Ford Parkrun, Ulverston

I’ve blogged a couple of times before about how brilliant parkrun is. Read about my pb at Lancaster parkrun here, and about reaching 25 parkruns here. I’ve also recently started to listen to the free weekly timed parkrun podcast with Vassos Alexander (former sports bloke from the Chris Evans radio show) and Louise Ayling (uber-parkrun tourist), which is very enjoyable. One item that caught my attention was the extra stats that were available if you download a plug-in for either Chrome or Firefox. I will blog about these stats sometime in the future, but one of them that was particularly interesting was my NENDY – Nearest Event Not Done Yet. According to the stats, based on distance as the crow flies from my home parkrun of Lancaster, my NENDY was Ford parkrun in Ulverston. Me and my beautiful wife therefore decided that this Saturday we would have a road trip, along with our loyal pointer, Nelly.

Ford parkrun is fairly new, with today being only the 24th event. We found the park without too much trouble and were immediately welcomed as old friends. Due to it being a bit damp we would be running the ‘winter’ route, which was four laps, including quite a tough little hill.

I chatted to a few people at the start who told me that they’ve only had 100+ runners on a couple of occasions. Secretly I was hoping to improve on my best finishing position of 5th.

The route was a little tricky with tight corners, a dead turn and a slippery grass section. Gradually as the run went on I managed to overtake a few people and finished in a very pleasing second place, although I was two minutes behind the winner. My brilliant wife finished in 32nd, which considering how narrow the paths were, and to be running with an unruly dog, was also very pleasing.

Overall a very pleasant trip to Ulverston, with some of the friendliest people. Not the easiest parkrun for a dog, but Nelly didn’t seem to mind.

Back home I had a look at my revised NENDY, which is now Blackpool, although I’ve promised my wife that we would do our fiftieth parkruns together. Today was my 49th and Helen’s 45th, so no parkruns for me for a few weeks.

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Rivington Pike Night Run

Me and the wife are always looking for something different, so when I saw an advert for a night run up to Rivington Pike we decided to enter. A few months ago my job moved to Horwich, which is the town at the bottom of Rivington Pike, so I had run up there a couple of times before work.

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We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived, but what we didn’t expect was over 400 entrants. The race HQ was buzzing with people. We said ‘hi’ to Charlie, who was on a running streak of over 100 days, and his daughter, who was also running.

I was wearing my Enduroman woolly hat, and one of the race marshalls came up to me, also with the same hat. We chatted about which race he’d done and what year, although it turned out that we’d never been to the event in the same year. As an aside, at the swimming pool this morning I saw a man wearing a Brutal events swimming cap. Ultra-triathlon competitors from both of the UK based races in the same week, small world indeed.

Back to the race, and I had agreed to run with my beautiful wife, just in case she got lost, although with so many people there this was highly unlikely. I was happy to run a little slower as I had done a 7km swim the previous day and was still feeling a bit tired. Not the best preparation for what was going to be a fairly tough run for everyone.

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With so many people running, we set off near the back, which in hindsight was a mistake as the first hill (which seemed to go on forever) had a couple of pinch points, so as soon as a few people started walking, everyone behind had to. The climb was also full of gnarly old cobbles, making it tough going under foot. Eventually the hill flattened allowing us to run for a while, before the next climb up round the back of the Pike.

As soon as the track started to descend my wife was off. She is naturally a very good off-road runner, and I always struggle to keep up with her on the descents. The downhill bit didn’t last for too long as we soon headed off up Winter’s Hill, although not all the way to the top where the large mast is. The track off the top was again very tricky and muddy, and I was overtaking by quite a few people. The view was also spectacular, not through the mist, but with all of the head torches disappearing into the distance.

Back onto the wide track before the final descent back to the race HQ, with large grins on our faces. Both of us loved the event, very well organised, plenty of marshalls and generally lots of very happy runners. The whole event had been given an ‘alien’ theme, hence the unusual medal and race number.

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The race numbers also had a small timing chip on the back, so the results were online within a couple of hours of crossing the finish line. My amazing wife even managed to finish 5th in her age group. Another nice feature was that the official race photos were uploaded onto Facebook so that you could download any you wanted for free.

A big thank you to Epic Events for putting on a great race, and to all of the volunteers, supporters and marshalls who turned out on a cold and windy night in January. Definitely a race that we will be doing again.

500 Strava Challenges

18 months ago I blogged about completing 300 Strava challenges (read about it here). It wasn’t a particularly well written blog (I generally know if a blog I’ve written sucks), but it has become my most read blog, with well over 300 views. Not a huge amount I grant you, but large enough for my little blog.

Today, after a short run with our dog Nelly, I’ve checked off another two challenges bringing my total up to 500. You can see the screenshot from my phone below, with the badly drawn circle.

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Incidentally, I really like the new-ish feature on the Strava app that shows how many challenges have been completed.

Three years ago I celebrated completing 200 challenges by cycling 200km. I also contacted Strava who very kindly sent me a T-shirt, water bottle and a few other goodies. At 300 challenges I cycled 300km and once again contacted Strava with the aim of more freebies. Alas, none was to be had. At 400 challenges my legs were not up to a 400km ride, and I also failed to beg for more free stuff.

500 challenges then! I’m definitely not doing a 500km cycle ride in the middle of January, with heaps of snow forecast in the next few weeks. An alternate target to set myself might be to swim 500km over the whole year. I’m having a bit of a swimming month, Swimuary if you like, so I’m off to a good start with 42km done in the first 15 days.

