Saturday, 26 December 2009

This flu's a real swine

I've been lucky; I've hardly had any serious illnesses in my life. Which makes this current bout of flu a bit of a shock. I've never felt so rotten in my life.It started with the temperature, with the skin almost too hot to touch. Curiously, I seem to have lost the ability to sweat. So no natural cooling. It's like have permanent heat stroke.No wonder I've had a headache for the last 6 days and nights. A symptom compounded by the sinus congestion.Which in turn resulted in me tearing a nasal blood vessel while trying to blow my nose. So now I haemorrhage if I forget and attempt to remove the gloop too vigorously. 
I've also had the nausea that the NHS website said you might get, so I'm not all that interested in eating. So I've got weaker (I lost 2.5kg in 4 days). And despite trying to drink water by the pint, my saliva has the consistency of wallpaper paste. This I find extremely distressing and in turn makes eating difficult, and contributes to the nausea....
I'm taking paracetamol and ibuprofen, which seems to help a bit. I've not gone down the 'Tamiflu' route, because we have been snowed in here, with eight inches of snow, and lots of ice, on the lanes.
'In most people, the disease is mild', says the Govt. I guess I don't fall into that category. But again, maybe this is what mild is like. As I said, I've been lucky. Until now.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Transformation!

I've been a bit lax in my blogging, so here's an update: Did a fierce gym session last weekend, then travelled to Cheshire for work. Whilst staying at the Travelodge (I live it up) I did a smashing 3.5 miler that was so familiar I could have done it with my eyes shut. As it was I did it in the dark, cocooned in my bubble of headtorch light. The route was one I've done well over a hundred times before. For about five years it was our default lunchtime run from work. We callled it 'The Lollipop' because it starts with a lovely flat, straight lane for 0.8 mile (the Stick) followed by an undulating loop of about 2 miles which has hills steep enough to curse but short enough to be grateful and then back along the stick. The challenge was (for me) to do it in less than 30mins. My PB (and we're talking 5 years ago here) is 27.27. So I was pretty chuffed to do it in 29.14 with 5 years more creakiness in the limbs.
Smileyrating: 8/10

Remember those kids stories about cute tractors? Here's the model:



I love the wonky headlamp eyes! This is just at the start of our lovely River Loop, which Mags and I walked yesterday.  It's amazing how a layer of snow transforms somewhere familiar into somewhere magical.
Here are a few more images from the walk...



Looking back. The river runs along the line of
dark trees on the left.   




Looking ahead.The route follows the line of
trees going off top left




The river, with snow covered rocks.
There were sheets of ice where the water was more tranquil

I travelled with ultracollie last week on a train full of coughing people. Alas, I am now going down with something horrid. Swollen eyes, aching joints, shivers, sore throat deep into the chest. So I shan't be running for a while. May I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas and that all your plans come to fruition in the New Year.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

'Aint LEDs brilliant!

Those clamped to my forehead in my head torch anyway. Tiny little things. Dead light. Tichy batteries only required. Super, slightly eerie, even, blueish light that hides the slopes, flattens the road, shows up the eyes of animals and your exhaled breath - making you exhale sideways like a shifty spiv grabbing a crafty drag because if you do it straight ahead you can't see anything and your glasses steam up. A truly great invention. Sends ones brain off reminiscing about torches and bike lights of old; Pifco anyone? The cause of many a curse.

And that, my friends, was my thought process for the first half mile last night as I eased my way round the lanes in the dark. It was great. I like the feeling of easing along in your own little bubble of light, being cradled by the darkness, seeing the occasional star peeking through the cloud, and the steam from the local paper factory rising in an incandescent plume, lit from the skylights beneath the chimney.

I learned the vital trick of avoiding the dark patches - they were holes full of water. I muttered to myself as I tried to create a Christmas story for grown-ups for a writing group I'm in (I didn't get very far). But mostly I toiled onwards and upwards as I discovered a super, hillyish route along beautifuly quiet lanes. It was shorter than I imagined; I was only out for about 40 minutes, but it was a great end to a day spent hunched over a keyboard. Next time I'll extend it.
Smiley rating 8.5/10

Thursday, 3 December 2009

On shame and Scotchlite

Thanks to Ultracollie and Runningbear I've just had a brilliant run. Their blogs are so full of dawn, or pre-dawn, runs, sparkling PBs, glorious sunrises and all round chipperness that I was ashamed of my inability to (a) get out of bed on these dark mornings and (b) to get out in anything other than perfect conditions.
I'm one of nature's hibernators. Much as I'd love to be reincarnated as a dolphin or some other free spirit, I reckon dormouse would be more likely. So the dawn jobs are going to be a stretch to say the least. Nonetheless, the 'bang a headtorch on and off you go' ethos struck a chord. So I did just that. And I'm incredibly glad. Firstly because I got to pet our neighbour's incredibly cute cocker spaniel puppy (he's called Jarvis - great name), and secondly because I got to enjoy a beautiful moonlit half hour run up the hill and back again.
I hurtled to the bank and back on my bike yesterday, and I could feel it in my legs today. But it mattered not a jot. It was great. Only 5 cars passed me (and two of them were as I approached a layby) so my Scotchlite-adorned running gear came into its own and my way was lit by a great big yellowish moon which looked particularly dramatic with shards of ochre-grey cloud across it.
So thank you, fellow bloggers. You gave me the  metaphorical boot up the gastrocnemus that I needed in these gloomy, S.A.D, times
Smiley rating 9/10

Sunday, 29 November 2009

First snow sighting!

Yesterday was a dream winter day. Blue sky (unheard of for weeks here), windless, cold and with a good dusting of snow on the high tops. It looked beautiful. Did I get out in it? Of course not. Too much stuff to do.
But I did get out on Friday when I went for a late afternoon, splashy, plod. Once again this was around the lanes as it is just too sodden to contemplate going on the fields just yet.
I managed a nice, hilly 45 minutes with an average heart rate of 142 (which is 79% of max). It was cloudy, but not actually raining and looked as if it was going to clear up.  It was good to get out; afterwards I felt as if I deserrved a treat, so we went to a brilliant Thai restaurant in Ambleside.  (Our new kitchen is nearly installed, but we can't actually cook in it yet, so we're having to eat out all the time. We're getting to know all the good places locally!)
Smiley rating  6/10

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The hills are alive...

...with the sound of groaning.
Just back from a soggy little trot on the hilliest route around the nearby lanes. I figured I would be gone about 50 minutes, so was quite surprised to be back in 35. My pace judgement is way off! Not long after the start of this route you can see a white house high on a hill across the valley. It seems impossibly far away, yet in only a little while you find yourself toiling past it. It's very satisfying. All in all, a very enjoyable, hilly, little outing.

Not as hilly as this though. This is Patagonia. I put it in because we're going trekking here pretty soon! I'm very excited about it. We're also going to Tierra del Fuego, and visit the Beagle channel, named after Darwin's famous ship. The Beagle was captained by Robert Fitzroy and was surveying the S. American coastline.
The weather is notoriously bad. It drove Fitzroy's predecessor mad. He committed suicide. So did Fitzroy, come to that. Hmm, I wonder if Marbella's available...
Smiley rating 9/10



Monday, 23 November 2009

Sunshine at last!

I got out today for a quick run up the lane towards Garnett Bridge and then down to the river and back. Because it was short, I decided tomake it a fartlek session and did all the uphills as quickly as possible. Which hurt.
Still, it was worth it. After what seems an age of grey skies, as I left the sun was shining. True, it was drizzling as well, but the sun shone enough to create a huge semicircular rainbow in front of me. With that and the sheep all fluffy and white it was like running in CBeebies land.
The lane is still running with water from the rain of the last few days. I've been out twice since the major floods of last Thursday, and the water is still pouring off the fells, The lanes are rippling silver curtains of water, with gravel and hedge debris washed into furrows in the centre of the road. On Thursday, when the Kent overflowed its banks, we were virtually cut off. There was only one minor road in and out of where we live and, down the hill, the village was under water. It's not as bad as it is further north in Cockermouth, but that's no consolation to the villagers whose houses were inundated.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Eyeballs out

Went for my first 'night' run of the season a few days a go. I say 'night', it was more tea-time really. But it was dark enough to need a headtorch and I guess that's what counts. I did the trusty river loop, because I didn't want the adventure spoiled by falling into gullies or getting tangled in barbed wire I didn't know was there.

