Land of my fathers

Well, actually my mother, my father is not proper Welsh. Now this has got to be one of, if not the most beautiful runs I have ever done. The other weekend, we drove for seven plus hours, well into the early hours of the morning, to the incredible landscape of North West Wales to stay with Edward’s family who were visiting the area. Readers may know that I am in fact Welsh, having been born and brought up in North Wales (though I have now lived in England for longer than I lived in Wales, which feels odd!), but I have never visited this area before, and how disappointed I felt not to have taken advantage of this when it was on my doorstep. We were staying in a little town called Nefyn, just a short walk from an untouched and quiet beach, where we had use of a beach hut, so could sip tea after a bracing swim in the Irish Sea, how very, very civilised! I knew that I would want to run here, so had packed my gear, and headed out on my own on Sunday morning. For some reason my Garmin packed up completely, freezing its display as soon as I switched it on (I think I know how to fix it), so this was to be a run of mystery in terms of pace and distance but, after a few minutes, I realised that this was an entirely positive thing as I paused to absorb the views and breathe deeply, smelling the fresh, clean air. For once, I had also decided to carry my camera, not something I normally do because it’s quite big, but I’m so glad I did.

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I will let the images speak for themselves, but needless to say, you will all no doubt want to go there right away, well don’t, it’s mine!

A get-together, a long run and an unidentified celebrity runner

Yes, I know, I’m a bit slow with this one. On Saturday I was too busy getting-together, yesterday I was too busy running and today my internet connection was up the spout.

On Saturday, I ventured north of the river with the boys to meet this lot:

I think the correct term for a slightly anonymous group of running bloggers might be ‘a huddle’. So here they are, huddling. I had intending running, but it all seemed a bit of a mad rush in reality and we got there just as the runners headed off into the park, so we chatted, got to know new folk and waited for the fashionably late Cathy and Shaun. It was mild, and Hector was suitably entertained by Audiofuel Sean:

Once the running runners had returned and caught their collective breath, the now present Cathy awarded Gary with his prize for being the winner of Janathon 2011. This man ran 450 miles in one month. I thought we ought to donate our pizzas and pasta to him, he needed it more than us.

And what a pizza! I am not known for being a slow eater, it’s just not in my nature to take my time when there’s food in front of me, but I was well and truly defeated by this gargantuan feast. I tried, I really did. Maybe it was because I was still a bit moved by Cathy’s response to our thank you presents, I hadn’t expected real tears! The response to Travelling Hopefully’s call out for donations to a virtual yet real whip-round was tremendous, which just goes to show how much people enjoyed the experience and felt a sense of respect and gratefulness to a the lady who kept all the plates spinning.

I had imagined that a pizza of such enormity could keep me running for a week, but it wasn’t to be. My schedule said I should stretch my legs with a sixteen miler, so off I headed on Sunday morning with the intention of running to Greenwich, through the foot-tunnel and along the Thames on the Isle of Dogs. As I neared the foot-tunnel, I thought: ‘What if it’s shut?’ and, of course, it was. I just headed east and followed the river. Into the wind. I do feel a real thrill running along the Thames, and now it’s just a couple of miles away, but this run had its ups and downs, both in terms of my energy levels and the views on offer.

Quite quickly I was venturing out of tourist Greenwich and caught sight of my young student self through the window of the Cutty Sark Tavern, knocking back a few beers on a Friday night and eating a gigantic bag of chips on the night bus home. I was then quickly sent on a detour away from the river, due to yet more building work. Why build more apartments when nobody is living in the existing ones? Now the path took a rather grim turn, with high fences topped with barbed wire and gritty industrial scenes with rock-crushers and telescopic handlers (I so wish I could carry my camera on these runs, I know a small boy who would love to see this). I had decided to run with music, which is unusual on such a long run, but I wanted to see if it gave me a different/better experience. I did feel slightly vulnerable on these bleaker paths, but was lifted as the path opened up to the water and ‘Valerie’ came on: ‘Well Sometimes I Go Out, By Myself, And I Look Across The Water’ – just perfect! I was leaping along, yachts from the Greenwich Yacht Club sailing alongside me, and I smiled a huge smile.

