Monday, 14 January 2019

Back To Racing!











You'd be proud of me. 

I have been Incredibly Sensible for almost three weeks and done very little running while I waited patiently for a) my knee to heal and b) my cold to bugger off. I have even binned races I was looking forward to :o(. I haven't enjoyed it, but needs must.

What I have been doing instead is assiduously following Physio Steve's instructions for daily activations, stretching and strengthening, and also doing the (mainly only possible if you are a contortionist) yoga practice friend Abz sent me via youtube. I got most of the way through it by doing my versions of the Lady On The Floor's amazingly flexible routine, but I came unstuck at the one where she has her knees up round her ears while her hands are on the floor and then lifts her back leg out straight behind her. It was a stress position and more when I tried it. I kept expecting to hear something go pop! so I backed off that one and did some more gentle stretches instead until she'd moved on to downward dog and plank, with which I am much more familiar and comfortable.

I tried a gentle 6 mile run on Thursday which went a lot better than the last one on the previous Sunday (where I had to stop at three miles because my knee started hurting). The knee stiffened up on Thurs afternoon so I took Friday and Saturday off then decided to give it another whirl at a 10k race on Sunday, figuring I could stop if it hurt. The race was full and we already had entries paid up so I had nothing to lose by trying. I am not someone who worries about having a DNF (did not finish) beside their name. It seems daft to me to let that kind of thing control you and keep you running beyond what's good for you, although I understand how hard it is to admit you need to rest.

So, Sunday morning saw M and I set off for Swanage bright and early, arriving to a cold and windy carpark and a too-hot football club house where we picked up our numbers and looked in vain for a course map. The nearest we got was a previous runner's Strava record which seemed to suggest a maximum elevation gain of 50 metres. Oh how wrong they were.

The start whistle went, M up at the front in shorts and a vest top, me half way down the field in capris, thermal top, gloves and a head warmer. The first km went well, and as we headed up the first of many hills I found I was overtaking people and enjoying myself. That's more or less how the rest of the race went. A handful of people came past me, including one chap at the final hill around mile 5 who went storming past. My km times kept getting faster, dropping from 5:30 for the first couple to 5 and then 4:55. Not fast by M's standards but pretty speedy by mine. 

Running at that pace has become much, much easier over the last three months. I put it down to all the long distance training. This time last year it was really hard work: I would be breathing heavily, heart ricocheting around my ribs and feeling generally sick and faint, running at the top end of my ability and not enjoying it. This time I felt calm and in control and the whole thing was totally enjoyable.

It was a pleasant surprise when I glanced at my watch and realised I was going to finish much faster than my recent 10k times. So much so that M was heading back to the car to get a coat as I came down to the finish line because he wasn't expecting me for another 5 mins :o). The startled look on his face coupled with the astonished but you shouldn't be here yet! when I shouted his name as I approached the line will stay with me as one of my most favourite race memories (along with completing the Grizzly Cub and my first half and full marathons).

It was a great race: inexpensive at £11 entry, quirky, well-attended with some talented runners taking part and a good spread of competition throughout, and run through nice scenery. M won oldest man and got another trophy and was chuffed with his time and I was thrilled to only be 30 seconds off my fastest 10k time, which was two summers ago over a flat course and I nearly died doing it. This time, I felt fantastic as I finished: no exhaustion, no nausea, just a sense of having had a really good run. Better still: no knee pain, during or after.

I'm edging closer to a sub-51 10K time and have decided to work towards that as one of my goals this year.

Today is a day off, the rest of this week will be low mileage as a precaution, and if all continues well than next week I will start slowly upping my miles ahead of May's marathon.

Happy Days!

Hope you're all well?

CT :o)


Monday, 7 January 2019

Bosham Crusaders, Roman Bathers, A New parkrun & A Race On Epsom Downs












Roman Dog Paw Prints





And it's still the same 2000 years later


I was mystified by the addition of a beaver to this scene





Romsey parkrun test #1


I don't think curtseying is strictly necessary


Despite being plagued with a determined lurgy which has hung about rather boringly, we got quite a lot done in the first week of the New Year. We hosted our belated Crimbo dinner for grandparents and offspring on Wednesday (roast pheasant from the local estate with all the trimmings and a raspberry meringue and cream cake). The boys blew smoke rings as promised afterwards, with Grandad declaring he was going to take up cigars as a result. 
The next day we went to Bosham, simultaneously reminding ourselves of the crosses carved in the church doorway by returning Crusaders, and how jolly cold it can be there in January. I bought a mug from the local pottery to match the jug I got last time. 

