23 February 2017

Travels, Travails and Trails

I've always had itchy feet and the need to travel and explore hence becoming a truck driver and a runner. Both enable(d) me to see so much of the US and a bit of Canada, it's also why I managed to find so many good friends while living in the UK when so many expats have trouble fitting in. While the 5.5 months we spent living out of the car and traveling Western Europe while my partner searched for work was not ideal and incredibly stressful it provided the opportunity to see and experience so much. I feel like I was more immersed in the cultures of different countries because we weren't doing the touristy things and staying in hotels. Our travels by necessity required us to stay off the beaten paths and we learned how to survive on very little. Luxury for us was buying a kettle that operated via the cigarette lighter plug so we could have a cuppa sort of on demand, it usually took 20-30 minutes for the water to boil!

 I now know where to find free wifi, wild camping spots and public loos in 10 European countries and counting. Scouting out places to run while on this journey also resulted in some grand adventures and encounters like the time in the Dordogne region of France when I met a woman walking her dog in the forest who could have been a sister we looked so much alike. We were both so surprised to see the other and I was pleased to find someone who spoke English so I didn't have to stutter through my almost useless grasp of French! I've also enhanced my dirtbag runner skills with the ability to get changed and cleaned up quickly in all sorts of circumstances.

 might think this has dampened my enthusiasm for rough travel but in fact it has only enhanced it. I'm now back in the US and once employed again will be looking for a van to convert to a camper. The ideal situation would be to have one here and to have one in England--the latter seems to have no shortage of affordable second-hand sprinter vans that get much better fuel mileage than their US counterparts! Watch out for updates on our progress but in the meantime check out our youtube channel about our travels and travails.

17 December 2016

A Raffle!

Life, eh? Gets in the way of things and we have had new projects and the issue of trying to find jobs in the post Brexit Referendum EU environment. Hopefully I will get up a proper state of the gabsatrucker life post soon(ish) updating everyone about most of what's happened.  However a return to the US is in the cards in the New Year and very probably a return to trucking.

In the meantime, if you would like to win a custom artwork from the ever so fabulous Jackie of Treehuggery (I have written about her work in previous posts and we own a couple of pieces ourselves) and give us a hand as well please go check out the raffle here.

An example of Jackie's work in the size donated for the raffle. She can do runners, cyclists, snowboarders, Nordic Walkers, dog walkers...if you dream it she will do it!

It's only 5 bucks per entry and the drawing will be for the 18X43cm size (valued at 125-150GBP) and Jackie has including donating the shipping for free as well, framed in the UK, unframed everywhere else.  All the details about how to enter and when she will liaise with you if you're the very lucky winner is included in the GoFundMe post.

Be sure and get in quick, the deadline is the 22nd of December!

Also you can now follow the "us" vlog on youtube!

29 May 2016

Obtaining your UK driving licence

Essential Reading

One of the more frequent topics on the American expat facebook groups is about driving and obtaining a UK driving licence.  The GOV.UK site does a great job of explaining the process here but it always helps to have a first-hand explanation of how to do it.

A good thing to do before you move over here from the states is obtain a copy of your no-claims history from your current insurance company, the further back the better because motor insurance here can be astronomical! Having a copy of mine saved quite a bit of money--this can also be obtained by contacting their customer service but usually the sooner you obtain it the better that way any mistakes can be corrected.  For example I didn't realise that Geico had shown that I'd filed a claim when we had called in to find out what the insurance would cover when someone had gone on a brick-throwing vandalism spree in our neighbourhood a few years back and knocked out the back glass of my pickup.  We ended up not using the insurance and paying out of pocket but unfortunately someone had clicked the wrong button and I was only able to claim 3 years of no claims versus 7 years which would have saved an additional £200.

You CAN drive in the UK on your US driving licence for up to a year but making plans to get it earlier can save an immense amount of stress. I waited until the very last moment and really wish I hadn't, I was in a near-panic with trying to get everything done in the last two months left.

