Thursday, 28 February 2013

Boltby or Bust

It was a year or two ago the last time I was tempted to dump the car and take off running. That was somewhere near Tebay. Sometimes the weather looks just too attractive. Yesterday, as I made my way up back from a long trip south, I pulled off the A19 and parked up in Sowerby. Its next to Thirsk. Thirsk town centre is quite an attractive place with cobbles (which they appear to be pulling up sadly) and plenty of folk weaving busily in and out of the shops.

I already had my running gear on and at four in the afternoon, I thought I might try a run up toward Sutton Bank. Its a mean, steep and winding climb that takes you up into the North York Moors.

After running through town and heading up along the side of the A170, I ditched the idea of running along a busy road and cut left to Felixkirk and then on to Boltby village, 4 miles further on. The road just climbs and climbs up to St. Johns Mount. It was quiet, with plenty of hedges and moss covered walls. After 2 or 3 miles of climbing the route then dropped down for a mile before I came to the sleepy hollow of Boltby itself. There was a sign to Thirlby (1.5 miles) which looked interesting, but it was almost five and the sun was dropping fast. Getting back was quicker than the outward route, with squirrels, rabbits and pheasant a plenty crossing the road or hiding below the hedges. The snowdrops were out and it had the feel of early spring. As I got back into Thirsk, the sun had turned big and bright red, bobbing just over the horizon and I could feel the cold creeping in. Nice 12 miles. I'll be back to tackle this lot (and more) on my bike.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

National Cross Country 2013

As an athlete I've never had a triple-A rating. My progress has been frequently erratic and even sluggish at times. In 2007,  I ran in the National Cross Country Championships. It was being held for the first time at Herrington Country Park near Sunderland. It can be exposed and merciless being perched on the Magnesian Limestone Scarp. However, I pulled out of the race after a mile, so I intended this time to see it through to the end.

This year saw the Nationals returning to Sunderland. With steady flurries of snow, the bright cavalcade of club tents and banners were pretty much floating  in a swamp when I arrived. The men's race was the last of the day, starting at 3pm. There was around 15 of us huddled in the tent, trying in vain to find some warmth and dry ground to change in. A quick look at part of the course confirmed that it was going to be a mudbath.

In the pub the night before (top training tip) I had stated 'on the record' that a top 500 place would be reasonable, but later during the evening, I downgraded myself to top 600.  Stepping out into the mud and icy water was a stark reminder that I was going to get muddy. very muddy. The klaxon went at 3, and the rampage began with around a thousand would-be contenders making their way up from the pens to the first turn. The course is a former colliery and there's two long drags halfway through. But it was the mud that prevailed. The edges of the course near the tape that had been pretty firm, were soon chopped up and mashed so that there was no good ground anywhere.

The first of 3 laps up the hill was entertaining, but as the race progressed and I caught fewer  and fewer runners, an air of austerity crept over me and I longed for the finish, the light at the end of the tunnel.

The support was good and with so many runners from all over the country it was a surprise when I caught glimpses of local runners. In such a big field you have little idea where you're placed.  This uncertainty continued but I was feeling good and wasn't about to start blaming the Eurozone for the conditions (unlike some..!). I looked at my garmin after 17 minutes and didn't look at it again until the finishing straight where around 4 got past me. They were clearly better performing economies.

A quick scan of some of the runners at the end suggested one or two had had a 'double dip' and it took a scrub down in the garden afterwards to free myself of the clagg. I didn't even bother to wash the socks; straight into the bin.  After today the forecast remains cautiously optimistic. Well done to the fast lads who won the coveted team prize. We've been after it for a long time now.  As for me, well 480th was a result.

Mens race highlights on video here:

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Royal Signal Relays 2013


The running's been going sweetly this month. Not to much stress on the regime but 50 or so miles a week and a little biking thrown in for good measure. Weight's behaving itself. Just need to plan a long race or two.  Have a couple of sportives also lined up and a trip to Manchester velodrome. That'll be a blast.

Ran in the all conquering  Morpeth vets team yesterday...well all conquering the bronze that is.
The Royal Signals Relays 2013 - 300 athletes. Six legs, each 2.3 miles long - Paced it well and delivered my 5th leg at around 5:33 pace - didn't think I was quite up to that; Top lad Terry Wall was running last leg for us, but we didn't count on the Steve Cairnsmeister also running the last leg for Tyne Bridge and they snaffled the silver. There was only around 40 seconds between us and winners North Shields, but pretty good all the same to get some silverware.

Its my second NE medal and not bad, considering I'm at the extreme end of the age category, even if I say it myself.

Getting back in the mid afternoon from the Signals Relays I dug out the bike and did a quick 15 miles but a mile from home the rear gear hanger broke, sending the changer into my rear wheel and I ground to a halt, fighting in the middle of town to stay upright and extricate myself from the bike clips before I went all horizontal. Got picked up and the bikes now looking sad for itself in the hall.
A late night with friends and some wine saw me laughing away the damage and consequently only managed a bleary  8 miler today. All in all a good weekend, apart from the bike, that is!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Wrekenton Cross Country

Took advantage of the spring like conditions this morning and knocked out a steady 20 mile before heading off for the Cross Country at Wrekenton, Gateshead. Arrived with 10 minutes to spare; plenty of time to check the spikes and get off down to the line. The club seemed to have plenty of top lads around so I was under no pressure to do ought, which was handy.

Got around the course which was unusually runnable today in 38 minutes. No fireworks but was quite happy with the run. Bought a new pair of Salomons on the interweb and they arrived a few days ago. They've sent me this years model instead of the duller, olive green affair I ordered at a knock down price. Bloomin loverly they are. Far too good to take into the woods...which leaves me short of a decent pair of fell shoes. What to do!

Photos of the men's cross country on the flickr site  - see gallery - (thanks to the girl with a camera)