Sunday 23 August 2009

A good day at Burnsall

It was touch and go whether or not to run Burnsall. It's a tough 10 mile race with a strength sapping hill around the eight mile mark, just where you don't want it. The previous weekend I was starting a 7 day course of antibiotics (2,700mg a day and strictly no alcohol) to treat another flare-up of my dreaded Diverticulitis. So, on Monday I went for a ten mile jog around Mossdale to determine whether the old system was in a fit state to race. I decided it was, so filled in a form and, being unable to find his letter box, stuck it through the cat flap of Jim Maxfield's (Entry Secretary) door. I was glad I did.
Race day turned out gloriously sunny, perfect for spectators strolling by the river with an ice cream or bottle of beer in their hands, but a little on the warm side for runners. Ian Fisher led the stampede from the village green with the multi-coloured mass trailing behind like the tail of a comet. It's my local race so there was much calling of my name as the people of Hebden shouted encouragement. Approaching Grassington I tagged onto a purple vested girl called Tania from City of Hull A.C. Due to some neurological problem in the past she'd lost the use of both her legs but was now sufficiently recovered to set just the right pace for yours truly. We ran together until we'd climbed out of Thorpe.
"There's none for you" shouted Little Ken as I approached the water station, but gave me a cup all the same. And I needed it. Shortly afterwards Sarah King of Skipton A.C. rode past on her bike shouting encouragement. She's a far better runner than me so I called after her "Oi, you ought to be in this race" - to which another voice from the side of the road replied "Save your breath yer daft old b-----r". It was my old friend Eric Smith from Otley A.C. who has a habit of using choice language when he sees me. Perhaps it's something to do with me breaking his Northern Vets MV65 10,000 metre track record which he'd proudly held for ten years. I knocked a minute off it! I left Tania in Thorpe, telling her it was now all level or downhill to Burnsall. Her legs were beginning to tire but mine still had sufficient strength to run down an Otley vest I'd focused on some way ahead. I crossed the line in 81.36 - my slowest ever ten mile race but I was quite happy with it considering my poor condition and the fact I'm now the oldest I've ever been!
Runningbear in full flight
For the fifth (or is it sixth) time I was awarded the prize for being the first local to finish the race. Considering the 'local' area stretches from Bolton Abbey to Littondale it seems ludicrous that a 77 year old man is still allowed to lift this trophy in view of the wealth of young talent available. But I'm not complaining. Their loss is my gain.
After the race I had the pleasure of meeting the amazing Runningbear (aka Sarah Jarvis of Bingley Harriers) who'd finished 7th overall to create a new lady's course record in an incredible 59mins 58secs. - a time to be really proud of in this demanding race. I declined the invitation to warm down with her on the grounds my old legs had done quite enough thankyou!
Right, I must start to focus my mind on the Alps. We're flying to Geneva on Thursday and will be camping under the Eiger by nightfall. My Trail shoes are washed and ready!
Full results here:

Postscript.. It later transpired my time of 81.36 was the fastest run by an MV75 throughout the whole of 2009 and put me top of the British Rankings.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Lowther, Lowther, and we'll run for our lives.....

Gosh, that was a hard race for geriatrics, but enjoyable in a masochistic sort of way. After a cosy night at Ravencragg on the shores of Ullswater it was but a short drive through Celleron and Askham to the start of the race with its gaunt backdrop of Lowther Castle. Although we'd run this race before my wonderful partner had been worrying about this race for days (and nights) on end, ever since she'd read about them revamping the route to cut out a lot of the tarmac and include some rougher terrain, a river crossing and a 600ft climb to make it more interesting. She's very wary of that word 'interesting'.
In the race pre-amble those with dogs were told to keep them strictly on leads and not to interfere with other runners - to which one of the well trained dogs duly barked its acknowledgement. At 12 noon we were off to a flying start down a bumpy field where I twice turned my ankle before limping out onto the short tarmac strip through the village of Askham. Fortunately, 600mg of Ibuprofen I'd taken beforehand kept the offending appendage numbed for the next six hours. It seemed an awful long way to the first checkpoint on Heughscar Hill, reached in 31.47, punctuated by one of my regular 'splats' where I picked up various handicaps like gravel in the palm of my hand, half a cowpat on my knee and mud in my beard. My partner says I'm hardly fit to be let loose in the hills any more, and I'm beginning to believe her.
It was a wonderful run down to the Cockpit and on to the first drinks station where, for the first time in my life, I washed down one of those sticky gel things. Then it was into the bogs, getting our feet wet as we followed the profusion of red and white tapes through the otherwise trackless terrain towards the cheering people of Butterwick. One of the obstacles my partner was dreading, the wide crossing of the River Lowther, was quite a tame affair really, the water being placid and little more than knee deep. I expected a bit more fight from a Lakeland river!
Back on terra firma I glanced ahead to see tiny figures, way ahead of me, zig-zagging up through the bracken onto the heady heights of Knipe Scar. After 9 miles of hard running a 600ft climb was just what my ancient legs didn't want. But I was inspired by the fact that a chap in a blue vest, who I thought was Peter Taylor of Cumberland Fell Runners, my closest rival, outright winner of the very first Lowther race, and who'd galloped past me somewhere near the Cockpit, was slowly coming back to me. Softly, softly, I reeled him in and managed to put a good chunk of daylight between us before the next checkpoint (reached in 1.32) at the SE end of the Scar. It's a good job I did. In the last mile and a half the dreaded cramps started to set in, first in my Rt groin, then in the left. The purpose of the painkiller I took prior to the race was to hopefully ward off such discomforts. It didn't work!
I forced down a Mini Mars Bar while walking and stretching before easing back into a gentle run. I crossed the Finish line in 2.06.27 to win the MV70 race, five minutes ahead of my rival. My wonderful partner battled round to take the LV60 prize in 2.35.16 and make it a notable double for the Longwood Harrier Super Vets. We were both awarded Cumbria Crystal glassware and useful vouchers. So there was cause for celebration, a gradely meal and a nice bottle of wine when we arrived back at Ravencragg, tired, but very happy. It later transpired, according to Hayfella, that after major redesigning of the route the total ascent is now in the region of 2,300ft as opposed to the 1,500ft published in the FRA Calendar.
PS. Apologies to Leona Lewis for distorting the words of her song, 'Run', in the title of this piece.
PPS: I must try to stop thinking about Leona Lewis!