More falling

After two hot & sticky days in London and an evening of torrential rain, I escaped out earlier into a clear, cool, sunny morning.  I did my quick 5.2 mile circuit… not so quickly it turned out, as it took me 50 minutes this morning.  6.24mph.

I was aware that I was running more slowly, so I set about enjoying the scenery which was beautiful.  To such an extent that at one point, looking to the side and miles away in thought, I tripped heavily on an exposed root and landed on my palms & elbows!


The forecasters’ prediction for today was very wet, but as it turned out it was instead very warm.  I found this out as I ran down the road carrying both my Gore jacket and beanie hat as insurance against being caught out in the rain.

I had decided against driving to the Downs as there was a 30-mile race starting from Clayton & I thought the car-park might be busy… or I might get dragged in!  Instead I ran out with no clear plan, which I intuitively think makes it more difficult and easier at the same time.  More difficult as you’re not quite sure how hard to push, but easier as you can kid your unconscious that you’re only going around the block!

I ran out across the Common and on down through the woods to Westmeston at the base of the Downs.  The going was mostly baked dry, but there were several points that were incongruously muddy – all sections that are generally knee-deep in mud in the winter!

The going might have been relatively easy, but I mad hard work of it, having to resort to jellybabies after only 20 minutes… although to be fair, this was partly because of IronMan Jim’s advice about sugar intake from last week.  He said that you need to get sugar in your system before you need it, otherwise the body produces insulin which counters the effect… or something like that.

I started up the Westmeston Bostall having snuck a couple more jellybabies, but opted to then turn right for the more direct ascent… this must be a comparable gradient to the Grouse Grind because the isobars on the map are too close together to read the heights!

I reached the Beacon at one hour ten minutes and turned for home down the nearest path before any of the 30-milers came past to make me look slow!

The return leg was through Ditchling village, up to Oldlands Mill and then back via Ockley Lane and took me 48 minutes, which is a passable time.  Overall, one hour 58 minutes to do 11.35 miles.  5.35mph on the way out and 6.4mph on the way back… more to do with the initially favourable gradient and a larger proportion of road running in the second half than anything else.

Judging by the paltry amount of rain we’ve subsequently had this afternoon, I may actually need to go out & water the pots later!  Forecasters?  Fraudulent soothsayers morelike!

Back to the Wednesday run

Despite not having any intention of running this morning, I somehow found myself warming to the idea over my morning espresso… and was out just after seven.

It was a [I’m actually unsure of correct adjective for a change] morning, warm enough for t-shirt & shorts, windy, fresh etc.  It seems to have been raining for days so I was expecting wall to wall mud… but was not looking forward to it.

As it turned out there was very little mud around at all, the ground having comprehensively soaked up any rainwater.  I did my standard 5.2 mile circuit out past the Royal Oak, through the woods & back down the magical path and actually found myself really enjoying it.

At one point in the woods I felt that I had been joined by some of my friends, particularly Nick & Daren, who have run through here with me before and I also had the sense that Ric was there too.  Ever present, if only in spirit.  He would have enjoyed running through there.

It was a lovely little run with plenty to see and think about but no drama… what a great way to spend 45 minutes at the start of the day!

Back to the Tank Tracks

I was lax again this week and didn’t manage to get a mid-week run in.  This despite Cliff asking me if I wanted to join him & Andy P in a run around water-world, aka the Downs on a super-wet Friday evening!  Unlike last week when I couldn’t walk, let alone run, this week’s excuse was one of scheduling… that’s my story anyway.  Certainly, on Friday, I HAD to go to Waitrose!

And so I found myself parked at the bottom of the tank tracks chatting to another runner in the car-park.  As I ran off I overheard him saying to his running partner ‘that’s the loon who we saw running up and down the tank tracks the other week!’.  Oh to be so famous!

I made it to the top in ten minutes, as before.  This meant that I was still slower than Daren and thus didn’t need to do any more ascents to try to beat his time, so instead I turned left to run along towards the Beacon.  Ahead of me was another runner, so I picked up my skirts and set about closing the gap.  By the next gate I’d made scant progress, but I managed to reel him in on the next hill.

