Sunday, 26 June 2011

Windy Gyle 2011

I've only ran the Windy Gyle Fell race once. Last Year. It's advertised as a nine miler with 1800 ft of ascent, but its a gently rolling fell race which is all runnable and scrapes into Scotland, which can't be a bad thing. The start is located well up a valley and well out of the way of the public. Only people meaning to be around here ARE around here...and today that meant some of the army, a bunch of fell runners and a handful of walkers, most of the latter in civilised groups carrying more gear on a summers day than some of the infantry.

Before the start the organiser gave me a medal from the 2009 Northern Championship which had been warming itself for 2 years in his drawer. As we warmed up I noticed the absence of the usual suspects who, unusually, weren't around.

As we set off after warnings of a bull in a field I cantered across the hay meadow and began the steady climb to Barrowburn. It was breezy, dry and warm and it was nice to get going. At the top an HBT runner took the lead and began to pull away from a younger lad possibly from Sheffield who looked like he was holding back abit. I looked back and saw a bunch of eager, hungry faces just behind and thought I'd better get on with it. As HBT powered away the Sheff runner was about 10 seconds ahead and seemed to be slowing a little up the ascents. I caught him shortly after the second one. As soon as he slowed to a walk going up, I slowed, but it was only the power of suggestion and after a while I told myself he might have been tiring and we were going to get caught by the others unless we upped the pace. The trouble was he took a sack load of time out of me on the descents without any effort as he opened his stride, and, as the last mile or two is downhill, I resigned myself to being third as long as I could hold off the pack behind me.

With most of the hard work done, I shadowed him along the ridge down from Black Braes and along the Street, all of it firm and runnable and we pulled some time out of the runners behind. The distant thumps of artillery punctuated the otherwise peaceful sound of lungs and heart working in grumpy unison.

At the last short rise of Hindside Knowe, Hallam went for the stile and I leapt over the gate and then I was in front and before I knew it Sheff was metres behind. I had to stop and check a couple of times if I was going the right way, but by then I could smell the unmistakable whiff of a velvet clad podium place in the valley below and it was double quick time down to the Sheep pens and 2nd place in 1:07. Chuck won. I didn't get his surname but he said it was his first win. Sarah Lister of DFR was first lady. It was a lovely day and warming all the time so I spent the next 30 minutes slouching in the stream with camera.

I'm now enjoying the fruits of my labour; Premium Kentish Ale. Nice to be up at the front, even if it happens only rarely. Random Photos on the FLICKR site (sorry to those I missed)

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Elmton Chase

Another weekday, another trip to run someone else's mid-week race. This time it was the Elmton Chase, a five mile extravaganza around the fields and lanes of the cosy village of Elmton nestling just east of Chesterfield.

Organized by Clowne Road Runners (dot org), the registration was in the local pub and we had the luxury of using the pub's 'facilities'; Tres clean with nice beige glazed tiles, deep square belfast sinks and crisp basin mixer taps in a stylish, modern chrome, featuring a sleek, square body, complemented by a matching square handle. Very 'of the now'. Anyway, enough of the taps.

I'd rolled up early and had had an hours kip in the car. It was humid and there was a slow but steady trickle of competitors. The numbers, however, added up, in all, to around eighty at the start line. It didn't take much working out that the red and white vested Clowne club were going to sweep up the team prize unless the local Killamarsh club, clad in contrasting flourescent green could pull something out of the hat.

I felt sluggish at the start as I fell in to around 12th place as the race made its way down the high street, past the church and then onto a variety of narrow tracks. There were around six red Clownes in the top ten at that point.

It took a good three or five minutes to get my breathing sorted out and then I began making progress passing two Clownes together with a small band of three runners just ahead at twelve seconds or so. The ground was firm but the route was undulating, cutting down the side of fields planted with wheat and barley, the red poppies adding a bit of colour to the well watered plant life.

The little posse soon broke up ahead as the course led to a gentle steady downhill section . I convinced myself that the runner ahead, another Clowne, was struggling, so tried to catch him. He had a big stride but was definitely slowing. I then moved onto the next runner. He was wearing blue and grey quadrants (South Yorks Police) and I didn't recognise the vest. He had a nice steady gait and didn't look like he was working too hard: unlike me. It took most of the rest of the race to catch him up and when I did, I sat in behind him along a long uphill drag on the road and then back through some fields. I think it was a stile that temporarily interrupted things and created a small but useful gap between us. I caught up again but we were then close to the finish and he kicked as we re-entered the village. I didn't have any mojo left and was left to follow him in 3 seconds behind in eighth place (29:19). A few words at the end with a couple of lads and by then the rain was a steady drizzle. I grabbed a cup of water and headed off to the car. Nice run and well marshaled.
...Already planning next week's race to the sun in another far off place.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Roubaix Legs

The re-launched cycling career has at last kicked off with a bunch of local guys who I've teamed up with. Last Wednesday they successfully talked me out of 30 miles and I capitulated to their generous offer of 50 miles instead. These were not your commoner-garden 50 miles but a select route past Rothbury, over the climbs of Bilsmoor and the Gibbet in North Northumberland. Small beer, I grant you compared to the Highlands, Lakes or Alpine passes but more than enough for the vicar of Ridley (my road bike). The gears decided they'd had enough and have been crunching ever since.

