Week in Review – 100 miles

This week I managed ten hours of training – a bit different from most high volume weeks though as it was made up of:

- 1 swim
– 1 strength workout
– 1 yoga class
– 1 100 mile cycle!!!!!!!!

I really enjoyed my swim workout although it was hard so I’ll share it below. The hundred mile cycle was fantastic and there’s a post coming soon on that so I’ll leave the details for now… except that it took us 7 and a half hours and was the hardest thing I’ve ever done although also great fun!

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Fast and hard swim workout – from 220 Triathlon magazine with a few of my tweaks

1) Warm-up – however long suits you. I’m pretty sure the plan in 220 Triathlon mag recommended 600m as a warm-up but that’s a bit long and time-consuming for me so I went for a slow and easy 200m!

2) 10 x 50m fast with 15secs rest (a total of 500m)

3) 10 x 50m alternating fast and easy with 15 secs rest (another 500m)

4) 10 x 50m at 85% effort with 10 secs rest (another 500m). I don’t really know what 220 Triathlon meant by ‘fast’ as compared to ‘85%’. Is ‘fast’ faster than 85%? That’s the way I decided to take it due to the fact the final set has less rest time. BUT I only really have two swim speeds and so I aimed to go all out on all ‘fast’/85% reps.

5) cool down! I usually do 200m of front crawl and breast stroke.

It’s a great workout that had me gasping for breath, heart pounding, arms aching. I really felt I had done a proper workout… when often the lengths in the pool are more mental and technique-based than really pushing my body. With a sub-30min olympic distance swim time, it’s time to think about speed a little bit as well as technique. I actually really enjoyed this, despite how hard it was, and am looking forward to doing it again!

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

I had planned a blog post on Dervla Murphy as a whole – the incredible Irish woman who has spent a lifetime travelling independently or with her daughter, mainly on her bike, and even now, in her 80s, is spending time in the Gaza strip viewing Palestinian politics with the same forthright approach as characterises all her books and adventures. Then I read Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle and my notes on that book alone stretched to almost 1,500 words. Clearly this book requires a post all of its own.

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Dervla was around 10 years old when she was given her first bike and decided that one day she would cycle from Ireland to India on a bike. She was in her early 30s when she set out to do just that, stating at the start of her book that “this is perhaps the moment to contradict the popular fallacy that a solitary woman who undertakes this sort of journey must be ‘very courageous’”. Two pages in, I was already grinning and shaking my head with admiration at her forthright, determined style. The main focus of the book sees Dervla cycling through the Middle East – it was at this point that she decided to send her notes home at intervals and have these passed around her friends. The book comes, apparently almost word-for-word from these notes. As a result, Dervla’s travels through Europe and what was then Prussia are slightly, and sadly skipped over. She set off in one of the coldest winters Europe had had, battling snow storms and icy winds. Her stoicism shines through as she writes about a fall off her bike and tumble down a mountain due to a blowing gale and icy roads, and a huge wave from floods in Yugoslavia also knocking her off her bike. “By this time worrying about pneumonia seemed fulfils; for days I had been living in a state of permanent saturation from the waist down, so that the only sensible reaction was lots of rum and no fuss”.

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The skipping of these parts was slightly annoying as it all sounded wonderful and I wanted to know more, but the beginning of the book really is a whirlwind journey: “I was able to cycle almost all the way from Cuprija to Istanbul, through Bulgaria and Turkey-in-Europe, but the Turkish highlands were still under snow so here again we became dependant on buses and trucks.” It focuses on the main events that happened to her, such as fighting off wolves, awaking to find a “scantily-clad” Kurdish man standing over her bed in the middle of the night, and threatening with her revolver three old Persian men who had attempted to steal her bike.

Dervla describes such horrific incidents completely matter-of-factly, such as an attempted rape by a police officer in Azerbaijan: “having discovered that European women are not as obliging as he had supposed them to be, he lost all control, and the ensuing scene was too sordid for repetition…… It is perhaps understandable that, of all the regions I travelled through, Azerbaijan is the not one I would not wish to revisit alone.
However, problems with the bike and/or the weather are (unsurprisingly) those that Dervla encounters most. A wheel breaking in the middle of a desert means a chance for an afternoon nap until a truck comes past and she can hitch-hike a lift. Extreme heat in the plains of Afghanistan and Pakistan is alleviated by constant breaks to sit, naked, under waterfalls – some days Dervla cycles all day but for only 15 miles at a time, interspersed with short breaks to lower her body temperature – but she does eventually get heatstroke. And then climbing up mountains covered in snow and glaciers, so steep that she has to carry her bike, which, after banging her shins hundreds of times, she does by hanging it complete with panniers around her neck. You would think this would be enough for one day, but no, Dervla then descends the mountain only to discover the bridge is gone. She manages to ford the icy-cold, glacier-water river by wrapping an arm around a small cow who turned up at just that moment and accompanying the cow through the river!

