A spot of parkrun multitasking, a belated lunch and Cochie fruit Shakies review

Good morning and Happy Monday. I can’t believe that my week of annual leave has finished and I’m back in the office. One minute it was Monday morning and I had the whole week ahead of me, the next it was Friday evening and the weekend was rapidly approaching.

So, what did I get up to during the weekend? Did I remember that I’m meant to be a runner and make the time to run? Did I spend far too much time in front of the TV watching The Ashes? Did I eat and drink far too much? Most importantly, did I remember to have fun?

After some slightly negative comments on social media – I think the expression ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say’ comes to mind – I’m adding a disclaimer here. If you want to read about an action-packed weekend then this isn’t the blog for you. If you want to read about active travel this isn’t the blog for you. If you want an insight into the life of a 40-year-old Brummie who is experiencing a bit of a midlife crisis, this may be the blog for you.

My weekend didn’t get off to the most positive of starts when I discovered that my broadband had suddenly stopped working. With a job application to complete and an academic manuscript to submit this wasn’t ideal timing.

If you are thinking of switching to Virgin Media then please don’t. Their customer service is nonexistent – it took 55 minutes to speak to someone on Friday evening. To add insult to injury they keep putting their prices up. If you think I’m exaggerating, check out the feedback on their social media accounts.

I’m not sure if I was worried about the job application or something else, but I didn’t get the best night’s sleep on Friday. I’ve so much respect for people with children as after three hours’ sleep I woke up on Saturday morning feeling like a zombie.Sutton ParkI dragged myself out of bed, had a cold shower and then made my way to the start of Sutton Park parkrun. My run was slightly marred by yet another out of control dog biting at my ankles. When I asked the dog owner politely to put his dog on a lead I was told to “piss off”. And to think people complain about the cyclists and runners in Sutton Park.

I’m not surprised my heart rate was a lot higher than it was during the equivalent run the previous week.StravaVolunteering was a little hectic as there was about half the usual number of people volunteering.

I provided finish token support to my running buddy Ellen and also had the task of ensuring people remained in the correct order. Luckily someone took over number checking for me as I was struggling to note down all the dodgy barcodes while keeping Ellen supplied with tokens.

I enjoyed myself as with 300+ finishers we were busy most of the time. I also love getting to congratulate people as they finish. The rota for next week looks a little empty at the moment, hopefully, a few more people will volunteer. Sutton Park parkrun 1Sutton Park parkrun volunteers

[Photos: Peter Heafield]

I’m still on target for a 25 volunteer t-shirt by the end of the year 🙂

Ellen kindly gave me a lift back from parkrun and I switched on my computer and discovered that my Internet was still kaput. This is going to sound a little dramatic, but without Internet access, I wasn’t able to complete the majority of my Saturday chores. I wasn’t able to print out the information I needed to start working on the job application and I wasn’t able to submit the final version of my academic manuscript. It’s amazing how reliant I have become on the Internet. To make matters worse, I wasn’t able to watch very much of The Ashes as the TV stopped working.

My Saturday continued to be a bit what I call ‘pants’ when my friend called to say he didn’t want to meet up for lunch. I could have gone into a real sulk but I decided to spend the afternoon and early evening completing some household chores.

Household chores completed, I walked the short distance to one of my favourite local pubs. I’m sure I must look like a bit of a loner drinking alone, but I do enjoy having the occasional peaceful pint(s) on a Saturday evening. I got soaked en route to the pub – one minute it was sunny, the next there was a torrential downpour. The rain was so heavy, I spent 15 minutes trying and failing to keep dry in a bus shelter.

The pub was busier than normal but I managed to grab myself a table in a dark corner. I *may* have spent a little longer than I’d originally planned to waiting for it to stop raining. It was dark when I finally left.Selfie failI felt far better than I probably deserved to when I woke up yesterday morning. Unfortunately, my right knee was incredibly painful, I hate the way it sometimes randomly hurts for no reason. I decided to be sensible and cancelled my planned run with Ellen. I hate messing people about, but I don’t think I’d have enjoyed hobbling around the top end of Sutton Park.

Despite my painful right knee I still managed to have a productive morning. As you can imagine I wasn’t overly impressed when I went to watch the first few overs of The Ashes and discovered that the Virgin Media fault had reoccurred and my TV wasn’t working. It’s like it knew I wanted to watch something on TV.

My day improved when my friend came round, apologised for yesterday and said that he wanted to go out for lunch. I’m not the type of person who turns down eating opportunities, so I got changed into something suitable to be worn in public, and headed into Mere Green.

I was feeling quite hungry so I decided to treat myself to the three-course lunch option. The menu was slightly different to last time I visited, so I opted for Calamari to start, followed by Steak-Frites. I wasn’t going to have a dessert until I spotted someone on the table next to us eating Crème brûlée, I’m sure you can predict what happened next.

The rest of the day was not quite as productive as I would have liked. I ‘phoned Virgin Media who confirmed there was an issue with a junction box, and was given an estimated time the issue being fixed of 20:45. Once I knew I wouldn’t have Internet access for most of the day, I cracked on with some more gardening, and got myself ready for work.

And finally, I’ve got a really short product review for you. I hope that people find it interesting and informative.

Cochie fruit Shakies review

I’m aware that I’m repeating myself, but as a blogger, I love trying out products and writing what I hope are meaningful reviews. I also love learning about new brands and discovering new products. Last month, I received an email with a rather eye-catching subject line – Introducing Cochie the new name in dairy-free goodness made from coconuts, not cows. Manufactured by Triano Brands, Cochie is an anagram of the word choice, and is pronounced Co–chi.Cochie Shakie Group_LRI rather cheekily asked if I could review some Cochie products on my blog, and a couple of days later received a selection of ‘Softys’ and ‘Shakies’ from the launch range. As I’m still working my way though the Softys, this review focuses on the Shakies.

