Friday, 28 December 2012

Guisborough Woods 12

I took my spikes down to Guisborough for this 3 lap test. It consists of a sharp climb up a steep muddy raving beside an old quarry, a run along a gravel ridge, down through a heavily wooded muddy ravine and a final drop to the finish down the track. As we arrived in good time this year to take our 20 minute line up in the queue I learnt the course had been changed. This was down to tree clearing making the downhill stretch un-runnable. Hardly a scandal. Hardly 'Fellgate'. But looking at the new course it looked a lot more trail and no haremscarem drops. Drat. Zut alors. Other obscure school curses. I dooo like the dodgy descents.

It was cold and damp but there was no snow or ice and I dug out the Walshes, knowing that spikes would be a waste of time. Perhaps 150 runners kicked off up the long pull toward the quarry climb and I started at the back, managing only just to fasten my number on my vest. The first lap was largely familiar but we continued along the ridge track for some way before cutting back east along a very hard surface which included a short stretch of tarmac. There seemed alot of runners ahead of me. I think that's because there were. Starting the second lap I thought I had a bit in reserve and came upon a couple of NFR's just ahead, but as I got to the top of the quarry climb for the second time I had slowed and realised that NFR, Mr Green, had put about 10 seconds into me up the climb alone.

I felt my left calf tightening as we hammered along the hard surface before dog legging south, then cutting across a very wet undulating peaty moorland path. As we cut back on ourselves through High Nab wood there was no marshall.  I shouted to the marshall a little way further down that he should get up to the fork otherwise some runners might unwittingly find themselves in Whitby.
I had to ease off for the leg home but lost only 2 places as I crossed the line. To be honest I didn't have much left by then anyway.

Ran back to meet the little woman with a camera but the light was poor, so only got a couple of passable pics. At the prize giving, the organiser seemed to have bought m&s out of wine. The kids all got chocs though and a big round of applause.
Calf tight but not too bad this morning. Running with fell shoes for any prolonged spell on hard surfaces - not recommended.  Might try a spinning class tonight.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Stuffing, anybody?

I knew I was going to be under the spotlight this Christmas. Cooking for nine, including two chefs. Mmmm.. .
Given that I didn’t have a team of lackeys running around my capacious kitchen, other than Aunt Aggie , that is, squatting in the corner with her knitting and wearing a tea cosy, I had to have a decent strategy. I also had to have a plausible set of excuses in my back pocket, just in case. The pressure had been eased earlier in the month by the Folks volunteering to ‘do’ the Turkey, as long as I did the stuffing and wrapped chipolatas, or as Aggie insisted on calling them ‘angels on horseback’.   I’m sick of telling her that’s a completely different dish.

The day started well with a copy of cycling weekly in my stocking ...(If you want a laugh look at their websites best cycling clips of the year, specially the Sherwen gaffe and the unedited Wiggins being interviewed after the Tour of Romandie. Link( Its a hoot.
After a light breakfast of chocolate orange and Turkish delight it was off through the lanes for a steady 10 miler.  Not much on the roads. Solitary running in the wet.  A low, thin mist hanging around and puddles everywhere.  Running past the ruins of Mitford Castle, I came around a bend and was hit by the heavy scent of incense.  The knights had not re-convened but the musky smell was seeping out from the nearby Magdalene church.
Got back and washed, and, after a swift half hour with the young adults and friends at the local , it was down to the proper graft. The Kitchen beckoned.  I peeled more spuds than a bombardier on charge, and more carrots than Ee-Aaw could eat in a week.   Aggie was masterful at the stuffing, putting years of moaning and useless industry to good use.  I always wondered what she was good at, but it clearly wasn’t stuffing.  

Time went on and the kitchen was full to bursting with colourful grub. Heston would have been proud. Then, no sooner had I welcomed the Turkey through the front door, than the hoards descended on us, sat, toasted and gobbled up the tepid spread that was my Christmas fare.
Afterwards there was a little turkey left . I never even got round to cooking the broccoli. The pudding was good and hot, though and, after a quiz, we sent them on their way. Nice to have company. 

There’s still some stuffing left if anyone’s interested.  This morning Aggie's had to have a lie down. Chocolate sugar rush I think.  Hate to think how many calories consumed yesterday.