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Aside from the straightforward descriptions of hardship, Dervla’s depictions of the landscape she cycles through are so wonderful – anybody who’s ever been on a bike can appreciate the joy in “cycling day after day beneath a sky of intense blue, through wild mountains whose solitude and beauty surpassed anything I had been able to imagine”. This is especially obvious in her depiction of Afghanistan, a country Dervla develops a great love for; her descriptions make me very jealous that the likelihood is I will never get to cycle through Afghanistan in my life time. Having said that, it was not without its dangers in hers; everybody she meets says she should not be cycling through their country alone, that they would not do it. Twice, an incident in the desert means a road block is thrown up and she has to take a bus several hundred miles instead of cycling – once for over 400 miles in almost 24 hours of driving on a crowded bus, where two Afghan women, burkha-clad, were kept with the “goods and chattel” on the roof of the bus!
It is in Afghanistan that she sustains her worst injury of the trip, in a passage that had me open-mouthed in appreciation of the beauty she describes, and then almost laughing out loud on the train…. It begins with an incredible thunderstorm while Dervla is in a bus going over a pass to Bamian, with continuous lightning, “not flashes as we know them, but glaring sheets of blue illumination, revealing gaunt peaks on one side and sickening ravines on the other; yet it was all so beautiful and awe-inspiring that one simply forgot to be afraid.” A fight breaks out over the amount of the fare. One man brandishes his rifle and scrambles over the others to get to the driver; he is pushed backwards and Dervla gets hit in the ribs with the butt of his rifle. She turns around to see a “terrifying forest of rifle barrels behind me“. The bus stops, the driver gets out and brandishes his gun… “And I hastily produced mine, vaguely hoping to set a good example. But I was completely ignored while the verbal battle raged and everyone fingered his trigger menacingly as though it wouldn’t be verbal much longer; the angry shouts of all concerned almost drowned both the thunder and the hiss of the hail slashing down”. I LOVE the image of Dervla Murphy with her small revolver, surrounded by huge afghan men with huge rifles, crammed in on an overcrowded coach as the lightning flashes outside and the hail pours down.
Eventually a compromise is reached and on the bus goes with no further violence. But the result of the first protestor’s fall backwards is that three of Dervla’s ribs are broken. She continues on for several days, cycling, sightseeing and horseback riding, but eventually the pain forces her to the hospital and she is forbidden from cycling for two weeks.
Despite this, it is impossible to miss Dervla’s love of Afghanistan, the landscape, the culture, the people. She describes Herat as “a city of absolute enchantment in the literal sense of the word. It loosens all bonds binding the traveller to his own age and sets him free to live in a past that is vital and crude but never ugly. Herat is as old as history and as moving as a great epic poem”.

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The people she meets are almost without fail generous, helpful and friendly, showing remarkable “tolerance” for Dervla, even when their wives practice purdah – female seclusion involving wearing their burkha, they “so easily accept the fact that my standards differ from theirs, yet give me no feeling of being regarded as inferior on that account”. Indeed, Dervla believes she has the best of both worlds, being treated as an equal by the men but still afforded the level of respect they afford women.
“This is the only country I was ever in where not one single man of any type has made the slightest attempt to ‘get off’ with me, so I feel no qualms about a night at the mercy of my five companions. They all look as though murder was their favourite hobby (and maybe it is – among themselves) yet they’re as gentle as lambs with me.”
The only slightly discordant notes in this book for me were Dervla’s views on arranged marriages and purdah, which followed her dislike of westernisation and globalisation. She suggests that, where there are problems in Afghan families, “perhaps the mistake is to give daughters a glimpse of western freedom by educating them at European-run schools, and then to expect them to revert unprotestingly to their own traditions”, and she expresses great sympathy for a patriarch who wants his daughter to marry a certain man against her will. Dervla’s views on this were perhaps skewed by her general love of the country, and they have developed over time as she has absolutely no sympathy for such behaviour in her most recent book, A Month by the Sea!
In summary, this is a wonderful book, beautifully written and filled with interesting tidbits of opinion and insights on the way people live, together with the necessary hardships and challenge of any cycle journey such as this. I couldn’t recommend it more.

