Taking the Farm Girl out of the Country

And plonking her into a city is always going to be interesting.

Last weekend I headed off to London on some rather cheap tickets. It was a bit of a whim booking really but one that turned out to be rather good! Having a rail card is pretty useful! Less than £30 return (ok I used my nectar points but so what?!) and first class on the way back? Winning!

I’ve re-written this post a couple of times, as I don’t think anyone really wants a detailed blog of the ins and outs of my trip but decided to note down some of my observations instead.

Going out of your comfort zone – I am, at heart, a country girl and a northerner. I am usually happier travelling north rather than south. Equally, for some reason, I found myself nervous about this trip – it was a bit more of the unknown. Edinburgh I have done a few times and it is smaller than London! But like someone on my Facebook said, it does do you good to reach out of your comfort zone and they are right.

Traveling by train – I love it, when it works and people are interesting. The woman sat next to me was using the time to work. Fair enough. The couple sat opposite me – matching hoodies, did NOT say a word to each other the whole journey. The chap to my right slept much of the way and the carriage in general was reasonably quiet. First class on the way home – amazing. No surprises there as I love traveling first. This time though, I made full use of having a first class lounge with complimentary food and drink! Same with food on the train. Its even better when you don’t feel robbed in terms of the cost of your ticket. £35 isn’t bad and its even better when you use nectar points and only pay £15!

London museums – I love that so many of them are free! I still have a few museums on my list that I would like to go and see and there are plenty of sights I would like to go see but I feel far more confident about going and seeing them and getting around London now I have done it on my own. I will be going back. Even if it’s just for the buildings. Which are amazing in themselves. The British Museum was a bit underwhelming but the Natural History Museum is brilliant!

The West End – just the area itself is pretty cool and I loved wandering around (this applies to Covent Garden too) – I made a last minute decision to go see Matilda the Musical – it really was amazing! The set was magic and the children just amazing. It was really well told, incorporating two intertwining tales of Miss Honey’s past and Matilda’s present – but in a different way to the book and the film. It really was special and unlike seeing productions in my home town.

The people – so I did meet someone down in London who I’ve been speaking to over Twitter for months. He was as lovely as expected and just fab/awesome company – went swimming, went for a wonder, coffee, cake etc. Was actually gutted to have to part ways. He definitely didn’t fit in with the general. I get that native Londoners are just trying to get about their day in a city that attracts a lot of tourist but wow! Rude, uncommunicative, miserable – especially compared to home! We have new neighbours who have commented that one of the things they noticed about moving north was how much more friendly people are and open! Kind of confirms that north/south stereotype really. One guy though in the local Tesco Express – NEVER SPOKE A WORD to me throughout the whole transaction. His days must really drag!

The noise and the traffic – is intense all the time compared to home. Even through the night. Who would want to drive in London? Or cycle actually? Although apparently the cycling isn’t as bad as I am making it out, but still! Don’t get me wrong, I like the Underground (even if it bites) and the ease of getting around but coupled with the height of the buildings – it is still quite a claustrophobic place to be when you are used to open fields and space.

On the plus side – I will be heading back again. The National Portrait Gallery is one of my favourite galleries and there is still a lot I want to see. I know my sister would like to go, so after my first solo trip – it won’t seem so daunting next time!

I was glad though, to be home on Saturday night, for the peace and the darkness. Looking out on the field behind my house – drilled and ready for the next crop, the hedges marking boundaries and the trees standing tall is home.

Chillswim Coniston End to End 5.25 miles

The 31st of August 2019 may go down as a day that I decided never to swim again.

Temporarily anyway. I’m waiting for sleep and time to dull the painful memories.

It’s already fading as it is and I am beginning to think that I actually might have enjoyed it – in a type 2 kinda way!

So the decision to do the End to End was made nearly a year ago. A year ago when I went to watch and support friends. I walked up a hill to watch from afar – little spots in the water in the far distance swimming beautiful calm water in a beautiful calm part of the world. I was wishing I was in the water – not watching!

I decided that I would have to give it ago, and low and behold, Saturday morning came round and I found myself stood next to a lake wondering what I had let myself in for.

