Friday, 8 June 2018

I did it!

Last weekend I finally accomplished the challenge I set for myself a few months ago, and it felt so good.
For what seems like a long time now (probably because it is!) I have been trying to improve my fitness, but for one reason or another I've encountered various set backs.
I enjoy running, I really do. It's simple, uncomplicated, like walking but a little faster.  It's accessible whenever I have a bit of spare time.  It doesn't need special equipment or expensive clothing, just some reasonable trainers and a bit of enthusiasm and effort. It enables me to switch off and let my mind wander. In truth, my mind usually wanders to weekly meal planning, daily activities  and chores that need doing, but it at least enables some uninterrupted thinking time. And on top of all that it makes me feel good.
I am incredibly fortunate in that I have some beautiful countryside on my doorstep, and nothing quite beats putting on my trainers and being able to head out in the fresh air early in the morning (not too early, I'm not completely mad!), tractors working the fields, rabbits running across the lanes and the occasional horse leaning over the hedge to say hello. However, running an actual race alongside hordes of 'real' runners would be another matter entirely. It had been more years than I care to remember since I last had a number attached to my front and a timer at the finish line, so to say that I was nervous would be an understatement. I was literally putting myself out there to be counted. It could go one of two ways and either put me off completely or give me the push I needed to encourage me to do more.

Way back in February I made the decision to enter the Morecambe 10K. A flat course along the sea front and as the run didn't start until 11am it meant I didn't have to get up at a ridiculously early hour. Four months meant I had plenty of time to put in some extra miles and slowly build my way up to a longer distance. Of course, things never quite go to plan and I didn't manage as much training as I would have liked, especially during the last week with Lily being on half term - a gentle three miles on the Friday morning was all that I managed. For a few weeks now, I haven't had the chance to make it to the weekly running group either.
Sunday morning arrived and once I'd collected my number and made my way to the start line I found myself surrounded by a lovely, friendly bunch of people. Feeling a bit more relaxed, I tried not to think too much about their t-shirts having the words 'harriers', 'athletics', or 'running club' on them. I double checked my laces and made sure my crazy hair was firmly in place. There was a bit of a panic just before the race began, in that some of us who thought we were stood towards the back of the group were actually stood at the front. The run was starting in the opposite direction to what we thought! We quickly shuffled further back and following some announcements, which no one could really hear, we were off!
It was a beautiful day but sooo hot. The route set off south from the jetty then looped around to head north up the promenade before returning to the jetty once more, and the finish line. Running in amongst so many people took a bit of getting used to and it took me a while to get into a steady pace. Even though it was a 10K, the route was measured out in miles which was a little confusing, especially as I missed seeing the 2 mile marker and I didn't know my bearings, so it was difficult to tell how I was getting on. There was plenty of friendly banter between the runners though, and a really supportive atmosphere. 
Before I knew it I could see the finish line. I don't wear a watch and so far I  haven't timed any of my training runs, but I was pleased with what I achieved and it has given my confidence a much needed boost. Having said that,  I'm sure I could have gone faster had I known they were handing out Wagon Wheels at the finish! If anything can get me to run, then it's the lure of chocolate. But I did it! And for me, that in itself is so much more than my race time.
Will I enter another? Well, there's a ten mile run in August which is currently tempting me. 
J. X

Thursday, 31 May 2018

A Wild Weekend

This last long weekend has been just wonderful, and the continuing good weather (we've barely had any rain here) has been the backdrop for a getting back to nature,  barefoot paddling, rope swinging time. I feel like I'm on a post holiday come down, and any doubts I previously had about not having booked a trip away this year have been firmly put to rest. We have so much to enjoy right here, and as  much as I love the outdoors, I'm not the type to be out in all weathers, so it's even better to be able to seize the opportunity to get out while the sun is shining.
On Saturday we needed to run an errand, but rather than letting it interrupt our day, we made it part of it. So, as is usual here, a picnic lunch was packed and off we went, and as soon as we had collected the parcel, we went down to the nearby nature reserve. The fine golden sand felt so soft and warm beneath our feet we had a lovely time collecting shells and much to our surprise we discovered some Oystercatcher eggs. To say it was breezy would be a bit of an understatement, it was so blustery we couldn't even manage to fly our kite, but the air was warm and we enjoyed our lunch sheltered among the dunes, on which we all had a great time climbing up and down  and trying to avoid the prickly grasses.

The following day we took ourselves off to the woods and completed one of the  National Trust Wild Trails. We had such  a lot of fun. Of course, it is designed for children but I'm proud to say I managed it all! 😃 We followed the written clues around the woods, crawling through a wall,  climbing over rocks, balancing on trees and finishing at a rope swing which was Lily's favourite part. A great little adventure.

