Friday, 3 December 2010

The river

I just wanted to post this here in case it disappears.

A river is not merely a geographical fact - this much I know. Its mud, shoals, willows and locks, its gravel and its forever changing waters are alive for sure; but this is not the river’s only life. The river lives in our collective consciousness and those without rivers are poorer people. The streams of childhood become the channels in men’s minds and we are drawn back to them time upon time. They become symbols of the land and of the nation, of connection and place – the romance of the sea but a romance which is wholly ours.

At its most prosaic the river is a boundary, at its most practical it is a resource. For my mother it is the ‘dark water’ (an object of fear) and indeed for others it is a killer and a grave. For me the river is a journey, for unlike the road it has direction; and that direction is onwards, always onwards to the sea – to the river’s end.

A Journey

Lying back in the boat with eyes closed the boat spins us in lazy circles, brushing the thick reed beds first with the worn brass of the bow and then with the delicate Malaysian mahogany of the rudder. The steering lines hand loose but our coxswain, unable to lie down and bothered by a lingering sense of responsibility shifts uneasily in his seat. He is something in the city I believe. The city is Genève but we’ve never been entirely sure what the thing is, so we entertain ourselves with ideas of international espionage.

The river is quiet and meanders through open countryside. Nothing, it seems, has ever happened here beyond the passing of small boats (perhaps even with lovers) and the ever-watchful cattle. But beneath the surface, perhaps even beneath our feet, are the thousands of tiny artefacts which the river conceals. Some remain hidden for millennia while others, like goods stacked on an overloaded cart, are slewed out upon the muddy banks.

Gary Nelmes

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Open University Tour 2010 - Day 1

This is the annual OU Tour - the three handicap race distances (5 mile, 5 k and 10 k) run all in one week on the Monday, the Wednesday and the Friday. On the tour, we all start together rather than staggering the times according to ability.

Yesterday was the 5 mile, on a glorious day. I really enjoyed the race. I'm three minutes slower than when I was at my best in 2007, but that didn't take the edge off it one bit. It was perfect running weather - glorious sunshine and cold with no wind. I ran the whole race on my own, pretty much, except when Brian overtook me ... which made for an exciting race. I managed to overtake him close to the end, and hold him off, but it was hard work. It probably cut at least a minute off my last time though - at the beginning of October I did it in 39 minutes, and yesterday in just under 38. I am pleased! Thanks Brian - looking forward to Day 2!

Here is a picture of us at the starting line - I am hiding at the back somewhere.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Thank you

The TOB participants, 2010
(With thanks to Neil for the picture)
Thank you to everyone for your enthusiasm and support. You all contributed to the 2010 TOB to make the event a success and a fitting and special way to remember Gary.
Special thanks to...
Glyn and Janette - for your support over the past year, and for the wine at dinner.
The wonderful staff at Hartwell - for excellent service and assistance in planning the evening events.
Emma - van driving, counselling, B & B accommodation and prizes
Sue - emergency bag maker, van navigation, photography and strategist
Nina - van navigation and catering
Beccy - catering and printing
Iftkhar - route leader and tester
Clive - strategist and route advice
Matt D - team leader and navigation
Andy - team leader and navigation
Leah - team leader and flowers
Shima - champagne
Paul - logo design
... and to Duncan for all your support and advice over the past few weeks.
Race report and more pictures to follow soon. Send me any pictures you would like to see here!
Love to all
Julia x

Friday, 3 September 2010

TOB 2010 itinerary

Final plan

Day 1, Saturday 4 September:

10.00 - meet in the car park. You will then load up your bags on to the Broom Wagon, meet your team and listen to a race/route briefing.

10.45 - le depart.

12.00 - first mountain stage.

12.30 - lunch via musette.

15.00 - second mountain stage.

16.00 - arrive at Hartwell House.

19.00 - pre-dinner drinks – those not cycling on Day 1 should meet us at this point at Hartwell main entrance

20.00 - dinner in the Doric Dining Room.

After dinner: coffee in the drawing room and film viewing.

Day 2, Sunday 5 September:

8.00 - Breakfast at Hartwell (for those staying there) is served from 8.00 am.

10.30 – All meet up at hotel entrance, and secret event

11.00 - leave Hartwell House.

13.00 - sprint before the pub (The Stag at Mentmore)

13.15 - lunch at The Stag

14.30 - depart The Stag

16.00 - Champagne reception in Simpson and presentation of prizes.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Mountain and sprint stage details - with thanks to Clive

Day 1
1st Hill climb/mountain stage:
Marston Hill. This is just under 17 miles into the ride, beyond North Marston and leading up to Oving Village. We pull in to the right just before the hill to get everyone together.

2nd hill climb/mountain stage:
Waddesdon Hill. This is around 21 miles into the ride and the hill starts about half a mile after we have crossed the A41. We will stop after the A41 and get everyone together. The hill finishes just as one is getting to Eythrope.

