Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Guisborough Woods Fell Race 2011

Faced with an afternoon of Carry on Matron, me and the 2 interlopers who have taken up residence in the house over the hol’s decided the better option was to head south in clear skies and mild weather to run the Guisborough Woods Fell Race. It’s a three lapper which is run through woods and forest tracks on the slopes of the northern edge of the North York Moors. I didn’t do it last year (snow, ice) and, from memory, I recall damaging my ankle in 2009 in this 6 mile event when I eventually trogged in 18th.

As we arrived at the rugby club to sign on it was a scene of flash-mobbing with 200 odd other runners chatting patiently in a snaking line up to the top of the rugby club car park. The race which takes in 1200 ft of ascent got underway half an hour later. It’s a race that takes no prisoners if you run hard. It climbs up the forest track then through boggy ground up through the wood, up again up the side of an old quarry appearing at the top where runners can catch their breath for half a mile along the top track before plunging down a steep and often muddy slope through the fir trees with boulders strewn here in poor light under a blanket of pine needles and cones. A nice combination of forest run, heart straining slope and atmospheric technical descent.

There’s a small crowd some years and studs are a must. After the first lap I was around 18th and passed a group of 3 including 2 Hartlepools and a runner who looked familiar. That was enough to spur me onto his heels where I sat for the 2nd lap passing a NYM runner who had pulled out having come adrift on the descent. The familiar runner was, I think, Joe McCready (DFR) who'd beaten me earlier in the month but with no club vest on I wasn't sure. He got away from me a little halfway through the second lap where I found my mind wandering about the quality of the photos that several of the photographers scattered around the course would get and I had to snap back into race mode. I managed to catch him on the first rise of the 3rd lap. At this point as you find yourself dredging the forest floor for reserves and I gave myself the usual silent lecture about being in good shape, having a good record on this run, that I was being chased down – in fact anything that might stop me from thinking I could ease off.
As we started the steep climb we passed a Loftus runner who had pulled up, but he re-commenced behind me and joined us at the top making a group of 3 with me sitting at the back. We had begun to lap a few runners at this point. As we started to run along the wide and firm gravelly track on the top I knew that it was going to be impossible to pass either runner on the downhill unless I had a Harry Potter moment and I knew that I had to get a gap before the start of the descent.
There was a slight lull in the pace and that was the signal to go. I went with around 150m to go to the bankside and knew it was a resolute, reckless but, hopefully, not a futile effort. I heard hard breathing on my shoulder momentarily but on the way down as I pounded out 100% I couldn’t detect anyone near, (not that I stopped to listen or look back) and it was flat out over-striding to the end at the bottom of the track. Not quite top 10 but not bad.

Afterwards I treated my two guests to a J2O at the presentation and three bottles of wine for 1st M45 was a nice surprise from the master of ceremonies DP and his Crimbo wine cellar. Thanks D. We celebrated by going via the car-wash where someone had left 3 minutes still on the machine. Now that was a Christmas gift. Paul Lowe (NYM) won from Bulman and Sanderson (NFR). Cath Williamson of Loftus won the Ladies Race. Piles of photos now on the Esk Valley Club gallery. Results to come.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Ruddy Cheeks

The white snow, icy and crisp lay high and thick like a blanket of snowy down on the Cheviot Hills.  I felt the embrace of the winter queen and her cool kiss on my ruddy cheeks. I heard the pheasants little teeth chattering as they hugged themselves and bobbed up and down to keep their feathery plumage icicle free.  

Strangely, however,  I was nowhere near the Cheviots. Instead I was 30 miles away wandering through the tracks and bridleways of Buckshaw and Coalhouse Wood and over the heathery moorland around Beacon Hill with the lads and lassies chatting about all things Christmassy while gulping in lungfuls of clean, ice cold Northumbrian air. What a glorious 14 miles. I bored everyone stupid with more crazy camera antics as I ran, stopped and ran and it was bang on 2 hours when we got back to base.  It was a lovely run out. 

Getting home,  I re-heated the saucepan of homemade vegetable lentil soup and ladled the piping hot liquor generously into my eager,  hungry bowl and then sprinkled some of the parsley that I picked yesterday into it. As I sat dipping my bread into the broth, I sketched out next years running plan.  It's called Jura on the 26th May...
The Isle of Jura Fell Race is undoubtedly a 'classic' in every sense of the word - being a true test of mountain craft, athleticism and fell running technique. It is one of the toughest challenges in British hill racing.   
Later I might pick up Glen Rosa and Borrowdale or Nevis. and not to forget my burgeoning cycling career which has been smoking patiently on the launchpad. Yep, a couple of audax's or sportives. Sounds good.  So much to do, so little soup.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Cheeky Wee Robin

Gym this morning, woods with the daft dog this aft. Get tree and lights up, do garden and fill skip. Wot a life!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Diced Parsnips

Pretty chilly and damp this morning as I found myself running the 7 miles back from Ashington. The pavements were icy, ice, ice baby and armed with my Salomons it made it doubly treacherous. I tried to stay on the grass and roads where possible and was glad to reach the path that runs along the river through Bothal Woods. The Council have gravelled it for most of the way and initially I was critical of this but it was pretty dicey in the mud, so its fast and runnable now for most of the way.

