Week 48. 

This week kicked off where we left off on Sunday. In the Alps.

When I’m home, I always go into the garden to have a look outside. Especially on a cold, crisp day.

This is the sight that greets one in the morning
The morning was a simple affair, we had breakfast and planned the day. Catherine helped mum with a family tradition, Christmas cake, which mum makes every year (and took on from my English Grandma).

After an early lunch of quenelles, a French dish we headed up the mountain to see some more snow and have a quick walk. I drove us up and braved the ice covered road (on the mountain, it was thawing at the house), but with grippy snow tyres on mums car it was a doddle. We got to the top of the Revard to find it blanketed in a thick fog. It was also -6 degrees with a bitter wind that cut at our faces.

  

We wrapped up warm and revised our plans for an hour long walk down to a more manageable 20 minutes.

After slipping about on the ice for a while we completed the little loop we were on and made it back to the car.

 In the return journey we chanced across a chamois, looking confused on the road. I was weary there might be more so revised our speed down some. Then we got back and made a tea, helped mum with a few more things such as putting up the bird feeder and got a tour of the recently redone garden.

Then it was time to pack and head to the airport, but not without stopping at the supermarket for a few provisions.

I’ll miss the mountains and the snow and the simple pleasures that come with them. Such as a warm thermos of tea, or watching the fireplace go from a burning match to a raging inferno. But that’s what makes it special every time we go back.
Tuesday

The weather was dismal on Tuesday. Icy cold rain and strong blustery winds. Still, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation. I can confirm this is correct, cycling without gloves in those conditions counts as bad preparation. In fact, I felt colder than I did Monday atop the mountain getting seared by the wind at -6! Coincidentally, I chanced across this article, which basically confirms that making an adventure out of bad weather makes everything all right (just remember to bring gloves).

Other than a run on Wednesday, we took the opportunity to relax a bit.

Thursday night we headed over to Matt and Helens for some good food and the opening of our beer, which Matt and I brewed a few weeks ago!

 

Unlabelled but not undrinkable
I was honestly expecting a disaster. But was enjoyably surprised to find it sufficiently carbonated, and beer-like. A bit sweet and not the Weizener it claimed to be on the packaging. Regardless, it’s available on Untappd!

And for your viewing pleasure, here are our first reactions in raw, unedited footage.

Friday evening we had our friends Judith and Bart over for a meal. On this occasion, red wine and chorizo risotto followed by sticky toffee pudding. We think it went down well.

Saturday we got up early and I left to the station to catch a train to The Hague. As per Mike’s suggestion, we went to Red Bull KnockOut on Scheveningen beach (we went to spectate, not participate 😦 ). The weather stayed good throughout the day though the strong wind sure bit into our faces and hands! The craft beer bar on the pier got a good amount of our cash as we could warm up by the fireplace.

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The race itself was typical Red Bull, loud, crazy, slightly dangerous and accompanied by the usual selection of machinery. About 1500 motorbikes, a Dakar rally truck, a Hum-Vee and a helicopter, all in RedBull livery. It would have been cool to get closer to the action but for obvious reasons, spectators and motorbikes doing 130kmh on sand do not mix well. Nevertheless, I put the GoPro to work and captured some footage, hopefully I can distill it down into something entertaining to watch.

As for Sunday, well we wanted to go to a museum, but decided to get Museumcards, so instead we’re doing a city outing to The Hague (yes, again). Before setting off I took time to do the dishes. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a dish after breakfast, wonder no more:

We found The Hague to be a very pleasant city, slightly more so than Amsterdam if I may say so, on account that it’s a little quieter and more spacious. The Embassy district is worth a detour as is the St. Jacobus church. Otherwise we loafed around and made a special detour to Marks and Spencers to look for some English stuff. Then off home, dinner, movie and bed, refreshed for another week!

Till then,

B

 

 

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Time for a catchup! Week(end) 47

It’s been quite a long time since my last post, which came out as slightly more heavy and philosophical than intended. Nevetheless it’s time for a bit of an update, not because I’ve been lazy, but because the past couple of weeks had not had much to update about. But finally this weekend, we did something a little exciting and different which didn’t involve mostly sitting at home on the Internet. 

In actually fact, it was my mum’s birthday on Monday. And though we had sent a card, we had not yet sent a present. Now, before someone decries that as horrible, allow me to explain. When my parents were last in Holland about a month ago, we had a chat with dad about the possibility of surprising mum with a visit. We all thought this was an excellent idea, with the exception that my parents were away last weekend. So we pushed back one weekend, and got an excellent deal on some flights to Geneva. (Roughly the same price as a meal at a smart restaurant for two people), for both of us together. So we pounced on the deal. We put dad in charge of discouraging mum from actually planning anything for this weekend. 

Friday evening we skyped mum and explained that due to “logistical problems” her present had only just arrived, and that therefore we would prefer to bring it to her ourselves……that evening. So would she mind coming to Geneva at 10:30 to pick us up. 😈

And with that, off to the airport we went.