It was great. I actually quite enjoy night running. It's that mixture of scary and interesting all at the same time. I'm learning to have 'soft' feet, if that doesn't sound daft; trying to land gently and respond smoothly to the uncertainties underfoot. Blundered into some brambles though.

It was a gorgeous night, with plumes of breath lit up by the torch beam. I never realised that sheep's eyes light up in the same way as cat's eyes and I was followed by their bluey white ghostly look as I went past.

It's still ankle deep water at the first gate, so one's feet get nicely frozen on the way out and washed on the way back. All in all, a good little jaunt.

Smiley rating 8/10


Running is a triumph of the repetition of an individually insignificant action. Which brings me to knitting. The scarf proceeds apace!

It should be ready by summer.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

I invite you...

... to look at this list and tick off those that are familiar to you...
  1. Deciding you do need leggings for today's run
  2. Deciding you should take gloves because you might need them
  3. The feeling of frozen wet toes, from running through 10cm of water cascading across the path, is not unfamiliar
  4. Ditto the slithery gait you adopt when running through cow-trod soggy fields
  5. Thinking it'll be much better when the ground's frozen a bit
  6. Stiles seem unusually slippery
  7. You don't remember the air temperature making your lungs ache quite so much
  8. You're glad you wore a hat
Yep, it's winter again! All these occurred to me on my little River Loop trot out today. I also ran at dusk; the sun dipped throwing shafts of light, of a lovely silvery-peach colour, from behind a massed bank of cloud, the world was falling quiet and it began to get dark enough for the lights in the houses on the hillside to look warmly inviting. It was wonderful. Mostly because I managed to get round before it chucked it down again.

And now I must go and scan the internet for guidance on how to knit. I went with Mags to this wonderful wool and fabric shop in Clapham (the Yorkshire Dales one) today. Rather than stand around gormlessly while Mags ferreted out fabrics and such like, I engaged the kindly lady who runs it in conversation, the upshot being that I've decided to knit myself a scarf for winter. At the moment I have wool, and needles (which are now made of straight-grain birch, not the grey metal like the ones my Mum used to have) and only the vaguest clue how to waggle them together to produce said scarf. I'll let you know how it goes.

Smiley rating for the run 7.5/10

Friday, 30 October 2009

It damn well IS about the bike!

There's something about cycling. I can no more go out for a gentle pootle on my bike than I can seduce Nicole Kidman (eh up, where's this going...). Take today. I meant to go out and just enjoy a nice easy loop through the village, up into Kendal, round the edge of town and back up the Shap road to home. With a heart rate of between 108 and 117 (60 -65% of max). What happened? Average heart rate 140, max 170. Somehow, every ride is like a time trial. It's just no fun unless the bike is going as quickly as possible. All the time. Is it just me?
I've had a very worky week this week, with not much opportunity to get out, so I'm feeling guilty and slobby. Maybe that's why my ride was so manic. I was angry with myself. Next week should be better as we're having a little home holiday. Mind you, these normally turn into vigorous training camps with informal schedules and such like, but this one will be a bit different as we're getting ready to have the old kitchen ripped out, a couple of walls knocked down and a new one installed. "Two weeks" says our (brilliant) builder. I have my doubts. Still, with a week off, I'm sure we'll get out. I wonder if Nicole's got a bike?
Cyclesmiley rating 8/10 (well, it was fun going 30mph downhill)

Friday, 23 October 2009

OMG, a PB!

Went for a lunchtime trot around the River Loop yesterday and stunned myself. I ended up doing it in 26.20, which, I think, is about 30s quicker than my previous best. I have absolutely no idea how it happened! All I can recall is having a sense of urgency because I needed to get back and work, so I ran each section between the stiles as a little interval. Not going mad, just pushing on. I guess the few seconds I saved each time gradually accumulated.

It was a lovely day for it. The breeze was chilly, but there was still some residual warmth in the sun. The sheep are all busily being made pregnant now, so they are going around with variously coloured buttocks (the ram wears a girdle-like contraption which bears an inky pad. He approaches ewe, mounts and, bingo, one bonk-stamped lady sheep), but there was a curious lack of birds. Perhaps they've all flown to the sun for the winter. The overgrown footpaths are gradually getting clearer as the vegetation dies back . I like this time of year. The gradual increase in light as the leaves fall is lovely yet the foul chilly stuff hasn't arrived. So a high smiley rating I think; for the PB and the conditions.
Smiley rating 9/10

Monday, 12 October 2009

My LSD for last week...

This is a deviation from the normal blog. Think of it as Smileywalker. I didn't do a long run this week. But we did do a long (6 hours) walk in the hills around Whinlatter.
We started up through the forest...
With tantalising glimpses of the open fell above us (Brown How is just up on the right)

From there we visited Whinlatter Top (below), Tarbarrel Moss, Ullister Hill, Lord's Seat, Broom Fell and Graystones before dropping down and back to the car.
Great day. Great skies. Cool and windy weather and a celebratory Green & Black's mini butterscotch chocolate back at the car. Now that's what I call long steady distance training!


Smiley rating 9/10

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Time to get real

I came to a major decision on my River Loop today. I've decided not to go for the Highland Fling next year.
It's a question of time; the amount of time taken up running and the amount of time required for the long runs. I guess I just don't want to commit to 4 hour+ runs on a weekend. So I'm scaling back my ultra ambitions and am going to refocus on doing more frequent, shorter events next year. More local, smaller-scale fell races for example. That way I can make my long runs a maximum of, say, 2 hours and combine them with shorter midweek runs, speed sessions, hills etc. It also gives me time to train by not running, something I'm getting increasingly interested in. I'm going to bike more. Gym more. Swim more. Mix it up. Find the fun.
I didn't expect to have such a major think on the run today. It was too beautiful a day for all that soul-searching! It just happened. After yesterday's rain the river was much bigger than just a couple of days ago. The sheep were just as dumb though, but it's getting into tupping time. So the rams are getting interested and the ewes, wary. I ran OK, with the last vestiges of my cold trying to climb out of my lungs, and the air was wonderfully crisp.
Smiley rating 7/10

Statto heaven!

For those who like numbers, I did a gym session yesterday:
15 minutes spinning bike, 15 minutes cross-trainer, 15 minutes rowing - all at 60-65% of max HR. Then weights: Flys and chest press lying on a Swiss ball, bicep curls and shoulder raises - all with 6kg dumbells. Lying chest press 2x12 reps with 15kg; seated shoulder raises 2x12 reps with 10kg; leg press 2x12 reps with 55kg; 2x12 reps hamstring curls with 10kg; 2x12 reps calf raises. Core stability: 2x12 reps of V-sits, 2x15 obliques in V-sit, 2x1min plank. Expresso in cafe to finish.
This is my new, non-running day routine, with the occasional 500m swim replacing one of the spinning/cross-trainer/rowing sessions. I've no idea how much good it's doing, but I feel great after doing it and I go with Maggie which makes it all the better.
Also, doing it makes you realise how office life / working at a computer and just running makes the upper body completely pathetic! My chest press and shoulder raise figures are a real laugh. But I'll carry on and see how I get on. I'm hoping to do some sea kayaking next year, so this should all help.
Smiley rating 8/10

Monday, 5 October 2009

Smileytime!

Managed to totter round my lovely River Loop today. On the way back I overtook Mags who was enjoying a powerwalk around part of the course. It felt really funny running past my wife and just carrying on!
After a relatively dry September the river is very low. It's interesting because stones that are normally black with damp moss are browny white and the sound is a tranquil chattering, rather than the near-silent menace you get when it's really full. The sun was out. The sheep were nibbling contentedly. The crows wheeled around. All was well in Hayfella's world. Except my rasping lungs, but you can't have everything. Hopefully gettingout will chase out the last vestiges of my near-death apocalyptic evil killer flu (OK, a cold).
Smiley rating 9/10. For showing up.

