Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

Lockdown 2

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

October started with Duncan’s birthday. It was a pretty quiet affair at home with Christine’s parents visiting and a film in the evening. Friday night has become film night more generally now (after a trial of Sky Cinema we signed up for a discounted subscription). Trying to select a film is always a bit of a trial, particularly balancing Emma’s desire for action against age-appropriate content for Duncan! I’m usually the one who ends up making a final decision to try and satisfy everyone’s needs.

Swimming lessons continued, as did long walks and cycle rides at the weekend. In addition to Tuesday Night Runs (now with beer inside but with face masks and table service), I managed a couple of runs with the IBM gang. We went to another SCJS training with Duncan, this time in the New Forest. We were back in the Forest a couple of weeks later for an event I planned at Anderwood. I managed to put one control in the wrong place – the perils of doing all of my planning in one visit to the area the week before the event – but otherwise everything went well!

Still with vacation to burn, I had half term off. Much of it was taken up redecorating Emma’s room: out with the little girl pink, in with the teenage grey (there was much debate about quite how dark a grey she could have!). Duncan and I amused ourselves soldering and assembling the MERG DCC command station and handset kits for his railway. Two pairs of hands definitely made the job easier, not to mention Duncan’s eyesight when it came to the surface-mounted components in the handset. Remarkably, it all worked once assembled but the train and track now need a bit of an upgrade to get a reliable signal.

Lockdown returned for four weeks in November which brought the more sociable activities to an end (at least face-to-face). You were still allowed to exercise with one other person, so Tuesday Night Runs involved Ian and I running around Chandler’s Ford, and I could still go out cycling with Alasdair. Through an article in CompassSport, we had discovered the Turf app (think Pok√©mon GO but without the cute characters) which, even four months later, is still getting us out the door.

Duncan bought himself a small drone which we then promptly had to retrieve from the garden two doors down the road! He also bought himself a penknife which has, so far, only caused the loss of blood on one occasion! The month ended with Christine’s birthday. Come December, Christine was also allowed to tell the world that she had succeeded in her promotion to Professor. At least she now needn’t worry about being called upon to help in an emergency!

Emma’s inflatable boot had not helped her ankle but we were then left waiting for the hospital to start operating on children again. We were eventually given a date at the start of December (still over a month before the NHS would have even started to look at her ankle). Christine would go with her so both had to traipse up to Basingstoke for a Covid test three days beforehand, and then the whole family had to isolate until the day itself. Having been on the front of the list, Emma was awake again by mid-morning and home early afternoon. All seemed to go well and, rather than a plaster cast, she got to use the inflatable boot again. By Christmas, she was walking around normally again although is still a bit wary of cycling.

Things opened up again for the next few weeks. Orienteering resumed with events at Bramshaw and Farley Mount. We even managed the annual Run the Pubs, albeit that the meal afterwards had to be in the pub garden as we were not all from the same household. I managed to give blood (having been turned away with a sore throat on the previous occasion). We also had a big online launch event for the Software Delivery Management product I’m working on, for which everyone in the company received a set of glassware in the post so we could drink a toast. (You had to provide your own drink though!)

The dreaded R-number was on the rise again in the run-up to Christmas and there was much debate about what we might be able to do. At best, it was possible that we might be able to meet family for a few hours outside but, by the 19th, Hertfordshire (where my family is based) was put in the topmost tier, ruling even that out. By Boxing Day, we joined them in Tier 4 and we were to enter another national lockdown in the New Year. The Christmas period was therefore spent at home, enjoying the frosty conditions outside, and doing yet more decorating!

New Year’s Eve was made a bit special as we cashed in the money that CloudBees was contributing to a festive meal and had a nice takeaway. Emma was then determined to stay up until midnight and we thought we should probably keep her company! As the year came to an end, I’m sure everyone had the same wish: that 2021 should be a better one.

Covid Cometh

Friday, February 12th, 2021

2020 started much as 2019 had ended: with lots of activity. In the first week alone I’d done the running club’s New Year hash, the Hampshire XC Champs, and a CC6 at Badger Farm, with another one at Janesmoor two weeks later. In addition to running, there was plenty of orienteering to be had, with events at Fritham, Star Posts, Denny Wood, Mark Ash Wood, and Black Water in the first couple of months. There was also SOC and South-Central Junior Squad training to attend.

Orienteering wasn’t restricted to the forest though. I went to a Wessex Night League event around Marchwood, and the club’s monthly MapRun events were still a regular feature. We put on January’s event in Eastleigh on what was a particularly damp evening. February brought a fiendish course around Badger Farm and Oliver’s Battery in Winchester with the added bonus that, with the children away for half term, both Christine and I could stay to the pub afterwards. Sadly their absence also meant an opportunity for me to redecorate the bathroom including my first, and hopefully last, attempt at plastering a ceiling!

