Monday, 28 July 2014

Saddle up

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Pit Stop 10k: Run like Martin

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

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

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

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Black Rock 5 Race 2014; Kinghorn or bust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 9 June 2014

Blaydon Race 2014

Nice night for a run along the Tyne to Blaydon at tonight's Blaydon Race. Some men and women were running fast; some not so fast. Took ages to load up the first batch of photographs. Photos now on Flickr. More to be loaded up on Wednesday. Results in due course. Well done everyone.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Out of action & the Outlaw

After beating myself up following a sloth filled display at the Edinburgh half, I overdid it at the track on Wednesday doing 4 x 200's after a 5 mile warm up. I woke up the next morning to a hamstring injury.  Quite literally a pain in the ass. As it was, I wasn't letting myself off the hook that easily and, on the evening, elected to jog ahead of the group as they did their efforts up on the road to Pigdon. A dog came at me at the top of the hill and I swerved quickly to avoid it as it lunged at me and whatever was a strain became a tear. I winced. It was only a King Charles spaniel on a lead, but they've got teeth just like any other canine. The owner was apologetic as she balanced a glass of red in one hand and a mobile in another. Who needs multi-taskers like that? It was a long 4 mile walk back to base with the group disappearing off over the horizon. Adios.

No more running then for a wee while.

The weekend was booked up some time ago. I was supporting our kid at the Outlaw Half Ironman in Nottingham. She had to be up at 4.30am. I thought that was the first event!

We had to get to the event by 5.30am. It started at 7am. As I was the transport and bike mechanic, I was tucked up at 9pm and as the sun rose we were mixing it with all the wired triathletes and their dozy entourages, as they hung up their bikes and placed their shoes 'just so'. I tell you, there was some kit there. One bike was shinier and more sparkly than the next. I could smell the pound signs. Any roads, as she spent the next 5 hours somewhere in deepest Nottingham, I got out on the lanes in 70 plus temperatures for a steady 35 miles. The place was hoaching with bikies. You couldn't turn a stone over without two or three of the lycra clad blighters crawling out.

A good weekend and needless to say, the glute is still sore and so, this week, it's some proper R&R. Regrettably, that means the Alwinton fell race is out, but I might recover enough to make the line for a jog at the Black Rock on the 13th. Wish me luck.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Edinburgh Half Marathon 2014

We drove up to Edinburgh this morning and parked up at Canongate. Walter Scott once described this as ‘the path to Heaven’. Not at the crack of dawn on a Sunday. Maybe he needed to get out more. At least the parking was free. We were up for the half marathon. In the words of Peter Kay ‘it was spittin’. We made the baggage bus for M. who was off from the Regent Road Start and I then jogged down to London Road  for the Red pen start. I had spent the best part of a week with no beer, more sleep than Rip Van and less carbs than Ebenezer Balfour on the Atkins diet a week before payday; Oh and not to forget the beetroot overload...say no more;  that was up until yesterday morning when I went for the porridge-granola-toast carbo triple salko followed by an all day sit about as the rain just kept on coming.

Evening time. The lite breakfast was followed up by a generous veggie spaghetti bolognaise with more garlic than a village would need to keep both Nosferatu and Bela Lugosi at bay for a month. Bauhaus. Liked their Ziggy Stardust rendition.   I digress.  They had long queues snaking out from each portaloo and I noted the retro minimalist pissoir’s on London Road. Any other day you might have had a member of the constabulary taking a dim view of this sort of thing, but not this morning.
We stood around for what seemed forever in the rain. I looked behind me to see a long line of waiting runners gyrating on the spot to keep themselves from petrifying. After the longest 5 minutes in recent history, we got off and it was steady away as the rain came down. It was pretty quiet without much of a crowd. Most of Edinburgh was still asleep.  A small group of lads huddling in a bus shelter off Lochend Road gave us some mild entertainment but there was little else of note. The rain had stopped. A grey haired runner came by and I tucked in behind him untill the start of Seafield Road along the prom, where a tall young runner came past with a long steady stride. I spent the next 2 miles behind him as the easterly gusted gently in our (his) face. When we reached another rangey  Gainsborough runner just before 7 miles, I was, for a short time, in a wind free zone and was thinking of having a picnic, getting my cigar out and blowing a few smoke rings.   However, it was too good to last and just as I was looking for my Zippo, man mountain slowed and three came by.  

