Sunday, 29 November 2015

Operation Druridge Bay XC: Lost in translation

Gordon Bleu. It's been a while, but I'm committed to not letting the 2015 season slip away like a piece of flotsam in an ebbing tide. More like something rather more organic floating aimlessly from a sewage outfall.
Funny that, tide is an old german word for 'hurry', but after 2 weeks off with the lurgy and matching hacky cough, there was no hurry at the Druridge Bay Country Park Cross Country. It was blowing a hoolie (hooligan), or as we say in Bohemia, 'der rowdy'. The club tent floor was a wash with a film of muddy waters, not the musician bloke, and there was a huddle of around 10 or 12 in there, although I didn't do a head count. I was outside shouting at them to 'man up'
Eventually around 530 heads lined up for one long lap and 2 very long laps of the course. Not too hilly, but softened up very nicely by the young ones and women. I was so cold, I couldn't be bothered changing to my spikes and just tightened up the Salomons.
I pegged a few runners and plugged along the first lap coming past the finish in 85th from the slow pack. The runners whom Id caught toward the end of the first lap, however, began to come past and after the second lap, the rip current was sucking at my ankles and even though I was making all the right movements, I was going backward, drowning and not waving and was 95th by the second lap. I'm not sure where it was, but not long after there, my misfiring lungs and spindly legs gave way and the engine reverted to emergency mode (from the latin 'emergere' meaning to dip or plunge) and plunge I did, where most of the rest of the club came past in among the other 90 runners and I trotted in 186th or somewhere.
Some of the club runners I didn't even recognise. Has it been that long!?
The cheek of it was I was happy to have cracked the top 200. Well, that sort of performance is not going to stand me in good stead for a run in the Hexham Hobble Hill Race next weekend, but we'll just concentrate on getting a few nights training and see how we get on. I've just about warmed up now, but the running kit and shoes took some scrubbing outside, I'll say.         

Sunday, 18 October 2015

old humpy back

Blimey, the cross country season's got off to a right good start. I was on site working in Blaydon last week talking to a couple of lads. When I rolled up in my Ron Hills and Inov top, one said ' fancy yourself as a runner then?..'. Of course I couldn't help myself, puffing out my chest and straightening my old humpy back after walking around like him out of Wolf Hall,  I let it be known that I was 'the north east fell running champion....paused, then added '2 years ago'.....then looked at my nails, scuffled my feet awkwardly and mumbled ' over 50's, that is'.  He wasn't to know there aren't any proper hills in the north east!
But yes, I still do fancy myself as a runner. I understand that as you age, things become less elastic, things, like ligaments and muscle tissue. Bless you.

I do a bit of cycling, but really, I like the raw burn that running gives. Plus you can burn off double the calories in the same time compared to cycling.
The first cross country for me was Tanfield at the North East England Cross Country League. I felt fine for two or the three laps, and still held it together on the 3rd lap to finish in the top 100. There's no joe public running in these events, so top 100 (6th v50) is fine for an old duffer like me.

that hair restorers just not doing it.. 
Last weekend it was the Sherman Cup; A rolling course around the South Shields leisure centre, what it lacks in landscape value is made up in dog sheit around the place. I didn't make the top 100 but that was a result of a tight hamstring (don't get me started) and there being loads of other guys who can run faster than me. I still contributed to the overall team and club performance though, so confidence is good. On the other hand, however, I have plodded, jogged and minced out a (Ron) weasly 4 miles every day this week just to try and ease the tightness. It would probably be a good idea to do some stretching. Over the weekend I've been out through the woods, an hour on both Saturday and Sunday, so not too bad. Four hours of training over the week is not going to help, but you've just got to grin a bear it. Catchy monkeys and all that.
I made myself available for the Scottish Cross Country Relays next weekend for the Hawks 3 weeks ago when I was feeling tip-top, so I need to have a sensible week this week. Do enough, but no more than that.   

Its nice to be out wit the youngsters though who now have caught me up and cruise along on their selfish little upward trajectory of form.....I'm not bitter.....Good to see them running well.
We'll see what next weekend brings. Hopefully, we'll have a team.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Appetite for Elevation

Whitfield. Yes; whose heard of it. Located in a remote corner of hilly and mystical Northumberland the Whitfield community hall was the HQ for the Allen Valley 2 stage hill climb. For those unacquainted with such a cycling event, a hill climb is a time trial up a steep hill....this weekend on the edge of the Pennines.... from bottom to top; no rest; no picnicking.... straight up in parallel with your heart rate and your pre-hired team of paramedics.