A quick introduction to Cochie

 As a brand, Cochie has two priorities:

  • Taste – Dairy-free does not have to taste bad; in fact it can taste really, really great.
  • Choice – Dietary requirements, healthy eating, family-oriented shopping they all cause restrictions. With Cochie anyone and everyone can try and enjoy it.

Cochie fruit Shakies

I thought I’d include a bit of information about Cochie Shakies before I share my thoughts.

Cochie Shakies are described as a super refreshing drink that can be enjoyed from the bottle, poured over ice, mixed with cereal or frozen. The launch range includes fruit Shakies in two flavours – strawberry and mango – with more product variants coming soon.

The review process

The review process was in theory incredibly straightforward. As I prefer chilled drinks, I put the Cochie Shakies in the fridge, and waited for the ideal opportunity to try one. I had visions of enjoying a chilled strawberry flavoured Shakie after my Pilates class, and a mango flavoured Shakie after a run. Well that was the theory. The reality was a little different as my friend Hannah drank both bottles of the mango Shakie while I was out running.

The Verdict

As, I didn’t get to try the mango fruit Shakie myself and I wasn’t able to source replacements, I’ve decided to share the feedback that my friend Hannah rather reluctantly provided.

Strawberry Shakie

According to the Triano Brands website, the strawberry flavoured Shakie is free from all major allergens including gluten, soya, dairy and lactose and is suitable for vegans and vegetarians. In an attempt to be helpful, I’ve included a list of the ingredients and nutritional information.Shakie-Strawberry-300x300I drank the first bottle of Strawberry flavoured Shakie I’d been sent after a run in what felt like 100 degree heat. I was feeling so thirsty, I finished the Shakie in less than five seconds, and didn’t give a lot of thought to what it actually tasted like. Definitely a bit of a failure on the product review front. I saved the second bottle for after my first and quite possibly last attempt at Pilates. This time I remembered to shake the bottle before I opened it – I guess the clue is in the name – and took a few seconds to actually think about what I was drinking.

I thought that the strawberry Shakie tasted a little unusual, I suspect that I was expecting it to taste a little more like strawberry milk than it did. One of the main ingredients is coconut milk, so I was a little surprised the drink didn’t really taste of coconuts. I actually found the taste a little too artificial for my liking. Although I found the strawberry Shakie refreshing, I don’t think it will be replacing my usual selection of post-run drinks.

Mango Shakie

According to the Triano Brands website, the mango flavoured Shakie is free from all major allergens including dairy, lactose, gluten and soya and is suitable for vegans, vegetarians, kosher and halal. Once again, I’ve included a list of the ingredients and nutritional information.Shakie-Mango-300x300My friend Hannah drank both of the bottles of mango Shakie while I was out running. I wasn’t overly annoyed as I’m not a huge fan of mango. It would have been a different story if Hannah had drunk the strawberry Shakies. Although Hannah said that she found the mango Shakie a little on the sickly side, I suspect this was because she managed to drink two bottles in one go. Apparently the mango flavoured Shakie makes a great hangover cure.

So thanks again to Cochie for sending me some bottles of strawberry and mango Shakie to review. For more information, please visit the Triano Brands website. Each 250ml bottle has a RRP of £1.99.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a selection of products from the Cochie range for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As I complete forgot to take any photographs, the photographs in the review are from the Triano Brands website** 

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A spot of soggy barcode scanning, a slightly unflattering video and the most amazing Sunday lunch

Good morning and as always, I hope that everyone who reads this had an awesome weekend. It’s just a shame the weather caused so many problems. I’m feeling far too chirpy for a Monday morning as I’m on annual leave. I’m looking forward to not having to get up at 05:30 every day. I’m aware that I’m repeating myself but I’m also looking forward to spending a couple of days in Wallingford.

So, what did I get up to during the weekend? Did I run? Did I avoid the local pubs? Did I avoid the rain? Did I do anything productive or did I sit around watching the TV?

Once again, I need to add a disclaimer here. If you want to read about an action-packed weekend, this probably isn’t the blog for you. If you want to read about active travel, this definitely isn’t the blog for you. If you want an insight into the life of a 40-year-old Brummie who enjoys quiet and predictable weekends and good food, this may be the blog for you.

I was woken by the sound of rain hitting my bedroom window on Saturday morning. Great news from a hydrological perspective, we most definitely needed the rain. Not such great news from a parkrun volunteering perspective. I’m ashamed to admit that I lay in bed for a couple of minutes and seriously considered giving parkrun a miss.CowsI didn’t and once I’d successfully navigated my way past the Sutton Park cows, I had an enjoyable run – well it is mainly downhill – towards the location of the start of parkrun near Banners Gate.Run to parkrunI was handed a high-viz vest and barcode scanner and as the drizzle had turned into rain, joined some of the other volunteers underneath the gazebo. I got chatting to a more experienced barcode scanner and after hearing a few horror stories decided to use the Virtual Volunteer app.

I don’t think there were any finish area related issues and I really enjoyed barcode scanning. I had a slightly embarrassing moment when the first finisher’s barcode wouldn’t scan. Luckily the number checker was standing right next to me and was able to make a note of the first finisher’s details. One runner accidentally handed me a £20 note rather than his barcode, I joked that he didn’t need to pay me. Another runner expected me to scan the barcode she’d attached to one of her trainers, my temperamental right knee didn’t appreciate having to kneel down.

The app seemed to scan the majority of the barcodes I was handed and my phone coped with the rain. The results export process was straightforward, I’m a bit of a technophobe and I didn’t have any issues. Just a word of warning, the app was quite what I’d call ‘battery intensive’. I’d make sure your phone is fully charged before you use it for barcode scanning.

I got home, had a shower and made a start on my Saturday chores. First set of chores completed, I checked out the Sutton Park parkrun Farcebook page and saw that the photos had been uploaded. I think it’s safe to say that the photographer captured my best side, my back is clearly more photogenic than my front! 

