Some Stuff About Me ......

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, but my heart truly belongs in the fells of Northern England, it's what I was made for. Please read about my adventures and experiences ....

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

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Ancient Runner

It occurs to me that since we've lived at our current house (something that occurred pretty much simultaneously with my leaving the Royal Navy), I have become a creature of habit. Nothing dramatic, because I have a fairly chaotic nature and have to work hard to keep things on the straight and narrow, I'm talking about getting to work at a particular time, having a cuppa at a particular time of the day, getting up early to go swimming etc.

Well, on those mornings I go swimming (Mon/Weds/Fri) I'm usually out of the house at about 0620 and you tend to see the same people out and about, particularly as I head to my swimming pool via the centre of town .... I'm talking about other runners here of course. Over the years we've had the Retired Army Officer, the Librarian, Mr Bowlegged, Miss HugeArse, Mrs Beercoat and the most notable, the Ancient Runner. The "Ancient Runner" is an elderly gentleman who has been an absolutely consistent feature of my mornings over the past 8 years or so, he really is getting on a bit and I would estimate that he's in his early 90s now. I always see him coming back up the road as I'm driving into town and he inevitably wears the same kit: shapeless black baggy shorts (way too big for him) and a stripey sports shirt of the sort your granddad would wear (like a polo shirt), open at the collar and flapping on his skinny arms. Until recently, his only concession to the cold was an enormous pair of black motorcycle gauntlets, however this year I've noticed he has taken to wearing a tatty old red fleece, the old boy is obviously feeling the cold.

He moves painfully slowly, his running pace is slower than most people's walking pace, his hunched back and scrawny neck accentuate the look of desperation that seems to be fixed to his face. If I'm a bit late and he's reached the junction that leads to his house, he slows (!) and walks home. I've seen him plodding down that road in all sorts of horrible weather, he's out there no matter what and it always looks like he's about to keel over from the effort.

My heart goes out to this old gent. Nobody wants to grow old and he's doing his best to maintain his fitness and keep himself healthy, despite his advancing years. He does his training early and in private, nobody but the early birds are privy to his efforts. I wonder if that's how I'll end up? Desperately trying to keep Father Time at bay, dragging my knackered body out of bed to crawl up and down a miniscule circuit at a snail's pace.  I really admire him, I know he hasn't given up.

And there's the lesson really and something I have to keep reminding myself about. It's really important not to give up.