Monday 28 March 2011

Thirsk 10 mile race

New bit of bling....
The weather was cool with high cloud and hazy sunshine for Sunday's 10 mile Championship race at Thirsk. This was the race that was cancelled last November due to icy conditions, so all the trophies and T-shirts are dated 2010.  It was the flattest course I've raced on for quite some time, possibly years, and I'd quite forgotten how to handle it.  Apart from a slight incline over a railway bridge the rest was flat as the proverbial pancake. With almost 800 runners crammed into a narrow road for the Start I lined up as close to the front as I dared so as not to be held up. As a result I got carried away a bit fast, for me, averaging  7.41 over the first four miles. Inevitably, the old legs started to seize up and with the exception of another 7.41 for the sixth mile all the rest were in the 8's with an inexcusable 9.06 for the 8th mile. I finished 455th of 741 runners in 80.29 (chip time), fast enough to take the MV75 title in the Yorkshire Veterans Championship. That time also takes me top of the MV75 10 mile Rankings for 2011 though there are nine months left for someone to topple me.

....and a new T-shirt
I was a bit miffed about the lack of category prizes in the North of England Championship race that finished at MV70 and LV70. Considering pre-entries closed before race date, organisers knew full well there were runners in the MV75 and MV80 categories and, to my mind, should have catered for them in this prestigious event. They were even mean enough to limit prizes to the first two in the MV70 category (which was effectively three categories in one) as opposed to first three places in all the others. Anyhow, so far as I'm concerned I was 1st MV75 in the Northern Championship - albeit unofficially - along with the remarkable John Johnson of St Theresa's who turned out to prove he was best MV80 in the north. We train hard for these events and at our end of the age scale need all the encouragement we can get rather than being dismissed as eccentric old fuddy-duddies!  Rant over.
With limited training my wonderful partner and I both found this race particularly hard and returned home somewhat drained. Unlike the incredible Runningbear (1st lady in 58.38) who, along with her speedy partner (a PB of 58.01), chose to celebrate their victories at a local hostelry, we retired to bed early after our Sunday roast and a rather nice bottle of wine..
Today, I was back out running on the moor with the whirling plovers and warbling curlews for company whilst my wonderful partner somehow found energy for a bit of cavorting - aka Scottish country dancing. Roll on next weekend's 10K at Arkendale - I think!
Full results here:

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Old age and decrepitude

A summary of last weeks activity - and reasons for inactivity.

Monday: Feeling a wee bit blah after fifteen miles at the weekend but set off in the morning on a regular 6 mile run to the hamlet of Yarnbury - and back. This scenic run incorporates two fast miles which I completed  in 6.52 and 6.48. I've run them faster, and recently, but was happy with the day's performance.

Tuesday: Maybe it's old age and decrepitude that every now and then manifests itself in what I call 'a banana back' when I've difficulty getting out of bed and walking is painful. With a very distinct lurch to starboard running is out of the question, and so it was today. At such times when I can hardly hobble out of the door I keep myself motivated by reading other people's running Blogs (like that of Julia Armstrong), or inspiring books (such as John L Parker's Once a Runner), or by affirming choice mantras like one recently sent me by Julie Reyes, aka The Hotlegs Runner, that simply states 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me' (Philippians 4:13). 

Julie's Mantra below the picture in my quiet corner
Wednesday/Thursday: My aching back continued to cramp activities so very little got done on these two days. I figured my body was trying to tell me something, i.e. "It's time to take a short rest from training activities, I'll let you know when you can start again". Yeah, OK body, message received.
In the meantime a large and exceedingly healthy looking rat was playing about on my lawn. It seemed to think food I'd put out for birds was intended for it, and maybe it's family, so was storing it in a neat little tunnel under the compost bin. It was fascinating to watch but might be different if six of its mates arrived, especially if I happened to be sunbathing on the lawn at the time! I phoned the pest control officer who plugged various holes with little sachets of something exceedingly nasty and assured me I wouldn't see the little critter again. 

Friday: Got out of bed to discover I could walk straight again. Had the pain really gone, or were the umpteen grams of Paracetamol merely masking it?  I decided to give it another day before running again - mainly because I didn't have much time anyway. I'd run out of food so there was shopping to do. Bulbs and seeds needed planting and other annoying little jobs reared their ugly heads. Ah, that necessary evil of good weather - gardening!