No matter how good of a driver you are, take lessons! It's not about learning how to drive for most of us but it's about unlearning habits that will fail us on the exam and learning what the examiners are looking for.  Also most of the instructors will be giving lessons on the actual routes used which will help minimise mistakes.

The first step is to obtain your provisional licence by starting here, I obtained the D1 application form from our local post office, filled it out, enclosed the money and appropriate sized picture, and sent it off to Swansea with my passport. It all came back well within the 3 weeks quoted on the site.  As a bit of a segue, if you haven't obtained your NINO (National Insurance Number) do so!

After you have received your provisional you can still drive on your US licence (providing you are still with your year) but it's time to start studying for the theory portion of the test. Don't expect to give it a quick read through a few minutes before the test and pass.  While some of it is common-sense the wording here is different enough that it will trip you up, there are also a fair bit of non-driving related questions from the Highway Code that will be on the exam.  I highly recommend getting a current copy of the DVSA theory test book or software.  There are also lots of practice tests available online, take as many as possible to review/revise.

Book your theory test! Don't forget to take along your shiny new provisional licence. Take and pass your theory test! Keep your copy of this safe because you will need to take it along with you for your practical

Now book your practical, depending on where you live it can be several months before the first opening but you are not limited to taking it at your nearest test centre. Do a search of the surrounding areas to find out if you can take the test sooner at a different place. I ended up travelling to one 30 minutes away in order to get it booked within 2 weeks rather than over a month.  Also you can check the website daily to find out if there are any cancellations to get it done quicker--you can change your appointment up to 6 times without having to cancel and rebook.

L aka Learner Plates

Remember when I mentioned taking lessons earlier? That bears repeating, TAKE DRIVING LESSONS! If you don't gel with the instructor, find a different one.  This driving test is stressful enough without having to deal with someone who you don't get along with, their job is to make you a safer driver for the UK and to do their best to get you through the test, not belittle or demean you.

 If you choose to take the practical in your own car (like I did) there are a few things to be aware of, like having the appropriate insurance, L plates, and a mirror for the examiner are only three.  Again check the gov site for further details.

In the worst case scenario if you fail your practical the first time (like I did), take an hour or three to wallow in it then look at what you need to practise to pass the next and immediately book the next available time after your mandatory 10 day wait (that's to take the test btw, not re-booking).  Again like before you can check daily to change to an earlier time--I ended up changing mine several times to get it booked for 2 weeks after not passing the first one.


My tips:  Study!!!!! Practise!!!! Practise your reversing, emergency stops, mirror checks, hill starts, and your show me/tell me items.  Next, relax (yeah, I know easier said than done). Exaggerate your mirror checks, talk through what you are doing as you drive, if you make a mistake, just keep on, you are allowed a few minors and if it's just a one time thing rather than a repeated mistake it probably won't count against you.

Hopefully this helps for those going through the process, please feel free to ask any questions. I wrote about my test experience here with all the gory details of why I didn't pass the first time. One thing I didn't expect was that when my motor insurance came up for renewal after obtaining my UK driving licence was that I was considered a 'new' driver again and had to shop around for a cheaper policy so be aware of that.

Good luck!

11 May 2016

May. May I stay please?

Can't believe it's been so long since I've posted an update but not much has changed and it does look like my time in merry olde England will be coming to an end soon.  It's been quite a learning experience and I've come to feel as much at home here as I ever did back in the states.  I've made friends and I do feel that in some ways I've contributed to the community but alas the home office has rules and they rarely break them unless heaps of publicity is garnered and I'm not quite sure I'm comfortable with that level of invasion into my life.  We're still hoping for a miracle before the first week of June but unless a wealthy relative kicks off and leaves me a fortune it's not likely especially since I don't have much in the way of family left.

There is so much I'm going to miss...the people both good and bad, the constant bird song, having four seasons in the space of an hour, the abundance of green spaces, canal path rambles and runs, driving that is akin to a slow speed video game, picking blackberries into October, saying hiya and grumbling about the weather while out walking the dogs and so very much more.

