22 October 2014

The UK driving test experience

The dreaded L plates

Another expat rite of passage is done and dusted finally--I am now in possession of a UK driving licence!  It's been a very stressful (and expensive) process because Great Britain has one of the most difficult tests and I had nearly 3 decades of US driving habits to overcome.  The theory and hazard perception exams required as much studying as the written portions of the CDL and the practical (driving) section was far and above more intensive than my car, truck, and motorcycle tests combined.  

The US doesn't have a reciprocal agreement with the UK but you do have one year to drive on your state issued driver's licence without having to display L plates (magnetic or sticky emblems that are placed on the front and rear of the vehicle), being restricted from the Motorways (interstates), and having to have a licensed driver with you.  True to form I procrastinated and didn't apply for my provisional until right before my year was up which made the process slightly more rushed than it should have been (don't do what I did!).  On the plus side, my partner trained as an ADI (approved driving instructor) so I didn't have to pay for lessons--I highly recommend at least taking a couple of lessons so that you know what is expected for the test.  

I would like to say that I passed my first time but alas that wasn't the case...A bad case of test nerves that wasn't helped by a cranky partner resulted in me pulling out of the centre and going on the wrong side of the road, something I hadn't done since the first month of moving here. Yes, that's right I failed my test in the first minute of driving! Muscle memory is a hard thing to overcome.  The most frustrating thing? Knowing I'd failed yet still having to continue on with the test for the remaining 37 minutes and only garnering 2 minor faults after that.  

As soon as I got home from the first practical test I logged onto the DVLA site to schedule another appointment--the time span that you have to wait has changed from 6 weeks to 10 business days--but the earliest date I could get was the first week of November from all the test sites within a 20 mile radius of our location.  Not ideal since that meant I couldn't drive anywhere without a licensed driver with me during that time and my partner is most definitely not a morning person! A trick most people aren't aware of is that you can reschedule free of charge and there are almost always last minute cancellations.  By checking the site 2-3x per day I was able to change my date from November to the 29th, the 24th, and then finally the 22nd which was the 11th day after my first test! I also made sure it was later than my partner's normal wake-up time in order to avoid the 'not enough coffee' grouchiness, lol.  

So that brings us to today...the 22nd, and I'm sure you're asking yourself "Come on, how did it go????" No? Well, I managed to pass this time around and again only garnered two minor faults (minus the one big major that failed me the first time). Whew!!!!!!!! The average pass rate at the centre I tested at is 12 minors so I'm well pleased.  One of the minors was related to my truck driving days--while performing the reverse around the corner maneuver I didn't use the back window as much as I should have.  Fortunately the examiner and I had been having a good chat and he knew that I'd driven a big truck for over a decade and he'd driven lorry in the military so he realized why.  It was a gorgeous reverse other than that--perfectly positioned and smoothly executed--I hadn't done that well on all of my weeks of practice! The second fault came in when I became confused by one sign and markings on the road that offered slightly contradictory (in my opinion) information and positioned myself in the incorrect lane for going straight across the junction.  According to the examiner that sort of mistake happens at least twice per day during their tests so it's no big deal unless you panic.  

There's my UK driving test experience, please feel free to comment if you would like any more information or clarification--hope this has been informative and not too terribly boring :-).  

17 October 2014

Today's Earworm

Stumbled upon today's earworm this morning and I've listened to it far more times than what's probably healthy. Hope you enjoy it as well.

Gallery 47

12 October 2014

US/UK words and the BDL blues

Autumn colours

I don't think I've had any word difference conversations lately but I did get to help out at a pub quiz by correctly spelling "Massachusetts" for the group during a running club member's leaving do last night. Score one for the 'murican! I love pub quizzes, we should attend them more often but they do get quite competitive.  I do want to share the following infographic though.

Image via Anglotopia facebook page

A few of these are interchangeable in the states, ie taxi/cab are both used as is fall/autumn.  The picture of drapes/curtains is most definitely showing curtains, the closet/wardrobe is representing a standalone unit so that would also be called a wardrobe or alternatively, armoire.  They also left out a third option for gasoline/petrol--those of us who are or were truck drivers (lorry drivers) across the pond commonly refer to both gasoline and diesel as fuel, granted that's a smaller segment of the population but I am throwing it in there anyways.

