Sunday, 28 December 2014

Snow all around at Guisborough Woods

A brand new pair of green and orange Salomon Speedcross's were peering out at me from their box (...and not before time). Time for some hill action. I had chivvied up the youngsters to accompany me down to the Guisborough Woods Hill Race today and I was looking forward to plastering some mud onto new shoes. We arrived in good time, but by the time we walked back to the car from the registration at the rugby club, it was time to jog up the hill to the start.

I had a look through the records for this race. I had lost count of how many times I've done it. My first appearance was in 2006 and this would be the sixth time since then. I reached the dizzy heights of 7th one year.

They changed the course in 2012. It was a three lapper with a finish that plunged through a thickly wooded, stepped ravine which was great. It's now a 2 lapper with a finish that's on forest tracks and a little less frenzied. The second lap is longer than the first and it takes the runners up to the top of the moors, out of the woods and along the south side across the heather before returning to the woods and along a wide forest track. Its difficult to get lost and there are usually plenty of dog walkers out and about.

The field seemed smaller than previously and perhaps 130 set off. I fell in behind Emma Bain of NFR who has beaten me in the last 2 fell races. She has an easy style and steady pace that seems to get results and I stayed with her for most of the first lap.

On the second I had caught a couple of glimpses of some nice landscape shots. The sun was low and some patches of grey freezing fog clinging to the trees. Looking behind me, there were only 2 or 3 around, so moving up toward the moors, I saw the hazy low sun beams forming walls of sunlight through the woods and thought it was time for the camera phone.  The first runner (in a pair of old road shoes) who passed me agreed..'Nice day for some photo's' he said.

Reaching the top of the moor, there was around 2 or 3 inches of fresh snow and I lost another couple of places getting another shot or two, and then that was enough, and putting away the phone, I got my head down and ploughed on, catching all 3 runners who had passed me.

On the way back I was caught by a younger runner, but couldn't stay with him on the last wee climb and it was a long striding finish where perhaps 20 or 25 might have already landed. Watched the youngsters come in not too long afterwards and it was a cuppa at the presentation in the club. On reflection, it would have been a beautiful training run today up there, but I was pleased with the photos and enjoyed the run out. Nice event from DP and Esk Valley.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Hexham Hobble: A One Day Classic

The Hexham Hobble fell race is the Paris-Roubaix of the fell running world.
That's the conclusion I came to, today, after 4 miles of loose cobbles over the moors on a December day with horizontal snow whipping my face like I was a whipping boy.

I was well wrapped up for the foray, had all the gear and had decided at the outset that the phone-camera was going to make an appearance through the run. It becomes an excuse then not to bury yourself and instead, you start lifting your head to see what shots are available. A crutch of sorts.

The youngster came out with me today and she finished about 8 minutes behind so I was pleased with the overall results over this 10.5mile, C class (ascent), mid distance race. Got past a few early on, but fannying around with the camera can really lose you some time. That tripod was murder. A few got past later on. I miss my Salomons but have been told Santa is on the way with a new pair. Not a day I would have chosen to wear shorts. Finished close to 2 blokes, but couldn't be bothered to race to the line with wearing the Mile More fell shoes which were cheap and good on the gravel and muddy peat, but no spring at all on the tarmac stretches. Pleased to see a few out from the club. The cake stall at the end was heaving and the results out sharpish. Deacon Blue tonight.
Good day all round, and I will be if I keep eating these cakes....Well done to Allen Valley for the day.  

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Wallington Cross Country 2014

After an hour out on the bike yesterday morning, I got my gear together for the cross country league. The venue was the grounds of the country estate at Wallington Hall. Just round the corner from my own gaff. I didn't need my National Trust card thankfully. Strangely, I don't need it for my house either. Couldn't find it anyway. My driver, who was also running, picked me and the young one up and we got there nice and early.

