Archive for December, 2012

2012 in review

Posted: 31/12/2012 in Event

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog – the link below will take you to it…

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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A run involving puddings, why not? After the Christmas Eve “running-with-pies-and-beer”, it seemed like the right thing to do.

It was raining – proper raining, not just some light drizzle, and I immediately regretted not having brought a hat with a peak – wet glasses stop me from seeing, and there’s nothing much to do to get them clean again. It stopped for a bit then got underway again. Still, as Jay says, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”…

I ambled down for 10am, the run wasn’t starting until half past, but I had no idea how registration (on the day) would work. As it turned out, there were a lot of people, a bus stop had been borrowed for the morning and the registration was running quite smoothly. Picked up my number (and some safety pins – well done there) and suddenly I was 386. Back to the start area, and a pre-run wee in the unisex-for-a-day toilets (no idea why that happened, but it did) and ready for the off. I bumped into Colin Winter, one of the stalwart Parkrun organisers for a wee chat.

Time for the off – there looked like around 600 runners I’d guess, we’ll see when the results come out – off went the start alarm and we were away. I had been a little worried that I had no idea of the course, but I shouldn’t have worried, there was no chance I was going to be at the front of the pack. 🙂

Along to the skate park, down onto the prom and along the top of the beach – turn back at the top of the prom and along the top of the embankment. That takes us back to the start again, and I was feeling pretty good – holding my own in the pack and maybe making up a place or two as I went.

Back past the start, and on along the prom and on, and on, and on and so it went – how far does this go, exactly? To the bottom of Rockliffe, if turned out, and along the lower prom, back up and a sharp u-turn to head back to the finish. A nice romp along the path back along the top, and my newly non-smoking lungs were working something of a dream, no feeling like I was about to pop a lung out, or that I might start breathing fire…

Into the finish straight, and over the line. A look at my watch suggested just over 24 minutes, at an average 7:53 min/mile pace – something of a shocker, as I didn’t feel I’d done spectacularly well – perhaps my newly healthy approach is paying off already?

Goody bag included a Christmas Pudding, how fine is that?

Yes, that most illustrious of events never to appear on any fixtures list ever has taken place again. So “pop-up” that sometimes the entrants don’t even know they’re taking part, the Occasional Whitley Blyth Half Marathon returns to form and offers a new twist on previous runnings of the event.

Firstly, this is the first night-running of the event. Night events have become very popular of late, and with this tip-of-the-hat to the adventure racing fraternity, the organisers of the Occasional Whitley Blyth Half Marathon hope to draw in the adrenaline-fuelled crowds.

Secondly, this is the first time the Occasional Whitley Blyth Half Marathon has been held on Christmas Eve, that most festive of all eves. Finishers were treated to a mince pie at the Race HQ afterwards, and refreshed with a yuletide beer.

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Mmmm, beer and pies.

Anyway, back to the story, eh?

So I’ve stopped smoking again – did I tell you I’d stopped smoking again. That’s good news, though it does make me prone to fancying-a-smoke, which can lead to feeling-a-bit-glum-I’m-not-smoking. One of the best cures from glumness, I’ve found, is to run and run and run until all the glumness is sweated out of you. That may sound trite, trivial and rubbish, but I’m telling you now that it’s also 100% true.

Having finished work early, and come home, the main spot of tidying up and the rest was done by around half five. Looking forward to a whole evening of not-smoking and possibly watching-rubbish-telly, a hint of glumness overcame me. I tried washing the filter on the vacuum to see if that would entice me to excitement, but no, there was only one cure that would work, and it was a good-hard-run-don’t-mind-if-I-do-thank-you.

Off, off, off into the sunset I set, though it was already dark as it happens, but that’s a much more poetic way to begin. Left at the sea front, up towards Seaton Sluice. It’s a good while since I’ve run up the back of the caravan park to get to Seaton Sluice, but I went that way tonight – it has lights, and the trail round the front was likely to be waterlogged, and there was me without a head-torch in the pouring rain. In one spot that actual road appeared to have dissolved a bit, had to check I wasn’t hallucinating, but no, it appeared to have crumbled at the edge, and some hasty traffic lights had been set up around it.

