It's a bit of a milestone, 26 weeks in and I have covered a total of 4,713km. That averages out at just over 180km a week, and puts me very much on track to complete my challenge by the end of the year.
After an easy post race week last week, this week I was back on form and managed to rack up the following:
I had a look back over some of the moments from the past 26 weeks and find it really validating to see that I have managed to train through all conditions.
In the first week I was cycling through snow and swimming in 3deg water. I am loving the current heatwave but still miss the post swim shivering.
This distance would now see me approaching El Palmar reserve, located in the Sudanes province of Chuquisaca. It has a surface of (595km2)with an altitude between 1,000 and 3,200 meters. The region is typically mountainous with deep canyons. In the Area there are 270 species of large plants, and 24 species of mammals - six of which are on the list of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). These are the eyeglass bear, puma, Andean cat or of scrubland or titi, mount k' uchi or mountain pig. There are a further 112 registered species of birds belonging to 30 families. The most important are the condor, mountain turkey, Ipicua, the woodpeckers (5 species) and eight species of parrots. Moreover, six species of amphibians, five of lizards and seven of snakes were identified. There are also 42 species of registered butterflies. The Area is sparsely settled by small communities of the Quechua that inhabit the valleys.
The closest I actually got to wildlife this week was being held at Richmond Park when I was cycling over to my Teddington swim on Friday. I am used to the level crossing at Mortlake, but this one was much more interesting. A group of us waited a good ten minutes whilst at the final count around 45 deer crossed the road.....just as you thought the last one had gone another group appeared and did a slow meander over. Another reminder to take the time to appreciate nature.
The heatwave lent itself nicely to an impromptu paddleboarding session on Sunday, organised by Ian as a way to put the 'Stand Up' element into SUP after his first go at this last month. And he did well, as this photo demonstrates - despite wake being caused by a speed boat that was circling past us. Only one dip in the water this time, hooray!
Well, I am on a roll this week! After a few months of intensive studying I was delighted on Friday to receive confirmation that I had passed the second part of my Ironman Coaching Certification and am now a certified coach!
In my true style I had kept the fact that I was studying for this on the low down.
So how did this all come about?
Well all credit to my cycling friend Giovanna for approaching me a few months ago to ask if I would consider coaching her in her endurance cycling pursuits (plus some running and swimming). Despite my passion for developing people as part of my nnoodl business, my initial reaction was a mix of excitement coupled with self doubt.
I recognised that I have extensive experience in endurance sports from my own years of running marathons, taking part in long distance triathlons, open water swimming competitions, and of course my Andes challenge, but the fact that I wasn't 'qualified' didn't sit easily with me. However, seeing myself as an 'aspirational coach' and with a very good understanding of the science of coaching from my own experience, we set off on our coach/athlete journey. The next person I have to give credit to is Tom Frearson, my own triathlon coach, who suggested I might like to take undertake the Ironman coaching programme to solidify my credibility. Huge thanks to Tom for being so encouraging in this area, it really made me think I could do this.
The programme is seen as the gold standard in endurance sports education. Designed and developed by best triathlon coaches in the world, it is made up of some really intensive content covering the science of coaching, the kinematics of the swim, bike and run, sports nutrition, strength and conditioning, creation of training plans and more. I felt like I was back at school! There are scenarios and questions as you go along. but the first part of the certification process was a 50 question exam which you have to get over 75% in to progress to the second part. It felt hard, but I managed to get 94% and was delighted to be able to progress. This was where the hard work really began though.
I had to review a 27 page athlete questionnaire and do an assignment which essentially planned all of the factors for her to complete a full Ironman event. This was 14 pages of setting the overall volume and intensity of training for a 25 week plan, including the finer details of sessions, nutrition, hydration and strength and training plans. Scenarios were thrown in for good measure to assess how you could adapt and communicate around your athletes changing demands. I felt like 'Jane from Texas' was a real person and found myself waking up thinking about how to change her training microcycles to accommodate her 'B' race and ensure she didn't aggravate an old running injury. It felt all consuming for a while and I procrastinated and went back and forth changing things.
