Emma’s birthday this year was spread over more than a week. Due to half term and the Bank Holiday, she had her party a week early. We switched back to home as the venue this year as, although it was a bit crowded at times with fifteen children, there are more options for amusing them. Despite the forecast, the weather was kind to us and we were able to send them out in to the garden to run off some energy half way through.
Beforehand, Christine had the bright idea that I should offer up my services with the face painting kit that Emma had been given before Christmas. Suffice is to say this kept me occupied for most of the duration of the party. Most of the girls followed Emma’s lead with a bunny face (there was a general animal theme to the party) with the odd cat and mouse to provide some variety. The boys followed Duncan’s lead as a bat only they required fangs and dripping blood to go with theirs! That is all except one who quietly asked if he could have a bunny face…
For the birthday weekend itself, a combination of Christine and the forecast of sunshine eventually persuaded me that we should make the effort to go camping down on the Isle of Purbeck. After a bad start failing to find camping gas and sitting in long queues of traffic we eventually arrived at our chosen (on the way there) destination of Downshay Farm. This provided no-frills camping with great views (albeit on a gradient). We were there in enough time to make a trip to the beach at Studland Bay before dinner (just enough gas left).
On the great day, Emma opened the selection of presents that we’d brought with us, many of which were well suited for another trip to the beach. This time we made the short walk down the hill and took the steam train to Swanage. Once there, Emma enjoyed an ice cream, Punch and Judy and the fun fair on a delightfully sunny day. Christine couldn’t quite manage a whole day at the beach so we returned to the campsite before heading in to Corfe Castle for dinner out (no gas left).
On the Monday we packed up our tent (dry for once) and decided to stop at Kingston Lacy on the way home. It was a shame that the play areas were closed due to wind damage in the surrounding woodland but the children still found plenty to amuse them in the extensive grounds and even enjoyed the tour of the house thanks to the teddy hunting that had been laid on. After a much swifter journey than on the way down, we eventually made it back home for Emma to open yet more presents. Plenty to keep her busy for the rest of half term!
We were booked in to all four days of the JK this weekend just gone. Given the recent weather conditions we were grateful that, although cold throughout, it was at least dry and we even had bright blue skies on some occasions. For the sprint on Friday at the Reading University Whiteknights campus, Christine’s parents were around so we both had early starts. You can see from my route that my only real mistake (repeated twice) was missing the gap in the hedge that I could have used from 11 to 12 and 17 to 18. That said, the navigation was pretty much all just left or right of the building. I did, however, have all sorts of trouble with my right calf that was very painful during and after the race.
We retired to our accommodation at the rather plush (for a Holiday Inn) Holiday Inn (J4 M10). My calf was sufficiently sore that I wasn’t sure that I was going to run the next day but things had eased up a bit by the morning and I set out on first split at Hambleden. The calf actually eased up as I went round but, more generally, I had no energy and found myself walking up most of the steep inclines. Other than a few wobbles in the control pick round 15 – 19 my navigation was fine but without the speed I was over 10 minutes down on the winner.
Having failed to find any Easter eggs in Henley, we all had a swim in the hotel pool when we got back (1.2m throughout so not all that small child friendly). Duncan was coughing during the night but didn’t seem too bad for the early start with clock changes and a drive over to Cold Ash (near Newbury). Fortunately our status as family/helpers meant that we didn’t have to use the bussing system. It was still a fair trek to the string course though. Emma shot round in just over 5 minutes. Duncan was a bit more sedate but suffered no truck when it came to punching first at the controls. He didn’t look too happy sat in the club tent though when I handed over the reins to Christine. I had another average run, with no major blunders but once again 10 minutes down. It was till enough to give me a respectable 8th place on M35 over the two days (Christine’s third place was more impressive though!).