I notice the Forfar run is full now and my worst sporting experience from 2012, the Captain Cooks challenge sportive, is strangely not on the calendar. Read it and weep.
Maybe that’s a blessing.  Now to planning the next year.   I’d really like to include a visit to the new velodrome in Glasgow.  Wonder if I could combine it with Celtic Connections in January. Maybe. In the meantime, time for a cuppa 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Urban Running

Last night I got close to the shops. But not too close...I had a cunning plan and that was to drop off the various shoppers and then test myself against the urban jungle that is Newcastle.
I put a quid in the meter which paid for an hour and took off up Westgate Road. It follows the line of Hadrians Wall, but there was little evidence of it among the take-aways, motorbike shops and hairdressers that litter much of the road. No proud centurions or rampaging Scots (other than me, that was..) 
The road climbs then falls steeply toward Denton and I cut left after 3 miles and down toward Scotswood Road. There were bright Christmas lights in the windows and on the cars with the occasional blue light from a passing police car. A few well lit cyclists buzzed past. When can you have too many lights?   One had five on his rear after his front light caught me in the strobe. I passed the Vickers factory with a glum centurion tank parked at the gate...or is it a challenger.  I read the place has been there in armaments since 1847 and made tanks and guns, not to mention the undercarriages for Lancasters and I won't mention that bit. Onwards I ran past the Hydraulic Crane, or at least the site of the last pub that served the shipyards. Then down along the flat quayside to the Swing Bridge with the Christmas lights reflecting on the serene, black waters of the Tyne. Not many folk around.
Question: How Many bridges has Newcastle got?
Answer: Plenty
I ran back up the Side and along Collingwood Street which once housed upmarket, busy offices in the 80's, but now seems to be an extension of the Bigg Market with ground floors now occupied by pubs attracting the punters.
I realised my hour was nearly up, but that was OK as I got to the car and there was no sign of any wardens. Later I bought myself a new pair of trainers. Well, is Christmas!


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Jarrow XC 2012

 Wow..This racing lark is becoming a regular thing. Maybe I should have a blog?.I was stood in the queue for stamps at a small post office. They used to be very reasonably priced, but now I find they're soo expensive.
They cost so much now I've begun to send them as presents. If you get a card in the post off me, thats it! thats your pressie.
At the next shop I was in another queue. The old bloke, smartly dressed next to me smiled casually as we waited patiently. Well, he was waiting patiently, I wasn't. I piped up 'You need to entertain yourself in a long queue I quipped. I told him, a complete stranger, that I'd been to a fancy dress Christmas party the night before. He looked at me and nodded. I said my mate had come dressed as a tortoise with a strange women on his back.. I continued....'I asked who she was'? My mate said  'it's Michelle.'. ...The gent stood there. There was every possibility of a tumbleweed moment, but I heard a stifled guffaw from the women behind him and the tension was released so there's hope yet for my comedy career. Yes, yes, its Peters Kay's material, but it made me smile.

Today's run at Jarrow at the North East XC league was much improved from last weeks sludgey debacle. I put this down to the new set of xc spikes with mean and lean 12mm spikes. I positively floated round the muddy course today and may well have breached the top 50. It was mild and having had a very limited mileage this week, I was full of vim and vigour. I've even cleaned the new shoes. I then dug the Walshes that I wore last week from their lair. Clagged and caked in a brown overcoat of Hartlepool mud,  they had begun to grow warm and glow a little, like a gremlin hatching. Once the shoes were clean I turned the brush, one like your old grandma used to use on the steps, on myself and now me and the shoes are all perched on the radiator, drying. I declined stuffing myself with newspaper. Maybe I should.

Its carrot and lentil soup again tonight. I've cracked the recipe. Easy to make and easy to eat. Tomorrow threatens an hour with the lads then off to the cyclo cross. Anything to stay away from the shops.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

North East XC Champs 2012

I managed to haul my weary carcass down to Hartlepool yesterday for the North East Cross Country Championships. It was cold, but most of the recent frost had thawed leaving the hilly course around Summerhill Country Park a boggy quagmire. There were 3 climbs on this 12k, 4 lap circuit for the men and around 350 lined up.

In terms of choice of footwear, I went with my Walshes principally because I've wrecked the daughters salomons and I haven't got any spikes. The rest of them were opting for 15mm spikes - any longer, I thought, and they could run the risk of being transfixed on roots like a cartoon character. I am never very sure what difference footwear makes, but probably quite alot in these circumstances.

