Sunday, 4 December 2016

Seasons End

In 100 years time, social historians will be able to look back to this era and recognise it mainly by the exhausting clich├ęs that are currently doing the rounds. But thankfully, you won't find me indulging in this mindless behaviour. Absolutely not, luvvie; I'm taking this blog to the next level; it'll be a short essay that ticks all the boxes....I can see you stretching slowly, remorselessly for the scalpel. me too...
I've been back in the wars; lets face it, it wouldn't be 2016 unless one vague medical condition followed another. broken ribs, suspected broken wrist, cold, more cold, blah, blah, blah. Poor health and bad luck are the two squires to the 4 horseman in my book. Of course, its all relative, and someone out there will tell me I don't know I'm born, but it sure does cramp your style.

I turned out for the last two Cross Country's, one at South Shields and last week a wee nugget of a course near Hartlepool. But my form has not only deserted me, its been sending me postcards from abroad. On the front are pictures of it sipping pina-coladas, pictures of it on the sun-lounger, pictures of it pouting and showing its tanned bare behind. Training has been very patchy and not helped by an eye infection which the eye doctor told me on Friday might take a few weeks to clear up. She suggested I put gel into my eyes every night; As I have a habit of doing this inadvertently with running gels, aiming for my eye was not going to be a problem. I have to say the eye people were rigorous. I had blue dye, yellow dye, more blue dye and more circling sparkly, bright and coloured lights than a night out with John Travolta. Sandy, cant you see? No drugs supplied, but plenty of soap and water prescribed.

No cycling, but gentle running possible. As a result, todays outing was the Hexham Hobble with the youngster. Ten miles and a steady romp around the moors and some tarmac in rural Northumberland. Around 200 turned out for this pre-crimbo stocking filler and an excellent turn out from the club. A huge display of cakery was on show prior to the start, none of it making any effort to hide its modesty. I waved on the youngster at the halfway mark (she's not getting any postcards from abroad).
It was cool and muddy and that strength sapping sort of a day out. In the last mile I had slowed to a snails pace and had around 6 passed me, but was happy enough trotting into the finish. A quick change and then had to wait for little miss speedy to pick up her 2nd place woucher. Some tea was drunk, some cake was scoffed and a jolly nice event it was too.

Soon, I was back home before you could say 'to be fair'. I was driven to destruction in the chemical repository that doubles as our bathroom looking for soap. There were many products that purported to be something like it, but my search was to no avail, until at last, I came across something that looked like cheese and was from Argyll and smelt like lemon and honey; Whatever it was, I lathered it around the various crevices and have promised myself a trip to Imperial Leathers headquarters to make some sizeable seasonal purchases.

I am going to lie low for the rest of the month and get my act together for the Devils Burden and Forfar Half next year. Not another comeback? yes, its just what the doctor ordered.  As an aside, I like Pina-coladas (and getting caught in the rain.)

Monday, 24 October 2016

Wipe On Wipe Off

The cycling hill climb at Coxhoe in Durham and organised by Houghton was the last of the short season events for me and I delivered a moderate ride over 3 minutes to finish yet again in the bottom half of the field. It only proves that you need to train for an event rather than just rolling up and hoping for the best. The climb was short and not really sufficiently steep to suit me. I think next season I may consider moving to the Alps to improve. The cost of living there might be a factor however.  When I dropped into Geneva last month paying for drinks and dinner was like handing over monopoly money. I didn't even get to put a hotel on a square.

So, with the cycling season over, I reverted to my latest misjudged adventure: Karate.

Saturday morning was like waiting outside the headmasters office. A cold sweat. An unwelcome churning in the gut. I was sure I could find a relevant paragraph in the Book of Revelation describing what was about to unfold as I waited for 3 hours for my debut appearance at 'kumite' (a karate term which broadly means 'individual sparring'). All this turmoil took place at the North of England Karate Championships. I was entered into the individual kumite and the team kumite.  Two minutes a bout.

As an aside, I am a fifty something man of small stature. I am not in the peak of youth. I remember the test card and the tufty club. I remember Fanny's Johnny.

There is, I understand, a condition described as 'small man syndrome'. It can result in small men having a chip o'nt shoulder.  Being small doesn't have to be a syndrome, though. I don't feel the need to prove myself every day. I'm even considered quite tall in Glasgow.

I also spend a considerable time trying to loose weight; or, at least, trying to avoid too much rubbish. Watching the Great British Bake off leaves me cold and not wanting to pick up a rolling pin, unlike Aunt Aggie who likes nothing better than a elegant slice of Prinzregententorte, a workmanlike wedge of parkin or a gobful of rum baba, shoe horned in between her breaks for chanter practice. Don't get me wrong, I love cakes, just that to a runner, they represent the enemy (except at the end of a race or run, when they're your best friend and you've earned it). Mostly, I quite like being the height I am. What I draw from all the above, therefore, is that I'm a good candidate for having sand kicked in my face.

It was pointed out to me by Mrs Mac, an impartial viewer at Saturdays event (and who was struggling to work out what the f*7c was going on), that, at least in boxing, the lightweights fight the other lightweights and the big bruisers stick to their own; not so in this martial art.

My adversary turned out to be a large man in white pyjamas. Perhaps an athletic 16 stoner. He didn't take long to make prompt contact with my eye socket (among other things) shortly after I laid him low with a reverse kick to the abdomen, which the referee advised against.  Swift and merciless justice was bestowed on me for my impertinence. He progressed to the next round. I failed to score any points and bowed my way out of the ring to await my fate in the team event (another 2 minute bout of pain and loathing in Wearside). Later that afternoon I lasted another two minutes without injury, but failed to score any points. I wasn't downbeat however, even as I felt my left eye puffing up and blackening as I shuffled again out of the fighting square. Simply more practice required. That, and some corrective surgery to add another 5 or 6 inches to my spine, arms and legs and a few more cakes. I left the meeting with a feeling of exhaustion and relief. I had a karate hangover yesterday and spent the wet afternoon doing family history. This could be my new calling.

