Monday 11 June 2012

Last post - for a wee while

Mountain pansies and violets
    After all the activity associated with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations I've been taking it easy the past few days, as befits a sporting octogenarian. Three runs amounting to a steady 17 miles is all I've managed, but noticed my 'steady' pace has become a tiny bit faster since the Ilkley Trail race on Bank Holiday Monday. The hardest sessions for me, which therefore tend to be avoided, are Tempo runs. Racing at a raised pace makes up for this deficit. The more I race, the fitter I become and the easier my overall cruising pace.
Anybody know the purpose of these spikes on fence posts?
    Ideally, on weekends when no races are planned, I should drag myself out of bed on Saturday mornings to take part in one of the popular 5K Park Runs and count that as a tempo run. Trouble is, they start at 9am, which means breakfast at 7am, which means getting up at 6.30, which is half way through the night as far as I'm concerned. I'm not at my best first thing in the morning, particularly in winter.  But we shall see.
    This could be the last posting for quite some time. Next Sunday (June 17th) we drive to Cornwall for a couple of weeks camping at one of our favourite sites, Higher Moor just outside Crantock. where we'll have complete rest from phones (no reception), emails, newspapers, radios or any other electronic devices. There'll no doubt be plenty to Blog about when we return. Meanwhile, I'm away to start packing.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Queen's Diamond Jubilee fun and games

Part of our little flotilla on the Wharfe
     So much happened over the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend, a thousand boats nosing their way down the River Thames, a pop concert outside Buckingham Palace, thousands of beacons being lit, street parties throughout the country and festive fireworks illuminating the night skies, that it's difficult to know what to write about, what to put in, what to leave out. I'm told Queenie wifie felt quite humbled by it all. Well, I'm not a Royalist, neither am I anti-royalty, but standing in a crowd waving a Union Jack would come an awful long way down my list of things to do. So what did we all get up to back in our sheltered neck of the woods? We'd great fun. That's what!
The Women's Institute crew - and shark!
      On Sunday while millions watched that utterly boring four hour procession of boats along the Thames, a couple of hundred hardy souls braved the rain by the River Wharfe to witness a far more exciting spectacle in the form of the Great Grassington Raft Race. Teams of four from various sections of the community launched their motley - some would say ramshackle - crafts into the freezing water ready for action. Fortunately there were no Health and Safety officers around to witness the ensuing fiasco, one vessel disintegrating on impact and another crewed by Kings and Queens performing a somersault.
The Kings and Queens had a slight problem
      Surprise winners of the first heat, by a distance, were the good ladies of the local Women's Institute, one of whom happened to be my wonderful partner. Indeed, they proved invincible throughout the tournament, easily winning their semi-final before storming away from the disgruntled pantomime crew of the 'Panto Liner' in the Final to raise their oars in a victory salute as they crossed the line to tumultuous applause. It could be something to do with male chauvinism that stories afterwards circulated in local hostelries that only three rafts took part and two of them sank, thus handing victory to the Women's Institute on a plate.  I'll admit there weren't quite as many vessels as on the Thames - but that was a bit unkind!     
On the long climb towards Middleton Moor
      There was further excitment to come. On Saturday we'd both been for a good paced six mile run around Appletreewick after which we decided that, for the first time since August, we were at last fit enough to enter a race. An email from Terry Lonergan a few days previously suggested the Ilkley Trail race on Monday June 4th. We took the bait and made our way to the race venue in good time to register, make nervous visits to the loo and wind ourselves up ready for action. Terry was there to greet us. "What's your warm-up routine?" he asked. "To take it easy for the first ¼ mile of the race" I told him. That wasn't too difficult at Ilkley where the first ¼ mile up Curly Hill is a rather steep 1 in 4 - or thereabouts - before allowing a slight breather through Middleton Woods.
 LV60 winner finishing with a smile

