Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll 2014

Rockin’ Liverpool

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We had a busy weekend planned. We’d heard from friends who’d done their other events that the Rock ‘n’ Roll running series were excellent to enter, so I was the lucky one who’s name came out of the 2-person hat and I was the one who got to run it. Kas had to make do with a weekend away. The race we planned was the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Half (there was a “full monty” as well, but only nutters run those) and we booked up nice and early to avoid disappointment. We booked early enough that it wasn’t officially a Redway Runners club trip when we booked up, and as a result we were in a different hotel to most of the other club members who went. A couple were in the same place as us, but not many. The hotel in question was the excellent little Hotel Indigo on Chapel Street. They didn’t have any family rooms so we booked two standard double rooms and hoped for the best.

Anyway, before all of that we had to actually get there. As it was a Saturday we had the obligatory trip down to parkrun first thing and then dashed home to finish packing our bags before setting off up the motorways. The drive was fairly uneventful until after we stopped at Norton Canes for some lunch. As we were heading up the M6 around Stoke it started to rain, and it kept raining pretty heavily for the rest of the way. Heavy rain on the M6 always makes it slow, difficult to see, and quite dangerous. And when we arrived in central Liverpool to park up we hit the next problem – the hotel didn’t have its own car park. We had to park in a public multi-storey a couple of hundred yards away. Fine if the weather’s nice, not so fine when it’s chucking it down. We walked from the car quickly.

After checking in and finding our rooms we chilled for a while before deciding it was time for some dinner – after all I needed a fairly early night and we were all hungry. Having failed to find a branch of our favourite Italian style chain nearby we resorted to asking the hotel for a recommendation, and they suggested we walk around the corner to Trattoria 51 – a local chain of two Italian restaurants. Meh ! How bad can it possibly be ?

Well, it wasn’t bad at all. Aside from the fact that we were early so there was virtually no-one else in the place, it was really excellent. The food was very good, the staff were friendly (always an advantage when the kids are around) and the service was really good. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit.

When we finished it was still fairly early, and there was still quite a lot of daylight left. It had also stopped raining at last and there was more than a hint of blue sky around, so I suggested to Kas it might be nice to take a walk down to the Pier Head to look at the big buildings and get a breath of fresh air. It was a really lovely evening by this time, to be honest. So we made a quick dash back up to the hotel rooms to grab our cameras and then off we went. We ended up walking all the way along to Albert Dock and managed to get far enough to find where I was supposed to be in the morning, and more to the point, it meant I could measure (roughly) how long it would take me to walk here again the following morning.

On the way back there were some signs that there was going to be a race in the morning, including some interesting road markings indicating who needed to run where. Straight on into that bollard for me then!


We awoke in the morning after a decent night’s sleep (for me and Izzy) and a painful, fitful night for Kas, who drew the short straw and had to share a bed with Ami the wriggle monster. Breakfast was open early enough for us to go grab something but not early enough for any lingering, so I got fully prepared for my race before going downstairs and left Kas and the girls in the breakfast room while I walked straight out and off down the road to find the rest of the Redway Runners Posse. As ever there were quite a few of us.

We met up outside the Echo Arena, which was the designated Race HQ. They had a baggage drop and some frighteningly long queues for the toilets. I was going to have to time this one well.

The race started at a very early 8am, which meant I was down at the start just after 7. It was quite cold at that time of the morning, but I had been bright enough to bring my sunglasses out of the car and pack them in my race bag. It looked like they’d be needed.

At about 7:45 we started to mosey over to the start line, and I was greeted there by Kas and the girls, who’d finished up breakfast not long after me, and had then bumped into a couple of other Redway Runners who were staying at the same hotel (but not running). They’d walked down together and arrived just as I was starting to get lined up for the off, and so just in time for a quick hug while I was relatively un-sweaty.

And so to the race…………

I can’t remember whether I’d set a target time for this but it was my fourth half of the year and I’d been getting progressively faster – well over 2 hours at the MK Festival of Running Half in March, 1:54 something at the now infamous Sheffield Half, and about 1:52 at the inaugural MKM Half Marathon on the first May Bank Holiday. The MKM Half wasn’t a PB but it felt like it should have been and I was feeling nicely refreshed and ready to try another one.