With new camera in hand I jogged around the course which was a nice mix of fields, track and woodland with a couple of short climbs along the way. Organised by Morpeth Harriers, I had a chat with a few marshals and then waited for the women to appear. The youngster, who was in the slow pack was lying 3rd and I was excited about this. Her sister, setting off from the fast pack, was ploughing her way through the field, but would be doing well to catch the flying young pretender running for her University.  There was a good crowd present and the finish was exciting.

I handed the camera over, and prepared to run 6 miles or so across the fields with spikes that are really on the small size for me. Off the huge field went and I felt fine during the first two laps and much better than in recent weeks. However, predictably, I began to tire badly on the third lap as runners from both the medium and fast pack began to come through. Having reached the heady heights of 85th, I finished around 130th. A gub of juice and then a coffee sorted me out and soon I was being whisked away back home for my slippers, cocoa and pipe. Good event.  Photos of the Cross Country at Wallington
are in the gallery (Flickr - click on picture on the right)

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Three steps forward

Progress. Three consecutive days running and a sub-7 minute mile into the bargain.

Monday night saw me miss the group and as a result I spent an hour troggling around the town looking for them. I bumped into the fast lads training up in Kirkhill, but had no intention of trying to drop into their group. An easy 6.5 miles

I clipped along past Hepscott and Clifton Lane late yesterday afternoon. To help me on my way, I had the Ipod on. Ian Astbury popped up selling sanctuary, the relentless beat providing a good start as the beads of sweat began to form. I can't help thinking of his headband, handkerchief and little stamping dance in the video. It was then Jim Kerrs turn, as this 80's runfest got into full swing. Lovesong.  With a southerly wind pushing me on, on the way back I had to zip my top down and tried to open my stride to R Dean Taylors ghost in my house. That nearly got me back down to Mafeking.
(ok, Taylors ditty was from the 70's).

When I got back, Aunt Aggie was quietly listening to John Buchans 'Huntingtower' on the radio, ear trumpet in hand and a stern look of concentration on her withered, leathery features. She had time to lift her head, peer over the top of her wire rimmed spectacles and shout 'You putting the tea on, or what?'. Doesn't know she's born that one.

Its Fife this weekend. No racing, but might get some nice shots with the new camera. Very reasonably priced Canon Powershot 510 from Argos. I had nipped out to see the Exhibition 10k on Sunday, the Panasonic Lumix in hand. However, it's been temperamental in the last year on account of me taking it out to all the sites I work on. I'm not very forgiving with my gear. As a boy, my toys had a shorter life than most. Anyway, the exposure meter was playing up and the handful of photos weren't worth keeping.
Might take my trainers with me.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Lassitude not Altitude at the Guisborough Three Tops 2014

Does this bloke look like he's enjoying his fell racing?

With two cross country races under my belt, I was buoyed up enough to try a fell race. I haven’t got any form at present: Not sure if this relatively sudden dive in form over the last 8 months is due to a summer of injury, something age related or simply mental lassitude. I wasn’t enjoying my racing early in the season. Other than perhaps the Black Rock 5, I have struggled and struggled badly. Most of the summer was spent on the bike. I’m still enjoying running though. Somewhere in my head I’m having a good search around for that spark called motivation. As Yoda would say....‘elusive, the mojo is. Off your game, are you’
I ran the ‘Guisborough Three Tops’ in 2006 when I was 21st (70 mins) and again in 2010 when I finished in 16th Place (75 mins). This time around I thought if the knee held up, then 75 minutes would be unrealistic and perhaps 80 minutes might be achievable for this 8 miler (2500ft of ascent). 

A field of around 120 set off up across the tracks up to Roseberry Topping. I watched Joe Blackett disappear off into the sunset and spent the next hour working hard with periodic runners passing by. My lack of investment in fell running shoes was realised coming down from Roseberry where I lost another place or two, tip toeing down the greasy grass, and then, before hanging rock, the second ‘Top’, a crew in front got lost and suddenly I was imported into a bunch of 8 runners. They stretched out again and the field continued to pass until I rallied passing Richard Clark of Esk before the last trig point, whereupon he and Paul Kelly came past. As it was all downhill from there, a spark of belligerence fired up and I passed Paul back, but Esk valley man was gone, and I finished in around 80 minutes and probably late 30’s in terms of placing. Just couldn’t go any faster.

