Monday, 27 February 2012

Heading towards a Crazy March

Just a few lines to show I'm still alive.

On Saturday I set a new 5km PB at Middlesbrough Albert Parkrun by 25 seconds - I've now joined the Sub-17 club, clocking 16:53. I put a bit of pressure on myself for this as a few clubmates and friends have got a little close of late. The pleasing thing about this run is that I was carrying a bit of a curry baby from the previous night, and I'm still sure that 9am is not my optimum time to run.

Next target is a hard one - sub-16!

I followed the parkrun up (almost) immediately with some SprintO training around Teesside Uni, going at a fair pace.

That evening my 'recovery run' was some night-O around a Golf Course near Northallerton. Being a Golf dectractor I thoroughly enjoyed crashing around the woods and fairways and got a bit carried away. Then I was caught a minute by Lewis Taylor, a good young(ish) orienteer and we hammered the last 10mins or so to the finish. We made a few little mistakes due to the speed but I like to think I helped Lewis win, 50seconds ahead of me and 35 ahead of Peter Bray.
Head-to-Head GC NightO - really good fun!

Sunday was a short, fast race from Commondale in the Moors. Not much climb but the ground was quite heavy. Needless to say my legs were a bit on the sluggish side and I couldn't keep with the lead grupetto, but it was a lovely day and I really enjoyed myself en-route to 6th place (after a sprint finish) - much better than last time just because of the weather!

March is going to be busy but a lot of fun. I'll be in the Lakes this weekend for the Black Comb Fell Race and Whitbarrow Scar O event. Black Combe is going to hurt due to my lack of hills - think I'll start racing once we crest the summit for the first time, and really go for the descent split!

I'll then move into my new house and spend no time in it over the following weekends!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Fell, Road and Forest

Last weekend I had one of my worst runs for a while. OK, I still managed a top-10 at the Danby Beacon, and was running at a good tempo pace, but something was missing. I was knackered from a hefty week at work and trying to shoe-horn (too much) training into the week. I was rubbish on anything other than flat or downhill (wasn't as good as normal on these anyway) and even managed to get lost at one point, missing the tapes on the way back. oops!
Marking eventual winner Cam at the start - but not for much longer... (Photo: Esk Valley)
What doesn't kill me can only make me stronger. I'm still not too far behind in the overall Winter Series standings,  but really need to win all the races I can (think I can make 3 more) to finish atop the table - and with Cam in the form he is that's a tough tough challenge!

I headed back to the Peaks on Tuesday night to get in some much needed rest and see Dad (now sporting a rather suspect moustache as it's too warm in Africa for a beard) before he headed back to the Congo. I managed to get some good miles and hills in and was starting to feel good again. I recce'd Lad's Leap (rather unsuccessfully) and the second half of the Edale Skyline (me and Hobbs both went balls-deep in peat on Brown Knoll) before heading back North East.

Yesterday was the Signal Road Relays - effectively the North East 6 Stage Road Relay Championships. Billingham had 2 Male and 1 Female teams made up of runners of varying abilities. I ran the anchor leg for the 1st team on the 2x1.8km course. It was a really nice day and a good setting for road relays, the course around a lake and park having 2 drags per lap.

Banter Start (a photo taken by me for once!)

I pushed quite hard but felt comfortable throughout, passing our local rivals Middlesbrough & Cleveland 200m from the finish, completing the course in 11:55, which is the best Vdot (61.0) I've produced ever - according to Attackpoint. I was 7th fastest person on the last leg - although GB international Ricky Stevenson ran 10:09...

Tarmac! (credit Helen Johnson, BMHH)
 Maybe it's time to have a crack at a sub-17 5km, though I still maintain 9am is too early.

Sunday was the qualifying round for the National Club Orienteering Competition - or the Compass Sport Cup as it's also know, my first proper race for my new(ish) club (or should that be Klub?) CLOK. We had reigning champions SYO, as well as AIRE from Leeds and EBOR from York to compete against, but with only the top 2 to qualify we missed out in 3rd place. Oh well, at least we managed to get one over EBOR, and I'll just have to find something else to do on the weekend of the Final - in September!

