New Treadmill

During the first lockdown, from March 2020, outdoor exercise was limited to once per day so to get more exercise, I dusted off an ancient treadmill and used that.

The old machine worked fine but it soon became evident that the belt slowed down at each footfall so that the readout couldn’t be trusted.

I bought a footpad sensor for my shoes and managed to calibrate it in a fashion.

To make the sessions more enjoyable, I was running an app on a laptop called Zwift which displays scenery through which one moves at a rate determined by how fast one is walking.

Now that we are in another lockdown (lockdown number three) and I’m using the treadmill again, I decided to splash out and get a newer, more up-to-dat model. I had a look around and went for the Sportstech F10 model.

The F10 is built in Germany and has great reviews for it’s build quality.

A great feature of this machine is that it is Bluetooth enabled and is able to send it’s speed to a paired device, in my case, the laptop running Zwift.

As can be appreciated, treadmill are much in demand during this period of closed gyms and when I ordered mine, I was told that I’d have to wait over a month for delivery.

Therefore, I was rather surprised last week, when I received an email confirming delivery for 2nd March. Minutes later, there was a ring of the front door from a man delivering my new toy.

The machine went together easily enough and apart from it being fitted with a European plug was soon up and running (or walking depending on the speed!)

I did a quick mile as a test and after having to tension the belt all seemed fine. I did seem to be walking faster to achieve 4mph but that is probably because my footpads were calibrated incorrectly. I’ll have to do a test recording both treadmill speed and footpad.

Brummie Cut

As I have done recently, I nipped into work for a few hours on Saturday morning. In the past I have gone in on public transport and them walked home. However, I needed to drop some stuff off and bring some stuff home so used the car and went for a walk from work, returning to pick up the motor afterwards.

In a previous life, I was a very keen geocacher. What? It’s a sort of high tech treasure hunt – There’s a video down below that should explain it.

So why am I telling you this ?

Well, many years ago, I hid a number of caches on the canals around Birmingham. All of these caches made a sort of trail which could be followed finding all the caches. The name of the series was “Brummie Cut” and, even if I say so myself, was quite popular.

The series formed a six mile loop along the Grand Union, Birmingham Fazeley and Digbeth branch canals. Six miles was just about the right distance for today so that’s what I decided to do.

I left work around ten and was soon on the towpath moving around the loop in an anti-clockwise direction.

The first thing that I noticed was that there canal was pretty much frozen. On the Grand Union section there were some great, long, icicles dangling from the bridges. The air temperature was a tad below zero but the ground was dry. Over the entire walk, I only encountered a few icy patches.

I was moving mainly downhill dropping down through the five Saltley locks. After a couple of miles I found myself at Salford Junction underneath Spaghetti Junction having passed a couple of snazzy pieces of art.

A left turn took me onto the Birmingham Fazeley canal head ing back into the city.

This time I was regaining the height lost earlier plus some with a total of eleven ‘up-hill’ locks. After passing through Aston I finally came to Aston Junction where the ways split with the right turn for the city centre and the left back towards Digbeth.

I walked through the edge of Aston university before the next flight of locks – Ashted Locks. For anyone keeping count, I did five locks down, eleven up so I should now be going down. At the foot of the first lock was the entrance to Ashted Tunnel. I could see someone coming the other way so waited for them to emerge before venturing in. This narrow canal required walking with a bit of a list to starboard but as it was only ninety four metres long, I was soon out the other end.

A few more locks and Curzon Street Tunnel before another left hander and I was on the home leg. After nipping below Great Barr Street I was back where I had started. Five minutes later I was back at work, climbing into the car ready to drive home.

On arrival at home, I took the dogs out for a couple of miles each to bring my daily total to just shy of ten miles.


TOTALS for 2021
TODAY’S MILEAGE   9.99 miles
ANNUAL MILEAGE   321.64 miles
#WALK 1000 REMAINING   678.36 miles
ROUTE 66 REMAINING   1956.36 miles

This week’s walks

We, the dogs and I, took a rest day on Monday walking absolutely zero miles.

Tuesday was a couple of dog walks totalling four miles. Nothing special but on my virtual Route 66 challenge I crossed over the Mississippi into Missouri.

Wednesday started the same way as the day before. After walking the dogs through a dusting of snow I spent the rest of the day working from home.

After work, I changing into walking gear and set off again. I headed along the cycle track running parallel to Auckland Drive turning off, after a mile or so, crossing the M6 and heading towards Coleshill.

Initially, I was walking around a muddy field as much of the earlier accumulation of snow had turned back to it’s natural state. After the field I walked along a narrow, slightly less muddy track which lead to the road to Coleshill Manor.

