Archive for January, 2015

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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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!