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...       

Friday, 10 August 2012

One track mind

It was my second trip to our new running track here in sleepy Northumberland. 'Its a bit special' is all I can say. Its got floodlights and lanes and everything and only a mile down the road. The club might even manage to re-produce some nifty runners of the likes of Weightman and McCormick in the next five years ney problemo.
Last night we did four sets of 400, 300 and 200m, knocking them out in around 72, 53 and 31 seconds and, by the end of the session, I was energy, palid cold sweating complexion and a wee bit wobbly and other-worldly.
It was little better this morning when, still feeling knackered, I was faced with a breakfast crisis...3 tubs of marg all on the go. Two is bad enough, but a trio of fatty spreads. What next? Aunt Aggie says she's training for Rio. We don't know who he is and she can't tell us, only that he's coming round in 4 years. All she can say its 'Its amazing. Unbelievable'. Has she been watching too much tele?
I am wavering this weekend between a new and long fell race near Penrith call Howtown or a shorter affair at Philiphaugh near Hawick on Sunday. Looks like Penrith at the mo.
Mentally, I've adopted the 'semi-brailsford' in recent days...that is, I've taken myself apart and looked at my lifestyle and tried to improve each bit and then when each bit is sorted, I re-assemble myself and watch me go faster. Its only a 'semi' at the mo. as I still intend to eat chips and drink weak beer. The previously forlorn hope of a sub60 for 400m, though, is creeping back into my psyche. Maybe I will start training for Rio (or is that with Rio?)

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Gribdale Gallop

August. I’ve got 5 weeks to get into some sort of shape for the Ben Race. I was all for cancelling this year, but now that fancy hotel’s been booked I’m going to have to up my game and get out in t’moors.  Its been so long since I did any fell running I can't remember why I had to stop.

I sat in the traffic at 5.30pm drumming my fingers on the steering wheel as the line of cars chugged forward. We lurched from lamppost to lamppost. Someone was playing some Country and Western in the car beside me. It began to dawn on me that there was little chance of me getting to the start line on time for the Gribdale Gallop fell race in the North York Moors.
I arrived at race HQ at 7:24. I pulled on my shoes and bum bag and stepped out of the car at the same time as a Durham lad across the car park. He asked if we’d made it in time, to which I replied ‘No. Ten  minutes late’.

Organiser Parry was counting in the youngsters from the kids race, but was good enough to advise us that we were actually only 9m:45sec late so, with that cheery message, off we went in pursuit of the field.

Durham asked if I knew where we were going to which I replied ‘haven’t a clue’.  The heart rate was sky-high but the ground was firm'n'dry and we soon got to Cooks Monument (aye,aye) where the path goes three-ways (my,my...ok, enough already).

We puzzled over two tracks which were evidently red herrings for several minutes before I got my local native trackers head on and took off along the third, which turned out to be the right way.
Durham man couldn't hang around for my Ally-come-lately, pussy footing around the Moors behaviour and the bounty hunter easily danced away on the cobbles into the horizon. I had a good sweat on as I ran. I could hear someone playing dixie on a highly strung piano and the flies were having a party around my head. Break out the sarsaparilla.

After the second climb I was all on my own, and with no chance of delivering any sort of performance, I got the camera out and the run became a landscape art-attack. The tape marking the route was, let's say, in places, in a little short supply, so I kept my eyes on the prize by studying the tracks for studmarks like a latter day Davie Crockett. It was taking an age before I spied a lone runner ahead lally-gagging at the back and then just ahead of him there was a small posse of 4. I felt like shouting ‘Whohhh’, putting my hand in the air, rounding them up, making a circle with the wagons and stopping for the night like Big John. But with no coffee or beans there was no choice but to make for Roseberry Topping, the local crag (I know...sounds like something you put on your pudding)
My spirits were lifted as I climbed to the summit by the small stampede of runners coming down the adjacent track and it was no time before I’d passed 10 or 12 more of the pale riders, the low sun catching a few of the puffing puce faces (All we are saying is give puce a chance). 

I snapped a photographer snapping me on the run in, back to HQ, but there were few bodies around to pass and I pulled my sombrero down across my eyes, slotted my samsung into my holster and headed for the line before the dingo’s came out.
Its going to be pretty much fell and hill running this month, so if you don’t want to read about it, look away now (ya’aaalll)