Monday, 7 December 2009

Jack and the beanstalk

We were visiting a relative in Oxford and all took the kids to see the pantomime. They loved it, and even the grown-ups enjoyed it. It was directed by Peter "spare me the madness" Duncan from Blue Peter. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I'll try to paint a mental image that captures the whole thing. Imagine a ten-foot tall, demonic, green cyclops singing a duet with a man in drag, while 300 children scream at them. Actually, the more I think about pantomime, the more I realise what a bizarre artform it is.

Meanwhile, as I was sunning myself in Oxford, and escaping from the world's largest hedge maze that's shaped like a cannon, my mate Dave was setting a new me-or-him record in the Percy Pud (10km race near Sheffield). "Oh no he wasn't" I hear you shout. But he was. Had I have run as quickly as I did two years ago I would have been confident that people would have shouted "he's behind you". But they would have been wrong.

Despite Dave's V40 status, he put in his best Peter Pan performance to show there was still Aladdin him. It was very wet (unlike a few years ago when it was snow white on the day), but Dave didn't want to make a fuss in boots, so wore his normal running shoes. He'd left his wife and babes in the wood, but went to see them again afterwards. With this result, I'm quite sure he'll have thought, after waking from sleeping, "beauty!"

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The master of disguise !!

"I aint gettin' on no plane you crazy fool!"

It was some friends' joint 40th birthday party, and it was an 80s fancy dress theme. Last time I went to one of these I decided I would go as BA Baracus (Mr T), but Mrs Noel vetoed it and I went as Karate Kid. But instead of looking like the Karate Kid, I looked like a man wearing a woman's dressing gown, perhaps because it was.

So this time I put my foot down, after asking Mrs Noel if this was OK, and got a Mr T dressing-up kit off tinterweb. This was good fun, although it took a while to cover all the bits of skin with brown face paint. Once at the party, it took me a while to realise that some people weren't just being off with me, and that the reason they weren't saying hello was that they didn't recognise me. At least I hope that was the reason. As you can see, my physique is more Peewee Herman than Mr T - I was hoping this would add to the humour.

The best custume of the night was Matt's (aka Snow White), who turned up dressed as a 6ft wide section of the Berlin wall, complete with barbed wire on the top. This was great but it was a bit tricky on the dance floor!

Then on Sunday, Mrs Noel did Famous Grouse. She ran this race last year, 4 months before her 40th birthday. If she had already been 40 at the time, she would have won a bottle of whisky. This was therefore the race that made us both realise Mrs Noel had real potential.

Despite staying up until 1:30 the night before (watching some drunken buffoon try to maintain conversations while starting every sentence with "I pity the fool..."), Mrs Noel managed to finish 5th lady and 1st FV40. So I'm now sipping some of the excellent Pinot Grigio that was the prize.

Famous Grouse is quite a low key race, and is not in the FRA year book. However, it's well worth doing and there's very nice soup and stew in the pub afterwards. It's the last Sunday in November again next year - so add it to your diary.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

It's a mud mud mud mud world

My eldest decided we should try to find the wettest, muddiest parts when we went for a walk yesterday. We did pretty well as you can see from the photo.

Then today, Dave came round to test out his road shoes on similar terraine. To be fair, it wasn't that he thought his road shoes were the best bet, but his fell shoes had been hurting and he was up for a run. He's normally a bit lower down the field than I am but he's going well at the moment and I'm not training enough to maintain any kind of fitness.

So, to hinder him slightly I decided to go for the muddiest route possible. This worked well on the slimy grass sections and in the slurry pits that had gathered around the field gates. However, on the rocky tracks he was away. That small spec in the distance is Dave on the deceptive rising track from Three Shires Head.
In future I either need to train more, or persuade him to run barefoot. That way I could also keep up on the stony tracks.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

A river runs through it

Continuing my run of film-titled blog entries, I thought this might be fitting for the run up through Back Forest towards Hangingstone. As you can see the 'path' looks more like a stream. This is actually its usual state, but it's a bit worse than normal so worked well for the photos. I was running pretty slowly for this one, as I was still a bit worried that I wasn't over my illness. It was nice to be out, and I don't think I overdid it.
My mate Foz was visiting and walked the same route in the opposite direction. He also took the dog, as Max enjoys walks (even at Foz' fast pace) more than runs (even at my slow pace).

