It’s almost 3 weeks since the UK went into lockdown. Whilst this has impacted the walks of life of many people, it’s affected me a lot less.
Lockdown isn’t good business for pet sitters or running coaches
Obviously the biggest impact for me has been that my pet sitting business has had to go back into hibernation. The winter period was never usually busy and it was always a time for me to catch up on my sleep and get non-work things more in order. The work season has in previous years really got going around the schools Easter break, something that hasn’t happened in 2020 as nobody can go anywhere; pet sitting services basically exist to provide pet care when people go on holidays. And with social distancing, run-coaching clients aren’t exactly forthcoming either!
So instead of that steady build up, it’s been a period of deleting work appointments from the diary and wondering when things will return back to something towards normal. Assuming things are less locked-down by the summer, I think the second half of the year will be busy as lots of people, used to regular holidays, will be desperate to get away.
Financially it’s not ideal, but at least my hobbies are cheap. And I’m not one for going out regularly for meals and drinks, so that aspect has been reasonably normal, save for being unable to get some of the baking ingredients that are usually highly available.
It’s also a poignant time of year for me. Monday 13 April 2015 was my last day at work in my previous job. That makes tomorrow the 5th anniversary of being ill. To be honest I’m not sure what to make of that. The time has passed very quickly, but it equally seems a lifetime ago. A different lifetime to the one I’m living at the moment in many ways. This ‘current lifetime’ is nearly 5 years old and it doesn’t make a lot of sense compared to the lifetime that existed before it.
Most of the people I knew back before then I rarely see these days. Many of the people I know now I’ve met within the last 5 years. Of course I’m in contact with some of my ex-colleagues and of friends of yore, but it tends to be limited to Christmas messages and the occasional text message or Facebook message.
Not that this is completely unusual in my life; I’m in similarly minimal contact with those people I worked with prior to 2009 and even less with those from school and university days. I’m always amazed when I speak to people who are still with those friends they were at school with, many decades ago. Sort of the polar opposite to me.
Even the running part of my life is a little disjointed as, prior to 2016 I had never joined a running club and just worked it out myself. Indeed, coming back from injury whilst I was still very unwell in 2015 I put together the strongest block of training I’ve done, with the result that in 2016 I was suddenly smashing PBs out wherever I went. (Then I started training for marathons and seemed to be perennially injured, but let’s not go there!)
What’s interesting about that period in 2015 and now is a case of deja vu. Back then I was able to focus on my fitness primarily because I wasn’t capable of doing anything else at the time. It helped me manage the condition but it was also a major crutch to getting better. I realised that I needed to mix up the training to avoid overuse; getting injured would have been extremely bad for my health. So I took up more active cycling, and tried a variety of other cross-training ideas. Whichever way you look at it, it worked for me.
Now, with limited opportunities to get outside due to the lockdown, that focus on the fitness has once again come to the fore. It’s slightly ironic that my early season had been hampered by a lack of fitness which put me off wanting to do the races; now that’s coming together there isn’t really anywhere to use it as all races are postponed or cancelled until further notice! But I’m mixing things up again, trying to protect the body whilst doing different things. New routes, even the bike has been outside of the garden!
I’d noticed on Strava that I was coming up to a ‘milestone’ of 1500 activities recorded on the platform. These stretch back all the way to 2011 when I resumed running, although those activities were imported from whatever system I was using at the time.
Either way I thought it would be nice to do something a little different. I got myself back out on the trails and ran the gauntlet of the masses of people locally to go and find some new trails.
Having crossed the canal and picking up the trails, I remembered there was a stile going away from the normal route (which went almost directly towards Lyme Park) and so I figured it needed investigating. It was certainly a less popular route, with the only person I crossed-paths with commenting that ‘you don’t see many people this way!’ which I took to be a good thing! I’d actually gone out in my road shoes so was hoping things wouldn’t get too squishy out there, but in fact most of the paths were pretty firm.
Until of course I was dropping down onto a known path when suddenly the ground beneath me turned to liquid…… But these things happen, and I took the path back across the canal to the Brickworks before heading in via my ‘favourite’ telecoms tower and Norbury Brook.
Having run quite a lot this week already I decided that Day 16 was going to be bike day. I’d noticed that the cold I seemed to have had for a fortnight was still lingering and that I really needed to rest. The problem I was having on the static bike was that it was all high intensity (for me) stuff, which wasn’t really what I needed.
I mulled my options and in the end decided it was time for the bike to be reunited with it’s rear wheel and leave the turbo behind. Which was easier said than done as I’m not the most proficient at reassembling bikes (and probably one of the reasons why it’s been on the turbo for 2 years). Anyway, with that done I decided to cycle to the airport and back.
This is quite simple now due to the new bypass having a decent footpath/cycle lane away from the traffic. I figured that it was a relatively safe route as when (not if!) I fell off I’d at least not be in the road of a major dual carriageway!
I set out and started trying to use the bike computer before realising that it wasn’t taking my HR into account, so switched to my watch for the rest of it. And it was mostly all uneventful. One of the sections where the path crosses over the dual carriageway and then has a tight turn was the point where I did my utmost to fall off, but aided by a fence I managed to mostly rescue that one.
