Activated Charcoal, Curling and Valentines

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL, discuss! I’ve seen it advertised as a miracle whitening powder for teeth; and as a purifying face mask/pore cleanser – but imagine my surprise when the cocktail I ordered arrived with an activated charcoal ice cube in it!

A massive black ice cube!

I felt cosmopolitan and sophisticated for all of about 5 minutes until my lovely gin and lemon infused drink turned into a gritty, sludgy, inky mess – with a smile to match – beautiful!

We’re in Washington for a few days you see. Mostly to do a Parkrun (what else?), but also to take in some of the culture and history.

The drink shenanigans didn’t stop with my black swamp cocktail though – Dave had his Guinness served in a jam jar and he wasn’t very amused!

We’ve never been to Washington before, but as a city it certainly doesn’t disappoint. As the taxi driver from the airport said – it’s like a little New York – and we’ve been to New York many times – so it did feel familiar. Apart from the charcoal and the jam jars!! Oh my – and the buffalo wings!

We love grabbing a drink at a bar, ordering wings and watching sport (in this case the Winter Olympics*) when in New York, so we followed suit here in Washington – although we do think someone was having a laugh with the chilli – the wings were soooo hot. Check out the size of our lips!!!

Washington itself has so much to offer. The White House, Capitol Hill, National Mall, Arlington Cemetery, National Zoo, Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Post Office Tower, Space and Aviation Museum, Roosevelt Island- are some of the places we’ve visited, but there is so much more! We’ve walked absolutely miles; baked in beautiful summer-like sunshine; shivered in minus temperatures – and as I write the snow has started! AND – it is all free! We haven’t spent a penny. Every single attraction is free – and at this time of the year Washington is relatively quiet as well.

Have you seen ‘House of Cards’? We loved it – well not so much now that Spacey has been outed – but the opening credits always made me laugh with all the different vistas of the Capitol Building. It’s a private joke between Dave and I that I point at it every time it’s on the screen. Imagine my excitement being able to do it for real!! You can even see it from our hotel room – if you stick your head out of the window at an angle!

Valentines Cards? It was Valentine’s Day when we flew out and there was a really awkward moment in the taxi on the way to the airport when I realised I hadn’t got Dave a card.

I pondered why I hadn’t got him one. I’m sure I’ve got him one every year previously since we’ve met, so why didn’t I get him one? Had advertising let me down? Did I forget? Did I think about it and decide ‘no’? Did I get him one last year? He hadn’t given me one so far either, so I thought it was safe to fess up!

To my utter relief, he hadn’t even thought about the fact that he hadn’t got me one either. We are so in tune!!! Haha!!

Dave’s favourite film is Forrest Gump and I’m his Jenny – so we had a go at reenacting this scene at the Lincoln Memorial (although I wasn’t brave enough to run across the water – and there were signs forbidding you – and there was no need as no crowds).

So, Saturday morning saw the main event – PARKRUN!! Dave was a bit worried it might be cancelled because of the cold weather and threat of ice, so was busily plotting our route to the next nearest one (there are three around Washington). We’d already decided that we’d walk the what turned out to be 6 miles to the start line. In hindsight this was really, really silly because the run was on an island and it took us a lot longer to navigate the bridge than we thought- plus I needed a wee – standard – but particularly after an hour and a half yomp.

We arrived at the start line and I was in ‘wee agony’ and Dave having easily popped into the bushes himself was trying to point out convenient places for me to do the same. All he managed to do was make me crosser and more resentful of the male ease when it comes to wees!!

Luckily there was a ‘temporary’ toilet 1/2 mile from the start line, but the run director “couldn’t guarantee what state it would be in” – but I didn’t care. He shouted after us “we’ll wait for you before we start”.

Wee done my mood lifted. Such a friendly parkrun. Approximately 50 runners and the run director himself was originally from Banbury. He’s finding it difficult to get Parkrun to take off- which is bizarre given that Washington is full of runners.

The run itself was pretty and along a boardwalk and up and down through the woods. I came first in my age category (I was also the only runner in my age category – but still first, so Pah!!)

Only joking about the Valentine cards!!!

*Curling – we think we’ve worked out the rules now – but what if there is a draw???

70th Birthday Fun and Frolics!

YOU THINK YOU KNOW SOMEONE! We’ve been married ten years this year and together for fifteen – so imagine the shock when following a conversation about ejector seats (the eldest may be just about to start his post-uni engineering career developing them) and whether what happened to Goose in Top Gun could have happened in real life, when Dave pipes up with “Top Gun – never seen it.”

“Never seen Top Gun?” I replied.

I’m not often shocked, but this? I kept staring at him in disbelief. I’d be really interested to know if there is anyone else out there who hasn’t seen it. Crazy! Guess what’s on the viewing agenda this week!

