Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Poppy & Ted Have Fun & Games In The Snow

In eleven years we've had snow here three times. You'll forgive us, therefore, for making a big deal out of what, (I realise if you live somewhere like Canada, for example), is a light dusting.

It started falling heavily at 5pm yesterday. Poppy and I rushed straight out to play football.

Snow is such a rare occurrence here that L was even moved to leave his computer, take his dressing gown and slippers off, don a warm coat and join us for a dance in the blizzard in the garden. 

When Ted joined us it was to suggest to Pop (who by now had enormous snow balls stuck to her feet) that they play a snowy version of their favourite game.... Round The Greenhouse. Ted became Quite Animated and did rather a lot of talking during the game...

Spot the Poppy

There she is!

Today, it's wall-to-wall sunshine but freeeeezing cold. M left to run to work at 7am when the thermometer was saying this. I know it was cold because he had tracksuit bottoms on and I can count the number of times he hasn't run in shorts on one hand :o)

Pop and I set off soon after. I learnt my lesson yesterday and this morning had on two pairs of running tights and two pairs of gloves as well as a down body warmer, fleece neck warmer, head warmer and thermal top. Consequently, I was warm as toast. The whole run was a complete delight from start to finish...

Once we got off the main road and onto country lanes where no gritters had been it was like stepping back into a medieval world. We took it easy down the hills as I had road shoes on (very little grip) but because it's been so dry slipping wasn't a problem and we got bolder as we went along. Our feet made that lovely squeaky scrunchy sound you only get when you walk on fresh snow and the cold air, bright sunshine glittering like diamonds on the snow and the fact that no one else was about made it a really special run. 

I meant to do six miles but ended up doing ten, I was enjoying it so much I didn't want to go home after only spending an hour outside. I always text M to say where I'm going and how long I'll be and I also leave a note for L if he's home. As I'd said we'd only be an hour and we ended up being 1:45 I was expecting M to buzz me asking whether I was home. I didn't expect L to because he isn't up that early! I heard the phone ping in my pocket when we were about two miles from home, and it wasn't M as expected, it was a slightly worried sounding L saying: where r u? I texted back almost home. When we got back I apologised for making him worry and we had a laugh about the role reversal. Parents are meant to worry about where their teenagers are when they don't come home when they say they will, not the other way round :o).

Tomorrow, the forecast is looking dodgy with proper snow and high winds on its tail for Friday. We may be battening down the hatches! Miraculously, it looks milder and slightly damper for Sunday's race, which will be fine.

Hope you're all well and keeping warm and safe. I'm off to eat some of our stockpiled rations  to replace some of those 1000 calories used up this morning :o)


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

This and That

I'm flat out here at the moment. I'm not complaining, I like it that way. I just don't seem to pause between waking at 6.30 and going to bed at 10. I've been putting the finishing touches to the running club's couch to 5k programme which starts in April. It has already garnered lots of interest, despite not yet being live. I think the 40 available places will sell out quickly. It's been a lot of work putting it all together: I've had two weekend training courses, researched and finalised the venue, decided on which days and what time it would run, put the rota together, sorted out the marketing and updated the group site with run and payment details, amongst other things. At the same time, M has been managing the club's annual public race which sold out within a month, so we've both been pretty engaged with club business recently. All good fun, and the C25K in particular is something I am really happy to be involved with. Encouraging new runners is a good thing to be doing.

My running is going well. I'm slowly upping my distances. Pop and I ran 25 miles together last week with the longest single run being just over ten miles. We did another hour this morning. I would have liked to have gone further but decided against it, it being -2. It took fifteen minutes for my hands to defrost to the point they would work properly when I got home. It was a nice run along country lanes through crisp sunshine and I was well wrapped, but even so my legs were numb by the time I got back. I have put the dogs' haircuts back a week :o)

This cold snap isn't great timing for those training for spring marathons. They are at the long run stage (18-22 miles) of their training plans. My buddy B, who is running London, told me she'd run for four hours on Sunday. Other friends were in Northumberland running an ultra. 35 hilly miles in 7 hours. I'm quite glad it's a half marathon and not a full we're doing this weekend! Hoping the weather improves for it and that I can be disciplined and keep to a steady pace and not get lured into racing :o)

I've just looked out the window and it's started to snow. Small flakes only, drifting quietly down. We had quite a lot yesterday: big, fat flakes, but none settled for long. I thought it was going to at one point and texted L to prepare for a recall from college, but then it stopped :o(. 