I started quite far back and managed to get past around half the field in the first 2 laps. By lap 3 I was beginning to struggle, but unexpected moments of light entertainment such as competitors beside and in front of me careering through the mud or losing control at corners and ploughing through tape partly relieved the drudgery.

My mind was clearly not on the job and I was happy to let a couple of runners pass me. However as we got onto the final lap, having been lapped by the top 3 lads, I suddenly got a shot of backbone and fought all the way round with a Birtley runner who had his eye on my 148th place.  I even managed a sprint at the end with a Gateshead runner, so evidently after 12k of mud I hadn't been overdoing it. It must be a mental thing. I enjoyed a good cross country and this was a good cross country so it's a bit of a headscratcher why I was so slow. Back at base the kit demanded the 'heavily soiled' programme and as for the shoes..... bucket job.  Photos at
Results at

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Age concern

I bailed out of the Hexham Hobble last weekend. Running 10 miles on icy, rutted ground is no longer on my 'to do' list. It used to be, but I've been running for 10 years now and have at least got some idea of risk and the fragility of my withered old ankles.  During these long winter days and nights its the Strava website thats got me out the door. Sad, but true. Ive created a good few runs and segments around the town which adds a frisson when plodding through the cold night air in the near darkness. Ok, I need to get out more...or is that stay in more?

Last week I was in receipt of something from Age UK or some such charity. I didn't read it, but it had my name on the covering letter and I wasn't sure whether they were looking for charity donations or were concerned about my welfare and impending age. Being old is not detracting me from running and this morning I was up at Amble looking at a possible job. As you do (when you're on the skive), I managed to shoe horn in a stealthy 6 miles running around the harbour, along the Braids, up Beal Bank to the picturesque Warkworth village with its 11th Century Castle, former home of the Percy Family,  overseeing the village in silence.

Nice to see lots of birds and I thought I spotted a seal beside the weir. Its Cross Country this Saturday at Hartlepool and there's also Simonside Cairns Fell race at Rothbury on Sunday, which attracts a good few runners from over the border. It'll be a good weekend if the weather can behave itself.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Small White Loaf at Woodcock

When the young un’ asked last week what I was doing on Saturday I wasn’t sure whether to say ‘something’ or ‘nothing’...that sort of question can be loaded, and a potential trip hazard unless you’ve years of experience under your belt (like what I have)! The only answer to a question like that is ‘why’?. ,,As it turned out, she had entered the Norman Woodcock Memorial Race but couldn’t run it.
It’s a five mile, three lapper around the race course in Gosforth on the edge of Newcastle. I called the Organiser and changed the details. It’s not one I would do from choice at the moment, given my indifferent form, but I really need to make the effort. However, I had a hard 4 miles in the woods on Friday afternoon and Friday night got the better of me, finding myself in the local hostelry for a couple of hours.

As a result, I muddled around the house this morning feigning DIY and around lunchtime decided to try out the new breadmaker that’s been sat around for a few months.  The basic recipe for a small white loaf takes about 3 hours, so after I stuck in the various component parts, it was grab the shoes and off to the races.
There was around two hundred runners and riders and it was a cold, clear and still day. There were plenty from our club present, it being a championship race and at the start I fell into line as we swung our way anti-clockwise around the inside of the course.  It’s quite flat with a small drag to the finish and I caught up with Peter Grey of Alnwick, early on. Without a watch I had no idea how things were going, other than I was experiencing some discomfort in the ‘body and lung department’ as I clung to the little group as we made our way around the second lap.

My focus began to waver at the beginning of the last lap when I thought about jacking. Thought it, but didn’t. Mentally softening like the bread-dough, my pace dropped a little and Grey began to put some space between him and me.  But there’s nothing like a bit of club support and one of the lads who’d come to watch shouted ‘come on Ally, stop surveying the countryside and get after him’. I didn’t think staring at someone’s soles and the tarmac three metres ahead constituted taking in the view and I grafted onwards.  
It was a case of damage limitation in the last stretch as Brannon of North Shields and then a rangy Claremont  and a Newcastle Uni runner came past.  I got to the finish 3 seconds inside the 30 minutes I dared to hope for.  I was done-in though.  I warmed down with the lads and waited for the presentation.  I had finished well down in the field. However, I can’t be disgruntled at all and came away pleased enough that the recent patchy training hasn’t been too detrimental. Maybe time for some new trainers though. The ones I’ve got now feel like flip-flops. The bread was great when I got back. Just needed a bit of chocolate spread on it.    

