Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Muddy ell!

This was probably the most solid part of the course!
Well that was an eventful English National Cross Country Champs for sure. The morning of the 19th of February brought with it rain, sleet and snow. O joy I thought as I packed my kit for the journey just up the road to Alton Towers. Still though by the afternoon the onslaught from the heavens had ceased. However, driving over the snow covered ridge of Ipstones Edge didn't do much to enthuse me with eagerness to get out and race. I travelled down with Staffs Moorlands athlete Jon Whilock and I think we were both pleased to see the snow disappear as we descended to Alton Towers. However, when we arrived we were greeted with a scene similar to something from the Somme Battlefields. Mud mud glorious mud......

The brown sticky stuff had been causing serious problems all day with St Johns rushing left right and centre. It was rumoured that 1 or possibly 2 people had broken their legs. It was correct though that the courses were altered in the afternoon as medics and ambulances could not gain access to certain areas. This was the proviso to keep the event from being cancelled.

I set of as the sole athlete for Severn AC (the rest of the team quite sensibly staying at home) amongst some 1300+ runners. It was like an early American gold rush, well that was until the mud enveloped every ones feet (this is were if I was sponsored by Inov8 I'd be saying my Xtalon 212's gave me great grip on the muddy course....however, I don't think anything that day gave anyone any great grip...but just in case you are wondering the Xtalons didn't do bad and I faired a lot better than most). The men's course had been shortened to 10k. At the time I was quite glad about that as running was extremely difficult, however in hindsight I think I would have faired better had it been the usual 7.5miles as people were tiring at the end and I think I may have made more places up. In the end I finished a very muddy 543; I think 1302 or there abouts finished. A lot dropped out though that's for certain, many due to conditions and several due to loosing shoes! It was a hard run, one which I didn't overly enjoy but it definitely served as a good training run, so mustn't grumble.

I rounded the weekend of with a 17mile run with Tracy on a circular route from Froghall travelling up to the Weaver hills. Then down into Wooton Estate (Mr Bamfords place; him of big yellow JCB digger fame), back up to Alton Towers, over the Churnet up to Alton and then into Dimmingsdale Woods (one the FC haven't sold yet Kate!). From there we followed the River Churnet up the Valley, ascended up to Whiston and back down to Froghall. It was a great trail run over footpaths. I'll have to take my camera next time to get some snaps as it is very scenic on most parts of the route. It was a great appetite builder that's for sure and I don't think much of my pizza and chips touched the sides as it went down. So not a bad weekend all in all. :)

Another just for fun link below. I appear looking heavy and tired at around the 7min50 point. But its worth watching from around 7min10 as a poor runner has a shoe mishap.


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Cross Country a go go

Whoops I haven’t rambled on at all yet in February, and it’s over half way through the month...so here goes. ....
I must admit I have been reading about everyone’s exploits on the fells over the last few weeks and it’s got me excited about the start of the season. However, even though my feet were itching to get out on the fells as well, I stuck to my back of a postage stamp training plan and just carried on doing the cross-country races on the Saturday and doing a long slow distance run on the Sunday.

So after the initial shock inductions of the Birmingham league X country and North Wales X country league in January I had a rough idea what to expect at the Midland Championships at Leamington on the 29th of the same month. I was running for Severn but Terry the coach had forgot to enter me for the race! Well I hadn’t travelled 2hours down the M6 to not run so I suddenly had a name change and ran as another athlete who hadn’t turned up..a little naughty but Severn had not got enough athletes there on the day for a full team so my running wasn’t going to unbalance any team results. The one thing I have noticed at these races is how people start getting worried about hills and wonder about the place spreading this “dreaded” news. Since I’ve started fell running I now know what a hill really is and I just smile at people when I hear about “the hills” on the course. Most fell runners would describe them as hillocks or a few light undulations. This was the case at Leamington as well...mind you my smile was soon wiped of my face when the usual break neck speed ensued at the off. I must say well done to a couple of local fell running Leek lads; Matt Clowes who  finished 4th and Alex Derricott who came in 15th. Brilliant running. I think we’ll be seeing a bit of them both on the fells this season..well perhaps I’ll see them if I’m a spectator, ha. I enjoyed the race though and kept roughly even splits over the 7.5mile course (around 6:35 pace) and finished in 144th. About 300 ran so I was just about in the top half of the field so a good excuse to grab Pizza and beer for a carb loading session that evening prior to Sundays run.

