North Tyneside 10k 2015

Posted: 06/04/2015 in Uncategorized

Easter Sunday, and what better way to celebrate the impending consumption of chocolate rabbits than with a brisk 10k?

The North Tyneside 10k is a bit of a special event for me – it’s the first ‘proper’ race I ever ran, I work in North Tyneside and I used to live in Whitley Bay, right by the sea front where the race goes.

Now, however, I live a bit further way, so a trip in the car to get there. It was cloudy up Blaydon way, so I took a few tops in the hope the right combination would jump out at me once I arrived.

When I got there, the weather was this:

  

Very nice, so no need of the waterproof then. I got my Metro ticket, checked there was a train coming, then relawed in the sun, pretty sure I’d make it to the start on time.

  

There’s no real justification for such a huge photo of my ticket, but there may be some collectors of northern light railway memorabilia, so who am I to deny you a small pleasure?

Anyway, arrived at the start, had the obligatory pre-race wee (they won’t start the race if you haven’t been) and joined the back of the runners.

  

The horn went and we were off! Along the street, right turn and down Borough Road, the only real descent in the race, and people tend to go really slowly down it. It may be a bit odd to see a grown man windmilling past with his arms out making aeroplane noises (it’s a road race, so aeroplane is the order of the day, if it was a trail race we’d be talking The Sound of Music) but I couldn’t say, I’ve never seen anyone else do it…

Through the Fish Quay and the sun was lovely, it’s great to have a warm run, and along the banks of the mighty Tyne. At the mouth of the river you head up past the priory on the only serious hill of the run, but it’s a good ‘un. Lots of people walk the hill, sometimes the path snarls up, but a bit of patience wins the day and a gap opens up.

At the top it’s three miles of beautiful coastal running along the sea front, past the Sea Life Centre, along the top of Tynemouth Longsands, past the cafes at Cullercoats and through Whitley Bay past the Spanish City. Onto the Links at last and the final mile to the lighthouse and we’re done. Fifty two minutes, forty-five seconds, apparently, but it felt like a good run, the core training is definitely making an impact.

Next up is the Kielder Dark Skies Marathon with the Teail Outlaws in a couple of weeks.

Rock on!

Deer, oh deer…

Posted: 25/03/2015 in Uncategorized

Into the woods tonight, trying to up the number of runs per week, even if I’m not increasing the mileage noticeably.

It’s a while since I’ve seen the deer, but I got a present in the dusk this evening. First of all, running down the hill to the road I saw the big brown deer, he (I think of him as a he, I could well be wrong) crossed the path, saw me coming and ambled off. I’m always amazed they don’t run away with more effort, and I have two thoughts why this might be the case.

  1. As a card-carrying (no, really) vegan, the deer can scent the lack of meat-eatery and cheese-guzzling and realise I’m not about to eat them, not even a tiny bite, or steal their eggs. This thought always makes me laugh, thinking of the “Vegan Police” scene in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. And then I forget to watch where I’m running and almost trip over.
  2. After two years of watching me stumble around the woods in the sun, the rain, the dark, the light, the hail, the snow, the morning, the afternoon and most of the bits in-between, the deer have realised they could snap me like a twig if they wished, and so they see no need to flee, staying around instead to snicker. I sometimes think I can hear them snickering, but it may be me replaying the Queens of the Stone Age video (it’s at 1:24 if you don’t want to watch the whole thing…) in my head and giggling, it’s hard to tell.

Sorry, back to the story… later on I turned a corner up by the deer penthouse and all three were there, one on each side of the trail and the third one (the little one, I think, but it was getting very dusky by this point) standing on the path. As I got closer I reckoned it must be a dog, because it was just standing looking at me – but no, deer it was and when I got closer it wandered into the undergrowth. As I went past, I was flanked by two deer, both about 20′ away and just… watching. Clearly Vegan Power won the day again, and that certainly wasn’t guffawing from the bushes…

Love the deer, love the woods, love the dusk, love the running. All in all a canny jaunt out.

Rock on!

OK, this could get a little whimsical, so you might want to look away now.

I went for a bit of a run this evening, starting off as dusk was working it’s pink magic on the world. Up the road and onto the football pitch. Normally this is where I spark up the head torch and bimble off to the woods via the golf course.

Tonight though, as it wasn’t properly dark yet, I left the torch off and managed not to trip and impale myself on a damp flag. It may not sound like much to you, but let me tell you that my co-ordination is non-existent when I can see where I’m going, never mind when the light’s out.

Into the woods and it was getting darker – but I kinda know where I’m going, so maybe hold off a little longer? And then a bit more – into the closed in trees now, but there’s a bit of a glimmer, right, so maybe chance it?

Cut back, through the Secret Village and down the hill. Onto the trail past the giant leaf (no, really) and then further down to the bottom of the wood and the muddy path past the Highland Cattle (didn’t see ’em, it was dark, you see).

Over the road, up the hill, and onto the old railway track. Now normally I should turn left and head to Rowlands Gill, per the plan, but I wanted to see what was in the other direction – I’d gone a little way along a couple of weeks ago, though that was in the light.

