Thursday, December 29, 2011

'Twas the night before New Year

So, for both the first Janathon and this year's Juneathon, I took it upon myself to plagiarise well known poems or prose as a little light entertainment, to break the loneliness of the long duration runner. It seems only appropriate to begin this Janathon the same, in a light-hearted vein, with a visit from our patron saint*

'Twas the night before New Year (or "A visit from St Jan")
With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before New Year, and all down the street,
Not a creature was stirring, they were resting their feet.
Their running shoes sat by the back door, so near,
Knowing that Janathon soon would be here.

And me, I was nestled, all snug in my bed,
While thoughts of the month to come danced in my head:
Thoughts of lycra, and fleece, of my windproofs and cap,
While pre-emptive leg pains tried to threaten my nap.

Then out on the lawn there arose such a racket,
I woke from my slumbers, muttering "Oh fackit..."
And away to the window I stumbled half blind,
Throwing open the curtains to see what I'd find,

The moon on the breast of the rain sodden grass,
Made me blink, and mutter, and wonder what ass,
Was standing out there in Ron Hills and Pertex?
When he turned, and he looked at me, and he yelled "You're next!"

"You dasher, you dancer, you prancer, you prat!
Stir your legs, you lazy arse, don't lie putting on fat!
To the end of the street! To the top of the hill!
Now run away! Run away! As fast as you will!"

And as dry leaves before a runner's feet fly,
When they're kicked up at pace, they take to the sky,
Straight up to the house-top the yeller he flew.
In his hi-viz, Ron Hills and headlamp too.

Soon, in a second, I heard on the roof,
The skittering, scuttling of a motion-controlled hoof.
As I drew closed the curtain, and turned back around,
Down the chimney St. Jan appeared with a bound.

He was dressed in his running kit, tech from head to foot,
Though his hi-viz was tarnished with ashes and soot.
And he jogged on the spot, unwilling to quit,
And I pondered his motion, as on my bed I did sit.

His eyes, how they twinkled, though his face it was old,
His cheeks glowing rosy, caught by wind and by cold.
And his droll little mouth broke into a grin,
"What secrets you'll learn, now you've let St. Jan in"

He was skinny and spry, but a jolly wee elf,
And I smiled when I saw him, in spite of myself.
And a wink of his eye and a scratch of his ear,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to fear.

A bottle of electrolyte he took from his pack,
Which he handed to me, which I drank and passed back.
And soon I was filled with a feeling of joy:
The trails would be my playground, the mileage my toy!

St. Jan spoke no more words, just stood there and smiled.
And in that moment I knew how we'd cover the miles.
He saw my grin, shook my hand, and whispered "Give it hell"
Then he strode out the door, other runners to tell.

And calm as you like he jogged away down the street,
Eating up the miles as they passed 'neath his feet
And as he did, he exclaimed, and I'd echo his shout
"Good luck to all! Run safe. Peace, out"

*Or I may have made that one up...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Future Imperfect

Evening all. And Merry Whatsitsnamey. Y'know? Thing. That day where a fat bearded bloke (not me) comes and visits and brings pressies (definitely not me). Aye, you got it, that one. Thingy.

Not wanting to get into the soppy reflective stuff, but 2011's been an interesting year: Running an Ultra was something I wasn't expecting this time last year, but neither was getting back into proper kayaking form, building a couple of new bikes, taking my Dad down the Tyne in an open canoe or... well.. a lot of stuff. It's been good, really good,

So what's 2012 got in store? What big adventures to concentrate on now?

Firstly, Janathon. Because it's an awesome start to the year, a great way to kick the winter blues and, while it can be hard work, the collaborative atmosphere is fantastic. I'm happy to say I'll be participating again.

Secondly, and lasting a bit longer Twelve : Fifty-Two is a new project to build on the photography stuff I do. A weekly challenge with a group of friends, acquaintances and complete strangers, with a different theme to focus on each week, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Should be fun, I hope!

Thirdly: Hmmm. I may be going back to the Grand Raid des Pyrenees. Not with a point to prove, not to try and better my time, just because I enjoyed the race and some others have expressed an interest in going out as well.

Other projects: Who knows? I'd like to get more biking in to accompany the running, more paddling in to accompany both of the above. There's always the desire to lose a couple of pounds and all of those should help. Where else in the world I'll end up is anyone's guess. It'll be fun finding out.

So, huge hugs to all anyone for taking the time to read this, best wishes whatever your plans are for the New Year, and keep smiling on.



Monday, December 05, 2011

Mojo Days

It's been an awesome weekend. One of those weekends that just feels good, doesn't involve stress and just seems to go, on the whole, pretty damn well. I like weekends like that. I reckon I need more of 'em.

Saturday night was Pie Night 2011. Like previous years, there were 3 varieties of pie on the table, with mash and peas - I like the traditional 'Pie & Pea Supper' idea, it's nice and simple - plus a few beers/wines/drinkies, whatever people brought or nabbed from the fridge. This years pie selection was:
- Steak Forestiere  (inspired by our meal on the way to the GRP)
- Spiced Pork and Apple (suitably autumnal/wintery, I thought)
- Seared Tofu with Gingered Veg and Watercress (because I have to think of something to feed the veggies...)

'twas a small gathering, very enjoyable and fun, even if (as usual) the paddlers disappeared off into paddle-talk and everyone else wondered what the heck we were going on about. A small select batch then headed along to East of Arcadia for an extra wee bevvy.

Sunday morning was a bit of an early start, picked up by Matt and Maria at 8:45 to head up to the Middle Tees to meet the YUCC crowd. Levels looked pretty good, there'd been a fair amount of rain up in the headwaters, so the river was medium-high, 0.85 on the gauge. That translated as "High enough for the stoppers and holes to appear threatening, but not so high you can't punch through them". The second hole on Abbey Rapids handed out a couple of small spankings and a backloop or two for those who didn't keep their weight forward (not me. I must be learning...), so a bit of chase work in the gorge below, but the normally kicky little hole in the middle was pretty washed out so no major dramas. I'd not paddled with most of the group before, but it was good to see a couple of the apparent 'intermediates' take some initiative and lead through sections. Notable mentions for the day have to go to Kimmy for holding in there for a second roll attempt on Abbey and to Sam for upping his game after an early ducking.

The rest of the river was really nice. Whorlton Lido drop looked pretty horrendous at the river right end, so we portaged people around it to avoid any incidents. A couple of people were suffering with the cold - wetsuit and cag plus a couple of swims on a day when there were snow flurries on the river - so we bailed them out to one of the cars at Whorlton bridge before heading on. The section from Whorlton to Winston was fantastic bouncy hole-dodging. Whorlton Weir demanded a little thought and attention, and the theme continued from there, with a good bit of work on line choice and technique, but without having to worry too much about getting it wrong. The last sequence of drops above Winston Bridge was a one-by-one lead-through with some nice little surfy waves and big boily patches, just enough to stop you getting complacent. The sun even came out on the lower part!

All in all, an excellent weekend for the mojo, good company, good food and great paddling. Let's hope for more of those to banish the S.A.D over the winter!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Le Grand Raid des Pyrenees - the personal side

So there's technical and logistical write-ups of the race going to other sites elsewhere, they're the ones that tell blow-by-blow story of the area, the trails, the race organisation etc. But this here is my blog, and this here is the personal side of things, so this here is the personal account of the Grand Raid des Pyrenees.

In the beginning...

A year ago, I would never have thought about running an Ultramarathon. A year ago, I rarely ran anything over 5km, except in races. Longer runs tended to butcher my feet with blisters which stopped me wanting to run. Road racing holds no appeal, and I'm not a skinny racing whippet so I'm never going to win anything doing it anyway. I run only for myself, for enjoyment and catharsis, to clear my head and shake out my legs.

Because of that, the whole build-up to the GRP has been very strange for me - not unpleasantly strange, but strange nonetheless. Running, as I have often said, is a weak discipline for me, so entering this was putting me way further out of my comfort zone than any other race of the past few years. There were a lot of doubts and a lot of questions, but I guess the ruling mindset was that I had to try, just for me - I'd feel like an idiot if I didn't at least give it a go.

