Sunday, May 26, 2019

Heads of the Valleys

Twice round - no short cuts!
Difficult to believe that this lake at Parc Bryn Bach was once a desolate industrial wasteland. They filmed alien landscapes for Dr Who and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy here! It's now a lovely leisure park with plenty of activities such as fishing, kayaking, walking and...guess what! Park running. Twice round the lake on a gorgeous sunny morning and we were set for the day. The park is at Tredegar very close to the Heads of the Valleys road which runs perpendicularly to the north of all the well known South Wales valleys such as Rhondda, etc.

Our next parkrun was at Worcester Woods a pleasant gallop round another well wooded park - we didn't stay at Worcester but found something a bit special over at Droitwich - this was the Chateau Impney, a fantastic French inspired palace of a hotel in beautiful grounds. A good price as well if you want a fairy tale weekend away!

And then came Storm Hannah, this calm peaceful lake at Bala in mid Wales was transformed by howling winds and pouring rain into something else! Just about all the park runs for miles around were cancelled, but not Bala! We made it down from Denbigh to find a paltry total of 30 runners there - and what good fun it was battling against the storm and getting drenched - highly recommended - this includes the very nice cafe which I'd award ten out of ten for their sausage sandwiches!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Back to some limited running!

Up we go!
This is what I'd rather be doing. This is our Mary at the top of the climb at the Ilkley Moor fell race. Not sure I'd manage the big grin though. I haven't done a fell race for nearly two years but I'm hoping that the latest cardiac tweaking will get me to the point where I can be up there again - maybe something to aim for for 2020.
You'd better be quick!
In the meantime I'm marshalling at Bodelwyddan Castle parkrun watching Vicky sail past with a big grin on her face. Still it was good to get involved and to get a slightly different perspective. Just one week later I was back in the fray albeit tail walking at the back of the field - at least I figured in the results and clocked off another parkrun.

A finish with a view!
Clocking off another country wasn't as difficult as all that. During our recent visit to Northern Ireland we sneaked over the border into the Irish Republic to find the Castleblayney parkrun. And what a glorious setting with a friendly crew of runners and organisers. We ran two laps round the wooded Black Island which weren't quite there yet with the bluebells, only a small number of runners and Vicky got her highest position for many months with a good time to boot.

Translate that!
Here's Vicky at the causeway onto Black Island at Castleblayney. It's not really an island but it is almost an island in a lake in Ireland. In the far northern wastes of Canada is the largest island on a lake on an island in a lake on a island. Figure that one out - I've seen this on Google earth. In fact here it is - this is all on Victoria Island and there's not much there! Victoria Island itself is slightly bigger than Great Britain, has a population of just over 2000 and is pretty inhospitable. Don't think there'd be much call for a parkrun there do you? Certainly no lady of the lake!

The blue is all part of an unnamed lake!  

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Winter in the parks (or beaches)

Cliff Richard eat your heart out!
So I've missed the end of February and all of March. Hardly surprising as I had other things on my mind. However the heart procedure was seemingly successful and things are now going well. And we've been keeping up with the parkruns. A rather slow one (for me!) at a delightful little park in Glossop, where our Mary beat me out of sight, was followed by our first beach parkrun. Here's Vicky approaching the finish line at Pwllheli, a new parkrun entirely on the beach. We should really look at the tide tables before doing this one again - a high tide had left the sand wet and soft, just look at the deep footprints! This was our second trip to Pwllheli in less than a year - highly recommended  (by us) for a short break. There's a lovely little SPAR grocery in the middle of town, more like an old fashioned delicatessen.

By hook or by crook!
Next up, and final run pre-op, was Watermeadows parkrun in Towcester, Northants. The night before we'd had a fine couple of beers at the Towcester Mill Brewery Tap - it's a very well organised, well run brewery but as I stood at the bar I kept hearing the old regulars saying "I'll have a crooked hooker please." Which could be misunderstood somewhat, Crooked Hooker is the name of the regular brown bitter brewed here and is clearly a very popular tipple. The parkrun  itself was several laps round the meadows, only the third running of this one and I wonder if they have an alternative wet weather course as some sections get very greasy - as you can see from the photographic evidence!


Glossop parkrun
(Beaten by our Mary who finished in 24:46 - age grade of 75% which for park runner statisticians is extremely good for age!)
Me 41st 25:56
Vicky 97th 34:48

Hafan Pwllheli parkrun
Me 14th 28:11
Vicky 45th 44:49

Watermeadows parkrun
(First parkrun for sister in law Teresa - plenty more to come we think!)
Me 49th 24:51
Vicky 174th 33:33

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Here comes the sun!!

