Oh deer, deer, deer! A tale of 3 races

Three races in recent weeks – it’s all or nothing here! Back at the end of June I wrote about the Great Chalfield 10K, a race I’ll stagger round even if I can’t race it because it’s just such a great event. It was definitely a staggering run this year, and as I wrote in my race report a huge highlight for me was spotting a deer watching us climb the last hill.

I love seeing deer, and I’ve spotted more when running than at any other time. I’m always amazed that a wild animal of such a size can live along side us, relatively invisibly.  I always think if you see a deer, it means it’s a GOOD day.

On 2nd August I ran the Stripped Back Bustard 5 (miles), and wrote about it here. On the longand soggy drive home, in a car that now resembled a sauna on wheels, I thought I saw a deer-shaped thing at the side of the road going down Bowden Hill. It wasn’t moving, so I wondered if it was a model. I slowed right down, eventually stopped, and a fallow deer leapt out and trotted across the road right in front of me. Magical. Another good day!

Last week, I had another race, the last in this season’s Heddington 5K series. I was idly thinking of trotting around at about 9:30 minute mile pace which would get me in under 30 minutes, when I bumped into Nikki. I ran June’s Heddington 5K with Nikki when we were very disciplined and ran at a steady 10 minute mile pace together. (Read about it here). It turned out that she was thinking of running at about 9:30 pace because she was desperate to finally go sub-30 for a 5K. Again we agreed to run together, and started near the back. The first mile was fine (it’s mostly downhill!), the next half mile to the halfway point was still okay, we were passing a few runners and just keeping going.

Still smiling!
Still smiling!

At 2 miles though, the chatter stopped and we were working hard to keep to our pace. At about 2 and a half miles I could sense Nikki starting to drop back slightly, so I nagged and verbally pushed her to just keep her legs moving. We made it to 3 miles. As we came to the “200 metres to go” sign we both glanced at our watches, gave an excited squeak, and Nikki pushed off on her finish line sprint (how do people do that??!) I crossed the line in 29:21 and Nikki in 29:17.  She was so happy – and I’m glad its not just me who cries when they set a new PB that they’ve been wanting to hit for a long time. Well done Nikki – superb gritty running!

I left straight after the prize giving as I’d left my son with cooking instructions and wanted to make sure he hadn’t burnt the house down. As I came back down Bowden Hill again, I thought about the deer and wondered if I’d see it again. I looked and looked, but no such luck. As I headed along the road to Corsham though, I could see something moving at the edge of the road. A cyclist with no lights? A runner ill-advisedly wearing brown at dusk? No, of course on a special day like today it had to be another deer. As I slowed down it cautiously crossed the road in front of me and disappeared through the hedge. I *knew* it had been a good day!

Cows, barbed wire and a life lesson

Something funny happened to me on my long run today. I’m taking it as a life lesson, so I’ll share it so you can learn from it as well.

I decided I’d better fit my long run in today, and planned a beautiful 10 mile route from Chippenham along the River Avon, then along the Wilts and Berks canal to the National Trust village of Lacock. As ever, I just can’t resist taking photographs as I go:-

A previously neglected corner of Chippenham
A previously neglected corner of Chippenham
Rebuilding the top lock
Rebuilding the top lock
A boat - never seen one on the canal before
A boat – never seen one on the canal before

Shortly after this section the path crosses several fields before eventually winding down to Lacock. As I entered the first field, I spotted this:-

Cows - my nemesis
Cows – my nemesis

Look closely –  yes, cows. I am scared of cows. Well, I’m reluctant to run through a field of the bovine monsters – have you seen how big they are, close up?! After a close encounter with a pair of amorous bulls on the Marshfield Mudlark in 2013 I reserve the right to stand on my moral high ground and refuse to run near them.

I stood on the edge of the field and dithered for quite a while. I didn’t want to abandon my run and turn back, but I really didn’t want to go past the cows. Inspiration struck, and I decided to leave the footpath and make a detour through some neighbouring fields. Unfortunately this meant crawling on my belly under a gate adorned with barbed wire, running along the rough edge of a field of maize, crashing through a scrubby hedge with another wriggle under barbed wire, then around another field. Success!
I made it to Lacock and ran though the village, no doubt spoiling several tourists’ photos, past the National Trust tearooms (showing great willpower) and then headed back the way I’d come. As I crossed a field on the edge of Lacock I had to overtake a couple of walkers, the sort of walkers where the man has a large floppy brimmed hat, and the woman has sensible walking shoes and a floral top.* I said “hello”, they said “good morning” in a slightly snooty way, and I ran on.

At the bottom edge of the cow-infested field I again set off on my detour through hedges, maize and barbed wire. I was just crawling on my belly under the final gate, when I looked up and guess who had caught me up? Yes, Mr and Mrs Slightly Snooty.

“I see you braved the cows!” I called out whilst casually brushing mud off my legs.
“They’re only heifers” I was grumpily informed. I sighed, and made a mental note that it’s hard to take the moral high ground when you’ve just been spotted face down in the mud under a gate. I think that’s a good life lesson to take away from that incident.