Arriving at Seaton Sluice, I was surprised how good I felt – lungs in good working order, not breathing very heavily, could it be that the failing-to-smoke could be paying dividends already? Maybe I should run through Seaton Sluice, to add another mile or so on, see how that felt?

Hmm, that felt good. Now I need to turn around now, there’s no path between Seaton Sluice and Blyth, except along the dunes and that’s not lit and clearly will be populated by a collection of murderers, perverts and well… people. Let’s just go and see where the less-dangerous, better-lit path along the side of the road runs out. It’ll be at the car park, right? Well, maybe by the pub then. Ok, well it’ll have to stop at the edge of Seaton Sluice, there’d be no point to it… oh, it keeps going, eh? Well, I’m still feeling pretty groovy, maybe I could run along to the toilet block at the car park on the dunes, that’s 4.5 miles from home. Made it, Perhaps to the farm towards Blyth, that’s 5 miles, and I’ve never reached there without being knackered (and often accessing an emergency cigarette at this point, hidden in the nook of a dune, puffing away). Oh, that was it I just passed was it? Well, I’m almost at Blyth now, might as well continue, that’ll be something close to 6 miles. Right that’s Blyth, and 5.7 miles. Might as well do the extra bit to make it 6, shame not to, don’t you think?

Right. That’s 6 miles. Let’s stop messing about and run home, shall we. Back through Blyth, felt good. Back along the road by the dunes – groovy, kept on plodding. Into Seaton Sluice, remembering that the last time I did this run in conventional shoes, I felt like my foot was going to break in half and my knee pop out of my leg at this point – no such complaint from my barefoot shoe approach. Back through the Sluice, I’m essentially home-free now, yes? Down the hill into Whitley Bay, avoiding the dissolve-o-road and along the Links, still feeling ridiculously chipper.

Finally, along the Promenade and back to the start. Look at watch, that’ll be 12.1 miles sir. Hang on, that’s only one mile short of an actual half-marathon. Well, it seems a shame to miss the chance, so I scamper off another half-mile down the road, abrupt turn around and back to finish my 13.1 miles. I may even need a t-shirt to prove it.

Couldn’t quite get under the elusive two hour mark, but then I was three quarters of the way through the run before I realised I was taking part in a half-marathon, so I can’t be entirely blamed. Finished in 2:10:11 for a spot-on average ten minute mile.

Watch this space, I may publish the rules for the Occasional Half Marathon series in the near future.

Picture this…

Posted: 14/12/2012 in Uncategorized

Prior to running, I took a lot of photos – you could find me at the beach as the sun rose, you could find me in the streets taking photos of people doing …stuff… and you could find me you could find me shooting weddings, something that I’ve discovered I really enjoy. However, running has put a bit of a brake on getting out early in the mornings to take photos, as I’ll more likely be found out pounding the paths and trails if the weather is good, marvelling at the beautiful sunrise without trying to capture it.

I also used to shoot a fair number of self portraits, for two very good reasons:

  1. No one else that I know is happy to hang around and have their picture taken, so you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, right? Also, selfies take a fair bit of discipline to get right, as well as some thinking about how the heck you focus on yourself…
  2. I did a 365 – that’s a project where you take a photo every day for a year. It makes you get into the groove of finding something random to take a shot of, setting up, taking the shot, put away and edit. Every day. When you’re thinking “what’s here?”, quite often the answer is “my head”.

Anyhow, I haven’t done much of that over the last year, but last night I cracked out a light and my camera and set up. This was the result:

A year in the making 600

Yup, can’t get away from the running, eh?

Today, as it turned out was a good day.

I managed to convince a couple of hardy souls from work to run the North Tyneside 10k next year. Craig, who shares my surname, and George, who started running about the same time as me, and has similarly stuck with it, though she’s supplemented running with boot-camp sessions just for that extra hard-core action.

Craig suggested we should all go running on a lunch time to train towards the 10k in March, and as last week wasn’t a great time diary-wise we decided to try and get out this lunch time. Why not, an extra bit of running is nothing to turn down, is it, and goodness knows I’m always up for an extra bit of exercise. Having taken a look at the font-of-all-knowledge that is Google Maps, and found a cheeky little 3 mile route around the Waggonways, the old train tracks that have been converted to trails in the borough.

