A New Year and The Same Old Story

Well it is now the 10th or maybe the 15th of the first of the grand month of 2015, for some of you watching on Dave then it could quite possibly be the 2017. (UK Telly joke)

Once again I made a promise to myself to shift the weight and stop with the heavy drinking, and like a fool I picked the first month to start this off. Now its no secret that I have shed the pounds before but then its no lie that they have piled back on. I run and train for marathons and run some more, get injured rest a month or so out and bingo, I’m half a stone bigger. This is not to say that I am anywhere near the sight or weight I was when I first started my running addiction, no I’m just talking about that last bit of weight I can’t shift or get rid off and then to help matters I decide to go on a binge.

Well, I said to myself you are out of work so you might as well put that bike to good use and those trainers are still looking far to new. So I said to myself I will slowly bring myself up to the fitness I need. Now since December to now, I have placed a whole stone or 10kg on me. For my US friends that is around 14 pounds. (Get with the program and learn some other measurements) So come the day after boxing day I cut out the drink. Didn’t even have any on New Years and still have not. The chocolate and snacks were last to be cut out as they were still in the house sitting and waiting to be gobbled up. I eventually removed them by around the 4th.

So since then I have been keeping a food dairy and doing some running and cycling. Depending on the accuracy of my scales then I have already lost 2kg. Don’t feel or look thinner, but the high tech scales also says I have lost 5% of body fat.

So once agin its a new year and I have promised myself the same thing… I will train like a pro and I will look at what I eat. So far I have managed it,but for how long.

In truth I really do want to get down and start wearing smaller sizes. I don’t mid a little belly. I’m not on about looking like an Ironing Board, but I would like my hand to run down from my chest to my belly in a smooth straight line.

Oh well sure you’ll find out my progress at one point or the other.

A View of NZ Two Months On.

When you think of New Zealand your mind jumps to the scenic backdrops that Peter Jackson has used for many of his films and not just the ones that star little people with large hairy feet. You think off clean, panoramic views with houses stood in isolation. A country that is 100% focused to the environment and keeping the green hilly land in tact by trying to restore the short damage that history of not just the Europeans but also the first settlers caused.

Yes, while the white man might have shaped NZ by mining, chopping, reclaiming the currently landscape that kiwis are struggling to adapt to, the tribes of the Maori hunted several birds to extinction and wiped large areas of natural forest even before Cook was born. All be it that they accomplished this over hundreds of years where the settlers after James Cook were on some kind of speed trip to write forests and animals into the history books of this young country.

I’ve been here now for over two months and have seen a good amount of New Zealand and enough time for my opinion to change. Sure I still love it. Why wouldn’t you? You’ve all seen the photographs I’ve taken…. Just look at it… It’s gorgeous. The thing is, it isn’t all middle earth. I’m coming closer to the idea that this is England with a bigger backdrop.

They all drive on the left for starters and road rage is high, traffic accidents and drink driving along with speeding is all high. The prospects for the young are low as employment is lacking and the notion of buying a house is even more far fetched than having that idea in the UK. People are fat and the government spins. The post is sacking staff, and banks offer loans. They love the pie. I would even go as far as saying that Wigan doesn’t know the meaning of pie eating. NZ has taken the art of pie and made it a national past time. Every petrol station, corner shop, cafe, pub all have pie. Everyone eats pie. The fashion is the same, the drinking culture is high, people sit in classy bars. Rural communities are being cut off and the prospect of libraries hang in the balance. Public transport is a mix bag and there is a nationwide buzz over X factor.

A recent survey saw over 50% thought that the picture postcard of a nation that bent double to look after its culture and environment was rubbish. Recycling is big, but like the UK there is large packaging issues and plastic bags given when none are needed. Sure the national parks protect the land, but farming is still big business and swallows up the land. The mere fact that the farmland is going to produce milk which is exported to the growing dairy loving countries in the east causes for milk and cheese in NZ to be purchased with a mortgage which at the moment means a 20% deposit. Kiwis feel that the idea they promote to the world is not entirely accurate. While steps are in place to help the conservation and to stop the spread of pests many locals feel it is no where near what it should or could be.

