The weather has been glorious in Belfast over the last couple of weeks (well except Thursday when it rained, but we'll ignore that). It hasn't been exactly the hottest temperature-wise, but the sun has been out, the skies have been blue and there have been smiles on the faces of strangers wandering the streets. I've had the good fortune to be on leave from work to enjoy it and, when he has been home, The Yorkshireman has joined me in heading out and about into the unexpected mini-summer too.
Last Friday night, inspired by the beautiful sunshine, we planned to go on a bit of a walk on Saturday. A bit of a walk inevitably turned into a bit of a hike as we somehow ended up walking to the Cave Hill, up around the Cave Hill all the way up to McArt's Fort (or Napoleon's Nose as we locals call it), then down again and all the way home, about 11km in total we reckon. It took us about 4 hours 20 minutes including a pit-stop at the supermarket to buy supplies and a brief picnic in the gusting wind at the top of the hill (made all the more brief by the fact that about half of every mouthful blew away before it was eaten).
It was all very nice and pretty and scenic, etc, but I am not an outdoorsy kind of girl. I am much more comfortable with pavements than plateaus, with malls than muck, with Starbucks than shale... or as it became known throughout our descent of the hill, "fucking shale!"
You see, my balance is less than stellar at the best of times, but when faced with any kind of surface that increases the risk of slipping and falling (like ice, wet grass or fucking shale), I will inevitably slip and/or fall. It terrifies me! I cannot adequately describe the fear as I made my way slowly (oh so slowly!) and unsteadily (oh so so unsteadily!) down one particularly slippery bit, with nothing to hold on to and tiny little pebbles moving underfoot. Swearwords were emitted in their multitudes and my heart was racing. I was still shaking when we settled in at a little table at Belfast Castle for afternoon tea. Nice scones by the way - definitely worth a try if you happen to be in the area!
Having eventually calmed down, and with my leg muscles just about recovered, I also went for a bit of jog up the tow path earlier this week. I always looked at people who jog as though they were a different species - why would you voluntarily run? For fun? Seriously?
However I have previously written about my attempts to get fit and active by going to the gym and also how competitive I tend to be. The combination has somehow led to me now running for 30 minutes at a time (without stopping) on the treadmill at the gym, with the aim of increasing my speed slowly but surely over time. I'm not exactly speedy quick (I'm up to 8.8kph now) but it's more about the stamina than the speed for me.
The Yorkshireman and I had gone to the park to try an outdoors jog/run over Easter and both declared it boring and also harder than the treadmill. However with the nice weather I decided to give outdoors running another try and so headed down to the tow path along Belfast Lough. I had Google Earthed it beforehand and knew that the run from where the path straightens out after Duncrue up to Hazelbank Park was just a little over 3km. I've been reaching about 4.5km on the treadmill so I was determined to make it all the way without stopping.
I managed to make it but man it was tough going! Actual ground is harder on the joints than the treadmill and, dude, the wind! It was like trying to run forward with someone pushing me sideways the whole time. But I made it to Hazelbank, stopped for a quick break on a rock and then headed on back. I even managed to jog some of the way back too, which I was quite pleased with. I still prefer the gym but it was interesting to see how the two different conditions compare.
Apart from being all fit and healthy and actually being active outdoors (quite unlike me!), I've just been enjoying the lovely weather through the window and by wandering around the city, shopping for our upcoming holiday, sipping a skinny cappuccino or two and people-watching. Everyone seems to be in a good mood and it's catching. Even pubs are enjoying the craic - I had to giggle the other day at a sign outside the Kitchen Bar, a pub well-placed at one of the entrances to Belfast's beautiful Victoria Square shopping mall, which said "Free Man Crèche - buy him a few pints and we'll look after him for you!" Now there's an offer I should bear in mind next time I drag the Yorkshireman shopping.