There was a bit of a worrying precedent I wanted to try and avoid, though: At the Nokia C2C, my last big solo race, I'd suffered some pretty wild mood swings. The same thing happened at a Man of Porage a few years ago.  I chalk those up to being out on my own (off the back in particular) for a lot of the day, and it was a worry to me that the same could occur at the GRP: A long day out, unknown terrain and being a foreigner could be a bad combination for that. It's difficult to quantify exactly what I mean by 'mood swings', but I felt I needed to avoid the cycle of getting 'down', hacked off, losing time in being miserable and feeling like I wanted to quit one minute, then seeing other people or a CP and being back 'on the level' again, only to drop again minutes later when I realise I'm still on my own and it's a long way to go. Sound crazy? Possibly does, but it's what I've been through in the past and I knew it would wreck my chances if it happened this time. Guess I'm more of a social animal than I like to admit.

To counter that, my planning had been as meticulous as it could be, I had the route book pretty much memorised, my kit was well sorted out, and physically... well. Someone asked me about how much training I'd done while we were shunting up the first few kms of uphill, and my honest answer was "probably not as much as I could/should have". January, and the Janathon, was the kicker that got me back into running and earned me my entry to GRP. I maintained the mileage fairly well from then until the Deerstalker in March. After that I dropped back on the mileage for a little while, kept things steady until my unplanned 'Samoan Sandals' effort at the Settle Saunter in May and then backed off for a couple of weeks to recover from the beating my calves took there. Another 'concerted effort' in June for the Juneathon, and after 200 miles over the month I definitely pulled back: Niggles in my right foot, ankle and knee were telling me that taking it easy for a while was a good idea. All too soon July was past, tapering needed to commence and it was too late to rush any more biggies in. So much for a rigid training programme. I knew I wouldn't be quick, but I also had a good feeling that I wouldn't be last.

I won't bore anyone with the trains, planes, coaches and automobiles that got me to Vielle-Aure for the start. It was a long haul, I was short on sleep, but dinner with AM and Jacques on the way from Toulouse to Vielle-Aure was fantastic. VA itself was very pretty, although my mind was firmly on getting some shuteye rather than anything else. Arriving on the Wednesday gave me Thursday to wander around and get my head straight and Friday to get my gear sorted and register before the off at the lark's fart on Saturday (5am - eesh!). Much kit faff had been eliminated by only flying with hand luggage, so I only had two possible sets of kit to choose from, though food choice did take a while and an extended trip to the local Carrefour.

I Would Walk 500 Miles 

The 100-mile race had a bit of a shocker to start with - horrendous weather, storms, lightning, low cloud etc. The organisation wisely decided to delay the start by two hours, re-route the runners (swapping the in- and out-lap routes to avoid the higher ridge start in the midst of the bad weather) and cut the dogleg up to the summit of the Pic du Midi. Still, the first cutoff point saw a 10% dropout rate - I wonder how many people ran with ultra-lightweight gear and got caught out (a la ARWC '07)? It's perhaps telling that the guy who crossed the line second in the 100 was penalised and dropped to 14th, having been caught out at the gear check at Tournaboup. To me, it's a stupid and cynical mistake to make, for the benefit of a few grams. I'd gone as light as I dared on kit - new Montane Minimus instead of my old Paclite, Petzl E-Lite in place of a heavier Fenix as my back-up light - and I can't say the few hundred grammes made an appreciable difference, at least, nothing that training more and stopping less couldn't have replicated and out-stripped. I had lightweight kit that I had confidence would see me through, rather than lightweight kit I hoped I wouldn't have to use. Perhaps that's the difference

The day was much better for the 50 mile start, a cool, dry morning, not horrendously cold and an only slightly clouded sky. Kind of suited me, I was happy enough on the startline in shorts and a short sleeve Icebreaker top. Once the gradient turned upwards properly I was nice and warm, though some of the sections where the 850-strong 'crocodile' snaked to a halt started to get a bit nippy before the sun rose. Stopping briefly on the first wee summit to get a pic of the sunrise over a temperature inversion in the valley was a feeling that'll linger - part exhilaration, part admiration, part nervousness, but a very cool place to be all the same.

The terrain round the course was a good mix. Some of the rocky sections made me wonder how the 100mile winner had clocked 22hrs, and how the 50 mile winner ended up doing sub-10. Maybe I was slowed down by the snake of people in front, but some flat and downhill sections were still definitely unrunnable, and you'd be risking your ankles trying to move too fast over them. In the early parts, the climb to the Col de Bastan and some of the traverse around the lac de Greziolles were hard work. In the late stages, descending from the Col de Bareges over the rocks in the dark in particular slowed me right down. Maybe in daylight I could have held a better pace over them but that's life. The woody, rooty, muddy singletrack late on was a hardship as well, picking lines to keep the feet dry was a tricky job, and it was hard to move smoothly over those sections. Poles, in this case the wonderful Leki carbons that Anne-Marie had lent me, were a definite advantage, short 'vaults' over streams, help with balancing on stepping stones, and a bit of support on high rocky step-downs. Add to that the 4WD effect when climbing and I realise why, for me at least, I wouldn't attempt a long run like this without them. People can argue about the energy balance (greater energy output but spread over a larger number of muscle groups), but for a multisporter like me, with a fairly decent level of upper body strength, it's a no-brainer.

I conciously tried to limit the time I spent at the seven feed/water stations: easy to lose 10-15 minutes at a time by faffing with kit, checking maps etc. Realistically, 10 minutes was still a decent break for a bit of food, a toilet stop, a roadbook check, and that was about it. Honestly, excellent course waymarking made navigation irrelevant and if you were confident in your kit selection, not swapping or faffing every time, there was no need for longer. Artigues (FS2) and Tournaboup (FS5) were the only places where I stopped longer than 10mins - Artigues after a 15km push to recuperate a little for the stage after (7.1km, 1200m ascent) and Tournaboup to switch socks and shirt and grab more food before heading into the night - and both of those were still sub-20 mins. Perhaps it's an art to balance short stops at feed stations with not losing time on energy crashes between them, but I felt like I got it right. The climb to the Pic du Midi summit was the only place I had a 'low', and a couple of gels and my mp3 player sorted that out quickly enough.

Team Europe

As I said right the way up there ^ , company seems to be a good way of alleviating the heebie-geebies, and things couldn't really have worked out better that way. At the Col de Sencours feed station, on the down lap, I got chatting to a French guy called Phillippe who'd been moving at a similar pace just ahead of me. He'd left just before me but stopped to talk to a marshal at the junction off the main trail. I caught him and we opted to run down to Tournaboup together, a cracking bit of actual running down some lovely dirt singletrack - one to take the bike back for, and a camera (there were llama. This amused me greatly). Not long after the Super Barrege ski station we caught up with a German girl by the name of Carmen, again, moving at a similiar pace, and she tagged along, all of us speaking English with some gentle teasing about multilingualism*, national stereotypes** and a healthy dose of self deprecation***. When we got to the feed station, kit-checked and clothes changed, the official acknowledgement went round that it would probably help us all to work together into the dark section, navigationally and psychologically, and so Team Europe was formed. I think that little union played a big part in getting me through the night in fairly decent shape, took the pressure off when I was suffering and gave me the chance to try and pull others along as well. We were slower than we could have been on the descents, as Phillipe's knee started to disintegrate on the rocks after the Col de Barege (ITBS / tendonitis), and it forced him to pull out at the final feed stop at Merlans with only 13km to go. But perhaps, had we not teamed up and moved together slowly, we might have all stopped moving along at all and all quit. I felt sorry for the guy, he'd pushed hard to get through the descent but knew the final burst could have done more harm than it was worth. We passed another runner with her partner in tears half way down the ski piste descent to Espiaube. The same trouble, ITBS in both knees and in crippling pain, too far beyond Merlans to head back but still a long way out from the finish and undoubtedly going to run tight on time. It's those points where the head needs to direct the legs and shut the rest out, and I felt for her.

As it was, Carmen and I crossed the line at 3:59am, making our official finish time 22hrs 56mins. We were seen in, even at that ungodly hour, by Anne-Marie and by Carmen's friends. A different Phillippe, this time one of the race cameramen, stuck a large lens in my face and I jabbered happy rubbish for a minute or so. I got a T-shirt that reads 'Finisher' - I'm very proud of that T-shirt. We walked back to the accomodation, Jacques took a photo of my feet. I showered and passed out. Lights out, game over.

10 Lessons Learnt.

1) A trail Ultra is an amazing experience. Well worth doing, and yes, I probably will do another. Rose tinted specs, perhaps, but I honestly really enjoyed the GRP.

2) When the feed stations are regular and well stocked, you don't need to carry a lot of food. I dumped two full ziplock bags at the Artigues feed station (about 30km in) with a note on them saying "FREE - HELP YOURSELF" because, frankly, I was carrying far too much. A bag of Jelly Babies or two and some gels would have been fine.