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Maltby Seven

I parked up the car just off the verge on Roger Lane in Maltby village and made my way up the high street to the Village Hall. The two women behind the table were happy to take my £12 entry fee for the Maltby 7 Road Race. The otherwise sleepy hollow located on the boundary between Teesside and North Yorkshire had, by 10:30am, been truly over-run by runners.

I am still spluttering and coughing abit from the vestiges of a squatting cold... I thought they'd brought out some legislation recently that made that sort of thing illegal.  I couldn't face chasing a time at the more local Newcastle 10k. It was a cracking morning (Grommit!) and around 200 runners took off up the lanes after 2 minutes silence, the silence being peppered by frequent garmin and GPS bleeps, peeps, tatties and neeps. After a few words with a lad who knows someone in our club I wished him luck and moved on and began working through the crowd, but being careful to progress in bite size stretches.

I was soon in with a guy from NYM but he pulled away after 2 miles although he never got too far in front throughout the race. Someone shouted that he had the over 50's prize in the bag. I then caught a South Shields runner as we followed the undulating road close to a clump of faceless, indolent wind turbines turning languidly in the slight breeze. Quite a contrast to my staccato and increasingly, grizzly technique.  There were another 2 or 3 NYM's just ahead but I just couldn't pick it up enough to catch them, and with a mile to go and the arrival of a small but steep hill, South Shields man dumped me from his smooth slipstream and I was left to run along to the end of the high street to grab a glorious 32nd place.

Each finisher got a bag filled with prizes, but on inspection it contained a bottle of water, a plastic bottle and a cream towel. Don't want to carp, but obviously a Granola bar and banana were a bridge too far.

The highlight of the trip came afterwards when after a short warm down, I dug the bike out from the boot, changed into da lyrca and took myself off to Suggitts cafe in my old cycling stomping ground of Great Ayton with £1.50 in my pocket. There were, inevitably a group of bikies ensconced within, but I proffered my coinage and came away with a mug of tea and a scone and jam. Result.   

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Bedlington XC

After 35 miles in the dreich rain yesterday, it was a surprise when I woke at nine this morning to a white, hoary frost and crisp blue sky outside.  I fannied around for the morning, drowning in tea and coffee and cleaning the bike from yesterday before heading off to Gallagher Park in Bedlington for the cyclo cross. 

Gallagher Park....Whats it named after, I wondered, as I drove down the access road to the car park...Gallagher and Lyle (not sweet enough- or is that Tate and Lyle)?
Noel Gallagher? Nope, this was no 'oasis of pleasure' (sorry!) as I caught sight of the former colliery pit heap, poorly disguised below a sea of green pine trees.
I met up with Stu from Gothic, caught up on the goss. and readied myself for an hours two wheeled mud-gurgling. As Stu pedalled his trusty steed up the hill to the start, his chain broke so there was a quick bit of bike repair to be done. Handled with the usual panache, we all got off at the whistle and were soon threading our way through the course. Most of it was pretty fast but there were a couple of boggy stretches and the organisers had made it quite technical with  a lot of twists with awkward cambers and a couple of narrow corridors through the tightly grouped conifers. One rider in front of me nearly took out the photographer who was leaning out to get the best angle and over the course of an hour there were a good few spills around me as riders took corners too fast, lost tyres on wet tree roots or misjudged their line. I had a good sweat on toward the end and it was a much better ride than 3 weeks earlier at Druridge.

The course was great, but again no running stretches. Maybe I need to go to Belgium, the home of cyclo- cross for this; and then again there's always Gateshead, parts of which can be impossible to ride in wet conditions.

Took the dog out for 40 minutes through the woods later as the sun began to set. Beautiful. A really good Sunday.     

Friday, 2 November 2012

Where Eagles Dare

I'm sitting in the lounge with the dog watching ‘Where Eagles Dare’.  I’m watching it, not the dog. She prefers Downton.  Eastwood and Burton.  A classic. Major Bernard Himler, Indeed! With Halloween out of the way I’m surrounded by small bags of sweets, this being due to a meagre attendance on the guising front. Maybe that was because I was hiding in the back room with the lights off. The kids these days just seem to stand there. What does trick or treat really mean? Where’s the poetry. A bit of MacBeth, thats all we want. I remember stumbling round Cumbernauld in a pillow case when I was four. Nothing to do with Halloween; thats just what we did then. Will the sweeties keep till next years Halloween... I think not.
Tonights track session wasn’t quite the snowy highlands of Bavaria but it was the first time I’ve run in freezing temperatures since getting back from the holiday and you could see the sparkling frost on parts of the red tartan.  Nice to run for the first time under the floodlights. It was like being at Maryhill all over again. Well, it would have been, I imagine, had Partick signed me up.