Friday, 2 October 2009

All things Lemsiptastic

I should record the date, like those 'first cuckoo of Spring' letters that used to appear in the Times. I've got my first cold of winter. Expenditure on Kleenex and Lemsip through the roof. Feeling miserable. Snuffly. Pathetic. Moping about, making Mags' life grim. Typical bloke.
Feel better today. So am on the mend. Looking forward to getting out for a run again. That's a good sign.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

To the pylon!...but not beyond

I was half expecting some work to come in today. But it didn't, which meant I could adopt Plan B for the day. So, after a couple of hours serious gardening (i.e. digging out firmly entrenched giant grasses, manipulating boulders and shifting flagstones. More building than gardening really.) in the beautiful sunshine and cool gale that we had this morning, I just had time for an hour's run before Mags and I visited the Edward Lear Landscapes exhibition at Grasmere.
So I headed for East along the Dales Way, which is rapidly becoming my 'default' run if you like. It's seriously undulating without being a soul-destroying grind at any point, and you get great views of the Howgills. Also, there is a whopping great pylon just beneath the high point of the run. And it took me 30.10s to reach it, so it was the perfect 'touch the pylon and turn for home' point.
It was a cracking run. I've been hitting the pool and the gym a bit recently, and I think my leg and core strength has increased. It felt very relaxed as a run, even though my average heart rate was about 80% of max, so I must have been working reasonably hard. So a good smileyrating I think...
Smiley rating 8.5/10

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Skye Larks in pictures



I've just discovered how to get piccies on my blog! So, at the risk of boring you all senseless, here are some holiday snaps...

The white speck is a beautiful house on the way between Elgol and Loch Coruisk in Skye. Bet they don't get pizzas delivered! They must have one of the best views in Britain; out to sea to the island of Soay.


Tthis is the boat from which it was taken. The 'Misty Isle'. She was built in 1966 in Mevagissey in Cornwall and spent a lot of her life ferrying passengers to and from Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour before the current owners bought her to Skye.






You've heard of salt-marsh lamb. This is salt-marsh beef! At Elgol, the cattle wandered the beach contentedly munching the seaweed (if you look really closely, you can see the stipe of a bit of Laminaria sticking out of this one's mouth). And if it all gets too salty, they just wander up the beach to where a stream flows into the harbour and drink their fill.

Enough for now. I'm just getting used to the technology.



















Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Skye larks

I defy anyone to have had a more scenically beautiful run than I last Saturday. A simple, stress-free 35 minute trot out from our fabulous B&B (Coruisk House - highly recommended) at Elgol in south west Skye.
It was a stunning summer's evening at the end of what a friend called a 'blue day' - when the sky stays that happiest of blues all day long, the sea is the colour of a travel brochure and the distant hills are a soft purple. The road, single-track with passing spaces, undulated gently but persistently to give me a good work out; the sun was still strong and warm on (horror of horrors) my white, knotted legs and the air had that refreshing chill breath of oncoming autumn.
To top it all, the landscape (which, to be fair, is largely bog) mixed the rich gold of the dying bracken with the pink of the heather, the vivid green of the late season grass and endless shades of browns, greys, pinks and yellows of the lichen-covered rock.
We had a fantastic week with great seafood and pleasing wines but curiously no whisky - until we got home!
So now it's back to work, back to training and back to working on the motivation as the darkness creeps in. Now, where's me headtorch!
Smiley rating 10/10

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Of bogs and drizzle.

I'm sitting here wearing a T shirt more proudly than any other (apart from my 1st MV50 triathlon I did for my 50th birthday, obviously. Except it's a lousy T shirt for such an event). I did the Puma Lakeland Trail Derwentwater race today - 8.96 miles, 2,060 feet of ascent, through knee-deep bog in parts - in 1.25.58.
This was an average of 09.35min miles which, though not fast by any sort of keen runner standards, is as fast as I've ever gone over such terrain. So I'm smugly chuffed.
It's not as if the build-up was carefully planned and spread-sheeted (runningbear, I need your help on this. Do you run clinics for the Excelphobic?). I ran last Sunday with brother-in-law Pete, cycled to and from Wilf's Cafe to meet Mags for lunch on Tuesday, did a 'mini' triathlon (swim/bike/weights) in the gym on Wednesday night and bugger all else except test champagne (long story) and eat too much. But it all came together in the drizzle near Keswick this afternoon. At one point I saw that I was running a 7.01 minute mile and the Garmin shows my fastest was 04.54. God knows where that was. I think it's an anomaly.
Curiously, I woke up this morning thinking it would be OK. A sort of deep, vague feeling that it was going to go OK. Yes, I still had all the usual "I hate events: Too many people. Too much stress. I need the toilet - again" thoughts, but once the thing got started, it was fine. Maybe I was just well rested. Anyhow, a big thank you to Mags and niece Helen for driving me around and braving the conditions and I'm truly sorry I didn't see you as you shouted encouragment at the end, to the organisers for a cracking event, to the other runners with whom I shared a shivering fit at the start line (why did it take so long to get us started??) and the girl who kindly rescued my cap as it blew off in a squall coming down towards Latrigg.
Next week's training will be long windswept walks around Skye as we're on holiday. Hooray! . I'm going to takesome running shoes as well. I fancy some pre-breakfast trots if the weather's not too awful.
Smile rating 9/10

Sunday, 30 August 2009

It's the Wowgills

Well hello again. I hope you're all enjoying your running.

Much to report from the Hayfella camp, so if you're in a hurry, here are the edited highlights: Whoopee, new camera! Good 5 mile blast in London. Dales Way jaunt with unexpectedly great view of the Howgills.

For those kindly taking the time to read further:
It was my birthday recently. And my utterly brilliant wife bought me a digital camera to replace the one I so foolishly lost earlier in the year. I'm over the moon! It's a Nikon Coolpix. It's tiny, so I can take it in a (secure this time) bumbag on my trots out and , once I've cracked how to upload shots onto this blog, I can make it more pretty. Won't that be lovely.

On the running front, things are picking up again after my recent hiatus which started with an Achille/calf tweak and continued with a spell of working a lot and an attack of 'I can't be a***ed to get out as often as I should'. Nonetheless, last week in London I did another 5 miler along Regents Canal - only 4 minutes quicker this time, which was great in that 'I don't know if I can keep this pace up' way that leaves you buzzing at the end of it.
Yesterday, some of the family came to visit and we did a nice lazy 10 mile walk to Windermere, westwards along the Dales Way, and got the train back. This morning my brother-in-law and I went out for a lovely exploratory run eastwards along the Dales Way. This was a great, if extremely boggy, run with plenty of up and down, done at a positively leisurely pace* but one that felt fairly even. The highlight was cresting a ridge and being rewarded with stunning view of the Howgill Fells in the misty sunshine. I like the Howgills; I like their rounded massiveness that's so different to the more jagged outline of the Lakeland Fells, even if they are just t'other side of the M6.
My plan is to continue pushing eastwards along the Dales Way as I gradually lengthen my training runs. It won't take long before I'll be running to the M6 and back as my long run, which sounds pretty good as a plan to me.

This week coming I'm hoping to do a speed/interval session earlyish in the week, and then a mid length run towards the end, because I have the Lakeland Trail race at Derwentwater next Sunday. I've not done this event before, so don't know the course, but am looking forward to it.

*12.55 min/mile. Very slow but, in a book I'm reading at the moment I came across this: "We tend to do our slow runs too fast, and out fast runs too slow". This struck a chord, so I'm going to redress the balance in my own running to see what difference it makes.

Smile rating 7/10 (the 5 miler) 8.5/10 (the Wowgills)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Of unexpected marinas

Bit of a belated blog, this. On my London jaunt last week a couple of guys in the agency I was working in took me on a fantastic 5 miler along Regent's Canal. This was a great surprise. We were running along a canal path, past some very trendy apartments, watching swans and ducks. Then, before we knew it we were in the middle of Camden Market all a-heave with people.
And did you know there's a place in the heart of North London called 'St Pancras Marina'? Neither did I. But there is and it's full of canal boats.
The whole run was tremendous; like running along a hidden thoroughfare reasonably briskly.
Next week I'm back in the smoke. Hopefully we'll run it the other way, eastwards, which is apparently more rustic. I'll let you know if it happens.
Today's run is meant to be a long slow job, but I'm not sure it's going to happen. I'm working, I'm listening to the Oval Test on TMS and it's relentlessly, grimly, chucking it down with rain. I may just take a rain cheque. Feeble I know. But sometimes running just has to fit in where it can.
I think life will calm down a bit soon, so I can concentrate on some more serious training. In the meantime I'm just concentrating on not losing all my conditioning.
Smile rating 8/10

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

I discovered something wonderful this morning. I actually like running in London in the early morning. Once I dredged myself up out of bed and into my kit I was out the door and into the quiet coolness of Islington borough where I had the streets pretty much to myself.
I went exploring towards the City today. Just half an hour, but it was great. I saw one other runner - but they don't smile, nod or even grunt acknowledgement down here, so the cheery 'Morning' that left my lips probably turned into 'NUTTER ALERT' by the time it entered his head. Ah well. 
Smile rating 8/10

Sunday, 16 August 2009

On rambling

I'm finding it really hard to work my way back into serious training at the moment and I think the fundamental problem is that I'm a bloke. Not a blokey, beery, boorish bloke, just the possessor of a Y chromosome. And this affects my brain in a peculiar way.
I'm one of nature's filers. I like compartments. Everything in its rightful box. So, when I'm in the 'training' box, I train. But when I'm in a different box, it's hard. At the moment I'm in a 'working' box, which involves travel and hotels and meetings and stuff. I'm not in a 'training' box. So it's hard. Wrong box, you see. Y chromosomes don't make things easy.

