Archive for the ‘hiking’ Category
With a wee run and a beer
And Asian pulled pork.
Name: Topaz IPA
Venue: Carter’s Rest, Wroughton.
Review/notes: Great little run today (19.67 miles). Hit a hash in Chiseldon and then headed toward the Ogbournes before turning up the Ridgeway where I spotted a weird memorial to Alfred Williams (a workingman poet) isolated on a hill. Thinking I had run farther I stopped at the Carter’s Rest which, as usual, had a challenging roster of beers and ciders to choose from. The Topaz was like the thinner in shoe polish which is to say: quite good.
[DT =Daily Tipple, explained in DT #000 here]
Monthly consolidations/compilations: January
Whilst sitting in the tub this morning loosening muscles and easing the pre-race hangover, I listened to a programme on Radio 4 about permissive footpaths and bridleways. Repeatedly, the speakers used the phrase “amount of people” using a path when I THINK they meant “number of people.” I could be wrong, as most of the landowners probably have a wood chipper (the number of people go in the left side of the photo and an amount of people exit the right side):
The annual wait
For the white asparagus.
Name: Morrison’s Chianti
Type: red wine
Review/notes: We did a bit of urban hiking through the Lawns, South Park, Eldene, Covingham, Dorcan, and North Park with a stop at the Morrison’s Superstore that opened a few months ago. Nice supplies there, and the organisation is sensible. The house wine passed the test, but the white asparagus is stringy and without the nutty richness we were hoping for…maybe next year.
[DT =Daily Tipple, explained in DT #000 here]
Monthly consolidations/compilations: January
[Photos above were for baseline colour to monitor infusion progress throughout the year.]
Sloe gin manufacture is a test of patience every step of the way…tests I generally fail. For instance, this year’s batch was started at Halloween 2012 for use over Thanksgiving and Christmas this year but I couldn’t wait any longer and filtered it at the end of September. At least there was a lot of it and it would last till Thanksgiving, right? Well, erm, there is about 150 mL left that I promised workmates as a taster; shit.
The other test of self-control I generally fail revolves around the harvest. Traditionally, the sloes stay on the bush until the first frost which has a couple of practical benefits: they become sweeter with time (and they need all the help they can get), they shrink a little thus concentrating the other flavours, and in a hard frost the skins will burst so you don’t have to poke holes in them. Mild autumnal weather these last several years has meant the first frost has been well into October and I have just gone around tradition and picked in September (when, traditionally, there would already have been frost) then stored the berries in the freezer a few days.
This year, though, I did it. On Sunday the 10th of November 2013 with the first frost on the ground and crippling muscle spasms in my back, glutes and hamstrings I made my way up Brimble Hill to several caches I scoped out in September. Brimble Hill is one of my regular running routes as out-and-back from the house gives me two reasonably steep climbs (and descents) over about 6½ miles; on route there, I’ve been watching with distress the sloes fall of their own weight since the end of Summer. At last, the time was here so I downed a couple of Ibuprofen-and-Codeine tablets chased with a couple of shots of bourbon, did what little stretching I could manage before the drugs settled in, and grabbed a bucket to fill.
There were several stashes I intended to deplete all centred on the Burderop Forest at the top of the hill. The idea was to get some that received morning sun, some with evening sun, some with an all-day Southern face, and some from down the thickly wooded trail. It went well at first with my east facing batch near an abandoned block of flats adjacent to an old military hospital. This camp has a long history starting before the First World War and that seemed to finish, from local accounts, as a US military mental institution. I have heard colourful stories from folks that used to work there: one favourable at the bottom of the post linked here, and another not so much in the comments of this post, linked here, but the much more interesting and compelling history might be found at the site, here, maintained by the Swindon Borough Council.
Medieval earthworks near the bottom of the Ladder Hill, where someone went medieval on the sheep field blackthorn hedge
The all South-facing bushes exist along the uphill side of the road near the bus stop which, sadly, does not run on Sunday (and on this one, neither did I). The hill, a muddy mess from some logging trucks and the torrential rains the last couple of weeks, provided its share of fruit to the pot, too; but, the Western-facing bushes — along a sheep field at the bottom of the route — were completely stripped save for a dozen or so stray sloes deep in the thorns. Those over-eager bastards!
The frost was mild, but at least it was a frost. To finish the job I stored them in the freezer for most of the week before buying four liters of the cheapest gin I could find and starting the batch. To complement the location, I included a few large handfuls of nuts in each jug.