I continued the meander northwards and around the Dome, passing lots of runners along the way, the majority of them smiling and saying hello – for a change – and passed one runner amongst a group that I recognised, but can’t place him. I think he is maybe an actor, or maybe an MP, or maybe an actor who plays an MP, I don’t know. And, to my left, was the biggest shopping trolley graveyard I have ever seen, all the more reason to carry my camera sometime. I soon realised that my run would take me along to the Thames Barrier, which excited me, it always looks so splendid in films and on TV, with a speed boat crashing across the water, with some dramatic chase taking place. Erm, I will say it was mildly exciting as I approached with my head ducked to avoid getting my eyes whipped by my hair and the heavy grey sky hanging above. I will return on a brighter day. Here, I turned for home.

Looking back on this run I can see what went wrong: I left the house without water because I couldn’t find anything suitable to put it in (I didn’t think Hector’s frog bottle with straw was a good idea at the time) and didn’t drink anything until I returned through Greenwich and stopped to buy some water at Boots, wasting five minutes waiting in a queue. I didn’t have any gels with me, and after this stop, I felt really, really tired. I knew already that I wouldn’t make it to the full sixteen miles, but decided this was ok and I should just learn from the experience for next weekend. I don’t think my legs have ever felt so heavy on a training run, but I simply couldn’t do a loop of the park to make it up, so hauled myself up and over the footbridge and landed on the doorstep in a little heap.

Time: 2 hours 37 minutes 54 seconds

Distance: 14.70 miles

Average Pace: 10.44

Best Pace: 6.34

Calories: 1701

Turning a corner

I didn’t have the best running week last week, too much worry about nursery life, then Hector was ill with a vomiting bug at the weekend, so my long run was cancelled, in fact any running was cancelled. Nursery has been going well, but the morning departure has been tricky, with a small and very distressed boy being pulled off my person, I was consoled by the fact that he stopped crying once I was out of sight and had a jolly good time (I have seen photographic evidence!). Yesterday, however, was a different story. As I was about to leave, Hector looked a little sad, but took his teacher’s hand, waved happily and said: ‘bye-bye!’, I was able to leave with a smile on my face for the first time. It was as if he had made a decision and stuck to it. The same happened today, so I felt able to pull on my kit and go out for a bit of a leg shaker.

Yesterday, Audiofuel gave us Janathon participants a copy of the Pyramid 180 session. I do have a copy, but hadn’t yet ventured out with it on my new iPod Shuffle, so decided today was the day. I was a bit silly in my choice of direction, and found myself on the muddy side of Ladywell Fields, the side with the hills and all the potholes, not great for sprinting! As the first sprint came up, I aimed to get up to the top of the steepish bit, so I could go into my sprint on the downish bit. thankfully that plan worked and I picked up some pace. I decided to keep going in that direction, so I could get over the spirally footbridge and over to the flat and smooth side of the park. This plan was scuppered by the chap in my ears warning me that a bigger and better sprint was coming up. Oh bugger, so I turned on my heel and ran the other way again. This happened quite a few times, and I began to feel that the digger men, who are working on the new paths and the river access, were watching me and thinking I was truly mad, so I paused the track and made my way sheepishly over the spirally footbridge.

This was a good move and I was now able to really go for it around the perimeter of the running track and up the long paths towards the train station. It’s a really good session, you do get up to a good speed, find yourself really pushing on the sprints and get up a pretty good sweat – I had to remove my ear piece at one point to tap the sweat out because I couldn’t hear anything. Urgh. After I had completed the cool down, I put on a bit of Florence to make it up to three miles and so that I could cross the finish line with a big smile on my face. I was practically doing windmill arms on the descent of the footbridge, I was having such fun!

Oh yes, this is why we run.

