Archive for August, 2012

Thorner and GoPro

Posted: 30/08/2012 in Uncategorized

I finally took the plunge and bought a GoPro camera – slightly delayed birthday present. As I take the occasional photo, I’ve been keen to find a way to merge running and photography together, well kind of, it turns out to be video and running.

On Saturday gone, we went to visit my sister in law in Thorner, and I got the chance for a quick hour around the village with the camera strapped to my bonce.

An hour of running, several hours of cutting down the footage, and the result is here:

Trail Running Thorner

As a first attempt, I’m quite pleased with it, the jerkiness is less than I had thought it would be, and the quality as good as I’d hoped. I reckon I’ll get a lot of use out of the camera, and I’ve ordered a tripod mount so I can use it with all the photo gubbins I already own.

 

Greener is meaner

Posted: 28/08/2012 in Barefoot, Journal, Running

I just got home after selling a car. After years of owning a dependable old Honda CR-V, bought to brazen out the Northumberland winters, we figured that there were a few reasons to sell it:

  1. We don’t live in Northumberland anymore, but by the coast, where the snow is rarely as bad
  2. I work about three miles from the house which is highly run/walk/cycle-able
  3. It costs around £400 to service and MOT, another £250 for road tax  and a further £250 for insurance – that’s £900 a year before anything goes wrong, such as the £300 alternator we just had replaced
  4. It drinks diesel, and our other car, a Citroen C-1 is far more economical
  5. Mrs Angrybees and I took the C-1 to France earlier in the year, and it was no less marvellous than if we’d taken the CR-V, and much easier to park
  6. We want to be a bit greener

So, I took booked the car in at WeBuyAnyCar and headed down there – a ding on the rear passenger door meant a hefty reduction in the price, as I was told it needed the outer part of the door replacing, but after a chat with Steve and a call to his area manager as the car was otherwise in very good nick, another £100 was added to the price.

I have to say, it felt pretty good, divesting ourselves of something that we don’t really need. I can see there will be days that will require some compromise (Mrs Angrybees tells me she needs the car on Thursday), but you know what? I’m going to take a suit and such to work tomorrow, and I’ll run in and back. So that means that not only have we saved a cool £900 a year, but I’ve also booked myself some additional runs.I’m sure some of the compromises won’t be quite as jolly, but I figure it’s something to accept if we’re going to a bit more thoughtful about our place in the world.

So after selling it, what did I do? Well, I ran home, of course – about four miles and quite nice it was too. I picked up some dried cat food on the way back – I don’t think I’ve ever had quite so much interest from dogs as I jogged past. I felt pretty upbeat, maybe a little smug, and I figure I covered an OK pace. See, doing the shopping on my feet rather than behind a wheel. Granted that won’t work for the weekly shop (unless I invest in a wheelbarrow), but it does good for the bits and pieces.

I read a blog a little while ago form a lady who had decided that if a journey was runnable – i.e. there was a path to get there, and the time to run it, then she would always run. That kind of stuck in my mind, and I’m not saying that’s what I’ll do, but it’s not a bad line in the sand to be aiming for.

Statistics:

  • Distance: 4.01 miles
  • Time: 34’29″03
  • Average pace: 8’41” now that’s some good pace for me…

A word about Peter…

Posted: 26/08/2012 in Uncategorized

Saturday morning, and even with the rain, it’s Parkrun time! When I got up it was pouuuuring, but by the time I needed to set off it was merely tipping down. Cue waterproof and hat.

When I arrived, I only had five or so minutes to the start, so I headed over to the line, and generally got on with waiting for the go.

Then I noticed Peter, so I went for a little chat. I met Peter a few months ago, while waiting for the run to start – I think he was wondering what time it was, I honestly can’t remember now. Anyway, as these things go we had a bit of a conversation, he’s from around here, but lives in London now. He comes up to visit family and so comes along on the Saturday morning for a bit of a run. He’s been running for ever, and certainly looks the part. His club is West 4 Harriers, who I’ve discovered (from their website) are based in Chiswick. When I first met Peter, it was the run before his birthday and the impending move to a different age bracket.

