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? 

Welwyn Garden City half marathon 2017

So my main aims were 1- Beat my time from last year (2.18 something) and not fall over. I also really wanted a t-shirt that fit better as last year I went straight from the finish line to the back of the paramedic car, and one of my friends grabbed me a t-shirt but it turned out to be unisex M which was too big for running in.

So in the morning I had some toast (two bits- one with jam and one with honey) and took my time getting ready. Even though it is not far to the start (2 miles) I drove in and parked about half a mile away as I thought I would struggle running 15. Some of our club runners were doing the hilly 8 mile route, then running to the start line, and then running the half for their super long marathon training run- hardcore! It was great though as it meant loads of our club were out either running, marshaling or supporting – some ran the first bit and then watched during the race.

First success- I remembered my timing chip (last year I left it in the envelope and threw it in the bin, and only when I saw other people putting theirs on did I realise and had to scrabble around and find it).

It was very windy- I considered a buff to keep my skin warm, but I knew I would just get sweaty and annoyed with it so I had to suck it up and be cold before the start. Luckily it starts in the ground of a sports centre so we stayed inside until about 8.45am. They had kids races going around the track and a few of our club’s kids had run them, so admiring their medals kept my mind off the cold. At the start it was very busy (as always) and we ran around the track, out of the sports centre complex and along to a pavement- suddenly the runner in front headed right and I headed straight into a huge bollard- luckily I saw it a split second before I hit it and managed to put both hands out to cushion the impact- it really hurt my wrist but I could have been much worse- they had marshals at the side and some bollards had coloured tape, but this one had none. I told Louise (who I was running with) at that point that maybe next year I should marshal to be on the safe side.

I was aiming for around 10 minute miles but I knew that it wasn’t flat, and of course the wind would be a factor. I didn’t set off too fast, and it’s always good at the beginning as lots of people you know are passing around you so you can have little chats here and there. I ran with Louise for the first 3 miles, and we even saw Andy as the route goes very close to where we live, so he’d walked down to cheer us on.

At the first water stop Louise had a drink and I carried on- I thought she was just behind me but I didn’t see her again. I saw a girl in a bright orange top and her friend in grey, and they seemed to be going a similar pace to me, so I stuck behind them for a fair bit. The course is sort of an out and back with a loop at the end- we ran out along the old railway line (with a great OH lady cheering station partway along), and here we were sheltered from the wind, so I felt like I was doing OK. At each mile marker I was just shy of 10 minute miles- all good. I had been doing (unintentionally) long runs along the route- either along the old railway line (the way out) or more recently, along the country roads (the way back). The last time I ran along the old railway line it was super muddy, but it had really dried out so it’s good to know I can head back there again when I fancy it.

At the half way point you come out of the path and along some roads (the way I can run back from Panshanger parkrun)- this is not sheltered as it goes between fields, and the wind here was awful- really tough. The girls ahead of me slowed too, so I kept them in my sights. When I looked on Strava I could tell exactly where the wind hit us- my times crept over 10 minutes (not by much- 10.03/ 10.14) but it felt harder. I actually surprised myself that I mainly felt OK, although I did start to dread the next half (in two weeks time). I stopped to walk up a hill for a few paces, and the girls ahead had walked too. As I ran past them they commented that we were sort of pacing each other! Anyway- at the final water station I stopped to have a drink (just before 10 miles)- they had cups (which I prefer) and only a little bit of water, so I stopped to have a few sips before carrying on. At this point I lost the girls ahead of me, but as we ran along the streets I could see them ahead and gradually caught up. I think if they hadn’t mentioned anything I think I would have slowed down a lot more.

I felt like I was being so careful along the pavements as last year I had tripped and really hurt myself (a lot of blood, cuts on my hands and a massive bruise on my hip). The final part felt long- as we came out of the pathway section and re-joined the road, I was just around the corner from home but still had 3 miles to go and I had already used my “just a parkrun to go” at mile 9 (where I told myself that I had a warm up and a parkrun to go).

