Quick run and long conversation

I had a really lovely 6 mile run today along an old favourite route that took me out to Hundred Acre Lane.  The run itself took 58 minutes (6.2mph), but I arrived back after an hour and a half… go figure.

En route I had seen my good friend Lew and stopped to catch up on life, the universe and everything and it was great to put the world to rights.

Most of the water had drained away from last weekend or turned into a light surface mud, but there were clay pockets of deep water along the way into which my feet occasionally disappeared.  This is probably the reason that I didn’t get invited in for a coffee!

The fact that we’d had a LOT of water was evidenced by what was left of one of the bridges I crossed, shown above.  YIKES!

Crawling towards The Soul Katz

Managed to get back in the pool on Thursday night for 45 minutes and found that it’s easier to count in sets of four than singly.  Three breast-stroked and a length crawled.  At the end of the session I did an extra crawl, so out of 56 lengths I managed 15 crawlies.  Still pretty knacked at the end, but it’s all starting to hang together a little better than it was.

Having swum, we beat it back to base for a quick pit-stop before hurtling off to Bar Nun at the Priory in Haywards Heath for a gig.  Our good friend & neighbour Andrew has been playing in The Soul Katz for about 15 years (it was a Commitments-style tribute band), but they have apparently not played for a while.

Knowing how good a player he is I was not at all surprised to find the venue pretty much splitting at the seams… the place was rammed!  The band comprises eleven excellent musicians (and one sound guy) and they played BRILLIANTLY.  What DID amaze us was how long they played for… they must have started just after half eight and aside from a short break, they ran right through until a quarter to twelve!

I took a video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO3ChBLgGuQ of one of the numbers which gives a sense of what they play and how good Andrew is on the harmonica, although my camera does NO justice to the sound, alas!

Now I know

A few weeks ago I pondered why everyone else seemed able to swim faster than me, before realising I could actually keep up with them if I crawled, like them.  Tonight there was a guy that I don’t think I could have kept up with even if I had been running.  

Towards the end of the session I asked what his secret was.  ‘Hmmm’, came the reply, ‘I haven’t swum for years and I’m just getting into shape again, but at 13 I swam for England… ‘

Cliff & Pete apparently braved the winter weather last weekend to run 50 miles (no, that’s not a typo… fifty miles) along the River Thames.  With winter precipitation, surfaces ranging from snow to slush and sub-zero temperatures, one really has to ask the question… WHY?  I suspect that there is no sanity in any of the possible answers that they might give, so I guess the answer must be Tree Fox Six.

Yes, I know it doesn’t make sense… it’s an analogy of foxiresex, which also means nothing whatsoever.

Cliff & Pete’s race details were garnered from a surprise visit by Cliff & Nessie on Sunday night… who are now able to confirm that we do actually live like slobs in a house full of laundry and unwashed dishes when there’s no-one around!  

Fortunately we were so horrified at being caught in this state of under-duress that we tidied up… just as well because when we got back from swimming tonight we found Debbie and John on the doorstep waiting to buy us dinner in exchange for Champagne & chocolates.  Fair do’s!

Before I forget, I think I managed 36 lengths tonight in just over 30 minutes… not great, but hey, I’ve not swum very much for ages and I could only swim 10 yards at 13.

Splashy mud

I had a genuine desire to do something other than run this morning.

I’d got into a creative zone on a work challenge last night & ended up sliding quietly into bed at gone 3am.  Not quietly enough though, I’m assured!  It was nice & bright this morning and easy-ish to get up, but it was cold outside and I’m reading a totally absorbing book at the moment that I couldn’t wait to get back to.  

It’s called 1421 and is written by a former US Navy submarine captain about his theory that the Chinese circumnavigated and mapped the world a century before Magellan, reached America 70 years before Columbus and Australia 350 years before Cook.  The evidence is compelling and those of you who know how much I admire the Chinese will realise why I it’s hard for me to put the book down!

However, after a large espresso and an hour or so of reading, I reluctantly donned my running gear and got out into quite a bright, if cold morning.   In short, I ran to the south west of Burgess Hill to Hammonds Mill Farm, towards Hurstpierpoint but turning eastward to reach the crossroads at Hassocks, through the village to Keymer, then north along the road and up the private road to Oldlands Mill (where the photos of the South Downs above were taken) and back on my normal path.

The going was wettish, with splashy surface mud left over from the snow and ice of the last week and my legs were sufficiently covered in mud to impress one of my neighbours when I got back.  As I write, so Kim is washing my kit out (a task that I normally do) and has just exclaimed ‘I can’t believe how much mud you’ve got in your socks!’