Turns out he’s faster than me, which is to be expected, he’s been running for ages, and looks like a man who rations his pie intake. I’ve been running for a year, and getting to grips with Greggs not forming a staple of my diet. At the time, we did the run, and that was that.

A few weeks later, on the last time before I had a birthday and changed age brackets, I saw Peter again, I said hello again and asked how he was doing, exchanged a few words and off we went again.

Yesterday, it was nice to see him there again, and I said hello – he congratulated me on my new PB the other week – which means he must have noticed it, and we chatted about upcoming races and that kind of thing. Again running took place and off home I went.

There’s no great reveal in this, it’s just nice to make a connection, to swap a few words. For some reason it’s nicer for the fact that he’s living in a far-flung part of the country, though I can’t explain why. It strikes me that, by my experiences so far, we runners are a friendly bunch, and there are a lot of Peters out there. I always try  to acknowledge other runners as we pass, I think a bit of camaraderie goes a long way, especially if you’re having a tough day. As a note to anyone who’s just got into running – when I started, I was sure that all the fit looking people passing me by were thinking “he’s a bit tubby to be out here”, but in reality, now being not-the-biggest-runner-on-the-coast, I can report that what you actually think is “well done you, go on there!”. Obscurely, there’s nothing quite like someone who is starting (to run) down the path towards fitness and perhaps struggling a bit with it to give you a warm glow.

No statistics today, I was over a minute under my PB, which I blame squarely on having had a take-away the night before. My ankles also hurt, which I put down to not having run distances so much recently, having been out with Mrs. Angrybees on her 13-week programme more than solo.

The title pretty much tells you all you need to know. I’m back on the tabs, for the time being at least. I’ve been off ’em for  a month, and reckon I was pretty much over any physical need to smoke, but the mind is a funny old thing. When the chips are down and life seems difficult, sometimes you crave the thing you know you don’t really need. If everything was plain sailing, then that would be fine, but when you’ve got another thing or three to occupy your mind, then you don’t really need that extra thought taking up space in your head. Do I feel awful about it? Not really. I feel that it’s doing something for me at the moment, and that I’ll stop again at some point – more than I’m a non-smoked having a time smoking, rather than a smoker who’s stopped giving up.

That said, and having recommenced the nicotine last night, I woke up at 4:30am this morning, at the same time the daughter was heading off to bed after a hard night of banishing electronic demons from cyberspace. I couldn’t get back to the land of nod, so what else was I going to do, I got up and ran.

It’s a while since I’ve done a proper morning run, by which I mean one that takes place before the rest of the world has got up. The Parkruns are ace, but they’re at a very civilised 9am, and come complete with a side order of dog walkers, stollers and other passers-by.

Off up the coast towards Seaton Sluice, then, in my Breatho Trails as part of my prep for September’s half marathon up at Hadrian’s Wall. There’s nothing quite so magical as running through the sunrise, and the deep red clouds and milky sea with it’s early traffic of lobster-pot (or maybe crab-pot, I don’t know) fishermen out in their tiny boats. The world seems like a smaller, cosier place before everyone else appears, though that could also be helped by the calming effect of a good pre-run smoke.

One of the peculiar side-effects of smoking (for me at least), aside from the noticeable improvement in my eyesight, is that it doesn’t half keep you regular. That’s fine, sometimes it’s a godsend, but a couple of miles into a run (which also gently massages the soft tissues of your bowel) it can lead to some surprising effects. I hadn’t headed out with any particular distance or turn-around point in mind, so I was happy to about-face and start to head back. I suspect that last night’s family trip to the pizzeria also had a hand in this, but what the heck.

Back home as the sun continued it’s arc into the morning, and discovered I’d mounted a non too shabby five miles. Not bad, though I reckon a couple of longer runs are required before the half.