The idea of buying your own bit of land and building your house has gone, as like the UK, NZ has given birth to the property developer. Towns are still in abundance, but in the north and those cities in the south that have an ever growing population that takes over small quiet neighbouring settlements are slowly moving to the large American town model. Shopping malls are springing up with out of town entertainment complexes. Supermarkets are fighting for your money with weekly deals and money off the price of petrol, which since I arrived as risen by ten cents.

New Zealand is young and is still growing and as such faces a contradiction. It needs to grow and compete in the world. It needs to prove itself and not be shadowed by it larger neighbour. Since the 1950s when they finally let go of the reins that Britain had been holding, NZ has become its own country and is making a name for itself in its own right. But at what cost, can you carry on protecting the already changed habitat and remain to grow without changing the landscape for the worse.

It’s obvious that their efforts are being rewarded as several birds on the critical list are now back in abundance, native trees are replacing the Birch and the bush is being restored, but at what cost to progress and growth of communities. The road network will need a vast upgrade, some areas like Auckland are facing some of the worse traffic jams seen. One accident or rock slide can cause communities and day to day operations to come to a halt. Plans for more motorways are faced with large opposition for those protecting the land, but the need to move goods and commerce is growing with importance.

There is sense that they don’t want to conserve what they have but to try and turn the clock back before any mammal had set foot on the islands. Traps to kill stoats, hedgehogs, hunting of wild deer and pigs which thanks to evolution flourish while the indigenous species failed to adapt and as such were sitting ducks to their new predators.

I’m not sure which camp I’m in, but if their beloved kiwi can’t be bothered to adapt and survive then maybe god has its cards marked. The UK has had a number of foreign animals change the landscape and has Britain been any worse for this. But at the same time to see native birds that only reside in NZ disappear when we can be reasonable for their survival should not be ignored. But surly it’s too late to turn the clock back. Even for the young history of NZ. Even without mans help species have left this world and maybe we have only sped up what Mother Nature had planned. There is a cruel irony that while the induction of Europeans dealt the death penalty to many of the native wide life, they also helped others grow and survive.

You could be forgiven that you were in England sometimes, as some of the views and endless backdrops of hills, trees, mountains don’t look to dissimilar than our green pleasant land. However it’s bigger and grander. You feel more isolated and amazed. The lifestyle is more chilled and laid back. Even in busy cities the clock signals home time at 6pm, which people respect. In the rush of business people will wait for the green man and allow the humble pedestrian to cross even when they have a green light.

There are several parallels you can draw between the UK and NZ, the people who dream of flying to the other side of the word, the cost of food, the future, the love of one sport like its a religion, all be it different ones, the spilt thinking about the queen, a love of their country, walking, the weather and political system.

There is more to this country than the picture postcards we have installed in our minds. So after two months it’s not that they just drive on the left.

They drive on the left

Right, I’m here and let’s be honest I wish I had started to blog about my adventures earlier in this wonderful place we call New Zealand. I know that you probably think otherwise but at the end of the day you have chosen to read or follow this attempt at literature so I can only conclude it must be entertaining in the smallest degree.

Anyway I’ve been in kiwi zone now for 6 weeks and while there seem to be many parallels with us Brits the kiwis seem to do other things different and in most cases they make sense. Lets start with the banks.

I set up my account in England, so when I arrived all I needed to do was activate it. I popped into the local ASB bank showed them the letter they opened a drawer and took out a card, placed it in the machine and asked me to type a pin in. After I’d typed the four digits, the card was removed and handed to me. Simple as that, no waiting for a card in the post. I asked what would happen if I lost or had it stolen how I’d get it replaced. Same procedure I was told, so no waiting for a new card in the post either. We then set up Internet banking in a similar fashion. There was no waiting for a username, then a pass code in another letter, it was just like registering for amazon or any other kind of online account. No sign of that stupid law of data protection, as was seen when the man in the vodafone shop phoned up on my behalf and quoted a shop reference number to the call centre staff before he began talking about my account.

It gets better.