It was magic walking through the fields in a blizzard a little after dawn yesterday, utter silence, just the whisper of snow falling and no one else about. I stocked up on food afterwards just in case. I love the snow.

Hope you're all warm and dry, wherever you are.

CT :o)

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Winchester 10k

The start- 1355 runners milling about in the cold by the Guildhall

King Alfred, keeping an eye on his city

During... running up Silver Hill out of the city
After.... at the finish, boxes of rejuvenating bananas stacked high :o)

6 miles later (one of us, at any rate) :o)

A new medal for the collection (the downstairs loo is running out of space)
I've always wanted a Saxon shield and sword.

Today was Winchester 10k day. Winchester is one of my most favourite places on Earth, so I was really looking forward to running this race again.

We were awake early (5:40 for some reason) and when we got up M made ominous, not feeling well type noises, which is unlike him. He attempted a small run across the landing and returned with a face full of woe, shaking his head. I've never known him miss a race from illness before so he must have been feeling rough, poor love (thank last night's Thai curry takeaway. Note to self: in future, don't eat takeaways the night before a race). But he still drove me to Winch and hung about in the cold for the best part of an hour waiting to cheer me in. I am hereby officially entering him for Husband Of The Year (he'll hate that :o) ).

I don't enjoy races as much if he isn't running them too, it definitely takes the edge off the post-match analysis when only one of us has run, and I find tremendous comfort in tough races knowing that he's up ahead and has already run where I'm running, although when one of us isn't running it's nice to cheer the other one in. But it was a glorious day to be running today so I was determined to enjoy it.

Last year there were 900 runners, this morning 1355. It shows, I think, how popular running is becoming, and that 10k is a good race distance: hard enough to test new runners and give a well-earnt sense of achievement at the end, but not so hard that they can't get round in one piece, and long enough for more experienced runners to feel they've had a run. As an aside, I'm getting better at understanding what people mean when they talk about their 5k pace, or their 10k pace. Last year, it was all a bit confusing, but this year I have a much better sense of differentiating km speeds according to race distances.

We arrived with time to spare, easily found a parking space (the advantage of being local is knowing where the more obscure and hard-to-find carparks are secreted) and sat in the car for a while because it was so cold, then wandered over to the start, finding a loo en route (nothing worse than being on a run and needing to go), and discovered that the street market was on. Ho hum, I thought, that's going to make the start interesting.

It was really cold- the temperature hovering around 2-3 with a raw east wind whistling along in places. I had on a thermal long-sleeved top, my Little Miss Sunshine leggings and a body warmer, head warmer and gloves and was just about the right temperature. There were very few bare arms and legs on display compared to last year, when even I wore shorts and a t-shirt.

I'm still broadly in taking it steady for the knee mode, whilst pushing the boundaries just a little bit, so thought I'd probably aim for 5:45 min/ km which is about 15 seconds per km faster than I'm currently running at home. Of course, when you actually run in a race it's much harder to stick to a slower pace because your innate competitive monkey wakes up and prods you to go faster. It's a good test of discipline. 

The first km took 45 seconds longer (a lot, in running terms). The volume of runners meant I was walking for a minute or two after the race started just to get to the start gantry, then the stalls of the street market meant everyone was compressed and then I was stuck in crowds trudging slowly up the first hill out of the city. After that the field spread out and it became easier to get into a rhythm. As usual, the hills were my friends and I was running up them with no problems and overtaking people, which always makes me feel strong in a race :o) 

I think the slow and steady return to training, the strength and stretching exercises, the hill work and increasing distances of the past fortnight have all really made a difference to my fitness. I felt well within my comfort zone today and had a good breathing rhythm. I felt could have gone further, which is a good thing as I've got a 13 mile half mara next Sunday :o)

I probably could have gone a little faster today too, but I was aware of the risk of getting swept along and undoing all that I've achieved with the rehab so far, so kept my pace steady. In the end I averaged 5:34 (a little bit faster than planned) with a 4:21 final km which brought me home two minutes faster than Chichester a fortnight ago, and with hills thrown in as well. I'm happy with that.