Stats:

  • Distance: 5.16 miles
  • Time: 46’47″08
  • Average pace: 9’13” (That’ll do nicely)

In other news, I consider the Transition to barefoot (apart from the actual barefoot bit) is pretty much there… 🙂

I went for a run last night – not tonight, but it was quite late last night, meaning that I had to wait until tonight for the joy of writing it up for you, dear reader. And dearie me, what a trip it was, involving a mission of mercy, difficult circumstances to overcome and yes, groceries.

I arrived home to the usual, making tea (a loverley salad, since you asked) and then thought about a bit of a run. But where, how far, and to what point? Well, as luck would have it, I stopped by the bathroom and discovered we had around about no sheets of toilet paper left.

As you’d expect, I sounded the “no bog roll” alarm, informed the authorities and generally put sandbags in all the normal places.

Then it struck me.

I could do the normal, boring, predictable thing and nip to the shops and buy some loo roll. Or, I could do something altogether more amazing, fantastic and above all laudable, and in essence save the world.

You can see by now that this is turning into some kind of Lavatorial International Rescue, and you’d be right.

In order to carry said toilet roll, I strapped on my OMM Last Drop, hoping that it would be an adequate receptacle for the purchase. A bottle to carry, a £10 note in a wee bag in case it rained and my hat on the waist strap of my bag.

And off I went – it was a warm night, getting darker, and after the crazy rain of an hour earlier it was very humid. The run along to Tynemouth was very nice, if the ground was a little unforgiving – other than along the slight dip towards the beach, where the path was covered in snails – what is it with me and the slimier animals? A couple of nights ago I slipped out for a cheeky night-time run and discovered the trail past the lighthouse was paved with tiny frogs, which made me adopt a “dad-dance” style of running, all sideways hips and rapid shoulder movement to try and avoid the suddenly-appearing-in-my-headtorch wee blighters.

Still, like the post, I made it through, come rain, come hail, come gastropods. Arriving at The Co-op in Tynemouth, I realised I might not look “at my best”, so I sidled in to find the toilet roll, and was blinded by the huge neon signs proclaiming savings on packs of 36 rolls. Clearly no good, there was no way they were fitting into the admittedly smallish looking (now) backpack. I wandered round the shop, I may have dripped sweat on the floor, but I managed to track down a pack of four rolls. Bit of a risk, but there were no two-roll packs.

I made my way to the till, where the cashier clearly thought I might have arrived from Mars by the look on his face – paid for the comestibles (by now he’s thinking “why has he run here, clearly sweating, and needs four toilet rolls, like he’s in a massive poo-fuelled hurry” – which I wasn’t, in case you’d had the same idea).

Out of the shop and juuuuuuuust managed to fit the pack in the pack. It’s like OMM sat down and said, “seriosuly guys, what’s the most we’d ever need to fit in here?”. Then they’d have shelved that and gone for lunch and a think, after which they’d have come back and someone would have said “you couldn’t need more than, I don’t know, four toilet rolls, how about that?”, and the concept of the Last Drop was born.

Part of me had wanted to get the giant 36 roll pack, just so I could run home with it, shouting “I need a poo” and waving people out of my way. Sadly (or luckily) sense got the better of me, and I had opted for the Secret Squirrel approach, not giving away my scatological good deed.

Back home, and rolls cheerily deposited in the bathroom, I sat down to a nice cup of tea. Well, you have to  after something of that proportion, don’t you?

Stats:

  • Distance: 4.55 miles
  • Time: 45:07
  • Average pace: 9:55 per mile

 

So the question is, “where to start?”, and since I’m now officially in my 40’s you’ll realise that “at the beginning” is becoming an increasingly long tale. How about yesterday then? That might cut down on the flashback sequences, at any rate.

Right then. I have two days off this week, yesterday and today. My plan for yesterday was a quick* jaunt up to Kielder for a run around (part of) the reservoir in advance of October’s marathon. Partly to see how my spiffy Breatho Trails would hold up to the conditions underfoot.

