Sunday, 31 July 2011

James Herriot Country Trail Run 2011

It was still July when I got up this morning so there was time to shoe-horn in a third race into the month and for that matter, the week. I'm not a 3-a-week sort of runner but I've fancied this one for a while and had considered it to be a wee bitty easier in gradient than Coniston. So, armed with 2 ginger nuts and the Sunday Post it was off down to Wensleydale.

Arriving in good time it was already chocka and the car park pretty full. The race HQ was in a field at the finish behind the imposing mass of greyness that is Castle Bolton. It somehow added an air of tradition and permanency to the proceedings. There were perhaps 200 at the start, some from Teesdale, Swaledale and many from other clubs but not ending in 'dale'. I decided to go with a pair of old road trainers rather than fell shoes, but it seemed many were sticking with the studs.

We started past the castle and through the village and then up a gravely track and onto the moors. The ground was firm and the gradient steady, rising for around 3km before levelling off across the heather moor ridge. After a couple of snaps (one of some interested cows), I found myself being shepherded by two Knavesmires with a lad from Otley just ahead. I passed all three between 4 and 6k and was then passed by a runner from Loftus (or a club with a maroon vest). He was running well with a long stride on the few downhill sections and he soon caught two others perhaps 30 seconds ahead.

As we began the start of the second climb up the loose gravel at around 8km, I fancied joining this select group in front but couldn't make any inroads into the gap and soon afterwards Otley runner came past having obviously had a second wind. I stuck with him for a short time but he still managed to pull out a good 15 or 20 seconds soon afterwards. The last 2 or 3 kms are on grass and it was nice to run on the sheep cropped surface instead of the gravel track.

Finished around 1:02 for this 14k run and just out of the top 20 which was fine. Grabbed some water and took off. Lovely run in green, sweeping countryside. I think that's me for a week or two now, although Osmotherley's next week I see!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Laxton 10k 2011

The Wednesday night tradition of competing in (and reporting on) less well known English rural midweek races continues with this week's offering, the Laxton 10k. In truth, although I managed an hour with the lads on Monday night, my quads have been giving me serious jip since Coniston on Sunday. My legs feel they've spent the weekend with a man in a mask and his mates from the inquisition. Nobody expects ..... I was ready to confess to anything! By lunchtime today I'd had just about enough of them so there was only one thing to do. Take 2 ibruprofen and find a flat race to run off the stiffness. Ok, that's two things, Two things to do then. Finishing work at 5pm, Laxton was about an hour away and just off the M62 so it didn't take too long to find. It had been well advertised on the UKResults site and the hook was 'fast and flat; a course with PB potential'.

Arriving in the village I wondered what Laxton was famous for. I noted that they 'welcome careful drivers'. That's good. And another thing. They have a railway station; although it goes by the name of Saltmarshe. Cryptic. I paid my £8 at the village hall and mosied up to the start line mixing with runners from Goole, Hull, a few from Selby, York and Doncaster. I had a brief chat with a Marske runner. She was hopeful of a good time. Weren't we all?
We gathered at the start and were offski in a jiffy. For the first mile I was taking baby steps trying to get the quads to behave responsibly and by the two mile mark I'd finally started to run like an adult. At 3 miles I took a photo and some bloke who had latched on behind asked 'if it was for evidence?' to which I replied that I was on my holidays. In Laxton? At least that answer kept him quiet for the remainder of the race.

I went through 3 miles in 18:10 and by 5 miles was giving myself the 'it's just a training run' routine, meaning that I was tired and trying to find a cop-out. But I kept on and at 6 miles and nearing the finish I was passed by a Killamarsh runner and managed to find some energy to tuck in behind him. This unlikely tandem managed to pass two runners before the end. 38:25. Not the fastest but after Sunday, not as bad as I thought.

Stopping briefly for a cuppa and sausage sarnie in the village hall, I asked the helpers what Laxton was famous for. The answer...the run of course. Goodie bag, nice course and relaxed atmosphere meant this race is a winner.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Coniston Show Fell Race

There was a slight burning smell around the car as I sat patiently but reluctantly in a convoy of sight-seers as we pottered over the Kirkstone Pass. Making my way to Coniston for the short 6 mile fell race (AM:2400ft), I had failed to factor in that I'd be driving at 25 mph. I knew, as I carved my way down 'The Struggle' to Ambleside that I would be cutting it fine to get to the start of the race in time (yet again!). I arrived at the village and parked up at the local school, but after asking directions I still had a mile to go across a field and along a hedge to the farmhouse with the 'funny' chimneys. As I dashed along the gravel track I told myself this was my warm-up. Thankfully, I made it in time and lined up in the show ground with around 60 or 70 doughty athletes. It was a beautiful day and it being the start of my autumn campaign, I was looking forward to the shock of having my heart rate rise from 50 to 180 bpm within 4 minutes. I've got no form this month what with holidays, low mileage and waning motivation. Off we went up along the grey gravel, then across the main road and up and up onto the grass. The hill was there in front of us, and I was sat in around 10th place (biding my time I told myself). There was a little variation in route but no easy way across the rocks and grass and moss and I occasionally stopped for a breather under the guise of taking some snaps.

