Monday, 29 November 2010

Before the Thaw

Day off. Fought my way around another 10 miles this time heading off eastwards for 8 miles through Bothal woods and with 2 road miles added for good measure. It was slow going, deep slush in places. Got caught out around the 5 mile mark in a mini-blizzard when the wind picked up. Nipped back down into the woods. The downfall only lasted for 10 minutes. We are loving the weather; yes?

With absolutely no one in sight I was happy to be pushing through the ankle deep snow to Marillion (Marbles) and Snow Patrol but it was 'War of the Worlds' soundtrack that proved to be bang-on, haunting, the production and Richard Burton's narration as crisp as the new snow as I made my way through the eerily abandoned and transformed alien countryside...'
the chances of anyone running in this are a million to one they said..'
The local hardware shop sold 250 pairs of wellies at the weekend. Thats a result. The only one this weekend around here.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Tales from an igloo

I'm a sucker for the snow and with only another inch added last night I grabbed the thawing fell shoes off the radiator, dug out the camera-phone and stole out into the early morning's snow scape.

No dog today. I did the same run I did yesterday with an extra 2 mile loop thrown in toward the end. It only took me around 1:40 for 12 miles mostly down to taking fewer snaps than any speed. I bumped into a couple of NFR guys and stopped for a chat and, later, another runner who spent the mile we ran together extolling the virtues of compression tights.

In the woods the trees were filled with huge blobs of cotton wool and the path was barely discernible but I avoided the deeper stuff and made good progress, scrunching through the snow and stumbling only once going up a cambered bank. By the time I came out of the woods I expected to be running out of a wardrobe. I always fancied Canada but never been there and I wonder if this is what Calgary's like for 5 months of the year.

There was virtually no traffic on the road and I guess I could have gone on for another hour or so. Its been a bit milder here this afternoon, but we'll see what tonight brings. I'll probably go for another long one tomorrow. It's a good workout for the quads.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Welcome to Northumberland 2010

After a week of no running whatsoever, my cabin fever spilled over as I drew the curtains back this morning to reveal another huge dump of snow.
It was all too much and I took off with the dog for a 10 mile 2 hour run through the woods and across the bridleways stopping for a few photos every so often. I think we've got about a foot or so of snow now. The weight of snow had brought down a few boughs in the woods and there was a lot of ducking and diving as I dodged the burdened branches. Today was all snow and I felt like an extra from Ice Station Zebra or Fargo. My feet stayed dry in the Salomon's with a plastic bag sandwiched between 2 pairs of socks and plenty of layers on above and my fingers only started to get cold on the way home.
The A1 was all but deserted and it really was a winter wonderland. The dog's done in and asleep behind the settee already.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bonjour Mes Pingouins

Brrr...La neige est arrivée. Je regrette que je ne sois pas dans un endroit chaud. Je ne running pas aujourd'hui. Suis-je devenir faible? La plume de ma tante Aggie est dans le jardin.
....Ca plane pour moi.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Claybank West Fell Race 2010

Prolonged rain yesterday. Heavy showers this morning and the thermometer had forgotten to get up. Two degrees as the sleet splattered the windscreen as I parked up on Claybank for the Claybank West Fell Race.

At 9.15am there wasn't too many folk around, but by 10:15am there was a snaking queue outside the organisers car, his mobile office.

Around 150 had turned up for this 4 mile bogfest. To be truthful, it wasn't so much boggy but just plain slippy as the clay that leads up to the Roof of the North York Moors (which was where we were headed) is thin and peppered by loads of cobbles and boulders that lie in wait to ambush you, should you drop your guard. I had donned my bib-tights, an all in one cycling garment that's great in wet, cold conditions. It was also a double glove day.

After advising the gathered chattering throng that it was wet and to check the risk assessment, Dave Parry set us off and it took me a good 5 minutes to get a rhythm going. I just caught a glimpse of Joe Blackett (Dark Peak) and a clutch of NFR's at the top of the first ascent, but then it was a wet trog through the woods where if you lifted your head for a minute to look around, the boulders would have taken your ankles from you.

