Remembrance Day Run

I came across Howler Events earlier in the year, and the wife and I decided to enter a couple of their trail runs. Most of their events are based in the West Pennines, which makes a change as most of the trail races that we’ve done or looked at have been in the Lake District.

The Remembrance Day run started and finished in Huddleston, near Darwen, and was advertised as an 11 mile technical trail run which would raise money for Combat Stress, the British Legion and Bolton Mountain Rescue.

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We arrived at the Ranken Arms nice and early and had time for another coffee, as well as plenty of ‘faff’ with numbers and losing safety pins. We both also went with putting our numbers on our thigh, which was a real eye opener. I usually end up ripping my number on my arms, but on the leg it was like I wasn’t wearing a number. I can see why so many people do it.

There was about 200 people doing the event, and the atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed, with the organiser reading a letter sent home from the front during WWI. The start was a gentle affair, with queues to get through a gate and then over a sty, but no one was pushing or shoving, probably because most of us knew how many hills there would be. In fact I don’t think there was a single flat part on the whole route. Up and up we went, and then up some more. On the whole the first half was fairly good running without too much technical paths.

At the half way point there was a feed station, although I had water and snacks with me so I pushed on. At that point I was running with a local who knew the route like the back of his hand, which was handy as it wasn’t always clear where to go, even with red and white tape all over the place.

After the feed station the route went up and up again, with some stunning views.

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Not being worried about how long the race would take I even stopped for a selfie!

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The second half of the race was more difficult, with rocky paths and uneven moorland to traverse. I found myself in a group of three other triathletes who were good company, and one of us was always on the look out for the trail markers so that we didn’t go off course. A few people did, and a couple of very fast women overtook me on more than one occasion.

On one particular technical uphill section I looked at my Garmin and saw that I had completed ten miles. “Only one more mile to go” I said, with a smile, to the guys I was running with. It was obvious that we were going to be doing more than the advertised 11 miles.

The last two miles were back the same way we came, although I saw a couple of people running the wrong way as they weren’t too sure that it was correct. A bit further on and three women missed a left turn but I waved at them and then opened the gate for them as we headed up the last but one steep hill, before the final push back to the pub.

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The medal at the end was very well designed and is easily one of the best in my collection. I quickly changed my shoes and socks and headed back up the first hill to watch and cheer my wife. While waiting I saw another three runners go the wrong way, although they were too far away for me to shout to.

I then spotted my wife’s distinct bobble hat as she laughed and smiled her way up the last but one hill. Big hugs at the finish line and a quick dash for home to take our loyal pooch out for a walk. She would have been a nightmare if we’d brought her with us as she doesn’t like running on the lead.

The final distance for us was approximately 12 and a half miles, but Howler Events don’t charge for extra miles. We were fortunate with the weather once again, as it didn’t rain and it wasn’t too cold, although on another day this event could be very tough. Overall a very well organised event and both me and my wife are looking forward to the Forest of Bowland half marathon in December.

 

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Book Review 2018 – Part XVII

In my first book review of 2017 I blogged about a book by Tim Moore, The man who came in from the cold (here) and then earlier this year I read another of his books, Oh you are awful but I like you. It does appear that Tim has become a little more prolific, as here I am reviewing yet another of his books.

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This book has a simple premise; road trip across America. From the cover you might notice that the difference is that Tim plans to travel coast to coast in a 1924 Model T Ford. He also plans to attempt to navigate via the reddest of red counties and states, the ones that overwhelmingly voted for Trump. The car opens plenty of doors for Tim, as people are readily happy to chat with him, and, on a few occasions, repair it.

Tim wanted to meet ordinary Trump supporters and find out why they voted for him and what makes them tick. What he found was regular people, eager to help, kind, warm and friendly. Many of them don’t particularly like Trump, but really didn’t like Clinton, especially when she called Trump supporters deplorables. A deeply divided nation.

It’s a very good book with the usual humour and hoplessness we’ve come to expect from Tim. As an aside, today Trump is in France and was supposed to visit one of the cemetaries where thousands of American soldier were laid to rest. He decided not to go because it was raining. The sooner that this Trump sized stain is removed from office and locked away the better.

200 Miles of Swimming

With my final swim of last year I managed to tick over the 100 mile mark for the year. This year I have managed 200 miles, with a couple of months to spare. Why the big increase? A couple of reasons. My wife has changed job which means on the days that I borrow the car I don’t need to drop her off at work first. This gives me a bit more time in the morning to get to the pool. The other reason is that I’ve also moved office, and the pool at Horwich is quicker to get to and is open better hours.

I’m not particularly quick, my technique is a bit rubbish and all that I’m good for is a long steady swim. I really hate drills and at the moment I’m really enjoying just getting in the pool and swimming for 90+ minutes each time. I’ve also put on a bit of muscle on my chest and shoulders, making my legs look even skinnier.

Next year I turn 50 and I’m planning a couple of epic races to celebrate, so it’s good to be getting in the mileage now, although I could do with more cycling. One of the things that I love about triathlons is that you can swap about with the disciplines and concentrate on different ones during the seasons. I would get very bored if I was ‘only’ a runner, cyclist or swimmer.

Book Review – The Immortalists revisited

A few weeks ago I blogged about The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (you can read my blog here). When I had finished with the book I gave it to my wife to read, as I thought that she might like it. My wife is very talented, so when she had finished the book she wrote a review, although unlike me she doesn’t have a blog. I have therefore copied her book review, word for word, and added it below so that you can read how a decent book review should read, instead of my random ramblings.

