Joe Blogs

Louth Canal Walk

Jul
22

This post has been sitting largely written, as a draft, since about last October!

While we were on holiday in Cleethorpes, I took off for my customary “alone time” barefoot walk. I’d had a look at the available options, and settled on a walk from Louth, along the Louth Canal┬áto Tetney Lock, and then along the coast a little way to the Haven Holiday park.

Hannah and Oscar dropped me off in the centre of Louth, where I found a WHSmith and duly bought an OS map of the area. I didn’t expect navigation to be an issue, I just like having a map.

The trickiest part was figuring out how to get to the head of the canal. I got little help from the people I asked, most of whom hardly seemed to know there was a canal. I half-located myself on the map and headed for a thin blue line that looked like it hooked up with the canal, and after a bit of meandering through the streets of Louth, found myself in the car park of the Co-Operative supermarket with a small stream. So I followed it downstream.

It was hard to follow at times, but after a while I found myself at the beginning of the canal, where the stream is funnelled through a pipe, to trickle into the canal.

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The stream that drains into the canal. The River Lud, according to Wikipedia

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Louth River Head

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Having grown up near the Grand Western Canal and lived near the waterways in Birmingham and Reading, all navigable to some extent, it was a little underwhelming. The Lough end of the canal is very shallow and, as I would discover, most of the locks are in a poor state. Parts of the canal would be a struggle to navigate in a kayak.

However, it made for a pretty place to walk, and I finally set off on the walk proper.

The metalled path was hard going to begin with, and the area felt quite urban, so I didn’t dawdle and began a cycle of alternately jogging and walking.

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Rough stuff

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Tilting Weir

Tilting Weir

Tilting Weir

Keddington Lock

Keddington Lock

The locks were pretty, but in poor condition for the most part. The Louth Navigation Trust has plans for restoration.

Willows Lock

Willows Lock

Willows Lock

Willows Lock

Willows Lock

Willows Lock

Willows Lock

Willows Lock

There was a field with a bull and cows, which made me somewhat cautious. Being a country bumpkin, I’m not worried by cows, but have a healthy respect for bulls! Also, cows with calves are to be respected. I kept my distance and hastened on my way.

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Having a hard time identifying some of the locks.

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This fellow would have dearly loved to eat me, I think. I’ve rarely encountered such furious barking and snarling. I tried not to taunt him too much.

LET ME BITE YOU!

LET ME BITE YOU!

 

Being a canal, the terrain was flat and easy and I made decent progress. Jogging along for reasonable periods, walking when I wanted to enjoy the views, popping off the path to explore occasionally. I came across a few odd things…

A dead weasel, just lying on the tow path. No nearby road, no obvious cause of death.  A crow or similar had visited, however. Blech.

A dead weasel, just lying on the tow path. No nearby road, no obvious cause of death. A crow or similar had visited, however. Blech.

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As I got closer to the coast, the canal became deeper and fuller, more plausibly canal-like, and the tang of salt on the air. There was debris on the tow-path, high up from the water where I assume it had been dredged, and large shell fish. I think they were freshwater mussels.

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By the time I reached Tetney Lock I was tiring, and it was quite hot, so I stopped at the pub for a drink and some icecream. Some locals were quite perplexed that I had walked from Louth, with no shoes, but were friendly.

I had a dinner date with the family, back on the caravan site, so I pressed on towards the sea, following a footpath that should have taken me across the marshes so that I could join the beach.

Somehow, I went a bit wrong at the end of the canal.

Canal one side

Canal one side

"Estuary" on the other

“Estuary” on the other

I misinterpreted a path on the OS map and somehow ended up alongside a muddy creek. Being male, I wouldn’t go back until I’d gone far, far further down the wrong way than is rational. I kept thinking I’d be able to cut across back to the path, only to find myself on a narrow spit of land surrounded by mud and water. You can see from the embedded map further down the page just how far I went out of my way, and was just on the verge of panic as I wasn’t sure of the tides or whether they were a factor. Sanity ruled in the end, and I doubled back all the way to where I should have turned in the first place.

This doesn't look like much of a path.

This doesn’t look like much of a path.

This definitely doesn't look like a path. What to do? Press on!

This definitely doesn’t look like a path. What to do? Press on!

That looks familiar, I was here only a little while ago!

That looks familiar, I was here only a little while ago!

Finally, the sea!

Finally, the sea!

In the end, I got back in time to have dinner together. My feet had held up well, and the last section of the walk, along the edge of the sea, wading in the cold water to ease my muscles in feet and calves was blissful.

A good walk, but I’d recommend taking care to keep to the path near the coast.

Grok Runs Barefoot

May
26

Today I ran a 5K “Fun Run” organised by Microsoft on the business park I work on. The event was in aid of the NSPCC. I’d heard there was a prize for best costume, and I figured a caveman costume gave me a good excuse to run it barefoot.