The hill climbing season is short and full of woe; about 2 months, September and October. The events are probably akin to a 50m freestyle for a swimmer. I enter one or two events a year to show off the SC Gothic kit and remind myself why defibrillators were invented.  If you are unfamiliar with the joys of rapid lactic acid build up, this is where you need to be.

I arrived around 9ish in the thick Northumbrian mist. The plethora of dead pheasants on the road was a crime. A crime against pheasants. They really need to get this car thing sorted out.

Around 65 had entered the event, a big field for your average hill climb.  You can't ride these events as joe public; you need to be in a registered cycling club.

The stages were two hours apart and I was on at 10.18 and 12.18 and I was number 18. A tidy symmetry that boded well for the day. If I had been 18, instead of someway over 50, it would have been that bit tidier, but you can't have everything.

The first stage was a 6.5k ride with 1000ft of ascent north up the A686. Probably the best part of 20 minutes. The second stage was 2km and 400ft from Whitfield to Keenley, a sharper but shorter affair. Whitfield was soon swamped with cars, marshals, lycra and a great turnout from the local host club.  As I looked around at the older riders, I realised I was disadvantaged. My legs weren't shiny or lathered in exotic oils. More work required on this.
I warmed up on the first climb and by the time I had climbed through the cold fog to the sun, I knew that this was not the right climb.  It still took me 20 minutes. As I came back down the hill, the valley below was cloaked in a silent cotton wool. The temperature dropped markedly once into its clammy grip.  Like London in the 1950's, but without the sulphurous bite.

At 10.18 I was off and riding up the right hill. It took me 15 minutes to get my breathing coordinated with my technique and by then I was nearly finished. A long steady drag rather than a hill.  If I had gone steadier early doors and found the right gear and pace, I would have performed better. The road surface was good, it was dry and glorious at the finish marked by the boundary sign between Cumbria and Northumbria. I might have been quicker running it.

The best bit is coming back down and shouting at the folk going up; instructing them to do what you couldn't do 5 minutes earlier.

There was cake and drinks in the hall at halftime, but I couldn't think of doing the cake thing on the basis that the extra weight might rob me of 10 seconds on the second stage. I needn't have worried.

The mist had lifted by noon, the changelings had changed and the green men watched silently from the trees as I struggled up the second climb, searching for the right gear, but really searching for a breather.  It was over before it began and I was soon cruising back down the hill, reflecting that with a bit of training and weight loss, I could do it better and faster.

I watched the last of the field set off at the bottom and heard the comment ' look at him, he's a great climber. Makes you sick when you can see his spine through his skin suit'. And yes, he was trim and super quick up the hill.

No prizes today, but I lapped up the event. Nice to be wearing a number again on a bike.  Well done to Allen Valley for a great club affair.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Looking after No 1

I dropped Mrs M. off yesterday morning, well before the start of the great north run. As I drove back in the low cloud I thought about watching the run on the BBC. However, I soon recalled the past coverage of the London marathon and some world triathlon championships. Lamentable. Its either exhaustive coverage on the 3 elites in the front, panning across a handful of fun runners at the back or they're busy interviewing their own so-called personalities. What's the point? Never seems to be any thought about leaving a camera rolling for a minute or two as the club runners come past.

So, after a half a grapefruit and a slice of toast I was off cycling, having missed the crowd down at the running club. The weather was improving and I was set on a couple of climbs. The Gibbet at Elsdon is apparently No.61 in the top 100 of UK hills to ride up. Not sure how they've ranked these, but I've got the handbook upstairs. I've been toying with the idea of entering a few (bike) hill climb competitions, but quite frankly these events are not good for your heart and when I think of the possibility of grabbing glory and skipping lightly onto the podium (an age group related podium, obviously), I bleach at the thought that swings into my head of getting carried off, instead, in the back of an anonymous ambulance. What's more, I suspect the ambulance wouldn't arrive on time. I could be on the pavement for a good while....Better to stick to the riding for pleasure for now.  

I caught up with a couple of lads for a few miles then tailed off right to Elsdon. It had turned out to be so nice, I carried on over Bilsmoor and then turned and came back up the other side of the hill and then stopped at the Elsdon impromptu cafe for a cuppa and slice of apple pie. That's two weekends in a row now and I have sat there chin wagging for 40 minutes or so on each occasion. Good therapy, especially when the September sun's giving it full-on overhead as you sit in the front garden watching the sparrows pecking on the dangling fat balls.