The day after we had a jolly day out in lovely Bath admiring the Roman & Georgian Baths, which have benefited from a substantial expansion since we were last there which made the £14 entry fee each extremely good value. We drank the disgusting water (of course) and I put my hand in the main bath water to test how warm it was (very) having failed to read the sign warning of the direst of infectious consequences to anyone did. Needless to say I am still alive. I resisted the temptation to buy any keepsakes, as I'm on a drive this year to only buy what I need rather than what I want (with the exception of handmade pottery) and I've already saved £70 as a result.  

Having satisfied our curiosity about Roman ablutions to an extraordinarily detailed degree, we went to the Roman Baths Kitchen for lunch. I had the best BLT I have ever eaten and a delicious hot chocolate and M had soup and strong coffee. Then we had a wander round the Abbey next door. It took me three quarters of the way round for the penny to drop as to why there were so many wealthy people from all round the country/ empire buried there - they'd come to Bath hoping the waters would cure them and learnt the hard way that they wouldn't. Afterwards, we had a brisk walk up to the Circus and Royal Crescent via Pulteney Bridge in the bright sunshine, before heading back into town admiring the Georgian architecture with M pointing out various stages of the Bath Half marathon route as we went.

After a pub supper on Friday night, Saturday saw me up bright and early to funnel manage at Southampton parkrun while Martin came to fiddle with the new shower at home (again) to block up the leaks. There have mercifully been no further explosions of water through the wall, but the door needed tweaking to prevent the water running out underneath it. The new shower head is also too big for the water pressure with the consequence that taking a shower feels like standing out in a rainstorm and being hit by five drops if you're lucky. We will swap it for a smaller one, because when I accidentally turned on the handheld shower element last week the power of the water jetting out nearly lifted me off my feet while simultaneously excoriating the new faux stone wall panels.

There were over 1000 runners at parkrun, all a good deal more polite than last week when I got gesticulated at for asking someone to take their token and several of the other volunteers were sworn at. Nice. This week, everyone was in good spirits and the whole thing went off smoothly. Afterwards, I dashed quickly back to Romsey for a trial run of our new parkrun which is opening soon (ish), with various friends and club members as guineapigs trying out the new course and the rest of us doing the official volunteer management bit, warning of sticks, brambles and pot holes etc. Everyone loved it and the feedback was good. It's a technical cross country course rather than a tarmac track so not for the faint-hearted.

After another pub dinner (this time with friends) on Saturday night (where I got the giggles after discovering that the sophisticated-sounding vegetarian option I'd chosen was essentially savoury honey monster puffs with some burnt kale thrown in for good measure), Sunday morning saw us in Epsom at the racecourse for a ten mile multi-terrain race. I was in support mode because my knee has taken umbrage at a month of trail runs and I'm having a few days off to rest it (it's actually a weakness in one of my hips. I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say Physio Steve is on the case and assures me a couple of weeks of activation and strengthening will get it working properly. I'm marathon-free till May now so there's no huge rush to be distance fit again just yet). M won his age category with a tremendous battle to the line against a chap who was right on his shoulder, and earnt himself a £70 voucher as a result, which paid for my unused race entry. Over Christmas he won another race and got a bottle of champers. Soon we'll have to start declaring his winnings for tax purposes :o).

In Rest Of The Family News, they are all fine. Ted experienced a spot of wet eczema over Crimbo and is sporting a rather fetching, albeit now growing-out tonsure as a result, and Poppy is enjoying rolling in as much FP as she can find while out of sight on walks, the little bugger. Ted also seems obsessed with M and can't stop staring at him of an evening, to the point that we're all getting a little unnerved by it. J is teaching herself Spanish and spent the time she was here wandering around uttering random Spanish words and phrases, which kept making me jump, while F, who is learning how to read bones (in an archeological as opposed to fortune-telling way), reminisced with his father about the various dead things in various stages of decay he would find in the woods and bring back to the house as a boy, usually removing plastic pots from the kitchen to keep them in. L got a steam punk top hat and cane to go with his Victoriana cloak for Christmas and can be seen twirling dramatically about the house throughout the day and I have been busy chasing round the Asda carpark in Totton looking for the non-existent Waxwings who filled the place yesterday. So everything is pretty much normal here.

How are you all?

CT.


Sunday, 30 December 2018

Happy New Year!