Arriving late in Trevignin on Friday we got up on Saturday to torrential rain. Before anything else, some shopping needed doing to feed these unexpected additional mouths. Whilst in the supermarket, the temperature dropped and upon coming out we could see that outside the valley, the snow had started to appear on the flanks of the surrounding mountains. We returned to find the village covered in a fresh blanket of snow. In fact, the first snowfall of the season.

 

The view from mum and dad’s bedroom window.
 Jackets were gathered, walking boots were found, along with a plethora of gloves, hats and scarves and Catherine and I headed out for a walk in the fresh snow. 

 

Le Revard, in a brief ray of sunshine.
 Now I’m quite a fan of microadventures, little escapades that serve no purpose other than feeding the soul and making one exceedingly happy. So instead of just walking along the road, we headed up into the fields, and then through some bushes and scrub into  a little wood to try and find a stream. We then pushed through some more trees and followed the stream up into another field. 

 

All wrapped up and warm!

 
The snowplough doing its first round of the year, and removing our footprints in the process.
 We walked along and then back down into the woods. Along the way we found a discarded bathtub (which I was tempted to use as a sledge), and an observation platform that had probably been built by a local farmer for hunting. We then ran down the steep field through the snow (because why not?) cut through some more fields and back to the village. Here I got the head torch out, not because it was particularly dark, but because it fed the adventure my inner ten year old was having, and we sniffed the air for the log fires that were starting in chimneys nearby before standing in the village square with our tongues out, tasting the falling snow. 
 
View on the Massif de la Chartreuse (my parents live at the meeting point of the Jura, Chartreuse and Alps ranges.

We got home and lit our own fire in the chimney before preparing all that is required for a delicious raclette. Including pickled onions and gherkins, ham, rosette, boiled potatoes and of course, slicing a large chunk of cheese. After raclette we had a game of quirkle, and dad had me tastes delicious whisky from Wales. From the only distillery in Wales, as a matter of fact. For those interested its “Penderyn”, and it’s very smooth and very very tasty. 

On Sunday I was adamant that we should make the most of the mountains and the snow. So we picked a walk out of one of our guidebooks, gathered the required equipment and jumped in the car. Upon arriving, we noticed there might be a little more snow than we bargained for, but undaunted we set off. It was a stunning walk, the weather played ball and we crunched through the snow in wonderful tranquility. 

We did a route called Le golet de Doucy et Le col de Bornette. 

   

One of many little huts
    
   

We had gotten almost all the way to the end of our walk before noticing we had not yet stopped for some lunch (which I was carrying). But atop a little rise, a few hundred metres away we spotted a small hut along with a couple of barns. We figured we would find a spot a little way out of the wind, against a wall or something, but it was so much better than that!!!
  It turned out to be a refuge. A small hut available to mountaineers as a place to rest up. Complete with table, chairs and a small stove. (Or maybe it was a very dirty person’s house, in which case, our apologies for trespassing). So out of the wind, we managed to have  a hearty lunch, complete with hot drinks out of the thermos, big chunks of bread and ham. After lunch, we descended back towards the car, but I must admit, we got a bit silly. Having snowball fights, pushing each other into the snow, making snow angels and slithering down steep snowy banks. It was generally epic fun. 

  
  
  
 

Few creature comforts, but who needs em?
 
On the way home, we stopped off at a bakery, to pick out some cakes for our cup of tea. We’ve lit the fire, and now, time to relax. And with a day off tomorrow, no need to rush back to the airport!

I also spliced together a quick time lapse video, but it was shot from my pocket, so the view isn’t great. Nevertheless, I’ll add it below when it’s uploaded to YouTube. Though as we are on satellite internet here, that could be a bit later…  

Why run?

Why run? Why go through the pain and the misery that often accompanies long distance running?

I used to decry running as the dullest thing I could imagine. Just endlessly pounding pavement to end up back where I started. Some benefits are apparent. Weight loss, endorphins, feeling good about accomplishing something you couldn’t do previously.

Sure, getting in shape and working out was an immediate benefit for me. I recently found a picture from December 2011, where I was at my heaviest. A full 15 kilos heavier than I am now. Give or take, I’m now a mere 82% of the guy I was then.

"Little" old me...
“Little” old me…

But you could argue that now it’s done, through good food and an active lifestyle, there’s no need for me to continue, or at least there’s no need to work anywhere near as hard.

But is that human nature? When we accomplish something, don’t we want to accomplish more? Isn’t it enough that we do things simply because they are hard?

Much more recent me....
Much more recent me….

It took me four or five tries to become a runner. The first time, coincidentally in spring 2012, lasted about two sessions. That was that until autumn 2013, where I was seized by the necessity to do something, anything to break out of a slump. I kept it up for a month or so. Then there was a lull, before trying again, again for a month. And then nothing for a season and then again. And on and off it went.

It has never become a habit. It has always been an effort. It has always been demanding and its always required willpower.

