20 July 2015

A visit to The Great Yorkshire Show


Graham and I 

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend The Great Yorkshire Show at Harrogate in a sort of working capacity--talking about and demonstrating Nordic Walking with British Nordic Walking in the Discovery Zone courtesy of the fabulous North Yorkshire Sport.  It was an incredibly fun experience!  For those in the states I would compare the GYS to a state fair, with carnival rides, animal exhibitions/shows, food, agricultural displays, different branches of the military, fashion shows and so on.  Unlike a state fair which usually goes on for 1-3 weeks the GYS is on for 3 days only: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

While there are cultural differences between the US and UK the thing that struck me as the most interesting is that farmers are pretty much the same in both countries! I am not saying that in a derogatory way because a good portion of my family comes from agricultural backgrounds just remarking there is a certain demeanour and no-nonsense attitude that comes through quite strongly.

Because of being there in a working capacity and needing to get back to tend to the mutts I wasn't able to explore as much of the GYS as I would have liked. If I'm invited back next year with the team I hope to be able to be there for all 3 days.

A taste of home 

A few more traditional styles of walking sticks

19 July 2015

Nordic Walking a parkrun and Crich Monument Race

@BritNordicWalk I've become a nordic walking convert! & we would love to see more of your members at @parkrunUK! Can I contact you re this?
— Chrissie Wellington (@chrissiesmiles) July 3, 2015

As most everyone who reads the blog knows I am a huge fan of Nordic Walking, it tends to not get much respect from the running community but that's slowly changing.  Turns out that a triathlete I respect and admire greatly is also a fan of Nordic Walking--Chrissie Wellington!
Our group minus one who had to leave right after finishing, we all got Nordic Walking pbs!

As a result of this several of us decided to NW one of our local parkruns yesterday morning instead of running it as usual, we ended up with 6 altogether at Long Eaton.  We were welcomed quite warmly and when it came go time we gathered up at the very back of the start line because there had been some concern expressed by one person about the poles being in the way on facebook (not by any of the parkrun organisers or volunteers, just a participant of one).  I had two goals for yesterday, to get sub-40 and to demonstrate that Nordic Walking can be quite fast if that's what you want out of it, I think I succeeded at both :-). My official time was 38:23 and my mile splits were progressively faster (12:27, 12:15, 12:10 and 11:13 for the last tenth of a mile).  I am paying for that today though! You activate your glutes and shoulders far more than running and stairs are a bit of a challenge for me to get up and down after pushing that hard.

As if that wasn't enough for the day a running club mate posted up that she couldn't do the Crich Monument Race and offered up her spot if anyone wanted it.  Totally spur of the moment decision to ask if I could have it but I don't regret it at all, this one has been on my 'that looks interesting, I want to run it someday' list.

Crich Monument on the hill

Since I was already feeling the effects of pushing it hard on the walk earlier my plan was to just go out and enjoy myself, I even briefly considered taking along the camera.  There's a bit of regret that I didn't but I ended up with a much faster race than expected (not saying it was fast, just faster than I thought it would be). In the beginning we have a series of stile crossings in fields which causes bottlenecks to form--one of the perils of not starting close to the front but I kind of like the chance to catch my breath and chat with those around so long as it's not an extended pause.

Crazy hair, don't care :-)

After the fields we hit my favourite part of the course, a technical downhill through the forest, again there were areas of slowing and stopping as people not used to tree roots and rocks navigated this section with caution but I love bombing down those! It's almost like a dance when you get it right but it can go very wrong if you misjudge foot placement.

The slog along the canal almost seems endless after the fun of the forest but I ended up pacing out fairly well there and it was at that point I realised I didn't actually know how far the race was! I considered asking the woman who was running just behind me but figured the question might be better kept to myself. Once we started the uphill climb up to the monument I switched to power hiking because I figured it would be best to conserve my energy rather than trying to run the steep inclines.

I look happy, the others around me not so much!

After we got to the top though there was no more walking! It was a mostly downhill bomb that took us through a few more narrow stile crossings (3 I think), through a graveyard, across a busy road, through another field, and 3 more turns on the streets of Crich back into the Village Green and down a short but wicked steep downhill to the finish line chute.

