Book Review: Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

There is a whole load of twists and turns within this book, as expected with that specific title. It is quite difficult to review this book without giving away too much, but the basic premise is that an successful author famous for writing thrillers with unexpected twists possibly knows more about a missing person. Another less successful author is hiding because he knows too much. His wife is having an affair. The local police are trying to piece it all together.

There are a couple of minor details which didn’t ring true to me, but if you can gloss over them then this is a cracking thriller. My lovely wife read it in a matter of days and when she handed it to me I did the same. I have to admit that I guessed the twists at the end of the book, although only a few pages before they were revealed, which didn’t spoil the ending for me.

There are some very unique ideas in this book and it is also very well written. I gave it 4 out of 5 on Goodreads and if it hadn’t been for a couple of minor details I would have given it 5. Overall a very good thriller without too much gratuitous violence.

Nutty Apple Loaf

I felt like baking again this weekend, although nothing too difficult. So when my lovely wife Helen was making an indulgent chocolate cake for friends who had done us a big favour, I made a nutty apple loaf.

The recipe was from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which has some very tasty looking cakes. As with almost every cake you start by creaming together butter and sugar. This was a little different as I was using brown sugar and the two tablespoons of strawberry jam. Once this mix was nice and smooth a couple of eggs were added, and then the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Finally nuts, apples and chocolate was mixed in. This was left in the fridge to cool for a few hours before baking on a low heat for just over an hour.

The end result was an incredibly moist and tasty loaf cake. Very impressive and very easy to make. Another one to add to the hit list and almost too good to share with the neighbours. I will definitely be trying something else from the Hummingbird Bakery in the future.

Ward’s Stone

Keeping with my plan that every other Friday should be a long run I decided to give Ward’s Stone another go. Ward’s Stone is the highest peak in the Forest of Bowland and one of the highest peaks in Lancashire, topping out at 561m. I’ve run up there before almost 18 months ago, when I started from Tarnbrook (read about it here). This time the plan was to start and finish at the small car park at the top of Littledale. This wasn’t the first time that I had attempted this route, as just over a year ago I started out but turned back due to snow (read about it here).

Anyway, the weather was much warmer and there was even a bit of sun as I set out. I was running in trail shoes as over half of the route was off-road and then only a couple of miles on-road. The first mile was all downhill and then the next four all uphill. I’ve been up the shooter’s track many times but I’m always surprised by how steep and long the climb is. It was also quite windy so I pulled on my gloves. There is also a magnificent Andy Goldsworthy land art sculpture just off the path which is well worth a look.

Soon I was at the Clougha Pike footpath crossing and unlike the previous times I could see the top of Ward’s Stone and the footpath to get there. I tried to dodge most of the standing water, but fell running in Lancashire is always wet. At the top I took a photo from the trig point and then headed along the plateau to the next trig point.

Once the path started to drop I was on the look out for a long fence. Follow the fence to the right and you end up in Tarnbrook, to the left takes you back to Littledale. This short section was the only part of the route which I’d never done before, and it was classic fell trods, or tussocks. Very difficult to run on as well as being very wet. I also had the wind in the face at this point and when the hail arrived I quickly pulled on my hat.

I tried to hurry down the fell to escape the worst of the wind and hail, only tumbling over the once. The footpath here doesn’t really exist so I just followed the breadcrumb trail on my watch. Soon the hail stopped and I was down in the Roeburndale Valley. After a short climb the muddy track soon joined the road and one last climb and I was back at the car.

Almost 19km with 667m of climbing is what I call a good run, and as an added bonus my legs didn’t feel too tired the following morning.

Strava activity can be found here.

Next time that I run in the area I might start from Tarnbrook again and head up to Wolfhole Crag, which is almost as high as Ward’s Stone. It is fantastic to have these amazing fells within a couple of miles of where we live.

Lockdown Weight

I’ve put on a bit of weight during lockdown. Mentally I have struggle with not being able to go on adventures with my lovely wife Helen and our silly pooch. Last summer when the lockdown eased we went on loads of mini-adventures and even had a brilliant week staying at Helen’s brother’s caravan in the south Lakes.

Since Christmas I’ve got myself into a bit of a habit of buying biscuits and chocolate. Helen doesn’t start work until 1pm and then works late, so I would walk with her on her way to work and buy myself some diet coke or pepsi, and sometimes a small bar of chocolate. This soon became biscuits as well. This didn’t help me mentally and I started to spiral downwards, feeling worse and then eating even more rubbish. However, getting my first vaccine jab seems to have helped. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Lockdown restrictions are due to ease in a few weeks with swimming pools opening again, and hopefully we’ll be able to go for run/walks in different counties as well.