* I’m making no judgements, just setting the scene.

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

Juneathon Day 2. Running with my Ears

A lovely 5 mile run this morning. I kept the pace up in case the builders were planning on arriving, but not so fast that I’d be a sweaty mess if they were waiting on the drive for me when I got back. As it turns out they’re not coming until next Monday – so expect a very similar run /post in a week’s time.

As I stood on the drive waiting for my Garmin to find some satellites I became aware of the hedge next to me. It was buzzing -swarming with bees. I tried to film them but the microphone isn’t great on my phone.

After this I was alert to all the sounds around me. I was listening to the birds as I ran through the village, and could notice when the noise from the bypass on the very edge of town began to impose on my consciousness. The bridge over the bypass has a Strava segment running over it which is a tempting reason to run that way.

The view from the top showed the tractor I’d heard cutting the grass, leaving stripes even my Dad would be proud of.

There is another buzzing you can hear here, but sadly is not more bees, just the powerlines on the nearby pylon.

The run back home was uneventful, but I felt pretty good, fit and positive. You can tell it’s only day 2 of Juneathon!

Oh what a beautiful morning!

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the countryside is waking up and everything is growing. What a perfect day for a run!

Well, perfect if you ignore the raging hay fever, the huge tractors, trailers, and tractors-with-trailers storming along the tiny lanes meaning I have to leap into the hedge or get squashed. Also the hordes of cyclists. They must have heard my husband who, on leaving for work this morning, glanced at the sky and said enviously “lovely day for a bike ride. Sigh.”

Despite the annoyance of my quiet lanes being turned into veritable motorways, I did love the chap on a bike who dinged his bell as he came up behind me “just in case you didn’t hear me”. Very thoughtful, if more cyclists did this it would save me from any more near misses with silent cyclists. I also loved the old lady on a very new bike who was riding nearly as slowly as I was running. As she finally managed to overtake me we had time for a lovely chat.

After such a stop-start run, I couldn’t resist stopping to take a duckling photo.

However I quickly got up and carried on running when I turned round and see these two advancing…

Scary Geese

Bluebells and How to Trick yourself to Run

I was feeling very lazy, despite getting out for a couple of runs already this week. I wanted to go for a longer run, but was having trouble motivating myself. After the Postman brought the new pair of ‘Runderwear’ running pants I bought this week I knew I had to go. (More about the pants another time).

Once in my new pants and out the door I talked myself into taking a longer, more ‘interesting’ (i.e. off road and uphill)  route by telling myself it would be full of bluebells and very photogenic.

A few bluebells
A few bluebells

As you can see, not too many bluebells were actually out. I had cheated myself!

However I had set off intending to do a 5 mile road run and ended up having run 7.5 miles including some off road, so I didn’t mind really.

Does anyone else ‘trick’ themselves to run further, or is it just me?!

Badger or Beast?

So this is the photo of the paw prints I spotted today whilst out running. Quite wide, very distinctive claw marks. I was hoping it was a badger, as I’ve never found badger prints before and its years since I’ve seen a badger whilst out and about.

I was telling my son about the tracks, and he helpfully suggested it was the ‘beast’ – a wild cat which was reportedly spotted around here a good few years ago. I’ve only just got over my fear of the ‘psycho pheasant’ who attacked me along here several years ago. Now I’ve got a large (hungry?) wild cat to worry about as well!

I-Spy Animals

More snow, and a run that saw me on virgin, untouched snow. Just me and the animal tracks for company. The signpost looked like it was pointing of into the middle of nowhere.

Anyone help me identify the many animal tracks I saw? I’ll post a photo when my phone starts behaving itself. The paw prints were quite chunky, so pretty wide, with very clearly defined claw marks. Unlike earlier in my run, there were no “owner’s prints” next to these. I’m secretly hoping its a badger. Also saw some much smaller prints, obviously running, which I reckon were fox prints. Saw lots of rabbit tracks, and then a much bigger version which I presume was a hare.

Next time I run, remind me to take my animal footprint chart with me, so I can tot up my Wildlife Points as I go along.

Road to Nowhere?
Just my footprints and some animal tracks.

Boars again – getting scary!

After a wild boar was seen near one of my usual running routes earlier in the week, I was scared to see the errant boar has struck again.

The Gazette and Herald reported it as “Wild boar charges at dog walker in Chippenham”

The good news is that the boar was further away from my running routes this time.
The bad news is that 1. it charged at a man with a dog this time, and 2. its now much closer to my children’s school.

However, every cloud has a silver whatsit, so I was amused to read that the honest dog walker confessed “It started charging towards me and I screamed like a girl.” Good man!

A wild boar on the run
A example of a running Boar – photo from the Gazette and Herald

It sounds like the boar was seen on the route the children have to go along when they’re sent out cross country running. That will make the little oiks speed up – a great threat in the tradition of releasing the school leopard, (from Ripping Yarns*)

Need to plan my 10 miler for tomorrow – maybe I’ll make sure I avoid this area.

* Google it if you don’t know the reference