Pop stayed at home with Ted. I think this look is her way of telling me she's not impressed at doing all the hard work of training at home and not getting any of the fun of showing what she can do at races (except she and Ted were both asleep on their beds under the radiator when we left before eight) :o)

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend? Snow is forecast here this week, but I'm not sure I believe it.

CT :o)

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Brambling, Wren, Siskin, Buzzard News & Ted & Pops

The buzzard passed away, sadly. I can't say I'm surprised but everyone involved in trying to save her did their best and you can't do more than that. The lass from the accident is back home and OK, physically at least. Her mum rang me last night.

Today, the male brambling has reappeared in the garden. I had thought they had started the journey back north and east already but apparently not. He is a handsome fellow. There are also lots of lime-green-and-yellow siskins on the feeders, males and females. And a tiny wren who has his territory in the front garden all sorted out, and is very pert about the whole business. This is in addition to the wren who has earmarked the top end of the stream on the lane near the house as his patch. He is there most days when I walk past, whirring over the stream or sitting on a branch, watching me intently. He shares this territory with a grey wagtail but they seem to rub along together well enough: I haven't witnessed any squabbles, presumably because they occupy different niches. I saw a tree creeper near there while walking the dogs yesterday, the little one spent ages investigating bits of bark on one of the willows for insects. And out in the fields this morning I cracked a mystery that's been bugging me all winter- which bird was making a descending down the scales sound. The answer: skylark. No idea whether it's a regional dialect as it's a song I've heard no-where else and it is quite unlike their usual song.

Before Christmas, I received a useful book suggestion from imperfect and tense, about tracking birds through their feathers and footprints, among other things ("tracks and signs of the birds of Britain and Europe" in case you're interested). It arrived as a Christmas present and yesterday was the first time I used it. I discovered a pair of wings in the flower bed, and through the book ascertained that the sparrowhawk had been snacking on one of our chaffinches. The actual feather is the far right, a tail feather. A great addition to my natural history library, although perhaps not for the faint-hearted as it's relatively complex.

M is in full marathon training mode, getting ready for London at the end of April. His mission is to get as close to his 2:48 time (achieved ten years ago, which was the last time he ran London) as humanely possible, and if not, to beat his friend and arch rival, Andrew :o). We have three friends doing the race this year- the organisers produce a tracking app for mobiles so you can keep a check on where they are throughout the race. The dogs, meanwhile, are particularly enjoying the training......sweaty salt, yum!

I don't let them do that to me, so they make the most of it with dad :o) Instead, whenever I'm trying to do yoga, or stretches, which I do every day,Ted comes and lies the length of my back, as if offering support, while Pop squashes herself into a ball against my stomach. I am, effectively, pinned between them and as a consequence unable to move, which adds an extra layer of inventiveness to my exercise routines.

They're supposed to have hair cuts with Mrs D next week but I'm not sure, what with this polar vortex that's meant to be hitting the UK (known to the rest of us as Winter). 

Meanwhile, Pop and I are busy training too. We're back up to ten mile runs with little in the way of knee pain being experienced, so I'm hoping that's now fixing itself. The ten mile route includes three monster hills that we do twice, so that's got to be helping :o)

We've a 10k race this weekend and I've booked a half mara for the following Sunday as a small test. I haven't checked yet to see whether I can take Poppy. After that it's full steam ahead to the Grizzly Cub. Having decided not to run it a few weeks ago when the knee was poorly and given my place to buddy Lou, I realised last week that my knee is now strong enough and was lucky enough to get a place from another lady who's sadly had to pull out through injury. I'm so glad because it'll be a special race this year. We have six close friends, all runners, that we've known for years and this is the first year all eight of us will be taking part together: four super-fit distance runners doing the 20 mile Grizzly, and the other four of us running the 9 mile Cub :o) As an added happy, blogging buddy Small P is also running it too. Happy Days indeed! Bring it on! Can't wait :o)

So that's it from here for now. Hope you are all well?


Tuesday, 20 February 2018

So What Happened Next Was.....

I'm having a very eventful week. I rang about the buzzard this morning. She's had her wing set but they've realised she has internal damage, which isn't great news. We don't know how bad it is, but she isn't standing and they are having to feed her, so it is touch and go. The next few days she'll either pull through or slip away. 

