As a youngster, I would get home from School, get changed and go out to play with my pals.
Now I'm older, I get home from work, get changed and go out to play with my pals, but now I call it training.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friends, dogs, hills, ice cream, beer

and the band played on

Ambleside Sports has a truly unique atmosphere. Because it's held on a Thursday in the school holidays everybody there is holidaying in the Lakes or has taken time off work to attend, and everywhere you look people are smiling and enjoying the show.
Even Ricky would struggle to win the RR against these lads and lasses

Last year I attended with camera and photographed the fellrace. This year, despite having the Lakes 50 Ultra coming up again just 2 days hence, I decided I would run in the race as it is one I know well and enjoy very much.

I didnt bother doing a warm up on this occasion and once we hit the first climb after about 5 mins running I was overtaken by quite a few runners to end up in about 10-12th place as we tackled the steep twisty path up Nab Scar. Such a long slog as it is, I slowly got myself into gear and one by one passed lads who were reduced to walking up the handy (for tourists) steps.

Just ahead of me was Sam Ware of Eden Runners. Sam finished 8th at the Wasdale race less than 2weeks earlier and is in great shape of late. After 16 minutes running I clocked myself 20 seconds behind Sam. Soon after that we were in clag and could see no more than 20 metres ahead. I dispatched the last of the lads I had climbed with as soon as the terrain allowed a little faster progress and was now for all intents and purposes, on my own.

Although all that is required is to remain on the path along the ridge, with nothing to take a reference from its a bit eerie and easy to let your mind wander and doubt yourself to be going the right way.  Luckily, Rydal Beck always roars loudly to the RHS in the valley below and this calm day it could be heard clearly - so onwards and upwards.

Climbing toward Great Rigg I caught sight of Sam Ware again. Buoyed by the fact I was obviously running faster then him now I pressed on ever harder. Whilst the path goes over Great Rigg there is no requirement in the Rydal Round to visit the summit and we wasted a bit of time doing so. But in such clag I was very wary of shortcuts that leave the obvious wide path. Anyway, I caught Sam (and another lad he had been with from the start) on the drag up onto Fairfield. I reckoned I was now about 8th.

Coming down off the summit is great running initially then Link Hause to Hart Crag is horribly rocky. The three of us all went a different way, and me and Sam met up again as we climbed over Dove Crag.

Somehow, once we were onto the flowing running section alongside the ruined wall, I had 100metres on Sam. I saw little point in thrashing myself to make up the time lost earlier by visiting unnecessary summits, and just cruised easily downwards. A mile or so later Sam caught me and we discussed the route ahead. We certainly didnt take the best route available - we crossed the wall too late. We did manage to miss the 'big drop' but only by backtracking for about 15 seconds to get onto the better path E of the wallside path.

Across the final couple of fields and the path turns into hard track. Sam was following the track but I knew the gate to leave the field by was in the opposite corner and a diagonal line across the field was smoother, shorter and less stoney underfoot. Perhaps I should have let Sam stay on the track. I might have got 10 seconds on him there.  But I regard him as a pal and general top banana so I shouted him across to my line and we ran the last minutes of the race together.

Sam pressed on slightly in the final 200m and gapped me to perhaps 5 or 10 secs. When I crossed the line I was handed a voucher saying I was first Vet 40. This is the first time I have ever got 1st Vet 40 in fellracing and I am hugely proud to have done it in a well recognised event with 130 starters. More amazing though, Sam was given a voucher for 5th overall, making me 6th overall. (unless a vet 50 beat us both but I don't think so).

During the poor route choice descent I stumbled down a particularly high drop and twisted my ankle. I do this all the time in the hills and always just keep running. This time it hurt A LOT and didnt fade much as I ran on. Now, one day later it still hurts but not particularly badly when walking. Its not swollen or anything like that so I'm hoping  all will be OK for tomorrows 50 miler.

Why risk a fellrace 2 days before a big event like the Lakes 50 Ultra?  Live for the day I say. Do what you want to do, strive to get what you desire and live with any consequences, after all, I might break my collar bone climbing the first gate in the Lakes 50.

Afterwards, our party of 9 went to Keswick for our tea. A good pint of Guinness but poor food in a pub which I shall not name but which we will not visit next year.