But eventually it became worth the effort, worth enduring cold, rain, even snow. It became a fulfilling activity in its own right. Something I do because I learnt to genuinely enjoy it. Though that feeling comes and goes. As proven by this very blog. A blog set up to discuss sports and running which seemingly discusses everything but…

So what next? The marathon was an experience but I’m unsure it’s one I want to repeat (for now). Do I speed up? Do I aim to go further? Do I try something else?

Whatever the next challenge is. It has one criteria. One criteria which I think is at the basis of all human endeavour.

It cannot be easy.

If it were easy I would be able to do it already. And that’s how to add value to our own lives isn’t it? To be able to wake up in the morning and ask ourselves. “Am I a better human today than I was yesterday?”

Week 44: A week of firsts!

[Update: Apologies for anyone trying to read this post last night, a technical error meant we suffered from a bit of premature e-publication…..]

After all the excitement of last weekend we took the week fairly easy. Combined with a few later evenings at the office, it was a quiet week at home.

There was one picture I wanted to include form this week. It’s a quick snack I resort to when all else fails. It simply tabasco and salt on bread. (I checked with Andrew, I’m not weird…..).

Oddly satisfying nibble
Strange taste predilections aside I followed Catherine in signing up for our next race! We’ve changed tack completely this time, no long distances (well, depends on who’s point of view you’re using) and no roads. This time, we’re going for a trail run….at night…..in March. Yes, its the Neverest Runforestrun Night trail run. Obviously this is going to require some slightly different training. Though trails are in the mountains right? And this is Holland, ergo there are no mountains, so how bad can it be? (Famous last words?…..)

We started the weekend off by dipping a toe into the Netflix show “Narcos”. Which after a couple episodes we are looking forwards to continue watching.

Saturday was a productive day to say the least. As it was halloween we started off with some early morning pumpkin carving. But a jack-o-lantern with a face is boring, and as Catherine is a mad cat lady, we decided to make a witch’s cat instead. I think it turned out quite well. The plan is to roast the pumpkin seeds in such a manner.

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Following such excitement, we decided to raise it up a notch and prepare a picnic, jump on the motorbike and head out to the beach. A short 40 minute ride got us to Noordwijk. It was really nice to take the old girl out for a spin again (I’m referring to my motorbike, not the Girlfriend!), as she hadn’t moved since mid-august, just sat forlornly on the street outside our apartment. Amazingly, the tyre pressures were still fine, and she started on the first press of the starter. She might not hbe the most soulful bike, but by jove is she reliable!

Anyway, it was a sunny day and we were quickly very warm. For the last day of October we could not have asked for better weather! Catherine even ate in just her t-shirt! After a bit of lazying about we walked off up the beach and then came back through the little section of national park which is adjacent to the beach. A selection of pictures follows.


  
We rode home to prepare some dinner and get ready for the next thing on the plan for Saturday. My first ever live football match! It’s no secret I work for a sports apparel company, and we just happen to be close to Ajax Arena, where Amsterdam’s Ajax football club are based. And as I won the draw for seats for this weeks game I got to go along and take Catherine with me! The game itself was a bit of a massacre, with Ajax butchering the visiting team Roda JC (whom I’d never heard of). The ambience was really nice and jovial and quite frankly it was all over way too quickly. Also at one point in the match, everyone got their smartphone out and starting flashing the flash…. very strange. But I filmed a quick clip of it to show everyone! 🙂 I filmed a few other bits and pieces too that I’ve spliced together in a quick video (or I might combine the two, I haven’t decided yet).


  
 Anyway, I’m no football fan, but if the opportunity to go a football match presents itself again, I will definitely go. Catherine and I agree that we would like to go see Bayern play at the Allianz Arena in Munich, after all, we already have the appropriate attire!

Sunday was a lot quieter! We did all the necessary things in the house. As well as a small reorganisation in the living room in light of the arrival of my graduation present to myself…. In the afternoon went to see our friends Helen and her slave Matthijs at their very first market stall in Westerpark! Yes indeed, The Baking Tin had it’s first public outing! We took home one of each cupcake for a private sampling. If you follow my instagram, you’ll have seen why I spent the afternoon drooling. We also walked around the market a bit and picked up some interesting cider from Scotland from a friendly chap who’s business it is to sell Cider. We got a Whiskey cask aged cider and a cider with Ginger. I have high expectations from these two little brews. Interestingly, the chap told us the brewer (is a cider maker a brewer?…) doesn’t add sugar to the fermentation process, but rather chooses a particularly sweet variety of apples. I will report back…..


click on the picture to visit my instagram feed
We also saw a market stall that sold lamps made from reclaimed car parts, including an old Garret turbocharger (which I’m coveting), but I must have noted down their name wrong as I can’t find them. 😦

That brings us neatly to Sunday night. After dinner we will be rounding off the evening with a trip to the movies to watch Spectre with a well earned beer (though in the movies, it’ll only be Grolsch).

And here finally, is the quick clip I put together: