Sunday, 24 November 2013

Double Bubble at Woodcock & the XC

I wondered how I would feel last night after my record breaking run at the Norman Woodcock 5 miler in Gosforth. It’s a flat three lapper around the race course and it was a cool and still day. My plan was to carve a sub-30 performance, but secretly I was resigned to creeping a few seconds over the half an hour.
With a few clubmates in attendance and a field of around 130, I felt surprisingly good during the first lap. Morpeth’s Chris Waugh crept up onto my shoulder toward the middle of the lap and then pulled away smoothly during the second lap.  Instead of chasing him, I focused on trying to catch the first lady runner, which proved a good test, but chiefly I tried to maintain an even running pace and technique right to the end.  Crossing the line I had shaved off 20 seconds from my 2007 PB.  Not the fastest 29:22 in the world at v50 but I was elated and, knowing how to party, treated myself and the missus to tea and cake. I also collected a £10 voucher from the Elswick Harriers event at the prize giving.  

Not surprisingly,  I felt fine last night, spending it dancing away into the wee hours at a 50th Birthday. The DJ was the lad who had done my 50th doo, and he was obliging enough to play many of the tunes I had requested at my bash. It’s not every day you spend a continuous 35 minutes on the dance floor.  We even had a Cure and Simple Minds doubler. Jim Kerr on the dancefloor, indeed.
Felt fine this morning. Made carrot and vegetable soup first thing which I think is great for a pre-race meal.  I tossed the veg into the pan.  Aunt Aggie was busy painting her cast iron miniature Crimean war heroes on the table. I suggested she'd be more comfortable on a chair. She looked over and said that I really ought to make the onions sweat first, so I sat them in the corner of the kitchen and gave them a maths test. The addition of yellow split peas was a masterstroke. It won’t be long before I’m on masterchef.     

The young un’ had said she was intending to have a run-out at the local Cross Country event at Monkton, South Shields at lunchtime and I thought I might have a run out as well. I drove the jalope southward to where it seemed like the whole of the North East running community had turned out. A huge 550 turned out in the men’s field. It meant that the course was well churned up before I got going, setting off in the medium pack (it’s a handicap event, see.)  It was pretty funky galloping past some of the slower guys at the back, but the juvenile bravado soon wore off and, after 20 minutes things were slowing, and progress was slower than waiting for a filling at the dentists. Finished mid table.  I was sure glad I’d had a big bowl of soup before setting off from the house. Those split peas did the job.
Getting back into the house, I had to have a pre-bath shower to get rid of the clag.  It seems we’ve now also got a collection of small Bavarian Grenadiers on the mantelpiece. Photos of the Woodcock road race 2013 and the womens cross country at Jarrow are up in the Gallery. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Get your seven a day

I'm telling you it was wet tonight. Really wet. Driving rain, leaves swirling, wind whooshing, empty streets and me wrapped up like a loon and going through the motions to make up my mileage. I had a bit of Simple Minds, Frankie and Journey on the ipod. Out running with Jim Kerr indeed.

I'll do pretty much anything to avoid running around the town in the dark. I nipped out yesterday for seven through the woods at 4pm. It was still light when I set off. I passed top ex-top vet Rob Hall of Blyth some way along through the track and said 'Hi'. The stretch in the woods lasts about three miles, then its a short section of road that kicks up and then it across the fields for two miles. As I'm trying to do seven a day, I've taken to adding on a couple of lengths of 'rights of way' paths that cut over the railway and through the local Industrial Estate to make it my lucky number. The route is sheltered and, as the sun goes down, its got a great atmosphere as the soda lights from the various business compounds cuts through the narrow corridor of trees and hedges, casting impossible shadows and strobing the path at various points. There was very little left of the snow flurries from the morning.

Saturdays looking like a 5 mile road race in Newcastle followed by a cross country on Sunday. Not going to win the club grand prix but at least I'll go down fighting.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Durham CXNE: Bang Tidy

The question is ‘ can you still race with a puncture?’  Well, its unlikely, but if its cyclo-cross, you’ve got as good a chance as any. My 2013-2014 cyclo season started with a bang. Literally. I dug the bike out of the stables where it had been 'over-summering' and gave it a cursory check over. This was at 8am on a bleary Saturday Morning. I was due to set off for regional event at Durham at 9am. The 'vicar' (rhyming slang for the Ridley; vicar of Dibley..) looked fine and just as I’d left it last February. I loaded it into the motor and by 10am I was parked up and unloading in Durham.
The course was busy and the weather very fine. After putting the wheels on, I went to pump up the tyres, but found one of the valves had snapped. No bother. I had another tube in the car and bags of time. Trouble was the tube was for a road tyre (23mm) rather than for a chunky cross tyre (35mm). I fitted the slimline tube and pumped it up to the max so that the pump was wheezing when I disconnected it. The physics, however, doesn’t work and the tyre was still soft even though I believed the tube inside was groaning like a pair of Jabba the Hutts trousers; gasping and about to go ‘ping’.
I rode gently around the course and set about tightening the brake cables. Once done, I considered the machine was rideable as long as I went steady. Having paid my £12, I gathered on the line with the vets, women and juniors and before you could say ‘get a grip on yourself’ we were off and I was exchanging pleasantries to my Gothic clubmate as we watched the hardcore crossers snake off ahead.