It was proper dark now, with only the light pollution to see me right. And the car lights coming over my shoulder – what? I’m on a disused railway, why is there a bright, white light? Hang on, that’s the moon! Popping out from behind the clouds it lit up the path for a minute or two, then scuttled away again – it was catching the odd silver birch something rotten and lighting them right up.

A bit like this (only the moon is better at drawing than me)…

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Maybe a bit less light pollution, I don’t know, I’m not that good at the drawing thing.

I got to the road through Hamsterley Mill, went a wee bit further then turned back – realising I was going to be a little longer out the house than the hour I’d reckoned.

Back along the railway and towards Rowlands Gill, and part way an early contender for magical moments of 2015, running through an avenue of silver birch in the dark with the moon lighting them up. Just fab.

Rowlands Gill now, and the street lights were a bit blinding to be honest – turn off onto Hollinhill Lane and the Hill of Doom . It’s easier, it turns out, plodding up a steep hill in the pitch black as you can’t see (even if you know) how much further there is to go.

Up the hill, and the world opened up – above Rowlands Gill and I could see across to Burnopfield and the TV mast at Pontop Pike. Imagine if all of a sudden all the myths, folklore and fairy stories became true, and you couldn’t be sure if that glint in the hedge was a redcap watching carefully, and you’re sure there are wizards out there in the woods. The ruin on the side of the hill looked like something out of Arthurian legend, not the tumble-down house mouldering into the trees. Even the sprawl of Newcastle, light-polluting monster that it is looked twinkly and exotic, like the start of Blade Runner, perhaps?

(OK, that’s the whimsical bit done, you can look again now).

I’ve done a wee bit of running in the dark and moonlight before, but this was a good nine miles of it, some on new trails I haven’t run before, and I’m fairly chuffed I came out alive. I reckon I might have another go again, it was exhilarating, and I think I’ve found another stupid thing I enjoy. Saves on the batteries too… :-)

Rock on!

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Image  —  Posted: 18/01/2015 in It happened in the night, It's bloomin' art!, Tree hugging, Uncategorized, What's in the woods?
Tags: , , , ,

Sooooo, I rarely win competitions.

I won a competition a couple of years ago and landed a pair of running shoes, that was cool.

Other than that, not so much.

At the start of the year, replete with Christmas feed and festivities, I was at work when an e-mail popped in with the chance to win a place on a two week METAFIT course. It sounded interesting, I mean, no one’s going to argue with ‘fit’, are they and ‘meta’ is exactly the sort of jargon-y motivational thing that’s guaranteed to make me wonder “eh?”.

So, I replied with my e-mail and that and thought nothing more about it. Until the end of last week when another e-mail arrived saying that I’d won a place on the course. Get in! I think. It suddenly dawned on me that I still had no idea what metafit is, and now I was going to do it. Had I misread, was it METALFIT, aerobics to the tunes of Iron Maiden and Motorhead? Actually, that would be quite cool, let’s hope I can’t read.

I can read. It wasn’t going to involve Slayer or System of a Down it would appear. On reflection that’s probably as well – those kick drums are quite quick and I may have spun a limb off if that was the tempo.

On Monday, I turned up with a bag containing my shorts, t-shirt and shoesies. And some water. They were pretty hot on the idea of hydration, so I felt I should go with it.

Lesson #1 – there’s nowhere to change, get changed at work and then skip over already be-shorted. Likewise with showers.

The course was run by NUCAS Bootcamps – they have a van with the name on the side, which makes them a pro-outfit in my book, I don’t have a van, so I’m full of respect.

Turns out they have trainers too, people rather than shoes, although they have those too. Chris was the trainer we had, and I think he may be the main man at NUCAS. He was canny, engaging and seemed to know what he was about.

Warmup first  – which was leg kicks, arm spins and so on, high-knee jogging on the spot and that kind of thing. All good, and I was frankly a bit tired from that section never mind the actual exercises.

Now the main event – a selection of things such as star jumps, burpees (that’s get down, feet back, then back below your shoulders, up to your feet with maybe a little jump, repeat), press-ups, more high-knees jogging, and the Plank.

Why woodwork, I hear you ask? And that would be a good question. But it’s not.

A Plank is where you get on the floor, and when the buzzer goes you get on your toes and elbows (below your shoulders) and maintain that pose with a straight back for however long. The first was ten seconds, then twenty, then thirty, forty and finally fifty. Ouch.

Anyone who’s read any of this blog will realise that I run, and that’s pretty much it. A bit of cycling recently and a bit of swimming, but in essence nothing that affects the core muscles (in as much as I understand them, which is like those ice-creams I used to get at the cinema with the chocolate sauce in the middle, which was called a Core). Again, as I run that’s arms pretty much not required, so they’re like the pipe cleaners. Really weedy pipe cleaners. Can you even get pipe cleaners in these anti-smoking times? Maybe they’re renamed and called “fake tiny arms” now?

Anyhow, the leggy bits were pretty canny, the arm and core bits were really hard and the plank bits were nice, but along with the press-ups played havoc with my temperamental big toes. Press-ups more than the others to the point that I started doing knee press-ups (which was nothing to do with the tiny arms, honest).

