Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Hot rock (or not)

Well, the much-anticipated holiday dawned, and with great excitement we got up to the sounds of...well...wind caking horizontal snow on the window. As a weatherman's daughter, I should have realised- the jet stream that seemed to have lowered to ground level the day before, and well...the weather forecast...A Siberian cold snap was about to descend. The snow was blatted horizontally onto the trees, which created a weird effect, and because no one predicted such a snap, the M6 was covered in snow, and passable only on one lane. Cool. Sadly, by the time we reached Sardinia, the beautiful warm weather had been displaced by the wet, soggy tail of the Siberian weather system. It would prove to be decisive in our climbing plans.Still, we had a laugh at the strange unfolding of events during the course of the week: the rope being confiscated by the airport security men (perhaps not helped by Stu quipping "yes, it is a bit sharp, isn't it?"...), finding our villa only to find that it came with an owner as mad as a box of spoons, inventing the new sport of "cave running", and the final hoop of fire, a cancelled flight home. We were informed that instead of heading to Liverpool we'd be flying into East Midlands Airport (where, I hear you ask)? On arrival we found it to be positioned in a place called NottinghamLeicesterDerby, and that we were going to get from it back to Liverpool by coach. This is when Stu told me he "didn't like" coaches, and that it was my job to get a seat as close to the front as possible, otherwise there "may be consequences"...With trepidation I managed to bat my way to the front (displaced Ryanair passengers can put up a bit of competition) and relaxed in my seat. I was beginning to see a pattern in all of this when we realised that we had a two hour journey in the company of the Big Band sound of Radio 2. A double-edged sword, because we were perfectly positioned at the front, yet right next to the speakers. We did manage to have a great time though- cave running and climbing for three days, sometimes in heroic conditions.


New pedals installed, I took off to the top of Penrith- where the Beacon lives. Fantastic little place for bombing about. Only fell off once when I forgot to disengage feet from new clipless pedals. Then, we took off the next day for a loop of the fells around Crosby Ravensworth. I'm hoping that a distinct lack of skill will one day turn into deft wheelwork.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

The Edge of the Empire Part I

There's something that I have been meaning to do for some time: run the length of Hadrian's Wall. Why, I hear you ask...because it's there, of course. Why else?
So today I could put it off no longer. I had tried, of course, but Stu had put the kybosh on any more pipe dreams, and somewhat reluctantly, I made my way to the start of the Wall. It's 84 miles long, I thought. What if it's biting off more than I can chew? I recalled the feeling when I put the first stitch on a particularly complex tapestry. 18 years on, it is still unfinished. Will it be like that? After ditching the car at Brough By Sands, I got on an empty bus to Bowness on Solway, the start of Hadrian's Wall. The milky blueness of the day had given way to a stern greyness. The bus driver must have left something on the stove at home, as he raced his only passenger there and whizzed back past like a rally driver.
The path wound through gorse bushes and out past Port Carlisle, with its vestiges of grandness in the middle of absolutely nowhere. After doglegging for a while, the path followed the long, straight, flat road along the mudflats where the Vallum, or ditch had been built. After having trouble settling in to the run, I started to listen to a podcast about Steve Prefontaine. This dangerously talented runner, whose life was cut short at the age of 24 or so, has absolutely nothing in common with me. So much so that he could have been a different species. Still, something had struck a chord. In his running, he found a way of expressing creativity. In each of his performances, unlike anyone I'd heard speak of their running, he saw that it was a creative process in the same way as art or music is. I may never achieve such a creative act with speed or performance, but in a small way, running over Hadrian's Wall to me, is one tiny grain of something close to this.

Austwick Fell Race

After a week off it was time to get back on the fellracing horse, so Penny and I went over to the Yorkshire Dales for a race on the limestone. A bit of a cold day, but a fantastic race. For the first time there was a sense of effortless running (OK, it only lasted for 6 paces, but tantalising enough). And I managed to keep in sight of the lady in front, whom I generally only see at the start line. It's becoming more and more fun to watch the junior races too. They take it so seriously, and there's usually one or more who come in covered in blood, or who take a massive tumble and end up sliding down to the finish. Seeing the respect they give each other is perhaps all too rare a sight as well- they shake hands at the finish in a way which seems so incongruous with their age...
Anyway, W.G. Grace didn't run today, but was seen marshalling on the top of a windy peak. I gave him a knowing smile...

Monday, 12 March 2007

The Haweswater Half Marathon

Early March sees the running club springing into action at the Haweswater Half Marathon. Set on the banks of ...yes, you guessed it...Haweswater, it's an idyllic, yet surprisingly hilly course. Last year we manned the sweep car, which wasn't the most dynamic of places to be, although it could have been a lot worse. The year before that, someone ran it backwards, which took quite some time, apparently. This year I was out on the course taking photos of the runners, which was fantastic fun. Penny kindly provided me with a moving target to practice with Stu's camera before the race...seems to work...

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Mad dogs and Scotsmen...

Well, quite a weekend that one: off to Scotland for a few mudsports. We started out on mountainbikes in Mabie forest- quite a blast on the fast trails and lumpier bits. We certainly need the practice but I think we're getting better.
But the best bit came next- catching the last few dog races of the Nationals at Drumlanrig. The faster six dog races had already finished so we had the treat of the rather less mainstream ones- dog and scooter, dog and mountainbike (yes, mountainbike), and the CaniX. The CaniX is the event where the dog is attached to a runner, which seems preferable to the mountainbike race with the dog attached, which proved to be rather unstable in the muddy conditions. The doggie devastation at the start of the mountainbike and dog event was indicative of the general flavour of the events- fantastic to watch as things unfolded with dogs having a sniff, bikes and ropes getting tangled and the like. This was the winning CaniX runner. His strange position wasn't an unorthodox running style, but simply an attempt to stay upright in the incredibly slippy mud. Most people ended upside down at some stage or other, being dragged by a happy looking husky...The doggie in this picture was as happy as a proverbial pig, but his owner was certainly less happy, having been dragged around the course, with a bike somewhere on the scene...The whole thing was a hoot, and we could have spent hours watching things unfold.