This weekends adventure started as we left York – I say we, as there was one of my mates, his gorgeous pooch and myself, all packed and loaded into the car and on our way – and already planning/researching an epic trip for next year! We stopped en-route at a fish and chip shop in Kirby Stephen that has not seen any modernisation in about 30 years (except maybe the till). They weren’t bad for all I mock. The second stop was Kendal before arriving quite late into Coniston. By this time we had already learnt that the swim had been put back five hours due to the weather forecast which meant we had time for a drink and chance of a lie in. Winning!

Morning came round and breakfast consumed – we wandered down to register and investigate the water (walk the dog and attempt some geocaching – we even bumped into Sean Conway!) and waste some time. Milling about waiting is actually harder than it looks. Our complacency though backfired as we realised the time – quickly scoffing some lunch before getting changed (I have NEVER put a wetsuit on as fast in my life) and heading to get the bus to the start line.

For once I didn’t feel nervous. I knew I could do the distance but that it might be uncomfortable – my kit was all ok, ear plugs in, hats on – even booties – which was a good call! Checked in, scoffed a snickers, stuffed one up my sleeve and finally got in to the water and off. And a water temp of 17 – I knew I could swim in that happily!

So far so good. Managed to keep up with one of my mates to the second food station. Was struggling a bit with sighting and a bit off initially but the first half was quite uneventful – I cant say easy – it wasn’t and some of the food stations meant getting so close to shore you had to walk out of the water. The real fun came between miles 3 and 4 – the sun had been out for the first half and considering the rain and wind of the morning – the afternoon was looking promising. Then the wind got up and the rain started. One the plus side I saw a rainbow and didnt notice the rain so much! Mile 4 or rather at the 6km mark, my shoulder started to give me issues and I debated getting out and DNF-ing. I am a bit stubborn though and I could not have worn the hoodie if I had so I carried on and the last mile was the worst!

After the fourth feed station pain, boredom and negative self talk started. My shoulder was making me miserable, I was struggling to see the five mile buoy and I misjudged the finish – like a few others. I also needed the loo – anyone who knows me, knows how hard I find it!

It seemed to take forever. All hopes of coming in in under three and a half hours were shot and I just wanted to finish. I have never been so happy to see a finish line!

The photos of me exiting the water say it all!

My mate was waiting for me as I wandered out of the water, down the finishing shoot and to the exit – first two things to sort were my need to go to the loo and food. Both satisfied – we got the buses back to the registration point. Lots of people around me mentioned that they had found it harder than last year and the conversations since suggest that a lot of people were about 20 minutes slower than they expected – which makes me feel somewhat better about the the 3:50 when I know I can do it in under 3:30!

Achy and sore, both my friend and I wandered back to our cottage and got showered before heading out for a drink and then eating tea. Wetsuits in the drying room, fed and watered, bed called. I have never been more happy to go to bed!

Still woke up tired though, but less painful memories of the swim!

As for the event itself – considering the delays – communication was excellent, organisation was excellent, the volunteers and safety crew were excellent and the whole set up fab. It really was worth doing and is worth doing – just because!

And yes, I was glad I wore booties and had snickers up my sleeve!

Will I do it again?

Ask me in a week or two!

The Weekend That Was Supposed To Be

Holkham Half Iron was today.

I was supposed to be racing it.

I didn’t.

Anyone that has been following this blog (hahahahaha) knows that I transferred my place to Outlaw X in September. A most wise and excellent choice. To the point that although the weather looked perfect – I didnt feel bad about not doing it. Although I did remind myself that I need to run.

So what did I do instead?

I surprised myself.

It is becoming a bit of a bad habit to say yes to the random things my mates suggest. About a week ago one mate sent me a link to race he had signed up for – up near Consett on Derwent Reservoir. Asked if I fancied it – and camping (with my new tent). Well bit of a daft question. I read through and debated it – but then it dawned on me I could use this to my advantage.

I decided I would use this as the perfect opportunity to head north (what a surprise!) and go cycle in my favourite part of the world – Northumberland.

I decided not to race but still go and camp and support my mate racing, while also riding my bike.

