Sunday, September 27, 2009

"If I had a hat I'd eat it"

Had a track session again today so I'm all inspired by running again so....

Is this the greatest track distance run of all time?

Current world marathon world record holder Haile Gebreselassie back in 1998 when he was setting the track alight. Here breaking the 5k record after his pace makers muffed it at half way leaving him 6 laps to go alone and needing to run 3.58 for the final mile! The title of the post is from the commentator who on almost every lap suggest that it's not possible to break the record from the position he's in. Hard to think of a climbing comparison but it would probably be onsighting an E10.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Secrets of Winter Success

Some one asked me recently what I did as training for winter climbing. Well I can reveal my top secret high tech underground facility. In fact I did my first set of ice axe pull ups for this season last night. It's easy to forget with the run of great weather we're having that first winter snows are probably only 4 or 5 weeks away. The other training tool I've been using is a pair of Mizuno Wave Harrier Fell running shoes but as they are an embarrassing bright yellow we'll skip a photo of them.

Training for winter is relatively simple, you need plenty of puff for the walk in (hence the running), bags of stamina as your average lead of a hard pitch will take 2 or more hours, controlled strength such as lock offs (hence the axe pullups), a wide range of "traditional" techniques (luckily I'm a born thrutcher) and know how to use yer loaf (both in terms of problem solving and keeping going when things are less than perfect). Perhaps I'll do a proper post on mental training at another time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stanage Struggle

I had a vision of my first fell race of endless bog squelching through mist and rain, with back breaking hills being galloped up gazelle like by impossibly fit old men. Well the latter was definitely true but luckily bogs were almost entirely absent and weather wise it was one of the best mornings of the Autumn so far. The course was a long drag up out of Hathersage through the Plantation and up onto the Edge at which point I was pretty sure I was doing some permanent damage to my spine. Then a mile an a half along the tops past High Neb before a hell for leather descent back to the village. Unfortunately I hadn't counted on the series of mini hills leading up to the church to finish which almost brought me to my knees. The personal point that really summed up how special this race felt was on those finishing inclines when I was doing all I could just to keep going, several of the marshalls started cheering me on. That often happens at most races but they personalised it by shouting out my number, a small thing but it seemed to make a massive difference.

Of course with all races you like to compare where you finished and this one had a high proportion of climbers. I was 62nd out of 286 just behind Al Williams - guidebook design guru, and about 2 1/2 minutes behind Ron Fawcett, who I'd put as a good proper runner, although rumours are that he was recovering from an injury. I was pretty chuffed to beat Neil McAdie by nearly 7 minutes as he'd goaded me into doing the race, but very humbled to be thrashed by a similar amount by Alpine guide Jon Morgan who finished in 3rd place!!

The Struggle's website has results, pics and more info

Thursday, September 17, 2009

News from around the world

One of the reasons I keep up a blog is that I've loved being inspired by the adventures of others. Sometimes friends, sometimes famous folk I've seen on tele and sometimes people I've never heard of. That's the wonder of the 'net I guess; access to psyche around the world. So here's a few things that got me going today.

Relatively close to home, Jack Geldard ground up repeated Stevie Haston's new monster of a route at Doris. There's been lots of forum discussions about this route, which I briefly got involved with. These reached a hilarious peak when Stevie declared that both Adam Long and Ben Bransby didn't have enough ground up experience to offer a valid viewpoint! Much more interesting though is that Jack has blogged about his training, to achieve onsighting an E8's worth of Choss and muses on what is required for loose climbing.

Will Gadd is a very astute Canadian who excels at excelling. Doesn't really matter what it is mountains, icefalls, rock faces, thermals or raging rivers Will is top draw material. One of his recent posts on his blog caught my eye, where he contrasts the positive fun approach of a new generation of young adventurers with the doom and gloom negative psyche of his generation. The same generation that shaped my own early days of alpinism.

Spotted this superb effort by Max Turgeon, a softly spoken Quebecois lad now based in Cham who I had the pleasure of climbing with in Scotland last season.

And finally a little more running I'm afraid. Seems Al Powell has been up to his usual tricks with some monster endurance races. It's been truly humbling to spend the odd day out in the mountains with the likes of Al, to realise just how unfit I am in comparison, and one of the main motivators for my recent running efforts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Memories of the Golden Age

Yesterdays track session had me recalling that amazing golden era of British Middle Distance running in the late 70s into the 80s. As a 12 year old I think the closest I ever had to a genuine hero was Steve Ovett. I loved his devastating kick off the final bend and of course his style. This video shows him breaking the mile record wearing his trade mark Red Russian athletic vest. Ovett wasn't that big on record breaking he was more of a pure man to man racer but as the commentary by the outstanding David Coleman says "there is no one left to race." What stands out is his incredibly beautiful running action (contrast it with the state of the other elite runners trailing behind him), truly poetry in motion and you'll also notice all the meets athletes cheering Ovett on around the inside of the track.

Obviously you can't really talk about Ovett without mentioned Sebastian Coe. Here's his phenomenal 800 world record of 1.41.73 from 1981. It took 16 years for his time to be bettered! Again brilliant commentary by David Coleman "And now he's really got to hurt himself"

Apologies climbing readers for my recent running obsession I will actually get out on the crag soon!

The magic of the track

I'm typing this with leaden legs having had a quick lunch time session at the Don Valley Stadium athletics track here in Sheffield. Supposedly it's normal for the legs to feel more battered than normal if you aren't used to track running, and since its been 25 years since I was last on a track....!