I will be updating the blog on a more regular basis with how I was able to assimilate and integrate while keeping true to my American self without (hopefully) being obnoxious about it :-)

03 January 2016

Goodbye 2015

Warning: This post will be somewhat on the negative side, so much so that I've dreaded writing it and even now am still debating on whether to put it out there.  Please forgive me in advance for the downer.

2015 is finally over and while I shouldn't be wishing time away I'm more than a little glad it's done and dusted. Don't get me wrong, there has been some amazing moments but the last few months have been extremely trying and stressful.  We finally managed to get our business up and running after several roadblocks but despite massive encouragement it seems to have hit the point where there is no interest whatsoever. Everyone who views the site agrees that it is great, the prices are very reasonable, and the work is sound but with our main camera needing repairs and replacing we can't do any photography work and the fact that quite a few people were used to getting the retouching and repair services for free from when the partner was honing his skills means there's not been any revenue generated from it since the summer.  Despite this a huge thanks is due to all who shared and helped promote our work!!!!!!! We can never thank you enough!!!!

However, the opposite goes out to a few naysayers who didn't believe we were 'working' because of being self-employed and working from home. There has been so MANY hours put in sitting at our desks going blurry-eyed dealing with html issues, research, and finishing up projects but because the partner has a habit of stopping what he was doing to talk to and engage with others to help with their issues when they requested meant that some of those very same people thought all he did was sit around and play about on facebook.  Of course they didn't keep those opinions to themselves and helped propagate that impression without mentioning WHY he was there to begin with--gee thanks. Despite his gruff demeanour, I am actually the one who has no problem saying no, we have other things to deal with first but he has this innate need to help other people as much as possible and usually without telling them what he has done.

So here we are facing 2016 with all of our savings and resources exhausted. I discovered too late in the game that absolutely no one will employ you in traditional employment with less than a year left on your visa and breaking the metatarsal in my foot back in October meant that I was out of my other work for 2 months (dog-walking and leading Nordic Walking sessions) which has put us even further behind.  The partner tried to return to trucking work on a temporary basis until he finds a more suitable position but we discovered that in the years since he last drove that another qualification has been put in place which of course costs money that we don't have.  It seems like it's a vicious circle of setbacks and disappointments and while I know we will get through this eventually, the present is extremely disheartening and our pride is taking a beating.

Again, apologies for the down and depressing post but this is where I talk about my life and this is our reality at the moment. I have so much appreciation for those that have helped us out with research, promotion, leads, emotional support, and temporary work, like I wrote above we can never thank you enough, xx. Here's to 2016 being a better year!

21 October 2015

And with one single step my training for the White Rose Ultra came to an abrupt end.

Sunday was to be first of our running club's cross country races for the winter BDL, my plan was to run there at an easy pace, do the 5 mile xc, then run home again but alas plans are subject to the whims of fate...that day all it took was tripping over the last step at the bottom of our stairs, something I do far too often (damn narrow British steps).  Sunday was different though, I rolled my right foot outward and ended up sitting on the entryway rug clutching my legs and letting loose a very loud and imaginative string of curse words which had my partner awake and rushing down those very same steps to find out what happened.  

For once it wasn't an ankle sprain, it was towards the upper part of my foot and it HURT.  Hurt in the way that you know something is very broken and you are not just going to hop up and dust off and continue on.

After a few minutes I was able to hobble around, send my apologies for not being able to make the race--fortunately the club now has quite a few women running cross country so my presence wasn't needed to make sure we had a team--and to figure out which A&E was the best to head for.  Never have I been so relieved that I had actually taken a shower that morning instead of my usual modus operandi of getting up and throwing on my running kit! The thought of having to spend the day amongst other hurt and sick people while desperately wishing I wasn't a hot mess should not have been first in my mind but it was--very much the 'Wear clean underwear in case you are in an accident' scenario.