Jodie, Maisie, Kian and Ellie - personal support crew

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How long's the course

Several years ago I read Roger Blacks autobiography (title same as this post). I dont have the book to quote directly from but the story behind the title goes something like this...

We were in the departures lounge of airport going to the World Athletics Champs. Across the hall I spotted the singer Van Morrison who I was a huge fan of.
I went over to him, introduced myself and said what a fan I was, I even had one of his albums in my Walkman at that time. He asked what I was doing there and I explained I was going to the xx champs with the GB team. I pointed out Sally Gunnell across the hall drinking coffee, and also Linford Christie sitting nearby.

Unimpressed, Van said to me 'athletics? Thats running and jumping, right?'

I replied 'err, yeah, thats right'

to which Van Morrison said.....

'how long's the course?'

The first reaction of most people like me (and, as you are reading this blog, probably you too) would be one of incredulity that someone would have such poor knowledge and understanding of sport and world leading athletes.

But the story also reveals the fact that a great number of  people have zero interest in athletics or even sport in general.

Whilst the London Olympics is a massive deal to most of us involved in sport, and has been building up for what seems like at least 10 years (if you go back to the time when London was just one of the hopefuls), the majority of the population will not actually watch it over and above what they see on the daily news programmes.

example - When I asked my Mrs to press 'record' for the Usain Bolt program last week  - she asked me who Usain Bolt was.

I don't think I have any huge point to make here. I'm not saying those people are wrong to have no interest in sport, nor am I suggesting the Olympics are a waste of money or owt like that. In fact, if we are ever to reverse the playstation/fastfood/sedentary lifestyle trend of our youngsters then a home Olympics, World cup, and similar world-scale events, along with TDF winners and approachable, media friendly footballers and are needed here to kickstart the imagination.

Just saying

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Title goes here

13 miles at Half Marathon pace, as Milly quite rightly pointed out, would be very very difficult to achieve alone in training. I ran at Marathon pace today, (probably a little bit faster than M pace actually, but it would be nice to imagine I could ever again run this fast for the full 26.2)

With next weekend being the Lakes 50 there was little point in running long and slow this weekend. Instead I basically repeated the route of 7 days earlier.  I added in a small untimed loop (but which I know takes about 6 minutes to complete) and then resumed my stopwatch as I passed by the same place again. That explains why there are only 12 figures below for my claimed 13 mile run. There was also a mile jog before and after the 13.

Mile Splits
6:26 (included biggest climb and collecting pre-stashed water which I promptly dropped)
12:00 (10 mile marker has faded away)
6:19 (disappointing last mile but there are lots of roads to cross and a decent hill to climb)

By the time you also add in the part seconds the total was 1hr 14m 05sec, or 6:10.4 pace.  Last week was a fraction inside 6:12 pace, making todays run a marginally better result given the extra mile, the higher temps and also the severe battering I put my legs and body through during the midweek.

The splits are much more even this week too. It DID feel much harder than last week though, in fact it was a grueller to complete without losing pace. I made the mistake of having cereal for breakfast (instead of toast), and by halfway into the run a stitch was threatening to come on, making it unwise to forge on at 11-12mph when the gradient was helpful.

I am very pleased to have ran as fast as this, a pace which, incidentally, would give a marathon time of 2:41:45.

Thanks to AW for helping with the water/gel stash  - luckily, no well meaning villagers/desperate thieves removed said stash from hideyhole on this occasion  (t'was a hot and thirsty 24m run that day back in March)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Three day week

Tonight I have completed possibly the toughest 3 consecutive weekday training days for a very long time.

It all began on Tuesday when I ran 8 miles with Plucky. After the race one week earlier in which we ran mostly together, it was clear that this week I had the upper hand. I was cruising along and suspected he was finding it pretty tough going. With approx 2.5 miles to go I gave Plucky a 30 second warning. I reckon he understood what I meant anyway, but 20 seconds after the 30 second warning period had expired he could not have been in doubt what I'd meant as he could do nothing but witness me run off into the distance.

I made 1min 35 seconds on Plucky in that 2.5mile section and recorded 6:00 average pace overall.

6 pace on a schoolnight? Soup herb!

Wednesday was my already reported fellrun.  3 hours is really as long an outing as can realistically be done after work (with an hour or so to drive either side of the run). I wasn't flogging myself for this, moreover just keeping a steady even pace, moving forward all the time and ticking off the summits. The weather was terrible. I was therefore pleased with myself for forging on over the entire planned route when numerous shortcuts could have been taken or summits missed out altogether.

