Winter? I’ve been expecting you!

Well all in all it’s been a temperate year in 2014 in the Manchester part of the world. Whilst we got our share of flooding at the turn of the year and August was the annual washout that we have come to expect, it’s not really been that bad.

Even running at the end of November, shorts were still de rigueur, although a t-shirt was more appropriate than just the running top I have been known to sneak out in.

I think with the arrival of December, mother nature has remembered that it’s supposed to be less nice now and has responded accordingly. Frost on the ground in the morning and sleet and hail being blown around along with the rain. Heck, I’ve even had the heating on a little bit, which for those people who know me well, will claim is akin to getting blood out of a stone. Personally I don’t see the issue in putting a jumper on, but apparently that’s not the way we’re supposed to do things……

Perhaps this is why I’m able to take part in the Stockport 10 – a 10 mile road race in early December. Frequently with poor weather one might consider it ‘character-building’. Yesterday’s icy downpour on the awaiting start-line was true in tradition ensuring everyone started off soaking and cold. Unusually, I’d forgotten to leave my specs in the car – I obviously require them to drive, but can see more than well enough to get around a race – which meant despite having visual aids, I couldn’t see a darned thing for the first couple of miles due to a lack of windscreen wipers on said aids. Which resulted in discovering big puddles the ‘wet way’ and I suspect the trainers are still drying out!

Anyway, after the downpour the weather cleared completely and eventually so did my ‘windscreen’ making progress somewhat less hazardous. Whilst much of the course is on tarmac roads there are sections where it wasn’t deemed necessary and the terrain makes some international mountain ranges look flat. Stockport Potholes are some of the finest examples of ‘risk of disappearance or damage’ in the western world and could possibly be marketed as a tourist attraction. If uneven surfaces are your thing.

The course itself is deemed ‘challenging’ – less to do with the potholes and more that there are a couple of hills in it. To be fair, if you’ve run in North Wales at any time since the last Ice Age, you wouldn’t be particularly over-awed by Stockport’s hills but they do cause a significant number of runners to get to the end of the race uttering tales of woe about New Zealand Road (which, contrary to local belief doesn’t take you anywhere near to New Zealand).

Last year I got around the course comfortably but felt that I’d perhaps taken things a little too cautiously in the early stages. This year I’d say I got my strategy as near to perfection as I could, with me having enough ooompf to get around but with my body saying bad things to me as I pushed along the track to the finishing gantry. Which, I’m pleased to say, didn’t blow away this year.

The goodie bag wasn’t as left-field as it has been traditionally, although in these times of tight purse-strings it’s totally reasonable that things aren’t too frivolous. The meal worm returned to the bag after an absence last year (you should be able to see it in the image at the top) and the hi-vis tech t-shirt was worth the entry fee alone.

So a PB at the course of 1h11m38s which was pleasing. It made me realise that going forward I probably need to start looking at training more rigorously as that was the best I could do with the fitness I have. And at that distance I’d love to go sub-70………

Photo ordered. And Mark would have been impressed. There are not many pictures of me wearing glasses, predominantly because I hate them, but he always liked how I looked in them. So I’m sure if it were possible, he would be smiling at it’s existence. I’ll post it once I have it.

*** seamless edit to get photo in after the original posting ***

Stockport 10 - 8 miles in
Stockport 10 – 8 miles in

*** you didn’t notice. No really you didn’t ***

So that’s all of the races for 2014 done now (I’ve had a look but none of the other things I can find really appeal). And on the whole I can take a lot of positives from 2014 (admittedly one HUGE negative being the sciatica). So it’ll be a short rest over Christmas before I start working on getting myself up to speed for 2015 :-)

Not playing by the rules

It is a general rule that when one is ill that all endurance activity should be curtailed so the body can focus on getting fit again.

Now don’t get me wrong. I play by the rules. Sometimes I’m too much of a stickler for the rules and probably to my disadvantage.