[Photos: Peter Heafield]

The remainder of my Saturday seemed to consist of several power naps, some much-needed food shopping, a trip to the Post Office, some food prep and a couple of episodes of Holby City. I wasn’t feeling quite right, so I went to bed at a sensible time.

Fortunately, I felt a million times better when I woke up yesterday after a solid 12 hours’ sleep. I had a date I didn’t want to cancel, Sunday lunch at the School House in Weeford. I suspect that I wasn’t actually unwell, I just needed to recharge my batteries. I briefly thought about heading out for a run, saw that it was still raining and changed my mind. I didn’t fancy getting soaked to the skin two days in a row.

After breakfast, I went through my usual seeing ‘what’s causing outrage on the Internet today’ routine. A lot of people appeared to be getting their knickers in a bit of a twist over the cancellation of the bike section of Outlaw 2019. Rather ironic considering these people weren’t actually taking part in Outlaw!

I then noticed that a video of the finish area had been added to the Sutton Park parkrun Farcebook page. I discovered that my legs and bum feature for slightly too long for my liking.A bum shotI guess that’s definitely the end of my running shorts and skorts modelling contract. I’m just relieved I was wearing Capri leggings and not running shorts!

At lunchtime, following a quick reunion with the family cats, I headed across to the School House in Weeford with mum and Colin as I’d offered to treat them to Sunday lunch. Although this was slightly more expensive than my usual Sunday lunch option of salad, I knew that the food would taste amazing. 

I had a bit of a blogger photo taking fail here as due to some extreme parental pressure, I wasn’t able to take photos of all the food. Both the crayfish salad starter and the roast sirloin of English beef tasted amazing. Mum made me chuckle as she told me she’d cut back on the amount of meat she eats. She said she was thinking about cutting meat out of her diet. She then proceeded to order roast lamb with all the trimmings. I did my usual trick of wanting what the person on the table next to us had ordered. I’ve got no idea what it was but it looked amazing.

The rest of the day was a bit of a washout, it was very much a case of rain stopped play. The original plan of picking strawberries was replaced with an hour or so watching an old film. Old film complete, mum dropped me back home and I spent what was left of the weekend completing a couple of chores.

I did warn people that this blog wouldn’t be very exciting 😉

Did you have a good weekend? I hope that the rain didn’t ruin your weekend plans.

Has a race photographer ever captured an unflattering photo or video of you? I can’t believe I didn’t even notice that the camera was positioned underneath the gazebo.

Try on my trainers: A day in my life #2

Now that I’ve left Wallingford, have moved back home to Four Oaks, and have a new job, I thought it was a good time to write another ‘day in my life’ blog. My new job involves a lot of travelling to not very exotic locations – since starting I’ve visited the Reading, Exeter, Warrington, Nottingham and Sheffield offices – so I thought I’d pick a typical working day.

05:30 – My alarm wakes me

I used to complain about my 07:00 alarm and found getting out of bed a chore. I would now give anything for such a late morning alarm; my new job means that I have to get up at 05:30 and leave the house at 05:59. So far, the mornings have been so light that getting up an hour and a half earlier hasn’t been too much of a chore. I’m not looking forward to the darker mornings.

05:35-05:59 – Have a wash, get dressed, make a cup of tea and brush my teeth

My weekday morning routine is still predictable. I’ll drag myself out of bed, nip to the loo, get dressed, put the kettle on, check I’ve packed everything I need for work and then spend five minutes drinking a cup of tea. I’ve worked out that in order to have a relaxed walk to the train station, I need to leave the house just before 06:00. Any later, and I have to power walk there, any earlier and I find myself waiting on the platform dodging the early morning vapers. I’m still very much a get up and go type of person and I’m still neglecting my skincare regime.

06:00-06:20 – Walk to the train station

The walk to the local train station takes anything between 15 and 18 minutes, it all depends on how my legs feel, how much traffic there is, and if I find myself walking behind Morning Cigarette Man (MCM). If I find myself walking behind MCM, I tend to slow down as I hate the smell of cigarettes, especially first thing in the morning.

Early morning drizzleBlake Street

I think it’s pretty safe to say that I miss my morning walks into the Wallingford office; I used to be in the office 30 minutes after leaving my lodgings. It’s definitely a case of welcome to the real world Emma!

06:20-06:50 – Train into Birmingham New Street

I experimented with a few trains, but prefer to catch the 06:20 train as it’s reasonably quiet and gives me 10 minutes to walk across to Birmingham Moor Street station to catch the 06:59 train to Solihull. On this particular morning, however, I had a meeting in a different office, so found myself with a 30 minute wait for the train down to Reading. I could have treated myself to an extra 20 minutes in bed!

06:50-07:30 – Breakfast and a spot of reading

Although Birmingham New Street station was lovely and peaceful, all of my favourite food outlets were closed as it was so early.Quiet New StreetI ended up grabbing something for breakfast in M&S and spending 25 minutes reading a couple more chapters of ‘Outrunning the Demons’. I got so engrossed in the book I almost missed my train and had to rush down to the platform.

07:30-09:10 – Train from Birmingham to Reading

The train was surprisingly quiet between Birmingham and Banbury, full and standing between Banbury and Oxford, and virtually empty between Oxford and Reading. I’m sure that most of my colleagues work while they are travelling by train. After trying and failing to get my work laptop to connect to the dodgy train WiFi, I read a couple more chapters of ‘Outrunning the Demons’ waved at Didcot Power Station and in the general direction of Wallingford, and reminisced about the day I ran Didcot parkrun. That was a good weekend.

09:10-09:20 – Grab some lunch from Pret

The train reached Reading on time, this meant that once I’d worked out how to scan my e-ticket to get through the ticket barriers, I had time to grab some lunch from Pret.ReadingPretAfter looking through the various options, I decided to play it safe and grabbed myself a Hoisin Duck salad wrap. As I was feeling quite hungry, I treated myself to a second breakfast and purchased a couple of croissants.

