Thursday, 28 June 2018

Into The Woods

red necked footman

Small Skipper (female)

Large Skipper (male)

Silver Washed Fritillary (male)

Male broad bodied chaser

Ringlet pair

Green Tiger Beetle

So it's Emperor Time down in the woods. Despite the heat, I headed off this morning for a few hours of Iris spotting. They seem to be up in terms of numbers everywhere this year and are out early at Bentley, so now is as good a time as any to head down to an ancient woodland that's well served with oak and sallow to look for these magnificent purple butterflies. Bentley, Fermyn, Ampfield and Knepp are all great places to see them.

I saw four or five today, by far my biggest haul for Bentley, although to give some perspective I met a chap in the woods who'd counted 80 at Knepp last Weds, and there have been records of 300 in one day there this week. They were mainly flying high although I was buzzed by two who came down from the tree tops to investigate whether I was worth seeing off or not. They are generally reckoned to be pugilistic and will square up to anything. I once watched a female fight off a Robin. Evidently, they decided I didn't pose a threat because, once I'd been checked out properly, they returned to the tops of the oaks where they resumed their busy search for wives.

I met the usual eclectic and eccentric mix of characters out in the woods, all very nice people, and all obsessed with Emperors. We exchanged the normal Emperor greeting: have you seen one? and because there were so many about everyone had, which was nice. When I returned to the car park at lunch time the usual oak tree was attracting everyone's attention and there was a male flying about the cars parked beneath it. He came and went and those of us waiting to see him ended up having a good old chat about butterflies and who'd been where to see what. Two had seen a Goshawk flying through the wood that morning. I must have just missed him. You make instant friends in woods at Emperor time :o).

In addition to the Emperors (who never sat down for me so sorry, no pics, although I'm returning to the wood next week with Uncle B so hope to get a photo then), I saw the red-necked footman moth in pic above, a reasonably rare woodland species (I am indebted to the nice man who pointed him out to me); purple hairstreaks; lots of Silver Washed Frits; a White Admiral; several Skippers all chasing each other; lots of meadow browns; ringlets; whites and the Green Tiger Beetle in the last pic, who flew over my shoulder in a shimmer of metallic green and landed by my feet. He scuttled around, pausing every now and then, before flying off again. I was a bit mesmerised by him. That wood is so incredibly rich with life, it never fails to show me something amazing, for which I am very grateful.

In other news, 20 mile run clocked in the heat on Tuesday. Pop was sufficiently recovered to come with me which was nice. We ran the first ten briskly, then the temperature went from pretty-hot-already to absolutely-scorching, so I dropped Pop home (much to her bemusement) and did the last ten slowly, walking chunks. All in all I was out for 3:30 hours, but I felt fine during and after so going slow was the right thing to do.

When I got home I ran a hot bath, gritted my teeth and yanked the toe nail off. Don't worry, I'm sparing you a photo of the nail bed (it's quite impressive), but here is one of the nail itself (mainly for Veggie Mummy :o))....

I'm glad it's off. Now the nail bed can harden up before the next marathon :o)

Hope you're all well?

CT :o)

Sunday, 24 June 2018

The World's Most Expensive Grass Seed

Fly eating a spider. 

Median Wasp (new to these shores since 1980)

How much do you think a grass seed is worth? Myself, I'd have said not a great deal, given that they are a penny a pound round here at the moment. It turns out I was Quite Wrong- they are worth exactly £155. That's how much it cost to have one extracted from Poppy's ear this week, by a V.E.T wielding anaesthetic. We are staying away from the fields and walking in woods until harvest time.

Because of the anaesthetic, I ran 18 miles on my own on Friday. I chose a particularly hilly route and was pleased with my 2:59 hour time. Felt good afterwards too- no stiffness, no aches or pains, no falling asleep in the afternoon. All good. I've three more 20 mile runs to fit in before marathon #2. It's nice to be back doing long distances again. I feel better on it.

By way of a rounding the running week off we did a local 10k race this morning. It was hot. It was also quite hilly. I was pleased with my time given the long run on Friday. It was also nice because, being local, the RD was a friend of ours and lots of our friends were running so there was huge support at the end and on the way round when the course doubled back on itself. Everyone was calling out names and waving. All good fun. We got a nice engraved glass at the end in place of medals, and water in a can instead of plastic bottles. Races are trying hard to cut their plastic water bottle footprint, which is brilliant.