However, having booked three days off work, and a hotel in Wales to race in Conwy this weekend, I was not pleased to be struck down by the second heavy cold in about 7 weeks having been bug-free all year.

Deeply unimpressed.

So much so that I decided to throw caution to the wind and run the half-marathon regardless.

Just prior to the start I bumped into a few of the Winston runners (based out of Wythenshawe) who reminded me last time I raced at the same time as them at Rhyl and having stated I was broken (it was the first race since coming back from the sciatica) almost achieved a PB.

Despite this, I decided to be conservative about the run, knowing I’d spent most of the night nursing a red nose that would make Rudolph proud and coughing enough to keep much of the hotel awake all night as well.

The Conwy half-marathon starts on the quayside and is very narrow. I started far back and before I’d even moved they’d announced that 1600 people had already crossed the start line. Whether this was actually true (I guess the computing power for chip timing is there, or someone’s pretty good at counting people quickly) I’m not sure, but there were a lot of people ahead.

I’ve said before that I only have one running speed; that being the speed I’m running at any given time. And having the lurgy wasn’t going to change anything there.

So I got moving. And cursing slow people. And started moving forward, still unsure if a lung might fly out of my nose after any given sneeze. I even began to settle into a rhythm, albeit a steady one.

Due to essential repairs to the coastal pathway not having been completed, this year’s course went inland from Conwy through Deganwy to Llandudno and the Great Orme. This meant it was less flat, which actually suited me. Last year I flumped on the way back in and the endless flat coastal path didn’t do me any favours.

By the time I started the ascent on the Great Orme coastal path, I was running quite well. Last year I struggled with the climb and it was something I had been working on this last couple of months. Apart from a point just prior to the summit when I dropped back to a walk for a very short distance I got right up. And I kept the momentum going down and all the way back to Conwy Castle.

Out of a field of 2374 runners I crossed the line in 328th place which was surprising given how yucky I felt and that I’d started at least 1700 places back. But of course the race was chip timed, meaning that in terms of actual time since crossing the start line, I crossed the finishing line in 238th place overall, with a time of 1h34m26s. Ignoring the fact that the course was slightly different to last year, it was still 7 minutes faster than my 2013 time!

It seemed that once I actually got going, the cold didn’t seem to have any noticeable impact on the race. I’m pretty certain that I wouldn’t have been going much quicker (if at all) had I woken up feeling fully fit.

So no doubt the Winston runners will doubt me even more next time I turn up to anything with the slightest whiff of an excuse about predicted performance!

Conwy 2014
Conwy 2014

On looking through the available race photographs there’s quite a reasonable one of me which I’ve ordered. It is worth noting there is another one, taken seconds earlier with me in the background, which looked as if I was about to projectile vomit my entire respiratory system over the bridge tarmac in front of Conwy Castle, but we’ll ignore that one for now.

Needless to say, having got home afterwards. I felt DREADFUL!

Another anniversary

They say time is a healer. And to an extent, they are right.

Today would have been Mark’s 54th birthday. That’s quite a strange thought given he never actually made his 52nd anniversary.

The events of 2012 seem disquietly distant now. I can remember it vividly, although the intensity of the feelings seems distant in its own way as well.

Clearly it’s been on my mind to an extent as he’s been in my dreams. Nothing this time that I can remember unlike some of those in the past, but that said, a definite presence.

I’d normally be in Cambridge at this time of year, but this year I’ve felt the need to take myself away from everyone. True, there is a reason for my departure, that being a race (although I’m stuffed full of cold so whether or not I get myself to the start line is a question yet to be answered).

Sometimes I just need that space to work out where I am  with everything.

I’m sure the next post with be back to my usual irreverent self. But despite what I tell myself and others, life isn’t always fluffy.

Rest in peace, Mark. x

Oral Allergy Syndrome – and broccoli behaving badly

Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) is an allergy which sounds like a teenager’s dream but for someone intent on keeping fit and with a balanced diet, it’s a nightmare.

