Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ian Hodgson Ups & Downs!

Apart from the no-show disappointment of Stage1 for the mixed team (and Me!), and me mixing up the dibbers (doh!) twas a grand day out in't fells again - Thanks to all those who ran, many battling adversity to put in some gutsy stage runs and setting some great PB times. Speaking personally, Derek and myself passed 10 teams on Stage3, were 2nd Vets and missed old vets record by 1minute - Dark Peak winning in a new record time! I was definitely feeling the burn on that climb trying to keep up with Derek (maybe not running stage1 was a blessing in disguise!). Thanks also to Sal & Gill who did us proud. Results on:-

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Well, if anyone's seen the photo (not the one above- thats been taken by Stu after I'd run a bit of weight off- thanks Stu!) taken of me in 'transition', you'll know that although I may not have been the best Chairperson of Eden Runners, then I'm certainly the f...f....f..FATTEST!

The photo has obviously either been 'photoshopped' to place my head on 'some other fat blokes body' or the photo's been accidentally digitally enhanced around the 'beer gut' area, not discernible in real life!

Anyway, I knew I was in trouble on Friday, having just decided to enter that day, when I couldn't get my bike booked into Arragons to get the dodgy gears sorted out until 7 September, hmmmmmm a little too late for my immediate needs.

Undeterred I dropped my entry off and awaited the big day.

Obviously I now know that forward planning is everything in the world of 'TRI', but being a novice, my advance planning involved: pumping up the bike tyres, and that was it. Oh, and my specialist TRI equipment preparation involved getting an old pair of shorts, threading a 'bit of string' (technical term us TRIies use ) taken from a fancy dress longbow, through the place where the elastic had perished in the waistband, and cutting the bottoms off the pockets to 'reduce drag through the water' (note the misplaced optimism that I'd actually create enough forward momentum to cause 'drag').

On the big day, I'd decided to wear contact lenses and hope they wouldn't come out in the water. Helpful advice from others made me realise that (a) they would and (b) I had to get some goggles. After shelling out another £8:50 for goggles (this was becoming a hugely expensive event!) I was ready!

But not quite ready, because as I prepared for the swim (taking my shirt off) I was stung by a wasp with 5 minutes to go before the swim - AGONY!

Here we were then, in the leisure pool (that's surely an oxymoron if ever there was one, whatever went on in those lanes wasn't leisure whatever way you looked at it, and I was looking at it through one good eye and a lot of water, flailing arms and legs etc etc).

Next mishap - rinsing my new goggles waiting for our heat to start, a splash of water whipped my right contact lens up into the back of my eyelid where it stayed through the event - I eventually got it out at teatime! So, the advice about losing them in the water was complete nonsense - I thought I'd never get the bloody thing out!

After an eternity in transition- having seen the results I can only think I had time to build another bike whilst I was f***ing around getting my cycling/running gear on, it was off on the bike.

What a farce! Due to the number on front/ number on back chaos I'd opted for number on front and turn my shirt round for the cycle ride.......bad, bad move as my energy bar then my gel bag skittered onto the road from my now front facing rear shirt pockets, before I got to the corner at the Cross Keys, where incidentally, the small saddle bag with my spare inner tube also parted company with us, the way things were going, if bits continued to fall off there seemed to be a good chance that just me and the bike frame would be together by the time I hit Great Salkeld...

I'd also realised I'd forgotten to put on my 'specialist anti - fly sunglasses', and spent the entire ride waiting for the inevitable fly to hit my remaining and unprotected left eye, thus causing blindness and the inevitable crash ( lucky for me, I got away with it!).

After another hilariously long transition - what had I been doing? I thought I'd been quick, but the result times don't lie - had I sauntered off to chat to other idlers in transition- I don't think so; I did have to receive a telling off from the referee about taking my helmet off before I'd racked my bike, and I did spend some time wondering what, exactly, did she think would fall from the sky in the middle of the astroturf onto my unprotected bonce that the helmet was meant to be protecting me from (incidentally, what was that wasp doing in the middle of an artificial football pitch with no flowers within hundreds of metres....?)- I set of to do the run, and very quickly that was it - EVENT COMPLETED!

Apart from the final bloody nail in the day, the icing on my fragile sponge cake, the dream topping on my angel delight - that bogging awful photograph!

