Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sunday club run

Thoroughly enjoyable Sunday morning club run. 15 miles in the Northumberland countryside, spectacular views, beautiful day, good company and snow on the shoes!
Perfect start to the week!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

North Eastern Cross Country Championships - Saturday 10th December

It was a toss up between running this or the Simonside Cairns fell race on the Sunday. I felt obliged to do this as someone had put my name on the list at the club and discovered that the club pay a £5 entry fee for each athlete. A shame really as I thoroughly enjoyed the Cairns race last year.
Having run this course earlier in the year at the harrier league I knew what I was in for. I turned up at the club tent to get my number then tootled off for a recce with some club mates. Firstly the course was to be run in reverse, secondly there was a substantial extension to the route. There were to be 3 laps for the senior men.

I had a reasonably tough week following the Hexham Hobble the previous Sunday, trying to reach my target of 40 miles per week. I was feeling heavy legged and lethargic on the warm up. There had already been a few of the youth's races run so the course was pretty rugged, pleased that our race wasn't last on the schedule as it would have been horrendous underfoot - more so than it was!
Yet again I went off too fast and faded on the second lap. One of the lads from the club zoomed past me which gave me a rather deflated feeling. Instead of kicking on I let him past. The condition of some parts of the course were extremely boggy and it was hard to get any kind of grip.

I began to get my rhythm again on the third lap when another club mate past me. I was not happy so I dug deep and tried not to let him get too much of a gap, then yet another club mate past me. The last 800 metres on the last lap were fast as I was determined not to let him beat me.
I get the feeling I was half asleep during the race and unable to respond like I usually do. Not my greatest race - lesson learned: DO NOT GO OFF TOO FAST! HOW MANY TIMES HAS THAT HAPPENED!

Nevermind, no races until new year's day for the Morpeth 11k. Train hard? We'll see, no pain no gain!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hexhamshire Hobble Fell Race, Sunday 4th December 2011

I have been looking forward to this fell race for some time and it didn't disappoint. Weather forecasts weren't too bad leading up to this morning but this is Northumberland.... it can change very quickly, especially in the hills.

On our way to Allendale for registration there were some flakes of snow in the Newcastle area turning off the A1 onto the A69. This didn't worry me as I could see in the distance that the skies were clear. It was a cold day around 5 degrees.

Turning off the A69 up past Langley castle there were cars descending covered in snow. Uh oh! The temperature was dropping 0.5 degrees every few miles and by the time we reached Allendale it was down to 2 degrees, nippy!

We arrived with around 20 minutes to spare so got our numbers, duly filling out our personal details on the reverse in case anything happened. We got changed and went for a little warm up jog in preparation for the start.

There was a decent crowd at the start, around 150-200 runners all wrapped up well with gloves and some very loud headwear! Waiting for the gun to go off there were some complaints as the ground was waterlogged and feet were becoming numb even before the run!

The first 2 miles were quite tough, long climbs up onto the Hexhamshire common. The snow was coming down and there were a good 2 inches lying on the ground. In fact the views all around were of white fells. Hands were becoming numb, big toes were losing their feeling. Not only was there snow but there was a lot of standing water and the peat bogs were overflowing.

I had a reasonable start and was in the top 30 or so, just trying to concentrate on my own running rather than what other runners were doing, which has been my downfall in the past.

Miles 3-6 were quite easy going, there were a few stretches of good underfoot running where I made up some time. The snow was coming from behind but I knew it would be face in shortly.

Miles 6-8 were tough, wind and snow smack in the face, I couldn't physically see at certain points. I tried to huddle in behind another runner for some protection. The last of the "big" climbs was over, a tough three quarters of a mile ascent. I kept going believing that the worst was over.

The last 1.5 miles were great. This was where my I could apply the work done in effort session and it paid off. I made up several places on the descent into Allendale, my last mile was 5:50.

I crossed the line and was pleased to finish 22nd with a time of 01:22:42. And I wasn't particularly exhausted, more freezing cold. My hands, face and feet had no sensation and I struggled to open the car to get my dry kit out.

I managed to get my gear and went to the hall to get changed. A rather helpful lady got me a hot cup of tea so I could de-ice before getting changed.

Once dry and in dry clothes I was greeted by a plethora of cakes! Well earned.

A bonus from the day was I won a spot prize at the presentation, a brand new running belt. Result!!

