Thursday, 31 December 2015

Exit from the Abyss

A review of the sporting highlights of the year? Well, how short can I make a blog....
Its been a big year in many ways, but a thin year for sports fans. Its been as thin as hair on the baldy mans heid. Injury early doors. Boring.
I think I ran the Signal road relays in Houghton in February and we might have snaffled a bronze in the V50's, but then the season dropped off a modest and poorly lit abyss and it took me till June to think about racing again.
That said, the Sportive Caledonia in May was good fun.
Windy Gyle in June and the Coastal run in July were both run at a canter. A bike crash in August, a hilly sportive and a monster (not in a good way) 10 miler on the new Tynedale course made for a forgettable Autumn.
The Allendale 2 stage hill climb in October and a team medal for the Sherman cup for the cross country made for an improved end of year, although the cross country at Druridge Bay was worth noting just for the sheer quantity of phlegm that it brought up. You've got to laugh. If you don't laugh, you'll cough...
Seriously, though, I've spent December getting out more and more often and just keeping the old legs ticking-tocking over with typically 5 or 6 miles, mainly through the woods. A-coaxing and a-teasing. Pushed the boat out this week with a couple of 7 milers.
So what for 2016? Well, I intend to start as I mean to go on. Surrounding myself with Jaffa Cakes and stroking my new Salomons. If Luke Skywalker can make a come back, so can I. Now that the shoes have arrived (bargain), I'll have to give them a bit of stick.
So, instead of running the local 11k on New Years Day, me and a handful of the family are off abit further afield. Its been a while since I had the Hawkhill vest on and if the rain manages to keep off for a wee while, by this time tomorrow I'll have chalked up my first of the year along the Porty seafront, not far from where my mother's shopping trolley, full of shopping, flew off the back of the bus all those years ago. Trolleygate. They are still finding processed peas in the verge.
The result tomorrow is incidental... its just the 2009 state of mind that I am trying to retrieve, but I'll settle for any year;  Then the Monks race at Hartlepool and the Feel the Burns later in the month all being well...why?....just because I'm worth it. Have a great new year. .

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Operation Druridge Bay XC: Lost in translation

Gordon Bleu. It's been a while, but I'm committed to not letting the 2015 season slip away like a piece of flotsam in an ebbing tide. More like something rather more organic floating aimlessly from a sewage outfall.
Funny that, tide is an old german word for 'hurry', but after 2 weeks off with the lurgy and matching hacky cough, there was no hurry at the Druridge Bay Country Park Cross Country. It was blowing a hoolie (hooligan), or as we say in Bohemia, 'der rowdy'. The club tent floor was a wash with a film of muddy waters, not the musician bloke, and there was a huddle of around 10 or 12 in there, although I didn't do a head count. I was outside shouting at them to 'man up'
Eventually around 530 heads lined up for one long lap and 2 very long laps of the course. Not too hilly, but softened up very nicely by the young ones and women. I was so cold, I couldn't be bothered changing to my spikes and just tightened up the Salomons.
I pegged a few runners and plugged along the first lap coming past the finish in 85th from the slow pack. The runners whom Id caught toward the end of the first lap, however, began to come past and after the second lap, the rip current was sucking at my ankles and even though I was making all the right movements, I was going backward, drowning and not waving and was 95th by the second lap. I'm not sure where it was, but not long after there, my misfiring lungs and spindly legs gave way and the engine reverted to emergency mode (from the latin 'emergere' meaning to dip or plunge) and plunge I did, where most of the rest of the club came past in among the other 90 runners and I trotted in 186th or somewhere.
Some of the club runners I didn't even recognise. Has it been that long!?
The cheek of it was I was happy to have cracked the top 200. Well, that sort of performance is not going to stand me in good stead for a run in the Hexham Hobble Hill Race next weekend, but we'll just concentrate on getting a few nights training and see how we get on. I've just about warmed up now, but the running kit and shoes took some scrubbing outside, I'll say.         

Sunday, 18 October 2015

old humpy back

Blimey, the cross country season's got off to a right good start. I was on site working in Blaydon last week talking to a couple of lads. When I rolled up in my Ron Hills and Inov top, one said ' fancy yourself as a runner then?..'. Of course I couldn't help myself, puffing out my chest and straightening my old humpy back after walking around like him out of Wolf Hall,  I let it be known that I was 'the north east fell running champion....paused, then added '2 years ago'.....then looked at my nails, scuffled my feet awkwardly and mumbled ' over 50's, that is'.  He wasn't to know there aren't any proper hills in the north east!
But yes, I still do fancy myself as a runner. I understand that as you age, things become less elastic, things, like ligaments and muscle tissue. Bless you.