I might also contact Strava once again, just on the off chance that 500 challenges brings out their inner Santa, and sacks full of goodies will be winging their way to my front door.

I would like to see a Swim Challenge, especially know that so many people have swim watches. Maybe a 1 mile or 1km challenge and a distance challenge for every month.

It would also be interesting to know if anyone else is sad enough to have completed that many challenges. I’m not as obsessed as I used to be as I often miss a few challenges every month, but I’m still not the sanest bearded triathlete out there.

Here’s to the next 500.

Boundless by Kathleen Winter

Finished my first book of the year, and as expected it is another travel book. This time through the infamous and dangerous northwest passage.

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Kathleen was a last minute addition to a predominantly tourist trip through the icy waters of the Arctic. The boat is mainly full of geologists and bird watchers, along with knowledgeable experts. A writer was also required, so grabbing whatever gear she could find she jumped at the chance.

The ‘cruise’ begins in Greenland before crossing Baffin Bay and dropping into various small inuit settlements. As with many natives, their treatment at the hands of settlers has been very poor. The Canadian government moved whole villages to other areas, hoping to end disputes with Denmark and Russia over land. As expected this didn’t end well for the natives as they didn’t know the area, where the good hunting grounds were or the means to survive.

The book also delves into Kathleen’s background and how she moved to Newfoundland as a child with her family from the north east of England.

I really enjoyed this book, with it’s mix of history, from both the native inuits and the visiting expeditions, along with the voyage that Kathleen was part of. The ending is unexpected, but if you like your travel writing with a bit more intelligence and history, you’ll love this book.

Medals, Medals, Medals…

You love a medal, I love a medal, everyone loves a good medal.

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I don’t have the largest haul of medals by anyone’s standards, but I have been noticing a trend over the last few years, in that medals are getting more ‘bling’. Just look at the medal that I received from Howler events and the one from a winter open water swim. Both very nice.

The very first medal that I received was way back in the mid-eighties at the Yorkshire Individual schoolboy cycle speedway championships held in Heckmondwike. I didn’t do very well but I can remember being chuffed getting a medal, even if it was a bit small.

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Another trend that I’ve noticed is medals for virtual challenges, specifically for running, but I’ve also seen them for cycling. This involves signing up, paying your money, and then if you reach the required target they send you a medal. I’m not sure how I feel about ‘buying’ medals. For that reason I decided to sign up for a virtual swimming challenge in December from an organisation called Swim the Distance.

I ambitiously signed up for the 40k distance, paid my £12 and got swimming. With it being December I had forgotten that the pools would be closed for a few days and that I would also be busy with family. Obviously I wasn’t going to get anywhere near to 40k, but you’re allowed to email to request to change target, which I did. I dropped down to the 20k challenge, even though on New Year’s Eve I went swimming with my beautiful wife and clocked 30k for the month.

You have to send some kind of proof that you’ve completed the distance, so I used the ‘print screen’ function to copy proof from Strava, and then a couple of days ago I received my medal.

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Very nice piece of bling it is too. I might sign up for the January challenge, especially as I’m trying to have a ‘swim’ month.

 

 

The Rapha Festive 500 – 2018

At this time of year Rapha sponsor a Strava challenge, the Festive 500. The aim being to cycle 500km in the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Read about the 2017 edition here and the 2016 edition here.

I have completed this challenge every year since 2012, so I was looking forward to this again. Over the years I’ve encountered the usual and expected problems, including very bad weather and having to work. This year though, I was attempting to run every day in December (read about it here), which when time is limited meant that the Festive 500 was put on the back burner. I managed three rides and a total of 219km. I don’t mind because I got to spend time with my parents, who came up from Salisbury, and then quality time with my wife. I also ran the Lancaster parkrun on Christmas day and the following Saturday, which was a great deal more fun than a three hour slog on the bike in the cold and the rain.

I did also manage to run on 30 of the days in December, only missing the 16th due to running a very tough half marathon in the Forest of Bowland the previous day (read about it here).

Next year who knows? Currently I’m enjoying riding a bit less, but riding more with my wife, as well as running with our silly pointer.

Wishing you all a happy new year.

Veloviewer Maximum Square Revisted

Back in January I blogged about my maximum explorer square on Veloviewer (read about it here). To recap, a map can be split into squares or tiles, if you cycle or run into or through a square then it is highlighted or ‘ticked off’ on Veloviewer. If you can visit a whole load of them together you can create what is known as a ‘maximum square’. In January I was pleased that I had managed to expand my max square up to 16 x 16. I also mentioned that without swimming across the Ribble it would be difficult to expand my max square.

I’m sure that you can guess that I have managed to increase my max square. Not by swimming across the Ribble, but by cycling and running around Blackburn. By the middle of the year I had increased it to 18 x 18.

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In the north west it isn’t always easy to increase your max square, which is why I prefer to chase my max cluster score (read about my latest update here). The largest max squares are almost into three figures with the largest being 97 x 97. If you live in the middle of your max square it obviously makes it easier to expand it. To reach the nearest point of mine it is a 10 mile ride, and nearly 50 miles to the far point, including plenty of hills and built up areas, which isn’t the most pleasant of rides.

But, my job has moved office, allowing me to be able to go for a run in the morning before work, ticking off a few squares that are inaccessible by bike. A 70 mile ride from Horwich ticked off a few more, and now my max square is up to 23 x 23.

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23 x 23 isn’t very large and only takes me up 245th on the Veloviewer leaderboard, but as I said earlier, the north west isn’t the easiest area. There is still potential to increase this further, although I will be focusing on my max cluster.