Sunday, 27 December 2009

Fight or Flight: Whats that all about?

Fight or flight? Apparently this response is 'hard-wired' into our brains (whatever that means). It represents some crumb of genetic wisdom designed to protect us. Now I don't know about you, but when I'm having an 'off day' on 'the Fell' (like today, for instance), I know when I'm struggling and no amount of wiring is going to help.

The Guisborough Woods six mile fell race was a snowbound holiday delight run through a combination of trees and trail. The thermometer blindly groped its way above zero but the snow wasn't going anywhere. With a bumper crowd and 1000ft of ascent, I shouldn't have been thinking about John Rutter's latest festive choral arrangement. I shouldn't have been pondering what the Ribble 10k was like or whether I might have fitted in well at the 'Baldy Man 10k' at Wexford. My mind just wasn't on the job in hand; half a lap in and I was suffering and all for packing up (wiring-and-all) and heading home.

Now at this point my 'flight' response should have kicked in. But here's the paradox. According to the theory with the decision made to pack up I should have been able to turn tail and 'race away'. Trouble was, I was racing but all I wanted to do was stop racing.
According to the theory then my only option was to stand and 'fight'. But lets face it with a runners physique all I was going to get was snow kicked in my face (those Yorkshire squirrels are well 'ard. Have you seen their cheeks at this time of the year and their wild staring eyes - mad for nuts they are) - So on I went;

The third lap arrived and with the uphill part behind me I contrived to 'go-over-on-my-ankle' which, for me, is unknown. I ran down the hill without much speed or conviction and Knavesmire man got past comfortably near the finish.
Clearly my sequence of nerve cell firing and chemical releases are well out of sync. Perhaps I need to call in an electrician to check out my hard wiring or run a few diagnostic tests.

Anyroads, well done to the organisers, marshalls and supporters for giving us lads and lassies a run out. It was Sanderson (NFR: 40mins) from Elliot Jackson and Tom Danby (both New Markse:NMH). Cath Aspen (54mins,NMH) won the ladies race from Caroline Warrington (Knavesmire) and Sarah Rogers (NMH). NFR won the mens race, NMH the womens. Results and photos on the Esk Valley Site soon. Pass me my soldering kit.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Psalm 121

Out for a 40 minute canter around the slowly thawing woods today. An easy run was punctuated by the occasional overshooting of the path or by some poorly rehearsed Torville and Dean pirouette (more like Orville and Dean!) where the snow had turned to ice. It was a peaceful antidote to shopping.

There are a couple of tracks which always remind me of particular Christmas's in the dim and distant past. One is Pat Metheny's Psalm 121 from the Scheslinger film 'The Falcon and the Snowman'. It also features 'This is not America' composed with Lyle Mays and Bowie:

The other favourite is 'Snowbound' on the 'And Then There Were Three' Genesis album . Both hugely evocative tracks which strangely never seem to see the light of day on the airwaves. You can find both easily on Youtube. Anyway, this is beginning to turn into a music critique so its time for another mince pie....One or 2 more and I'll turn into one. Wonder if Santa's been to the running shop?

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Cold Start

Out for an hour today. Stuck to the woods as the streets were icy and full of muddled shoppers and heavy traffic. As the sky became more cloudy I waited for the snow, but it didn't show until later in the afternoon. I think it'll be a trip to the shops tomorrow, so an early start in subzero temperatures is on the cards. No Loftus this year, so its a toss up between Guisborough Woods and the Ayhope Skyline on the 27th.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Its grim up north

Managed 12 miles yesterday in the rain; and then wandered out in the evening to see some of the club guys vying to be top dog at the Christmas Handicap in the rain. Their commitment had to be admired as they drifted around 2 laps in the freezing hail (and rain). No running today, but should get out tomorrow for a good hour. Still contemplating the Loftus Poultry Run. Didn't manage it last year.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Simonside Cairns Fell Race 2009

A record 116 competitors (and a dog) lined up outside the Newcastle Arms, Rothbury for the Simonside Cairns Fell race. At 11am with the tolling of the bells, we were off. Yesterday as I watched Phil Sanderson, Will Horsley and a few others working hard around the Cross Country course, I felt a hopeful spark that they'd see sense and decide to miss out on the seasonal treats of Dove Crag, Spylaw and the like. A quick scan of the pack as it made its way up to Lordenshaw in the first few miles of this 11 mile race confirmed this to be the case.

It was left to Heaton's James Buis,winner of this years Pier-to-Pier run and 1st in September at Simonside, to lead the pack home today (1st-1:23:55). From a quick chat afterwards he seems to be quite enjoying the fell running scene. Who can resist, after all, the Siren-like attractions of sphagnum moss bogs, the reek of damp fell shoes and wagonloads of extra laundry.

As we climbed up the foothills of the Cheviot's out beside Simonside, I tried to sit in with Fletcher (2nd-1:25:55) of Wooler. Like me, he had started cautiously and we began picking off a few runners as we got onto the heather tracks. I thought I was around 6th at that point. The tracks were very wet and there was plenty of vaulting from one hummock to another in order to avoid losing footwear, ankles or small limbs in the dark depths of water filled hollows (or puddles for short!).