I’ll have to work out whether there is any way back into the top 10% of the racing field or if this over 50’s lark is permanent; In which case, I might take up crocheting with Aunt Aggie or book a nice bus trip with Saga. Lovely day and lovely run, though.      

Monday, 13 October 2014

Cramlington xc

Last week saw a dizzying 35 miles running. The bike had the whole week off. This demure total is not going to propel me back into the top echelons of the over 50's athletic scene, but it means that I might be able to hang off the back of it, only just keeping in touch with flecks of slaver and beads of sweat working their way around my grimacing face. My achilles were sore when I began to run again, but last week the calves capitulated and my legs acquiesced, having been beaten into submission by several 7 minute/miles.

The climax of the week was the cross country at Cramlington on Saturday. When I announced to Aunt Aggie that I was off to the event, she was playing on her Nintendo under the stairs and remarked that I was washed up and my efforts might be better spent weeding the garden or trying to make sense of the garage.

I had hoped for a top one hundred finish, but the field of 600 had other ideas and while I cut a fine, if decrepit figure on the first two laps, the third lap saw me drop from 160th to 185th. The conditions were firm and the temperature something weird, creeping around eighteen degrees in October. The club tents and flags gave the event a carnival atmosphere.

I came away with everything intact, but a decent blister on my heel which made my 9 miles on Sunday hard work.  Need to review the cross country footwear.

The reading is paralleling the running. I took an age to read the Amis's The Old Devils. It took about 2 months to wade through this tedious tale of old age in the deepest west. By far a more riveting 'boys own story' is Buchan's Greenmantle which should take me  a few days to finish.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hetton Lyons CXNE cyclo cross

On the way down in the car to the Hetton Lyons, near Sunderland, the radio was on. The Sunday morning news sauntered languidly over the airwaves. It seemed a quiet news day. The was a short piece on the length of George Clooney's recently reported wedding celebrations. My passenger remarked.
' He seems like a nice bloke'.
I replied ' yeh, but I bet he's crap at cyclo-cross'.
I expected her to come back with 'yep, but then so are you...', but her mind was still wandering in a fluffy, clooney trance.
Shortly afterwards, she said 'He'd probably be quite good at it. Probably good at most sports he might try his hand to.....!!'
I met SB and NA at the registration and managed a quick cuppa before the off. There was a huge field today. This resulted in a staggered start for the vets and womens race which was 40 minutes long. I lined up with the over 50's with the women behind us and soon we were off. It didn't take long for 2 or 3 ladies to come past and then as we moved into the wooded section on the hill, things settled down. I passed a few old boys and could relax that I wasn't going to be last; but soon fell runner Karen Robertson was snapping at my heels. She passed me on the 2nd lap but I hung on. I had to admire her courtesy as she fairly waved the faster riders by and I nipped in behind a couple and crept past her on the downhill stretch, only for her pass me again on the ups. Toward the end I could see the other Gothic lads who had started in the v40's two minutes ahead. The gears had also begun working after an early race refusal. Forty minutes flew past in a haze of greenery and tape and shouts of ' inside, left, right or coming by'
There are several of these events over late autumn and early winter, so I expect to improve a little after 2 or 3 more events. Managed a good sweat and 2 cuppa's and a chocy bar afterwards. Weekend warrior.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunderland Clarion Hill Climb 2014

The winner of today’s Sunderland Clarion Hill Climb was Michael Openshaw. Name rings a bell? This former runner, born in 1972, has a 5000m time of 13.24 and a p.b. 10k time of 29:22. He’s puts his hand to cycling with Cestria CC now. Nice transition.

Hill climbs are all about altitude. While his time was near stellar, mine was a more pokey, subterranean affair. It really is odd that I can bury myself to finish nearly last on a bike. When I run, I can sometimes manage a top ten finish with the same effort. However, I like cycling. Much easier on the body. The joints can have a day off. Get to wear stylish lycra and pose around on bikes with nice paint jobs. Miss the burn of running though and its about to make a comeback. 