Looking forward to the next fell race, NE XC next weekend though!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

North East Harrier league #3, Blaydon

The next fixture in the North East Harrier league took me to Blaydon today, on a windy but dry afternoon. This is the first race of 3 in the next 3 weeks with the Hexhamshire hobble fell race next week and the North East cross country championships at Cramlington the week after. This one was the least favourite of the three.

The weather was fairly favourable when I arrived, noticing instantly the increase in temperature from back home in Morpeth. Positively balmy in Blaydon! There was a strong wind but on the warm up lap prior to the race it seemed to be quite sheltered and it was nowhere near as strong as forecast.

I arrived with 30 minutes to spare so headed to the club tent, got changed and tootled off for a warm up. The course was quite flat with a couple of steep but short inclines near the end.

The slow group took off like a swarm of bees after a pot of honey. There were hundreds of them, lots of hustle and bustle around the first corner. I made my way to the start for the medium pack, considerably smaller in size!

The first lap was fairly easy running and I tried to settle into a rhythm and push on from there. I started to catch some of the slow runners quite quickly and this spurred me on for the remainder of the first lap. The second lap was a little harder, my legs felt heavy from Thursday's club session, I should have taken it a bit easier but it's easier said than done. I was making good progress through to lap 3 and even caught an old foe from my Colt's races back in the 80's, making myself feel old now! That was quite satisfying though.

Lap 3 was a bit of a chore, legs becoming increasingly heavier but I was nearly at the end. I finished in 32mins which I was reasonably happy with although I know I wasn't going flat out. It'll be interesting to see the results to see how I compared to fellow club mates who started in the slow pack.

Looking forward to next week's fell race, that's where I am most content, a good fell run!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

52nd Derwentwater 10 mile road race

I travelled over to Keswick with a couple of lads from the club for the 52nd Derwentwater 10m road race today (6th November).  It was a very cold start to the day having to de-ice my car before departure but the sun was out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

We reached Keswick passing through several large areas of fog, especially on the M6 at Penrith.  But upon arrival the weather could not have been better.  It was around 10 degrees and the air was crystal clear.

 I duly registered at the school noticing that this was the first year they introduced chip timing to the event.  Technology eh!  We had around 40 minutes to kill before the start so we went to my friend Mike's mums house which is conveniently right next to the finish.  We got changed and headed out for a mile or 2 warm up.
I was pretty pensive about today's race.  Last year I had run 1:07:30 which I knew I could improve on as last year I had just finished the Kielder marathon and all the training that goes with it.  Training has been going well recently.

The first 5 miles are undulating and I managed to get past the Grange in under 30 minutes.  Only thing was the hard part was just around the corner.  This was lingering on my mind from the start but I thought oh well, it has to be done!  I managed to make my way up the climb in fits and starts, grateful for some respite between each climb.  By this point there was nobody around me and I could only just see the next runner in front of me edging away further and further.  The descent was quick, but slippery with all the moist leaves on the tarmac.  I had my racing flats on so there wasn't much grip.

Reaching 8 mile I kept saying to myself that there wasn't long to go, the hard part was over.  The last 2 miles were looooonnnnggg!!

A little support on the home straight certainly gave me some focus and I powered on to the finish.  I crossed the line and was over the moon with 1:00:33.

Sub 1:00 next year perhaps!

Homemade lasagne followed by mince pie and cream was most appreciated at Mike's mums!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

North East Harrier league #2, Farringdon

NEHL number 2 today (29th October) and it was not enjoyable!

I have had a good week training, 2 rep sessions at the club and a couple of easy runs.  I was all set and looking forward to the cross country.  I was already aware that I had been promoted to the medium pack after finishing 24th at Cramlington.  This didn't really worry me as I knew I'd be chasing rather than being chased!

This was my first visit to the Farringdon course and once we arrived we set off to do a partial lap to get a feel for it.  My first thoughts were "it's bloody narrow"!  There were a few challenging climbs too but they were going to be the least of my worries.

I got prepared for the race and reached the start line at 1:15pm as instructed.  The slow pack lined up and I was amazed by the mass of runners in one group!  Then the penny dropped..... it's going to be hell trying to overtake the stragglers on such a narrow path.  The slow pack set off and the medium group stepped forward, a little thin on the ground.

Half way through the first lap I began picking off the slow club runners meandering about the course having conversations with their club mates and blocking the path.  This infuriated me so much I just barged through one couple.  As I progressed through the field the crowd became more dense and I was really struggling to get into any sort of rhythm, leaping over the verges and getting nettled on numerous occasions.