3) Foot care is MASSIVELY important. I was doing grand until about 8km out from the finish. My Injinji toe socks had been fantastic for the first 50km, I changed into a clean set of Groundhogs at Tournaboup and was cracking on until my feet got wet in an un-noticed stream across the track, about 7km out from the finish. Half an hour later they'd blown up completely, and the last 5km was agony, as my now white and puffy feet got pummelled in trail shoes on a tarmac/ hardpack surface. Note to self - pay more attention and keep the feet dry. That said, I still wouldn't go for Gore-Tex shoes, I still think my radiator-esque feet would wilt under their own personal greenhouse effect if I did

4) Small things can perk you up immensely. Little joys of the GRP included:
 - French dried mango. Very different to English dried mango.
 - Llama. Not  to eat, just to look at.
 - Hot veg soup with cubes of cheese.
 - Sunrise from a hill-top.
 - Self-deprecating national humour, from three different nations (see the Humour Annex below)
 - Two chunks of dark chocolate and a wedge of orange. Better than you'd think.
 - Mistaking a marshal's tent for a large boulder. Later, mistaking a large boulder for a tent. The mind plays tricks, y'know.

5) Carrying a small teddy around a race with you not only gives you companionship, but also a talking point when you take him out of your pack to take a photo of him at a checkpoint.

6) The point where you say "Right, only about 6hrs to the finish, then" is the point where you have entered the Twilight Zone of the Ultra mindset. From here, there may be no going back.

7) Pushing a little harder to reach the first cut-off point well ahead of time is worth it, even if the extra effort does make you wild-eyed, crazy-looking and apt to scare the nice ladies at the feed station.

8) When in the aforementioned wild-eyed, crazy-looking phase, do not be surprised when a nice French lady tells you to go and sit down and she'll bring you a cup of tea over. She is probably fearing that you'll assault her with the empty kettle you're clutching in confusion.

9) If you're going to carry an mp3 player, set it to Random. That way, when you pull it on in a wee low point, you can giggle all the way up a climb to Sir Mixalot's "Baby Got Back", summit the Pic du Midi to It Bites' "Calling All The Heroes", and dance your way back down to the Utah Saints' "Something Good" and the Dave Matthews Band's "Rapunzel"

10) When the pain does kick in, with only a few kms to go, suck it up. Well remembered advice includes the words "The legs only do what the head tells them" and "The fastest way to get the pain over with is to get to the finish". I guarantee you, the adrenaline of the last kilometre will mask the howling nerves in your feet.

Thank you, and goodnight

There have been a few people behind the scenes who have supported me a hell of a lot, and they deserve a mention too:
Anne-Marie Dunhill is a good friend from international adventure races, a fellow journalist, and  the Press Officer for the GRP. She's the person who invited me over in the first place, had faith that I would get round, and waited for me at the finish at god-knows-what in the morning. Without her, I wouldn't even have tried.
Graham Kelly and Gary Vallance are the two people I've turned to for Ultra advice, both being much more accomplished and experienced distance runners than me. They are the two 'gurus' who have been able to answer my various questions and offer snippets of advice that made me feel a wee bit better about what I was trying to do.
Stuart Hale has been the technical advisor, particularly dealing with my weird ungainly gait, lightweight kit and the scientific side of an Ultra. He's also sorted me out on the nutritional side of things, though the nice men at customs did nearly try to confiscate half of my supplies.
There's been a whole host of others who've encouraged, advised, abused, and told me I was crazy. Thanks to all of them as well - every little helps.

So that's all for now. I''m proud to say, my visualisation and prophecy came true:

On August 28th, in the afternoon, I sat in a cafe in Vielle Aure,
drinking coffee, munching on a croissant, chatting to friends
having completed the Grand Raid des Pyrenees.

Thanks for reading.

Geek annex: Pyro's GRP Kitlist:
Head cover: Headsweats racing cap, Buff
Torso: Icebreaker short sleeve,  Keela long sleeve tops
Waterproof: Montane Minimus jacket
Legs: Nike ACG shorts, Montane Featherlite windproof pants
Socks: Skins calf guards, Injinji / Groundhog socks
Shoes: Mizuno Wave Harrier 3
Haulers: Inov8 Race Elite 15 rucksack plus bottle holders, OMM Trio 4 front pack for convenience
Poles: Leki carbon trekking poles (thank you AM!)
Nutrition: High 5 gels, 4:1 carb drink and Zero electrolyte drink

Humour annex
What do you call some one who:
   a) Speaks three languages? A - Trilingual
   b) Speaks two languages? A - Bilingual
   c) Speaks only one language? A - French

Phillippe: "I have a Belgian friend who's just become a multi-millionaire. He buys and sells French people."
Pyro: "How does he make any money doing that?"
Phillippe: "He buys them for what they're worth, and sells them for what they think they're worth"

Carmen: "We'd better keep moving, I'm very cold"
Phillippe: "Yep, I'm cold too, let's go"
Pyro: "I'm not cold. It's because I'm fat and British"
Others: "True..."

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Magic Juneathon part 3

It was the fourth of July - Independence Day, if you’re an American - and the garden was very quiet.
Florence, Dylan and Brian sat at the foot of a tree, dejected. Dougal had been missing for a whole month, and they were worried that he’d gone for good.
“My old shaggy pal” moaned Brian “Run into the ground by the Juneathon”
“He’s, like, gone to a better place, maybe” said Dylan. “Like, Bristol”
“I think it’s time to talk to Zebedee” said Florence. “Maybe he can magic him back”

Right on cue, Zebedee boinged into the garden, right next to where the trio were busy lamenting. “You called?” he said.
“Zebedee!” said Florence “You have to help us!”
“Do I?” said Zebedee. “With what?”
“We’ve, like, lost a Dougal, man” said Dylan “And it’s, like, de-shaggied the garden.” To prove this point, he then fell asleep.
“That was careless of you” said Zebedee, somewhat mischievously. “How did you manage that?”
“We were doing a Juneathon” squeaked Brian “And we think the silly clot got the rules wrong.”
“We think he just kept running” said Florence. “He could be anywhere”
“Ah” said Zebedee “So. If you were a dog with very short legs, no idea of what day it is, and a taste for sugarlumps, where would you be?”

Brian and Florence racked their brains, while Dylan snored serenely, though he did mutter something that sounded like “Abergavenny”. Mr Rusty wandered past in the background, carrying a spare sprocket. He paused, hearing the conversation.
“Well” piped up Brian, after a while. “Somewhere where lots of people would feed him sugarlumps all day long”
“Good start” said Zebedee. “And where would they do that?”
“A zoo?” said Florence.
“He’s not dangerous enough to be in a zoo” said Zebedee
“You’ve not seen him first thing in the morning” tittered Brian
“Blackpool” said Mr Rusty, quietly.
“A sugarlump factory, by the ‘seconds’ bin?” said Brian
“You’re stretching” said Zebedee
“Blackpool” said Mr Rusty again, a little more loudly.
“A W.I. canteen?” said Florence, carefully
“Still very cold” said Zebedee
“BLACKPOOL!” shouted Mr Rusty, waking Dylan and startling Florence and Brian
“Why do you keep shouting ‘Blackpool’?” squeaked Brian, from inside his shell.
“Well, there’s donkeys at Blackpool, that take you for a ride on the beach, and people feed them sugarlumps all the time. Seems sensible that he’d be there” said Mr Rusty, then with a sniff he turned and wandered off back towards the roundabout.
“Right on the money!” said Zebedee, and with a twitch of his magic moustache, there stood Dougal... Except...

Dougal hadn’t quite been ready to be magic’d back to the Garden. There was a stick tied to his ears, with a carrot dangling off the end, his hair was all bunched up in ribbons, and a small, slightly confused, child sat on a rug on his back.
“Hey! What’s all this for?! I was living like a king!” Dougal shouted, looking round wildly.
“Dougal!” shouted Florence, running up to give her old friend a big hug
“Shaggy breeks!” shouted Brian, staring fixedly at the carrot “You brought me a present, you shouldn’t have!”