A few lads and one lass passed me on the way up and I was anxious at the small but burgeoning charabang of runners snapping at my ankles. There was some steep stuff higher up which saw me doing the spider crawl, grabbing clumps of grass and corners of grey lichen covered flagstones. This can easily progress to the crab-walk if, while on your hands and knees, you need to go sideways while, at the same time, also trying to go up.

As we ascended I was aware of the stunning view behind me. I didn't see it, couldn't see it, just felt it and that on a normal day, it would have been a glorious walk to the top.

Being out of my usual circuit of races, I didn't recognise anyone and there were a wide assortment of vests on display. At last I saw a runner coming down and was relieved. The summit wasn't far away. But there was yet another false summit to deal with and on seeing this unexpected additional and gratuitous metreage I muttered a few four letter specials under my breath (nice, good,!!). I got to the top in 45 minutes and then it was all the way down. I had half convinced myself that I would pass a few on the way down but instead I was quickly passed by a Wharfdale lad and then another guy. I later caught him as he took a different, slower line down the hill. The soles of my feet were suffering and I was aware that my descent was slow and laboured.

As the concrete track appeared and the gradient eased the Pegasus-like fell shoes became the familiar treacle wellies. It was, however, a loud and warm welcome as I pegged back into the show field and was thankful not to have to do a lap to the finish line. I took a photo of the trophy perched and glinting on the table. I said to the bloke minding the tent that this would be the closest I'd get to it. He suggested then, that he took a photo of me holding it. Aye, I thought, that'll be right. After a dousing of water and a tic-search, I made my way back to the car. I thought I might check the oil. None. That probably explained the burning smell on the way down. Stopped at the garage and topped up. What a dipstick. I need a few of these steep races, some new targets to harden my resolve.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

New Training Method No.8

Training method No.8 - finish work late. home. change. new shoes. feel springy. miss group at club. back home. put on ipod. put on tele. roll intro credits of Le Tour. one hour programme. tele off. set off for run. 45 minute circuit. run into road-works and dead end. herras fencing. rubbish. no option. double back. lost time. push limits on back road. aerobic threshold. gasp. railway crossing. lights on. barriers down. rumble of tracks. freight train. count carriages. 21. wait some more. inter-city other way. conspiracy theory. barriers up. belt along rest of lane. music banging. chicane. poppiholla. open stride. cut through houses. front door. tele on. Schleck with 1km to go. phew....

Sunday, 17 July 2011


On the plane after a week in the Pyrenees.

My French language skills were put to the test and found wanting. Mr Duffy was right; I should have paid more attention in class.

Out of the window, the turbine at my side looks like a giant cloud hoover. With my eyelids closed, I’m seeing the vestiges of yesterdays 14th Stage of the Tour which we took in around Tarascon (pictured). It was good to see, even if those boys and their huge entourage didn’t bother slowing down to say ‘bonjour’ and doff their jaunty chapeaus.

Nice Break.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Tynedale 10k 2011 (Part 2)

The second batch of photos from last nights Tynedale 10k has been loaded up.

Warning: Pictures contain images of extreme effort and commitment! There were more than a few PBs on the night.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Tynedale 10k 2011

Photos on the Flickr site. link to results for the Tynedale 10k here

Harding (Morpeth) wins from Archer (Low Fell) and Twaddle (NSP). In the ladies race Angela Hibbs (Chester Le Street) was closely followed by Jane Hodgson (Morpeth) and Chester Le Street's Hunter.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Watching the Collectives

While the rest of the house is plumped up in the front room with the tennis on, I am propped up in the back garden, cushion against the ivy clad brick wall with a glass of Greene King and William Boyd’s well crafted novel in my mittens, slowly baking.
The sun is high, the sky is blue. It must be summer.
The sound of Sinatra on the radio is wafting out the kitchen window. He’s crooning out something about ‘Saturday night being the loneliest night of the week’ but as it's Sunday lunchtime, I guess he’s got through Saturday night reasonably well.
We spent the last two days in Glasgow watching the young'un swimming. I had plans to do the Whitetops race on the Friday night but a long, lingering attack of apathy rolled in off the Clyde and I went for a 13 mile jog instead. The route took me up Pollokshaws Road, past Victoria Park to Clarkston. I was going to run along the Clyde, but small edgy collectives of the burberry clad fashionistas were encamped with inconvenient regularity along the banks of the dark waters and I soon made the strategic decision to veer right at Bridge Street.
Later I retired to bed in our clean, functional but tiny room. In contrition for the earlier attack of race lethergy, I had every intention of making the parkrun at Strathclyde Park the next day after dropping off the fish people at Tollcross. Regrettably, there was a noisy bunch of drunken revellers who kept most of the hotel up all night so I spent Saturday with a thick head from lack of sleep trying to find a quiet corner to doze away the hours.
We did manage a perfectly well behaved lunch at Bothwell though. I feel I have an affinity with the place. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.
It was, however, great to get back home and have a good night’s kip. Celebrated with a 1:40 run this morning before escaping to the garden under the guise of 'pottering', whatever that is?!