Jericho & Thame 10ks

It’s been a bit of a job keeping the Vegan Runners UK blog up to date what with lots of activity and photos from facebook – it’s all very positive and inspiring but I’m less inclined to keep this blog up to date.

Nik and Maria Abingdon parkrun

Popcorn selfie with Maria after Abingdon parkrun on 21st June

Anyway two recent races and my slowest ever parkrun for the record. Good fun at the Run Jericho 10k on 22nd June which was too hot to push even if I’d been able. I started right at the back – because I’d got the wrong start time in my head and was still pottering about when I should have been ready to go – worked my way up the field enjoying a cup of water over my head at the halfway point. Finished in 58:13 169/333.

Nik Windle Run Jericho 10k 2014

Run Jericho 10k

The Thame 10k on 29th June was warm but not as hot as some years. Made a bit of an effort and managed 51:28 386/782, fastest 10k this year but still rubbish.

Maria Celine Nik Thame 10k 2014

Maria, Celine and me after the Thame 10k

My shoulder is still as stuck and achy as it was at the start of the year and is not easy to live with, I think the recent heat and humidity aggravates it. So work is difficult and I’ve asked them to start making some allowances; repetitive stuff like hoeing upsets it so Jane is stuck with the allotment for the 2nd year; I’m not comfortable on the bike so max 10 miles and my running just gets slower as I can’t push myself much without upsetting it. I’ve been back to the doctor and will be having Xray, ultrasound and maybe a cortisone injection.

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Wittenham Clumps Fast – Hughenden Slow – Bloom Woods

My current orienteering obsession continues to career (that’s career the verb defined as to ‘move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way’ to which I would add ‘in the wrong direction’) around the Thames Valley area. It’s fun to be able to do something that Jane also enjoys albeit we do different courses.

Wittenham Clumps

So, following on from my unimpressive appearance at Brill, we attended the TVOC Wittenham Clumps Saturday Series event on 10th May. Despite the fact that the colour coding of events at different locations is supposed to reflect a similar challenge and completion time there does seem to be a lot of variation, I’ve been focusing on light green.

I rather surprised myself by completing the Wittenham Clumps light green in 42:38 coming 7th out of 18. There was only one control I really struggled with, 106, and those of us clomping about that area in the supposedly ‘runnable forest’ all seemed to agree a path had vanished somewhere in the undergrowth.

Pleased with myself I decided to show off and do a 2nd run (no extra charge but you have to fill in a new entry form etc). Setting off on the orange course my sneaky plan to catch up with Jane was thwarted when I spotted her heading for the finish just as I was leaving the start. Fortunately she’s got used to waiting for me and I managed to get round in 30:42, 3rd of 15 (though the rest were mostly kids). Orange also used 106 and I still struggled to find it as this time was coming from a different direction.

Hughenden and Downley

Sunday 8th June and we were off to Hughenden just north of High Wycombe, not a Saturday Series event so I was aware it might be a bit tougher what with not being allowed to see the map in advance etc. We volunteered ourselves for manning the road crossing for a couple of hours before our time slot!

My confidence from good runs at Wittenham was quickly dented as I carefully studied my compass at the start then ran off in the wrong direction, so 10 minutes wasted straight off. Control 3 was quite a way off and looked tricky so I was reasonably happy with my plan though it didn’t quite work and I found myself hunting for a non-existent pit at the junction of the wrong 2 paths near a road. 20 minutes for that one, control 4 was 25 minutes after I’d fought my way through woodland then wandered around on a wooded bank for a while. It was hot too and really muddy.

After another 20 minute job at number 7  I eventually finished in 1:48:29 despite there only being 9 controls. More than once I caught my tired self looking at the wrong red arrow on the compass – the one you rotate to north on the map rather than the one with the magnet that actually points north! This might have accounted for my wrong direction start amongst other confusions. I had though seen enough other lost, knackered, souls to realise that it wasn’t just me and the results gave me 10th out of 18 starters – 16 finishers. Jane took almost as long on the orange and we were both stuffed for the rest of the day.

Bloom Wood

Well I thought this one went alright last Saturday. I made very sure not to muddle my compass arrows and at each point took a moment to actually decide a strategy for the next control like you’re supposed to do. Sometimes following paths etc – sometimes assessing the terrain as runnable from the map and aligning then following the compass – sometimes a combination – that sort of thing.