Saturday: Dawned warm and sunny, so couldn't resist donning shorts (for the first time this year) and vest to set off along the River Wharfe on one of my choice runs. My Garmin registered 10.42 miles for the out and back route and the good thing about it was it only took 7 seconds longer for the return leg from the turn-around point at Barden Bridge. Those few seconds might well have been eliminated if I hadn't slowed briefly to talk to a couple who were training for the Dales 100 mile race that takes place in May. When I caught up with them at Howgill they'd already covered 18 miles and still had another 6 or 7 to do on their way back to Grassington. Wish I could do that!
The afternoon was taken up introducing our next Methodist Minister, Rev Janet Clasper, to the delights of Hebden Chapel, in the Grassington Circuit, where she'll take up her preaching duties in early September. Important things for her to note were (a) the pulpit can only be accessed from the right side of the Chapel. If she enters by the steps on the left she's likely to fall down a hole at the back. And (b) there's an almost invisible swing-arm in the Communion rail to gain admittance, so no need to inelegantly stride over to take our offerings, or when administering the Sacrament.

Sunday: We'd intended parking at Barden Bridge and running a 5 mile circuit to Cavendish Pavillion, and back, but by 9.30 in the morning every available parking place was occupied by weekend visitors to this lovely stretch of the River Wharfe. We'd chosen that area because my wonderful partner had been thrilled to spot a Kingfisher when she ran there a few days previously. I wanted to see it too! Not wishing for a particularly long run after yesterday's 10 mile effort we backtracked along the road to find a suitable parking place and ran a different stretch of the river. It was a very pleasant and relaxed four miles, but no Kingfisher.
The evening was spent eating, drinking and generally being quite merry in the company of friends who'd recently returned from their earthquake ravaged home in Christchurch, New Zealand. Despite all the groans and grumbles about this country of ours, and how it's run, I'm not sure I'd like to live anywhere else!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Spring in my step

Last week was another reasonable one training-wise, with a tough 24 miles, but feel sure I'd achieve more if I'd a running partner of equal ability, or perhaps slightly faster, to sprinkle a bit of competitiveness into my solo efforts. Some years ago I trained with a a chap called Donald Bamforth, a butcher who sold some wonderful pies.  He was five years younger than me and ever so slightly faster. After a reasonable warm-up he'd say "Come on, time for an effort" and he'd be away like the clappers for anything up to a mile in distance with me nearly killing myself trying to catch him! 
Our runs were always off-road, often along one or more legs of the Calderdale Way Relay, anything up to 14 miles and hardly ever slower than 7½ minute mile pace. We'd no Garmins at that time, we just pressed 'Start' on our watches at the beginning of a run and 'Stop' at the end, so no way of knowing the exact speed we were running at any given time. I'd guess our 'efforts' were run at around 5½ - 6 minute mile pace. After 8 or 9 miles when I was feeling decidedly weary Donald would say "Come on, last one now" - and I'd think "Oh God, not another" - but it was amazing how the old legs would immediately respond, the adrenalin would kick in and I'd go all out to run him down. Donald boasted the distinction of having won the MV50 category in the London Marathon against tough world-wide opposition, and with his help and encouragement I emulated his performance by winning London's MV60 category - twice.
I miss those sessions. Nowadays all my serious training is done alone, no-one to chase down, no-one snapping at my heels, but the idea of 'efforts' still holds strong. On Saturday I went for a wild off-road run around Mossdale, a route of 11 miles with over 1,300ft of ascent. Towards the end, when I was slowing down and beginning to feel quite knackered, I suddenly imagined Donald's voice saying "Come on, time for an effort". Miraculously, my old legs sprang to life and I churned out a last mile at 7.15 pace. It just goes to show, the human body is capable of achieving far more than we'd normally think or allow.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Spring is in the air

