Brace yourself – Juneathon’s coming!

Just to warn you, with the 1st of June comes the start of Juneathon. Yes, the month long festival of exercise, blogging and excuses. No slacking allowed, but creativity in your daily exercise is highly encouraged!

I’m afraid all of my spare time this week (and quite a large proportion of time I should have been doing important ‘stuff’) has actually been taken up with our two new arrivals. May I introduce Luna and Neville


At eight weeks old they are fluffy and gorgeous, full of energy until they suddenly flop down and fall asleep. Sofas have been conquered,  curtains climbed, newspapers shredded,  and Billy (our lovely Tabby boy) has been incredibly restrained.

"Are they still here?"

I hope to do lots of running this Juneathon. I expect the blogging will be hard work, however something tells me those kittens will be making a regular appearance. A month of kitten pictures, anyone?

One of those days

One of those days where your recovery run means you don’t feel at all stiff after yesterday’s unplanned half marathon, but you realise your favourite running pants must be losing their elasticity as they are no longer staying firmly in place.

One of those days when you go to the self scan till in the supermarket, and it bossily tells you to place your empty bags in the bagging area. When you do, it panics “UNEXPECTED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA!!!”

One of those days when the young man who comes to sort out your overly-sensitive till pityingly eyes your new pack of huge but incredibly comfy pants, and you want to shout “They’re for running! I’m a runner! I’VE RUN MARATHONS IN THESE PANTS!!!”

Huge and unattractive, but THE bast pants for running
Huge and unattractive, but THE bast pants for running

An unplanned half marathon

I needed a long run, set off without a planned route, and ended up running a half marathon today. I ran where I felt like it, incorporated parts of routes run by my running club, stopped to find a geocache, failed to resist a set of steps I’d never noticed before, and took lots of photos.

Beautiful blossom arch

Peaceful River Avon

Best advice -" run towards the light"

Best bit of this run though was running through town and having an old man say in his broad Wiltshire accent “Oi loike your daps*!”

Who could resist these bright beauties?

Yes -I’m not surprised. I like them too.

* if you’re not familiar with this Westcountry word, ‘daps’ are what people from the north west would call ‘pumps’, and other people would call plimsolls. Caused no end of confusion first time I had to buy some for my daughter.

Product Review – High UV Protection Buff

I was recently sent a Buff from the lovely people at Kitshack. This was sent to me free of charge, in return for an honest review. Now I’m nothing if not honest, so here goes. I have actually had this Buff for a few weeks now, because I wanted to make sure I gave it a really thorough test.

This is how it arrived. I'm not that handsome. Or rugged.
This is how it arrived. I’m not that handsome. Or rugged.
It came with lots of stickers, tattoos and a screen cleaner. I don't know why
It came with lots of stickers, tattoos and a screen cleaner. I don’t know why

I do already have a Buff, so I’m no stranger to these interesting garments. I bought it when we went skiing in Canada, and it was a cosy godsend. It was easy to wear under my helmet, up covering most of my face, or simply as a neck warmer. I was intrigued to see how a summer version would work.

The buff I was sent was a High UV protection buff, which is basically a tube of lightweight, stretchy, seamfree “Coolmax® Extreme” fabric which Kitshack says is has “superior wicking performance and at least 95% UV protection”. They come in a huge variety of colours and patterns, and also come in adults’ and kids’ sizes.

Once you’ve picked your Buff, you have to decide how to wear it. Headband, wristband, beanie, dangling down the back, twisted up on top – there are pictures, instructions and even a video to show you how to wear it.

With our recent spell of warm weather I didn’t want to cover any more of my head than necessary as I tend to best up very quickly when running. However I need something to keep under control the bits of hair that are too short to be held in by my pony tail. So a Buff Headband it was.

I have always had problems wearing hairbands, because I have a very low hairline at the back so most hair bands pull my hair up and out. It turns out that the Buff did exactly the same, so I could only wear it with my hair pulled up into a high ponytail.

I tried various ways of folding my Buff. One was too tight, squeezed my head and eventually popped off. One was very wide, which helped keep my glasses on and ear buds in but was also very warm. Beanie style made me look like a crazy loon! Folded into 6 seemed to work the best, until it also popped of the bank of my head during parkrun.