With that, the small child started to cry. And he continued to, until Zebedee magic’d him back to Blackpool and his mother.
“So” demanded Dougal “I got to Blackpool via Crewe, Otley and Carlisle. How far did everyone else get? What did I win?”
“You great wally!” laughed Brian “You were supposed to come back here every night!”
“But then how would I have got to Blackpool?” snapped Dougal
“Slowly, I reckon” giggled Zebedee.
“Yes, Dougal, you win” laughed Florence. “Here’s your prize: A cup of tea and a sugarlump”
“Ah well” sighed Dougal, slurping his tea “Better a king for a day...”
“It’s a dog’s life, eh?” giggled Brian “Or should I say a donkey’s?”
“Watch it, mollusc.” said Dougal.
Florence giggled, Dylan sighed in his sleep, and Zebedee boinged gently on his spring, laughing, until evening fell on the Garden.
“Right” said Zebedee. “Time for bed.”

The End

( The author would like to give his thanks and apologies to Serge Danot and Eric Thompson for the use of their characters. )

Juneathon - It's a wrap!

So, wrapping-up Juneathon, as I did with Janathon:

Firstly, have some graphs. They look kinda pretty, in a "Ooh, squiggly lines. Wassat mean?" kind of way.

The first is a profile of daily run distances in km, contrasting Janathon this year with Juneathon.


It shows, rather nicely, that I spent much more time in the "10km-and-up"  zone than I did in January:

Length          January June

20km+           1               3

15km+           3               7

10km+           6               14

Those 'long runs' in Jan were the preserve of weekends, pretty much, whereas in June it was easier to clock a long run of an evening without worrying about temperatures, ice, clothing etc. Oddly, however, I spent more time in June running on tarmac than trail, where January was all about off-road mileage predominantly, June consisted of many more 'all road' runs. I still managed to discover some new trails and get in some interesting trail routes and trigs, so perhaps that balances out.

Interestingly, both lines show a slump of sorts around days 19-24 - I think mentally this is where an 'athon is hardest. You've put in 3 weeks of solid effort but there's still a week plus to go, which weighs on the mind. I'm happy with the variation in distances - sometimes you have things to do of an evening, sometimes you want a long run, sometimes you just need a recovery run - but I'm also happy that very few of my 'short' runs dipped below 5km (only 3 in June against 6 in January). I think my perception has shifted since January, and 'short' tends to mean 5 miles rather than 5 kilometres these days.

The second graph is a cumulative of distances over the month, and the divergence of the lines is the interesting part.  (well, interesting if youre me...)


As the other graph shows, the longer average runs in June have pushed the distances quite nicely, and there's rarely a point (day 3 being the exception) where the variance between the two lines is negative - days 14 to 17 are almost paralleled, but in the main, the increase in divergence is steady.

Secondly, some numbers:

In January, I totalled 251.92km. In June, 322.44km (an extra 70.52km)

In January, I ran for 34hrs 35mins. In June, 44hrs 16mins (an extra 9hrs 41mins)

So I ran for longer and did more miles. That's no great surprise, really.

In January, my average run was 8.13km in 1:07, a pace of 08:14mins/km

In June, my average run was 10.75km in 01:28, a pace of 08:14mins/km

So, I'm not moving any faster on average, but I'm running further at the same pace. Good enough for me, for now.

And that's all for the statistics, you'll be glad to hear.

From a competitive point-of-view (for I am...): Counting running distances only (from the RunningFree pages) I finished 5th, only a handful of km behind Jenks in 4th.

Thats better than Janathon, in a much bigger field, with some very tough competition, and a whole bunch fighting hard for the top ten. If it weren't for a bunch of factors both external-competitive (Chooban, StevieG, Vinsta, Jenks, PPP, MumWhatRuns, PaintedRunner) and internal-personal-encouraging (having done Janathon, proper gait analysis, Grand Raid des Pyrenees, The German, Abradypus, Maggieee, K as in Cake, etc etc), I don't think I'd be anywhere near that. I'm resigned to saying I'm a runner, a slow one, but a runner all the same. So long as I keep it up...

From a more human, less analytical point-of-view, I've noticed a difference myself. I did suffer a whole bunch of aches and pains in June, but nothing consistent and nothing as bad as I'd feared. My last gait analysis, pre-Juneathon, showed that my running style has adapted an awful lot, and while it's still pretty odd, it's getting easier to clock the distances up without significant pain, blisters etc. I don't think you can run 30 days on the trot without some things changing to account for it. Stu and the team at Accelerate have looked after the gait analysis side for me brilliantly, and without their advice I definitely wouldn't be where I am, running-wise. I'd still be hobbling round getting mullered by blisters and wrecked calves on every run.

Physically, the other nice change is that I've lost about 8lbs over the month. Partially that's due to the running, partially it's due to a couple of modifications to my diet (mainly just cutting down my portion sizes!). At the last weigh-in (not something I do obsessively, I hasten to add) I was under the 13 stone mark for the first time in about 10 years. Not much under, but under all the same. Having less of me to haul about should pay some dividends, and while I reckon I've another half-stone to go, I'm not obsessing about it and I'm not trying to take any rush routes. There's no easy way to do it (I can't afford liposuction...) so it'll have to be the age old solution of working at it steadily. That's fine with me.

Mentally I guess there's a few changes too. The idea of heading out and pushing 20km+ in an evening doesn't faze me so much, the idea of a half marathon is very realistic (slow, but realistic!), and I'm feeling a lot more confident about the upcoming Grand Raid des Pyrenees, though I know I need to get some big hill days in, with a pack, between now and then, and I can't slack off the training. Speedwork and/or joining a running club probably wouldn't go amiss somewhere, but I'm wary of my old tendency to try and push too hard too fast and don't want to injure myself. We'll see how things pan out over the next 6-8 weeks and where we are when GRP comes around. After that... who knows?!

Oh, and to any readers wondering what's happened to Dougal... You'll find out. Soon.



Thursday, June 30, 2011

Juneathon 30 - Endex.

So, Juneathon is done. Honestly, at lunchtime today, I want sure I'd make my target. But, we got there, and in relatively fine style.

The run itself was again unexceptional, a slightly weird experience running down Briggate, the main shopping street in Leeds, but after that, I hit the canal for 5 miles of steady trot to the Abbey Inn (and a bit beyond) before looping round Rein Road and up to the Better Half's place, to pause the clock at 18.1km. A quick can of something caffeinated and back out for a quick loop of Abbey Park and the Vespers. Back to the house to stop the final tally at 21.4km - a half marathon to finish on, and a final monthly haul of 323km, 201 miles. That's enough for me.

A big thanks to Cathy and co for another month of fun, and well done to everyone who's joined in. And a huge thanks to everyone who's provided amusement, encouragement and mild abuse as well.

Pics and map when I've set up my PC in the new house.

Cheers all!


Juneathon 29 - Ouch

So. 8.74 km yesterday, early in the morning, takes me over 300 km for the month. That's my original target passed with a day to spare. Woo! Cake for the moment, 300 candles (and a fire extinguisher) on order.

I have, of course, already declared another target - 200 miles, 322 km, which leaves me in need of a half marathon tonight to finish. However...

My legs are, frankly, shot to shit. As well as cracking the mileage over the past 3 days, I've also been moving house, and yomping boxes up-and-down a couple of flights of stairs has done me in. Add to that last nights whopping 4hrs of sleep and you get a rather blitzed Pyro.

Not admitting defeat just yet, not for certain. But low and slow will have to prevail for me to make it. Please, if you read this before 6pm, send me good vibes. I may need them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Juneathon 28 - Non-Stop Operation

Another 12km in the bag, the reverse of a 10 route from the other day with a wee diversion tagged on around Clarendon Road. Nota a massively exciting route (non of the recent ones have been, really) but more miles in the bank and a step closer to the end. And nicely accompanied (continuing our world tour of hip-hop music) by the Dust Junkys 'Done and... Dusted' and Everlast's 'Whitey Ford Sings The Blues'. All good.

(Map when, as stated on previous post, MemoryMap stops being a sh*t...)

Juneathon 27 - Stay Human

Oh blummin' 'eck! Nearly forgot about the blog bit again. Fer smeg's sake!

Anyway, sneaking under the 24hrs, just (since it was 11 when I went out last night. Too flipping hot...) I ran a 10km loop to bring me up to 280km this month, making my 300 a relative stroll in the park. It looked a bit like this:

(Map to be added when I work out how to stop updated version of MemoryMap playing silly sods!!)


I still have a job to do. A 22km job And that doesn't fit in with the '20km over 3 days' numbers. But. It does fit into the 'I like nice round numbers' plan. And the 'I like to finish with a tester' plan. And the 'I like a challenge' plan.

