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 ( 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 and the pictures will make it irresistible. I wonder if there'll be bluebells?