Strangely though, I think I might have another shot next year as I've worked out that if I don't improve AT ALL in the main events - swimming, cycling and running, but knock seven and a half minutes off my transition times, I'll move up seventy six places in the standings to a very respectable position!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sand, Sea and Sky

Northumberland Coastal Run - 12 July 2009
...for Karen H, who missed this day, of all days, due to being unwell. Better luck next time lass....

A nuclear submarine patrols the entrance to Alnmouth bay, Sunday 07.30am. Or could it be Coquet Island?

Alnmouth, 7.30am Sunday 12 July, 2009. Having been immaculately driven across the slumbering heartland of the True North, four of us leapt out of the car onto the beach-head dunes. Everyone I ever knew always stands and just looks at the sea at such a moment, as if recalling a time gone by when it was not called The Sea, but was Home. With time to admire the scenery, we looked for the finish line. And there it is...

....competely deserted. We would return several hours later, by which time the sea would have retreated, driven back by a tide of humankind. Nearly all of whom, eventually, would be smiling. We wandered up past the little golf course and through the streets of the village. Already there were runners, making calls from mobiles or buying newspapers.

..that’s club-night catering sorted for the foreseeable, then ....The Red Lion, Alnmouth.

Over the bridge across the River Aln, inland towards the race carpark and the buses to the start. A helpful lercal chep advised us that registration was about a mile that way. Thanks mate - we knew already, but we must have appeared lost, or at least unsure of ourselves. No matter. The first bus left just before we arrived, but there were plenty of buses, and we stepped onto the next one. With the bus filling up, we were joined by Joanne & Craig, fresh from their Ironman exploits en France. They related some flavour of their experiences, which formed an interesting backdrop to my second breakfast of the day, the banana sandwich. Gill also arrived at the same time, having joined the thrang from an overnight in Bamburgh. The 30 minute journey passed quickly, with glimpses of Dunstanburgh along the way, and soon we were off the bus and walking down to the harbour at Beadnell. In a change to previous procedure, we collected race numbers and timing chips here.

Looking south from Beadnell towards Dunstanburgh, about 4 miles as the arctic tern flies....or around 5 miles as the athlete runs. No Joanne, that’s not even halfway....

All was well organised, and provided you could remember how to spell your surname, you had no reason to quibble. Those who were to insist on quibbling later were, I have to say, victims of their own late arrival at the start. This fate befell some of our very own Eden Runners, resulting in some medium-grade flapping in the carpark before the start.

Not so for SuperKev though. Having overnighted in Newcastle, and already tidily parked, he went through his pre-race routine like the model professional he has become. Soon we were assailed, in the nicest possible way, by Karen C and Sally, who shot off immediately to collect their numbers. Julia and Gill DS-D were, apparently, somewhere in the queue for the Ladies.

Having registered, Gill treated us to a medley of sea-shanties on the harmonica, which had John practising his robotic dance moves....

Cheer up Tony man....

Gradually, through the discarding of layers of clothing, we became recognisable as runners. Some chose trail shoes, some said road shoes would be best. Several of us went for a pre-race coffee, going against strict protocol in some cases. Would it help, or hinder? We had our own on-team nutrition expert who gave a brief but dazzling insight into the importance of continuous hydration. We analysed, obviously, the various methods of attaching the timing chips to the shoes. Kevin was, if I recall, the only left-footer. Such interesting things kept us occupied as we waited for Julia and Gill DS-D, who were apparently in the queue for the Ladies.

We were surprised by the appearance of the famous motorcyclist, Ian Horne, totally overdressed for the occasion in full leathers. Team support and photographer was to be his role today, carried off with elan as you would expect from Horney. We made sure he was aware of our refuelling requirements, to be taken onboard at Craster.

Bags were zipped and fastened and placed carefully on the baggage bus. Empty coffee cups were placed in bins. Club vests of every colour combination clung together in huddles or wove their way through the crowds. A strange calm descended on the gathering, infusing us with an intangible sense of serenity. Except that, Julia and Gill DS-D were still stuck in the queue for the ladies.....