Let’s turn our attention to driving. It’s on the left, and has two speed limits. 50 k.p.h for towns and built up areas or 100 k.p.h for open roads. Travelling at 100 makes it a lot easier to wrk out travel times as well. Also the roads, are simple. Everyone lives by the coast, and the state highways just run from town to town, so as long as you know north and south, and where your destination is then you can’t get lost. The downside to this is lack of road signs. Travelling from Picton to Nelson, I would have one road sign just outside Picton showing me I was heading to Nelson and it was 200 odd kilometres, and that would be it until I got to Nelson. Sure there would be a sign further on informing me I was heading to Nelson, but it wouldn’t give me a distance. They also seem to be very late in appearing. If for example I did need to turn off, the sign instructing me would do so on the junction, no warning to say Queenstown next left, or anything like that.

Another thing about their road signs is that there funny and shocking. Some of the highlights have been a sign filled with crosses, with the slogan, ‘you’ll be dead for a long time, so what’s the rush’ and another one that was DRINK DrIvE, with the DIE in drive in red. Others with coffins driving a car with a slogan ‘Tired drivers die’ and a picture of a zip to show how to merge onto a road.

The speeding limit is enforced heavily with only a tolerance of 5 over, and other road signs indicate this with the fines you could get. I saw one with a speedo that had 0 to 105 k.p.h then it went $150, 200, 250, and so on for each 5 k.p.h over. You also have no warning where the cameras are.

As many of the towns are far apart, you could be driving for 300km at a time, which takes around 4 to 5 hours. The roads may look straight on the map, but they are in Fact hilly, rising sometimes as high as 900 meters above sea level, with every twist and turn turn possible. You will see signs to tell lorries to test there brakes before a 6K down hill twisty section and every corner will have a suggested speed limit, which is in fact extremely accurate. But the roads help you as many of the bend will widen. Another neat idea is when turning right onto a main road you have a little slip road, to park yourself in, until there s space to join the flow of traffic.

The final thing to say about NZ roads are as there are not many motorways and the roads are like our country ones in the UK then you will find plenty of passing places that are signed as far back as 5km, which is just as well as tailgating and not rugby seem to be the national sport. The one major rule on the road and car parks is give way to the left, this applies on the passing places, if the car passing on the right has not managed to overtake those on the left he has to give way to them. The only thing I found really odd but it makes sense now is that the writing on the road is backwards. NZ has a lot of one road bridges, and I’ve often thought why they didn’t build them as two lanes. Whilst in the UK you would see ONE LANE BRIDGE written top to bottom, in NZ is from bottom up.

One
Lane
Bridge UK WAY

Bridge
Lane
One. NZ WAY as you read the words as you cross over them

Finally supermarkets and gas stations. People are employed to fill your car up, leaving you to go inside and wait and pay. These folk will also clean your windscreen. There does not seem to be a difference in price between the brands, even BP is the same price as the budget supermarket stations. What’s also great is at every pump they have a keypad where you can select the amount of petrol you want in dollars or litres so never again do you have to slowly squeeze the pump to get that last drop to round it up to 10.

Supermarkets are pretty much the same, except that some fruit goes by different names, it took me a good couple of minutes to find peppers on The self service. They have there versions of Tescos, Sainsburys and Spar. The big thing would be the prices for items are on the shelf above and you always have to look out for specials as food is expensive unless it broccoli as that’s like 30p, but bread is like 2.50 and cheese works out to be a rip off. Brands that were use to exist but seem to be shadowed by there NZ own. The only brand tat has prime shelf space is Cadburys and that’s expensive, in fact all chocolate is. Dairy milk is $2.50 which is £1.75 and its not that they import it, as they make it in Dunedin

Anyway hope you have enjoyed reading the differences. Ill be back soon to talk about some of my adventures.

The Langdale Express – Part One of my weekend in the Lakes

The weekend was not going to be a rest day by any means. I had walking, camping and racing planned and that is exactly what I did.

Come Sunday morning I was waking at 6am ready to drive to Ulverston to meet a friend who would be participating in these activities. But first we had to get there and as my friend volunteered to navigate along the stereotypical roads that crisscross and meander through the valleys and around the foot of the mountains that stand tall and survey the landscape we found ourselves in Langdale.

The main object of the weekend was the Langdale 10K race, an undulating little number of there and back. Last year it was held over two days and had reached its 500 capacity on both days very quickly. This year had a capacity of 750, but for reasons unknown failed to get more than 100 on each of the days. As the rain lashed down and thoughts that I would finally get to wear my rain jacket which was a direct result of being left out in the rain for too long at Manchester Marathon, and the knowledge that Snowdon Marathon was notorious for its wetness I decided that a decent running waterproof was in order. Apart from the odd training run I had never really got to use it. But as the wind buffered the side of the car and the rain carried on falling I thought I would finally be fulfilling it’s purpose.

