Spot the truth….

Whilst sitting eating fajitas with the kids tonight I asked my youngest (she’s 4) what she’d been up to.  Here is what she told me:

“Well, when I was little I forgot my lunchbox so I made myself a sandwich. Out of onion. My teacher cut it for me and I had an onion sandwich”

The Key Ingredient in an Onion Onion Sandwich

The Key Ingredient in an Onion Onion Sandwich

“What, onion in onion?”

“Yes. And then I went to my friends field and got some daffodils and put them in a wine bottle”

“That’s nice, did you pick them yourself?”

“No, I chopped them and put them in a bin with the wine bottle. Then it made wine and I drank the wine. It tasted like onions.”

“Errr, OK….”

“And then I put the bin on my head and walked around banging in to everything. So my teacher bought me home in her car. But we didn’t have any of these tortilla things so I ran to the CoOp and saw the Book Man. Then I opened them with a knife. A childrens knife.”

“Righhhtt….”

“And I rushed home and got in my teachers car and zoomed to play school”

The Size of the Dead Monkey

The Size of the Dead Monkey

“What happened to the Book Man?”

“He jumped in his van and drove from the Post Office to my school”

“How does this story end, darling”

“Well, I went to Twycross Zoo on a school trip and we saw a baby monkey”

“Ahhh”

“And it got killed because a big monkey stamped on it and punched it and then the big one stuck its tongue out

“Ohhhh”

“It was this big. I’m full up”

And that was that.

I’m not sure if that was fabrication, premonition, nightmare or hallucination but she seemed very convinced when she told me the story and was very particular about the details when she was repeating it to my wife 5 minutes later.

Mrs G then pointed out that she had been making the story up whist looking at things around her: fajita’s, daffodils, books, stuffed monkeys… a lot like master criminal Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects.

If you managed to spot any bits of truth in there, well done!

 

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Fun at School Cross Country

If you’ve got kids and they have the chance to get involved in cross country at an early age… do it!

My daughter is in year 3 – a junior – and her primary school holds weekly training sessions on a Monday with monthly events with other schools.  She loves cross country running and enjoys it even more because she has a good group of friends who also take part.  OK, most events are carnage with sharp elbows and lots of pushing and shoving followed by a few tears, a bit of chatting and a lot of walking, and that’s what the kids love!

Organised Chaos

Organised Chaos

But this weeks race was different because my little girl ACTUALLY DID WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT!!

She took it steady at the start.  So steady that I thought she was gassing with her mate when they were about 6 people ahead of last place.  And then she picked up the pace.

In the final two-thirds of the race she overtook half of the field by getting faster and faster.  She used her fast hands (imagine Linford Christie’s sprinting hands) and was taking deep breaths (after my pep talk of “I don’t want to hear you chatting, I want to hear your deep breathing”).

It’s fair to say that this competitive Dad is proud of his daughter.  Not for the place that she finished in the race, but because I know she tried her best.  Kids, eh?

No BMX Bandit

Last Sunday we had my daughters birthday party at a local BMX track.

She’s been desperate to have her party there since we took the bikes up for a play a few times and it turned out to be one of the best birthday parties we’ve done.  The track is run by Huncote Hornets BMX club and their British Cycling qualified coach hosts the event.

Jan makes sure that the kids are safe and confident in what they’re doing whilst using the speakers and gates he’d normally utilise for competitions.  The kids jumped out of their skins when he first pressed “Go” and the pneumatic gate flew down with a crash in front of them, but it wasn’t long before they were racing around the cinder and tarmac track.

Birthday BMX Bandit

Birthday BMX Bandit

The bikes and helmets are all provided to the kids (if you want them) so my daughter and her cousin got all kitted up whilst others remained more confident on their own bikes for the session.  The little ones were allowed a go on their balance bikes before everyone grabbed a homemade picnic in the shelter of the cargo container that doubles as clubhouse and shed!

Taking the opportunity of a quiet time on the track, I grabbed a bike & helmet out of the shed with a few things running through my mind:

  1. The track record is 14 seconds
  2. The kids had been going round in 35 seconds (I had to beat that right?)
  3. Jan’s words of warning “the bikes are quite twitchy”
  4. An image of myself flying over the jumps, throwing some shapes and whizzing around the track

As the barrier went down, me and my mate Dan flew down the ramp.  All of a sudden my cadence was faster than I had expected and I was at the bottom of the first M-shaped kicker. In that instant I realised I didn’t know how to jump a BMX (I might have had a chance 25 years ago!!) and the indecision about what to do resulted in something spectacular! It’s been described as an airborne cartwheel on a bike.  And it hurt!

Wounded

Wounded

I ended up scraping my hands, knees and elbows whilst giving my shoulder, back and knee a battering in the heavy landing.  My daughter was first on the scene and handed me my bike and in true hero form, I grabbed it and finished my lap, then steadily started another two before taking stock of the bloody injuries!

