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