Mid week training

At the suggestion of Ray and Marian at the weekend, I joined the Haywards Heath Harriers for a training session last night.  The weather continued to impress as we completed two jogged laps of the grass track, before Brenda warmed up our office-bound muscles with a series of stretches and jumps.

Dave then started us on the hard work, with press-ups, sit-ups and squat thrusts interspersed with short jogs and sprints.

After another jog, he set us on a pyramid run around the track, with two, four, six, four, two minute race-pace runs, separated by one-minute recovery walks.

Brenda then stretched us out again and we completed a final slow lap of the track before heading for home.

It was a diverse and really friendly bunch of people and the training was sufficiently taxing to feel that I had given my body a good workout, without being exhausted.  The facility there at Whitemans Green is pretty good too and I can recommend the group to any locals who want to improve their running.

For the record, I reckon I ran around 6 km, or 3.75 miles during the evening and I noticed one of the younger lads running home afterwards!  Far too much energy!

A full & fantastic weekend

The weekend began, most unusually, after I got back from my Sunday run.

Cliff and Nessie threw a delightfully civilised garden party where the average age was closer to Cliff’s than to my tender years.  They had invited the senior Fosters too so we collected them en-route. 

Many people still remember the last time my Mum was at Cliff & Nessie’s, dancing and twirling in a gravity-defying, slightly alchohol-fuelled manner, down the random-sized steps that link the different levels.  At night.

The daylight presumably brought the danger into clearer focus as she instead decided to descend using the small retaining walls as large steps, and the large plant-pots as hand rails.

Food was typically in (over-)abundance and mouthwateringly delicious, whilst Nessie’s Dad Peter had mixed a bottomless jug of Pimms (with a vague hint of lemonade) that was not for the faint of heart.

The choice of weather was inspired and the sun shone down on the righteous… and on the rest of us too!

The senior Fosters overnighted with us and were surprisingly reluctant to wake up in the morning.  I knocked on the door, took in cups of tea, shook them gently, all with a running commentary designed to lessen the shock of waking up to see me.  All to no avail.  I returned to the door and knocked louder.  Still nothing.  In desperation I resorted to shaking them more firmly, at which point a pair of sleepy smiles finally spread across the faces in the bed.

We breakfasted and set out into the lightest Monday morning traffic that I can ever remember.  I know it’s the school holidays, but the absence of a few teachers surely cannot explain why the roads weren’t clogged and heaving.

The grand occasion was the wedding of my sister Deborah to my now Brother-in-law John and a fine affair it was too.  The forecast had been for thundery showers and instead we had the most perfectly glorious day since… well, since the day before.

Photos on the lawn were the usual confusing logistical conundrum, but none of that mattered as the prevailing mood was light and fun.  The ensemble retired to the hidden paradise which is their garden, this having been transformed by their close friends into a flowing series of tables in chairs that managed the impossible trick of augmenting (rather than detracting from) the riot of colour and texture around us.

With room for everyone to sit and chat and eat and drink, the aforementioned close friends swept effortlessly around like silver service staff on a customer satisfaction bonus.  Debbie had, in fact, prepared much of the food herself and this was typically mouthwateringly delicious (I sense deja vu here) and in uncharacteristic over-abundance… partially as a result of, for example, the fishmonger having supplied 36 salmon steaks of eight, rather than four, ounces.

The afternoon merged gently into the evening, (with the help of a much-admired Foster powernap) as conversation, wine and still more food flowed freely. 

We finally managed to drag the senior Fosters away from their wine glasses at late-o’clock, which did at least give us a really clear run home.

A wedding to remember and a weekend to cherish and, oh, I almost forgot the caption competition.  On account of the tireless work that had gone into preparing the garden for the big day, including a pond that had been enlarged and considerably improved, or some such spurious excuse, the Groom had managed to strain his, er, groin.  Do I say too much?  Be this as it may, I understand that John was inviting suggestions for gallant stories as to how this might have come to pass!

Foster walks!

As I headed out of the car park from Jack & Jill and up the hill, so my legs felt heavier than normal and the extreme heat of the day was really apparent. 

It is 31 degrees C or 83 degrees F in the cool of my study as I write this and when I put the thermometer on the window sill outside in the sun a little while ago, it registered -40 degrees (both C and F). On my small thermometer, which only goes up to 50 degrees C, this must be a staggering 70 degrees C, or 160 degrees F. 

So believe me when I say that it was WARM out there: especially as I hadn’t started at the said car park. 

The first fifteen minutes of my run, starting from the house, were leaden-legged, partially due to the fact that I didn’t run midweek.  That was due to a strained (what is less than strained?  Stressed?) muscle from last Sunday and generally being busy… neither particularly good excuses, but hey.  The muscle had healed well, but it was hard-going.

