One smile

Rather than suffer the ignominy of walking like a 1970’s robot tomorrow, which may have been somewhat disconcerting for the team in the strategy session I’m facilitating, I jumped on the machine for a mile to disperse any lactic acid which may have accumulated.

One big Monday morning smile in 9.46.

PS. It’s Chinese New Year on Thursday morning, so if you were thinking of clearing away your accumulated clutter, now is the time to do it!

Impulse Power

This time last year, when I was in training for the Brighton marathon, the weather was almost identical as today… gloriously bright sunshine and cold as ice.  This year I waited inside, comfortably reading and let the temperature rise a little before setting out.

On bright days I like to be on the top of the Downs (or as last year, on the sea front) so the question was only how to get there.  This I decided as I reached the bottom of the road, opting to run to Wivelsfield Station, along to the London Road and then all the way south out of Burgess Hill, past Hassocks to Clayton.

It was actually hot in the sun and I removed my jacket for a while, but put it straight back on as soon as I started to run up the hill to Jack & Jill.  It was fweezin, which was borne out by the layer of ice on the pond at the top of Home Hill.

I ran on to Ditchling Beacon where I found someone standing on the trig point… where I otherwise would have stood!  Jan and Kate were up from Hove and he’s one of those mad folk who do triathlons… sea swimming and all.  Respect!

Now the problem was how to get home and while I was thinking (and still buoyed up by the conversation with Jan) I decided to run down Westmeston Bostal and back up the steep path that I tackled last weekend… and the one before that too I think.

Back at the top I opted to descend on the path that runs down below the road, following it all the way down to Sporting Cars where I turned right along the road and then left into Spatham Lane.

Although I’d not quite reached the 2-hour mark, I was already starting to feel tired and had no jelly-babies to revive me.  By the time I ran past the Common car park it was only mental muscle that kept me moving, like impulse power for the USS Enterprise, reiterated by a runner who glided past me even though he was not going fast himself.

I ran down through the housing estate and back to the house, the most direct route I could easily conceive, ending the run in 2.31, 14.38 miles, 5.7mph.  This contrasts poorly with the similarly glorious run on 31st January last year which was 13.5 miles at a speed of 6.48mph… what can I say, other than I don’t give a hoot as I’m not in training for the marathon!

Not half

When it comes to planning to run with other people, I realise that I tend to put it off until the last minute to see how I feel on the day.  Just as well that I’d not planned anything today as I didn’t roll out of bed until the normal kick-off time.

A couple of hours later, having stimulated my mind with a challenging work book, I finally set off, alone, with the aim of running to the Beacon.  The route, which took in Ockley Lane, Oldlands Mill and Ditchling, is pretty much exactly 5 miles and I was disappointed to run it in 52 minutes… I’m sure in the distant annals of these pages I have run it in 45, maybe even 44, but not for some time!

I did stop for a few moments to see how my favourite new build was coming along… it’s not in Odette & Michael’s  league, but tres avante garde for Burgess Hill, nevertheless.  I would most certainly like to live there!

Feeling in need of another hill, I ran down Westmeston Bostal and on reaching the path back up to the left, the one that Pete, Mark & I ran up last week, I took it.  At the top I ran back down the bostal and may well have run up again but for a well-timed call from Cliff.

At the road I turned right, then left across the fields past a dilapidated barn that is very much in need of my design imagination.  Dreaming on, I ran down past Middleton Manor, then realising how thick the mud would be further along this path, turned right up to Streat church.

I first ran down Streat Lane only a matter of weeks ago and it was fun to revisit it in the opposite direction… some of the properties are gorgeous.

At the end I did a left-right into Hundred Acre Lane and then ran to the left across the fields, around behind the industrial estate and onto the Magical Path where I surprised a young canoodling couple sitting on a tree-stump… actually, they surprised me too, so unused am I to seeing anyone down there at all.

It was a short hop back across the Common to home which I reached in 2.16.  13 miles on the map gives a speed of 5.74mph which is fast becoming my default speed these days!

No company, not quite a half marathon distance and not half slow either!  Just perfect for a paratelic!

Extreme Choreography

Cliff is well known for his organisational abilities but today they were tested in-extremis.

But I must first mention that yesterday I spent the afternoon in the garage making a new piece of furniture for my office… a two-storey bookcase for my London Business School folders (although I haven’t managed to find the box with the rest of them in yet!).  My point though is that it’s difficult to gauge how different excuses measure up against one-another, but at least mine was a different one to last week.

Anyway, having got my dig at Cliff in early, I pitched up at Stamner Park with only a vague idea of who else would turn up, or how many… and it was to be many indeed: Mini-me Mark, Duncan (I feel like we’ve met before?), Big Man Daren, Pete (having run from home, show-off!), Lotta (parter of Leigh from last week), Robyn and the indomitable Clifford, who was wearing a t-shirt that somehow managed to accentuate his already huge shoulders!

