Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Winter training camp

Just back from 3 days attending the winter training camp. Not much mileage in these conditions, but the landscape and ploughing through the snow was magic. Running...snow....how much better can it get?  Who needs to go to Banff when Scotland has this? There was a post run critique of course every night (!),with dominoes, at HQ. Essential.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Morpeth 11k & the old Monks Race, Hart

I followed the run at the Guisborough Woods race with 2 more over the last week. The Morpeth 11k was on New Years Day and the Old Monks Race, which I had never run before, was on the 4th January. I ran the 11k last year in 41.21 and was narrowly beaten into 2nd place in category. This year as around 180 rampaged through the barren countryside lanes I was grafting like a good 'un just to hang on behind a cycling clubmate who has taken up duathlon. He was around 10 seconds ahead. He's a rangey runner with a good stride and it took me until the 10k mark to catch and pass him. However, I regretted it immediately with the finish being so close and up over the last little hill, I feigned a slow down and he came past at which point I tucked in and burst back over the last 50 metres to take 2nd V50 again. My time was around 40 seconds slower but it was the best run I had had in months and retreated to the pub later to welcome in the new year in an upbeat state of mind. Can't argue with £20 worth of vouchers.

There was a choice on Sunday and me and the youngster decided to take the easy option choosing a trail race rather than a fell race. The Old Monks Race is around 5.5miles of trail, and includes a wooded section, wide farm tracks and a stretch along the old railway line which is flat but uninspiring. There was a little too much tarmac for me, but the crowd of around 300 fairly swamped the village hall at Hart, near Hartlepool. There were many runners in road shoes and I was in a dilemma as to whether to wear road shoes or studs and opted for the latter. It was around zero degrees but at least the sun was up. I sat in a little group before we left the tarmac mostly going downhill. Then the track took us down through a woody dene and across a ford where the water was low and along the flat rail line before kicking up into the woods. There was little space to pass and no one came through the woods, but a bloke in a grey hat and shabby t-shirt passed earlier along the railway and I remember thinking 'he might be over 50'. The track cut back across the railway line then we climbed up a steady hill out of the woods where the track became a farm road and I ran for a mile with a local Hartlepool runner for a while. He had a clubmate ahead and fired on, but by then I was in a good steady pace and, not having seen any old monks, decided it was time to head back and I finished in 29th place and again 2nd v50, but not by much.  We enjoyed the race and the free tea and cakes afterwards: Didn't get a chance to visit the Anglo Saxon church which I ran past in the warm up. Overall, the form is returning slowly. Just need to keep the training going.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Snow all around at Guisborough Woods

A brand new pair of green and orange Salomon Speedcross's were peering out at me from their box (...and not before time). Time for some hill action. I had chivvied up the youngsters to accompany me down to the Guisborough Woods Hill Race today and I was looking forward to plastering some mud onto new shoes. We arrived in good time, but by the time we walked back to the car from the registration at the rugby club, it was time to jog up the hill to the start.

I had a look through the records for this race. I had lost count of how many times I've done it. My first appearance was in 2006 and this would be the sixth time since then. I reached the dizzy heights of 7th one year.

They changed the course in 2012. It was a three lapper with a finish that plunged through a thickly wooded, stepped ravine which was great. It's now a 2 lapper with a finish that's on forest tracks and a little less frenzied. The second lap is longer than the first and it takes the runners up to the top of the moors, out of the woods and along the south side across the heather before returning to the woods and along a wide forest track. Its difficult to get lost and there are usually plenty of dog walkers out and about.

The field seemed smaller than previously and perhaps 130 set off. I fell in behind Emma Bain of NFR who has beaten me in the last 2 fell races. She has an easy style and steady pace that seems to get results and I stayed with her for most of the first lap.

On the second I had caught a couple of glimpses of some nice landscape shots. The sun was low and some patches of grey freezing fog clinging to the trees. Looking behind me, there were only 2 or 3 around, so moving up toward the moors, I saw the hazy low sun beams forming walls of sunlight through the woods and thought it was time for the camera phone.  The first runner (in a pair of old road shoes) who passed me agreed..'Nice day for some photo's' he said.

Reaching the top of the moor, there was around 2 or 3 inches of fresh snow and I lost another couple of places getting another shot or two, and then that was enough, and putting away the phone, I got my head down and ploughed on, catching all 3 runners who had passed me.

On the way back I was caught by a younger runner, but couldn't stay with him on the last wee climb and it was a long striding finish where perhaps 20 or 25 might have already landed. Watched the youngsters come in not too long afterwards and it was a cuppa at the presentation in the club. On reflection, it would have been a beautiful training run today up there, but I was pleased with the photos and enjoyed the run out. Nice event from DP and Esk Valley.

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.