321.86, here we come.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Juneathon 26 - Mind over...

So. Day 26 was a short-ish run, and a very gentle one, and I'm blogging this now so I can catch up and stop slipping behind again.

Before I start on 26, let's just nip back into history to fill in some blanks about Runs 24 and 25. They were both long, as you can see. Not intentionally so though, in either case. Despite my insitence that I wouldn't do, I've found myself 'running by the numbers' more in the later stages of Juneathon. Not specifically going "I have to run X-km tonight, so I'll do Y-route" but definitely going "This could do with being a long one because I want to make Z-km this week so I can hit my 300 by the end of the month". My recent runs, and both 24 and 25 in particular, started out with a particular route in
mind and just went off-plan at some point, but turned out okay. 24 was going to be a short recovery run, just an out-and back to the Ramada hotel at Golden Acre, about 8km. Then I got to the ring road roundabout and turned left, mainly... well... just because I felt like it. It turned into double what it was meant to be, and ended up a ten miler. Not a very interesting one, but good mileage all the same.

25 was a different kettle of herring, definitely. Again, starting out as a planned 10km-ish loop on known trails, I decided to investigate a path I'd seen on the map that followed the line of a railway tunnel from Cookridge to Bramhope, then over the Otley Road, then across some nice-looking fields on a previously unexplored footpath... The next thing I knew I was at Lineham Farm, which I'd been to in January, and knew I was still a fair way from home. Oops. As I'd not planned to be out quite this long, or to have run that far, I'd not taken food or drink with me, and it was a very warm evening, so
I was starting to suffer. But, as Mr Churchill put it "When you're going through hell, keep going", so I plodded on, taking a line to make the return shuffle enjoyable rather than direct - no sense in flogging my backside off on tarmac when I could at least have interesting trails to distract me. So, I looped across more nice fields to Eccup Reservoir, linked in to the top end of the Meanwood Trail and shuffled my way back home for a 20km-er, flopping into the house with the words "That was
just about 3km too far." A couple of pints of High-5 and a bath laterand I felt vaguely human, though my legs are still irking me for it. Ah well.

And so, boldly on to 26, in which our hero (erm... Me.) goes for a short one again. Well, it was kind of short. The Better Half's comment was "I thought you were going for a *short* run tonight?!" when I said I'd done 8km. Maybe it's an '~athon' thing that I've started thinking of 8km as a short run, maybe it's just an increase in my own running confidence. But anyway.

I set off with not much of a plan in mind, started the tracker, and thought "Hmmm. Tell you what: Let's start the countdown timer, jog for half an hour, see where we end up, then turn round and jog back". I couldn't find any reason to disagree with myself, so I pottered off, jog/walk/jogging along the Otley Road, with a fairly arbitrary target of the Ramada hotel, which I know is 4km away, therefore giving me a rough pace of 7:30min/km I trotted away, and approaching the hotel, the bleeper still hadn't gone. I got to the 4km mark with 20 seconds to spare, and spent a short while laughing at that. Don't ask me why, it just seemed funny to me at the time. Then I turned round, reset the timer and jog/walk/jogged back, hitting home again with 20 seconds to spare yet again, something I again found inordinately amusing. Strange what running on a warm night does to you.

So that's it, up-to date. Until later tonight when I do the whole thing again and probably fall apart. It's getting to that point in the month, isn't it?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Juneathon 25 - Argh!

No song lyric in the title, just the way my legs feel now.

Turned out to be another long one - just shy of 20km. Again, got distracted by interesting looking trail and ended up miles from where I was intending to be. Worked my way back slowly as, due to not anticipating a 20km, 3hr run, I hadn't taken any food or water with me. Must rethink that particular strategy, I reckon...

Anyway, it looked a bit like the map below, was lovely and sunny for the vast majority of it's length, and took me far too long, but I don't really care. I do care about my sore legs though, so I'm going to have a cup of tea and put my feet up. Which is nice...

Juneathon 24 - Bang and Blame

Still behind, but catching up! I WILL get tonight's run blogged tonight.. but first yesterday's!

I ran ten miles. Don't ask me why. I think I took a wrong turn somewhere. But ten miles it was and ten miles I'm quite proud of, in that it was only just over two hours. So faster than I would normally do. 's not bad, really.

Looked a bit like this:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Juneathon 23 - Round in circles

Aargh! I'm getting behind with these, aren't I? Must try harder... (story of my life...)

Last night was a short, slow, 6km loop of the block to the Better Halfs and back via Headingley, becuase after a faster 11 on predominantly tarmac on Wednesday I've got sore feet. Recovery runs yesterday and probably tonight and we'll try and shift some longer ones over the weekend to push the distance back up. The juggernaut is still rolling on!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Juneathon 22 - Mastermind

(after the rather wonderful Deltron 3030 track...)

Not many words about yesterday's run. Just a map. I was faster and more flowy than usual, may have been down to the combination of Deltron and Rise Against whopping through my headphones. Never a bad thing. 11.3km, 1:20, which is fast enough at this point in the month. Now into the final full week, 220km down, 80km to go. Smoke me a kipper...

Juneathon 21 - 200/220 (full version)

I couldn't work out what this said.
So - replacing the placeholder post with something proper about Run 21 and the end of week 3! Took me a while, I know, but hey.

Juneathon 21 was a really lovely run, for a few obvious reasons:
1) It was out in the woods and scenery, not just hacking round the local streets.
2) It was a really lovely evening.
3) There was a trig pillar involved.

The Shepherd

All of these things make me inordinately happy.
 I'd decided I was sick of being stuck in an office and trailing the local streets and woods day-in-day-out, and I'd planned a run up on the Chevin for a little while. There's a trig up there (in the side marked as Caley Deer Park on the OS rather than the Chevin itself) which I'd not bagged, it's only a short drive from home to get there and it would make for a good uppy-downy woodsy run. Plus, as can be seen above and to the right, there's a bunch of sculptures in there which are quite interesting and I'd have bnice things to look at while bimbling around in the woods. The Better Half came up with me and went for a short walk while I went for a slow run.

A not very surprising view: Otley.
 I looped west from the Surprise View (not very surprising: You could see Otley) car park first, along to the end of the Chevin trails, then south and back east to run the lower track across the face. Slightly muddy, but very nice gravel trail along through the woods soon brought me to the old East Chevin quarry car park and a short climb up the East Chevin road took me over into Caley Deer Park and along bridleway and sneaky singletrack (which I might have biked in the past with the North Leeds MTB club).

Libations! Happy Birthday dear Ordnance Survey...

Pretty soon, I was near Caley Crag, scene of a wee bouldering adventure or two (and a picnic or three) and headed for the loop round Caley wood and round the back to my target of the day - a trig pillar! I admit, I'd promised to take cake and beer, but had to limit myself to nuun electrolyte stuff and a cereal bar (no space in a bumbag for cake and beer bottles). Still, another one in the bag and a suitable salute to an organisation created to help keep out the French (a noble aim) and now responsible for the greatest mapping in the world. And for leaving wee concrete pillars all over the place for me to run to. How considerate of them. 

After that it was just a short jaunt through the wood and back along the road to the car, and then a short dash down the face of the hill to go and retrieve the Better Half who'd gone for a walk, got lost, ended up in Otley, found a path running roughly the right way, walked up it then wandered off it, all while wearing in wholly unsuitable footwear, and was now stuck on some steep muddy ground under some beech trees, but wasn't entirely sure exactly where she was... Must see if we can find her a sense of direction somewhere soon.

All in all a lovely jaunt, 9.7km in a fair while, but it was a nice evening and I was admiring the scenery. Which is allowed. Honest. It took me over 200km for the month (Just shy of 210) and celebrated the 200th for OS. Near enough!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Magic Juneathon (pt 2)

As the days continued, everyone in the garden kept up their running. Ermintrude and Brian pottered in circles, distressing the garden flowers and drinking more cups of tea than is probably healthy for a snail. Mr McHenry tricycled every day, finding new tracks he'd never tricycled before and looking for new places to dig flower beds. Even Mr Rusty managed a few short laps of the roundabout, mainly chasing runaway horses or pinging sprockets, or occasionally the odd flyaway child. Dylan kept count, chalking up everyone's scores on a blackboard in between naps: Florence was the clear leader, but then, Dougal still hadn't been seen in days.

Dougal, it seemed, hadn't really understood Florence's idea. Dougal was now a very, very long way from the garden. And he was lost. Very lost.

