Sunday, 26 July 2009

This week's running

Weds - Mike and I headed out from his house and up to Cleeve. We took a wrong turn off the top and came down through woods before picking up the cleevewold route back onto the common. I encouraged a slog up to the trig point and then we pushed it a bit too hard along the scarp before dropping back down through the woods to Southam. Both felt like we'd overdone it after the exertions of the weekend.

Over the next couple of days I experienced a real low which I think was just the effects of being worn out. Tired and thin skinned, Iwas not in the best of places to deal with various controversies that all reared up similtaneously at work. No run on friday.

Sunday - we did a bit of a different route. Mike still talking about the uber Cotswold Way run and hs roped in a few others. I've put my name down as a supporter/pacer!

The next race is we're aiming towards is the Brecon Beacons if it can be fitted in around family comittments.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Snowdon International Mountain Race

A long car journey up through Wales. Heavy showers and scenery that becomes more and more removed from the sanitised tame boring prettiness of the Cotswolds. Streams of water mark white lines down hillsides, the cloudbase sags like a bloated underbelly.

Down through the Pass. Familiar looking crags bring back memories of camping holidays in the '90s. It's good to be back - older, balder, slightly wiser and definitely happier.

The new surroundings of the Beris youth hostel challenge my instincts to be self-contained, so it's good to be with Mike who is naturally enthusiastic and an experienced hosteler. Whereas I'm internalising what's coming and failing to attain a state of zen-like calm, Mike shares out the excitement of the anticipation with the new people we meet. Over breakfast the following morning, an Australian evangelist claiming the ability to speak in tongues matches Mike's enthusiasm with his own. The exchanges to an fro like a tennis rally as they good naturedly yet persistently power their respective interests backwards and forwards; attempting to find the angles and make the passing shot.

Warming up in the field behind the fairground where the race starts, the Welsh international runner, Math Roberts resembles my spaniel Midge when he ferrets at high speed through the rushes before circling to a halt and doing a wee.

The proud Welsh countdown to the start sets the adrenal glands to 'Flow' and, with a blast of a fire engine's siren, we're off between the cheering crowds up and out of Beris.

Over to one side the TV helicopter blaps away. I can't find a rhythm in the congestion so sometimes make my way along the larger stones marking the edge of the path. The air becomes clearer and cooler. The landscape opens up and is welcome after the confines of the town. The bulk of the hill appears into view.

I snap away on the crap argos camera [photos] and chat intermittently with other runners. The route is heavily populated with walkers and spectators, the train chuffs away. Numbers feel incongruous in the setting.

It's too steep to run so I power walk with hands hips, hands on knees up into the cloud.

The path narrows and the volume of users on it increases. It's cold enough for breath to come out in clouds.

Marshalls' whistles up ahead and the lead runner Andi Jones comes past. More whistles, more runners going at speeds you really wouldn't want to get in the way of. We're supposed to be keeping to the right, but it just isn't working. Laura Kent comes past totally focused and I shout encouragement in the moment before she's gone.

The summit comes and goes. People in hoods, the chip timer mat bleeping as we run over it.

I'm gathering speed and momentum when the track narrows ahead. There's a big boulder in the middle, runners on the left and walkers on the right so i go over the boulder and through the gap between the bodies. "Good running," someone says as I pass. I'm tanking along, I see Mike working hard, coming up through the mist, he gives me a huge, "Go ON, Matt!" and I say something similar and then I'm coming down out of the cloud and trying to work the argos camera at the same time.

Eyes and mind and feet co-ordinate faster than I can process thought (which isn't saying much I suppose).

At the Clogwyn drink station I take a cup, get a mouthful and throw the rest to one side - unfortunately it goes over a watching kid. I hear the mother's instantaneous "Oh" and see her reach out to her child but I'm gone and all I can do is raise an arm by way of apology.

Still going flat out, I'm trading places with an Eryri runner, when karma strikes back. My shoe leaves a wet smear across the dust black plastic of a drainage pipe and I'm over, twisting and distorting, somehow rolling as I fall. I'm looking at the stones of the path in front of my face, my forearm has taken the worst. Immediately I'm up and going at the same speed as before, the Eryri runner ten metres ahead. I hear woman shout, "Well DONE!" and a marshall shouts to me that there's first aid just ahead, but I'm ok despite the the sudden cramping in my calves.