Friday, 13 November 2009

48 hours

That's how long I was ill after a gentle lunchtime swim on Wednesday. It was a shame as I was starting to get the hang of things. My breathing was OK, my stroke length was OK (when I concentrated on it). Then I was hit by the urge to stop after about 30 lengths and a splitting headache. This turned into a sickness feeling which didn't any better when I was back at work. So I went home to bed fearing swine flu. Luckily I was only out of it for about 2 days. I guess I was fighting off a virus and the swim gave it some assistance.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Mrs doubts fire

We were over visiting my parents (and doing Shepherd's Skyline - see previous post). It was the Myrtle Park bonfire and fireworks display on Saturday night, but Mrs Noel wasn't keen on keeping the kids up that late. Do you see where I'm going with this tenuous film title link?

Anyway, instead we had a small fire in my parents' garden which was great.

The day after, I went for a very pleasant run in St Ives park (a park in Bingley, West Yorkshire - nowhere near St Ives). Here I saw another two deer. Maybe roe deer (??) but definitely wild this time. Although the deer managed to elude my expert wildlife photography, I did manage to capture an image of this wood elf sheltering in the beard of a forest spirit. Feel free to correct me on this.

Mrs Noel does Shepherd's Skyline

Mrs Noel has been building up her expectations of winning something at every race. This is because she has had a run of about 8 races where this has been proved true. However, we were in no doubt that Shepherd's Skyline was a race where she was unlikely to win anything.

It had been very wet the days before the race and it was predictably cold and windswept as the runners set off. Mrs Noel was a bit nervous about doing a race of this length. I know it's not a long race (only 6 miles), but Mrs Noel doesn't really do races above about 5 miles. She also does no long slow runs in training, so has never build up her stamina. We're two peas in a pod in this respect.

In the end Mrs Noel finished 13th out of 76 lady runners, and was third LV40. She's slowly warming to the idea of doing a bit more stamina work, so watch out for next year!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

3 miles, 2 stags and a lake

Another lunchtime run today. I was out for 30 minutes, which I guess is about 3 or 3.5 miles. It's building up slowly after my start-of-autumn blues.

There were two big stags with full pointy antlers in the middle of the path. When I was in Scotland I was really pleased to see red deer from about half a mile away through binoculars. Today I had to run round them in the path and was less pleased to see them.

This disparity is because they are not wild and are kept in Tatton Park just like the sheep are. This makes me think they're less good to see, which is a bit weird. Surely they should either be nice to see or not. It's funny how perceptions can play with our sense of aesthetics to such an extent.

I've just noticed, I'd added the lake in the title. This was a poor attempt to make a 4 weddings and a funeral style title. There was actually no reason to include it other than I also ran past the lake.

Note to self: Run with camera. Stags would be great for blog photos.

P.S. Mrs Noel has just suggested I plan future runs (and blog entries about them) around other film titles. I'll have a go...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Yet more swimming revelations

After my 'pretend to be superman' revelation a few months ago, I've been doing very little swimming. This has mainly been due to running a lot, but I haven't got that excuse any more. So... back to the pool for me.

I went once last week and was mainly rubbish, then I went yesterday. One thing I notice when swimming is that I get very bad trapped wind for a few hours after swimming. At first I thought this was probably a reaction to using muscles I wasn't used to. However, after a bit of trawling through swimming forums for similar complaints, I'm convinced it's because I'm overbreathing. Instead of just taking in enough air on every third stroke, I am gulping down to much air too quickly. It can't all go into my lungs, so the excess goes into my stomach. Hence trapped wind.

Yesterday I remembered something my total immersion swimming instructor said: "If you breath out enough, you won't need to worry about breathing in, it will just happen." So I tried this, and it worked. Instead of going huh [breathe out] arrrrhh [breath in] every time I stick my face out of the water. I now just go [huh] and forget about breathing in. Obviously, I must be breathing in enough, since I don't go blue and sink to the bottom and die. I also get less tired, which is great.