All of the above did not happen.**

For one reason and another the trip never went ahead. I made do with a quick session around the Rising Sun – bit of speed in the Breatho Trails to see what they could do – think I ran around 8’20” pace off the top of my head – that’s not bad for me, doubly so off-road.

Today dawned.***

After some sober thought, I realised I wasn’t going to make the pilgrimage up, I could much better use the time doing stuff down here. However, I still wanted a long run – the Hadrian’s Wall Half is in less than a month, and I haven’t logged any significant distances with the barefoot shoes as yet.

So I found a route. Well, I made a route up actually, but it was there to be found, not a hidden route to Level 33**** or anything like that. It took me down the coast to Tynemouth. It took me inland along the river. It took me through North Shields. It took me past Royal Quays (thank goodness, I was happy not to go through). It took me, in short to the unspeakably brilliant Tyne Pedestrian & Cyclist Tunnel, which runs under the mighty Tyne to reach the southern shore and get you to South Tyneside quicker than swimming.

I take the occasional photo, and I have to tell you that the pedestrian tunnel is one of the most weirdly atmospheric gems in the region – it’s like something out of Jules Verne*****, all discoloured tiles and slightly rubbish lighting. I love it.

So I ran there. Perhaps there’s a bit of a disconnect there, I mean I like Scotland, but I haven’t run there (there’s a thought, amuse yourselves while I just make a quick note…. right, done). But this is both difficult and achievable and so there was pretty much no way I could have not done it. Around 13 mile return (spot on for a half marathon), quite a bit of it along routes I already know, how could I refuse the challenge I had just unwittingly set myself?

And so, with barely an announcement in Runner’s World or Tunnel Runner Monthly, I had managed to create a whole new event – The Pedestrian Tunnel Half-Marathon. Admittedly it wasn’t approved by UK Athletics, didn’t have a water stand at 5km in, was entirely bereft of supporters cheering, but it still felt like a big ol’ deal to me.

Given that my OMM Ultra Pack has gone back to the returns box in the sky (mesh torn again in the same place as the last one – it’s like they didn’t expect you to put the specifically designed bottle in the specifically designed bottle holder) I opted to try out the Last Drop and figure out how to carry some water (don’t like bladders very much, so more bottle-based). I’d got hold of a couple of i-Gamy (don’t ask) bottle holders that fit onto the front straps – it seemed like a grand idea, but unfortunately the Last Drop is a small pack and I ended up whacking myself in the head at first with the bottle sticking out the top. Then I realised one of the two bottles leaks atrociously, so even if I got the holder right I’d still have an isotonic damp patch. So I hand-held, with the other bottle in the mesh pocket on the side of the bag. Good as gold.

Heading out was a bit of a chore – whether from the bottle-antics, the fact I was carrying a (not especially heavy) pack or just because I was a bit knackered, I don’t know. I was mildly thinking about Tynemouth and back, but resolved that if all the legs stayed on, I was going to finish this event. After all, a 100% DNF result wouldn’t make it look too good and may put people off coming next year – the last thing it needs is any fewer participants.

Along the river and up to the Fish Quay – which is an interesting bit of the world, it seems to live in its own bubble where fish related activities go on to the exclusion of all else (except the indoor second hand market, obviously). Sort of like a working Disney-land, where Mickey is replaced with a halibut and Donald Duck is a bucket of prawns.

At the end of the Fish Quay is Borough Road – a bank up to the main drag, and a bit of a slog as it turns out, but I flippin’ kept going. However, as I neared the top, a shall we say sensation started – could it be the dreaded chafe beginning? Of course it could, as I’d left my Bodyglide (purchased in case such an event ever occurred) at home.

Thank goodness for the small traders of North Shields – on the third discount tab and booze shop I found once which also (sheepishly) sold Vaseline. A quick application and an attempt to not get arrested for you know fidgeting in public and I was away. Albeit without turning my GPS back on, so I ran 0.44m before realising (I kept an eye on it on the way back).

After that, it was a simple matter of running along the road, turning down to the river and getting to the Tunnel.

All the escalators were off. Hahahaha! Just run all the way here and all the escalators are off.