Jim, the crazy fool, turned out to be in training for an IronMan in two weeks time which, according to Wikipedia (he did tell me but, for good reason, my mind decided to blank the information) carries the exhortation “Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life”  Tall order bearing in mind that, whilst he was a competent cyclist (which I usually measure by the number of bikes someone has… six or seven in Jim’s case) he had only run his first marathon last year and was not a confident swimmer!

He turned down his iPod and kindly allowed me to tuck in beside him and we chatted as we ran past countless people staggering along under the weight of their race numbers, which I later discovered made them part of the Oxfam Trailwalker 62.5 mile walk.  Make that a 62.5 mile stagger, looking at some of them!

We ran past Blackcap and down to the next gate before turning around, which was the 50 minute mark for me.  We’d been making good time, but around this point Jim let on that he had already been out on his bike this morning, I think for a couple of hours!  Fit!

I wasn’t looking forward to the run back against the wind, but you really don’t notice it so much when you’re chatting away with someone else and the miles just disappeared.

Towards the end, rather than dive off right, back down the tank tracks, I decided to continue down to Jack & Jill where we parted, before running back up the hill again.  This way I figured I would make the run last two hours.

In the event, despite pain above my knees and an uncomfortable inner thigh, I managed to get back to the car at 1 hour 58 minutes, not bad for the 12.15 mile circuit.  In fact, although the speed was 6.2mph, if you remove the initial 1km climb, which took me 10 minutes, the balance of the loop was run at an average of 6.4mph, a merest tad faster than my shorter run with Mark last weekend.  Result!

No wonder I fell asleep on the sofa when I got back!

Lazy Sunday

After the exertions of last weekend, I spent a couple of days descending stairs sideways, one at a time and generally walking around like a 90-year old.  I’d been looking forward to getting out running again today, but I guessed that, with a day of heavy drizzle yesterday and a night of torrential rain, all my favourite paths would be waterlogged.  Whilst I love running in the mud in the winter, I’ve been enjoying dry feet for a few months now and sploshing didn’t really appeal today.

So I drove back to Jack & Jill, planning to see how I was feeling, but probably run to Blackcap, more or less, and back again.  For some bizarre reason I was like a racehorse out of the gate and I found myself running hard all the way to the top of the first hill where last week’s tank tracks go off left.  Then I slowed down… I think I had to!

It took me 17 minutes to Ditchling Beacon (I have made it in 15 before) and then I stopped to chat to a guy who was out walking with his young family.  Part of the joy of running for me is the camaraderie of chatting to other people who are out enjoying the fresh air, runners or not.  Paul Beadle turned out to be visiting from Dubai where he said the runs are pretty flat.  And hot too, I guess.  He’d certainly chosen a great day to walk on the Downs… windy with lots of clouds flitting around and taking the edge off an otherwise hot, sunny day.

I ran on towards Black-cap and there were loads of people out, enjoying themselves on bikes, in prams and like me, in trainers.  The white section of the route, which a like a ground chalk path and reflects the sun, was spotted with big puddles and I was glad that I’d chosen the top to run on, as the Weald would have been a quagmire.

I’d not seen Mark Johnson for a while, but I often think of him when I’m running along the top here.  I had thought that if I saw him before Blackcap, I’d turn round & run back with him.  Bizarrely, there he was, just before Blackcap and right where I imagined he would be… probably because we had bumped into one another in the same place last October.

I’d only been out for 40 minutes, but I turned right around and we ran back together.  It’s a real pleasure running with him as he keeps up a good pace… and a decent conversation!  And since he too has entered the Brighton marathon, there’s a good chance that we’ll now do some (planned) training runs together over the winter months.

We reached the car-park at the 1 hour 20 mark (for me… he’d been out for 2 hours 40!) and I had run about 8.5 miles.  This was not as far as I had intended, but still far enough to knock me out on the sofa for an hour this afternoon.  Well, it is a lazy Sunday, after all!

The Blighty Grouse Grind

Inspired by Daren’s recent ascent of the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, which rises 933m in a distance of 2.9km, I [stupidly] decided to replicate his feat right here in Blighty.

