Sunday, 7 December 2014

Hexham Hobble: A One Day Classic

The Hexham Hobble fell race is the Paris-Roubaix of the fell running world.
That's the conclusion I came to, today, after 4 miles of loose cobbles over the moors on a December day with horizontal snow whipping my face like I was a whipping boy.

I was well wrapped up for the foray, had all the gear and had decided at the outset that the phone-camera was going to make an appearance through the run. It becomes an excuse then not to bury yourself and instead, you start lifting your head to see what shots are available. A crutch of sorts.

The youngster came out with me today and she finished about 8 minutes behind so I was pleased with the overall results over this 10.5mile, C class (ascent), mid distance race. Got past a few early on, but fannying around with the camera can really lose you some time. That tripod was murder. A few got past later on. I miss my Salomons but have been told Santa is on the way with a new pair. Not a day I would have chosen to wear shorts. Finished close to 2 blokes, but couldn't be bothered to race to the line with wearing the Mile More fell shoes which were cheap and good on the gravel and muddy peat, but no spring at all on the tarmac stretches. Pleased to see a few out from the club. The cake stall at the end was heaving and the results out sharpish. Deacon Blue tonight.
Good day all round, and I will be if I keep eating these cakes....Well done to Allen Valley for the day.  







Sunday, 30 November 2014

Wallington Cross Country 2014

After an hour out on the bike yesterday morning, I got my gear together for the cross country league. The venue was the grounds of the country estate at Wallington Hall. Just round the corner from my own gaff. I didn't need my National Trust card thankfully. Strangely, I don't need it for my house either. Couldn't find it anyway. My driver, who was also running, picked me and the young one up and we got there nice and early.

With new camera in hand I jogged around the course which was a nice mix of fields, track and woodland with a couple of short climbs along the way. Organised by Morpeth Harriers, I had a chat with a few marshals and then waited for the women to appear. The youngster, who was in the slow pack was lying 3rd and I was excited about this. Her sister, setting off from the fast pack, was ploughing her way through the field, but would be doing well to catch the flying young pretender running for her University.  There was a good crowd present and the finish was exciting.


I handed the camera over, and prepared to run 6 miles or so across the fields with spikes that are really on the small size for me. Off the huge field went and I felt fine during the first two laps and much better than in recent weeks. However, predictably, I began to tire badly on the third lap as runners from both the medium and fast pack began to come through. Having reached the heady heights of 85th, I finished around 130th. A gub of juice and then a coffee sorted me out and soon I was being whisked away back home for my slippers, cocoa and pipe. Good event.  Photos of the Cross Country at Wallington
are in the gallery (Flickr - click on picture on the right)

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Three steps forward

Progress. Three consecutive days running and a sub-7 minute mile into the bargain.

Monday night saw me miss the group and as a result I spent an hour troggling around the town looking for them. I bumped into the fast lads training up in Kirkhill, but had no intention of trying to drop into their group. An easy 6.5 miles

I clipped along past Hepscott and Clifton Lane late yesterday afternoon. To help me on my way, I had the Ipod on. Ian Astbury popped up selling sanctuary, the relentless beat providing a good start as the beads of sweat began to form. I can't help thinking of his headband, handkerchief and little stamping dance in the video. It was then Jim Kerrs turn, as this 80's runfest got into full swing. Lovesong.  With a southerly wind pushing me on, on the way back I had to zip my top down and tried to open my stride to R Dean Taylors ghost in my house. That nearly got me back down to Mafeking.
(ok, Taylors ditty was from the 70's).

When I got back, Aunt Aggie was quietly listening to John Buchans 'Huntingtower' on the radio, ear trumpet in hand and a stern look of concentration on her withered, leathery features. She had time to lift her head, peer over the top of her wire rimmed spectacles and shout 'You putting the tea on, or what?'. Doesn't know she's born that one.