About forty-five minutes of exercise, rest, exercise, rest, exercise, rest, you get the idea and we were done. I was dripping in the same way I would expect from a hard run in the summer. Proper dripping, not some rubbish metaphor.

Back to work, shower, and on we go – a bit stiff as the day wore on to be honest.

Next morning my shoulders and calves were ouchy to the max – back to the doddery old man walk that I last used when I ran an ultra. Crikey!

Repeat on Tuesday, more focussed on core work, which didn’t involve chocolate sauce and sprinkles in the ice-cream-like manner I’d expected, but did involved a lot of Plank, and other exercises to knacker the bits that hadn’t been covered the day before.

Wednesday was rest day – thank goodness, more doddering, and I had to miss out Thursday for a meeting, which I have to admit was rather disappointing.

And then today, Friday.

Plank, burpees, star jumps, something called a volleyball jump, which is to crouch, jump to the side, jump up, crouch, jump to the other side, jump up, and so on. Some sprinting too, which was nice, I like a bit of sprinting as it goes.

Again with the dripping.

I’m really enjoying it, and there’s still another week to go yet – I’m a bit knackered but not broken yet.

I could get used to doing METAFIT, presuming the second week doesn’t kill me. Heck, I might even write an update if I make it through.

Rock on!

My wayward path declineth soon,
But she shines not the less.

Henry David Thoreau – “The Moon”

Getting a bit arty, eh? Well, how about this then…

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See, that’s me being expressive and the rest. I’ve started doodling a bit recently, and while I’m going out of my way to point out that it’s not very good, I am quite enjoying myself.

Anyway, on with the running related nonsense, I suppose.

New Year’s Day is pretty much the most traditional day for a run I can think of. Whether you are building on a successful prior year, making up for a lax finish to the year gone by or starting out as a new runner, there must be more people out training on New Year’s Day than any other day of the year by my reckoning.

This year’s New Year’s Day was a good bit stormy, to say the least – my hat got blown off when I was walking the dog, and I had to chase it across the field. As it looked a bit drizzly, I stuck a waterproof on with the hood up in the hope it would stop my hat from making another trip across the night sky. There were branches on the paths and ominous creaking from the trees around me.

One plus side of the wind was the sky was pretty clear, and the moon was making its way towards being full (on the 5th, I think).

As I bumbled along, I realised my head torch was fading a bit, the batteries must be getting ready to run out, but that’s fine, I’ve got another small torch off my bike that I carry along for just this kind of thing, and also so I can make out the tree roots on the path on the wilder part of the track.

Coming out the back of the Secret Village (it’s a secret), and heading down the path where the trees have been cleared on one side I realised the moon was silvery-bright, and I could barely see my head-torch beam.

So I turned it off…

And the night opened up…

Seriously – I can’t really explain it, other than to enthuse that everyone should give it a go, but I can give an especially geeky comparison – if you’ve ever played the computer game Elder Scrolls: Oblivion on a big display, like a PS3 on a big TV, and been out in the woods when a clear night starts and the stars appear, then it’s like that, only less showy and infinitely better.

Stars, silver moonlight, a vague impression of what’s around and underfoot. A lot of it is the difference between the path, which is pretty dark, and the grass at the side, which reflects a bit of the moonlight back at you.

But you can’t run in it, can you, that would be daft.

Wouldn’t it?

Might as well find out.

No, it’s great, you just need to have a bit of wits about you and hope you don’t fall over. This is not necessarily a simple thing, but I pretty much managed it, using the other torch every now and then where the woods drew in overhead and I could barely see where I was going.

The view is fantastic, the stars above, moving above the dark branches, the faint silver light on the trees around you, it’s just the most atmospheric thing.

It’s slower than usual, and I did have that one incident where I thought I was going to be mobbed by a badger, but it all worked out and I reckon this is the start of a ridiculous new bit of night-time running.

Rock on, and welcome to 2015!

…Here comes 2015.

The last year has been a bit lacklustre, to be honest – I haven’t run that far, I haven’t run that fast, and bar a few stonkingly fantastic ultras I haven’t done anything that outlandishly different.

I guess the main thing is that I don’t feel like I really stretched myself over the last year, pretty much as I wrote at the end of October in my ‘running-year’ report. Last year was the year of consolidating the two years since I started running at the end of 2011.

Long story short, I’m aiming to be a better runner in 2015, a bit more committed to putting my shoes on regularly, a bit more thoughtful in how often I shovel chips down my neck at the canteen at work and perhaps to push myself a little more when I’ve actually got my shoes on.

On a less introspective, gloomy front, I have been running around the woods a bit more – I really like the woods, and while I haven’t seen the deer for a while, there are a remarkable number of plump grey squirrels bouncing about the place like furry bouncy-balls of nut-hunting mania. What I’d never realised was that they don’t just run up any tree, each squirrel has it’s own tree, and they’ll scurry off to get back to it.

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More than once I’ve ended up accidentally chasing a squirrel down the path as it heads back to it’s tree, slowing down so I don’t scare the life out of the poor thing. So far everyone’s got away safely.