Took the bike abroad last week, which was just as well as it was plenty hot. Too hot to run. It was the end of the season, so there wasn’t hoards of folk around. Not sure why I took Dickens ‘Hard Times’ to read...hardly seaside literature. It was also a bit of a drag coughing and spluttering through each ride having picked up a snotty cold from my generous fellow passengers.  There were some tasty climbs, though, and I wish I had felt better.  But at least I’ve now a small, but select section on the ‘Strava’ website which is in greek.  Always good to bamboozle the competition. Not too hard to get near the top of the league on a greek island where there are only 2 other bikies.
Last night was the first time in a week and a half that I was feeling chipper and plodded round the dimly lit townscape with a bit of bounce (I should really leave those tumble dryer sheets at home).

I keep on seeing my former dentist who seems to have got the running bug bad. Trouble is he looks in good shape and finished just behind me at a 10k in the summer. I may have to invite him up to the house and keep him waiting for 20 minutes in the lounge before asking him to book for an appoinment on another day (as you do). That'll slow him down.

Tonight’s sesh of six times eight hundreds was passable but there’s a long way to go before I’m in any shape.  The home made chips and beer I’ve just had will help, but not in an athletics way.  Good for the soul I think they say. I even had a jam and bread afterwards.  What a rebel. Jabba the hutt. Clearly need to get a couple of target races to aim for and knock me into shape. Meanwhile the cyclo cross season is well underway and there’s a race in Dunbar next weekend so that might be a change. Need to see if theres enough greenbacks for the diesel.

I know how you relish the kitchenalia, so I can tell you that the toasters been binned now. Its been decades since I was perched over the sink with a knife scraping the burnt bit off the side that I left under the grill too long, but it brought back memories. The inconvenience has, however, got the better of nostalgia and It’ll be off to Argos to buy a new one today. The demise of the old one was messy and involved a wet tea-towel. The tea towel didn't make it either.

 Clint and Richard have just scrambled off the roof of the cable car now, so have to go.  

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Humanity and the Matfen 5k

As I breezed into the empty coffee shop at Alnmouth yesterday in my cycling gear, I announced to the bored looking young lady that 'I was Al and my buddy was Steve and we'd come to drink her tea shop dry. This kind of full on communication can result in two possible reactions: She smiles and engages in old time chat about where we've come from, where we're going and whats it like to ride in a club like SC Gothic...or ...she can smile and think 'what an
oddball'. I can't vouch for the girls thoughts,  but the coffee and cake was good. As I sat over the low, slim and hot radiator
by the big window for the 20 minutes we were there surrounded by old pictures of times gone by and a big open range at one end of the room,  I couldn't help thinking 'its good to talk'
Forty five miles later on the bikes we got back into town. Pulling up at the side of the car in the slow traffic, I chatted to a well dressed bloke in tweed in his Merc. He leant across and wanted to know  how he would go about getting a Gothic jersey. We held the traffic up twice as within perhaps 30 seconds, we found we had Dundee Uni in common. He asked me as he began to pull away 'Had I ever been to Thomson's Bar'. I can't rightly remember and I might never know where his examination was going. One google stop later and I can confirm, of course, that I have been (to said bar).
At the end of the day and in spite of all the distractions we construct, we only have ourselves and my biking companion observed as we rode off that 'I'd talk to anyone'. Well most folk at least.

Today was a 5k at Matfen,  a village nestled in close to Hadrians Wall. There was a small field for this new race. Perhaps twenty percent of it was made up from our club.  

We started on a hill and then, once it levelled off,  the course wound its way around the damp lanes,  slowly descending to the finish. It should have been fast. I found myself for the first 3k sitting a little way back from the leading group of four. With very little traffic around, I had plugged myself in to the old ipod to find a rhythm. The group in front gradually disappeared.
I was aware at around 4k of a small, potent charabang with 'ambush'  on their minds...and I was their quarry   They began to come past.
Regrettably this group of 4 included two club-mates. As I tried to keep up,  even Kylies 'Timebomb' couldn't rouse the gazelle-like legs.