Suddenly, they were both among us with tales of omigod I thought we’d never make it, etc etc. And then the ‘5 minutes!’ shout was heard, and we funnelled through the dunes and onto the sand to the start flags. First part of challenge – get to the start line without your shoes filling with sand. This start is a bit like the Aintree Grand National, but without the tape. Hundreds of runners strung out across the sand - some already aiming for the very edge of the water to find the line of least distance, others just admiring the view. I laughed out loud at the lady to my right who said she was determined not to get her feet wet. I nearly told her to get back on the bus. She has no chance, I thought, of staying dry.

Whilst running through the Beadnell Bay surf (well, nearly) I must have passed Mr Paul Flynn, apparently there and shouting greetings to members of his former ER cohort. After maybe half a mile I became aware of the sound of hundreds (or maybe thousands) of terns on and over the wet sand between us and the dunes. Silvery white, forked tails, little daggers for beaks, all protesting at (or maybe celebrating) our presence. Into an offshore headwind, and under the warm sun, we streamed south. It was interesting running – obviously lots of sand, but more rocks to skip round or jump off than I’d recalled. And water of course – impossible not to be soaked almost immediately, but refreshing.

We scrambled off the beach at the south end of Newton Links, through the dunes and quickly onto tarmac, skirting the mysteriously named ‘Football Hole (I think it’s where the ‘real’ NUFC has been tipped off the cliff, to be replaced by the current ‘car-crash’ version) towards High Newton, where the route veers sharp left and on to Low Newton by-the-Sea. I think we passed a pub here, which if true makes this surely one of the most idyllic pub locations anywhere. At 3 miles we are back on the sand at Embleton Bay, which sweeps south & east and is dominated by the somehow forlorn (I think) but inspiring ruins of Dunstanburgh itself. This stretch of sand is over a mile and a half, and my own race begins to become a struggle around this point. Anyway, off the beach, reed bunting singing somewhere to my right, along the undulating trodden path above the rocks, ending this section with a bit of a climb up around the landward side of the castle, away from the clamouring kittiwakes on the cliffs at Castle Point.

Still on trodden paths, the west walls of the castle above us, Craster soon hoves into view. Lots of support through the village. Special thanks to the tiny little girl who told me ‘..don’t worry there’s drinks round the corner’. There weren’t. She lied. I believed a two year old and was let down. Hmm. No wonder we all end up cynics.

Off the tarmac, onto clifftop path again, circumnavigating Black Hole, we ran on past Cullernose Point to rejoin the road just north of Howick. Then it’s onto grassy lonning as we head past Rumbling Kern, a drop down over a footbridge at Sugar Sands, a short sharp climb up and past Howdiemont Sands, taking care to note the rocks at Longhoughton Steel, Red Ends, and Boulmer Steel and onto the road before racing past the lifeboat station at Boulmer. Treading tarmac for another mile, eventually we were sent left and down a few steps onto the sand again. With a few drops of rain in the headwind, the skies visibly brightened as I removed my sunglasses. After running about a mile the direct line turned slightly to the west again, and we could actually see the finish flags – but they're a real long way off. Spectator numbers increased towards the finish, and a young lad of maybe 9 or 10 ran out to join his dad to my left on the run in. His little brother was left trailing in their wake, his plaintive wails lost on the breeze. Even though I was using every ounce of what I had left, I couldn’t make any ground on them. Ian is there near the finish trying to hide behind a little camera, but he is spotted. I stop running. A woman with a pair of pliers is waiting to remove something from me. I have no energy left to resist, so I’m relieved to discover that she only wants the timing chip.

The meltemi which blows offshore at this time of year soon began to cool us down, so those race t-shirts were a bonus. With such a large field there is always plenty of support for other competitors coming from many of those who have already finished. Our ER competitors today were John, Andy Wack, Tony, Kevin, Julia, Gill D, Sally, Gill DS-D, Karen C, Joanne & Craig. And me. We collect our bags from the buses over the golf course, and decide to reconvene in Warkworth, a few miles to the south, for refreshments. After some local parking-related difficulties, Craig led us to a fantastic courtyard cafe, where we lounged in the sun, refuelling with scones, lemon cake and that perfect finish, a mug of tea.

In fact, although well over an hour after I’d stopped running, I thought that this was easily the best part of the race.

Next year anyone?