It's funny how my use of words are changing, yard and garden are both used equally now and I had to laugh at myself today when I was explaining to my partner that the only working pay and display machine was the one with the long queue.  Still having trouble with the whole pants and trousers bit though!  

Today was the first cross country race of the winter for the BDL (Booth Decorators' League) and quite frankly I was not ready for it.  I'm still not feeling back to normal, the only running I did this past week were the club run nights and they were both short but hard effort runs. The weather was beautiful though, so nice having a XC race where we weren't freezing and covered with mud!  

Yes, I'm suffering!

I can tell you that watching a calf muscle twitch while it's trying to decide whether or not to cramp up provides a bit of morbid entertainment as does my cursing about it! My left leg decided to let me know it wasn't one bit happy with what we were doing just a little before halfway through today's race, the last time I had this happen so severely was at the Malta half marathon when it looked like I had a fist sized knot on the backside of my left calf.  The cause that time was dehydration as well so it's time to get my act together when it comes to drinking enough water.

Current status: reeking of bio-freeze, wearing Mary Kay pink leg compression sleeves, chugging tea, and suffering the BDL blues. 

05 October 2014

Lost one, won one

Like so many in the UK running community this past week I received the "Sorry" magazine that I was unsuccessful in the Virgin London Marathon lottery.  Guess that means I should get off my lazy arse and make up a running plan to try and train for a "Good For Age" entry time for next year but that means I would have to knock over an hour off my current marathon times...and try not to get injured in the process (again).

However the next day I noticed a post on the UK Women's Running Magazine facebook page that I'd won an entry into the Red Bull Steeplechase! I'd forgotten even entering the competition! Granted I knew I would get knocked out well before the final stage but who cares, this is an area I've been itching to run in anyways and to get a medal, hoodie, a bag, and a lunch for doing so...hell yeah! Ok, I've gone a little overboard on the exclamation marks, lol.  

Here's where things go a little awry--I've not felt well since Thursday so the nutrition has not exactly been stellar, ie I've not ate or hydrated enough for a hard-core trail run and Friday morning's normal run wiped me out. Not good but there was no way I was passing up the chance to run in the Peak District--did I mention we would get a hoodie as well??? 

Sporting the club colours--represent, y'all.

I've had some calf issues on the hills lately so thought the compression sleeves might be a good idea this time around. Looking at the crowd pics, I was not alone with that train of thought.  They did help but really the only thing is to get out and train on those hellacious inclines.  To me, the above shot also shows how bad I was feeling pre-race.

Wonder what's going on here? And just WHY did my partner take this pic? 

Apparently there was a malfunction with the gun so the guys didn't get the "On your Mark, Get set, Bang!" on their start. Us ladies did though ;-)

Ready to run! 

I think it must be an unwritten law in the UK that the majority of fell races must start with an evil uphill climb and this one was no exception.  The difference is that this is this one required the use of all your limbs to get up the steep incline--in between gasping for air, another girl made the comment that it was her first race to require the use of her hands on the ground to get up the hill...Wasn't my first but it doesn't make it any easier! 

And we ran! Until this started, then we hiked

And then we clambered. 

What goes up must come down...Eventually. Before we got to that point though we had to try and find a decent running rhythm on the undulating rock steps.  Which were slippy. And very hard, especially in shoes with no padding and hard plastic studs on the bottom.  

The downhill to match the uphill in the beginning was a doozy.  Slippery wet grass that hadn't dried out from the morning's frost made me appreciate the shoes I was cursing metres before. I was able to grip in and make my way down sideways fairly fast(ish)--speed is all relative when it comes to fell running.  Of course the moment I didn't grip in quite well enough and slid down a foot or two on my bum was probably the fastest part of that descent. Grass is nice and soft and I didn't find any rocky speed humps so no blood this time around.  

Not long after the steep downhill and before the halfway point of the first stage is where I started to get into trouble though.  I had already dialed down the speed I would usually do something like this at because of not feeling well but then I started to get dizzy spells. There was one mile where I'm not sure how I even made it through because it was so technical and I was having trouble focusing on the trail, I do know I stepped aside for several runners to allow them by but the rest of is a blur.  Fortunately I'd packed a 9bar in my spibelt and was able to swallow three bites of it, that seemed to help but I knew at that point I was done for the day even though I had a comfortable margin to continue on for the 2nd stage.  