Nonetheless, I was in the training box today and went out for 7 miles over the local fells. It was, at the same time, fantastic and horrible. Fantastic because I was roaming around a familiar place, threading bits of different routes together; horrible because I was deadly slow and felt really heavy and ploddy.
My route took me up and over Potter Fell which involves a grim climb but rewards the effort with a great canter along the tops. I came down off the side of the fell towards the buzzard tree (see an earlier blog) where I saw again these magnificent birds as they soared above and around me.
It was one of those runs where it took 4 miles before I realised that it wasn't as awful as it was a bit earlier and I began to enjoy it.
I was reminded of something I read in Haruki Murakami's book 'Things I talk about when I talk about running' which is: "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional" which sounds great when you realise that he was talking about running along the gentle roads of Hawaii in the summer sunshine; come and try it matey when you're flogging your way up Potter Fell under grey skies and wind with bearing the first hint of autumn!

To conclude this rambly blog, it's my 24th wedding anniversary today and my lovely Mags bought me Christopher McDougal's book "Born to Run" about a tribe of Mexican Indians who are ultrarunning supermen. I'm going to take it to London with me next week. Then, when I'm in my 'work' box, it'll transport me to my 'training' box and help me get out and do the miles I need to do. It'll be like an X chromosome with pages.
Smile rating 6/10


Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Lowther Trail travails

I don't know what the bloke was on when he measured the course of the Lowther Trail race. '12.5 miles, 1,300 feet' said the race details: 13.3 miles 2,300 feet said my Garmin! Now I know that Garmin's can sometimes be a bit suspect, but even so....
Still, it was a cracking run and my legs are still feeling it 2 days later. After registration and meeting up with ucollie and Charlie (he is a fantastic dog, full of character) we joined the motley assortment of runners for the understated start.
The route beganwith a longish, gentle descent along ankle-twanging rutted grass followed by a long, draggy climb to the first checkpoint up Heughscar hill. The climb was one of those where every time you looked up you thought the summit was just there, only for the climb to continue. For me it was about 26 minutes of continuous uphill. Still, it was runnable. This was followed by a lovely section over moorland, with a stunning view of Ullswater below, following tape markers that were tied to clumps of rushes (possibly Juncus effusus but I didn't stop to make sure). Eventually this led down to a river crossing - knee deep, not too cold, great fun - and then a really nasty steep uphill that seemed to go on for ever especially as the sun was really hot and we were out of the breeze. I struggled here and, from here on in, was accompanied with painful knees, groin, hips and back. There was a final downhill section on road which was pretty hard, then another sting-in-the-tail uphill section before the course broke out onto grass for the finish. Here I did my usual trick of losing my way - I couldn't find the finishing line - and I don't think I was the only one.
My time was 2:09:56 which worked out at 9.48min/mile which I was pleased with, considering the recent faltering in training.
Mind you, my effort paled into insignificance compared to Running Fox who I was delighted to meet afterwards; he finished many minutes ahead of me - well done RF. You're an inspiration to us all. I only hope that when I'm 77 I can do half as well!
Next up for me is the Derwentwater Lakeland Trail race in early September. Unfortunately, once again I'm working in London the week before, so my training will have to be around the streets. Not good, but it'll have to do.
Smile rating 7/10

Saturday, 1 August 2009

FOUND: ONE MOJO

Last seen dribbling away two weeks ago on 4 mile road run accompanied by throbbing left Achilles. Rediscovered on humble 2.7 mile River Loop, witnessed by sheep.

Isn't it horrifying how quickly any semblance of form disappears with any lay-off? I've done 3 gym sessions since being laid up, so my core strength should have improved, but my lungs and heart and legs and stamina and speed and climbing ability have all disappeared over the hill I can't run up and into the great blue yonder I can hardly imagine ever being able to reach.
And in the meantime ucollie is off doing double training at his Portugese training camp, crafty ol' Runningfox is doing altitude training and hill reps the like of which you'd dream of and runningbear's out busily winning everything in sight like some electrified gazelle (only more gracefully I'm sure). And, in a final flourish to this rant on the iniquity of injury, I've got to spend my final week before Lowther working in London, so my only running will be pounding the hard pavements of Finchley in order to stand a chance of getting round next Sunday. Perhaps I shouldn't worry about 'racing' at Lowther. Maybe I should take a picnic and think of it as a nice day out!!
Still. Today was great. Rubbish time. Rubbish heart and lungs. Rubbish leg strength. But no calf twinges, a half hour spent under the beautiful open Lakeland skies and the comforting feel of a returning Mojo.
Smiley rating: 3/10 for the performance, 10/10 for its significance

Monday, 20 July 2009

Left leg update

Good news! My troublesome left leg seems to be sorting itself out. I've not had the most sophisticated of injury recovery programmes - relaxing with my feet up, gentle pottering around the garden and a gym session - but it seems to be doing the trick.
The problem of course is: when do I start running again? Dare I risk a gentle 3 mile pootle around the River Loop? Can I pick up with my midweek 8? Is it too soon?
My entirely unscientific approach is to give it a calendar week. If it doesn't hurt too much when I prod it vigorously, then I'm going for a gentle, grassy plod and see what happens. If it continues to hurt then I'll ease off for two weeks and do sessions of 'running' in the swimming pool, which is brilliant at maintainingleg strength, stretching the offending tissues and helping flexibility.
Fingers crossed.
Am now off to read about the phenomenal running my online chums are doing. And I shall feel envious.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Oh Bu**er!

Well, it hasn't happened for a while.
I've only gone and picked up an injury. Blast it.
I was out doing my scheduled 4 miles up the lane to Garnett Bridge and back (if you're ever there, admire the gorgeous ferns lining the road in the dappled shade of the trees) when I felt a dull ache at the foot of my left calf muscle every time my foot hit the ground. The dull ache is now a more pointy one and it's throbbing as I type.
So I'm going to have my tea then take ibuprofen and watch telly with a pack of frozen peas clamped to the offending part.
Damn and double damn. I was going well too. Isn't it always the way.
Smiley rating: 8/10 for the running. -8/10 for the outcome

Sunday, 12 July 2009

On treacherous nipples

Where to start.
We're back from a wonderful week in Ireland, travelling around the wild west coast, eating fantastic seafood and drinking the odd pint of Guinness and generally chilling out. I did manage to get a couple of memorable runs in, in between the hedonism.
The first was an early morning 7 from the hotel in Killarney, along the jaunting car path to Muckross Abbey and along the lake. It was beautiful. Sunny, warm (but not the killer stifling heat that England was experiencing) and utterly still, with the waters of the lake lying mirror smooth.
The second was a fabulous trot out at Kilkee a pretty little seaside town with a sheltered harbour with a fine, firm sandy beach. Again it was early (about 0630) and there was nobody about. In fact it was better than that. There was nothing moving at all, apart from a vigorous flock of crows which, curiously seemed to outnumber the seagulls. It was like one of those 1960s sci-fi films in which the Martian plague wipes out an innocent town. I padded gently down the middle of the deserted streets and out along the cliff top path. I've never seen the Atlantic so tranquil. I worked my way back down to the town, pausing only to examine the construction details of a sea-going curragh at the harbour yard, and decided to go on the beach and do some intervals. I did about 8x30s with 30s rest and saw the only other living soul in Kilkee - a woman taking an early morning dip in the sea. All in all, a memorable run during a great week. And I'd like to thank Angie, Sally and Lucy for their wonderful hospitality while we were there.
On our return I went into a post-holiday slump and did no running at all last week. So today, I did the 14 miles that was in the schedule even though the more prudent course would probably have been to go back a week and ease into things again. Perhaps I wanted to punish myself for my indolence of last week. I kept thinking of President Kennedy's words about the lunar mission '... not because it is easy, but because it is hard'.
I followed the Dales Way westwards towards Windermere which starts with a flattish bit along the river and then goes up and down in splendid fashion for training purposes. I went a bit wrong on the way back so ended up doing 14.55 miles, with 2,804 ft of ascent at 11.05 min/mile pace. So not too bad.
Which brings me to my nipples. I was rather shocked to discover the characteristic hideous red patch on my top when I got back. In all my, ooh, 28 years of running I've never had a problem. What is going on? I've used that particular top (a Nike Dri-Fit long-sleeve job) perfectly normally for ages. I don't think I'm any more man-boobular than I ever was. It wasn't cold. I had no particular saucy fantasies going through my head. Perhaps my nipples are revolting. And perhaps I should stop right there.
Smiley rating: For Irish runs, 8.5/10
For today's run, 6/10 (incs. nipple coefficient adjustment)


Wednesday, 24 June 2009

I love summer!

