Sunday, 26 October 2014

A working week and a celebratory weekend

Monday October 25th

With four days Bikeability last week in local schools in Wellington and Bridgwater, it was a hard week, leaving little time except for dark evenings for getting out running or cycling. I did manage on two days to cycle into Bridgwater by parking on the outskirts to avoid getting stuck in the traffic, so a couple of miles each way, each day on my folding bike. The weather has been very changeable with high winds and heavy rain, however, I did manage to avoid most of it and only had one soaking.

My only outing midweek on Friday afternoon was a 5.37 mile around town; this seemed very hard after five days off! taking me a couple of miles to feel comfortable. I was hoping to keep up a regular three times a week run, I have failed miserably this week to achieve that!! Must try harder in future to keep up my fitness.

The weekend was a busy family weekend with both sons, their wives, grand daughter and of course Bramble the dog! Daughter was down in Plymouth so unable to join the ‘mini’ celebration of Mrs IanB’s birthday.

Sunday [26th Oct]  we managed a walk down Seaton with coffee, fruit shoot and tea cakes, a stiff wind kept it cool with grey skies giving a colourless palette to the sea and sky. G daughter enjoyed the chance to run and jump. One son went off early to an agility competition day  with Bramble and we waved cheerio to Gdaughter after lunch. I did manage to get out before tea for a 5.06 mile run around the town, I seem to be averaging around the 9.2 minutes per mile on local runs, yesterdays run seemed to go well, I felt ok and my calf muscle also appears to be behaving with no niggles etc. Sunday was also the Dorset 3 Peaks or the Stickler, I can’t believe its been a whole year since running the event last year, only seems like yesterday, perhaps I will look at it again next year, it was a nice event.

This weekend also saw the clocks go back so the very dark evenings are back, we can look forward to December 21st, the shortest day, we then know spring will be on its way!!!

Monday, 20 October 2014

A run, a Grizzly response and a carnival

Monday 20th October

Only one road safety event last week and that was supporting school crossing patrols with their campaign, ‘Stop means Stop’ this entailed me giving ‘I’ve seen Sharkey’ stickers to children crossing the road whilst a colleague dressed in a dragon suit, photos with the mayor and a presentation to the SPC for his five years service.

The week was what I think is termed a ‘taper week’ as it was the 7 mile Stumble off road run from Minehead on Exmoor on Sunday.

My aim was to run a couple of times about 5 miles and get a couple of days cycling in to keep my legs loose. The weather in the week was really bad with lots of heavy rain, so cycling was out of the question, I didn’t fancy getting soaked on the bike, not to mention the work after to clean the bike etc.

I managed to get 2 runs in one of 5.5 miles and the other 5.2miles both on the road round the town and both in the dark evening between showers. At least the temperatures were warm, almost too warm to run as I always overdressed.

After a couple of days decorating again we did walk down at Sidmouth and lunch in the ‘White Horse café’ which was pleasant and very warm.

I heard on Friday that I had managed to get an entry for the Grizzly Cub run next March [on my birthday as well] my name was drawn in the lottery, The ‘Cub’ is the shorter 9 mile off road run round the coast near Beer head whilst the Grizzly itself is 20 +miles and much harder, too much for me!!!. So I now have a target to aim for over the winter to motivate me.

Saturday the day before the ‘Stumble’ was pleasant but windy so I decided to keep my muscles supple by going for a cycle ride over North Curry way, several roads were closed for road works so I ended up doing 32 miles about 5 miles further than I intended, I kept in low gears to keep the cadence up. Also first time this year out on my winter bike, different gearing and slightly different riding position. My new wheels and tyres seemed ok with the tyres giving a good grip on the wet roads. Weather wasnt quite so cool as I thought, so long tops and bottoms was too much and I was very hot!!

Saturday night we had a change and went to the Taunton Carnival, first having takeaway Pizza at our daughters flat in Taunton. Below are a couple of pictures taken on my phone to give some idea of the work on the floats.

