My New Year’s Eve review of 2011

It’s that time of year again when we all look back, reflect on the previous twelve months, feel slightly inadequate and make all sorts of rash promises for the New Year. Going back to my first post of Janathon 2011, I had been a bit of a slacker on the running front and mostly reflected on my knitting goals for 2010. Most of these have been on a rolling programme since 2009. The beautiful but barely started throw remains beautiful, but barely started, my wool stash has grown and remains chaotic, the felted bag hasn’t been knitted, let alone felted…. I have however, finally, started to knit a sock.

I took this photo months ago. It's not really come on a lot since then.

Learning crochet was also on the rollover list. Until Boxing Day. Yes, on Boxing Day night, I decided that if I didn’t have a go right that minute then I would be sitting here in December 2012 saying that I still haven’t learned to crochet. Alright, so my attempts so far aren’t brilliant, but they do show progress and it’s the furthest that I’ve ever got with a crochet hook. I’ve pencilled in a trip been to the wool shop to get some advice and a book today – but if anyone in my woolly/running crossover has any ideas for a good beginners project (I’m rubbish at just making sample squares to practise) then please let me know!

That's progress that is.

Anyway, that’s wool not running. I did make one running related resolution last year and I kept to it, I just didn’t admit it to anyone other than Ginge because it’s a bit shameful. For the last year, I have undone my laces every time that I finished a run instead of just scuffing off my trainers by the heels. I’m 32, I shouldn’t be proud of this.

Moving swiftly on, what did I do this year? Well, in January I amazed myself my completing 31/31 in Janathon. It was mostly cold and dark, but it kickstarted the most regular spell of running that I have ever done because it showed me that often the only thing stopping me from running is me.

On a cold and frosty morning

In February, I decided to run the length of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. In the end, logistics got the better of me and I only ran the Lancashire side. Still, that was unexpected and it gives me something to do next year.

The start of our canal adventure

In March, I learned how to felt. Nothing to do with running, but on our way home I did spot some runners participating in what turned out to be the Gin Pit Marathon. Now, for everyone who has ever run a marathon outside this nation’s capital city, only to be faced with friends and family who consider London to be the only marathon (the rest are all shorter, obviously) the Gin Pit Marathon is possibly the ultimate anti-London marathon.  There are two races on run on Saturday and Sunday, you can run either or both, each has a maximum of 30 competitors. Oh, and you need a map. No cheering crowds, no live music, no smiley marshalls. Just you and the pavement (and your map). I know that I couldn’t do that.

Woolly goodness

Then came April, where I mostly overheated. I bought a hat. It continues to look ridiculous on me, but became an essential part of kit in September.

Blue skies and sunshine

May. Ah, May. When I ran in Central Park. Enough said.

The Central Park reservoir running track

It was inevitable, but June brought Juneathon. I did 30/30 and my running felt brilliant. I really enjoyed it.

Just what you need during An Athon

And then came July, when I came crashing back down to earth and struggled to put one foot in front of the other because of an irritable iliotibial band that gave me excruciating pain in my hip and knee. I found myself a physio, bought a foam roller and embraced other ways of seeing the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

Now that's the way to do it

In August, the country was rioting, it was my birthday (celebrated by running along the Wigan flight of locks – I know how to party) and the Athon community mourned Paula Butler, who died suddenly when out running. I’ve only just seen this, but her family have set up a donation page in her memory which is here if anyone wants to contribute.

Canals have certainly featured heavily this year

September saw me complete the Blackpool Illuminations 10k and the Folkestone Half Marathon. This doubled the number of races that I ran in 2010. Despite my erratic training, I took 6 minutes off my previous 10k time and am now determined to have a sub-hour 10k this year. Folkestone was a somewhat tougher proposition as I was defeated by heat (despite my hat) but it hasn’t put me off doing another one.

The Kent Police Band welcoming us across the finish

I had another first in October, getting my lovely new trail shoes lovely and and muddy.

Mud.

I lost my mojo a bit in November, but Ginge and I did take our trainers to Conwy and we ran round the castle.

Viking!

And so to December. It’s been cold, wet and miserable. My training’s gone a bit erratic again. I’ve decided to do the Liverpool Half in March so I’ll have to get my arse in gear soon. Luckily, as of tomorrow, I’ll have no excuse because it’s the start of Janathon.

2010 – 429.57 miles
2011 – 706.87 miles

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Messing about in boats

“Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING – absolute nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,’ he went on dreamily: ‘messing – about – in – boats….’

Breakfast

So said Ratty to Mole in the Wind in the Willows, and that’s what we spent doing today. On Wednesday, me and Ginge will have been married for four years and what better way to celebrate than on the canal? The canal running was the inspiration for the trip (I’ve said  before, I’m not bloody obsessed) because without it, we never would have known about the Foulridge tunnel and we would never have spotted Tigerlily, the hire boat that we borrowed for the day. We ran this section as our first canal/camping adventure at the end of May; it was grey and miserable on the Saturday, and grey, miserable and wet on the Sunday. Luckily, we were blessed with better weather today.

