Following a Route

I’ve had my Garmin 945 nine months without a single problem. OK, one small problem with the charging cable not working, but I had a spare, and my lovely wife has a spare as well.

Anyway, last week work took me to London for a couple of days. I manged the Tube a couple of times and didn’t get lost once. I still haven’t used a ‘Boris’ bike as it looks far too scary. I did use the Garmin App to create a route for me starting and finishing at my hotel, and downloaded it onto my Garmin without any hassle, all good so far.

Nice and early the next morning I set off from my hotel in Tower Hill, and soon had GPS connection. However, within a few minutes of running I came across a problem. The route I was following was a nice red line. Also in red are A roads, of which there are loads in the centre of London. My 52 year old eyes don’t work as well as they used to. I’m OK out running, but trying to decipher multiple red lines on my watch was too much for me. I ended up running north for a couple of kms, running west for a bit, and then returning south towards the hotel. I could manage to see the north arrow on my watch, but beyond that it was a confusing tangle of lines.

Helen went for a long organised walk yesterday and took an old pair of cheap supermarket glasses with her, ones that she wasn’t worried about scratching or damaging. I think I need to do the same next time I’m running in London. Out on the fells I don’t have the same problem as there far fewer features. It was a minor inconvenience, and I’m still amazed that a watch can hold maps for the whole of the UK.

Book Review: The Mindf*ck series by S.T. Abby

Sometimes you start reading a book that is so good you have to almost put your life on hold so that you can read it to the end. This series of books was one of those. I gave 5 stars to all five books.

First off, the subject matter of this book will definitely not be to everyone’s taste. Secondly, don’t be fooled by the genre that it has been placed in by Amazon. Currently the book is number 17 in Contemporary Romance Fiction. I would place it within Horror or (very) Dark Thriller.

I had to travel to London for work and was browsing Amazon for something to read on my Kindle on the train, and I stumbled upon the first book in the series. It was shooting up the charts and had almost universally good reviews, and as it was about half the price of a coffee at the station I thought why not.

From the end of the first chapter I was hooked. As I said, the subject matter is dark. Lana, the primary character, is out for revenge. She is torturing and killing the men who killed her brother, framed her father for murder and faked his suicide, and then left her for dead. She survived with the help of her brother’s boyfriend, and now, ten years later, she has a long list of people who in her mind deserve to die. To add a bit of spice to the mix, she accidentally falls in love with the FBI agent in charge of her case. Lana also helps the agent with a couple of other cases.

Right from the outset you are on her side. You want her to rain down her own twisted judgement. Slowly through the books we find out more about her past, the small town she grew up in and the almost never ending corruption.

There are five books in the series, all just under 100 pages, and in order they are;

#1 The Risk

#2 Sidetracked

#3 Scarlet Angel

#4 All the Lies

#5 Paint it all Red

A note about the author. S.T. Abby is a pen name, short for Stabby, as Lana kills and tortures using a knife. The author also has a couple of other pen names, C.M Owen and Kristy Cunning. I’ve had a quick look at her other books and they do appear to be more in the romance genre, so I might give them a miss. However, if she writes anything new in her Stabby pen name, I will definitely read them.

Parkrun Extras Revisited

Three years ago I wrote about a few websites which deal with ‘extras’ for parkrun fanatics (read about it here). I thought it was time for an update.

First off is the excellent Running Challenges extension for Chrome. It used to be available for Firefox as well, but currently it isn’t. Not sure why. The extension gives you a whole load of extra stats and challenges to aim for. For example the alphabet challenge, where you aim to complete a parkrun for every letter. We’ve only recently completed Alexandra parkrun, which ticked of the letter ‘A’. Only another 13 letters for me to go. It also lists your ‘average’ parkrun based upon location. So if you only do one parkrun then that will be your average location. If you’re like me who likes to do a few tourist events, then the average moves about, although in my case not very far as my average parkrun is just down the road in Preston.

Additionally it lists your NENDY parkrun and furthest from home parkrun. Currently Witton and Salisbury, respectively. There is also an excellent map where parkruns completed are shaded green. Very cleverly a polygon surrounding each parkrun indicates the nearest area. The whole world has been split up like this using what is known as a Voronoi diagram.

The picture above shows the north of England, and below you can see the changes when the new parkrun at Talkin Tarn began.

It does highlight some amusing ‘things’. The nearest parkrun to the east coast town of Withernsea is Cleethorpes, but unless you have a boat, you’ll have to drive past three other parkruns before you get there. Another idiosyncrasies include that the city of Lima in Peru has its closest parkrun in Florida. There are almost no parkruns in South America.

Another great parkrun extra is the site prApp.

Have you ever wondered how many people have done more parkruns that you, or have done more different events than you? This site will tell you, and how many places you went up or down that week. I’ve just managed to sneak into the top 100,000 or parkrunners.

In my previous ‘extras’ blog I mentioned the tourist tool, which I have to say isn’t as useful anymore. Why? Because it includes parkruns inside prisons which are not open to members of the public. There are three such events inside my top twenty nearest parkruns.

There is also the website Challenge Chaser, which is almost like an extra for the Running Challenges extra, as it lets you search parkruns by name or event number, to mention just two of the available search options.