Floats with the thousands of light bulbs and a very good Mr Potato Head costume.

It was a good evening out and the floats impressive, lots of work.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny, Race Day!!!!!

I organised my food, drink and clothing and drove over to Minehead, getting there very early as usual. The sun still shone and it was quite warm. I had another bowl of muesli just over an hour before the start at 11:00 and drank at least half a litre of High five, I didn’t intend to take a drink this time and wanted to make sure I was hydrated and wouldn’t get hungry with the late start.
We lined up in the back streets of Alcombe, there were a number of runners with dogs all champing at the leash to get going. The horn soon sounded to get us on our way, we headed up hill past the YHA where the road turned to a track, slippery over the cobbles. I felt ok, I had a support bandage on my calf to try to avoid trouble, I tried to keep an even pace and not get caught up in the excitement, but a large number of the entries was for the Stagger weren’t too keen to push the pace early, the Stagger goes on up to Dunkery Beacon and back 15 miles and 3500ft of climbing, a hard run, mine was hard enough with 7 miles and 1300 ft of climbing. My aim was to beat last year’s time of 1h 13 mins.
The route twisted and turned, sharp uphills followed by sharp downhills on forest tracks, till we reached the main ridge,  I had to walk in some places as did most of the other competitors, a water station, a chance for a quick slurp, welcome as it was very warm. Over the ridge and went someway down towards Wooten Courtney before the race split, Stagger on to Dunkery and Stumble to climb back to the ridge and back towards Minehead. Underfoot was good, some large puddles, easy to avoid and the ridgeway was very dry even though we had lots of rain in the week. We were soon being directed down through the woods, to a fast descent down a single track, requiring care in places as it was steep and stony. I seemed to be on my own now, not gaining on those in front but pulling away from those behind. I tried to keep a high pace down and with a couple of miles to go, going really well, I was enjoying the descent approximately 3 miles down before hitting the tarmac, I gained a place on the way down passing a female runner, but lost a place to a male runner with a dog!!!
It was a welcome site, the finish line, a good crowd lined the finish tunnel, lots of clapping and well dones!!!! 1h 11m 23 secs – I was pleased as I had gained 2 mins on last year. So I was pleased to get my finisher Tee.

My placing this year was 56th out of 90 in a time of 1h 11m 28s Last year I was 54th out of 89 in a time of 1h 13m 14s!! the winner did 46m 57s which to me is very fast given the 1300ft of ascent.

Its incredible how the positions are so close, I was hoping to get a higher position this year. I  felt I had gone better this year, but the time and positions show this was not the case. However, it was a great day, I really enjoyed the run, the views over Dunkery and Exmoor were fabulous as we emerged from the woods over Wooten Courtney, as were the views back over Minehead and North Hill as we ran along the ridge. The leaves turning colours in the sunshine were stunning, it would have been nice to take photos and enjoy the views, sadly to stop and look at it all would have lost time, so maybe a return visit for a walk soon needs to be on the calendar.

This is probably my last event this year but I need to try to continue running several times a week ready for the ‘Cub run’ next March, which will come round soon enough. Running is a nice alternative to cycling in the depths of winter when roads are in a poor state with ice and debri from flooding etc.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Autumn arrives – decorating, running and a day with our grand daughter

Sunday 11th October

This week has seen autumn arrive, high winds and very heavy showers most days Thursday was a complete write off with very heavy rain all day. With no Bikeability this week it was an opportunity to catch up with some decorating and hopefully some cycling and running.
Ten fence panels finally arrived on Thursday, after a  couple of months wait, last winters storms took their toll on peoples fencing – now I have to fit them, good strength training!!