For a second time in a row, I was off No.13. Someone has it informee. Informee. Yes, Frankie Howard, blah, blah.......

Even in such a specialist pursuit like hill climbing, it’s remarkable how different a course can be, how the gradients, road surface, twists and turns, suit some more than others. For me, today’s event was a behemoth of a hill. A dinosaur. A big long drag with 3 steep inclines and 3 or 4 false flats (whatever they are) where you can grab some air. But in hill climbing, if you can grab some air, you’re just not trying hard enough. It’s a discipline with the tightest margins where you’re aiming to hit your aerobic ceiling. That ceiling is as fine as gossamer. Too much effort and you put yourself into the red zone; for hill climbing, the dead zone, where speed becomes hindered and strange things like tunnel vision begin to happen.

Today it was a long hard pull up a 2 mile hill. I dug out the Condor which has a small ratio gear cassette at the back; but on closer inspection, I stuck it back in the car and pulled out the Wilier.
On a warm up, the gears jumped a few times and I realised it needs another bit of adjusting. These Italian machines are annoyingly temperamental. Soon at the start, I was off and plugging away up the first kick-up and past the Nursery car park being used as race HQ. I was in the big ring for a wee while, then it was down onto the small ring. There was a couple of huddles of club cyclists on the way up, but quiet compared to last week. I was soon up onto the ridge and catching my breath, whacked it into a bigger gear and made for the line. Time 10:03; Four seconds off what I had hoped, but it was what it was, and I rode another 3 or 4 miles to cool down. The presentation recognised us older types and it was £15 in notes for 2nd V50. I think there were only three.
The young pretender Openshaw waltzed up the climbin 7.40 something. I like to get my moneys’ worth!!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

GS Metro Hill Climb

Last Year, GS metro’s Hill Climb time trial event was one hill. A real toughie. This year, it was a two stage-two hill affair, based again at the Feathers Pub. Over the last 3 weeks the sport and training has taken a bit of a back seat for one or two family reasons, so I was happy to be driving up into the fringes of the Pennines at Hedley on the Hill to test myself on this event.


I picked up my number (13) and didn’t have long before I was due to start. It was fair to say I hadn’t really warmed up properly. I should have known better. One thing riding up a steep hill, flat out, will do, It'll will have your heart bulging like Jim Careys eyes in ‘The Mask’, with arteries and valves playing trombones in a cartoon fashion. Bit distorted, like the cheeks of the star trek crew in a worm hole.
I started far too quickly and spent the rest of the mile in oxygen debt. It was a pitiful display of naivety. I was on my knees halfway up. No rhythm. Crawled over the line in a pool of anaerobic stew. My time was well over 6 minutes. On reflection, I might have ran up it faster.

After a cup of coffee outside the pub, we were set for the second hill up from Mickely. I rode the 2 miles to the start and decided I was just going to ride up it as I would any hill. I had to get a grip. 

There were plenty of locals watching on the bank, a good thing to get the old folk out of their modest bungalows. They were very shouty, which was good, and as I set off, I gave them a smile and a wave. Get me...Mr Casual. A stark contrast to this morning. The ride was shorter, but my effort much more measured and I finished in a much more respectable 4:17 for 0.8 miles. Gravity. Who needs it!
Tidy event organised by them lads at Metro. Next weekend is Silverhill and the week later Claybank. Might then be fit enough to run at Manor Water. Here’s hoping.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Shout if you want to go faster

He was slow; but in his mind he rode like the wind.... 
This blog kicked off in 2007. I thought a 5 year lifespan would be a reasonable stab at things. It’s now 2014. Things change. Life is dynamic. None of us have ever been Here before. As a Scot living in Northumberland, current affairs have never been more interesting. But I don’t get to vote, so I’ll just have to blog about my latest sporting exploits, instead.