I do a bit of cycling, but really, I like the raw burn that running gives. Plus you can burn off double the calories in the same time compared to cycling.
The first cross country for me was Tanfield at the North East England Cross Country League. I felt fine for two or the three laps, and still held it together on the 3rd lap to finish in the top 100. There's no joe public running in these events, so top 100 (6th v50) is fine for an old duffer like me.

that hair restorers just not doing it.. 
Last weekend it was the Sherman Cup; A rolling course around the South Shields leisure centre, what it lacks in landscape value is made up in dog sheit around the place. I didn't make the top 100 but that was a result of a tight hamstring (don't get me started) and there being loads of other guys who can run faster than me. I still contributed to the overall team and club performance though, so confidence is good. On the other hand, however, I have plodded, jogged and minced out a (Ron) weasly 4 miles every day this week just to try and ease the tightness. It would probably be a good idea to do some stretching. Over the weekend I've been out through the woods, an hour on both Saturday and Sunday, so not too bad. Four hours of training over the week is not going to help, but you've just got to grin a bear it. Catchy monkeys and all that.
I made myself available for the Scottish Cross Country Relays next weekend for the Hawks 3 weeks ago when I was feeling tip-top, so I need to have a sensible week this week. Do enough, but no more than that.   

Its nice to be out wit the youngsters though who now have caught me up and cruise along on their selfish little upward trajectory of form.....I'm not bitter.....Good to see them running well.
We'll see what next weekend brings. Hopefully, we'll have a team.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Appetite for Elevation

Whitfield. Yes; whose heard of it. Located in a remote corner of hilly and mystical Northumberland the Whitfield community hall was the HQ for the Allen Valley 2 stage hill climb. For those unacquainted with such a cycling event, a hill climb is a time trial up a steep hill....this weekend on the edge of the Pennines.... from bottom to top; no rest; no picnicking.... straight up in parallel with your heart rate and your pre-hired team of paramedics.

The hill climbing season is short and full of woe; about 2 months, September and October. The events are probably akin to a 50m freestyle for a swimmer. I enter one or two events a year to show off the SC Gothic kit and remind myself why defibrillators were invented.  If you are unfamiliar with the joys of rapid lactic acid build up, this is where you need to be.

I arrived around 9ish in the thick Northumbrian mist. The plethora of dead pheasants on the road was a crime. A crime against pheasants. They really need to get this car thing sorted out.

Around 65 had entered the event, a big field for your average hill climb.  You can't ride these events as joe public; you need to be in a registered cycling club.

The stages were two hours apart and I was on at 10.18 and 12.18 and I was number 18. A tidy symmetry that boded well for the day. If I had been 18, instead of someway over 50, it would have been that bit tidier, but you can't have everything.

The first stage was a 6.5k ride with 1000ft of ascent north up the A686. Probably the best part of 20 minutes. The second stage was 2km and 400ft from Whitfield to Keenley, a sharper but shorter affair. Whitfield was soon swamped with cars, marshals, lycra and a great turnout from the local host club.  As I looked around at the older riders, I realised I was disadvantaged. My legs weren't shiny or lathered in exotic oils. More work required on this.
I warmed up on the first climb and by the time I had climbed through the cold fog to the sun, I knew that this was not the right climb.  It still took me 20 minutes. As I came back down the hill, the valley below was cloaked in a silent cotton wool. The temperature dropped markedly once into its clammy grip.  Like London in the 1950's, but without the sulphurous bite.

At 10.18 I was off and riding up the right hill. It took me 15 minutes to get my breathing coordinated with my technique and by then I was nearly finished. A long steady drag rather than a hill.  If I had gone steadier early doors and found the right gear and pace, I would have performed better. The road surface was good, it was dry and glorious at the finish marked by the boundary sign between Cumbria and Northumbria. I might have been quicker running it.

The best bit is coming back down and shouting at the folk going up; instructing them to do what you couldn't do 5 minutes earlier.

There was cake and drinks in the hall at halftime, but I couldn't think of doing the cake thing on the basis that the extra weight might rob me of 10 seconds on the second stage. I needn't have worried.

The mist had lifted by noon, the changelings had changed and the green men watched silently from the trees as I struggled up the second climb, searching for the right gear, but really searching for a breather.  It was over before it began and I was soon cruising back down the hill, reflecting that with a bit of training and weight loss, I could do it better and faster.

I watched the last of the field set off at the bottom and heard the comment ' look at him, he's a great climber. Makes you sick when you can see his spine through his skin suit'. And yes, he was trim and super quick up the hill.

No prizes today, but I lapped up the event. Nice to be wearing a number again on a bike.  Well done to Allen Valley for a great club affair.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Looking after No 1

I dropped Mrs M. off yesterday morning, well before the start of the great north run. As I drove back in the low cloud I thought about watching the run on the BBC. However, I soon recalled the past coverage of the London marathon and some world triathlon championships. Lamentable. Its either exhaustive coverage on the 3 elites in the front, panning across a handful of fun runners at the back or they're busy interviewing their own so-called personalities. What's the point? Never seems to be any thought about leaving a camera rolling for a minute or two as the club runners come past.