Tuesday saw me down on the coast [see previous post] for a 6mile run in the sunshine before the real change in the weather.
Wednesday After a day exercising my arms with a paintbrush I managed to get out in the late evening for a run around town, trying to up my speed I managed to complete my 3.86 miles at a 9.17 pace. An enjoyable run, my calf strapped up, but I could still feel it pulling.
Friday saw me with the paintbrush again, second coat of silk emulsion!! The day started with bright sunshine, with showers forecast later, so Neroche was my target before lunch to try a few hills. The trail was quite muddy in places and I had to skip through and round some very damp areas. 4 circuits of Neroche hill fort with 3 climbs of the ‘stair way to heaven’ a hard run that gave me 6 miles and 950ft of climbing, the weather stayed good and whilst there were lots of fallen leaves from the overnight storms there was still little change in colour of the Beech trees. My calf seemed ok whilst strapped up.
It’s only a week to the Exmoor Stumble, I will decide later in next week whether I will start, feeling OK, but calf is still not right.
Saturday was a day out at Darts Farm at Topsham and Exmouth, the heavy showers held at bay by brilliant blue skies and still warm October sunshine, and there were many visitors and dog walkers enjoying the atmosphere. Lunch in the van, be it from Gregg’s. Now summer is over, days out in the van are planned rather than overnights. Although at least one weekend away before the end of November, at least it makes the winters shorter.
Sunday a visit from grand daughter gave us an excuse for a morning down in Lyme Regis, even though the sky was very overcast there was no rain forecast. After coffee, teacakes and a ‘Fruit Shoot’ in the café on the front, a good time was had on the beach and stone throwing into the sea. A meeting with a couple of  old work colleagues on the Cobb was a nice surprise, especially as I had not seen one of them for eleven years!! A chocolate ice cream cone for GD ensured her coat and face were suitably coated in Brown ice creamJ, nothing that can’t be washed out, she did enjoy it!

After waving goodbye later in the afternoon, I forced myself out of the door for a run, before the bad weather came in. Round town, managing 5.54 miles with a pace of 8.43, a good run before tea!!! 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A morning run along the coast

Tuesday October 7th

A run from Beer Head through Branscombe and back - 7 miles 1200ft of climbing

 Sidmouth and beyond from above Branscombe

 Looking down on Branscombe before the descent, you can just see the climb out the other side

My Van in the sunshine on Beer Head after my run [mug of coffee in my hand that you cant see!!]

It was a lovely morning out, very peaceful and quiet, the trails were just right, damp but not too muddy. The climbs didn't get any easier and the  'stairway to heaven' was just as hard[see previous posts around May time for explanation].
My calf did pull a little so stopped and put on a bandage, this made a difference.

I read the 'old running fox blog' 'run for your life' before I went out, incredible running 26 miles last week and doing interval training at 82!! no haven't  got my figures the wrong way round! I hope I am able to keep running when I am his age, respect to him!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Quantocks MTB

Monday October 6th

The thermometer at 7 am on Sunday morning said it was 6.4 degrees C. I think Autumn is here.
Breakfast was muesli with banana and a large mug of tea, before gathering my bits and pieces for an MTB ride on the Quantocks. I had checked my bike on Saturday, finding I had a puncture in the rear tyre, everything else working well, so Camelback loaded with water, tools and several cereal bars. Bike rack fitted to the Jimney and bike loaded  - this was my first MTB ride for several months. I decided to go for Goretex boots after the heavy rain on Saturday, thermal vest and thin fleece, with 3/4 tights.I took my mudguards intending to put them on when I got to the car park.
The weather looked good, if cool, as I drove over to the Quantocks and Lydeard Hill car park. There were a few cars already there, several with bike racks, now empty. Jay and Andy soon arrived, my riding partners for the day, Andy complaining of an upset tum after a dodgy burger the night before. It would be interesting to see how he got on with his single speed bike!!
We set off along the main ridge, not really know what route we would take, initial few yards, normally very muddy showed the trail to be relatively dry, I was pleased as I had decided against mudguards. We followed the trail past Triscombe stone, my off road skills clearly rusty on one stoney descent. We pushed on down the drove, a beautiful morning, unusually the trees still not really changing colour.  Swooping in and out of the trees before emerging at the tarmac road at Crowcombe Park Gate. The climb up to Hurley Beacon was hard as the trail was very stoney, loose and slightly off camber. Fantastic views from the top, all around, Hinckly point one side, Exmoor the other, the grass was now showing signs it was summers end and the heather had lost its purple sparkle, appearing dry and brown.  
 Heading for the Drove
 Hurley Beacon
 View down Weacombe towards Minehead
 Minehead in the distance
 Another climb near Pardlestone hill