However, the end of the bike season means I get to return to running and I was welcomed at 4pm when I slid back the glass door in the bedroom cupboard by all the jostling from the various pairs of trainers, looking up hopefully and shouting 'me', 'me', 'me', in their little trainer voices.

After 6 miles through the wet and leaf strewn woods, I relaxed back home with a cuppa, a well fingered copy of the Bruce Lee Courier and a couple of Aggies rum babas. What am I like?

Monday, 3 October 2016

Allen Valley Velo Hillclimb 2016

I am still buzzing from yesterdays two stage hill climb event at Allendale. What is there to buzz about? I'm not sure, but me and the youngster beetled over there into the cloud covered dale for a spot of cycle racing. I had been to a wedding reception the night before and crawled into bed at 1:30am the previous evening, so not as 'fresh' as I might have been at 8am on a Sunday morning, albeit that the night before I'd been bouncing around the dance floor to the Cult and Madness like a loon. The first stage is a long 4 miler and suits the time trialist's really. It was Cat's first of this type of event and I had refurbished the Viner. Her seat position is not quite right but I said it shouldn't matter as she needed to be up off the seat throughout, unless, that was, she wasn't trying. She cruised up the first stage, a steady long hill. She said afterwards she thought she should have maybe tried harder, as a rake of folk passed her. She was getting the hang of this racing lark.

I toiled abit on the morning climb and after the first stage 18:03 minutes sat around in 42nd place. At the end of the climb above the mist, I made sure I had a good boak. Nothing like a dry heave with a slight bitter aftertaste of bile from the previous nights pulled pork and Tetleys to freshen up the breath. You wont find that in any of the training manuals.
After tea and cake at Whitfield Village Hall, we cracked on with the 2nd stage, a sharper, shorter affair. A great crowd with flags and cowbells had gathered at the first hairpin and for a second or two it was as near to The Galibier and the Tour as I am ever going to make. As the sun warmed the tarmac, I finished in 7:14 and 38th for the second stage. Ha, so there is hope, I thought.
So no prizes, no autographs, but a right laugh and terrific little event organised by Allen Valley Velo. The next ones at Quarrington Hill in Durham in a fortnight, so best either cut down on the digestives or get myself a doctors prescription; seems to be all the rage at the mo!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Breaking Bad

Are my running days over? Well, that’s the question on no ones lips.  Things  ‘a la pied’ have gone down the pan since May and I’ve been wracking my tiny mind to work out what the issue is. As times gone by and summer has turned to Autumn (eventually), the penny’s dropped and it was obvious, really, from the start.  The broken ribs thing was a red herring.  It all started, really, early this summer. I had a cerebral Road to Damascus moment early in May.  No, it wasn’t a Bob and Bing film that never made it to the silver screen. Instead, I thought it a good idea to return to Karate. In 1993 there was some unfinished martial arts business. It didn’t bother me. Believe me, there’s plenty of unfinished projects in my life. I’m looking forward to unfinishing many more.  I had, however, a weekend away with some buddies who stuck with it and hearing about their exploits, the spark was re-ignited. I got some new gear and by June was soon getting back into the swing of things. However, all the stretching and reaching, the repetitive dropping into stances and lunging, swinging and all things eastern has tested the elasticity of my left calf beyond its grisly old breaking point and while things are going well in the Dojo, trying to get beyond a 3 mile run these days is near  impossible. Coupled with a trip to the Xray machine man last week for a suspected broken wrist, which who knows how long I’ve been wandering around with, the ability to get out biking is now also a challenge.
Never one to be defeated, I’ve got a couple of hill climbs coming up so theres still something to blog about . It just wouldn’t be Autumn without some uphill buffoonery.  One handed buffoonery. So there you are, consider yourself updated. As soon as I have something interesting to blog about, I will. In the meantime here’s the test card..

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Get aff yer Belgian Buns

Its been five and half weeks since 'ribgate' and, now, its only a dull ache in my psyche. I did manage do keep mobile during the first 4 weeks and am now trying to claw back the lost mileage and dump the uninvited lard. This interim status was marked by an 8 mile hilly time trial run by Blaydon Cycling Club at the weekend. My first bike race of the season. The forecast was pants, but I fancied a run out on the bike so drove to Elsdon where it had begun to rain. There were 80 entrants and I was no.67 which meant I was off at 3.07pm. The start was 6 miles away from H.Q. at the back of Bilsmoor, one of 2 big hills that would require conquering during the event. I got my number from the Bird in the Bush Pub and rode out as the rain intensified, rivulets of water washing down the tarmac. I arrived with 10 minutes to go and had passed riders who had set off earlier going the other way, head down, arse up. Everyone was looking pretty bedraggled.

Soon I was off and rode the Condor. It's got a small gear range, and so this was a deliberate ploy. When you hit the hills, the steep ones, you start looking for easy gears, but that's not the answer. Keep it in a stiff gear and take some grief. Get off the saddle, find the rhythm, get the heart rate up. That's the way to do it.

As it was, I was soaked and with a stiff headwind all the way on this point-to-point it was 34 minutes of grinding. There were one or two folk on the Gibbet, the second hill, but it couldn't have been anymore different that this years 'Tour' where they had to fight their way through the crowds. Finished in 38th place from around 50 or 60 starters, so mustn't grumble. I even passed someone, looking sorrier and going slower than me.

There was a cheery spread afterwards and it'll be better when the pub's been refurbished and the big fire is on and crackling. On the day the weather just continued to deteriorate.

