A New Experience

Posted on: 09 Jan 2017

Hello Realbuzzers 😊

As you'll notice, a change of blog title to go with the New Year, which sums up very well how I feel about 2017. I hope to do more challenges than last year. R and as still haven't decided which challenges we'll do yet , but you'll be the first to know when we do. I also hope yet again that I'll be able to run rather than walk. Never lose hope, anything is possible 😊
Last Monday, given the quantities of mud that were likely to be around in the Chilterns and on the Downs, we decided to walk a stretch of the Thames Path that we didn't see during the night section of last year's Thames Path challenge because of thick fog. I'd seen it the year before in the 50k and knew it was a particularly enjoyable section (between Cookham and Marlow in Berkshire) and well worth walking again. We drove to Cookham in and parked up. The first thing I wanted to show R was the marvellous architecture of the church there. 
                         Holy Trinity Church, Cookham 
 A bit of history for you. The earliest church on the site is thought to have been built around 750AD. The oldest part of the church now standing is the Lady Chapel, built in 1182 with much of the rest being 13th century, although the west tower was built in the 1500's.  There's just something about placement of the flint layers and limestone blocks that's aesthetically very pleasing 😊 One old entrance along the north side was blocked off in keeping with the original building with flint and limestone blocks. It made me smile that all of the limestone blocks were covered in initials and dates, the earliest I spotted being 1902. I wonder if it was regarded as graffiti back then? We couldn't resist having a wander around the graveyard, I always find them quite fascinating. The craftsmanship in some of the old headstones is quite breathtaking and there's always interest in trying to find the oldest one although that's rare as the inscriptions are often completely worn away. On that day, the oldest we found was dated 1747, although somewhere in there is the 1741 grave of a highwayman who was shot on the road not far from the church. 
                                   The oldest gravestone we found, dated 1747
 The weather was rather chilly but the wall to wall sunshine more than made up for it. Apart from the long stretches of muddy path, which slowed me down a bit,  the route made for a really nice walk. Once we were a mile out of Cookham, the path was very quiet, with few people about until we were approaching Marlow. This section of the Thames has the splendour of Winter Hill rising on the south bank. It's a chalk ridge rising to a height of around 60m above the floodplain. Many large expensive houses are hidden among its heavily tree'ed slopes, one of which was home to the Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame. Even at this time of year, there was colour among the trees with some of the willows adding pinkish and yellow hues in places against the dark green of the pines. Even the bare oak and beech trees were lit up interestingly. We walked as far as Marlow Bridge, the beautiful grade 1 listed bridge designed by William Tierney Clark, built between 1829 and 1832. The same engineer designed the Széchenyi Chain Bridge across the Danube in Budapest which is a larger scale version of the Marlow Bridge. The Marlow bridge only reopened at the end of November after a three month closure caused by a haulage lorry  that was over ten times the recommended weight limit trying to cross the bridge! Thankfully, the bridge suffered no lasting damage, but much minor repair work had to be done to fix the areas where it had been tested.
                                      Marlow Bridge
 No White Magnums that day - way too chilly, so just a quick coffee from our flasks before taking the same route back. There were plenty of waterfowl about - swans, great crested grebe, Greylag geese, mallards, cormorants, coots etc but the high point was when a small flock of lapwings flew overhead - the peculiar noise that they make never fails to make me smile. We certainly enjoyed splendid views as the sun began to set. 
     By the Thames
So, three hours walking and another 10 miles in the bank and a very surprising ascent of 78m (around 259 feet) which was so gradual we didn't notice - better than nothing though  😊
Inow for the new experience part 😊 I found out just before Christmas that we had a very local Parkrun (Homewood). It had been established about three months previously in the grounds of nearby Homewood Park. Got to say that it didn't really appeal much as it's a fairly flat park with a lot of gravel paths, however, because the number of attendees was outgrowing the venue, the location was being changed to one even closer to is and the great appeal was that it's through local woodland 😊 I knew it was a bit lumpy and likely to be a very muddy little trail. Well my trainers are a bit too small (I swear that my feet are still growing!) and I'd look pretty silly doing it in walking boots so I thought it was a good excuse to buy some suitable footwear - not that I have a shoe fetish (much 😂😂😂). I figured that since my boots are the most comfortable footwear I've ever had and that Salomon use the same footbed for all of their models and that I saw a bright orange pair in the sale, I'd try these - 
 I wasn't disappointed in the least. I wore them around the house for two solid days and they are incredibly comfortable 😀 I'd been trying to sow the Parkrun seed in R's mind for a week or two. He usually runs on Tuesdays while I'm at the gym and I managed to get him to agree that an extra 5k every week would be a great idea. He grumbled a bit as he doesn't like running in crowds but I got us both signed up before he could change his mind 😈 By Thursday evening I had a sore throat and by Friday, sinus pain and a temperature. By the time I got up on Saturday morning I had swollen neck glands as well and the AS was doing a bit more than grumble 😕 Ah well, a good walk would maybe help to shake it off. We parked up about half a mile away in the village and warmed up on the walk up to the park, arriving  in plenty of time. I was more than prepared to come last since I was only going to walk and as wasn't exactly at my best, I just wanted to take part. It was quite a good turnout with 175 people. There was a short section around the playing field on muddy grass before heading off into the even muddier woods. As I watched people slip and slide I was so glad I'd bought those trail shoes. I can honestly say that I didn't slip or slide once throughout 😊
The course is described as 'trail-y, undulating with three laps around the woodland, each with a short steep section and with exposed tree roots in some sections'. I can verify that the tree roots are a definite feature of much of the woodland section and the short steep section is just that, with added tree roots and rocks. I managed to overtake 7 people before entering the woodland which at least made me feel less like an imposter by walking it. It's just so good to see people out and active no matter what their speed. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself even though I didn't feel too sparkling. When I came out of the woods for the final time, having jogged a little bit very carefully down the downhill section at the end of  woodland laps 2 ad 3, we followed the same mud/grass edge of the playing field but in the opposite direction. I hadn't seen R at all the way round and was a bit concerned as I thought he'd pass me about halfway around. I'd already decided to have a go at running the finish, started a little too soon but had to walk a few paces when the knees started wobbling, but then ran to the end. I was absolutely delighted to find that I came 159th out of 175. Probably the slowest time known on Realbuzz of 44:07, but it's a start and I really hope to improve as the weeks go on.
The bit of running added a banging headache,  a very grumpy shoulder (still not settling too well) and a yelling lower back to the mix, but for 15 minutes afterwards I felt mentally great 😀 R finished 14 places in front of me in 39:05 and said he was a bit ashamed of being so slow but I'm so proud of him because he did something he wasn't that keen on doing 😊 A quick shower when we got home, then I started to feel like I'd been put through a mangle. Most unlike me, I lay on the sofa and slept pretty much until 3pm. Then made myself go for a short walk (more like a foot dragging shuffle), then dozed until bedtime, finally surfacing at an unheard of 10.30!! Again, I took things really easy yesterday, just took a slow walk. Still feeling pretty rubbish today, but whatever this is (seemingly not a cold at all), it had better push off pretty quickly as we've entered a 'Winter Walk' in London next Sunday. It's only 20k but it'll be a nice warm up for later events. R asked if we're doing Parkrun again next Saturday - maybe he enjoyed it more than he's letting on 😀 Here we are looking terribly serious before the start 😂😂
Happy training everyone 😊

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