Last night I sat looking at the entry form on the screen for the Dumfries half. However, still no further forward on the fitness front, so, on reflection, more training required. My form can't justify the trip. I need to up my game from the current 30 miles a week. I think a trail race would probably fit the bill at the mo. But then , I wonder if they would have first aid facilities......maybe stick to blogging; safer (at least, in my head)!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Tyendale Jelly Tea 10 mile - what a daft carry on.....

I heard the youngsters were at it again, entering road races without my permission. Mrs Mac casually suggested that we go along and take as well. It was a bank holiday weekend and there seemed no harm in the idea. I slowly warmed to the notion. Tynedale 10 miler....yes, that seemed a reasonable morning out.

This year, rather than the Hexham to Ovingham point to point, a new course had been devised by Tynedale Harriers. The race HQ was Hexham race course. I'd been there a few weeks earlier to do the Wiggle 'Hell of the North' cycle sportive. Properly described.
As I drove the athletes to the course, the sun was rising and it was looking like a really nice day. Not much wind either. I was aware that the course was likely to be hilly, but I assumed that whatever sharp rises that were encountered on the course would be offset by low slow downhills that we could get the time back on. This is an unwritten understanding between organisers and runners.

There was a good crowd finding their numbers among the 600 or so that had pre-entered. Some of the roads were closed, and I thought anything below a 1:08 might be good, given my patchy training of late. There was chip timing and as we lined up, clubmate Jim A. lifted the tape and invited me to slip in near the front.

I knew the first mile would be a steady downhill, but the subsequent downslope steepened from mile one to mile two and I was soon up with Paul Redman of Sunderland. We were still going down and down and struggling to keep up with our legs. We had a brief exchange, some garbled words and then I dropped my gel, so had to come to a halt, which took several metres and then nip back and pick it up, by which time the group I was in was away doon the hill chasing after their legs and looking for the anchors.

The first 2 miles were too fast, but then, as we reached the valley, we hung a sharp right and then began a climb for 2 miles. Rather than carrying my gel, I decided after 3 miles to consume it. However, I was puffing so heavily that the goo sat in my slack jaw and after a while I was aware that it had begun to dribble out of my gaping mouth as the hill went on and on. I was too busy looking for oxygen and checking my medical records. My eyes had glazed over and my lungs were mush.

By the first drinks station I was puggled, realising that the gradients were unusually steep and the climbs long. I was passed periodically by runners. I saw one girl heave at the side of the road and another faster clubmate up ahead stopping and starting, clearly feeling out of sorts. The road dived again, then we reached a ford. If you reach a ford, you know the road out in any direction is precipitous and so it was. Up and up and up. By 6 miles I had begun to generate a reaction, a feeling of resentment that I was too far in to bail out. I would have packed in, I think.

At 7 miles another water stop provided a much needed drink. By 8 miles as we dropped down again I knew there was the same 2 mile rise to the finish that we had previously come down, but at the arrival of the start of the rise, marked by a sharp incline, I shook my head as I watched the two guys up ahead walking up the crest of the hill. I was in survival mode, but had slowed to a shuffle. Quite an unusual course selection, I mused. 

I finished in 1:14. One marshall asked me at the end if I'd do it again.
perhaps...with a jet pack or perhaps on a milk float. 

Later, as I tried to rationalise the day, I wondered if the organisers had found a good HQ and then tried to find a course to fit a 10 mile route. When I got home I had to have a lie down for an hour. Maybe, in the words of Viper from Top Gun, I'd been 'holding on too tight'.....maybe I need a chill pill. Need to chillax.  Aunt Aggie had a laugh when she heard and suggested I might like to take up baking or perhaps chess, but then adding that I didn't have the intellect for either.
Six beat the hour. Stars. The winner admitted it was the hardest 10 mile race he'd ever run. What a daft carry on.

course profile or heart rate monitor printout ? 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Morpeth 10k 2015

Nipped out last night to the Morpeth 10k. Always well attended, a 2 lapper that generates some reasonable times. Around 300 ran.

The light is always tricky for photographs, but using the little Canon SX510 I bought last year, the long rangey ones were pretty good but a bit grainy. If I'm going to get back into snapping races I think a better piece of kit is required. The now defunct Panasonic FZ28 I used in the past was bigger but it was a very nice mid-range camera. There are some folk wandering around these places with very big lenses indeed...but I rarely see their piccies on the web. See what you think - click on the 'gallery' or link below:

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Cost of Everything, Choices and Schadenfraude

Double Header sporting weekend. Strap me down. Just like old times, eh?