To shorten the story up, our local A&E no longer has x-ray services on the weekends so after some poking and prodding the nurse taped up my toes and made an appointment for me to return in the morning to be scanned (wasn't too impressed with that part of the process although everything else went smoothly).  Rather than wait that long we ended up going to Nottingham's Queen Medical Centre A&E where there seemed to be an unusually large number of people with foot and ankle injuries!

Putting a happy face on things

So yes, my foot is broken. Specifically, the 5th metatarsal on my right foot is fractured and I am now wearing an oh so attractive black moon boot and restricted to doing absolutely nothing for 2 weeks, then slowly moving about.  The bone specialist said that if I was very, very, very, very good about not rushing back into activity (can't even do any spinning) then I should be able to return to running in 6 weeks. After the 2 weeks though I can do upper body work (Hello knee pressups!)

The evidence

Of course the ultra is on the 1st of November so obviously that is out and I am unable to earn any money during this time because leading Nordic Walking sessions and dog walking requires me to be able to walk...oh and there's the tiny matter of needing to be able to drive to do those things which is out of the question with the boot.

My thoughts on being immobile

I thought I would include a short synopsis of my NHS/A&E (Accident and Emergency) experience for family and friends in the states as well.  One of the first things we did after I moved over was to register at a local surgery (GP/Doctor's office) and to get my NHS number.  Once this is done you rarely have to fill out the mountain of paperwork and seemingly signing away your life whenever going to the doctor that is required at every single visit like in the states.  All I did Sunday was walk up to reception hand over my NHS card and driver's licence, confirm my DOB, phone number, address, and next of kin verbally.  I did the same thing when arriving for the appointment the next morning at the fracture clinic.  The waiting time is also much shorter! The nurse we spoke to at QMC said they would have over 500 people per day go through A&E there so that's very impressive.

14 September 2015

A little catch-up

An evening with running friends
Can't believe it's been almost a month since I've blogged! It has been a fairly busy month, I had the opportunity to cover several Nordic Walking classes while other instructors have been off enjoying sunnier and warmer climes on their holidays and there has been a name change and services added to the RWIR site--why not take a moment to check it out? Constructive comments are more than welcome and of course we would love the opportunity to repair and restore your photos!

Retouch and Restore
Training for the 30 mile White Rose Ultra has begun in earnest and I'm experiencing a few niggles here and there but at least the allergies have eased slightly so I'm starting to feel like maybe, just maybe I can get around the route without slowing the birthday girl and our other friends down too much.  Part of what has been helping to ease the allergy-induced fatigue was starting back on the magnesium oil spray. I make my own because 1) it's dead easy and 2) being self-employed means I have to watch every pence, recipe will be included at the bottom of this post.

You can follow my running progress and other random fitness/Nordic Walking/health tidbits at Of Runsound Mind on facebook or instagram.  There's also a twitter account for it but it's mostly facebook re-postings at the moment, I will be transitioning the run stuff over to it full time eventually.

Of Runsound Mind
While the racing is on hold until the BDL cross country league starts back mid-October I did manage to get the women's 1st place award for the IRC performance championship, not because of being particularly speedy but because most women my age have more sense than to spend their Sundays slogging through mud during the winter months! It was a lovely evening and a beautiful award which I think will probably be the last one I get for quite a while :-) However as I posted on our club's fb page, being part of such a great community is quite an award in itself and that's the most important thing. 

BDL Performance Award

Magnesium oil recipe: 
1/2 cup magnesium chloride flakes
1/2 cup distilled water (I just use 2x boiled water)
Mix the flakes into boiled water in a glass container, let cool, then transfer to a spray bottle.  Shake up mixture before use. I use it after showering and before applying moisturiser, approximately 10 sprays. As a word of warning it can sting almost as bad as nettles when you first start using it so only apply to less sensitive areas--I usually spray it on my upper legs, stomach, and lower back.  Some people refer to it as 'tingling' but it was a bit more intense than a tingle for me! It does ease up after a few days though as your skin becomes accustomed to it.  