It was actually quite hard getting myself up and out on the Saturday morning to be honest – there was a little voice in my head wondering whether it was worth the money (fuel) and time going all the way north just to ride for a few hours when I could do a 40 mile ride at home. I had already printed off some OS maps just to keep in my pocket as I don’t have a cycle computer, and my bike was in the car – sod it. I overrode the little voice of doubt and thought it would do me good to go.

It was. Road trip central. I set off at half 7, donned in lycra from the start. I stopped at Scotch Corner as per normal and got some funny looks – which considering the lycra was unsurprising. I made Beadnell for 10.45. Driving North makes me so happy!

The weather was absolutely lovely but as I sorted out my bike and got ready to go (this is quite a quick process when you are on your own!) I realised that my route meant that I was going to be cycling back with a headwind!

Ah well.

My route was taking me towards Boulmer via the coast and then back round towards Lesbury and up to Rennington before heading over North Sunderland and into Bamburgh – this was a long tough slog actually – headwind and up hill – but the view was worth it (see the picture!). The other thing that made it worth the slog was the tail wind from Bamburgh through to Beadnell and some amazing speeds and top 10s on Strava!

It was bliss! I stopped eventually at the harbour in Beadnell for an ice cream before cycling back round to the car and heading back to Derwent Reservoir. It was mixed feelings though – it was an epic ride in terms of scenery and just sheer enjoyment – I was over the moon with myself at cycling so far away from home (without the usual back up) on my own! But equally – I really would have liked to have had someone to share it with. The joy of a good bike ride is like nothing else!

However I was feeling – it definitely helped reset the happiness/wellbeing button in my own head.

So looking forward to riding up there again and planning my next trip up there!

Edinburgh Marathon Festival Road Trip 2019

What an absolutely epic weekend!

It should be clear by now that I love road trips and that this May has been full of them. It is possible that this weekend has been one of my favourites! All of them have involved eating a lot, drinking a lot and racing, a lot. All good I hear you say! Well you would be right!

There are two main parts to this – the races and the rest of it.

I’ll get to the races but I like chronological order. Possibly due to my inner historian. Anyway…

Background

Why Edinburgh? Why Edinburgh Marathon Festival (EMF) weekend?

Why not? One of my mates is doing Endure 24. He has signed up to run it solo. Edinburgh Marathon Festival formed part of his training plan of sorts (the 5k, the 10k and the marathon). Because our mates and myself are thoughtful, kind and supportive (knowing the likelihood of him reading this – we love you but we think you are a little crazy sometimes), we decided to tag along in support. In my case, with the thoughts of doing Holkham, I decided that it would prompt me to keep running as part of my own training. I decided to sign up for the half-marathon and then cheer on the marathon. I later signed up for the 5k after getting a discount voucher from EMF for my birthday. One of our other mates signed up for the 5k, the 10k and marathon out of support.

This is the result of post-swim/training discussions that result in all sorts of crazy, wonderful plans.

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities so it was never going to take much persuading to get me there. Any excuse!

The actual trip

So the actual plan of action. There was four of us going to race. We travelled up in pairs and made our plans. I managed to persuade my mate to book first class train tickets – making the most of my railcard – both to Edinburgh and back. This was the wisest decision ever, even if we did lower the average age of the travellers in first considerably. More on this later. My mate, in turn, proceeded to book the wrong tickets home – causing me mini-heart palpitations. Thankfully, he realised! He was also responsible for booking the hostel.

Plans in place we met on the station platform at lunch on Friday and took the train to Edinburgh – making the most of the complimentary drinks and food while doing a great deal of people watching and general chatting. I love traveling by train, and its even better first class! What bemused me most though was how little luggage I had compared to my mate – however I was NOT complaining about this later and was soon rather impressed with his travelling skills. All kudos to him!

Arrival in Edinburgh and searching for our hostel reminded me how many steps there were in the city. To be perfectly honest, I followed my mate so he could have lead me on a right merry dance and I’d never have known! I knew where we were staying would be pretty cool but it was better than I thought it would be. We were Hostelling at the Kick Ass Hostel in Grassmarket – it was genuinely the funkiest place I have ever stayed – in these cool pods! Towel rail, hooks, plug sockets, own mini light, AND funky colour changing lights, black out curtain and own locker cupboard. Bar, plenty of toilets and showers, kitchen etc. All for £30 a night! Winning!

