Monday, 20 July 2015

Coastal Run 2015 - View from the Midfield

My wife spent £36 on a cold night around February for three of us to run the Coastal Run 2015. A 13.5 mile safari along the Northumberland Coast. The race fills up rapidly, well in advance of the July event.

I had run this twice previously and did quite well, even if I say so myself. However, in deepest frigid mid-winter, I didn't bank on having such a long lay off during early season, nursing my dysfunctional hamstring over the Spring and early Summer months. I reckon its probably the thought of losing the chunky entry fee that eventually got me back to some sort of running shape in recent weeks.

The race is a point to point, so we got dropped off an hour and a half early in Beadnell on the coast on Sunday, not having paid the extra for the bus trip to the start. Normally it might be mild and welcoming, with seagulls hovering lazily and eyeing up the red-top milk, but today this was 11 degrees and decidedly cold and quiet. The wind was also up.

We took shelter with a coffee from the mobile van and watched the runners arrive and it wasn't long before the snaking queue was forming outside the ladies. Extra toilets were laid on today. By 10:30am about 1000 runners were primed and ready to go and shortly afterwards we all set off into a stiff headwind on our trek to Alnmouth. Its an exposed, but lovely run. A combination of sand, sea, sand dunes, gravel tracks and tarmac, but its a long way and my main concern was to finish without having the need to walk to the end. So I started slowly and alternated every other mile from around 7.20 pace to 8 mile pace. I had a gel and my mobile in my bum bag but was well over-dressed for the event and stopped to shed my long sleeve top as the sun made an appearance. There were 3 water stops, and I remarked to myself how similar it wad to the TDF as the occasional, half drunk bottle of water was fired into the air or laterally into a nearby hedge from runners ahead.

I didn't bother too much to check my garmin and just ran along tucking in, out of the wind where possible. It ended up taking 1.45 for 13.2miles and quite pleasant taking in the view of the field ahead (and behind) from a mid-field position.  I stopped regularly for photos and my comings-and-goings were probably a distraction for some of the runners.

I was tired by the end of the run though and became aware of a shuffling action I've adopted, presumably in order to avoid stretching my upper leg...or maybe its just age.

A small refreshment in the Red Lion where the prize giving was, we had a long chat with some runners from Keighley.

They recommended a race called the Yorkshireman in September. We might give it a go. A half marathon and marathon trail race around Haworth.

The prizes were dished out by Alnwick Harriers (including 9th place for the youngster) which topped the day and we wound our way home with a bit more colour in our cheeks. Not sure if it was from the sun or the wind.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Sunderland 5K 2015: Glimmer of light

After coming through a steady 9 miler with the group on Monday night in the warm rain, I considered taking my shorts and vest to Sunderland on Wednesday night for their excellent 5k, rather than just my camera. The youngster said she fancied a run, especially when I reminded her about the fast downhill start. Its easily the fastest 5k course around.
This year, Sunderland Harriers split the event into two, with old gadgies and ladies running first, then other Johnny-come-lately's (under 50 men) in the second event.  Having spent all day in the car visiting 3 sites at Chesterfield, Stockport and Carlisle, by the time we got to Sunderland I was quite happy to get out of the car...anymore mileage and I felt I might begin to become attached to the steering wheel. My soles had already welded themselves to the pedals and the clutch knob had worn into the shape of my left hand. Malleable is a good word.
We paid the £8 each and had a gingerly 2 mile warm up. There was a searching breeze, up on the hill, but down into the dip where the majority of the course is run over 2 laps, it was more sheltered. With the 14 mile Coastal Run on the horizon, I definitely wanted to finish in one piece with no recurrence of the injury that has meant no racing since February. As such I was nearly at the back at the start and after 2km of steady as we go, I began to get into my stride, trying to keep it a little shorter than normal. The sweat was dripping down my nose, so I was certainly not coasting and moved on through the 5k without incident.
The Young one was just ahead, giving her previous PB a good pasting and I was just behind her, so It was a sub20, 5k by me, which was a bonus. Didn't stay for the mens event, and was happy to get home for a celebratory boiled egg and toast.  Morale is good. There may be hope for the rest of the years racing calendar.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


The sun is threatening to melt us milky skinned types this week. The forecasters on tele. have been trying to keep a straight face when pointing to the north east and saying its going to be scorchio.

