Home Sick

Well my dream of staying is slowly fading and in a surprising way I’m kind of glad. It was after all a dream to stay and work but now if I’m honest I’m a little homesick. Sure I miss my family and my best mate and there are a few others who I wouldn’t mind having a pint with not that we’ve really kept in touch.

But the true home sickness and this will be a surprise to many and a few may gasp and exclaim and argue that I’m daft especially with the landscape and scenery but my heart belongs in the hills and mountains of Britain.

Yes I’m homesick for walking Snowdon and Tryfan or taking a cold winter hike across the moors or a drive to a remote part of the peak district and rambling down country lanes and through English woods. Off course the views and landscape in the land of the hobbits is amazing and I know as I look down from Snowdon or view the Cheshire plain from Kinder Scout my brain will flash back to those pictures and images of the southern alps and the quite one horse towns and question which one is better. People said NZ is Wales on a larger scale and they weren’t wrong.

I still have some months left and with my time I’m going to see this country again to make sure I have a full memory of sights, sounds and stories stored in the old memory bank. Sometimes you have to be without something to realise how much it actually means and while I could happily make the move I need to go back to see if my true loves once more and put the world to rights with a good old fashioned drinking session with my bestie.

A friend once posted a song to my wall which I think I have shared with you all before called ‘The Manchester Rambler’ which sums up my affair and passion for the outdoors. While I have now found a way to come back and work over here in the future  I find myself missing the peaks and Snowdonia ever more.

I’ve made some good friends and have had partook in many an adventure and while there have been high and lows how will always treasure my time in NZ and hold it close but the time has come to return to the UK and who knows I may realise that NZ was for me after all. But at the moment Im longing to walk down Market Street and go into Greg’s for a steak bake or chin wag and complain over a warm flat beer with Matt, or redeem my nector points and watch the BBC and take a walk in the British rain and wrap up warm not put on sun screen in Janaury. But at the same time I’m loving my time away and the experiences I’m living.

See you soon UK.

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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.

The Long and Short Of It

I fell into running a couple of years ago and always had a goal to increase my distance. Two marathons down and a third in training I am loosing perspective on the running game. Not fallen out or even become disillusioned just we don’t seem to be getting on.

When I went to increase my runs from the 5 or 6 kilometre mark to that of 10K and then to ten miles when I was in training for the Great North I was enjoying myself. Even only a couple of months ago I would joke that a 10K would be something I would nip out to do before breakfast. Truth known I rarely run before breakfast.

I enjoyed the long runs and found it a pleasure that the 6 miles that I had trained to run was something that was really quite painless and getting past ten miles was now the target. This has gone on and on and as I try to train for my third marathon I really can’t be bothered.

I will wake and think ‘Nah forget it’. The trouble is while I’m out running I enjoy it. But I only enjoy it if its short. Well, I say short, I’m talking under ten miles. This is off course an issue with  Marathon training as I need to be pushing another eight or ten miles on top of the ones I am still enjoying. I think the trouble was the weather as I as many other runners ran for the gym rather than quite literally hit the icy pavements.

It was while I was in the gym I decided that long running on a machine was dull and therefore I should give the old interval HIIT sessions ago. A month on and I am enjoying these workouts more, far more. I prefer running fast and short than slow and long.

So what is to be done. Friends have suggested to take time off, which can’t happen as I don’t have the time what with the marathon being in 3 months.

I’m hoping some new routes and some runs with people will ignite the flame that I held for long distance running.

I certainly hope it will do the trick, otherwise I will be hitting that wall very hard.

How Lonely is the Long Distance Runner?

Wow, that’s a question. I have yet to read the book or see the film that goes by the same title. Well goes by the title of ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ and while this is not going to be a rip off or even an interpretation of what Alan Sillitoe wrote it is going to be an examination into the world and mind-set of runners.

Everyone knows were a funny lot. People come in from the cold wrapped up to the nines with gloves, coats, hats they turn the heating on full blast and comment how icy and freezing it is and it has started snowing. Or they comment that the rain is hammering down so much it is bouncing. With this weather report you can guarantee that if there is a runner in close proximity then they will grab their trainers and be off for a run. Even the very name we take pride in. ‘Were runners’ I picked a parcel up the other day before going for a run and because of this I had my Liverpool Half T-Shirt on. The Post Office official commented and asked if I was going for a ‘jog’ before I could reply she had apologised and corrected herself with the word ‘Run’ ‘You don’t jog do you? You run, you’re a runner I’m a runner’ While the words ‘jog’ and ‘run’ don’t bother me I know in the fraternity of our sport anyone who takes it seriously is a runner.

Yes we are crazy, we know that. We run because we enjoy the freedom, buzz, energy and maybe the solitude and boy is there a lot of that. I am at the moment after hitting ‘Publish’ going to lace up the shoes and be on my way for a good 90 minutes running where the only company will be that of my own and for people who know me that is not always enjoyable.

