Climbing Orienteering Running

Looking back on 2021

In the absence of any one major thing to write about this year, I thought I’d write a post about everything that has been going on with Pippa and I.

It has not been a great year regarding injury and illness. We have both thankfully dodged Covid (so far at least!), but the last year or two have been riddled with injuries for me. A variety of Achilles problems, then ankle sprains, and pulled calves and hamstrings through 2020 and 2021. Not entirely sure why, but I suspect some combination of just getting older and too much inactivity / sitting down during lockdown! All very frustrating. That said there have been some months with more running activity this year, particularly through summer and autumn. Races having included orienteering at the Scottish 6 days (or rather 3 days), running for DFR in the Hodgson Brothers Relay and the Wainwrights relay, a respectable result in the Lake District Mountain Trial, two North East Harrier League XC races, two parkruns (19:13 and 18:14), and one or two other O races. Also a few great runs out in the hills, particularly a long weekend exploring in Snowdonia and a run along the Aonach Eagach and beyond in Glencoe before the start of the 6 days.

NEHL cross country at Druridge Bay
Crib Goch with a glorious cloud inversion

Meanwhile Pippa has had a rough year after discovering a lump that turned out to be breast cancer. Fortunately it was found early (a warning to us all to check for unexpected lumps!), she had two operations to remove it, a week of radiotherapy (hopefully effective but leaves inflammation that is painful even two months later), and is now on 5 years of anti-cancer drugs (which cause side-effects similar to menopausal symptoms). However she has still managed to keep running, and was pleased to be selected for the Veteran Home Internationals orienteering (2nd placed W40) and finish a tough Tim Watkins long O.

At the start of the pandemic all events were cancelled, including JK 2020 that I had been coordinating. I still don’t know whether to be disappointed, or relieved to dodge the stress of seeing the thing through! Anyway, since events have restarted, this year I’ve planned the JIRCs relay and day 2 of the October Odyssey, and controlled twice. I stepped down as an Orienteering Foundation trustee after 6 years, but continue as an Orienteering Foundation ambassador and running the website and social media, as well as editing CLOK’s weekly email newsletter (“Tchimes”), acting as NEOA treasurer and webmaster, coaching NEJS, and volunteering at Durham parkrun.

A big focus of the year for Pippa and I has been working towards our Mountain Leader qualifications. Training involved a 5 day course, an outdoor first aid refresher course, plus days and weekends clocking up our required “Quality Mountain Days” – including a weekend in the Lakes with snow where we wild-camped in May, and a great weekend in the Galloway hills with another friend for us to practice our mountain leadership on! It has also helped us see beyond the physical and navigational aspects, and gain a deeper understanding of the environmental side of the hills – including being able to identify many more mountain plants than before! Despite being apprehensive, we both passed the final 6 day assessment and are both now qualified MLs. You might ask what is this all for? Who knows, but maybe something in the bank for if/when we get bored of current jobs…!

Camping in the Lakes in May!
Better weather in Galloway – where we camped on one of this loch’s beaches

Speaking of current jobs, my company Metaswitch Networks (where I’ve worked for over 20 years since graduating in 1998 – then called Data Connection) got acquired by Microsoft in 2020. We’re now part of the “Azure for Operators” division providing communications software in the Azure cloud to telecom operators. I’m leading a team of 50 software engineers, which involves a mix of people management / development, project leadership and product strategy – I haven’t actually written any real code myself for several years now! I feel incredibly lucky to have been in a company and industry that has been only lightly affected by the pandemic, where we’ve naturally transitioned to working from home, and I can’t say I’ve missed travelling down to our main office in London once a week (I’ve now not been down since the start of the pandemic).

Meanwhile Pippa still works in the Geography department at Durham University. Her research area is Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA) in Antarctica – which sounds exciting and impressive, although she will freely admit to being consumed by running the complicated logistics to update and maintain a network of GPS instruments in Antarctica (remotely – although she has been “down south” three times – see her blog here), and by teaching (a satisfying and rewarding pursuit but very overloaded), and little time for her own research.

Rock climbing was a great escape as the lockdowns of 2020 eased, with many trips to the Lake District (all my climbs in my logbook here), and a fantastic week in Lewis (the weather was good enough to climb for 6 consecutive days, by the end of which my arms were aching!). 2021 has been less active on the climbing front, partly with ML training taking more of our time, but we have been back at the indoor wall for the last few weeks, and looking forward to be out and about again in 2022.

In other news, Worf our cat passed away in November. We acquired him as a rescue cat back in 2012 (via an initial home at one of Pippa’s colleagues, but he needed his own house to “rule” without other cats!). He has brought much love and warmth, especially keeping us company working from home, and he’ll be greatly missed.

Worf in our garden

Regarding other diversions, when Covid broke out in 2020 I starting learning to play the piano (using the Simply Piano app on my phone) although I’m still very amateur. When lockdowns returned in early 2021 I spent several weekends painting all the rooms in our house in Durham, and launched into meditation, which I’ve since swapped for yoga practice.

So a year of various ups and downs, but plenty to keep us busy! Here’s to 2022 – when I move up an orienteering ago class to M45. Let’s see what it brings!

Lots of walking logged while being injured and training for ML