So, after a half a grapefruit and a slice of toast I was off cycling, having missed the crowd down at the running club. The weather was improving and I was set on a couple of climbs. The Gibbet at Elsdon is apparently No.61 in the top 100 of UK hills to ride up. Not sure how they've ranked these, but I've got the handbook upstairs. I've been toying with the idea of entering a few (bike) hill climb competitions, but quite frankly these events are not good for your heart and when I think of the possibility of grabbing glory and skipping lightly onto the podium (an age group related podium, obviously), I bleach at the thought that swings into my head of getting carried off, instead, in the back of an anonymous ambulance. What's more, I suspect the ambulance wouldn't arrive on time. I could be on the pavement for a good while....Better to stick to the riding for pleasure for now.  

I caught up with a couple of lads for a few miles then tailed off right to Elsdon. It had turned out to be so nice, I carried on over Bilsmoor and then turned and came back up the other side of the hill and then stopped at the Elsdon impromptu cafe for a cuppa and slice of apple pie. That's two weekends in a row now and I have sat there chin wagging for 40 minutes or so on each occasion. Good therapy, especially when the September sun's giving it full-on overhead as you sit in the front garden watching the sparrows pecking on the dangling fat balls.

Last night I sat looking at the entry form on the screen for the Dumfries half. However, still no further forward on the fitness front, so, on reflection, more training required. My form can't justify the trip. I need to up my game from the current 30 miles a week. I think a trail race would probably fit the bill at the mo. But then , I wonder if they would have first aid facilities......maybe stick to blogging; safer (at least, in my head)!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Tyendale Jelly Tea 10 mile - what a daft carry on.....

I heard the youngsters were at it again, entering road races without my permission. Mrs Mac casually suggested that we go along and take as well. It was a bank holiday weekend and there seemed no harm in the idea. I slowly warmed to the notion. Tynedale 10 miler....yes, that seemed a reasonable morning out.

This year, rather than the Hexham to Ovingham point to point, a new course had been devised by Tynedale Harriers. The race HQ was Hexham race course. I'd been there a few weeks earlier to do the Wiggle 'Hell of the North' cycle sportive. Properly described.
As I drove the athletes to the course, the sun was rising and it was looking like a really nice day. Not much wind either. I was aware that the course was likely to be hilly, but I assumed that whatever sharp rises that were encountered on the course would be offset by low slow downhills that we could get the time back on. This is an unwritten understanding between organisers and runners.

There was a good crowd finding their numbers among the 600 or so that had pre-entered. Some of the roads were closed, and I thought anything below a 1:08 might be good, given my patchy training of late. There was chip timing and as we lined up, clubmate Jim A. lifted the tape and invited me to slip in near the front.

I knew the first mile would be a steady downhill, but the subsequent downslope steepened from mile one to mile two and I was soon up with Paul Redman of Sunderland. We were still going down and down and struggling to keep up with our legs. We had a brief exchange, some garbled words and then I dropped my gel, so had to come to a halt, which took several metres and then nip back and pick it up, by which time the group I was in was away doon the hill chasing after their legs and looking for the anchors.

The first 2 miles were too fast, but then, as we reached the valley, we hung a sharp right and then began a climb for 2 miles. Rather than carrying my gel, I decided after 3 miles to consume it. However, I was puffing so heavily that the goo sat in my slack jaw and after a while I was aware that it had begun to dribble out of my gaping mouth as the hill went on and on. I was too busy looking for oxygen and checking my medical records. My eyes had glazed over and my lungs were mush.

By the first drinks station I was puggled, realising that the gradients were unusually steep and the climbs long. I was passed periodically by runners. I saw one girl heave at the side of the road and another faster clubmate up ahead stopping and starting, clearly feeling out of sorts. The road dived again, then we reached a ford. If you reach a ford, you know the road out in any direction is precipitous and so it was. Up and up and up. By 6 miles I had begun to generate a reaction, a feeling of resentment that I was too far in to bail out. I would have packed in, I think.

At 7 miles another water stop provided a much needed drink. By 8 miles as we dropped down again I knew there was the same 2 mile rise to the finish that we had previously come down, but at the arrival of the start of the rise, marked by a sharp incline, I shook my head as I watched the two guys up ahead walking up the crest of the hill. I was in survival mode, but had slowed to a shuffle. Quite an unusual course selection, I mused. 

I finished in 1:14. One marshall asked me at the end if I'd do it again.
perhaps...with a jet pack or perhaps on a milk float. 