Anyway I weighed myself for the first time in a couple of years and I was 83kg (13 stone 3 lbs). I would like to drop down to 75kg. I have eased off the biscuits and chocolate, and I plan to alternate Fridays with a long run or a long bike ride. The long run being at least 2 hours and the bike ride at least 100km, with the aim of completing a couple of 100 milers later this summer. I also want to do another ultra run, although exactly where and when is yet to be decided, possibly Panther takes the hindmost in October again.

We do have some adventures planned, with Helen and her friends having another go at the Bay Limestone Round, with each of them taking a different leg. We’ll have to recce the route a few times which I’m looking forward to. We also have the Castle to Coast Triathlon in July to look forward to, and I have a 5 mile swim in Coniston in September as well. That’s all though. Like most people we’ve not entered anything as we’re waiting to see what the summer brings, but with over 40% of the UK population already having one jab the future is looking brighter.

I will never buy from Wiggle again

Over the years I’ve bought a lot of stuff from Wiggle, including a Colnago, shoes, nutrition, Garmins, etc, but I will never buy a single item from them ever again. Why?

Early March is my lovely wife’s birthday. I knew that she wanted a new Garmin. We’re both using the 920 multi-sport watch, both purchased separately, and both second hand. They are great watches and do nearly everything we could possibly want. Helen had done a whole load of research and decided that the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro was the watch she was going to save up for and treat herself to later in the year. I decided to surprise her by getting it for her birthday. Knowing that there are a lot of scams out there I opted to buy it from Wiggle, even though it was a little more expensive.

It arrived a few days later and I had a sneaky look before wrapping it up and hiding it. Helen was ecstatic when she opened it, and half an hour later we were out running. We uploaded our runs and then Helen went to synch it with Garmin Express. I was making coffee in the kitchen when Helen shouted that Garmin was saying that it was a Fenix 5. Sure enough in very small writing on the back of the watch it said Fenix 5. I immediately emailed Wiggle and didn’t receive a reply. So the following day I used their chat function to complain. They said that they would look into it, but if I wanted I could keep the watch and they would give me a £30 refund.

WTF? A Fenix 5 is approximately £150 cheaper than a Fenix 6 Pro. Are you serious? You send me a cheaper watch and then want to overcharge me for it. I wasn’t happy. To me it seemed obvious what had happened. Someone at Wiggle bought a Fenix 5 but swapped it for a Fenix 6, hence why the 5 was in the box for a 6. After a few more days Wiggle eventually agreed to take it back and give me a full refund. I then ordered the correct watch from our local running shop, who even matched the price Wiggle were selling it for. They also delivered it as their shop is still closed due to Covid restrictions. In hindsight I should have gone to The Runners Centre (website here) first. (Note, don’t be a moron and ask a local shop to price match after they have spent half an hour finding the right running shoes for you.)

Ian, the owner of our local running shop, added that the wrong watch would never have been put into the wrong box by Garmin. I wouldn’t have been so annoyed if Wiggle had replied sooner and apologised for their mistake, instead of dragging it out for almost two weeks. They could have offered to replace the watch with what I ordered, but a refund was the only option that I was given. I would even have accepted the Fenix 5 if they had offered to refund me the difference between the two watches. I would have then used the 5 and bought Helen a 6.

Anyway, that is why I will never use Wiggle again.

336 Metric Centuries

A few days ago I wrote about how I had run a half marathon 71 times since I’d joined Strava (read about it here). This got me thinking about various other statistics. I have completed 100 miles on 113 occasions, although the most recent 100 miler was a couple of years ago, but I was completely gobsmacked when I saw how many 100 km days I’d had. The title of this blog post is correct, on 336 days I have completed 100 km. That is on average 38 times a year. Most of those have been cycling, although on a few times I might have been out and cycled slightly less and then added in a few extra km with a walk or a run. Sadly there isn’t a single day where the 100 km target has been passed with running only, maybe one day.

As for elevation, I have climbed at least 1000 m on 350 days, and on 272 days I have completed at least 5 hours of activities. I’ve also been given Kudos 100 times on 266 occasions, although that is slightly more arbitrary because if you want more Kudos just follow thousands of people and many of them will follow you back, giving you extra Kudos.

I have to be honest and say that I’m surprised by these figures and had probably forgotten just how much training I used to do. I think the mix is a little better now a days, as I enjoy going out with Helen and our silly pooch for long walk/runs, or cycle touring with just Helen. Cafe stops is something we are definitely looking forward to once lockdown 3.0 is over, as well as exploring new areas again.

