Saturday, 17 October 2015

The last run of the year (sort of)...

It's been a bad year for running... Between hideous coughs that threatened to make my lungs come up, smashed and bloody knees and a general nagging feeling of being blurgh my running, by my standards hasn't been brilliant...

However, my fastest half marathon on the hills of Liverpool, two other halves that showed what I could do without much training... an obstacle color run... and a lot of fun.

Which did lead to an interesting chat with my cardiologist, I don't think he's met many runners who sit there and say "I've had a bad year of running... but that means three half marathons, a handful of 10k's... oh and a couple of long distance paths".

Knowing what I can do means this year does hurt, a bit... A marathon downgraded to a 16 miler due to the knee and then a DNS due to the migraine hurts in terms of a run not done.

However, it's still three half marathons, two long distance paths walked and a lot of fun - and I can remember the years where I thought that a single half and some walks was a good year.

So, I've just kicked myself in the arse and started looking forward to tomorrow... which is officially the last run of the year, the last medal, the last t-shirt and what a t-shirt and medal - for in the morn I race Death himself...

I've done every one of the Beat the Reaper 10k's - I've been chased by the big bloke in black and by some quite cute devils... so I know the route, I know the fun to be had and I know that I will be slow. My plan is to enjoy it, to jog around in 75 minutes (hopefully) and to re-state the obvious - enjoy it.

And then I rest... With a possible short run around Chester on Monday night - testing head torches...

And then I rest... Until November, a dedicated couple of weeks off... and then the long, slow process of getting back into shape...

As for the 12 month challenge, I have 7 months to do multi-day walks in Northern Ireland and Wales, whilst fitting in my usually busy life - Plans and maps are bought, logistics will come soon.

I hope my luck with injuries, viruses, and other irritants has turned, because I am missing a damn good run...



Sunday, 27 September 2015

GNR & St Cuthbert's Way - raising awareness one step at a tme

There is something special about crossing things, the transition between one state and another, not being in one place or another... in this case plenty of interesting river crossings, a pilgrims path across a causeway and the border between Scotland and England.

The Great North Run, that fixed point in space and time I return to for the craic if not in expectation of running well, has crossing - the magnificence of the Tyne Bridge, the switch from motorway to A road (trust me, you might not notice but your legs do) and from land to sea as you finish on the coast.

Following the knee incident, I've not been able to run much, if anything... So, the plan for the GNR was to get around - and I did.  Sunburned and battered from the congestion but I got around.  Not fast, but ok for me on a baking hot day with no training.

Then it was back to the caravan, and set the alarms for before dawn - five hours travelling to Melrose was only downside of my plan to go straight from run to walk.

St Cuthbert's Way is a walk I've wanted to do for a while, a cross-countries romp taking in ruined abbeys, roman roads, winding rivers, and a walk out across the sands.

Simple when you say it quickly...

As is the way of these things, Monday, the longest day was wet... it varied from drizzle to downpour and the views were somewhat curtailed when I did gain any height.  The Eldion Hills were a short sharp introduction to the type of hills to expect - not big, but fairly sharply up and down.  Then lanes, paths and a long straight roman road take you to Harestanes, where Day 1 officially finishes. The abiding memory of the day is duck-board steps - if it got damp under foot someone has put duck-board in... fine for a while, but my renditions of "under the boardwalk" started boring me after a short while... and this was just unfair!

And also as is the way of these things, there's no accommodation here, so its an extra couple of miles into Jedburgh for a cosy bed, and a dry off.

 The next day was much, much better.  Rejoining the roman road for a stretch and then heading off into the hills.  Again not big hills, but ones that reminded you that little hills can bite back too... Lunch at Morebattle left one such hill - Wideopen - and with these views you can see how it got its name.

Kirk Yeltham - a lovely little village, with excellent pubs, and B&Bs... and this!

Another cracking day dawned for the border crossing; and with deer, feral goats, friendly dogs and ponies the walking was a joy to behold.

It was also the day I crossed the border... eat you heart out Great Wall of China or Berlin Wall - this is how borders should be done ;-)

Again the hills were short and sharp, but the drop into Wooler and the absolutely cracking Youth Hostel more than made up for the ache in the legs.