Oh, hang on, there’s a lift apparently – yes, there it is, round the back and that IS working.

Down in the lift, marvelling at the mirror-effect walls and the infinity mirror it creates. Bet someone has a right job keeping the hand prints off that. Out the lift and jog through the tunnel, avoiding being savaged by a free-roaming Mad Dog that someone had thought to bring with them while leaving any kind of lead at home. Reach the other side, escalators out again but I’m an old hand at this by now – I get the lift up, uhuh.

Dot out at the other side, so the GPS picks up and shows I was actually here, neck a gel and then back into the lift. I think a picture of these fine mirrored surfaces are in order?

You’ve got to admit, that’s pretty impressive – the mirrors, not the loon in the vest (I was looking at me, rather than the camera, as I had forgotten in an instant how it all works).

Back to the tunnel, and I figured the escalators are going to be ‘fixed’ sometime soon, so I should probably catch a picture of those, right?

 

There’s me again, getting in on the action. You’ll notice the lack of any motion blur whatsoever on the escalators, proving beyond a doubt that were totally not moving. They’re made of wood, if you’re interested, and each has it’s own number in sequence – it’s like someone carved an escalator – how mint is that? It was the longest in the world for a time, I believe.

Anyhow, back along the tunnel, and as I’ve still got my phone out I figure one last shot, right?

See what I mean, it’s a proper bit of anachronism – originally put there (again, this is what I think, it may be wrong) to allow shipyard workers to cross the river on their way to work. If I went down there and discovered it was full of Mole Men, I wouldn’t be in the least surprised.

Enough of that, I headed back to the North end of the tunnel and to the lift – there was a man cleaning the buttons – could it be? Might it be? I didn’t allow myself to hope…

He pressed the button for the lift. We waited. I commented  on how clean the lift was. He seemed pleased, but retorted that he didn’t know why people were obsessed with pressing their hands on the mirror,  his job was never finished. Yes, I’d lucked out and met the man who cleans the mirrors in the lift (as well as a host of other things) – I told him how impressed I was with the finish on the mirrors, even if there were the occasional fingerprint. I may have mentioned that I’d taken a photo. He seemed pleased again. At this point the lift arrived, and I ran off, leaving him to dandy-up some other piece of equipment.

And so the run back – which was generally pretty uneventful. The Fish Quay was (if possible) even more fishy, and the run down Borough Road was decidedly nicer than the run up it.

Got home, stuck feet in a bucket of water (they’re a bit sore), but otherwise no major problems.

Get me, I won my own race – think I need to go find that “What have you done today to make you feel proud” song and put it on at full blast.

You can be sure I’ll be back next year, where I’m hoping there might be a commemorative t-shirt.

Stats:

  • Distance: 12.33 miles (+0.44 miles for the bit I had no GPS on, and +0.34 mile for the tunnel gives 13.11 miles, or a good ol’ half marathon)
  • Time: 2’14″08 (including the stops for Vaseline application, gel necking and so forth)
  • Average pace:  10’54” mile (likewise the comment above)

*Not that quick, it’s a 3 hour round trip

**Except for ‘yesterday’- I’m pretty sure that still happened

***That bit absolutely happened, although I was asleep at the time

**** Yay for Gauntlet!

*****Well, out of one of his books, it’s nothing like a liver at all, for example

Running up a storm

Posted: 05/08/2012 in Journal, Running

It’s me birthday, and that calls for a stupid birthday photo, no?

Does my head look big in this? No, don’t answer, I already know. I was initially going to call this “which way to Sherwood” as it was taken at Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s wall, used in the Robin Hood Prince of Thieves film as being a convenient location between the White Cliffs of Dover and Nottingham. Via Northumberland.

But I realised that could be a bit of an inside joke, especially as there’s no way of telling it’s that tree without someone explaining it to you, and I wouldn’t be that obvious, would I?

Anyhow, my birthday started out pretty good, with a trip to the beach and a scramble around on the rocks with Mrs. Angrybees.