 Snack time near Holford - Jay and Andy
 Climb up to Dowsborough 

Top of Dowsborough Fort before Great Bear

The run down to Halsway post was fast and furious, the trail just damp enough to take away some of the loose stones. We were the only ones on the trail, the weather was great, a great start to the route. 
A quick drink stop at Halsway and a decision to head for Smiths Combe, the Combe of choice in the late nineties and early millennium. We sped on [the word sped, used with care!] A herd of deer crossed our path leaping the two meter wide track with ease. 
We stopped again at Bicknoller Post to enjoy the views over Minehead and down Weacombe, another favorite descent, I just hoped my off road skills were improving enough for the technical descent of Smiths. Andy and Jay quickened their pace as we set off and for some unknown reason missed the turn off for Smiths, I waited for their return!! Its several years since any of us had been down Smiths, so we were all apprehensive before setting off. 

We rolled off down the grassy slope, led by Jay then me and Andy bringing up the rear, we gathered speed, leaping a sunken track part way down before entering as area under the trees that was full of roots and loose slippery rocks, the trail twisted and turned getting steeper as we descended, my eyes were watering despite my glasses, my brakes were on and off, my bum over the back of the bike to avoid an early ejection over the bars as I hit the roots on the steeper sections. I finally came out the trees to a very sharp twisty drop into a stream crossing, PHEW! I had made it, what a descent, my skills just about coping, I have ridden Smiths many times over the years, this time seemed harder due to skill levels not being quite what they should be.
Jay had already gone on, Andy was following me down and emerged soon after. We then set off through the windy twisty bit through streams , fantastic single track. The end was signified by a very steep up hill, time for break and a snack. We all agreed a fantastic route and a great descent.

The climb out is a challenge, none of us made it without resorting to walking near the top. 
We made our way round the single track , continuing on round Pardlestone hill before a sharp right bridleway that led us past the now derelict Alfoxton Park hotel, once a thriving country hotel. The steep tarmac road had several hairpin bends, that were covered in gravel, care required. We emerged by the Dog Pound on the edge of Holford, an interesting building where stray dogs were collected.
It was then an upward plod through Holford Combe, following the tarmac road through past pretty cottages, past the Hotel before once again hitting the off road trail. We stopped at the clearing just outside the village for a break and snack. The stream normally quite deep and wide was reduced to a very shallow slow flow. The sun had now gained height and was very warm in the sheltered Combe, 
We worked our way up the Combe, dipping in and out of the streams on our way up, round the many trees that came down last winter, the trail had changed somewhat from last year because of the storms, changing the route of the stream as it tumbles down the valley.

We continued to climb up past Dowsborough Fort, I was pleased to reach the top without having to walk, it was hard and took all my skills to keep up the momentum to keep moving forward, despite the large loose boulders and tree routes trying to dismount me!!
Jay managed it, but sadly Andy was reduced to a walk, mainly the single speed and his fitness not really matching!!
We continued on round the Great Bear, a lovely piece of single track, normally very muddy, but today it was in great condition and we managed to get a good pace through trees, round and over roots before emerging on to the unclassified road up to Deadwomans Ditch. We headed back to the main ridge at Crowcombe Park Gate. I reflected on a few weeks ago when I ran around this area, its amazing how different it was bike and running, you notice different things, the trails are never the same etc.
We headed back along the main ridge, past Triscombe etc. we still didn't meet any other bikers only several family groups with large numbers of children and dogs. 
Back to the cars, well satisfied and tired even though we only covered 16 miles. The sun was out and the car park now very busy. A great ride, but! then it always is!!!!