09:20-09:30 – Walk to the Reading office

I power walked to the office as I was aware that I needed to dial into a telecom at 09:45. Before I could dial into the telecom I had to find a spare desk so that I could set up my laptop. Luckily, the lady on reception recognised me, I’d remembered my work ID, and there were plenty of spare desks.Work work workI sat down next to one of my colleagues from Wallingford, set up my laptop and went into ‘work mode’.

09:30-12:30 – Work

The highlight of my morning was catching up with some of my hydrology colleagues from the Wallingford and Reading offices. I’d clearly picked a good day to be in the Reading office as most of the National Hydrology Team were there for a meeting. I managed to get a couple of technical queries answered and also made some enquiries about incident roles.  The morning flew by and two telecoms and a webex later, it was time for lunch.

12:30-13:00 – Lunch

One of the unwritten ‘rules’ of my old team was that whenever possible, we all walked down to the Manor House for lunch as a team. This doesn’t happen in my new office, although there’s a canteen, people seem to head off for lunch in smaller groups, I’m yet to be asked to join any of these groups. I’ve got used to popping down to the canteen, grabbing myself a sandwich and then eating my lunch alone at my desk.

A rather lengthy webex meant that I wasn’t able to head up to the canteen for lunch until 12:30. Completely out of character for me, I think my colleagues from Wallingford were starting to get a little concerned that I was feeling unwell. Sitting down and eating with my old team made me realise why I’m missing working in Wallingford so much; in my new office I’m no longer part of a team and to be completely honest I’m finding it quite difficult. I’m sure I’ll adjust soon.

13:00-17:00 – More work

Highlights of the afternoon included some hydrology-related discussions, helping one of my Wallingford colleagues with a technical permitting query, getting one of my CIWEM competencies drafted out, and responding to a lot of emails. Deleting over 500 emails felt great.

17:00-17:30 – Networking

I shut down my laptop, packed up my belongings and headed down to the location of the CIWEM meeting and the reason I’d spent the day in Reading. In an ideal world I would have spent the 30 minutes before the meeting talking to people from a range of organisations. I hate networking with a passion, so I spent the 30 minutes talking to someone I went to university with. They work for another organisation so it looked like I was networking.

17:30-19:10 – CIWEM meeting

One of my main aims this year is to become a Chartered Member of CIWEM. I’ve got more than enough experience, it’s just a case of finding the time to complete the lengthy application form. I need to attend meetings to keep up to date on hydrology, so when a colleague sent me information about a free evening meeting in Reading, I instantly hit the ‘register’ button.CIWEM meetingThe meeting was thought provoking and made my long day feel worthwhile. There were a couple of presentations; the first considered how the latest UK climate projections will impact my organisation, the second looked at the potential impacts of climate change on river flows. I personally found the second talk more interesting as it introduced me to lots of the latest hydrology models and projects.

19:10-19:15 – Walk to Three Guineas

The meeting was due to finish at 19:30 but thanks to a speedy Q&A session, finished 20 minutes earlier. This gave me just enough time to stop off for a pint with one of my colleagues from Wallingford.  Sometimes my priorities are a little suspect for a runner. Five minutes after the meeting finished I was inside the Three Guineas ordering a couple of pints.

19:15-19:40 – Quick drink with a colleague

As it was so warm in the bar area, we headed to the outside seating area and found an empty table. I wish I could remember the name of the beer I ordered – something to do with tea – as it tasted amazing and was almost too easy to drink.Quick pintTrain back to BrumThe 25 minutes passed by far too quickly and at 19:40 I reluctantly said “goodbye” to my colleague, headed to the train station and tracked down the 19:45 train back to Birmingham.

19:45-21:25 – Train from Reading to Birmingham

The train back to Birmingham was so quiet, I had my own personal carriage. I know that Birmingham isn’t exactly the most desirable of locations, but I expected to see a few people on the train. I didn’t find having my own carriage very relaxing as I kept thinking someone could walk in, attack me and no one would know. I can only assume that the pint of beer I’d consumed was stronger than I realised. New StreetI was also too scared to use the loo on the train as I didn’t want to leave my workbag and laptop unattended. Luckily for me, the train arrived in Birmingham several minutes earlier than scheduled so I just about had time to nip to the loo before I had to catch the Four Oaks train.

21:35-22:00 – Train back to Four Oaks

The local train back to Four Oaks unfortunately was anything but peaceful. I spent the journey listening to crap ‘phone’ music while trying not to make eye contact with a group of lads smoking weed. The 25 minute journey felt like it lasted over an hour.

22:00-22:20 – Walk home

Much as I think that Four Oaks is a safe area, when it’s dark, I’m not a huge fan of the walk from the train station to my house. I get that Birmingham City Council are skint, but a few more working streetlights would make people feel safer. The walk back home was probably getting into PB territory.

22:25-22:35 – Let myself in and make beans on toast

On the train journey home I realised that I hadn’t eaten since lunch. As I didn’t want to go to bed feeling hungry, I looked in the pantry and decided to play it safe with beans on toast. Not the most sophisticated food option but better than eating nothing.

22:35-22:45 – Shower etc

I never shower in the mornings and still go to bed with wet hair. Although it was getting late, after travelling on four different trains, a shower was a must. I love heading to bed feeling clean, the extra 10 minutes in the morning are an added bonus. Anyway, I brushed my teeth and had a great shower, I don’t think I need to go into any more detail.

22:50 – Climb into Bed

I usually aim to be in bed by 22:30 at the latest. Unfortunately, my evening meeting and journey back from Reading meant that this wasn’t an option. I usually like to read for a few minutes, however, it was so late I decided to leave my book for another night.

23:00 – Lights Out

I was so shattered, I pretty much fell asleep the second I switched my bedside lamp off. In an ideal world I’d get at least 8 hours’ sleep a night. My new routine means that I’m only getting between 6 and 7 hours’ sleep a night. At least my insomnia isn’t quite as bad as it was when I lived in Wallingford.