The first 3 controls done in under 10 minutes with the bonus of a portaloo in the middle of the woods which I used as it’s not always suitable to pee with unexpected people crashing through the woods in all directions and the awareness that there is a Brownie pack on the course somewhere.

I managed to mess up number 4 as my clever plan to to follow one horsey ride till I found the southwards path leading to a second ride that the control was near fell victim to my holey memory. I forgot the second half of the plan and was to be found searching in the bushes by the side of the wrong ride. Still corrected myself and found it in 16 minutes so not too bad.

A different problem with number 11 as I got 2 similar track junctions confused and ended up looking at a road that shouldn’t have been there, 13 minutes that one took. I’d already worked out 3 other people also on light green as we’d met at various controls in different orders. They all beat me to the finish but only by minutes and I was pretty pleased with my efforts thinking my 65 minutes dead good enough to place higher than the 17th out of 22 (20 finishers) I actually managed. Oh well – I was good but the competition better :)

Jane had a bad day on the orange spending 35 minutes on one control as she failed to realise she had wandered into an unfenced ‘out of bounds’ area. They will forever more be the Blooming Woods for her!

 

 

 

 

 

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Chalgrove Festival 10k 2014

An enjoyable run for me at this year’s Chalgrove Festival 10k on May Bank Holiday Monday. Jane wanted a look round the festival so we drove out making it an easy day what with the 12:00 start. I ran in Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club vest for a change as I hoped to meet new club member Geoff – in fact we somehow managed to miss each other but still two VCAC vests present is good. 52:16 223rd of 441 overall which was a good bit quicker than last year and a seasons best so happy with that.

Chalgrove 10k 2014Chalgrove10k 2014 Thanks to Barry Cornelius for the photos – oxonraces.com

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Pembrokeshire Puffins & Seals

We spent the last week of April in Pembrokeshire. Jane had fancied a visit there and found a vegan B&B that did evening meals which she had booked a while ago. I wasn’t much looking forward to the 4 hour drive but we made the decision to have a proper mid-way break in Cardiff rather than just wing it which in retrospect was a great idea.

So I let the TomTom navigate us to Cafe Atma in Cardiff which offered some great – tasty and wholesome – vegan food including a good choice of cakes. Suitably stuffed Jane took over and drove us to The Gables B&B in Roch, about a mile away from Newgale Sands. Susie and her vegan dogs and cat* made us really welcome at The Gables and it was a change for me never having to double check if I could eat something, from the scones on arrival to the lovely diners she made us and the cooked breakfast – everything was vegan. Also not too expensive. Highly recommended!

Maybe the real reason Jane had wanted to go to Pembrokshire was to visit Skomer Island with a hope of seeing puffins. With a limit of 250 visitors allowed a day, and the single landing point meaning conditions didn’t always allow the boat to sail, getting there wasn’t a certainty. We were in luck though and at 11am Monday were boarding the Dale Princess then on our way.

The Dale PrincessThe boat trip was fun and took about 15 minutes then up a long stairway to a greeting area where a Welsh Wildlife Trust warden gave us the low down and in particular asked us to stick to the paths as the whole island is riddled with burrows many of which contained nesting birds including the nocturnal Manx Shearwaters – about 300,000 breeding pairs apparently. We couldn’t expect to see any in day time excepting the macabre pairs of bodiless wings scattered about the island, leftovers from when the Greater Black-backed Gulls had a few for supper.

We walked up the old farmhouse which now serves as a visitor centre, attempts at farming having ceased in the 1950′s. Then we set off in the opposite direction to the others so we could have our picnic lunch looking out over the Mew Stone which is a rock out to sea at the south of Skomer. The rock ledges of Mew Stone was occupied with lots of birds that we decided were Guillemot, we’d been told a pair of Chough had been seen earlier but we didn’t spot their distinctive red beaks and legs.

On to The Wick, a steep cliffed feature like someone had cut a thin slice of cake out the island, and there were puffins everywhere. We’d been alone for much of the time so far but loads of people were puffin watching, the birds themselves didn’t seem much fussed though a volunteer told me they could get a bit stressed having to walk across the path to get to their burrows.

Puffin9 Puffins1 Puffin2It was a fine sunny day so I managed to get some good photos despite having to rely on the autofocus as varifocals and cameras don’t mix. We also had a pair of Fulmars snuggling up high on a cliff ledge pointed out to us as well as more Guillimot and some Razorbills lower down on the cliff. It was a while before we tore ourselves away and continued round Skomer’s perimeter.