This week, I need to get the miles in and yesterday was a morning 4 miler and an evening 6 miler. All pretty slow I should say.
Sat here, I am musing about what to do today. I have concluded that the biking interferes with the running in terms of my knees and with the Loch Ness marathon looming I'd much prefer to do a Callum rather than a Derek type of run, if you know what I mean. Its only 5 weeks away. I think realistically I will be doing well to get within 3:20.
In the meantime I am working on a 2017 variation of the Gothic cycling jersey, so we'll see if I can get that organised and delivered before next July.
On the lard front, I've got 3kg to lose before Mid-September, so no more Belgian Buns. Smoked Mackerel is taking over my life. Not as cheap as it used to be, either.
It took a while to get through the 'Return of Captain John Emmett', a competent enough novel, and now I'm on with Cormac McCarthy's 'the Road'; Sure to cheer me up that one. Its quite a short novel set in a post apocalyptic world. Then a series of short stories by Alistair McLeod. The Canadian writer's output is right up there with the best stuff. But for now, its coffee time from the cafetiere. Ooh, la di dah (...but no biscuits, right?)

Thursday, 28 July 2016


Strap me down and tickle my elbow with a sausage. Its been a good while since I was last seen striding manfully about this cowering blog. Truth is, I walked off a step onto a slender piece of steel tubing with a nib at the end. The steel didnt move a millimetre. My chest slowly but relentlessly began to cave in and yield. No match. Ouch.
I suppose I should be pleased I wasn't impailed, rather than just incuring the damaged rib(s) I have and am trying to recover from. It was a little bizarre, given that I'd just arranged to run the Coastal Run, as her indoors was crocked. So there's been virtually no exercise over the last two weeks and much contorting as I engineer myself out of bed or try to carry out some rudimentary aspects of my life, like work and sneezing. That said, I am on the mend and should be able to get back out on the bike this weekend for a short ride.
The prospect of a fastish run (or any run) at the Sunderland 5k is water long gone under the bridge. On the plus side, my lower limbs have had a good rest since the Windy Gyle Fell race, where we arrived late and Organiser Phil G shoe horned me and the youngster into the burgeoning field. It was a lovely day for a race as over 100 of us set off, and even though I was 13th in the end in a whirlwind time of 1:10, Fletch was stubbornly ahead of me (as usual) and some upstart called Colin Donnelly. Just can't get the staff!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Black Rock 5 2016

by michael booth via black rock twitter site
For me, its probably the highlight of the running year.
Any sedimentologist couldn't fail to love the Black Rock 5, oddly actually a 4.3mile race that takes you from the village of Kinghorn in Fife, jumping and swollen with 1000 barmy runners on a balmy Friday night in June. The course takes you down the road to the beach, then acoss a mile and a half of sand, round a rock surrounded by water and then back. Coarse brown sand, fine brown sand and silt, all arranged in ripples that are a test to anyone's resolve. The tide retreated an hour earlier, but the route is a myriad of criss-crossed sinuous and oblique ridges, shallow ponds of stranded sea water and the occasional black rock and cowering jelly-fish.
The race filled up in an hour on-line earlier this year.
Race day arrived and I had a half day booked, so me and the missus arrived in good time and pitched tent at nearby Pettycur in the late afternoon.
As the sun tried to get out we had time to nip down to Burntisland for a coffee and a copy of the Courier. What excitement.

Getting back and getting the gear together, we walked up to Kinghorn with a couple of other runners and met the youngster at registration. Such was the excitement and anticipation the ladies immedately purchased 2 race T-shirts and disappeared then to get changed.  I have had knee problems this week and, having done no training, was having second thoughts about running. However two brufen put paid to those thoughts and as the crowd swelled, we met up, warmed up and made our way down the hill underneath the viaduct to the start.

The organisers patience grew short as the runners took ages to push and squeeze into the pen. It was chip timing so we all had to be behind the timing mats. I reminded him to remind the crowd that we were all chipped and eventually his barking dissipated and we were off with the shortest of pre-race preamble. I fairly minced down the tarmac toward the beach, a huge and noisy crowd lining the road, and wondered if my knee was going to hold out. In the event it was fine and we were soon on the sand where I caught Cat and I plugged on across the irregular rutted surface trying to find purchase on the corrugations underfoot.  Not good for the ankles, this one. We were making good progress and as the runners ahead strung out in a long line we were all working hard. I was caught by a Dunbar vest at the rock where I was blowing too hard to enjoy the strains of the pipers jaunty tune, and we hit the crisp headwind immediately after the turn, which was a surprise.

It didn't take me long to look for an easy time and I was soon tucked in behind a passing Military Training runner and I drafted all the way back to the tarmac. I was passed by a few more and couldn't find anything to give me speed on the last half mile, other than to tell myself to keep the remnants of technique that had largely been abandoned along the way.

It was down the hill, underneath the tarmac where an HBT and Perth runner came past, and then we were faced with the final lung shredding climb to the line. I was cream crackered at the end and felt the need to have a wee lie down to properly catch my breath. The aerobic effort required for that last climb as the clock ticked 28:55 took my mind right off my sore knee. 6th V50, so it could have been worse.
Cat finished a minute later for a terrific 2nd place behind the big striding Central Girl. It was a fair wait for the lady wife and as we stood we chatted to Jared Deacon who had had a run out and barely had a sweat on. We then made our way back to the changing, then the Carousel pub for the presentation and a couple of drinks. The place was bouncing. A fish supper and back to the tent after a good chinwag with a few locals.
Its a right good night, is Kinghorn. 

Monday, 30 May 2016

Dumbarton 10k & Sweet Gene Vincent Street

I turned up at the Clive Cookson 10k two Wednesdays ago. I was all raring to go, but found out to my chagrin that it was fully subscribed and there were no late entries or cancellations. It didn't say that on the entry form. Never mind. I wasn't the only one apparently who didnt get a place and left feeling dopey. But it was a nice night and lots of people milling around, so I thought what the hec, dumped the water bottle and pulled up to the bumper of the race at race briefing and off we went. Its a two lapper and I galloped around the course (as my brother put it later 'like a riderless horse'), but making sure I wasn't interfering with the proceedings. At 9k I peeled off and finished off with a slow 37 minute time according to the garmin. I had saved £15 and still had had a good workout. The cake was good at the finish.