Once I had gained the road, I headed away from the manor towards Coleshill itself.

After a short walk along the busy A446, Coleshill bypass, I turned off to cross under the road and back off-road. I followed the River Cole a short way before crossing over it and across another muddy field towards Gilson. This small hamlet has been around since medieval times even boasting it’s own lord, back then, separate from it’s larger neighbour, Coleshill.

By the time I got home the daily total had crept up to a little over ten miles.

Thursday started with the usual four miles of dog walks.

Half way through the morning, my work was interrupted by a ring of the doorbell. Opening the front door, I was greeted by a big cardboard box and a man at the end of the drive.
“Parcel for you!” he called giving me a thumbs up.
“Cheers, I wasn’t expecting that just yet!”

It is true, I wasn’t expecting a big box, at least not for another couple of weeks. After my frustrations with the old treadmill, I splashed out on a newer model but it wasn’t due to be delivered until March 2nd – I’d even received an email that very morning telling me so!

I had some work to complete so resisted the urge to open it up and get it assembled – at least until mid-afternoon.

Assembly was fairly straightforward comprising around a dozen bolts.

Come the time to test it and I became aware of a major problem – the mains lead was fitted with a European plug. No great shakes as I soon found a 13A to euro plug adapter and I powered up the tread.

Just to try it out, I fired up Zwift for a quickie mile somewhere in France. The walk went well and I seemed to be walking quicker than the old model doing the same 4pmh. I’ll post a separate blog about the treadmill.

Friday saw a return to the two by two mile dog walks.


TOTALS for 2021
TODAY’S MILEAGE   4.0 miles
ANNUAL MILEAGE   320.02 miles
#WALK 1000 REMAINING   679.98 miles
ROUTE 66 REMAINING   1957.98 miles

Sandwell Saturday

In what is becoming a bit of a trend, I had swapped my Friday afternoon at work for a Saturday morning. The benefit of this is that I can use, even quieter than usual, public transport to go to work then walk home afterwards giving me a change of scenery.

The forecast, until Saturday morning was for almost continuous rain showers so only having my 5.5l pack I would have to pack carefully.

Luckily, Saturday started very foggy but with a dry forecast so I didn’t need to pack too much. I even had room for some sandwiches !

Before catching the bus, I took the doggies out for a foggy two miles each before grabbing some breakfast. The wife would also be at work today so the dogs were being left home alone – what could possibly go wrong?

If this were a film, this is where the speeded up clock sequence would go to indicate that I went to work, did some stuff and then …

I got changed into walking trousers, long sleeved base and soft shell top. In the back of my pack I had my empty sandwich box (cheese if you need to know).

From work I was soon on the canal heading towards Birmingham City Centre via a couple of tunnels.

It was still foggy and chilly but with my gloves and wolly hat I was fine.

Approaching the city centre the fog was still hiding the top of the BT tower.

There was a slight diversion from under the tower up to St. Pauls church but I was able to regain the towpath on Newhall Street next to what used to be the Science Museum.

There was noticeably a lot more people about mainly couples or small families. I think that this is one of the few goods that have come out of the recent Coronavirus situation namely that more people are getting out to exercise.

I continued up towards The Sealife Centre then along the Birmingham Main Line through Winson Green towards Smethwick. Just before Smethwick, the canal splits. Originally, the canal rose via three locks before descending a couple of miles later. In 1827, Thomas Telford’s NEW Birmingham main line was opened to allow lock free travel between Smethwick Junction and Bromford Junction. The low-res map on my watch indicated that I had to go left along the new section.

I needed to go along the canal as far as Kenrick Way but the nearer I got to my exit the more I realised that I should have taken the old branch. No problem but I did have a short steep climb to negotiate. Once on Kendrick Way, I passed the staircase that I should have ascended from the Old Main Line. I have been this was before but moving in the opposite direction as part of the Sandwell Six Towns walk.

From the end of Kendrick Way, I dropped down to a footpath running parallel to the Midland Metro for a short distance before having to turn off.

I was soon on the busy Birmingham Road just a stone’s throw from the West Bromwich Albion ground. I played safe and crossed the rood via the footbridge before following the public footpath signs along a drive towards the golf and cricket clubs. There was a guy stood next to his car on the drive and after the briefest of chats he assured me that I was on the right path.

I followed the drive and signs, walking past the club house, before turning right (I had to turn the M5 was in front of me).

Heeding the warning signs, I continued around the golf course, across a slightly muddy field and into a rather muddier copse.

I continued keeping the motorway on my right until I popped out of the trees next to Swan Pool, part of Sandwell Valley Park.