I had a bit of a nice surprise at Bamford, walking up one of the last inclines I started getting heckled by my partner who had driven over to visit his mate while waiting on me.  It perked me up but I still didn't run that damn hill, lol.  As a matter of fact it energised me so much that once I reached the chutes and saw I was 71st female (cutoff was 85) I thought I would go ahead and run the second stage...that lasted right up to the point where we turned out of the field to go upwards again and I started feeling light-headed once more.  At that point I turned around and walked back to call it quits and catch a ride to the finish line on the shuttle bus, there was no need in endangering me, the others around me, and worse case scenario having to utilise the rescue services.  To continue on in an easily accessible road race is one thing, to do it on something like this would have been completely irresponsible on my part.  

This overall was a brilliantly organised event and I would definitely do it again--hopefully under better personal circumstances.  The marshalls were excellent and VERY encouraging (except for the one bloke who was more interested in his phone), the scenery is gorgeous, and it's extremely challenging.  The only complaint I could make would be the stewards not being aware of the amount of parking left at the top before sending several cars on up, that created some snafus because there wasn't a good turn-around place at the top.  Another tiny complaint is non-race organisation related but more other runner related--the British love of queues goes out the door when it comes to races!  I was practically shoved out of the way several times at the registration table...lol, I'm supposed to be the rude one being American and all (stereotypes, eh?). 

The bling

The swag was top-notch as well, we received a drawstring bag to put our gear in at the start, a medal, a canvas bag, a hooded sweatshirt, lunch, all the Red Bull you could drink as well as beer or cider if you wanted.  I had to say no to the beer tent though, I was feeling too ill.  

The obligatory aftermath pic

I have to talk about the hoodie some more, it's AMAZING. Very good quality, nice drawstring, the hood itself is lined with thermal type fabric, it's not the typical black, the graphics on the front and back are nice and it has THUMBHOLES!!!! Yes, I'm gushing about thumbholes, it's a female runner thing I think. 

03 October 2014

Busy Busy

Whew, the last two weeks have been busy.  I have to take my practical driving test soon so most afternoons involve getting out and practicing my driving for at least two hours. Tuesday ended up being a very long day of it with 4 hours behind the wheel and most of it being on Sheffield streets--not very fun.  That might not sound like much considering I used to be a truckdriver but imagine spending your entire driving shift focusing on getting the procedure perfect, with big city style traffic, on narrow streets (think Philadelphia), being on the opposite side of the road than you spent 30 plus years driving on, in a car that is less than stellar in the smooth ride department, and having someone next to you judging your every single move down to the most minuscule--yes, I'm stressed, lol.

Hopefully the next pic like this will be me next to the Mini holding my UK licence

In other news, I am now an INWA qualified Nordic Walking Instructor! I attended a British Nordic Walking instructor course last weekend and wow, was it intensive! Very fun though, I loved meeting the others who were attending and hearing about the varied backgrounds and why each was going for the NW qualification.  Part of the course is that you are filmed so that you can see how your form is progressing and there was quite an improvement in mine from when I took the leader course last spring and now. I think I managed to get all 10 steps into my last evaluation even--although the rotation is still hard for me to attain much less maintain for very long.

At the Bristol Challenge Event

Running has been sporadic but I did get myself out for an early(ish) run this morning.  If I hadn't shattered the screen on my phone I could have taken a beautiful pic of the sunrise and a covey of grouse pecking about in a freshly plowed field.  I ended up taking an unexpected detour though, one of my favourite paths is closed for maintenance until March 2015.  A cheeky dog walker was still using it this morning but I suppose I'm too much of a rule follower so I went the opposite direction...which ended up being alongside a major route during morning rush hour. Ugh, how the exhaust fumes burnt my nose and throat, I've gotten spoiled to not having to deal with that very much over the past year.  Today was also my first fasted run in quite a while, couldn't figure out why I was flagging at 4 miles in and then I remembered, no food in over 12 hours! Small issues aside, it was still a good run.  

The current state of my phone :-(