Don't you just love these long, sunny days? After a day working at the computer it was a pleasure to get out for a super 7 miler along the Longsleddale valley. The route starts with a couple of miles that tend uphill, but it's along a lane; cool and sheltered by the overhanging trees and lined with ferns and clouds of midges. It then breaks out onto open fields full of somnolent sheep.
I saw not a soul, though you could hear the noise of traffic on the nearby A6. It felt as if I had this magical corner of the Lakes all to myself.
I felt good, pushed it and felt as if I was going quite well. The Garmin told the true tale of course (well, its version of the truth. For some reason it stopped after 20 mins. I didn't notice for about half a mile!): 9.09 min miles, for 7.97 miles and 1350 feet of ascent. Still, at the moment I'm happy with anything under 10 min miles, especially off-road. A good run.
This might be my last blog for a while, for reasons I'll explain next time. Bye for now and smile when you're running.
Smiley rating 8.5/10

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

On looking Californian

The world witnessed a weird sight today.
Smileyrunner in shorts (gasp!), T-shirt (no!), baseball cap (never!) and shades (what were you thinking?!) running in the powerful sunshine for 4 miles. I looked Californian. Without the tan, teeth, ripped musculature, flowing locks and good looks, obviously. I would have taken a pic. but left my phone at home.
Still, it was a nice, flowing, pleasing little run, only interrupted for the purchase of a few stamps in the village shop and to post some letters. But, boy was it hot. The countryside had that heavy, indolent feel about it. If, in your mind's ear, you turned the sounds of the birds into the sound of crickets, you'd think you were in the South of France. It was like running on holiday. And that's why this humble little trot, which I did as a tempo run, gets such a good rating.
Smiley rating 9/10

Monday, 22 June 2009

A run, a chat, a sneeze

My brother in law, Pete, was up this weekend, so I had company on my 'long' run (9 miles this week) which made a nice change. It's been a long time since I did an accompanied training run. We had a thoroughly pleasant time of it on a route which we named the 'Three Rivers' because the course takes you along the Kent, the Mint and the Sprint, with a few hills, a bit of golf course, the edge of a light industrial estate and caravan site in between.
I'd hoped to splice together two previous routes, but it didn't quite work. For the key bit I was trying to remember a walk that Mags and I did about a year ago, but we were running it in reverse and I made a mistake with about 3 miles to go. So on my midweek runs I'll try to put it right and get the final piece of the jigsaw into place.
The grasses are absolutely at their best at the moment. Great waist-high stems with nodding pink panicles making fields look like shimmering purple water, all pinpricked through with startling yellow buttercups and white daisies. Very beautiful - and a bugger for my hayfever as I was itchy-eyed, sneezing and wheezing as we went.
My training goes up a notch this week, with my Tues/Weds/Thursday runs being 4/8pace/4, whereas I've had 3/6/3 for a couple of weeks. Next weekend's long run is 14 miles. And so I creep ever onwards towards the September marathon and next April's 53...
Smiley rating 8.5/10

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Well, THAT didn't work...

It seemed like such a good idea. For my '6 mile, pace' today I thought I'd just follow the Dales Way, which runs towards Windermere to the west, and, um, Yorkshire I suppose, to the east. It's one of Britain's major walks. Must be clearly marked. No need for such fey affectations as map and compass, surely.
Oops.
It was the waist high sodden grass that first alerted me to the fact that my course and the official, well-walked, path had obviously drifted apart. That and the lack of any signage, however vague. So I just did one of those 'follow-your-nose' type runs where you run roughly in the direction you want to go, going around the edge of fields (so you don't flatten the crop. Well, any more than the day-long rain had done) until you find a gate or stile or way back to sanity.
It was actually pretty good fun, apart from the field of inquisitive steers that, in that slightly spooky way they have, ran along about a pace behind me. They were so little, I couldn't actually hear them. So you can imagine the shock when, on stopping to try and find a way out of the field, a dollop of cow dribble plopped onto my calf. JESUS! I'd no idea they were that close.
I tell you what, this running in the country lark is packed with incident. I feel sorry for those folk who, when they go out for a run, just go out for a run, run, and then stop. They don't know what they're missing!
I did the 6 miles, varying the pace by the cunning ruse of running hard up the hills on the way out and then running hard down the hills on the way back and running hard after every stile or gate. Overall, there were 2.76 miles of uphill, 2.41 of downhill and 0.96 on the flat and my heart spent most of its time in Zone 4 (80-90% of max). So the run became a weird hybrid of hills, intervals, tempo and fartlek. Hintertempfart I shall call it. Do try it.
Smiley rating 7.5/10

Monday, 15 June 2009

Ooh me aching bones

Not many larks about this morning, but I got up with as many as there were. At 0550 my feet hit bedroom carpet. At 0600 they hit Wilmslow pavement to do the 12 miles I should have done on Saturday. (I couldn't do it then, because I was out with the British Pteridological Society hunting for interesting ferns. What a life I lead).
It was a very pleasant morning as I ran from Wilmslow, through Alderley Edge for 6 miles, there to turn round and head back. I quite like out and back routes. Psychologically, turning for home feels good, every step takes you nearer, whereas with a big loop it doesn't feel as definite somehow.
I was doing pretty comfortably until 9 miles, where everything started to ache - particularly the groin muscles and right ankle for some reason. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the route was largely on road, though I ran as much of the grassy verges as I could. (Thank you Cheshire Council mowing teams).
After a bit of a battle, I got home in 1hr 48, which is a bit rubbish but at least I've got the miles in my legs.
Smiley rating 7/10

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Is it summer yet?

I ask because it wasn't here at 0650 this morning when I nipped out before breakfast and do my programmed 3 miles.
It was a still, soggy, heavy sort of morning with low cloud, the grasses stooped beneath the heavy dew and the trees bowed under the weight of the sky. Adding to the gloomy atmosphere, the sheep were all lying down, preserving their dry warm patch.
The dew was really heavy so my feet got soaked running through the long grass. It was freezing! My toes went numb, which is not what you expect in June. Still, it was nice to get out.
I felt dead slow again. I think I can still feel Saturday's effort in my legs, or maybe yesterday's. Oh well. Onward.
Smiley rating 6/10

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

On cognitive dissonance

Being smug is an unattractive thing, but feeling smug is, well, pretty good really.
I know this, because I'm feeling it right now. I've done my 6 miles and went out when it was sunny. Now I'm back it's raining!

I did a super route, through the village, along the River Kent, through a golf course, along the river again, and then through some fields to home. Lovely mixed terrain, with few hills. I felt I was running really well and began to think that this (for me) more serious training is beginning to pay off. I'm sure I'm thinner because my Garmin HR strap kept working loose!
So you can imagine my disappointment when the stats showed I was just sort of bumbling along at 9:30s/mile. Mind you, I did have to slow down in the last mile or so because I was trying to find a new way home, but still. I guess that there's a mismatch between how you feel you're running and how you're actually running sometimes.
Something I did notice today; when you run early afternoon mid-week you see an awful lot of people out walking their dogs! One particular lovely black St Bernard-type decided to bound along with me for a bit until he was called off by his owner. He looked a bit disappointed to stop. I like to think he was enjoying himself. I was.
On ultracollie's recommendation, I've entered the Lowther Trail run on 9th August. I think that means there's going to be 11 of us! It looks nice. 13 miles, mixed terrain, c.1500ft of ascent.
Smiley rating 8/10

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

No pain, no breakfast

3 miles at 0645 today. Gorgeous morning, cool and sunny.
Ran the 'lost camera' route. Alas, didn't find it. MInd you, the grass has grown another couple of inches. Talking of grass, my legs pricked itchily in the shower as I washed the pollen off.
Pleasant run, but hard, as it was relentlessly uphill on the way out. Still, it's another tick on my programme. 6 miles tomorrow.
Smiley rating 6/10

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Bedraggled runners unite!