This part of my trek was probably the busiest, there were people everywhere. I made my way around the pool weaving in and out of family groups eventually crossing Park Lane (not the one on the Monopoly board) and into a slightly quiet part of the park, at least until I got to the next pool.

There was a slipway here leading down into Forge Mill Pool which was covered in geese. Obviously they had taken the hint the Swan Pool was not for them and had all congregated here.

I continued alongside the River Tame passing fewer people but two horses before arriving at Newton Road. Beyond this it was a lot quieter as I climbed gradually uphill to join the aptly named Tame Valley Canal. Another right turn and I was now heading towards Salford Junction better known as Spaghetti Junction some five miles distant.

Yet again there were a lot more people along here than I usually encounter but not too many that I couldn’t get into a good rhythm.

The canal is level as far as Perry Bar Locks where it drops through seven locks. From this vantage point I got a good view of the new stadium being build for the Commonwealth Games at what was The Alexander Stadium. It’s going to be massive.

I continued along the canal dropping down four more locks near Witton then another couple before swapping sides just before disappearing under the M6 / A38 / A38M.

Underneath Spaghetti, I left the Tame Valley Canal swapping it for the Birmingham Fazeley.

Three miles later, I waved farewell to the excellent canal system (technically I didn’t actually wave) to walk along a busy stretch of the Chester Road before ascending up the hill to the quiet roads of Castle Bromwich.

I soon left these quiet streets to skirt around the houses on a footpath between Parkfields and the M6 down below.

I arrived home shortly afterward having covered 22.7 miles in a gnat’s under five and a half hours averaging 14:30 per mile.

Luckily, even though they had been left alone all day, the dogs had behaved with no messes on my return. Bonus !


TOTALS for 2021
TODAY’S MILEAGE   25.4 miles
ANNUAL MILEAGE   284.3 miles
#WALK 1000 REMAINING   715.7 miles
ROUTE 66 REMAINING   1993.7 miles

The walk went well, I stayed dry and even saw some sunshine. The vest / pack performed well and my legs only hurt a tiny bit (they were a bit achey and sore later).

Feeding the figures into the Route 66 tracker, I see that I am about to cross over the Mississippi River, leaving Illinois and entering my second state – Missouri with less that two thousand mile to do.

Other Stuff

  LDWA Hundred    

With a definite target at the end of May, the training now has a purpose.

The LDWA has started a Facebook page for entrants only so I’ve joined that. It looks as though a lot of people, Covid permitting, are planning on walking a previous hundred route or picking all or part of a long distance path. I’m still planning on ten sections of roughly ten miles from home so that I can treat home as checkpoints and pick up food, drink and kit as required.

  Strava    

Playing about with Strava, I discovered the Heat-map function. This show’s all the places that you have been. My local area map looks like this …

As expected, lots of squiggles around Birmingham but also some noticeable others. To the right of Birmingham we can see Coventry encircled by the A Coventry Way walk.

Top right we find The Charnwood Marathon.

Other routes stretch out like tentacles mainly following canals with one up to Stafford. When my other half was working in Wolverhampton, I took the train out to Stratford and walked back along the cut to meet her from work.

Whilst playing with the heat-map I noticed a few omissions so I checked back and found a number of gaps in my activities list. When I moved over from Endomondo to Strava I requested a download of all my activities. Using this download, I was able to upload the missing walks to Strava.

Not an easy process as you can only upload twenty five activities at a time and because Strava assumes that everyone is either a runner or cyclist, marks all uploads as runs. At the moment, it’s too much hassle to go and edit every activity so many of my earlier walks (pre 2014) are shown as runs instead of walks.

There are also a few duplicates especially in 2019 and again I haven’t the time, or inclination, to go and remove them. Maybe one day – it’s one of those jobs like keyboarding photos that could do with being done but…

  Kit Check    

I have used my walking vest a couple of time without any problems apart from having to carefully select what is to go in the 5.5 litre pack.

I bought a couple of 250ml soft flasks to replace to rigid bottle that came with the vest.

The drinking straws are handy and I suppose that they a little lighter than the standard bottles.

I have also splashed out on a couple of pairs of shorts – longish shorts in a bid to get used to walking with bare legs. It’s been pretty chilly this week and I haven’t plucked up enough courage to venture out in them yet.

Oh yes, and I had to buy another #walk1000 miles badge after misplacing the one I bought earlier.

2021 badge 0J5A6245.JPG

Last Week’s Walks

I’ll lump this last week’s items together in this one post as not a great deal has happened.

