Kymin Dash


It's April, which means the clocks have gone forwards, my skiing kit has been packed away until next winter (boo), and I can slowly drag myself out of semi-hibernation.

This year I've set myself the challenge of getting the Strava 10k run badge each month. So far so good - four down, eight to go! April's was also my first race of the year - the Kymin Dash.

Having grown up in Monmouth, I know the Kymin pretty well.  We used to walk up it quite often with Scouts, including in the dark, and I still look out for the white tower if I'm driving back from Wales along the A40.
That said, it's about 4 years since I last walked up there, and I remember the footpath (Wysis Way/Offa's Dyke) being rather steep and leaving me out of breath.  So running up it?  Yeah, that'll be a great idea...

kymin dash start line.
waiting to start

So many people in running club kit! I did feel a bit out of place as a non-club runner, and I think this is probably also why I had a recycled Gloucester marathon number/chip instead of the ankle tags that most others had.

I started near the back as I knew I wasn't going to be sprinting the 2km of uphill!  Instead I did a mixture of slow jog and power walk, which seemed to be a popular technique.  The road isn't as steep as the footpath, so it wasn't actually as bad as I was expecting. Along the way they'd put out plenty of motivational signs - "it's only a hill" etc, and I was very pleased to reach the top and the first water station - complete with jelly babies!!  I ran carrying my soft flask because that's easier to deal with than paper cups.

Once the hill was out of the way I was able to speed up a bit and, as the paths widened and the crowd thinned out, even did some overtaking.  I did have to stop and wait at the road crossing, which lost me about 3 minutes but isn't exactly the end of the world.

When we entered Highmeadow Woods we were greeted with a lovely muddy bog, which gave me flashbacks to doing Forest Warriors a few years back. *shudder*.  There was also a downhill section that was reasonable muddy and narrow, but apart from those bits (and the walk to the start line!) the course was all tarmac and hard forest roads.  I'm still pleased I didn't wear my shiny new shoes though, haha

me running.  photo from facebook.
A rare photo where I am actually sort of smiling - and overtaking the lady on the left!  Photo by Rod, from facebook.

There weren't medals (unless you actually won, of course) but I do now have a lovely purple technical tshirt.  We were also handed a Wild Trail bar at the finish line, but that's long gone... continue reading »

Passo Tonale


For our final ski trip of the season, we booked a package deal to Passo Tonale in Italy.  It's been a while since we went for a package, and the 0630 flight did remind me one of the reasons why...  But hey, it was a good price.

Early on in the week we received bad news from back home, which put a dampener on things somewhat.  This led to more subdued evenings than normal, with not as much alcohol and probably better sleep because of it...

We stayed at Grand Hotel Paradiso, which is a little bit out of the main town, but conveniently right next to some of the lifts.  Our deluxe room was lovely, the spa was ok (though an extra cost) but the food... oh, the food.
I definitely don't expect gourmet cuisine from a half board package ski hotel.  BUT - I do expect food to be warmed up properly!  And sorry, but 'peas and carrots in white sauce between pasta sheets' is really not what I expect from veggie lasagne.

However, the food in La Baracca (next to the Vittoria lift) is fantastic.  As is pizza from Alpi - and not forgetting the bruschetta and huge selection of flavoured hot chocolates in Bar Botte.

view from the Presena glacier
view from the Presena Glacier

By the end of day two I'd skied almost every piste in resort - only missing a few in Ponte di Legno.  After this, Jon switched to learning to ski for about half the week, so a lot of time was spent on blue runs. I did get two hours of non stop skiing by myself while he had a lesson though - no snowboard faff, bliss!

As the week progressed, the sunshine vanished behind the clouds and things started to warm up.  Things got a little slushy at resort level, but not enough to be an issue.  However, we woke on our final morning to a big dump of overnight snow.. and not great visibility. Ah well, can't have everything!

Unsurprisingly, Jon swapped back to his snowboard and we enjoyed the powder.

low vis, a hint of sunshine, and lots of powder
mmm, powder

That photo is from the 'Alpino' piste (number 20) which was definitely one of my favourites, along with 'Bleis' (#22).  Both start at the top of the Bleis lift and both were lovely in both the sunshine and cloud.  Also the scene of my only fall of the week, ahem.

Painswick Rococo Gardens


Painswick Rococo Gardens is only a few miles from where I've been living for the last 9 years, but I'd never thought about visiting.  Thanks to the Cotswold Bloggers group, that has now changed.

As part of English Tourism Week 2018, Visit England organised a series of Instameets to showcase certain venues/parts of the country.  This seemed like an excellent opportunity to take lots of pictures, meet some new people, and generally fail at networking.
I will add a disclaimer now: we were provided with free entry to the gardens, and also tea and cake in the café afterwards.  Thanks also go to Cotswold Tourism who were involved in the organisation.  Here's a group photo of everyone who attended.

Unsurprisingly, I posted quite a few of my photos on Instagram:

But I'd like to share a few more here too.

light on the café building
lamp outside the café

The day itself was cold - and in fact the day afterwards there was so much snow that the gardens were closed.  Within about ten minutes into our hour of wandering around my toes had gone numb, brrr. 

view from a window
view from the Pigeon House

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy just wandering around with a camera taking pictures of whatever random things I feel like.  I certainly do less of this while out walking now, as I usually have a dog lead in my hand and/or dogs to keep a keen eye on.

duck bums

Oh, did I mention there was cake?  It was very good.  The café was lovely and warm too - just what we needed.