I can't think of anything bad to say about the Crich Monument Race, it was well-marked, they allowed us to switch numbers, there was a banana AND a bottle of beer in the goody bag, it's very reasonably priced, food and cake is available to purchase before and after, the course is interesting and if you remember to give your email address and pay your £1 they will email the race photos to you (I forgot to do so though).  This one is a definite do again event!

2 thumbs up! 

A few photos from the event are here including the last two I have used in this post.

Beer, a Tree, and a Horse

This will be the final post about our Great British Tree road trip back in June.  To be honest I've about let it go so long that I nearly forgot there was one more tree to add to the list! Note to self: write down your thoughts before you forget them!!!!!!!

Village of Beer

After visiting the Darley Oak tree near Upton-Cross we made our way up to Honiton to fuel up and I asked my partner how far we were from Beer, a village on the Jurassic Coast that he raved about.  Turns out we weren't that far and I coerced him into a detour so I could visit it as well.  Well worth the diversion, it's GORGEOUS.  There is something about the water especially oceans that calms and fascinates me--I am a Pisces so there must be a little something to the astrology stuff--and I could have spent hours on that stone beach. As it was we were there for little over an hour walking about and sitting in the sun enjoying an ice-cream. Hopefully we will be able to go back for an extended visit before my time in the UK ends.

Walking down to the beach

The mutts and I walking over to the chalk cliffs, yes I *had* to touch them

The walkways were quite handy because the stones were difficult to walk on, it was one step forward and 2 or 3 back

Deck chairs at Ducky's where we enjoyed our ice creams, even Ben and Elsie got to partake

Our 'detours' didn't end with Beer though, I'd spotted a picture on the web of an interesting sign posted on a bridge so of course we needed to stop and get one of our own! 

Dorset bridge 

That's one way to get to Australia, eh? This is located just outside the town of Sturminster Newton, the afternoon sun was beginning to make the driver sleepy so while he took a catnap the mutts and I went out for a walk along part of the North Dorset Trailway--adding another place to the bucket list of areas I want to run.  It was quite a friendly place and everyone was willing to allow their dogs to say 'hello' to each other which is becoming quite rare nowadays.  

Finally we were on our way to the last planned stopping place for our road trip, Savernake Forest, home of The Big Belly Oak or Big Bellied Oak depending on what you read.  The forest is actually home to quite a few interesting trees but a full day needs to be allocated to exploring the area and we didn't have time to go for a proper walk there.  The Big Belly Oak is located right next to the A346 and while we knew that there was no place to park nearby we didn't realise just how busy the road actually was so our picture was taken on the move from the passenger seat of the car.  

The Big Belly Oak

Because of being limited to 'drive-by' photography there is no picture of the Great British Trees plaque.  The undergrowth appeared to be so tall that I'm not sure we would have found it even if we could have stopped. 

The Uffington White Horse

One final stop on the trek back home found us eating burgers at the base of the White Horse Hill near Uffington, another place that is on the list of must visit again spots since I didn't get to actually walk along it (the partner and I have very differing views on what constitutes a visit to a place!).  

Me being pouty because I was so close yet so far away from the White Horse

As you can see we packed quite a bit into a one day road trip! Hopefully we can go on another soon before we lose all the wonderful summer sun. 

13 July 2015

Let the (last minute) training begin!

After much deliberation (and discussing it with the partner) I have finally signed up for the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 event but rather than running it I will be Nordic Walking the 33k distance option.  I was initially considering the 50k option but the aforementioned partner talked me down off the wall for that one.  I'm fairly sure I could run it slowly but going for the walk only option is another ball game altogether because it will be using muscles in a way they aren't accustomed to for that far.