I hope that you enjoyed reading about what is now a normal working day for me. When I worked and lived in Wallingford, after leaving the office I’d either head to the pub or to a restaurant with one of my colleagues. Some Wednesdays I’d head along to ‘Beer and Bants’ sessions, these were a great way of meeting people from the office outside of work. My weekdays featured far too much alcohol and my bank balance and waistline suffered.

My weekends are still quite mundane, but I’m gradually pushing myself out of my comfort zone more and trying new things. I don’t want to go into too much detail just yet, but being back home means that I’ve been able to try out some new sports.

As always, if you made it to the end of this blogging masterpiece then a huge thank-you. I’m quite nosey and love reading about other people’s lives, I hope that you enjoyed reading about mine. I included a lot of train related photos because at the moment I seem to spend a lot of time on trains 🙂

A run in with a dog, a spot of ‘Jeffing’ and Human Food Organic Daily Nutrition Bars review

Good morning, I can’t believe that it’s Monday morning again. I’m feeling quite chirpy this morning as this time next week I’ll be on annual leave. I’m counting down the hours; I need a lie-in and a break from trains. I’m also looking forward to spending a couple of days back in Wallingford.

As I’ve not done a weekend update for a couple of weeks, I thought that I’d share what I got up to during the weekend. I feel I need to add a disclaimer here; if you want to read about an action-packed weekend, this isn’t the blog for you. My weekend was mundane with a couple of not so mundane moments.

My weekend started at a reasonable time as I worked from home on Friday. Much as I miss working in Wallingford, I don’t miss the three hour journey home on a Friday afternoon. I switched off my work laptop at 15:00, put it away and was instantly able to switch into weekend mode.

Friday evening was productive but quite dull, I know I’ve said this before but I’ve no idea how people head into Birmingham for a drinking session on a Friday night. I always feel far too tired. After a spot of housework – I’ve no idea how one person can generate three loads of washing – I sat down and watched a couple of episodes of Holby City. Much as I hate feeling like I’m wasting the weekend, sometimes it’s good just to sit down and to chill out.  

On Saturday, I woke up well before my weekend alarm at 05:30 and as I felt like I’d had plenty of sleep, decided to get up. I somehow managed to faff around until I needed to set off for parkrun at 07:30. Who turned up the humidity? I quickly realised that I’d worn one too many layers, luckily for me it rained for a few minutes.Sutton ParkI encountered my first dog and owner by Little Bracebridge Pool. The owner was friendly, and the dog was well behaved. I encountered my second dog and owner near the Jamboree Stone. This dog was completely out of control. One minute it was running around the cows grazing in the park causing them to run, I had no idea cows were so speedy. The next, it was baring its teeth at me. I like dogs, but I honestly thought I was going to get bitten. The owner made no attempt to put the dog on a lead until I pulled out my phone and started recording what was happening. It’s a shame the actions of a small number of dog owners ruin Sutton Park for everyone else. Dog attacks are an almost weekly event.

I was so wound up, I decided to run to the start of parkrun. I ran my fastest mile for 12 months. Every cloud and all of that.

I reached the start area at 08:30, collected a high-viz vest and the finish tokens and then spent an enjoyable 20 minutes catching up with the regular volunteers. Although it’s a shame the same few people seem to volunteer every week, it’s also quite good as you get to know everyone. I also got to spend some time chatting to Ellen who had come along to hand out flyers for the 10k her running club organises.

Holding on to the finish tokens 🙂Start with Ellen

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

I don’t think there were too many finish area related issues this week. The first finisher was so speedy we had only just finished setting up the finish area. I think he was a couple of minutes ahead of the next finisher, amazing. Two more speedy runners from my old running club completely bypassed the finish funnel and then demanded finish tokens.

I like to think that I was reasonably supportive in my role as finish token support 🙂Token support

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

The results were online before midday, so I don’t think this caused too many issues. I’m not sure what can be done to make the finish look more obvious, 99.999 per cent of people seem to be able to work out where to go!

I’ve now volunteered 10 times and I’ve decided that as my right knee can’t cope with the Sutton Park parkrun course, I’m going to do my best to volunteer 25 times before the end of the year. Next week, I’m having a go at barcode scanning. I may or may not be trying to collect more of these badges.Collecitng badgesIt reminds me that I used to be slightly obsessed with collecting badges when I was in the Brownies. Brown Owl used to have to remind me on an almost weekly basis that Brownies was about making friendships and not collecting badges.

The rest of my Saturday was somewhat mundane. Ellen kindly dropped me home, so I was able to watch Wolves beat Manchester City. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a poor set of penalties, even I could have saved some of them. I do love Wolves’ new away kit; I’m meant to be saving money, so I need to resist the temptation.

Once the football had finished, I’d run out of excuses, I needed to make a start on some adulting tasks. I like to think that vacuuming counts as exercise. See, I warned you that this blog wasn’t very exciting. Housework complete. I had a go at making this pasta bake recipe. I was reminded that although I’m not very good at preparing food, I’m world-class at making a mess when I’m in the kitchen.

I’m not sure what I did wrong, but the finished product looked nothing like the photo on the website. I ended up treating(?) myself to a takeaway.

Yesterday morning, I automatically woke up at 06:00 so decided to head out for a run while it was reasonably cool outside. I struggled to complete a four-mile ‘Jeffing’ session and spent the entire time wishing I was as fit as I was a year ago. I love Strava but I need to avoid overanalysing all the stats it provides. I know I was faster 12 months ago and that I ran the same four-mile route faster, I think that there needs to be some sort of ‘coming back from injury’ setting.

This blog is rapidly turning into an essay so I’ll summarise the rest of Sunday in five words; gardening, writing, reading, napping and relaxing.

And finally, I’ve got a short product review for you. I hope that you find it interesting.

