Week 13 – The Grand Canal

In which I Cycle 144k, Run 29k and Swim 2.5k

On Tuesday I cycle to Regent’s Park and pick up the Regent’s Canal spur of the Grand Union Canal, which I will follow for the next 27 miles to the edge of the Chilterns. I’ve never cycled this route before and am interested in seeing if the tow-path can be followed without interruption. Apart from the Maida tunnel and two small sections either side of it, I find that it can. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Not far from “Little Venice”. You could almost be in Italy

I finally leave the canal, after following it almost to Rickmansworth, 4 miles from my destination – the Youth Hostel at Jordans – arriving there about four-and-a-half hours after leaving home. I am a volunteer leader on National Trust working holidays and some 24 of us are meeting for a short training-refresher weekend mixed with some scrub clearance. I am the only one who hasn’t arrived in their own car. I always feel somewhat of an elliptical peg in a round hole as a NT leader. The majority of the group are old timers like myself with a few relative ‘youngsters’ who haven’t yet passed their 40’s. The men are mostly hail-fellow-well-met,  bibulous and sociable and the women their female counterparts, often with some experience of playing hockey. After the initial good-manners displayed by sober strangers and an ample meal with alcoholic accompaniment, the level of the conversation gravitates towards the anecdotal and that over-familiar and slightly disparaging humour that passes for mateyness. Once that register has been reached it’s rarely subsequently parted from, except in individual one-to-one conversations, when a person tends to revert to their normal persona. Mostly, my co-attendeees seem more interested in the social and hedonistic aspects of the holidays, and talk much about pubs, recipes, the facilities and comforts of various venues and the people they have encountered. None seem much concerned with ecology, recycling, carbon-footprints, food ethics, biodiversity, rights-of-way and the similar causes that brought me to conservation work. As the sober, vegetarian, cyclist I blend in at the edge of this gregarious and amiable group.

The next morning we are at Runnymede, clearing scrub to open up a vista for the Magna Carta 800-year anniversary jamboree that will take place later in the year. After that we have an afternoon mostly of corporate management-style team leader evaluations and exercises. It’s like a refresher course in common sense with a few legal reminders thrown in. The day after that, there is a walk organised but as it’s raining and I have a long  bike ride home, I ‘pass’ on that and retrace my route of Friday along the canal in showers and gusts of wind – fortunately predominantly pushing me on my way.. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA West of London in the rain. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA State of the Union – West London.


Thursday 26th March. Get my ‘good’ road bike out of storage for the weekend and take it on a short test spin (5k). Later, a 6k run in 31″51′ and in the course of which I pass the 300km mark for the year, but it always seems harder in the afternoon for some reason.

Friday. 3k run in the morning (14″55′). After lunch I head off by bike to a weekend residential course for National Trust volunteer leaders near Chalfont Saint Peter (see above) – 56k.

Saturday. Conservation work and leader training for the NT takes the whole day, but I manage to fit in a 20-minute run before breakfast (>3k approx).

Sunday. Friday’s ride reversed – another 56k. The clocks have gone forward so took advantage of the lighter evening to plod out a rather weary 3k run (15″14′).

Monday. Cold, grey, wet; it feels like spring winter will never end. Only managed 12k on the bike and a fast 3k run (14″46′)

Tuesday. A very blustery day. Cycled to the pool (4k) for a 100-length swim (2.5k) and added a very gentle 3k run (15″37′) in the evening.

Wednesday. A schizo day with warm sunshine and biting wind. Off to the park for a long run of 8k (43″27′) rewarded with cake and cappuchino at the cafe afterwards.

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