For this element you have to achieve at least 80% to pass, and it is common for the assessment to be sent back to the student to make corrections. Well, can you imagine my delight to receive my 'Congratulations' email from Ironman University to say I had achieved 93% !!
I think my school days biology teacher Mr Coates would be equally surprised given that my friend Shirley and I were notorious for 'having a right carry on' in his class, leading to me not doing so well in my biology O Grade. Ah but these are changed days!
I am particularly keen to develop my knowledge around working with females and understanding how our hormonal changes affect our muscles and ligaments and all manner of other things which can affect performance. There is in fact another course on this area in progress, but that is for another blog!
All of that and I haven't even given an update on my 'Latin American Pentathlon' progress. Well, understandably after last weekend, I was on an easy week, with instruction to just 'do things I enjoyed'. It turns out that pretty much is swimming and cycling, as I still managed to rack up 125km on the bike and 4k swimming.
This would have me at the small city of Camiri in Bolivia where the 65,897 inhabitants are known as "Camireños." Camiri is situated on the banks of the Parapeti River in a small valley surrounded by rolling hills on the east, north, and south, and by the Aguarague mountain range on the west.
But for me this week, it was mostly about kicking back in the Serpentine and enjoying some downtime!
It's been quite a week, celebratory times, mixed in with some sad news.
First of all, the obligatory look at the distances, and with my 'monthly wildcard challenge' of an aquabike event planned in, I was told by Coach Tom to reduce any unnecessary mileage so that I could be well rested and sharpened ahead of my race.
Normally I would talk about my upcoming monthly challenge but I am incredibly cautious about promoting anything I have planned in the way of races ahead of time, in case things don't go as planned. I was feeling particularly apprehensive ahead of my race this time as it had been two full years since I had raced and challenged myself in this way and I really didn't know what could happen.
Anyway, more on that to follow, the distances this week are looking like this:
This distance would see me arriving at the largest city in Bolivia, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which translates as 'Holy Cross of the Mountain Range'. The city was first founded in 1561 by Spanish explorer Ñuflo de Chavez about 200km east of its current location, and was moved several times until it was finally established on the Pirai River in the late 16th century. This thriving city has the largest and most diverse population in Bolivia where modernity mixes with tradition such as the beloved national drink chica. This is a milky, sour beverage, made out of fermented corn, quinoa or peanuts, Chicha can be a potent alcoholic drink or a refreshing soft drink. Having actually sampled some of South America's 'traditional drinks' I can only imagine caution should be exercised with the alcoholic version of this! But more on that when I get to Chile....
The sad news this week came in the form of hearing from my partner Ian's friends in France that their lovely dog Brodie had sadly passed away. An incredibly gentle giant of a dog, Brodie was a Leonberger who I only had the pleasure of meeting once on a trip to see them in 2019. He changed my mind about my love of small dogs (although I will always still love a westie) and I could totally see the appeal of this beautiful breed. At 12 and a half years old, he had been suffering with some health problems, but I know his sudden decline and passing still came as a big shock and huge loss to his owners Jim and Sandra. Rest in peace lovely Brodie, I hope there are lots of treats and ear rubs where you are now.
But onto happier times - although Sunday's race didn't start out that way.
It was a truly miserable morning as we arrived at the race start at 7am in Marlow, and Ian tried to optimistically tell me the rain was easing off. I got soaked as I ran just the 500m or so to the race registration and back, and then once again as I racked my bike.
We tried to joke it off with our usual "well you can only get so wet" Scottish take on the situation. But I was worried about the bike, this was a route with hills, and downhills have never been something I have been particularly confident on, let alone in the wet.