Human Food Organic Daily Nutrition Bars review

Human Food logo

Now like most bloggers, I love being sent food to review. I sometimes wish that I’d started a food rather than a running blog. So, when I received a press release with the heading – Would you like to review the most nutritionally dense organic food in the world? – I responded saying that I’d love to write a quick review.

Unfortunately, when I checked out the allergen advice I discovered that Human Food Organic Daily Nutrition bars are made in a factory that handles nuts, sesame seeds, milk, soya and cereal containing gluten. I quickly realised that thanks to my nut allergy, I wouldn’t be able test them out myself. Luckily, it didn’t take me too long to find a willing volunteer!

A quick introduction to Human Food Organic Daily Nutrition bars

As I’d not come across the Human Food brand before, I thought I’d include a bit of information about the brand here.Human Food x 3So, why is it called Human Food?

“Human Food contains no artificial flavours or sweeteners, no added sugar, and no synthetic nutrients. It contains only organic whole-foods and whole-food extracts which have always been part of the human diet. Also, Human Food has been made specifically to support a plant-based diet, making it easy to live in a healthy, sustainable and humane way”.

 Human Food describes itself as “the world’s first organic Daily Nutrition Bar made specifically to support a plant-based diet, but that’s good for anybody”.

According to the website, Human Food is a combination of 20 organic whole foods and whole food extracts, selected and balanced for optimal taste and bio-availability. Each bar contains essential nutrients that can be difficult to obtain from a plant-based diet, plus whole daily amounts of functional ingredients.

Human Food information

[Source]

All three bars have been developed to have a smooth, non-specific, delicious taste.

The review process

I’m not in a position to provide a lot of detail here as I didn’t get to sample the three Human Food Organic Daily Nutrition bars myself. I’m pretty much sure that it was straightforward and went something like unwrap packaging packet, eat bar and repeat.

The Verdict

As, thanks to my nut allergy, I didn’t get to test the three bars myself, I’ve decided to share the feedback my friend gave to me.

The Green bar

 According to the Human Food site, the Green bar has a subtle, just-detectable flavour of Spirulina. My friend said that he had never heard of Spirulina so he went away and did a spot of Googling. To be completely honest, neither had I, so I had to do the same.

To say that my friend wasn’t very keen on the green bar is probably a bit of an understatement. Apparently the green bar had a “strong liquorice taste” and was “so chewy it was quite difficult to eat”. My friend didn’t manage to finish the green bar and so awarded it 3/10, things could only get better!

The Yellow bar

According to the Human Food site, the Yellow bar has a just-noticeable spiciness from Turmeric. I know my friend isn’t a huge fan of spicy food so I hoped that the spiciness from the Turmeric really was just noticeable.

My friend loved the yellow bar and I received some incredibly positive feedback. Evidently the yellow bar “tasted great” and was “easy to chew”. I was actually asked why I’d only sent my friend one yellow bar to test, the verdict was more yellow bars please. Anyway, my friend awarded the yellow bar an impressive 9/10.

The Red bar

 And finally, the red bar, which according to the Human Food site, has a slightly more fruity flavour from Goji Berries. I know my friend is a fan of Goji Berries so I was reasonably confident this bar would do well in the taste and texture tests.

I was correct; my friend enjoyed the red bar “not as much as the yellow bar as it was fruity but not quite fruity enough”. I guess you can’t please everyone. My friend awarded the red bar 8/10 and asked for more bars to review.

So thanks again to Human Food for sending me a trial box of Human Food Organic Daily Nutrition bars to review. I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to review the bars myself. For more information on Human Food please visit their website or check out the FAQs. Human Food organic daily nutrition bars are available from Human Food and start at £9.90 for a taster pack.

What did you get up to during the weekend? Did you run? Did you go anywhere exciting? I hope that everyone who reads this at least had a relaxing weekend.

 Have you ever got really excited about trying something only to discover that you can’t actually eat it? I think I’m going to have to accept that the vast majority of healthy energy/nutrition bars will contain nuts.

**Full disclosure: I was sent a trial box of Human Food Organic Daily Nutrition bars for free in return for a review. I did not receive any payment for this review. As always, all of the slightly unprofessional looking photographs are my own. As my friend forgot to take any photographs, the photographs showing what the three bars look like are from the Human Food website **

Race Report: Shenstone Fun Run

Good morning and Happy Tuesday, I’m so pleased it’s not Monday. Yesterday, when I spotted a single magpie during my walk to the train station, I should have gone back to bed. Hopefully, my new job will start to improve ASAP. Anyway, enough moaning and groaning and back to the point of this blog; my first race review since the Royal Parks Half back in October.LogoBefore I launch into a review of the Shenstone Fun Run, I need to rewind back to Saturday evening. Let’s just say a two-hour shopping session – sorry feet – and three pints of beer – sorry head – weren’t the best pre-race preparation. I doubt this pre-race routine will ever feature in Runner’s World et al.Shenstone Fun RunWhen my alarm woke me on Sunday, my head felt a little fuzzy and I was thirsty. A couple of cups of tea and pint of water didn’t do much to alleviate the thirst, not a good sign before a 10k. My pre-race routine went something like; drink tea, nervous wee, make myself eat some Weetabix, shower, get dressed, productive loo visit, drink more tea, another nervous wee, struggle to pin race number to t-shirt, pack bag, have bonus nervous wee and then leave the house. By the time I left the house, I was feeling a lot better and was looking forward to the prospect of taking part in an organised event for the first time this year. The weather was pretty much perfect and my right knee felt completely niggle-free.