A little while ago the Athletics gods down south saw fit to remeasure the Trafford 10k and proclaim it short, so my hard earned time earlier this year was to no avail. Not one to act like a downtrodden prole, I bounced back last week with a souped-up training session on Monday night (I always go well after homemade soup at lunchtime) and a race at sunny Dumbarton (the Polaroid 10k) on the Thursday night. No rose coloured glasses on for this gritty affair. It had to be a 'head down-arse up' workout. One where you are working so hard you havent time to wipe the slaver off your chops or wave an affable 'hello' to your running buddies as you pass them, not that theres many that come into that category.

It was a good hike up the road on Thursday. However, with pouring rain in Glasgow at 5pm where we picked up the youngster, it was thankfully dry, clammy and mild as we got to Dumbarton Academy. Plenty of toilets and parking so no rushing around and we warmed up along the first kilometre. The course wasn't what I expected as 700 runners hoping for a good time set off. It was chip timing and we pushed our way out along a flat cyclepath cutting through the leafy evening to Bowling, where we turned and made our way back to Dumbarton. It took me 4 kilometres to catch the flying youngster and she looked very comfortable on her way to a 38 minute PB. I cracked on catching a group of 6 with 2km to go just as they were fragmenting, and half got ahead and the other half fell by the wayside as we worked our way through a few twists and turns around the final kilometre of the local housing estate. A finishing time of 37:35 was very respectable and 5th O50 and another race I've always fancied chalked off the list. I couldnt have run any faster, but the braised steak lunch with curled up steak, knackered carrots and token mushroom from the borders garden centre is to be avoided in future before races.
Whats occuring here then....?

Next morning saw me plodding 7 miles around the city centre streets of Glasgow before breakfast. Actually quite a bit of hillwork involved running up Bothwell Street, Saint Vincent Street etc. Good for people watching at eight in the morning.

Its the Black Rock 5 on Friday, so no time to sit back and navel gaze. I've picked up a knee niggle and need to have a couple of early nights to get refreshed. Should be a good blast. It always is. Best race in town.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Witty title required

Training was a little patchier than usual this week with 2 days off. In my defense, I would say I was busy at work. But I am also having a wobble from the rigorous, spartan start to the season that has resulted in my folding back the duvet of success and plumping up the pillows of age related achievement. I took in some of the Ashington triathlon last weekend during a training run. Some bluebells were out and I saw lots of tulips. Not much going on, eh?
Knowing that I was attending a 75th Party down south, I worked out it was possible to shoe-horn in a park run on Saturday morning before getting the train down to Peterborough. The youngster accompanied me, like I can't be trusted on my own, and around 700 bleary bodies appeared for this early morning 5k flash mob in Newcastle's Exhibition Park. Aptly named. We were briefed and sent on our way with a cool easterly breeze rolling in to dampen our enthusiasm, even as the rest of Engerland was basking in chunky marshmallow toasting weather. I started well passing Alison Dargie early in the run and I was soon tucked in behind Emilia Petit the pocket rocket from Vale Royal. But she's young and has that irritating bouncy progressive sort of step action that broadcasts 'you sap, you've no chance of staying wth me'....or sub-conscious words to the same effect.

Right enough, at 2km I watched her power away and into the distance.  I was going well at the 2 mile mark with two sub 6 minute miles under my belt, but I suddenly came over all Oceanic; someone had cut the oxygen pipe. The sharks behind began to circle as my gait became laboured and uncertain and then they began moving in for the kill. Two passed in close succession in the last kilometre and then Dargie eased past putting time into me with every stride. The finish line put me out of my misery and I spent a good wee while creased up gulping in the Newcastle air as the oxygen pipework was restored; 18:19 and 10th was a good run, but I need to work on the stamina if all the good early work is not going to be lost later.

On Sunday after the night before I was out at 7am and running along the Nene and through the local park which was beautiful in the warm sunshine. The rabbits were everywhere and hardly moved as I ate up the pavement. Once again I bumped into a triathlon. Those guys really do like to get up early. I managed an easy 6 before wandering into the town picking up the Cathedral with coffee after and Sunday over running engineering train high jinx to follow.

With the sun out this morning, I have bagged a steady 4 and with a session tonight, it looks like it could be a better week on the training front. As if I need any more encouragement, the Dumbarton 10k number has just fallen through the post-box.

Monday, 25 April 2016

London... Again

It was London marathon weekend again. I put up a limp resistance initially at the idea of going south again, but I was easily beaten down as Mrs Mac eyed up a visit to Les Miserables and a few nights in the big smoke and bright lights. As the weekend neared and the train was booked, my rickety facade collapsed and I found myself adding War of the Worlds (dah,dah,daaaah) to the weekends menu card. If you can't beat them and all that.

Miss L. had deferred her entry to run this years marathon as she wasn't 100%, so we were just here for the beer (so to speak).

We had an easy wander around the toon on Friday before the show. The highlight of the evening was us visiting a coffee shop and over a bowl of soup, applying on line in a rush to enter the Black Rock 5 which filled up between 7 and 8pm on Friday (1000 spaces gone...just like that). Almost as exciting as doing the race itself. After some chin scratching, the Polaroid Dumbarton 10k also looks quietly inviting and just might be worth a punt. The bleary notion to have another go at the Edinburgh Half late in May was blown away after I saw the stupid entry fees. They certainly are cranking these up across the board.