So, back to parkrun and our mission to complete all 44 Greater London parkruns before Dave turns 40 – we’ve had a bit of a psychological set-back. As we were cross-referencing our pin map against the parkrun event page, we realised we’d left about ten parkruns off. (Dave was relying on another runner’s website for the magical number of 44 – clearly a few years out of date – don’t trust the internet peeps!) We think there are about 54-55 runs in there now, but we can’t be sure as it’s too difficult to count. Either way it’s going to be tight to get them all done by the end of November when Dave hits the big 4-0!

As mentioned last week, we’re temporarily deviating from the core mission to take in a couple of parkruns beyond the M25! So to mark the occasion of my mum’s 70th birthday – HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUMMY- we took a trip up to Ipswich (and of course planned a nearby parkrun).

Best laid plans though are often scuppered at the last minute. Mum lives close to Christchurch Park in Ipswich, which doesn’t have its own parkrun, but has been babysitting Chantry parkrun whilst it recovers from water logging!

At 8.40am we dutifully set off on the ten minute walk to the start line only to be stopped in our tracks by a panicked yelp from Dave. It had been CANCELLED!

Now for 99% of people this would be a guilt free excuse to get back in the warm (it was -2 degrees), have a cup of tea and smugly relax knowing you had fully intended to run, but quite frankly this was out of your control.

Not Dave!

Missing a parkrun is a serious crime – up there with forgetting your wedding anniversary for example. It simply wasn’t ‘not’ happening.

“Everyone in the car – we can make Kesgrave! Go, go, go! Callum – scrape the ice, I’ll navigate, John drive, Alison just shut-up!”


Kesgrave is another Ipswich parkrun about 4 miles away. Mum and her partner John were already coming along to support us and the eldest (Callum) was also with us. So we all piled in the car and made the start line just as the run director had finished his spiel!

The run itself was on grass, then tractor track (well we were in Suffffooorrrrkk), and finished off with a sneaky run through woodland – sneaky because it looked as though you were heading for the finish funnel, but were then directed towards the woods.

All in all – very enjoyable.

I feel the need, the need for speed and my ego is writing checks my body can’t cash.

…..and in a few more days Dave will know what all that means!!

Mile End Parkrun 3.2.18

A HUSBAND is probably the biggest kid a wife will ever have! Dave was living proof of that today when we arrived at Mile End Park half an hour before parkrun was due to start!

“Ooooo look – a stunt track!”

We don’t have a car anymore – sold it last year and have never looked back. We cycle everywhere – literally. My office at work contains a full wardrobe of shoes and dresses ready to transform me into a respectable looking headteacher after my all-weather commute every single morning. It’s liberating. Before we sold the car there was always that temptation to jump in it on the shortest of journeys when laziness struck, but in the 9 months without I can count on one hand the number of times we have had to borrow/hire a car.

So our parkrun tourism hobby means that we use public transport/bikes/combinations of both to get to our chosen start line destination each Saturday morning. This morning was the train/bike combo with a journey to Waterloo courtesy of Southwest trains followed by a 6 mile cycle across London to Mile End.

Dave shot off in the direction of the playground and I followed torn between my desire to get a good photo and a sinking fear that he was going to come a cropper!

He soon tired after several loops and the realisation that he wasn’t impressing anyone/he’s not 14 (and swinging your knee out as you swoop by with your coat hanging on by its hood on your head is a dodgy look for a 39 year old male in a kids’ playground).

The run route was actually quite nice – an out and back twice taking in a canal path and views of Canary Wharf in the background.

Getting back home and changing the pin on the map from red to blue feels like such an achievement.

I’m so proud of what we’re doing and to do it together is precious. The highlight of my week.

So for the next two weeks we’re going outside of the M25 for our parkruns! One up in Suffolk and one across the ocean! Got to love half term!!

Oh – and clearly having a big cumbersome basket bike and irrational fear of injury and imminent danger meant that my lap of the stunt track was an entirely different affair!

Crystal Palace Parkrun – 27.1.18

Done! We were scuppered last week by national rail, but this week we made it and have ticked another parkrun off our list.

I feel that it is only right to try and be honest about all this parkrun tourist business – it’s actually quite sadistic dragging yourself out of bed before 7am on a Saturday; cycling to the train station and then playing the game of which carriage the bikes will fit in, before cycling to, oh I don’t know, THE HIGHEST POINT IN LONDON!!

It’s always worth it!

And there is something magical about being up and about before sunrise. Before cars and buses and people take over. It’s so quiet.

Back to the negatives though – another unglamorous side of parkrun tourism is that due to the inevitable pre-run travel, you generally get a ‘call of nature’ just as you arrive at the start line. Today was no exception for either of us – twice for Dave! Luckily, Crystal Palace Park has toilets right by the start. Often there are no toilets/time which makes for an uncomfortable run for me and a ‘diversion’ (in to bushes) for Dave!