Skomer had been used for farming rabbits since the 14th century and there were still lots about, mostly your standard issue grey bunny but we also saw several black ones.

Black BunnyI had suggested we travelled to Skomer on the 11am boat instead of the 10am as the first boat back was supposed to be 3:30pm and I had visions of us getting cold and bored on a wet and windy island. In fact the opposite was true and we had to keep an eye on the time to make sure we were waiting for our boat 30 minutes before it’s 4:00pm sailing – it had been pointed out to us at the start that there was no later boat and ‘it was already rather crowded at the hostel’ (some visitors and researchers spend the night there).

A 2nd visit to the old farmhouse to use their compost loos and buy some water then back to the top of the landing stairs where we were entertained by more puffins, seals – in particular a young one that came over to our side of the bay and, on our descent to the Dale Princess for boarding, a close look at some Razorbills who hang out near the steps.

Seal3 Seals1Razorbill1Puffins3Puffins4* Life for Celine, an elegant and friendly black cat – healthy at 15 years on her vegan diet – could have been terribly different. Celine started life at Hill Grove Farm where cats were bred for vivisection until it closed, mostly down to the efforts of activists, in 1999.

Controversial cat farm closes (BBC)

Save The Hillgrove Cats Campaign (YouTube)

 

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Brill Common

Jane and I have decided we rather enjoy this orienteering lark and after a chat with a member who also does the Oxford parkrun sometimes I thought why not join the club. So it was as new members of the Thames Valley Orienteering Club that we made our way to Brill (on the hill) on 12th April to experience the somewhat different terrain of scrub, bumps and hollows left by centuries of clay digging for the local brick industry.

Despite being somewhat sleep deprived and achy courteous of the blooming frozen shoulder I decided to go for light green again and necked an energy gel before the start so at least I’d have some sugar left in my brain if I ended up taking ages again. Jane decided to up the stakes and go for the orange course where she was more likely to encounter other grown-ups. There was a new IT system being experienced in the registration tent which resulted in a bit of a queue and a wait before we got going just after 11am.

My first control seemed to be somewhere behind me facing the start but remembering the 13 minutes I’d spend heading 180 degrees in the wrong direction at the start of Wendover I took a moment to check the compass properly – then I realised the thing in front of control number 1 on the map was the car park by Brill windmill so I got there in 3 minutes using the follow my nose approach.

I was going well till number 8 though number 5 had been tricky hidden by a little pool at the bottom of a steep, muddy drop as it was. 8 was just on the other side of an out of bounds area with buildings but I think I made the mistake of overestimating the distance and also failed to check direction so ended up behind the wrong group of houses. If there is one thing I failed to learn from years of audax riding it is that the best thing to do as soon as you realise you’ve gone the wrong way is to stop, work-out where you are, and make a cool headed plan to get back on route. Instead I tend to opt for the ‘it must be over there somewhere’ technique which is probably why number 8 took me nearly 16 minutes to find while the longest any of the earlier controls had taken was under 5 minutes.

Brill Orienteering April 20149 was a doddle but then a repeat performance for number 10 which took 13 minutes as I made some pretty basic mistakes such as following a road where the map showed a vehicle track etc. 13 was interesting as the thin but unbroken line of darkish green was indeed ‘impenetrable’ and, after going right to the bottom of Tramhill to find 12, I had to go most of the way back up again – huffing and puffing before I decided to walk instead – just to join a path that took me back down the other side of the dense hedgerow to where the control was.

The remaining controls were not too hard to find though non were what I’d call obvious. After 19 me and another chap could see the ‘Finish’ sign 100m away so without a glance at the map we just ran straight to it, I’m surprised I didn’t get a nasty rash from the ankle high stinging nettles on route! 1:11:18 was my eventual time with about 42 minutes actual running according to my Garmin. The 3.1km becoming 3.4 miles. I placed 16 out of 20 starters and 19 finishers so a marginal improvement over Wendover but still much room for improvement. I reckon if I’d got 8 and 10 right I’d have been 20 minutes quicker.

I couldn’t find Jane at first but it turned out she was in the loo in the pub when I’d looked for her there. She managed a more impressive 16th of 29 starters, 25 finishers on her debut orange course finishing in 46:28 and almost achieving the ‘Orange standard’ (whatever that is). Wittenham Clumps next for us if the weather looks good!

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