What about swimming? Last year was a terrible year as I only went for a swim 30 times, and over half of those were before the first lockdown. Looking at my stats and I’ve swam 1 mile on 316 occasions, 2km 300 times and 1 hour 177 times.

Astra Zeneca Vaccine

Yesterday afternoon I had my first vaccine jab, and it was the Astra Zeneca variety. I arrived at the vaccine centre, had my name ticked off and followed the signs down to the basement, using hand sanitiser a couple of times. I answered a few routine questions and had my jab, all very quick and painless. I was also given a leaflet detailing possible side effects. My brother in law had his first jab earlier in the week and he felt sick all night. I was warned that I might feel tired, which I definitely did when I took Nelly for a walk around the park, although that could have been because of the 100km bike ride I’d done that morning.

Anyway, that evening I started to feel very tired and as suggested I took a couple of Paracetamols. In bed in the wee small hours I started to have the chills and couldn’t get warm, even though I was burning up. In the morning my temperature was 37.8 and I had a banging headache.

It is now 11am the morning after and my temperature has dropped and I’m starting to feel a little more human, but I am not planning on doing anything strenuous today. In fact a day on the sofa reading is my plan.

Edit: Update a couple of days later and it took almost 48 hours for me to feel human again, but I was back out running again on the Monday morning so the side effects are very short term, which is good. Mentally I feel much better. I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that me and Helen (not forgetting Nelly) will be able to go on mini-adventures once again, up to the Lakes or even further afield. This last lockdown has been tough, especially seeing so many people ignoring it and just heading off for long walks or runs in different counties. On a brighter note, swimming pools will be open in a few weeks and then in early June parkrun will hopefully be back again.

Have you had your vaccine jab yet and did you experience any side effects? Apparently one in ten people will suffer from some kind of side effects.

71 Half Marathons

A bit of a random statistic for a sunny Tuesday afternoon. Since joining Strava I have run 71 half marathons, or to be more precise, according to Veloviewer, there have been 71 days where I have run at least 21km. I know that a half is 21.1km but knowing what I’m like if I made it to 21km I would definitely run that extra 100m. I’ve been a member of Strava for almost 9 years, so it works out at 8 half marathons a year, which isn’t too shabby.

Veloviewer also tells me that I’ve run 11 marathons and 456 10kms. That is one and a quarter marathons every year and a 10km every week. If I continue at my current rate then I will complete my 100th Strava half marathon approximately three years time.

I have also done a number of half marathons before I joined Strava, but my statistical record keeping does not allow me to know exactly how many I’ve completed, although I have done 8 half marathon races before Strava.

Anyway, I quite like 21.1km as a distance; long enough to be a challenge, but short enough that I am not in too much pain the next day.

One Year Without Parkrun

One whole year without a single parkrun. That isn’t a sentence that I thought I would ever write. Exactly one year ago I lined up at Lancaster parkrun with our trusty pooch (starting at the back) and gently jogged round to finish in 67th position. At the time, like everyone else, I thought that it might last a few weeks, maybe a month at the most. I never imagined that we would be without parkrun for over a year. The good news is that with the vaccine there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel with a provisional date of 5th June for parkruns to begin again. That isn’t to say that we haven’t been getting out, but Saturday without parkrun just doesn’t feel the same, especially when it’s followed by coffee and cake. Hopefully see you all in three months time, starting at the back with Nelly.

Book Review: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

I’ve not written very many book reviews in the last couple of month. This isn’t because I’ve not been reading, it’s because I became immersed in the Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson, and I wanted to wait until I’d read all of the books written so far before reviewing them. I have to say that the first two books were amazing, the third dragged a little and the fourth I am really struggling with, but that is all for another review.

I’m sure that almost everyone has heard of The Queen’s Gambit, which was one of the best TV shows of last year. It was based on the book of the same name by Walter Tevis and was first published way back in 1983. Walter also wrote The Hustler and The Color of Money, both made into very successful films. He died in 1984 at the young age of only 56.

Anyway, The Queen’s Gambit stars Beth, an orphan who watches the janitor at the orphanage playing chess against himself and is immediately intrigued. Before too long she is beating her first mentor, and then starts to win against far more experienced players. The book also describes her addiction to tranquilizers and later wine. Throughout the book she has two different nemeses. The first when she is young the woman in charge of the orphanage, and then later the Russian Chess Grand Master and World Champion.

Who would have though that a thriller about chess would be so engrossing. The book does get into the nuances of chess more than the TV series, but for me that is OK. What is also amazing is how close the TV series is to the book. And yes, I did use to play chess when I was young, although I was a distinctly below average player.

Overall a fantastic read which I sped through like a game of speed chess, and one that I gave a top score of 5 out of 5 on Goodreads.