Around halfway and after a chase of 2 or 3 miles, I had caught up with the runner ahead. We stopped momentarily as we came to a dense pine wood. A runner behind, Chris Sanderson (NFR) , shouted 'straight on', and we entered a dark, eery world, illuminated halfway through by Christmas lights and music powered by a little genny (or by santa's magic - you choose!). Bizarre: At least it made me smile.

I hung onto NFR man for a couple of miles before he dropped back but I had to concentrate hard to maintain the pace during the last 2 miles along the road from Lordenshaw down to the finish beside the river. Lee Bennett (NFR) was a whisker behind me. It turned out that he (and possibly others) had gone for a little 'detour'. So it was a pleasant surprise to finish well up, snaffle a podium place (3rd-1:28:47) and a bottle of Merlot as a prize. Karen Roberston (NFR:1:35:59) comfortably won the women's race from Clare Jackson (Allen Valley:1:41:20) and Sarah Lister (Blackhill: 1:45:34).

Some of the runners had a paddle in the river afterwards and I thought this a good idea until I got in. Twenty seconds later I had an unbearable ice cream headache (but from the waist down) and got out of the icy water pretty sharpish.

It was lentil soup all round for the finishers ladled from the silver cauldron perched on the bar in the hotel afterwards followed by a small but perfectly formed Guinness. Definitely Santa's magic! Reports, photos and final placings of the NECCA/NEHRA 2009 Championships, no doubt soon, on the NFR Site.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

North East of England XC Championships, Darlington

Patrick Martin of Sunderland Harriers won today's North East England Cross Country Championships from Chris Sampson of Morpeth. Some fast performances in what appeared to be a decent field this year. More photos soon on the Flickr site (Mens race only). With plenty from the club there, I thought I'd save my energy for Simonside tomorrow. Results now at the Race-Results site

Saturday, 5 December 2009

East of Scotland XC Championships: Livingston

Adamant that my form's been off since the Ben Nevis debacle, I travelled up to Livingston to the East of Scotland Cross Country Championships to prove a point. The race registration was one of these new fangled schools with fences like Fort Knox and better facilities than a posh hotel. As they say in Jazz Club....nice!

The women and youths had been out earlier and sections of the course had been mangled up so badly that they had to re-check the Mens course using dental records.
At the appointed hour, 230 club seniors and old timers set off from the start for 3 laps of torture. No fun runners or unattached joe publics here. It was strictly club vests, head down and get on with it (Strictly club vests..mmm, that gives me an idea for a t.v. running dance programme).

I felt reasonable despite my recent bout of lurgy and I made my way with the bunch across the squidgy, thick and luxurious grass that circled the park. It was then north around Dechmont Law through the dark woods onto tracks covered in pine needles; I remarked to myself that it was an atmospheric, scenic and interesting course. Running through the woods I spluttered a few bronchial notes and wondered if this qualified as a 'rumble in the jungle' - I was passed by clubmates Des Crowe at the end of the first lap and then Stevie Mason at the end of the 2nd lap. Steve pointed out later that it wasn't a case of him speeding up, more to do with me slowing down (-yes, I thought that too, but its always nice to have it confirmed!)

I dragged my weary body round the last lap to eek out a sub 40minute time for 9.8km and an utterly bodacious 109th position.

The showers were tip-top though. They remained hot throughout the wash down; although, with all the clag, the floor looked like a scene from a John Carpenter film. As I made my way out I half expected to see 'the thing' start to form within the mud that had gathered on the previously immaculate floor from runners discarded clothes.
Tea in the modern school cafe was quite adequate, thank you and, on the way home, I celebrated with a kebab in Dalkeith (It didn't have much conversation). As I guiltily guzzled down the amorphous jalapeno strewn chilli treat, I could hear the coaches voice in my head saying 'are your opponents eating this, eh?) I know I must be weak.

Alistair Hay (Central) won in 31:54 from Smith of Aberdeen and Strain of HBT; I never saw any of them. I didn't even manage to figure as a counter for the club team event. Next time I might have the kebab before the run; see if that perks me up.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Rough Diamond

Well, whatever your views on blogging, when it comes to the end of the year, as a diary, it's a handy document to print out and file. In the pre-blogging days I used to collect race results and file them, but flicking through them was duller than a maths exam. There was nothing that reminded you of the day, how you felt or the little incidents or people that make something memorable (or for that matter forgettable!). A quick review of last November shows that, among other things, we had had loads of snow and that I had a cold. Sitting here with the Lemsip, I've just got shot of the cold, again. I was hoping to get out with the NFR lads last Sunday for a recce of the Simonside fell race course, but my nose was tripping me.

I was happy to get back out today for 6 miles offroad. I just still might manage up to Livingston to the East of Scotland XC Champs this weekend. I sound like Kenneth Williams, the Khasi of Khalabar in 'up the Khyber' ; all nasal, but by Saturday I hope to be a little better. I'll probably still be running like Sir Sidney Rough Diamond though. No...better make that Brother Belcher!