Me and Nick A (bad English I know) got out to Hexham on Saturday morning for the Wiggle Hell of the North Sportive. Given the hilliness of the routes on offer, we opted for the short one at 53 miles. It was grey and cold at the start and the field was, well, modest. We paid our £26 entry, this great lump of money apparently guaranteeing me a medal, as much flapjack as I could eat on the way round and a t-shirt.  We set off with rain jackets on and plodded past a few who had set off earlier. One rider who had come down from Edinburgh caught me back up and explained that I wasn't using my gears properly. I sat there and listened, thanked her for her advice, and was proud of myself for buttoning my lip. Didn't bother talking about riding national events or routinely taking on the 40% gradients at Leicester or Meadowbank velodrome's. Maybe this is where I've been going wrong all these years. 
The event wound its way down to Weardale (lead mining country) and Rookhope in County Durham and back into Northumberland through Blanchland and eventually the sun made an appearance. The hills were chunky enough for a Saturday morning. By the end after 3 hours of riding and one hour sitting at the water stations eating flapjack, we worked out that we'd only done 45 miles and so had taken a wrong turn near the end and missed out a dog leg.  Still 4500ft of climbing. Quite enough.

Spent the rest of the day enjoying the rare sunshine. One of my young lodgers had made a Spag-Boll on the night. I wandered in and gave it the Allymac taste test. More garlic and wine required I announced, as I glugged more wine in and reached for the garlic cloves. As I chopped the garlic, Aunt Aggie wandered past and picked up the wine bottle....peering at the label over her ragged, musty balaclava she muttered 'better be a good Spag-Boll this'
'Hows that' I asked (more poor English).
'Cause that there wine is a six year old, twelve quid Bordeaux' she replied, adjusting her snorkel to make herself heard.

Sunday's madness was the Clennell Trail Race, a 10 mile race held in the Cheviot badlands. The two youngsters were going for a head to head and I thought I might join in. At £15, another wallet-scaring event organised by some private affair rather than a club, I have noticed that entry fees for some non-club events are generally ramped up and frequently fall short at the other end with no presentations or elements that appear to have been dropped or forgotten. Most need to do better I think.

That said, this was a nice run that encompassed much of the Alwinton Fell Race and took us up the hills over the Clennell Track and then down to a forest track that went on forever. As I had traced the course route on the back of my number and marked down the checkpoints, I noticed that there was a left turn a half a mile before the end and that it added a good mile or more eastward.
I spent the run chasing Keith Murray of Teviotdale who had got around 30 seconds on me, but he was coming back at 8 miles just as a NFR and a South Shields passed me. They had been talking behind me for 2 miles and that really wound me up. If you think chatting in a fell run to strangers who are sweating and puce with bumbags flapping around is a good idea, then think again. A real distraction. Thankfully South Shields man passed with NFR man in pursuit, but I thought that I
was still top ten.
Then at the bridge with the three in view in front they just carried straight on along the red gravel track to the finish rather than cutting left and even as the young lady sitting on the parapet sat pointing to the side where the green arrow said 'go down here' (but obviously in sign language).

I veered left and entered a steep grassy ravine. As the running came to an abrupt halt, even the flies that had been buzzing overhead in the humid conditions had left me alone. It was difficult to run along this section. I was cursing my weighty bumbag which had been bouncing loose throughout the race. As I sought a route through the reeds and ferns,  I remember saying to myself 'the organiser's having a laugh here'.  However, the schadenfreude I was experiencing at the 3 others going off course kept me going as I realised I might get in 4th rather than 7th. Does that make me a bad person. yes, I think so. Even the bleached sheep skulls and bones scattered among the lush grass couldn't dampen my spirits.  

The route kicked up sharply and I could see down the ravine to two others behind me, so had to keep the pace up as the hill dropped down and increasing my pace to a pathetic shuffling run, I face planted in the ferns. No damage other than a scab torn off my knee from last weeks crash. The pain was welcome as I tried to man up and ploughed on to the finish. The garmin said 11.7 miles - funny 10 miles that then?"!?

Another event, another t shirt. The rest of the clan finished in 6th and 7th position, so my form is improving slowly. Celebrated the day with a quick drink in the Cross Keys at Thropton. Worth a visit if you're in the area. 

Oh yes, and the Spag-Bol was even better on the second day.