Garmin Expeditions

I like challenges. I like Strava challenges and I like the ones contained within Garmin Connect. Very recently, Garmin have added Expeditions to their challenges. Each one is worth a different number of points, from one up to eight, depending on how tough the expedition is to complete. There are two types, hiking and climbing, both can be completed walking/hiking or running. No cycling ones yet.

So far I have managed to complete four of the shortest hiking challenges, but I am only 24% of the way through my first climbing challenge. However, I joined one of the tougher challenges with almost 7,000m of ascent required.

To note, you can only do two challenges at the same time, one hiking and one climbing. If you end a challenge before completing it, you lose everything you’ve done so far. However, if you complete a challenge and then start a new one the same day, anything that you’ve already done that day gets added to the new challenge, hence why I’ve managed to complete a few of the shorter ones so quickly.

Have you started any of the Garmin Expedition Challenges?

Parkrun Wilson Index

First off, what is the Wilson Index? Every parkrun has an event number. Yesterday was Lancaster parkrun’s 300th event. It was also Philips Park parkrun’s 3rd event. I’ve written about the excellent parkrun extension Running Challenges a few times, and one of the challenges is the Wilson-Index, which is:

The maximum contiguous series of parkrun event numbers you have attended (at any event), starting at 1.

Until you have ran at an inaugural parkrun, your Wilson Index will remain at zero. This is a slightly contentious issue, as parkrun have had a few problems with inaugural parkruns in the past. They used to be advertised well in advance until a new parkrun was starting up in Bristol. Over 600 people turned up, far more than were expected, and far more than the inexperienced volunteers could cope with. It nearly finished that particular parkrun off on it’s very first event. Since then, new parkruns have a soft start, where as few people as possible now about it. This gives the new team chance to sort out any teething problems. I completed Morecambe Prom inaugural parkrun, but as we live only a couple of miles from the event, I felt that it was ok. However, there are a couple of forums online where people actively look for inaugural parkruns, not just to run an inaugural parkrun once, but to run as many of them as possible. I don’t see the point. I’ve run an inaugural parkrun and I don’t intend to run another, even if a parkrun was started at the park five minutes away.

I mentioned in my blog yesterday that my Wilson Index is now up to six. Below is a list of the six events that make up my score.

Morecambe Prom event #1

Talkin Tarn Country Park event #2

Philips Park event #3

Fleetwood Promenade event #4

Morecambe Prom events #5 and #6

event #7 to do

The soft approach to new parkruns appears to be working, as Philips Park parkrun had 153 people taking part on the first event, with almost 400 for the 2nd and 3rd events. It does make me realise how amazing parkrun is, not just the sheer number of runners, but also the thousands of volunteers who give up their time every week so that we can run.

I am now on the look out for an event #7, hopefully not too far away.

Philips Park parkrun

The last couple of weeks I’d run at Lancaster, but today I drove all the way into Manchester to take part in the relatively new parkrun in Philips Park. I don’t particularly like driving into Manchester as there are too many motorways and main roads. Fortunately, the Sat Nav was behaving this morning and I arrived with 30 minutes to spare. I couldn’t spot the suggested car park, and the parking at the National Cycling Centre was confusing when it came to paying. I decided to see if I could park on the road next to the park. I could, although there were loads of signs saying resident’s parking only on match days, as the park is very close to Manchester City’s football stadium.

It was a fairly typical wet and grey Manchester morning. However, even with almost half an hour to go, there were plenty of other people milling around. I took the opportunity to run most of a lap as a warm up.

The first-timers race briefing was easily the largest one I had ever seen, with half of the field listening. Today was only the third event at Philips Park. The route involved two large laps and one small lap to finish. Like many parks, the route was completely on paved paths, although they were quiet narrow and had plenty of potholes.

The start was fairly narrow, and it looked like there were hundreds of people taking park. I managed to find a spot not too far from the front. I was hemmed in for the first few minutes, but by about half way through the first lap I had plenty of space. Towards the end of the lap there was a nasty little climb, quickly followed by a short out and back section, which was also on a hill.

I soon found myself running at a fast pace, which I hadn’t intended to do, as I completed my second lap and turned off for the shorter third lap. The final lap also missed out the short out and back hill. However, the short lap joined the main lap on the right hand side, and the finish funnel was on the left, which meant I had to cross over the stream of slower runners. Not ideal and maybe the finish funnel should be set up on the other side of the path.

I finished in a time of 21:41, 37th overall and 6th in my age category with almost 400 hundred finishers. The run also moved my Wilson-Index from 2, up to 6. The Wilson Index is a Running Challenge add-on for parkrun stats, where the index is the continuous series of parkrun event numbers starting at 1.

Overall a very well organised parkrun, and from the numbers there, a welcome addition to parkruns in Manchester.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

A couple of years ago me and my lovely wife watched The Martian staring Matt Damon. We both really liked it. I liked it so much that I had to go out and buy the book. Since then I have read Artemis and Randomize (read my reviews here).

Anyway, Andy Weir has a new book out – Project Hail Mary.

As the blurb on the back of the book states, Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission to save humanity. Unfortunately, when he wakes up, he has lost most of his memory. The first thing he does is to try and find out where he is. The space craft that he is on is hurtling towards a star. He measures gravity and works out that the craft is slowing down. He then takes a few readings of the star and realises that it isn’t our own sun. From there he slowly pieces together his life on Earth before all this, and also tries to work out what his mission is.