For a while now I have been hoping to get Lily camping, and last week, with the promise of some good weather,  I decided at the weekend would be  a great time to do it, completely forgetting, of course, that it was a Bank Holiday and there was no availability. I didn't want to chance one of the sites where you just turn up, so it would have to be Monday night. No problem, that would be fine, and the site sounded perfect for us. Lily began counting  down the days.
On Monday morning, as soon as we were packed ( how much stuff for just one night?!!) we set off and made our way to Ullswater. Our first stop was Aira Force, a beautiful waterfalls walk through ancient woodland. The climb was quite steep and it was such a hot day we were grateful for  the shade of the trees. Having walked up to High Cascades, we made time for a paddle in the stream on the way back down, before stopping for a picnic lunch. We then followed the pathway down to lake shore for a rest and another paddle before making our way to the campsite.
It has been a good few years since I've been camping so I was a little anxious, but I couldn't have chosen a nicer site for Lily's first time. It was a small, friendly site and we were given a lovely pitch with it's own water supply, overlooking the play area and just a few metres away from the shower block. The tent was soon pitched and as Lily went off to play with new found friends, I was able to relax in the sunshine, read a book and even do a little crochet, although it felt a little strange to be working on a woolly blanket in that heat, so I didn't spend too much time on it.
As afternoon turned to evening, the faint aroma of barbecues started to waft around the site and we cooked our sausages on the little camping stove, then as the sun began to set, we drank our hot chocolates, before snuggling down for the night in our sleeping bags.
The following morning, after breakfast, we walked up the lane from the site to Little Mell Fell. We had planned to climb it the previous day but as it was so hot I didn't think it was a good idea. Still warm, but a little overcast, the morning made for a much more comfortable walk and it was a lovely way to end our long weekend. We returned to the site, packed up the tent and made our way back home.
We've had the best few days, and did Lily enjoy camping? Apparently, it was 'awesome!' and she's looking forward to the next time.
J. X

Friday, 25 May 2018

Beautiful May

The month of May usually brings with it a good few days of decent weather, but this year has proved to be exceptional, with some particularly sunny, dry and warm days. In fact, to use Lily's current favourite phrase it's been 'pretty awesome!' 

It has meant we've been living life outdoors and  enjoyed some lovely walks, with our evenings mostly spent sat out in the garden. For now, at least, the paddling pool appears to be a permanent fixture on the lawn and sun cream has become a part of our daily routine.
The delightful melody of the dawn chorus through the open window makes for a far more gentle start to the day than my alarm clock even if a 4am start is a little too early for me. It can be a chance to get a few chores out of the way before the day properly begins. There is a wonderful, heady, sweet scent in the air you can almost taste, an abundance of butterflies and bees going about their business and the pathways are slowly disappearing underneath the blossoming wild flowers. It's been glorious and I've been soaking it all up. Life feels so much better with a bit of sunshine.

Last week, Lily's class took part in a forest school in some nearby woodland. A letter arrived home explaining this new 'Scandinavian concept of learning' and I had to laugh. We had trips out to the same woods when I was at the school. There was nothing Scandinavian about it then, we were just having a lesson outdoors. The children all had a great time, however, and following a (very) short learning session and picnic lunch they were allowed to do their own thing, as long as they remained within the marked boundaries. Dens were made, trees swung from and children got dirty. It was great to see them enjoy a bit more freedom than is allowed in the school playground and the delight on their faces when they discovered some blackbird eggs in a nest. These particular woods are full of bluebells and although they are beginning to go over now, the colour was still stunning.

School sports day was held this week. I didn't really know what to expect as a lot of schools don't really embrace competition these days, but it was a really lovely event. A mixture of team games and competitive races with the children cheered on by family members. Picnic lunches were enjoyed on the school field and, of course, the weather couldn't have been more perfect. And my girl? She came first in the sprint and the sack race. Hurray! Not that she cared. She was more excited that she was given a sticker. Oh, to be five years old.
Yes, five! Lily celebrated her birthday this month. I have no idea where those five years have gone, but my baby girl is growing up. Following the excitement of the balloon discovery, the following day we went to Inflatanation in Manchester and the evening of the day itself was spent playing in the garden with her friend. She was thrilled with her new bike and has been out on it every day. Of course, Lily requested her favourite chocolate brownie cake with a Smartie topping, just like in previous years.

Yesterday was horrible for me. Mog went missing!
With  the brighter weather she spends more time outside and on Wednesday evening she went out as usual and I expected to hear her return through the cat flap during the night but she didn't. She didn't return the following morning either, nor when I returned from work later that day. I checked her usual sleeping places, her food was still untouched and I began to worry. I know cats can disappear for long periods but Mog is usually to be seen somewhere around and I know she doesn't wander much further than the field behind the house - mice!  After school, I took Lily swimming and hoped I had been worrying for nothing, that she would be home when we returned, but sadly still there was no sign of her. The house felt empty and I became despondent. I went to bed really early but couldn't fall asleep, feeling guilty at how I get angry at her when she wakes me during the night by nudging me and purring in my ear, desperately wishing she would be there to irritate me now.
Suddenly at 10.59 (I checked!) the sound I'd  been longing  for. The click of the cat flap! The relief, thank goodness. I dashed downstairs to make sure she was OK. Had something horrible happened to her? Was she hurt? No! She took one glance at me as if to say 'what's your problem?' then turned to eat her food. 
J. X