Having said that, you must be reading this and imagining me like some sort of half-decent swimmer. Just to put it into perspective, there was a lady in the lane next to me doing bad front crawl (even I could tell this). Her arms were dragging the water while they were coming over, and her stroke length was quite short. Despite this, she kept going and looked like she was doing a lot of lengths over the lunchtime period. On one of my lengths (in a set of 8) we were swimming next to each other and it became clear she was faster than I was.

I think I need a few more revelations, and a lot more hard work before I can pretend to be a proper swimmer. I'm idly thinking about an olympic distance triathlon next year, so that can be my training goal. Luckily, I can only get better.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Driving rain - but fun

"...and now the weather. It'll be very wet and windy, especially in the morning around Wincle". Forewarned in forearmed, so I put on all my warm running kit (including my new Aldi leggings, which are great) and set off with the dog.

Max, the dog, is getting old, so is pretty stiff most of the time, and doesn't normally want to come running with me. However, when he gets too stiff, we give him some magic dog drugs, and he turns into a young dog again. He's just been dosed up so should have been raring to go. But he's not stupid and he could see it was horrible weather. He was doing his best to hide from me.

I eventually got him out of the house and ran to Danebridge via Hangingstone. It was great to be out running as long as I kept going. I think it was about 6 miles and about 1000 feet. The long bath when I got home felt like heaven, and to quote that Blur song [add cockney accent] "then I'm happy for the rest of the day".

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

First 'run' in about a month

I finally decided I should go for a gentle lunchtime run yesterday. It's been about a month since my last run, which was Scafell Pike Fell Race. Jogging for twenty minutes around a town and a nice park couldn't have been more different to my previous outing.

Having said that, it made all the difference to how I was feeling. My recent lack of running and the shorter days has been really getting to me. And although I can't count my gentle jog as any form of training, it sorted me out for the day.

I think Noel's training blog is going to become Noel's lunchtime jogs and occasional leisurely lunchtime swims. I'll have to work hard in the Spring to get my viewing figures back up to the heady heights of this summer ;)

Monday, 28 September 2009

Scafell Pike - a different league

I like steep fell races. I generally avoid ones that don't have a sufficient amount of height. And I've done some good steep ones in my time. Ones like Buckden Pike, Mount Famine and even Shutlingsloe.

However, nothing could prepare me for Scafell Pike fell race. It was steep, but never steeper than other things I've done. But it was the length of ascent (and more worryingly descent) that I couldn't cope with. No amount of reps could prepare me for 3000 feet of downhill in one go. I've never before done a race where my legs hurt for two days after the race.

The race went reasonably well, I was in a good position at the top, but lost about 40 seconds after reaching the summit as I couldn't tell which way to go in the thin mist. I was asking myself "how can I get lost in a there-and-back race?" Well, there seemed to have been a gap of about a minute between me and the guys behind, and there was a gap of about a minute in the stream of runners coming up the summit. These two gaps somehow managed to coincide. Add my natural inability to remember which way I've run, and I was temporarily lost.

Luckily I then saw the stream of runners coming up and could slowly boulder-hop down the way they were coming up. After a minute or so of this, Fleeter shot past me and I said "that's what I need - a pacer. Go on Fleeter". Unfortunately, Fleeter's downhill pace was way too fast for me, and I lost another few places on the long descent. I finished in 1:06:30 (ish), which was faster than my target time of 1:07:00.

Despite me beating my target time, I have mixed feelings about this race. I would like to return and do it justice. I feel like I could have been a few places higher if I had trained a bit harder. But the real killer was not having the stamina or technique to descend a mountain (as opposed to the hills we have in the Peaks). I would get genuine satisfaction from being able to say I ran this race well.

Next year? I'll have to see how things work out. It is a long way to travel for a 4.5 mile fell race. I certainly feel I have unfinished business with this mountain. And I'm slowly coming round to the idea that the best way to train for Lakes races, is to do more of them. Is this a statement of intent, or a pipe dream? Time will tell...

Friday, 25 September 2009

Ready for Scafell?

