Monday, 19 December 2011

A Distinct Lack of Snow

The last 2 weekends have involved some racing not on the fells. 'For Shame!' I hear you call.

Last Saturday (having just hit the grand old age of 23) was the North Eastern XC championships. Despite this being only my 3rd XC race I've enjoyed my few forays into this dark art in the last few months - there's something quite purging about hammering it for upwards of 30mins with no excuse to slow down (and no stiles!).
Three well-sheltered 4km loops of Cramlington Nature Reserve north of Newcastle was the order of the day. I was expecting the atmosphere to be far from the jovial nature of Fell Running, and whilst it didn't compare it was much more festival-like than I anticipated, from toilet queue banter to the support all around the course ("Fantastic running lads, work together to reel [the group up ahead] in") - I was expecting it to be all cliquey and acrimonious. On the start line I saw Ben Abdelnoor from that well known North Eastern club 'WaiAimbleside', so I said hello and mentioned I was also a fell runner (though obviously well south of his standard).
The Course was fast but quite muddy. I had a fairly sensible race. I was passed by a group at the beginning of the last lap but managed to work my way back up to, and then through, them, before picking off a few more to finish 39th - the position I'd been counted through at the end of lap one when myself and 'The Reverend' were having a battle. The race was won some 8 minutes ahead by GBR squaddie Ricky Stevenson. 8 mins over 8 miles - ouch!

Yesterday I made my first tentative steps onto the start-line of a Road Race - the darkest of dark arts. In an attempt to salve the Fell Running Gods I'd chosen Loftus and Whitby AC's Poultry run which contains some climb and a couple of off-road sections in its 8-mile duration. I set off quite hard (harder than usual) and was pleased to be able to maintain my pace for most of the race. I lost 2 places but also gained 2 and finished 10th - unfortunately not quite good enough for a poultry-based prize. The race was again won by Ricky Stevenson, but this time I was only 6:20 behind. More promising was that I was within 3 minutes of 3rd place (and a big lump of Turkey).
Overtaking 1km before the finish. Courtesy Dave Aspin
(oh and it was freezing and windy so the gloves are warranted!)
As you can tell from the picture above, there's not much snow about round these parts. Needless to say I'm hoping some will descend on the peaks once I get home (Woodhead permitting) for Christmas late Thursday evening (first stop: The Royal to meet up with Pennine). I'm looking forward to some long days in the hills (and snow hopefully - the more company the merrier!), a roaring fire stove and some good food and beer! And maybe a satellite-delayed phone call from Dad in the Congo!

The FRA Calendar has hit the mat and I'm really looking forward to 2012 on this hills!

PS. I managed to win my 3rd Parkrun as well - 18:40 isn't a good time but not bad considering the park was an ice-rink. Speed-skating arms were de rigueur.

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