Each lap of the University sports ground was around 8 minutes to get around, and after a couple of laps I was getting back into the swing of things and passing people (men mostly) with glib satisfaction. However, the glekit smile was soon wiped off my chops when over the gravel the front tyre, which had been doing very well up to now, went ‘bang’ and that was that. I walked the bike over the top of the course, back to the car and grabbed the camera and snapped away. It did look like a laugh from the sidelines and there were a few faces I recognised from fell running, notably Donnelly and NFR’s Robertson.  Its' just such a good aerobic workout. 
Afterwards it was a natter with the lads and a tikka roll and cuppa. Nipped into the bike shop later on the way back and bought two new tubes (the right size this time).  Also stroked a carbon framed Trek which had my name on it. But restraint was required.

Nipped out for a 7 mile run later in the afternoon, cause I felt the was some residual energy left. After a steady 11 mile run this morning, there seems less energy about and with an early start tomorrow, it’s off to bed.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Claybank Fell Race 2013

I arrived early in Teesside for the Claybank Fell race. Very early. I pottered around the leafy lanes in the car listening to Classic FM. Mellow on this remembrance day. Aled Jones was on. He thanked listeners for their requests and said 'it would be good to hear from you too'. If that was the case, I thought, he should be on Radio 2. I laughed at the sheer stupidity of me. 
There was a raw, early winter frost, but the sky was clear and the day crisp and still. I drove through Great Ayton on the way to the start. It was just waking up. It was everything middle England should be in November; Woman in hat and coat, on the drive scraping ice off the windscreen and blowing into her fingers; Dog with ball, man with paper; child on a bike; woman peering into the car mirror and squeezing a spot on her chin.

I parked up close to the Clay bank car park and joined the short queue to get my number from the fell-meister Dave Parry. I asked for safety pins and he said there were some in the back, but that I wasn't to go into the boot. It was heaving with wine. Money changed hands and I warmed up over the hill at the back. There were around ninety at the start.  After a short lecture on the FRA rules, we were off.

It had been a while since I'd raced around the Moors and didn't recognise many of the runners and riders. I dropped into 18th position once the climb along the side of the wood levelled off and I pushed on to try and pick up some places on the rocky trail. 

As we hit the first of two climbs, I was in with 2 or 3 runners and was aware of a North Shields Poly on my shoulder. He passed me on the way up. I convinced myself that I had to stay with him, but he had 4 or 5 seconds over the top. It was cold as we hit the flagstones across the moor and it was eyes down to ensure there was no slipping. No time for taking in the splendid view.  I was pleased I wore my cheap woolly gloves.

I was passed by one or two some way along the ridge, but tucked in and soon we were five and all together. We descended into the dip between the climbs in the heather, avoiding the icy steps and I dropped to the back.

The second climb was a stiff walk, and I found some energy at the top to pass a couple and spider my way clumsily through the rocks on the crag. Shields was away again. Good he was on the ascents (said Yoda later), but I wasn't finished yet and we caught up again.

The trail drops steeply left before the finish and three of us continued to the rocky steps. There is, however, a short cut that we missed. It drops down sooner across the shale scree. As I followed Shields, picking our way down the frosty steps, we spied simultaneously two cutting down early, long striding and making 50 metres on us. That was enough to set off my last-ditch  'shit or bust' booster rocket, my very own Hydron Collidor. My small ring of superconducting magnets throbbed and I shot past Shields, horsing after the two runners. One was a North York Moorer, the other of uncertain allegiance.

We entered the woods and the final 300 metres which is a steep, pine needle strewned track.  I was beyond 'full-on', eyeballs out and trying to salvage yet another last ditch finish. The legs were out ahead and my backside was trailing so far behind my legs, I looked like a bad impression of Max Wall.

While one got away just ahead, NYM man gave in with 50 metres to go and I galloped into the pen, feeling completely spent.

Discreet wretch and then up to change after a quick blether with Alnwicks Bruce Crombie.
Why can't I just play backgammon and read the papers....? First M50. Good event, this.
(Photos by Ms Brown. Esk Valley)

Friday, 1 November 2013


Since being pipped at the post at the recent Gibside race (see last entry) I've been trying to get out more in the morning. In truth, its not just a reaction to defeat but also to avoid spending endless dark nights running around the town. True, we've now got a spanking new track up at the local high school, but running 20 laps around lane two can get quite monotonous. Yesterday mornings exercise was a 12 mile purge through the lanes, but today I get a lie-in and will aim for eight to ten miles later this afternoon.

Halloween was quiet last night. Wannabee coach to the stars and slug whisperer, Aunt Aggie, said we had had two visitors when I had been out shopping. As she didn't have any sweeties, she apparently hid under the stairs. I found her still there fingering an old copy of Tractor Weekly wearing a headtorch when I returned. There was only one more little group later in the evening who had an average age of 4 and were mightily excited about wandering around the streets. A sweetie fest. So we have a bowl full of zingy sugar coated sweeties and individually wrapped fruitellas, but this morning I found Aggie has been helping herself to the bowl with the evidence discarded around the kitchen.

As I made coffee first thing, I asked her what she thought my next event should be. As she sat with hairnet on and plasticine effigy in hand (not sure who she's working her Northumbrian voodoo on today?) she tried to form an answer, but a mouthful of chewy sweets conspired against her and her choppers fell out onto the table. That shut her up.

Before 'teethgate',  I thought I heard her mumble Brampton-Carlisle. That would be good but I'm also in the mood for a trail or fell race and a bit of cross country. Best to do these races before the health and safety police ban them. Clay Bank West on the 10th is a cert. Then there's the cyclo cross. Choices...Choices. I'll have a trawl through the calendar and see what's occurring.