Bristol 2014

To be honest now that the registration form is filled out and submitted the enormity of WALKING 20 miles has just hit me.  Yes, I know it's weird to not be bothered about running that far but scared sh*tless about Nordic Walking it!!!!!!!!  Wish me luck please :-)

07 July 2015

Adios Juneathon

Hello blog, apologies for having neglected you and missing the end of Juneathon.  Yep, despite good intentions I yet again didn't complete the move/blog every day challenge.  I have quite enjoyed catching up on with the blogs and reports of the other participants but I have fallen into the habit of reading them on my tablet using the feedly app at bedtime and it doesn't lend to easy commenting sometimes.  Oh sure I will think to myself I need to go back and comment but 99% of the time I fail to do so, my memory is like a sieve nowadays.  On the upside I have finally started familiarising myself with google calendar and actually USING it!

Activity wise I have dialled back the running slightly in order to get back into the habit of cross training because I have been neglecting the weights and they are oh so important for women of a certain age to help prevent osteoporosis...Not saying they aren't important for everyone but once you hit the point when you are closer to 50 than 40 then it does become a bit more of an issue with the bone density loss (this loss generally starts around age 35).  Of course you also have the added benefits of preventing injuries and keeping the weight at a healthy level, so yeah pumping some iron is kind of important.  I know I certainly run better if I do a full body weight workout at least twice a week.

Last week's running had some interesting twists.  Tuesday's club run was on a gorgeously hot evening that I think I enjoyed more than most of the others but then again I was out for a laid back trot and stayed at the back of the group and I think some took off at a balls to the wall pace for the temp so there was some suffering happening.

My new friend 

Thursday most of the club was doing one race or another so a handful of us went out on a bit of an offroad adventure recce run.  Parts of it was absolutely gorgeous but there were some mishaps of the sort I usually find myself on when I'm exploring by myself.  There was a two mile detour to avoid a pasture of cows and a machete wouldn't have gone amiss in order to cut our way through the nettles, thistles, and brambles!  Some awesome views though and I don't regret a moment of it --well there might have been a WTF have we gotten ourselves into a couple of times, lol. The pics above and below were taken on the run by a club mate (Hi Richard!).

Looks more like a jungle path rather than an English one!

Saturday I made a last minute decision to make the drive over for parkrun despite it being unbearably humid and experiencing some hellacious DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from Friday's weight session. It's not a good sign when you are covered in sweat from your 1 mile warmup slog!  This time around I seeded myself closer to the front of the pack despite knowing it would cause me to run my first mile too fast (no discipline!).  Of course I jackrabbited and it felt hard from the very first step...what I didn't expect to see was 7:10 flash up for the first mile.

I did my best to push on but miles 2 and 3 were both 7:40 and I ended up having 2 women pass me in the last mile.  The first went on to finish in 22:54 and was running so strong that I had absolutely no chance of reeling her back in, the 2nd I managed to sprint by in the last .10 of a mile and finished ONE second ahead of her. That's why you always run through to the finish, no celebrating or relaxing as the guy in the Peachtree 10k found out over the weekend!

Despite the pacing mishap, I managed to get a pb (UK times) of 23:10, Still need to get those splits into a more even keel though. Let's see if I can match that time at tonight's club handicap!

Start of 2nd lap, don't let the smile fool you, I was suffering

28 June 2015

Footpath Relays Recap

Shadow pic while I was waiting for my turn to run

After much hemming and hawing I finally succumbed to the lure of participating in the Footpath Relays in the Peak District that our running club fielded two teams for and I am glad I did! It was quite fun even though I was slightly stressed about getting lost (understatement) and letting the team down.

Map, notes, and team number

The format of this event is different to most other relays that I've done in that there's self-navigation involved across a mix of terrain--a route recce is highly recommended! Legs 1, 3, 6, and 9 start from the event centre and legs 2, 5, 8, and 10 finish there with legs 1 and 6 starting at the same time.*  Teams are made up of a mix of ages and sexes and there is a handicap system to ensure that each has this mix, for example since I'm a VW45 (VW=veteran woman, the equivalent in the states is masters female) I counted for 2 points toward the minimum 14 required.  The below screenshot shows the different leg information.

Click to enlarge

I was the 10th leg on Ilkeston Running Club Team B which gave me a LOT of time to worry about getting lost despite having recce'ed the route with Rachel the previous week.  However I did relish the opportunity to soak in the warmth of the day (slightly sunburned!) and being able to cheer on the others.