Then there was putting on a wetsuit for only the second time since 2019. I have a great suit, but I still hate the palaver of putting it on, and how it feels. A slightly surreal swim start ensued as, rather than a mass start we were allocated a 15minute window for our wave and then started off at 15 second intervals. With no race briefing on the day I ended up double checking with everyone around me where exactly in the river the swim started, and where the 1500m loop was. I was called forward over the chip timing mat, and then told to sit on the edge before being given the signal to officially start.
I dropped into the Thames and was immediately off. There were other races already in progress and so it was a case of trying to find your 'Covid friendly' space in amongst the other swimmers, whilst also keeping my ideal pace. I must admit, this is one of the first triathlon swims I can honestly say I enjoyed! It must be in large part down to my winter open water swimming practice as I didn't feel stressed and came in at 24:52, a PB over this distance of about 4 minutes! Then it was up a ladder out of the water and a run for the bike. It had bucketed down with rain all during the swim and my bike and surrounding kit were soaked, but I was on my way.
Ian was on the edge of the course trying to stay dry whilst also being in charge of those all important race shots!
We had only driven this route once in the car and I was surprised at how challenging the long climb up to the halfway point was, my lower back was feeling it, as needless to say my legs were. Then there were the unexpected temporary traffic lights - they caught me out both out and back and I wasn't sure whether to be relieved or annoyed at the 90sec+ stoppage at either side. But it didn't seem to affect me too much and I was delighted to come in with a bike time of 1:22 on this Olympic distance route. I must admit I was relieved that I had played to my strengths after achilles niggles and didn't have to add in the run at the end of the bike. I am loving aquabike events just now!
I was so happy to see Ian standing there cheering as I ran in with my bike for the final 500m. He is the best supporter - usually the tallest person in a crowd and always the most enthusiastic! I think he was as surprised as I was to see me arrive back so soon.
It wasn't until I arrived home and checked the results that I found out I was the first female, the oldest female, and came in 6th overall!
And so that called for a celebratory curry and beer :)
Ever have one of those days? Friday was like that for me, it seemed like one thing happened on top of another. I was feeling anxious about work (or lack of) and then saw Rishi Sunak on the news, and I was back there feeling really resentful of the Government for not supporting us limited company directors. A puncture on the way home from picking up my bike from it's service, and then majorly struggling to get the new tyre off and I thought I was going to lose the plot! It's funny to think how there can literally be the tiniest thing, the straw that breaks the camel's back. But I remembered someone asking me this week about setbacks and how I deal with them, and my answer had been that I use them as a learning. So this week I learned some techniques on dealing with new tyres (and to turn off the news!)
My little book 'The Daily Stoic' also has some great pieces of advice - one that I particularly liked is 'What kind of boxer are you?'. Based around a quote from the philosopher Epictetus he talks about likening hurdles in life to how you would deal with the punches as a boxer. Would you leave the ring because you get hit? "What advantage would come from abandoning the pursuit of wisdom?" That is the nature of the sport, as it is the way of life. And on that note, back out on the bike on Saturday morning and all was well again in the world!
So onto the distances this week....
This would see me travelling through the Parque Nacional Carrasco in Bolivia. Created in 1988, this 622,600ha park has some of Bolivia’s most easily explored cloud forest. The rainforest hides a vast variety of mammal species, together with a rainbow of birds, crawling reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects. It is probably best to explore this region virtually as access to large parts of the park are difficult and potentially dangerous. The Camino en las Nubes (Walk in the Clouds), a trek descending from 4000m to 300m along the old Cochabamba–Chapare road, is now largely used by drug traffickers and is unsafe for tourists.
Meanwhile, swimming also continues to be a source of joy, even though I am still missing the post swim shivering. I am happy, however to trade that off for meeting my swimming buddy Nerina, complete with some homemade barfi. This is a traditional sweet Indian treat, not to be confused with the Scottish word barf meaning to vomit ;)
We also some more recruits to our small swimming group at Teddington - Cam, and his dog Dash. Seen in a previous post excitedly jumping into the water, I managed on this occasion to capture not only his ball splashing into the river, but also a lesson in doggy paddle....see below.