Monday, we had a rest day. Very rare especially as the dogs need walked daily. However, they did a few miles extra at the weekend and were rather tired so we took it easy.

Tuesday, we held out until after work then we did the ‘usual’ two mile loop with each dog then I walked to meet the other half from work. Nothing special but six miles in the bank.

On to Wednesday, I took the puppies for a two and a half miler each before work.

After checking the plan, I noticed that I still had nearly five miles to do so after work, I dragged out the treadmill for a virtual walk around that there London courtesy of Zwift.

Thursday followed the same pattern with a couple miles in New York’s Central Park.

To top off the week, I just did a couple of the local loop with one dog each time – a nice easy four miles.

Sutton Park

It is the done thing, for runners and walkers alike, to do a long, slow walk on the weekend. Because of the running around I had to do yesterday, MY LSD (Long Slow Distance) walk would be today. My training plan called for twenty miles so I started with there miles of doggie walks.

After walkies, breakfast was had for us all.

I got my new pack / vest (still not sure what to call it) ready with two 250ml water bottles and a couple of gels. I had plotted a route earlier that would be mainly on hard ground but would take me along the canal and through a few parks. Total distance was seventeen miles so with the dog walks I’d hit my target.

It was dawn when I started and was rewarded with a bit of a colourful sunrise as I headed for Castle Bromwich.

I skirted the houses as far as I could before dropping down to the Chester Road. I continued past Spitfire Island and Jaguar Land-Rover (JLR).

Just up the road from JLR, I descended to the Birmingham Fazeley canal which was followed for a short distance as far as Hanson’s Bridge. Crossing over using said bridge I was now on, surprise surprise, Hanson’s Bridge Road. I took a slight detour following the sign for the National Cycle Route 534. At the end of this road, I was looking across to Pype Hayes Park.

Route 534, and I, then followed Plant’s Brook. This small waterway has it’s source in Sutton Park and flows under Sutton Coldfiled town centre before emerging near New Hall Valley, eventually joining the River Tame.

I was going up-stream firstly through Pype Hayes Park and then along the strip of green which is New Hall Valley Country Park. This park covers one hundred and sixty acres and includes one of only two working water mills in Birmingham at New Hall Mill.

After a couple of miles or so, I had run out of park so made my way through a quiet Sutton Coldfield town centre to enter Sutton Park via the aptly named Town Gate.

Initially, I was going to just nip into the park and exit via Boldmere but I was feeling good and decided to press on to rejoin the Chester Road at Banner’s Gate giving me nearly two miles of the park.

I made my way, slowly uphill before climbing what is known as Cardiac Hill to the lung bursting summit at 150m above sea level. From this high point, I dropped down to Longmore Pool and the exit at Banner’s Gate, following the final part of the Sutton Coldfield parkrun course (remember parkrun?).

Although we are all being encouraged to exercise from home, the car parks were all full and there were loads of families out and about.

From Banner’s Gate, I was back on the Chester Road heading for home. A long straight road for around five miles before I was back at the bottom of Castle Bromwich hill.

To avoid back-tracking I shot off along Newport Road then through Castle Bromwich arriving home after four hours and twenty one minutes having covered eighteen miles (my planned seventeen plus one for luck!).

My feet and legs let me know that we had just done a decent length walk with nearly all of it on either tarmac or concrete.


TOTALS for 2021
TODAY’S MILEAGE   21.0 miles
ANNUAL MILEAGE   232.35 miles
#WALK 1000 REMAINING   767.65 miles
ROUTE 66 REMAINING   2045.65 miles

  Month One    

January 31st 2021. The first month of the year and already two hundred and thirty two miles walked. I’m nearly a quarter of the way to my #Walk1000 miles challenge and over a tenth of the length of Route 66 completed.

Wet Walk

I was up nice (?) and early but looking out of the window all I saw was rain – and plenty of it. I checked the forecast and it was due to dry up by the afternoon. Now if I took the dogs out in the rain, I would have to stop and dry the first one off before going out with pooch number two and then the hassle of drying number two dog off. I decided to take myself out in the wet stuff and leave the puppies until later.

For a bit of a change, and that’s getting harder with the Covid restrictions limiting exercise to one’s locale, I headed towards Chelmsley Wood.

The rain didn’t stop but after nearly three miles, I turned around and started back. It was still dark as I passed the shopping centre but grabbed a quickie photo showing the ASDA sign reflecting off the puddles.

Early afternoon, with the rain easing slightly, I had to run an errand which resulted in me walking home from nearby Kingshurst. Only a mile and a half but as it had stopped raining on my return, I saddled up the dogs (one at a time) for another mile and a half each.