After 3 got past, I dug deep but the finish line was coming up fast. I heard another runner on my shoulder. Not another clubmate thinking of glory...Yes, but I had my pride to think of and managed to salvage ugly but effective from the reserves. There was a 10k on immediately afterwards so there was a good crowd at the end.

As we caught our breath's there was much talk about the course being much longer than 5k. This was a bit of a head-scratcher as it was also a regional Vets championship race. At least that would explain the crap time. Possibly the bike ride the day before didn't help, but it was a nice morning out.  The young un' picked up 3rd place in the ladies race though, so all was not lost.
(Matfen 10k pictures on flickr)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Sunday:The day of rest

I've burned some calories today. An 11 miler this morning with the crew, followed by an hours cyclo-cross (CX) at Druridge Bay Country Park in glorious autumn weather... makes the pain somehow bearable.
The training has been going quite well of late and I realise standards at 'runner wanderings' have slipped to a slothful level. However, I am probably playing the 'long game'. That's the line I've adopted when asked. People are courteous enough to nod at this strategy even though I've no idea what it means in athletics terms. Am I waiting until I hit 50 before committing or what?...  Did that last parkrun jaundice my appetite for racing.... Is Howard's End doing me in just as Mr Wilcox is doing my head in. No,its simply taking that bit longer to get into any sort of shape.     
 Arriving at the CX at lunchtime,  I signed up and asked if I should put 'v' for 'vet' down in the category box. 'No' came the reply from the organiser lady, adding 'if you are a vet you should have been in the vets race'....'that was at 11am this morning, so just put down senior'. After losing my garmin at the start (thankfully later recovered) I ground out an hours handful of laps over the heavy ground. I took solace in the fact that I wasn't lapped until halfway through the 3rd lap. Maybe next time I might hold out for the full three.  At times I was barely moving. I was trying so hard on one stretch to make the wheels go round my shades began to steam up. The spectators sat patiently, perched on the haystacks peppered throughout the course. At least they wereenjoying the sun. Someone was listening to the radio and another feeding the ducks. Not the most exciting spectator sport. Certainly not enough crashes or unseatings. To makes matters worse, there were no running segments, so I had to ride the whole way. Still, I can only get muddier later in the season.  

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

break out the kayaks

I blogged in 2009 when we last had a downpour. At that time it was the first proper flood in 50 years around here. Now 4 years on we had a near-repeat. Don't talk to me about climate change....we're living it. Time to crack out the aqua-lungs.  The exercise must go on....!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Risky Business

Not one for Downton Abbey, Aunt Aggie strolled in to the kitchen tonight and announced she was going to make some pasties. The radio was tuned into ‘Absolute 80’s and was playing in the background.  I had been reading with my feet up, but pulled up sharply by this announcement.
She dug around for the flour, eggs and so on, corralled the ingredients on the worktop and rolled up her sleeves. I knew I was in for an onslaught.  The last time she waded in to the kitchen with the same intent, the casualties were high, random and widespread.  We found collateral damage for weeks after.  She couldn’t be left alone. Might set her pinny on fire or melt her curlers. The larder begged for mercy and the fridge looked on nervously.  

I put the book down and moved across the room, sidling up casual like and took up a supervisory position.  

She went at it like the clappers and with the oven on, it was like a bakery for the next 15 minutes and the trays of pastry were shovelled in like it was a happy hour at the pizza parlour on a Friday night.  
After 20 minutes the music had moved on and the volume had been turned up. She poured herself a Springbank as she waited for her creations to rise and reach their peak.  Taking a gulp and gazing into the glass, turning it in her hand she said  ‘Nice arrival, maybe a wee bit sherry’  and, after slowly considering the next mouthful added, ‘ and  a surprising  peppery finish with a long nose’....

By the look of it, she’d made some savoury pasties and others, sweet.  No sign of a recipe book.
The first pasties out were intact, good looking and well turned out.. but she had rushed the second batch and they came out five minutes later looking like they had had six rounds with Alien versus Predator.  She shrugged, smiled and turned the oven off.

Pushing her shoulders out and dropping her hands like Christopher Walken in the Fatboy slim video, she turned the radio up to max and invited me to join her as Michael Jackson's ‘Thriller’ belted out and we finished the episode dancing like zombies, seeing ourselves as reflections in the Kitchen Window. Baking is a risky business sometimes.       