I wasn’t sure what to call it when it comes out. We’ve already had Devil’s Punchbowl (after its location of origin) and Monstrous Erection (after its location of origin). I was thinking it should be something to do with post-traumatic stress disorder (the mental hospital angle) or Remembrance Day and poppies (since they were gathered at a WWI training camp on Remembrance Sunday).
Then it hit me like a freight train (there used to be a rail depot up here): Two Cures. One jug has a jalepeño in it (Texas Medicine) and the other is just Railroad Gin. That’s what will make people just get uglier a year from now…a FULL year, this round.
Or, earlier. It’s hard to say, for sure…I have no sense of time.
In 1976, I was 14 years old and, at the peak of my adolescent growth spurt, weighed in at 155 pounds. In January 2011, after gorging for days on rich seafood washed down with copious volumes of beer, wine and booze in Cornwall for our 25th anniversary a few days before the near fatal wreck, I weighed in at 155 pounds. For all but a few months (in the late 70’s when I actively tried to bulk up using the gym and ‘supplements’) in the interim 35 years I weighed between 154 and 156 pounds every time I stepped on a scale; at various times I might have been in fairly good condition, at others all my muscle was replaced by fat, and many times I was a mix of both wiry and bloated from excess consumption of drugs and alcohol but I was always 155 pounds…you could calibrate your scales by it.
Similar to my finishing photos in the 2012 London Marathon (click photo for link)
For a couple of years after recovering from the collapsed lung, the broken neck, all the soft tissue damage, (etc, etc), I fluctuated between 165 and 175 (with a peak at 180) pounds despite maintaining a fairly consistent running regimen since the thoracic surgeon green-lit it and despite having far fewer pubs to tempt me in. The extra weight has meant carrying a handicap in races (I was 175 pounds at the start of the 2012 London Marathon, and I was carrying a backpack laden with beer and other treats) but it hasn’t had any detrimental effects on my performance or other health metrics so I haven’t worried about it too much. I’ve been fit enough for my purposes and have been happily stable at 12 stone (168 pounds) for roughly a year. Besides, since I don’t get naked in public very often anymore there’s no reason to worry about the offence that horrifying sight might cause.
Eight weeks ago, I changed my training regimen to durations of activity instead of distances or circuits and something weird began to happen…my weight began to fall back down toward 11 stone again. Diet, which has not changed in years, is still a questionable imbalance of remarkably healthy treats and carcinogenic and heart disease risk factors often ingested at the same sitting and almost always in inadvisably gormand-like quantities; and, I still think of ‘units of alcohol’ in terms of bottles of wine or tumblers of whisky.
When I say I was prescribing distances I don’t mean I was fundamentalist about it. Every other week I would do 18-22 miles on the long run with one 10 miler and two or three at 4-6 miles; the intervening weeks would involve three or four at 4-6 miles and one around 12-14. The gym was fit in once or twice a week (especially in rainy weather when the roadwork was often done on the treadmill).
I decided to modify my approach when I noted that my pace on the runs was consistently 7½ to 8½ minutes per mile and that I spent an inordinate measure of time planning routes for specific distances. It all seemed oppressive and a despair-inducing waste of time so I decided that I should try spending the 6-8 hours per week I was already doing on ANYTHING reasonably considered ‘exercise’ with a goal of an hour per day, two hours at least one day a week, and a day off if I just feel lazy. Stretching counts as long as it hurts or has a noticeable effect on flexibility. Running, time on gym circuits, cycling and rowing all count and one-third the time spent on vigorous hiking is allowed (fighting uphill through thorns happens frequently enough in my world, and not just metaphorically). Breaking a sweat at work does NOT count, nor do any of the household chores that come along.
After noticing the weight drop I found very little change in my total mileage although the long runs have fallen off to 15-16 miles nowadays (my weekly totals are still 30-40 miles). My pace still averages about 8 minutes per mile but varies a lot more with anything from 6½ to 9½ being sustained for up to a third of any given run. The extra time left over from the shorter ‘long’ runs goes mostly into more — and more focused — stretching and weight training but little has changed significantly.
It really is much more a semantic change than anything concrete, but I have realised some fantastic benefits nonetheless. Besides the tonnage, my physical efforts take quite a bit less psychological effort to overcome inertia. Running and other exertion was almost always pleasant once started, but now I feel eager to get out there…the way it always used to be: it has become playtime, again.