After the show and with youngster 2 (lets call her Miss C), in tow, we agreed on a park run 5k in Fulham Palace Park only a mile and a half from the hotel for the following morning.
On Saturday at eight, we cantered down the high street in the cold and light drizzle and arriving with half an hour to spare had a look at the course. Seemed fine. No hills. Not too twisty and around 150 starters.
We had a short brief and then we were off. Its a two and a half lapper and there were occasional danger jockeys coming the other way; clearly citizens who were not lightly put off by a mass of sweating stampeding park runners coming the other way. As I had picked up a cold earlier in the week, I took it steady with a 6:27 first mile, then 6.17 and 6.15 or thereabouts for an 18:30; 15th place at 81%. Pleased with that given my tentative start. I had a warm down with the speedy youths and it was back to the hotel for a wash, breakies and, later, the Les Miserables matinee. Suitably refreshed afterwards, we picked up an Italian's in Hammersmith.

This lad did 2:47 !
On Sunday morning made our way to the 11 mile mark at Rotherhithe to see the marathoners. And very fast some of them were, too, I can tell you. One elite female peeled off immediately after she passed us to go into a shop and we never saw her leave, so not sure what happened there. Other than that, it was an easy weekend and I admit to being happy to get back to my own bed last night. Watched the BBC highlights today... usual blanket coverage of elites and charity runners although they did cover the leading Brits once or twice, so that was something, I suppose.
Good to get out this morning for an easy 4 and another short run tonight is still possible.

bladerunner-esque exploits in Oxford Street

Monday, 4 April 2016

Tay Ten Mile Road Race

I'm not at all sure how I found the Tay Ten. It wasn't on the Scottish Athletics Website. A flattish ten mile road race based around Perth; Not too many of those around.  After missing the Thirsk 10, I thought this looked interesting. The event was all pre-entry at Entry-Central. There were 350 places up for grabs and a video that showed a route winding its way north of the City along the rustic riverside of the Tay.

Me, Mrs Mac and the youngster were entered: There were also a capacious squad of Dundee Hawks on the entry list.

We set off from home at 7am and listened to the news on the way up north along the empty roads about another blossoming drug scandal. Are we growing a little tired of the regular exposure and inevitable, trite rejection of these revelations?.. but it gets you thinking 'whose on what' in the running 'neighbourhood'. Maybe I should get my hands on something performance enhancing, other than extra honey on my toast, sliced banana in my porridge and a sports gel stuffed down my shorts.

Perth was quiet and grey with no wind and a light drizzle falling as we picked up our numbers. There were a large posse of marshalls evident at the local community centre. It was the hub of the race. It began to buzz as the punters arrived. I liked the JogScotland Hazelhead runners gear. Bright, coordinated and stylish.

The start was at the local athletics stadium adjacent to the community centre and, as we lined up, I saw plenty of Dundee Road Runners, but no vests that matched my own from the Hawks.  

We were off at 11am and I fell into my stride early. At mile 2, I latched onto 2 runners who had started steady and had begun to run down the faster starting runners ahead.  One was from Fife and the other from the organising club, Perth Road Runners. Initially, I tucked in, but as there was little wind, there was no obvious benefit to be had and I tried, instead, to pick the best racing line through the puddles

Our combined trio began to eat up the gently winding paths along the riverbank; the Fife runner (Aitken, v50) looked strong, grinding out a merciless 6:15 pace, which, after 4 miles, began to take its toll and revealed a hint of mild threat in this hinterland of park run urbanity. Were my new buddies trying to leave me behind?  Was the picnic along the gurgling water of the Tay about to end?

The Perth runner Fotheringham (also v50) sat on Aitken's shoulder and looked back at me with some regularity, but he needn't have worried. Shortly after we overhauled another Perth runner, my resolve began to unwind at around 5 miles and a small but unequivocal gap opened. There was no Cheerio.

I began to look for something, anything that might get me back that 10 metre gap, that 20 metre gap.  At 50 metres, I reached for my gel. I tore off the top and supped the sticky concoction.  The gel began working its magic just as the previously overhauled runner came past and I squeezed the living daylights out of the lifeless tube of this remotely citrus affair. Having dropped to a 6:30 pace at 6 miles, I began to re-discover my strength of will and convinced my mojo to start stoking the fire again, delivering a couple of 6:20's toward mile 9 where I passed Dick of Dundee Road Runners. Finishing in 63 minutes it wasn't so much an authoritative performance, but rather more a thinner, plausible one for 3rd v50  (15th).  The youngster got a PB and 3rd senior lady and Mrs Mac, a strained calf for her efforts, but we can't orchestrate all the days events along the silvery Tay on a drizzly day .

There was no sign of my errant clubmates. I was looking forward to the chat.
This is an event I can recommend and good for a fast time. A nice goody bag afterwards, too.
Sometime later, we ended up at a hostelry nearby where we struggled a little to wrestle with the rubbery, pre-fried onion rings, the miserly tub of coleslaw, but generous portion of bread and chips. Thats probably because we're athletes and spend our time trying to watch what we put into our system. Know what I mean?

Monday, 28 March 2016

Elswick Relays 2016

The arrangements for the Elswick Good Friday relays have changed in the last year or two from what I remember. In the olden days, you could roll up (as a club member) on the day and decide among yourselves what the teams were. The course was also a generous loop around the Newburn Industrial Park, the site of a former power station, a graphite works and a First World War factory which handled cordite and was known as Canary Island. The race is now all pre-entry, as the numbers have expanded and the course changed to a narrower dog-leg, out and back affair. Its still all off road though and no hills. The teams were pre-selected and I was advised I was second leg in the second team. The forecast was good and its only 2.2 miles in length, so how hard can that be?  Pretty tough as it turned out. Although our lot were all over 50, I was the slowest out of the 4 man team and felt compelled to make sure I didn’t let anyone down.More facially tortured gurning action at the finish guaranteed then for sure.
The women’s race went before the men’s and there was a good crowd present to see Birtley take the honours.