18 August 2015

(Mis)Adventures in Running at The Rugby Rover

Sunday saw me joining a couple of running club friends for an interesting event that none of us had done before--The Belper Rugby Rover, 30 kilometres of undulating mixed terrain fun. We are going to blame this one on a Tesco car park conversation with a member of a neighbouring running club who claimed she was going to run it slow then went and thrashed all of us!

We started out together but since my training has been so poorly due to the damned allergies plaguing me I told the other 2 that I would just see them at the end and hoped they wouldn't have to wait around too terribly long for me (turned out to be around 16 minutes).  My plan was to walk every uphill because despite taking clarityn nearly every hard effort is resulting in hellacious sinus pressure headaches--better to be a slowpoke rather than having to get a lift back to the finish line due to not being able to focus on the path.

Picture courtesy of SL Images. Cheesy grin and thumbs up courtesy of moi

Anyway enough whingeing, I actually was able to keep my friends in sight with the power hike up the hills and bombing back down them up for the first few miles until I decided to strip down to my crop top (hey, it was actually warm for once!).  That involved having to unpin my bib, take off the hydration pack, pull off the vest, fold the bib to fit onto my shorts, repin said bib, wrestle the pack back over my shoulders, realise I hadn't closed the top of the pack so had to take it back off, decided I wanted to eat something, put the pack back on AND finally back to moving forward. Whew, that was a workout all on its own!

What was good:

*Stiles. Wasn't bothered about the time so enjoyed the slowdowns at the stiles in the beginning and middle.  Towards the end it seemed like the gaps kept getting narrower though and those rocks don't give any!

*Multi-Terrain:  Nice mix of road, trail, footpaths, and fields. Keeps it from getting boring although I know some don't like it because it's impossible to maintain a steadyish pace. There were even some technical bits to 'dance' over.

*The views: Absolutely gorgeous vistas, I'm still oohing over the section where I glanced over and could see the Crich Monument in all its glory on the next hill over.  Shining Cliff Woods also warrants a return trip for a more laid back exploration.

*Chatting with other runners/walkers:  Fell/trail races are far more laid-back generally so there's always laughter and chatter at least amongst those of us towards the back of the pack.

*No litter:  Everybody was VERY good about not throwing their cups down too far from the water stops and I didn't spy any gel packets about

*The water stops/check stations:  Awesome volunteers! I didn't stop for water because I had the hydration pack but the jelly babies, crisps, and encouragement were very welcome.

*Race marking:  This is going to be in the good and not so good.  99% of it was very well marked but there were a few instances towards the end that I questioned if I was going in the correct direction.  Part of that appeared to be other trail users messing about with the signage though.

Not so good:

*Nothing in this section that pertains to how the race was set-up except for there being a couple of spots near the end that should have been marked better for those of us that are directionally challenged--like the section where the path splits 2 ways at the water treatment plant.  Yes, I was the dumbass that went the wrong way here and ended up with bonus mileage and I also couldn't remember the where we turned into the rugby club carpark for the finish.

*Wearing the hydration pack which coincidentally is the amount of weight I need to lose right now! It's a pain in the arse wearing it but I NEED to get used to it before the 30 miler in November.

*Catching a sharp rock with the side of my foot in such a way that the rock went under the big toenail on my left foot.  I was afraid I'd torn the nail off but thankfully it only loosened it, bad thing is it's still extremely tender today.

*Of course there was a fall, only the one though and there was no blood so not sure it even counts.

*I am listed as a male in the results! Still debating on whether to bother contacting them to change it or not.

The aftermath! I look peeved because I was still fuming about going the wrong direction so close to the finish :-) 

10 August 2015

The post where I whinge a little

I was hoping to be writing a recap of Nordic Walking 33k at the Salisbury 54321 event but alas it ended up being a big fat DNS (did not start) due to a resurgence of an allergy-induced migraine that was determined to hang about.  It had started Friday afternoon, eased up Saturday midday then made a comeback in the wee morning hours Sunday.  There was no way I was in shape to endure a 3.5 hour drive down to Wiltshire to be at the start line before 8:45, I am aggravated to the nth degree about this because I had been looking forward to it so much!

