21 February 2010

Sweet Thames run softly

Another weekend, another 18 mile cross-country run. Having had a fun lunch with the family, I made my way to Waterloo, missed my train (damn you, Northern line closures) and eventually got to Staines.

After the now-traditional snow flurry as I left the station, I joined the Thames Path. Thankfully, navigation is much easier than anything in Epping Forest - you just follow the big watery thing. There were no hills, but it was nevertheless a good run and a very pleasant route, passing some lovely scenery and some exceptionally large houses - the biggest of which is pictured to the right and, I think, has a fairly well-known resident - through Runnymeade, Windsor, Eton and Maidenhead. I got to Windsor just before 4pm and realised the sun was going down, so I hoofed it for the next 6 miles. Even so, it was getting pretty dark by the time I arrived at my destination of Cookham after just under 3 hours on the road, a particularly pleasing time given I was carrying a pack.

The purpose of the trip was to spend the evening with B and James, friends of Freya, my girlfriend. It turned out to be a very enjoyable weekend, with dinner in Malik's (apparently Heston B's favourite curry house) and a few pints of Rebellion, capped off with a bracing Sunday morning walk down to the quite extraordinary Bounty in Cockmarsh for some predominantly deep-fried food today. Also, pleasingly, no ill-effects from the run. It's getting to the point where I'm close to believing that I'll make it to the start line...

15 February 2010

Epping Forest

In my effort to try to find a long run that is (a) not tedious, (b) off-road and (c) has a hill or two, I found myself making my way to Theydon Bois on Sunday. The plan was to run back home through Epping Forest and it looked like it was going to be a 16-miler - perfect. The forest is only a couple of miles wide, so no real navigation problems. So, off to Zone 6 of the tube, armed with my new trail shoes (to break in for the MdS), a litre of water, a Clif bar, my Blackberry and a map of the forest on a sheet of A4.

What happened next? My iPod refused to switch on at the start - pretty annoying. Within 5 minutes of starting the run it began to hail. I got a bit excited when I finally managed to find something that looked like Epping Forest though and set off into some fields.

Turns out there are no signposts in Epping Forest. Nor are there any nice big maps with "You are here" blobs on them. Quite a lot of roads criss-cross it but, whenever I emerged onto one, on no occasion was it obvious where the hell I was. Mobile reception is a bit patchy, so my Blackberry was of limited use, although at least it tended to confirm that I was heading in roughly the right direction - i.e. South - most of the time. I did see a nice tree though.

Expecting a run of 2.5 hours, maybe 3 hours tops, I ate my snack after about 1 hour and had finished my water by about 2 hours. At that point, I think I was somewhere near Walthamstow. I got to Whipps Cross Hospital and thought I was almost home. Wrong - still 7 miles to go from there. I experienced sense-of-humour failure. I had to run along main roads. I continued to experience sense-of-humour failure. I did get to see some kind of Olympic stadium preparation, though by that point I was beyond caring - I was a bit knackered, hungry and dehydrated by then. Finally, 3h43m later, I managed to make it home.

On the plus side, my trainers were OK and I ran (in the end) about 18 miles I think - further than I have for ages - with few ill effects. On the minus side, I was a bit late for dinner...

07 February 2010

Animals VIII / back in the saddle

It feels a bit as though my training starts now. My horrible October and November lost me lots of ground, and I've spent the last couple of months trying to get back to where I was before the Marathon du Médoc. Finally it feels like I'm getting there. I've run over 35 miles this week and, for the first time in ages, felt pretty good whist doing it. The problem now is trying to fit everything in - the last 7 days have seen two gym sessions and four runs. It's starting to take a bit of a toll on my work and social life. I guess, on the plus side, it's only for the next couple of months. I've also started doing some really sad things like putting surgical spirit on my feet to toughen them up and have just started to research taping techniques for blisters...

Today's long run was 14 miles - my usual loop around London's central parks, though this time I took in the entire perimeter of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It felt relatively easy going given I've not run this far since September last year, though I did tire a bit for the last few miles and the rain was pretty unpleasant at times.

Here are a couple of animals from Victoria Embankment - a sturgeon and a camel.

02 February 2010

Skiing again

Back from a week in St Anton, a somewhat crazy place of skiing and drinking. Unfortunately, the former was curtailed by yet another injury, this one a bit unexpected. My ski boots seemed to rub over the side of my ankle bone (lateral malleolus for those who're of a medical bent), causing untold agony when I put them on and limiting my skiing to only about 3 days. Luckily, I just about remember how to snowboard and I managed to deal with the shame of being a boarder for the rest of the time.

Then back for an 11 miler on Sunday night. Turns out they lock Victoria Park at night. Who knew?