There's a sunny smile!
Three days in Scotland and it rained constantly, back down to Wales and the drizzle was unending. And then on New Year's Day, lo and behold, the sun emerged. We trekked up to Ormskirk to do the local parkrun to find nearly 500 other runners blinking in the unfamiliar bright light. We're not used to running with such a large group, however there were more big parkruns  to come in January as you will see.

Oh my gluteus maximus!
Next up was Birkenhead parkrun, this is in a fine and notable park which was designed by Joseph Caxton and became the inspiration for Central Park in New York (no parkrun there as yet!) This snap is of the Roman Boathouse on a nice sunny day, not how it was for us unfortunately - during our run it was cold and bleak! Vicky and I were accompanied by a very determined Linda McK whom we hope will do more park running in future. (And we were joined by over 500 other runners!)

Nice gates!
Some rather fine park gates to admire at Princes parkrun in Liverpool. This was another gloomy day - lots of runners though, another 500 plus in this one but the park seemed to cope. This was another park designed by Joseph Paxton who also happened to be the head gardener at Chatsworth House while he was designing all these grand city parks.

These gates were better than they look!
Even grimmer was the weather at Huddersfield parkrun and even more runners braved the gloom 729 of them! Despite my best efforts the photo we had taken of us by the park gates was of poor quality. Is this  a reason for returning in the summer? Don't count on it. Still it was a nice gallop round a fine park.

So there you are, nearly 2200 runners at just four chilly events. Safety in numbers perhaps, but we actually prefer the smaller low key parkruns.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Malta in Winter

Heavy metal medals!
No we haven't disappeared or gone away somewhere. Life still goes on but it's been a bit busy lately. Highlight of January was a quick dash to Malta on a Ryanair cheap flight - came back on Easyjet which was somewhat more comfortable. Weather was warmer than back home and BRIGHTER! We had a go at the Attard 10K a very popular race among the thriving Malta running community - over 1000 finishers the vast majority of them being Maltese.

And that's me in the blue cap in a very slow 50:32. You can see the wet road, a sure sign that it's been raining. In fact we were kept awake a bit by a massive thunderstorm that shook our hotel during the night and I was concerned that flooding might prevent the race from taking place. Things were fine as it happened and apart from a shower towards the end of the race there were few puddles. Vicky had a great run to finish in 68:51.

What you got for me?
The Maltese have a mixed relationship with birds, during the migratory seasons folk with shotguns in many arts of the southern Med take pot shots at thousands of songbirds as they pass overhead. They're a so called delicacy but there can't be much meat on the tiny things. However we found a Birdpark with a wide range of avian species including this rather bedraggled Grey Crowned Crane. This is the national bird of Uganda and we couldn't help feeling this chap would have been much happier back home. Some of the birds were less restricted than others and some very pink flamingos had a large pool to wander around. The poor Kookaburras didn't seem at all comfortable though in their small cage.

No worries - it's a fake!
Finally here's Vicky being very impressed with a bomb. We were visiting the imposing rotunda in Mosta, a cathedral like church with a domed roof modelled on the Pantheon in Rome (which we'd seen a couple of years ago). Malta was subject to intense Luftwaffe bombing raids in World War II and, while a 400 strong congregation were praying in the church, a bomb hurtled through the roof and landed in the aisle skittering along until it came to rest with not a fizz or a pop. The Maltese proclaimed this the Bomb Miracle and attributed this to St Mary. The trusty British Army Royal Engineers made their way to the church, defused the bomb and dumped it out to sea. The bomb that Vicky is pointing to is therefore not the original but a replica - i.e. there isn't 500 kg of explosive lurking inside.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Hard at Hawarden

This is a hard 'un!
Gosh that was hard! Good place for a trail race though - the Hawarden (pronounced 'hard un') Estate near Chester is not normally open for walkers and runners but, with special dispensation, 5K and 10K trail races now feature there twice a year - this was the winter version and, not being 100% fit, I downgraded from the 10K to the 5K. Little did I know that we would be running a good bit more than 5K thanks to several folk ahead of me who'd gone wrong toward the end - and what do we all have in common with sheep? We follow the leaders in front of us, that's what we do and complete 5.7K of running, not only that we then encounter the the sting in the tail - an uphill finish "Ooof!" (see the photo.) The one real positive of the day was that, in the absence of any serious competition, I won the over 60 category award - hooray. Vicky, following behind with Skip in the fiercely competitive canicross race, found the right route and they both thoroughly enjoyed themselves poking fun at those who'd done the extra 0.7K.