LLangollen by night

Llangollen by night!
Making a return trip to Llangollen this week, I had every intention of taking in more of Offa's Dyke armed with my rapidly disintegrating Salomon's. One delay during work , however, was compounded by the next and, by the time I had finished in Wrexham, it was getting late.

I arrived at the modest B&B and was shown to my room. Rapidly changing into the running gear and with the light outside failing, I had to admire the aspirations of the guest house owner.  He had furnished the room with a pine, four poster, but hadn't quite got round to stripping the overpainted wood chip which looked like it was helping greatly in keeping the building together.

By the time my garmin had found what it was looking for outside, a run up to the crags was out. I plumped instead, for a 6 miler along the canal.  It was quiet on the whole. Early in the run I was buzzed by a bat which evidently fancied a game of chase.  There's a movement in the area to plant fruit trees along the canal to help the wildlife. Help the badgers and foxes go 'scrumping' next summer. Lucky them.  It was a calm evening and I imagined the canal being a hive of industry in the past. Struggled on afterwards with Howards End (EM Forsters, that is)..

The racing has been curtailed this weekend although I did turn out to yesterdays parkrun for a trial out and adding another 4 miles afterwards, was happy enough with the progress.  I suspect the intermittent knee ache will continue to come and go. Long distance runs are really off the menu at present. As such, there was no prospect of nipping up to the Dumfries Half today with the rest of the Morpeth Wolfpack to nab a handful of booty from the gid fowk thereabouts. All was not lost though. As I finished off in the garden this aft, the young 'un returned with 4 bottles of real ale from the wimmins team prize. I've told her she's not a real ale drinker and offered to swop her hoard for something more fashionable. A babycham perhaps.     

Friday, 14 September 2012

Llangollen - fell running heaven?

I recall being taught a little welsh history at school. Seemed remote... Offa's dyke and Owain Glynd┼Ár, the last Welsh Prince of Wales and his cont re-temps with Henry IVth. But things fade over time and interests wain. If someone nowadays asked me about Wales, I might be inclined to shrug my shoulders. I might even be a little ambivalent. So it was a trip into the unknown when I finished work for the day yesterday and took myself to Llangollen. I hadn't a clue where or what it was, only that it had a good deal at a woodland hotel and that it wasn't too far away from the job. I dumped the stuff in the room and after scoffing all the complimentary biscuits, took myself out for a short run.

As I emerged from the woods in clearing skies I spied a jaw-dropping landscape topped with little nugget across the valley. Castell Dinas Bran, the ruins of a 13th century castle perched on the top of the hill like an abandoned set from Camelot or Excalibur. It was about 3 miles away. I put up with the creaky knee to jog then walk up much of the tough climb following the zig- zaggy path up all the way to the ruins at 340m. After taking in the awesome late evening view,I ran down the other side which wasin parts so steep that my legs ran away with themselves and I nearly went over twice at high speed. Then I picked up a sign pointing to Offas Dyke and ran the remaining mile or so under the stunning but unpronounceable Eglwyseg Crags before turning back. The limestone scarp bathing under a calm,cool sky and the rooks making a lot of noise while the sheep looked on. Didn't have time to do the Crag run, but there'll definitely be a next time. Fell running heaven.  (See if you can make out the head and face within the arch....)

Friday, 7 September 2012

Have your been Strava-ed

It seems like I've been listening to the lads drone on about their favourite cycling gadget for ages.
There are, on occasion and periodically, quieter moments when out in the lanes. Short moments of tranqility when your companions take timeout from trying to dodge careless or aggressive drivers, fish flies out of their eyes or scour the road surface for rim-crunching potholes.

Its at times like these, when the reliable avenues of conversational enquiry have been exhausted, that the rivetting details of performance encouraged by this latest gadget raises its head in conversation. It goes by the name of 'Strava'.

The Strava website proclaims 'Track all your runs and rides, set personal records and beat your friends' times. Enter virtual competitions, climb the leader boards, create and join clubs...blah, blah, blah.'   You can download your garmin or mobile phone ( I suppose with an app.).   I gave in at last and joined the Strava set last week. I am dismayed to admit its quite addictive...and one other thing. 
It can be applied to running as well as cycling. Not that I'm the competitive type but some bloke has 19 minutes down for the Bothal Woods run which I'm going to destroy with a red blooded, grit defying 17 minutes this weekend - should put me at the top of the league without question. 
So,if you've got nothing better to do and the dishes and hoovering's all done,  have a look in on least it makes a change from standing at the end of the platform watching the trains with your anorak on!    