We spent this afternoon at a friend's BBQ (while L slaved over a hot iron doing all M's work shirts. It's a job I loathe and he wanted to earn some money before playing D&D with his buddies, so everyone was happy). The hosts and guests were all runners who'd been at the race this morning. They made a collective and pleasing oooohhhh! when I pulled back my big toe nail, which is currently yellow and attached by the merest of threads to the skin on one side, to show the disgusting nail bed beneath. The doc advised me to pull it off but I'm not quite there yet :o). Although there is an argument for it doing it sooner rather than later, because the sooner it comes off the quicker it will harden up. Everyone then proceeded to remove their shoes and show their own awful toe nails, or tell stories about their running nail injuries. Only runners wear their battered feet with such pride. My GP, who is also a runner, even told me I should be proud of my feet, which made me smile given how appalling the nails are.

You'll note I've taken pity on you and haven't included a photo :o)

Hope you're all having a nice weekend.

CT :o)

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Cheltenham 10K

A few months ago, I persuaded M's cousin to enter the Cheltenham 10k on the proviso that we came down and ran it with him. He's done a couple of half marathons before but is not what you'd call a regular runner, so the event required some dedicated training on his part. I'm not sure exactly how much dedicated training actually went on, because whenever I texted him to see how he was doing it always seemed to be the morning after a big night out, but he was nevertheless ready by the time this morning rolled in.

We drove down to Cheltenham to stay with them all last night and enjoyed a delicious meal of roast chicken and lemon potatoes with salad, rather too much gin, champagne (birthday celebration) and red wine, followed by red velvet cake and strawberries. It was a late night (I am a total wuss about staying up these days and nodded off in the car on the way home today) followed by a very comfortable sleep in a bunk bed (which Petal clearly felt was hers....).

I woke up at 6.30 to the sound of rain pouring down outside, and dozed until 7.30 when we got up for toast and jam and tea. Race numbers had been sent out a month ago, and while I'd assiduously packed them, I had neglected to put in any safety pins. A trawl round M's cousin's home (including his wife's sewing box) revealed nary a safety pin in sight, which was deeply ironic because we have an ever-growing pot of them at home. In the end we improvised with badges borrowed from M's cousin's boys and his own music-related collection.....

We arrived at the race venue, Cheltenham race course, with 45 mins to spare and discovered a huge crowd of lycra-clad people wearing trainers milling about. There were three race distances: half, 10k and 5k, and loud music was booming across the park, ostensibly as the back drop for a race warm up, but to be honest it looked to me more like an excuse for two scantily clad young ladies to bop about busting some moves on the back of a trailer. If I tried to do a pre-race warm up that quickly and energetically I'd rupture something :o)

I left the boys admiring the bopping and went in search of a loo. I have become very used to rows of grubby looking portaloos lined up in a field with scraps of loo paper hanging out of a box glued to the wall if you're lucky, moisture that you mostly don't want to think about the origin of on the floor, and a ubiquitous blue chemical sludge running down the inside of the loo bowl. Not so at Cheltenham race course-  these had to be the grandest pre-race bogs I've ever been in. They even had sinks to wash your hands in instead of your own water bottle and dryers in place of the back of your race shirt :o). I lingered as long as I possibly could.

I've never been to Cheltenham race course before, it's beautiful, located on flat ground with hills in the distance...

I managed to tear myself away from the loos and find the boys. Eschewing the bouncing babes, we went off for a more middle-aged-appropriate warm up in the car park, then peeled off the layers, checked our badges were still holding our numbers in place and headed down to the start where there was time for a quick selfie before the race director started calling people into the start area.

M has been recovering from a hip injury and I am still nursing a big toe nail which periodically fills up with blood and turns purple, only to mysteriously empty overnight and return to its normal colour (today it was padded with a normal plaster covered with an extra-thick blister plaster in an attempt to protect it) so we weren't sure what our race approaches would be. M's cousin was keen to get in under 55 minutes. I thought I would probably just see how I went and adjust my pace according to how I was feeling. M, keen to push on a bit more, headed off to the front while his cousin and I waited somewhere in the middle.

It took us ages to get running once we'd crossed the start line. There were lots of people all trying to get through narrow gates and paths at the same time, and there were also numerous stiles, kissing gates and five barred gates to get over/ through all the way round the course. Plus it was largely off road so the ground was uneven with some areas of long grass to navigate through. I realised this was not going to be a fast one and also that I was feeling pretty tired, possibly as a result off last night's alcoholic excesses, maybe a bit of marathon-hangover too, so I decided I would take it easy and use the race as a training run. M's cousin had shot off ahead and of course M had rocketed away like a gazelle and was no-where to be seen.