Crystal Palace Park itself is beautiful! I’ve learnt so much about ‘The Crystal Palace’ and the run itself took you around where it would have stood before it burnt down.

Dave has taken a bit of an aversion to having his photo taken, but he did manage to get this one of me as I finished!

So – there are 44 parkruns within the M25. Dave has completed about 20 already and I’m trying to catch him up! Dave will turn 40 at the end of this year and he wants to do them all before then. To track our efforts we’re sticking pins in a map.

Red = still to do.

Green = Dave completed, but not Al.

Blue = both completed.

We want to turn all pins blue by the time Dave is 40!

Next week – South Norwood!

Parkrun Tourism – it’s a thing!

Since LeJog Dave and I have been taking things nice and easy! NOT! In fact, each week we have been steadily ticking off different parkruns each Saturday.

Parkrun is massive! Global! If you haven’t heard of it then everything you need to know is here, but in a nutshell it is a free, timed 5km community run in practically every location in the UK at 9.00am every Saturday.

We’ve always been regular runners at our local parkrun – Crane Park – both having clocked up well over a 100 runs over the years – but about a year ago Dave became fixated with Parkrun Tourism. I would go as far to say that it has become an addiction, with all weekend activities having to be planned around a parkrun. And, as I mentioned earlier, it’s global! So all foreign trips are also planned around parkrun availability.

We’ve run in some beautiful locations – Guernsey, Jersey, Sicily – and marvelled at the fabulous community spirit that exists, well, everywhere! Parkrun relies on volunteers to make it happen – so we also both try to do our bit there as well.

So, back to the blog! I thought I’d record our tourism here from now on – not least for the entertainment factor that Dave provides – but as a diary for us to remember our achievements.

Today we were meant to do Crystal Palace Parkrun – but the trains had other ideas – and with no time to work out an alternative transport method we settled for a more local parkrun in Old Deer Park (Richmond). Very wet, very muddy, but wonderful for me as a little boy from my school was there with his mum. He’d just been appointed ‘Sports Leader’ yesterday at school and was clearly taking his responsibilities very seriously.

As we cycled back home in the pouring rain, quite cold and soggy I felt incredibly happy. I’ve made a pact with myself to enjoy every moment of every day as these will soon become memories as well.

Day 16 Helmsdale to John O’Groats (85 km Falls = 0 Arguments = 0 MASSIVE CHEESY GRINS = 2)

We’re done! Here! Mission complete!

I can’t really put in to words how I feel right now, but I know its good.  

So our last post comprises of a few lists!

List 1 – Things that have surprised us!

  1. Alison hasn’t fallen off – not once!
  2. No punctures – didn’t want to ever mention it beforehand in case we got jinxed 
  3. How ‘un diverse’ the rest of the country is – to its detriment 
  4. No mechanical issues (apart from Dave’s bottom bracket early on)
  5. No injuries requiring medical assistance 
  6. No road rage
  7. No theft 
  8. No accommodation cancellation
  9. All ‘care packages’ arrived safe and sound- thank you Royal Mail 2nd class delivery service!

List 2 – Things that we’ve learnt 

  1. Rainbows = rain coming or rain going
  2. Suddenly feeling very good = about to feel very bad – not having had enough to eat or drink
  3. Alison will not follow anyone else in any circumstances 
  4. Heated towel rails are for wet cycling gear – not towels 
  5. Road kill becomes larger and more severe the further north you travel 

List 3 – Things that we’ve loved

  1. Champagne flutes are only used for prosecco north of Kidderminster and south of Aviemore. Outside of these areas you get a normal wine glass or a tumbler 
  2. The start of each day
  3. Tennents lager (Dave)
  4. Changing roadside foliage (Alison)
  5. Going downhill (Dave)
  6. Going uphill (Alison)
  7. Littlest Hobo
  8. Singing 
  9. Courteous road users
  10. Welcoming locals 
  11. Local identity not ruined by tourism

So, thank you for sharing in our most epic adventure. We will remember this journey forever. Would we do it again? Probably!Will we do something crazier instead? Yes!Signing off. Thank you for following!

Alison and Dave. Xx

Day 15 Evanton to Helmsdale (79km Falls = 0 Arguments = 0 Paddles In The Sea = 2)

First things first – it didn’t rain all day! It said it was going to, but it didn’t!

We finished today’s cycling in about 3 hours flat. The roads were so quiet and so good!

This meant we could spend a good couple of hours on the beaches at Golspie and Helmsdale. I And that is about it! I’ll let the photos do the talking as we are both exhausted and looking forward to finishing tomorrow!