This weekend I did the Three Peaks challenge. At six o'clock on Thursday I dashed round the corner and jumped into a Ford Galaxy with three other dads from Maple School. It wasn't a clean exit as the kids came home with Joanne just as I ran out of the door. Jamie was really upset apparently as I didn't get the chance to say goodbye. Helen just missed me and she was also upset.
We flogged it up to Warrington where we stayed in a Travelodge with adjacent truck stop. We had our dinner in the self service food hall followed by a lager shandy in the truckers bar. It was pretty grim. We were the only drinkers not wearing a corporate trucking uniform and in the small minority without massive beer bellies. One of our guys was wearing sandals and another ordered a G&T. I have probably watched too many films but I did worry that the truckers might abduct us as this point to use as their playthings.
The next day our driver got us up to Glasgow where we picked up our fourth team member and de facto leader. We then made our way to Ben Nevis, stopping briefly for a very tasty burger at Loch Lomond and again for some heavy traffic. We got to Ben Nevis just before half five. We spent a few minutes preparing and then set off dead on 17:30.
It had been a cracking day weatherwise and I had worn my sunglasses at Loch Lomond. Ben Nevis doesn't work like that so as soon as we started it began to rain. We made good progress on the ascent but by the halfway mark is was very poor visibility and stinging rain. We made it to the top in two hours by which point my fingers were so numb I couldn't operate my camera. I had failed to pack a hat or gloves (it had been an uncomfortably hot week). We rushed back down the mountain with only a minor pause when I slipped and banged my knee. The pain was intense and I really thought my race was over but after a few minutes it subsided and I was able to continue. We made it back down very quickly in an hour and a half, catching the other two teams who had a half hour head start on us!
At the bottom of the mountain I had to take all my clothes off (by the side of the road) as I was soaked and then we all piled in to rush down to Scarfell Pike. It was damp and unpleasant and my knee was pretty painful. I applied ibuprofen gel, freeze spray and deep heat but it kept on waking me on the long drive to Cumbria.
We got to Scarfell about four am and found no parking spaces. Our driver stuck the car at the side of the road and we had a brief (and for my part, unpleasant) breakfast. The other Maple teams started at least ten minutes ahead of us. We then rocketed up Scarfell which was very busy and compared to Nevis, very easy. It was still cold and unpleasant on top but I never even put my waterproof jacket on. We messed around for a few minutes on the peak taking photos and then were off.
We got to the bottom about ten past eight in the morning and headed off to Snowdon in Wales. Our driver did not get a lot of sleep (if any) during these breaks. He must be a machine as his driving was calm and accurate with great navigation throughout.
We got to Snowdown about 12:30 after a delay caused by an accident which forced us onto back roads. It was quickly up the Pyg Track to the summit. The last part of the ascent on the Zig Zag was pretty exhausting and then it was straight down again via the Miners Track. I found going downhill, clambering over stones very hard going on my knees and my guts by this point. We got to the flatish section of the Miners track and from there it was easy. We romped in at 23:13:44, beating the other two Maple teams whom both came in within the twenty four hours.
It was an excellent and slightly disorientating experience that I am not sure I would rush to repeat but I am glad I did it.
I slept like a log Saturday night and then went up the Miners Track again with Helen and the kids (and a large group of others from Maple). This time the weather was fowl. We were soaked to the skin and the winds were gusting at 80mph in the valley. We made it to the second lake but were forced back. Edith and Tom were both screaming and it was impossible even to see the rain was so hard. I was still damp six hours later when we finally got home!
The snow was very powerdery, like icing sugar and it had been windy so the drifts were deep. The sunken lane behind Pound farm had filled up to knee height but the farmer (or somebody) had cut a narrow path through it. There were loads of hardy St Albans folk out enjoying the weather and breathtaking views in the bright sunlight. On the top overlooking Sandridge there was even a family having a picnic on a rug.
The path at the top of the hill had drifted up and there was no easy way thru. I jumped straight in. It only came up to just below my knee but the shock was incredible. It was like jumping into an ice bath. All the heat seemed to get sucked out of my calf muscles. It only lasted for about twenty metres but was a real trial to get through. I warmed pretty quickly as soon as I got out and brushed the snow off (bare legs).
I don't like to pause on runs, especially when its cold, but the views and the silence was so spellbinding several times I halted to drink it in for a few seconds.
Got back to St Albans feeling pretty good. Managed to do it at nine and a half minute mile rate which is nothing clever but the going was tough.
This Sunday when we got the meal on the table Helen congratulated 'Chef Edith' on an excellent dinner only to have Edith correct her "I'm not Chef Edith now, mummy, I'm Eater Edith". She then proceeded to consume her own body weight in roast potatoes, chicken and sausages.