I met my running buddy Ellen at the train station, we got on a train and four minutes later reached Shenstone. Quite possibly the most straight-forward I’ve ever had to an event. We walked the short distance to the Race HQ, Ellen collected her number, dropped our bags and then realised we had a lot of time to kill before the start of the run. After spending a bit time chatting and avoiding the drizzle, we decided to track down some loos. Although there was a ladies loo inside Race HQ, there was an impressive queue of female runners waiting, so we decided to have a look around the centre of Shenstone.Waiting to startI spent a lot of time in Shenstone up to the age of 16 because my grandparents lived there. I suspect I bored Ellen to tears with my “that used to be an HSBC”, “that used to be a greengrocers”, “that used to be a chemists” type observations. Even the library had changed; what used to be the children’s books section was now a cafe area with an amazing selection of homemade cakes. We both decided that a cake would make the perfect post-run reward and told the library volunteers we would definitely be back later. As an added bonus, the library had loos with no queues so we both made the most of the facilities.SelfieThe 10k was scheduled to start at 11:00 so at 10:50 we both joined the back of the pack so to speak. After a quick warm-up, we were sent on our way. The 10k route had changed as was advertised as flat and fast so I was a little surprised to find myself running up several short but quite steep hills in the first mile. We headed out of Shenstone past my grandparents’ old house and into the countryside. It took me less than 15 minutes to be reminded of my complete loss of fitness and my fragile right knee. I was struggling to run at Ellen’s pace so slowed down to what was almost a walk. Sorry Ellen!

By the third mile, I felt shattered. I’m not sure if it was the humidity, my lack of food the previous evening, my lack of training or a combination of the three but I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. I was also struggling a little mentally and started to just want the 10k fun(?) run to end. I’m pretty sure that had the course allowed me to, I would have called it a day there and then.

The second three miles were what I’d describe as undulating. It suddenly seemed to get warm and I was grateful the organisers had provided several water stations. After a quick consultation with Ellen we switched to a strategy of running for four minutes and then walking for a minute. Walking after 5k didn’t make me feel very good about myself but I had to do something to make sure that I actually finished and made it back to Shenstone.

After an hour or so of ‘running’ my temperamental right knee decided to remind me that it didn’t appreciate me running downhill; it was pain-free on the numerous small uphill sections, but very painful on the downhill sections. Awesome, thanks knee! I was not a happy bunny at this stage. Running past a collapsed runner who was receiving treatment gave me the kick up the arse and reality check I so desperately needed. Although I didn’t suddenly turn into Little Miss Happy, I was reminded that I’m lucky to be able to run and that my knee issue was likely to be a temporary setback rather than a long-term injury.

Shenstone Fun Run[Photo: Shenstone Fun Run]

We eventually – sorry again Ellen – reached the bridge next to Shenstone train station, ran past ‘Rocket Ron’ who had his camera with him but wasn’t actually taking any photos. Slightly strange but I suspect he wasn’t one of the official race photographers and was only taking photos of members of his running club. We both ‘sprinted’ towards the finish line, posed for the official photographer, collected our medals and some water and then spotted some of Ellen’s club mates. While Ellen caught up with her club mates, I popped into the medical tent to ask for an icepack for my knee.

MedalI guess it should be a case of what goes on in the medical tent, stays in the medical tent. However, I wasn’t very impressed with the rudeness of a runner who hobbled in for treatment, I’m going to call this person Runner x. Runner x had injured her ankle before the 10k – I remember seeing her sprawled on the floor – but decided to run anyway. I know that I’m not one to judge, but why would you attempt to run a 10k on a damaged ankle? Anyway, Runner x was incredibly rude to the St John Ambulance person treating her. Apparently, the ice packs weren’t cold enough and the lady treating her was useless. I was quite relieved when another runner came in seeking treatment for a nosebleed and I was able to escape from the medical tent.

And then, once we had collected our bags, it was time for the highlight of the morning, tea and homemade cake. Luckily, the library was still open and there were plenty of cake options. I played it safe and asked for a slice of sponge cake and a cup of breakfast tea. As we didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s tea and cake enjoyment, we decided to sit outside. The homemade cake tasted amazing and I regretted not buying a second slice to take home with me. Tea and cake consumption completed, we hobbled the short distance to Shenstone station and a short train journey later were back in Four Oaks.

Tea and cake

This isn’t a food blog so I’ll stop talking about cake now.

Would I recommend the Shenstone Fun Run?

Yes, I would, but I think the organisers need to consider bringing the start time forward an hour to 10:00. The fun run would also benefit from a few more loo options at the start; the queues were some of the longest I’ve seen. I personally preferred the old, slightly longer than 10k route but that is just my personal opinion.

And finally, the positives which most definitely outweighed the negatives. The organisation was pretty much flawless; I entered well in advance so my number was posted to me. Ellen had to collect her number on the day; this took less than a minute. The organisers provided a secure baggage area, this was well organised and there was no chance of people’s bags getting mixed up. Although I personally didn’t like the new course, feedback from other runners was positive. Every single race volunteer I was out on the course was incredibly supportive, the cowbells and music were definitely impossible to ignore and gave me a much-needed boost. The run was chip timed so results were available the second we crossed the finish line.

Race ratings:

  • Cost: 5/10 (£20 but a proportion of this went to local charities)
  • Course: 5/10
  • Medal: 9/10
  • Race t-shirt: n/a
  • Goody bag: 2/10

Overcoming a slightly irrational fear and a run in Sutton Park

As always, I hope that everyone who reads this blog had a great weekend. I really must come up with a different introduction for my Monday morning blogs.

For once, I had an interesting weekend, however, I have a feeling I tried to fit too much in. I also failed to catch up on some much-needed sleep. Thanks to the early morning bedroom window bird choir and my ‘wonky’ internal alarm clock, I was wide-awake at 05:30 on Saturday morning. By 07:00 I was making the most of the lack of sunshine and was washing my friend’s car.