The men’s field was large and it was Rob H who ran first leg. I set off (as he crossed the line) and tried to settle into a pace; the first mile was 5:30 and a little quick, but predictably the pace slowed to something nearer 6min/mile on mile two as I passed a Tyne Bridge Runner and was then overhauled by another Tyne Bridger near the finish. Tim M and Paul W rang strongly to maintain our 8th place in the vets competition and that’s the way it finished.   

I took a trip out to Whitley Bay on Sunday and joined the throngs in the cool spring sunshine as they promenaded up and down the front with a stiff southerly blowing a hoolie. I jogged 4 miles up toward the start of the North Tyneside 10k route into the headwind and realised they would be coming through very shortly so had to high tail it back to the car to grab the camera and take some snaps. The huge tailwind helped many to a PB and some looked to be having trouble keeping up with their legs.

Seven miles in the morning and a jog through the woods for another 6 later in the day. This week will be an easy one with the Tay Ten coming up over next weekends horizon. Looking forward to doing a few different races this year. I think this is a good idea to stop things becoming stale. There was even talk of the Loch Ness Marathon over drinks last night. Seems a long way off. I suppose Inverness is, unless, that is, you live in Inverness. 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Trafford 10k 2016

I don't usually do forward planning. Well, at least, I do, but I don't admit to it. Plans frequently involve change and planning requires commitment. Seems unnecessary effort.

I entered the Trafford 10k around 6 or 7 weeks ago when there were a few of the 1000 places left. Mrs Mac also got in. I resolved that if I was going to beat myself up on a 10k this year, I'd at least give myself a chance and run the highest profile and fastest 10k in town. Well, its not in my town, its in South Manchester, so it required a 6 hour round trip and an over-niter in a  hotel. I had been to the shopping outlet earlier in the week to get a pair of Adidas Boosts, as I wasn't convinced that the Hokas were the best shoe for this event.

I woke this morning the birds were tweeting, the dawn was breaking and there wasn't a breath of wind. So far so good. After porridge at seven, we had a short drive to Partington and collected our numbers. No entries on the line today.

There was an air of expectation outside, but quite a different air in the toilets as I chatted to one guy from Birmingham, a student from Bristol Uni and another from some other far flung part of the UK. They came from all places. We were all there for one thing...the 10k that know what I mean, a quick time. Outside as I tried to look like a contender, I noticed names on numbers like Lancashire, Davies and Williams. I said hello to Ian H from our club who like everyone, was going through their own warm up ritual. Some more affected than others and a little bizarre to watch if you're not a runner.

The course was on a closed loop through narrow, flat countryside lanes bordered by hedges and peppered with farm entrances. We were herded together as the thermometer hit double figures and we were off sharpish. It was perfect running weather. There was chip timing but it only took me 12 seconds to get over the line. I had done 40 minutes dead in a training run on Wednesday so I knew I could achieve a sub 40 minuter at least. I even predicted 39:39 last week on this blog, but the hordes in front of me after the start limited movement and I struggled to get through the first mile before things thinned out a little.

I caught a small group at 3 miles and passed the 5k mark in around 18:30. All I had to do was keep it together. A couple of the group dropped off and I sat in behind a women with cropped hair, black top and a metronomic, purposeful pace. My thinking was if I could stick with her, we would continue to do 6 minute miles and I could forget about everything else...just tuck in, relax and try not to look like I was having a cardiac. I spied a clubmate, Rob, up ahead and counted him around 15 seconds ahead, but I cleared my mind and just grafted. In out in out went the breathing; pound, pound, pounding out the steady rhythm.

The last kilometre was on a poor surface, but having run along it during the warm up, I knew where the potholes were and tried to keep a good racing line and hey presto, the finish was there and going a little blue and well into the anaerobic zone, I hauled my exhausted body over the line for 37:24 (7th O50).

During the warm down I caught up with Rob H and son, both having great runs. I then had a low glucose moment with profuse sweating, but as I was still mildly delirious and elated with the time, it didn't bother me. As I ran back along the lane, I overheard the conversation of a couple of runners as they passed each other. It went something like this.......
'How did you do Alex?'
'Good run cheers; 29:54'
Thats great.....'
How did you do?'
Where else would you hear those times in casual conversation. Today 1 runner beat 29 minutes and 27 runners beat 30 minutes, with a huge haul of PB's and SB's. As plans go, this was a good one. One of my better ones. Mrs Mac seemed happy with her time as well, so happy days. I quite like this planning lark.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Park Run: Unknown Runner

I was collected by chauffeur on Saturday morning and driven to Druridge Bay, just south of Amble for the Park Run. I've only ran 6 of these since 2009, when I was bagging late 17 minute times for 5k. As the runners began to arrive, me and Mr B had a lop around the course. It was more track and gravel than tarmac with a small click over a wee bridge at the far end of the course. Its a 2 lapper that makes its way around the lake formed by the old opencast.  There was just over 100 that kicked off and I had the headphones on.

The rest of the family (bar one) were also running but had arrived via another kind driver, so quite a turnout. After the start, I tried to get into a stride and manage my breathing. A 5k is a bit of a flat out affair. There's no time to ponder the likely economic effects of Brexit, the pro's and cons of Hokas cushioned shoes or how my latest read, Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited', is shaping up. The last Rebus novel was predictably enjoyable.