I jumped across to one of them. He wasn’t wearing a club vest but his cadence was even and I sat behind him as we passed Musselburgh and began to work the last 3 miles. It was interesting to see the leaders coming back, passing us in the opposite lane. At the turn with just over one and a half to go, I did a miles worth at the front, mostly to impress a clubmate whom we’d caught, but then I fell back again as the pace in the final mile seemed to lift and it was a quick turn into Fettes and the finish. I saw 1:26 on the clock and blanched. I was way off the recommended Ally pace expectation meter. After downloading the garmin which I hadn’t looked at once, my pacing was strangely metronomic, clocking 6.35,6.35, 6,29, 6.41,6.35 etc. All very impressive if I’d set out to run like a metronome, but the metrical beats I had tapped out were 20 seconds a mile slower than required. I had ran; ran fast even, but not raced.

No matter. Caught up with said clubmate for a natter and then waited to meet up with M who was happy enough with her run. After spending 30 minutes waiting to get her bag, we made our weary way back to the car, stopping off at Newington Road to take luncheon at Reverie, where the staff and food were A1. We mused at the huge rain falling from the skies outside that we were fortunate that we hadn’t opted for the marathon.  When the waiter asked if we wanted to see the desert menu, I proclaimed that there was no desert for me, I was an athlete. On second thoughts...
(Finished 5th v50 and 164th overall. Not sure about this no public results thing they seem to be doing-wots that all about?).  

Sunday, 18 May 2014

British Masters Road Relays 2014

Sutton Park in Birmingham is a long way to go to spend 18 minutes running.  I've run there before; 2008 was my first trip. I blogged about it again in 2010, when apparently the highlight for me was getting free donuts off the donut man. He wasn't running. The Masters Road Relay championships is a small victory in the war of staving off the inevitable. Only the best, the brave or the loyal may be found competing. Its just a little difficult sometimes working out which category you fall into.  I was in a four man team of 'only if you need me's'. It was good of someone to ask us to run, and a small feat of endurance for someone to drive us down and back.  The spirit was good though and we've never looked out of place in the past. There were plenty of self deprecating jokes about evergreen runners and such like in the car on the way.

The weather was hot and still and a good crowd was present. We put up the new tent and slung the bags in before setting off to run the course, checking that it remained as we remembered it. The course was the same, but those of us who'd been there before were just a bit older.

As our first runner set off at the start, the field in our age group of 45-55's comprised around 40 teams. The ability range was wide, but there were some fast lads present and they set the pace. Each runner worked their way around the course and before I knew it I was off and chasing. The distance between the runners I could see ahead of me was not insignificant and it took me until nearly halfway around the 3 mile course before I began passing folk. I got by three. However, they were all in the younger age group category (35-45).

Ahead of me, I spied another group of three and ploughed on in the heat and was soon on the shoulder of a Les Croupier runner. We never see them up our way, and whenever I see their name, all I can think of is roulette. They're from Cardiff and had a nifty team out. The lad I'd caught was going well though and I clung to him while he, in turn, chased hard to catch the other two who had crept ahead.

There is a small kick up about 400m before the finish and I dropped back a couple of seconds and it was at that point that I realised (as the fuel gauge hit empty), that I wouldn't be passing any of this group today. They all moved ahead and I found myself looking back, which I never do, but today I thought the task beyond me. Croupier took 10 seconds out of me by the line.

We finished a gallant 20th which was fine with everyone making a contribution.  I'm going to have to work hard next weekend in Edinburgh to carve out something respectable, but its probably just what I need to get me back up there.