I didn’t win the best costume prize, but I did win the “Most Creative Way of Completing the Course” award, and got a nice calf massage afterwards from a nice Microsoft Wellness lady :-)

Followed up with SOSSIDGES. A modern persistence hunt. I ran them down until they threw themselves from the barbecue into my mouth!

Hannah, Oscar and Paula came along to watch, and I met Colin‘s lovely wife, who came to check out whether I was keeping my word :-)

It was a lot of fun. The stoney bits were challenging but I coped with them OK and finished pretty strong. No idea about my time, because I didn’t remember to time myself. Hardly world-beating ( a lot slower than the “winning” time of something under 19 minutes ), but it felt faster than the 3-mile run in March.

UPDATE: I should mention the excellent response I got for both the costume and the bare feet. Lots of encouragement, clapping and whooping and “amusing” comments. My favourite, heard a couple of times from different people “it’s depressing when you’re overtaken by a barefoot caveman”. *grin*

Click on the photo below for the full set on Flickr:

Microsoft 5K Fun Run

First Barefoot Run

Jan
12

I have continued to run a few times in my wetsuit boots and felt, on the whole, pretty good about it. I have still kept it very short (400 to 800m) and worked on form. A couple of times doing two circuits of http://www.favoriterun.com/298785 and a couple of times while at my parents doing two repetitions of http://www.favoriterun.com/298786 in the dark with a headtorch and getting spooked by chickens.

Also, I got an unexpected gift of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It is no exaggeration to say that this book has had a profound effect on my outlook on running, and a number of subsidiary subjects. I am on my second reading, and I’ll try to review it properly at some point.

My biggest takeway has been that we are not designed to run how I have always run (with a heel strike), and the modern jogger’s running shoe does not aid injury-free running. It is the same information that I have read at http://runningbarefoot.org/, and in a number of forums/mailing lists that I have joined. Most recently, I found a book by Gordon Pirie which was freely available as a PDF until GeoCities went under. I have mirrored a copy here. I would highly recommend it.

My head is all a bit of a jumble about it at the moment, with information overload. I’ll try to write something coherent soon.

Since reading Born to Run I have continued to run, and have even incorporated some barefoot running in the snow. It sounds insane, but I have limited it to 100 or 200m at a time and it feels amazing. The feeling of running barefoot through the snow is incredibly liberating. Running on frozen hail was..interesting

Catch Up and running

Dec
21

It has been a while. We have been very busy with “life”. Things in the pipeline, Oscar, Holly’s new baby and Christmas.

In the odd moments that I have had spare (or pretended were spare), I have been reading about barefoot running. I used to be able to run reasonably well, with little preparation. However, that was back when I used to go to 2-3 Taekwondo classes a week, fairly regularly go to the gym and occasional aerobics classes (university classes, 100 girls plus me ;-) )

In recent years, whenever I have tried to run, I quickly get pain in my shins. Particularly my left one. Once the pain starts, there is nothing for it but to rest it (and ice, elevate etc which of course I do not do) and I give up. Shin pain is common in people who try to do too much exercise, too quickly.

The last couple of times, I have borne this in mind and tried to start very very gradually. I followed a “Couch to 5k” programme very carefully and gently for 4 weeks, but then the old sharp, shooting pains started and I had to quit again.

Then a friend casually mentioned some weirdo footwear called Vibram Five Fingers. Reading about those got me looking at the background of why they existed, which led naturally to barefoot running, Born to Run and a myriad of other sites so that I feel a bit overloaded with information at the moment.

A very brief summary of the concept is that we are not designed to run in modern running shoes with a big wedge of cushioning at the heel. Running without this kind of shoe automatically modifies the way you run, since it hurts to land on your heel. Instead you land on the wide part of your foot first, which spreads and your bent knees absorbs the (much smaller) impact. I won’t go into the technique because there is already a lot of information about and I’m no expert (yet?). Anyway, the idea resonated with me because of the pain I have suffered and the fact that when I have done more running it coincided with that Taekwondo which I performed…barefoot.

Also, modern opinion would be that with the problems I have suffered I should 1) see a podiatrist to get a custom orthotic insert made and 2) buy “the right” footwear

Both options are very expensive. Barefooting appeals because I’m a cheapskate. Also, anecdotal evidence suggests that it might help. There are also a number of peer-reviewed papers about it, but I can’t comment on them as I have not had time to read them yet.

Winter, especially with the unexpected snow and ice that is littering the ground at the moment, is probably not a good time to start actually going barefoot so I thought I would use what I have already. The Vibram Five Fingers are pretty expensive in their own right. However, I have something that is rather similar. When I studied Ninjutsu briefly, Hannah and I bought split-toed surf boots as a modern interpretation of tabi. They have a pretty thin, flexible sole and are very comfortable. I’ll take a picture soon.

So far I have started very slowly, just a run around the block, concentrating on form, not speed or anything else. I tend to go barefoot around the house by choice anyway, so my feet are used to being unshod. It is early days, but my feelings at the moment are positive. It feels like it is not putting the same strains on my shins.

If it feels like it is working out for me, I’ll post more.