Somewhere near Crewe he stopped for the night, bedding down in an old barn. As he curled up in the hay, a small Welsh voice sounded out from the shadows. " 'scuse me, boyo. Would you mind not stealing all my duvet?"
Dougal looked around wildly, trying to spot the source of the voice "Erm. Sorry. I was trying to find somewhere to sleep. I'm a bit lost"
"Oh dear. That's no good, is it? Where have you come from then?"
"Well, I set off from the garden about two weeks ago."
"Which garden would that be, then?"
"The garden. The one with the roundabout. The magic one"
"Well now, the only magic roundabout I know's near Swindon. Is it that one?"
"Hmmm. I don't think that's the one I'm after. It's a long way, though. I must be beating all the others easily."
"Beating them at what, boyo?"
"Beating them at the Juneathon."
"What's a Juneathon when it's at home then?"
"You run every day in June and see how far you get. I haven't seen any of the others in a good while. I must be winning, although I'm a bit tired. You wouldn't, by any chance, have a sugar lump going spare? Or a cup of tea? Or both?"
"Certainly, boyo. Just give me a moment and I'll put the kettle on. Welsh Cake while we're at it?"

Dougal watched as a small, elderly hedgehog in a miner's helmet crawled out from under the hay pile, dragging stalks and dust with it. "Now then, to that cup of tea. My name's Bernard by the way, boyo. What do they call you?"
"I'm Dougal."
"Charmed, I'm sure."

Dougal and Bernard chatted into the night, over tea and Welsh Cakes. Back in the garden, the others held a council to see what they could do about finding Dougal.
"I've lost my old shaggy pal" moaned Brian. Then he brightened. "More tea and sugarlumps for everyone else, though"
"He's a resourceful pup" said Ermintrude "I'm sure he'll be having a jolly time"
"He's, like, playing hide and seek with us" said Dylan, awake briefly.
"We need to find him" said Florence. "He might be in trouble"
"He might be in Scotland" laughed Brian "You know what his sense of direction is like"

They resolved, first, to send out a search party, and each formed a search pattern. Dylan, of course, stayed where he was "To, like act as a base in case he comes back, man". Mr McHenry rode his tricycle round the edges of the garden in a slow patrol pattern. Ermintrude chatted to the flowers to ask if they'd seen him, and Brian asked a couple of mole friends of his. Florence looked round the walled garden, in the bushes, and searched Dougal's house, to see whether there was any sign of life. There wasn't, and his pile of sugarlumps looked very forlorn.

**To be continued**

Monday, June 20, 2011

Juneathon 20 - Nothing Else Matters

(In this particular case, the very beautiful Apocalyptica version of the Metallica track. If you haven't heard it before, have a look here)

A short bimble tonight - well, 6km, short enough for me, and the first time my run has been under an hour in a while - because, frankly, I need an early night! Whether it's achy legs, various stresses (both the Better Half and I are in the process of moving houses*), work, the hundred-and-summat kilometres I've run this month or whatever, I'm not sleeping properly. Because I'm not sleeping properly, I'm spending the day propped up on large quantities of caffeine so I don't make silly mistakes at work. Because I'm propped up on large quantities of caffeine during the day, I can't get to sleep at night. Because I can't... you get the picture! Like Pacman, it's a vicious circle. So tonight I went for a short run and am going to go to bed early to try and break it.

In other news, I'm happy to report that tonight was the first run under 10km in a good few days. Back-to-back 10+ runs (with a 20+ in the middle) is a great feeling for me, as it gives me a bit more confidence for the Grand Raid des Pyrenees in August. My weekly distance is trotting upwards slowly, weeks one and two of Juneathon were 65km/40 miles each, week three is set to be 75km/45 miles, which makes me pretty happy. Week four will be tapered down a bit, but who knows, if the adrenaline gets to me (and I get some shuteye between now and then) it might plateau. I'm still on course for my vague target of 300km over the month. But one wee bit at a time. One foot in front of the other until it's done, and we'll see where we end up!

*Not together, I hasten to add, before anyone gets ideas...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Juneathon 19 - Tortoise.

So called because it was slow. 10km, but slow.o Enjoyably slow, though. Can't complain. Nae bugger listens...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Juneathon 18 - The 4-stage plan

Blimey. This feels odd. It's just gone 2pm and not only have I done my running for the day, I have a chance to sit down and blog while it's actually daylight. This is very strange indeed.

Today was a 'long run day', but I decided it would be more fun, and less stress, to split it down into three shorter ones. It seemed like a good idea, and meant I could do all those important sport-y things like warming up, cooling down etc.

Stage 1: For once, I actually got up when my alarm went off (instead of hitting the snooze button repeatedly) so I was up and about and more-or-less functional (okay, I'd had a coffee at least) by 7:30. I set off slowly, jog-walking around the back of Beckett's Park and through the trails, tracks and backstreets down to Hyde Park, taking about an hour for what tracked out to be 5.6km - 10 min km's is respectable enough when you're bimbling warming up.

Stage 2:  Hyde Park parkrun, though I didn't have a barcode with me (can't find it and don't have a printer!). A fast(ish) 5km, two-and-a-half laps of Hyde Park, sub 27mins but I can't be much more precise than that - it's about right, I should in theory be beating my PB, but would do better if I had a couple of days of rest beforehand!

Stage 3: After a coffee and a bite to eat at one of the caf├ęs near the uni, I jogged steadily down to Meanwood road and onto the Valley Trail for a jog back up towards home. Not as fast as parkrun, but not as slow as my warm-up, it was a fairly nice morning, a little grey but cool and not too windy, and the trail and park were pretty quiet. A quick push up the edge of the ring road and through the Hollies, trying to up the pace a touch for a few ks, and I was soon back home, looking at my tracker, working out my distances and realising I was about 2km off a half marathon, so...

Stage 4: I went for a slow, steady jog/walk/skip/high-knee/dance loop just around the local streets to make up the distance. A final trot to end a fine morning, and a fine haul of distance to go with it!

Then I sat down, made a cup of tea and some salmon and cream cheese muffins, and began to write. And it all went downhill from there...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Juneathon 17 - Low and slow

Nice bimble up and onto some new trails today, ones that branched of familiar ones, or ran close to them, but I'd not looked at. Not much to report since it was just a long, slow 10km, but that does get me up to 100 miles this month, so that's a pretty cracking achievement again. Aside from that it was just a nice steady trot up towards Cookridge and Holt Park, but then past the normal turn-off and looking for the track down to Lane End and Rushes Farms. I deliberately kept it shorter and turned right towards Paul's Pond, despite there also being another trail into the back of Bramhope to take otherwise, so I can save some other interesting pink dotty lines for another day (and it's part of a loop pointed out by Gary V who fortunately for the rest of us sadly isn't doing Juneathon this time). Plus, the right turn made the loop nice and heart shaped (ish. Near enough. Real hearts don't look anything like that that shape, anyway...)

After a couple of hard 'n fast nights, it was nice to have a slower bimble again, and should prep me in for Parkrun tomorrow, to see if all this bimbling and blethering has had any effect on my 5km PB. We'll see!

Juneathon 16 - We'll all float on alright...

A quick blog for what turned out to be a reasonably quick run for the second night on the trot - no, I haven't deliberately kicked it up a gear, it's just the way things have worked out.

I'll add the map in later, but the gps track failed due to pilot error. Using a new piece of software (ViewRanger) for nav and tracking, but it handles the route recording differently to any other system I've used and I haven't quite got used to that yet. Fortunately it was an easy all-road loop to trace into Memory Map, and I managed to keep an accurate time for once so we have our stats.

The loop was from home, down to and along Kirkstall Road, then climbing up Woodsley Road top the edge of the university before turning left and heading back along the Otley Road to home, all of which was much enlivened by Modest Mouse's 'Good news for people who love bad news' plus a few other random tracks, and also by the Corsa full of girls who cheered as they passed me trying to 'sprint' the last half km.

In the end, the run 1:13, and clocked me 10.7km, giving a sub-7min pace and pushing the months tally over the 150km mark! Next stop, 100 miles :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Magic Juneathon

It was all very hectic in the garden. Summer was in full swing, the flowers were in bloom, and the Roundabout gleamed in the sun. Everyone was happy, except one: Dougal. Dougal sat in his house with a cup of tea and a sugarlump and watched the summer through the window.

