Saturday, 9 August 2014

Hartlepool Festival Crits 2014

What?...He's not off the back again?! 
The field was smaller today and I had hopes of improving on my 19th place mid-week. For some backward reason, British Cycling only see fit to publish the top ten finishers according to the organiser for the previous race at Bishop Auckland, but he sent me the full results by email.  I said to him that any result for me was a good result.

Todays event was for half an hour of racing within the Hartlepool headland. Manageable. The place looked very presentable today and there was a good crowd out, many in fancy dress. I suppose that included me in my pink top and lycra. The circuit included a small climb, but it was generally flat and apparently the roads had been closed. This was news to some residents. There were a few close shaves as the occasional car and pedestrian wandered down the road, oblivious to would-be-Wiggins bearing down on them at up to 40mph. I got talking to one or two of the locals who seemed in high good humour and were readily making recommendations as to which pubs to visit for my return trip.
With only 21 in the field and all over 40 (masters), we got off to a easy start, a neutralised lap behind the motorbike. The second lap arrived and I almost hit the front, sailing along with a huge tailwind. However, the 3rd lap saw two go off the front and the pace lifted markedly. A couple were already off the back. Soon me and two others detached, and then it was just me and the Manilla Cycling Club man (I think they are the local club there). We watched the compact peloton creep ahead, but once there's a gap into a headwind, its tough. We spent the next 20 minutes working together and finished without being lapped, so encouraging progress on that front. With an average speed for the race of 22 mph, its near my top end. The bad news is the fast lads in the next race were travelling at an average of 25mph, so evidently much work still to done. I celebrated my 30 minute adventure with a ninety nine, and another 25 miles on the bike when I got home. Not sure what the next event is, but it would be a pity to lose the initiative. The forecast's pants tomorrow.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bishop Auckland Crits 2014

My adopted life of leisure came to an abrupt end tonight when I lasted almost 25 minutes of a 45 minute city centre bike race at Bishop Auckland. They call it a criterium (or crit). A kermesse in Belgium.

With the rain lashing down all tropical like this morning, I was happy that it remained that way in the vain hope that the race field would be smaller and slower, but it was a bonny night in the old Durham town.

I dug out the old Condor and clipped myself in for what we were about to receive...mostly pain, racing heart rates and breathlessness; a bit like climbing the stairs with your shopping.

There were around 40 riders and a good crowd in attendance. The 3 streets forming a flat circuit was fenced off and we even had a motorcycle outrider. Men squeezed into impossibly shiny, dayglow lycra and riding bikes that cost more than half the cars on the road.

My best lap was the first, as it was neutralized, and I lapsed into a casual swagger, if such a thing is possible on the razor that goes by the name of a saddle. The commentator was giving it some over the speakers and after a handful of laps I was not at the front, but not at the back. It was around lap 12 or somewhere that one of the two others I was with said 'here comes the field' as the motorbike came past; but a lap later they still hadn't caught us. And then, at the chicane, rider 1 overcooked it and came down clattering on the flagstones, rider 2 followed and I realised I was rider 3 and had nowhere to go but eat some pavement. I was soon up and off though leaving the other two to sup some dust. I was a little disappointed when I got myself together that I was not bleeding from the arms and garnering the sympathy vote or the prize for gutsiest rider.

After 9 miles, 23 minutes and who knows how many laps, my luck ran out and the twelve man peleton came past. Lapped, I had the good grace to pull up and cash in my transponder and numbers for my racing licence. Not to be put off, I'm having another crack at the weekend; this time it'll be through the mean streets of Hartlepool. I'm in pretty good shape; just not twenty one. Let's crack on anyway.

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.