Training overall has been extremely lacklustre due to the allergies and the fatigue/headaches that comes along with them but the only thing I can do is plaster a smile on, pull on my big girl pants and keep plodding forward. Oh and take naps, lots and lots of naps!
Like the logo? Get a hoodie, tank, or tee here :-) 

08 August 2015

Nordic Walking parkrun tourist

It's only a week late but I Nordic Walked another parkrun with a large group of Midlands Nordic Walkers last Saturday to support one who was completing her 50th.  Such an amazing achievement! Thank you as always to the wonderful Colwick parkrun volunteers and well done to everyone who participated.

I was slightly slower than the previous one but wasn't near as sore afterwards either! It did give me a chance to test out the new trail trainers and Dirty Girl gaiters before the 33k challenge at Salisbury--it worked brilliantly so hoping tomorrow goes well, wish me luck please.  

06 August 2015

Running kit review: Montane Bite 1

Way back in June I won a competition from Accelerate UK for some Montane kit which consisted of a Featherlite jacket, hydration belt, t-shirt, and 3/4 tights. The jacket is awesome, I've worn it several times but as of yet I've not tried out the shirt or tights--it's summer (sort of) so I'm wearing vests and shorts or running skirts as much as possible right now.  The Bite 1 hydration belt also didn't get tested out until last week because I've not gone on any runs long enough to justify the use of one since it arrived.  I finally decided that I should take it out for a spin on a short run to find out if it would cause any issues on a longer one.

Montane bite 1 hydration belt

First impressions:  It looks heavy.  Even my friend who I was meeting for a run the day I tested it out commented that it looked heavy.  It doesn't feel it once you get moving but it's hard to get past the psychology of it appearing that way.

Looks like I'm getting ready for a quick draw!

Next thing you notice is the pocket material, it's crinkly. And noisy as you are loading up whatever gear you are taking along.  Again, once you are moving it's not noticeable until you need to get something out and then you are reminded of the crinkliness (yes I know that's not really a word) and noisiness.

Roomy pocket

The pocket is nice and large though, big enough for a phone, gels, tissue, keys, a peanut butter sandwich, whatever you think you might need. It's large enough to fold up the Featherlite jacket and stow it away as well if you omit the sandwich from the aforementioned items.  But there is a downside to that roominess, it needs a smaller pocket within to kind of separate things out otherwise it's like a bottomless purse where things disappear never to be seen again unless you dump everything out.

Fiddly bottle

Is it going in yet?

Still trying to get it in place

Last step! But still not quite fully seated

I also wasn't impressed with the water bottle, it has a flat side that is meant to fit flush against your back but while on the run it's fiddly trying to get it back into place because it isn't different enough from the other sides by feel. It also started leaking around the lid during today's picture taking session. Amphipod totally wins with their shaped bottles because you don't have to take too much attention away from running to get the bottle back in place, if I decide to keep the Montane belt I will simply use those bottles with it rather than the one that came with it.

Excess belt

What I did really like about the Bite 1 is that it stayed in placed while running thanks to the stretch belt.  Only very minimal adjustments were needed which is miles better than the majority of belts I've tried out.  I have the excess bit of belt looped over and tucked under in the photos but there is a bit of blue strapping there to loop it through--something I didn't notice the first 2 times I wore it! Definitely a d'oh moment for me.

Belt wrapped over and tucked in

The mesh fabric on the inside of the belt is quite comfortable and according to the hang tag it is coated with an antibacterial treatment (no stink!).  Haven't tested it out enough to find out if the anti-stink actually works though.

Mesh on the inside of the Bite 1

One last thing that isn't normally an issue for the UK is that the black version can feel hot if you are running on a warmish day.  Normally not a problem for here but if you live where it stays warm I would suggest opting for the light blue version of the belt because the black absorbed the heat quite rapidly.