Time: 29 minutes 50 seconds

Distance: 3.01 miles

Average Pace: 9.54

Best Pace: 6.11

Calories: 316

Janathon Day 26: Hams

I have resigned myself to the fact that these last few Janathon runs might be a bit dull. I’m sorry readers, but they will be dark, damp and dreary and lacking the sparkle expected of this last push towards the 31st. Tonight’s run was a post-dinner, post-bedtime run again, but I did leave about half an hour between eating and running, which made a world of difference to how I felt. It was cold and dark out there, and most of the people I encountered seemed to be ‘popping out’. What is it about men (some men, that is) popping to the shop and thinking it’s ok to simply pull on some pumps or sandals – over their white, up to mid-calf, sports socks – and schlepping along the pavement like it’s normal to be out in public in your pyjamas?! Yuk, I say. I did encounter one delightful gentleman along the way, Mr Fox. Now, I seem to meet him at the same spot every time, even if my run is at 6.30, 7, 8 or 8.30. I have decided that he hangs around until I appear then graces the pavement with his sandy presence.

Today Hector and I went on a bit of a trek to a group we used to enjoy up in North London; I realised that, once he starts nursery on Friday, we probably won’t be able to make it up there again. Our journey involved two buses and the marvellous East London Line. It was worth it though, as Hector was really pleased to see some old friends and enjoy some messy play and lots of jumping around. We also took a detour to see the ‘rubbish diggers’ and got a friendly ‘hello’ from the chap who directs the traffic and hoses the road.

(that red thing in the painting is a hoover, he likes painting hoovers).

While we were there I was talking to one of the other mums, who is a medic and knows a lot about knees and, of course I did that really annoying thing for any medic and said: ‘My knee hurts’. She humoured me, and gave me some jolly good advice about how to help ease this knee pain: stretch my hamstrings. Simple as that, stretch my hamstrings. Of course, I hardly ever stretch my hamstrings, so this is a good incentive to start doing so!

Janathon day 26:

Time: 31 minutes 30 seconds

Distance: 3.13 miles

Average Pace: 10.04

Best Pace: 8.19

Calories: 336


Janathon Day 5: Down and dirty

It seems I made Edward late for work yesterday by running before breakfast, so I was dissuaded this morning. Knowing I would find it a challenge to get out after 8pm, I decided to shoe-horn the running buggy from the under-stair cupboard and head out with my co-pilot. Thankfully, Hector was really excited: ‘I love going running with you!’. It was such a bright and beautiful morning too, a real treat to be out there together, enjoying the diggers and mud in our local park first of all. There is a river running through the park and the diggers are working hard creating new paths, platforms and bridges to allow easier access to the river, even to the point of offering a great paddling spot come the summer. In the meantime, we do have to do a bit of wading, but it will be worth it in the end:

It’s been a while since I have run with Hector in the buggy, what with the snow and ice and everything, so I really did feel it today, especially when I had to take a hilly detour to avoid some really big mud swamps, talk about huffing and puffing! Today was to be an exploration of the Waterlink Way, a walking/running/cycle route that follows the river from Deptford Creek right down to Beckenham, passing very close to our house. It turned out to be a lovely route, if you forgive the section cutting through Wickes car park in Catford Bridge. I did find some spots a little secluded, but you always seem to be fairly close to life, even passing by the biggest Sainsbury’s I’ve ever seen. When I look at the map, it seems to offer quite a long run but, in reality, it’s not that far (the full length would, of course, be a good run!), but you could always add bits and loop here and there to extend the distance.

We went as far as Lower Sydenham, then turned towards home, churning our way through the mud on the way. I’d also forgotten how chatty Hector is when we’re running, asking questions, pointing things out, asking more questions and turning around to see where my answer is. I had to tell him I couldn’t talk right now because I was out of breath – we  paused to ‘have a chat’, then everything was alright again.

Janathon day 5:

Time: 48 minutes 03 seconds

Distance: 4.44 miles

Average Pace: 10.49

Best Pace: 7.23

Calories: 530

Nearly there!