This time, I made sure I stayed with the big group of 10 which had loosely formed as we headed out west for 2 miles along the top of Broughton Bank. Because of the conditions there were loads of runners with their cagoules and hats on, so identification of who was around you wasn't possible. I knew I was adrift and off the pace from early on though and the group began to inevitably split. This time at least I was somewhere in the middle as it fragmented. We soon turned and headed up the 2 ascents and past Wainstones with its pre-historic carvings, but there was no time to do the time-team-thing. There were a few families out walking and a couple of bored wet lads kindly gave us our positions as we passed them. I was 23rd. Hanging out of the top 20, I tried to up the pace along the paved ridge that's part of the Cleveland Way. With the climbing work out of the way I passed 2 runners (one from Thirsk in road shoes) and, before long, I found myself careering down the soft grey scree slope and onto the tussocky grass before been passed by someone who reminded me of me 2 years ago when I was happy to throw myself down the slopes. It was then back into the woods for the finish at around 36 minutes.

Afterwards, I took a few snaps and then managed to lose my car key, which was careless but par for the course. Those kind folk from the Quakers Club found it for me.
Good bash. This sort of day out makes you feel alive. Will Horsley (NFR) won it from Dan Middlemiss (Loftus) and Jim Mann (DFR) 3rd. Shelley Gordon (New Marske) narrowly beat Charlotte Edge (jnr) from Scarborough and Angharad Owen of Loftus 3rd. Photos already up at Dave Aspins Site (See Link). Results to follow on the Esk Valley site.

Saturday, 20 November 2010


Its been a week of mid-range runs mostly on the road and today I managed a short 3 miler through the woods in the rain and mud. The soles of my fell shoes are getting a bit short of grip and its was like tackling the safari rally with slicks on. They're perched on the radiator getting dry for tomorrow.

The New Balance road shoes have been replaced by a pair of Pegasus's and its taken a few days to adjust to the change. Other than a couple of fell runs though I've no road events planned so no stress. Given the last few months, I'd say I was fully ten-kayed up. Just got to stay in one piece over the next couple of months and start getting back into the gym. I got a free entry to the Edinburgh Half next year, which is nice and I'd like to say it was because I was so fast and impressive, but the club had been given a couple, so it was great to be sent one. Just finished Murakami's book on running. From the cover I was expecting quite a different book altogether and must admit to being not unhappy to move on to some good old historical fiction.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Newcastle Town Moor Memorial 10k 2010

There was a big field today for the Town Moor Memorial 10k.
After a minutes silence the 500 or so athletes and competitors set off in dry, cool weather. The route takes you twice around the Town Moor in Newcastle and there's one long stretch which is very exposed. Today, thankfully, the wind was very light and I felt good for a change during the first lap. Its a flat course and the shouts of support help.

I was using today as a speed session (honest!) before next weeks assault on the Claybank Fell Race, one of my favourite fell runs. I didn't see anyone around me that I knew and I was running without my usual technological baggage of ipods, phone or teas-made. Today I just put my head down and, knowing the route pretty well, tried to get 100% out of my legs, without going anaerobic.

David Daniels (formerly Wallsend) who ran a similar time to me in this years Edinburgh marathon eased past at 5k. He's been clocking some good times recently and I could only manage to sit on his shoulder for a couple of minutes. One of the club officials shouted that I was in the frame for the team prize , but I found it hard to believe considering I was well down the field. The second lap was just a case of grit and determination. I was on my own from 6k and although I got quite close to the lad in front, he pulled away again in the last kilometre.

Finished in 37:37 and around 40th. For some reason this course although flat enough, just doesn't produce fast times for me, having run it in 37:26 in 2004 and 38:12 in 2008; but it wasn't a bad time either and, as I finished, I told myself I couldn't have run any faster today. These things are worth reminding yourself of, just in case after a day or two you convince yourself there was more in the tank.