Spring is early this year. On the very first day of March when morning frost contrasted sharply against a brilliant blue sky the countryside was alive with birdsong.  Scores of new lambs snuggled up to their mums in sunlit fields around Bolton Abbey. Catkins shook like little lamb's tails in the gentle breeze. In village gardens crocuses saluted the sun, opening their purple, white and yellow petals to full extent. A local farmer said his fields had never looked so green so early in the year.
On Saturday we were joined by my eldest son for a walk around Burnsall in the morning and Hebden Ghyll in the afternoon. Alasdair is an environmentallist and wildlife enthusiast whose keen observations alerted us to all the exquisite sights and sounds of an enchanting day. Like the Dipper that bobbed and curtsied on his favourite stone before disappearing under the gushing waters of the Wharfe for some tasty morsel. Like the striking male Goosander that rode the rapids with his three crested wives. Like the Oyster Catchers, Lapwings and Curlews that filled the air with their joyous pipings. Like the wonderfully formed multi-coloured lichens which, when magnified, resembled miniature coral reefs. Like the recently arrived Redshank that sifted through the sandy shore of Mossy Mere. It was a truly memorable day that ended with a celebratory meal and a suitable vintage to mark the occasion.
High pressure dominated throughout the weekend as Sunday dawned clear and bright over a sparkling frosty landscape. After re-charging my batteries with some lusty singing at morning Eucharist I changed into running gear and set off along the banks of the Wharfe for a 'long run'. Not so long ago, in marathon training days, I would have clocked 18 - 22 miles. Nowadays, in my dotage, I rarely run more than 10. However, I have a 10 mile Championship race coming up on March 27th so felt obliged to run at least that distance, if not a little more. My Garmin actually registered 10.18 miles in a comfortable 1 hour 44 mins.  Enough!
In spite of aching quads and painful backache I couldn't resist taking advantage of further good weather on Monday to slot in a bit of speedwork. After a couple of Paracetamols for breakfast I eased myself into gear with a two mile jog past the waterfall in Hebden Ghyll as far as Yarnbury. From the high point of Moor Lane, I unleashed a fast measured mile towards Grassington in 7.06. After another steady jog along Edge Lane and Tinker Lane I churned out another fast mile in exactly 7.00 minutes. It might have been faster if some agricultural vehicle hadn't got in the way down a narrow part of the track!  From there on it was only a short jog home to complete a scenic six mile circuit.
And that, you might like to know, is how aspiring octagonarians spend their Spring weekends!

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Huddersfield Road Runners 10K race

For last Sunday's race the forecast was for fine weather, but a coolish 36ºF - ideal for racing - and for once it was right. Entries had reached the limit of 600 runners several days before the event so there were no entries on the day. We arrived in plenty of time to hydrate, locate changing rooms and showers and have loo stops before a longish warm-up to ease the old muscles into smooth working order.
At 11am prompt a hooter sounded.  We were away. After a flat 150m around the front of the sumptuous clubhouse in Lockwood the route began to climb, up, up and up again for over two lung-bursting miles through the village of Netherton till I began to wonder if there was any strength left in my old legs to prevent them buckling at the next section down Crosland Factory Lane. They survived, but not as well as those young whippersnappers who came thundering by with no respect for geriatric joggers!
We looped left, crossed a rushy dike and began another steady climb almost back into Netherton. I could grow to hate that place!  My quads were singing by now and it took a little time to get into full flow down Moor Lane and Bankfoot Lane to the five mile point at Armitage Bridge where we crossed the River Holme.  Here, I managed to sneak past two younger club mates I'd been shadowing since the start.
Profile of Huddersfield 10K
After yet another short steep ascent we burst out onto the busy Woodhead road with easy going to the six mile marker before a flat, fast bit of tarmac along Waterside to the Finish.
I placed 233th of 491 finishers in 52.33 so was well satisfied with my performance over this strenuous course with its cumulative 1,000ft of ascent. It's some time since I finished in the leading half of the field so figure my training must be paying dividends. All finishers received a classy Fruit of the Loom T-shirt emblazoned with Huddersfield Road Runners logo.
To make it an extra special day my wonderful partner's 433 placing and time of 64.21 gave her 1st place in the LV65 category, 7 minutes ahead of the LV60 winner. We each received vouchers to the value of £25.00 towards running related products.
It was a good day all round for our club, Longwood Harriers, for besides our two category wins, in the MV75 and LV65, Ian Mitchell won the MV55 category, Donald Kennedy took the MV45 prize and Brian Boothroyd the MV80 title.  The Longwood raiding party was in top gear!  Full results here.