I'm pretty sure I haven't run enough in the last few weeks to consider myself ready for Scafell Pike fell race. It's because the days are so short. If I work over a bit, or if Mrs Noel fancies a run, there's no daylight left. I should probably get into this headtorch running nonsense, otherwise this blog will rapidly deteriorate (if that's possible). I did one tempo run this week, and one recovery run. That's a fair way short of the 30 miles I should be doing.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Lantern Pike and Stanage Struggle

Hayfield country show had birds of prey, kite flying, archery, and a decent fell race - Lantern Pike. It was Mrs Noel's turn to do this one, so I was largely being mithered about going on slides and bouncy castles.

Sometimes I wonder 'if I set off really quickly, how long could I keep up with the proper runners at the front?' It seems someone else had this idea today. This guy normally finishes about where I do in fell races, but today seems to have decided to have a quick sprint at the beginning - note the look of effort on his face. Sadly I couldn't watch the race to see how long he stayed first.
Mrs Noel was also first was a while, but finished third lady to secure a very nice jar of lemon curd. Full results are here:
I made do with a longish run (about 9 miles perhaps) when we got home. Doing slightly longer runs at weekends to make sure I have some stamina is part of my training I often neglect. This probably explains why I have no stamina and prefer short races. It might also amaze some people that I consider a 9 mile run to be a longer run. I have mates who do 4 hour sessions at the weekends.
On Sunday, my 'club' the Fat Boys, organised the Stanage Struggle. Again I wasn't running, as Fat Boys are encouraged to marshall. I pointed about 280 runners (a record turn-out) left along the track. My youngest briefly thought it funny to say 'go back the way you've come'. Luckily no-one believed him. The conditions were very dry, which made for a fast course and a new course record. Stuart Bond beat his old record for the new course, which was set last year. Full results:

Friday, 18 September 2009

Late summer sun

For the past few nights I haven't been bothered to go out running. Tonight, I couldn't refuse a run - it was such a beautiful evening. I took a few photos to share the best bits with you. As always, the shots I thought that would be good, weren't, and vice versa.
Here goes:

Tree growing through barn

Happy to be here

Three Shire's Head looking downstream from the bridge

Sunset through dead thistles. Everything looks pretty in this light!

And finally, sunset.
If days were always like this, everyone would go out running.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Compare and contrast - the real Tour of Britain

Mrs Noel went out to watch the real Tour of Britain today. This is stage 5 of the tour and it follows the same course as my charity tour ride of two weekends ago.

Sadly I wasn't there to experience it for myself but Mrs Noel was good enough to show me a few pictures. It made me think 'how different is the proper tour from what we did?' After giving it some consideration, I think the two events are pretty similar.

If you take away the support cars and all the state-of-the-art bikes, take away a few of our food, drink and toilet stops (well, all of them in fact), and take away the tour riders' ability, including the years of training and dedication to reach that level, then I think what we did was pretty similar.

Obviously, you'd also have to factor in that these guys have been doing this every day for the previous 5 days, and you'd need to account for my usual level of tactical naivety. But when you've taken all this into account, and the degree of mental pressure that the tour riders are under, I think the two events are largely similar.

Perhaps when making such a comparison you might also need to consider the average speed that the tour guys are going - approximately twice what we were. But, to get back to my original point, apart from the support, the bikes, the ability, the dedication, the lack of rests, the day-on-day fatigue, the tactical acumen, the mental pressure, and the overall speed, what we did a few weekends ago was pretty similar to what Mrs Noel witnessed today.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Speed work

After last week's hill reps, I'm now confident I can run (or rather walk, slowly) up Scafell. However, I'm less confident that I can keep my legs moving fast enough to descend quickly. This was highlighted in the race on Sunday when I lost ground on the flat and lost loads of ground on the descent.

So tonight, instead of hill reps, it was sprint reps. This is even more tiring. I think my flat course is about 250 metres, but it's through a sheep field, so it's not exactly perfect track training. I did 8 reps flat out before feeling completely broken. It did feel good to be running quickly again.

