Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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Beautiful Bath

We visited Bath this weekend, and it was gorgeous.  Sunny and autumnal – my favourite weather.

The weir below Pulteney Bridge is mesmering, with the water above it like an infinity pool.

Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon

Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon

The tiny shops (not much more than a metre from front to back) on Pulteney Bridge have wonderful views out over the river. This photograph was taken right through the shop from outside.

The view through a shop window on Pulteney Bridge

The view through a shop window on Pulteney Bridge

This medlar tree was laden with fruit – we were looking down onto it from above.  They are very strange-looking – rather like gigantic hawthorn fruits.  I haven’t ever eaten one – you have to leave them to ‘blet’, which effectively means, to rot.  Which sounds rather dubious.

Medlar tree

A medlar tree

On Friday night we had an excellent meal at the Circus restaurant (spiced pumpkin soup followed by lemon sole – mmmmmm).  On Saturday morning, I was determined to go for a pre-breakfast run (ok, walk/jog) which was a bit of a challenge as I’d not slept too well from eating so much.  However, it was a beautiful sunny morning, and I ran a little way alongside the River Avon.

I found a lovely paved labyrinth to jog round.

Labyrinth

I didn’t quite complete the labyrinth, as I was distracted by the sight of this fine gentleman.

Centurion

Roman centurion in Bath – not sure where he was heading, but he was happy to have his photo taken.

After Bath, we stopped off at Westonbirt Arboretum to see the autumn foliage display.  The Acers (Japanese maples) were lovely, even though it wasn’t sunny when we were there.

Japanese maples

Japanese maples

Japanese maple

Japanese maple

It was £9 per person to get into the arboretum, but I think we had our money’s worth for the wonderful colours. I have seen reviews on Trip Advisor saying that it was expensive, and more or less complaining that an arboretum only had trees in, which seemed a bit unreasonable. Though, admittedly, when we visited Westonbirt once before, many years ago, there were sculptures in amongst the trees, and it did add to the interest.


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Spring is sprung and I have run 2 miles

Quite a few flowers are getting going in the garden. Doubtless if/when we get some ice and snow they’ll be knocked back a bit, but I enjoyed them this morning in glorious sunshine.  Several of them are scented, and there’s something rather wonderful about perfume outdoors on a sunny winter’s day.

The birds were busy too.  I didn’t start at dawn this time – most of these arrived between 10 and 11.

    2 Blue Tits
    3 Starlings
    4 Goldfinches
    2 Long-tailed Tits
    2 Woodpigeons
    1 Collared Dove
    2 Blackbirds (male and female)
    5 House Sparrows
    2 Dunnocks
    5 Jackdaws
    2 Chaffinches (male and female)
    1 Robin
    1 Great Tit
    5 Greenfinches
    1 Buzzard soaring overhead

A squirrel ran through the garden too.

I got rather cold outside, so went for a run to warm up.  I really pleased to manage to keep going for 30 minutes, without it being too difficult, and covered 2.25 miles.  🙂


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Frost fairies

Earlier this week we had a heavy frost in the morning, and my car windows were covered in beautiful frost feathers. I didn’t quite get the focus right, but you can get something of the effect here.  Amazing that water can do that all on its own.

Frost

Jack Frost had been at the window

January challenge (at least three mile runs a week) is coming on well.
1 mile run Sunday
1.2 mile run Tuesday
1.7 mile run this evening – this one was a bit slower, as my right knee objected to going up a bit of a slope near the start of the run
With some yoga / Tai Chi / stair circuits in between.


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A good start

First complete week of my January challenge to do at least three runs a week.  In December I ran a mile only half a dozen times, and haven’t done 5k since the end of October.

Saturday – mile run: 15 min 36 s

Monday – mile run 15 min 17 s

Wednesday – 15 minutes stair circuits (very, very tedious, but avoided the cold, dark and wet) – 40 times up and down, including the landing

Friday – 15 minutes stair circuits

Today (Sat) – two consecutive mile runs in glorious sunshine (took off fleece, coat, hat, gloves and binoculars after first mile): first mile 17 min 7 s, second mile 13 min 58 s, and feeling good at the end of it.  Very pleased with myself.  Now wondering whether the Garmin just malfunctioned, but it did feel a lot faster, and curiously, easier.  Beginning to remember that I do actually enjoy running once I’ve settled into it.

I ran in a city park, and it was lovely watching children learning to use their Christmas presents – several very wobbly in-line skaters, and new bicycles and scooters.  Only a handful of runners, but lots of walkers, which made me feel as though my slow running was really speedy.  🙂  I also enjoyed the sight of a wedding party having photos taken (men in white suits – very jazzy), and then seeing the hugely stretched limo in the car park.

There was a lovely technicolour sunset on the way home.  I took quite a few pictures with my phone, but overloaded it, with the result that it now won’t let me download them.  This one has arrived here via being sent to my daughter’s phone, and she then emailed it back to me.  My phone won’t let me email.  However, I do now have the internet working – a couple of hours ago that was refusing to cooperate too, and I was getting seriously fed up with technology.