Weekly review – a fitness blog with minimal fitness

This week marked a turning point. I am fed up of hungover Sundays where getting out of bed is agony and the thought of getting on a bike is about the worst thing ever. I have really embraced the off-season. Not that I’ve actively gone to more events than before as I was always quite good at turning up… I’ve just stayed out longer, drunk more… And so this week I did the least exercise I’ve done ALL year – just over 3 hours – basically due to missing park run from laziness and missing a 2 hour cycle ride due to an extreme hangover. Enough. This week will be VERY different however as I’m attempting to cycle my first 100 miles on Sunday!!

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It was an incredibly busy week which also didn’t help, involving a trip out of London helping out the incredible US attorney Nancy Hollander – if you are interested in issues of justice and the rule of law I would suggest reading this article by her – it’s extremely passionate and well written.

Then a few days later I went with a friend to see Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies. This was amazing – a ballet / contemporary dance with an all-male cast ranging in age from 10 years old to adults. The boys were wonderful dancers, filled with anger and passion and the fight scenes between Ralph and Jack were wonderful. There was so much going on on stage that I’d love to go and watch it again – the show was funny, creepy, scary and moving at different times. Sadly it’s run in London is over but you can still see it in Cardiff, Newcastle, Norwich and Bradford.

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I did manage to get in one run – a fantastic, beautiful 7k run although not as fast as I would have liked! From work I ran through St James’ Park, along the bottom of Green Park past Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park, round the Serpentine and back again.

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London looking like Disney Land

It was a beautiful day, if a little windy – blue skies and sun and that wind gave me a nice little push on the way home! I think my new Strava update isn’t working as well as it did before as the run wasn’t as fast as it felt, and my slowest kms were those when I was waiting at traffic lights to cross over to Hyde Park … so I think I probably ran it faster! The best thing about the run was that by the time I was showered and back at my desk, tucking into a hot lunch, the heavens opened and it was torrential rain for the rest of the afternoon. Well-timed!

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This weekend was my gran and grandad’s 60th wedding anniversary… 60 years, it’s ridiculous. We had a huge family gathering with 26 of us, starting with lunch and followed by go karting at Goodwood. I’d driven down from London under torrential rain showers but the sun came out as we reached the race track and was sparkling on the puddles.

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The go karting track at Goodwood is great – to the left, the main track curves round and it was a day where people can bring their own cars to the track so there were some minis going VERY fast around it! To the right was the airfield with some lovely little planes taking off and landing. The go karting was great fun and I even won a race! Even my 84 year old Grandad had a go and was faster than my mum (which wasn’t saying much…..)

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We got all dressed up in the evening for a lovely dinner in which I drank far too much wine – together with most of the family – before spending Sunday morning in Goodwood’s spa. Sunday would have been better had it been less hungover but all in all it was a fantastic weekend!

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Off-season swimming

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I really miss open water swimming. I absolutely never thought I’d say that – at the beginning of this year I could barely swim, dragging myself out of bed for a pool swim was pretty much impossible and I HATED open water swimming with a passion.

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Early in May, just before 7.30am, I stood inside the Stoke Newington reservoir centre, unable to take my eyes off the grey water in front of me, talking quickly and giggling inappropriately with nerves.

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Getting in that water was so hard – it was oh-so-cold as it slipped down the neck of my wetsuit, my heart rate shot up, erratic breathing… and then I was told to duck my head under the water! It took me a long time to get up the courage to do that, but eventually I did, and it made it so much easier when I actually began to swim. The cold separated my hands into claws and gave me cramp in my leg, but I drove home that Saturday morning while all right-minded people were still in bed with a huge smile on my face and a feeling of euphoria I can still remember. And so started my open water swimming.

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A summer of it later, and I loved every minute. There were some weekends I missed due to drunken Friday nights and planned long Saturday cycles, but I never came away from a morning swim without a smile and a sense of peace and achievement. I’m clearly a ‘long distance’ swimmer – the first 100m is ALWAYS by far the hardest, which means I really struggle in a pool, having to turn and interrupt my rhythm every 20 or 25 metres. The open sky above, the cool water surrounding me, the ability to just swim and swim and swim with a wetsuit providing buoyancy – the noisy, cold waters of my local pool cannot compare.