Awoke at 0430 this morning to the sound of torrential rain pounding on the skylight. Oh great. The weather forecast was right. Then I realised that it would be another 8 hours before I was on the start line of Garburn (one of the Lakeland Trails series). Maybe things would improve.
They did. We set off in merely light sleet at 1230. For safety reasons, the organisers shortened the route from the projected 15 miles to 11 miles. This was because snow and strong winds were forecast on the Garburn Pass and the Mountain Rescue were concerned about runners getting hypothermia in the time it would take to reach them.
I must admit I was glad. My programmed long run today was only 11 miles, so this change of plan suited me perfectly! And it was quite hard enough thank you. We had rain pretty much all the way round which, as I have written about before on this blog, is a right b*gger for those of us who wear specs as it makes foot placement that much more iffy on the sort of stony terrain we covered. At its worst, we had great fat sleety dollops of rain blasting at us while running over moorland, through calf-deep puddles of freezing water. I knew that ultrarunning collie, runningbear and hordes of others were out at Wharfedale and events around the country and felt we were all one soggy, chafing brotherhood. I hope you all had a good time. I felt pretty ropey but was chuffed when I looked at my Garmin stats later: 11.89 miles, with 1,521 feet of ascent/descent, in 1:57:29, at a moving pace of 9.58. Oh, and there was a curlew bubbling away at one point on the moor which always lifts the spirits.
I hope everyone racing today had an enjoyable time and has a feeling of personal satisfaction.

Things I learned today...
  • Having Mags (and niece Helen) at the start/finish was wonderful
  • Vaseline on the feet is great (thanks urcollie)
  • Frijj strawberry milk shake immediately post-run is great
  • I should have taken a peaked cap to keep, maybe some, rain off my specs
  • Resist the temptation to use fingers to wipe the rain off your specs as long as possible - you're into smeary-vision world very quickly else
  • Chocolate-covered Kendal Mint Cake at the water stations is brilliant - thank you organisers
  • My Montane wind/showerproof top, though fabulously lightweight, wasn't really up to the job. Must investigate a better alternative for serious rain

Smiley rating 7/10 for performance, 9/10 for the race organisation

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

On despair

Sad run today. After pounding my keyboard all day I was up for getting out to do the '6 mile pace' demanded by my programme. It was such a lovely evening that I thought I'd take a few pics for the blog with the new Coolpix camera that Maggie had bought for me as a surprise present. So I tucked it into my bumbag and did the first 1.3 miles across the fields up towards Potter Fell. This is quite steep and I pushed it quite hard. I thought I'd catch my breath while taking a few pics.
So you can imagine my horror when I discovered that the camera wasn't there. Somehow it had worked it's way out of the bumbag. It was lying somewhere in 1.3 miles of grassland and uncut meadow.
So I spent a disconsolate hour and ten minutes going slowly back to my start point and then going back over the whole route again. To no avail. I must have walked past it three times, but I couldn't find it. I know it's only an object, a 'thing'. But it had special significance and I'm very sad.
Up until then I was really enjoying my run too, I felt as if Iwas going well.
Smiley rating -10

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Wow!

My programme for this week says 3 miles today, 6 mile pace tomorrow, 3 miles the day after with 11 on Saturday. (I'm following Hal Higdon's marathon training schedule, prior to moving smoothly onto his ultra programme later in the year (in 14 weeks time)).
So I was out of the house this morning, just after the sports news at 0630, and it was brilliant. The sun was up, but the shadows were still long. The air smelt wonderful, full of the fragrance of grass, earth and flowers as the sun's early warmth lifted the dew.
I followed a familiar route for the first mile and a half and then, rather than just turn back the way I came, I followed a footpath sign across a field I'd never been in before. And that's when I had one of the most fantastic experiences I've had as a runner. I was making my way across this broadly domed field when I heard a really loud 'peeeiow' sound and a two large shadows flew over me. It was a pair of buzzards wheeling around, gliding just a few feet from my head. They circled round, calling out, before lazily drifting off to a copse of trees where they alighted on what looked like a dead branch. They were HUGE. And majestic. And magnificent. It made the fact that the footpath had disappeared and I had no idea how to get out of the field completely unimportant.
I realise this log is reading more like a 'Nature Notes' article in the paper than a proper athletic running log, but I guess that's just the way my running is going right now. I'm getting the miles in, I'm working towards a long-term goal that seems, frankly, terrifying, and I'm getting some extraordinary experiences right on my doorstep. So I'm going to keep at it and see where this journey takes me.
See you tomorrow....
Smiley rating 9/10

Monday, 1 June 2009

Hello Lakes

So, 6 miles for my 'long' run this week, back home in the beautiful Lakes. I did it on Sunday. A Sunday of unbroken sunshine, dire warnings of UV exposure on the telly and with half a bottle of champagne inside me because it was my wife's birthday and, well, driniking champagne on your patio in the sunshine is such a rare treat that it seemed churlish not to help finish it.
Still, I left it a couple of hours thinking that I would have detoxed a bit and it would have got cooler. I was wrong on both counts. Nonetheless I headed out, with the plan of running out for 3 miles and then turning back.
This would have worked well if, at 2.8 miles I wasn't working my way round the perimeter of a newly-sown field trying to find where the footpath went. With the heat and the low sun, the thought of 'Sod it' went through my mind and I decided to turn round there and then and tack the extra 0.4 mile on the end.
This turned out to be an inspired idea because that final 0.4 was through the most gorgeous mixed meadow, full of calf-high buttercups and clover, alive with insects. The sun caught the face of each of the flowers turning the meadow into a pointilliste jewel.
So I had all that and little champagney burps all the way round. It was the sort of run that training purists would frown upon, but it was a delightful experience all the same. And that's what counts really. I'm not going to shatter records and trouble finishing tapes. It's the experience that counts. But I'm going to leave it a bit longer after the next bottle of shampoo.
Smiley rating 8/10

Bye Bye London

The final 3 miler of my London trip was another early morning jaunt around Islington. I found yet another new route (not that it's hard in London!) and nipped round pretty easily, despite it being incredibly warm.
As I ran I mused on plane trees. As you do. They are very common in cities as they cope well with the pollution. On one road I ran along they had been severely pruned to lift the canopy. They looked like gaunt lollipops with tall trunks and a clutch of naked branches sprouting from the top. They looked butchered frankly. But they can stand it for, high up, little buds were sprouting new leaves and the low sun made the characteristic smooth, splotchy bark stand out clearly.
Not a great run. Not a bad run. Just a run. Nice enough for a smiley rating of 6/10. My next run according to my programme, is a 6 mile slow jobby back home.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Ralph McTell of all people

The great thing about these late Spring/early Summer mornings is that it makes it much easier to get up in the morning. Which was why I found myself at 0545 tottering around the streets of London (and why the blog has the title it does). 
It was warm, and slightly humid as I left the hotel and ran up and out towards Islington. I've no idea where I went and after yesterday's debacle with the Garmin I left it at home and just ran for 45 minutes. My only route choice was to a) remember where I'd been so I could get back(!) and b) if a road had trees in it, I ran along it in the probably misguided belief that I would get cooler, fresher air!
As a run, it was great. There is something nice about running in a city as it wakes up. There was traffic on the main roads, but I was running up quiet side streets and around tree-lined squares, peeking into people's gardens. I saw a squirrel too, which I'm sure is the sort of detail that will really make your day; "Hey, darling, the economy's tanked, Korea's charging towards nuclear war, our parliamentary system's a bucket of sleaze, but never mind, Smileyrunner's seen a squirrel". 
My apologies if you've now got Ralph's song in your head all day...
Smiley rating 7.5/10

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

There's never a satellite when you want one...