Don’t worry, kids. I’m still morose and misanthropic on the outside, where it counts. [Note: it might be time to go streaking on the Ridgeway once the stinging nettles die back a bit.]
At my peak weight last Xmas…for the ladies! (This was my e-Xmas card for the lucky few)
Having bailed on the Royal Dockyards, we caught the ferry off the big island and soon found ourselves in Ryde (set your watches back to 1979 before disembarking). The town was charming, slow, and we will be visiting again soon.
The boardwalk from the ferry landing/train station is shared by the roadway but you can see the beams for the old boardwalk just over the rail and they might be slated for replacement. The traffic is minimal, though, and this set-up suits the pedestrian situation.
A couple of years ago we saw a documentary about the raid on the souvenir stand noted above. The double entendres enshrined on these cards are mild by modern standards and not too bad for a country digging itself out of the rubble of WWII but, the British being the funny lot they are, the obscenity trial went ahead with the logical conclusion that a museum was eventually opened to the genre of interest. It was already closed for the day by the time we found it, but the museum is on the short list for our next visit.
The beach was very clean for the couple of miles we searched for souvenirs. I found a golf ball, a cuttlefish bone, and some pretty shells all of which I left behind (along with the nearly microscopic crabs dwelling under some driftwood that needed some more years in the sea to be interesting.
There was also a Victorian arcade with some nifty shops of antiquarian shit and a local museum. There was also a magnificent dome in the centre of the structure which was closing as I took the photos that went into the mosaic below:
This has been a fun way to explore the town but I’m glad it reached its conclusion, with the other runs here:
Runs 1 and 2
Run number 3
Runs 4 and 5
My dance card for the Swindon Rounds Orienteering Challenge is nearly complete, so much so that you can guess the final markers although a Swindon Borough Council “Travel Choices” employee answered my query about some of the absences I discovered by saying I should just write “MISSING” in the slots where the markers have gone walkabout. I’m sure some of these are the results of infrastructure updates, but she seemed certain there has been some vandalism-by-theft. If so, it would have been more imaginative to pull a “wartime resistance action” by putting up homemade markers with the wrong letters or, better, something like this batch of 30:
I only wish I had thought of this BEFORE starting the rounds….
The southwest quadrant had one marker (19 J) remaining and I needed to pick up some groceries and so I hopped off the bus out the Wootton Bassett Road and found this one a mile away on a busy bike trail before doubling back to the rail trail into Old Town. This was a very pleasant jog despite the swarms of gnats every 100 meters or so:
Next day, I bailed from the bus home at Greenbridge Roundabout for run #7 to pick up the last of the southeast quadrant markers while trying hard to find the missing 9 and 30 signs along the way but I can now confirm that there are no traces of the old markers within 100 meters in any direction of the mapped locations. Moreover, the lamp posts at the site of #29 are relatively new and this marker was probably hauled away with the old equipment. Shit, that’s four missing so far with only seven more to chase.
Run #8 took in a bit of the suburban northwest part of Swindon which is full of parks and bike paths and yobs. Also, as you see above, geese (a gosling was being protected by a group of birds just out of frame to the left).
It was cold (6°C, 42°F) with sustained winds of 25 mph and gusts to 40 (but at least it was also raining). I searched all over for marker 17 G and passed it at least once. The next one, 27 AA, was much easier to find and I took its lettering as a hint to head toward home and find some alcohol.
The final run, run #9, continued on to Purton Stoke for a pint at the Bell Inn and then to Cricklade for a disappointing kebab at Sammy’s. First, though, there were a number of markers remaining but that were unusually easy to find (for a change). Near St Mary’s, I picked up 13V and down the bottom of the hills beyond Thames Drive I found 15Z in the sun of this splendid day.
The suburban hellscape of northwest Swindon yielded the final two, 14K and 16R, and I was free to trot on to my beery reward:
The completed grid:
H, Q, AC, and AD are the ‘Missing’ markers and I infer that 29 and 30 are AC and AD, respectively. If this is correct, you have a 50% shot at nailing down 6 and 9 as H or Q (although the authorities in charge have already stated that they will accept that the missing markers actually are missing if you annotate your form thus). You can get the form at http://www.swindontravelchoices.co.uk/media/27966/swindon_cycle_orienteering_challenge_grid.pdf . Let me know what the prize is and I’ll post it here soon thereafter.