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But the season’s now over, and all my open water haunts are closed. Next summer I will be in Madrid so will need to keep an eye out for open water swimming locations there – if anyone knows of any, please let me know!

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How do I keep up my swimming when I can’t reward myself with a lake swimming? How do I force myself to get into that pool twice a week with nothing direct to train for? While my attitude to swimming in general might have changed, my ability to drag myself out of bed earlier in the morning to go and swim in a pool and shower surrounded by clumps of hair and naked, wrinkly bodies has not changed. I have become super-good at making excuses to myself: I was awake several hours last night so obviously I’m too tired to go swimming this morning….. I’m tired from my run yesterday so it would be silly to swim this morning….

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How fast do you lose your swimming fitness? I’d like to think not very – technique is SO important in swimming that if you keep your general fitness up, and don’t forget how to swim, just going once a week is enough to keep yourself ticking over. Is that really true? I have no idea.

So what to do?

  1. Change up the times I go swimming – make this an after work task rather than something I have to drag myself out of bed for in the morning and then I’ll be more likely to go rather than put the alarm on snooze. If you find it hard to motivate yourself to do something, try just changing how you fit it into your schedule first!
  2. Get a plan and stick to it. I am MUCH more likely to go to the pool if I have something specific to do. It doesn’t have to be complicated, try 10 x 100m sprints with 30 secs rest in between or –a new favourite – 4 x 500m alternating between 500m front crawl and 500m using a pool buoy. To mix it up, I sprint the last 100m of each set and make sure to alternate 50m of my normal breathing and 50m of bilateral breathing. It’s enjoyable and using the pull buoy is a great workout for triathletes.
  3. Have lessons. If you’ve paid for something, you’re much more likely to turn up to it! I’m looking into lessons with [x] in London.
  4. Join a club. Like the above – if you’ve signed up to something and there are going to be other people there, you are much more likely to actually turn up!

Hopefully I will follow my own advice and it will keep me swimming throughout the off season, although sadly it won’t stop how much I miss the blue skies and warm lake of summer open water swimming.

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Weekly review – dinner parties

I feel my weekly updates are so pointless now I’m doing so little. But the whole reason for it, the whole reason to start a blog, was to keep myself accountable and so it would be silly to stop just because I’m doing less in the off season. I’m not working towards a build at the moment as I’ll just bore myself if I train non-stop all this week and next. So on Friday night when I had a yoga class planned and parkrun Saturday morning and my friend texted and asked if I wanted to go to the pub….. I scrapped all the exercise and went to the pub.

I managed less than 5 hours all week including THREE runs – two short, one meant to be long but failed at the 9km mark. One swim, one weight training session. Cycling to work every day but that’s it. Enough to keep myself ticking over.

Saturday James and I hosted a dinner party. We served up five courses of Italian themed food:

1. Starter – bruschetta, homemade pâté on toasted bread, figs in honey wrapped in prosciutto and nice olive oil for dipping the bread.

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2. Pasta course – homemade ravioli stuffed with a spinach, onion, Parmesan and goats cheese mixture. I rolled out pastry for HOURS.

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3. Main course – ossobucco – slow-cooked veal shin on a bed of lemon & saffron risotto

4. Pudding – Italian chocolate cake

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5. Cheese course!

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Sunday involved a lazy lie-in, a run to Westminster and a cycle home, dinner at Honest Burger and then a trip to the cinema to see Gone Girl. I loved the book and I thought the film was fantastic as well. It was a wonderful London weekend.
And LOTS of wine and home-brewed beer.

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Autumn!

Well September ended on a bit of a downer with a horrible crappy run yesterday morning. I’d planned 12k through Battersea Park, up through Victoria to Buckingham Palace, a loop around Green Park and then a lap of St James’ Park before ending at Pret to pick up some porridge.

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I knew it wasn’t going to work out like that by Battersea Park. I was just so TIRED. I don’t know what it was really – going on a longish run without breakfast? The fact I’d run the day before and my legs were tired? Wearing a rucksack? My ankles hurt and it was an effort lifting each foot off the ground. I gave myself little goals – get to that gate and you can walk, just aim for that junction before a break….

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But ultimately I had to get to work on time so I lost the loop of Green Park and only managed a shortened loop of St James Park. Oh well – I’ll try again next time.

