Thursday, July 15, 2021

Trying another tri

 The hens have established themselves at the back end of our garden. Izzie and Lizzie - one of them is laying an egg a day but the other one is eating all she can get without producing - I'm not sure which one of them is the passenger. Having now added an extension to the run they have more space to run around in and to attack anything that tries to grow within about six inches of the netting of the run. A quick thrust of the neck combined with a vicious peck and bingo - what violent creatures!

Another newcomer to our household is this swish looking, light-as-a-feather racing bike. Amid the global cycle shortage we managed to locate one of the few bikes available in the right size in order that Mrs C can shave valuable seconds off her triathlon time. In fact this was one of the only road bikes in store - the shop had dozens of mountain bikes in stock however - I wonder why? Of course the machine that you can't get now for love nor money is an electric bicycle, particularly the newer styles that don't look as if they're electric!!

And indeed the two wheeled investment paid dividends - in the Chester Deva Divas Triathlon Vicky swam the river, hurtled round the lanes on her new bike and ran along the river bank, all with a big beam on her face oblivious to the fact that her race number was upside down! Remarkably after over an hour and a half of vigorous swimming and cycling, she stepped off her superbike and completed the 5K in a time not far short of her parkrun 5K average. Vicky's enthusiasm in amazingly infectious and for this event she was joined for three of our local ladies for their first triathlons and more of them have promised that they'll join her for the next stage of her incredible journey. You might think that she'd rest on her laurels for a few weeks but no.....two days later she won the monthly Out-Fit Moel Famau fell handicap on a lovely warm summer evening.

Just to round things off nicely I had a go at the above mentioned handicap race and completed the event finishing as first male runner - the husband and wife team achieving this for the second month on the trot! The handicapper will no doubt be making things a lot more difficult for us in August!

High there!


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Man in interesting shorts

End of an era. This is Ron Hill in his heyday. He passed away in May after 82 years most of which was spent running. In his twenties he lived a few miles away from my home near Stockport, often we'd see him pounding the streets and, on occasion sprinting up Brabyns Brow, a steep hill which I'd have to climb every day to catch the school train. I have to credit him with providing my early interest in running. As might be guessed from the photo he was somewhat of an eccentric however he had an analytical mind regarding running and realised that one potential avenue for improving times lay in the development of specialist sports clothing. He was the first to run in a string vest in hot weather and then, using his experience as a textile chemist, went on to found the very successful Ron Hill Sports. Many runners focus on one particular aspect of competition - Ron did a bit of everything, track running, marathons, fell racing, cross country, breaking plenty of records along the way. I recall racing at a very windy Salford Good Friday 10K where Ron sheltered behind me from the gale and, turning back with the wind, racing away from me to the finish. He told me afterwards that he always keeps an eye out for tall runners (like me) on a windy day for that very purpose.

The Cake Race - the general idea is that entrants bring along a cake to the fine town of Diggle, run eight miles over Saddleworth Moor to Yorkshire and back and have a cake fest when they return. Well it worked very well except that this year we weren't allowed to bring our own cakes due to the risk of cake poisoning or something. Instead the organiser decided not to have a prize giving and spent the prize money on baker's cakes - any excellent cakes they were too - I had a mini Victoria sponge, a chocolate brownie and an iced bun and a nice natter with sister Mary and Emma C at the end. I had a good run too coming first in my age group - might have won a cake in a normal year!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

What's up Duck!


First time away from home since November. A pleasant but not comparable alternative to Malta or Tenerife (or even Brisbane!) is South Derbyshire. Here's Vicky sitting on the steps of the bandstand in Crossley Park in Ripley. Sunday afternoon in late summer listening to the Newstead Brass Band must be one of the finest ways to spend time - hopefully after a year's break this will come to pass in 2021 - we must go back.  Ripley is located in the East Midlands and was very much involved with the early stages of the industrial revolution. Crossley Park is a piece of land close to the town centre that was donated by James Crossley in 1901, he was a local businessman who made his money in a variety of ways including supplying the town gas and building a textile mill. Other earlier entrepreneurs took advantage of the plentiful deposits of coal and iron locally and the area became known for its advanced (for the eighteenth century) steelmaking techniques. 

The bulk of the industry has now disappeared and the surrounding countryside has reverted to woodland and farmland criss crossed by an astonishing network of footpaths which must be those that the factory workers from the local villages took on their way to work. During our short stay I donned my running shoes and explored the plethora of paths and bridleways. On my return I looked at the satellite map of the route I'd taken; I'd run alongside a large cowfield with splendid acres of lush green grass waving in the breeze. Looking at this scene from above however there's clear evidence of human activity from long ago. Could there have been a Roman villa here? Or maybe a much earlier neolithic settlement? I would think the less romantic and more prosaic explanation might be related to the industry of the past few hundred years.

In this part of the Midlands visitors are very often puzzled and surprised to be called 'Duck' It's a local term of endearment and people slip it into their everyday conversation all the time. Our accommodation for our short stay was above a small supermarket and I popped down for a few bottles of ale to go with our supper. The chap behind the counter called me 'duck' three or four times during our brief conversation and having known what to expect I wasn't in the least bit put out. What did surprise me was the name of the local brewery from just down the road in Derby:

Monday, May 24, 2021

On the Run once More

 So here we are back at it - first proper road race this year was the Mid Cheshire 5K - starved of competition runners came from all over the place - there was even a top runner from Devon and the overall winner on the night was from Morpeth. And what a high standard - 27 runners managed to break 15 minutes. Unlike normal events where everybody runs together here we set off at intervals so it was difficult to get an idea of how the race is unfolding. I was happy to see one of my rivals, who'd set off before me, come into view in the final stretch and I crept up on him and surged past. (He didn't stay to congratulate me!) Here I am sprinting for the line to finish in my best time for a while of 20:44 just 8 seconds behind the age group winner in my category. Woo, hoo!