Following my slightly too early for a Saturday morning car washing session, after several years of avoidance, I had my first experience of parkrun timekeeping. To say that I felt a little concerned when I was handed a stopwatch is a huge understatement. I’m a massive over-thinker and I was concerned that I’d make a mistake and for the first time in the history of Sutton Park parkrun, everyone would end up with a time of 59:59. I know that parkrun is free and this wouldn’t have mattered, but I’m a runner and I know how disappointed I’d have been with an inaccurate time. Rob did his best to calm me down…Sutton Park parkrun

[Photo: Peter Heafield]

With the exception of a couple of runners who pretended they were part of parkrun but were just park runners, I don’t think there were too many major mistakes. Having said that, I don’t think I’ll be asked to be a timekeeper again 😉

The rest of my Saturday was thankfully more what I’d describe as mundane and included several hours in the garden. One of my Four Oaks friends has been having a tough time recently, so I treated them to lunch in Mere Green. I’m sure you can predict where we ate and what I ordered. One day I’ll be brave and will eat at a different restaurant and will order something different. I think I’d used up all my ‘brave’ points at parkrun. 

Early on Saturday evening, I headed into Birmingham as I wanted to see if TK Maxx had any shoes trainers suitable for work. I’d also heard some rumours about a possible yellow sticker sale. I didn’t find anything suitable for work but somehow found myself buying a running top, running vest, cotton t-shirt, pair of Crocs, mud shampoo, two bars of fancy soap, SiS tube of effervescent tablets, and sports bra. Not a bad selection of goodies for less than £60.

I do love the randomness of TK Maxx. And yes, I’m looking forward to wearing the Crocs around the house, I don’t think I’d get away with wearing them in the office 😦 Shopping failOn Sunday morning I did something I hadn’t done for far too long; I met up with Ellen and headed into Sutton Park for a morning run. It wasn’t fast and it definitely wasn’t pretty. As we are both returning from injury, we decided to run the uphill sections and to recover on some of the flat and downhill sections. This approach seemed to work quite well and we got to the end of our four-mile ‘run’ feeling niggle-free.Sutton Park selfieSunday afternoon looked something like this; shower, lunch, emails, some blogmin, a nap, some gardening, a lot of ironing, TV, dinner, more emails, food prep, work prep and an early night. Not very exciting!

I unfortunately completely failed to tick off quite a few items on my weekend ‘things to do list’ so I’m going to need to have a productive week.

Is there a parkrun volunteering role you’ve avoided? I don’t think I’ll be rushing to have a second go at timekeeping.

What is the best thing you’ve purchased in a TK Maxx? I think the 2XU tri suit I purchased for £2.00 is the best thing I’ve purchased in TK Maxx, it’s just a shame I’ve no idea where it is.

Running goals for 2019: Progress report

I hope that everyone had an awesome weekend and that Monday wasn’t too much of a chore. As it’s now July – seriously, how quickly is this year going? – I thought I’d write a quick (lack of) progress report on my 2019 running goals.

Run 1000km – I started the year with loads of good intentions; one was to run 1000km. Thanks to the combination of injuries, and a complete loss of running mojo, my running has been sporadic. I’ve just checked out my training log on Fetcheveryone. So far in 2019, I’ve run approximately 51km. Not recording all of my training runs was a mistake. I don’t think I’ll get near my 1000km target but that’s okay.Injured runner

[Source]

Complete 10 races – I haven’t completed a single organised race. Thanks to the reasons I gave above I’ve not made it to the start line of every single race I’ve entered this year. I don’t want to think about how much money I’ve wasted on race entry fees!

Complete 15 parkruns – Back in January, I was quietly confident I would be able to complete 15 parkruns. Sutton Park parkrun is just over three miles from my front door; I had visions of relaxing runs to and from parkrun. The reality is a little different as I’ve only completed one parkrun.

Volunteer 10 times at parkrun – Now this is one running goal I’ll definitely achieve. It’s been very much a case of ‘can’t run, can volunteer’.

parkrun volunteering

I’ve checked out my parkrun volunteer stats and so far in 2019 I’ve marshalled 4 times, written the run report once, tail walked once and handed out finish tokens once. This Saturday I’m having a go at timekeeping.

A sub 8-minute mile – I didn’t head down to London for the Vitality Westminster Mile. My official mile PB remains a very beatable 9:09. Perhaps I should focus on short distances during the second half of 2019.

A sub 25-minute 5k – I think it’s safe to say my only official 5k time of 57:04 is a long way from a sub-25 minute time. The way I’m feeling at the moment, I can’t see me ever getting below 30 minutes again.

A sub 60-minute 10k – I’m yet to complete an official 10k race this year. I’m hoping to complete the Shenstone Fun Run later this month; it will be good to get some sort of benchmark.

A sub 2:15 half marathon – I had grand plans of running a decent time at the London Landmarks Half Marathon. However, the reality was a little different. I completed most of my training runs in the lead up to the London Landmarks and then picked up some sort of office lurgy which refused to go away.  The result? Another DNS!

Listen to my niggles – This is another running goal I’ll definitely achieve. I’ve had so many injuries this year, I’ve now reached the stage I’m almost scared of running. I’m also starting to suspect a lot of niggles are a figment of my imagination.

Improve my core strength – This is another running goal success story. I’m hoping that all the workouts I’ve been completing will start to benefit my running.Clean House Injured Runner

[Source]

Run with others more – Whenever I’ve pulled on my trainers and run, I’ve made more effort to run with others. Although I didn’t get to run with Run Wallingford before I moved back home, I’ve found myself some Birmingham-based running groups to join.

Train consistently – Does consistently training inconsistently count?

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – So far this final running-related goal is more possibly more failure than success. I’ve just worked out how much I’ve spent on running gear, and had a bit of a shock. Having said that, I’ve sold such a lot of unwanted running gear online, I’ve probably ‘made’ more money than I’ve spent.

I think it’s quite obvious that the first half of 2019 wasn’t great from a running perspective. At times I’ve felt like selling all of my running gear. Some people may be questioning the point of this rather negative running goal progress update. I decided to publish this update as I think it’s important to write about the not-so-positive aspects of running.

How are you progressing with your running goals? Hopefully better than I am with mine 🙂

Do you think I should readjust all of my goals or rule out this year and start again next year? I’ve reached the stage I’m about to ‘write-off’ 2019 and will start again next year.