Aside from a dim young driver failing to stop as I walked the bike over a zebra crossing, the ride was gentle and uneventful. A win in my books, even if it was possibly the least scenic cycle I’ve ever done (including being sat on a turbo)!
I’d been poring over the local maps looking at some footpaths I’d never run and came up with a 8-9 mile loop which looked promising.
I set off through Hazel Grove golf course and picked up the trail to get me to Stockport golf course. Which appeared to be a trail that was not frequented by many. Which was what I was after, but got a little bit fraught when I crossed a stile and ended up knee deep in brambles with no obvious continuation of the path as I headed towards Torkington Brook.
Having removed plenty of skin assessing different options I headed back up from whence I came and spotted a possible route. It took me back onto the golf course itself but with no clue as to whether or not this was the path I kept to the perimeter and was glad the club was shut so I wasn’t a moving target for anyone!
Eventually I came across a footpath sign and was drawn back into the woods on a decent path. And whilst I was supposed to be headed towards Offerton, when the path split, I decided that I’d head towards Marple instead. The only reason being that I couldn’t think where it would bring me out in Marple. So the plan for the day changed!
Following a gentle path that crossed the Brook I came across a young family on a walk, so I realised I couldn’t be too far off the beaten track! Eventually I came out at the Rugby Club, which was as much a surprise to me as anyone as I’d not studied this part of the map. From here I decided to maintain the same direction as far as I could, before reaching the Macclesfield Canal.
I had to take the road to get across the canal, but rather than sticking to this and heading straight home I thought it would be nice to see if I could find the footpaths which followed around the valley below Marple Ridge. Again, a few more people before this path joined the Peak Forest Canal. I knew I could get back up around the Ridge itself further along the canal and that was my initial plan. I came up into Turf Lea, but just as I was thinking about following that road up to Wybersley Road, I noticed another footpath.
So off we went again on another wild goose-chase. I knew if I followed this route it would bring me across to Disley Golf Club from which I could drop down into the village and head for home. Which I did. Sort of. For a bit.
As I was approaching Lyme Park I noticed the footpath I’d wondered where it went when I passed here a week or so ago. The problem with taking this path was that I would be on the wrong side of Lyme Park. The Park is closed at the moment so the only ways around were to retrace my steps, or go the long way around over to join the Gritstone Trail. And I don’t like retracing my steps……..
Fortunately I’d thought to bring water with me as it was a warm day and I knew the mileage was going to be a lot more than the very original plan! There was plenty of walking as I tried to negotiate several fields with no immediately obvious exit point, but in the end I was up past the Bowstones and heading up and over the final hill.
I didn’t expect to see anyone up here, but then immediately ahead was a family out for a walk and a bit of a run. It was only once I’d got a lot closer I realised it was one of the Lyme Runners and her family! We exchanged hellos and well wishes before I decided I really needed to get myself home!
Thankfully the rest of the route was downhill or flat, but I was shattered by the end of it and drank several additional litres of water when I got back! 8-9 miles became over 17.5 miles with over 1700 ft of climb!
I actually felt OK the following day despite having a thundering head overnight (that’ll be the missing salts and fluids) so decided that it would be another gentle cycle day.
I wasn’t bothered about going to the airport for the views again so instead did a route I’ve done previously taking in Wilmslow and Adlington.
It was fine. Very little in the way of motor vehicles but plenty of cyclists doing a similar sort of thing to me. Either way, it was a nice hour spent after which I sat in the garden poking at (yet another) synthesizer on the tablet. I need to refer myself again to that bit about having non-expensive hobbies………
The forecast for Easter Sunday was overcast with a few showers, so I thought it might be a nice day to do my Norbury loop again. Notwithstanding the crowds of dog walkers who were all heading up to the top of the estate where I live, I was glad to be sticking to the roads today.
Somewhere along the way I’d decided that I wanted today to have a bit of effort involved, rather than it being a plod. When I did this route last week I realised I had a decent amount of speed along a section where I’d last had a decent split time since 2016….! Last week the time was hampered by getting stuck at the level crossing so I didn’t get a chance to see how it compared to four years ago.
Things started off a bit sluggish if I’m honest, but seeing Tony running the other way as I headed towards Poynton got me into a better gear. Poynton itself was much quieter than last time although the top of Middlewood Road seemed to be attracting a selection of loitering walkers, dog walkers and cyclists.
I found it hard work today and on several occasions on the (only gradual) climb I wanted to abort and stop. I kept going and despite meeting quite a lot of cars coming the other way (Cheshire Police out on that road for the second time this week when I’ve been there!) I managed to hold it together. No trains to stop for today and I made it to the junction with the old A6 intact. Although I then had to stop and get my breath back before carrying on. Turns out that whilst it was going to be overcast, it was still very warm. I also saw Karen as she cycled past plus my next door neighbours who were out for a walk.
On checking Strava when I got home, I realised I’d done it, an 8 second improvement on the 2016 time, managing a 13:05 over the 2 mile segment. Of course I’m now wondering what it’ll take to break 13 minutes, but that’s for another day! My reverse route is a seemingly pedestrian 13:50 so perhaps I need to work on that first……