31 May 2015

A visit to the Morton Horse Chestnut Tree

The pursuit of visiting the 50 Great British Trees continues! Yesterday we took a shortish road trip to visit the village of Morton and its Horse Chestnut tree.  The village is quite pretty around the church square and although most of the housing is the typical miners' lodging it does have a bit of a peaceful and slightly quaint feel to it.  I am slightly bemused as to why that particular horse chestnut tree was chosen though...it's not particularly old and according to the parish council site it might not even be the original one planted in that location.  The prettiness of it can't be denied though! However if anyone has any inside knowledge about the Morton Horse Chestnut or the process of how the 50 Great British Trees were selected please leave me a comment.

Morton Horse Chestnut Tree

We also had a wander about the churchyard to see what interesting things we could find, unfortunately the church itself was locked up so we couldn't have a peek around inside.  I'm not sure what it is but while I can't stand funerals I love old cemeteries but that's a subject for another time.  

The church 'gate'

Old grave markers

Water spout, there was another identical but more worn one on the opposite side of the church

More water spouts

While doing a bit of research on Morton I did discover another interesting tidbit...the parish claims to be the centre of England (based on north-south axis and the east coast/Welsh border) and it's marked by an old oak tree!  Of course a newer OS (Ordnance Survey) study has now shown this is not quite accurate but it's still cool.  

The centre of England?

Morton Parish Council Plaque

Me in the centre of England!

This trip marks 4 out of the 50 trees (plus a bonus!), we just need to decide on which one to road trip to next. I was considering the Lebanon Cedar in Childrey but a google maps search shows that it might not be accessible to the public now as it appears the old rectory garden is blurred out on street view.  

26 May 2015

My Happy Place

There is a nearby Woodland Trust forest that I absolutely love to run and walk through every chance I get. It's not large by Arkansas standards and it is next to the motorway but it is so lush and secluded that you would never know there was a river of asphalt just right there.  Last Sunday I finally managed to talk my partner into having a stroll through it with me so he could see the bluebells before they disappeared for the summer--the ones here haven't been invaded by the Spanish variety as of yet so it's just a sea of tiny shimmery hazy purple-blue blooms.  During the walk he remarked that it was no wonder I love it so much because it is not unlike the area I grew up.  He's right, it's almost like I'm back 'home' whenever I wander about in these woods.

Is it just me or do you see a dragon as well?

One thing we did find was this gorgeous orange mass of fungi growing on a fallen tree. I had never seen anything like it before but apparently it is considered a delicacy and is informally known as Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus Sulphureus). Sadly none of the photos we took did it justice with the vividness of the colours.  

Chicken of the Woods

Elsie and Ben in the obligatory tree pic

So where is YOUR happy place? 

24 May 2015

Nordic Walking at Wollaton Park

Today I am having a very laid back and relaxing Sunday but this time last week it was a far different story!  We spent the day at gorgeous Wollaton Hall Park volunteering at the first event of the 2015 British Nordic Walking Challenge Series. While I absolutely love participating in events I think that volunteering is even more fun, especially seeing everyone's faces as they cross the finish line and collect their well-earned medals.   

One of the 5k waves setting off with Wollaton Hall in the background

It wasn't what I was saying but the 'ears' I was wearing!

The first finisher of the 20k striding it out

This guy came by to say hi to the Nordic Walkers

Smiles and medals! 

More photos from the event by Real World Image Retouching (RWIR)

Other links:

20 May 2015

Svelte Cycles Kickstarter

I don't share too many kickstarter campaigns on my blog but this is something I would be proud to back...merino wool jerseys at a reasonable price AND made in London rather than Asia.  Check out Svelte Cycles Kickstarter! No affiliation with them other than I've liked them on facebook and followed on twitter because I think it's an awesome project. 

2015 Stute BDL Race Recap

Little bit late in posting about it but the 2nd race in our BDL summer league was on the 12th of May.  While I am still feeling the lingering effects of bronchitis it ended up being a slightly better performance than I expected.  Fortunately we are getting some very speedy women in our club so it takes some of the pressure off that I put on myself for the league races...Don't get me wrong, I'm still trying my best whatever that may be at the time but if I am able to go into a race relaxed then I run better/faster and that certainly held true for this one.

Perhaps I was running a little too relaxed

Since this is the race that our club hosts it was on very familiar territory and except for a slight incline around mile 3 it is flat as can be, not really my preference but it can make for some speedy times. What is great about it being on our turf is that all the marshals know your name so it means lots of encouragement!  The weather was certainly more cooperative than last year's swelterfest, sunny and cool (while it's perfect running weather I'm ready for some warmth!) and some fast times were posted overall.

I stuck with starting near the back again, it does cost you seconds with reaching the actual start line but I've found that I pace myself better doing this, ie not jackrabbiting the first mile with getting caught up with the faster runners.  Once we all got settled into a rhythm I started focussing on surging forward and passing with a purpose, most of the time it worked but it is something that has to be practised so as not to slow down to much once you've made your move.  I also started it much earlier than I normally do which is doable if you are keeping a comfortably hard pace rather than being full out.

