and pushing myself, I didn’t have that heavy legged feeling (which I did have on our Tuesday night club run this week).

My post-run red face! I was very excited to have actually run my 100th as you can see!

After having my barcode scanned I went straight over to Mum and saw how she was getting on- lots of the cakes were already gone (and like a pro she had been topping up from the supplies in her bag under the table).

Tony finished in 30 minutes and went to get his bike, and Dad came in at 37 minutes, in his words being “captain sensible” and run-walking it.

While we were telling people about the cakes (next time I would also do labels I think) Tony and Dad tried to repair the puncture but they could not find the thorn- luckily mum had driven and could put his bike in her car, as it wouldn’t fit in mine. Some people had brought money with them, and were surprised that we weren’t asking for anything. I did think after that I should have asked if we could mention my dad’s fundraising page,  and the RD did say he might be able to share it on their facebook page which would be good. But really it was just such an enjoyable social occasion. I think Ellenbrook misses out on the post-parkrun cake culture a bit, as there isn’t really a cafe that people go to. I think there is a Starbucks somewhere on the uni campus, so I think they sometimes go there to process the results, but it’s not right by the finish so I think a lot of people just head home. Mum really enjoyed herself as she just loves to chat to people, and I suppose after seeing us go by on our second loop, it wouldn’t be long before the first people finished and she started giving out cakes.

I briefly chatted to someone with one of the cow cowls, and so I asked her how many she had done (26 I think)- some of the runners with her said they had a debate over whether the number should be 21, because your home parkrun doesn’t count. Dad then said we would need 22, as we sort of have two home parkruns really.

As well as seeing lots of regular runners and club friends, some of our club had been off on super long runs- the first few came back after running 11 miles so of course a piece of cake was in order.

Paula and Jan had run 15 miles- they arrived a little later for very sweaty hugs and of course some cake. They were so sweet as they had said they wanted to make it back in time to celebrate with me.

After most people had left we helped with the token sorting before heading back to the car park- I have a few bits left which I’ll take into work this week, but we didn’t have much left (always better that than to run out).

The results were processed really quickly, and I got my “welcome to the 100 club” email too. I can’t claim the t-shirt yet, but there is no rush as I’ll be wearing it for 3 years at least! (250 is the next milestone, so perhaps I’ll get that before I am 40…).

I went back to Mum and Dad’s- I had a quick shower, my sister came over with her baby, and Mum made us all pancakes for a very late breakfast (I think I got there at around 10.30)- a great start to the weekend.

So now the focus moves over to my 20 different UK events- my last count I was on 16, and I have one planned for April, and either one or two in May. There are still a few Hertfordshire ones that I haven’t been to, so I need to co-ordinate with Dad to see when he can fit in our next lot of tourism. I’m not sure when I will manage it, hopefully by the summer holidays.

One of the regulars took a lot of photos (here) and someone with a running buggy made an awesome time-lapse video of the course which is well worth a watch and may hopefully tempt some more tourists our way.

How many home parkruns do you have? Which courses would be in your top 3?

Baking for my 100th

This week my kitchen has been working overtime! On Saturday it will be my 100th parkrun, and so of course I need to bring cakes. I’ll be going to Ellenbrook Fields as that is where most of my club mates run and marshal, and Dad and Tony will cycle there to meet me. Mum has also offered to make some cakes so I will meet her in the car park.

Mum said she would make some carrot cakes and chocolate cakes, so I decided to add some variety (and also think about what I like after a run, in the hope that other people like that sort of thing too).

First up, tea loaf. I really love a fruity cake after a run- it feels more dense and filling than a normal sugary cake, so I made two tea loaves on Wednesday night- I soaked the fruit before I went to work, weighed out all the ingredients when I got back from work, and then after yoga baked them in the oven.

I had a short run on Thursday and stopped for a lot of photos- it didn’t come out that well but the sunlight was shining through the blossom and it was glowing.

I also tried to make a new route, partly through a park (hooray for lighter evenings) but it wasn’t quite long enough- I need to add a bit on still.

On Thursday I went for sticky gingerbread loaf cake.

I love making this- you add bicab into the dry ingredients, melt together treacle and syrup, and then when you pour the wet into the dry, it bubbles up (like when you make honeycomb)- it’s like alchemy in the kitchen. Although this one kept bubbling in the oven and ended up overflowing just a smidge.

Ah well, once they are all cut into pieces no-one will know.

On Friday night it was time for brownies and lemon drizzle cake.

I then got a text from my mum saying she had baked around 50 cupcakes- I hope a lot of people want some cake after!

They basically covered our entire kitchen worktop.

I then had a huge slicing session late on Friday night:

I thought I had some napkins in the cupboard but I can’t find them, so if I leave early enough I am going to stop at the shop and get some, as I think people will need them, especially for the brownies and ginger cake.

What sort of cake would you go for after a run or parkrun?