Some Stuff About Me ......

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I live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire with my wonderful wife and soul-mate Helen. I have two incredible sons - Evan and Matthew - who are occasionally show up at home, usually when they're hungry or need money. The three of them are the best thing that ever happened to me and I love them all. I spent over 24 years in the Royal Navy, but since I packed it all in and got a proper job my life has gone from strength to strength and I've never looked back. I am a die-hard soul music fan and this remains a serious passion, but in recent years my life has been dedicated to running on the fells and trails of Northern England, it's what I was made for. Please read about my adventures and experiences ...

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A Year in Review

Did everyone have a good celebration and see the year out in style? We always struggle with New Year, the last thing either of us want to do is get arbitrarily hammered or spend all night going from pub to pub, so we try and do different stuff. In recent years that's meant heading over to the East Coast for a jog around the Hardmoors 30, however this year we were lucky enough to get a place at this year's Old Lang Syne fell race and so on New Year's Eve we headed over to Haworth for a belt around the 6.75 mile course, about 1,000ft of climb included. I had a terrible race at the Chevin Chase on Boxing Day so needed something to lift my spirits, fortunately I was much more on the button and managed to trim over six minutes off my previous time here in 2012, I'm taking that as a win.   Hey, four years older and six minutes faster? There has to be something good there.

I thought that it would be nice to see the New Year in from the hills that we love, so that evening we got back into outdoor kit and did a midnight jaunt up to Beamsley Beacon, it's the biggest hill of any consequence in our immediate vicinity and is quick and easy to get to. The views over Ilkley, Otley and Leeds were spectacular, as were the fireworks on the stroke of midnight. We took a bottle of wine up with us and toasted each other in the cold and wind (and rain), all in all, I think this might have been one of our more memorable evenings.

So ..... 2016, how did it go? From a running perspective, I guess things didn't go too badly. I struggled with a recurring hamstring injury for most of the year, however I've got to grips with it now and it's manageable, am glad to see the back of it. The target race early on in the year was the notorious High Peak Marathon, we did oodles of training and recce work for this but in the end it was cancelled due to bad weather in the Peak District. It was both a relief and disappointing, however we've now got to go though all that again as we have a deferred entry! Watch this space ....

The Frog Graham Round was my primary focus for the remainder of the year and I put a tremendous amount of time and work into it. I successfully got round in late July, but by God it wasn't easy and I won't forget it. I was the 6th person to successfully get round and for a while was the record holder (always a nice feeling), however an Ulverston Tri member came along a few weeks later and pinched it by just four minutes!! Those minutes I spent trying to stop my body shaking having swam across Crummock Water sans wetsuit really cost me, as did my slow descent off High Stile and an assortment of other little errors .... no matter, I did it and what's more I had a great day doing so. Something to remember.

In terms of other major races, well, Helen and I did the Old County Tops prior to my FGR and were fortunate enough to come away with another category prize, we also did the Marmot 24 mountain marathon along with mates Dave and Carol, coming away with the team honours. However the big race of the year was the UTMB TDS (74 miles, 24,000ft) in August. This was my third and probably final trip to the UTMB and I was looking to complete the Grand Slam of UTMB, CCC and TDS on consecutive years, quite a rare occurence I think, I guess I was just lucky it fell my way. As it was, the weather was blisteringly hot and it was a tremendous battle of will, I died a thousand deaths on the 6,000ft climb out Bourg St Maurice, the temperature reaching around 38c at the bottom of the valley. I don't think I've every been so glad to reach a finish line, it was very tough indeed. Helen had a terrific race, finishing appreciably faster than me and 1st British lady, 3rd Brit overall.

There have been a few other races and the usual BGR supports, however our probably our most memorable experience came after the National Fell Relays in Luss, we stayed up in Scotland for the following week and lurked in the general area of the Cairngorms and Glen Nevis. An attempt to nail the Cairngorm 4000s coincided with the first snow of the year and so that sort of stopped us in our track,s but we still had a couple of rather exciting days out, the first on the Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui side of the Lairig Ghru, the following day we went back to nail the Braeriach and Cairn Toul etc, massively misjudging the severity of the a) the snow b) the terrain and c) the distance. We go back to our van at 9.00pm that night, half-frozen to death and with over 26 mountain miles in our legs. It's a good thing we had headtorches or I guess we might have been in trouble. We did stop in at the Corrour bothy under the Devil's Point, however it was occupied by a couple of other "gentlemen" and they made it as clear as they could that there wasn't room at the inn. We didn't intend to stay anyhow [makes rude gesture].

So that's sort of been my sporting year, I've clocked up the best part of 1900miles running (most of which has been on the fell), 390,000ft of climb and perhaps 140 miles swimming. Cycling has been a bit of a disaster, need to fix this in 2017.

I was going to go on and write about the other important things in 2016, you know, real stuff like how life and work has been, but I think that deserves a separate blog. I'll get to it.

Bring on 2017!

Monday, 26 December 2016

Death and Joy

So, did everyone have a great Christmas? I truly hope so. I always have an uneasy sense of guilt over the festive period, the knowledge that there are those out there who don't have more food than they can eat, don't have a comfy, warm and secure home and most definitely don't have the luxury of being given expensive presents by people that care for them makes me very introspective and I'd be fibbing if I said it doesn't trouble me. It's the old social conscience thing again, I know that to many my politics will seem slightly to the right of Mussolini on a bad day (not true), but actually I do feel the occasional prickle of guilt.