There was a railway theme to this period, starting with a trip to the Signal Box in Romsey. We’ve probably passed the entrance road hundreds of times but never been in. It was actually quite fun and we whiled away an hour or more there. A week later, we went to the Southampton Model Railway Exhibition at Barton Peveril College. There were lots of grey-haired men in evidence but both the children enjoyed themselves. It then wasn’t long before Duncan had purchased himself some track on eBay to supplement the small loop he’d got for Christmas and we were fitting them to a large board, suitably sized to slide away under his bed.

March brought a couple of INSET days for Duncan. Christine took him to the BlueReef aquarium on one, I took him for a bike ride in the New Forest on the other. At least, it was a bike ride for Duncan. My rear derailleur snapped part way round and I ended up jogging along pushing my bike for about 5k until we got back to Lyndhurst where the bike shop shortened my chain. Having filled up on cake in one of Lyndhurst’s many tea shops, we then set off back to Ashurst to catch the train home. Certainly an adventure!

That weekend, we headed to Monmouth and this was the first indication in my diary of what was to come: “have to be on our best behaviour hygiene wise”. Covid-19 had hit the news and Christine’s Mum, who has an immunosuppressive disease, was potentially particularly vulnerable. We had a lovely, if blustery, walk up Sugar Loaf on Saturday and went to the CompassSport Cup event near Gloucester on our way home, where SOC qualified for the final.

The following day, the government announced that non-essential travel should be avoided at which point the JK and British Champs were cancelled. Two days later, it was announced that schools would close at the end of the week. Priority for online shopping being given to the elderly and vulnerable, I joined the long queues at the supermarket one morning to be greeted with shelves empty of staples (the stockpiling of toilet paper was to become a national joke). At the end of that week, we went to the library to discover it had closed the day before. That weekend, we went for a walk and a cycle ride – what were to become staples for the months to follow.

Home schooling started the next week. Emma was well-catered for with her secondary school continuing a regular timetable over Microsoft Teams. Duncan, meanwhile, was sent a few suggestions of things to do and left to get on with it. Another tradition of lockdown was born: a morning lesson over FaceTime with Granny Sue.

Perhaps the hardest part for us was the mandate that people could only go out once a day for exercise which often meant a choice between a walk with the children or a run. Running with the children zooming along on scooters was one solution. Cycling together with the children also became much more appealing as the roads were largely empty of cars. At least the weather was smiling on us and we were certainly grateful to have a garden in which to enjoy break times.

And we’re back!

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

From time-to-time, I feel the urge to write a blog post on something and then I realise that there’s this gaping void since I last wrote anything (16 months) for which it would be remiss not to say anything given all that has happened. So, the next few posts will be a whistle-stop tour of that gap, hopefully, followed by some more regular posting. The advantage of going back over a year is that I get to relive life pre the big ‘C’ (that’s Covid, not Cancer, for those looking back at some point in the future when hopefully this is all but a distant memory).

So what happened between Duncan’s birthday and the end of 2019? There was lots of outdoor activity, starting with Christine running the Clarendon Marathon. I did a couple of the CC6 cross-country events, as well as two Hants XC League races. The one at Sparsholt college was a particularly good mudbath! I was also continuing to run the monthly Strava challenges set by my ex-colleagues at IBM and returning to Hursley every other Wednesday to either run or marshall the fit52 5k events.

On the orienteering front, I planned an event at Fritham which was well attended despite the atrocious weather. After hanging controls, the rest of the family disappeared to get the car MOT’d as we’d discovered the night before that it had expired! I managed to leave one of the controls out in the forest but thankfully was back there a couple of days later for a Tuesday evening run and could retrieve it.

During half-term, we all went along to a Military League South event at Roundhill. It was the November Classic at the end of that week and I had the fun job of parking cars in an area that we were sharing with Totton RC’s Stinger race. It seemed to work okay although I then had a terrible run on Bramshaw. Emma was meant to attend an O-Camp at Burley Youth Hostel that weekend but it ended up being only a single night due to more bad weather.

We also managed another club event at Kings Garn Gutter and the British Schools Orienteering Champs near Slough where both children had good runs. SOC was also having monthly MapRun events taking us to Winchester, Romsey, and Southampton.

Music was another theme with Christine performing in two Thornden Community Wind Band concerts, Duncan taking his Grade 3 recorder exam, and Emma appeared in a school concert singing and playing the violin and recorder (not all at once). Not sure what my contribution to this them was!

On the work front, I had two overseas trips. An internal meeting in Raleigh (again) and then I was on booth duty at our DevOps World event in Lisbon (a first visit to Portugal for me). I was interviewed for, and offered, a job which would have seen me return to an office location. After much soul searching and discussion with my current management, I decided to turn the offer down but it did precipitate my move into a tech lead role at CloudBees.