Just like buses, after waiting for hours (months in this case) one run comes along and another arrives shortly afterwards. This was the Moel y Parc fell race four days later. My personal route is shown here and it looks like a pleasant loop on hilly terrain - it took me 55 minutes and was recorded as just over 8K. To my surprise I finished in second place! I was aware that something had gone wrong when, to the north of Moel y Parc, I came across other runners wandering around not knowing where they should be going. I decided to contour anti-clockwise round the mountain and got back on track. What should have happened however was that the runners should have returned from the summit on more or less the same route in reverse and completed the recommended route of 5K. These things happen more frequently than you might think - runners, me included, tend to be like sheep and follow the one in front even when it looks like they're going wrong.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Cob a Coalin'

There's a fine cycle path along some of  the North East coast of Wales with views across the Dee Estuary to the Wirral in England. There's not much to indicate all the industry that existed here for many years. For well over a century coal was mined here at the Point of Ayr Colliery where substantial deposits were found - here were the Two Yard Seam, the Three Yard Seam and the Five Yard Seam! The mines closed in 1996 and all evidence seems to have disappeared - but there's an engaging wooden sculpture of a miner and pit pony pulling a real wagon on a real section of track. The bike is mine.

Prestatyn is to the west of Point of Ayr and the villages stretching inland from here were homes to miner and other workers even before the early days of the Industrial Revolution. This photo is of the Clive Engine House a short walk from where we now live. This was built in the early part of the 18th century and housed one of the newly developed Newcomen steam engines which pumped water out of the local mines. This particular building is actually more typical of the Cornish landscape where this technology was taken up early on by the mining industry down there.

The hill at the back of the engine house is Craig Fawr, a prominent limestone feature towering over the Meliden area, which was the epicentre of North East Wales mining from Roman times. Lead, silver, copper and coal were all extracted from the rich seams. The red cleft in the side of the hill in this early painting is supposed to indicate mineral deposits - I've not been able to see anything reddish on my walks up the old railway line which was built to carry ore down to Prestatyn for shipping further afield.

I'm not sure now where I got this horse photo from but it's a somewhat larger animal than the ones they used to send down the pits in these parts.

Bet the horseshoes are on the heavy side!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ghosts and grasshoppers

We've been closely examining the local tide timetables recently. The tide goes out a fair way where we are leaving vast areas of sand on which to run. This is a photo of the lighthouse at Talacre at around 4:30 pm on New Year's Eve. It seemed very dark at the time but my phone camera has picked up the available light and come up with a fairly good snap, the lighthouse is no longer operational so that lighted window is more likely to be evidence of the ghost of Raymond, a former lighthouse keeper who is reputed to haunt the building and its vicinity. I did read somewhere that one of those Dulux adverts from many years ago was filmed here with an Old English Sheepdog running around the lighthouse - however the paint is peeling a bit so it was clearly quite some time ago. Here's a young English Shepherd dog sniffing about in the gloom.
Apparently the tide can come in quite quickly so we've always been very careful to time our runs well before the tide is turning, there are parallel channels through the sand bars that fill with fast flowing incoming water - my Strava plot here shows how I had to backtrack several times to avoid getting wet!

Zig-zag beach running!

I recently found out the reason that there are no more giant grasshoppers around - they've all been shot! I thought I'd not seen any for years and it turns out that the last one was bagged by a farmer in Yorkshire on a hot summer's afternoon in the 1980's. I couldn't find a photo of the Yorkshire Grasshopper but here's one from the USA which is a record of their largest catch in the 1930's. It seems that the 'dust bowl' conditions of the Mid West where grazing dried up and farms were abandoned was, in part, due to the predations of these creatures. They didn't even make particularly good eating!

Last one of the day - I'm all out of cartridges!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Virtuality and running!

Can't stop!
Virtual is not what you might call an accurate descriptor by it's very definition. It usually means something along the lines of almost. Hence virtual meetings where technology such as Zoom is allowing people to 'almost' meet each other. Virtual running has also become popular as a means of allowing runners to compete whilst not actually running alongside each other. (Although why we should not be allowed to run together out in the open air but we can 'virtually' rub shoulders with strangers in supermarkets seems bizarre to me.) However I guess we'll have to continue to go along with this for the time being. Realising that my Billy Whizz legs might be losing some of their speed over the long lockdown months I felt I should join the fun.

It's a bling thing!
Thanks to some enterprising organisers we've been lucky enough to 'compete' in some 'virtual' events. Vicky and I ran part of a marathon relay and picked up some nice medals as a result. And more recently I clocked 42.51 in a Virtual 10K coming 3rd overall - I did take advantage of the fact that I could choose my own course and I selected a slightly downhill route - so that I could get back home earlier on a cold day (of course). So to get back to the definition of virtual - is a virtual 10K almost a race? It didn't feel like it really, but I did manage to sum up a bit more oomph and adrenalin than I would normally do on a training run so yes it must be doing me good!