As of right now I'm not sure if I will keep the belt, I do like that the pocket is waterproof and large enough to fill with the necessities of a longer run but the water bottle being so fiddly might be a deal breaker if my amphipod bottle doesn't work with it.  The Bite 1 also rides further up on the waist than I usually prefer but at least it didn't bobble about like a Salomon belt does that I have.

Thank you again Accelerate for running such awesome contests! 

20 July 2015

A visit to The Great Yorkshire Show


Graham and I 

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend The Great Yorkshire Show at Harrogate in a sort of working capacity--talking about and demonstrating Nordic Walking with British Nordic Walking in the Discovery Zone courtesy of the fabulous North Yorkshire Sport.  It was an incredibly fun experience!  For those in the states I would compare the GYS to a state fair, with carnival rides, animal exhibitions/shows, food, agricultural displays, different branches of the military, fashion shows and so on.  Unlike a state fair which usually goes on for 1-3 weeks the GYS is on for 3 days only: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

While there are cultural differences between the US and UK the thing that struck me as the most interesting is that farmers are pretty much the same in both countries! I am not saying that in a derogatory way because a good portion of my family comes from agricultural backgrounds just remarking there is a certain demeanour and no-nonsense attitude that comes through quite strongly.

Because of being there in a working capacity and needing to get back to tend to the mutts I wasn't able to explore as much of the GYS as I would have liked. If I'm invited back next year with the team I hope to be able to be there for all 3 days.

A taste of home 

A few more traditional styles of walking sticks

19 July 2015

Nordic Walking a parkrun and Crich Monument Race

@BritNordicWalk I've become a nordic walking convert! & we would love to see more of your members at @parkrunUK! Can I contact you re this?
— Chrissie Wellington (@chrissiesmiles) July 3, 2015

As most everyone who reads the blog knows I am a huge fan of Nordic Walking, it tends to not get much respect from the running community but that's slowly changing.  Turns out that a triathlete I respect and admire greatly is also a fan of Nordic Walking--Chrissie Wellington!
Our group minus one who had to leave right after finishing, we all got Nordic Walking pbs!

As a result of this several of us decided to NW one of our local parkruns yesterday morning instead of running it as usual, we ended up with 6 altogether at Long Eaton.  We were welcomed quite warmly and when it came go time we gathered up at the very back of the start line because there had been some concern expressed by one person about the poles being in the way on facebook (not by any of the parkrun organisers or volunteers, just a participant of one).  I had two goals for yesterday, to get sub-40 and to demonstrate that Nordic Walking can be quite fast if that's what you want out of it, I think I succeeded at both :-). My official time was 38:23 and my mile splits were progressively faster (12:27, 12:15, 12:10 and 11:13 for the last tenth of a mile).  I am paying for that today though! You activate your glutes and shoulders far more than running and stairs are a bit of a challenge for me to get up and down after pushing that hard.

As if that wasn't enough for the day a running club mate posted up that she couldn't do the Crich Monument Race and offered up her spot if anyone wanted it.  Totally spur of the moment decision to ask if I could have it but I don't regret it at all, this one has been on my 'that looks interesting, I want to run it someday' list.

Crich Monument on the hill

Since I was already feeling the effects of pushing it hard on the walk earlier my plan was to just go out and enjoy myself, I even briefly considered taking along the camera.  There's a bit of regret that I didn't but I ended up with a much faster race than expected (not saying it was fast, just faster than I thought it would be). In the beginning we have a series of stile crossings in fields which causes bottlenecks to form--one of the perils of not starting close to the front but I kind of like the chance to catch my breath and chat with those around so long as it's not an extended pause.

Crazy hair, don't care :-)

After the fields we hit my favourite part of the course, a technical downhill through the forest, again there were areas of slowing and stopping as people not used to tree roots and rocks navigated this section with caution but I love bombing down those! It's almost like a dance when you get it right but it can go very wrong if you misjudge foot placement.