So far so awesome. So first night involved eating pizza, finding our feet and drinking Guiness. Our other mates had got to Edinburgh but both were poorly. This turned out to be a complete bummer as it meant neither of them would be racing. At all. The whole reason we were there. These things happen though. An early night was had and the next day saw my mate racing the 10k, and then both of us doing the 5k. Which was a bit surreal to be fair. Doing one race after the other? Well, I say that, but that was my mate. Watching and then both racing – and the number of people/organisation was impressive. More about the races in particular can be found here.

Post race plan was pretty simple really. Back to the hostel, shower, nap, eat. All of which we did. Brunch and Supper, where I went back in February, was literally around a corner or two from where we were staying so we wandered over before heading into the centre for some retail therapy/drooling over kit. Mentally spending a lot of money. This was followed by tea (I did say we ate a lot!) at a place called Mamma’s in Grassmarket – really reasonably priced, really fresh and really good service. No curry this time. Pre race pasta.

Nerves were starting to kick in about Sunday though. I was feeling it – I suspect my mate was too but he wasn’t showing it as much as I was moaning about it! Constant weather forecast checking and me debating kit and whether I should have brought a long sleeved top summed up my evening! Although I warm up a LOT when I’m running.

Sunday morning came, and I crawled out of bed – my mate came to the start line with me – well actually, it would be more truthful to say he lead me to my race – I was just following his lead! Either way – my mate’s forward planning came to the fore – black plastic bin bags! Kept the rain off perfectly. Anyway – this isn’t so much about the races as the weekend. My mates race start time was two hours after mine so after I’d set off – I’ve no idea what he got up to!

I’m going to skip forward now to post race and getting back into Edinburgh as the race day antics can sit in another post (which I’ve linked above).

We got back into Edinburgh and hobbled back to the hostel – first priority was clearly Guiness. Naturally! Then showers and then berating our mate for not racing. Followed by more drinks in the Beehive. Although our poorly mate deserves some credit – we did manage to all meet up and he suggested Zizzi’s and it was lush! So the eating and drinking carried on. Full three courses for me and the tired marathoner and pizza and desert for the poorly one. There was an internal debate about a final drink but tiredness had kicked in and so we all parted ways and headed back to sleep.

And thankful for a 10am train.

Monday morning – the pair of us aching and stiff, and me suffering with some blisters hobbled about getting our stuff together before a morning coffee and checking out of the hostel. The walk to the station was slower than our original walk from the station. It was at this point where I reminded my mate that he would soon be thankful for first class tickets home. The train was packed down in standard and probably a lot noisier too! We definitely made the most of the complimentary food and drinks, the bit extra space and the quietness. Discussing our weekend, the medal haul and me suggesting another road trip (the key is to drip feed these idea!).

It was with mixed feelings that we departed the train in York – parting ways on the station as I headed to Piccadilly to get the bus back to my pick up point. Sad that the weekend was over, that the racing was over and that I had no more planned road trips. I am more impressed that I didn’t lose my mate over the weekend or that it was as laid back as it was.

I haven’t been so chilled in so long.

Clearly in my mind I’m planning my next road trips and how to rope my mates in….

Maybe I am the bad influence?!

KMF 10km and Road trips with friends

As part of my apparent ongoing road trip May adventures, this weekend was the club trip to the Lake District, or more specifically, the Keswick Mountain Festival.

In some way, shape and form, there were 9 of us milling about the festival village mid afternoon, chatting about the weekend and generally being sociable (like this is anything new!), and was followed by lunch in the town centre, but not before an awesome weekend with a great bunch of people.

Friday night, five of us went to watch Graeme Obree speak – mostly about his hour record 26 years ago but touching on other subjects. I had wanted to see him for ages and it was really worth waiting for. Saturday was chilled for some of us –  the Swim sessions for Keswick Mountain Festival (KMF) has been cancelled due to algae so some of us went off to do Keswick Parkrun (which is a lovely out and back along the old railway). One of us was racing Fairfields Fell race and the rest of us milled about either wandering into town and then on to some open water swimming in a very cold Buttermere, and the rest of us ended up getting lunch in Ambleside. Tea was curry (not wise pre race day!) and then a late night in the hostel drinking and chatting away – a very chilled day.

