As usual, the final countdown to Christmas began with Christine’s Dad’s birthday. This year was a bit different though as he’d reached a round 60 and a party was planned! Unfortunately the weather was a little unkind as the day was meant to begin with various outdoor activities. Ian and I joined a small party running the route of the Kymin Fell Race in the wind-blown rain. Gerry was injured so had planned a walk but strangely, no-one was keen to join him. Not to be deterred, he walked up the Kymin on his own! The children had perhaps the most sensible idea, getting wet in the swimming pool instead.
There was just time to wash off the mud before heading to their local where we were joined by friends, family, neighbours and fellow runners for food and drink. There was a skittles alley laid out down the middle of the room but this remained largely the domain of the children (even when there were other people standing on it!). Following the cutting of the cake (baked by Christine and decorated with the aid of myself and Sarah) Gerry was rendered speechless, although hard to say whether this was due to emotion or Sue stepping in very quickly! Anyway, here’s to the next 10!
Duncan graduated from cow to king this week at his playgroup nativity play. Once again, he looked rather like he was slightly bemused by the whole affair but joined in with all the singing and actions and did rather seem to like his outfit! Then there was Emma’s Christmas lunch, both children had Christmas parties at playgroup and school respectively, and then there was the school carol concert. We’ll all be looking forward to a break come the end of term!
Today was the traditional ‘Run the Pubs’ where we run round the pubs that we’ve visited on Tuesday evening runs during the summer. There were six of us this year and, in keeping with last year’s tradition, we decided to bin one of the pubs (the Drift at Beaulieu Road Station) for a shorter run (13 miles) starting at the Redshoot Inn and ending with some great food at The Oak at Bank (where Andy somehow managed to book a table with less than a week’s notice). The weather deteriorated on our way round but no-one seemed to mind. We even got cheered along by a selection of Santas at one point when we accidentally came across the route of the CC6 cross-country race (over-taking the back marker in the process!). We also bumped in to Tuesday night veteran Mike Yeo at the New Forest Inn who, clad in wellies, declined to join us for the final short leg to Bank.
Monday was Christmas play day (at least for me). In the morning it was Emma’s school play. No photos I’m afraid as all the decent ones include her classmates and we were warned off posting on the internet… I turned up with just a few minutes to spare and could barely get in the door. I then went round to the other entrance to the hall and could see plenty of empty seats as half the audience was standing up to take photos/videos! (Guilty as charged.) Unfortunately it was the ‘toddlers welcome’ showing of the play so it was often hard to hear the dialogue over the assorted noises from the audience but there was plenty of singing and Emma delivered her line as a ‘Chinese girl’ well. In the afternoon it was Duncan’s turn with the Hiltingbury Yellow Dot Kindergarten performing ‘Wriggly Nativity‘ at St Martin in the Wood. Duncan was dressed as a cow (costume provided) and sang along to all the catchy songs (I could too given that he’s been singing them at home non-stop for the past few weeks!). I probably enjoyed this one more and not just because it was shorter and came with a mince pie and a cup of tea afterwards! Only a playgroup play still to go…
Christine was out in Washington at a conference last weekend but that didn’t stop us going orienteering – we recruited her cousin Jayne to act as split-start stand in! She ran first and I took the children round the white course which, given the walk to the start, was about the right length for them (although it would be good to get Emma out on a course without Duncan at some point). They seemed to enjoyed wading along the muddy rides.
I’d failed to guess the start times correctly so was a mere 20 minutes late for the last start time but still wasn’t quite the last to start. I’ve had a cough/cold for the last week or more so wasn’t expecting great things and, in the results, I’m a good 10 minutes off the pace, not helped by almost missing out one control. It was a lovely day to be out running and my thanks go to Jayne for making it possible.
As an early trip for Christine’s birthday, we headed up to London on Saturday. Things didn’t get off to a great start as we just missed one train and then we had to stand/sit in the aisle the whole way as the next train was parked (Saints were playing at Arsenal later in the day). The main attraction of the day was to be the London Eye. We had to queue for tickets as we were intending to use a 2 for 1 offer as a result of coming by train. It then transpired that you need to have tickets to show for both of the people. Duncan being under 5, didn’t have a train ticket but, being over 4, would have had to pay the full child’s fee. In the end the lady behind the counter took pity on use and we got our 4 for 2.