I started to get into the swing of it as I passed Oldlands Mill and dropped down into Keymer.  Favouring the shade, I ran along the high street and took the track along the side of the railway to Clayton.

The cricket pitch was full of cars and there were apparently two races being run.  In view of the weather, the 5.5 mile run starting at 11am seemed foolhardy, UNTIL I realised that the main event was already in progress.  The main event being the one that Mark J has entered and that Cliff ran a couple of years ago… a 30 miler starting with Clayton Hill and stretching right across to Southease, to the north of Newhaven. 

And back!

Oh boy!  Those guys must be HOT!

The hill out of Clayton was hard work, but I engaged a low gear and made Jack & Jill car park without stopping.  Here I walked & chatted to a Burgess Hill Runners marshall (who I think I’ve met before) before commencing my hot run up the hill again.

At the top I stopped to chat to Ray & Marian from Haywards Heath Harriers, marshalls for the short race.  Ray seemed to be sporting a rather fetching yellow skirt, but this turned out to be the marshalls plastic vest… he would almost certainly have expired if he had put it on normally!  I hope you guys had some water stashed somewhere… you’ll have fried up there otherwise!

As I ran on down the other side, so I passed a whole stream of Burgess Hill Runners out for their Sunday morning jaunt, including Kim’s friend Liz.  I hit the Beacon, exhausted, in one hour 20 minutes and then dropped down the path under the road and into the shade.

By the time I reached Ditchling, the gradient was once again against me and I capitulated, walking up Lodge Hill from the church to my favourite house.  I then ran along past the Mill again and across the the Keymer Road.  Here I HAD to walk, run, walk, run, walk, as far as Folders Lane.

From Folders Lane I ran the rest of the way back, noting that it was NOT my legs that were any more tired than normal, but rather my mind that was the challenge.  I had energy, but not the willpower to use it… although, to be fair, I had done pretty well considering the conditions.

It would normally take me 45 minutes to get back from the Beacon this route and today it took me and additional 6 minutes.  Two hours, 11 minutes overall, 12.45 miles or 19.95km, makes for a slow slow 5.7mph speed.  But if you take out the 5 or 6 minutes I stopped to chat to Marian & Ray, then it would make it 6mph.

And did I mention that it was warm out there today?

Crazy folk!

When Kim & I were in Seattle in June, we met Nigel & Kristin’s friends Claudia & Russell.  All six of the aforementioned could be described as certifiably crazy to some extent, but I think, right at this moment, Russell takes the podium.

To see what I mean, keep an eye on the trip-site http://devon.irvacationtohell.com/ over the coming weeks.

There are not many people daft enough to paddle in the Arctic Circle where the sea at the get-in is currently still frozen, let alone a 60-mile open sea crossing, then portage their kayaks & gear across a frozen island for a week before paddling some more, including either another 40 mile open crossing or a 100-mile detour.  And all in a generally northerly direction.  The trip is expected to take six weeks out of an Arctic summer window of only 8-10 weeks.

See the madman & one of his compadriates talking about the trip at http://www.immersionresearch.com/2008/03/21/interviews-with-the-sweetwater-crew/#more-114 

If you still need persuading, further evidence, (along with the entry for next year’s competition if you’re completely crazy too), at http://www.irvacationtohell.com/


Okay, so it was only a little chase, but the snow-white yap-jack-russell was called Lola and it greatly amused the assembled hikers at Blackcap to see it running along, trying to bite my heels, or scare me away, or say hello, or… maybe it’s Duracell’s were running down and it thought I might have some replacements… I just don’t know.  With six strides to each of mine, it quickly tired of the chase, or maybe had a power outage.

Kim had dropped me at Jack & Jill again and whilst I am generally wary of running the same route more than once in short succession, I had decided to make an exception this time as the route was exactly 13.1 miles… the distance of a half marathon.

The wind was from the north today and in common with several days in the last week, varied phenomenally in temperature as the clouds drifted across the sun.  Cool, cool wind with the clouds, but when the sun shone it was instantly baking hot.  Great conditions for the light aircraft that was gliding on the thermals to the north of the Downs… it passed so close that I could almost reach out and touch it… but not slow enough that my unsteady hand could capture it in the camera frame!

The split times were all exactly the same as last Sunday, all the way to the turning point just beyond Blackcap at 47 minutes.  I forgot to check as I passed the trig point at Blackcap on the way back up the hill, on account of my being chased by a large white rodent at the time.

One of the reasons that I hate to duplicate runs is additional pressure it exerts, in two distinct ways.  First, you know how far the path ahead is so you can’t just run and enjoy the moment in the same way.  The question ‘will I match up to last week’s time’ is foremost in your mind, which adds the the same feeling.  Just by running the same route twice, you’re now in a race with yourself!