All this against a backdrop of George the Greek shuffling off this mortal coil and well, it's been a curious 24 hours hasn't it? Say what you will about GM, the man had God-given talent and his death is a loss to the world, I'm sure we hadn't seen all he had to give. It's slightly ironic that his passing coincides with the terrible news of the plane crash in the Black Sea, far more column inches are being devoted to his death than the other 62 unfortunates of the Red Army Choir, it's pretty saddening.  I have a little knowledge of the Red Army Choir and although I don't like the majority of the propaganda-fuelled shite they used to push out, I do enjoy some of their more dramatic and haunting renditions. Nobody does Big Sad like the Russians (and they have good reason) and if your mood is robust enough to stand it, listening to their music is a rewarding experience. Here's a link that gives an example:

The one everyone knows is "Kalinka Moya", go to about 51:40 and you'll find it. The blokey in the ice-cream suit is Vadim Anan'ev, a well-known tenor. He was one lucky lad and didn't get on the flight. Strange to think that a lot of his mates are dead now.

Anyhow, back onto Christmas. Leading up to it things went a bit wrong, we had the Tour de Helvellyn Ultra last weekend and while I was busy congratulating myself on a half-decent performance I managed to come down with a stinking cold - gracefully passed on to me by an unapologetic Helen - and that made the week a bit miserable. Things perked up for Christmas Eve, my eyes and nose finally stopped watering and although I still felt a bit crap, it meant I could come out to play. We went up to Horton-in-Ribblesdale to join our friends Stolly and Hester and a whole bunch of others, Stolly is coming up for a "significant" birthday and as a result has decided to do 60 consecutive runs up Pen-y-Ghent. Just to be clear here, by that I mean on consecutive days, but it's still one hell of a challenge and he's been at it in all sorts of diabolical weather, Christmas Eve was his 56th and we joined him. I felt pretty ropey as we started running, but that soon cleared and before long I was really enjoying myself and loving the time out on the fell. Fellrunners are, by and large, my favourite people and today only served to endorse that opinion. We got to the top of PYG in a howling wind and pausing just long enough for a few pics, turned round and enjoyed a fantastic descent off the fell, one that included a good few powerslides on my arse, shouldn't have worn my knackered old X-Talons I guess! Actually, judging by the oversqueaks and shouts coming from behind me I don't think I was alone, I looked back to see both Helen and Hester sliding down the fell in a manner that whilst swift, is not normally recommended.  Back to their house afterwards for cuppas and soup and I was in my happy place, lovely people.

Christmas Day was a lazy sort of day, we had the in-laws around for dinner so Helen was determined to pull out the stops and make it a good one, it was too. A late prezzie opening was followed by what I can only describe as a marathon eatfest, it was lovely but very indulgent. I ran out of steam around 7.00pm and slumped in a chair, I don't know how I could have eaten more. It's a bit odd really, as runners we watch our weight carefully and alarm bells start to ring if I go over the 150lb watershed. More air-raid warning sirens than alarm bells this morning if I'm honest, how can you put on that much weight in one day??? I'll run it off ..... eventually.

It was the annual pilgrimage to the Chevin Chase this morning and I felt pretty crap. It was my first day without a Lem-Sip crutch and I really didn't fancy a hard charge around the Chevin. My feelings to this race are a bit ambivalent, as off-road races go the course is very easy, it's mostly even, predictable terrain and the inclines are gentle .... so why did it feel so bloody hard? Alright, I had the excuse of a 38-mile ultra last weekend to lean on, however other people manage to recover from such things (including Helen), why can't I? Perhaps I really am just getting older and slower.  I can't use the excuse of a cold either, one of my clubmates did a fantastic time, belting round a full eight minutes + faster than me and he's been laid up with a bad chest for the last three weeks. As it was, I finished under the hour, but only just. Compare this to my 2014 time and I was the best part of six minutes slower. I really am going to have to sort myself out, one of the problems with all these long days and hill training is that although you develop endurance AND the ability to endure (if that makes sense), it sure as hell doesn't do much for your leg speed and I think that showed today. If I'm serious about a JNC* attempt next year, I'm going to have to sort this out and get some proper running in again. I'm putting today down as a FAIL.

Incidentally, Jonny Brownlee won it, but only just - Tom Adams from Ilkley gave him a hell of a run for his money and finished just a few seconds behind him, must be hard to go around with a target on your back. As a club, Harrogate Harriers did pretty well, Chris Miller came 6th overall (very good at this level) and we had some excellent vet finishes. I've missed feeling part of the bigger "club" picture of late, I suppose this is because of the lonesome nature of the running Helen and I do, nobody else is daft enough to come with us on our big days out and I can't say I blame them. This was partially rekindled at the Lee Mill relays a few weeks back, but it wasn't enough to keep the fire burning, I will have to try harder next year.

Our next race is the infamous Auld Lang Syne fell race on New Years Eve, watch this space.

* Joss Naylor Challenge