Jamie has a habit of prefixing every statement with 'Actually'. Edith has picked up on this and got a bit confused so now every time we have Yorkshire Puddings with the dinner she thinks they are called 'actual-puddings'. If you try and correct her then you get a quizzical look then she will keep on calling them 'actual-puddings'. It is sending Jamie mad "because ice cream and jelly is an actual pudding, not these". This might well explain why she keeps doing it.
The good news is that I made it round in one piece, felt pretty good during and was fine afterwards (no puking or crippling aches). I did two gels, one at 1:15 and another at 2:15 and ran with a bladder pack so I had plenty to drink. I am contemplating running the race with the pack. The only reason I can think not do so is that I look stupid. This doesn't sound like a good reason for not doing something beneficial, especially as I will look pretty stupid anyway...
Tom was poorly all weekend with a high temperature. He hit 38.8c on Saturday night. I was taking it all in my stride until I used the fancy thermometer Helen bought and it started screaming and flashing red danger high temperature. Its funny how having some figures can totally change your perception of a situation, correctly or otherwise. I rang the on call doctors to check out how I was supposed to double up Calpol and Neurofen and spent all of Saturday night getting up and administering more medicine. He was still hot on Monday morning but Helen reported him much better by that evening.
It was a glorious morning at first, not too hot or cold and no wind or rain for a change. I stopped (naughty but what the hell) for a few moments when a flight of three large civilian helicopters came over and again to watch to largish brown hawks chasing each other through the trees in the woods. The hawks were making very odd keening sounds and I was able to watch them for a minute or so. I am not sure what they were. Too small for buzzards I think and they looked too large for Sparrowhawks though I think the female Sparrowhawk is pretty chunky.
Going along the disused railway alongside the river Lea (which looked beautiful and was full of big fish) I came across a large tree that had come down in the recent storms and had blocked the path. A family was cycling the other way so I did my good dead for the day and helped the dad get the bikes over.
I did quite a hilly route and as I was climbing the steep hill coming out of Wheathampstead I caught up with a group of cyclists. I had been running for two and a half hours and covered fifteen miles at this point but the temptation was too great so I pushed that little but harder and passed the stragglers on the hill. Joy! One of the tail enders took exception and started working up thru his gears and putting a real effort in. He managed to draw level with me briefly before dropping well behind. Come the brow of the hill even the crappest came whizzing past. I even had the breath to swap pleasantries with the guy I had past. If they had hung around they would have had the last laugh though. I only managed another few hundred metres before the effort caught up with me and I started to feel much worse for ear with stomach cramps and jelly for legs. It was all downhill (performance wise) from there.
No real damage afterwards other than a nasty sun / dehydration headache which lasted until Monday. I feel asleep for half an hour after the run and that was enough to ruin my nights sleep (along with visits from Jamie and Edith). I felt like shit the next morning. I wasn't too stiff though and managed an okay 43 minute run in to work on Tuesday but a pitiful 44 (six minutes slower than the previous week) minute run back in the evening.
We interviewed our first candidate today. I thought she was pretty great. Smart, pragmatic and very capable.
Off to a good start. I ran 16 miles on Sunday. Unfortunatly since it was a very hot day I got back and puked. I was feeling sick then Edith jumped on me, twice. I then retreated to the bathroom for safety and was greeted at the door by a cheerful Jamie who announced that he had 'Just done a great big poo.'. The stench was more than I could take and I lost my lunch.
1) For users of non-Windows-based systems: We have tested the online submission process and we find that, in most instances, authors who use a Windows-based system do receive notification of successful paper transmissions. Your mileage with other systems may vary but please feel free to try.
I guess what they mean is:
1) We only tested this on my PC. It worked some of the time. If you're not using my PC, I don't know what will happen. I don't really get this whole 'web' thing. See ya.
After getting back to the holiday cottage Jamie, Tom and I went exploring in the woods and fields around about. We watched an Apache helicopter from the nearby airbase orbit round a few times. They seem to fly all day and well into the evening. We found some spotted orchids growing in a damp shady patch at the top of a field. The cottage owner told us there were some in flower in the area.
After Tom and Edith were safely in bed Jamie and I went into Framlingham to buy a chinese takeaway. Twelve hours later I can still feel the leaden ball in my belly that is king prawn curry and salt and pepper chicken. I must have drunk five glasses of water overnight I was so thirsty afterwards.
I went outside about 2:30am. Nothing particulary interesting in the sky apart from a planet to the west and an owl calling in the woods.
From the roof you can see Orford Ness. This is a spit which is several miles long between the tidal river and the sea. It has been there for millenia which suprised me as I always thought of such things, especially on such a dynamic coastline, as being transient. You could made out several odd looking concreate structures. These were the top secret test ranges for the UK atomic weapns programme. No nuclear material made it to these ranges, they used to to develop the bomb casing and detonation mechanims.
We had another excellent pub lunch before a brief walk in the very blustery wind. We then went to Thorpness to fly the kite on the beach but the wind was so strong by this point the kites line broke every time we launched it. After repairing it four or five times we gave up, had a look round the windmill and the house in the sky and went home.