Phew, today’s the day I very nearly didn’t fit it in, and only one day left too! It was three years ago today that Hector came into our lives so we were off celebrating at Legoland, and what a jolly good time we had too. It’ so big! Hector got to drive various vehicles: a little car, a digger 🙂 and – my favourite – a boat, he was so cool, like he was driving through Venice. We also had fun in a maze – a current area of interest for some reason – and were blown away by a 4D film of Bob the Builder.

(climbing in to get a closer look!)

So, the run was quick and late and hard work. We didn’t get home until about 8pm and hadn’t eaten, so I ran on a full stomach with the promise of ice cream when I got back. Is it any wonder I haven’t lost a single pound, even after running every day for 29 days?!

Stats for Juneathon Day 29

Type of run: solo run

Time: 32 minutes 41 seconds

Distance: 3.17 miles

Average Pace: 10.18

Best Pace: 7.11

Calories: 296

Seven days, seven runs

Oh, how tired I felt today (we had a sleepless night with a coughing child). I was reading to Hector this afternoon and actually started falling asleep…he even corrected me! I decided to try and have a lie down, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen, with a small boy bouncing around on the bed and trying to prise my eyes open, so I decided to jump up and go for a run. No, I don’t know how I managed that either.

It was a three parks run, well two parks, with the first one being visited again on the way home to see if we could see this again:

We are keeping an eye on the progress of the new cafe in the park. This might not seem very exciting, but for us it will be truly wonderful: somewhere to go and sit on a cold or wet day, a bit of life in the park, loos…Today the workers were digging channels to put pipes in for the utilities, and we enjoyed watching the digger ‘changing its own scooper’.

On our return journey, my eye was caught by this tangle of pipes:

We were a bit disappointed to find the ‘digger men’ had gone home, but were delighted to find the digger parked around the corner for the night. I got close up and captured this while Hector touched the caterpillar wheel.

Stats for Juneathon Day 7

Type of run: Pushing a running buggy

Time: 32 minutes 20 seconds

Distance: 3.12 miles

Average Pace: 10.21

Best Pace: 7.44

Calories: 361

So, that’s Week 1 of Juneathon 2010 finished. I have really enjoyed it so far, of course, the fine weather has helped. I did fear I might have to do an evening run today, but I am trying to avoid those.

Stats for Week 1

Runs: 7

(5 pushing a running buggy, 2 without)

Total miles: 28.49

Three miles for day three

I tried hard to persuade the little fella that we needed to go out running early to avoid the heat, but it was all about the bike, he really wanted to ride his bike. So I decided I would run with him, but very quickly realised this wasn’t going to work, what with all the stopping and starting and ‘Mummy, no, slow down!’s, so I sort of walk/jogged with him and resigned myself to the fact that we would have to come out again later. It was an eventful park trip, with a tractor (Claas), a tractor lawn mower (John Deere), some tree surgeons (or ‘tree virgins’ as Hector has been calling them), a digger, a dumper, a roller and the man who paints the white lines for the football pitches and the running track.

We have watched this man a few times now, and he has even offered Hector a go (he politely refused). The poor chap trundles along, making beautiful lines and as soon as he gets all the way round – it seems – a tractor comes along and mows away all his hard work. Today he completed running track number three.

After lunch we did go out again. The paddling pool now has water in it and we decided to go and have a dip. When we passed by this morning it was empty but, as we approached at a pace we could hear an almighty racket. We soon saw why there was so much noise as we turned to face a pool covered with screaming children. After pausing for a while, stunned, Hector got into his paddling gear and got busy with his watering can.

Now I don’t know who all these people were, or where they had come from, as I’ve never seen any of them before, but it was like a public information film warning of the dangers of obesity and skin cancer, I even saw one woman spraying herself with water, using a plant spray she had bought with her, then smothering her bikini clad body with baby oil! I thought people had come to their senses about that kind of thing years ago.

After a while, Hector started to turn a bit blue, so we wrapped up and headed off, pausing to look at this lovely swan family on the way.