This was a youth hostel from another era - a 1943 vintage Women's Land Army accommodation block it was basic, warm, clean and did an excellent fry up!  There were others walking the Way there and we reminisced about the best bits so far, and as walkers do grumbled about the weather, the guidebooks and the maps.

Wooler to the coast was next - with a detour for a hill that is meant to be littered with neolithic artefacts.  Unfortunately the bracken was 6' high, so not a lot was to be seen.  Apart from the red kites, hares and stupendous beetles:-)

Then St Cuthbert's Cave - not where he was a hermit, but where they hid his body from the rampaging vikings.

It was also this day the value of carrying the flag became very real.  I'd been raising awareness with most of the walkers I'd chatted to - we all asked why we were doing it... No pilgrims, which was slightly odd, but hey ho.  And the flag prompted a few questions, and a long chat with, as they called it "the loud Irish group" and also with a dog walker... whose sister's baby had just been diagnosed with Fallots, and as of yet hadn't found any support locally.  Being able to list the local charities she may want to contact, and explaining the good those charities do and what some Fallots get up to seemed to help and I hope the message, and the contacts will get back.

Another cracking B&B and then out to Lindisfarne - the guidebook is full of dire warnings about the pilgrims path, so at the start of low tide I walked out along the road causeway, watching the poles recede across to Holy Island.

A quick tour of the Abbey, lunch, chatting with a GUCH I randomly met, some of the other walkers I'd met on the way, and then at the lowest of low tides I took the risk of walking along the poles... and loved it, water lapped the top of my boots in some places, I jumped across squelchy mud in others and looked at the line of poles and refuges and smiled.

A good walk done, awareness raised, can't ask for more than that:-) Apart from some sponsorship -

Go on - it does make a difference!



Sunday, 30 August 2015

Speyside Way - Blog 3/3 - The Walking Bit...

There is a good reason to leave the blogging of a long walk a week and a bit, the highs are less high and the lows are less low.  The born-tired weariness has left the body, the blisters are well on the way to healing, and the clothes are in the wash...

So, I have notes from each day and some bits I will be emailing the guidebook people and the mapping people...

Day 1 - Aviemore to Nethy Bridge

12 miles, a gloriously sunny day that was only marred by Scotrail being very uncomfortable and late. A simple walk along a disused railway, alongside a working steam rain (to Boat of Garten) and then a wander through Caledonian forest and plantations.  The views in places were superb...

Looking back there was still snow in the corries of the mountains, and as I wandered I saw my first deer of the week.

The walking was easy trails, navigation was fine - apart from the pylons having moved since the book was written...

Nethy Bridge took me to the Lazy Duck hostel, imagine your dream eco-hostel and the picture in your head is the lazy duck... Wood fire to keep the chill at bay, cosy beds behind privacy curtains and wildlife to share your breakfast with....

Day 2 - Nethy Bridge to Cragganmore

23 miles

A day of two halves.... The first 11 miles were more of the same, good trails through conifer... Granton-on-Spey was a perfect tea stop... Then it started raining...

The short section to Cromdale was memorable, if only for Charles and his very welcome approach to providing hospitality - a huge family dining room table, a giant tea pot, homemade cakes and an honesty box... Combined with sage advice from previous walkers about just how bad the next section was...

And boy was it.  In terms of rough walking it wasn't bad (bad day in the Peak District) but in contrast, in the rain, it was unwelcome.  The route deviates from the OS mapping (the Harvey is ok) as the local farm moved the path in the height of the foot and mouth.  The Cicerone guide says it requires careful navigation, I'd say it was easy - there were plenty of waymarker posts and thistles.  It did require concentration in the wet, as it was rubble covered in mud for a couple of miles.

Dropping back to the railway I saw a mountain hare, and also either a ginger rat with cute ears or a pine martin - I'm going with pine martin.

Then it was Cragganmore House, my B&Bs for the night.  I can't recommend Tony and Helen's pad enough.  From excellent food, through to a giant bath, free WiFi and most importantly for the end of that day - a boiler room where they kindly hung my gear to dry out.

