25 November 2010

Now be Thankful

An obvious choice for today: best wishes to all my American friends. I'm thankful that I've had several occasions to hear and see Fairport (and, back in the mid-seventies, Swarbrick, Pegg & Nichol, who  might appear as a fictional law firm in some piece of writing in the future) perform it. Oddly enough, I've never reflected on the lyrics before, and having started to do so I'm not going any further. They could be a bit of a downer - although attributed to Swarb and RT, I sense the lyrics were mostly Thompson's work. The melancholy gives it away ...

My 40 mile per week target remains just that - no running this week so far, the pathetic excuse being toothache. It wouldn't help it to be out in this weather, drawing large volumes of cold air through my mouth - would it? But it's better now - the weather and the tooth. A strange dream last night, in which I was taking part in the Broloppet (a long-standing ambition, as I want to get another of the five longest bridges in the world under my belt to add to the two I've already run, though an ambition that's hard to realise when it takes place at ten-year intervals) but with ten minutes before the start I was eating omelette and a large helping of roast potatoes without having even entered the event. Strangely, given that in real life it is fully subscribed months in advance, I was able to get an entry on the day, when finally I found the registration desk. At least I find that I was wrong about another troubling element: I thought I was on the wrong side of the bridge, but it does indeed start in Denmark. My dream ended with me finding the money for entry fee, and I have no idea what happened in the race. Nothing unusual there.

12 November 2010

One for the Road

Another 2.66, unencumbered by my canine coach. Purpose: to collect car from garage. Average pace 7:45 - which doens't sound great but when I've had only an hour's break since my last run, of 8.46, I'll call that a good result.

Nice to find a Ronnie Lane song to put in here. I remember meeting him back in about 76, and I also rememebr the rather good photos I managed to get of him and the band, back in the days when I thought maybe I could make a living out of that sort of thing.

If Tomorrow Wasn't Such a Long Time

My personal trainer - the canine one - made sure I got the miles in this morning. We set off to go to the field to feed the ponies, then rashly decided to take the long route home - up to the Ridgeway, completing the regular 6.7 or so, one hour, run. Today it was 8.46 miles and 1:53. Coach Boston made sure I got the miles in by cleverly doubling back the way we had come along the Ridgeway, so I had a half-mile diversion - then had to cover it again. Eventually we agreed that I could put him on his lead, and although the pace didn't suit either of us at least he didn't stop at every interesting smell.

I think he's trying to get me accustomed to running at an appropriate speed for ultras.

09 November 2010

Out there in the Night

How quickly the nights draw in at this time of year. Club runs are now limited to well-lit roads in town, not the most interesting prospect but a necessary evil.

Arriving just in time for the start, I attached myself to three people who seemed to be going at about the right pace. Somewhere I overlooked two important matters: first, I was very, very stiff in the lower legs after Sunday's poseur effort, and second, I gave blood yesterday. Not very successfully, it has to be said: it dribbled out too slowly to fill a bag in the allotted 15 minutes, and a partly-full bag is no good because the measure of anticoagulant that's in the bag at the start doesn't become sufficiently diluted by the short measure of blood. The - what was he? I think his badge said "donor carer" or something, but let's call him the Man with the Needle, or better still, call him Shaun, which also appeared on his badge - so, Shaun asked whether I'd drunk much during the day (he was trying to take blood at 5.30pm) so I said, yes, and itemised it: three coffees and a cup of tea, plus a pint of water while I waited to be called. "That's not what you want to hear, is it?" I added, and he confirmed that I should avoid the diuretic drinks and concentrate on water and juice. Especially as it seems I have thin veins.

Anyway, an abortive donor session meant that I felt OK to run this evening, and to mark the occasion I forgot completely about taking it easy. For starters I was determined to do the long route, 6.35 miles or something (in the end I did a modified version which came in at 6.1, so not quite the target 10K per day like Murakami). The three with whom I was running in propinquity (a word I am using to amuse Graham) turned off where the medium route diverged from the long one, and I was on my own for a lonely mile or so before the two met again and, exhaling every lungful loudly enough for most of Abingdon to be following my progress, I caught Andrew and Ernie, out for a gentle run and a chat. I thought I might join them, but the craziness took over again and I left them to their reminiscences - beside them, my running history is hardly worth remembering, my running future is what matters.

