Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Righteous Dude at the Black Rock 5 (2018)

It’s difficult to come up with an original report for the Black Rock 5. As I trawled through the results from previous years, it shows I’ve run this 5 mile beach race on-and-off since 2006. That’s a whopping 12 years with probably around 7 or 8 appearances. My times have all been (un)comfortably below the 30 minute mark with the fastest a slow 26 minuter. I must have been keen then. This year, as I lined up a little way behind the Stuweb chip timing pads, I eyed the tarmac rising up steadily ahead. For some it would be their first hill: For me, it was my runway to Nirvana. ‘Was 28 minutes possible?’ I mused. Maybe 29 would do. I was in ‘the zone’. Staring fixedly at the long stretch of road to the top where the crowd was gathering I jabbed a finger imperiously at my quarry; Was I going to give it 'one hundred and ten percent?' Hell Yeah.....Bueller.....Bueller......Bueller ? 
With 5 minutes to go I glimpsed the young Donald boys from the Hawks stretching their legs at the front. ‘Not much spare on them lads’ I thought. Was that the Perth runner Fotheringham next to me? The guy who made the pace with Aitken and left me behind at the 2016 Tay Ten? 'Is he running well? Maybe, Maybe not.'. Two minutes to go and as the crowd condensed, people pushed in. The viscosity of this mass of athletic humanity (1000 of them), were busting a gut for release, like a bottle of coke that’s been violently shaken, then dropped on its cap. One minute to go and there was a lot of bouncing around and pogo-ing on the spot;  Thirty seconds and I was checking my garmin for the tenth time, another visual scan on the double tied laces and …lift off….Houston, we are good to go and off we went. The cork was out and bouncing off the ceiling.

Finding my pace early, it was warm with a gentle easterly breeze. The throng began to thin and sort itself out. I had entered last year but been injured and, as I careered down the high street toward the beach, the crowd shouting and joking with the spectacle presented in front of their eyes, I thought ‘take it easy big boy, at least you’re not injured’.  Some way back, Missus Mac was fighting it out at somewhere at the back of the field.   

In no time at all we were hitting the beach. The long lensed cameras pointed from left and from right like mini-daleks and you couldn’t expectorate without the risk of hitting someone with a camera phone pointed at you. Do people not remember things anymore? Is memory going the same way as Woolworths and gobstoppers?  Do folk ever manage to look at all their captured images? So many questions..... anyone.....anyone.....anyone?
'Ahh, there they are…the 3 bridges and the rock of doom ahead'.

We were suddenly into water and then onto flat sand, then more water. Wet shoes, then a mile of ‘Riddle of the Sands’, tramping over baby dunes, a filmscape for a Borrowers production of Lawrence of Arabia. The camels would have been tiny.

The sweat began to drip from my reversed cap. I wondered whether I could catch the little group ahead before the turn; I wondered whether the little group behind me was going to swallow me up. The rock and the piper came in good time. I grabbed the bum bag I had strapped to my waist with my phone and wallet in it and hoisted it up as the knee high water lapped at my gusset, the splashes swashing the bottom of my vest. 'Could have done without the baggage'! Out of the water, I worked hard to catch and then tuck in behind a tall runner from some leisure club, all black and red decals. However, as we made our way back unconvincingly toward Kinghorn, I imagine that he decided I was drafting and began to weave. Maybe he was tired.  ‘What’s he on?’ I thought, indignant that someone had the audacity to try and force me to the front like some cheap velodrome rider. As I reluctantly came to the front, I initially feigned exhaustion, blowing hard out of all orifices in an exaggerated fashion and pulling a twisted deviant gurn. However, my theatricals were only a cue for a girl from Central to cruise past and I attempted to latch onto her, my would-be exhaustion suddenly forgotten. She pulled out ahead of me in confident fashion and by the time I came off the beach, she was off and away. 

We were in slow motion as we pitter-pattered up the penultimate climb. What on another day was a slack wee drag up from the seafront, today was K2’s big brother, and all the Sherpas were laughing at me. Swearing quietly to myself for being so old and slow, I crested the top of the drag and, at last, began to pick up speed. With the last quarter of a mile ahead , I eased into second gear. I glanced at my garmin and it was turning 27 minutes. I needed to control my breathing and find 3rd gear. I managed this just in time as a couple of youths came past and the final turn under the railway viaduct came and I had to slam my legs back into first gear to get up the pyramidal grizzly peak that is the final hill and the finish line.  I was aware of my heart slipping out my arse as I tried to go more than 2 miles an hour to the finish line and there it was. Another sub 30 (28:48) and 5th V50.  Why do I do it? High on sandy endorphins, I collected my water, banana and bottle of beer.
Missus Mac appeared after a wee while and was well up the field and certainly not last. It was fish and chips and a couple of beers at the Auld House Pub before bedtime. Not so much craic with the locals this year, but there you go and it was back to the campsite for a night in the tent.  It was breakfast in Burntisland and a few pages of Tim Moores highly entertaining ’Gironimo’ before we commenced the trip south. All good stuff.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Helensburgh 10k

As I dragged my sorry torso, slapping spider arms and spindly legs around the final corner into Hermitage Academy, my eyes fell on the race clock in its understated grey box perched next to the finishing banners and blue and white blow up arch. The first two numbers were ‘38’. As my lungs continued to blow like an engine on empty, a pair of bellows with a hole in the middle,  my eyes continued to move right to see another two numbers. They said ‘38’ as well….but the second set of numbers kept moving….39….40…. I was nearly at the line but had to dig deep. Desperate measures. Run, Forest. Crossing in 38:41 I fell forward and gasped in lungful's of air. I wiped the sweat off my head and nose. That was tougher than it should have been.