So, as always, last Saturday was a school day.  Here’s what I learnt:

  • BMX racing is great fun – all the kids loved it and some have even begun the search for bikes and helmets!
  • 25 years is a long time off a BMX and they’re not like road or mountain bikes!
  • Safety advice is useful: all the kids were instructed to wear helmets & gloves and to keep their arms & legs covered (I ignored this)
  • As you get older, injuries develop slower – it was 48hrs before my knee swelled up and 72hrs before the real pain started in my back!
  • Huncote Hornets have got something exciting going on so we’re off to the club night to see how we get on…
Huncote Hornets

Huncote Hornets

The Big E.ON Run, for the NSPCC

It’s not often that your big corporate employer does something that you and you’re family can get involved in.  So this weekends Big E.ON Run for the NSPCC was a good thing for them to do.imaging.ashx

The event was held at Holme Pierrepont, the National Watersports Centre near Nottingham, and consisted of a 10k race, a 5k race and a 5k family walk.  The NSPCC is E.ON’s Charity of the Year so all fundraising went to help the cause that all parents can relate to.

Holme Pierrepont consists of multiple watersports facilities, but the run took in two circuits of the 2000m long rowing lake.  This meant the route was flat but exposed.  It makes me wonder if I’d exchange undulation for wind?

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Having given an estimated time of 45 minutes on my entry form, for the first time ever, I was classed as “elite” amongst the 500 strong field of runners and walkers.  Mrs G and the girls took their place amongst the friends and walkers whilst I stood 3 people back from the front.  

The start was quick (my legs and lungs told me that) and it was difficult to gauge the right pace.  

One of the things I try to do on race days is to stick close to somebody with a Garmin and a club vest to make sure that I’m with a person who appears to know what they’re doing!  My hope is that I run along with an athlete looking for an even paced race and then avoid any “boom and bust” mistakes.  So the fella with a Garmin and a club vest was an ideal companion for the first 2k with the wind behind us.

He was an even more welcome companion to follow when we turned on to the other shore and began running back in to the wind.  It was really blustery and when the rain started at about 3k it was heavy and stinging in nature. Fortunately, my recent memories of running in the same conditions whilst in the Peak District strengthened my resolve and actually encouraged me to push on.

After one lap, I’d passed under the finish line in about 21 minutes and pondered the prospect of having set off too fast after-all! The rain had stopped and the wind had eased (which was not good news because it was now blowing in to my back) so I settled in to a steady tempo, eagerly keeping my eyes open to see how well Mrs G and the girls were getting on.

It wasn’t long before I could see them in front of me.  They’d not even covered 2k when I “lapped them” and my suspicions of the impact of the weather were confirmed when Mrs G called out “I’m soaked and I’m moaning … A LOT” as I ran passed clapping and cheering them on!  The quick high-five with both girls and seeing family and friends was a little boost that ensured I carried on the same pace for another kilometre or so.

Turning back in to the wind, tucking in behind Mr Garmin again, the end of the lake looked miles away.  As my legs grew heavy, the concept of tempo running reverted to plodding and I just about managed to stay in contact with my little group before rounding the final turns on to the finish straight.

Normally I’ve got a bit of a kick in me for the final 100 yards, but I was shattered and a minor increase of pace was the best I could muster.  Crossing the line in 42:15 I was surprised to see a PB (by 1:15) on my watch before congratulating Mr Garmin who immediately declared the course too short, showing me the 6.06miles registered on his watch.

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After dodging my friend Suzanne who was threatening a video camera and microphone, I quickly reclaimed my bag and got some warm kit on to wait the girls finishing.  They must have been so cold as they started running with 100m to go after about an hour’s walking! I nearly clattered into a couple of people having a sprint for the line.

Anyway, we all got medals, we all got hot drinks and eventually we all got hot dogs before driving home.sprint finish as I crossed the course to run the last 50m alongside them – it makes me so proud to see the kids joining in with things like this that I got a bit of tunnel vision!!

It was good to catch up with friends and colleagues at the event.  I hope they do it next year and I hope we’ve helped some less fortunate kids get slightly better lives.

Losing a bit of my masculinity

I had a dreadful moment of realisation today when we cycled the kids to school. I’ve allowed something small to change and with it, given up a bit of my manliness.

It’s nothing to do with doing the school run because I think of that as a real treat if I am ever able to do it.  I love getting to the school and watching how the girls behave in an environment which is far more familiar to them than it is me.  Sometimes I feel really out of place, but others it is just like being in my local pub on a Sunday afternoon 10 years ago.  We’ve all moved on.

No, the school run is a great thing, especially when it is a school cycle.  But it’s the cycling that is part of the problem.

A few weeks ago, Mrs G decided she wanted to cycle alongside me with the girls whilst I went for a run.  To do this, I had to move the child seat from my bike and on to hers.  ON TO HERS!!  This had never happened before.  Towing the kids has always been my job.  DAD’s job!