I scoured the map for likely candidates and the only hill that I could find with that gradient was Wolstonbury, which I stormed back in April (archive post). Remembering how treacherous it was descending the grassy north face, I looked for an alternative, settling on the tank tracks that lead to the top of the hill above Jack & Jill.

The track is 1km long and rises about 140m, so I figured that if I did the climb 7 times, I would have a vaguely comparable height gain to challenge Daren with… he claims to have finished the Grouse Grind in less than one hour… and was going back with his trainers to try to beat that… so I had my work cut out!

I parked at Jack & Jill and warmed up on the gentle hill, giving me an initial 60m tally.  At the top I found some radio masts and a bunch of cars and a sign warning of vehicles using the track.

I ran down ‘the hill’ encountering one of the vehicles coming slowly up the incline… the driver kindly informed me that it was the Mid Sussex Amateur Radio Society who were camped out for an annual worldwide competition to see who can reach the furthest distance.  Apparently they had been talking to someone in Trinidad & Tobago last night, which is pretty impressive.

His eyes widened when I said what I was planning to do.

I ran on down to the gate at the bottom and turned round and started grinding up the hill myself.  Ten minutes later, I knew Daren had beaten me… I would have needed to have beaten 9 minutes to stand a chance.  I thought I would do a second loop before I headed for home and off I went.

The second climb was way harder than the first, but I managed it in about the same time.  Unfortunately, the guys at the top were now rooting for me, which meant that I couldn’t really give up after only two climbs.  The third was really painful, but I thought I had better do four… for some reason that completely escapes me now.  The guys said they would have a cup of tea waiting for me.

I had passed some youngsters who were doing a dry run for their Duke of Edinburgh Silver award a couple of times up and down the hill and I chatted to them while I supped my mug of tea.  They were really impressed with what I was doing and so I felt I had to complete at least one more circuit… by which time they would be gone and I could head for home.

As I neared the top so the MSARS guys cheered me and said only two more to go and I then I knew I was going to have to finish it, somehow.  Coming up for the 6th time, I was barely moving in places, although I was still (I think) technically running.  Going down for the last time, I took this video to show you the view and the path.  Alas it is once again very jerky… and worse still, it looks flat!  WAAAAAAH!

May I just say… it is NOT FLAT!

And then I was on to my 7th climb and I rather think it took me about 15 minutes, so slow and painful was it.  I even had to stop momentarily, twice, on the final hill… just because.  There was a big cheer from the guys at the top and I would like to say a hearty thank you to them, as I wouldn’t have made it without them.  Although I wouldn’t have had to have finished it if they hadn’t been there!

I stretched out as best I could back down the gentle hill to the windmills, getting back to the car at 2 hours 33 minutes.  980m plus the 60m to the top from the car park gives 1040m in total height gain (WAY more than Daren, you’ll note) and 16.7km / 10.5miles… well the gradient doesn’t compare either!

I estimate that the downhills were completed at an average speed of 6.1mph, while I managed only 3mph on the uphills.  At an average speed of less than 4.1mph though, it would take me about 6 and a half hours to complete a marathon… furrgeddit!


After the heat of the last few days, it was a little cooler sitting outside this morning with my espresso and my current book, Synchronicity, The Inner Path of Leadership by Joseph Jaworski.

The lower temperature drew me to do some more fartleks and so off to the Common I trotted.  It is such a lovely place and as I did the warm-up lap, I thought about how I could share this with you… so on the next loop I took a video, which you can see here.  It’s more than a little bumpy, so you may need to take a sea-sickness tablet before you start watching it, but I think that you’ll get the idea:  lovely path through the high grass during an earthquake, beautiful scenery zipping past in every direction, fresh air being drawn in noisily by the runner in the background etc.

It was so lovely that I put in an extra lap… no no NO, scrub that.  Actually I didn’t feel that I was trying hard enough, so I forced myself to run an additional lap before heading for home, so five laps in total.

So just over 5 miles in 46 minutes gives 6.6mph… slightly quicker than last week and a speed that would allow me to sneak in at under four hours… if I kept it up for the whole of the upcoming Brighton marathon.