The Cleveland Wheelers 10 mile time trial was my first out-and-out time trial in a long time. It’s held on a circuit around Stokesley on the northern extremity of North Yorkshire.
Part of the course was where I competed when I was a junior. A field of 40 had entered this late season extravaganza. On the day, I turned up an hour too early and sat reminiscing about the 60 minutes I could have had, unconscious, in bed. The idea is to get around the 10 miles as fast as possible. For some, that’s a touch over 18 minutes. I once did 23 minutes. Not in competition though. These days anything below 27 minutes would be fine; 26 would be good; 25 better still.
There are modest prizes for the fastest.There was also a handicap competition. In the start sheet, I found that my handicap was a generous 6 minutes. I warmed up and kicked off at 9.24 am. The course was undulating and with a slight tailwind, progress was good and I was soon in sight of the lad ahead. He had set off a minute earlier and was riding for the local club, Fiesten Tempo. Near the 5 mile mark I had nearly caught him, but held off, riding 50 metres behind. I was then caught and passed by the guy behind me.
As we hit the last 4 miles, the tarmac was as rough as it gets on an A=class road and the Fiesty temp lad in front sailed off ahead with his fancy bars and pixie helmet and all that aero-dynamic gear (you might have guessed that I had turned up with the bog standard road bike). He didn’t get too far ahead, though, and at the end, I had landed in 27 minutes. Pretty poor, I thought.
I landed a cup of tea and several slices of cake at the village hall and then; surprise...third prize in the handicap and 20th of 30 riders. The winning time was considered to be 2 or 3 minutes slower than the fastest courses. One rider described it as a sporting course. The 2nd place rider who was riding off scratch said he wouldn’t be riding it next year. Sour grapes. I was on reflection, quite chirpy with my ride.
Next season I’ll do a few more, maybe buy some fancy, outlandish looking gear and choose some faster courses. The cyclo-cross bike is considering its position after I found out it had an almost seized bottom bracket....probably didn’t appreciate being dipped in the lake at Foxbar or sprayed with a pressure hose last year. Just need to find time now to get out and start running again. It’s been a sub- 15 mile/week month on that front and I need to get my act together. Don’t want the competition, all those oldies, to get above themselves!!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Epic Ride

I'm always harping on about getting on and doing stuff. My favourite line is 'life is not a spectator sport' as I turn off the television. In the early 80's at the end of term, I jumped on my bike and attempted to ride from Dundee to Guisborough.  I was in the flush of youth and no doubt didn't think the whole thing through: 234 miles in a day is a little unrealistic. However, I did get to Berwick after the wheels fell off (not literally) at Coldstream. I like to dust off the story periodically when brinkmanship in the category of 'mental things I did', arises. It was still a misguided 126 mile effort. I hiked the rest of the way in the cab of a lorry with the bike in the back. Ah, those were the days.

This time around, 32 years later, I was up to my old tricks again. With a day off work, and the forecast good,  I checked out the train times and booked a ticket for £12 to Waverley. An hour and a half later, I was good to go and went. I had made some brief notes as to the route the previous night and knew I didn't want to ride on the A1 at any time. I had no cereal bars in the house, but there was a packet of Sainsbury's 5 oatmeal and raisin cookies. I went to get one, and then reconsidered... I took the whole packet.

I made good progress past Musselburgh and Cockenzie, but had my first run in with a blue corsa who thought it was good sport to try and accelerate past me at an island in the road. My language was blue, even as I saw the donkey pull in to the caravan park just past the pans, but I didn't stop for a spot of confrontation. Before I knew it I was asking for directions in Haddington but was soon moving on to East Linton and Dunbar with Traprain ahead of me. A sneaky wee climb around the front of it. I began to see sign posts for cycle route 76. I began to deviate a little from my notes in favour of the signs, not fully knowing the terrain that this route crossed. I began to wonder however, if this was a sensible strategy as it took me around the back of the Cement works and landfill site on a gravelly track. The new road bike was not designed for cross country and I prayed that I didn't get a puncture.

I had had a cookie going up in the train, then another after one hour and a third after two hours, where I had covered around 40 miles.