I didn't think my pace slackened appreciably - the data show a bit of variation in my split times, inevitable in an urban run I suppose, but I hit a great pace half a mile or so from the end as i found myself mixing it with another club's elite group. Well, I think they were elite, and I didn't recognise them: but they did seem overdressed (jackets and hats: my concession to November was a long-sleeved top) and I did manage to say with them for a hundred yards or so, before tapering off on the climb back up to Tilsley Park.

The feeling at the finish was quite brilliant: stretching near another club ember, we remarked on how fantastic it is to finish. I need to codify that inspirational message so I can recall it when I need it - rather like the leaflet about my forthcoming book which I have pinned on the wall so I can read the endorsements from Bob, Dave, Tony and Jonathan - it's nice to be able to ask friends to say how much they like one's book! Apart from a good run, I haven't found anything quite so uplifting as that leaflet for a long, long time.

Another clubmate remarked on my Runner's World article, which he said he'd enjoyed reading: I enjoyed writing it, and I enjoyed the running, but the black dog that haunted me for months after revisiting my old school has caused immense damage this year. A few years ago a professional in these matters was impressed by how much my schooldays had scarred me, and I should have realised that I would take that assessment with me when I went back to the place, and prove to myself just how right he was. But now I've confronted that, and put the black dog back in its kennel: next year looms, with the prospect of some great runs - and I have announced on here my intention to get perilously close to the border between enthusiasm for new challenges and utter madness. The next step is to get RW to take the story of those races, when I do them.

07 November 2010

Lucky man

A perfect autumn running day, though whatever the weather I was determined to go out. Ini fact, the worse the better - it would bring out the Warrior in me.

It seemed cold enough to need a long sleeved top, and at first my hands were cold. I felt comfortable using pose technique, landing on my midfoot and allowing my heel to drop to the ground, but as the end of the first mile came up I realised I had settled into a brisk pace which was not going to work for nearly seven miles. I turned the speed down a couple of clicks and tried to concentrate on my running - to listen to what my body was telling me.

As I reached the end of the track to climb up by the A34 the sun broke route the clouds and the first beads of perspiration appeared on my brow. Whatever the temperature, I've never not broken sweat out running.

I don't want to overdo it at the moment, after such an extended period of injury, and I don't have the cardiovascular fitness to do this hill the way I'd like to. Nor can I manage the sort of scramble up from the tunnel under the A34 that I usually relish, but that will come back with time. As it is, I got up on my toes and made a respectable effort, although I was pleased to stop to admire the view at the top.

The panorama from this part of the Ridgeway is not the most beautiful sight in the world, but it is spectacular. But the spectacle is a result of human intervention, including - hard to miss - the village synchrotron. A little further along, two cyclists pass me and as they approach I hear them discussing it. "It's big, isn't it?" said one. The other said something about how it's used for testing atoms, and I hear him mention something about France - no doubt a reference to our synchrotron's larger cousin.

Along the Ridgeway I was pleased to see my shadow stretching out in front of me, a rare sight this year. Beyond the Harwell site, Didcot Power Station was shrouded in cloud, perhaps of its own creation, so the biggest blot on this landscape was missing. On a clear day, I might be able to see past it to Oxford in the distance, although having left my glasses at home today that might be a bit optimistic. It would be nice to do so.

The run was a great head-clearer too - I didn't manage to concetrate entirely on my running, as my thoughts drifted towards a challenging client problem I am trying to deal with, and happily I came up with an idea on that. My thoughts also drifted further along the Ridgeway, as I have just finished reading Eliza Graham's "Jubilee" - set in Kingston Lisle and Uffington, ten miles or so west from here, to where I entertain thoughts of extending one of my runs. It will be good practice for when I essay the Ridgeway Challenge - and now is the time for laying plans for runs next year ...