As a nipper I used to run for Swindon athletics club and we'd train on the local cinder track at the Oasis Leisure Centre. I'm sure I've got rose tinted specs on but I used to love that feeling as a 14 year old accelerating into the final bend on our 300m reps. I can just picture now the clouds of moisture from our breath being picked out by the floodlights on a winter's evening. However today I could definitely feel the difference between a 40 year old has been and a lithe teenager. But there was still something of that magic as I walked out onto the track.

One of my most memorable days with the Swindon Club - for mixed reasons, was when our Coach managed to get 4 of us onto a junior race being held as part of a senior meeting at the legendary Crystal Palace in London. I couldn't believe my luck, as while I had no chance of a win (the fastest of our 4, a lad called Andrew Stanley was 2nd or 3rd ranked in the country for his age and I was usually half a lap behind in a mile race) but just the chance to run on the same hallowed tartan as my hero of the day Steve Ovett was a dream come true.

Unfortunately when we arrived we found out that the event had been shifted to another track and so we'd missed the whole meet. Obviously gutted we moped about until our coach managed to get us a chance to at least have a run. So the four of us did a kind of time trial, I think I came last but it's still something I treasure.

Today it was odd to come out to an almost deserted track. There was one sprinter just finishing his session off and then I had the whole stadium to myself. Considering it's the UK's biggest athletics stadium it felt a little bizarre, but I believe it's fairly typical that these facilities get under utilised. If you're into running I'd recommend searching out your own local track, there's a neat site for doing just that
You'll almost certainly end up with lead legs like me but hopefully come away with that little bit of magic.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mountains by the sea

Had a fine day out yesterday with Jon and Alex on the beautiful Lleyn Peninsula. The North Coast near Trefor is like a mini-mountain range falling into the sea. We climbed the classic 7 pitch HVS Fantan B. Which I'd highly recommend to those with an adventurous streak. Having said that it's quite involved for an HVS; long, run out in places and with one or two spots where you have to make a move where falling shouldn't be fatal but would be unpleasant. However the rock on the whole is pretty good so it doesn't warrant MXS. Here's some pics
How everyone imagines the Lleyn - a coastline of fear!The reality? a seaside holiday venueJohn at the top of the "perched block" pitch the third on the routeJohn having reached the belay of pitch 4, great steep guano encrusted jugs.The wonders of an Indian summer Jon on the final technical pitch with sweeping panoramic views.The surprising finale along the crest of the quarry seals the alpine feel of the whole route.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Now thats what I call a photo finish

Came across this rather fine selection of pics taken at the finish line of the Boise Half Ironman race this summer. With 1 mile left of the run Craig Alexander, the current Hawaii Ironman Champ, was lying in 2nd place nearly a minute behind the leader Chris Lieto. A spectator shouted out the 57sec time split and something (which is unreported) to re-ignite the competitive flame of Alexander. The result was an amazing sprint finish decided a few steps before the line. It would be interesting to find out what words of encouragement that spectator shouted, and then patent them!

Here's the link

Sunday, September 6, 2009

To run or not to run?

That was the big question this weekend. I'd entered the Great Yorkshire Run a big field 10k race in Sheffield but 2 weeks ago strained my hamstring and since then had only managed a couple of light jogs. Even though it probably wouldn't have been what the doctor ordered curiosity of what racing with 7500 runners would be like eventually persuaded me. So this morning I set out with 3 goals

- finish without breaking myself
- finish in the top 1000
- try and prove my first run (when I did 42.02) wasn't a fluke and get within a minute of that time

The previous race had been with a field of 450 odd so I wasn't sure what to expect with such a massive amount of other runners. We had been asked to give our estimated time so that we could start with similar paced runners. The start was a speedy downhill section which unfortunately also had to be climbed at the finish. My guess was that everyone would get over- excited on this start and that I should be ready to let most pass me initially and burn themselves out. The reality was surprisingly different, Boxed in I couldn't believe how slow most had started. It felt like I was in the wrong start group, although I suspect many runners had just dreamt up a fantasy finish time. As a result I had to weave in and out like a slalom skier for the first couple of kilometres quickly falling behind my hoped for pace. Luckily the middle section of the run went much better with the finish my usual gasping painful misery compounded by the brutal hill finish. However going back to my pre-race goals

- I did manage to finish, and although very stiff and sore I don't think the hamstring i further damaged.
- I did manage to finish in the top 1000. In fact almost unbelievably I finished in 160th place! and 20th in my age group (younger old men!)
- I also made it within a minute of my first 10k race time, but this time 46 seconds faster 41.16.

Definately well chuffed - half marathon next!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The greatest athlete in the world

I don't know if you recall that famous quote from the late American climber Alex Lowe, who when asked who he thought "the greatest climber in the world was" he replied "The one having the most fun". It was probably a throw-away quip to a too often posed boring question a bit like Mallory's legendary "because it's there". But it does seem to have summed up a lot of the attitude Alex Lowe took to the mountains.

Anyway I was reminded of that attitude when I read about the top female "Ironman" triathlete of the moment Chrissie Wellington. Recently she broke the female world record for an Ironman by over 13 minutes. That's an incredible margin equivalent to the sort of thing Usain Bolt has been doing at the World athletics championships, but that's not why I think she's a contender for the world's greatest athlete. The reason why is that as far as I can gather at the end of every Ironman race, which she wins - i.e. everyone she's ever entered, she stays on at the finishing line congratulating every single other competitor who finishes right to the last, often around midnight. Read more about Ms Wellington at her rather entertaining blog