I set off on this one very quickly, running slightly below 5 minute kilometres. After the first 3 or 4, I slowed back to a more modest 5:00 to 5:10 mins/km but still fast, and I was surprised that I managed to keep this up until about 1 km from home – I had to have a short walk break then, but regained some energy and ran into the finish. OK, I knew I was going quickly so I was going to run down that last straight if it killed me because I knew I was on for a PB and I wanted it to be as good as I could manage. In the end, I finished at exactly 1:50.00 on the clock and 1:48.21 on the chip time. I’ll have that one, Guv’nor – that’s more than 2 minutes off

When I got back I felt surprisingly good. There were a few other Redway Runners around so we did a quick photo and then made our way in through the Echo Arena to get our bags and goodies.

I like the way they did it here – instead of getting a pre-packed bag stuffed with useless flyers they provided a bag and a series of help-yourself stands, so I was able to pick up a cereal bar, some crisps, a drink, a banana and another drink, but no bits of paper. Over at another desk they had all the t-shirts – I went for the largest, as ever. And then they saved the best bit until last. They were handing out beer tokens. Marvellous. One for each finisher, entitling the bearer to one of Mr Cobra’s finest, to be served outdoors in the sunshine. What could be better? Well, two of them could be better, and somehow Kas had managed to acquire one of the said beer tokens from someone else. Remember the race started at 8 am and it took me less than two hours. I can’t remember the last time I was sitting outside at 10:30 am with a beer in my hand.

Not only did they have beer, they also had music. Well, it’s a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, I suppose, so just after the half there was a half-hour set from The Christians, which was spot on for me.

After all this beer the assembled company decided it was time to retire to a nearby Weatherspoons for some breakfast. Blimey was it busy? We went upstairs – no seats. So we went downstairs and spotted some likely punters who were leaving and nabbed their seats before they changed their minds. A suitably heavy carb and lard-laden repast was had by all (especially by me) and Ami did a fine job of making the world’s longest drinking straw. Well done that girl!

By the time we’d finished breakfast I was beginning to feel the weight of the morning’s activity (and I was beginning to smell the aroma of it too) so we left the assembled company and plodged back to our hotel for a bit of a rest and a cleanup. To be honest, I could have slept for the rest of the afternoon, but it seemed to waste a beautiful afternoon when there was a) a few Redway Runners finishing the marathon at some point and b) a few geocaches available to be done. So I had a quick shower and got changed then we headed back out for a bit more. Anyway, the pros say it’s a good idea to keep moving for a few hours after a long run to stop yourself from seizing up.

So we legged it back down past the Albert Dock, this time walking along the riverside, grabbing a couple of caches on the way. By far the best was Albert Lock – a sneaky little Herbert that involves identifying which one of the very many padlocks attached the chain contains a little bit of paper instead of a locking mechanism. It’s surprisingly hard.

Once back at the Echo Arena we were obviously duty-bound to have a go on the big wheel. It’s becoming a bit of a habit (or another one of the “holiday rules”) after the trip to Brighton earlier in the year. This one sails nicely above the arena and gives an impressive view of the city centre in one direction and the river in the other. The glass was a bit mucky and scratched, which affected photo-taking opportunities a little bit, but the kids loved it (all 3 of us) and I think Kas did too. And we got to spin round a whole four circles before having to get off again.

We also went to greet a few more of the Redway Runners after their marathon exploits, and this time we got to listen to The Farm for a little while.

Eventually, we decided to wander back to the hotel, this time walking through Albert Dock and stopping in the museum place for some souvenirs for the kids, before retiring to the hotel for a brief respite and planning an evening. There wasn’t much to plan really. We needed a restaurant. The hotel came up trumps again by recommending Olive on Castle Street. OK, it’s another Italian one, but it was good. It was extremely busy so we were glad we went quite early, but even so we still had to sit at the bar for a while until they could clear us a table. After we’d finished we went back to the hotel and had a coffee and a digestif while the kids ran merry riot in their own special, quite restrained, way.

A new PB. I’ve gotta be happy with that!


And so to Monday morning, the morning after the day before. And guess what ! Nothing was hurting me. I must try running really early, drinking a lot and standing out in the sunshine all afternoon again. It seems to prevent running aches and pains.

We legged out way back down towards Albert Dock again again, and this time we grabbed a cake and a coffee at a cafe there and went into one of the many tourist-tat boutiques to buy some sweeties and other gubbins before deciding to head off. The car was exactly where we’d left it, which was good, and as it was the first ever time I’d been to Liverpool I asked Kas if she was OK to take a trip up to Anfield, not particularly to look at the football ground, but to pay my respects at the Hillsborough Memorial. I was working away in Holland when it happened but still remember watching the news broadcasts with horror, and it was, of course, my team at the other end. You don’t forget things like that in a hurry.