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Last week I clocked up 8 and a half hours of training that involved one spin class, one almost 11k race, one 50 mile cycle, 1 long walk and lots of cycle commuting. No swims!! Ooops.

The clear blue skies and warm air means it doesn’t seem like it, but we are officially at the end of September and so it is autumn… what a wonderful long, warm, dry summer we seem to have had. I can barely remember where my jumpers and boots are kept!

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So in September I…..

Cycled 313.2km … back down after the highs of August which was in the 800s! I also made it to one spin class in the dying days of September.

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Ran 7 times - 1 park run, 2 short run commutes home, 1 elongated commute to work (see above), 1 short run around Canary Wharf, 1 10k race and… one triathlon! And NO treadmill running whatsoever. I managed 48km, my furthest run was 10.9km and my fastest run was 5.15/km in a park run.

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Swimming took a definite back seat – I only managed four swims in the whole month! Ooops. A total of 6090m with two pool swims and one open water swim in a triathlon. Need to get my swimming back on track.

On the blog there were:

- restaurant reviews like this one of the Shrub and Shutter in Brixton
– race reviews – of a triathlon and the Teach First 10k
– a book review and some inspiring stories of women cycling around the world
– a tirade on the suffering of female asylum seekers in UK detention centres (and did you know that most countries – not the US – don’t actually detain asylum seekers due to the fact that they haven’t broken any laws?)
– some advice on mental strength in training and racing
– and a lovely weekend away in Norfolk

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My best moment in September is a big toss-up between:

1) Seeing my times after my first Olympic distance tri and being unable to stop smiling – I achieved ALL of my ‘a’ goals except beating my mum… but then she had beaten all of her 2015 goals in the last race of 2014 so I didn’t really mind! Go mum :D OR

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2) the whole of a wonderful weekend in Norfolk for James and my fifth anniversary

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And so autumn proper begins.

Right now I am:

Reading: Dervla Murphy’s wonderful A Month by the Sea. This details her month spent in Gaza as a white-haired 80 year old woman, chatting to young and old, liberals and hardliners, not sparing any words in expressing her disgust at both Israel and Islamists, especially in their attitude towards women. The more I read about her, the more I’m fascinated and I’ll definitely be reading more of her books!

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Excited about:

- my first 100 mile cycle around the South Downs towards the end of October. I have no time goals, I just want to get round it safely and have fun. I was monitoring my knee as we were cycling last weekend and despite a few twinges it was relatively okay … but there were a lot less hills in Norfolk than amongst the South Downs!

- hosting a dinner party with James for 8 people next week. James is doing the main course (ossobucco) and I’ve roped myself in to make homemade pasta for the pasta course (it’s Italian themed). With no pasta maker that’s going to mean a lot of rolling out dough!

- a huge family get-together for my grandparents’ 60th (SIXTIETH!!!!) anniversary

- and generally, the nights drawing in, cider and pumpkins, the smell of bonfire smoke….

A weekend in Norfolk

Our weekend away to celebrate our anniversary got off to a shaky start on Friday afternoon – telephoning the hotel to find out what time check-in ended I discovered that I had in fact booked it for only one night instead of two, and they were fully booked on Saturday. Cue panic. Had the website messed up or was I just an idiot? Turned out it was (probably) the latter. It also meant that the price that I’d thought was for two nights was only for one, so instead of being in a very nice hotel, we were in a VERY nice hotel.

Anyway, I managed to book somewhere cheaper for Saturday night, left work early and we were all packed up and driving out of London by 6pm. Once through Central London the traffic was great and we sped up towards Cambridge. James realised we were actually going to pass very close by Cambridge and so we decided to stop and have dinner in one of our old haunts – the Three Horseshoes. We ate here when we were dating and both took our families for a post-graduation dinner. We saw Stephen Hawking there one time and there are often people who look like academics sat by themselves with a glass of wine. It’s basically a pub with very posh food.

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We started with an oyster each and then I had crab on toast as my starter – the crab deliciously spicy. Then, as I wasn’t that hungry I’d gone for another starter as my main – meaty scallops in a buttermilk sauce. It was fantastic, nicely washed down with a small glass of red wine.

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Then we were off again, driving towards Kings Lynn. We arrived at our hotel, Congham Hall, in a tiny village a few miles from Kings Lynn around 10.30pm. It was wonderful. A big old country house with lots of little communal hideaway areas with comfy chairs and sofas; our room was ginormous with the biggest bed I’ve ever slept in and hundreds of pillows.