I couldn’t remember what time I did last week, otherwise at around the 1 hour 35minute-mark I wouldn’t have decided to try to break 2 hours.  It wasn’t a decision in terms of ‘must-do’, but rather a vague feeling that I had done last Sunday.  Not wanting to be a whole lot slower, I upped the pace where this felt comfortable to do.

There was certainly a subtle difference in how much energy I had, most notably where last week I was flagging by the time I reached the Industrial Estate, I was still running comfortably this time.  But I seemed to be losing the battle and the two-hour mark was looming.

As I crossed the railway line I knew I was beat, but I pushed on down the road as if the Bok was in front… trying to find that tricky balance between the best time and actually arriving at all.

I’ve been a little disappointed since arriving home at the eventual time… right up until I checked last week’s blog before starting this one.  I didn’t better two hours by two minutes, but I knocked six minutes off last week’s time, with all the gain being in the second half where it can really count.  6.44mph overall, but the first 5 miles to the turn were at 6.38mph, whilst the balance was at 6.48mph… subtle differences, but the last few miles were probably quicker still, as prior to that I was just trucking along.

I shan’t be repeating the exercise next week, but might try it again in a few week’s time to see if I’m improving.


Last weekend I had flat-packed the outgoing shed and Nick had called yesterday morning to give a 30 minute warning of his arrival to collect it.  Since the kitchen was still reeling from my having cooked the night before (both rare things), we had a quick whizz round to clear up.

Nick blamed the speed of John’s van for the additional 30 minutes it took him to arrive, but at least we got to sit and relax in the garden for a while before he arrived with Oliver and Sam.  The shed was duly loaded into what can only be described as a prime contender for the ‘builders van of the year, 1989’ and father and sons trundled off… driving over the kerb at the corner of the road in the process.  The big question is: will he blame the lack of a nearside mirror?

Kim & I set to in the garden, as much as an excuse to be outside as anything else.  Kim weeded whilst I chopped back an oversize philadelphus.  We had just reached a natural break, with all the of the aforementioned stuffed into three large garden sacks when the door-bell rang.

My brother Michael & Dad beamed at me as I opened the door… surprise!  Despite all the garden cushions being out, the rubbish bags and the open gardening book served to demonstrate our industriousness.  Phew!  I hate to be caught napping!

We sat in the warmth of the glorious afternoon catching up and Michael even got to road-test our latest KriKri coffee cup!

Allarming night’s sleep

I’ve actually had two terrible night’s sleep as I sit and write this, but I wish to ignore last night & talk about the one before.

In amongst the myriad dreams and awakenings, I found myself running down the road with the Bok.  I knew I was dreaming because each time my legs started to hurt, I reminded myself I was still asleep and the pain went away.  Several times he disappeared ahead and each time I remembered my somnolence, pushed harder and caught up again. Quite strange.

The Bok is a very sharp cookie.  For two or three stiles on the trot, I arrived first and on reaching the far side ran off without waiting, giving me a good few yards head-start, which I might add, I need!  He didn’t let me reach the fourth stile first, nor any of the remaining ones, disappearing ahead with more vigour each time!

We headed out past Ote Hall and to the north of Wivelsfield where we found the Llamas above… they were SO funny, their fringes cut in what I can only describe as a very haute couture style… for a humble floor mop.  Each time I see them I remember my disbelief when luscious Debbs first told me they were there.  I know that they are really ole-packhams or something, but pyjama-llamas seem so much more fun!

We dropped into the centre of Wivelsfield and past the school.  The Bok likes to run through the school car-park where the footpath goes, while I favour the oncoming traffic along the road.  I waited until there were some trees separating us and I put in a quick sprint, slowing again by the time he could see me. 

This tactic meant that I arrived just ahead at the start of Hundred Acre Lane, which is a gentle hill that leads out of the village.  Here I reminded myself that I was still laying in bed and since it didn’t hurt, I pushed the pace a little.  About halfway up the hill my ploy was rewarded with an extremely gratifying beep-beep beep-BEEP!  Followed by a duplicate that belied the pain that the Bok was experiencing.

I gave a triumphant cheer… and increased my pace a little, knowing that he had nothing left and arrived at the top of the hill some distance ahead.  Maybe I wasn’t really dreaming… I was hurting now too!

After a short walk of recovery, we swooped down the trails through the wood and along to the industrial estate.  We took the magical path along towards the development site that used to be the sleepy St George’s Retreat, down across the Common and back towards the house.