Sunset

Sunset


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New Year’s baseline and floods

Back again after the Christmas break. Quite a few stair circuits done over the last couple of weeks, but barely any running, until today.

I got out and did a mile at a very gentle jog (15 min 36 s) and about a mile walking. Then I redid the 3-minute step test, but got a much less impressive recovery rate than last time – 102 instead of the seventies. But when I looked at the graph, I realised that I’d started at a much higher heart-rate rate (not long after I’d finished the mile run) so hardly surprising it was a slower recovery. Anyway, that’s my baseline for this year. It shouldn’t be too hard to improve on this.  And, just for the record, my resting heart-rate is about 68 first thing in the morning.

Step test

3 minute step test and one minute recovery

A quick edit (after reading this blog by fitfor365 ) – my Garmin-recorded runs for 2013 came to 68 runs, 116 miles in 28 hr 48 min, average speed 4 mph, average heart rate 147.  Which isn’t much by most runners standards, but is probably a lot more than most mid-50s women’s standards, so it’ll do me fine.  I wonder if I’ll manage more this year?  Plus, no injuries beyond occasional aches.  It would be good to do a Parkrun or two, but I’ll see how I go.  For now, improving my mile run pace will do, with the intention of upping my exercise time towards 30 minutes per day by the time the 5×50 challenge begins at the end of March.

Everywhere in England has had a lot of rain recently – here’s what our nearest stream looks like at the moment.  It’s usually only a metre or two wide.  Fortunately it hasn’t got high enough to get into anyone’s house this time.

Flooding under the bridge

Flooding under the bridge


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Stairs for fitness – or – I love graphs

I love playing with data.  This is a self-indulgent number-crunching post with graphs.  I’ve just been looking at some older Excel files from a while ago, and was really pleased to see how they show that doing all the running – even though it has been very much on/off over the last few months – has improved my health.

Doing stair circuits is pretty tedious, but a good way to do some exercise when you don’t want anyone to see you, because you’re embarrassed about how unfit you are.  I started doing ten minutes of stair circuits four years ago, when I was working more or less full-time and on my feet all day, but doing little other exercise.  One circuit is thirteen steps up, then a corner-step, across the landing, up one more and then all the way back down.  I used my phone to time each circuit.  The novelty rapidly wore off though, and I went back to doing very little exercise.

A year or so later, and I was working part-time, sitting down all the time, so I had another go.  The difference in my fitness showed.  After five circuits, I couldn’t manage to get up and down in less than 30 seconds.  That persuaded me to practise, and a month later it had improved quite a bit.

Then I forgot all about it again.  A year ago, I started running with the c25k programme, mixed in with yoga, more walking and Tai Chi.  I thought I’d see how I’d do with the stair circuits again, and was pleasantly surprised to see how much faster I was.  (28 circuits in ten minutes instead of about 20).

Stair circuit graph

Improving my stair circuits

I also found a ‘three minute step test’ a while ago on the sparkpeople website.  I signed up to track my diet, after I was diagnosed as coeliac, because the blood-tests also showed that I was low in iron and folate, and they are quite difficult to get enough of, if you don’t eat fortified cereals/bread.  (I ended up taking supplements as I struggled to get enough of them from my diet.)  I knew I wasn’t very fit, so I decided to use some of the sparkpeople trackers, so I could see if I got better at anything.

The step test involves stepping up and down for three minutes at a steady pace, then sitting and counting heartbeats for a complete minute after you stop.  To compare with the ratings chart, it should be a 12 inch step, but I just use the 9 inch bottom stair.  Cheating, but convenient, and it still shows me that I’ve got healthier.

Step test ratings

Women’s ratings for 3 minute step test on 12 inch step

When I first did it back in August last year (before I started running, and before I’d started taking iron and folate supplements) my recovery minute’s pulse was 117.  Today it was 75 – which is less than my resting heart rate was eighteen months ago!  So something is working, even if I don’t run fast or often.  This is the Garmin heart-rate monitor graph from today’s 3 minutes.  (I didn’t use the Garmin for the one minute count – I just liked the look of that steep drop back down to resting heart rate.)

Step test graph

Three minute step test and one minute recovery

I had thought it was down to the exercise, but looking at the sparkpeople tracker for the step test, maybe it is as much to do with having enough iron and folate in my blood, because there was a significant improvement before I began the running in December last year.  All good fun, anyway.  🙂

Step test graph

Three minute step test progress (US-style dates, month-day-year)


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Advent streak

I’m stealing Red Hen’s idea here and starting an Advent fitness streak, though also a fully-clothed one, and definitely not all running.  Yesterday I did five circuits up and down the stairs – a gentle start, but I did run up each time.  Today I ran (very slowly) a mile, in the dark.  So I feel very virtuous.

Target is to be a bit fitter for Christmas, and to run a nice slow 5k on the 15th December, which will be exactly a year since I joined the Couch to 5k NHS running forum, and did my first one minute runs.  I may not be running very much, but I am definitely fitter than I was a year ago, when running for a minute nearly finished me off.   Though looking at my heart-rate and the super-slow pace, I can see that I have plenty of scope for improvement to get back to where I was earlier in the year – but I’m not in a rush.

Running a mile

Mile runs this year