As my slow recovery continues, I have managed a dizzying 15 miles over the last 2 days. As the car is getting a service at a garage 8 miles away, I am committed to another 8 miler tonight when I go and collect it.  The hamstring appears to be sorted now but someone has been interfering with the scales. Seems like there's a price to pay for the biscuit fest over the last 2 months. Aunt Aggie has taken to calling me 'goodyear'.  'Blimp' is her other favourite, but she's not accorded me the associated rank as per the 1943 Powell film.

I had an enjoyable 80 mile sportive in and around Pitlochry in the rain. I started no.4900 of 5000, and enjoyed passing thousands along closed roads around Loch Tummel, or wherever I was. Had a weekend in Chamonix where I went walking and mountain biking in the sizzling alpine sun and last weekend, I accompanied the missus around the less sizzling 8 miles of Windy Gyle Fell Race. The two hour jog and wander around the Cheviots finished without incident as I coasted in, in last place.  So, at last, it seems that given another 2 or 3 weeks, I might stick my toe in the water of sport and see what trail or easy hill races are on the go. Saying that, I have the Coastal Race from Seahouses to Alnmouth to get through in 3 weeks time, so that is probably as good a target as any. Not sure I'm ready for 14 miles along the coast, but that's the problem with entering events several months in advance.
Now, where's that amber solaire.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Sing out loud, the chain gang song

Sat in my dressing gown , I stared vacantly out of the window into the empty street. The only movement were the rivulets of water trickling down the window and the tulips swaying the wind, their petals closed in protest. What a day. Didn’t fancy getting soaked out there. Make a mess of the bike as well.

Maybe it will clear’ I told myself. 
An hour later the house was empty apart from me and the dog. The rain continued.
The rest of them had cleared off to a local half marathon. After another half an hour I dug out the rollers. For anyone unfamiliar with this fiendish apparatus, you balance your bike on it and then ride on the spot, the rollers suspended on a low frame allowing the wheels to move; but you stay put.

I put leggings on and a tracksuit top over my t shirt, put a hat on and dug out a bike. It took me 5 minutes to get moving. I generally find it’s a tedious and thankless form of exercise. A last resort.

I got off and put on Mike Rutherfords Smallcreeps Day on the CD player and ramped up the sound. After 8 minutes, the hat came off. After 10, I had a sweat on and after 12, small drops of perspiration began a rhythmical pit-pit from the end of my nose onto the crossbar of the bike. May bank holiday weekend. Outside, still the rain came. After 25 minutes you begin to stew slowly in your own juices. A subtle smell of warm rubber envelops the room.

I was getting a bit bored and tired after half an hour. My backside was a bit achy. The regime doesn’t allow you to stop (or you fall off) or alter your riding position very much as keeping your balance is just as critical as pedalling. After 40 minutes I got off for a drink and changed the CD. I was going to call it a day, but when Ian McShane’s throaty growl sprang from the Missions, supported by Trevor Horns unmatched production in ‘Slave to the Rhythm’. I grabbed a towel and had to get back on the bike and purged out another 20 minutes of effort, the windows steaming up all the while in the little room.

After an hour I tried to take a selfie, but lost the back wheel and was projected sideways onto the arm of the settee in a slow motion fall. Graceless. She (Jones the Rhythm) was busy pounding out ‘never stop the action, keep it up, keep it up.’ Deciding I had had enough after 65 minutes, I dismounted picked up the newspaper which I'd put under the bike to mop up the small puddle of salty toil and took off into the kitchen for a drink and handfuls of Sainsburys Strawberry Granola.
I was soaked. Ironic that.
Later I get a text saying the youngsters finished 3rd in her first half marathon. I taught her everything she knows, you know!

Saturday, 2 May 2015


I had pretty much another week off last week to give the injury a rest, but this week I've managed 4 or 5 rides over around 20 or 30 miles. While its been pretty damn chilly, even with the sun out, I have managed to drag my sorry torso around the shallow hills of south Northumberland at reasonable speed. Still a few pounds too heavy, mind.
However, there has been a price to pay.  I was up this morning surrounded by a bunch of tubes.... and a bowl of water. Calling someone a 'tube' was a form of mild abuse where I come from, but these are bike tubes. The frequent potholes coupled with a worn tyre have meant that I've used up all my spare bike tubes and have had to spend the early hours patching and 'making do' before 30 miles late this morning with the club.

