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.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Old Monks Race 2016

It was cool grey and wet morning as I drove through the Tyne Tunnel. Both lanes of the tunnel were empty save for some red and green lights giving it a vaguely post-apocalyptic feel. I was off to the Old Monks Race just outside Hartlepool.
I ran this race for the first time last year and felt I could have done better.
As I passed Seaham and Peterlee, the murk was down and a west coast drizzle was trying hard but seemed to be fizzling out. By the time I got to Hart Village where Race HQ was, the road surface was drying and it was 8 degrees.
I paid my £9 willingly... Thought it was less last year. As a result of all the rain, the course had been changed, so there was no chance of trying to crack last years time. I walked back to the car. With nearly an hour to kill, I opened my new read, the Dubliners, a James Joyce affair having just finished with an offering from Bernard Cornwell. The cars started to arrive and runners began milling around. I like the air of anticipation that surrounds the start of a race and having been at this game for a while, still smile when I observe the odd little pre-race warm up dances and rituals that some adopt. I had a good look around, but failed to see any monks. Not a sign of William of Baschkerville.

Around 300 hardy souls occupied the road and after a brief explanation of the course change, we were off. Half the field tanked down the road before hanging a left. I read once that it was best for athletes to try and get into their pace as early as possible, so I resisted the herd mentality and looked down to check that my sandals were strapped up and my cloak wasn't flapping around too much. That cowl is a right nuisance. It doesn't half catch the wind.
I passed a few slowing bodies as the road clipped up but there were still plenty ahead. We hung another left and it was off along an old muddy track bordered by a row of hawthorn on either side. Having spent all December training off road I assured myself this sort of splodge was right up my street and I almost ran into one or two as they dilly-dallied at gates and steps. If you had been wearing road shoes, you'd have a job on your hands today.
The route took us across a couple of fields and I was looking for the good ground, but everything was wet and soft.  Soon enough we were back on a wide track and I made a vow to catch the short string of 5 who were just ahead, but I could make no headway on them. Then we dropped into the woods and, back on home ground, was immediately on top of two. I recalled from last years run that the next half mile included a couple of sharp rises so I passed one and tucked in behind the other lad who began to pick the pace up again. There was only one grey haired bloke that passed us. On another day, I might have tried to go with him, but today I had no illusions and, in any case, no more go-juice.  The short route was well marshalled and before I knew it we were back on the road and the village was in sight. One lad came up fast just before the finish, but apart from that everyone remained in order and around 4 miles or so after the start was the finish line.

I warmed down around the old church, established in 675AD and was tempted to look in but heard the organ playing, so resisted my first temptation.
Didn't wait for the results as it seemed to take an age last year.  Finished 30th and 2nd v50. A low key but enjoyable event. Given my training I obviously need to look for some more woodland races. I have a few ideas about perhaps organizing one locally, but we'll see. As I got back into the car I changed into some dry clothes. That hair shirt really chaffs.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Portobello Promathon 2016

(photo from Bob Marshall - see link to his site and collection
on the right of the page)
After a sober Hogmanay and having to put up with 15 minutes of fireworks intruding into my beauty sleep, we had a big day out (in an understated way) yesterday, when 3 runners, a supporter and a black lab made the long journey from Northumberland to Portobello seafront for the New Years day Promathon. The event is well organised and well attended. It appears to demand minimal marshalling and route planning, taking the runners up and down the seafront. Its flat and its a toughie. If you accidentally go left, you'll end up in shadows of the urban hinterland and you could inadvertently be talked into buying a car where the avenue of car showrooms and eager salesmen occupy the high ground. If you take a right you'll' find yourself on the beach with the seaweed or even ankle deep in the lapping waters of the Firth of Forth. The water was a glassy calm when we arrived, which meant that the wind was down and we were in for a fastish day.
Around 300 runners had entered in advance. Many looked trim and motivated, some sporting new trainers and coordinated gear. I was neither. I decided on the flats rather than the Hoka trainers and took up a position on the line a little way back and behind the youngster. At the gun, she took off like a rocket and it took me a mile at the first u-turn to pass her, clocking in a 5.50 something for the first mile. Far too fast. The extra ballast I was carrying was soon beginning to tell, however.
I was going well enough and feeling fine for the first 3 miles. Then I felt a drop of speed, like a little pilot light going out and from then on I had to hang on in there to the end. Much pain was felt. I felt the energy dissipating, frittering away, a result of an overindulgence over Christmas and a lack of miles. I waited for the avalanche of runners to come past, but it was more like a trickle, some runners whom I had passed a minute previously.

During the run I tried not to look at the runners coming back, the gymnastic undeniable power of the front runners or the seemingly effortless technique that Kate Avery (women's winner) employed to cover the ground at speed.

I recognised a couple of the V50's up front and while I was some way back, I wasn't an embarrassing distance behind, not too far away and around a minute or so down.  Overhauled by about 5 or 6 runners in the last mile, I finished in tolerable shape in 51st position and collected some raisins and a carton of juice. The youngster landed 30 seconds behind me in 8th place, a very handy run.

Its probably not best to drink concentrate after a race, so after a cool down we cracked open the flask to celebrate the new year with tea. Some runners took a dip afterwards and the cameras from the local news were present to cover the event.

We got back home to catch the end of the local 11k and I was pleased to have made the effort to do something different for the new year.  The pub was heaving in the afternoon and after a couple of hours, I appreciated the stew and tatties that were ready at home. Proper athlete scran.