Thursday, 30 December 2010

Alien landscape

Yesterday. Heading south at lunchtime I drove down the A1 with my running gear in the boot but without the usual paraphernalia of ipod and garmin. I caught glimpses of thickets of white, whispy mist that clung to the low ground around Prestonpans, North Berwick and East Linton and it wasn’t long before I felt powerless to resist the pull of a possible run in a strange and photogenic environment; I turned left into Dunbar and dumped the car off Belhaven Road where I had some privacy to change from shirt and tie to lycra.

There was still snow on the ground, but with the thaw in full swing there was more green than white and I set off initially up and down the flights of coastal concrete stairs, heading along the Coastal Trail that quickly became the John Muir Way. Tacking along the cliffs and across the edge of Winterfield Golf Club, the ground was still hard but the thaw meant that I could choose my path over the crust of icy exposed grass and reeds.

I kept the sand and hoards of daft exercising spaniels on my right and continued west. Not knowing quite where I was going I jogged past little groups of dog walkers and couples. Through thick green damp thickets of Scots Pine the ground was a carpet of pine needles, moss and abandoned cones. I encountered an amorous Labrador called Humphrey who clearly needed to get out more. Why would you call your dog Humphrey.

Appearing out of the trees, I continued onto the flat, soft red silt and reedy clumps and stumps of Belhaven Bay. Driftwood and a corridor of concrete blocks, remnants from the last war. It was empty, open, desolate and beautiful in the mist. I could hear the birds, oystercatchers, curlews and geese competing across the shallow water and grey mudflats of the estuary. As the sands narrowed I caught sight of a lazy heron and the unmistakable metallic blue body of a kingfisher.

I continued up through Salt Green and having run for an hour, I could make out the road noise of the A1 in the distance by then.

I turned south and cut across a couple of fields with Tyninghome House behind me and lopped along some frozen tracks and hedges and past a field crammed with Brussels sprouts resembling a regiment of small perfectly formed green jackets as the sun dipped and the mist dropped back into fields.

I worked my way back through the Plantation and across the Golf Course meeting an older guy, a runner, who wanted to chat about a surfer, collecting driftwood and his life in general but time was getting on.

It was a slow but uplifting adventure. It's good to explore new places.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Have a Good One

Christmas is nearly here and this cross training malarkey is just the job; clearing the drive and road every other day interspersed by pushing the odd car and hauling bags full of milk, bread and lager I’ll never drink a mile and a half up the hill, home. Does this qualify as hill training. I think so.

The ice has sliced through my normally packed training schedule and I am beginning to resemble one of the two plump pigeons that have taken up residence next to the frequently replenished bird table. They’re filling out more every day and are looking increasingly tasty. It’s been a very popular venue for birdlife in recent weeks.
After scrawling some last minute items on a scrap of paper , I took myself down the shops first thing this morning. I stopped and bought some cosmetics. Having paid the young, smiling and heavily made up assistant she gave me a voucher for £2 off hair care products. Having a laugh there, I said.

Having lost my list, I then had to improvise. It was along to the jewellers next. No, not trading in the paltry reserves of family gold, although I may have to resort to this in January when the bank manager calls and starts the conversation ‘ I regret to advise you...’ . Having a mooch amongst the rings and bangles inside the shop, I overheard the girl at the till asking a middle aged bloke shrouded beneath his woolly hat if he was ‘all set’ as she wrapped up his purchase. He replied, manfully, that he was’ just starting’.

I succumbed to the quadraphonic bling onslaught and bought myself a trinket (well, it is Christmas and all those sparkly things, well..who could resist). The lady serving me told me how she intended spending Christmas day. She was going to cook Dijon dill brussels and a nut roast. All that veg. I asked her if she wanted to supplement those dishes with a couple of delicious pigeons. I then did my daily act of random kindness by admitting that she’d undercharged me. I left a wee bit poorer in the pocket but feeling like a saint. It was then to the battery shop to get batteries for my headtorch. Haven’t used it yet. I thought I might need it for looking in those dark places for the unwanted household gold.

It’s just as well the weathers pants. My efforts at assembling the Ridley cyclo-cross frame with old bike parts has failed miserably and my new road bike is suffering from block and chain incompatibility. There's nothing worse, eh?! I admitted defeat as the cyclo cross season passed by like a muddy off-road boat in the night and took both bikes to the shop. They are, it seems, struggling as well. I’m not expecting to get them back before the new year. Apparently the old parts I’ve tried to put on these new fangled super duper frames would be more suited to ‘Bargain Hunt’.

I’m looking forward to the Fife Relays late in late January (if they’re on) and will be heading down the gym before the new year. This snowbound torpor can’t go on. I read its less than 20 weeks to the London marathon. There’s a sobering thought. Have a good one. All the best.

Monday, 20 December 2010

All Hands on Deck

The four musketeers carved out 14 snowy miles yesterday morning up Beacon Hill on the side roads. I went down a clatter on ice coming down one of the hills as I took my attention off the road momentarily. Then more snow arrived as a windy sea fret brought in 4 inches (that's 100mm for all you euro-metric types) during the afternoon. Car bedlam in town. Perversely entertaining (unless you were in a car, that is).
Spent a couple of hours into the evening clearing the road and pushing cars. Some rear wheel drive vehicles were pants in the snow and only good for abandoning.
Managed 4 miles today as the mercury dropped out the bottom end of the thermometer and my knee has a delayed reaction from yesterdays ground-hugging incident.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Saltwell 10k 2010

A small, committed crowd worked their clogs off at Saltwell's annual 10k race today in sub-zero temperatures. There was no chance of anyone overheating and the drinks station seemed to have reverted to serving slush puppies. There should have been a prize for the runner with the most layers on.