Indirectly related to work, I gave one of Christine’s lectures on “Databases and SQL”, a subject that has been occupying a disproportionate amount of my time. I also helped out at a Code Retreat back at IBM which was good fun. I made a last-minute decision to go to the London Java Community’s Unconference. I almost didn’t make it when my key got stuck in my bike lock at the station but, with some WD40 courtesy of SW Trains, I was on my way again. There were some good sessions as well as providing an opportunity to catch up with some old friends.

Despite many an hour spent completing Advent of Code (in Python this year), there was still time for some socialising in the run-up to Christmas starting with the CloudBees Whitely Christmas meal. The “Run the Pubs” tradition continued, albeit with less running and fewer pubs! It was also our turn to host a group of friends for pre-Christmas drinks. We’d just about recovered from that before disappearing to Monmouth for Christmas itself. We then made a trip across to my parents before New Year which was to prove to be the last time we’d see them face-to-face for over a year…

Romsey Relay Marathon

Friday, May 31st, 2019

One of the Scout leaders had submitted a team for the Romsey Relay Marathon (10 legs of 2.6 miles) and persuaded Christine and me to run. Given the event has been running for seven years and its proximity, I’d never heard of it before but it was big enough to reduce traffic through Romsey to a crawl on the way into the Broadlands estate!

There had been a few dropouts in the run-up to the event, including Christine. This meant I ended up running both the fourth and ninth legs. I was pleased with the consistency of my timing: 14:46 on the first and 14:42 on the second. Emma was standing in for Christine and really impressed us with her determination to keep going given the heat of the day. She put in a very respectable time of 22:49 (far from the slowest in the team). The team as a whole finished in a time of 3 hours 34 minutes, well within the top half of the finishers and fifth charity team.

A lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday even if perhaps not the best thing for my knee recovery!

OMM Lite Alone

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

After last year’s success, we had signed up for our third Long Score at the OMM Lite, this year taking place on Cannock Chase over the May Bank Holiday weekend. Unfortunately, a week and a half beforehand, Christine decided to kick a hotel bed sufficiently hard that she suspected she had broken a toe. I failed to find a replacement partner but, for better or worse, this year they were allowing individual participants…

I set off on Saturday morning with a certain amount of trepidation. At the forefront of my mind was the 53km that we had run on Saturday in the Forest of Dean and the expectation that in similar terrain, on my own, I should be going further than that. Having taken a few minutes to pick an initial direction and set off for the first checkpoint, I started to do the mental math about the pace I was doing. Given the size of the map, I fairly rapidly worked out that it was not a question of which controls was I going to do, but which I should leave out.

I panicked a little when I couldn’t find the second checkpoint but it was an early lesson in how important it was to read the descriptions containing the detailed location of the SI box. After that, I settled into a steady pace and, in hindsight, it was remarkable that it was only after about 4.5 hours, as I was wading through bracken along a path that didn’t really exist, that I was starting to struggle. The only problem was that still left over two hours to go!

I slowed the pace and managed to keep moving. I even managed to force myself to do a dogleg to pick up some extra points towards the end. At the finish, I’d covered over 66km collecting 800 out of 900 points and was placed first. I had, however, been overtaken by another individual runner travelling at speed and he duly finished 40 points ahead of me.

The next morning, I was very stiff and started at a much slower pace. It was quite refreshing to be able to just focus on what controls it made to sense to visit rather than having to go to every far-flung corner of the map. I made a couple of route-choice errors though. The first, trying to persuade myself that a purple cross on a junction didn’t apply to the direction I wanted to go and then having to retrace my steps when faced with a ‘Private’ sign. Later, I then managed to get tangled up in some housing where the exit into the forest wasn’t clear on the map.

I made a calculated decision to return late and collect a 50 point control near the finish although another dogleg down a hill and back up again was soul destroying! I wasn’t surprised to be 100 points behind the winner but, having covered just under 70 miles over the two days, I still managed to hold onto second place.

The rest of the family hadn’t just been resting on their laurels. Christine went out on the Bike Score but didn’t fare too well after a major blowout on the first day. The children did some helping, a bit of biking, and also ran the trail race. A fun if tiring weekend was had by all although, writing this three weeks later, I am still enduring some enforced rest from a dodgy knee.

Days in DC

Monday, May 27th, 2019

On arrival in Washington DC from New York for the second half of our holiday, we checked in to our hotel and headed a few blocks south to the White House. It ended up being a longer lap of the building than we had anticipated as the immediate area was cordoned off due to a security incident earlier in the day.