With a mile to go we headed along a grassy path by the side of the road, and of course I managed to trip here- I just managed to catch myself so I didn’t hit the ground. So I suppose I can count it as a success. I felt a bit sick at that point and the two girls (who kindly checked I was OK after my stumble) gave me some motivation for the final push- by this point I was counting to 100 in my head to try and distract myself. I think maybe knowing the route and running it in training runs doesn’t help me because although we feel near, seeing the signs means you know you have another mile left or whatever. It’s also gently uphill which is really mean for the finish of a half! The final few metres is downhill into the track area and onto the track.

I was very happy to see the finish line! I got a hug from Donna, my run leader (she loves a sweaty finish line hug!), collected my medal, a bottle of water and a banana. I also got a t-shirt (a better size this year too) and then joined the queue to get the print out of my chip time- 2.11.18. I’m very pleased with that- it’s not a flat course and the wind made it very tough today, and I suppose with the half being 0.1 over, I probably averaged 10 minute miles. Some of the super long runners had already finished, and some were just behind me so I hung around for a bit to chat to them, but my jumper was in my car, and we had brunch booked, so I didn’t stay for all of the runners. I put the t-shirt on and was very glad of an extra layer.

I jogged slowly back to my car, put a nuun tab in my water, put on my jumper and wiped my face before walking into town to meet Andy.

Ah, Bill’s pancakes and a huge pot of tea- this was what I did the run for!

So I feel I can call it a success- I beat my time from last year, and I didn’t fall over (well not properly). And my t-shirt is a much better fit- I do love a technical t-shirt.


Red kite spotting at Ellenbrook Fields

This Saturday was going to be my 100th parkrun, but then I found out that my dad and brother had planned some tourism in London (before a football match) so I offered to marshal instead. Probably a very good idea as I have a half marathon on Sunday and a rest day before won’t do any harm.

It was fairly cloudy and overcast as I walked to my marshal point, but once I got there the sun came out and it was a gorgeous morning.

The runway/ taxiway is quite long! 1km I think- I could see the start line from here but it wouldn’t show up on the photo as it’s far in the distance. As I got to the end, my brother cycled up (basically my dad wasn’t well yesterday so they stayed at home and were going to head in just for the football). We had a quick chat before he headed off to the start and I promised him an extra loud cheer.

I love it that you get a handy lanyard with the map (and the RD’s phone numbers on the back just in case)- I am not the best at map ready though and did get a little confused at one point over how far back I needed to be. I was stationed on point 6 (“the muddy bit/ water feature”) and it’s a straight part of the course, but the point 7 person hadn’t turned up, and that is where runners turn left to head back to the runway. I waited there for a bit in the end as I thought that it was where runners were more likely to go wrong, but the guy turned up a little after me, so I could move into my position.

(The view from point 7).

The view from my point- the water feature has really dried up and is mostly rutted mud now as opposed to a huge puddle crossing the whole path.

There were lots of daffodils out, and once I was in position I got quite warm- I ended up taking my coat off.

Also three red kites were flying overhead- I tried to zoom in and get pictures but they were hard to capture as they kept flying towards the sun.

I was enjoying the sunshine and bird spotting so much I nearly forgot why I was there (nearly..). I put my coat on the huge blackberry bush so it wasn’t in the mud, and then it was time to cheer all the runners past.

It always amazes me how quickly the front runners come along. It is so impressive seeing them as they steam past.

There were not too many OH ladies running today as most of us are running the half tomorrow, but I saw a few familiar faces and of course cheered on everyone (and yes gave Tony an extra big shout out). It occurred to me as he was running past that I had yet again forgotten to look out for the km marker posts- they were installed a month or so ago, and I have run it since then, but have not noticed them (partly because I keep my watch to miles so I have little idea of when each km is). I asked him if he had spotted any but he hadn’t.