Lastly and by no means least is the excellent Elliot Line Stats. Did you know that last weekend there were 704 parkruns in the UK, with 139,891 parkrunners and almost 15,000 volunteers. Also 42 people in Japan were recording their very first parkrun. Largest and smallest parkrun? No problem. Any new parkruns in the UK? They are listed as well.

Anyway, that’s a small update on a few ‘essential’ websites for your extra parkrun pleasure.

Talkin Tarn parkrun

My lovely wife Helen is away this weekend with friends, and I wasn’t expecting to have the car, which would have meant running my home parkrun or getting the train somewhere. However, Helen was given a lift, so me and Nelly had a hunt for somewhere new. OK, I looked for somewhere new, Nelly looked for bones.

Talkin Tarn Country Park is not only a new parkrun for me, it’s a totally new parkrun, with its inaugural run last week. I have done an inaugural parkrun, but that was almost as local as possible seeing as it was in Morecambe. Inaugural parkruns have become contentious which is why they always have a ‘soft’ start where the run isn’t widely advertised. This is so that the organisers and volunteers are not overwhelmed. Eastville parkrun was the reason behind this. That particular parkrun was widely advertised and almost 700 people turned up for the first run, which as you can imagine was complete chaos and nearly ended the parkrun there and then.

Anyway, Talkin Tarn is up near Brampton, about an hour and twenty minutes drive, so as far as I want to drive for a parkrun. We pulled up with plenty of time to spare and the carpark was already half full. Obligatory selfie with Nelly.

The Tarn also looked good, with a cafe and large boathouse adjacent.

The route is a two lapper, with a short section where you have to run in both directions. We headed to the start which was up in the trees.

From where we were we couldn’t hear any announcements, but again Nelly was very keen to get going. Once we were off the first 200m were very slow. In the long term it might be better if the start was alongside the Tarn near to the cafe, but there’s probably a very good reason why it isn’t.

With Nelly pulling like a train we soon overtook people as we ran next to the Tarn, before turning up a short grassy hill, followed by another hill before back alongside the Tarn. We then headed back into the woods to the start area and did another lap.

I could see that Nelly was looking for water, so we stopped where a small bridge crossed a tiny stream. We repeated this when we came back. And then, in sight of the finish line, Nelly stopped for a poo. By the time I’d grabbed a poo bag and picked it up at least half a dozen people overtook us. These things happen. In the end Nelly was still first dog, and I was 24th human. In total there were 170 finishers, slightly lower than the inaugural week, but a good number, especially as there aren’t too many parkruns in the area.

This also gives me and Nelly a ‘tourist’ streak of seven, and our Wilson index has doubled to two. (The Wilson index is the maximum continuous series of parkrun event numbers you have attended starting at one.)

Anyway, where to next week, and did you parkrun somewhere new?

Alexandra parkrun

Continuing our streak of tourist parkruns, we headed into Manchester for the very flat and fast Alexandra parkrun. Why would we drive all that way when there are still plenty of closer parkruns to Lancaster that we haven’t done yet? To celebrate our wedding anniversary I had purchased for my lovely Helen a two hour pottery session/lesson with one of the finalists of the Pottery Throwdown. Matt Cronshaw used to be a professional cyclist from Lancaster, before taking up pottery and then specialising in porcelain, which Helen had never worked with.

I’m getting ahead of myself. We arrived outside the pottery studio without too much trouble, only one wrong turn. We had 20 minutes to run the one mile to the start of the parkrun, which we made with time to spare, marvelling at how nice Alexandra park was. Not the greatest of areas, but definitely not as bad as it would have been 20 or 30 years ago. There was quite a large field (almost 300 people) and we lined up at the back with Nelly, although once again she was keen. The route involved two large laps with one smaller lap to finish. Wide paths and no mud made a welcome change from Rothay two weeks ago and Pendle last week. At the end of the first lap one of the marshalls told us that Nelly was first dog, not bad for an old girl. We pushed on and finished in 62nd place in a time of 22:48. Happy with that as I didn’t feel as if we’d pushed it too hard.

After barcode scanning we spotted Helen starting her small third lap. I tried to get a photo of Nell with Helen in the background, but she wasn’t paying attention.

Once Helen had finished we made our way back through the park to the pottery studio, just as Matt was arriving, he even recognised me from Lancaster. Ten years ago there wasn’t too many people from the area on Strava so we all kind of got to know each other, even though he was way too fast for me to ever ride with him.

Helen quickly pulled on her pottery overalls for her lesson while me and Nelly headed off for a gentle walk to find a cafe with coffee and cake. Not only did we find coffee and cake for me, but the cafe was in a park with pigeons and squirrels for Nelly to chase. Perfect for both of us. We then wandered back, meeting a mad (in a good way) old woman who just loved Nelly.

Back at the studio and Helen was busy finishing off a large bowl, which looked amazing, while I chatted to Matt about cycling and running (he’d recently done the Manchester marathon). In the back yard I spotted one of his creations from TV, his tea cup toilet with handle.