The weather didn’t look too grand, bit of rain, spot of hail and a touch of freezing fog, but running cocks a snook at the concept of weather*, puts on it’s shoes and gets wet, possibly a bit bronchial. And that’s what we did, meeting up at the front door of the office and slinking out into the chill. My GPS wasn’t feeling like playing, and George’s iPhone had picked up a signal, so off we went***.

It turned out that the ice had hidden and was still there in force, a touch of whoop-whoosh-yikes and we picked our way along the path. We managed to keep it together, picking our way through the frozen puddles. The Waggonways have a nice flat rocky surface, more forgiving than concrete or asphalt, and nice underfoot.

By this point, we’d run to the first turn, and were heading up the long spur to take us up to Backworth.

And that was where it went wrong.

I didn’t know how we missed a turn, or where the turn was at**** but we arrived at a road that looked like we were in the wrong place. So, we crossed the road, ran up the track and found a turn back around – back up to the road and off we went, seemingly back on track*****. Along the road, back onto a track along the back of some new houses and we’re back onto the Cobalt estate and along to work.

Given my GPS had decided not to lock onto a signal, it was up to George to provide the numbers – turns out we’d done just over 3 miles at a 9 minute mile pace. That’s a wee bit faster than I usually run, and explained why I was feeling a bit pooped.

Quick shower, back to work and that was that – roll on next Wednesday and outing umber two. 🙂

*Well, I say that, sometimes running goes “crikey, that’s cold/wet/slippy/too hot** and stays indoors.

**For the record, I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a run because it too hot – I live in Britain for goodness sake, that just never happens.

*** Well, OK, I had a half cigarette before, which caused a touch of hilarity, but I reckon I’m quitting soon again, so that’s no problem.

**** That’s because we actually went the right way, I’m just a bit rubbish at urban navigation… I think it comes from being used to only needing to avoid running into the sea in order to have a “route”.

*****Basically because we’d actually been on-track. Like I say, my navigation leaves a little to be desired…

I’ve owned one of these for years, and it’s done me good while walking about the place. But what about running? Surely it’s too big and heavy, no? But it’s lovely, so I figured I ought to at least give it a go and see…

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Paramo make this bit of attire, so what do they say about it?

  • Less prone to abrasion or damage through reversed zips.
  • Increased field of vision provided by a fully adjustable, wired and roll-away/ detachable, low profile hood.
  • Maximum freedom of movement and increased comfort provided by articulated shoulders and sleeves.
  • Access to inner layers and additional venting, even when wearing harness, with our front twin zip design.
  • Single-handed, on-the-move cuff adjustment provided by BiteTab’ closure.
  • Easy access storage from a large external ‘dry’ chest pocket.
  • Handwarming and OS map storage provided by an internal ‘dry’ pocket.
  • Excellent weather protection from our unique 2″ drip skirt and pronounced scooped tail.
  • Additional temperature control provided by single-handed hem drawcord pulls. Also helps eliminate rucking when load carrying.
  • Increased visibility in low-light conditions with the addition of reflective piping front and rear.
  • The Velez Smock benefits from a closer, contoured fit.

Wow, that’s quite a list, eh? I can safely ignore the “closer, contoured fit” comment, as when I bought it I was an XXL, whereas now I’m a healthier L. All of which means it comes under the heading of “baggy”. Not badly, there was a proper gale of a wind blowing up the coast and it didn’t flap around. I’ve got a theoretically-correct-fitting waterproof that suffers worse in the wind.

It’s not light though. Or is it, let’s consider that for a moment. My current jacket of choice is a Ronhill trail jacket that packs into it’s own pocket. It weighs nothing at all so far as I can tell. The Velez is made of sterner stuff, and it doesn’t stuff into a tiny, tiny space. You know you’re wearing it – though also in a good way – the aforementioned wind just didn’t touch me, nor did the chill.