Sunday, June 21, 2009


The Colossus of Roads

Championship Race number 10. Freckleton. It sounds distinctly unimpressive. Certainly not the sort of place-name to strike fear into the heart of the hardened (northern) runner. And yet, we all wondered, what will it be like to run at 2pm on the longest day of the year, on an almost totally flat, tarmac course? What heights of endurance, what depths of determination would we need to fathom in order to, as we call it, ‘get round in one piece’. None of us, except Karen (and that was when she was just a bairn) had run this course before. Entries had closed weeks before, leading to frustration among those who missed the cut. Last chance for 13.1m PB points this side of summer, and apprehension outweighed expectation (16tons v 12.1kg) at the pre-race ER gathering. Tony, alone, was hopeful of doing something, but still kept his powder dry. I think everyone else thought of survival, in the mental sense at least.

The omens weren’t good - but then, they rarely are. We all oozed negativity on the drive down the M6. On arrival, we discovered a bowling green-flat sports field complete with attached funfair. I hoped, out loud, that the helter-skelter would be included on the course, perhaps adding excitement to the usual desperate gallop to the finish. And there was an enormous, perfectly straight and evenly measured carparking grid marked out in white lines on the field. That, and the pre-race instructions’ insistence that we use FOUR safety pins (no, not two, and certainly not three), gave the distinct impression that this was not so much a race as an exercise in mass manipulation. And woe betide anyone who even considered folding their number. Suitably frightened in case the undercover shoe-lacing stasi were watching, we milled around on the field, each going through his/her own version of a ‘proper warm up’. Yes, you know what I mean. A little slow running, a stop to tighten your laces, a little more gentle running. A pause as you pass the toilets queue, pondering whether you feel the need (again) . You don’t, but as you stand at the start, you wish you had. All this to a pre-race soundtrack which included every song I can think of with the word run’ or ‘running’ in the title. Yes, including ‘Keep On Running’, which I’d got sick of hearing by about 1974. Why do they have to DO that? Maybe it’s just me...

On the upside, today we had the pleasure of running in the same race as Dr Ron Hill, famous for some fast endurance stuff and some clothing. He was deservedly given the big build up by the race director at the start, and I for one felt pathetic just listening to what he’s done in this thing we call running.

The weather was decidedly on the warm side, and as runner turned to runner to wish each other good luck, we all quietly regretted that we weren’t able to find some other way to fill this particularly muggy Sunday afternoon. No matter, we were off. There were 5 drinks stations en route and man, were they necessary. There were also showers organised for those who were overheating to cool themselves off under. Of course I misunderstood their purpose, and was shoved out of the way at the second one before I’d even got the conditioner properly rinsed out of my hair. Undeterred by this setback, I picked up my gel and towels and sped off.

I got sent the wrong way at around Mile 5 which caused me some amusement, but with no change in gradient expected anywhere, it was about trying to hold your pace and position. It soon became the usual attritional battle between tiring limbs and flagging willpower & concentration. After 9 miles of running mostly on country lanes there came a long, almost straight section on path beside a main road back towards Freckleton itself. This was the most difficult part for me. I was lucky to be running with a bloke in a yellow vest who seemed determined to run away from me, so keeping him in check was helpful. Why are these people so competitive? It's only a bit of fun after all....

It doesn't matter how many races I run, I still convince myself that I can't possibly run any further, and intend just to run to that corner or that tree or whatever the nearest visible hiding place is, and then quietly sneak off and lie down. Does anybody else do this? Thought not...

At the finish, there is sadly no helter-skelter ride, only that familiar mix of exhaustion and relief. And heat. But no PB. There are free bananas, and the race memento is a towel rather than the ubiquitous t-shirt. Other ERs begin to appear. Karen (no PB either), then John (nope), then Julia (nah, not today), then Tony. He battered his way over the finish line a full 6 mins and 30 secs faster than previously. That's very nearly 30 seconds a mile faster. Quite a performance. And 15 extra points in the bag.

We awaited SuperKev's arrival slumped in a heap on the grass, exchanging tales of woe and regret, but at the same time pleased to be there. Kevin finished, clearly not feeling well, having battled through the heat with great determination. But again, no PB.