This image I captured in the Serpentine this week sums up the wonderful serene feeling I have being in the glassy water, and this was definitely the calm before the storm in terms of the mixed bag of weather this week. There have been intensely hot days, clammy nights, and then torrential downpours of rain. Likewise it's been a mixed week of training...higher intensity and lower volume.
The distances are looking like this:
The distances don't convey the sweaty efforts on the bike or the soaking wet run in the rain. Ah but the swims, even doing sprint sessions in the Serpentine feels good.
I managed to capture these shots with my new friend the GoPro during a recovery session.
Keeping with the theme of appreciating my surroundings I couldn't help but think how lucky I am to have Hyde Park as my main training ground/playground. Cycling to the Serpentine one day I felt like I was in the set of a film as I saw horses galloping towards me, with the Shard and London Eye in the background. It even distracts me during the 7am HIIT/HIRT class I do in the park.
This total distance now of just over 4,000km would have me passing a small town called Quime. Located southeast of the city of La Paz at the Khatu River, it lies between the mountains and the tropics. It has a large vegetation, mostly eucalyptus.
I would also be passing (and thankfully not cycling over) the Illimani - the second highest mountain in Bolivia. It is revered in this country and is the subject of many local songs, being referred to as 'Bolivia's Andean pearl'.
This week I also had the privilege of speaking with blind veteran Maria Pikulski. Despite losing her sight to a rare genetic eye condition in 2003, Maria has gone on to embody resilience and embrace challenge. She has undertaken sky dives, wing walks and many endurance events. Here she shares her experiences of the everyday challenges she faced losing her sight, and also some words of wisdom and optimism for others who are thinking about embarking on their own challenges.
To round off the week, I finally had the opportunity to meet up with a friend who I hadn't seen for almost a year. Such has been the affect of Covid that even seeing someone who lives in Surrey has been a challenge. Ah but we did it in style, and went back to two of our favourite haunts, Pix Pintxos in Soho and the epic Bradley's Bar just off Oxford Street. I am so pleased to see that both of these tiny places have weathered the storm and managed to survive the pandemic. Speaking of storms, this photo was taken shortly before the heavens opened, but we were determined to soak up the atmosphere of this little gem of a bar and so stood outside under a brolly (supplied by the bar) as we cheered Scotland on in their Euro game against England.
And to us Scots (i.e never expecting too much) a 0-0 draw against England is as good as a win to us!
After a scaled down week of distance and workload, it was time to up the ante again, both in terms of mileage and intensity. But I also decided to make a conscious effort to notice my surroundings and capture them, like this moment above before my weekly Thames swim.
This week's distances are looking like this:
This would see me arriving at the buzzing city of La Paz in Bolivia. It was founded on October 20th, 1548 under the name of 'La Ciudad de Nuestra Senora de La Paz' (The City of Our Lady of Peace). Located in the Andes mountains, altitude of the city ranges from about 4058 meters (13,313 feet) above sea level in El Alto (where the airport is located) to 3100 meters (10,170 feet) in the lower residential area. It is also home to the world’s largest high-altitude urban cable-car system which extends to eight lines, or 17 miles.
No such luxury of cable cars for me this week though
The bike test brought it's own challenges too as I also decided to do this one outside, rather than inside on the turbo. With a prolonged spell of hot clammy weather over London just now my 20 minute all out effort around the inner circle of Regents Park left me with sweat running into my eyes, just to add to the challenge of pre-empting dozy pedestrians wandering into the road whilst fixated on their phones. Sigh....