The thing that was really worrying me was overheating, it’s a full-on jacket that I’ve worn while walking in sub-zero snowy countryside, and it’s always been toasty. But you know what, I was pleasantly warm, didn’t feel sweaty and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. A quick six miles including a few hills left me feeling sightly sweatier than if I’d not had a waterproof, but nothing dreadful.

The side zips are about perfect, slide ’em up and you can tug it over your head, if you need extra venting there’s a double zip on both sides so you can slide ’em down without the bottom flapping (and no-one wants a flappy bottom, let’s be honest). The front pocket had my head torch, a hat and a pair of gloves in it, with room to spare – that OS map-size thing is true too, done that before.

I’ve always had the feeling that the Nikwax Analogy fabric does work better than other materials – the whole magic of temperature control seems to work better in this than in any of my other waterproofs. Also, they describe it as being “like an animal”, and, well, that sounds pretty hardcore right?

In short, I think it’ll see more use during the colder weather, and I’m dying to get out in it in some proper rain – check out the hood. It’s now on my list for The Wall in case weather looks bad – that was the main reason for testing it out – not sure the Ronhill light top will make do with the hilltops along Hadrian’s legacy…

Would be nice to try one that was the right size – can only feel that would make it even better… 🙂 Also, the hood is detachable, can’t figure out if it is also roll-away or if that’s an either/or thing? When it’s not pouring down I tend to keep the hood in the front pocket, it would be nice if I could stow it in place.

Pac Man

Posted: 04/12/2012 in Uncategorized

It wasn’t freezing tonight, which seemed as good an excuse for a run as any, so off I went. Buoyed by my session on the hills at Tynemouth on Friday, I figured a return trip was in order.

Off along the coast, and it was less cold than I expected, and the decision to avoid a waterproof seemed like a good one. Because I’m up for something a bit different, and because I’m theoretically in training now for The Wall in June, I strapped on an OMM Last Drop ten litre pack with a water bladder in it and about a litre of water. The run along to Tynemouth was pretty good – my legs were feeling groovy and I covered the couple of miles in under 20 minutes.

The hills. The hills, the hills, the hills. They were waiting for me in Tynemouth main square, and I piled down them willy-nilly. As I’m not a total muffin, I’d taken a head torch for the bottom bit, where I couldn’t remember there being any lights. Quite right too, and it lit up the path the the riverside nicely. I shocked a cyclist at the bottom – not on purpose, I wouldn’t do that, obviously, but cyclists are often easily startled. I did my usual “hello”, which would elicit a return greeting from another runner, and in fact already had on the way over. Cyclists are a different breed, I suspect, and this one grunted.

Down to the bottom, turn around and back up on first ascent. All good, and I was feeling strong. Reached the top, turned around and back down again.

Why is it that running downhill makes me want to go to the toilet? Flat and uphill are both fine, but there’s something about downhill that makes me want to wee. It’s odd. Actually, it’s unsettling. Is it a gravity thing? Is it my form wen running downhill? Is it an act of God? WHo knows, but it’s very strange. Does anyone else get that?

Back to the bottom, passed another couple of cyclists with a cheery “hello” and was rewarded with another brace of grunts. Maybe it’s because they’re pushing a few kilos of iron uphill and they’re not feeling cheery? I suspect that cyclists just generally need a hug. Maybe I’l try it next time, though it may end in disaster, so maybe not.

Turned around and back up again. Still feeling pretty chipper. Got to the top, back to the bottom and turned around. Back to the top, still feeling fine rather than knackered as I felt on Friday. What to do? With the certain knowledge that my (veggie) sausage and mash would be getting cold at home I figured I could fit in one more set and then head home.

Down, down, down, and to the bottom. Cue one more cyclist and another “hello” rewarded with another grunt. Maybe a tickle would cheer them up, or a quick massage, perhaps their shoulders are sore?

Or drugs?

Turn around and back up for the fourth time, and arrived back at the top. Still feeling miraculously fresh, and I headed home at what felt like a decent clip.

I hadn’t even noticed the pack with the water on my back – that was a bit of a shocker, I expected to feel weighed down, so good news for preparation for The Wall.

Back home and I’d covered six and a half miles in an hour and seven minutes, including four sets of the hills and four moody cyclists.

All is good.