Day 3 - Cragganmore to Tomintoul

15 Miles

After a great fry up, it was a two hill special via Glenlivet, the rain of then day before had turned some of the paths into streams.  A long slow grind uphill, was followed by a short sharp descent into the valley - there was a minor detour along the road to a suspension bridge for walkers and then Glenlivet Hall - which in August is taken over as an arts, crafts and most especially food centre.  Local ladies were serving homemade food for MacMillan, and it seemed rude not to stop (another thank you to Helen who'd suggest this as a port of call).

Through the distillery, and up and over the next hill... The highest on the route (well my version of the route), with friendly if well accommodated cows watching my passage.  Down through the woods to Tomintoul was a bogfest - Three metre wide tracks ankle deep in mud across their full width isn't conducive to clean walking. 

Tomintoul is a long, thin town... and the Smugglers Cove Hostel is at the other end of it.  However, clean, warm, cosy, with an excellent kitchen area I was happy as a bug in a rug.

Day 4 - Tomintoul to Cragganmore

15 Miles

Yep - I was heading back - the plan being I had a bit more time to see a distillery, and explore a bit... The top of Carn Daimh had a random post on it, on closer inspection its an "authorised" camera post...

Not a bad view...

Dropping back into Glenlivet, I timed it completely wrong... I arrived just as four coaches did... So I went back to the hall for lunch and carried on over the next hill, the paths were drying out and the walking was good.

I tried to visit Ballindoch... but for a visitors centre it seemed to fairly unwelcome to visitors - by appointment only and £35 a visit... So I popped into Cragganmore, had a lovely couple of shorts and a good chat to some of the staff.

Back to Helen and Tony's - duck pate, followed by cannon of lamb.... delicious... and a good nights sleep before the longest day.

Day 5

26 Miles

Helen looked sceptical and mentioned that there were buses... I looked at the map again, and reckoned that I would be fine. 

The first 13 miles were genuinely easy walking - disused railway all the way to Aberlour, a pub lunch at the Mash Tune, and blat on for the hard bit.  The road section was as weary as they ever are, then the forest track began.  Hemmed in, in high humidity, hard tracks... limited views due to the trees...

Yup, it was one of those moments when you start questioning your own sanity...

However, just as boredom and footache was getting to be annoying, along came the organisers of the following day's Speyside Way Ultramarthon.  A chat about runs done, and inanities shared I saw the first of their "motivational" way markers....

And for the next eight miles, they made me groan, grimace, smile and be very glad that I wasn't running it... The hills aren't massive, but they are short, sharp and irritating when you've a big rucksack on your back.

Into Fochabers, to a lovely pub, a local bungee me a tenner for the cause and a pint later I was almost human - well human enough to find fish and chips, relax and find my compeed - 26 miles had rubbed badly.

Day 6

10 miles.

This was the gentlest of walks.  Pancake flat, to the coast.  Stop at the Dolphin & Whale centre of tea and cake, do a sharp right turn and walk into Buckie.  I was serenaded by silliest as I went, 30-odd seals on the beach, just enjoying the sun... Through small coastal villages with history, catching German spies in WWII, and the last stretch into Buckle itself.

What Aviemore seemed to lack in official markings of the way Buckie relished in...

Overall, it's a good easy walk (especially if you break it down to more days that I did), the way marking is good (apart from where the pylons have gone) and the paths are 90% very good.

One thing I did find interesting, is at no point did I see the official sign of the way.  The thistle, almost everywhere, the Cairngorms National Park more than once.  Something with a leaping salmon, never... I also passed no walkers going my way, and only about eight going the other, all week.  So if you want a break from busy routes this could well be for you!

Oh, and there also seems to be a lack of commemorative tat... I like fridge magnets or t-shirts of walks!

I raised awareness when I chatted to people and will have fun of doing it all again in a couple of weeks, this time England and St Cuthbert's Way



Friday, 28 August 2015

Speyside Way - Blog 2 of 3 - the gear

Why do I write gear reviews?