The book flicks backwards and forwards, as Ryland slowly regains his memory, while also solving the problem that is his mission. Both story lines build slowly throughout the book. However, everything changes when another space craft appears.

This was one of the best books I have ever read. I would have given it 6 out of 5 if that had been possible. I can understand that it might not be for everyone as it is filled with “hard science”. What I mean by hard science is that the book doesn’t shy away from complicated scientific principals and theories. Many of the hard science sections will be based upon real science, while the more made up stuff is still probably based upon real science. I also have to say that I the ending was perfect. I want to talk to you about the ending, but I don’t want to give away the plot.

If you like science fiction then you will love this book. I also can’t wait for the film which is currently in development, and has Ryan Gosling down to play the lead. Hopefully the film will stick close to the book, as did The Martian.

London Town

As I mentioned in my parkrun post yesterday, me and my lovely wife went to London for a weekend to celebrate her birthday. Getting there wasn’t as easy as it could have been as Preston train station was closed for the whole weekend. Alternative plan involved driving to Warrington and leaving the car there, which was preferable to catching a train to Manchester with a bus back to Lancaster.

Car, train and tube all successfully negotiated we arrived at our boutique hotel opposite the Science Museum in the early afternoon. With the museum so close, we immediately went there for a look around.

Absolutely amazing to think that this huge museum is completely free to the public, and even though it was a Friday afternoon, the place was very busy. We had a quick look around and a longer look at the volcano and earthquake exhibition, complete with Japanese shop during an earthquake. The only drawback of the museum is because it is so large, you really need a few days to see everything.

We found a very good and reasonably priced Italian restaurant for an early evening meal before walking to The Royal Albert Hall. I had bought tickets to see the Cirque Du Soleil. We were so excited I didn’t even grumble about paying £20 for a pint and a half of beer and some snacks.

The show was absolutely stunning, with too many different acts to go through them all. If you ever get the chance to see Cirque Du Soleil, you should. It was so good, made even better by being held inside the Albert Hall.

The next morning I went for a run to Fulham to complete the Fulham Palace Parkrun, which you can read about here. Probably not the best idea to do a ten mile run before spending the rest of the day on your feet.

We foraged for breakfast and then walked past the museums to have a mooch in Harrods. It was mostly very disappointing, apart from the food hall, where we bought some lunch to take away with us.

Next stop was the V & A Museum.

Helen is an incredibly talented potter, and almost the whole of the top floor of the museum is filled with ceramics, going back over 2,000 years. It was slightly too much for me, but Helen took hundreds of photos and filled her brain with pottery ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing the end results.

One drawback of the V & A is that once you’re inside, it can be very difficult to find your way back out again, although we did spend half an hour looking at the Raphael Cartoons. One of them depicts the torture and death of St George.

Another drawback was how busy the ground floor was. We really wanted a sit down with a coffee and cake, but the café was ridiculous, with a queue out of the door. We found a touristy place which wasn’t too bad.

It was a fantastic weekend and I would definitely want to return and spend more time on a quiet day in the two museums we went into.

Fulham Palace Parkrun

Last weekend me and my lovely wife went to London for the weekend. It was Helen’s birthday so we went to the Royal Albert Hall to see the Cirque Du Soleil. Brilliant it was too. As we were in London for a weekend, it seemed a shame not to do a tourist parkrun.

Therein lies a problem. We were staying near to the Royal Albert Hall, and there are no parkruns in the centre of London. There are plenty of parks large enough for a parkrun, but they are all owned and run by The Royal Parks charity, who for some reason don’t like parkruns. Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, St James’s Park and Regent’s Park could all easily accommodate a parkrun, but they don’t. Maybe it would take an edict from King Charles. I should write to him.

Anyway, the closest parkrun to where we were staying was Fulham Palace, just over three miles away. Sensibly, Helen opted not to come with me, seeing as were going to walking around the V & A museum later. I created a route on my Garmin and found the park without any trouble. Fulham Palace park is a narrow park sandwiched between the River Thames and a large allotment site. The run consists of three and a bit laps on fairly narrow paths.

I lined up in the appropriate box and we were off. As expected, I spent most of the first lap overtaking people who had started way too close to the front for the speed they were running at. Also, I had to dodge a number of runners who were not doing parkrun but had decided to run the route in the opposite direction. I’ve never come across that before.

Anyway, three and a bit laps later I crossed the finish line in a time of 22:13. I was 78th overall and 2nd in my age group. There were also 443 finishers, which for a small park is quite amazing. Another reason why it would be great if the Royal Parks allowed parkrun. After barcode scanning I ran the same route back for a total of ten miles and my longest run so far this year. It was good training as I’ve entered a half marathon in May. I had a quick shower and we headed out to forage for breakfast and to spend a very enjoyable couple of hours in the V & A.

This was my second parkrun in the big smoke, and it was fun, friendly and very well organised. A big thank you to all of the volunteers. Sorry about the lack of photos, I didn’t have a pocket large enough to take my phone with me to parkrun, and I can’t see anything online from last weekend. Instead, there is a photo from the entrance hall inside the V & A.