So we wound our way back out of Freckleton to the M55, Tony's PB points stashed in the boot. Today, having been there and done it, I resolved that I would make sure that next time would be better. And that, I think, is what makes me keep coming back.

For the record, Tony would go on to race twice more in the next six days. And in the second one, he racked up another 15 PB points. Truly, a good week. But, why do these people have to be so competitive? It's only a bit of fun after all....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hellvelyn Fellrace "The Joy of Pain"

Sunburn,Burst blisters, scratches all over my legs and a bruised coccix (don't ask!) - what a great race!
Just to add to Ian's entry - more runner's-eye-view piccies
1. THAT climb and descent from St Johns (ouch!)
2. Nice view over to Thirlmere
3. Getting rocky underfoot on way up - what a skyline!
4. Post-race tea & cakes anyone (Yummy)
Good turnout for such intimidating terrain, and I'm going to have to watch that Stu Stoddart, he was breathing down my neck on this one.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Helvelyn Fell Race

A spectacularly sunny day saw 5 lads & 1 lass from Eden runners line up for the start of the Helvelyn fell race, a new race for us all apart for the old hand pcso Labram. The race starts with a near vertical ascent up onto Calf Crag, how steep did not become apparent til the end when we had to descend it to the finish. It didn't take long for me to assume my usual position in the pack & spent most of the race trying to keep ahead of Anja and up with Shaun Hardisty who was trying to keep up with Steve Hartley with Stuart Stoddart & Anth way ahead out of sight.

It was a well organised but physically hard race however Keswick AC had the foresight to post a marshall on the summit of Helvelyn just in case any of the competitors didn't know where they had come from.
A couple of random thoughts crossed my mind after I finished the race....I can't wait to see the crims in Carlisle trying to run away from Anth, why are my legs all wobbly & how am I going to get those grass stains off my backside..... well it was a very steep descent!!

Results were

Anth 17th 1:59:51

Stuart 20th 2:00:27

Steve 60th 2:16:26

Shaun 80th 2:21:35

Me 93rd 2:27:05

Anja 102nd 2:30:04 & 9th lady

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Magnificent Seven

Well, there it was. The 7th event in the 2009 Eden Runners Road Championship series, the Golden Ball. A mere 5000m, a blast alongside the River Lune, between Lancaster & Heysham. Only 5km, but enough to sap every last drop of energy. Legs which feel like springs at 11am (obviously I’m not referring to my own legs here) feel like lead by 10 past, and then like concrete & clay (oh, the sidewalks and the streets) by quarter past. But you do get a t-shirt, and then if you’re like me, you lose it before you get home. Never mind, I have too many t-shirts anyway.

In 2008, the club went to this race and in the aftermath we had cause to re-focus our priorities and think again about what we are and what keeps us here. All was well in the end, and so we came back - complete, thankfully, with Dave.

7 of us gathered in gentle spring rain on the old Lancaster Road at Snatchems (so called because the pub was a target for press-gangers looking for 'volunteers' for their ships at the height of the cotton trade). Also present were Karen’s two daughters Emily & Tiffany – neither running, though for differing reasons. Emily because she is still recovering from a throat op, and Tiffy because she is “... too little. They said the roads are too busy. Hmph.” (I wonder who she takes after?) Maybe the field was 80-strong or so, and we reflected that the damp weather had possibly caused a few to stay away. In 2008 we had 20deg of blazing sunshine, today we had maybe 14 or so, and heavy cloud cover. Thankfully, there was no breeze to speak of – almost ideal running conditions. Kevin, Dave and Tony engaged in some pre-race psychology that even Maurice Green would have thought twice about. Disgraceful. A few apprehensive minutes on the start line were whiled away considering whether there is a perfect way to tie a shoelace. We briefly touched on hitch, clove-hitch, reef, sheepshank and Old Mother Walker’s Errant Child Restraint. This latter one was reprised on the day by Andy – he said because his laces were far too long. We said it was because he had too much spare time on his hands, as he was ‘Home Alone’ for the weekend.