Anyway, as for my run, I'm improving with this O malarky, but there's still some prety hefty mistakes to be ironed out. I made 2 big mistakes - including one early on which lead to scrappiness over the rest of the first quarter of the course. I eventually got going again, losing bit here and there but not too much, only to make a big miss again from the end - I just saw a hill and set off up it, when I was nearly at the control - d'oh!
The 8km/310 course took me 72:43mins and saw me finish 10th - a quite pleasing run albeit a large 12mins down on James Logue (where have you heard that name before...), but closer than I'd normally be to the likes of Duncan Archer.
Spot the errors! (2 and 20 the biggest, 11 and 12 not quite as bad) - click for better image.
I should be able to get a useful amount of O in over the next few weeks ahead of the big races in the spring and early summer - there's still a lot of room for improvement. Now I just need some more regular climb in my training else I'll suffer come the early Fell season.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Review: The Ghost Runner

I'm no reviewer, but I'll give it a bit of a crack:
One of the books I got for Christmas was The Ghost Runner by Bill Jones. Strapped-lined 'The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop', it tells the story of John Tarrant, a phenomenal long-distance runner of the 50s, 60s and early 70s. It was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011.

A brief prĂ©cis: John Tarrant spent most of his formative years in a Sidcup children's home during the Second World War, during which time his mother died and his Father relocated to Buxton. Two years after the Armistice, with his Father in a position to again provide a home for his sons, John and his brother Victor moved to Buxton. With not much going on John took up Boxing, competing in a few fight nights, in the course of which he was given £17 for expenses. Eventually it became obvious that John wouldn't make it in boxing, and he fell into running and loved it. However, there was one problem: During the 50's the Age of Amateurism was in full swing and strictly adhered to. With the £17 hanging over his head John was considered a professional and couldn't race in the amateur races he wanted to. So he gatecrashed them and took the UK scene by storm. The book follows his story through the 50s, 60s and 70s, his running, record attempts, attempts to race abroad, his personality and ethos, his family and his many collisions with the authorities.

The Ghost Runner, no number on his vest (from the Buxton Advertiser)
The book appears to be a labour of love for Jones, the subject matter being brought to his attention in 1984; the book only being released last year, with much time spent researching his subject matter - much material appears to have come from interviews with Tarrant's family and contemporaries, along with newspapers and magazines of the time and John's short self-written memoir.

In his introduction Jones doesn't hide that he's not overly interested in the physical competitiveness of running, more the characters which make up the sport. As such, this book covers John Tarrant's life, digging in to what made this running obsessive tick and how it affected and shaped his life. It is not a diary of races, training sessions and times, but a story of the sacrifices made by a runner and his family so the runner could partake in what he loved.

Warmly written, The Ghost Runner contains a great deal of analysis of the runner's condition through this extraordinary exponent of the sport, someone who's influence has transcended the years. Many runners, especially the young and enthusiastic, read books about how to train to achieve their maximum. This book nods towards this, but is more about the sacrifices that some people have had to take to enjoy what is now, mercifully, a much more lenient and welcoming sport. As such I feel it is a must for the library of all levels of runner, indeed anyone with a vague interest in sports or the indomitable characters of the post-war years.

In the time of pampered, preening, worshipped, idolised and over-indulged sports stars, The Ghost Runner opens a window on sport in the days of amateurism vs. professionalism, the ability for sport to bring different communities together before all major clubs and events had a charitable arm, whilst introducing some of the great names of UK Marathon and Ultra-Marathon running from the past.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A Snowy Double - O and XC.

I've been eating an inordinate amount of Broccoli of late. I don't know why, it's just there and cheap and someone's got to do it.
Mmm, Broccoli (courtesy the Internet)

Anyway, after the snow (just an inch here) roads were cleared (ish) overnight and today's activities were go! Today I'd venture into a forest with a map in anger for the first time since a rather hungover day in October. There was snow on the ground and an (almost) bluebird sky above - not that I saw it much under the canopy. I was running at my club CLOK's event at Hutton Mulgrave & Skelder, just west of Whitby.

The Brown Course was 7.3km/180m straight line. I ran 8.4km/186m (?!).
Map and Course

Map with my route
I took just under 60 minutes, winning the course by about 10mins. My main aim was to not make any big mistakes and practise running on bearings wherever possible. I managed the former, only 2 losses of about 1min I reckon along with some smaller hesitations. I did manage to drift of line a few times, I'm still not great at looking at my compass whilst running in terrain. However, I was pleased with my run as I was expecting to be a lot rustier than I actually was. More O over the next few months should see me right!

After the O I hooned it back to Stockton so Yasha could catch his bus. This left me with enough time to head out to the old Racecourse above Richmond for the latest NYSD XC Fixture. After the morning's exertions I was pretty tired but kept plugging away over the 9.5km/130m fast course (there was nowhere to hide, all very honest). Nothing spectacular but a good tempo run and I was 3rd counter for Billy Marsh House.
Epic Heel-strike. Courtesy Dave Aspin.
Needless to say I was pretty tired after all this effort, but I'm going to stay up as long as I can to watch the Superb Owl tonight. I feel well and am looking forward to some good training over the rest of February (work dependant).