One of the things that annoys me about some gear reviews in magazines is that the boots are worn once, the tent slept in for one night and waterproofs are worn new... not 2 years old and battered as hell.  Some magazines do better, and some online gear reviews better still... However, my gear is my gear bought out of my pocket, therefore to a certain degree any failures or problems are mine...

From the bottom:

TNF Lightwave.... Good balance of weight, sturdiness and decent grip.  The gore-tex lining was needed on the wet and muddy days and its usual sweatiness on the hot days. The fabric at the heel (internal) has gone at the seam (a normal weak point in shoes for me) and the grip is showing signs of wear.... The blisters, well I'm not sure I can blame the shows for them - 26 miles on a hot day on hard ground, with me and a backpack... one of those predictable things.

Socks - Lorpen and Bridgedales - the ultimate compliment, I didn't notice them...

Trews - Berghaus & ronhill tracksters - a bit more stretch in the berghaus would've been nice, pockets in the tracksters.  Both dried quickly, didn't stink too bad, and weren't sweat boxes.

Tops - main one for walking was a paramo grid top which was fine apart from the label, the waist band of my trews and the waist belt of my rucksack conspired to chaff my hip.... the label has now been removed!

Waterproofs - TNF point five - did its job... kept me dry, allowed me to vent as it was warm and wet, dried quickly.   Montane neoshell trews - excellent, didn't feel sweaty as I walked.

Insulation - Berghaus VapourLight Hypertherm - for a shrug on shrug off warmth layer this is superb, that critical 15 min when you've stopped and don't want to chill down has rarely been better dealt with.

Hat - a CHF special, and it worked...

Backpack - Osprey Talon 33 - cracking... took the load, held it to my back, balanced and made it easy to do. Hip pockets were big enough for snacks, compass and map, shoulder pocket fitted the backup phone and a snickers bar.  The wand pockets were accessible when you were wearing it, the back pocket held either my waterproofs or my sandals... I genuinely can't fault this rucksack... You can fiddle with the settings to your hearts desire, actually reaching the shoulder tensioners on the go!  the expandable back is easy to use and one you forget about worrying about very quickly!  Superb!

Tech - kindle voyage - whimper... reading myself to sleep each night was a joy, and lighter than a paperback.

Kindle Fire - I'll probably leave this at home next time, I just didn't use it...

Sony Xperia 1 compact - waterproof, and EE gave me a decent signal in the highlands... as a back up phone this is cracking!

Canon EOS M - finally a decent camera I don't mind carrying in the hills!!! On my hip when it was dry, in the wand pocket of the rucksack, under the cover when it was wet.  Battery lasted all week.

Three MiFi - cracking back up to B&B wifi...

Poles - Mountain King Trail Blazes - lightweight, collapsed to nothing when not in use, sturdy and reassuring in use.

So, other than breaking another pair of walking shoes, and taking a tablet too many the gear did what it was designed for.  Will I be shopping to replace anything (other than the shoes)? At the moment, no... It all worked, it's all been my gear for 6 months or longer and some of it is beginning to show wear and tear, but will get me through St Cuthbert's Way in one piece.

As I said at the start I bought all of this, but I'm happy to brutalise gear if any manufacturers want longer-term testing by a real walker... As normal, and as I've done in the past, I'll pass on what I've saved to CHF.



Thursday, 27 August 2015

Speyside Way - The Route - Blog 1 of 3

The first blog of the trio that the Speyside Way deserves...

And the easiest to do... Although getting Garmin to talk to the blog site has been a trial...

Aviemore - Nethy Bridge

Nethy Bridge - Cragganmore Cragganmore - Tomintoul Tomintoul - Cragganmore
Cragganmore - Fochabers Fochabers - Buckie

The blisters, penultimate day - hard paths and a warm day are just about healed... Which is good - Peak District for a wander Saturday!

The second blog - the gear - and the third - the walking and photos - should be up over the Bank Holiday...



Sunday, 9 August 2015

Knees, whoopsy daisies and packing...