But at the same time there is a community and camaraderie between runners. As we run and see other runners we wave, nod, even go as far to say ‘Hi’ if we can mange wasting our precious breath on speaking. As we go into running shops we talk about times, races, routes. At the start and end of races we chat and laugh. On route we sometimes talk and laugh, if people stubble we ask if they are okay, we offer water and energy gels around but while all of this is happening we are also in our zone. Running our own race on our path to a hopeful PB or course record.

So how lonely is running. Is the Long distance runner alone on the field, starving off the exhaustion with only his or her thoughts for company. When I ran my first Marathon I have never felt so alone yet there were hundreds of people around me running as one. The crowds were calling my name and cheering us all on but yet I was running my own race my own route.

The mind set of running is strange. We are a big family, large support and only a runner will be able to understand or comprehend an other. Our community is large and extensive we welcome new members to the fold but yet when we run we run on our own with our own thoughts and goals and I’m not going to lie Manchester Marathon saw me almost throw in the towel as my body began to shut down. Every movement required a strong conscious effort to move. As my legs filled with concrete and my head dropped I thought I was going to die out on the field and then the realisation that I wasn’t alone helped to bring me back to the land of living.

But in training you don’t have the luxury of crowd support or fellow runners and part of the training is becoming strong, telling your mind you are strong enough to keep running. Running is a solo sport, hobby, ambition, lifestyle. You will only ever understand a runer if you become one and even then you will never understand how every individual feels as he crosses the line after 26.2 miles or comes in from a 20 mile run on a Sunday morning.

That is where the true loneliness happens. Not being able to share your relief and joy of long distance running, not being able to explain your thoughts and feelings as you picked up pace, tackled the hill, popped a gel cause you thought it was the right time. Everything about running is personal to you and to you alone which in itself is a nice thought.

 

Visit From an Old Friend

For some one whom I have not seen in a long time, well I say a long time I think it as been almost a year when we both hung out he did make a brief appearance back in September last year but it was such a quick visit it wasn’t anything worth writing home about. However now I suddenly hear from him again. I suppose I should explain that this ‘Friend’ is not really a friend, nor is he an enemy or someone I have distaste for. This ‘Friend’ goes by the name of Doubt.

Last night I was running the course (excuse the pun) through my head looking back at my training, wondering if I have done enough weekly miles, did I do enough 20 mile runs, should I rethink my game plan and go for a 4.30 time, rather than dreaming of a sub 4.  And then there is the weather, are people going to bother to come out and support if it’s raining, will my mates bother cheering me on. I know I have gone on about it, but so far no one seems to acknowledge this is a big deal and maybe it’s not but for me it’s the biggest challenge I have taken on and Doubt knows that, as he edges closer to buddying up once again.

He has started planting the seeds into my mind. ‘Am I going to finish’ ‘Will I wake up’ ‘Should I rethink the entire game plan’ ‘Maybe I should have tried the energy products they’re using on the course’ ‘Will my energy gels and drinks I use be good enough race day’ All of these thoughts are swirling around my brain making me dizzy, making me sick. People who are colleagues have gwaped and gasped at the notion of 26.2 miles as a nice little sunday run and have even gone on to question my madness where my friends and when I say friends I do not include all them in this following paragraph.

Where as my friends don’t seem to be there, only two have confirmed they may be on the course to support me, a lot think because I’m a runner then I will be able to walk the course easily, which is the exact opposite of what I want to do. Yes I’m a runner and yes knocking back a 6 mile or 10 mile run is easy but this one on Sunday has a wall and so far in my training I have not seen it. People tell me it is around mile 18-20 but I have run that distance and saw no wall. It’s fine because my good friend is being supportive telling me it will be at mile 22 and there not a cat in hells chance I will be able to run through it as a result the Manchester Marathon will be my first DNF, you can always rely on Doubt to offer reassurance.

Now don’t get me wrong I don’t expect a big team bus with everyone I’ve met coming out to support me, but I am about step into the breach, the unknown, yes I run, yes I have run 20 miles but this, this is new and yes everyone can say it’s not that hard Mrs Brown aged 67 did it in London. But I’m not Mrs Brown, I’m me and this is unmarked territory I have no idea if I’m ready for this both mentally and physically and to have the support of my friends who see what a big deal this is and support me through it would make the whole day seem a lot less ominous as I can tell you now I am ‘Shitting it’ (Pardon my French) But yet again this is Doubt dealing the cards, making me think I will be all alone where in fact my Mother will be there, and hopefully two of my good mates.

Now maybe it’s just a big thing to me, but it’s a marathon, and how many people can say they have done one. According to my running mags, only 0.6% of Americans have run a marathon in 2011 and the USA is mad for the 26 miles. They reckon that in the world only 3-5% of the population have taken on the task. And maybe thats why I want my friends around me, to celebrate my achievement to share in my happiness of conquering this milestone. For some people it’s getting there dream job, getting married or having a baby, buying a house where for me it’s running and entering competitions.