I did sneak a team prize, but only because the winner, Johnny Taylor (30:54) didn't have his club vest on. More a case of him losing the £10 voucher rather than me winning it. As I didn't take any snaps on the day, I'll have to leave you with a library picture instead. The Results for the Town Moor Memorial 10k are at (Heaton Harriers website)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Guisborough Three Tops Fell Race 2010

I ran the Three Tops Fell Race once before in 2006 and a quick look at my time indicated that 70 minutes or thereabouts would be a half decent performance.
Driving through Nunthorpe the sky was very busy with swathes of smoky low cloud but also gaps of blue sky. There had just been a heavy shower but it was drying up and as I drove along the Bypass I could see the North York Moors and the triangular crag of Roseberry Topping still covered in low white cloud. There was quite a big field assembling at Guisborough Rugby Club and the race started a little late. I got up into the forest near the front but stumbled and fell in a heap like a drunk on a Saturday night.
If you see a runner go down, it's fell running etiquette to ask if the fallen athlete is 'OK?' as you step over him, and two runners asked after me as they passed and I picked myself up and continued up through the slippy needle covered woodland slope, hands on knees.
There were plenty of orange vested Wetherby runners in the top 10 and as we came out of the wood onto the moors I was around 13th.
A York Acorn runner was just behind and every so often his dark shadow crept up on the ground immediately in front of me. The stone paths were very slippy and at least one Durham runner went down clutching his ankle. I asked after him as I passed, and he assured me he was 'fine'.

The low cloud formed a white mist which would have made for some great photos had I had my (proper) camera. Just before the ascent up to Roseberry, I thought my watch had come off, so I stopped and retraced my steps for 20 or 30 seconds before I realised it was caught up in my bumbag.
Two runners including York Acorn passed by as I fannied and dithered around the thick sedge grass. Roseberry was reached and I took it easy coming down, losing a place to a NYM, but I soon caught and passed him before being passed myself on the next climb by a man with a pointy hat (see picture below).
I tracked him to the next checkpoint, back along the trees and then up the last long drag on wet peaty tracks to the final checkpoint. As the landscape opened up I saw a group of seven about 40 seconds up ahead and it would have been nice to catch them , but today that was only in my dreams. I lost pointy-hat through the trees as the route took us down through the last leg of the Guisborough Woods Fell race, only to see him around 5 seconds in front at the bottom. However, by this time two other guys were haring after me and I had enough energy to horse down the last track full-pelt to land in 75 minutes and around 16th.
Didn't wait around for tea and medals and even though this was quite a bit slower than last time, I felt I had a better run and guess the wet conditions added around 2 or 3 minutes for most folk. I haven't seen the results yet but Sanderson of NFR probably won.
(photos already on Dave Aspins site. Results in few days at Esk Valley site)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


What a quality production the 'Fellrunner' Magazine is. Glossy, well presented and full of results and foties; the Autumn edition came through the letterbox and landed this morning with enough impact for me to mistake it for a tax return. Lost myself in it for an hour at lunchtime. Its all a magazine should be. Flicking through the pages, I noticed that Hawkhill had finished 17th in the British Champs this year (m40 category) and with a bit of further digging, found out I finished 99th in the championships on the basis of the Dollar Hill Run in July. It didn't take me long to figure out that if I do the long and short events next year too, I could reach the dizzy heights of 80th or 70-something.

With that in mind I managed to get out late in the twilight as the sun was setting, for a couple of laps through the woods (I was going to bore you with more photos of leaves and autumn colours, but at 5.30pm, this is what autumn in Britain actually looks like).

As the sun went down, a thick mist rapidly enveloped the trees and on the second lap I couldn't work out whether my eyes were failing or whether I was in a Ridley Scott movie, expecting at any time to be jumped by one of the dark silhouettes that formed as the last of the light expired.

Clagged in mud, I headed home via Lidl's, sporting my fell runner-chic look. This ensures the general public never get too close! Sometimes I get the sympathy look. For the weekends entertainment I was mulling over Lasswade XC or the Three Tops fell race at Stokesley. Think I might do both. God knows, I need the miles, but can I afford the diesel....