After getting back on the road at Torness, the route takes you down Pease Bay. The road was good, but it sure was lumpy as the road takes you up a short steep hill, then a long steep hill to the huge windfarm. I was still clipping along but short of juice. I knew I was getting a dehydrated and took a wrong turn arriving at Coldingham where I got some more directions and was soon back on course.
My fourth cookie came out and without water I was beginning to tire of the available victuals. However, I was pretty happy to have brought them.

I by-passed Berwick altogether and crossed the A1 to get to Spittal. I had ridden 65miles by then and knew I was in for a longer ride than anticipated. The track from Spittal to Goswick was very poor; alright I suppose if you had a mountain bike. A bloke out for a walk commented 'you don't want to take that bike on these tracks'.
 'Tell me about it', I said, relying on my cyclo cross experience to get me back on track at Holy Island. I had begun to follow signs for Cycle Route 1.

I knew I had to stop to refuel, so stopped at the first sign of civilisation, which was the Barn at Beal. Soup, cake, juice and tea. £9. and lots of free salt which I lathered onto everything.

After half an hour I was off again and moving well. There was a light wind coming in off the coast as I continued south past Bamburgh, Seahouses and Howick. My left tricep began to cramp a little, and then later both of them. My hands were a bit sore as well, but the legs happy as larry. I had ditched following the Cycle Route signs sometime around here.

It was now all plain sailing as reaching Alnmouth, I knew all the roads south of here. I stopped at Amble for some juice and as the early evening sun began to wane, I put the lights on and got to 'Peth after 8 hours of riding, 133 miles and 4500ft of climbing. Epic.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Hartlepool Festival Crits 2014

What?...He's not off the back again?! 
The field was smaller today and I had hopes of improving on my 19th place mid-week. For some backward reason, British Cycling only see fit to publish the top ten finishers according to the organiser for the previous race at Bishop Auckland, but he sent me the full results by email.  I said to him that any result for me was a good result.

Todays event was for half an hour of racing within the Hartlepool headland. Manageable. The place looked very presentable today and there was a good crowd out, many in fancy dress. I suppose that included me in my pink top and lycra. The circuit included a small climb, but it was generally flat and apparently the roads had been closed. This was news to some residents. There were a few close shaves as the occasional car and pedestrian wandered down the road, oblivious to would-be-Wiggins bearing down on them at up to 40mph. I got talking to one or two of the locals who seemed in high good humour and were readily making recommendations as to which pubs to visit for my return trip.
With only 21 in the field and all over 40 (masters), we got off to a easy start, a neutralised lap behind the motorbike. The second lap arrived and I almost hit the front, sailing along with a huge tailwind. However, the 3rd lap saw two go off the front and the pace lifted markedly. A couple were already off the back. Soon me and two others detached, and then it was just me and the Manilla Cycling Club man (I think they are the local club there). We watched the compact peloton creep ahead, but once there's a gap into a headwind, its tough. We spent the next 20 minutes working together and finished without being lapped, so encouraging progress on that front. With an average speed for the race of 22 mph, its near my top end. The bad news is the fast lads in the next race were travelling at an average of 25mph, so evidently much work still to done. I celebrated my 30 minute adventure with a ninety nine, and another 25 miles on the bike when I got home. Not sure what the next event is, but it would be a pity to lose the initiative. The forecast's pants tomorrow.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bishop Auckland Crits 2014

My adopted life of leisure came to an abrupt end tonight when I lasted almost 25 minutes of a 45 minute city centre bike race at Bishop Auckland. They call it a criterium (or crit). A kermesse in Belgium.

With the rain lashing down all tropical like this morning, I was happy that it remained that way in the vain hope that the race field would be smaller and slower, but it was a bonny night in the old Durham town.

I dug out the old Condor and clipped myself in for what we were about to receive...mostly pain, racing heart rates and breathlessness; a bit like climbing the stairs with your shopping.