Its a long weekend and holiday on Monday. The youngster is doing the Sunderland Half marathon and the other one managed a fast time at London last week, so I am feeling like a member of the backroom staff at the mo.
I may venture out and try the old leg on an easy 2 miler. Meanwhile, the training shoes shut themselves up in the attic last week. As they pulled the ladder up and shut the trapdoor behind them they ranted something about 'not being loved anymore'. Even as I tried to jump to catch the door before it closed, they shouted not to come up until I was prepared to take them out somewhere. You've got to feel a bit of pathos for the old battered Brooks, eh?  As I walked down the stairs, I shouted up about going out to get myself a new model. That shut them up.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Pan right...Pull back... Stop

I took the bike on Thursday to Lincoln and had an hours blast around Market Rasen in the sun. Flat as a pancake with some lovely polished tarmac to boot.
The old coach gave me a call Friday and tempted me out for a steady 7 miler through the woods. It was the first run in a week and went well until mile 5, when the hamstring made its presence felt and I completed the run in what's become a familiar near- mincing stride. Its time to spend some cash and get some healing hands on the old leg I think.

There's been no such problems on the bike though. That pedalling action is mostly compression so I belted out to Blyth this morning to watch the Blyth 10k with the two youngsters racing. As they finished it began to rain and 10 minutes later, while heading home the sky got darker, the rain got harder and temperatures kept dropping,  I veered off road and rode to the drive-through window of a nearby Mcdonalds to get a plastic bag for my mobile phone. They didn't have one. I got one from a helpful woman in the nearby corner shop. I was badly unprepared for rain and 5 miles from home I was drenched and cold. I kept telling myself to man up but the wind chill was, well, Baltic. The water was dripping off my nose and my arm-warmers had hired themselves out as small freshwater reservoirs. I knew my feet were cold although they were numb.
I could still see them. They were wearing the same shoes as they'd left the house with.
I started to freeze in the rain like Rutger Hauer's Roy Baty in Bladerunner.  My head dropped and I started mumbling 'I've… seen things you people wouldn't believe… Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the 'whatever' Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time.....yes, I felt about as good as a replicant past its sell by date.

Getting home I changed and took to bed to warm up with teeth chattering. The feet were icy cold. What a wimp. So its not been a very productive day, although saying that, the biking is coming on. You can always tell that - after a few weeks the average speed goes up a couple of notches.

As I lay in bed I put the tele on. When I looked closer I thought there was something or someone I recognised on the screen...Enhance 224 to 176; pull back; centre......gimme a copy there.... Ahh what a good movie that is.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

All change

Its the election debate on the tele: I watched around 5 minutes of it. I already made my mind up who I'll vote for 6 months ago. The rhetoric has driven me to blog. Party Dogma and Rhetoric. Smashing.

I'd like nothing less than to tell you about how much running I had been doing, but the hamstring issues continue. I managed 20 miles over 3 sessions last week, but it was still being needy. Like a clingy friend not buying his round.  It's going to need a bit longer. I've just heard someone say 'like a petulant school child'; mmm, yes, that's excellent politics.

Now that April's arrived and I'm about to finish my latest read, that old classic 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance', I feel we should focus on the good stuff. Its time to pump up the tyres on the bikes currently hanging up in the garage (like some mechanical bats wintering in the dark and swinging from the rafters). Best get them out into the Daffodil spring.

It was 18 miles tonight, and I think I might do double that tomorrow. The normal races are out of bounds at present, so instead, I am focussing on the Caldeonia Sportive in May. Looking forward to taking coffee in Pitlochry; one of my favourist places. True, I haven't got a number, bit that didn't stop my mentor down south inviting me up. I won't keep up with him, but as long as I can get by, I'll by fine.

Since I started running 12 years ago, I lost weight and now fancy myself as a bit of a Grimpeur. This is in contrast to me when I used to race in the early 80's when I was a bit of a sprinter. I did a VO2 max test for a PhD student in 1983. I still have the printout of the test and the results. It was 81 which I think excited him. He assured me I was in good condition. I read later that Contadors is 89. I think now it would be around 62 ish....Auntie Aggie is peering over my shoulder now and has whispered 'its about time you found out what it is, you slacker....'. She can be cutting sometimes.

If I don't manage 250 miles this month, I will eat my hat. After all, I used to be an athlete.

Next on the book list is 'Dune'. All change......