After the fellrun I stupidly stayed up until 1am, resulting in my feeling utterly shattered all day today. By half three I'd had enough of work and buggered off home. There was zero possibility at that stage that I would do any running tonight.
Walking with Scamp down the river, an inquisitive cow broke free from the herd and followed us, getting ever closer. I didn't like the way things were going and tried to shoo it off away. The cow jumped at my shooing and this caused Scamp to have a go at it too (he normally is scared of cows and avoids them) which only made things worse. I lowped over a nearby fence to safety  and Scamp followed me. We then took a long detour to avoid further incident.

All this had woken me up a little and once finally home I elected to go and run my planned session after all.

Four by one mile.

Out and back in 5:34 then 5:28 was a huge surprise.
The next two felt slower as the rigours of the previous two days running began to make themselves at home in my muscles. Being fully warmed up and past half way of the session must have helped though, as I recorded 5:33 and 5:26.

5:30.25 minute miling average pace

That'll be my best average pace as a V40 then, and probably a couple of year before that too.

I'm so pleased I ran tonight 'cos now I can do whatever I want tomorrow. I may run, I may lie in the sun by the river (or shelter under the railway bridge)

Strange occurrence of the week - complete random stranger approaches me in the town and asks where is a good place to get photos printed out. We happened to be standing about 40yds from Jessops so it was a query easily dealt with. But how odd he should ask this of a bloke pulling a hose pipe from a van and feeding it into a pub beer cellar - and how strange also that the bloke he asked just happened to have personally had literally 100s of photos printed at said nearby shop.

Shock of the week - On Tuesday I was HALF A STONE under what I would usually expect to be. Yes I'd been for a tough 8 mile run but I'd also had a pint of fluid since.

Hilarious moment of the week - Scamp running around the garden tonight trying to escape my clutches as I attempted to shampoo his cowshitty head - river would normally be utilised for this type of cleanup but he must have found a last minute pat before we got back to the van

And finally - grammar, punctuation and spelling check - there will be no errors at all this week as I have been practising.

One Fair Summer Evening

An excellent run of 3hrs 10mins tonight. No idea how far but hopefully at least 12miles (4mph)

Stair - Causey Pike - Long Crag - Sail Pass - Knott Rigg - Newlands Hause - Robinson - Hindscarth - Dalehead - High Spy - Maiden Moor (but not Catbells) - Stair

Summit 1. Causey Pike looking toward Keswick

Just beyond Knott Rigg looking to Newlands Hause

Buttermere from Robinson

From Hindscarth. Causey Pike almost hidden in  mist. Bass' Lake also seen (just)

Dalehead cairn

View from Dale Head North out to Littletown. Last bit of tonight run is the ridge on RHS

Maiden Moor from High spy. The last uphill - weather foul now

Very wet Champion

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The other side of summer.

Didn't realise I had left it over a week since my previous post, and now I can't remember exactly what I've been up to since then.

I know last Saturday was 14miles  in 1hr 33min 50sec - an easy effort but one which nevertheless left a small legacy in my legs, which hadn't ran that far on tarmac for nearly 3 months.

Ah yes, now I remember why Sunday slipped from memory - I joined Plucky and Sparky in Gelt for about 8 miles easy. I'd hoped they were up for a making a race of it but I ended up feeling I'd wasted a good training opportunity and almost went running again that night (but in the end just did a long dogwalk)

Nowt Monday then Moffat 15k road race on Tuesday. I haven't forgotten what happened there - unfortunately!

The course is basically 3 miles undulating road > 1 mile offroad very steep > 5 miles gradual downhill road.

I had planned to take it steady until the climb then power away from whoever I was running with and continue forging on all the way down the hill to the end.

The reality was somewhat different....

3 lads went away from the start. Fair enough - they were all much younger and faster than me. The pace of my group felt fine - easy even, at times. And as Plucky, Sparky and A GIRL were still present I felt sure I would soon be running away from them all to take 4th spot.

Then the hill arrived. Two lads I hadn't even taken any notice of immediately went ahead of me. I didn't respond and before I knew it they had 10 metres. I didn't panic, reckoning that I would catch them up once we were running downhill.