It was fun, though that green stuff on the rocks is pretty slippy. Luckily my Vivobarefoots coped relatively, which was nice to discover – I had no idea how well they would cope with wet rock at the beach. They weren’t so good on the green beardy growth, but then I don’t think a set of crampons would have fared much better – it’s a surprise they haven’t found a use for it on the Space Shuttle…

Home from the beach, and despite the warnings of end-of-the-world weather issued by the Met Office, I felt  buoyant enough to have a look out. I’ve wanted to go for a run at Hadrian’s Wall since forever (well, since November 2011, when I first put on my running shoes), so this seemed like a grand chance.

On the way over, I drove through one storm that reduced me to 30mph, the visibility was so poor, then another one that looked to travelling sideways. I arrived at Housesteads just as the second one had cleared to make way for a mild but consistent rain. No problem there, a bit of rain will keep me nice and cool.

Hang on, £3 to park for the day – but I don’t want to park for the full day – an hour, two tops and that’s it. But no choice in the matter, and I had to cough up or head homewards.

Up the hill to the wall, and I’m vaguely running. Given that I live in an outrageously flat borough, I don’t get much chance to run up hills, other than the one at the country park, and that’s not that tall to be honest.

I reach the top and the rain intensifies a bit – hey-ho, it’s all part of the fun. Off Westwards, and through some lovely trees, all branchy and rooty with a fair bit of stoniness too. This feels like proper trail running, it’s all a bit uneven and such, and I can’t help thinking that my core muscles must be feeling like they’re getting a handsome workout.

Emerging from the trees the rain decides to properly get to work and I get my waterproof out – I’ve just finished struggling into that when the rain stops again, so I take it back off.

Up a hill, down a hill, along a bit… you get the picture – it was fantastic, if very very wet. I realised that the Mizuno Wave Harrier 2s that I had on were a bit rubbish in wet Northumbrian rock, and had to take it easy on the wide stone plates that made up part of the path. I was pretty surprised about that – I figured they’d be (pardon the pun) rock ‘ard on wet stone.

Getting a bit further on, and the rain started again, but I wasn’t about to waste more time playing with my waterproof so I took a photo instead.

As you can see, the view over Crag Lough was <a little> gloomy. The big downhill after this was groovy, right up until I hit the bit made entirely of wide stone slabs and had to crawl along…

Slightly further on, and I make it to Sycamore Gap – and took the picture at the top – it would have been a better picture if I could have stood my phone up somewhere – if I could have figured out if there’s a timer option, and if I didn’t look like I had a mis-shapen head, obviously.

Turned around, headed back with a bit of walking as the hills were taking it out of me a little. Well OK, I was breathing like I might cough out a lung, but I was still enjoying it, even the rain. Returned to to visitor centre, and in a rare moment of excess decided to buy something to eat from the thieve-o-tron that is the shop at English Heritage venues.

As it was my birthday, I decided to go wild and I purchased:

  • A slice of cherry cake
  • An Eccles Cake (I love a good Eccles Cake)
  • A bottle of apple juice

Sum total was just shy of £6 – and if they hadn’t been pointing a blunderbuss at me at this point while wearing highwayman outfits, then I may have just run for it, but let’s face it, I was a little tired.

Total distance? About 5.1 miles. Pace was around 15 minutes, I reckon, and time was around one an a quarter hours. Must do this again so I get a bit better at hills. Also good practise for The Wall next year when I’ll be back this way again.

On an annoying note, the mesh on my OMM Ultra Waist Pack has started to go again – happened to the first one and had it replaced, not it’s happening again – it’s like they didn’t design it for you to use the specially designed water bottle in the built-to-fit bottle holder. Will need to get in touch with them, I love this bag, it’s fantastic, but I can’t keep having the same bit fail – only alternative I can see is an Osprey Talon 8 – may need to investigate, but I’d rather have an OMM that works, it’s the prefect shape and everything except that one irritating point of failure.

Back home for a bit more of the Olympics, and I declare my birthday to have been something of a success.