This photo to me looks like my feet are facing opposite ways, but they aren’t (the shoes are dark blue at the back, but I think the left one looks like the blue is the toe end)- they were a bit muddy. I have had them a while and wanted to muddy them up a bit, and also break them in a bit more- they are newer versions of a shoe I have had before but they are not quite as comfy and I can’t work out why. They were only cheap so if they are relegated to non-running trainers I can live with it.

And hooray- on my walk back to the start I found one of the markers! They are fab!

After handing back the jacket and lanyard, I popped into town as I had to get us some bread for dinner (we need to get to M&S before they sell out of sourdough), and I got half way home before realising I also needed to go to the post office to collect a parcel- argh!

I did some baking (Lemon and lavender blondies from the Swedish book), and then walked back into town for a haircut.

This patch of wasteland annoys me so much – it is the old Shredded Wheat factory, and it is just crumbling. It is right by town, right by the station and would be perfect for a load of houses and flats. When there are homes planned on beautiful patches of greenery between Hatfield and St Albans it is just ridiculous that somewhere like this is going to waste. By Hatfield station they have built a block of flats and they have all sold- the railway line isn’t that busy and being right by the station would be perfect for the people who commute into London. Off my soap-box now!

I tried to take a photo of my haircut (nothing exciting- just an inch or so off) because tomorrow it will be ruined! Why did I book it for the day before a half marathon??? Usually it would last a couple of days because I cannot style it properly. Ah well.

(The reason why is because I left it late and my lovely hairdresser was already booked up the last two weekends and then she goes away soon).

Now I just have to do some race prep (drink water, paint my nails and pack my bag).

Do you like seeing wildlife when you are out and about? Do you like floral cakes? I have had a gorgeous rose and pistachio cake before, and I love geranium (Montezuma’s do a lovely orange and geranium chocolate)- I am hoping that the lavender is not too strong in the blondies. What do you do with your running trainers once they are no good for running? I have a lot just in boxes as I don’t want to get rid of them- I can use one pair for PE at school, and one pair for gardening, but that’s about it. Do you have any pre-race rituals? I always like to paint my nails, but it has never been a “luck” thing, I just like them to match the medal. But then at the Welwyn half last year I forgot, and then I fell over, so now I am not so sure!

Recovering or tapering? Upcoming races and a peanut butter cheesecake.

On Saturday afternoon, after a walk into town, I made a cheesecake. I bought the Pip and Nut cookbook a while back, and it had caught my eye (peanut butter and raspberry cheesecake- basically a pb&j dessert) and as we were going to Andy’s parents for tea on Sunday it seemed perfect for that.

You made the base first (not by crushing biscuits, but by making a sort of biscuit mixture from scratch and baking it), and then came the filling- loads of cream cheese, eggs, a bit of vanilla and sugar all whipped up. Then a few tbs peanut butter was swirled in.

Finally raspberries were mixed in before it was poured onto the base and then baked.

It went a beautiful pink colour from the raspberries. At this point, as I poured it over the base, I realised that there was so much cheesecake mixture that it would overflow, so I had to get out another tin and cook just the filling in that. We ended up with two cheesecakes but one had no base (as I did not have the time to make another base and let it cool).  I didn’t take a photo of the finished cheesecake (poor show I know, but I am sure you have all seen a cheesecake before..), but there wasn’t much left after Sunday tea anyway! It was a good recipe but next time I would make less topping because of the size of my pan.

On Sunday morning I had a lie in (I didn’t set my alarm) and then headed out on a long run at around 9am. It was meant to rain, but thankfully it stayed fairly dry, with a few bits of drizzle every now and then. I couldn’t decide how far to go or which route to go, so in the end I did an out and back in the direction of Panshanger parkrun, although I didn’t quite get all the way there. I wanted to do 8-10 miles, as next weekend I have another half marathon. It is confusing- am I recovering from the half marathon, training for the next one or tapering for it? I’m not sure how many miles I would usually do the week before- it depends on the goal for the race really. The one next week is the Welwyn one, where I fell over last year and really cut up my hands, bruised my hip and hurt my back, so my main aim is to finish without needing to see the paramedics after! On Sunday after a couple of miles I was just feeling tired, but I think it was a bit more psychological, and so I took a few photos and distracted myself, and before I knew it I was at the half way point and could turn around. (I had another break then where I messaged Andy so he knew my ETA). As I got home my watch said 8.92 miles, so I went up and down the road to make it up to the full 9- I am not normally bothered by this apart from when it is really close to the next full mile.