Not being familiar with the layout of the stadium, though, the memorial proved to be quite awkward to find. We parked in the massive Stanley Park Car Park and somehow I had it in my mind (without knowing) that the memorial would be at the Kop End, but down there it’s all gates and club shops and the like. The memorial is at the other end, which meant we basically walked all the way round and ended up only a few yards from where we’d started. Never mind. Football grounds aren’t that big, really.

We spent a few minutes at the memorial, quietly reflecting and trying to explain to the kids what it was all about., and then it was time to jump into the car and drive home. It was early afternoon and we had to get back, albeit that the kids were on holiday for the following week.

What an excellent weekend. My stereotypical preconceptions about Liverpool were as just well and truly smashed as my half marathon PB was, and we’d had an excellent couple of days. Kas is going to run it next year.

Marston Vale

Marston Vale

In a very rare turn of events, someone decided that they’d hold the 30th instalment of the Hertfordshire “Happening” events in Bedfordshire. It was at the Forest Centre at Marston Vale, which is really close to home for us, especially now that there’s a nice big dual carriageway that takes us there.

It was a very warm day, and I managed to persuade Daughterus Minimus to come with me.

Since the last time I came to the Forest Centre they’d managed to erect and absolutely mahoosive wind turbine right in the middle of the place, thereby generating all their own power and creating a very obvious landmark to navigate by. It really is big. And it had a geocache stuck to the bottom.

We walked around the lake with a few of our caching buddies, picking up some new ones that had been placed since my last trip, and also allowing Izzy to grab a few I’d already done.

When we got back it was well past ice cream o’clock and the event had sort of fizzled out and disappeared.

We grabbed a few random church micros on the way home too – at Marston Moreteyne, Hulcote and Salford.

The caches I logged for this day were :



I moved on to Garmin’s Basecamp tool, after spending some of the last few weeks gained more knowledge about mapping on my new Garmin Montana. I’ve experienced the pain of creating and installing my own custom icons.

The Basecamp discussion started during a long walk around Rutland last weekend when a friend asked me how I have managed to install Ordnance Survey maps at 1:25000 onto my Garmin using Basecamp tool.

Basecamp IconWhen I got the Montana it came installed with the Garmin base maps, but these are next to useless for Geocaching. The Montana has onboard storage for the GPS of about 4Gb, which doesn’t leave a huge amount of room for maps. I’m a hoarder, and I want to have absolutely everything I’ve ever bought available all the time. So I needed to figure out how to load my custom maps onto the Montana’s MicroSD card. I bought a 32Gb MicroSD card for some trivially small price off Amazon.

Following a few links on Facebook and elsewhere I ended up buying TalkyToaster maps, which are based on OpenStreetMap. These are fairly cheap, but I did find the style to be a bit heavy looking on the screen of the GPS. I wasn’t over keen on using them for “big” days out.

So now I have switched over to two different mapping layers, depending on what I’m doing.

  • Freizeitkarte maps for “casual” caching, times when I’ve not been able to “do it properly, and times when I’m not going to be spending much time
  • BirdsEye Select OS 1:25000 maps for days when I’m going on a splurge. Obviously these cost £20 for a 1500 square kilometre block, but you can have as many different blocks as you want. Once the credits are paid for they stay on your account for a year, so there’s no urgency to spend it all at once.

Of the two, I prefer BirdsEye Select maps. I find the colour scheme more relaxing on the eye when using the GPS all day. However, Freizeitkarte has three distinct advantages over BirdsEye Select :

  • It is totally free
  • The level of detail is good for around 28 different European countries and looks the same on the Montana and in Basecamp
  • BirdsEye Select provides raster maps, not vector ones, so when you zoom in too much, it all goes fuzzy.

So having originally said I like the BirdsEye Select maps, I’m sort of moving back towards Freizeitkarte. It gives a consistent level of detail across the whole of Europe.