Although the Canada Geese were out in force and making a nuisance of themselves it was Morpeth's Johnny Taylor who hammered round the three and a half lap race in Gateshead well ahead of the gaggle of chasing athletes from Birtley, Bingley and other local clubs.
In the women's race I left as the flying Hester Dix of Blaydon neared the finish. She was being closed down by Claire Simpson of Chester Le Street with team mate Angela Hunter third.
Top vet from Pitreavie, Jeff Farqhuar, finished well up.
More photos of the Saltwell 2010 10k - 'click' on Photo collection Link on the right of this blog....

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Ginger Wine

P and A take part in a race. Its a 2 lap race. Both laps are the same distance. The total distance is 2.86 miles. P sets off 5 minutes earlier than A. A's time for the 2nd lap was 8:31. P's total time was 21:54. What was A's time and why was the timekeeper not there to record both times? Write your answer clearly and legibly. Points will be awarded for working out.

As my mind wandered this afternoon, I recalled that the Club handicap was on tonight and sure enough it said so right there on the website. With a forecast of snow tomorrow, I thought it might be an idea to run it as, at this rate, who knows when the race programme will return or where my next race is coming from.

I nipped down the staircase to the draughty and dimly lit wine cellar and selected the Cava over the Rioja to take down for the Secret Santa. I grabbed my ginger wig and jock bonnet (got to start getting used to fancy dress for London you see) and wrapped up the bottle with plenty of sellotape and then jogged the 2 miles to the club house. It was all dark and quiet. I hung around for 5 minutes before P arrived. She had also come armed with a bottle. We had, it seemed, been wrong footed by a late postponement.

No matter. Joined by M, who was also in the dark about the new arrangements and who recently had ran a stormer of a first half marathon at Abingdon, the three of us set off and decided that we'd run the race anyway. It was nice and roomy along the course and no-one complained that I had a ginger wig with bobble bonnet on or got all excited at me for wearing my Ipod. As I ran I caught sight of my shadow a couple of times under the lonely orange glare of the streetlights. It was odd seeing the outline of my head with hair (just like old times!), the bobble above waving randomly and out of sync. M spent both laps on my shoulder, but he'd just been for a big dinner and was happy to cruise round behind me.

When we finished M said he was pleased that I had slowed down a bit on the 2nd lap, but I assured him it wasn't by choice. I suppose it was the headgear. I might have to work on the aero-dynamics. Maybe a smaller bobble or different tartan.

A good blast and useful rehearsal should I decide to do the re-arranged race next week.
P and me swapped bottles and I ran back home with a wee blog story fermenting nicely in my head. The wine, a nice rioja, was lovely! Thanks P.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

ice ice baby..

These last few weeks have been a bit stop and start, but more stop. Saying that, I'm not too hung up about not running. Its just a hobby and while I'm a big fan of the snow, I'm no fan of the ice.
I graced the abandoned clubhouse with my presence on Thursday night. It was deserted. I was about to turn around and leave the forlorn lonely shed when a couple of others from the group appeared out of the icy murk. We picked out a route and churned out a prompt 40 minute warm up with another 12 minutes of fast stuff before mincing back down the hill as fresh sparkly ice crystals formed below our feet.

Today was a 14 mile beasting on my todd to the Dyke Neuk Pub on a snow free 'B' Class road and then back on an unclassified road (which was a mistake. Quiet? yes. Ice free? No. Tippy-toeing around like Bambi on some stretches). The hedges were completely free of berries, robbed by the starving bird life. There were few cars on the road though and I felt pretty strong throughout the run, getting round in 1:40.

On the way out I came to the conclusion that there's two sorts of drivers. Those that give you plenty of room and those who think it's their duty to keep the car straight and, by doing so, force you into the verge with half a metre to spare because you're on their side of the road. We love them really.

Anyway, I read on someone's blog that its 20 weeks to the London Marathon, so I suppose I'd better conjure up a battle plan even though I'm threatening to run in a morph suit and casually wave for 26 miles to the masses as I pass all those famous people and places. Perhaps I should arrange for some out-riders.

Aunt Aggie's particularly fired up because she thinks she's coming too. I haven't had the bottle to tell her she's got to stay at home to watch the dog. Thinking about her sitting there in front of the fire watching Downton Abbey with the collie at her feet in her matching morph suit is a bit scary. I didn't know they did morph suits for dogs.

Friday, 3 December 2010


Another first this morning. I think my last blog was a bit premature announcing 'before the thaw'. Out for 8 miles this morning. Even with gloves on, my fingers were 'cauld'. It wis snell cauld. Perishing. I think my ears were numb as well but as I couldn’t feel them I couldn’t be sure of this. It was -10c. The river surface had partly frozen over and there were ducks, seagulls and black geese wrestling each other for the broken water. The geese gave up soon after I passed them and they took off in a slow, laboured flight, presumably going south. I thought it might be warmer where they had come from. They may have come to that conclusion themselves.

The broken snow on the pavements had frozen hard and was badly rutted, so I stuck to the road once away from the path along the river. As I ran it was so cold, I could almost blow smoke rings with my breath and stopped for 10 minutes by a snow drift to carve an attractive ice sculpture. When the snow first fell last week, everyone was diligently clearing the snow each morning from driveways and pavements. But now after a week and plunged into a Baltic state, like the temperature, standards have plummeted and folk are just happy to be able to get out the front door, the back door abandoned days ago. Pity the local fell races have been cancelled. It would have been a laugh. Remember to feed the birds!