So what did I think of my Buff? Well, sad to say, as a summer running accessory I don’t think it’s for me. As I thought, my head doesn’t seem to be the right shape for a Buff. I found it constricting and hot to wear now that the weather has warmed up. However, I see lots of runners wearing Buffs in the summer so it’s obviously not a universal problem. I think for me it will be invaluable in the cooler months when I can wear it as a headband or beanie until I have warmed up.

Too wide headband
Too wide headband
Helps keep your glasses on your nose
Helps keep your glasses on your nose
Best fold yet. Keeps your ear buds in.
Best fold yet. Keeps your ear buds in.
Beanie fold
Beanie fold. I look like a dork

Trail Running, Wildlife and Souvenirs

Wildlife is great (said  in a radio DJ voice). Seeing a wild creature when I’m out running feels like a privilege. Spotting something when there’s no one else around whilst I crash through undergrowth like a herd of elephants, is both fascinating and amusing. Yesterday I ran and saw a deer, heard buzzards above me, and managed to bring a somewhat surprising souvenir home with me…

Who could resist this path?
Who could resist this path?

I set off for a run not really knowing where I was going. I knew I wanted to run somewhere different, and knew I wanted to get out on some footpaths rather than a road but didn’t have the time to drive somewhere first. On a whim I headed up towards the allotments thinking I’d see what the path behind them was like. I’ve tried to go down here before (because there’s a series of geocaches there that I’ve not made it to) but have been beaten back by free ranging bulls, chest high nettles and over-the-knee mud. Not so yesterday! I successfully made my way down this enchanting path, all the way to a rarely seen longbarrow.


Photo of Longbarrow
Lanhill Longbarrow. Next to a main road, but hidden from it
Photo of Bluebell Wood
Bluebell Wood. The deer headed this way

Turning back from here I retraced my steps and found the four geocaches along the way. At the bluebell wood a deer ran out in front of me – not sure who was more surprised, but the deer was definitely quicker. Geocaching involves finding hidden treasure (small tupperware containers, sample containers, pet identity ‘barrels’ and the like) from their GPS co-ordinates and usually a hint if you need it. Most smart phones will happily run the Geocaching app, so the return journey saw me holding my phone in my hands whilst alternating between sprinting along the path, and rummaging under stiles, tree trunks and bushes.

I returned home, ankles throbbing from nettle stings and legs scratched from brambles, but pleased I’d had a good run and had found four geocaches. As I uploaded my Garmin data to the the PC I idly scratched at my armpit and was extremely surprised when a small green caterpillar fell out*. Now that was some wildlife I hadn’t expected to see!

* Pretty sure it wasn’t there when I set out

Guest Post. The Fred Whitton Challenge

This weekend, the lovely Mr B&T has been up in the Lake District with his bike, taking part in the Fred Whitton Challenge again. For those who know the Lake District you will appreciate how hilly this is.  Also what the weather is likely to have been like! For thse who don’t know, it’s in the North. Nuff said. This is an epic 112 mile ride, taking in some epic hills, and has been rightly called the toughest Sportive in the UK.

The Route
The Route

I’m waiting for him to return home, I only know he rode well yesterday and was pleased with his time. He was too tired to tell me anymore. However, he rode this event last year for the first time, and did a fabulous write up of it. I’m now cheekily pinching it as a blog post to show that (a) apparently there is more to life than running, and (b) I’m incredibly proud of him and want to share how hard he works at his cycling and his training for events (even if I do wish he would be at home some weekends to tackle the long list of jobs I have waiting for him..!)

So, over to Mr B&T and wind back the calendar to this time last year…

Dear Friends and Family,

So three days after completing the Fred Whitton Challenge I am finally 
coming back down to earth, not with a bump, but with the glowing 
satisfaction of completing the toughest physical challenge of my life 
and knowing that, thanks to your generosity, I have raised over £500 
toward Macmillan Cancer Support.

I have thanked a few of you already but wanted to say to everyone how 
grateful I am for your support. It is amazing what you can do with some 
determination and the added support of those around you. Here is a photo
 of me climbing the 30% slope to the summit of Hardknott 
Pass. IMG_3392ANever did I think I could do that. I had fully expected to be 
walking up that road, so thank you for your support which motivated me 
to give it everything. I'm the one in the Chippenham Wheelers jersey, 
not the chap in red.