I walked the hounds first thing (feels like several days ago now), then drove towards town to drop L at the bus stop for college. We'd only gone about a mile down the road when we came to a queue of traffic. Assuming mobile works, we sat for a couple of minutes, but then people began getting out of their cars so I realised it wasn't road works. Telling L to stay put, I walked down the road and discovered a pretty terrible car accident which must have happened only moments before.

There was debris all over the road, one car skewed across the road and another upside down in a ditch with the front rammed against a small tree. I didn't realise at the time but the driver was still inside.

A man, clutching a small child and looking very dazed was walking up the road towards me, crying. I put my arm round him and asked him what had happened. He was fairly incoherent but managed to tell me he'd been driving the car that was skewed across the road. He was really worried about his little one, but she seemed fine, only confused about why her dad was in such a state. I got him to sit down and checked where he was hurt. There was some blood on his knee but it didn't look urgent so I told him I was going to check on his girlfriend who was also crying into her phone a bit further down the road and that we'd get the medics to look at him as soon as they arrived. As I ran down to check his girlfriend, I saw a man carrying the trapped driver from the upturned car to the side of the road. I reached the girlfriend and ascertained that she wasn't hurt, so I turned back to the driver who by now was sitting on the verge.

She was conscious but she was shaking and very dazed and not really able to talk. I wrapped my coat round her as someone else called an ambulance and the lovely chap rang her mum. Just then a car came flying down the road, so I leapt up and flagged it to stop. Out jumps this guy. I asked him whether he was a paramedic but it turned out he was CID, who just happened to be passing. He rang the accident in and a little later a policeman turned up who was super and very efficient. He got the road sorted; cones out, cars moved, everyone who was standing around watching was told to get on their way. I moved my car out of the road and onto the verge and got L to come and wait near me. I was worried another car would come flying round the corner and hit mine, although I think the police had another car out further back managing the traffic by that point. Luckily, L had some chocolate on him so we gave a piece to the lass from the upturned car which seemed to help the shock and rally her a little, she was able to talk more coherently after the sugar at any rate.

Bless her, she was so worried about the other people, so we reassured her they were walking wounded and no one had been seriously hurt. The chap who'd been driving the other car appeared and asked her if she was OK. He was looking a bit better by this point but I was worried his daughter would get cold so L took them to my car and she sat in there while we all waited for the paramedics to arrive. We asked the lass on the verge what had happened but she couldn't remember anything. At that point her mum arrived. Poor lady, she was frantic and it didn't help seeing the state her daughter's car was in. She sat down with her and started to shake and cry as well. I put my arms round both of them, trying to offer some comfort and reassurance and told them that the ambulance was on its way. We gave the mum some chocolate as well and after a bit she stopped shaking.

It seemed ages until the paramedics arrived, but once they were there they were brilliant. The chap who'd got her out of the car explained what he'd done and said he knew it was risky but she was so distressed he couldn't leave her hanging upside down in a crashed car. They reassured him and he then went on his way. He was so great with the lass who'd been driving: calm, friendly, reassuring, telling her he'd totalled a car when he was 18 and was now a driving instructor. I think he was a bit of a hero, to be honest.

The medics assessed her neck and spine, put on a neck brace, took blood pressure etc, all the time chatting easily away and explaining what was happening. They were so reassuring, so kind, so competent. She kept asking me what would happen next and was worried about what would happen to her car, so we reassured her a garage would take it away and let her mum know where it was, that it would all be sorted out and she didn't need to do anything or worry about it. Eventually, when they were satisfied it was safe to move her, the medics got her onto a stretcher, I retrieved my coat and left my number with her mum so she could let me know later how she was, then I got back in my car and finally dropped L at college about an hour and half after we'd set off.

I checked L was OK because it was a pretty awful thing to witness, but he assured me he was and to be honest, being at college busy with his friends was probably the best thing for him. I wondered briefly after it was all over whether I might have a delayed shock reaction, but it's not the first time I've had to deal with the aftermath of a serious car accident and growing up in the country with animals means I'm used to wounds and injuries. Riding horses as a kid also meant witnessing some pretty horrid accidents, a number of which ended up with folk being carted off in ambulances. As long as none of my family are involved, I'm usually pretty reliable and calm in a crisis.