Its Fife this weekend. No racing, but might get some nice shots with the new camera. Very reasonably priced Canon Powershot 510 from Argos. I had nipped out to see the Exhibition 10k on Sunday, the Panasonic Lumix in hand. However, it's been temperamental in the last year on account of me taking it out to all the sites I work on. I'm not very forgiving with my gear. As a boy, my toys had a shorter life than most. Anyway, the exposure meter was playing up and the handful of photos weren't worth keeping.
Might take my trainers with me.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Lassitude not Altitude at the Guisborough Three Tops 2014

Does this bloke look like he's enjoying his fell racing?

With two cross country races under my belt, I was buoyed up enough to try a fell race. I haven’t got any form at present: Not sure if this relatively sudden dive in form over the last 8 months is due to a summer of injury, something age related or simply mental lassitude. I wasn’t enjoying my racing early in the season. Other than perhaps the Black Rock 5, I have struggled and struggled badly. Most of the summer was spent on the bike. I’m still enjoying running though. Somewhere in my head I’m having a good search around for that spark called motivation. As Yoda would say....‘elusive, the mojo is. Off your game, are you’
I ran the ‘Guisborough Three Tops’ in 2006 when I was 21st (70 mins) and again in 2010 when I finished in 16th Place (75 mins). This time around I thought if the knee held up, then 75 minutes would be unrealistic and perhaps 80 minutes might be achievable for this 8 miler (2500ft of ascent). 

A field of around 120 set off up across the tracks up to Roseberry Topping. I watched Joe Blackett disappear off into the sunset and spent the next hour working hard with periodic runners passing by. My lack of investment in fell running shoes was realised coming down from Roseberry where I lost another place or two, tip toeing down the greasy grass, and then, before hanging rock, the second ‘Top’, a crew in front got lost and suddenly I was imported into a bunch of 8 runners. They stretched out again and the field continued to pass until I rallied passing Richard Clark of Esk before the last trig point, whereupon he and Paul Kelly came past. As it was all downhill from there, a spark of belligerence fired up and I passed Paul back, but Esk valley man was gone, and I finished in around 80 minutes and probably late 30’s in terms of placing. Just couldn’t go any faster.

I’ll have to work out whether there is any way back into the top 10% of the racing field or if this over 50’s lark is permanent; In which case, I might take up crocheting with Aunt Aggie or book a nice bus trip with Saga. Lovely day and lovely run, though.      


Monday, 13 October 2014

Cramlington xc

Last week saw a dizzying 35 miles running. The bike had the whole week off. This demure total is not going to propel me back into the top echelons of the over 50's athletic scene, but it means that I might be able to hang off the back of it, only just keeping in touch with flecks of slaver and beads of sweat working their way around my grimacing face. My achilles were sore when I began to run again, but last week the calves capitulated and my legs acquiesced, having been beaten into submission by several 7 minute/miles.

The climax of the week was the cross country at Cramlington on Saturday. When I announced to Aunt Aggie that I was off to the event, she was playing on her Nintendo under the stairs and remarked that I was washed up and my efforts might be better spent weeding the garden or trying to make sense of the garage.

I had hoped for a top one hundred finish, but the field of 600 had other ideas and while I cut a fine, if decrepit figure on the first two laps, the third lap saw me drop from 160th to 185th. The conditions were firm and the temperature something weird, creeping around eighteen degrees in October. The club tents and flags gave the event a carnival atmosphere.

I came away with everything intact, but a decent blister on my heel which made my 9 miles on Sunday hard work.  Need to review the cross country footwear.