Sparky came past me. I still didn't panic reckoning I would begin to feel great any second now and reel him back in.

Girl ran past me. I admit I panicked at this point.

Once upon a time, the only females to beat me on road were international female athletes, and I wasn't quite ready to relinquish my status in a sleepy Borders town on a rainy Tuesday in July. Thing was, I couldn't do much about it and the gap grew.

Girl and Sparky had 50 metres on me when we topped out from the climb. Even having such a terrible race I knew they would not stay ahead with 5 miles downhill to run and I let myself slowly cruise toward catching them back up. Plucky caught me just before we all reformed our wee group and I enquired whether he would be continuing to run hard in an attempt to catch more runners, or would be content to run in with Sparky and girl.

I knew Pluckys answer before I asked Steves question. My head had gone as far as racing was concerned and I was just holding out in hope he might be happy to reign in the effort.

So after a brief discussion about taking turns to set the pace we promptly dropped Sparky and girl and set off downhill at 5:00 pace.

My turn on the front seemed to last about 4 miles!!!

Once I realised I had the edge on my old pal I eased up a tad so I could easily chat away which I knew would annoy him greatly. With under a mile to go I mentioned we might be racing for first Vet 40 prize. Plucky said he wasn't interested in sprinting. I said I wasn't interested in sprinting either but did also make it clear I would be finishing ahead of him. To ensure I wasn't left looking silly I put in a 3 minute effort to finish and beat him by 20 odd seconds.

One of those two lads I hadn't paid attention to was a vet 40 so I won nowt. Sparky got chicked and we all got soaked.
Scottish tea - we also got Mars bar in goody bag and a voucher to have it battered at chipshop

Wednesday jog with dog

Thursday will never be forgotten. Thursday was as good as it gets.

On Thursday I went to Glenridding and ran up Helvellyn. Sparky and Popsy came with me (actually they were always planning on  going so it was more a case of me going with them but it's my van so I choose the order for reporting purposes.

With old man Popsy taking rearguard position from the outset and with there being no particular reason for me to stick to the Triathlon route (the reason for my companions visit) I figured I may as well go along Striding Edge. Although quite a bit longer, necessarily slower, and with a little more ascent due to occasional drops, I reckoned I would easily catch up to Popsy again, if not also Sparky.

Indeed that's how it went, and even stopping to take photos and then again at the 'pop out' from Swirral Edge to see if Popsy was still climbing up, I was only about 5 mins behind once finally back at the van.

I wish I had the wordskills to more eloquently describe how awesome it felt to be on Striding Edge in those conditions, but to truly evoke the sense of excitement, danger, peace, wonder and calm, is  more than I am capable of.....

Running/scrambling/leaping along Striding Edges absolute pinnacle points is simply the best little bit of the Lake District I know. There were a couple of other people making their way along the lower safety paths, but they were soon behind me and out of site so I had the ridge to myself really. The view is good, if not quite matching that West from the summit plateau, but its the feeling you get from just being there alone on such a calm day as this was. It's pure magic. If I'd had time enough to spare to sit down I may never again have got back up.

Scamp stayed close to me and picked his way across the jagged rocks in fine style - at the big drop near the end he was to physically pick up and lower down by a couple of metres,  then we were off again and almost sprinted up the next section which is much less demanding or scary.

Where better?

Nowt on Friday

Today (Saturday) 12 miles. Set out hoping to run 6:15 pace but wondered really if I would be able to manage as fast as that. A couple of 6:25s early on had me thinking I had indeed overestimated my ability. But as the run continued I just got faster and faster. Not even the slow mile up Warwick Bank was enough to stop me recording 1:14:20 for the 12 miles. Near the end I was cruising along inside 6 pace and am very happy with the 6:11 and bits I managed overall.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

what weekends are made for

Saturday I got up early, well, half seven, and after a leisurely breakfast  I took a long stroll with Scamp out along the river towards the new bypass. Much amusement watching Scamp try to find a pathway through between the dozens of cows in the field where the footpath goes through - he is scared stiff of them and runs in wide arcs to keep as far away as possible. Funny dog.

My run of 13miles started off with a decent tailwind and a 6:50 mile. I had no intention of pushing the pace - it was merely a maintenance run - but despite the decent hill up by the posh houses at Warwick Bridge and the inevitable headwind to close the day, I seemed to naturally increase the pace and ended up with 6:42 overall but feeling like I had been out for just a 7/8 mile jog Finishing by 12 noon meant I had a full 24hrs before the Skiddaw fellrace on....