Basically I’m unable to eat raw fruit and vegetables without making myself ill. And the number of times I was reminded to eat my five a day whilst I was trying to understand what my body was doing to me didn’t help me in the slightest in not wanting to do violent things to those making the suggestion!

Both my brother and I suffer, although our triggers are different, and over the years we’ve worked our own ways through the minefield.

OAS sounds like a bit of mumbo science (the sort that really annoys me) and I suspect if I didn’t suffer from it, I’d probably dismiss it as a fad. But it’s not, it is real. And actually a lot of people may exhibit some parts of OAS themselves without actually realising it.

But when it’s full on, it’s scary.

It was always my approach when feeling run down to ensure I ate lots of fresh food, especially fruit and vegetables. Get up the Vit C and others and the body can cleanse and sort itself out.

However, what if it’s those ‘good’ foods which are causing the problem?

So what is OAS?

Basically it is an auto-immune error whereby an allergy to pollen affects the throat which at the very least causes itching and discomfort and at the worst can trigger an anaphylactic shock. The mouth comes into contact with a trigger food – often a raw fruit or vegetable – and the immune system mis-recognises the proteins within as pollen, triggering it into action, un-necessarily. There is no cure and the best option is avoidance of the trigger foods, although in many cases, cooking the trigger foods will destroy the structure which confuses the immune system making it possible to eat said food.

I struggle with a lot of raw produce although citrus, bananas and onions are all fine. Green salad such as lettuce can be sneaked under the radar  in very small amounts but nothing more.

Using anti-histamines at the earliest opportunity catches the reaction and although it knocks me out for about 24 hours it’s far less unpleasant reaction than if it goes to completion. It starts with a lot of stiffness in my neck and progresses into my throat with a sharp pain. If left the tender area in my throat then ulcerates. The third part is what I’ve always called ‘wipe out’. Imagine your energy being in liquid form in your body and someone comes and syringes it out – that’s the only way I can describe it. And it’s a crushing tiredness which generally lasts about 4 days. So you go to bed tired, wake up just as tired. And with the ulcers persisting for the best par of two weeks, you can understand why I want to avoid getting to this stage.

I suspect I’ve had a general intolerance for many years and indeed the characteristic ‘wipe-out’ that accompanies my reactions is something that I suffered for many years  although didn’t know what it was or why it was happening, and it was just put down to being exhausted. However when I was taken ill in Northern Ireland back in 2007, something triggered which made the allergy really come to the fore. During a health check through my work at the time this sort of change can happen, especially with stress-related illnesses, which it turns out was behind my rapid hospital entry.

After many fruitless visits to my GP at the time (thankfully no longer) I managed to have a load of tests discounting Celiacs and Crohn’s Diseases as well as gluten and lactose intolerances which led on to visiting an allergy specialist who explained what the hell was going on and did further pin-prick tests to try to narrow down the allergen in question, which seemed to relate to grass pollen.

Having the diagnosis was important to me – at last someone was confirming that what was happening to me, was actually happening. The GP tried to make it seem like it was all in my head. Sure, all those ulcers on my tonsils, yeah, they were made up and I was just imagining their very presence and the pain they caused.

Unfortunately the experience with my past GP has made me very wary of doctors because I don’t trust them any more. It’s a shame that one individual can have that effect. However, I’m an intelligent human being, and appreciate this was one individual and of course when there is something wrong, I do seek advice from someone qualified, and don’t do a wikipedia diagnosis myself.


I’ve managed to avoid any major issues with the food allergy I suffer with for a couple of years.

Yet this week I managed to have two reactions within 3 days. On Tuesday, an ill-prepared frittata where my desire to have some texture left in the peppers meant that the allergen wasn’t completely destroyed. But at least a quick measure of antihistamine meant that the matter was quickly resolved.