The leader was well away in front, but I had snuck my way up into 2nd and dug in for the second lap, starting at 5:48, dropping to 6:12 and then digging in for the final mile or so, slaver flaying from my loose chops. It wasn't pretty but 19:03 is what it was. On the warm down I was assured that the course is long, so I am predicting 39:39 for Sundays up and coming 10k. When the results came out I was down as 'unknown', so no loss of face here. I can remain discreetly faceless. The scanner must have misfired. I hate a mis-firing scanner, don't you? If nothing else I should be able to crack 19 minutes in July Sunderland 5k, which has 300 metres of downslope at the start and is worth 10 to 15 seconds of any runners time.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Royal Signals Relays 2016

I woke up this morning with a thick throat. Not a good sign. I had a lemsip. I then put the tele on in bed while I had my grapefruit and toast. Well, the tele wasn't in the bed, you understand, but I was.
I got caught up in a 'House of Cards' re-run from the 1980's. Francis Urquart. Compelling. You might say that; I couldn't possibly comment. They then put another episode on, and then another, all back to back. I had some porridge. Before I knew it, though, it was time to get out the door for the Royal Signals North East Road Relay Championships.

I got to Hetton Lyons in good time. I eventually found the gang and was advised I was running 3rd of the 4 legs in the men's over 50 geriatric race. I usually run the 4th leg. By that time, I reckon the hard work has generally been done.  The over 50's men and over 60's men's race are combined with the women's race so the crowd is healthy and pretty vocal. The Signals is a whose-who of the North East and Teesside running club scene.

I decided to keep my 'hell of a nice' OMM tights on, and coupled the look with neck tube/neck warmer (or whatever they're called now) and, of course, odd gloves. Zoolander. The hat was still on. The supporters at the edge of the 1.1 mile park circuit in Durham decided that I was simply attention seeking.  Blue Steel. When someones dad asked if I was fit, I actually said yes. Its the truth. Apart that is for the scratchy throat.

Rob H got our first leg off and looked to be working hard over the 2.2 miles (twice around the park) landing around 5th. However, our second-legger, PaulB, had that 'far away look' and clearly his thoughts were elsewhere as Rob landed. He only 'came to' several seconds after Rob, breathless on one side, and me on the other, stood shouting at him to go, he eventually getting the 100 decibel stereo-phonically delivered prompt.

PaulB worked his way round the two laps and I was next I took off not knowing quite where I was in our race, but with the objective to get around the course as fast as I could without going into the red. Its true as you come around the top of the course at the end of the first lap, you up your game and re-engage the running technique for the punters as they shout encouragement. Trying to look polished and in control isn't easy when your gasping like some old wraith with tunnel vision from oxygen deprivation. Thankfully, I never go off quick enough which meant that I had a bit in hand, and by the second lap, was not too far off Tyne Bridge's 4th placed runner. He was at Carnethy last week, and while I put time into the team, I couldn't quite catch him at the end as I handed over to PaulW. He claimed to be suffering another cold, but he still put in a solid shift (to land us in bronze position as it turned out).

I did another few laps to get my mileage up was chuffed to hear we'd managed 3rd, having assumed we'd been stuck with 4th.

Next on the running schedule is the exotic and flat as a witches trafford 10k in March. If I am going to thrash myself in a 10k this year, I want to know I have a chance with a flat course. If I can deliver a sub 39 minuter I'll be pleased.

In the meantime, I need to buckle down and keep the progress going.  Missus Mac is off Choc for lent, but I've had a big night out (more than a babycham and 2 pints of pale ale) so I've come in and savaged the box of maltesers hiding under the cooker. No self discipline; Thats me. Pathetic. I only did that cause there was no lemsips, you understand!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Carnethy 5 Hill Race 2016: Pentlands Snowfest

The forecast was for snow showers yesterday, but driving up to the Pentlands yesterday, my sixth sense told me otherwise. Maybe the mattress of soft, thick snowflakes streaming across the windscreen at Grantshouse was a hint. I picked up our kid at Eskbank at noon. She moseyed over to watch the February running spectacular that is the Carnethy Five hill race. Its one of the biggest, juiciest fields in fell racing, early doors, and the 600 who got through in the ballot, me being one, had come from all quarters. I heard Irish voices and later ran for most of the race with a lass wearing a Goteborg top. I wondered if she had run the strommingsloppet or kistaloppet. Lets not talk about the Lundaloppet.  We drove past the start, already peppered by marshalls and the odd runner all looking cold in the white conditions as the snow pregnant sky threatened more.

 At Beeslack school, race HQ, there was a big crowd, and soon it was off in the fleet of buses to take the 2 mile trip to the start. As the buses left and began heading up to the hills, the sleet in Penecuik turned to snow and as we disembarked and made our way to the start on the moor it just kept coming.
I've done the Carnethy once before in 2008, when it was sponsored by Tiso and before global warming was invented. I was in the ascent then, but I recalled leaving the event with a feeling of...well, mild contempt, I suppose; that I'd been ambushed by something and hadn't been sufficiently prepared. However, I couldn't put my finger on what the problem had been.  It was certainly tougher than I'd expected.

This time around, I knew I was not carrying any extra weight and had been out during the week to buy some new tights having anticipated that the 'Ron Hills' would sag badly in the wet and nobody wanted to see my builders crack wearing the old 'New Balance' ones that don't go high enough up my waistline. My pricey ''OMM' ones were the biz.

The race kicked off 15 minutes late, and the organiser advised there were around 100 marshalls on the hill. Looks like we got ourselves a posse. I paid badly for my slow start, fannying around with my garmin and eventually slipping into a line of runners as the snow continued. As we climbed the first big long hill, Scald Law, I knew it would be tough trying to get past folk and every so often there was a little surge from runners behind as they and me passed a few on the outside, then tucked back in where the thickening snow had been trampled to something resembling the route. I could have been going anywhere and with around 50 metres of visibility, the constant ups and down and false summits would have allowed for some great photos, had I had my camera. but today, I was racing, so it was onwards.