Later, as I tried to rationalise the day, I wondered if the organisers had found a good HQ and then tried to find a course to fit a 10 mile route. When I got home I had to have a lie down for an hour. Maybe, in the words of Viper from Top Gun, I'd been 'holding on too tight'.....maybe I need a chill pill. Need to chillax.  Aunt Aggie had a laugh when she heard and suggested I might like to take up baking or perhaps chess, but then adding that I didn't have the intellect for either.
Six beat the hour. Stars. The winner admitted it was the hardest 10 mile race he'd ever run. What a daft carry on.

course profile or heart rate monitor printout ? 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Morpeth 10k 2015

Nipped out last night to the Morpeth 10k. Always well attended, a 2 lapper that generates some reasonable times. Around 300 ran.

The light is always tricky for photographs, but using the little Canon SX510 I bought last year, the long rangey ones were pretty good but a bit grainy. If I'm going to get back into snapping races I think a better piece of kit is required. The now defunct Panasonic FZ28 I used in the past was bigger but it was a very nice mid-range camera. There are some folk wandering around these places with very big lenses indeed...but I rarely see their piccies on the web. See what you think - click on the 'gallery' or link below:

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Cost of Everything, Choices and Schadenfraude

Double Header sporting weekend. Strap me down. Just like old times, eh?

Me and Nick A (bad English I know) got out to Hexham on Saturday morning for the Wiggle Hell of the North Sportive. Given the hilliness of the routes on offer, we opted for the short one at 53 miles. It was grey and cold at the start and the field was, well, modest. We paid our £26 entry, this great lump of money apparently guaranteeing me a medal, as much flapjack as I could eat on the way round and a t-shirt.  We set off with rain jackets on and plodded past a few who had set off earlier. One rider who had come down from Edinburgh caught me back up and explained that I wasn't using my gears properly. I sat there and listened, thanked her for her advice, and was proud of myself for buttoning my lip. Didn't bother talking about riding national events or routinely taking on the 40% gradients at Leicester or Meadowbank velodrome's. Maybe this is where I've been going wrong all these years. 
The event wound its way down to Weardale (lead mining country) and Rookhope in County Durham and back into Northumberland through Blanchland and eventually the sun made an appearance. The hills were chunky enough for a Saturday morning. By the end after 3 hours of riding and one hour sitting at the water stations eating flapjack, we worked out that we'd only done 45 miles and so had taken a wrong turn near the end and missed out a dog leg.  Still 4500ft of climbing. Quite enough.

Spent the rest of the day enjoying the rare sunshine. One of my young lodgers had made a Spag-Boll on the night. I wandered in and gave it the Allymac taste test. More garlic and wine required I announced, as I glugged more wine in and reached for the garlic cloves. As I chopped the garlic, Aunt Aggie wandered past and picked up the wine bottle....peering at the label over her ragged, musty balaclava she muttered 'better be a good Spag-Boll this'
'Hows that' I asked (more poor English).
'Cause that there wine is a six year old, twelve quid Bordeaux' she replied, adjusting her snorkel to make herself heard.

Sunday's madness was the Clennell Trail Race, a 10 mile race held in the Cheviot badlands. The two youngsters were going for a head to head and I thought I might join in. At £15, another wallet-scaring event organised by some private affair rather than a club, I have noticed that entry fees for some non-club events are generally ramped up and frequently fall short at the other end with no presentations or elements that appear to have been dropped or forgotten. Most need to do better I think.

That said, this was a nice run that encompassed much of the Alwinton Fell Race and took us up the hills over the Clennell Track and then down to a forest track that went on forever. As I had traced the course route on the back of my number and marked down the checkpoints, I noticed that there was a left turn a half a mile before the end and that it added a good mile or more eastward.
I spent the run chasing Keith Murray of Teviotdale who had got around 30 seconds on me, but he was coming back at 8 miles just as a NFR and a South Shields passed me. They had been talking behind me for 2 miles and that really wound me up. If you think chatting in a fell run to strangers who are sweating and puce with bumbags flapping around is a good idea, then think again. A real distraction. Thankfully South Shields man passed with NFR man in pursuit, but I thought that I
was still top ten.
Then at the bridge with the three in view in front they just carried straight on along the red gravel track to the finish rather than cutting left and even as the young lady sitting on the parapet sat pointing to the side where the green arrow said 'go down here' (but obviously in sign language).

I veered left and entered a steep grassy ravine. As the running came to an abrupt halt, even the flies that had been buzzing overhead in the humid conditions had left me alone. It was difficult to run along this section. I was cursing my weighty bumbag which had been bouncing loose throughout the race. As I sought a route through the reeds and ferns,  I remember saying to myself 'the organiser's having a laugh here'.  However, the schadenfreude I was experiencing at the 3 others going off course kept me going as I realised I might get in 4th rather than 7th. Does that make me a bad person. yes, I think so. Even the bleached sheep skulls and bones scattered among the lush grass couldn't dampen my spirits.  