As we approached the last stretch of road I sensed that the Bok was going to stretch his legs and get his own back and unfortunately I had little sleep left in me.  I pushed as hard as I could and though he was a little ahead at the end, it wasn’t the rout that he (and I) expected!

As we staggered past my neighbour, who looked on in mild amusement, the Bok delivered the statistics from the mighty bok-watch.  7.09 miles in one hour and two minutes.  A Sterling performance, one that he reckons is our fastest, certainly in the near distant past.  Only 6.86mph, but mixed in with a number of short walks were several significant stretches where we were running four minute km’s… he might remind me what the actual number was… you know how difficult it is to remember your dreams once you’ve woken up.


Burgess Hill Runners Run

It was the Burgess Hill Runners 4.5 mile run today and as I passed the 3 mile marker, I glanced at my watch.  One hour, 54 minutes.  Something wasn’t right.  I squeezed past a few more people and then… I inhaled a fly.  There’s nothing more embarrassing in company and for that matter, audibly disgusting, than trying to hawk up a fly when you can no longer breath, so my apologies to those of you around me at the time.

There was probably a tiny ripple of confusion when I deviated from the path at the next junction, and disappeared.  What may not have been obvious from behind was the lack of a running number.  And the fact that I had already run about 12 miles.

Kim dropped me at Jack and Jill again today and I ran heartily along to Blackcap, making it there in 40 minutes.  Hoping that I might bump into Mark again, I ran a little further to the next gate before turning for home.  The climb back to Blackcap is hard work after the easy run down and I left there the second time around the 55 minute mark.

I passed Kim five minutes later, trying to hide from me behind some boy scouts and then, leaving her to continue, dropped down the scarp slope to Westmeston.  The route north from there is a Romanesque straight line with the occasional pretty house, one of which even has a ford and a small footbridge.

There was plenty of mud along the route but it still confuses me why there is always a slurry puddle on the corner where you turn left to go west into the woods.

I was running on low energy reserves by this point and I feel the same as I sit here writing!  But then, as I crossed the entrance to the industrial estate, I converged with the Burgess Hill Runners route.  There is nothing that peps you up more than running with other people and where the next five minutes would normally have been a stagger, I ran easily along.  Even after hawking the fly!

Spat back out onto my own, the true energy situation returned and I battled across the common and back up to the house.

The route was a perfect 21 km / 13.1 mile half marathon and my time of two hours eight minutes, whilst not great at 6.14mph, reflected the fact that this was really a gentle Sunday jog.

Reunion (the rest of the explanation)

Last weekend was the 5th anniversary of my graduation from London Business School and a good number of SEMBA2003 returned to London to attend lectures and catch up with old friends… along with many other people from programs that graduated in 2003, 1998, 1993, 1988, 1983, 1978, 1973 and 1968.  It was an amazing opportunity to network and hear what is happening in industries right across the world.

I stayed there for the whole weekend and in the process had to shamefully miss Daren’s 40th birthday party (for which he flew in from the States for the day!) and the birth of Dai & Kath’s new baby girl, in favour of attending a dinner party for 50 in Primrose Hill.

Great fun though… looking forward to the ten-year reunion already!

Surprise! (a partial explanation of my recent absence)

Kim & I dashed out to Seattle the week before last to Surprise my brother Nigel and more particularly Kristin, who was 50. Raaaa raaaa!

Our very good friends Carolyn & Scott had agreed to put up with us for the week and really were the perfect hosts, to such an extent that they invited Kristin & Nigel and their two house guests Claudia & Russell (who runs Sweetwater Kayaks in Florida) to dinner.  SURPRISE!

It was just great being in Seattle again where the folk are so friendly and the scenery so magnificent.  Look one way up N&K’s street to see Mount Rainier & the Cascades and the other way to see the Olympic Mountains.

I can’t begin to do the trip justice in full here, but the highlights included the Sebring convertible hire car (thankyou Amex!), buying & preparing salad with Scott (a story in itself), the surprise dinner (food and company), the brilliant party (though I’m really sorry to all those folk whose names I forgot or mixed up… not my memory’s finest hour!), the waterfalls in the Cascades, paddling the Whisky 16 (Nigel’s latest kayak design) with Nigel & Russell, playing (a lot of) guitar with Russell, Nigel and John Marshall, burgers in the 74th Street Ale House, grown up food at Ray’s Boathouse, seeing the Kri-Kri studio again, the Olympic Sculpture Park at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), being re-aquainted with Alice & Richard’s amazing contemporary art collection, and the upgrade to flat-bed class on the return flight (thankyou NWA, whose Economy Class has way more room than the equivalent BA Cattle Class anyway!).

All in all, a fantastic trip, with special thanks again to Carolyn & Scott who made it all possible!

 Nigel & Kristin