The reading is paralleling the running. I took an age to read the Amis's The Old Devils. It took about 2 months to wade through this tedious tale of old age in the deepest west. By far a more riveting 'boys own story' is Buchan's Greenmantle which should take me  a few days to finish.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hetton Lyons CXNE cyclo cross

On the way down in the car to the Hetton Lyons, near Sunderland, the radio was on. The Sunday morning news sauntered languidly over the airwaves. It seemed a quiet news day. The was a short piece on the length of George Clooney's recently reported wedding celebrations. My passenger remarked.
' He seems like a nice bloke'.
I replied ' yeh, but I bet he's crap at cyclo-cross'.
I expected her to come back with 'yep, but then so are you...', but her mind was still wandering in a fluffy, clooney trance.
Shortly afterwards, she said 'He'd probably be quite good at it. Probably good at most sports he might try his hand to.....!!'
I met SB and NA at the registration and managed a quick cuppa before the off. There was a huge field today. This resulted in a staggered start for the vets and womens race which was 40 minutes long. I lined up with the over 50's with the women behind us and soon we were off. It didn't take long for 2 or 3 ladies to come past and then as we moved into the wooded section on the hill, things settled down. I passed a few old boys and could relax that I wasn't going to be last; but soon fell runner Karen Robertson was snapping at my heels. She passed me on the 2nd lap but I hung on. I had to admire her courtesy as she fairly waved the faster riders by and I nipped in behind a couple and crept past her on the downhill stretch, only for her pass me again on the ups. Toward the end I could see the other Gothic lads who had started in the v40's two minutes ahead. The gears had also begun working after an early race refusal. Forty minutes flew past in a haze of greenery and tape and shouts of ' inside, left, right or coming by'
There are several of these events over late autumn and early winter, so I expect to improve a little after 2 or 3 more events. Managed a good sweat and 2 cuppa's and a chocy bar afterwards. Weekend warrior.
 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunderland Clarion Hill Climb 2014

The winner of today’s Sunderland Clarion Hill Climb was Michael Openshaw. Name rings a bell? This former runner, born in 1972, has a 5000m time of 13.24 and a p.b. 10k time of 29:22. He’s puts his hand to cycling with Cestria CC now. Nice transition.

Hill climbs are all about altitude. While his time was near stellar, mine was a more pokey, subterranean affair. It really is odd that I can bury myself to finish nearly last on a bike. When I run, I can sometimes manage a top ten finish with the same effort. However, I like cycling. Much easier on the body. The joints can have a day off. Get to wear stylish lycra and pose around on bikes with nice paint jobs. Miss the burn of running though and its about to make a comeback. 

For a second time in a row, I was off No.13. Someone has it informee. Informee. Yes, Frankie Howard, blah, blah.......

Even in such a specialist pursuit like hill climbing, it’s remarkable how different a course can be, how the gradients, road surface, twists and turns, suit some more than others. For me, today’s event was a behemoth of a hill. A dinosaur. A big long drag with 3 steep inclines and 3 or 4 false flats (whatever they are) where you can grab some air. But in hill climbing, if you can grab some air, you’re just not trying hard enough. It’s a discipline with the tightest margins where you’re aiming to hit your aerobic ceiling. That ceiling is as fine as gossamer. Too much effort and you put yourself into the red zone; for hill climbing, the dead zone, where speed becomes hindered and strange things like tunnel vision begin to happen.

Today it was a long hard pull up a 2 mile hill. I dug out the Condor which has a small ratio gear cassette at the back; but on closer inspection, I stuck it back in the car and pulled out the Wilier.
 
On a warm up, the gears jumped a few times and I realised it needs another bit of adjusting. These Italian machines are annoyingly temperamental. Soon at the start, I was off and plugging away up the first kick-up and past the Nursery car park being used as race HQ. I was in the big ring for a wee while, then it was down onto the small ring. There was a couple of huddles of club cyclists on the way up, but quiet compared to last week. I was soon up onto the ridge and catching my breath, whacked it into a bigger gear and made for the line. Time 10:03; Four seconds off what I had hoped, but it was what it was, and I rode another 3 or 4 miles to cool down. The presentation recognised us older types and it was £15 in notes for 2nd V50. I think there were only three.
 
The young pretender Openshaw waltzed up the climbin 7.40 something. I like to get my moneys’ worth!!