The route kicked up sharply and I could see down the ravine to two others behind me, so had to keep the pace up as the hill dropped down and increasing my pace to a pathetic shuffling run, I face planted in the ferns. No damage other than a scab torn off my knee from last weeks crash. The pain was welcome as I tried to man up and ploughed on to the finish. The garmin said 11.7 miles - funny 10 miles that then?"!?

Another event, another t shirt. The rest of the clan finished in 6th and 7th position, so my form is improving slowly. Celebrated the day with a quick drink in the Cross Keys at Thropton. Worth a visit if you're in the area. 

Oh yes, and the Spag-Bol was even better on the second day.


Friday, 31 July 2015

Trauma at the Three Fords & the Hilly Wallington 10k

Last Sunday I took the bike out. It was a sunny morning and I thought to join up with a passing Sportive. However, I had got the date wrong, so there was no one on the road, so I hung a right up into the low hills on a route called 'the three fords'. The route, strangely, crosses 3 fords and is around 35 miles. There is a low wooden bridge that crosses the third and you can take this rather than ploughing through the water.
When we were in Chamonix earlier this summer, one of the lads, Mr C, came down heavily on his bike. It was where the end of the wooden deck meets the road. As I took the bridge I was nice and upright and taking it steady (you know what's coming), but at the end of the deck where the plank was chamfered, my slick front tyre slid rapidly away from me and my downward and forward trajectory toward the tarmac and grit was irresistible. I thought this was a carbon copy of Mr C's downfall. This time I didn't laugh. Ragged skin freshly bloodied but with all bones intact, the bike was fine so I rode on, the flies taking no time at all to target the messy wound on hand and elbow.  Happily the Gothic jersey remained intact, but always a shock to have 11 stone and added momentum coming down on top of your extremities. I can remember every bike crash I've had: This will be the 6th since 1979. Always leaves a wee scar in your psyche, and another on your elbow and sometimes thigh, sometimes shoulder.

So this week I have taken it easy with some steady mid distance runs. I volunteered on Wednesday to taxi the youngster plus one to the Wallington 10k. In between torrential downpours, most of the 150 competitors managed to stay dry. Disappointed that the cafĂ© wasn't open at Wallington. The young one came in 2nd (W).
We gave up waiting for the prize giving.  Took some snaps though - see gallery.
Link -

Monday, 20 July 2015

Coastal Run 2015 - View from the Midfield

My wife spent £36 on a cold night around February for three of us to run the Coastal Run 2015. A 13.5 mile safari along the Northumberland Coast. The race fills up rapidly, well in advance of the July event.

I had run this twice previously and did quite well, even if I say so myself. However, in deepest frigid mid-winter, I didn't bank on having such a long lay off during early season, nursing my dysfunctional hamstring over the Spring and early Summer months. I reckon its probably the thought of losing the chunky entry fee that eventually got me back to some sort of running shape in recent weeks.

The race is a point to point, so we got dropped off an hour and a half early in Beadnell on the coast on Sunday, not having paid the extra for the bus trip to the start. Normally it might be mild and welcoming, with seagulls hovering lazily and eyeing up the red-top milk, but today this was 11 degrees and decidedly cold and quiet. The wind was also up.

We took shelter with a coffee from the mobile van and watched the runners arrive and it wasn't long before the snaking queue was forming outside the ladies. Extra toilets were laid on today. By 10:30am about 1000 runners were primed and ready to go and shortly afterwards we all set off into a stiff headwind on our trek to Alnmouth. Its an exposed, but lovely run. A combination of sand, sea, sand dunes, gravel tracks and tarmac, but its a long way and my main concern was to finish without having the need to walk to the end. So I started slowly and alternated every other mile from around 7.20 pace to 8 mile pace. I had a gel and my mobile in my bum bag but was well over-dressed for the event and stopped to shed my long sleeve top as the sun made an appearance. There were 3 water stops, and I remarked to myself how similar it wad to the TDF as the occasional, half drunk bottle of water was fired into the air or laterally into a nearby hedge from runners ahead.

I didn't bother too much to check my garmin and just ran along tucking in, out of the wind where possible. It ended up taking 1.45 for 13.2miles and quite pleasant taking in the view of the field ahead (and behind) from a mid-field position.  I stopped regularly for photos and my comings-and-goings were probably a distraction for some of the runners.

I was tired by the end of the run though and became aware of a shuffling action I've adopted, presumably in order to avoid stretching my upper leg...or maybe its just age.

A small refreshment in the Red Lion where the prize giving was, we had a long chat with some runners from Keighley.

They recommended a race called the Yorkshireman in September. We might give it a go. A half marathon and marathon trail race around Haworth.