Installing Freizeitkarte on the Garmin’s MicroSD Card

The process for this is quite straightforward, as follows :

  • Select the country (or countries) you want and download them – ensure you pick the “Install Image for MicroSD Card” versions, but if you want to use them in Basecamp there are separate files for those. I’m not going to cover that here though.
  • The download copies down a ZIP file called <LND> – where <LND> is the name of the country concerned, e.g. GBR for Great Britain. On some of them the “en” part is a “de”, presumably meaning that the map is in German, not English. This applies to all the German-speaking countries (Germany, Switzerland and Austria). All the others came in English.
  • When you have the ZIP files, unzip them one by one. Each contains a single file called gmapsupp.img
  • If you are going to install more than one country on your device then you’ll need to rename these image files individually to gmapsupp_BEL.imp, gmapsupp_GBR.img, gmapsupp_DEU.img, and so on.
  • Once you have your gmapsupp.img files, connect your GPS to your PC and wait until it starts in “mass storage mode” – i.e. you can see the device and the MicroSD card in the list of “disks” in File Explorer.
  • Copy the gmapsupp.img files and paste them onto the MicroSD card device in the GARMIN folder.
  • Disconnect the GPS from the PC and switch it on.
  • That should be it.

Here’s a pretty picture of what Freizeitkarte image files look like in Basecamp.

Basecamp with Freizeitkarte Maps

You can see the level of detail in the window on the right. This shows how my “dashboard” looks with the Freizeitkarte and BirdsEye entries installed.

Installing BirdsEye Select on the Garmin’s MicroSD Card

I’m not going to go through the process of explaining how to set up a Garmin account, install Basecamp or actually buy some BirdsEye credits because all of those are covered elsewhere.

So once you have the maps, how do you install the things on your MicroSD card rather than in the GPS devices’s onboard storage?

  • When you buy the map extracts and download them, they download into a semi-hidden folder structure that Basecamp installs. They appear on your Basecamp dashboard at the bottom left when you have the “My Collection” item selected. You will have this selected, because the maps won’t download if you don’t.
  • Look at the picture below. You can see the list of my downloaded BirdsEye extracts on the bottom left and you can see my GPS at the top left – particularly notice the Montana unit, beneath which is “Memory Card (N:)” and its “User Data” folder – this is where the BirdsEye maps go.
  • When you are downloading the map extract into Basecamp you’ll see a tiny checkbox asking if you want to “Install onto the GPS when download finishes” Ensure this is not checked. It will copy the image onto the GPS’s onboard storage, and you don’t want them there.
  • Install BirdsEye Select snippets onto the GPSr by dragging-and-dropping the files (from the bottom left) onto the “User Data” folder.

When you do this you will see a file with a “.JNX” ending installed onto the \GARMIN\BirdsEye folder of the MicroSD card (you can see it in File Explorer but not in Basecamp). I make safety copies of the “.JNX” files somewhere on my PC’s hard drive too, just in case the MicroSD or GPS crashes at some point.

If you do accidentally install the BirdsEye maps into the GPS’s onboard storage then you can find the same “‘.JNX” file in the GPS device’s\Garmin\BirdsEye folder. You can simply move it to the MicroSD card and delete from the onboard storage if you want to.

The map below shows a BirdsEye Select map (for Marsh Gibbon) overlayed onto a Freizeitkarte map for the UK. My GPS looks the same. Somehow it knows to use the BirdsEye map if there is one, and the Freizeitkarte if there isn’t.

Basecamp with Freizeitkarte Maps

This final picture shows an overview of the UK with all of the areas I’ve downloaded from BirdsEye. The amount of entries and coverage shown here is about 2000 square kilometres. And you can tell from this picture exactly where I’ve been caching since Christmas.

Basecamp with Freizeitkarte and BirdsEye Select Maps

Sawtry, Sore Feet

Sawtry, Sore Feet

It was the day after the moderately epic trip up to Rutland and Stamford with Wavvy and BingBongLong, and the girls were all still away in Sunderland, so I figured I might as well go hit the tupperware again.

This time I chose Sawtry in Cambridgeshire, from where I could easily access two series.

I’d been to Sawtry in spring 2013 with Wavvy and on that day had set myself a new record of caches found in one day (75). This time I had slightly more modest expectations, although having said that, I had no expectations at all on the previous trip and 75 finds was a distinct surprise. Anyway, on the radar for the day was poshrule’s Sawtry Saunter series and the now-defunct Little Gidding and Back series by IzaakWilson. The second of these followed the approximate course of MarcusMaximi’s new series The Izaak Wilson Memorial Series … and back – I wonder how that happened. And I wonder when I’ll be going back to walk around there again.