The slog along the canal almost seems endless after the fun of the forest but I ended up pacing out fairly well there and it was at that point I realised I didn't actually know how far the race was! I considered asking the woman who was running just behind me but figured the question might be better kept to myself. Once we started the uphill climb up to the monument I switched to power hiking because I figured it would be best to conserve my energy rather than trying to run the steep inclines.

I look happy, the others around me not so much!

After we got to the top though there was no more walking! It was a mostly downhill bomb that took us through a few more narrow stile crossings (3 I think), through a graveyard, across a busy road, through another field, and 3 more turns on the streets of Crich back into the Village Green and down a short but wicked steep downhill to the finish line chute.

I can't think of anything bad to say about the Crich Monument Race, it was well-marked, they allowed us to switch numbers, there was a banana AND a bottle of beer in the goody bag, it's very reasonably priced, food and cake is available to purchase before and after, the course is interesting and if you remember to give your email address and pay your £1 they will email the race photos to you (I forgot to do so though).  This one is a definite do again event!

2 thumbs up! 

A few photos from the event are here including the last two I have used in this post.

Beer, a Tree, and a Horse

This will be the final post about our Great British Tree road trip back in June.  To be honest I've about let it go so long that I nearly forgot there was one more tree to add to the list! Note to self: write down your thoughts before you forget them!!!!!!!

Village of Beer

After visiting the Darley Oak tree near Upton-Cross we made our way up to Honiton to fuel up and I asked my partner how far we were from Beer, a village on the Jurassic Coast that he raved about.  Turns out we weren't that far and I coerced him into a detour so I could visit it as well.  Well worth the diversion, it's GORGEOUS.  There is something about the water especially oceans that calms and fascinates me--I am a Pisces so there must be a little something to the astrology stuff--and I could have spent hours on that stone beach. As it was we were there for little over an hour walking about and sitting in the sun enjoying an ice-cream. Hopefully we will be able to go back for an extended visit before my time in the UK ends.

Walking down to the beach

The mutts and I walking over to the chalk cliffs, yes I *had* to touch them

The walkways were quite handy because the stones were difficult to walk on, it was one step forward and 2 or 3 back

Deck chairs at Ducky's where we enjoyed our ice creams, even Ben and Elsie got to partake

Our 'detours' didn't end with Beer though, I'd spotted a picture on the web of an interesting sign posted on a bridge so of course we needed to stop and get one of our own! 

Dorset bridge 

That's one way to get to Australia, eh? This is located just outside the town of Sturminster Newton, the afternoon sun was beginning to make the driver sleepy so while he took a catnap the mutts and I went out for a walk along part of the North Dorset Trailway--adding another place to the bucket list of areas I want to run.  It was quite a friendly place and everyone was willing to allow their dogs to say 'hello' to each other which is becoming quite rare nowadays.  

Finally we were on our way to the last planned stopping place for our road trip, Savernake Forest, home of The Big Belly Oak or Big Bellied Oak depending on what you read.  The forest is actually home to quite a few interesting trees but a full day needs to be allocated to exploring the area and we didn't have time to go for a proper walk there.  The Big Belly Oak is located right next to the A346 and while we knew that there was no place to park nearby we didn't realise just how busy the road actually was so our picture was taken on the move from the passenger seat of the car.  

The Big Belly Oak

Because of being limited to 'drive-by' photography there is no picture of the Great British Trees plaque.  The undergrowth appeared to be so tall that I'm not sure we would have found it even if we could have stopped. 

The Uffington White Horse

One final stop on the trek back home found us eating burgers at the base of the White Horse Hill near Uffington, another place that is on the list of must visit again spots since I didn't get to actually walk along it (the partner and I have very differing views on what constitutes a visit to a place!).  

Me being pouty because I was so close yet so far away from the White Horse

As you can see we packed quite a bit into a one day road trip! Hopefully we can go on another soon before we lose all the wonderful summer sun.