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Molar Expedition

Causation. Cause and effect, The urbane turbaned image of David Home's eighteenth Century portrait fills my head. My absence at this years Ben Nevis race was not a case of synchronicity,I should add, but just sheer bad timing.......So my blog went this morning, then while editing I managed to delete my ditty about how my medical event resulted in a 'no show' today. I won't bore you with the gory details,only that the title of the earlier blog was 'Molar Expedition' (That's a clue)

Anyway, feeling a bit more chipper tonight so well done all those brave or daft enough to have run today's Ben. I'm looking forward to reading the reviews.   

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Howtown Fell Race ..Supremacy

I’m sitting here reading that they’ve made another Jason Bourne Film. The old ones were the best.
Yesterday, there was a small but tidy field of runners for this years Howtown with the likes of Bell, Cornforth & Birkinshaw present and ready for a fast paced affair. We gathered in a field at Howtown Outward Bound Centre in Martindale with the sun burning through the few clouds present.  £3 entry fee.  Hard to resist!  

 I had noted 3 checkpoints along the course at Loadpot Hill, the second south at High Raise and a third at Place Fell off Patterdale Common. However, these were just names to me....or at least just names surrounded by a boatload of contours. There was sun cream going on and caps being broken out. I took my woollen hat which was all I could find in the car.
We set off at 11am for this 20km, 4000ft extravaganza. Most of the field went right, and up through the high ferns. Four of us stuck to a path that went left. I couldn’t decide if the other 55 runners were right or wrong, but I wanted to enjoy the run and convinced myself that a few extra miles wouldn’t hurt.  When you’re behind a long snaking line of runners on rough terrain with few passing places, you are stuck with their pace. Better, surely, the long open paths, even if they are going the opposite way!

As we reached the ridge after 20 minutes of ascent I could see a few runners ahead and at Loadpot Hill, I counted 12 ahead along the old cattle track. I didn’t have a clue where in the field I was though. I could have been 13th or, maybe, near the back, so I ploughed on southward on the spongy peat and grass and easy terrain, being careful to brush my legs down every so often (bugs!).  
As we made our way to High Raise the terrain got rockier and I made out the figure of Keswick’s Valentine about 40 seconds ahead, but by the second checkpoint he and his running mate were gone and out of sight. After an offering of jelly babies by the Marshall, I continued too far south and realised this when I asked a couple of walkers if they had seen any runners to which they replied ‘none’. I got back on track passing a settle runner and keeping behind a dark peaker. We worked down and along the craggy path past Stoney Rig where I stopped to scoop water in my cupped hands as the sun did its best to give us a Summers day. I asked a few couples if there were many ahead, to which one replied ‘plenty’...well, at least I knew I was on the right path.
I was caught by Duff of NFR and we exchanged a few words as he led the way downhill with an easy style. It was someway along a grassy track bordered on both sides by high ferns that I took a tumble that would have got me a 9.5 at the gymnastics, but I flipped up and was soon back on track to St Martins Church. I wasn’t sure if I was all in one piece and I knew there was something wrong when I asked a young family if ‘they knew who Treadstone was’.   I don’t know if it was the heat, but I couldn’t remember a thing and was surprised and perplexed to find 4 passports and a cache of Swiss dollars in my bumbag. I caught and passed the Keswick runner who had run out of gas and, where almost within sight of the finish, we were forced up another hill to meet a smiley bloke with a clipboard.

As I ran down the hill I found a shortcut and reached the road without much thought. Another runner asked how I knew where to go, to which I replied ‘I can write. I can speak 5 different languages, add, subtract, know all the martial arts, I can make coffee and I can set up a cheeseboard’.
Chessboard’ he replied....

Eh? I asked, gawping at him
Its a Chessboard....well, at least it is in the film, not a cheeseboard’ he replied.   As a ran away from him, he did have a passing similarity to Conklin (whoever he is?).

From there it was downhill and a mile along the road to the finish. It had taken 2hr 42 mins of effort for 18th place. Carl Bell had cracked it in a shade over 2 hrs.  I dunked my head under a tap and then it was 10 minutes up to my waist in Ullswater with the rest of them.  A fine run on a fine day.

Now have to get off to Berlin...