On reflection, I was really pleased with my run, all things considered. My technique had crumpled somewhere around the 5k mark, as I peered at my garmin. Running along Argyle Street the roads were on ‘soft close’, the occasional car creeping along between runners. We were in the middle of the road. The cherry blossoms that lined the unlikely boulevard were, in any other circumstances, beautiful.  I had no time to appreciate their feminine beauty. I was on a mission.

I have family in Helensburgh and used an excuse of a visit to justify an entry and overnight stay for the first of the Babcocks Series's 10k’s.  The new school, with all its bells and whistles, was the race HQ and there was plenty of space to park and toilets for all. The youngster appeared from Raintown to offer support, but was miffed that the tea, coffee and cake stall wasn’t opening until after the race….think they missed a trick there.   

I had a thick throat, but otherwise was buoyed up by my new mantra of self-management in terms of my weekly training and racing.  You have to have the right mindset before races. I am mainly my own coach now, although I still like nipping down to the club when I can. I keep it varied. I have had a couple of good races in recent months, albeit that they are short and relays. A 10k is a step up in distance.

The first mile was a six minute affair with a drag up through a housing estate before a steady drop onto the mean streets of drizzle town. There was quite a bit of support out for the local Dumbarton and Helensburgh runners, and I fell in between 2 girls, one of which was running for the prison service, the other was wearing a yellow top.  They both looked strong. Both had good technique and every time someone else passed me, I latched onto their stride, their heels, anything. I tried to copy them to get me through another kilometre.  The periodic barks from the marshalls was like something from Poltergiest….’keep to the left….don’t look at the light, child….’.

A wee dog on a lead had a go at me as I mounted the pavement at 7k and the shock gave me a little adrenaline jolt but it wasn’t enough and I eventually lost touch of the two girls in the last 2 km; However I clocked in 67th and 4th vet (O50) and delivered a ‘well below my target sub40’. I also won a spot prize - I found a great tome of ‘100 years of Shettleston Harriers’ along with my Tunnocks log (not a metaphor) in my medal bag. Not sure if I also got a pair of socks or not.  The youngster flicked through it, raised her eyebrows and said ‘its all men and there aren’t even any colour photos in it; typical.'

This serious racing stuff is punishing and if undertaken, has to be approached with both caution, respect and commitment.  Either way, it’s the best 10k result for me since Dumbarton in 2016 when I was a lot lighter. Next up, the Black Rock 5. All aboard.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Elswick and NEMAA Relays

The need to blog has been bouncing around the bottom in recent weeks, but I've been tipped over the edge by a mixed metaphor and last nights late spring performance.
It was the North East Masters Relays. Lots of old folk trying to relive past glories. Evocative of a wrinkled Chariots of Fire where we're all white vests, awkward baggy flapping shorts and the Greek keyboard king giving it large in the wings on his stylophone (I imagine).
I had no intention of running this. It wasn't on my radar. I was busy doing other things in my mission impossible control centre. God, its dark in there.  All buzzing, clicks and L.E.D screens. Dangling from that rope all day really takes it out of you.

A weekend in London at the marathon watching the daughters gently frying to a brown crisp over 26 miles was enough for me to mooch backwards discreetly from competition. I had just got rid of my 3rd cold of the year, which is just ridiculous. I wonder if I am someone's experiment and they just haven't got round to telling me.

I was contacted last week and asked to run in the crack over 45's 'B' team. Considering I am a month off a decade older, I was both sanguine and flattered by the request (obviously of a desperate man). Being the reliable Johnny that I am, I confirmed my availability in the soon to be forgotten 3 man team.   By the end of the week, however, I had received an upgrade to the 'A' team after the withdrawal of Rob H pulling up at training with a recurrence of the hamstring thing. Not everyone had been taking it easy, it seems.

Happy with my sub 13 minute relay stint at the Easter Elswick Relays and a nearly sub-19 minute Parkrun in Southwick, I am in good shape. Don't count your chicklets, however. Work is doing its best to thwart my sterling efforts (thwart...there's a word you don't hear ever...what you call a person who tries to thwart you?... a thwart hog).  But I've now reached capacity and not taking any more work, I can find time to breath and blog and other things beginning with the letter B.

The NEMAA relays comprises three legs each 3k long (about 1.9mile) and twice round the Campbell Park in Monkton, south of the Tyne.  I arrived in the sun in good time and secured pole position starting first. Around 30 or 40 set off and I cracked around the first lap. I settled down toward the end of the lap and took shelter where I could where the park road was exposed. I even recall telling myself I was feeling pretty good, but that errant thought was parked soon after when I began to tire. The 5:55 first mile was not reproduced in the second lap and it was down to around 6:11 at the end.  I jogged around for a couple of laps afterwards and took some snaps. Not sure where we finished, but I thought I made some sort of contribution. In self-recognition it was chips at Wallsend afterwards, much more digestible than a medal. On the way back my thoughts turned to maybe re-joining the masters association so that I can run some track events in June and later summer. Before then there's the Black Rock and I am toying with the Helensburgh 10k next week. mmmm...maybe!