Bugger... I was meant to be doing a fifteen mile marathon training run this weekend... However, I have a large dent in my knee, a left over from last weekend - when it looked like this: So, the fact I'm still moving is a bonus, though unsurprisingly if I put any running weight on it, it objects strongly... So no running for a week, just walking... Ok I was in the Peak District for three days this week so not too bad ;-). However, it has blown a bit of a hole in my marathon prep. The plan this time has always been to combining a one run through of the miles; I was doing reasonable halves, so a couple of 15s, a 20 in early Sept and some toughening up stuff... Losing a 15 miler now isn't too bad, given that I'm heading north at the end of the week. Three days at the Fringe - museums open at night (with booze), a history of porridge (with tastings), some comedy (disability flavoured and others often just wrong), some Shakespeare (Othello by an all female troupe) and some of the other stuff Edinburgh has to offer - an Escher Exhibition, the baked spuds with McSween's veggie haggis and the occasional pint of heavy... Why none of the hard stuff? That's because of the following week - 105 miles and about 10 distilleries to try... As normal the packing is an art form; from the bottom: Feet - one of two pairs of decent socks, rotated. TNF Lightwave shoes, Keen sandals for the evening. Legs - One pair of walking trews, one pair of tracksters, one pair of lightweight waterproofs Grundies - technical and seamless Tops - three technical t-shirts (rotated) and one paramo long sleeve top. Berghaus Hyperterm and TNF point five (warmth and waterprrofing) Bag - 33l Osprey Talon Washkit - minimal inc pocket towels Water bladder Tech - main phone, walking phone (it's waterproof), kindle and fire tablet Camera - EOS M Charging bits and bobs... Cicerone guide and map, ViewRanger on the walking phone and fire with the Speyside Way maps downloaded. The accommodation is booked, and ranges from a near perfect looking mini-hostel (with sauna), through to a posh B&B (twice) - even has a named chef - more traditional hostels and a pub. The walking should be good. An easy 10 miles to break myself in, then 20, a couple of 15s (with hills), a big 25 mile day and 10 to finish. So a missed 15 isn't looking too bad:-) So, this week is about getting the day job done to the point I can walk away and leave the blackberry behind and making sure the right gear is in the right bag... TTFN Paul

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Travel Gremlins

It's been a day...

A long day...

A trip to work's office in Basingstoke is never particularly straight forward but...


The first train at just before 6am - decided to tell us there was a signalling fault, and sat at the station for five extra minutes... and then crept into Liverpool.

The Virgin down to London was for once only 10 minutes late - or ON TIME as we've come to accept it...

The Tube, for once worked like a dream...

And then Waterloo...

At this point I feel duty bound to say I have a fair grasp on my faculties, and am capable of walking significant distances...

Platform numbers weren't showing, so asked one person in uniform, got sent to a platform where the train wasn't going to Basingstoke... So asked another, different platform.... still not going to Basingstoke... Ask a third... and he checks his app...

Get on the train... and the guard tells me I'm on the slow, stopping train... and there was a faster one leaving behind us, but it was too late to run across the platforms.

So Basingstoke... Pity the instructions on getting to the office said for those on the train get a cab... unless you were driving, in which case park in town, and walk from the town centre.
Good meeting, went well...

Walk back to the station... 15 minutes...

I even got the slightly earlier train from Basingstoke that gave me a half chance of getting the earlier train home... Guess what the earlier train  was late, I missed my connection by a minute... 

The journey was slightly unpleasant by the lady next to me over spilling her seat somewhat, and tucking her legs diagonally into mine - normally if I'm feeling that much warm thigh I at least have been on a date!  If it was a come-on it didn't work, and the seats aren't that bloody small!
Anyway, back to the travel If New Street had been organised a bit better and I hadn't been given directly contradictory directions I may have made it to the connection. If station redesigners want to see how NOT to do things, so to New Street now... as well as my experience, see later for the lengths they're having to go to.  

No worries, I'm only on the train I'd planned on with time for a coffee...
Have coffee...

Walk back... Discover that you now can't get through the shopping centre to get through to the station. No worries plenty of time to get to the 17:01...

The 17:01 has been cancelled due to a 'staff issue'...

Get given two contradictory sets of instructions to get home...

And spot that New Street is so bad that for some platforms they have walking guides taking you on a merry trip around the place to get to your platform. IF IT IS THAT BAD YOU NEED TO DO MORE THAN SHOUT AT PEOPLE TO FOLLOW YOU!

