27 February 2009

I put a spell on you

As near as possible a perfect day for a run. The sky was blue, it was warm but not too much (still, pretty warm for the end of February), dry, no wind, ... well, almomst no wind: a breeze did spring up from somewhere. being the last friday of the month, no prizes for guessing where I was headed.

First, though, I had to contend with indeterminate delays on Great Western. There was a problem with the track between Swindon and Didcot: a train was forced to back up past a set of points so it could switch to the other line (on which trains would then be running in both directions, not a great state of affairs even over a short distance) and then it could proceed to Didcot and points east. Two or more trains were stuck between the points it was making for and Swindon, and as the railway employee on the platform explained, the later trains would not be allowed to get ahead of the one that first encountered the problem. I suppose it would not do to shuffle the order in which the trains run.

So it was a slow train to Reading and then a fast one from there into Paddington - we arrived in Reading just in time to connect with one that was running from Oxford, and therefore immune to problems at Swindon. A couple of minutes past 12 at Paddington: could I make it to Hyde Park Corner in time for half past?

Well, I did. A brisk march (interspersed with jogs) through the park and I arrived in good time, and not in bad shape either. it was a good enough warm up. I lined up near the back of the A race - now, apparently, reclassified as under 22 minutes, so I was not a fraud - and chatted with Chris, who used to be the guy I always tried to beat until this year he hit the form of his life and left me standing. Sure enough he was away from me by the 1K mark, and at the turn he must have been a couple of hundred yeards in front. I had taken up with a guy called Simon who pushed me into very last place in the A race as he passed me by the lake, before the first tunnel, but kindly invited me to tag along (and I think wound back his pace by a notch or two).

Strangely, it felt very good, and actually the age-graded performance was reasonable (68.3 per cent: it's now a couple of years since I broke 70, which I didn't do often anyway) and a sub-22 time was good by my recent standards. So I should be pleased. I managed a decent attack on the hill behind the Lido, hoping to get rid of a guy I had caught but failed to shake off along the lakeside: he stuck with me up the hill, even though I almost edged him into a bush - for which I used some of my precious breath to apologise - but faded along the straight at the top, muttering something about 21 minutes not being on as the clock reached 17 and the 4K board was still pretty distant. It might have ended up with a sprint to the line between me and Simon, who came past me somewhere between there and the finish, but sprint wasn't in my repertoire at that stage so he was welcome to the place. I used to run only against the clock, not for position: now, it struck me (somewhere about 3.5K) I run not against the clock but against Time.

Chris ran a huge PB, 6 seconds off a time he set in 1991 I think he said: 20:12. Rach kindly observed that my reps were helping, but I had to admit to having done only one set: however, by the end of next month they might have made a difference. Time for at least a couple of sessions before then. Will that get me near Chris, I wonder? Given that my best is 20:40, in August 06, it might be a forlorn hope - but if Chris can PB 18 years on, why not?

(Here's a link to the title song - audio only)

11 February 2009

Blame it on Cain

Never trust a triathlete if you want sensible transport advice. Well, I stand corrected, because even though she rides a bike she doesn't like being called a triathlete. Sorry, Rach! But never trust a triathlete in personal transport matters is still a good line, and I'm going to keep it.
It was a lovely morning, though there's still some snow - now hard and compact, and very slippery where it hasn't been cleared. I started chatting to Rachael on Google, merely asking if she'd be at the Bridges race today. I wondered whether I could get there in time as I was at the mercy of the bus, and was not sure that the train it would get me to the station to catch would be early enough to get me to the start of the race. I foolishly mentioned the possibility of getting my bike out, which of course to a triathlete is not a matter requiring more than a fraction of a second's thought.
Well, it saved me the bus fare, and it was a great deal more pleasant and healthy than the bus. I met and exchanged greetings with about a dozen dog-walkers (I did not speak to the two who remained where they stood, face to face across the cycle path with a dog sitting between them, obliging me to take to the grass) and caught the train that I feared would be too late.
However, in the course of the ride a cunning plan had come to me, and I am now in Coach A with my bike in the guard's compartment ready to convey me to Westminster Bridge far more quickly than any alternative means of transport. Then I can ride it to the office - and leave it there, as I don't think I can turn up to the IBIL seminar this evening in my running kit and on my bike - although Sir Robin Jacob does ride is bike to such events, now I think about it. But I didn't bring my lights.

01 February 2009


February started cold and windy, but I am not going to allow winter to defeat me. There were a few flakes of snow in the air when I left home for the first Sunday morning long run in some time, and I was prepared for the worst - hat, gloves, leggings, thermal top, windproof jacket. I needed them all.

I'd forgotten to charge the Garmin, so made the best of it and merely noted my departure time for comparison with the time when I arrived back home. I planned to run very gently anyway, so the absence of my virtual partner was not unwelcome. Distance, not speed, was my goal, so I carried on over the field instead of turning right to Richardsons.

The going was good, especially considering how much rain we've had recently. What moisture there was - and there are still big puddles on the track - was frozen. The wind was from the east, bringing Siberian temperatures and threats of snow, and it was strong enough to make progress slower than normal. But it meant that I didn't overheat, although when I reached the drinking water tap provided in memory of Dr Basil Phillips, general practitioner, of Newbury (1914-1995) I was thirsty enough to try to extract refreshment from it - a forlorn hope in freezing temperatures.

I think about many people on my runs. Dr Phillips is one, Lieutenant Hugh Frederick Grosvenor is another - I always note the stone that marks approximately the spot where he died in an armoured car accident on 9 April 1947, and wish I knew more about the circumstances: today, I noted (because the grass had been cut, or died back) that there are three or four little wooden crosses and a poppy lined up in front of it. And I think about friends with whom I have run this route in the past, and other friends with whom I have run elsewhere. Today, though, for no paticular reason, it seems right to be alone.

Next week I have the challenge of Dursley, where the route (according to one of my running mates) heads off uphill from the start and gets worse from there on. I won't be satisfied with 10 minute miles next Sunday.