A few weeks ago we had picked up some chocolate twists (basically like pain au chocolat) in Waitrose, as they were reduced, so before I had left I had got them out of the freezer. I had a shower while Andy heated up the oven, and then we had a lovely breakfast- I had a bit of granola with berries too. By that point it was raining quite hard, so our original plans of walking into town vanished, so I did some baking for work (more of those almond/jam things from the Hygge cookbook).

Our decorating / finishing touches are still going on- I bought this print (from Etsy) in the Christmas holidays, but we only just got some masonry nails so it is finally up and I love it!

After thinking about the Welwyn half this week, I half remembered my plan to do slightly less races this year. I think I have managed to resist a few (lots from my club did the Fred Hughes 10, and an Essendon 10k), but I still have a few:

The Welwyn half marathon is next weekend- plan to finish in one piece. Two weeks later I am doing the Lee Valley half marathon with my dad. We are hoping for around 2.10 as long as it isn’t too hot.

I have then got the Wings for Life race in May- no idea how far I will manage to run for that (it’s where you all start, and then a bit later a catcher car starts to drive, and when it passes you, you drop out), but maybe around 8 miles I think.

This week I signed up to the London 10 Mile– It’s 10 miles on the 4th of June in Richmond park. There is also a family fun run and a picnic in the park after. Some of the profits go to parkrun, which is amazing. I have been given a place in the race which is great, so I am going to give some money to my local parkrun instead of paying for it.

Which races do you have coming up? Do you tend to do the same ones each year? Are you a cheesecake fan? It’s not my favourite dessert, but a really good one (hello Cheesecake Factory) can sway me.

Linford Wood parkrun (number 99!)

First up- after saying how tired I felt last week, I ended up with a bit of a sniffly cold earlier in the week so maybe that was it. I took the week very easily, with a gentle 3 miles after work on Monday, and yoga on Tuesday (it’s normally Wednesdays but the hall was booked). Actually, that wasn’t so gentle- we did some (well I attempted) handstands and headstands- normally we do the tripod headstand but we tried a different (and apparently easier) one, but my shoulders were not strong enough and I didn’t make it. At one point one of the other people asked “is it blanket time yet?”- it was enjoyable and relaxing in the end, but my shoulders ached a lot afterwards. I had a late meeting on Wednesday so we had a walk before dinner, and on Thursday I visited my sister and my niece. I was planning on running on Friday after work but my back had stiffened up so I opted for a walk instead. I certainly had fresh legs for parkun on Saturday.

We were up early- I picked my parents and brother up before 8am, as it was around 50 minutes to an hour to drive up to Milton Keynes. I decided to have a little bit of breakfast as I would normally be up a bit later, so I had a little bit of granola.

We were meeting my dad’s cousin at Linford Wood parkrun- he has done a lot of running in the past (the GNR something like 15 times) and we thought that he had done a parkrun in Milton Keynes before (which is why we had arranged to go up there) but it turned out that last week was his first one- he did a sort of recce to find out where the parking was and what the course was like. The description of where it was on the page was a little confusing (MK is confusing generally with a million roundabouts, road numbers instead of names, and it all looks the same) and the satnav postcode didn’t quite take us the right way at the end- luckily we had read the instructions that said to follow signs for Linford Wood West, which we did, and reached the car park at around 8.45, to see Brian and his wife Maureen (Maureen is my dad’s real cousin, but Brian has always been known as “cousin Brian” as he is a bit older than my dad so as he grew up Brian was already in the family).