The prizes were dished out by Alnwick Harriers (including 9th place for the youngster) which topped the day and we wound our way home with a bit more colour in our cheeks. Not sure if it was from the sun or the wind.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Sunderland 5K 2015: Glimmer of light

After coming through a steady 9 miler with the group on Monday night in the warm rain, I considered taking my shorts and vest to Sunderland on Wednesday night for their excellent 5k, rather than just my camera. The youngster said she fancied a run, especially when I reminded her about the fast downhill start. Its easily the fastest 5k course around.
This year, Sunderland Harriers split the event into two, with old gadgies and ladies running first, then other Johnny-come-lately's (under 50 men) in the second event.  Having spent all day in the car visiting 3 sites at Chesterfield, Stockport and Carlisle, by the time we got to Sunderland I was quite happy to get out of the car...anymore mileage and I felt I might begin to become attached to the steering wheel. My soles had already welded themselves to the pedals and the clutch knob had worn into the shape of my left hand. Malleable is a good word.
We paid the £8 each and had a gingerly 2 mile warm up. There was a searching breeze, up on the hill, but down into the dip where the majority of the course is run over 2 laps, it was more sheltered. With the 14 mile Coastal Run on the horizon, I definitely wanted to finish in one piece with no recurrence of the injury that has meant no racing since February. As such I was nearly at the back at the start and after 2km of steady as we go, I began to get into my stride, trying to keep it a little shorter than normal. The sweat was dripping down my nose, so I was certainly not coasting and moved on through the 5k without incident.
The Young one was just ahead, giving her previous PB a good pasting and I was just behind her, so It was a sub20, 5k by me, which was a bonus. Didn't stay for the mens event, and was happy to get home for a celebratory boiled egg and toast.  Morale is good. There may be hope for the rest of the years racing calendar.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


The sun is threatening to melt us milky skinned types this week. The forecasters on tele. have been trying to keep a straight face when pointing to the north east and saying its going to be scorchio.

As my slow recovery continues, I have managed a dizzying 15 miles over the last 2 days. As the car is getting a service at a garage 8 miles away, I am committed to another 8 miler tonight when I go and collect it.  The hamstring appears to be sorted now but someone has been interfering with the scales. Seems like there's a price to pay for the biscuit fest over the last 2 months. Aunt Aggie has taken to calling me 'goodyear'.  'Blimp' is her other favourite, but she's not accorded me the associated rank as per the 1943 Powell film.

I had an enjoyable 80 mile sportive in and around Pitlochry in the rain. I started no.4900 of 5000, and enjoyed passing thousands along closed roads around Loch Tummel, or wherever I was. Had a weekend in Chamonix where I went walking and mountain biking in the sizzling alpine sun and last weekend, I accompanied the missus around the less sizzling 8 miles of Windy Gyle Fell Race. The two hour jog and wander around the Cheviots finished without incident as I coasted in, in last place.  So, at last, it seems that given another 2 or 3 weeks, I might stick my toe in the water of sport and see what trail or easy hill races are on the go. Saying that, I have the Coastal Race from Seahouses to Alnmouth to get through in 3 weeks time, so that is probably as good a target as any. Not sure I'm ready for 14 miles along the coast, but that's the problem with entering events several months in advance.
Now, where's that amber solaire.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Sing out loud, the chain gang song

Sat in my dressing gown , I stared vacantly out of the window into the empty street. The only movement were the rivulets of water trickling down the window and the tulips swaying the wind, their petals closed in protest. What a day. Didn’t fancy getting soaked out there. Make a mess of the bike as well.

Maybe it will clear’ I told myself. 
An hour later the house was empty apart from me and the dog. The rain continued.
The rest of them had cleared off to a local half marathon. After another half an hour I dug out the rollers. For anyone unfamiliar with this fiendish apparatus, you balance your bike on it and then ride on the spot, the rollers suspended on a low frame allowing the wheels to move; but you stay put.

I put leggings on and a tracksuit top over my t shirt, put a hat on and dug out a bike. It took me 5 minutes to get moving. I generally find it’s a tedious and thankless form of exercise. A last resort.

I got off and put on Mike Rutherfords Smallcreeps Day on the CD player and ramped up the sound. After 8 minutes, the hat came off. After 10, I had a sweat on and after 12, small drops of perspiration began a rhythmical pit-pit from the end of my nose onto the crossbar of the bike. May bank holiday weekend. Outside, still the rain came. After 25 minutes you begin to stew slowly in your own juices. A subtle smell of warm rubber envelops the room.

I was getting a bit bored and tired after half an hour. My backside was a bit achy. The regime doesn’t allow you to stop (or you fall off) or alter your riding position very much as keeping your balance is just as critical as pedalling. After 40 minutes I got off for a drink and changed the CD. I was going to call it a day, but when Ian McShane’s throaty growl sprang from the Missions, supported by Trevor Horns unmatched production in ‘Slave to the Rhythm’. I grabbed a towel and had to get back on the bike and purged out another 20 minutes of effort, the windows steaming up all the while in the little room.