      The weather was perfect, good sunny spells with a healthy breeze to keep us cool as we negotiated the long climb onto Middleton Moor. Chris Watson, an unattached runner, joined me just before the drinks station and shared the pacemaking for the next four miles up the rising moorland trail through breath-taking scenery, over the Long Ridge serenaded by curlews and skylarks, and back down past the drinks station. We were well matched but I managed to get away from him as I increased the pace down delightful springy turf and back into the wood where I claimed the scalps of Andrew Bennett (Ilkley) and Kath Cambert (Roundhay Runners) who were getting plenty of verbal support.  I was in top gear by the time I reached the road and the steep downhill section to the Finish. I passed another Ilkley runner, Liz Price, and Helen Goldthorpe of Kirkstall Harriers, but almost got caught on the line by the unattached Steve Gilyead who seemed to come from nowhere.
Finishing my first race as an MV80

      I was 165th of 219 finishers in a time of 67.24 (Results here). Always in control I'd run at optimal pace for the whole of the race, nowhere was I struggling and I was delighted to find I could raise the pace quite substantially over the last ¼ mile - just like it used to be. The old Runningfox could well be back in business! The hilly route (around 900ft of ascent over its 7 miles) was exactly to my liking besides being well marked, well marshalled and with the added luxury of a drinks station at 2 miles and 5 miles for those who required it.  Those attending the prize giving were somewhat taken aback to learn there was an MV80 winner, something that hadn't happened in this race before. Their applause was tremendous and quite humbling, so a big 'Thankyou' for that. Another pleasant surprise was to come. My wonderful partner, an LV65 runner fresh from her victory in the Great Grassington Raft Race two days earlier, was duly announced winner of the LV60 category. That really made our day!

..and winning a prize - a Fastrax shirt
   A gentle five mile leg stretcher was called for on Tuesday morning to keep the old system operational. I'd felt a slight pull in my Rt calf muscle while hurtling down the tarmac at the end of the Ilkley race, maybe because I was wearing minimalist trail racing shoes, but it felt OK twenty hours later.  For the following few hours I rested and did as little as possible - ready for a village street party beginning in the late afternoon and finishing around 9.30. I'm not a gregarious person by nature and freely admit to finding such occasions (and most other social gatherings) a little stressful. Having been dragged out of school at 14 and sent out to 'earn some brass' I've always felt a little disadvantaged as regards social and intellectual skills, so try to avoid situations where such things are required.  Physical skills are undoubtedly my number one asset.
Street Party
       However, when it comes down to eating and drinking I'm rather good at that too, so the next few hours went down rather well. Highlight of the proceedings, for me, was a hog roast that gave forth delicious aromas and succulent meat that melted in the mouth. It didn't suit everyone. One person couldn't partake of it because the hog's head was still on, but happily helped herself to roast ham from an indoor table stacked with goodies. Another 'didn't want it anywhere near her, or her house'. Their loss was other peoples' gain but, in truth, there was a wide variety of food to suit all tastes. Almost everyone in the village had contributed their special dishes, salads, quiche, assorted cakes and buns, vegetables, fruits, desserts, trifles - you name it - we lacked nothing.
Line-up for judging the fancy hats
   The music was rather loud but of an appropriate choice for the occasion. Among many of my favourites was 'Jupiter' from the Planet suite, the words to which (I vow to thee my country) was our old school song. We dutifully stood to attention whilst the National Anthem was played.  Amazingly, none of the children knew the words, claiming it was not played in their schools any more. Perhaps there's such an eclectic mix of pupils that, rather than take time playing all their national anthems, they play none at all. Or is it just another nonsensical bit of political correctness? 

Going - the whole hog
      The hog was duly demolished while tables were cleared and carted away just as it began to spit with rain around 7pm. We'd been lucky.  At 7.30 we assembled in a packed schoolroom for a closing concert by our local Folk duo, Vince and Nicky Willis - assisted by John whatever his name - for a wonderful selection of songs, some of them sad, some of them quite lively with sing-along choruses or refrains. Favourites of mine were a couple by Dougie MacLean of 'Perthshire Amber' fame and one I used to sing many years ago (and wrote a poem around) 'Will ye go lassie'.  Our celebrations drew to a close at 9.30 prompt and ten minutes later I was crawling into bed well and truly whacked. One way and another it had been quite a weekend.

All Trail racing pictures courtesy of Dave Woodhead (