It was empty!
A trip up to Scotland for the shortest day of the year and we're not provided with much daylight for sightseeing. We were staying at Kilmartin in Argyllshire and were astonished to find that in the vicinity is one of the largest concentrations of Neolithic monuments in Europe - there are more than 800 of them within 6 miles of the village. In the gathering gloaming we explored a small selection of cairns and stone circles. There were probably many more but over the years stones have been quarried out of the cairns for walling and building, until in the 19th century the significance of them was discovered. The photo isn't mine - it was too dark for that but it shows at the entrance to an underground chamber at Nether Largie South Cairn - Vicky climbed in one end and out of the other much to Skip's puzzlement. Unlike at Stonehenge you can actually climb into and onto these ancient remains - there are no restrictions and there's no entry fee. Why would there be when there's no one up here to look? That's probably why they've remained here all these thousands of years.

Victoria Park, Glasgow - thank goodness they don't start till 9:30 am up here!
There then followed, in rapid succession, our final three parkruns of 2018. On our return from the wet wastelands up north we checked into the Victoria parkrun in Glasgow to see some nice park gates. On Christmas Day we nipped over to the Northwich parkrun to see another nice pair of park gates at Carey Park. And on the final Saturday of the year we found that Halifax parkrun was one of the hilliest in the country, the wonderfully named Shroggs Park contains just two hills but the parkrun manages to climb one of them four times and the other one three.

Merry Christmas from Northwich!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Wet cold and flu

On your marks!

There we were lined up for the off - a bit like the start of the Grand National this. I wouldn't normally edit my blog in such a way that a photo would stray across the page - doesn't look very tidy does it?  However this panoramic snap just needed to be seen in its entirety. No that's not me heaving under the goal posts, I'm at the other end with the green sleeves trying to plot a dryish route through the mud. Vicky is nowhere to be seen - she was hanging back in the trees behind waiting for the mad trampling to be over so she could then deftly thread her way through the field with Skip. It was a grim wet muddy course through Henley Woods at Oswestry. It's probably quite lovely in summer and that's probably the next time we'll be back for this one. Still it was friendly enough - there seems to be a real community spirit here as evidenced by the large number of cheerful volunteers. Plenty of junior runners prepared to get muddy legs on a cold morning so someone must be inspiring them to get out of bed early on a Saturday.

Saltaire - it's not by the sea you know!
Later that week, prior to a pleasant day's work in Bradford, I spent an evening in Shipley a rather interesting suburb. Part of Shipley is a World Heritage Site - how about that! This is the area known as Saltaire, the name is a hybrid word derived from the River Aire and Sir Titus Salt, who built a model village here to house his workers. The houses were a significant improvement on the slums of the time - they had running water! Much survives for tourists to peek at, however it was windy, wet and rainy so I decided not to stroll the mile or so up to Saltaire and I settled for the Wetherspoons over the road for some Goose Eye Chinook Blonde. Last week I was in a pub called the Sir John Arderne in Newark, you might think it fitting therefore that Wetherpsoons would have called this one the Sir Titus Salt. But there was already a Wetherspoons called the Sir Titus Salt in Bradford so they came up with the moniker Sir Norman Rae to commemorate another scion of Shipley. Rae was a wool merchant who gave a parcel of land to Shipley council to use as a park - there's no parkrun in it yet! One curiosity that I gleaned about Shipley is that, until this year the past 14 years worth of councillors from Shipley have all belonged to the Green Party - must be some interesting reason for that but I didn't get a chance to find out.

Or else!
So I have this in writing from the NHS website - "If you have what you think is flu after vaccination it may be that you have caught a flu-like virus that isn't really flu, or you may have caught flu before you had the flu vaccination." I had the jab on Thursday morning, 3 o'clock the following morning what did I have? Something horrible!! I actually think what the NHS suggested is not quite right, the flu jab knocked my immune system out which meant that a lurking common cold, which I would have perhaps normally shrugged off, then grabbed me big time. I could live with that alone but unfortunately this all put my heart out of sync. So no parkrun for me this Saturday. I stayed in bed while Vicky did her volunteering bit as tailwalker at Bodelwyddan parkrun.