Finally just to finish my post - a couple of photos taken through our french window in the dark  of our evening visitors enjoying a few peanuts!! 

They keep digging up a particular cyclamen plant in the back garden, don't know why? but have have had to replant 3 times??? there were 2 badgers this time, we are unsure where they come from or where their home is!!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

End of the week

Saturday October 4th

Two great days of Bikeability, with hot sunshine, still in shorts and tee!
Last night went for a run around town clocking up 3.84 miles at a reasonable pace, but! My right calf muscle seems to have developed a pain :-( just when things were going well, I have put ibuprofen gel on it, used ice and put a bandage sleeve on, this seems to relieve a little, but still hurts when I walk. Can't understand it, jogged slow to start, and didn't really pick up a pace till well into the run, I've got 2 weeks to sort before the Stumble event.
Autumn started overnight with heavy rain, wind and a drop in temperature. Fortunately it all cleared by lunchtime to give a bright sunny afternoon, if a little windy. I decided it might help my calf if a did a short cycle ride. I geared up this time with long tights, and long sleeve jersey. I headed out over Broadway, Hatch Beachamp before descending down the steep Rock Hill before climbing uptodate North Curry. A rolling road took me to Stathe where I turned right to cycle along the side of he River Parrott to Langport. My usual route through Muchelney to Drayton was closed so they could raise the road by a metre and half!!!! To help stop Muchelney being cut off in times of flood ( Muchelney has been an island since time began!!) so a very expensive bit of work for very few very well off people!
I went on through Kingsbury Episcopi, climbing steeply out of Seavington St Michael and the descending down to Dowlish Ford. I decided to go via Cricket Malherbie, a lovely little Somerset village with a fabulous church and great views towards Glastonbury. A long descent down through Chaffcombe before a short ride home.
It was a lovely ride 43 miles covered at 13.5 mph average! Even though I 'dawdled' fabulous start to Autumn weather
Trees are now changing, fields are empty and ploughed ready for spring, that is those that are not being cleared of maize, the lanes around are busy with monster tractors and trailers taking it back to the farms, very dangerous as there is little room in the lanes not to mention long lines  of vehicles behind them.
Sunday should see me mountain biking on the Quantocks, checked my MTB earlier to discover a flat rear tyre! should be a good day out in the fresh Autumn air, but muddy after todays rain.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Good run

Wednesday 1st Octtober

We start October with the weather still being fantastic, very warm and dry.
A morning with year 2 at school reading the adventures of Biff, Chip And Kipper with the 'magic key' a quick visit to a local school at lunchtime to sort Bikeability  times then home for a sandwich.
A couple of home chores, fixing the security light, painting the inside of the wardrobe and then I decided I needed to get running! 
Shorts and tee once again and a quick drive to Neroche castle ( a hill fort) I decided to give myself a hill session by running up, down and round the castle. I was the only car in the car park, but made sure the car was completely empty, to avoid another break in. Autumn still not quite showing itself on the Blackdowns, trees still not changing to their beautiful rusty colours, particularly the Beech trees, I hope to be able to post pictures when it arrives.
Down the 'stairway to heaven' and through the forest before a half mile climb back up to the top of the fort. Down the 'herepath' and back up the 'stairway'. I did 2 circuits of this route  4.16 miles and 701ft of climbing. I felt ok with HRM showing 170 a couple of times but still only average of 150. Clearly I didn't try hard enough. It was a good run, enjoyed the effort and managed to run all the hills including two runs up the 'stairway'
I also used my new Speedcross 3s that I got as replacements, very comfortable, I do like these shoes,shame about their durability, perhaps I will use them as 'race shoes' ( sniggers at the thought of race shoes!!)
A good start this week with a long cycle, two runs before Thursday!! I hope I can keep it up, next run Friday and two Bikeability days inbetween so lots of exercise. If I can do a similar pattern next week the 'stumble' run looks a bit more of a possibility in 3 weeks.