My day started at 4.30am, waking up in my Ambleside guest house, excited 
about what the day would bring but so apprehensive about the weather and 
the ride that I could barely manage to eat my porridge. After a short 
drive up to Grasmere, lining up at the start with hundreds of other 
nervous cyclists, my 112 mile ride finally got underway at 6.30am. It 
rained all morning and the wind blew constantly all day. The first climb 
up Kirkstone Pass was a hard slog, but it helped get the blood pumping 
and I certainly didn't feel cold by the time I reached the assembled 
crowd of supporters up at the top by the Kirkstone Inn ringing their cow 
bells and cheering us along. I went over the top and started the 
first slippery descent of the day, taking great care to control my speed 
in the tricky conditions. I was soon flying along the valley base and 
then onto the next climb at Matterdale End.
Kirkstone Pass Inn
Kirkstone Pass Inn
The rest of the day was pretty much like that all the way......... hard, 
long climbs and phenomenal supporters shouting encouragement. The climb 
to Honister Pass was the first really serious climb of the day, with 25% 
gradients, followed by the first really steep descent. Then onto 
Buttermere Youth Hostel for a long and much needed re-fuelling stop for 
cheese and jam sandwiches (a Cumbrian delicacy I believe), flapjack and 
the obligatory banana. Another 30 odd miles later up and down Newlands 
Pass, Whinlatter Pass, Cold Fell and a few other lesser hills and then 
another long stop at Calder Bridge Village Hall feed station for a hot 
cup of tea and more cheese and jam sandwiches. There was only one 
subject that everyone was talking about and that was the final two big 
climbs of the day - Hardknott and Wrynose.

I arrived at Hardknott determined to give it a go. The first section 
kicks up to 30% immediately on a really narrow road with tight bends. 
Halfway up and it was just too congested with other riders and pushers 
so I put a foot down and pushed the next couple of bends. I got back 
onto the bike when the gradient eased a little and gave it another go, 
only to be almost wiped out by another rider losing his chain in front 
of me. Luckily we both unclipped our shoes quickly enough to stay 
upright. After a second re-mount I then rode all the way to the upper 
steep section, and astounded myself by pulling all the way through, with 
marshals and supporters shouting encouragement all the way. A quick stop 
for a breather, a push-off from a marshal to get me going and I arrived 
at the summit.

Then the truly terrifying descent. 25-30% downhill. Brakes on all the 
way. Push the weight to the back. Slowest possible speed. I reached the 
bottom, over the bridge passed a guy with medics tending to a badly 
gashed leg and then straight up to Wrynose and over the top, which 
seemed easy by comparison to HK. At this point my ride halted as a 
marshal cautioned me to stop part-way down the descent due to an earlier 
accident. A rider had fallen, was unconscious and being recovered by the 
air ambulance. I waited on the hill with 2-300 other riders looking down 
on the helicopter and mountain rescue teams doing their work. The mood 
was sombre, everyone thinking the worst. Eventually the rotors powered 
up and it lifted off rushing its patient to Preston hospital.
Top of Wrynose
Top of Wrynose
We were all then released to continue our last 10 miles back to 
Grasmere. Everyone's mood gradually lifted and thoughts turned towards 
finishing the last 10 miles back to Grasmere.  Somehow the legs 
discovered a new lease of life and I powered through the last miles. 
The rain made a final appearance for the day, but seemed a minor 
inconvenience after what had preceded.

Finally I arrived in Grasmere, turned the  corner into the Showfield to 
be greeted by a huge cheer form the supporters, 3-4 deep behind the 
barriers waiting to greet family and friends. "Go on Chippenham" someone 
shouted, as I crossed the line.

My overall time was 9 hours 31m, although my actually moving time was 
8h32m. I hadn't set a target but was very happy just to have completed 
the ride, safely, which had been my objective for the day. The fastest 
riders (two chaps from the Lakes Road Club) finished in an astonishing 6 
hours 1 minute. The slowest riders finished in over 12 hours.

There was much celebration in the finish arena, some much needed hot 
food and the best ever pint of beer enjoyed in the company of so many 
fellow cyclists. Every person I spoke to said it was the hardest ride 
they had every done, including seasoned sportivistes, who had said it 
was harder than rides they had done in the Alps.

The good news to eventually filter through after the event is that all 
the accident casualties are back at home, nursing injuries but 
thankfully okay.

I'm now back at home and getting back to normal, after the greatest 
cycle event I have ever ridden. Wondering what on earth I can do next to 
top that........?! I'm having a bit of rest from sportives for a while 
now. Well, for a few weeks at least.

Thank you once again for supporting Macmillan on my behalf,