Thursday, and after a long day I was quite glad we had cancelled the bell ringing practice and I settled down with something simple food-wise, which was served with broccoli. Now I’ve relied on this green vegetable all of the time since my OAS really began to misbehave and have always cooked it the same way for the same about of time without any incident.

I’m not sure what was different but somehow I missed the initial reaction sign of my neck becoming very stiff and it was only  as I lay in bed I realised my throat was on fire and realised that it was becoming ulcerated. A rush to the antihistamines probably helped in the long run but getting but getting up on Friday morning was a painful experience with the throat feeling like hot coals and an infected finger which had been troubling me all week was looking more like a beetroot.

Having got into work I found a colleague in serious pain having fallen from his bike so took him to the local A&E and whilst I was there got some advice about my digital beetroot. Armed with some pills and the knowledge that next week the finger will be frozen and sliced (their words, not mine) I have a week to look forward to……..


Come Saturday and thankfully the throat has been reined in and whilst still uncomfortable, it’s a lot better. Which is good given I’d booked a race for the afternoon.

The Langley 7 race is one I’ve intended to run for the last 7 years but only now I’ve managed to enter and run it. At roughly 7 miles, it’s a road race up the steep side of a hill and down the longer less steep side. No T-Shirt for this one – it’s a bottle of beer. Not entirely useful for a non-drinker but I’m sure it will be used or consumed sooner rather than later.

Langley 7
Langley 7

The hill was quite big and I had to walk the last part of the climb unfortunately. However I managed to get my legs working again for the descent and completed the course in 52 minutes (official time – 51:57 by my watch!) and so it was a good start to November, despite the best efforts of the last week in October.

Bake Off Fail

I enjoy my baking and if you’ve followed my posts for any length of time you’ll have probably seen the photographs of some of my creations.  I go for substance over style, which is probably fortunate as I haven’t a clue about the latter.

Almost now as a national institution the BBC television programme ‘The Great British Bakeoff’ offers  10 weeks of amateur bakers pitting their skills against each other on challenges which are well beyond anything I could imagine producing. Perhaps more oddly that such a programme exists on national television is how amazingly watchable it is – whether bread will rise or if the pastry will result in a soggy bottom – yes the programme is wall to wall full of innuendos – somehow a large proportion of the country is hooked.

It’s all good clean healthy TV easy watching. Unless you are my satellite recording box as I discovered yesterday when looking for something to watch that I’d recorded.

When Bake Off goes bad
When Bake Off goes bad

I must say I watched that episode with some trepidation!!!!!

A weekend away

I’ve spent an enjoyable weekend away in the Nottingham/Derby part of the world. Sadly no sign of Robin Hood, just a couple of branches of Greggs and a Poundland. But that wasn’t the reason for the visit.

It’s the annual bell ringing trip which is organised by a fellow Stopfordian ringer where we spend a leisurely two days visiting about 5 towers and try to ring some decent changes. Last year we visited Chesterfield; this year is a little bit further down the M1 for us.


Our first stop, at Radford was to ring a quarter peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal. A nice tower only let down by the fact the person supposedly letting us in had forgotten to turn up. After a bit of chasing around and having discovered that nobody else seemed to be aware of our visit, we were let in and got underway. Thankfully the trip was at a gentle pace and only an excessively long lunch was to be impinged. Or at least that’s what we thought.


Having successfully rung the method we headed off to Beeston. We were forewarned to avoid coming in from the East (where we already were) and to avoid the tram works at all costs. It would seem that the Sat Nav didn’t seem to want to be subjected to these restrictions and we got stuck in a Tom Tom loop around three streets in the middle of the tram works, only broken when we disobeyed the machine and did it ourselves.

Other than the tramworks, there wasn’t a lot to distinguish Beeston, with all the same shops as every other identikit UK high street. We did however stumble across what appeared to be a nice bespoke sandwich shop. And it was bespoke too – serving only pulled pork or beef cobs. Sure, they had a huge menu, but actually only had the two meats in stock. Fortunately pulled pork sounded good to me, and too much choice is over-rated anyway.