Sunday was race day.

Three of us had signed up for the 10km race at 10am.

Sunday morning came around. We went down to breakfast and checked the weather (and forecasts), got ourselves packed and ready and headed off to the festival village. Three racing, three spectating (this grew to 6 spectating the finish line which was awesome!).

We went down to the ferry to take us over to the start line – I was on the second boat as I’d had to rush round to the bag drop and I had been waiting for my mate at the hostel to get himself ready so we’d been later setting off.

Landing further up Derwentwater, the race wasn’t quite a ‘run back to the start’ but more of a run away and up, then back. I knew it was going to be a tough one as the race took us over Catbell’s Terrace. The sun was out, the weather was good and conditions under foot couldn’t have been better. I’ll admit I felt a bit nervous – I usually do. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fair either!

The race started and was pretty crowded, the first 4km the runners were all quite close as there was little room for over taking and a lot of walking uphill (I’ll put my hand up here and admit I was one of them) – for me, I could walk some of these climbs quicker than run them, and make up the time on the decent. And boy were those fun! The scenery was, without a doubt, worth the climbing today. The view from Catbells is one of my favourites anyway but despite it being hard, it was really enjoyable. I loved some of the more technical descents – and I think this is possibly the only area in running that I may actually be better than one of my mates at – and he is a far better runner than me!

The last 4-5km were a lot flatter than the first – but did include some tarmac and my feet let me know they were not happy about running on tarmac in trail trainers. I grinned and bared it until the route went back on to gravelly trail.

I even managed to run the finish line uphill and look fairly strong still – if the photos are anything to go by!

The organisation of this race was pretty spot on – I cant fault it, but if you don’t go to the festival, £38 can seem like a lot of money. I also made the mistake of ordering a medium tee for the finish as they were offering female specific tops – mistake right there. A small would have fit. Ah well.

Lunch became order of the day (after devouring post race pancakes and getting changed) so six of us walked into town, reflecting on time well spent and enjoying what was left of the weekend.

I feel I can sum up this weekend for me in seven words – Ate lots, drank lots, ran lots. Happy.

Cant ask for more than that!

 

CTS Northumberland – Race Day Review

This is my all-time favourite race – and the only race I have done three times on the trot.

Coastal Trail Series Northumberland incorporated 4 different distances – 10k, Half Marathon, a Marathon and an Ultra and takes in the beautiful and scenic Northumberland coastline. It is so well organised and enjoyable that I keep coming back!

I drove up in the morning – as always, meeting my mate at the services and driving up in convoy. A cold and foggy start changed as we headed north and the sun burnt off the fog and the skies cleared. I always feel happy in Northumberland, although driving across from Beadnell to Bamburgh, I felt a bit choked up as memories from last year flooded back. I knew there was a bit of a risk this happening but on the whole, it was good to be back.

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The finish line flags

Parking up at the bottom of the Castle, walking up and registering, I was a little gutted that we weren’t inside Bamburgh Castle like in previous years (I later found out why – no Warden to let us in, and the stables were being converted into a bar!). The sun was glorious and as it was so mild – I decided to run in capri pants and t-shirt.

The briefing was long and thorough and because the buses were running late, I did get cold waiting to get bused to the start however, once down there and once running, I knew I’d be ok. It is genuinely the only time my mate has seen me smile before a run! Much to her amusement.

The start line was nearer the harbour this year (making the course 400m shorter with alterations to the finish line) but we didn’t have to wait as long on the start line to get going. I will point out now that anyone who has read recent blog posts or follows the Twitter feed, I spent two weeks very ill and did very little training for 4 weeks. Unlike last year where I actually trained! Regardless I wasn’t nervous, I just enjoy this race as a run.

We set off and my pacing wasn’t too bad. I know the area quite well and knew what to expect. People say running on sand/trail is harder – and it is, but somehow I seem to enjoy it more and run better. The first half of the race went well but there is always a but. After the checkpoint at Seahouses, I could feel the familiar feeling of burning on the ball of my right foot. By the 7k point I was really feeling it. I knew there would be a blister and I knew where I had gone wrong. I’ve been using Tri-slide (this is so much better than body glide) with my road trainers due to ongoing issues and didn’t need them with the socks I was using and neutral shoes. By 8k I was wishing I had a Shotblok or something just to eat, like last year. I don’t normally for this race but going at lunch time I was hungry by the time set off. What was most glorious about it though was just running the race, in the sunshine, in February in a t-shirt!