A more scenic bike ride was on the cards on Saturday though when my cycling buddies and I took a spin out in the Chilterns. I was feeling the hills on my legs this week, but the views and company more than made up for it. (Yes it's a 'Cookie Monster' cycling top ;) )
In the spirit of embracing my surroundings I also took the opportunity to stop off at the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park en route back from a Thames swim. I can't believe how many times I have cycled around and through this park and never been to see this little idyll nestled in the middle of the park. Just taking a 30 min walk through it and taking in the colours and the peace and tranquility was a like a natural reset.
My week was rounded off with another simple pleasure - a haircut! Between us Ian and I have been doing a pretty good job on my hair over the past months, and being more mindful of money nowadays, I am loathe to go back to my previous hairdresser who now charges what I think is an excessive amount for a short haircut. I now have a new haunt however, the wonderfully named 'Barber Streisand' in Exmouth Market.
Branding itself as 'an offbeat unisex barbershop' it ticked all the boxes for me - lovely people, a great cut and fantastic price! You can take the girl out of Scotland etc.....
I think we can safely say I managed to accomplish my monthly wildcard challenge of 'doing at least half of my usual mileage, and introducing the kayaking element'.
I had to consciously try not to do as much cycling and also turn down an opportunity to go running with a friend so that I didn't tip the balance! The distance breaks down like this:
This total distance adds up to just 85km which would see me passing the city of Juliaca, one of my final destinations in Peru. Like Chicago, it is also nicknamed the "The Windy City" because of the city's location on the windy Collao Plateau. It is also called the "Sock City" or "Knitting City" because Juliaca was a major centre of sock, sweater, and handicraft production. Now the production of clothes, wool and fabrics are industrial processes for the city. It is appropriate that I would also now be crossing Lake Titicaca as I finally introduce the fifth discipline in my pentathlon challenge. This large, deep, freshwater lake in the Andes is on the border of Peru and Bolivia and is often called the "highest navigable lake" in the world. By volume of water and by surface area, it is the largest lake in South America.
My challenge to significantly decrease my mileage was definitely helped by an invitation to a friend's house in Oxford (well, strictly speaking it was a 'houseswap' opportunity) and a rare chance to unwind. This property was located backing onto the Oxford Canal, and came with it's own canoe, what a result! Needless to say I not only jumped at the chance to have a paddle through this stretch of water, but also to have a swim in the stretch of the Thames that runs through Port Meadow. I was in heaven!
It was lovely to have some downtime to spend with friends - the first time in months that I had been in such a group social situation, and a welcome glimpse of normality. Having always been a big fan of Cambridge, I am now very much changing my allegiance towards Oxford as my favourite university city. We had a great walk around the historic centre and of course the plethora of watery locations definitely gets my vote!
And as if that wasn't enough, back to my partner Ian's place in Buckinghamshire for the rest of the weekend, we kept that holiday vibe going. It was a real treat to have dinner out at the wonderful Suum Vietnamese restaurant in Marlow on Saturday night. Highly recommended!
Rounding off the weekend it was then time to indulge my waterbaby tendencies once more with some kayaking. Westhorpe Lake in Marlow was the location for this and we were rewarded with most of the lake to ourselves bar a few paddleboarders, and the odd waterskier going past to create some fun wake to challenge us. I felt like I had been on holiday for the past few days, given my body some well earned downtime and am ready to face the weeks ahead!
Hooray, the sun finally came out this week! And then inevitably it poured with rain a few hours later, but hey, there was a glimpse of summer for a day or two.
The break in the weather offered an opportunity to get out paddleboarding again and in true nnoodl style (gently encouraging others to try new things) I managed to persuade my cycling buddy Giovanna to give it a go too.
She took to it literally like a duck to water, and continuing that theme, we were rewarded with this lovely image of a swan gliding by with her little cygnets on her back!
The paddle along Regents Canal contributed 5.6km to my overall distance this week of 185.8km. The breakdown looks like this:
This total distance of 3,564km would have be arriving at the town of Azangaro, quite a notable location in terms of Peru's rich history. The colonial church in Azangaro, known as the golden temple had a bell tower which exemplified colonial decorative adobe before its collapse due to rain disintegration. The gold interior of the church is a magnificent example of rich colonial art.