Unfortunately, as I returned to the car I was informed by a club member that Duncan had been sick in the car. He looked better for it but we binned the JOK meet-up and headed back to the hotel where he slept for most of the rest of the day. Having tucked in to a fry-up on Monday morning (not his first choice but he wanted what Emma was having) we concluded he was well enough to go to the relays back at Hambleden. It was bitterly cold though and both children were complaining as we watched Christine come in third (again) on first leg of Women’s Short. I was third leg on Men’s Short. I didn’t have much company by the time I went out but had a reasonable run, making just one error as I ran up the wrong valley and wasted a couple of minutes.
Everyone was warming up back in the car when I returned and although we’d all had fun, we were glad to get home. Sadly we’ve now all come down with Duncan’s illness with Emma being sick today. Anyone would think we were on holiday!
Today was the day of the Eastleigh 10K and Fun Run. As the latter wasn’t until the afternoon, I went over on my own in the morning. It wasn’t exactly ideal conditions with the temperature hovering just above zero and even that was until you took the biting cold in to account. At least it was dry though! I had put 36 minutes down as my target time and, having never done a 10K on the (reasonably) flat before, I wasn’t really sure how realistic this was. (My PB is, I believe, 35:36 at the undulating Brading 10K back in 2004).
The race started fairly well and I made it round the first half in 17:45. Unfortunately, although my legs felt fine, my stomach wasn’t happy . I was wretching at 9k and finally parted company with the contents of my stomach just after I crossed the finish line in 36:32. I’m not sure if I hadn’t left enough time after breakfast (I’ve got too used to going running on a Tuesday evening straight after dinner, forgetting what a difference it makes when you’re really trying!) or whether it was the slightly out-of-date gel I had in the half an hour before the start. Either way, it’s not a bad time but I’m left wondering what it could have been…
I returned home to pick up the rest of the family so that Emma could run the 2K fun run. Her only other race was in the pouring rain at the Hursley 10K last year so this may have seemed like a distinct improvement. She did, however, start off in all of the clothes you see in the photo, only discarding the coat because it was getting in the way a bit! She insisted on going round on her own (probably off the back of last week’s string course). I’ve no idea how long she took (probably something around 10 minutes if the timestamps on the photos I took afterwards are to be believed) but most importantly she was still smiling at the end. Then only one more trip to Fleming Park for swimming lessons later in the day!
We had a busy weekend just gone. On Saturday, Christine was at a first aid course and I amused the children by taking them in to the Science Day at the University. Duncan was a bit bemused by it all but Emma got in to the swing of things. Those manning the stands were very good at talking to her rather than me although that sometimes meant the science got a bit lost. Indeed, afterwards, Emma claimed that she hadn’t learnt anything! Whatever the truth, she did get a good haul of freebies.
On Sunday, we went to the SOC event at a very damp Kings Garn Gutter in the pouring rain. I had first run. I had a relatively clean run, only missing number 16 which, as you can see from Route Gadget, I think was in the wrong place. The fact that the controller spent 15 minutes checking it was in the right place just makes me all the more doubtful. More of a problem was obviously my speed as, when the results came out, I was over 10 minutes down on the youngsters.
Emma was delighted with finally getting to an event with a string course. She went round three times including twice on her own. Duncan wasn’t in such a good mood as all the large puddles meant that he repeatedly got wet socks!
The event also saw a presentation to club stalwart Jean Velecky on occasion of her reaching W90. There are a few photos here.
I was on parenting duty for the first day of half term. After a leisurely start to the day we headed out to the newsagents to buy the obligatory holiday magazines. Emma had been given five pounds (or five hundred pounds as she likes to think of it) and, whilst quick to alight on Sparkle World magazine at £2.99, then demonstrated a complete lack of mathematical ability in determining how much change she would get from £3! Both children went on their scooters. Duncan would have preferred his bike but was refusing to wear a helmet. He then wanted to head out the driveway in the wrong direction. He then wanted his bike instead. Suffice is to say, he cheered up once we’d watered the bushes outside school! We also stopped at the playground on the way home.