After a quick detour in to the “4D Experience” (worth a look if only at no extra cost!) we queued up again to get on to the Eye. The queue was mercifully quick and within about an hour of getting off the train we were on board. The last time I went on the London Eye was part way through my stag weekend so I was looking forward to remembering more of the experience on this occasion! Although the blue skies from earlier in the day were starting to cloud over, there were still some good views to be had and everyone enjoyed the ride.
Our second stop was the Natural History Musuem where we got to join another long queue which meant lunch was a little later than planned. As we were sat in the restaurant Duncan declared that he was going to be sick but thankfully rallied in time to eat the large bowl of ice cream, sprinkles and chocolate that arrived!
The dinosaur exhibition is usually a must but having to queue yet again and then trapse round at the same speed as everyone else took the edge of things. Duncan was starting to flag at this point so we made a quick visit to the blue whale before starting to wend our way back home. Thankfully we made it to Waterloo before the defeated Saints supporters so had a peaceful seated journey back home!
Today was the day of what I believe was my first road half-marathon. I was taking it fairly seriously having picked a (hopefully) fast course at Gosport and had been following a Runner’s World training plan for the past couple of months. The final few hours of preparation weren’t ideal though: Emma had been up in the night and was then sick in car on the way to the event (as she was for my last half marathon!). My warm-up consisted of standing in the queue for the toilets, buying some gels to replace those I’d left at home, and then standing in the baggage queue before fighting my way to somewhere near the front at the start.
Going in to the race, my best guess was for a time somewhere in the range 80-85 minutes. I decided to hedge my bets and start out a pace for the first few miles that would bring me back in 82 minutes and take it from there. That pace felt pretty comfortable and it wasn’t long before I was dreaming about beating my PB of 79:06 from the Forest of Dean Trails Half-Marathon some 8 years ago.
Although I put in some good miles, I was struggling to push hard enough to maintain that pace and in the last couple of miles I was finding it pretty tough. My attempt to cross the line ahead of what turned out to be the third placed woman (!) had me bringing back up the last of the gels before picking up my medal.
All in all, I can’t not be pleased though. My chip time was 79:34 which was absolutely at the right end of my range of predicted times (indeed, much of my speed work had been done assuming a time much closer to 85). I’m currently showing as 49th which would also be great but there are a few people I know were there missing from the results. The main detraction from the day? It took us nearly an hour to crawl through the traffic just to get back to the far end of the course!
Last weekend was an orienteering double-header. On the Saturday, SARUM had put on an urban race round Salisbury. We took the train up there which the children enjoyed even if it was a rip off and I had to stand all the way from Romsey. Christine and I had split starts although her parents did arrive part way through. It did mean that the children and I got to sit and have lunch inside whilst the rain passed over! My run was decidedly average – no major blunders and only a couple of 30 second errors but, with 40 controls, the 5 seconds here and 10 seconds there all added. The 8k course length also ballooned to 13k by the time you took in to account all of the impassable routes. In the end, I finished in 10th place and 10 minutes down. You can see my scrappy route on RouteGadget.
On Sunday it was the November Classic, based at Round Hill campsite. We were responsible for the string course and were slightly concerned by the heavy rain falling as we drove to the event. Thankfully the clouds parted and we were treated to blue skies for the morning which, combined with our position adjacent to the finish and assembly, undoubtedly helped with the healthy turnout on our space-themed string course (prizes courtesy of Astrium). I had an enjoyable run (not much technical navigation to be done) on the Brown course with only a couple of errors putting me 30 seconds behind Richard Barrett. Looking at the routes suggests he had a few blunders but likewise I could have easily made up that time on the long leg to 14 if I’d just stuck to the path route. He’s an M40 anyway so I could still claim a SCOA Championship medal! The only downer on the day was that the rain returned before we had everything packed up but we were extremely grateful to the other club members who took the kit away to dry it.