There were around 40 riders and a good crowd in attendance. The 3 streets forming a flat circuit was fenced off and we even had a motorcycle outrider. Men squeezed into impossibly shiny, dayglow lycra and riding bikes that cost more than half the cars on the road.

My best lap was the first, as it was neutralized, and I lapsed into a casual swagger, if such a thing is possible on the razor that goes by the name of a saddle. The commentator was giving it some over the speakers and after a handful of laps I was not at the front, but not at the back. It was around lap 12 or somewhere that one of the two others I was with said 'here comes the field' as the motorbike came past; but a lap later they still hadn't caught us. And then, at the chicane, rider 1 overcooked it and came down clattering on the flagstones, rider 2 followed and I realised I was rider 3 and had nowhere to go but eat some pavement. I was soon up and off though leaving the other two to sup some dust. I was a little disappointed when I got myself together that I was not bleeding from the arms and garnering the sympathy vote or the prize for gutsiest rider.

After 9 miles, 23 minutes and who knows how many laps, my luck ran out and the twelve man peleton came past. Lapped, I had the good grace to pull up and cash in my transponder and numbers for my racing licence. Not to be put off, I'm having another crack at the weekend; this time it'll be through the mean streets of Hartlepool. I'm in pretty good shape; just not twenty one. Let's crack on anyway.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Saddle up

Its been a busy few weeks in the life of me. We had a week in Normandy in great weather. Took the bikes as the injured hip was still on the mend. Running has dropped off the face of the earth at the mo'.
The spiders web of quiet lanes between the villages dotted around the region south of Dieppe made for some great (and generally flat) hour or two hour rides. Young 'un junior has moved into one of my road bikes so that was a bit of company on the roads. She's handy enough in the hills. We'll have to get up to Meadowbank velodrome next month for one of their track tasters.
The gite we were staying in was an old barn and although it had a TV, it wasn't hooked up to the aerial, so we spent an hour around 5pm at random café-tabac's sipping café crème or cidre watching Le Tour.
I tried a 6 mile run late in the week, but while the hip was fine, I pulled a calf muscle and hobbled back to base.

Spent a weekend in the Surrey Hills before attending the youngsters graduation which made me a proud dad (again).

Tried again to run last week, but the calf was having none of it after 3 miles and another miserable week of no running awaits me. However, that said, the biking is going well and I'm pretty sure the more I ride, the more my tendons are shortening and so making potential injury in the running stakes more likely. Someone mentioned something called 'stretching'??

The track cycling at the Games has been good and Australia's marathon win was epic.
Its touch and go now how the remainder of this running season is going to go, but life's dynamic and things change so I am pretty relaxed about getting back. It would, however, be good to get a couple of fell runs in before the end of the summer, which has been cracking... And of course there's the duathlon career which has yet to kick years world's are in Adelaide; Maybe a continent too far.  One week at a time I think.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Pit Stop 10k: Run like Martin

When I first ran the Pitstop 10k in 2004, my running was on an upward trajectory. I was carving modest, frugal slices off my times as a new 40 year old. I recall then, I was hoping for a 38 minute outing at this 3 lapper which takes place at Croft motor racing circuit just in Darlington. It's a little wind swept, but flat...well, flattish.  It attracts around a couple of hundred runners. My abiding memory of that race was watching Martin Scaife, a Teesside runner who had joined Morpeth at that time, floating like a gazelle on his own at the head of the field, across the circuit and on his way to an elegant and unassisted 29.50. Truly inspirational to watch.

Last night, as I started with two hundred others, I wondered how I was going to fare. I was soon in with a crowd of eight or so and as we hit the headwind along the windswept straight, the NYM lad at the front complained that he didn't want to be dragging everyone else along the course. I joined him and after 2km we were clear, but after 3km he had opened up a gap and I was on my own. The second lap was no different and as I came up the long straight for the second time, two came past and off they went. its difficult to maintain concentration in a state of distress, which, for me describes running in the red zone, and the sweat between my fingers and the occasional slapping from my sweaty bingo wings (..too much information by half) were a distraction that I now recall I must do something about. The arms aren't flabby in any way, but I'd best get down the gym.