Legs 1 and 6 at the start line

As I mentioned in a post last week the route is gorgeous but I had no time to enjoy it once Paul handed off to me.  A slap of hands and I was off through the first stile and across the fields trying to catch Rachel who had set off just minutes earlier...it wasn't until I cleared the 2nd field before entering the woods that I realised I had forgotten to start my garmin, frustration! I made it to the single track after the farm and B&B before I heard footsteps pounding from behind and one of the guys from another team flew by me.

From the recce day, the downhill side of this is where I was overtaken

In the next section of woods I nearly missed a turn, I had a fairly decent head of steam and overshot where the path divided but it was just a few seconds to slow down and go the proper direction towards where we had our first bit of confusion on the recce but thanks to that I knew just where to go yesterday.  Past the bench and across a stile into another wooded area which led out into the fields where we had the 2nd bit of trouble last week. I still ended up coming down to the road at the wrong place and had to climb a fence instead of the stile and it meant more of the steep uphill on the lane to get up.  A few more valuable seconds lost there... 

The last section in Bow Woods is where I lost the most time though, the route instruction notes read to stay with the main path as it bore left but just before a clearing in the centre the path divides and they are the exact same size.  This is NOT where I was supposed to bear left! I'd gone the wrong way and it wasn't until I glimpsed the clearing on my right when it was meant to be on my left that I realised my mistake.  Instead of continuing on I backtracked and of course this cost me at least a minute.  While I was fairly sure the way I went would bring me back in to the path I needed I couldn't take the chance it wouldn't.  

After this it was fairly straightforward to get back to the finish, over the gate and across the main road (had to wait for traffic to clear on this one), around the bend and left to the canal footpath.  By now it was fairly heaving with people also out enjoying the day so there was some dodging and weaving happening and trying to maintain some semblance of speed while grunting out thank you to everyone who stepped aside.  To get over to the Rugby field from the canal path for our finish involved trying to find an opening to the right that quite a few people missed--by the time I'd gotten there someone had drew a large arrow on the ground pointing to it but it was still easy to overlook.  Thankfully we had double-checked on this earlier so I didn't shoot by but it did involve a very short but steep scramble over rocks and tree roots so it behooved you to watch your step. 

Garmin Connect details

I can't wait until next year! Hopefully my navigation skills will have improved even more before then.  If you can muster up a team I heartily recommend doing this one. There are no medals or prizes or even cake unless you bring it but it's definitely fun and challenging and a veritable bargain at £20 per team.

After the relays, I'd already changed out of my club vest

*If you are wondering what happened to legs 4 and 7 they started and finished out in the middle of nowhere! 

26 June 2015

Expat Adventures: 2nd Stop in the Great British Tree Road Trip

The bridges at Saltash

Part II of the insane road trip on the 10th of June had us travelling south-east from Exeter to just north of the village of Upton-Cross in Cornwall in search of the Darley Oak Tree.  This one was quite difficult to find and the sat-nav took us on some amazingly tiny roads to get there...tiny as in there was barely enough room for our Mondeo to squeeze through without brushing the mirrors against the hedgerows and there were times when the mirrors had to be brought in to avoid this.  Miles and miles of this! I am just glad I wasn't driving especially for the section where we had to reverse for a quarter of a mile to find a place wide enough to move over so an oncoming tractor could get by us.  We really should have had the windscreen mount set up for the camera to film but alas there is no photographic evidence for y'all to enjoy.  The below pic is one of the wider sections of road we travelled and where we stopped to ask a woman on horseback if we were indeed going in the correct direction.

One of the wider sections of road

The tree is located in the front garden of a group of farmhouses and from the description on various sites we were wondering if it would be easily accessible.  There was no need to worry though because it is situated right next to the drive and my partner even struck up a conversation with one of the farmers about the tree.  It was quite interesting listening to him speak because he sounded like a pirate! I'm not sure either of us understood half of what he said but it didn't seem to matter because they were over half an hour chatting.  The British reserve stereotype does not hold true once you get away from the cities! 