Mile one includes two sharp left-handers (Brian Lara and Jimi Hendrix, respectively) which put you on your tiptoes as you approach, but mostly it’s straight and flat. Mile one is reached still on the main road, although I can barely remember any traffic at all. Another left takes us off the main road and onto Moss Road, back towards to river. We then run a loop around the lanes, anticlockwise, reaching the two-mile mark at the highest point of the course, with good views back towards Lancaster. That is, if you have the energy to take anything in visually at this point. I don’t. It’s downhill for a short way, then back on the flat for the long run-in to the pub. There are several water hazards on this section, enhanced by the morning’s rain, and negotiating these is a welcome distraction from the unrelenting pain of running hard. Actually, it’s just running through puddles - but hey, it seemed quite exciting at the time. And the tide was out, otherwise we'd have had to freestyle to the finish.

Finished, and I can stop, spent. A few moments later Karen flies into the finish funnel, followed closely by John. We shake hands and exchange exhausted well-dones. Next in comes an unstoppable Andy Walker. Then comes an improving Tony Lowery, hanging onto his 18-second lead over Dave Peacock. Right on Dave’s heels (3 seconds!) is Marathon Man Kevin Whitemore, and that’s it – we’re all home.

We stay for the prizegiving, as Karen has yet another podium finish in her age-group. There are several talking points of course, but the biggest problem we could find was that Tony had forgotten to start his watch. Which mattered to Tony, but was hardly life-threatening. Not like 2008.

So, race seven over, performances analysed and reflected upon, we all returned to our respective homes & families, maybe a little bit richer than when we’d left. See, it’s only running, but it can give you such a lot. Even if it is just 5000m.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grizedale Grind April 22 '09

Great ER turnout to one of my favourite fellraces, well done everybody!
60+ runners taking part, including a few superstars... Ben Bardsley won in @25 minutes, which I think is a new record time (awesome!)
Picture 1/ Grisedale Pike (path can be seen running up the spine)
Picture 2/ Line up of 9 intrepid ER fellracers
Picture 3/ Fresh from the fray!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Anniversary Waltz '09 - Runner's Eye View

Took my Box-Brownie with me on the race today (and what a day!). NOTE PICTURES IN REVERSE ORDER BOTTOM TO TOP! I'll get used to this Blog software yet!! Key:- Pic1/ Race HQ pre-start Pic2/ Startline crowd Pic3/ Stu at Startline Pic4/ Runners snake back far as eye can see (1st climb) Pic5/ Fastest lady in foreground (1st climb) Pic6/ Looking back (1st climb) Pic7/ Up in the high country (1st checkpoint) Coastline windmills just visible Pic8/ The Mighty Dalehead (just descended) Pic9/ The exhilerating descent down to Catbells.. Note:- Descent from Catbells summit to Stair village in @5minutes - extreme!
FREE food, tea and BEER, now that's a good value race in my book.
Another grand day out.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Sting in the Trail....

Sun 29 March 2009, Grizedale Forest, nr Hawkshead
Grizedale ‘10’ Trail Race. 1pm start.

I arrive with about 50 mins to spare, to be met by the most random carparking arrangement I’ve ever seen at an organised event. Left off the road, onto a forest track, already lined with hundreds (it seems) of cars. You have to drive gingerly through a constant stream of entrants all making their way from their cars, some parked miles into the forest, back to the road to get across to the number collection point, on the other side of the main road at Moor Top. After crawling along for around 10 minutes I eventually reach the spaces at the end of the queue. Unable to turn round, I keep going until I’m convinced I’m on the outskirts of Newby Bridge. A nine-point turn follows and, imagining for a moment that I drive a 4x4, I park on top of a small gorse bush. Now, the drive down has been in unbroken sunshine, and I’m thinking ‘no sleeves required today’. I get out of the car, and in the shade it feels still close to freezing, and this is grizzly country. I need long sleeves. So I quickly retreat into another top, lock the car, jog off down the road, return to the car to get my racing shoes on, lock the car again, jog off down the road, return to the car to get my ER vest, lock the car, and jog off down the road. So, number ceremoniously pinned to vest, a half-hearted warm up follows, and we begin to gather for the start. Which is, predictably, among the trees.

