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

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

Thame 10k 2014

Maria, Celine and me after the Thame 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.

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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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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Xmas Time

Well I’ve not done a lot over the Xmas break so far and I’m not planning on doing much with my remaining week off work. I seem to be tired – as in don’t want to get out of bed before 8am tired – and suspect body and mind are doing some healthy catch-up on sleep lost to my frozen shoulder and early work start over the year.

With the Brighton Half less than 2 months away and it being a targeted Vegan Runners UK event I thought it about time I made myself a training plan. All things considered I’ll be happy with a reasonably dignified finish under 2 hours but I do need to build up the distance a bit to even manage that. Yesterday’s attempt at a decent parkrun – no beer the night before and up at 6:30 for breakfast – was a total flop as my determination gave way under the strain of a chilly breeze and a moaning shoulder. 27:29, 63rd of 101, is my worst for a while but at least I didn’t put a lot of effort in so hopefully will be able to struggle round todays planned 10 miler ok. I did receive my red 50 parkrun shirt so was worth turning up for that ๐Ÿ™‚

parkrun 50 shirtI rashly entered myself for the Oxfordshire Cross Country Championships first weekend of January again as part of a club effort to target various ones across the country. Oddly ours is just over the Warwickshire border in Warmington near Banbury. Maybe I’ll be last this year – I’ve no idea what the course will be like but at least by driving there I get a chance to warm-up probable wet feet instead of taking them home on the bike.

What else have I done? A couple of very short spins out on the road bike which feels very precarious but doesn’t seem too uncomfy shoulderwise so something to build on. Lots of food and beer. Too much playing with the computer and websites – I now seem to be looking after both VRUK and VC&AC websites which is not a problem but I have to avoid getting obsessed with detail and stuck in this chair too long.

Oh and entertaining the cats who are not so keen on going outside for exercise at the moment. Mostly I sit about with them while Jane indulges them with sessions of string play (or is that the other way round).

Honey String Dec 2013 Molly String Dec 2013

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Marshalling at the Abingdon Marathon

Having given up on any hope of being marathon fit several months ago I had transferred my place in this years Abingdon Marathon to VRUK member Shelley and volunteered myself for marshalling instead. I’d no real idea what my duties would be or how long I’d be needed for till just before the event so as the weather forecast got increasingly ominous I was beginning to wonder what I’d let myself in for.

Come 20th October I dragged myself out of bed in time for a good breakfast and drove out to the rendezvous at Draycott where I was 15 minutes early so parked up and waited in the car listening to the rain hammering down. A wet cyclist appeared then disappeared and I had a look round thinking she may be another marshall but she’d obviously gone off to shelter somewhere. A car pulled up beside me and Lucy from Abingdon parkrun emerged from it and, noticing the rain seem to be stopping, I got out and said hello. We spotted the others gathering over the road from the pub and joined them where Nigel very efficiently handed out our various positions and duties along with emergency contact numbers etc.

I was to go to Milton and try and get runners to use the pavement rather than run on the road at a section where the road was already narrowed by parked cars. Despite running this marathon twice I’d managed to forget there were 2 laps of a big loop making up much of it so runners would be passing my station at about miles 9 and again at mile 18. This spot had been a bit of a potential problem in previous years as it was not previously marshalled and there was a pub over the road which increased traffic come lunchtime. As it happened the Admiral Benbow was closed for refurbishment so I wouldn’t have to worry about this.

Dry now I nibbled a 9bar sitting in the car while waiting for 9:25 when my instructions said I should be in position. This proved a bit optimistic and it was nearer 9:45 when the lead bike, escorting 3 fast runners well ahead of the rest, came past. From then on it was pretty well a non-stop stream of runners for 3 hours. The rain returned for about 30 minutes about 10:30 and everyone looked pretty wet but then it gradually cleared and there was even a bit of sunshine. I shouted encouragement and clapped for so long I susequently found I’d upset my frozen shoulder and it took a day to stop aching again.

VRUKs Shelley and Alex came past running strong. Various local faces came and went but most were unfamiliar with a good spread of club vests near the front reflecting Abingdon Marathon’s reputation as a fast and well organised race. A couple of marshalls on bikes passed me several times. The fast guys came back round before the last of the slower runners had completed their first lap, still looking strong and determined. After a while some were showing the strain of the second lap, some taking walking breaks, some wearing determined expressions despite the lopsided gait of sore legs. A few chucked me their energy gel wrappers to dispose of. No one looked in danger of collapse. I clapped and cheered shouting out ‘please run on the pavement through the village’ when appropriate. There were several shouts of ‘thanks marshall’ and very few miserable faces despite the gloom and pain of bad patches some must have been struggling through.

Eventually the field thinned out and the bail-out minibus pulled up with no passengers on board. I was told there were 3 more runners that were almost with me and were expected to continue despite rather pushing the 5 hour overall time limit. Way behind them were 3 more who would continue but unofficially. The fact that both the last official runner and one of the out of time group were wearing their 100 Marathon Club shirts suggested they knew all very well what they were doing. About 12:45 I handed my yellow marshall tabard to the minibus officials and drove back home, a bit tired but not half as much as the runners. A very a rewarding experience and highly recommended!

Meanwhile – a couple of weeks back now – I completed my 50th parkrun timed to coincide with Oxford parkrun number 100 so I should be getting my red running shirt soon. I guess that counts as an achievement clocked up for this otherwise rather inactive year.

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Inverted Bowl

Had one of those sad moments when I couldn’t drag myself away from the computer after parkrun yesterday so I decided to get geeky and create a graph of my parkrun times over the last year or so, using data conveniently downloadable from my Fetch training log, to examine their rise and, at last, fall. I know I’m getting a bit of speed back since my shoulder has become less painful but nothing like a graph with a trend-line to illustrate the obvious.

Rise and Fall of parkunThe November 2012 starting point is actually when Fetch introduced parkrun as a separate category but it tallies nicely with when I first started to be aware of something wrong with my arm, though it wasn’t diagnosed as a frozen shoulder till February this year.

Spuds 2013And while I’m posting trivia here is a photo of this year’s main-crop potatoes – pleased with the yield and apparent quality for just 3 rows, it looks like there are quite a few big bakers in there as well. They should last us till Xmas at least. The weather has been much, much better this year but I think the thorough dressing of seaweed fertiliser and compost we applied has revitalised our garden plot.

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