I had to stem the flow and as entered the final lap, I grappled with the headwind. How was I to motivate myself as the pace continued to drop and another three came past? I imagined myself as Scaife and tried to gather some technique. If nothing else, as I concentrated, it took my mind off the last 2 km and I fell over the line clocking in at 39:20 and 21st. Snaffled 2nd v50. There was no chance of 1st v50. That bloke ran 35 something. Bulman won this one and Rosie Smith 1st Lady and well up in the field.
Still much work to do, but at least the hip injury seems to be no worse. Reasonably priced tea and cake at the end and some generous prizes from up and running made it a worthwhile night.      

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Black Rock 5 Race 2014; Kinghorn or bust

The Black Rock 5. Well up there when it comes to great races. It's a 5 mile village and beach run held at Kinghorn village in Fife. The time of the race is determined by and large by the tide. This year the start was a near nocturnal 8pm.

With three of ‘team Mac’ having entered a month ago in the online frenzy in a field limited to 1000, we decided that to get the full Black Rock experience, we should tent at Pettycur and stay over on the night.  Trouble was, you can’t book in advance and there are only 12 pitches; so we horsed it up the A1 to Kinghorn on Friday morning to arrive at Noon. As it was, we needn’t have worried as there was only one other tent there.  After erecting the 'luxury' shelter, we nipped off to Kirkcaldy for lunch after considering the local pub, the Ship. It had changed since we were last there from what we remembered as a cosy hostelry to a restaurant affair. Not quite what we had in mind.

As with all top athletes, I read to settle my pre-race nerves (joking) and drank copious cups of tea, interrupted only for a small rhubarb tart and a 2 hour kip in the tent in the late afternoon.   It was soon 7pm and we walked the mile along the road to the race HQ. The village was heaving with runners bobbing up and down the road. Numbers and chips secured, I left Mrs Mac and the young ‘un to their own strange pre-race rituals and tried myself to look sporty, warming up along the road to the beach. We were soon under the viaduct at the start and it was a pretty quick pre-race speech before we were launched westwards with bodies tumbling forwards in a helter-skelter dash up the hill.

I moved up along the road and as we hit the beach I fell in with a couple of HBT’s. One of them was Huw Jones. I recalled I had finished close to him in a previous race, so with no idea of my form currently, I dropped in behind him. We tramped through the small pools and across the brown catenary rippled sand, picking our way to find any semblance of a firm foothold.  As we splashed from pool to pool, across the wet sand, there was something mesmerising about the sinuous geometry of the beach as the tide receded and we neared the turn.

Before any time at all, we got to the rock (with piper a top) and waded through only about 30 metres of water this year, before resuming on the return leg. Jones kicked just after the rock and I was slowly dropped coming back; but I didn’t fancy capitulating too soon and as we hit the tarmac I tried to lift the pace a little back into the final mile and through a good and noisy crowd in the village. Just before the viaduct I was passed by another HBT and fought to stay with him until the killer finish, up the short steep hill past the Auld Hoose and up to the Ship Inn. An Edinburgh AC runner passed me at the final ten, but by then I was reaching for the oxygen mask.  

Pleased to have delivered a 28 minute run and surprised by 3rd V50, although I wasn’t on the same page or even in the same library as the v50 winner from Portobello who had a stormer, taking over 2 minutes out of me and the 2nd v50 from Dundee Roadrunners who finished just in front of me. Picked up my bottle of ale and waited for the others to come home before showering and getting a change of clothes. Strangely the showers were boiling, but only discharging a thimble full of water at a time.

We made the most of the evening visiting the Crown and then the Auld Hoose, where we chatted with a few of the locals.  It’s a great race and a good night out.

On the way back in the dark to the campsite, we tried to avoid crunching the hordes of snails who seemed intent under a full moon on Friday the 13th of reaching the beach themselves.  Less bright this morning. Lying on the ground for 7 hours is not quite what its cracked up to be. ( -thanks to Mrs Mac for the photies