I had three layers on and a scarf and hat and halfway through congratulated myself on getting the attire right. It was sheltered and snowy in the hollows, but blowy and snowy on the tops and I reckoned I was around 150th or thereabouts. I gave it some welly on the downhills and the cambers along the narrow track off 'the Kips' on  polished snow was very tricky in places. I gave myself a mental workover to get up and over to get up the last climb, when Goteborg girl got past me again, but over the top she slowed and I galloped down over the snow and exposed heather, only to be passed by a girl from shettleston who lopped down the hill with the spring of a gazelle.  A runner from Irvine came past on the way down, but the hellish camber on the heather as we headed off the hill was tortuous and he went down like a sack of tatties.

I caught two on the run-in at the end and was thankful for the scouts coffee tent where we grabbed a drink and headed off, picking up dinner later at the Steading.  Great to run in character building conditions like that. The organisation was excellent and the marshalls huddled around the routee, hiding behind walls or just stood erect in anonymous waterproofs with snow plastered to one side of their torsos were the real heroes. Even though my time was 1;12 compared to 1;05 in 2008, I left knowing that I'd had a better run and had been ready for all the sharp climbs the race had to offer. The snow was a bonus. (Some fotos courtesy of the Carnethy website).
A truly memorable day on the hill.  Some great shots of the leaders at


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Progressive House

Listening to the same music when you train can become dull and predictable. One can get de-sensitised even to the music you love. I have changed my tunes in recent weeks and downloaded the Ministry of Sound 'great trance anthems'...or summit like that. As I downloaded the double CD, I noted one comment on the music website that suggested that the music 'wasn't trance at all, but actually progressive house'. The author of the comment sounded indignant. The 90's largely passed me by,  what with careers and parenting and all that stuff, so this criticism meant nothing whatsoever to me. However, as I've been running while listening to the banging beats I keep on wondering if it is progressive house. Should I demand my money back. Is a class action due?

While sat in the garage watching for mice with bamboo cane and green fishing net in hand, Aunt Aggie's take on things are that it doesn't really matter, as long as my times are improving. She then laughed raucously and winked adding 'fat chance'.. Ha Ha.

I had 4 days off after the feel the burns race, but I'm now back out in the woods. January 2016 has nearly run its course already, but it been a busy one. I may get a couple of races in in February. The mercury is back up again and the garden bulbs don't know what the eff is going on.  I heard someone on the radio talking about the elephant in the room....climate change. But this isn't the elephant, its only a manifestation of over-population. This is partly why hill running is so attractive. The solitude.

The choice yesterday was whether to wait for the group training in the evening or steal out in the late afternoon and enjoy a little daylight in the woods. I opted for the woods. I hear the phrase 'be the best you can be' glibly bandied about, and it occurred to me that I was in denial. I wasnt being the best I could be and thought i'd better looks inwards for the answer (literally). And so the biscuits are soft and soggy in the jar, the potatoes are no friend of mine and the pasta are but strangers. This has pleasingly resulted into some proper good runs of late with a spring returning to my step. Its boding well for February. I might even have a few scalps in my sites. Now that is progressive...

Monday, 18 January 2016

Feel The Burns Hill Race 2016

I arrived with hardly any time to spare at Selkirk Rugby Club for the Feel the Burns hill race. I had a late entry, the event having been oversubscribed initially. Getting a call out of the blue last Monday, I was looking forward to the race all week. Its a 13 miler that takes in 5 checkpoints and has around 2500 ft of ascent. With an entry of 200, I was also looking forward to mixing it with a decent crowd in the snow. I love running in the snow. Its no secret.  Mostly all club runners, with the assorted local entry peppering the list.  The hills were a white desert of snow and tussocks, trees heavily laden in places with frozen snow having fallen the previous evening..

With 10 minutes to the start, I paid my £10, put on an extra pair of socks and ran up the half a mile to the start. We had a brief briefing and we were off. I settled into the middle of the field as we climbed and climbed firstly through a wood then past a reservoir and up over the moors. It was soon evident that although it was about zero degrees, there was little wind and I had a big sweat on. Off came the hat, off came the gloves, the hat went back on, the hat came off again, then the scarf came off....

At the second checkpoint I was in between Kate Jenkins and the second lady, Fiona Dalglish of Gala. While I was gasping, they were chatting. I chucked my scarf and gloves to the mountain rescue guys at a checkpoint after asking if they were going to be back at the club. Over the next 2 or 3 miles there were a few surges but it was pretty steady punctuated only by Kate catching her toe on a wire at a style and going over. The pace was fast enough for me. The downhill around mile 7 and 8 was exhilarating and with a couple of stream crossings, by mile 10 I had moved ahead of the women but was dehydrated and looking forward to the drinks station. Just before the final climb which was a lung buster and having been passed by Fiona, I dug into my bum bag and fished out my cereal bar. However, as I walked up the monster slope with carefree, exhausted abandon I was blowing more cereal out than I could keep in, my mouth failing to gather together adequate 'slurp' for effective mastication.

The snow was deep at the top and I thought would have been great to walk over if I hadn't been flogging my own dead horse down the slope in my 3rd race of the year while trying to stay ahead of two chasers.  After the big climb I realised either the drinks stop hadn't materialized or I had missed it in the snowy wastes, and I took to cadging drinks off the marshalls wherever I could find them; another re-run of the latter stages of the Pentland Skyline in 2010, except then it was about 70 degrees...

I was soon back into the woods and then crossing the cut up field at the finish line where I arrived back in a time of 2:06 and 60th. I was probably 10 minutes down on what I expected, but couldn't have managed any quicker, other than I had wished I hadn't been over-dressed. Not sure how to find that elusive 10% I'm currently missing.

On my jog back to the rugby club I cramped up and again at the car  while getting into some dry clothes and I gave myself a good doze of salt. We were then treated to a burns supper with soup and lashings of tea and shortie, Had a chat with Brian Marshall and a few other lads and, all in all, a terrific day out thanks to the Mountain Rescue folk and Selkirk Fund Runners. Next up in the bleak north: Carnethy.