So how was Christmas for you? It was a muted affair here. M and I were supposed to be running a relay marathon together on the 23rd. He came down with a bug a few days before and decided on the 22nd not to run (sensible), so we hot-footed it down to Portsmouth to upgrade my entry to the full marathon. Half an hour after we got home my throat started to ache and by the morning of the race I knew there was no way I could do it. I spent Christmas Eve in bed feeling yuk and although I did get up for Christmas Day we had a very quiet one. The big family get-together has been postponed till Wednesday.

This morning we went down to Porchester for a race which M won (I sat it out as not yet 100% fit), and when we got home I discovered what I'm fairly sure is a Lesser Redpoll in the garden. Cue huge excitement from me as I've only ever seen one here once before and that was a few years ago. It's the first bird in the pics above. If anyone thinks it's anything else (Redpoll/ Linnet) shout. Also back in the garden are the Siskins and our resident Moorhen, who is very shy but rather beautiful. In the spring I see them paddling about on the lake and nibbling the grass on the edges with three or four small balls of fluff in tow.

In other news, I totted up all the races I've done this year and was chuffed to discover that we've done 33:

3 x 5k
4x 5 mile
17x 10k
1x 9 mile
2x 10 mile
4x half marathons
2x marathons

Not a bad haul. Next year, if all goes well, there will be more marathons and fewer shorter distances. I'm currently planning our racing diary for 2019. All good fun. I've entered a marathon later in the year which is billed as the UK's toughest as it's got lots of climb. It's in the Lakes and I've wanted to do it for a while so I'm really looking forward to that one especially. It'll be interesting to look back next Christmas and see how much of what I set out to do I've achieved, as well as the unexpected things that always crop up!

Hope all are well? Wishing you all a lovely New Year.

CT :o).


Tuesday, 25 December 2018

M*E*R*R*Y C*H*R*I*S*T*M*A*S




Happy Christmas to all of you from all of us. Thank you for reading and/ or commenting this year, Wishing everyone a lovely festive season and New Year.

With very best wishes from all of us here at Countryside Tales.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas Birds In The Garden

Goldfinches

Great tit

Blue tit

Coal tit

male sparrow

male sparrow cleaning his tail

robin

male chaffinch

dunnock! :o)


coal tit

blue tit

blue tit and goldfinch

stock dove

long tailed tit

male and female sparrows

female sparrow

female blackbird

great tit

About this time today, M and I should have been nearing the end of a marathon relay we were doing together around Langstone Harbour in Portsmouth (running a half marathon each), but M came down with the lurgy on Wednesday and decided at 4am on Saturday that he wasn't well enough to run, leaving me with the option of a) not doing it either or b) upgrading to run the full marathon. Of course, I chose b), only to find as bedtime yesterday approached that I had a distinctly odd feeling in my throat, and to spend half the night awake feeling yuk. So, no running today.

Instead, I have been watching the garden birds. It's a snowstorm of feathers out there with, I estimate, between 30-40 feathered friends gathered in the garden at any one time.

The goldfinches are the top birds in so far as they dominate the feeders, not allowing anyone else much of a look in, and the dear little coal tit is bottom, and has to dart in, grab a seed and nip away with it, to hide it somewhere in the garden for when he needs it later on.

I am glad to see the Stock Dove, who is a rare garden visitor here. I hear them more often than I see them. Likewise the greenfinch who was here yesterday. Another regular visitor at this time of year who didn't make an appearance while I had the camera out is the moorhen. She hops over the hedge and potters about beneath the feeders clearing up dropped seeds. Despite her size, the other smaller birds don't seem to object to her presence. She is very nervous of me though and is off at the slightest movement.

The Dunnock is for My Orcadian friend who rarely gets dunnocks in his garden. Instead, he regularly sees Marsh Harriers which I almost never do, so we are indulging in an avian cultural exchange. I apologise for the quality of the picture, but dunnocks are hard to photograph well as they are rarely still.

One bird who was in the garden yesterday but who was in and out so fast that all I heard was the whoosh of air as she sped past the window, causing the smaller birds to dive for cover in the hedge, was the sparrowhawk. I was telling a friend about it over a mince pie yesterday and he told me that he was sitting in his garden in Southampton once with his arm stretched out when a sparrowhawk landed on it! I have had this happen with blackbirds before, but never a bird of prey. He said she turned and stared at him with those intense yellow eyes but didn't move away. He didn't know much about hawks so was worried she might go for him, instead she surveyed him and the garden for a bit then took off and flew over the fence.

Incidentally, did you know that the blackbirds currently in your garden are likely to be European birds who have come here for winter? Your blackbirds, in the mean time, have taken themselves off to southern Europe or Africa and won't be back home till March.

I hope everyone is keeping well and has Christmas under control. We're all set here.

CT.