The Stute BDL race splits

As you can see from the table above I was slightly faster this year despite not being back in form...and you can see that the first mile in 2014 is why I struggled with the rest of the race.  That was NOT racing smart! Mile 3 is where the incline is and I still lost time on it but it was back down to a more reasonable split time with miles 4 and 5.  I am very happy with this pacing! 

Finish line approach in between 2 club mates

Placement comparison is interesting--I finished 211/339 overall, 34/115 women, and 4/13 in the VL45 category this year.  Last year it was 202/308, 34/100, and 4/12.  The first place woman in the VL45 category finished in 31:34, almost 9 minutes ahead of me, 3rd place was 37:48, again quite similar to last year's times and places, not sure I have 2 minutes faster in my legs.  

19 May 2015

A bit of local vernacular

Ey up me duck!  The local media has been all aflutter about Dolly Parton being the latest celebrity (preceded by Angelina Jolie and Prince Harry) to use the East Midlands phrase and even the BBC has waded in with today's headline Do normal people really say 'ay up me duck?'.  To answer that question, yes they do!  A day rarely passes that I don't hear it said as a greeting at least once and it encompasses most age groups.  You do tend to hear 'eyup duck' and 'hiya duck' more often though and while I haven't adopted the usage of duck, hiya has most definitely entered my lexicon.

This video explains the phrase and origins quite nicely

Also notice the pronunciation of Derby--it's 'Darby' here rather than the 'er' we usually say in the states. I can't exactly say anything since Arkansas is 'Ar-kan-saw' rather than Ar-Kansas. However I still reserve the right to shake my head over Belvoir ending up as beaver!  

13 May 2015

Back on Two Wheels

I ride a Jamis but the sentiment is the same

After approximately 2 years of not having ridden my beautiful road bike I finally worked up the nerve to join a group ride last Sunday.  Not one to do things in half measures I ended up cycling approximately 60 miles...yes, that was not the way to get back into it! By about mile 40 my saddle was starting to feel like this:

Image via Loving the Bike who credited Bicycling Magazine

To be honest I've been quite fearful of riding here in the UK especially going it alone.  Different road layouts, roundabouts, behaviours, rules and the list goes on, I am not happy to admit to this fear and even less so that I've allowed it to keep me from pursuing something I love so much.  This extended layoff showed up mostly in my low-speed manoeuvering like through the narrow canal path gates and while working my way up along the line of cars at traffic lights.  Hard to believe that at one time I could do the rolling dismounts while entering duathlon transition areas!    

Waiting to meet up with Catherine

I did discover a new US/UK difference though! While a mate was giving the bike a once over for me (the derailleur was slightly out of adjustment) he discovered that the rear brake on my bike is controlled by the right lever. I had no clue that the brakes controls were reversed here until he asked were mine supposed to be that way--guess he learned something new as well. 

Our lovely ride leader

We also had a bit of an off-road adventure on Sunday's ride, what appeared to be a road on the gps app ended up being a dis-used track instead! Lots of fun and ended up being something to laugh about afterwards although the muddy bit we walked through made clipping in and out a challenge for the remainder of the ride.  Regardless I survived Sunday's ride despite my skill deterioration and have been bitten by the bug all over again. The fear of riding solo is still there however and I think it is going to take a while to work through. 

Current *want* from Wiggle

While I'm on the subject of cycling please go check out the Taxing Rides Cyclists series from Treehuggery.  Jackie does amazing work, these are awesome gifts for cyclists!

This is the piece of art we own from the series

12 May 2015

Hello May!

Hello May! It's been a bit of a weird few weeks in my little corner of the world--we've been both overwhelmingly busy yet not having enough work that's actually paid.  Combine that with recovering from bronchitis and I'm not sure if I'm coming or going lately! Stress levels have certainly been at an all-time high.

Good news is that the bronchitis is mostly gone, the cough only returns if I've had a hard workout or if the allergens and/or pollution are exceptionally bad.  I'm also making some (slow) headway with the Of Runsound Mind project.  Part of it is experimenting with slogan t-shirts and at the moment I am using Teespring for the US and Fabrily for the UK.

This is my favourite

I've also been taking the gopro out and attempting to get some running video...the key word is 'attempting', my results thus far have been less than stellar.  The footage looks awesome on my screen after editing but the end product on youtube was blurry and fairly un-watchable. More experimentation is required but it's looking like the purchase of it 3 years ago was not a good decision because we've simply not gotten the results expected from something that cost approximately $300 (USD).  What it has been useful for though is the occasional still shot.

Back to t-shirts (and other fitness kit) Buy T-Shirts Online* is a very good resource especially if you are purchasing in bulk. They have the usual technical fabric shirts in a variety of colours but I liked the Stedman Active Sports-T because it's wicking but looks and feels like cotton (it doesn't appear to be available at the moment though). I'm wearing the shirt in the video below so it will give you an idea of the fit and I will review the others as I get a chance to try them out (the flu and subsequent bronchitis kind of put the kibosh on most of my workouts). 

Video experiment

*I was provided with the opportunity to review my choice of workout kit from Buy T-Shirts Online, they sell more than t-shirts although that is what I chose because of wanting to see how my logo would look on various active wear fabrics. There is a large variety of brands and styles available so everyone will be able to find something to suit. They will certainly be who I go to once I get my own dye sublimation transfer setup. 

Available in other colours and styles at Teespring or Fabrily