The Darley Oak

The Darley Oak is massive of course and is estimated to be over a 1000 years old.  While it looks like some of the branches would break off in a stiff breeze it didn't give off the air of dejection that Major Oak in Notts seems to have.  If anything it had quite a cheerful aura and I'm not one to usually ascribe such characteristics to trees.  

The 50 Great British Trees Plaque

Don't you wonder how many children have climbed and hid in this tree over the centuries?

We didn't stay there but the Oak Barn B&B across from the Darley Oak looked quite lovely if you are looking for a getaway location and if the proprietors are half as friendly as the man we spoke to then you are in for a pleasant stay.

22 June 2015

Adventure Challenge and Juneathon Day 22

Today was a bit unusual for a Monday in that I didn't run solo, a friend from the running club agreed to go on one of my rambles and while I enjoyed sharing one of my favourite routes, I'm not so sure he was as impressed! We did get in a solid 10 miles and I felt better than I have in quite a while on a longish run.  It also unlocked the Adventure Challenge badge on Strava where it gives me the opportunity to buy an exclusive tank top for the bargain basement price of $28 plus shipping charges of $15 and taxes of $5.60 for a grand total of $48.60/£30.69. Ummm, no. I can't afford race entries right now so I'm certainly not buying a branded shirt that is the equivalent to 2 or more races! I do highly recommend the Strava site if you like tracking stats and participating in fun competitions although it can become addicting--not that I'm obsessed with getting QOMs or course records or anything like that (read: totally addicted).

The Limited Edition top I am not buying 

Juneathon Day 22: 10 miles of hills, roads, trails, fields, woods, canals, rain, wind, sun, and poppies.  We had it all today!

A run in the fields with the mutts at the end of yesterday's run, change the quality to 720HD for the best viewing.

21 June 2015

Juneathon Day 21

Welcome summer solstice! Now can we have a wee bit more of the warm stuff please? Yes I know we don't have any air conditioning but I would love to have a chance to wear my cute summer dresses and sandals without shivering at least a few times this year.

Today's Juneathon activity consisted of a late afternoon run where I optimistically wore a tank top.  That would have been fine but I'd also brought along the go-pro to see if I could get some decent video again (that would be a negative) and every time I stopped to get a picture I would get cold again.

Run selfie where it looks like I have a freakishly long arm

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to" said the Cat.
"I don't much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go" said the Cat
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE" Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

For some reason this picture reminded me of 'Alice in Wonderland'

20 June 2015

I jinxed the weather and Juneathon Days 17-20

Going that way

The warmth was gorgeous while it lasted but it's been back to almost needing my gloves again, hard to believe that tomorrow is the summer solstice! I've also lapsed on the move and blog every day but I think I've made it further along than I usually do with Juneathon/Janathon.

Maps at the ready!

Wednesday was a road trip up to Riber/Matlock to recce routes with a couple of mates for the upcoming Footpath Relays and while I have a fairly straightforward section I am glad we ran it because there were a couple of places that might have been tricky on the navigation (Read I would have gotten my ass lost!).  It is a beautiful area of the country and some of it was technical enough to remind me of trail running back in Arkansas.  Afterwards we sat and ate a delicious picnic lunch they had prepared (I wasn't near that organised!) while enjoying the views.

Watch your head!

Today's parkrun marked the second Long Eaton event and the kids with the cowbells were even more enthusiastic than last weekend! Of course that might have had a little bit to do with me whooping and hollering along with them on the first lap then yelling 'More cowbell please!!!!' on the second. As far as the run I certainly wasn't expecting to do much better but somehow managed to eke out a 3 second personal best for my UK times.  I do seem to be stuck in the 23ish minute range again, but it is dropping and hopefully I will be able to whittle that down to sub-23 soon. The splits were not a pretty picture though! 7:17 (waaaaaaaay too fast), 7:26, 7:33, and 1:06.6 (6:22 pace) for the last .18 mile.  The club had another good result with one of ours being 4th place overall and we also had the first and third females. Well done all!

How can you not love running somewhere that has a castle in the background?

