Sunday, 28 June 2009

Snowshill Manor and out for lunch

A really good weekend, despite our uncertainty about Rachel's job simmering in the background.

We took a trip to the gardens of Snowshill Manor, a perfect place to enjoy a relaxing summer's day - perfect that is, unless you have a child buggy too wide for an arts and crafts design and two inquisitive todders keen on detailed investigation and independent travel.

In the evening, we chargrilled and barbequed and watched Neil Young make a fine big noise at Glastonbury on the TV.

After my philosophical jog, we went to the Pheasant and met up with Pete and Sian and Julie and had a fine time with the kids in the play area out back.

Life is good, just not quite so secure as it used to be...

Saturday, 27 June 2009

This weeks running

Took a trip on wednesday to joint the Almosts on an off road run from the Patesrugby club, except that when I got there - they weren't! Apparently they're currently running out from a car park up by the Air Balloon that's informally known as 'Doggers Central.' Uneasy about IT band pains in my left knee, I nearly just went home but after some relaxed stretching i decided to take a jog around the Devil's Chimney race route. It was a fine run on a hazy sunny evening and with a nice breeze on the top just to add to the enjoyment. The knee held out well and I trotted back into the rugby club a full ten minutes behind my race time! Had a fine laid back pint in the bar watching wimbledon and chatting with the squash players.

On friday, I hooked up with Mike and we did the old familiar Sandy Lane loop. The idea was to bez round and incorporate some speed work. We got a bit knackered by the second hill and speeded up and slowed down for the rest of the run. Close and sticky, running through long grass and nettles. Put on a bit of a spurt towards the end and then drank odd homemade isotonic whilst the steam rose up from us. We're getting exited about the Snowdon.

Sunday AM, we took two cars and, leaving mine at Stanton our previous northermost point on the Cotswold Way, drove on in Mike's car up to Chipping Campden and the start of the 'Way'. Half asleep, I'd managed to bring my platypus (looking like a colostomy bag fit to bust, it being filled with a homemade isotonic of apple juice water and salt) but not my bum bag, so ended up running with a wee rucksac for the first time.

It was a good run, but very hot and very humid. Sweat stang the eyes and we made no effort to push the pace.

The petrified heritage and exclusive affluence of Chipping Campden and Broadway seemed surreally English. The wider landscape that we moved through had a similar sense of neat proporton and assured charm. I'm not sure that avarice will ever let me love the Cotswolds but I am becoming more fond of them - time will tell, I suppose.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

This week's running

Monday evening I made a run from our house out across the fields and up to the top of Leckhampton Hill. It's a rewarding and familiar route andthat I hadn't done for quite a while. My challenge is to get up to the top in half an hour, spend a bit of time at the trig point admiring the expansive views and then loop back round and be back at the house within the hour. I was about four minutes behind at the top but made it back just five seconds shy of the target.

On Friday, after being cracked back into shape by Cheltenham's Oliver Twist osteopath, I met up with Mike at his new house beneath Cleeve Hill for an 8pm start. We did a good loop, runing up through the fields from his house and up to the trig, then over the top and down to postlip hall before picking up the Cleevewold route for a while and then up some recently made steep paths. We crossed the back of the common and picked up the gallops before coming back down through the woods.

Sunday. Fathers' Day. The 6.30am start was a real effort of will. We ran the Cotswold Way north from Winchcombe along to Stanton. It had rained the night before and the land was damply warming up to create sticky air. Cow parsley and elderflowers sometimes lined the way, tipped at odd angles like wobbling spinning plates on sticks. They filled the air with the heavy scent of honey. Atop the escarpment we came across a newly planted broad avenue of limes within metal tree guards - a recreation of an old vista from Stanway House off in the distance.

In the afternoon we headed over to Farringdon for a barbeque at Professor Tony's house. The garden was filled with PhD students and heavyweight professionals from the world of autism, all thoroughly nice. Ben and Sam toddled around and kept me busy whilst Rach did some catching up. The nosh was great, and when not stopping the boys from falling down steps/wandering out into the road, I managed to fall into conversation with a psychologist and we banged on happily about climbing until it was time to go.

Got a fine mug from the boys today...

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Sunday Run

Picked Mike up at 6.30 and we headed over to the Malverns for a bit of a change.