Blue skies were very welcome

It was strange being on the other side of the fence for once, normally it’s me peering at people and saying hello as I plod past them, but today we were the object of people’s greetings and curiosity. It also made a change for there just to be two of us on a boat (we’ve been on narrowboats two years previously, but they’ve been more, ahem, party boats. On one trip, we ended up split into a girls’ boat and a boys boat, and I snuck onto the boys because I will not be defined by gender stereotypes. And the girls’ boat was like a scary floating hen do) and not incurring the wrath of canal dwellers as  a drunken ship of fools passes their moorings.

One mile of darkness...

...being dripped on by stalactites...

...but there was light at the end of the tunnel.

We navigated our way through the mile long tunnel, had a picnic in the sunshine, knitted, listened to Test Match Special, stopped for an ice cream, acquired two head injuries (I’d have to have some kind of helmet if we lived on a boat, I’m short but clumsy) and no one fell in.

Not a bad spot for a picnic

Dinner guests (I always imagine swans to be hollow, but have never tapped one to be sure)

I’ve also had three days knee rest and will be ringing a Twitter recommended physio tomorrow – thank you all for your wise words on my last post.

Juneathon Day 12: Canal adventure #11 – Gathurst to Wigan

Today’s canal running took us back to bridge 46, the site of the very first adventure.

The start and finish - Bridge 46

It was raining then and it was raining today, the important difference being that the first run was in February and I’m lead to believe that we’re now in June. We’d always planned this to be a tea-time run and (for reasons that we’re not quite sure about) we stuck with that plan, despite the fact that it was lovely and dry this morning, merely drizzling this afternoon and generally peeing down by 5 o’clock. Despite the weather and the fact that he didn’t have to join me (“It’s not my bloody Juneathon…”), Ginge and I duly trekked off to Gathurst to run the towpath to Wigan Pier.

As it was a there and back again, we ran the first half only stopping for one photo. This is the home of Wigan Warriors RLFC and Wigan Athletic and used to be called the JJB Stadium before its owner, Dave Whelan, had a fit of modesty and changed it from the name of his company to his initials (I know it was because there was some changes within his business empire, but he still named the bloody company after himself). In our house, it is merely known as…

...The Pie-dome

There was a lot of puddle dodging and nervous edge running because while I don’t mind getting my feet wet, I prefer not to in the first few yards of a run. Despite this, the first half went pretty quickly and soon we were at the halfway point – Bridge 52.

Half-way - Bridge 52 - the most glamorous bridge we've seen so far

Historical detail on Lock 86

We passed the British Waterways offices (incidentally, BW have denied by tweet that they are involved in a topless calendar, but may consider it in the future. I bloody love Twitter) and the Wigan dry dock…

British Waterways

Well at least something was dry

…before stopping for photos at Wigan Pier.

Gazing out on t'pier

The Pier was made famous by two Georges – Orwell and Formby Sr – and is disappointing if you’re after candy floss and arcades. It was even disappointing to George Orwell, who travelled there in 1936 only to find that it had been sold for scrap (at a price of £34)  in 1929 .

Wigan feels pier pressure when compared with Blackpool

A replica pier was built in 1986 and the area is now being redeveloped as The Wigan Pier Quarter (not The Wigan Pie Quarter as I misread). It is cobbled and as such, a pain in the arse to run on in the rain.

Did I mention that it was raining?

One of the features of canal running is the differences between towpaths – they can be tarmac, unmade paths, cobbles, paved, grassy, meaning that you can end up with a variety of running surfaces on one run. This run took in cobbles, unmade paths, block paving (complete with decorative features)…

East, west, home's best.

…and water.

We were able to run round this on the way out...

By this time, my feet were soaked and I adopted an approach of running straight through anything that didn’t appear deep enough to drown me. On we splashed, taking in this beauty…

Pure Genius

…and what appeared to be an ancient monument to the Gods of Lego.

We've no idea what this is.

I completed the run with a splashtastic sprint finish to the bridge and am now on the look out for a new camera as mine appears to be a little waterlogged. I dried out ok so fingers crossed that it does too and there’s no lasting damage.

Miles run = 6.8
Canal miles completed = 3.4
Total canal miles = 67/127*
Bridges = 46-52

*Officially over halfway there! Which is a little scary as I’m sure I have less than 11 remaining stages planned for completion.