I ran the first 4.5 miles at a bordering on slow pace with feet that felt like they'd grown lead shoes. It wasn't a competitive field so even at that pace I was overtaking people. We turned off the grass and onto a lane and suddenly things got a whole lot easier. My pace increased from 6 mins/ km to 4.30 mins/ km and I instantly felt more comfortable. It was a relief. It made me realise how accustomed I have become to running on roads this year and made me wonder whether I wouldn't be better off focusing on road courses from now on and abandoning trails. Yesterday's parkrun was also on trails and I didn't enjoy that much either. I was flying along now overtaking lots of people which is always a good feeling, especially in the second half of a race. Coming round a corner at 5.5 miles I saw M's cousin ahead. I knew from my watch he wasn't going to make the 55 minute time he'd hoped for, but it really wasn't the right race for a PB so I hoped he would still be pleased with his time.

My appearance seemed to re-energise him on and he picked up the pace while I fell back a bit. We came round the corner and ahead was a steep hill, which perked me up. I caught up and overtook him there. Round a corner, down a hill and he was back with me. Round another corner and up another steep hill and I was pulling ahead again. We crossed a bridge and swung left into the final straight and he was next to me again. Right, I thought, we'll finish this race together, so I picked up the pace again (always seem to have something left in the tank for a final sprint to the line no matter how dead on my feet I have been feeling just before) and we roared down the hill to cross the line together. Huge fun :o)

M meanwhile had had a great race, and was informed on crossing the line that he was first lady home. Eh? It turned out we'd mixed our numbers up and he'd been running as me! Luckily, they'd spotted that he wasn't female and the mix up got sorted :o). It would have messed up our Run Britain rankings something rotten.

When we got back to their house in Cheltenham to have lunch I found ten scarlet tiger moths in the garden. TEN. I see one every couple of years here if I'm lucky. Oh yes, they said when I pointed them out, we get hundreds of those.

After a delicious lunch of homemade soup, bread and cheese and a mug of tea, we packed our things and headed home. It had been a lovely morning's racing, made all the more special for having done it together. A top weekend and another medal to add to the collection.

Hope you are all well?


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Mottisfont Roses & 13 Miles With Pop

I was feeling the need to get back to some long distance runs so yesterday Pop and I set out for ten miles. The first three or four were, as usual for me, a bit meh, but by the time we hit ten I was feeling more in my stride and I wasn't ready to stop, so we carried on and made it a nice, round half marathon. Pop was flagging a bit, which isn't like her, otherwise I would have carried on to eighteen. It was hot though and by that time I'd drunk the litre of water I'd taken with us and Pop had probably had enough of drinking from muddy puddles (although I have to say this is her preference over clean water). I also only had a couple of scrawny jelly babies with me, some left overs from the marathon I discovered still in a pocket, and although they were fine for running a half, I wouldn't do eighteen miles without something more substantial, so we called it a day at 13. 

I was quite pleased with the time - 2:09 - two weeks after a marathon and with 300m elevation that's not bad for me. But I was more pleased with the way my system got stronger the longer I was out and also the fact that I felt ready to run further. I'm back into marathon training now for August's outing and so far, so good.

This morning, a swift trot round the Mottisfont roses in the drizzle before the hordes arrived. They are looking spectacular.

And a scamper round the fields with the dogs first thing in the rain. Pop came home soaking wet and Teddy spent a good fifteen minutes licking her dry (how does that work?). Sweet boy.

Hope you're all tickety boo?

CT :o)

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Lacock 10k

I wasn't really feeling it this morning when the alarm went off at 6.30 so we could drive to Lacock for Relish Running's10k. M has been recovering from a hip injury and my toe has kept me off running for the last ten days, so we were both a bit meh about the whole thing.

Once we got there, there was a bit of a wait for the start while various waves of half marathon and 5k runners went off. I was starting to feel cold and we were both keen to get going. We felt a tad grumpy about the whole thing.

The RD's briefing was repeated for each separate wave of runners so by the time we came to hear it we'd listened to it several times. Lots of detail is no good at race briefings. People listen for the first few minutes then start to switch off and talk to their friends so you can't hear properly anyway. They really don't need to do more than draw your attention to any hazards on the route.

Anyway, finally we were off, running down closed lanes out of Lacock and past the Abbey. It was pretty muggy. I had decided I would run with my hydration vest, overkill for a 10k in some ways, but I don't like to gulp down a cup of water from the stations, it gives me a stitch, slows me down and I always end up spilling half of it. This way, I can drink sips from the off when I need to and it allows me to keep up a good, steady pace without breaking my rhythm.

We soon caught up with the slower 5k runners, people who were new to running and finding the distance and the heat hard work. I find it almost impossible to run past slower runners on a race and not call out a word of encouragement, so I was egging them on whenever I could. Almost all of them replied with a thank you, and some started running again. It does make a difference hearing an encouraging word or someone telling you you can do it when you're struggling on a race.