In the adjacent Plaza San Bernardo, Pedro Vilca Apaza was drawn and quartered for his role as a General in Tupac Amaru IIs attempt to liberate Perú from the Spanish government. His last words were, "Por este Sol aprended a morir como yo." (Translated as "For this sun that shines on us, learn to die like me") After Tupac Amaru II's execution, leadership of the revolution shifted to Azangaro.
My final piece words of wisdom came unexpectedly as I was cycling through Richmond Park on my way to my weekly Teddington Thames swim. I was aware of a group of men cycling behind me talking about the weather, wasn't it great that the sun was out.
I immediately tuned into a Scottish accent as one guy said how great it was to have his legs out as 'back home we hardly get the sun on our skin, it is like alabaster'. I chuckled to myself recognising this as I was wearing my full length leggings to hide my white legs. Then, as we peeled off in different directions at the junction I saw that the guy who had been talking had a prosthesis from his knee down on his left leg. It really gave me food for thought. How insignificant are our insecurities about our bodies, around things like legs that are too white/too big etc. I should be proud that my big white legs are strong and can carry me for miles of challenging hills and kick me through endless cold swims.
And now, to round off another month, it is time for my 'Coach's Wildcard Challenge'!
What could it be next, after hill climbs, weighted walks etc.? Well this is proving to be the hardest for me yet. Coach Tom. for weeks has been advising me that I have been putting in too much mileage. Not only am I hitting my interval and heart rate sessions on the bike and swim in expectation of an aquabike event, but I am also adding in the K's on the bike to get to and from swims etc. His challenge? "Reduce the mileage by at least half next week, and make sure you include the fifth discipline of the pentathlon (i.e kayak)"
Arrgh, why does the thought of this freak me out more that the others? I recognise that I have become slightly obsessed with the distance factor and I must admit that my body has been feeling it. But the thought of doing LESS is psychologically difficult for me to comprehend. Added to that, I need to find a kayaking opportunity pronto....
Watch this space!
It feels like this week has been a case of 'rinse and repeat' from last week, quite literally given the quantity of rain that fell!
Just to add insult to injury, a photo memory popped up from this time last year when I had managed to swim for the first time in over 8 weeks when the Victoria Docks Open Water swimming centre opened. The air temperature was 27 degrees and the water was 20 degrees. Not a Dryrobe in sight as I got changed in the sunshine, very unlike the howling 40mph winds gusting by the Serpentine after a 13.5 degree swim this week.
What is going on??
Very similar distances in just three disciplines again this week as I covered a total of 205km, looking like this:
Running: 5.3km (still going easy on this)
As I become more aware of which disciplines are bringing me joy this year, I am going to concentrate on aquabike (swim/run) events when the opportunity arises, so my mileage is all money in the bank here.
With a total of 3,390km now covered I would be just past the city of Cusco in Peru. This is the continent's oldest continuously inhabited city and is known as 'The Navel of the Earth'. It is as if time stands still with curious little streets with names like "Coffin", "Siete Culebras" (Seven Serpents) and "Harpies". It is also home to the only South American camelid 'theme park'. Camelids cover the family which include the llama and alpaca so often associated with this part of the world. The Awana Kancha, is a beautiful textile and camelid exhibition centre which displays the beauty of this family of animals and also showcases the products obtained from them through a combination of traditional and modern techniques.
If only I was actually there - having reached the milestone of now having completed a full 365 days learning Spanish on Duolingo I'd be feeling pretty confident speaking with the locals!