The penultimate train with at least double its normal complement of people, and I've won a table with a family that look like they've come out of cloning tubes... who get off a few stops later and get replaced by a loud child... I'm sorry people by now I've been on the go for 12 hours...
And guess what, that train is delayed by about 10 minutes...

Miss the next connection... fortunately they are every 15 minutes.

And in a final irony of the day, my train sat outside of my station as there was a signalling fault.
A 14h day... good job it was a good meeting...

Sorry, no running today.. I need an early night!



Sunday, 19 July 2015

Running for Charity...

A couple of people have asked for my tips and tricks for running for charity in the last couple of weeks, so I thought I'd write a summary of my sage advice...

1) Some charities have places in run, others don't, some put on their own events. 

If a charity has places in a big run, then they will have paid for it (and on top of the cost the run would charge you there may be an admin cost from the race organiser for bulk bookings, the admin of managing finding the runners etc).

If they don't then see below.

If they put on their own event then expect the events to be more fun and more loved than others - my favourite 10k, the Mad Dog, is run by the local rotary and supports their good works.  It's not the cheapest 10k run I've done, but its one I've done every year since it started.

2) Fundraising targets - check, check, check... If a charity is giving you a target then be honest, will you make it?  As a minimum please cover costs (and try for awareness if you can't make a bit of extra).  Some charities (normally bigger ones) will ask you to sign a contract for some events, and will expect you to pay the minimum even if you don't get the sponsorship... Yes, seriously, and some (very big ones), will charge you an admin fee for some popular events.

3) If a charity doesn't have places... Then think about getting your own.  I've done races/events in every part of the UK, there are only two that I've ever had to enter a ballot for... The Great North Run and the London Marathon.  GNR I've been lucky every year I've applied through the ballot and London, once in seven years.

Not getting into London is probably the best thing that happened to me as a runner.  By the time London came around I'd done 5 or 6 marathons or Ultras.  The distance wasn't a problem, the emotion... well, doing anything after 6 years of waiting is bound to be a tad emotional.

Find a local run, try and get into the local paper, have local support - I have friends who only see me run in Southport, or Liverpool who'd never get to Newcastle or London.   When you run a big run, there's support for everyone, from everyone...

4) There are some events that ask for your running pedigree - normally to work out where to put you in the pens, or in some more extreme events as a safety check.

If you're a speedy runner, and have the evidence, you may be fast enough to get a Good For Age place - in which case I'll see you at the end, and the pint is on you ;-)

5) Getting the cash - ask the charity which method works best for them; justgiving takes a small percentage to cover their costs, virginmoney doesn't take anything out.. But ask.

I'm not into doing baking, stalls etc, so I just ask and keep asking.  If your work will match funds, then ask them to.  If you are a dab hand at baking (or something else useful) then do it, it all helps.

Keep telling people how much you're training, tell them your highs and lows - make it their journey as well as yours.  Some people have doubled their sponsorship of me when they realise just how much hard work training for something is.
Electronic money is a lot easier than cash... but never say no!  E-money via the websites also makes getting giftaid (free money!) a lot easier.

6) Bottom Line!

a) If you want to do an event, then applying yourself will normally be cheaper for the charity than taking a place they've booked (but ask)
b) Check how best to raise cash for them
c) Have fun and enjoy your run!!!

And never forget just because it's not the GNR doesn't mean its not a half marathon, and all marathons are the same length as London...



Sunday, 21 June 2015

A scientist in a world of religion

I've said bits of this before, but a month after submitting my last assignment is about right for some more serious reflection.

I'm a scientist whose pretty much worked in science for the last 20 years. I'm not a bench, lab or field scientist (though I've dabbled with all of them), I'm an applied scientist. Sometimes working in my specialty, sometimes working from first principles.

So why do a course in religious controversies... A332 is it's code number.

Why not? Is my first response... My more considered, with that wry smile my friends know and fear, is I'm doing this OU degree for the challenge, the fun and to regain some of that love of learning that it's so easy to lose.

I'd also classify myself as a confident, but not overly strident atheist, frankly I don't care what you believe, I do care if you foist it on others or make people live by your rules.

I'm by inclination and training I'm an analyst, but I'm an extrovert who learns discussion. So the OU is a strange experience, much of it on my own. At this point I should thank my climbing friends and lunch partners, they've been battered this last year as I've finessed arguments, and looked for them to prod for rot.

So, what have I learned - nuance. It's very ready to take a simple reactionary position, based on your perceived position. This course has been excellent in challenging us, it's willing victims, to go behind the headlines - was Ghandi a great man, or a politician with an eye for young ladies; did the Romans think Jesus mad; what impact do multicultural policies have, for the good of society or the bad; what drives people to be suicide bombers and how does ask this affect, at one extreme the individual, and at the other, international politics.

So into this I did go. With a little trepidation, how would an atheist fare? First up I wasn't alone, second up very few people ended up being challenged on what they believe.  The formal OU forums had a curious feel at times when some individuals chose to forget that the art of communication is adapting to your audience, or tried to impose a world view on others. Yes, it went to the moderators... I don't know what formally happened but the individual disappeared for a while and life returned to normal.

The informal forum on Facebook, had I think less issues, we had the odd argument and some strident people turf up, but the shared interest and willingness to learn from each other made it a safe haven as journal papers, TMAs, the EMA and dreaded Harvard referencing got on top of us.

The online communities are characterised by their robust politeness and willingness (odd individuals apart) to recognise that in the OU we all have different backgrounds and that means we have to explain and change how we explain our positions much more than in any other academic discussion.

My course feedback suggested they need to tweak the bits on Dawkins & Darwin. It may have been deliberate to show one side of the argument, but unless you knew or were inclined to check it could easily have been accepted as fact - it's the nuance that is critical. My essay on that bit got my favourite comment ever from a tutor "wow!".

My tutor group was a good mix, of good people, with the bunnies of two groups trying to meet up so we had extra brains. Salford uni on a study is never going to be buzzing, but the debates provided a spark in barren wasteland (trust me, you can't buy coffee!! The tutors bought biscuits).

So, the long wait for the final results had started, somewhere in the country a marker is, probably with a well deserved wine in hand, giggling through my 3000 words. I enjoyed writing them, I just hope they answer the question in a way they appreciate.

So, thanks to the forumites (official & unofficial), my tutor group and tutor. My marks are my fault, but you made it a blast!!! And I now get even more angry at poor reporting, it used to just be science, now its religious did as well!!



Friday, 19 June 2015

Now things get interesting...

Well, the race strategy worked, and my ability to judge things was tested and didn't fail.  The Rock and Roll Marathon Weekend in Liverpool was many things but flat and cool it wasn't.

A great fun 5K, racing a quintet of Disney Princesses and a large number of Elvis', complete with a stupendous arena finish with black lights and pounding rock music... It doesn't get much better than that!

Apart from it does...

Because after the 5k comes the main event - for me a half marathon... Liverpool Half Marathon's have a couple of interesting elements - mostly the hills, definitely the parks (and the humidity) and the headwind along the prom.  And yet, with bands blasting out at regular intervals, well stocked and volunteered water and fuel stations it was fun - and my fastest half in Liverpool by 5 minutes, and 10 minutes faster than the flatness of Cambridge.

What a difference training makes :-)

As an added bonus there was a pint of cider and the best, blingiest medals EVER!!!

And so after a busy week at work, and no running my thinking goes forward - the next big race is the Chester Marathon.  According the profile, and the views of friends who've run it it's flat. 
I have a two element plan - one build up to a single 20 mile run - looking at the stats from my other marathon training the second 20 miler added nothing, I know its meant to be a confidence thing, but I know I will finish, so this is just about getting fit and leaving plenty in the legs for the big day.
The second element is to get tough, my normal running routes aren't flat - they're in Liverpool but they're not the sort of hills I love to walk up - so when I hit the hills there'll be a run built in.  If I'm doing a multiday walk there'll be at least one hard-day.
So this weekend is the start, a weekend of walking, with a c8mile run in the morning on Sunday.
It won't be fast but it will be fun.