The prelude to the Start is a bit surreal. A bloke appears in front of the throng, holding up a sign marked, encouragingly, with the word ‘Start’ written on it. He says nothing, just stands there facing us, holding the sign high above his head. Perhaps we’re caught up in a Dom Joly routine. The runners begin to go quiet, wondering if he will maybe burst into song, or perhaps deliver a solemn monologue. Ian wonders if this is a ‘Silent Start’, where we just run as soon as he drops the sign. The hush deepens. Disappointingly, I’ve forgotten what he said (“Go!” maybe?) but we all begin running at the same time, and in the same direction. As usual I’m trying to find some room to run at the edges. After a few hundred metres, in a true ‘Keystone Cops’ moment, suddenly the race in front of me stops, someone shouts something about the wrong way, and we abruptly turn 90deg left down another track. There are people running in all directions. I am in about 6th place, and Ian is just about heading the field in front of me. It seems to take far too long for the leaders to come past us again, so I’m looking back over my shoulder to check that it wasn’t an elaborate double bluff. Nope, there are hordes of people chasing me. And everywhere, there are trees.

Anyway the course continues downhill, and more of the fast boys come past. Anyone who’s been here before knows that at 2.5miles the course begins a huge climb which lasts almost two miles. It must have hurt, but I can’t remember feeling it. Somewhere before mile 6 there is a fantastic, almost aerial view of Coniston Village to our left. This is the only recollection I have of any vista that isn’t obscured by thousands of pine trees. Very pleasant course, as long as you’re not hylophobic (look it up)

I soon get into competition with two other runners who have the temerity to overtake me near the top of The Long Slog. They didn’t get away, and I subconsciously decide that I will tag along. So we go on, me catching them at the 6m drinks station, they overtaking me every time we run uphill (this happens far too frequently), me dragging myself level & overtaking again on the levels or downhill. I dimly had remembered that there was another climb before the finish, and hoped I’d be able to keep the gap manageable so that I could try to find a fast finish. But no. The final climb, although not steep, proves a gradient too far for me. They got away, and although I was gaining on them again I just couldn’t find enough. Hmm. Must revisit my pre-race. So, a bit depressed, I finish and am handed a Grizedale 2009 mug, which I take to Wilf’s van, where it is magically filled with tea, and I am offered a bewildering choice of yumptious cakes. ‘Pineapple & Fruit’ (is that not a bit tautological?) proves a good choice – it is an almost instant anti-depressant, and it works, as I wander back up the finish straight to encourage other ERs home. Not that I’m much use, as Ian arrives at the same moment as a huge mouthful of cake. I nod encouragingly though as he passes. An encouraging nod can make all the difference, I tell myself, even if the ‘noddee’ is unaware of it.

It’s a bit cold, I realise. I head back to the finish area to see what’s going on there. Ann arrives shortly afterwards, looking as serene as she did before the race (how does that work?) I make my excuses and head off, knowing I have a several-mile walk uphill to find my non-4WD off-roader. And, eventually, there it is, still looking uncomfortable. Then again, so would you if you’d been sitting on a gorse bush for two hours.

I happen to meet Kevin at the foot of the hill again. He has completed his first ever ‘proper’ trail race, has eaten his cake and drunk his tea. Mission accomplished, we leave for home. Another recollection pops into my head as I go. The bloke who finished in front of me picked up a goody bag but had to put it back, being told ‘ ....they’re only for the ladies’. I never found out what was in the bags. Any ideas anyone?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Causey Pike (it could only happen to a bike mechanic!)

Race#2 in the ER FellChamps series Sat 28th March.

The 'twin peaks' of Causey seen from Derwentwater

I thought it might be a fun idea to bike to the race instead of driving, in order to reduce my 'carbon stud-print', I'd seen other racers doing this at previous events, so thought I'd give it a go. All was going well until I double punctured 2miles away from the start venue (I never get punctures!) & discovered my self-adhesive repair patches were about as much use as a chocolate fireguard - what to do?

Only one thing for it ... Fellshoes on & run to the start pushing the bike (made it with 10mins to spare (phew!)), no need for a warmup anyway!

Well done to ERs Stu & Ian, and big thanks to another cycling runner called Piers who lent me his puncture kit for repairs to be conducted in the comfort of the village hall.

I should mention that the 1st Vet40 Scoffer Scofield got one up on me by biking in, then going for a bonus training-run up Catbells after the race before biking home!!

What a grand day out.

Next Champs Race Loughrigg at Ambleside Wed April 5th 7pm (a cracker).