I’ve always been the one with stronger legs from running and cycling.  The one with a bit more balance and confidence for these things.  But now all that masculine superiority has been dashed…. she can do it too!!

Even worse – for weeks I have been trying to find a spare bracket so that we can easily switch the seat between the bikes.  But the bike seat is so old that I can’t find one that fits properly.  So without refitting bits and pieces with allen keys and spanners every time I choose to reassert my manliness, I have got a dad-bike that is missing a bit of dad-ness!

Anyone ready for next years Standalone?

There we have it.  For another year the Standalone 10k is done and dusted.  It was another amazing family day out, as always it was a superb event and even the weather was brilliant!

standalone

The Family Day

This is the most important aspect of the race for me.  My girls look forward to the day, so we started celebrations early.   On the way to Standalone Farm, we belted out a few classics in the car.  Mrs G and the kids joined in with my energising renditions of Gold by Spandau Ballet, Fire by Kasabian and the Rocky sound track classics Eye of the Tiger and Gonna Fly Now.

Every year, my family turns out and supports the race and the runners.

Step-father, mother-in-law, and Mum

Step-father, mother-in-law, and Mum

By the time we arrived, my cousin Linda was at the farm with her kids, and pretty soon we were joined by my Mum, step-father, sister, mother and father in-law, brother-in-laws (x2), an abundance of nieces & nephews and a handful of great friends.  After the race we were joined by my Nan and enjoyed a meal for 20 in a local pub.

This years race was even more special to my family than normal because my sisters husband Matt completed his first road race.  It’s an emotional day for me and my family anyway and when Matt came around the corner on to the finishing straight, half of us were in tears because we were so proud of him.

The main race is followed by a 2km fun run for all the kids.  Most of ours ran in the 6-10 age group and I shepherded my eldest, my Godson and my nephew around.  It was hilarious! We started with the plan of running together until the sprint finish but things got tricky when my nephews shoe came off (twice).  Then they were running in zig-zags all over the path.  Then we got split up when my Godson made his run for home about half way around.  We all made it in the end, and even managed to finish in front of the lady running it in Ugg boots and jeans whilst carrying her handbag and a Bob the Builder rucksack!  I probably had it easy though; Mrs G ran with my God-Daughter and my youngest who insisted on sitting on her shoulders the whole way round (until collecting her medal at the end)

The Event

I can’t believe that, from it’s humble beginnings as the Novatek 10k in the 80’s, the race my Dad built now has a capacity of 1400 runners.  It felt bigger this year but maybe that was because I started with Matt, and my friends Jim & Leanne at the 55 minutes (target finish time) section.  That was a good move because it kept my pace steady at the start whilst picking my way through runners.  Of course there was one person walking in the first 600 yards, but that is the only tiny niggle I could come up with for the whole event.  The course remains undulating but reasonably fast and the field is made up of a good range of experienced club athletes and people like us – which means that everyone feels at home!

The sun came out around the 6k mark and for a moment I was worried that my decision to not take a drink was going to backfire when I could feel the temperature beginning to rise.  But the small pockets of shade helped me through the final 3k and I maintained my pace to finish under my target time of 45 minutes … so I was happy.

Here comes Matt

Here comes Matt

After collecting my fetching blue t-shirt I quickly made it back to cheer on our other runners.  I missed Jim who was just after me at 48 minutes, managed to catch Leanne’s sprint for the finish and was delighted to be able to celebrate Matt’s arrival well inside his target time of an hour.

Once again, the North Herts Road Runners have delivered an outstanding day.  Everyone who came with us had a great day out and I can guarantee that we’ll all be back next year to keep supporting the event that has become so important to me.

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A great day on the bike

If any day can epitomise my interests and motivation behind this blog, it was Friday.
After a nightmare of a week at work, I had a day of working at home instead of going in to the office. I’d barely seen the kids all week so it was a pleasure to do the school run… especially after turning it in to the school ride.
For the first time ever, I shared the simple pleasure of cycling to school with my kids. The big one on her own bike and the youngest on the back of mine. They loved it and so did I. The freedom that my daughter feels on her bike is visible and seeing such a big grin on her face going to school makes our summer of cycling all the more special (especially when a lot of her friends are still on stabilisers).

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After dropping them off and clearing a mountainous backlog of emails it was time for a lunchtime ride. Time was tight so it was a short and fast ride, scooping up two K.O.M.s on the way!
For any Strava virgins a K.O.M. (King of the Mountains) accolade is what you earn when riding one of the segments of your ride quicker than anyone in the world…ever. A brilliant way of spicing up shorter rides and adding a bit of local (and virtual) rivalry with other cyclists. Holding a K.O.M. in our village is similar, and as close as we’re going to get to, holding a rainbow or yellow jersey.
Anyway, back to my great day on the bike.  after picking up the girls from the school, we cycled back, I wrapped up work for the day and we had a cross country ride to Stanton Lakes to enjoy a pint of Peroni and a basket of scampi and chips looking out of the lakes while the sun went down. Does family cycling get any better than that?