So what is this 'Mind over (waste) matter all about? Well about 15 minutes into a swim in the Thames at Teddington this week, a lady came over to the water to speak to us. As she seemed a bit concerned, we thought it might be about the river flow which was high again for the first time in months and causing that 'endless pool' effect. But no, it was to let us know that there was sewage coming into the river just upstream, likely to be in this area too. There was a moment where Nerina and I looked at each other slightly concerned and then said "Are you getting out? No, are you? Definitely not!" We had another 15 minutes of swimming to do! So off we set again saying how it might be immune boosting...?? Three days later and I haven't got dysentery yet, so I hark back to my old mantra that if you don't think it will make you ill, then it probably won't.
And besides I'm pretty sure the Thames harbours all sorts of stuff like that most of the time, best not to think about it!
Mind over matter came up again this week when my good friend Dawn led me through a Yin yoga session to demonstrate her newly acquired teaching skills. These stretches, held for long periods of time are definitely what my body needs and I really felt the benefit. Although I think my mind has a lot to get over before it can get into this pose she demonstrated. Yes, she is so low to the ground, you can hardly see her, nice one Dawn, I will work on it!
Here's hoping for some better weather next week, maybe then I won't have to do 67km of my cycling going round Regents Park at 6.30am on a wet Saturday morning...
Well the week got off to a positive start as I had my second Covid jab, and I have to say even as an events specialist I was super impressed by their efficiency at the local vaccination centre. It's not often you can say you have had an appointment of any kind completed 10 minutes before it was due!
Yet again the weather was very up and down for training, however I managed to get one run back into my training as my achilles seemed to have settled down a bit. I even managed some additional shuttle sprints at a bright and early HIIT class in Hyde Park.
Sadly the timing of the rain (as in, nearly every day) meant that the paddleboarding took a back seat again this week. But I still managed a respectable total of 200.5km.
The distances look like this:
(Hillwalking with a bike 2km....)
I was delighted to have at least one of my swims in the Serpentine before the clouds broke, and luckily had my new friend the GoPro with me to capture the mood. It is moments like this that really make me love open water swimming so much. Even the next day when it bucketed down with rain and I sought refuge under a temporary BBQ station by the lido to try and keep my clothes dry. I still loved it!
With a total distance of 3,186km now covered, I would be approaching the world famous area of Machu Picchu. Shrouded by mist and surrounded by lush vegetation and steep escarpments, the sprawling Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is the most famous archaeological site on the continent.. This awe-inspiring ancient city was never revealed to the conquering Spaniards and was virtually forgotten until the early part of the 20th century.
But of course much as this archaeological gem is very much on my hit list, there isn't much chance of me actually being there anytime soon. There, was however a rather intriguing set of hills which I often pass in the car en route to my partner's in High Wycombe. Northala Fields is a park located in Northolt consisting of four artificial hills overlooking the rather salubrious A40. Perhaps I could set myself a mini adventure to get there?
So on a very wet Saturday morning (yet again) this was my destination. Despite it's location, the best bike route there was along the Grand Union Canal path which is always a nice change from the London traffic. And in fact the rain even stopped for all of 30 minutes!
Some helpful signage gave me the opportunity to finally find out more about this intriguing site. Apparently the hills were constructed using rubble from the demolition of the original Wembley Stadium in 2003. The name ‘Northala’ is how the old manor of Northall (Northolt) was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086.
The rain once again started to close in as I wheeled and carried my bike up to the summit of one of the hills. Well, it had to be done, even though I knew what view was awaiting me at the top. Kind of surreal to feel like you were hiking, but with the sounds of major traffic whizzing by! The fun continued as I decided to take a 'short cut' back down the hill. I now saw why the winding path was a better option than skidding down a vertical muddy path holding onto a bike!
As if the week wasn't exciting enough, the highlight for me had to be my latest video conversation. Very topically, being Mental Health Awareness Week, I had the privilege of speaking with Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, highly acclaimed sleep and energy expert and author. I met Nerina purely by chance just a few months ago when I was swimming in the Thames at Teddington. Joining her for a cold water swim and a chat has become one of the highlights of my week, and it was great to be able to speak to her 'properly' (ie not shivering on a riverbank) and hear some of her wonderful insights and tips.
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.