I always find it odd when I turn up to races and see my fellow runners with their friends and family at the start and finish and I’m there on me lonesome. I have my mum at the race on Sunday and I hope some of my mates will be there as it’s not just crossing the line but all the months of training and sacrifice. It’s the years of being sat on my arse and drinking and smoking – looking back and thinking that the old Tom wouldn’t have been able to do that, the old Tom wouldn’t never have even entertained the notion of running to the shop let alone 10K or a full marathon.

I think a lot of people don’t have a true notion of the distance involved. But as I sit and carb load and rest my legs alone, the only friend I have to speak to is that of Doubt he was there for the 10K and there at my first half, and he’s here now. He even said he will be there on Sunday somewhere along the course. Even now he is trying to break me down making me think I have no support and it is just me. He is slowly pounding on the pressure playing every tactic be it emotional with friends or causing me to question my own sense of belief.

The only thoughts I have running in my head to get rid of doubt is that…

1. I’m doing this for my self

2. I enjoy running

3. How many other people can say they have taken this on

4. Enjoy the day

So Doubt, do me a favour and do one, I don’t need friends like you around me.

I do hope its nice weather and not this cold windy wet weather, as I do want my mates to be out on the course cheering me on along with hopefully the other spectators.

I will leave you with this final thought. I am not sure who wrote it but I hope I will be able to say it on Sunday along with the other 8000 runners.

“At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2 I knew I was too tough to kill”

Motorways

I like driving. I love it and wished that I had persevered with it when I was seventeen, but alas I went to Manchester to study and found that I didn’t need to drive, or thought that it wasn’t needed.

Years went on and work came flooding in. Loving train travel I didn’t need to use a car, I was always busy and stayed in Manchester, until I lost out on a job due to not being able to drive. This was quickly followed by work drying up and the option was clear, learn to drive to increase the work I could apply for or become a fish struggling to stay alive in a water hole that was fast disappearing.

A year on I am now using my licence for work. I have in the past used it for little jobs just out of convenience and ease, but the work I am now involved in would have not been possible or would have been made near impossible if I travelled by my first love of the British Train System.

So in my little polo I am running up and down the country on all kinds of motorways and roads, and I love it. I wished I had learnt to drive sooner if not just for the cheap insurance and the ‘No-Claim Bonus’s’ I would have picked up by now, but also because I love it. Wales had nice roads, the Lakes do not. Well the A66 off from the M6 is nice.

But the true reason for this blog post is the stretch of roads where people seem to be allowed to drive, who have no or little experience of the task ahead of them. Now I would not say I am an experienced driver, but I feel I have enough miles under my belt and have driven motorways a lot (I do spend my life on them). I would also say I am a safe driver; I look at my MPG and plan ahead but I do also speed. Well most of the time…. there are occasions when I have slammed on the brakes. But all in all, I slow down at lights, change gear, just so I don’t have to stop, I leave a gap when stopping to pull out, and leave at least a car and half between myself and the driver in front.

So still I have failed to explain what the post is. It is simply people don’t know how to drive on motorways, and the way some are just boring. Within the blog I will be exploring those roads I love and those I love to hate. The other part of this blog has been inspired from my journey to Lancaster today and trip to Keswick but is a pressing issue that seems to happen to me quite a lot. Normally taking place on the A1/M1 to Newcastle, or the M60 from Stockport. That is the rain, and heavy rain. The kind of rain where the wipers are useless and the spray blocks any vision the wipers had cleared for you.

So what is it about this weather that upsets me so much? The actually question should be what do other drivers do to upset me. Most of it is what they do normally, but when it’s weather like this people should follow certain rules.

  1. Leave 3 times the space
  2. Have your lights on
  3. Indicate when pulling out or into lanes
  4. Don’t speed

Coming back from Keswick the other day there was heavy fog. I mean heavy, you couldn’t see the front of the bonnet, and travelling there I was lost in a warp of mist and heavy rain that clouded my vision. On both occasions people still sped past, neglected to have lights, be it dipped beams or fog lights on.

Today was a nightmare has people did not obey these simple rules, but even when the sun is out, people tend to be up your bumper or squeeze into the gape you have left between the car in front meaning you need to touch the brakes to increase your distance. People staying in the middle lane even when it is empty in the inside. I will admit at rush hour I will sit in the middle, but that’s because I can’t be bothered weaving in out because of the trucks but come the evening I with 60% of other users, will endeavour to use the motorway as it is intended. This lane hogging and refusal to move from your position is why I hate the M6 so much, and the M61 as well. The M25 is nice compared to the M6. So what are my best motorways and what are the worst ones. Well I enjoy those nice quite ones, or the ones that work like the M55/A55/M1/A1/M62/M66/M65 I hate those roads like the M60/M56/M67/A57, the junction by Leeds of the M62 and Newcastle on the A1 and M56 where the exits are also the slip roads onto the fast highway.

So apart from showing some more of my geekiest for love of motorways which I am becoming less fond of on a daily basis because of the sheer stupidity of other drivers. But if the weather behaves itself then there are several nice stretches of roads to place you foot to the pedal and sit back and enjoy the journey.

However this song and this band make me happy, so i thought I would leave you all with this.