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Book review
The immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
My husband read this book before me, I noticed when he bought it because it wasn’t the usual kind of book he bought in that it wasn’t about traveling or cycling or both.
When he finished it he handed it to me and said ‘you’ll like this’, so it was stacked in my pile of reading material to read at my leisure.
It was a week or two before I got around to picking it up, and from the first few paragraphs it had me gripped, I read it all eagerly in just a few sittings.
The story takes us through the life’s journey of four siblings who were told at a young age by a ‘fortune teller’ at what age they would die.
Essentially the story is about how that information impacted them, each sibling reacting in a different way to the unwanted knowledge that was so harshly thrust upon them.
How would you live your life if you knew the date of your death? Was the question arising from the narrative.
The book was extraordinary in its ability to draw you to certain characters and their lust for life, their self awareness and determination to be themselves whatever the cost.
Beautifully written, thought provoking and intelligent.
Highly recommended.
If one day I might write something half as good as my wife’s book review, then I will be happy.

Book Review 2018 – Part XVI

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I wasn’t going to buy any more books until I had managed to read a few from my bedside stack of books (here). It was going well until I heard an interview on Radio 2 with Eric Idle. He has a book out, a ‘sortabiography’, as it’s called. The interview was brilliant, so I knew that I would be buying his book.

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As expected, the book is great fun to read, focusing on the good stuff. The Monty Python stuff is glossed over a bit, but as Eric states, there are more than enough books and documentaries already. He goes into more detail on the films that the Pythons made, especially how George Harrison, the former Beatle, mortgaged his mansion to help finance The Life of Brian. The eponymous song from the end of the film obviously gets more than a few mentions, especially as Eric performed it at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

It’s not all a laugh, as there a few deaths, George Harrison and Graham Chapman to name two. Eric also writes about how bad a husband he was during his first marriage, blaming himself solely for their break-up.

Once again delayed trains meant that I finished this book in less than a week, putting aside another book that I had bought ages ago. It’s a great read, not too long and not too serious, or not serious in the slightest.

Strava Route Builder

I’ve generally always created my own routes using the website Bike and Hike. Unfortunately Google have recently changed their pricing structure for websites that use their maps, making the course creator function on the Bike and Hike website almost unusable.

Therefore I needed an alternative, especially when you have five days of cycle touring with over 90% of it on roads that I’ve never cycled before. Up stepped Strava Route Builder. In theory this should be brilliant. Local cyclists know the best roads and the ones to avoid, so any route using this data should be good.

Day 1 of our little touring holiday and I became a big fan of the route builder. The route from Kenilworth to Cheltenham was great, especially the first 30 miles. The next 20 miles were a little busier, although this was mainly due to diversions. The route builder has a flat option, which I hadn’t clicked, so we ended cycling up Cleve Hill, although the flat option would have added another 10 miles.

Back when I joined Strava it wasn’t uncommon for a segment to have less than 100 people on the leaderboard. Now it’s rare for a segment to have fewer than 1,000, and Box Hill in Surrey has over 100,000 different athletes. This is a lot of data and I’m pleased that Strava is using it and helping regular cyclists (and runners) find good routes in new areas.

Day 2 of our little cycling holiday and Strava route builder goes from 5/5 to 0/5. Fifteen bloody miles on the busy A46, a horrible road that no one would ever want to cycle on. This section of route almost ended our holiday.

We did see a few cyclists using the A46, which has obviously skewed the algorithms into thinking that it is an acceptable route. The moral, don’t take it as red that a route will be good, check it properly.

Day 3 and it was the best route yet, all on quiet roads except for the last couple of miles into Salisbury, but there isn’t always a lot you can do when entering a city. The other days were also very good routes, so I would definitely use Strava Route Builder again, although I will check that it hasn’t thrown me onto a main road for too long.

The route for our little cycling tour can be seen below, and day one can be read here.

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Edit: I wrote most of this back in September but didn’t manage to blog about it, but since then the website Bike and Hike has started to use a different mapping site. This is good because sometimes my routes go all over the place, mainly when I’m tile hunting (read about it here).

My advice is if you know where you’re going, create your own route with Bike and Hike, but if you’re going somewhere new, use Strava route builder.

Veloviewer Maximum Cluster Update

Back in July I blogged about the Bearded Tile Hounds (It’s a Strava group) and how I had managed to link up my Veloviewer maximum cluster all the way to Hull (read about it here). I’ve been slowly adding to my cluster, although it’s hard work as I don’t always have access to the car. September was a bad month for my cluster as I didn’t add a single tile, but I’ve been trying to make amends in October. I’ve done a couple of runs before work near Horwich which has added a few tiles and last Friday I took the train to Wigan for a 70 mile ride across to Formby and back. The route was a bit all over the place as I tried to obtain as many squares as possible, and included quite a few sections of farmtracks and bridleways, although it was fairly flat.

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This was my cluster before the ride.

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And this was my cluster after.

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Annoyingly I missed a couple of easy tiles with poor route planning. However, I did get all of the more difficult ones, and I have also collected all of the tiles around Skelmersdale, which is a truly awful place to cycle around. When it was built it was designed to be a cycling utopia, much like Milton Kenyes, but the cycle paths go off in random directions, suddenly end and are in a really poor state of repair. The roads also feel too dangerous to cycle on. On the whole, not a great place to cycle.

Fridays ride did add 33 tiles and 54 tiles to my cluster, moving me from 38th to 35th on the Veloviewer leaderboard. A long way to go to catch either my old friend The Prof, or to make the top twenty, but I’ll keep on plugging away at those pesky tiles.