I joked that once we started the rain would ease off, and sure enough seconds after the gun the rain ceased to be. This must have been the strangest of races I have lined up for. I think in total there were 39 other people positioned ready to start and as I ran and ran fast it felt very much like a training run. The pack broke up quickly and within the first 30 seconds the distance between the runners were spread out along the valley road.

After a strong race, where I kept my position and managed to over take a guy in the last two miles my legs didn’t quite have the energy to pass the woman 500 meters in front of me but I still crossed the line in just over 43 minutes, that considering the course was a good time.

After the race we set up camp in the National Trust campsite which was empty apart from some rabbits and several flooded pitches. We found an area that we thought would remain dry and set up camp. After the comical chasing of tent bags due to a large gust of wind in which the blog takes its title we were set up. Now it was time for a walk.

The weather was still unsettled and a little apprehensive in what it wanted to do, but we began the climb to Pavey Ark. The river that runs down from the tarn was in full flow as it rushed down the valley, leaping off rocks kicking spray into the air. The usual route across seemed a little dangerous as the stepping-stones across the river were covered with white foaming water rushing along. After seeking an alternative we made it to the snow topped tarn and looked for a way to climb Pavey Ark. Again the river and streams were full to bursting and current was faster than a penderlino from London. We concluded no safe way and as the cloud cover and storm clouds began to circle we thought it wise to turn back for food and ales.

After a good many drinks and a very typical English tradition of paying Draughts, which I lost, we turned in for the night. This was when the fun began.

As I tossed and turned to get to sleep, I heard the rumble and howling of the wind coming off the mountains as she sped up running toward the valley and the campsite I heard it rush past the tent. Then there was silence, and like the after shock of a quake the full effect of the wind took hold. With no noise the tent blew, and shook trying to be lifted from its moorings, and then nothing. Then five minutes later the same effect. The noise of the wind followed by silence followed by the effect. This went off throughout the night and into the morning which made the packing of tents a very enjoyable experience as we battled with the gales to un-pin our shelters from the ground while still trying to keep said tents firmly in our grasp.

I later find out they call this the Langdale Express and sometimes the wind come from both directions and crashes in the centre of the valley.

After packing away and checking the forecast we moved on to climb Wetherlam. But that is a different story all together. As I when I say climb, I mean climb.

The first part of this weekend break was a fantastic adventure with good company. I had ran a good race, walked in one of the few places that I hold dear to my heart next to Snowdon and had a lot of good ale and fantastic food.

Rest

We all need it. That is why we sleep. But it can all be a bit boring.

For those who read the wonderful post yesterday from my legs then you may be able to guess what this short post is about. I need to rest before my race on Sunday. I somewhat over did the running and speed work this week after having a little unwelcome break from my running due to work commitments and the sudden lost in faith that led to me not being bothered and losing any kind of motivation to get out and run.

Like a novice I dived back in with both feet and ran up the miles. I ignored the screams and pleads from my legs to stop and carried on. While my legs do not feel heavy they have a touch of the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) So with this I said that Friday and Saturday will be rest. Plenty of carbs and protein and feet up. The truth of the matter is, I want to run.

This sitting about lark is a tad boring. I would like to go and walk or run even cycle but I fear any extra stress or pressure I put on the tired legs will result in failure on Sunday. Speaking of which I am still undecided if to run a PB or just run the course. I know deep down that my mind is attracted to a new PB as I am looking at the Pace I will need to obtain a Sub 1:35, and that is after all why I have legs up resting. If I was to just run and practice my marathon pace, taking on gels etc then I would not be to concerned with the state of my legs. If anything it would be good practice to see how I cope with tired legs. After all come Mile 20 that is how they will feel.

But resting is what I am doing. Gentle exercise on the foam rollers and the Stick to ease knots. Wearing my compression clothing to help freshen my legs. Eating the right food, and drink the right liquid all to ensure my legs are fresh and ready for Sunday.

Oh well. Off to eat some more seeds and nuts and rest up some more. I might just go for a gentle stroll round town to get the blood flowing to help the repair.