Just a quick one. Did my required 3 miler around the streets of North London at 0645 this morning. I say 3 miles. It could have been anything. I switched my Garmin on as I left the hotel I'm staying in, and it was still 'searching for satellites' by the time I got back! Anyway, I was out for about half an hour. And I really enjoyed it, despite being sleepy. 
Smiley rating 7/10

Saturday, 23 May 2009

On champagne and cuckoos

Perhaps the third glass of champagne last night was a mistake. Still, it was a special occasion. We met my Dad's new fiancee, who's lovely, and we felt all celebratory.
So, heading off on this week's 'long slow steady' of 9 miles, I was perhaps more lethargic than normal at 6.45 in the morning. I decided to do my familiar Home/Potter Fell/Stavely/Home route which starts with a nice lollop along the river, then climbs about five hundred feet in a mile before contouring along and then down again.
I enjoyed the nice lollop along the river.
I was hopeless on the climb and then began to get worried that the route wasn't going to be long enough. I didn't want to get back home with, say only 7.4miles in my legs. So I devised a cunning plan.... Part of the route goes three quarters of the way around a lonely fishing tarn with the peculiar name of Gurnal Dubbs. My cunning plan was to go round it twice, so giving me an extra 0.7 of a mile. To anyone observing I must have looked lost at best and a nutter at worst! Ah well, the skylarks didn't care. They just serenaded me with their fabulous, carefree song which I shall always associate with the wild moorlands. On the way down off the Fell I heard my first cuckoo of Spring coming from a copse and that's the end of today's ornithological update!
I never quite got into the run, but it was pleasant enough. I enjoyed having done it.
For the digitally minded, it was 9.86 miles (so I needn't have gone twice round the tarn) with 1,220 feet of ascent/descent. My moving time was 1hr 47, at a pace of 10:54. Max HR was 163, average was 141. And I burnt 1051 calories which meant a day of cake.
Smiley rating 6/10

Thursday, 21 May 2009

On dung

Another three miles towards the great Highland Fling adventure completed today. I went along the river Kent for a change. It's quite wide here, and tranquil, with overhanging branches that are just begging to be occupied by kingfishers - but aren't. It's all a bit low lying and we've had a lot of rain , making it more than a bit muddy. So much so that if I'd have stood still for too long when I got home I reckon my feet would have been quickly colonised by dung beetles. Nonetheless, it was a gorgeous run in warm sunshine. I'm working in London next week, so I'll be pavement pounding and choking on traffic fumes. Ah well, I'll have the memory of this one to sustain me.
Smiley rating 8.5/10

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

On box ticking

Guru Hal Higdon said I should do 3 miles today. So I did (nearly). I did my local River Loop which is 2.68 miles, on assorted sodden lanes, tracks and fields with 260-ish feet of ascent/descent. I did it in 26.05 (which might be a PB). So when I got home I was able to tick that particular box on my training plan. Yippeee!

On the run I had the weirdest experience of accidentally kicking a flying sparrow (though it could have been a chaffinch; not that this is particularly germane to the story). I was running on the right hand side of a narrow lane, close to a high hedge. The poor bird must have been startled by my arrival for it flew out of the hedge just in front of my right foot (I felt its wing on my shin). Unfortunately, it flew left across my body and got caught by my left foot as I completed the stride. It was a bit like when you hit a puddle with one foot, but it's the other one that catches the splash.

Smiley rating: 8/10 for the run, 10/10 for peculiar ornithological excitement.

On coming over all Bridget Jones

Tuesday May 19th. Weight 68.3kg (not good). Height 1.8m (but can't measure myself so used record from last medical 2 yrs ago. Can't have shrunk much can I?). BMI 21.1 (not good enough for an athlete, nor morbidly obese enough to get own programme on Channel 4). Wine last night; 1 lge glass (relatively restrained). Sleep last night, 6 hours (bad, but understandable given weird dream about being attacked by dwarf brandishing clump of blue grass).
Highland Fling 2010 training commenced at 7am with 5 miles along delightful, hilly country lane lined with majestic ferns (v.g). Completed in 46.46, at 9.20 pace (not good). Glacial movement explained by a) 7am start, b) ensuring it was conversational pace and c) wine/sleep combination of the night before. Average HR 140bpm, max 160 (good).
Smiley rating 7/10

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Of megaplops and microbites

Don't panic. This is not a geek's guide to running rather me unable to resist a pun. Popped out yesterday for a pleasant evening River Loop run (which, my Garmin tells me is 2.58 miles, with about 100m of ascent/descent). It starts with a run above the river on a narrow wooded path with overhanging trees. There was an incongruous purple tent snugged down close to the water. (I hope they had their midge flap shut or else they'd've had a tent full of zizzlies). The route then breaks out onto glorious fields, with Potter Fell on the skyline, full of sheep and, WHAT!, suspiciously large excretory dollops. Oh no. They farmer's only gone and put cows in the field. Now, I like sheep. They nibble the grass smooth, have cute lambs and they run away from you. But cows are different. Their hoofprints make the ground all hummocky and difficult to run on, they run alongside you in a stampeding way (I was on a run once when, in a parallel field, this daft cow ran along with me and ran right through a barbed wire fence. It ripped the posts out of the ground and trailed the whole thing with it until it stopped, bemused) and they have the unerring ability to drop their plops right in gateways and the foot of stiles. Sure enough, they bounded along gaily with me until I escaped over the stile in the wall and continued up the hill.
The rest of the run was uneventful, though beautiful. It was clouding over which somehow made the bluebells shimmer even more brightly, even though they are going over now. The spikey white flowers of the wild garlic were in full bloom and the smell was enough to put you in mind of lamb chops.
Once back home I discovered a little anklet of insect bites right round the tops of my socks. They itch like hell as I sit here typing this. Still, I'm not grumbling. There's a lot of runners who'd love to have such a cracking run on their doorstep. And I did it at a 9.57 pace, so it was a nice 'recovery run' after the ghastliness of the intervals.
Smiley rating 7.5/10
Just remembered another cow/runner story. A guy at my old club (Macc Harriers) got badly injured by a wayward bovine on a run. Broken ribs I think. Anybody else got any animal tales? Maybe next time I'll tell about the time I got pummelled by a reindeer....

Monday, 11 May 2009

On unfeasible knackerdness

Because I'm basically an endurance runner - with a current endurance threshold of about 2 hours which is pretty pathetic really - I don't do very much faster-paced running. I'm getting into that awful habit of just plodding along, all the time aiming to do so for longer and longer. Not very scientific. Not, probably, very effective. Certainly not conducive to sparkling performances.
So I've made a change. I'm going to do more shorter, interval-type, sessions and introduce elements of fartlek into my longer runs. That way I hope to stay fresher and feel quicker. I know it's not rocket science, but unless I tell myself to do these sorts of sessions, they don't get done.
With this in mind I set off today (stimulated by runningbear's tales of hills and urcollie's new bike) to do some 200m reps. I was going to do 400m reps, but that would have meant disturbing the sheep in the field too much. The field I use is like an inclined dinner plate. The sheep were all at the lower edge of the plate (enjoying their dinner as it were) So, rather than go round the field, and spooking them, I did my intervals along the top rim of the platey field. (I hope I'm giving you a fine agricultural picture here!). And I realised very quickly why I tend to put off doing them. I was crap. Shocking. Wheezing and spaghetti-legged. It was the sort of session where you say to yourself 'Can this be doing any good at all?'. It was all the more galling because it was the most perfect day for running in. Bright blue skies, classic, chocolate-box, fluffy white clouds, smoothly nibbled soft grass and a beautiful cool breeze. Ah well. It was great to get out. Let's hope the weather holds for a bit longer.
I'm off to dig out Hal Higdon's marathon schedule now. It'll be a laugh if he says that all you have to do is develop a good plod and then learn to do it for longer and longer...
Smiley rating 3/10, but 10/10 for the weather

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Sorry, folks

This blog'll be pretty meaningless to pretty much everyone. But I found a new route today: Out across the River Sprint towards Skelsmergh, through the field with the rustic wicket gates (and not-so-rustic overhead electric fence cable), past the boggy bit to the Shap road (A6), then a sort of right hand curve following your nose and the footpath signs to loop back further S. on the A6, turn into the Burneside road, across a couple of fields, back across the Sprint and home. As I said, meaningless. But it was a very pleasant 45 minutes or so in blustery sunshine. I'll do it again once I've got my Garmin chest strap back (long story) so I can be a bit more digit-intensive for you.
Cracking route though. Nicely undulating, lovely sheep-mown grassy slopes, interesting stiles and gates, a friendly collie in the farm at the furthermost point... what more could you want? Felt good too. Just sort of drifted along, nice and steady. Came back to discover England were well on top in the Test Match as well.
Smile rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

On bluebells and apprentices

I was a million per cent ready for this run. If anybody had got in my way I'd have eaten their teeth and made a paste of their gonads because I am, without doubt, the greatest runner in Europe and I win every time I go out.
Terribly sorry about that; 'The Apprentice' is on tonight. I must be getting into 'odious twat' mode in preparation.
I was in Sleepy Lardy-Legs mode at 7 this morning when I went out for a 5 miler around the lanes near Staveley. For the last two days we've had nothing but unremitting, wind-lashed rain; lying in bed last night all I could hear was the gales rattling the roof slates and the raindrops machine-gunning the windows. But this morning all was calm and the world had a refreshed tranquillity about it. It was as if the whole countryside was sleeping peacefully after being scrubbed clean. I was so stiff, having not been out since Sunday, but the magic of running took over (as it almost invariably does) and for the last mile I was running little fartleky intervals from tree to tree and gate to gate. It was great.
Smile rating 7.5/10
These few weeks are probably my favourite, from a botanical point of view, of the whole year. The verges are bursting with life and there's a short period of time when the bluebells and cow parsley are both flowering equally vigorously. This magical combination makes the lanes look like they're edged by frothy rivers.
All in all, a good run. Mind you, I've been reading Running Bear's terrific blog (check it out) and I'm going to have to get my arse in gear (as an Apprentice would say) and up my training if I'm going to get round Garburn in 4 weeks time. Thanks RB for the kick-start (and could you drop in a recipe for the muffins?).
Let's hope git-weasel Ben gets the big finger tonight...