I'm just so relieved no one was seriously hurt. The policeman took one look at the car and said she was lucky to be alive. I told her she'd had her angel with her. Poor lass, what an awful thing to happen. 

So that's two rescues in three days. I sincerely hope there isn't a third. Perhaps I'll stay indoors for a while :o)


Monday, 19 February 2018

Buzzard Rescue

So, it's been a fairly normal weekend here at Countryside Tales: parkrun on Saturday, cross country race on Sunday morning, find an injured Buzzard on the road Sunday afternoon, pick her up, bring her home, make arrangements to take her to a local wildlife rescue centre then drive through the New Forest with a raptor on my lap.

She'd been hit by a car. It must have happened only moments before we came past because she was lying on the verge, wings open, looking stunned and afraid. There was a second buzzard a few feet away clutching something dead in its talons. My guess is they both went for the same prey item and, in the clash over possession of it, didn't see the car coming and she got hit.

It's a difficult decision, to know what to do with a wild creature that's been injured when you don't know how badly it's hurt. My preference is to move them out of immediate harm's way and leave them in their own environment, hoping that it's just shock and after a while they'll recover. It's an offence by law to remove wild animals from the wild. But when they're obviously badly injured I would never leave them on the side of a road to die. I've nursed crows, blackbirds, swallows, rabbits, deer and a baby Tawny Owl before (remember Bop two springs ago?). But I've never picked up a raptor.

I have enormous respect for the beaks and talons of raptors, having seen them in action (you may remember the Buzzard who came into the garden a summer or two ago and eviscerated a huge male rat, splitting in from throat to tail in one go. Impressive). They are perfectly adapted to gripping, squeezing, ripping and tearing. I'll admit, therefore, that I was a little bit worried about how we would go about picking her up and holding her, we had no towel or gloves with us. But in the end, my farmer's-son, country-boy husband, just bent down, scooped her up and gave her to me in one seamless movement. He ushered us to the car and managed to put the seatbelt around us both (meanwhile, dogs in the back, noisy with over-excitement at what was happening), then drove us the few minutes home. 

A quick phone call confirmed a local centre could help. When M came back outside to tell me this, the Buzzard, who'd been quiet as a mouse in my arms up until that point (once she'd settled into a more comfortable position), suddenly came to life: she opened her wings, squeezed the life out of my finger which she'd been holding gently up until that point, and opened her beak at him, warning him to stay away. 

He backed off and she settled down again. I got her wings carefully refolded, extricated my finger from her hold (experiencing no small amount of relief that it was still in one piece and looked like a finger, rather than the crushed bit of flesh I'd been half-expecting), then we got back in the car and drove over to the centre. 

For most of the forty minute journey she was quiet and sat still in my arms, but every now and then she'd look over at M who was driving and struggle to get away. The first time she did this she put her weight on her feet which had been resting on my leg. Have you ever had a buzzard squeeze your thigh before? No? Let me tell you those talons are mighty sharp. I have three small puncture wounds and a nice big bruise about 5cm wide to show for it, which says something about how big she was (fortunately, she was a yearling, so on the small size compared to some of them, but still big enough). I spent a good part of the rest of the journey worried (because it hurt, a lot) that she might have sliced through my femoral artery and kept trying to take surreptitious glances at my leg to check it wasn't awash with blood. I was quite relieved when we got home later and I could assess the damage as being non-fatal :o). M, when I told him this, grinned: don't be ridiculous, of course she wouldn't have pierced your artery. 

After 40 minutes, during which time (when I wasn't worried about bleeding to death), I was grinning to myself imagining the responses of the people in the cars we passed had they but known who was in the passenger seat, we arrived and met Mike at the gate of his beautiful forest cottage. He took down all our details and where we'd found her and in what condition, talked us through what would happen next (anti-inflammatories, fluids, a medical assessment), and we handed her over, giving him £20 towards her care.

I've just rung to see how she is, and she has a broken wing with an open wound. She's off to be X-rayed this morning to see how bad the damage is, but hopefully, it's treatable and she'll mend well enough to be released back out into the wild where we found her. Thank goodness for people like Mike, eh? And what a complete privilege to have been so close to such a magnificent wild creature. I'm keeping everything crossed for her.