.....Sunday. My warm up for the race was as slow walk up Latrigg with Scamp.We got very wet. but all then cleared up nicely for the race itself. My plan was to run as much of the climb as possible. Previously in fellraces I have reduced to walking when I noted people around me walking. I have decided that was a BAD way to race. Better to walk only once I myself feel I can run no longer rather be dictated to by others.

The first part of the climb, up Lattrigg path to the Gale Rd carpark isnt really steep enough to warrant walking by anyone, and I settled into a small group of 2 or 3 in about 15th place  overall. At the final bend prior to reaching the Gale Rd carpark I took the little known shortcut straight up the steep hillside rather than stay on the path. At the top gate I was then 25metres in front of the group I had been with, and much closer to the lads ahead. Local knowledge.

Only Michael Cunningham, a lad I have never even been close to in fellraces before, caught me back up and we stayed together all the way to the first high gate (where it levels off and you go right to miss the climb of Little Man). Michael had been walking on the steepest sections, hands on knees style. Although I was running no faster than his walk pace, once the gradient eased and running was possible again, I found I was able to stride out almost in a proper running style (as opposed to the baby steps forced upon you on the steepest sections). I'm sure that if I had been walking I would not have then ran as fast as I did.

After easing away from Michael up to the summit section, which I estimate must have been 50mph plus winds, he then caught me back on the initial steep rocky descent. Again I eased away on the next flatter part but felt sure he would disappear into the distance once we hit the flagged section where the race is allowed to leave the tourist footpath and crosses rough tussocky hillside. Indeed he did move ahead but no more than 20-40 metres and I regained this as soon as we hit the bottom of Jenkin Hill. The section from Gale Rd carpark to the finish is all very runnable and saw me put over a minute into Michael. All in all this was my best fellrace ever. Sub 80 minutes is a benchmark for this race. Apparently, back in the day you got a certificate for that time.

The next day I was expecting to have legs so sore I would struggle to walk. Perhaps the marathons 4x descents from Gale Rd helped me toughen up because there was only the merest hint of DOMS and I had no trouble completing an easy 6 mile jog along the river route with Scamp.

Plucky hasn't been doing a lot of running of late and the Tuesday runs with him  have been no more than a moderate effort. With this in mind I said I would be looking to increase the effort considerably for the last couple of miles of our planned 8 mile loop. As we set off I immediately realised that Plucky, on much fresher legs than mine, was intent on taking the promised sting away by forcing a decent pace early on. Darren was there too and his Garmin reported average pace dropping like a stone the further we ran. At 4 miles and 6:22  average Darren was dropped, leaving me and Plucky to finish together at 6:12 pace overall. It was a superbly hard run. My legs were so full of crap from the Skiddaw race that I couldn't reach full cardiovascular potential and really suffered trying to keep Pluckys pace. Plucky was the opposite, reporting that his legs felt superb and he was relishing in the ultra hard workout he was inflicting on his heart and lungs. Afterwards. I thought I was going to throw up at the roadside. Me and Plucky have been battering each other on bike and foot for nearly 25 years now. He's my best pal but theres also nobody I have more pleasure in beating. At least today was a draw - losing would be bad considering how good he can ride a bike at present.

Despite the 35 million year age difference I am in love with Blencathra. Scamp also likes.
It would have been sensible to take things easy on Wednesday to then allow more hard running on Thursday. So I drove out to Scales, parked at Mousthwaite Coombe and ran to the top of Blencathra as fast as I possibly could. 33mins 52 secs is my fastest time for this particular route up, but my legs were complaining all the way up and no way could I press on fast for those sections that were slightly flatter. Penrith Stu reckons he has made it in a 32. I reckon I can do a 31 on fresher legs. Pleased to run up in a decent time, I was then stunned to see my time for the run back down. 15 minutes summit to carpark is several minutes faster than I have ever done it. Whilst I use the main tourist footpath for the climb,  I'll happily admit that my descent is via the shortest line, taking in every shortcut corner I know of. To my mind, the hard CV work is all done for the day on the climbs and running descents is all about improving downhill technique so theres little point adding in even the smallest sections of uphill if they can bve avoided.