The next day was a Saturday and we took the Metro to Roosevelt Island, somewhere that is probably not high on the list of attractions for most visitors but is the home to one of DC’s parkruns. It was nice to be out doing something other than seeing yet more sights. After showering back at the hotel, we walked along the Mall where the Cherry Blossom Parade was just coming to an end and went to the Botanic Garden. My eyes were streaming by the end of the day which I put down to the tree pollen and spent the rest of the holiday on antihistamines.

The next day was spent at the National Air and Space Museum. The downside of the Smithsonian Museum’s being free is that it was absolutely jam-packed with people. We’d booked in to see a 3D film which was a relief from the crush even if two out of the four of us ended up watching the film in 2D (with the same colour glass in each eye!). We walked back to the hotel via the tidal basin where the cherry blossom was, unfortunately, past its best.

Christine was working the next day so we were left to our own devices. We started at the far end of the Mall this time with a trip to the Library of Congress where the baseball exhibition was somewhat wasted on us. We then moved onto the Postal Museum which was a surprise hit (even if just because they were giving away free stamps to start your own collection). Next stop was the Natural History Museum which was as packed as the Air and Space Museum had been; the butterfly exhibit that Emma had quite fancied also turned out to be a paid extra. We rounded off the day with a quick whizz round the Museum of American History and eventually found the superheroes exhibit.

Christine rejoined us for our final day when we spent about seven hours at the zoo! The main aim was to see the giant pandas and they duly obliged (if only because they had been kicked out whilst their cages were being cleaned). Emma also finally got the large soft pretzel that she had been the object of her desire for most of the holiday!

We were flying back from New York although out of JFK so the following morning we took the Amtrak back up north. Christine had ended up on a different flight back (a long story) and so had an extra five hours to kill at the airport. We were having breakfast on our flight around the time she was having dinner on hers! I’d had several hours asleep at home when I was woken by the phone asking us to collect her from Winchester station.

All-in-all a fun ten days away even if it did sometimes feel like we were working our way through a long list of tourist attractions. Indeed, Duncan was heard to remark at one point: “I just want to do something rather than see something”. I suspect we’ll probably revert to our normal formula in future of a few days in the city at one end or other of a more outdoorsy holiday.

Eastleigh 10K PB

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

It was the Eastleigh 10K this morning and I managed to clock up a new PB of 35:34 – almost a minute faster than my previous fastest time on the course and just edging my previous 10K PB from 2003 (although admittedly that was on a hilly course at Ryde on the Isle of Wight).

Preparations had gone pretty well, managing to complete most of a Runner’s World training plan. A couple of overseas work trips threatened to derail things: the early morning’s around Cary were not particularly inspiring – the same cannot be said of running along the waterfront in Marbella! The effect on the waistline was likely to be the most problematic!

Conditions on the day were pretty spot on with cool temperatures and a light breeze. I started far too quickly but the pace didn’t feel uncomfortable and it wasn’t until around the 6k mark that I settled into something closer the pace I had been anticipating. I must have judged it about right as, despite my best efforts, I slowed a fraction for the final kilometre.

I’m looking forward to some time off road running now but the result was sufficiently encouraging to make me wonder whether I could still break under 35 minutes…

OMM White

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Last weekend it was the OMM in the Black Mountains, South Wales. Christine’s parents had offered to mind the children so Christine and I were running the Medium Score together. There was a biting wind but blue skies as we set off on Saturday morning. There was some early indecision but we soon settled down to a steady mountain marathon pace. As the morning went on, the skies started to look increasingly ominous and, as we cross one bit of particularly bleak hillside, the snow began and persisted for long enough to paint the mountainside white. We reached the campsite with around twenty minutes to spare – not long enough to have fitted anything else in.

It was a long night in the campsite, made more bearable by being able to chat to Christine brother and his wife in the tent next to us. Due to the cold, we both ‘slept’ in all of our clothes, including waterproofs. We were certainly glad to discover that, as third mixed pair, we qualified for the chasing start and had an hour less to spend in the campsite in the morning.

Although we removed a layer, we both kept our waterproofs on for the whole of the second day. Christine’s knee was giving her grief (a likely outcome even before we started the weekend) and, as a consequence, we were setting a pretty stately pace. We reined in our plans as we went round and, although we finished with another 25 minutes to spare, at the speed we were going it still wouldn’t have got us another checkpoint. We were 47th on the second day which brought us down from 13th to 28th over the two days. Still respectable but not what we would have hoped for had we both been fit and healthy. On the plus side, it did mean we could slip away before the prize giving and make it home in reasonable time!

If you watch the promotional video, you’ll catch a brief glimpse of us finishing on the first day around the 1:33 mark. Thanks to Christine’s dad who purchased the image above where we were reunited with the children at the finish. You can also find our routes from Day 1 and 2 on RouteGadget.