There was no major disasters or anything – I felt a bit sick – I was definitely working. The last 600m has always been horrific and nothing has changed. The race photos were actually pretty cool and I was smiling on them. I was glad to finish though – I always am!

The fish and chips with mates at the end was just the icing on the cake!

IBIZA! Part Two – The Holiday

Six days in Ibiza supporting friends racing did mean there was some free time to mooch about. If you read Part One, then you will, if you hadn’t already realised, that Ibiza is in the process of closing down for winter. We were staying in San Antonio. The closing parties of the clubs on the island had been the first weekend of October and many of the remaining bars and hotels were. gradually closing up. Some of the bars and hotels that were open on the Sunday were, by Monday, closed and boarded up.

With Ibiza slowly winding down, we were not sure what to expect. Ibiza isn’t world renowned for it’s culture as such, so we made the most of chilling and a bit of exploring. Many books were read! So, what did we do?

SUP – Stand Up Paddle boarding. I messaged one of my friends who was out on the island for same reason as me and asked him if he fancied it. Turns out he was. So Monday morning, we both found ourselves on the south coast of Ibiza SUP’ing. There was a group of about 10 of us in total and we could not have asked for more glorious conditions. This is the third time I’ve done it but this was definitely one of the most amazing locations – crystal clear waters, beautiful bays and blue skies as far as the eye could see. It was also very quiet, a few boats dotted here and there but overall, very little. Peaceful and chilled, with a little bit of exploring and some caves to wind through. If you ever get the chance to SUP in Ibiza – it is worth it. It wasn’t expensive either although one of the things I noticed compared to the UK – lack of form signing and buoyancy aids.

Ibiza town – my friend visited some of the museums but wasn’t really impressed – lots of little shops and definitely the hub of the island – rather enjoyed my cocktails in Hard Rock Cafe too! The old town, and the castle, really are beautiful and the views are amazing. You need to be fairly fit though to get to the top. Well connected with buses too (which are so cheap – they are subsidised and busy).

Boat cruises – we did the ‘Sunset cruise’ with one company but it wasn’t really sunset when we got off – it was a three hour cruise to the west coast of San Antonio and around some of the smaller islands. It stopped at one of the popular family beaches to drop off/pick up some people but it also stopped in a beautiful bay so people could get off and swim. Was rather annoyed I didn’t take my swimming costume but hey ho. It was really lovely to be out on the sea and seeing the island from a different perspective.

Swimming – one of the highlights for me personally was swimming in the sea. Along a lot of the coast line, there are areas cordoned off from boats and shipping to allow people a safe area to swim in. Monday night I got a text from one of my friends who said that she and a few age groupers where going to go and swim and would I like to join them. I was hardly going to pass that up! I’ll admit – I could have swam without the wetsuit but in one respect I am glad I did as it gave me an insight into just how buoyant you are in the sea, with a wetsuit. Twenty minutes later – 1km OW swam. Fastest OW swim in a while. Although swimming with the speedy age groupers reminds me that I’ve still some work to do!

Run – I did my first run outdoors for a while early on Tuesday morning – and what a place to run! Sun already shinning and plenty of areas/space to run safely around the bay. Five kilometers in the bag!

Aquarium – My friend (who has 0 interest in racing/sport) and I walked round to the aquarium. Apart from the slight novelty factor of it being in a cave and there being a poor injured turtle in there, cant say I was overly impressed, however…. the walk around the bay to get there was lovely. I was tempted to do some geocaching while I was there but thought I’d best not subject my friend to that!

Would I go back?

Yes. Yes I would, but I would definitely hire a bike and cycle – a lot. I was quite envious of my mate cycling about everywhere, even though it was really hot! I would swim more and definitely hire a car. I would also go more in season – even though it would be a lot busier – just for choice of places to eat/visit and I would get myself round to Cafe del Mar and watch the sunset properly! I would also choose a better hotel. Would I stay any longer than I did? Probably not but then it isn’t a long flight.