Day 2
Sprint: The road from Long Marston goes out towards Cheddington, but we turn left towards Mentmore. There is a layby there and it is from around there that we start the sprint to the pub.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Tour of Buckinghamshire 2010

I am delighted to say that the planning of this year's Tour of Buckinghamshire is proceeding well.

This year we have 15 confirmed riders for Day 1, which will rise to 17 by Day 2.

We have 23 people for the black tie dinner, which this year will be in the Doric Room in Hartwell House.

Accommodation is booked for all who need it, both at Hartwell and a B & B nearby.

A few new faces will be joining us this year, hopefully Hannah and guest, Andy, Neil and Tim.

The itinerary and route will be very similar to last year but we are planning a few surprises!

More updates and the final itinerary will appear here soon. I'm really looking forward to cycling with you all again.

Julia x

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Spring slime - post 1

Something amazing happened yesterday. I saw frogspawn - the slimy herald of spring.

Weirdly, though, I saw it on a pavement near my house - as if the frogs concerned didn't quite make it to the watery ditch just a metre or so away. Yesterday I didn't realise it was frogspawn, I just thought it was evidence of a dog with a serious problem. But today on my way home for lunch, I realised the true nature of the gelatinous mass. Suddenly it became much less disgusting as I realised it was a ball of potential life.

I went home for lunch, and then dug out my fish tank, procured for just such a purpose. I furtled about in the garden for some rainwater, and managed to find a tupperware-box-full. Would the (at least) two-day old spawn have survived on the pavement? It has been raining almost constantly, so it won't have totally dried out. But will it have had enough oxygen to keep it going?

The tank prepared with a little rainwater, I went out with my box to collect the spawn. On closer inspection, there weren't very many black dots (indicators of the fertilised eggs) but there were a few. I scooped up the slime and returned home to put it in the tank. It looked a bit reddish (not a good sign)? But I wasn't sure whether this was evidence of spawn deterioration or just colour from some dead leaves it was resting on.

The spawn doesn't look very healthy, as apart from its colour there are no nicely rounded slime balls as you usually see around the eggs. Could that just be because it's dehydrated? There are probably only about 6 or so eggs in there - but you never know - they might hatch!

I love hatching out spawn, but I'm always worried about doing it (I don't wish to harm the 'poles or transfer frog disease between ponds). This slime rescue, however, seems ethical. If they do survive, they wouldn't have without human intervention. Maybe they weren't meant to survive though, due to their dense parents? Hmm...

Monday, 18 January 2010

Back out on the roads

I had a brilliant run on Sunday. For the first time in at least two weeks the sun was shining, the world was back from underneath its snow blanket and there was a possibility of running on roads rather than cross country (I found I couldn't really run on roads in snow). So I joined Ruth, Kevin and Alisdair from the club on their usual sixteen-mile route in Stony. Sixteen miles is actually a bit far to be running at this point in in the year (I should be running closer to thirteen). But since they were doing it, I was swept along and risked it.

For the first time in ages I felt a huge surge of joy to be out running. The first 8 miles were hard, as there was quite a lot of ice and we had to hop about over ice patches to avoid skidding. But I didn't mind a bit of prancing, and it was good to have a slower start. But after that - we really got into our strides. I haven't been able to run fluidly like that for weeks, because I have had to train off-road for Calderdale and run in the snow. These types of training have their own pleasures, but I never get into a constant rhythm. So on Sunday, I felt so inspired. I also felt relief - that I could still run a 'properly long' distance. The route was lovely, along quiet roads in open countryside. Colour had returned to the world - green was everywhere. Twigs on the branches had changed from black against snow and white sky to bright green against blue (I guess it must be a lichen on the twigs). I felt alive. It felt good to be pushing myself. After the run my legs burned, but it felt great.

K drove us back to their house to pick up my bike and we all had a cup of tea. I was so grateful for their encouragement on the run and for letting me come along and I'd like to train with them as much as I can over the next few months. There are few people who can inspire me to run at just sub-8 min miles over that distance. They have such determination, gentle humour and a positive attitude. I look forward to the next one.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

'Covering earth in forgetful snow'

It's not working.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Thoughts on running ... first draft

The most important thing about running (for me) is the way in which it combines the physical with the mental – both in terms of the ‘intellect’ (if that is the right word to describe strategy and focus) and the imagination (visualisation, and dissociation/association from/with the body). This combination of physical and mental is very rewarding and makes you feel like a complete human being.

On the ‘intellect’ side, concentration, focus and accuracy are vital. If you lose your focus on a long race - your goal will slip away. You've got to keep on clocking up the miles at precisely the right tempo. On the ‘imagination’ side, being able to visualise ways to keep you going – for example, imagining the energy of you and your companions combining to carry you forward – is both helpful and somehow in itself exciting. Which brings me to a final point – the social aspect of running. I love running with people and rarely run alone. There’s something primeval about chasing and being chased. It’s slightly edgy, but it’s a buzz. Running as a duo can be fabulous. If you really trust them, some of the required focus can be temporarily offloaded onto your partner when you’re tired, and then you can take over when they need you.

There’s so much more that could be said - perhaps I will keep developing this.