After an hour I tried to take a selfie, but lost the back wheel and was projected sideways onto the arm of the settee in a slow motion fall. Graceless. She (Jones the Rhythm) was busy pounding out ‘never stop the action, keep it up, keep it up.’ Deciding I had had enough after 65 minutes, I dismounted picked up the newspaper which I'd put under the bike to mop up the small puddle of salty toil and took off into the kitchen for a drink and handfuls of Sainsburys Strawberry Granola.
I was soaked. Ironic that.
Later I get a text saying the youngsters finished 3rd in her first half marathon. I taught her everything she knows, you know!

Saturday, 2 May 2015


I had pretty much another week off last week to give the injury a rest, but this week I've managed 4 or 5 rides over around 20 or 30 miles. While its been pretty damn chilly, even with the sun out, I have managed to drag my sorry torso around the shallow hills of south Northumberland at reasonable speed. Still a few pounds too heavy, mind.
However, there has been a price to pay.  I was up this morning surrounded by a bunch of tubes.... and a bowl of water. Calling someone a 'tube' was a form of mild abuse where I come from, but these are bike tubes. The frequent potholes coupled with a worn tyre have meant that I've used up all my spare bike tubes and have had to spend the early hours patching and 'making do' before 30 miles late this morning with the club.

Its a long weekend and holiday on Monday. The youngster is doing the Sunderland Half marathon and the other one managed a fast time at London last week, so I am feeling like a member of the backroom staff at the mo.
I may venture out and try the old leg on an easy 2 miler. Meanwhile, the training shoes shut themselves up in the attic last week. As they pulled the ladder up and shut the trapdoor behind them they ranted something about 'not being loved anymore'. Even as I tried to jump to catch the door before it closed, they shouted not to come up until I was prepared to take them out somewhere. You've got to feel a bit of pathos for the old battered Brooks, eh?  As I walked down the stairs, I shouted up about going out to get myself a new model. That shut them up.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Pan right...Pull back... Stop

I took the bike on Thursday to Lincoln and had an hours blast around Market Rasen in the sun. Flat as a pancake with some lovely polished tarmac to boot.
The old coach gave me a call Friday and tempted me out for a steady 7 miler through the woods. It was the first run in a week and went well until mile 5, when the hamstring made its presence felt and I completed the run in what's become a familiar near- mincing stride. Its time to spend some cash and get some healing hands on the old leg I think.

There's been no such problems on the bike though. That pedalling action is mostly compression so I belted out to Blyth this morning to watch the Blyth 10k with the two youngsters racing. As they finished it began to rain and 10 minutes later, while heading home the sky got darker, the rain got harder and temperatures kept dropping,  I veered off road and rode to the drive-through window of a nearby Mcdonalds to get a plastic bag for my mobile phone. They didn't have one. I got one from a helpful woman in the nearby corner shop. I was badly unprepared for rain and 5 miles from home I was drenched and cold. I kept telling myself to man up but the wind chill was, well, Baltic. The water was dripping off my nose and my arm-warmers had hired themselves out as small freshwater reservoirs. I knew my feet were cold although they were numb.
I could still see them. They were wearing the same shoes as they'd left the house with.
I started to freeze in the rain like Rutger Hauer's Roy Baty in Bladerunner.  My head dropped and I started mumbling 'I've… seen things you people wouldn't believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the 'whatever' Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time.....yes, I felt about as good as a replicant past its sell by date.

Getting home I changed and took to bed to warm up with teeth chattering. The feet were icy cold. What a wimp. So its not been a very productive day, although saying that, the biking is coming on. You can always tell that - after a few weeks the average speed goes up a couple of notches.

As I lay in bed I put the tele on. When I looked closer I thought there was something or someone I recognised on the screen...Enhance 224 to 176; pull back; centre......gimme a copy there.... Ahh what a good movie that is.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

All change

Its the election debate on the tele: I watched around 5 minutes of it. I already made my mind up who I'll vote for 6 months ago. The rhetoric has driven me to blog. Party Dogma and Rhetoric. Smashing.

I'd like nothing less than to tell you about how much running I had been doing, but the hamstring issues continue. I managed 20 miles over 3 sessions last week, but it was still being needy. Like a clingy friend not buying his round.  It's going to need a bit longer. I've just heard someone say 'like a petulant school child'; mmm, yes, that's excellent politics.

Now that April's arrived and I'm about to finish my latest read, that old classic 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance', I feel we should focus on the good stuff. Its time to pump up the tyres on the bikes currently hanging up in the garage (like some mechanical bats wintering in the dark and swinging from the rafters). Best get them out into the Daffodil spring.

It was 18 miles tonight, and I think I might do double that tomorrow. The normal races are out of bounds at present, so instead, I am focussing on the Caldeonia Sportive in May. Looking forward to taking coffee in Pitlochry; one of my favourist places. True, I haven't got a number, bit that didn't stop my mentor down south inviting me up. I won't keep up with him, but as long as I can get by, I'll by fine.