Stats for Juneathon Day 3

Type of run: Pushing buggy

Time: 32 minutes 56 seconds

Distance: 3.01 miles

Average Pace: 10.56

Best Pace: 7.31

Calories: 332

You are puffed out Mummy!

So said Hector as I huffed and puffed my way up to Alexandra Palace, ‘You are running slowly’.

In contrast to yesterday, the weather is absolutely scorching, so we decided to get out and make the most of it. Edward suggested we go up to Ally Pally and, of course, Hector wanted to go to Little Dinosaurs as well. Edward has entered into the Juneathon spirit and is now writing a mini blog of his cycle commute, five-a-side and the odd run. Here he is setting off this morning, iPhone in place to record his stats:

The run up to Ally Pally is one I used to do before I had a co-runner, so it was a real test to see how I would cope pushing the running buggy up there. First of all we ran through the local park, then negotiated a route though the madness that is Wood Green, then it was up hill all the way. Some of this was covering ground from the Hornsey 10k the other week, but even with a stomach bug I found it easier than with a buggy ahead of me! When we did make it to the top of the hill, I paused to take this photo:

Oh, and to catch my breath. It’s well worth the effort for the amazing views on a clear day. Now I was able to converse again, we chatted about tractor lawnmowers, leaf-blowers and dumper trucks; I wonder how many other runners have this sort of conversation…

When we eventually made it up to Little Dinosaurs, Hector was delighted to get out and do some running around himself, weaving in and out of other children on the soft play equipment and having a good old bounce on the bouncy castle (I kept well away). As I watched him I could hear chicks chirrupping and tweeting behind me and turned to see this view:

This has to be one of the oddest places for a bird to nest! We sat quietly and watched the mother swooping in and out with food for her little ones.

Stats for Juneathon Day 2

Type of run: Pushing buggy

Time: 1 hour 9 minutes 24 seconds

Distance: 6.13 miles

Average Pace: 11.19

Best Pace: 7.31

Calories: 727

Octoberthon. It’s like Oktoberfest but without the beer.

Well, maybe the odd glass on a Friday evening.

I am feeling a bit sluggish and porky around the middle at the moment and, after my BIG walk last week (which I will write about when I get a chance, really I will), I feel encouraged and inspired to push myself a little bit further than I have been doing of late. So I have decided to take decisive action and commit to a daily activity. Remember Juneathon? Well, this is just like that but it’s in October and doesn’t necessarily involve daily blogging, which I found more challenging than the daily running (look, I’m making all this up, so I can make up my own rules and do what the heck I like). I will attempt to run every day, with a limit of no fewer than three miles and, as I will be perusing the Venice Biennale for a few days towards the end of the month, I will make up for those lost days at the beginning of November (as I said, I make up the rules ok?).

To start you off, I ran to Hector’s swimming lesson and back yesterday and boy did I look like some sort of lardy, asthmatic (yes, I am) beginner! I gasped up Hornsey Rise like a steam train, pausing at the top pretending to look at a digger and roller combo. Coming home was a little easier, but I still felt totally out of condition. Here are the stats:

Time: 52 minutes 59 seconds

Distance: 4.92 miles

Average Pace: 10.46

Best Pace: 8.53

Calories: 512

This afternoon I popped Hector in the running buggy in a desperate attempt to get him to have a sleep. Of course he slipped into gentle slumber within minutes of setting off and I enjoyed a saunter along the canal. There is a lovely new cafe near the playground at Markfield Park, so my longer runs will be full of temptation as the delicious-looking carrot cakes call me from the path of righteousness.

Time: 35 minutes 58 seconds

Distance: 3.47 miles

Average Pace: 10.21

Best Pace: 7.55

Calories: 377

So, does anyone want to join me? I found Juneathon a great motivator and this could be just what we need to get back on track for the dark months ahead. Has anyone heard about a place in the VLM and needs a bit of a kick start? Go on, you know you want to!