TOTALS for 2021
TODAY’S MILEAGE   11.19 miles
ANNUAL MILEAGE   211.35 miles
#WALK 1000 REMAINING   788.65 miles
ROUTE 66 REMAINING   2066.65 miles

Two Hundred

After crunching yesterday’s numbers, I realised a few things …

  • I have almost covered two hundred mile so far this year
  • I am almost a fifth of the way to achieving the #walk 1000 mile challenge
  • I am in (one of the many) Springfields, US on my Route 66 challenge
Los Simpsons:Springfield Tapped Out IDs agregatones - Home | Facebook

With my total standing at one hundred and ninety-five miles, obviously I had to do at least five miles today, even if the plan says only four.

The doggies had me up around six, as per usual, so after a cursory glance at my inbox, I decided that I’d have to go walkies.

I’d read something yesterday about walking the dogs as one would if cani-crossing, i.e. in harness with a bungee lead and belt. Mmm? I wonder !

Misty first. Both dogs get excited when they think that they are going out but Misty is extra bouncy and it took a while to get her still for long enough to put her harness on.

Being still, technically, a puppy (she’ll turn two in April) she hasn’t been allowed to ‘run’ off in front – until today.

She will run off when off-lead at the “Go on!” command. With the lead between us she did exactly the same put didn’t pull excessively and after a short while stayed ahead with the lead slightly loose. Good Girl !

We were on one of our usual routes, Arran Way, which is two miles long so to get today’s mileage up to that five mile target we added a little extra and continued to Shetland Walk.

Misty performed well with our average pace improving from around 18:30 to under 16:00 minutes per mile.

Gabby was next out. I have run with Gabby before so she knew what to do. We did the same route for a total of 5.3 miles with one of our miles covered in 14:01.

We had a good workout at an average pace of 15:11 which taking into account all the sniffing and toilet stops (by the dogs) seems very good. The dogs behaved excellently and I had a faster than normal walk so I believe that this could be the way forward.


TOTALS for 2021
TODAY’S MILEAGE   5.3 miles
ANNUAL MILEAGE   200.16 miles
#WALK 1000 REMAINING   799.84 miles
ROUTE 66 REMAINING   2077.84 miles

Along the Cut

Because of the nature of my job, I am able to work from home most of the time but occasionally I have to go to site. Today was one of those times.

I caught the bus to Birmingham city centre and walk the best part of a mile from the bus stop to work. Luckily, I was able to do most of this commute along the canal passing through Digbeth ‘Tunnel’ en route.

I had packed and was travelling light with my new pack. I had the two half pint (250ml) bottles on the front and a soft shell jacket, First Aid Kit and emergency toilet kit and my sarnies in the back.

A little under a mile after getting off the bus I was getting in to work.

After I had done what I had gone into work to do, I donned my walking gear and set off for home, initially by heading for the Grand Union Canal. After crossing the Coventry Road (A45), for the first time, I was on the cut and after ascending a few locks was walking past Vincent Timber. There is always the scent of newly cut wood drifting across the canal at this spot.

I continued along the Grand Union for a little over two miles leaving the water behind (for now) at Kings Road. At the end of Kings Road, I had to wait for the lights to re-cross the Coventry Road. A short walk past mostly closed shops brought me to the River Cole. I took the parallel footpath and started on what would be six miles alongside the river.

The going was good with the occasional puddle that was easily circumnavigated.

Just before the path went under the railway at Stetchform, the going went from good to soft which required a bit of puddle jumping, not always 100% effective !

On the other side of the railway, what is normally a small pool was now a much larger lake. This got me slightly concerned as an upcoming stretch often floods after a downpour.

After negotiating the, still under re-construction, roundabout on Stetchford Road / Stetchford Lane, I regained the footpath which is now named Cole Valley Way. As feared, parts of this next stretch were under water and were, all but one, walked around. The one that wasn’t, resulted in me getting my feet rather damp.

The approach to Cole Hall Lane was again blocked but it was also about a foot deep. “Sod that!” I though and back tracked so that I could circumvent this section by walking along the road.

From Cole Hall Lane, the path was generally above water or easily got around.

Ay Babbs Mill, Kingshurst, I left the Cole behind and after a stint through Yorks Wood completed my walk on pavements arriving home having clocked up another eleven miles.

The new pack worked well with my drinks readily accessible. The only negative was that as the bag is a snug fit, it did result in a sweaty back.


TOTALS for 2021
TODAY’S MILEAGE   11.9 miles
ANNUAL MILEAGE   194.9 miles
#WALK 1000 REMAINING   805.1 miles
ROUTE 66 REMAINING   2083.1 miles