Matt was saying that he doesn’t really know what to do with it. However my sister suggested filling it with flowers, which is probably the best idea.

Anyway, Helen was as happy as can be and was absolutely buzzing all the way home, telling me how much she’d learned and that she can’t wait to try it all out at home. The three pieces she made will be fired and glazed by Matt, and then will be sent to us. Apparently porcelain is much harder to work with than regular clay, and Helen took to it like she’d been doing it for years. She is totally amazing, and I’ve not even mentioned Archie the pufferfish that she made earlier in the week. Pottery pictures will follow soon.

St Patrick’s Chapel

On the coast just south of Morecambe lies Heysham Village. A couple of days ago me and my lovely wife went for a walk there, not to the nuclear power station or even the Isle of Man ferry. Instead we took our silly old pointer for a run along the beach and to have a look at St Patrick’s Chapel. Before we reached it we had to pass the 8th century St peter’s church. With views across the Bay and towards the fells you can imagine how popular it is for weddings.

We continued on past the church and came to the derelict chapel.

Most famously are the small stone cut graves, as featured on Black Sabbath’s best of album cover.

It is unlikely that the graves would have been used for the recently deceased, although archaeologists still don’t really know who or why the chapel was built, or what the purpose was. Definitely one spot in the north west you should visit.

Marlborough parkrun

Back in October I spent a week in Salisbury, and not wanting to be away from my lovely wife any longer than was necessary, I decided to set off nice and early on a Saturday morning, stopping off in Marlborough on the way home. In the end the M5 was closed and after over an hour sat on the motorway not moving I had to take a long detour, eventually getting home over two hours later than I had planned, but these things happen.

Marlborough parkrun is relatively new with less than 100 events, and it does a couple of laps of the fairly small Marlborough Common.

The day I was there wasn’t particularly pleasant so there was less than 100 hardy souls. Additionally it was completely on grass, wet grass, so once again running in road shoes wasn’t ideal. I set off nice and easy and slowly found my running legs, finishing in 12th place.

While this is a parkrun that I don’t expect that I’ll ever run again, the marshalls and volunteers were incredibly cheerful, even in the pouring rain.

Anyway, once my barcode had been scanned and I was in the car once again, I had expected to be home just after lunch, not just before tea.

Pendle parkrun

Another Saturday morning and another tourist parkrun. This time all the way to Colne for Pendle parkrun, so called because on a normal day you can see Pendle hill. Today, however, it was wet and cloudy, in fact it was horrendously wet; an utter mudfest. Driving there wasn’t much fun either, and once we got there, like almost everyone else, we sat in our cars looking at the start.

I took Nelly out for a quick walk (and a poo) and then we hurried back into the car.

With only a couple of minutes to go we escaped the warm and dry car and congregated at the start. Due to the cold weather, there was still some ice on the paths, we were going to be running the alternative route, which was entirely on grass. Guess which idiot decided to only bring his road shoes!

Anyway, the first 100m was all down hill and guess who nearly fell over half a dozen times! The route was a slog. Trail shoes were slightly better, although what you really needed was 15mm cross country spikes. In such poor conditions I waited for my lovely Helen and ran with her, although when Nelly stopped for an inopportune poo, she left us!

We finished in 30th and 31st places, out of a field of only 49. Definitely one of the smallest parkruns we’ve ever done. Not the most exciting parkrun, but for me, a tourist parkrun on a Saturday morning is one of the best ways to start the weekend.

1500 Strava Challenges

I’m still at it, completing as many random Strava challenges as I can. This morning saw me finish another two, taking me to the incredible 1500! Not a lot else to say really. I haven’t been completing as many cycling challenges recently due to changing jobs, but I’m enjoying my running as much now as I ever have, especially when my lovely Helen comes with me. We’re currently training for a half marathon in March in Anglesey. It will also be Helen’s birthday so we’re making a weekend of it. Really looking forward to it.

Anyway, you can find my blog about 1000 challenges here, which also includes links to my other numerical challenge blogs.

Hyndburn parkrun

Last week before Christmas and I was once again in the mood for a tourist parkrun. Witton parkrun was on a six week winter break, so I decided to take Nelly for a run near her home. Hyndburn parkrun is only a couple of miles from Accrington where her breeder is based. It was just the two of us as my lovely wife Helen was feeling a bit tired.

We arrived with plenty of time and had a little look around, and then before we knew it, it was time to line up at the start. Narrow paths once again so we didn’t start at the complete back. The route was an undulating two lap affair, although not as hilly as Lancaster. There was also a short two way section, fortunately a little wider than at Rothay (read about it here). With less than 100 runners we were soon nicely spread out. Me and Nelly soon overtook another dog, whose owner took umbridge and definitely didn’t want to be beaten by an old pointer and her Santa lookalike.

Second lap and we settled into a nice pace, overtaking a couple of runners and being overtaken by a couple of others. The finish involved a tight corner, and we were amazed to see that we’d finished in 13th place, although Nelly was 3rd dog.

Barcode scanned and back to the car. The journey back was even better as I heard my favourite Christmas song on the radio, Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie. I then spotted two Stobbart lorries on the motorway, Lisa and Azaylia Diamond Cain.