Sundays run was an exploration of a few footpaths around the Chesterfield area in order to get a little familiar with the Dark & White Mini- Mountain Marathons series. Tracy and I have decided to sign up to it and give the mixed pairs ago. As we both have not done anything like this before (Tracy only started running last summer!) we thought it would be a fun thing to try out....well you cant go too wrong in 3hours we assumed.... having had a closer look at the network of paths we are now revising that view ha. O well on the 27th of February we will find out for sure. It was an enjoyable run out but got a little dampened when on the way there another car came around a blind bend and added some extra remodelling to the side of mine. Doh!

The following Saturday I and the dented car headed through rain and high winds to the last North Wales X country race at Oswestry. Now that was a fun race, the challenge wasn’t just about running through the mud, or up the reasonably steep gradients but more about not getting blown of your feet. I must admit I went over twice but you just had to smile, it would have been a perfect “You’ve Been Framed” moment if anyone had been mad enough to be outside filming it. I found I had a better race overall though. The long Sunday runs were I felt beginning to pay off, and as the race was particularly sapping due to the winds and mud I found that the strength I had built up from the Sunday runs began to pay off with me making up extra places on the last lap, to finish eventually in 25th (121 runners this time).  I was pleased with my run not only on the greatly improved position from last time but I was also the 4th counter for Eryri, and the men’s team won the league title for the first time since 2001/2.
Sunday saw the usual jaunt for Tracy & I again over the Roaches to put 20miles under our belts. The weather was quite inclement, but despite this for some bizarre reason we ended up running some 20minutes faster than our previous best time!?!? I certainly didn’t expect that after Saturdays run, but hey I wasn’t going to question it. I must admit though I did feel somewhat tired come Monday morning. Apart from 4miles on the Friday I didn’t do any running from Monday onwards. However, those high winds on the Monday kept me busy in the week climbing trees and lifting logs so I suppose I was getting some sort of a steady aerobic work out J
A work moment; a blown tree that fell over a 11,000 volt electric line, brought the middle line down and set fire to its trunk!
The 12th of February came and yep you guessed it another cross country run for Moi. It was a jaunt down the M6 & M5 to Longbridge for the final Birmingham League X country race. The sun had come out to play although the temperature was not reflecting that, and an icy chill was in the air but otherwise perfect conditions. It was the usual stampede at the start, but things soon spread out as the first half a mile was practically up a steady incline. I have got a lot better at my pace judgement and set of at a 6.30 mile pace and as with previous races decided that I should try and maintain this. The course itself had several inclines in it and once again I noticed that this is where I would make positions up. It was a 3 lap race and on the last lap I had a great battle with my fellow club mate Alex. He would overtake me on the flats I would pull him back and overtake on the inclines. With 400metres to go I was just in front of him then at 350 he puts in an extra burst and he’s in front of me again...dam. Then remembering once upon a time many many moons ago I used to be a 4.09 miler I thought I’d better fire up the ole wooden pegs. With 150 to go I past him and then decided for good measure I would overtake the Bournville Harrier some 15metres ahead as well. I did it... just about; it was good to know there is a little life left in the legs yet. Terry (Severn's coach) also gave a similar comment, which is good to know it wasn’t just my fisherman’s tale imagination kicking in. He also pointed out that Alex used to run 1:52 800’s...bloody good job I didn’t know that when he first came past otherwise I may have just rolled over and died. Position wise I finished 80th, so a big improvement from my 106 (I think I said 103 in an earlier blog but checked the official results and I was out by 3). Well as far as I was concerned it was a good enough reason for another beer and pizza session as Tracy and I were planning the 3 trigs run again that we did a few weeks earlier for the Sunday.
So not much travelling for this Saturday’s event, it’s the English National X Country Champs at Alton Towers. Just 7 miles up the road from my home, this makes a nice change. It will be the last one of the season for me, which is both good and bad. I have enjoyed the cross country races and they have definitely served in adding a little speed endurance to my legs. But reading about everyone else out on the fells as I said earlier has got me itching to join in as well. So although I won’t see any of the Severn crew till next season I will hopefully be bumping into a few of my fell friends who I haven’t seen in at least 6 months. First on the agenda is the Dark and White with Tracy and then its straight in at the deep end for me and the Long Mynd on the 6th March....mmmmm that will certainly be a baptism of fire for me, but I am sure I’ll finish with a masochistic smile on my face J

Just for fun here is a you tube clip of the Midland X Country Champs...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p584yRwQXps&feature=fvwThe Ditch!