To add to my dudgeon, I was stung in the eye by some insect and the next morning I woke up with an eye that looked like it had done 3 rounds in the ring with Jake La Motta. Its too early to say yet whether this two wheeled love affair is going to play havoc with my fell running, having only just kicked off the 2011 campaign. I'll know more after Windy Gyle next weekend. I've been advised by the boss that I can't make Eildon on the 25th due to a prior engagement. Worse luck.

Today as we set off in the rain I brandished a new pair of bike goggles, but as it poured for the 3 hours that we were on the road, I needn't have bothered with the eye-wear. Dreich and dank. With a rear wheel puncture on the way back it was a joy to sit on the wet grassy verge for ten minutes with the rain teaming down. The team car was no where in sight and neither were the domestiques who were to pace me back to the peloton. Rose coloured glasses would have been more useful. After Grindleford on Thursday the legs were not very responsive. Still, the quads have made a re-appearance and with another 50 wet miles in the bike bank I've promised myself a fathers day present of some new gears. Getting back in the house I was chuffed with my Roubaix Legs (pictured above).

Friday, 17 June 2011


It seemed rude not to look in at Grindleford last night. I was, after all, in the area.

The fell runners handbook (which is, incidentally, a thoroughly good read and the bible of hill runs that should be used in conjunction with all professional trips, visits to relatives and holidays around the country) said it was a CS category fell race. In other words I shouldn't expect to be out after dark and that the oxygen mask was safe in the car. Having not been oot in the hills since February, I thought this would be a suitably low key affair with a few ramshackle runners with nothing else to do on a Thursday night. I made my way to the Pavilion set within the Peak District village's local cricket ground. It was chocka. Folk were wandering down the street from the railway station, arriving on foot and by bike but mostly by car and there were throngs of the blighters. Maybe a field of 250 or so.

I signed up and getting my entry for £4 the kind lady explained which way up my number was to go on (69). Not sure if she was taking the micky. I overheard a few buddies talking about the river crossing and wandered over to the river to see if I could see the river bed. We lined up across the pitch which had become a car park and were told it was 2 laps around the grass and then off up the hill. The start was a bit of a rampage and by the end of the second lap there must still have been around 50 or 60 in front. I know I'm at the wrong end of the V40 category these days but this was uncalled for. Off we charged up the hill through the trees, the rocky and gravelly track widening and narrowing as some runners up ahead thankfully found the gradient too arduous and began slowing. Getting past them was an effort though and, in places, I remember thinking the course too narrow for a field of this size. Still, I had passed around 10 or 15 on the way up, so time to concentrate and keep up the momentum.

I realised halfway through that the secret of running a fast half of any race is to mistake its duration. It occurred to me as we climbed in single file through the the narrow fern clad corridor that the 30 minutes I had in my head was the record and not the time I would end up finishing in. But, too late and by then we were lumping across the top of the fields, not so much heather more rough pasture and then onto gravelled tracks.

There was something of Latrigg in the gradients and landscape and the downhill soon came. I had yo-yoed with a Dark Peaker for a little while but then he ran out of puff and I soon had a group of 5 in front. I passed another Peaker before the first stream crossing. As I picked my way across the boulders I heard a crunch behind me and a yell of 'OOOHH' filled the air from the handful of onlookers stationed at the crossing. Peaker had gone down. The fall seemed to give him immediate impetus (or a double shot of gravel-lickers adrenaline) and he scampered off in front of me. I kept right behind him as we careered through the woods, strewn with grey gritstone boulders and roots, the former frequently forcing you to flick your trailing leg high to ensure you didn't trip.

We ran out of hill and soon hit flat lying pasture as the course made its way parallel with the river on the floodplain and Peaker's batteries began to stall. As we got to the river crossing a Steel City Strider was making his way across to the other side where there was a host of cameras, his group of 5 having fragmented through the woods. With 400m to go there was still time and energy for a burst past the Steelman and it was home in around 27th place.

Unfortunately couldn't stay for the flapjacks and tea, but enjoyed the race. Doing a fell race out of your usual area (where no one recognises you) is a novelty and adds a frisson of excitement. Highly recommended. Auntie Aggie says I should get out more. Maybe I will.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Navel Gazing

I've laid off racing since the Edinburgh Half.
It's not because I'm lazy, injured or worn out. Instead I've been pondering future races which, let's face it, is a lot easier than running them. I almost made Yetholm, but then common sense prevailed on Sunday morning and having not been on the hills since February, I convinced myself nine miles of quad bending calf thrashing ankle swivelling pleasure might not be the best re-introduction to fell running.
I had half arranged to run the Black Rock at Kinghorn in July but too much pondering found me missing out as 800 eager bodies signed up and filled up the event before I had time to put pen to paper. So instead, as we're up in Shettleston for the end of June with the young 'un swimming anyway, it might be a trip up to White Tops where the Hawks organiser has promised an alternative and improved race. I'm really just going up for the cakes afterwards.
In the meantime I have a couple of spaces available to slot in 2 or 3 runs and am hoping to have a busy summer of racing.
I've put in some miles recently on the bike and got soaked yesterday up by Wark when it hail-stoned and then continued raining for the day. Its been a long time since I spent 70 miles on the bike.
There's Eildon at Melrose later this month and that 400m sub-60 is still floating in the ether. There's also a couple of possibilities around Edinburgh so enough of the chin scratching and introspection; better dust off the club vest.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Blaydon Race 2011

Cracking night with a fresh headwind for most of the way for the Blaydon Race 2011. Good night for the camera.

All Photos now on Flickr. Results later.....