Lacock has to be one of the prettier settings for a race that we've done. The olde world charm of the village always impresses me. I particularly love this old barn in the centre of the village.

Lacock is two laps, which I quite like. I realised I was running faster than I have in a while over that distance, and, once I'd got the first three miles under my belt and warmed up, also realised I was fine at that pace. A lady called Kate and I ran most of the race together, sometimes she was in front, then I'd overtake her on the hills and I'd be in front. We had a few chats as we ran along, and I ended up encouraging her to run a marathon :o).

There was a ford towards the end of the laps. The first time I avoided it, the second, at about half a mile from the finish, I knew I could make up a few places if I ran straight through the water, so that's what I did, except I hadn't realised how slippery the cobbles were. Luckily I stayed upright. It was a case of gritting your teeth and praying! The cool feet were welcome though :o)

I swung back into Lacock village at the top end of the high street and ran down the hill feeling that I had very little left in the tank but probably just enough to keep ahead of Kate who I could hear on my heels. Because she was local lots of people were cheering for her so I knew where she was. She came round the corner on my coat tails and, drawing level said 'come on! we can do this!' which made me smile. I pointed to a lady just in front of us in a pink top and told Kate we would overtake her, so we pushed on together and got past. Then there were two more ladies in front and I pushed on to get past them and then two men who were on the finish field whom I also passed. By now I'd turned the final corner and could see the finish gantry up ahead. People were cheering and I could see M waving (having finished ten minutes earlier than me) and calling go on! go on! behind you! behind you! I've no idea whether there really was anyone behind me but it had the desired effect and I sprinted to the finish, overtaking one more person before I crossed the line. M knows me well :o)

All in all it was a good race. My time was 53 or thereabouts, by far my fastest 10k for a while. Two weeks after a marathon I'll take that. More importantly, I wasn't tired (although felt the obligatory few seconds of sick and faint when I stopped, just to prove I'd been working for it). I realised as I went through the finish funnel that an old friend, Matt, was collating the numbers so stopped and had a quick hug and how are you before M and I went off to get our medals and something to eat. I had a curly wurly and picked up a twix to give to L for later. It's a standing joke between us that I run the distances and he gets the chocolate bar/ water bottle/ whatever else is in the goody bag afterwards :o) My toe was fine so I think that's now behind me, which means I can get on with training for marathon # 2 in August.

Happy Days!

Hope all are well?


Friday, 8 June 2018

Look Away If You Are Of A Delicate Disposition & Don't Like Feet :o)

This is why I haven't run since last Saturday. If anyone had told me the only after effects I'd experience after running a marathon would be a severely bruised big toe, not sore muscles, not exhaustion, I would have laughed. But there it is. The thing that has kept me off running and meant I couldn't get a shoe on for almost a fortnight.

I walked the dogs for two hours yesterday and realised when I got home I'd barely noticed the toe. This was all the excuse I needed to put my runners on this morning and go for a trot round. Only two miles mind, but it was fine, so it's parkrun tomorrow (my 50th, M's 100th. The tutus are laid out ready and waiting and our friend Peat, who is race director, is planning on shouting about it :o)) then a 10k race on Sunday. It will be a MASSIVE relief to be back running, I can't wait.

It's also quite important because.....I decided I couldn't wait until October for my next marathon, so I have booked one for mid August and need to get a couple of longer runs in ahead of time. 

I want to say Well Done to bloggy friend Jules for completing her 10k race. Fantastic effort, go Jules! and Good Luck to Small P who is running in the Man V Horse, 24 miles through hilly Wales, this weekend. Will be thinking of you!

Hope everyone is well and has a lovely weekend,

CT :o)

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

All The Small Things

I've never noticed the face on a mullein moth caterpillar before. There it is, as it has been all the time, hiding in plain sight.

It's been a week of the Small Things here, of the quiet and easily overlooked. Some of my very favourite things in nature are small. They go about their lives untroubled and undisturbed by people who on the whole seldom notice them, but they let you into their world surprisingly easily if you take the time and the trouble to seek them out. I find an hour in their company settles the kind of peace that restores after a busy, frantic or turbulent day. So here they are, all the small things. You may have to look for some of them...

Rufous-shouldered longhorn beetle. Rare.

Second window casualty in two days. Baby woodpecker. So sad.

Longhorn beetle of some description (if it's a Golden Bloomed it is very small)

Mullein cat

Mullein cat, with face.

Two woundwort shieldbugs

Spittle bug larvae

bush cricket


Scorpion fly

speckled bush cricket

Alder leaf beetle, female

Alder leaf beetles

Red-Shouldered carrion beetle (always wanted to see one of these and here he is in our garden this morning)

Alder leaf beetles

Hope you are all well,

CT :o)