As the sun was shining, I also managed to persuade the children that we should go out again after lunch – this time to Farley Mount. This time both children wanted bikes. Duncan demonstrated that, although still on a balance bikes, he could still do with brakes going down a steep hill! (It was bath time when Christine pointed out the black eye that had resulted from the impact with the end of his handlebars!) Both children seemed to think that, if they kept their helmets on they had license to throw themselves off all of the play equipment so that wasn’t the only bruise in evidence. There were lots of children out and about and Duncan was quite literally spurred on to new heights (climbing to the top of the pyramid on his own).
Needless to say, I was glad to return to work the following day to get some rest!
When we said ‘yes’ to running at Sunday’s CompassSport Cup qualifier I hadn’t quite realised where Agglestone was. It is the heathland that rises up behind the Sandbanks peninsula just over the border in Dorset. We were parked in one of the National Trust car parks on the seashore which meant that, whilst Christine went for her run, the rest of us headed to the beach. As you can probably tell from the photo, although sunny, there was a stiff breeze coming from the sea so nobody was going to be stripping off to run in to the sea but the children certainly enjoyed playing in the sand.
I had started to shed clothes as the scheduled time for our handover approached and was freezing when Christine eventually appeared. I couldn’t believe it when she said I didn’t need a hellie but it was a good call – in land and out of the breeze it was quite warm.
I can’t claim to have had a good run. At the fourth control I lost around three minutes as I just couldn’t get the flat terrain on the map to match the hill on the ground! Looking at my GPS trace, I think the control was also further north than mapped which didn’t help. Some judicious use of form lines on the map would have helped greatly as would more care over the mapping of the gorse and the inclusion of all of the major paths! It’s fair to say that I wasn’t the only one grumbling about the map back in the car park. I finished eighth, over eight minutes down on the winner. The club also came second by some margin to Bristol which means that we don’t progress to the final in the Forest of Dean.
On the ferry on the way back I asked Emma whether she’d prefer a beach or a string course at every event. The power of sweets is remarkable: she opted for the string course!
Yesterday saw Emma in her new Rainbows uniform for the first time. She’d been to a trial session last year and wouldn’t stop talking about it when she got back. She doesn’t start in earnest until this coming week but she had an invite to their annual ‘fun day’ in Eastleigh. Christine went along as well as she has been roped in to helping on a regular basis. Emma certainly had fun as it sounded like one big party. There was even a bag of goodies to bring home at the end! I’m not so sure about Christine’s feeling on spending the day with 300 six year old girls!
And, in case anyone asks: why Rainbows not Beavers? Well, partly because Christine thinks the boys should be allowed to play on their own once in a while, but mainly because we were far too late in enquiring about Beavers! Duncan is now on the waiting list…
Yesterday was the Hampshire Cross-Country Champs, handily taking place at nearby Fleming Park. Christine had been let off marshalling duties so we didn’t have to be there until after midday. I took the children to the playground whilst Christine prepared, returning in time to cheer her in to the home straight. She finished a respectable 31st and 4th W35. I was a bit concerned as to quite how many laps of the old golf course my 12km race might entail but it was sufficiently convoluted that we only had to go round the three times. Although muddy, none of the course was under standing water as it has been on previous visits!
After a fairly fast first lap I concluded that I wasn’t going to finish at that pace and slowed for the second. Perhaps because of this (or could it even be the semi-regular training that I’ve managed for the past month?!) I actually felt fairly good on the last lap. I even managed a bit of overtaking in the final mile although was gutted to lose out on yet another sprint for the line (to the sideburns in the accompanying picture!). I came 41st in the results which equated to 33rd in the senior men (unlike the women, the men have to wait to 40 for the next category) in a time of 45:48 which, although some six minutes slower than the winner, I was pretty pleased with. To put it in perspective, my 10k time was 39:09 over an undulating and muddy course. Perhaps I’ll even try my hand at a 10k on the road this year…