Juneathon Day 11: Canal Adventure #10 – Chorley to Johnson’s Hillock

Today’s plan was designed to fit in around Ginge having his hair cut and take in a sneaky bit of canal. By rights, this section was supposed to be done as part of the the very last run when I will join up the East and West sides. We parked up in town and I hoofed it down the road, up a never before run (by me anyway) hill and down the other side to the canal. For those of you that think I only run in lush green places, I have to confess to a little bit of editing on this run. Only about a quarter of it was on the towpath, so things I didn’t take pictures of included:

  1. The town’s bypass
  2. B&Q
  3. The chap drinking cans of Stella whilst sitting beside the bypass near B&Q at 9 o’clock in the morning

I did take a photo of a demonlition site, but the sign that remains seemed appropriate for Juneathon.

I need one of these for our house during the Athons

On the way to the towpath, I accidentally went through some private property – my only defence for tresspassing is that I didn’t notice the slope to the canal because my attention was caught by the brightly coloured tape, smashed up pick-up and fluorescent signs. They brought it on themselves.

Bridge 78a

Down to the canal at bridge 78a and up past the U-Boat. Yes. The U-Boat. This first appeared last year, soon caught the media’s attention (it even trended on Twitter) and is now open to the public with a full multimedia experience thrown in.

The Leeds-Liverpool U-Boat

Bonkers isn

Yup. It

Sadly, it was too early for me to have a look on board, so I plodded on.

No blog is complete without wildfowl - today: geese. Honk!

The end of the canal bit, but not the end of the run.

I’d mapped the route last night and had got it into my head that it was about 3 miles. As I reached the end of the canal section I realised that I’d misjudged that slightly and the only way that it could possibly be that distance was if I ran up the hard shoulder of the motorway (am I the only one who frequently thinks that motorways would be ace to run on?). 4.75 miles later I found Ginge in the car park and that was that.

More proper canal running is planned for tomorrow – I’ve decided to make Monday the last chance to name my Garmin (I love the ideas so far) and we’ve a crowbar on standby so that the tin of Uncle Joe’s can be prised from my grasp.

Miles run = 4.75
Canal miles completed = 1
Total canal miles = 63.6/127*
Bridges = 78A-80
U-boats = 1

Juneathon Day 5: Canal Adventure #9 – Burscough Bridge to Halsall

For starters, this Juneathon episode has me slightly twitchy because I have a standard format for my Juneathon post titles and a standard format for my canal running post titles. Today I have had to combine the two and I’m not convinced that it works as a title. Clunkiness aside, today was a good day. I had been out for lunch with my running friend (feeling slightly weird that I wasn’t wearing any kind of lycra or wicking fabrics) and had fuelled up on quiche (we both stared longingly at the pudding menu but resisted temptation) before going home and collecting Ginge for a drive out into the countryside and a spot of canal running.

We’ve been concentrating on going out eastwards towards Yorkshire, but we’re past day trips for that side now (we’ve got a few canal camping trips planned to get those done) so it’s back to West Lancashire to pick up where we left off in the sunshine at Bridge 28. Today was much more of a grey day, though it had stopped raining by the time we set off.

Bridge 28 - the start

The pub that we parked in had this in the beer garden. I think that it’s some kind of children’s plaything, possibly that’s been retrieved from a Communist state during the Cold War.

It's fun kids. No, really, it is.

Just yards after setting off, I pulled off one of my sudden stops that normally cause Ginge to nearly fall in the canal – it was well worth it to tiptoe past these sleeping ducks.

Sleepy ducks

The ducks were rapidly followed up by these chaps – nearly but not quite grown up coots (the waterfowl theme continues later in an oh so cute kind of way).

Teenage coots

As we were doing a there and back run, I didn’t take many photos on the way out and it gave us chance to get a nice pace going (stopping to take photos doesn’t help in getting into a rhythm) and soon enough we were at the halfway point (after a mild bit of heckling from a group of lads in a beer garden, who then thanked us politely as we stood to one side to let them pass on their bikes a few minutes later. Pah.

Bridge 21A - the turnaround point

There were lots of moorings along this stretch, but I think these were the two most interesting. Thor and The Pride of Sefton, the latter is is a barge converted to make the canal accessible for people with disabilities.

Thor

The Pride of Sefton

This area is still very agricultural and there probably hasn’t been that many changes over the years. For canal runners, the best thing about this is that there are few new bridges (and so there are few annoying As, Bs or anything elses between the round numbers), this combined with their even spacing and the canal’s straight route meant that the miles ticked quickly by.

The nicest bridge of the run

We passed this plaque marking the place where the building of the Leeds & Liverpool canal formally began and this is marked with an information board and sculpture just after.

Marking a little bit of history

Scupture

After we’d stopped to take a photo of this bird house…

A room with a view

…Ginge spotted these little lovelies – aren’t they cute?

All together now...Awwwwwwww.

And I realised just how close we are to the Liverpool end of this escapade.

Gulp.

Miles run = 8
Canal miles completed = 4
Total canal miles = 62.6/127*
Bridges = 28 to 21A

*So very nearly halfway!