Wednesday: 3.71 miles
Thursday: Club run 7.77 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 5 miles including parkrun

parkrun stats:
50/211 overall
8/94 female
1/24 VW45-49

I couldn't find a decent quality vid of the skit so this one will have to suffice

17 June 2015

The heat is on for Juneathon!

Apologies in advance for the earworm but I have been humming 'The Heat Is On' since posting an article about hot weather and how it affects your running on the Of Runsound Mind page yesterday. Gotta love the 80s!

Last night we had what was our first properly HOT run of the year, there have been a handful of warmish ones but this was the first where I came home and after peeling off the jogbra could have wrung the sweat out of it.  Oddly, I quite enjoyed the feeling of running in the heat and humidity but unlike Arkansas it won't be an everyday occurrence from now until October.  

The ashmei socks have been some of the most comfortable socks I've ever worn but unfortunately I have already worn holes into the toe area--so incredibly disappointed. I had hopes of these lasting at least a year which is around the time frame my socks generally make it to before the toe wear-through happens and this is at 3 months.  I'm in a quandary as to whether to make an issue of it since these were a gift rather than something I purchased for myself.  

Juneathon Day 15: No walk or run, short kettlebell workout
Juneathon Day 16: 4.8 miles Nordic Walking class, 9.2 miles club run

14 June 2015

Expat Adventures: The Road Trip in Search of...

One of the best and worst things about an English summer is the extended daylight hours.  In late May it starts getting light around 3:45 am and there is a little glow in the sky until around 11 pm. This makes getting a decent amount of sleep for someone like me who rises whenever the sun does a bit tricky unless you have blackout curtains but it does make planning for outdoor activities much easier.  There is still the need to layer up because the temperatures are on the chilly side but at least you have daylight to play in!

This is what made Wednesday's epic road trip possible, we covered 712 miles down south and back home with only about 2 hours of it driven in the dark--yes our drive started at the unholy hour of 5:30 am! There was a lot of ground covered and while we didn't get to spend much time at any one place the objectives of the trip were accomplished: my partner got to do something he loves--drive through places at speed while pointing out interesting landmarks in passing, put some miles on the new front tyres, and we took a few photos of historic trees.  Yes, the objective of the trip was to visit a couple of the 50 Great British Trees.

First stop not counting the Starbucks refueling (where they oohed and ahhed over my American issued personalised gold rewards card) and to allow the dogs to do their business was the Heavitree Yew in Exeter...or it would have been but for some reason we thought the tree was at the Heavitree Pleasure Grounds.  It is quite a pretty and bustling park and we did find a historic tree, just not the one we were in search of!  Oh well, it got us out of the car and Ben got to frolic off leash (Elsie doesn't get that privilege because she has NO recall whatsoever and likes to put her front paws on people's legs) while we figured out where we should have been.

The 'other' tree

Quite old but not the green plaque we were looking for

The arch in the picture above is apparently quite controversial because of the amount of money spent in upkeep, it seems to be a target of frequent vandalism/graffiti as well.  What I do want to point out is the sign on the building for The Gun and Sport Shop.  Quite a few people are under the impression that ALL guns are illegal in the UK and that simply isn't true.  There is certainly a more stringent licensing and certification process but it isn't impossible to own a firearm. Anyway back to the tree!

The church through the daisies

The Heavitree Yew is in the churchyard of St. Michael and All Angels, like most here it is a very pretty church but it also has a air of being very busy and cluttered! The yew is right next to the entry and when we were walking up we were almost bowled over by a man rushing out 'in search of a body'! He was very apologetic and it was almost like a scene out of a television programme. 

The Heavitree Yew

50 Great British Trees Commemoration Plaque

I wonder how many people have sat in or climbed this tree

Quick pic of the Church interior

Beautiful sky

Always love the gargoyles

Water spout above an entry

So that was the first planned stop of our one day road trip southwards, what we didn't take time to see was the Exeter Cathedral, perhaps another day we will stop to see it but honestly I much prefer the smaller churches to the massive cathedrals so I wasn't terribly disappointed about skipping it. There will be another post or 3 about our insane drive soonish! 

All image editing courtesy of Real World Image Retouching