This continued up to lap 3 and by this time I had given up hope of notching up any sort of decent time and even thought to myself that I was wasting my time.  This was confounded by the look on my face when I crossed the finish line and a club mate said "god you look pissed off!".  He was right.  I wish you could demote yourself to the slow group!

Nevertheless, I have done my bit for the club and will now focus on the Derwentwater 10 next week.  I have been looking forward to for some time now.

NEHL number 3 can wait...

Sunday, 9 October 2011

North East Harrier league #1, East Cramlington

Heading for East Cramlington at around lunchtime today I was reflecting on the last time I actually competed in a cross country. I was astounded by the realisation that it was over 20 years ago!!!

Nevertheless I was quite looking forward to it knowing I would be starting in the slow pack so there wasn't really a great deal of pressure. Fellow team mates were advising not to finish in the top 30 as it would mean promotion to the medium pack for the next year and a half. This could influence team results and also mean I'd be pressured to perform at a higher level in future races.

The weather was cool but the drizzle that had started back home in Morpeth had stopped by the time I reached the venue.

I met up with a few of lads from the club and we did a recce of the course as a warm up. I knew that there'd be 3 laps which is not my favourite format for a race. Knowing exactly where you are at any one point doesn't appeal to me in the least!

1:15pm and we all made our way to the start (well the slow pack at least!) I was amazed how many competitors there were for one pack so I became a little concerned.

The gun went and we were off. I got a good start and felt quite comfortable for the first mile, doing more overtaking than vice versa. The ground was very firm due to the recent dry spell but my new inov8 fell shoes performed brilliantly. I am looking forward to wearing them on my next fell race. Very light and flexible but also very responsive!

The first lap went well and was getting into a rhythm.  The second lap didn't feel as fast but my GPS told me otherwise.  Perhaps I was thinking too much about who was behind me.  The third lap was more enjoyable.  I upped the pace a little aiming to finish strong.  I crossed the line just under 37 minutes.  I knew I was around the top 30 so I was resigned to the fact that I would probably be promoted to the medium pack.  Officially I finished 24th so I was very pleased in a way.

Looking forward to the next one but hoping to get up the eyes, just how cross country should be!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Great North Run

It has been several weeks since I ran in the Great North Run.

This was my first GNR and it couldn't have gone better on a personal level.  However....

In the days leading up to the race, I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to it!  The huge crowds of competitors, the panic before the start, the pressure of putting in a decent time and the fear of becoming chlostrophobic.

My wife dropped me off at Exhibition Park just after 9am.  Early I know, but best to be too early in my book.  I duly lined up for the portaloo, nerves starting to kick in!

I did a quick recce of where I was, where the baggage bus was and roughly where I had to be for the start.  Once I had mapped it out in my mind I took a stroll up to the baggage bus.  I was passing all sorts of runners from cigarette munchers to elite lean athletes.  I stripped off my outer layers so and packed them into my rucksack and popped it on the bus ensuring my number got stamped with the bus number so I could collect it at the end.

After a quick warm up down a back lane I made my way to the start.  I was looking for Orange A - of course the entry to each pen was at the rear so by the time I got there it was full.  Luckily everyone was focussed on the keep fit guy on the huge TV so I made my move and traversed through the crowd to the front of the pen!

By this time I was surprisingly feeling relaxed and composed saying to myself that if I got a good start, around 5:45min mile then I'd have a clearish run for the rest of the race.

The gun went off and I found myself dodging through the crowd like a slalom skier!  I was so focussed on finding the best route that I wasn't thinking of my pace.  By the time I reached mile 1 I was on schedule at 5:42.  The downhill to the Tyne bridge certainly helped.  I maintained the pace up to mile 3-4 and felt very comfortable, probably the most comfortable I have felt during a race of this length.

I checked my watch again at mile 4 and was under 6 min miles.  I was way ahead of schedule as my prediction was 1:25.  At this pace I was heading for 1:20 or less.

The crowds certainly helped and the weather was perfect, not too warm and no wind!  I maintined 6 min miles up to 10 then slowed to 6:30 for the last 3.  The  last mile didn't feel half as bad as I was led to believe, so much encouragement for which I was grateful.

I crossed the line in a new PB of 1:20:11, so close to sub 1:20!  Nevertheless I was over the moon!

My calf's were very sore for a few days after and a bit of a sore achilles still bugs me but no pain no gain! Ha!

I duly picked up my bag and got changed.  Bus back to town, pint in the Goose and picked up by my wife. A good day.

North East Harrier League this Saturday, my first one since I was a young teenager.  Should be interesting!

Courtesy of runnerwanderings