Ran from British Camp to North Hill and back via a few detours through less well-trodden ground. Got back to the car and then went up the old forts ramparts of the Herefordshire beacon. About nine miles in all. Dainty hills fringed with Victoriana.

A hot morning, the views cut short by the haze. Ruddy grass seed heads bent to the light breeze. Bracken unfurling, stinking sweetly in the bright heat. Cheery hellos to the early morning walkers.

The next run on the horizon is the Snowdon race so, as they say, the more you put into it the more you get out of it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Spoon feeding

The days of spooning in each individiual mouthful may be beginning to draw to an end.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Cleeve Cloud Cuckoo 5.5m

Being over 600m, the highest point of the Cleeve Hill common land above Cheltenham technically fulfills the definition of a 'mountain' as set out by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW). On this basis, the smashingly titled and charmingly set Cuckoo race might be defined by some as a 'fell run' although to be honest whether it is or it isn't is academic. Basically, it's a short little toughie with nice views - and it's only up the road!

Leaving Mike to network and catch up with old buddies, I left the pre-start gaggle for a nice warm up on the slopes above the golf club house. A wee in a gorse bush and five minutes sitting quietly on a disused tee helped to focus the mind.

The course forms a figure eight route across the top of Cleeve. On the outward leg, I slot in behind Jamie and decide that I'm going to give the race the best I've got. Mike's in there alongside. I'm not feeling tip top however, which is probably down to a lack of training, post-wedding tiredness and too much beer over the last week and a bit. Jamie leaves me behind quite quickly and then I'm struggling to keep up with two serious looking club runners who aren't up for conversation.

Down to the old sheep wash and out up the steep hill on the other side, the legs just aren't springy. I overtake a teeneage lass who has slowed to a walk, but otherwise I'm staying apace of others around me.

Onto the tops again and running towards the masts and then the turn back for the last diagonal back to the finish at the club house. I'm stretching out and working hard with my arms. The mouth is very dry. The teenager catches me up and I dig a bit deeper to try to keep up with her but I know that I'm not going to do it. She'd first to the last climb up to the trig point and this time she runs it all. Her Bourton clubmate is just ahead of her - another under 18!

Then it's the half mile downhill to the finish and I try to let my legs go and follow the momentum but I'm at my limit. I'm going as fast as I can and my breath comes and goes in loud gasps. I give up on catching the two in front, but I'm not going to be overtaken and I keep telling myself to keep going to try to come in under 40mins.

Over the line, shake the hands of the youths who'd beaten me and then spot another teen from cheltenham harriers who beat me in similar circumstances the year before - he's been home long enough to have got his breath back. I'm getting older and he's growing stronger!

Jamie comes over and sits beside me chattering while i come round. Mike powers in about a minute and a half later and then announces that he's going to run home. Jamie says, "I call him 'Diesel'", which is pretty accurate.

I've done a few races to date. So far the award for the most random race momento had gone to Cirencester AC for a hillybilly baseball cap with Chedworth Roman Trail on the front. The mantle has now definitely shifted to the Cheltenham Harriers for their stunningly random shot glass engraved with the logo of the race. I will treasure it.

I was 10th senior male and 25th overall in a time of 39:07. A fair improvement on last year's position of 41st and 41:55.

(Laura Kent 37:36 - rats!)

Monday, 1 June 2009

Hitched at last

Rachel and I got married on the 23rd of May at Stroud registry office. A small do with just immediate family only, it enabled us to appreciate what was going on in ways that probably wouldn't have been possible if the choice had been to fill a church or similar. They let Mum and Dad bring Midge the dog in and the our boys crawled about on the floor as their parent's made their solemn vows.

We had a fancy meal at a posh hotel near to where we live and afterwards hung around on the grass on a fine sunny afternoon.

My mum and dad looked after the boys for a couple of nights while the wife and I repaired to the Randolph Hotel in Oxford in an attempt to remember what it's like being in a relationship without children permanently in tow. Saunters round the sites, a visit to the Pitt Rivers, couple of nice meals and some ice cream in the park.

We held a garden party at another posh place the next weekend for friends and family. Rachel's mum pulled out the stops and laid on a fantastic spread, the dads made two fine speeches and my mum designed a fine treasure hunt for the kids. Loads of other people helped out to make it a great and memorable day for us.

Astonishingly touching to be freely given so much goodwill from so many people.