The merry band of eight set off and somewhat inevitably, instantly spread out, making it difficult for the front runners to know where to go and the back-markers to know where to follow.  Cliff did a sterling job as choreographer, sending faster people up the steeper hills and allowing the slower ones to take sneaky short cuts so that everybody kept together, more or less.

No matter how fast we ran though, Pete would always pull effortlessly ahead, as if gravity was somehow lessened in his vicinity.

And so it was that the ensemble reached Ditchling Beacon for a quick team photo.

Here we split into two groups, Cliff being of the mistaken belief that Mark and I could run as fast as Pete to cover an extra couple of miles and still catch the rest up before they got back.  Fat chance!

We chose to run down the north side of the Beacon, along Underhill Lane and for some obscure and probably hilariously testosterone-fuelled reason, run back up the steepest path in the whole area… the one above Westmeston.  It was here that I discovered that, small as Mark might be, he still makes an excellent break for the headwind if he is running two paces in front of me… as he was an extra few feet further up the slope!

It’s difficult to describe the downhill on the other side as anything other than extremely painful… the wind was so strong that it blew the entire contents of my sinuses up into the back of my head somewhere, where they stayed waiting for a more inopportune moment to be repatriated.

We ran on down, and down until we eventually reached Stamner village, where, devoid of any money between us, we glumly ran past the overflowing tea-rooms with its delicious cakes.

Rather than run straight down through the park, Pete took us up through the woods again, allowing me to demonstrate to myself just how knackered I was!

Thus Pete and Mark had pulled ahead as we ran down the final hill but as I hit the mown grass I started to sprint to close the gap.  Fortunately for me they didn’t notice until I raced past as they were now sauntering along… a chase ensued and there was definitely a winner, although I’m not really sure who it was!

Cliff, Robyn and Lotta were the only ones left to witness our final pirouette, the others having danced off already.  Mark duly disappeared back off up the hill, presumably to go around again… we had only covered 9.2 miles in 1.39, 5.58mph.

Meanwhile I went back with Pete for coffee and was presented with this simply amazing picture by his daughter Lucy, aged 10.  Thank you again Lucy!

Comments ARE welcome!

A great day!

Tuesday was a great day… it’s just that this week has been too hectic to mention it previously!  The day finished with a lovely meal with Nigel, Kristin, Kim and I, followed by much playing of the guitars… ahead of an early morning to drive them to the airport.

At the start of the day though, I met the big man Daren at Jack & Jill, now loosely referred to as upstairs to Clayton Rec’s downstairs.  We set out on our circuit, generally laughing most of the way around… and though I would be hard pressed to recount what exactly we were laughing about, it may at times have been to do with the mud.

We ran down to Pycombe and up to the top of Wolstonbury where the slightly murky day showed us a sunny edge.

Having slithered down Wolstonbury and into the next valley, we then had a short and very muddy hill to climb.  So convinced was I that Daren would slip over that I held my camera ready for the big moment… only to press the button inadvertently as I slipped myself.

By the time we passed the downstairs car park we were both knackered, feeling that we had already climbed the Tank Tracks before we had even arrived at their base.  It was a supreme act of resolve that enabled us both to reach the top without walking or pausing… the locals must have wondered what all the hoopla was about!

Rather than turning right for the cars though, we turned left for Ditchling Beacon to add a little extra mileage to our route, even going so far as to run around the car-park when we got there.

The return leg was super hard work and the wind against us made it difficult to hear, so laughter was suspended until nearer the end.

Overall 8.9 miles in 1.42, 5.23mph, not bad bearing in mind the hills and the mud.  Daren sent me the image below from his Garmin to show the route with elevation in green and speed in blue… note that the slower the speed, the taller the peak roughly corresponding to gates, stiles or other assorted unscheduled stops… and that huge climb in the middle!

Kurt-tailing my pace

T’was a Brighton sunny morning and I was really looking forward to adding some more photos to these pages like the ones on the 12th December.  Alas, the second time I remembered that I had forgotten to retrieve my Blackberry from the charger, I was already driving through Ditchling.

At least I had realised earlier, even if I had forgotten to act on it.

I sat at Falmer and waited, hoping that the guys hadn’t changed the venue or the time and watching something I’ve not seen before… a vapour trail that was moving as quickly sideways across the sky as the aircraft making it was moving forwards.  Windy up there then!

Andy arrived first, having cycled from the other side of Brighton and then Cliff pitched up with newbie ‘Leigh, no really a guy (male)’ [strange name huh?].