We followed the other runners along the path to the start, and had a new runner’s briefing more or less straight away. The guy giving the talk asked where people had come from, as there was a big group of tourists from various places (including Cornwall and Brighton). I said we were from Ellenbrook in Hatfield, but then realised I was wearing my Panshanger apricot t-shirt (I have an Ellenbrook vest). Someone else commented that they had been to Panshanger and loved it- it is a very beautiful course.

The main briefing warned us to give way on the paths- apparently there is often a horse on the course. I was very impressed with how silent everyone was during the briefing- sometimes people at the back chat and you can’t hear what is being said (you just join in with the clapping and guess “that’s for the volunteers, that’s for a milestone run” etc.). I think having everyone penned in (we were behind tape so as not to obstruct the path for others) must have helped. We then walked the short distance to the start, heading to nearer the back. The start was the direction of the way we had just come, so at first (without realising) we were right at the front, but once we noticed we headed back.

The course was lovely- one lap through woodland along the redways/ underpasses. At times it was close to traffic (we could hear the busy roads) but at other times we could hear birds singing and it didn’t feel like we were in the middle of a town.  The start was very busy as the paths were narrow, and they had put out cones to keep the runners to the left, away from other park users. If I was aiming for a pb I would start further forwards as I was stuck behind quite a few people- as I wasn’t bothered about time it was fine for me, and when it’s a new (to me) event it’s hard to know where to place yourself. They get a similar number of runners to Ellenbrook it seems (120+ ish) so I would need to picture whereabouts I start for that parkrun. There were lots of houses nearby, hidden in the woods, and at around the half way point we ran around some playing fields- here we could see runners across the road, but that was the only point on the course that you could see anyone else. Dad was going to run with Brian, but Brian was using a heart rate monitor and wanted to go at his own pace without feeling pressure, so Dad soon sped past me and Tony, who spent the run mainly chatting.

The course was undulating in the correct meaning, (not the way race directors call hilly courses “undulating”)- the first mile must have been gently uphill but it felt flat. There were some short down and then ups as you ran under roads, and there was a lovely long downhill bit just after 2 miles. We even joked that we were worried about having to run back up again, but it seemed fairly flat at the end. We saw a little “250m to go” sign and Tony sped up, but I was happy going along at normal speed (I was conscious of having eaten a few hours earlier…)- I managed 30.24 (with the congestion at the start making for a nice negative split), Tony was just ahead with 30.15 and my dad was super speedy finishing in 25.03! We were all there to cheer Brian over the finish line, and he got himself a new pb- he may be a parkrun convert!

We did some stretching and looked out for Mum and Maureen- we thought they had headed to the cafe so we walked there, but they weren’t inside. We then thought they had headed to the car, but as we were going we heard them coming up the path (where the runners finish)- they had gone for a wander in the woods and missed us all finish! We had joked about Mum meeting someone with a dog (she always seems to) and when we met her she had mud on her trousers from where a dog had jumped up on her.

We then had a quick photo to commemorate (this also is very funny as the battery on my mum’s camera was going, so she used my phone and was not 100% sure how to take one- the first picture was just me and Brian).

We then headed back to the car, and visited Brian and Maureen’s house for a well-earned breakfast of croissants and tea. (And although we didn’t see a horse on the parkrun course, we saw one as we were pulling into their road). It was such a great start to the weekend- a really enjoyable course (I really do like the one lap courses and there don’t seem to be that many) and a lovely time spent with family.

So that was my 16th UK parkrun, and my 99th time of running one (although in fact, the first time I was tail runner I didn’t take a finish token!). Next weekend I am marshaling – I was originally going to run, but then Dad and Tony are away (they are going to watch a match in London so have booked a hotel so they can parkrun in London first), plus I am running a half marathon on the Sunday, so I swapped over and will run my 100th all being well on the 25th March.

What did you get up to this weekend? Do you have family living close by to you?