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We woke up refreshed on Saturday morning to a slightly grey day with blue sky threatening to peek through. Our planned cycle route was about 50 miles, to take us onto the Norfolk Coastal Cycleway at Sandringham then on the cycle way up round the coast before cutting back across the countryside to our hotel.

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We had a bit of a problem finding the Cycleway, ending up on a busier road running parallel to it. But as soon as we were on it, it was very well sign-posted and it was great not having to constantly think about the next turn or the next village. The roads varied from wide, lined with well-spaced out trees and tended lawns around Sandringham, to tiny country lanes bordered by hedges and miles of fields. Norfolk is known for being very flat and I was worried it might be slightly boring but that wasn’t the case, the countryside was more gently rolling than absolutely flat with some lovely curving downhills and uphills. We managed 470m of climbing over almost 90 km so while not exactly hilly, not completely flat!

At one point we decided to leave the Cycleway behind and head down to the coastal road to see if we could see the sea. This was a much busier road but we made our way along it to Wells-on-sea, a bustling fishing village full of walkers, fishermen and crabbers.

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We stopped for some fish and chips before setting off back to the hotel. This was slightly more difficult as we were off the Cycleway and so it involved memorising village names and having to stop regularly to check directions. Need to save up for a bike computer with maps! Or an iPhone holder…..

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We had a quick drink on the terrace at the hotel before driving 5 minutes down the road to our next hotel – a large sprawling complex situated right by a busy roundabout. The buildings and decor were quite dated but it was nice enough. I had stupidly only booked for one person (what is wrong with me?!!) so we had a small double. The bed was probably less than half the size of the bed the previous night! That evening we were back to Congham Hall for a lovely dinner starting with two glasses of champagne. Proper, posh, old fashioned food. I had broad bean and mint risotto followed by lamb, and we shared a cheese board for dessert. It was all lovely but expensive – James was probably right in saying we’ve been spoilt by incredible food at much cheaper prices in London! It wasn’t any nicer really than the lamb I had at Shrub and Shutter which was probably about half the price!

We were slightly hungover when we woke up on Sunday morning but we packed up the car and headed across the road to a farm shop we’d spotted to buy some veg and a few Norfolk chutneys and cheese biscuits. Then it was a quick drive across country to Castle Acre.

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By the time we parked the car, the morning mist had cleared and the sun was out. We were at the castle of Castle Acre – built back in the early 11th century. I’m pretty sure we learnt about this place in history at school as an example of a motte and bailey castle built during the Norman era.

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It’s just ruins now but the shape of the place is still clearly visible all these centuries later, the moat and the grassy mounds where the various buildings would be.

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We explored for a wee while and then set off on a walk along part of the Peddars Way, a national trail which runs for 150 km through Norfolk. The route ran along the narrow River Nar and was really beautiful – clear skies, long vistas of fields… The only downside was quite a lot of dog poo on the path! Come on dog owners – please at least just kick it off the path. The route eventually ended up on a small country lane, before heading down another footpath.

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We didn’t want to go much further as we didn’t have the time, and weren’t sure when or how the route would curve back into Castle Acre so decided to re-trace our steps before taking another footpath towards the priory at Castle Acre.

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We’d spotted these ruins in the distance and they were only more impressive as we approached through the fields. There was a tiny fence around them, and as we couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way to the top and then all the way back down on the inside, we climbed through the fence to explore. It was as we were climbing up some steep narrow steps into a restored room that I realised the fence might not have been just to keep animals out…..

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A quick google revealed the fact that we were actually on a National Heritage site! It had been a priory back in Norman times – turns out its actually one of the oldest and best preserved monastic sites in the UK. We explored a bit more and then made our way out through the gift shop and ticket office, saying a cheery “thank you” to the guy at the desk before we scurried on our way! Ooops!

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An hour’s drive saw us in Ely, where we wandered down to the canal for afternoon tea in the wonderful Peacocks Tearooms. The garden was lovely, the scones were delicious, the apple and cinnamon cake was INCREDIBLE. So light and fluffy, even when I thought I was too full to eat anything else I managed to polish it off.

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And then we drove back to London and ended our wonderful weekend with a few beers with good friends at the Crown and Anchor. I really feel as if I’ve been away on a holiday even though it was only a weekend and would really recommend a trip to Norfolk!!