"Everything alright, old chum?" enquired Brian, appearing at the door.
"Don't you ever knock?!" snapped Dougal. "I can't hear myself think for you sneaking up silently."
"Sorry, dear captain" replied the snail "but I am a single-footed master of stealthy approach"
"You are a noisy mollusc. Now what did you want?"
Brian considered this a moment, eyeing the teapot. "Well, offering me a cup of tea would be pleasant, dear hound, but mainly I came to ask if you wanted to join in our game. Florence is organising it"
"Hmph. Well, I suppose I've nothing better to do. Come on then, snail."

Near the roundabout, Florence, Dylan, Mr Rusty and Ermintrude were waiting. Well, Florence, Ermintrude and Mr Rusty were waiting; Dylan was asleep in the shade. All the waiting had tired him out. As Dougal and Brian approached, Ermintrude spotted them and began to trill "And here they are, our final brave warriors, up for any challenge! The armoured knight and the shaggy beast! Never to be bested!"
"I'll best you, you walking handbag" muttered Dougal.
"Now now, my canine compatriot" chided Brian. "Be pleasant, for she maketh the roses grow."
"Glad you could come, Dougal" said Florence. "We're going to play a game."

Florence began to explain the game. "It's called Juneathon. Today is the first of June, so we will go for a run, and we will run every day for the month and see who gets the furthest"
"We could end up pretty far out" came Dylan's voice from the shade. "I'll just, like, wait here and judge. Or, like, just wait here. Zzzzzzz"
"What about those of us with no legs?" piped up Brian "I'm not what you'd call a natural runner."
"You can ride in style upon my head, snaily dear" offered Ermintrude
"Most kind" accepted Brian, with a small bow.
Mr Rusty opined that he would have no time to run, since it was summer, and roundabout rides were popular in summer, so he would need to be tending to the machinery. In his place he called Mr McHenry, who agreed so long as he could use his tricycle occasionally. He offered to ride slowly, so he wouldn't get any advantage from the wheels. Dougal was less than happy about this, but agreed to run anyway for all his friends were doing it and he would hate to be a spoil sport. They all lined up, next to the roundabout, and on Dylan's command of "Like, go!", they all began running.

Florence was a very good runner, and decided on a short loop of the garden paths, but ran very quickly. She soon got back to where Dylan was asleep, wrote down her distance and tucked the note into the dozing rabbit's pocket. Ermintrude and Brian ambled away slowly, taking a longer route between the trees, stopping regularly for tea, or to munch on some flowers, or to admire the scenery. "That's a funny hat she's wearing" said a bird, watching them pass.

Mr McHenry walked steadily back to his potting shed, collected his tricycle, and began to ride laps around the outside of the shed. When he became dizzy from riding round and round he stopped, put the tricycle away, and walked less steadily back to Dylan, writing a note of his distance, leaving it, then going back to the shed to lie down.

Brian and Ermintrude returned later, having had a lovely day out.
"My thanks to you, my dear cow" said Brian
"Any time at all, snailykins. Same time tomorrow?"
"If you don't mind? I've enjoyed myself thoroughly today"
"Of course I don't mind, dear snail. See you here tomorrow"
And they left their notes and went their own ways, whistling and singing.

As the sun began to set over the garden, all the runners had returned and left their notes. All except Dougal...

*** To be continued ***

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Juneathon 15 - Walking on a Thin Line

Long thin map today.
"You can't stop me, I'm close enough to kiss the sky..."

Those were some of the first words that fired out of my headphones as I set off tonight, and I guess in a way it's true. You can't stop me. I can stop me, if I want to, but just for now I guess I don't want to. So I'll keep going.

"If pain and mania show what we are, I'll draw your skin and push us too far..."

I'd been down to the Better Half's house for dinner straight after work, and letting it settle and relaxing had taken a bit of time, so it was nearly half 10 when I finally wandered out the door. That said, cool evenings suit me a bit better than hot muggy days, so tonight was perfect. I hit play on the mp3 and was greeted immediately with the opening riff of the Guano Apes 'Walking on a Thin Line' album. From that point, tonight was going to be about trying to move quickly. The music dictated that.

"The beast is a rhythm, and the rhythm got me..."

Up the Otley Road isn't particularly exciting, but it's relatively level and a good steady push to start off with. I turned off at the petrol station to head round the back of Adel as 'Pretty in Scarlet' came on, one of my favourite tracks back when I first got this album, in 2004, while living in Hamburg. Around the back of Church Lane (round the spooky graveyard, not through it) and across the field with 'Electric Nights' and 'Quietly' kicking in. A quick stop to stretch just below the Lawnswood Arms, and then it was a game of 'get back before the album finishes'

"I agree, it's enough to be just me..."

By this point it was chucking it down. Warm-ish, but chucking it down. So I did what any sensible runner would do, took off my shirt, bundled it in my hand, and ran off down the main road topless and giggling. I did manage to make it back before the album finished, in fact I got back mid-way through 'Storm', which seemed kind of appropriate. Checking the tracker as I stopped it showed a 7.5km loop in 46mins, which is a touch over 6mins/km - a damn sight faster than I've run for most of the month. And it felt surprisingly good. Maybe more music is the answer, but as the last line of the song goes:

"I'm ready to run with the storm."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Juneathon 14 - 14 for 0

So, end of Juneathon Week Two. How's it been so far?


Distance wise, I'm on course for my arbitrary targets and exceeding my own expectations and perceived limitations. I've run two back-to-back 40 mile weeks, with multiple runs over 10km and three over 10 miles. Not something I would normally consider myself capable of. Physically I'm standing up pretty well, aches and pains are present but nothing that I would get alarmed about. I'm running off-road wherever possible, stretching before, during and after runs, warming up well on longer runs (they tend to start off at walking pace anyway!) and warming down pretty well. I've got the odd wee blister, but what do you expect?!

Unfortunately, I've hit the doldrums motivationally. My last four or five runs have been alright time and distance wise, but in terms of 'head space', rubbish. Tonight started badly and, fortunately, improved gradually (thanks in part to some textual abuse motivation from Ross) to end up with me in a good mood, feeling happy, positive and above all, comfortable. All of which is made even better by the fact it also turned out to be a 10-miler.

As we enter Week Three, the pressure's still on to keep that distance down, even if it's only for my own satisfaction. There's a few other pressures around that are taking up some headroom, so hopefully we'll get those dealt with as well and then Weeks Three and Four (and those last two heady days where we all push like crazy to cram in the last minute mileage) should hopefully pick up. I really, really hope so...

Juneathon 13 - The Dark (K)Night

Short lap last night, in the dark, sure to spending too much time viewing house and yakking with potential future housemates, 4.1km sprint lap around the ring road and West Park in just over 22mins, so about as fast as I get!

Back to longer plods tonight. Woo!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Juneathon 12 - Beckett's

A short jaunt in the rain today - round the back way into Beckett's Park, a couple of half-arsed, unenthusiastic laps, and then back home. Legs feel surprisingly trouble-free after yesterdays long run, but I'm still grumpy and un-motivated. Oh well...

That is all.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Juneathon 11 - Half time

Okay, I got my long run. It wasn't the long run I'd been planning, but it was a long run all the same.

And, for most of it's length, it felt rubbish.

I woke up cranky today, as opposed to the past week where I've just gone to bed cranky. I slept way later than I was planning and as usual that completely hoofed my Plan A for the day. Reverting to Plan B would have meant sitting on the sofa with the other half of last night's dinner and vegging out until 6pm when I'd acknowledge that I still needed to do my run for the day and stumbling out for an hour or so, arriving back still cranky and no better off and feeling guilty about it. It's an awkward situation where mind, mood and motivation seem to all be in the doldrums, maybe because of the distance I've already run this month or just because it's the weekend and I'm feeling a bit flat.

The solution was to stick some music on and just walk out of the front door, start the tracker, and see where I ended up, one junction at a time. Set off onto something familiar, that way your legs know where you're headed without your brain intervening. At each split, a quick decision - left or right? Right. Okay, go - without any thought to the distance, the incline, the route. Go for what looks interesting, investigate what you haven't done before, go home when you feel like it, when you get bored. Not the greatest methodology, to be honest, but a fairly successful one.

I got back to the house having stomped, gurned, sworn and plodded 20km. That made me grin a little, so like the last run of Janathon, I made myself go for another slow jog round the block to make it a half marathon. That made me grin a little more. The grumpy bear that went out has started to become slightly less grumpy, and more just a tired. Once he has been fed and watered and had a hot bath (and maybe even a beer...) he might be back to normal. At least, until tomorrow morning...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Juneathon 10 - SHORT!