Friday, 1 May 2009

On the one hand...

... I've just had (yesterday evening) a 9.9 smileyrating run. It was only my local river loop but somehow it was almost perfect. I'd been working all day, done my washing and ironing (I proffer these domestic details to show what a wild, hedonistic existence I enjoy) and had a bottle of something white and pleasing a-chilling in the fridge. So I was ready to go out for a run.
The rain had stopped, the sun had come out and everything was dripping and fresh. It was gorgeous. I took no watch, just ran because it was a nice thing to do. And it flowed, feeling easy even up the long drag up the sheep field. It was good and soggy underfoot, but even that was pleasurable. On the return leg (the course basically goes up one side of the River Sprint and back down the other) the bluebells were shimmering, fluorescing perfection and the sun sparkled on the rain-drenched grass. Fantastic.
Smile rating 9.9

...on the other hand, I've just decided to enter the Highland Fling next year. This is 53 miles along the West Highland Way. It's all ultrarunning collie's fault. Read his blog (ultrarunningcollie.blogspot.com) for the full story. It's all there. Tragedy, heroism, sacrifice, triumph. How could you not be moved into trying it? If that doesn't work, take a look at the website www.highlandflingrace.org and the pictures will make it irresistible. I wonder if there'll be bluebells?

Monday, 27 April 2009

A Good Marathon

Had a really good London Marathon this year. The conditions were perfect. The crowds were unbelievable and gave you a lift when you were flagging. I think I went off too quickly at the start, but as the miles unfolded I settled into a nice steady rhythm. By keeping well hydrated, I found I was able to stay focussed and in the zone for the full three and a half hours of BBC1 coverage. I even had enough left later for the highlights programme.
I have to say that all elements of my training came together well; the stamina sessions watching the darts and the snooker, and the short, sharp, Question of Sport interval telly sessions that are so vital when you've got full-on Sue Barkering to contend with. As is usual, before the marathon I went out for a run (if you go out afterwards, it looks like you've been shamed into it by watching it on telly) and did a crisp 36 minute tempo session around the mean streets of, er, Wilmslow. Gorgeous day, cool and sunny and I felt good. Mind you, I can't imagine ever doing London. 50,000 people and 26.2 miles on road. Are you mad? Give me fells!
Smile rating 8/10

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Happy Hawkeshead

Hawkeshead Trail Race, 15km, Sat 18th April. Lakeland wore her prettiest face for the event: Bright sunshine, cool air, a light breeze.
It's a beautiful course, quite tough, with bits of road, a bit of forest trail and lots of stony footpath/bridlepath - pretty typical Lakeland running then. Despite my trepidation, by the time of the start I had my head in gear. I'd gone through all my usual pre-event routine (sunscreen, recce the last 800m or so, have a wee, light jog, gentle stretch, bit of chat with the person next to me on the start line) and was feeling really calm.

I ran conservatively, stayed well hydrated, enjoyed the brilliant chocolate-covered Kendal Mint Cake at 11km just before the infamous Coffin Trail (a steep, stony path from Windermere up to Claife Heights) and had enough left for a madcap final 800m down a steep grassy bank and across the field to the finish. Madcap, but I must have gained 20 places in those last minutes.
I finished in 1.42. My Garmin said I'd done 9.75 miles - which makes my pace about 10min 30sec/mile. Which I was happy with.

Observations:
  • Starting near the back of the course is a good way of staying calm.
  • I was unusually irritated at continually overtaking/being overtaken by a guy in long combat trousers. I think I saw him off between 12 and 13k, but I may be wrong.
  • I finished ahead of the great Ron Hill.
  • Running at the back meant I was with a lot of runners who were unused to off-road running. It was gratifying how easily I drew away from them when the uphill road became uphill bridleway. There's definitely something in being experienced off-road. And it's rooted in balance and the ability to vary stride length, to skip sideways where necessary and to know when to walk!
  • Having realistic expectations is a good way of enjoying a race. I wasn't racing. I just had fun.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Thank you, golden retriever

I think I'm coming out of my slump. And I've a golden retriever to thank for it. It was an ordinary dog, doing ordinary doggy, snuffly, running around things, with a stick in its mouth and shaking its head. It was in a park in Wilmslow where I went for some nice smooth grass running to see if I could settle my aching back. On my second of three brisker intervals I saw the aforementioned dog and, all of a sudden, the world was a nicer place. It was sunny, breezy, not particularly warm, but there were families out enjoying the open space - playing football and throwing a stick for the dog. I guess I just relaxed and in so doing just began to enjoy my running; it began to flow.
Sometimes, it's the little things that give the sense of perspective. Roll on Hawkeshead on Saturday. The forecast looks OK - sunny but with a cool wind. New shoes. New enthusiasm. What could possibly go wrong...!
Smile rating 8.5/10

Monday, 13 April 2009

On shoes and shuffling

After last week's slump (see last post) went out today in my new Roclite's. Wonderful shoes. Not the greatest cushioning -but most of the run was on fields and fell, so OK - but brilliantly comfortable.
Did 8 and a half miles along the river to Staveley then up and over Potter Fell.
Still felt like tish backwards and struggled hugely on anything remotely like a slope (were the Spanish hill reps all in vain?) but plodded and shuffled on anyway and gained some satisfaction from at least having completed it.
Doesn't bode well for Hawkeshead next week though. Funny, three weeks ago I was looking forward to it. Now fear has crept in and the brain is making noises like 'well, let's just treat it as a training run,' 'just enjoy it', 'don't worry about time'. Hey ho. This is just running I suppose.
Gorgeous day out today. Sunny, calm and cool. Lambs a go-go. Skylarks and curlews filling the air with song. Perfect for running. Which makes my grovelling progress all the more galling.
Smile rating: 10 for the weather, 9 for my shoes, 3 for me.

On inertia

I kind of knew it would happen. I come back from holiday and have an enormous attack of can't-be-arsed-to-go-running. It all seem so pointless. I'm not getting any younger. It's not going to make me any younger. It's too hard. My spirits have indeed slumped. I've got the first of the Lakeland Trails in a week's time and there's no way I'm ready.
I went out for a River Loop run - my local half hour run - and everything was wrong. My feet hurt, lungs hurt, legs hurt and soul hurt. Sod it. Time to quit.
Decided the only thing to do was to go shopping. So went to Pete Bland's and bought some Innov8 Roclites to replace my Montrail Highlanders that were good, but pinched my feet. They don't 'stretch with wear'. If anything, the constant wet-dry cycles they go through made them shrink a bit.
Sat and looked at my new shoes in their new box.
For a long time.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Hola!

There's a beautiful grass that grows on a hillside in southern Spain. It's known locally as 'Cerillo grass' - the grass that grows on the cerillo (small hill). It's used as fodder for mules and grows in great profusion among the shoulder-high rosemary, bee orchids and myriad other exquisite wild flowers that line the zig-zag stony goat tracks that traverse the steep terrain.
It was among this beautiful grass that I did a twenty minute Kenyan hill session whilst on holiday recently. My route took me from the villa, down the steep, metalled, road to the plunging goat-track which led to a Roman bridge in the base of the valley. From here was a short, steep uphill section to rejoin the sinuous curves of the metalled road as it folded in upon itself. Once back on the tarmac, it was grind uphill, curve after curve, with no respite, back to the beginning of the goat track. Then repeat. Twice more.
It was a sweaty Smileyrunner that eventually dragged itself back to the villa. A tough training session. But scenically stunning.
Smile rating 7.5/10