It was grey, grim and atmospheric with hail and sleet. The moss and red copper beach provided some colour and I fannied around for ages trying to get some decent shots. Came back via Lidl where I bought some parsnips and honey which I’ll cook for lunch. I had to tear myself away from all the other ‘excellent’ merchandise in the shop! Honey roast parsnips - sounds good enough to eat. Cooking and eating my own food - how exciting can life get?
I could find myself running back there (to Ashington not Lidl) this afternoon and have already got the hat, gloves and shoes on the radiator. Should make about 14 miles today which is quite good for a Friday.  The mileage always takes a nose dive at this time of year. Not sure what’s occurring this weekend on the running front but should have a houseful for Crimbo so no doubt plenty of chores lie ahead. Better get the Christmas Tree up for starters.
later......dark.cold.bit spooky. got there tho...


Saturday, 10 December 2011

North East Cross Country Champs 2011

That was a slog! Photos up now on the Flickr site. Results from the races at Cramlington at http://www.noeaa-athletics.org.uk/FileUploads/norh_east_xc_results_2011a.pdf

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Hexham Hobble Photos

Glad I did the race at Eskdale rather than the Hexham Hobble, which from these photos look pretty blumin' chilly (Balazs photos on flickr - more at www.flickr.com/photos/71012987@N07/sets/72157628278038065/). The question is 'is a double bubble of the North East XC Champs this Saturday followed by Simonside on the Sunday a bridge too far....'?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Eskdale Eureka 2011

If there was a league table for odd named fell races, I think the Eskdale Eureka would be up there with some of the best of them. Clashing with the local cross country and the Hexham Hobble, there was still around 100 or so runners who’d made the pilgrimage to Castleton nestled in the North York Moors for the Eureka. This place is my old cycling haunt of the early 80’s and it hadn’t changed a bit.
There was a slow queue snaking its way from Dave Parrys car (race HQ). Although clear and calm, it was barely above freezing and runners in various nylon padded jackets jumped and hugged themselves on the spot to keep the circulation going. It was just about the most exposed spot in this 8 mile fell race (Later when the hail and rain came down it was a less attractive spot for the presentation, but that’s us getting ahead of ourselves)!
As I sat in the car I took some comfort from the fact that, in December, the route should be mostly on tracks and that the start was downhill to a bridge before the slow slog uphill started. I didn’t bother taking off my lycra tights or two layers and hat but I was looking forward to testing my new OMM bum bag...(Ok, I don't get out much)! As we set off I made some goofy faces at the team camera operator.   I found out later that the proper camera had been playing up so the pictures on the Flickr site might be a bit hit'n'miss. Luckily (for me) I was also armed with the phone. I chose my moments well and struck a number of times early on the course with the phone. I find it great as a tool to psyche out those around you – just when they think you’re flat out you slow, grope, point, shoot and no one’s any the wiser. 'What just happened'?
The wooden bridge was as slippy as a forlorn January pavement and it was tip-toe across the soapy planks before working through the field from 20th to around 12th. The next few guys and one gal took a wee bit longer to catch and, in the meantime, I was passed by a runner in white who just ground out a great relentless and steady rhythm which I couldn’t match. He never got very much in front of me, but suffering an apparent relapse of the cold after my trip to St James Park yesterday (without my hat on) my tubes were not giving me 100% and the engine was only giving me eighty. A curse on those tubes.
 I followed the series of shoe soles in front closely but every other step was a two step or swerve, baby step or jump as the narrow and tortuous moorland track was strewn with round and random gritty grey boulders making life interesting for the unprepared.
It was at around 3.5miles that we hit the forestry track, then down through some green pasture, up a mossy bank and through some burnished brittle brown ferns and along a stream bank. Having got to the front of a three-some, I nearly took them across the stream before realising that getting your feet wet wasn’t obligatory. As the wind picked up and the light hail and then rain began, it was further along the bank to cross another wooden bridge and up the nasty, steep and sheltered tarmac road before dropping back left into the valley and going back the way we came.

If you have a downhill start, its a sure thing there’s an uphill finish and I struck out after the last bridge to secure my top 10 finish. It wasn’t pretty but I got there. It took around 63 minutes and I felt my calf pull near the end, so I’ll be nursing that all this week, no doubt. 
 Leaving 40 minutes or so later armed with not one but two bottles of wine, we drove out to Whitby and had lunch at Dunsley Hall. A fantastic tasty main course, sticky toffee pudding and then a pot of tea by the fire as I reclined in leather seats and footstool. I didn’t want to go home. - Results at Eskdale Fell Runners site - photos at the Flickr site. Thanks to the NFR runner who seems to be in two of these 'ere photos (Phil I think)?