Since I started running 12 years ago, I lost weight and now fancy myself as a bit of a Grimpeur. This is in contrast to me when I used to race in the early 80's when I was a bit of a sprinter. I did a VO2 max test for a PhD student in 1983. I still have the printout of the test and the results. It was 81 which I think excited him. He assured me I was in good condition. I read later that Contadors is 89. I think now it would be around 62 ish....Auntie Aggie is peering over my shoulder now and has whispered 'its about time you found out what it is, you slacker....'. She can be cutting sometimes.

If I don't manage 250 miles this month, I will eat my hat. After all, I used to be an athlete.

Next on the book list is 'Dune'. All change......

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Crab Soup

Its been a while since I did any blogging. I've not been slacking (well, not much).
Early in January I had a pep talk from my old mentor and began to up the training again after a very dull 2014 season. I decided against a trip to Kenya or Colorado until I managed to get to nearer 40 miles a week training. If I need altitude training I just go up the stairs. To reproduce the thin air thing, I simply stick my head in the laundry basket. Not much oxygen there... 

I pulled my hamstring in Mid January and only just got through the Signals Relays early in February where our 4 man crack vets team picked up a wee regional bronze medal.
Progress continued into late February and I began eyeing some events, but Thursday night a week ago I pulled up again in training. All that long legged stretching out doing the fast stuff plays havoc with my little stubby ligaments and as scotty says 'they canny take it, captain'.

The last few weeks have been hampered by something called work, to such an extent that I've had to work weekends. What a blidy cheek. Whats happened to the work life balance. Someone has chucked the scales out. The 40 mile target has fallen through the basement and I am poking around trying to manage some stolen exercise. It culminated on Saturday in a trip to the gym for the first time in a year. I did alright and mostly did sit-ups, crunches and dumbbell stuff. But on Monday I could hardly move my arms and have spent 2 days walking like a crab, the arms capable of only going sideways like the claws that they are.
Today has been much better, so here I am on the blog. Doesn't take much arm action, blogging, really. tap,tap, tap.
My down south buddy has found me a place in the Caledonia etape in May, so I've had the bike out and there's a lot of work to do in that department also.
I have a long weekend booked off next weekend, so I might just be able to get the 2015 campaign started then. Here's hoping.  

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Winter training camp

Just back from 3 days attending the winter training camp. Not much mileage in these conditions, but the landscape and ploughing through the snow was magic. much better can it get?  Who needs to go to Banff when Scotland has this? There was a post run critique of course every night (!),with dominoes, at HQ. Essential.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Morpeth 11k & the old Monks Race, Hart

I followed the run at the Guisborough Woods race with 2 more over the last week. The Morpeth 11k was on New Years Day and the Old Monks Race, which I had never run before, was on the 4th January. I ran the 11k last year in 41.21 and was narrowly beaten into 2nd place in category. This year as around 180 rampaged through the barren countryside lanes I was grafting like a good 'un just to hang on behind a cycling clubmate who has taken up duathlon. He was around 10 seconds ahead. He's a rangey runner with a good stride and it took me until the 10k mark to catch and pass him. However, I regretted it immediately with the finish being so close and up over the last little hill, I feigned a slow down and he came past at which point I tucked in and burst back over the last 50 metres to take 2nd V50 again. My time was around 40 seconds slower but it was the best run I had had in months and retreated to the pub later to welcome in the new year in an upbeat state of mind. Can't argue with £20 worth of vouchers.

There was a choice on Sunday and me and the youngster decided to take the easy option choosing a trail race rather than a fell race. The Old Monks Race is around 5.5miles of trail, and includes a wooded section, wide farm tracks and a stretch along the old railway line which is flat but uninspiring. There was a little too much tarmac for me, but the crowd of around 300 fairly swamped the village hall at Hart, near Hartlepool. There were many runners in road shoes and I was in a dilemma as to whether to wear road shoes or studs and opted for the latter. It was around zero degrees but at least the sun was up. I sat in a little group before we left the tarmac mostly going downhill. Then the track took us down through a woody dene and across a ford where the water was low and along the flat rail line before kicking up into the woods. There was little space to pass and no one came through the woods, but a bloke in a grey hat and shabby t-shirt passed earlier along the railway and I remember thinking 'he might be over 50'. The track cut back across the railway line then we climbed up a steady hill out of the woods where the track became a farm road and I ran for a mile with a local Hartlepool runner for a while. He had a clubmate ahead and fired on, but by then I was in a good steady pace and, not having seen any old monks, decided it was time to head back and I finished in 29th place and again 2nd v50, but not by much.  We enjoyed the race and the free tea and cakes afterwards: Didn't get a chance to visit the Anglo Saxon church which I ran past in the warm up. Overall, the form is returning slowly. Just need to keep the training going.