With minutes to spare before we started ringing, our final ringer finally emerged from the tram-works and we were ready to go with quarter peal number two - Cambridge Surprise Royal. And again, great bells and some pretty good ringing throughout. Day 1 of the trip was working out rather well, at least from a ringing point of view.

We left the tower, and with a couple of hours before the final tower of the day went to find our accommodation.

Unfortunately and presumably due to user error, the Tom Tom took us to the wrong Premier Inn, but we were quickly put right and arrived at our destination which seemed to be surrounded by Hospitals on all sides. Hopefully not an omen of things to come! It’s clearly one of the newer ones, or at least had a recent lick of paint and a quick shower and cuppa later and I was ready to go out to Derby Cathedral to wage war on Stedman Caters.

Now I’m fine with most ringing methods but for some reason have always had a mental block with Stedman. I can never seem to get it right, and thankfully I was given the heaviest bell to ring, which simply tolls behind the rest of them in this method. And I can do that reasonably competently too :-) Last year’s attempt at the same method (in Chesterfield) was a demonstration of how not to ring Stedman. At least the 2014 rendition was far better, and whilst I could never admit to it being an enjoyable experience, it was quite pleasant to listen too. And we were even given a billing on the church noticeboard should anyone care to know what we were up to.

Derby Cathedral
Derby Cathedral
Look who's on the events list.....
Look who’s on the events list…..

We then found ourselves locked in the church and had to break out. Not that this was particularly difficult as the deadlocks were on the inside. However it did mean we couldn’t secure the building afterwards without the relevant keys which resulted in a number of frantic phone calls and nearly getting back late for dinner. And we couldn’t have that! Still, all was resolved in the end and we were seated at dinner with seconds to spare. I don’t think the world would have stopped turning otherwise, although there was a risk I might have eaten a postbox or park bench in the interim……

Sunday morning started with a run from the hotel to the Cathedral and back, a distance of just over 10k and a nice way to start the day. Followed by a long shower and a huge breakfast.

Sunday morning in fact was totally unplanned. This was a good thing as most of the band needed to learn the method for the first quarter peal of the day at Duffield.


Needless to say, the effort was in vain with getting about 15 minutes into it before it completely imploded. Such is the way of these things and there’s no guarantee about any method getting to the end intact. So instead we finished our time there with a bit more Stedman Caters, this time with me ringing the method. Surprisingly this didn’t implode in any violent fashion which is unusual when I’m involved in this method!

Our final tower of the weekend is the huge church of Youlgreave, which is a small village on a hill in the middle of nowhere.


Despite ringing a straightforward method – Grandsire Caters, the whole Youlgreave story was anything but easy.

Our first road-block occurred somewhere out in the hills near Winster. Road closed – none shalt pass. This didn’t perturb the sat nav who insisted we kept going through the sign regardless of poking it to say the road was blocked. In the end we worked our way back to the A6 and continued on the most major route. Which was fine until we turned off and headed into the wilderness towards the village, whereupon the next ‘Road closed – none shalt pass’ appeared. Which was a blighter as there wasn’t much in the way of options!

Cue a 15 mile diversion , during which the diversion signs totally stopped whilst the sat nav was insisting that the road being closed wasn’t an issue and that we really ought to ignore the big warning sign! Many miles later, on roads which mostly had grass growing up the middle, we arrived in Youlgreave. We were all late but thankfully our tower keeper had faith in our arrival, safe in the knowledge that the Gas Board was digging the hell out of their road system for much of the rest of the year!

When finally we were assembled, a decent quarter peal of Grandsire Caters rang out from their tower, and marked a good end to an enjoyable weekend.

Well, ignoring the big detour on the way home when we went the wrong way along the A515 (sat nav switched off at this point and probably being quite smug about our failed directions)!!!


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