Ha! I knew I'd manage one short one this week! Erm...

Is it a good sign that I'm perversely proud of only doing a short run? I think Juneathon may be doing something to my head...

Tonight I mainly jogged slowly to Sainsbury's and back. My sat tracker shows 3.64km, but I think I forgot to pause it, in which case that distance includes multiple laps of the supermarket trying to find muffins. That's muffins of the 'toast and butter' variety, not the 'double-chocolate-full-fat-American' variety. These are cheddar and black pepper ones which are good toasted with cream cheese and smoked salmon, as opposed to the other type which are bad for me but good with coffee.

I may have a long run tomorrow, just for a change...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Juneathon 9 - Nifty Fifty

Slow, slow, quick-quick-slow. That was about the theme of tonight's run, but I'm happy to say it takes me up 80km / 50 miles for the month so far, which is pretty astounding compared to the fortnight it took me to reach the same point in January. Maybe it's the lighter evenings and warmer weather making long runs more appealing...

I set off up towards the Cookridge and the back of Holt Park and stopped for the customary 'pit-stop' at the shopping centre (see the last post of Janathon for details), but stuck to the road rather than the golf course track back to the Otley Road. A nice little cross-filed footpath took me over to the church (not as spooky in the daylight), before looping round Long Causeway, across the ring road to the Hollies and back up through Oxley. Not particularly fast, although after a hard 9 days, I'm happy that my legs are standing up to anything like 8:30min/km pace for that length of time. Tomorrow night is going to be a SHORT slow one, as I keep promising myself (damn my competitive mind and comrades-in-Juneathon) in prep for something a bit bigger over the weekend!

Juneathon 8 - Round and Roundhay

Late blogging of last night's run, I know, but it wasn't really that eventful. I opted for a slow jog around Roundhay park, heading up to catch up with Claire and Geoff at the Aire orienteering event (Sprint Series - too short and fast for tired little me) before bimbling off to grab the trig pillar just off the ring road, getting soaked through in an unexpected heavy shower in the process. I opted then and there to run back through the wood to try and keep a bit dryer, which was a good call because it meant I ended up bumping into Suzie who was also out for a run and joining her for the return leg to the Mansion.

See. Not eventful at all :)

Total distance 6-and-a-bit km.
Not that concerned about the time.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Juneathon 7 - Out and about

Last night was a recovery run. After the hilly moorland of day 6, my legs needed a little bit of a break, so a slow shamble was the order of the day, distance immaterial, but a day to just head out for a pootle and see what happened. In the end, what happened was just the top side of 8km in about an hour and a quarter's running - the full GPS file shows 1:40-ish, but I stopped to meet up with the better half and potter round Sainsbury's to pick up dinner. I haven't included the pottering time, or mileage.

And so, to the end of Week One stat-attack (because, as was pointed out in January, I am a geek):

  • Total distance: 65km / 40mi - The same distance as my longest week of Janathon, a point I reached at Day 11 in January.
  • Average distance per run: 9.28km / 5.77mi - 4.3km further than my Janathon week 1 average.
  • Total time: 8:47, giving an average daily run time of 1:15.
  • Average pace: 8:07min/km or 7.4km/h (or 13min/mi - 4.6mi/h) - a little quicker than my January average of 8:13min/km for the month.
  • Total beers drunk: 0
  • Total takeaways eaten: 0
  • Total times I've said "Eesh, my calves are a bit tight": Many
  • Total bits of fun pretty singletrack: Could be more
  • Total abusive/encouraging posts to friends: A few.

Roll on Week Two - I'll be starting with something different tonight, and going orienteering!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Juneathon 6 - The long haul

I've said in an earlier post that I want to spend less time in June reading maps and worrying about distances and more time just going out for a run. Contrary to this, I keep catching myself at the maps, making plans, looking at routes, going "Ooh, well, that would put me up to X-km this week... dagnammit! Behave!". Today's run started a bit like that, with a plotted, measured, planned route, but I'm happy to say that the planning went a wee bit awry when I spotted some pretty looking trail that looked like it'd be fun to run down, and the rest of the route varied between the planned and the "Ooh, shiny... less go see where that goes..." This is, I think, a good combination. Especially on lovely sunny summer evenings like tonight.

Sunshine on singletrack
I drove up to Guiseley, with the idea of looping round on to Baildon Moor to pick up two rogue trig pillars* that I'd planned to stitch onto an Ilkley Moor run, but never got the time (or inclination) They seemed to sit in the middle of an area with lots of pink dotty lines on the map, meaning possible interesting singletrack to wander along. The start didn't disappoint on that score, hardpacked snaky woodsy trail running up the edge of a field, parallel to the road, dappled sun shining through the trees. It was a pretty stiff haul up for a K or so, and then the footpath turned right and up along a ridge before dropping down into Hawksworth (not the one near Kirkstall, another one. Common name around these parts, methinks.) From here, field-edge grass track had its monotony broken up by the pair of Curlews swooping around above my head - I'm not sure I've ever seen a Curlew in real life before, only pictures, but the bill is distinctive enough! I stopped to watch a while, chomping a handful of Jelly Babies and a gulp of water, before pottering off again towards where the trail dropped steeply down to Low Springs and more pink dotty fun-looking lines.

Runners right, horse gallop left
From Low Springs (where the pink dotty lines did indeed turn out to be quite fun) came a bit of a long drag, up a gravel and tarmac lane past some very posh looking holiday cottages and expensive houses - at least, I assume they're expensive. I'm only going by the number of expensive 4x4 vehicles parked outside them. At the top, accompanied by nice warning signs, was a horse gallop. I'm not in much of a position to judge, but I reckon running down that would have been harder work for little me than it is for a much larger stallion, so I opted to go for what looked like a footpath to the right. Probably the best idea, I think; getting mowed down by an irate mare at full bore would probably have spoiled the day.

Trig #1 - Baildon Hill top
From the gallop, more sunshine, two 'frontal assault' pushes up hills and the first trig! Baildon Hill top. A quick stop, to let the guy taking a panorama get his picture without a small sweaty runner in-shot, the off downhill to cross the golf course (good running on greens, I've found. Very level...) and drop onto tarmac very briefly to climb to the second trig. I'd seen this one on StreetView (strange thing to look at, I know) as it's just off the Hawksworth road climbing north out of Baildon, so I knew it would be an easy find. There, at 11.25km run, I committed the slightly silly mistake of pressing 'Stop' on the tracker instead of 'Pause', hence why today's RunningFree update is logged as two runs. No tech issue today, just Operator Error...

Restarting the tracker, I plodded onwards, avoiding the nettles on the tight bits of trail - grippy shoes really are a Good Thing in those conditions, aren't they?! - trying not to get chased or stood on by the horses in the field with the bridleway through it, trying not to eat ALL the Jelly Babies in one go, for they are treats for when we have done well, like reaching the top of the hill without stopping. Although I did allow myself a couple when I had to stop to let some golfers tee off, on the basis that running across in front of three guys who are about to whack a small hard ball with a metal stick and who have the sun in their eyes was probably not a great idea. At least, not if I wished to keep a few things intact, like my teeth, and my consciousness.
Trig #2 - off Hawksworth Road

Pretty soon, after a fairly uneventful bimble up and over another golf course - what is it about golfers?! They seem to get everywhere... - I was back in Guiseley, with a mere kilometre along the pavement back to where the car was parked, next to the White Cross pub, the Prachee curry house and Harry Ramsden's chippy. Talk about temptation. I managed to resist, and simply drove home to pasta, meatballs, a hot bath and the slightly long-winded blogging of what turned out to be a 10 mile run! According to the Tracker 16.62km, 2:28:17. I'm happy enough with that!

Oh, and lastly, as an aside from tonight's run: I've said, many times, that entering the 'athons is about me and me only - I'm not competing with anyone else. Unfortunately, I'm quite a competitive soul at heart, and can't resist a bit of cheeky verbal, especially with Ross (Chooban), an old compadre and long-time AR associate entered in Juneathon as well. So, I've been guilty of a bit of joshing. And before we've even finished Week One. Oops... Sorry 'bout that Ross. We'll see how we both get on, eh...

*Note for newcomers to this blog. The author has developed some kind of bizarre attachment to the angular concrete lumps deposited around the country by the Ordnance Survey to aid in their mapping of the British Isles, and often goes to great lengths to 'bag' these pillars either on foot, by bike or for the few roadside ones, by car. When conversation turns to 'Trig-Bagging', the easiest option is just to smile and nod.