I had a slowish morning then hopped into the cache mobile for what is becoming one of my all-time most travelled routes (of all time). I am getting to know that bypass round Bedford quite well. I parked up in a car park. It happened to be the car park recommended for the first series, which was either brilliant planning or rather lucky. One of the two. This had the advantage that the first cache on the route was about 10 yards from where I parked. Always good to get into the caching nice and quickly.

There were a couple of hills at the start of the walk, which I wasn’t really expecting, and it was another fairly warm day, which resulted in me needing considerably more liquid than I actually took.

There was one point where the two series cross each other that I made a right mess of it, by causing myself unnecessary out-and-back walking across fields when I could have chosen a better (i.e. more circular) route, but otherwise it was a fairly productive day, although by the end of it my little feet had given up on me. In the two days of this weekend I’d found 136 caches and walked about 18 miles.

Once the walking for the day was done I did the normal trick of filling in my remaining time by finding a couple of church micros and some drive-bys.

Anyway, 61 caches found on this day in about 5 hours, so I was quite happy. And I just about managed to get home again before the ladies of the house returned.

The caches I found were:

Not The Smallest County

Not The Smallest County

Rutland is small, isn’t it ? I mean, not microscopically small, but in the context of English counties it is small. It’s the smallest, apparently.

Except that it isn’t.

Part II point eight of the Buckinghamshire (Borough of Milton Keynes) (Structural Change) Order 1995 reads ‘Milton Keynes shall cease to form part of Buckinghamshire’ and ‘a new county shall be constituted comprising the area of Milton Keynes and shall be named the County of Milton Keynes’. The evidence is here. And this newly constituted County of Milton Keynes is a few square miles smaller than Rutland.

Rutland isn’t the smallest. So there !

Anyway, most of the geocaching statistics sites also use the “City of Bristol” as a county too, and that’s tiny. We completed that one on the weekend when we travelled to Bristol for me to run the inaugural Severn Bridge Half Marathon.

According to wikipedia, Rutland is only the fourth smallest in area of the modern ceremonial counties (Isle of Wight, City of London and City of Bristol being smaller), and is the least populous unitary authority in the UK.

Back at the plot, the point of coming to Rutland was that it is a ceremonial county on several geocaching statistics sites, and therefore a trip was needed to colour in the relevant area. As it happens, Lincolnshire was a bit of a void on my map too. It was therefore an easy opportunity to proverbially bring an end to the lives of two flying creatures whilst requiring only a single object of the geological persuasion.

The girls were away in the north-east for the weekend so I was on guinea pig duty, which doesn’t, if I’m honest, take up very much of the day.

I had a word with Wavvy and BingBongLong and a plan was formulated. It wasn’t very cunning, but then it didn’t need to be. The general plan was to drive towards Rutland and do some caching. At the time, this area was literally covered in caches placed by Izaak Wilson, and as a result you could more or less roll up anywhere and expect a good day’s caching. Just as well, because somehow whilst driving into the area off the A1 we ended up in a completely different village from the one I’d planned. OK, Plan B. We parked up in Barrowden for a walk with about 55 caches to be done. The first stretch of these was along a long and undulating road. After that it was mainly fields, with a few woods for good measure.

When we got back to the village we had a quick food break and (cough) comfort break before beginning round 2 of the day’s activity – Lincolnshire. Well, once we’d done a few church micros in the area too – at Barrowden, Wakerley, Ketton and Collyweston.

For Lincolnshire we’d planned (mainly) a visit into central Stamford, because there were supposedly a number of church micros there. It proved to be a bit of a challenge. Many of them were multis whose final stage was some way out of town. In fact, we thought we’d got it wrong until we did a second one and the answer came up near to the distant coordinates of the first. Then there was a traditional that we couldn’t find. And then a tough one which we did find eventually. By the time we’d been in Stamford for over an hour we needed coffee and food.

On our way out heading south we made a series of dodgy moves trying to get the car close to some of these church micros, and thankfully all of them were exactly where we’d calculated and were found easily.

On the way back we’d all just about had enough, except that we’d made 73 finds, which is an amateur’s number. So we found a couple of church micros to make it up to 75, and then we definitely gave up and went home.

And the following day the girls were still away and I still didn’t have much to do, so I drove up to Sawtry and hit another 60 finds, so it became a very productive weekend for me.

The caches we found on this day were :