Chase the Sun 5K in Hyde Park

A cheeky mid-week race for a change: Louise, Suzanne and I lined up for a 7pm start where the aim is to complete the 5K (or 10K course) before the sun sets. Tonight it sets at 7:48, and with the 10K runners setting off 5 mins after the 5K runners that seemed like to challenging a way to start my Chase the Sun experience. So, the 5K it was.

My warm-up was a little longer than expected, with a 6km run from the office to the start-line (plus the same back again afterwards as a cool-down). Luckily, I also got there a little early, so plenty of time to recover from my warm-up before the race.

Very pleased with the result though. Not a PB by 40 seconds, but I didn’t go that hard out the gate (I certainly wasn’t planning to PB) and having started near the back with Louise and Suzanne I had to weave round a few of the slower runners before I could settle in to a rhythm. Overtaking so many people does feel good though – until the moment when the fast 10K runners catch you up anyway…

Finally, 35th over the line (and I think 34th by chip time), and my 3rd fastest 5K time. Not a completely flat course, with two laps up a small drag incline, but nowhere near as technically demanding as Wimbledon parkrun.

Finishers! And we beat the sun!

A photo posted by James Spinks (@realjimbob) on

Chase the Sun 5k Hyde Park – 35th in 22:59

A photo posted by James Spinks (@realjimbob) on

Iron Council by China Miéville

Iron Council (Bas-Lag, #3)Iron Council by China Miéville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book and I never quite clicked. I feel like I aught to have liked it more, that the book should have deserved more stars than it got, that I’ve missed something that would have made me love the book (or even want to keep reading it sometimes). Probably that’s my fault for reading the book in quite small chunks on train journeys and before falling asleep at night. But it could quite easily be China’s fault for creating what seemed like a big hot mess of absolutely mind-blowing ideas.

Obviously, it’s fantastic (in the literal sense of the word): It’s China Miéville. So, even with large chunks of it set in New Crobuzon – a city we’ve already met in the previous books – we’re still bombarded with new ideas, new things, new places, new people, new creatures, new politics and new powers. And while I really did appreciate the incredible creative effort that had obviously gone in all this, I just never quite felt like I was connecting with the story or the characters…

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The Tales of Alvin Maker, books 4 and 5

Alvin Journeyman (Tales of Alvin Maker, #4)Alvin Journeyman by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With book four the series starts to slow again and characters are made to retread old paths. Alvin returns home and attempts to train more Makers. While it starts to feel as if the first three books peaked with Prentice Alvin, then we’re now on the other side of that hill and Card is trying to restart the story somewhat. To an extent this is borne out just from the publishing schedule – books 1 through 3 were published a year apart, this one took a six year jump for him to get back to world of Alvin Maker.

It’s an enjoyable read though – if a little slow – and we do get some new characters and some older characters that step up from supporting cast to regular.

Heartfire (Tales of Alvin Maker, #5)Heartfire by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two stories in one, that end up coming together. On the one hand Alvin has formed a little gang with Mike, Verily and Arthur Stuart. Wandering around trying to work out how Alvin is going to build his Crystal City – or even what the Crystal City really is. In the process, Alvin gets accused of being a witch and Verily suddenly decides to take on the whole principle of witch trials and fight them through the courts.

The other story is of Peggy, now Alvin’s wife, who is trying to get an audience with the exiled King in order to avert the coming war. Mixing her story up a little is the appearance of Calvin, Alvin’s brother, who is still jealous of Alvin’s powers. Add into this story a more detailed explanation of the magical powers of the black slaves and we now have three distinct magic systems – the knacks of the white people, the nature affinity of the native Americans and now the knots and dolls of the African slaves. Think useful functional magic for white folks, noble savage tree hugging for the red folks, and voodoo for the black folks and you won’t be far off. Obviously, not a hint of any implied racism here…

Peggy and Calvin’s story is arguably the more interesting here – although both stories feature way too much talking (therefore telling) rather than action and plot development (showing). As a whole it does feel bit too much like a filling story. An attempt to build a journey for Alvin rather than having him just rush off and build his city. And, Card does get a little bogged down in the side stories again. But, while they’re fun and well told, we’re still no closer to having a crystal city than we were all those books ago… Hopefully the final book – helpfully titled The Crystal City – will actually finish the story out.

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Global Bike to Work Day 2016

Finally. Back to the commuting now that the half-marathon training is out of the way. (Confession: it’s been out of the way for a while now, and I should have gotten back to this already). Strava chose to make 10 May 2016, the first ever Global Bike to Work day and encouraged people to cycle-commute to work and tag their rides appropriately.

It felt good to be back to it, although it did piss down all the way in…

… and then, of course, home again.

Hiking Hadrian’s Wall

Basically, six half-marathons, back-to-back, mostly in pretty grim weather. East to West; Newcastle to Carlise; hail to sun…

Day 1 – Wallsend to Heddon on the Wall

From our Roomzzz apartments in Newcastle, a quick Metro ride out to Wallsend to start our hike. Then back through Newcastle, stopping at The Boathouse in Newburn for a late lunch, before the climb up to Heddon on the Wall and our B&B: The Heddon Lodge. The village pub was shut for refurbishment so a taxi over to the next village for dinner at the Lion and Lamb in Horsley.

Day 2 – Heddon on the Wall to Chollerford

Hail pretty much all day, Vallum Farm cafe for cake, the Errington Arms for lunch, and then on to Chollerford (well, more like Humshaugh) to stay at the Mingary Barn B&B. Dinner in The Crown Inn pub over the road.

Day 3 – Chollerford to Steel Rigg

No stops today as the Mingary Barn provided a nice packed lunch, so walked through the day. Past the Temple of Mithras, the Housesteads Roman Fort, and the iconic tree at Sycamore Gap ending up at the Twice Brewed Inn for sleep and dinner.

Day 4 – Steel Rigg to Banks

A small diversion to the Samson Inn for a pint, popped in to Birdoswald Roman fort for the loo, and finally finished – after a long downhill – at the Lanercost Priory to stay at the Lanercost B&B. Fabulous fine dining for a B&B.

Day 5 – Banks to Carlisle

We lose our first person today as they have to push on to Carlisle in order to catch a train. We stop at The Reading Room for some cake in Walton before finally getting in to Carlisle ourselves and settling in to to the Crown & Mitre hotel in Carlisle. An Italian meal at SannaS to restock the carbs before the final day.

Day 6 – Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway

Down to the final four today and detours are aplenty due to the heavy flooding earlier in the year which has destroyed much of the river bank. Staying at the Wallsend Guest House – not in one of their wigwams – and dinner at the King’s Arms Inn.