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.