The guys got their excuses in early.  In addition to running most of the way to work and back one day in the week, Cliff had been swimming (racing?) yesterday with King Mandy (the circuits teacher) and had a bad back this morning.  Andy reiterated that he had cycled rather than driven to Falmer and would be doing likewise on the return leg.  Leigh had never run for more than an hour.  I have no time for excuses.

We ran up alongside the Falmer Road, pausing at the top to wait for Cliff and his excuses to catch up, and then went left across to Newmarket Copse.  From here we ran up to the ridge and out to Kingston on the Juggs Road.  Having run down the Downs, I tested my colleagues mettle by suggesting that we ran back up to the top and come down again.  Leigh said yes without hesitating, Cliff demurred but said he would do press-ups for the duration, which seemed fair enough, but Andy outright refused… sensible man that he is.

We ran onward past the new windmill, past a myriad of potentially beautiful photographs and down into Lewes, before running up to the Prison.  Andy was conspicuously absent as we ascended the hill as he had gone the wrong way at the bottom, or some such excuse… they were all out today.

He moved to the front as we ran up towards Lewes Racecourse, but he disappeared again to stop for a pee and we had to wait for him again a little further up.

As we ran up towards Blackcap we had a little blast of the wind that had been blowing the vapour trail, although my attention was drawn from it by a lithe horse galloping past us into the distance… not one of the normal pony plodders, this.

As I was working out my tactics for beating Andy to the top (a rare trick, if you can manage it), we became aware of some runners sneaking up behind us.  Testosterone to the four, we picked up the pace a little, so I was then surprised when the first two guys slid past me barely ten paces later… one greeting me heartily as he did.

It was the inimitable Kurt from the Run Shop and in order to catch up on news I increased my pace to match his.  Alas, I couldn’t hold it to the top, having used every ounce of my reserves in a ridiculously short distance!  I wished him well and slowed to a crawl, whereupon Andy slid past and effortlessly beat me to the top.

Here I stood, immobilised for several minutes, trying to catch my breath before I did my best to walk after the other guys as they ran off, Kurt and his friends by now having vanished into the middle distance.

I can report that it took me about a mile to get rid of the stitch and another mile to properly get my breath back and catch the others up again… and all after just a sub-50m dash trying to match Kurt’s pace… man, that guy is FAST!  I had no energy left for excuses.

The rest of the run down to Falmer was straightforward bar the occasional and fortunately only vague desire to upchuck.

The observant amongst you might have realised that the only person not left behind during our run, despite never having run for more than an hour, was Leigh… he had just kept on smiling and kept up.  Mind you, he is almost 20 years younger than us… ouch, that hurts!

As the cars swung into view, so Andy picked up his skirts and started sprinting, with Cliff hot on his tail… and when my brain finally registered what was happening, me too.  Thus we finally left Leigh behind, probably shaking his head in disbelief at the display of old testosterone he was witnessing!

So 11.1 miles in 1.50, just over 6mph, no photos and,in my case, a lightly bruised ego!  Kim always knows when I run hard as I fall asleep on the sofa afterwards… having not fallen asleep afterwards for months, I collapsed in a heap in the sun and dozed straight off.

If you’re interested to see where we ran, you can find a record, with photos, of a very similar day on the 17th January 2010.

Happy 2011

Kim and I have had the pleasure of a full house over Christmas with the number of diners ranging from 3 to 10 and up to eight of us sleeping overnight… and occasionally during the day too.

Alas for me, Kim wasn’t one of them: she spent a wonderful Christmas with her family instead and I only got her back in time for the end of the year!

Suffice to say that between delightful guests, kitchen duties and the icy remnants of the snow, I didn’t really have the inclination to go out running.

On Saturday however, I decided to get out and force-feed my lungs with some fresh, New Year air.  In answer to Cliff’s comment, I have only now got around to posting, as today is the first lull in visitation!

It was a comparatively mild day with a little light drizzle and I ran out past Oldlands Mill and Lodge Hill to Ditchling Beacon, returning via Sporting Cars of Brighton, East End Lane and Ditchling High Street.

At Ditchling Beacon I was, for a few minutes at least, the most elevated man in the area… although technically speaking I was standing about four feet above the ground on the top of the trig point.

As I neared the end of my run, the sky cleared to allow the sun to stream through, like a spring day and this was equally as uplifting.

I was only moseying along and taking in the surroundings and it took 53 minutes to get to the Beacon and a little less to get back once I had taken in the airy view.  Overall I completed 10.2 miles in 1.47, 5.7mph.

And so 2011 began…

Have a great Gregorian year… and if, like me, you favour the older, Chinese calendar, then enjoy the last month of Tigerishness before the Year of the Rabbit begins on the 3rd February.