Anyway, 8.3 miles on one hour 19 minutes is almost 6.3mph, better than I’ve been managing recently and not bad bearing in the mind the weekend off.

By the way, for those of you interested in old mills, here are the dates for Oldlands Mill open days in 2009.

Last weekend you trecked

You may have gathered from my post earlier this week that we disappeared off to Holland last weekend to see our friends Adam & Sandra, celebrate their son Thomas’s second birthday and deliberately surprise Thomas’s grandparents, Tim & Anna, who were also visiting.

 The outgoing leg was really straightforward, with great roads right up til about half a mile from their place.  The we spent a frustrating half hour following Tom-Tom as it tried in vain to get us to the new-build on roads that have either been abandoned in a large area of development, or have yet to be built!

Utrecht is a really pretty place, with a deep set canal winding through the town with its cobbled streets and wonky houses.  The weather was gloriously bright & sunny and perilously cold, but it was a great introduction to what is probably well off the tourist trail for most people from the UK.

Adam & Sandra were generous hosts, putting us in mind of our friends Scott & Carolyn in Seattle.  In fact both Adam & Scott LOVE their coffee, but while Scott has a really smart stainless steel cafetiere, Adam has an espresso machine that grinds beans at from the top to make totally amazing and pretty much instantanteous coffee.

Their house backs on to a canal that was frozen the whole weekend, to such an extent that Adam had been walking on it the previous week.  THAT’s cold!

Most of our return trip was straightforward and we pottered back to the tunnel via some very quiet seaside villages along the French coast – one can imagine that in the summer, the glorious sandy beaches will be heaving with holiday-makers.  As soon as we unloaded in the UK we realised that the weather had changed, hence the previous pictures and the additional two and a half hours it took us to get home.

But Utrecht is well work a visit!

Loosening shoulders

After a hard afternoons work lobbing snowballs at the energetic kids in the close yesterday, I had to go swimming tonight to stretch my shoulders backout.  35 minutes including about 8 or 9 crawlies, I think… I REALLY don’t seem to be able to count straight in the pool!

Tyres in the snow

PLEASE can someone point out to the news agencies that the answer to their question, regarding the reason why we are apparently so unprepared for the current driving conditions, is TYRES and TRAINING.


Scandinavian counties have snow & ice for a large proportion of each year so they have both summer tyres and winter tyres.  

Their summer tyres are like ours, designed to work efficiently on tarmac in dry and wet conditions, with a lot of rubber in contact with the ground. 

Come the snow, they change to narrower tyres with sharper edges and a much more blocky appearance.  Less rubber in contact with the ground means that there is greater pressure exerted at each touch point, making for more grip.

Where snow and ice are compacted and last for the season, then tyres with studs are used, the titanium studs biting into the surface and giving good, but not perfect grip.  These are not permitted in areas where the ground cover comes and goes as otherwise they would tear up the tarmac.

Rally cars, seeking greater grip still, use extreme studs such as those shown on my about page, designed to bite down harder into the surface to find traction.  

My experience of all these tyres is that there is still not as much grip as our tyres in wet conditions, therefore something else is required to keep things moving.


in Sweden, part of driver training involves driving in every season and particularly learning what happens to the car in slippery conditions.

In this country we experience real snow so infrequently that tyres are chosen for their grip in the dry and wet.  Those that we use are effectively useless in snow.  

Lucky people get to drive on skid-pans to experience the effect of skidding but the rest of the driving population are not trained to deal with the conditions using the equipment we have.  

On the M20 last night, even before the worst of the snow came down, it was gratifying to see several less prepared or more aggressive drivers finding out how little grip they had WITHOUT hitting anything.  In each case they drove onwards much more slowly.

My suggestions for the next couple of days are:

  • Don’t go out in the car, unless it’s to try the conditions in your local area, in which case heed the following:
  • Keep your speed right down.  Fifteen miles per hour is FAST in the snow and CRAZY in the ice that we’re expecting tonight. 
  • Leave plenty of space and watch what is happening ahead, to the sides and behind.  Sliding cars can come from any direction and you need to be thinking how to avoid them early on, rather than assuming that they will be able to avoid you.
  • Be really gentle with the controls and use engine braking rather than the brakes where possible.  Make sure you know whether your car has anti-lock brakes or not.  Anti-lock brakes will help you stop in an emergency, but ordinary ones will need to be pumped on and off otherwise they may lock, at which point you are probably going to be out of control.
  • Avoid steep hills, up or down, unless they have been gritted.
  • If you get stuck, you can try letting your tyres down to give you more grip, but do heed the official advice and take a shovel, a blanket, a thermos a mobile phone etcetera.  
  • And keep your eyes open for someone following you into the same situation.