The steep road section back into the town is awful because it makes leg muscles go into reverse to slow down the momentum.

We're running down the street into town and everyone is out of their houses clapping all the runners as we pass. Turning the corner onto the high street and the cheering gets louder and my legs just dissolve. The Eryri guy goes away from me as if i'm stationary and I want this all to stop right now because I can't go on. But then we turn off into the park and I can see the finish and hear the crowds cheering us on either side.

I'm determined to smile as I finish and just about manage it. Someone presses a bottle of water into my hand and a cadet snips the timing chip off my shoe and then I just stand, looking up, pouring water over my head. Utterly, utterly knackered.

Then the melee of the end. Everyone euphoric, Laura (who managed 4th lady) and her husband are nearby and we wait for Mike to come in.

In Pete's Eats we gulped pints of sweet tea and wolfed a veggie breakfast each, high on the afterburn of the run and savouring the atmosphere of the place.

All of the above self-centredness falls into perspective with the news that one runner suffered a massive heart attack just below the summit. He was given first aid and airlifted off but very sadly died. RIP

Laura on her way to 4th position

Mike descending

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

This week's running

Friday I went up Leck Hill and back. Needed to get back in time for the test match highlights so cut a few corners off my usual route. I climbed the gate at the top of the fields onto the road instead of going up and through the gate and also took a direct line up 'erosion groove' rather than the longer but less steep route beneath the cliff edges. I was at the top in about 27mins and back at the house in 52mins.
Filled in the questionairre for the Snowdon commentators this eve - well it was the third time that they'd emailed it to me - bet they don't use it!!
Friday, I ran out with Mike up Nottingham Hill and accross to Cleeve and back down to Southam through the woods (great descent).
No more running until the big race!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Runs like clockwork -

Today Chris and Belinda and Paddy and Fergus came around and we ate some good food and hung out. Happy days...

This vid was taken on Tuesday earlier in the week.

Jen and Christian have had their baby

Saturday, 4 July 2009

This week's running

A heat wave sits over Britian. Andy Murray rises up through the Wimbledon tournament only to crash out, beaten by Roddick who was the better player on the day. The boys sleep in their nappies and run out of season colds and temperatures that encourage worries of swine flu. It is, in the words of David McComb, too hot to move and too hot to think.

On weds night I set out from the house to run up Lecky hill and back. Heavy legs, heavy heat. It was a real 'training' run. In other words, enjoyment was not the motivating factor. Still, the summer evening views from the top were as lovely as ever and I felt good when it was over. I'd mislaid my watch, so that was my excuse for not being able to work to hard. On the way past the church, I saw a group of scouts all out doing some kind of activity - looked like they were having fun and it reminded me of the Scouty phase of my youth...

Friday eve, Mike and I powered around the Sandy Lane loop. The idea was to push it, so the conversation was a bit limited. Being skinnier I make it up the hills quicker so I did a few 'gate waits' and slowed over a few sections. There wasn't much time for aethetics and the heat was a good incentive to get it over with as quickly as possible. End time 1:11:51.

Sunday morning, 6.30, Mike drove to ours and then we dropped my car at Daisybank Road before heading back up to Cleeve Hill. We ran the Cotswold Way from Mike's house Southam to Leckhampton Hill, which is apparently one of the finest sections of the path in terms of views. The flowers in the limestone grassland were little pinpricks of colour, the tree leaves - verdant. We made stops to enjoy the views and, all in all, had a good recovery run.

Mike, king of the ultras, is planning a run of the entire Cotswold Way and keeps trying to rope me into it too. Now whilst I don't want to feel left out, and while it's really nice to be asked, the thought of a 24 hour run of over 100 miles is about as attractive as, well... as it sounds.

Nearly time to begin the taper for Snowdon...

Coming up to the edge of Cleeve

Through Linover Woods

Getting hotter...

Looking north along the scarp

Beeches above Daisybank car park

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Cotswolds in the summer

Took these on my travels today...