Whenever I do sprint sessions I am reminded how good proper runners are. I probably was close to averaging about 4:10 minute/mile pace for 250 metres. At the end of each rep, my heart rate was 165 (from 140 at the start). And yet there are guys who can run this pace for quite a few miles. Amazing.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Again, it was a day of recovery followed by a full-on session. This time it was a race – Padfield Plum Fair Scamper. I did this last year and was reasonably confident of beating last year's time, but wasn't sure if my monster hill rep session would be still in my legs.

Mrs Noel was also keen to do better in this year's race after she got a stitch in last year's race and had to stop for about a minute at the summit. She also was keen to maintain her record, of about the past 7 races, of winning something in every race.

Although I should be sensible and run my own race. It's always nice to be higher in the field. Before every race, I look round to see who will beat me. My hope is that one day all the good runners will not turn up and I'll win. The law of averages tells me that this is unlikely, but I'm still hoping. Yesterday I didn't have to worry for long about what I would do when I crossed the line in first place - Andi Jones winner of the Snowdon race for the last three years turned up.

For about ten yards I was third. I joked with the guy who was second that he should catch up with 'that guy' ahead (Andi Jones), but he was having none of it. This race has a very clear course, that seems to get slightly steeper as you near the summit. The good thing about this is that you can see everyone in-front of you. It's rare that I'll do a race where I can say I could see Andi Jones at the summit. Mrs Noel was in the same boat and later commented to me "you looked like you were just jogging".

I was seventh at the summit but had designs on sixth. Unfortunately, Mark Ollerenshaw, of Glossopdale Harriers, had other ideas and left me for dead on the descent. I think, in hindsight, it might have been my hard Friday night session catching up with me. Either that or I'm rubbish at descending, which is also quite likely. I managed to keep seventh place, 25 seconds slower than last year (maybe my legs hadn't recovered). Mrs Noel was third lady and received a nice running top and an energy bar.

We didn't stay long enough to take part in the coal race. This entails carrying a 25kg bag of coal and running up a hill. I toyed with the idea of showing an interest, but I think I'll wait until I'm a big, strapping, 13 stone farmer-type before I try this one.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Recover - then even more reps

Thursday night was a gentle recovery run. Then I decided to give it some more pasty tonight on my hill reps. This time I did 12. My garmin tells me I did about 2,800 feet of ascent. I think I pushed myself a bit harder too - all of my reps were faster than 2 minutes 30, whereas on Wednesday night, most of them were slower than this. So I'll be recovering tomorrow prior to Padfield Plum Fair Scamper on Sunday.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Hill reps - not quite Scafell Pike

My local steepest hill is good and steep for about 190 feet of ascent in about 250 metres. I guess this makes it about 1 in 4. I did ten reps of it tonight. Including the hill to get to it and to get back, that's about 2500 feet of ascent in about 4 miles. My target training goal (Scafell Pike) is 300o feet in 4. 5 miles. Maybe I should do 15 reps next time.

My trace shows it was getting harder after the first four or five reps (red line = heart rate), so I hope it's good training. Although some people swear by hill reps, I think a lot of the really top runners don't use them. Also they're pretty dull. I was hoping to have the company of Max (our dog), but he's getting old enough and wise enough to wait at the mid-point.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Charity 'pro' tour ride

Here I am the day after - still alive and with only slightly sore thighs. The event was a great introduction to organised road cycling. There were drinks stations, food stations with loads of free stuff, mechanics and support vehicles. There was even a free pasta meal at the finish. I'm not sure I'd do it again, but I'm proud I was able to.

We set off from the Britannia Stadium (home of the now-mighty Stoke City), at about 8:30 in the morning. Here's a pici of us getting ready to set off.
We'd never cycled together as a team before, so decided the best approach was to set a pace of about 22mph for the first hour. While most of us agreed that this was stupid, it was also quite fun and we were swept along with the early ride fervour. I was jokingly adamant that the ride should involve some sort of ordeal with one rider ending up being broken.

After about 2 hours, when we reached the first big steady hill, it became apparent that the early pace might not have been such a good idea. James was starting to flag and at one point was struggling to such an extent that I was worried he might retire. This hadn't been helped by the fact that one of his brakes had been rubbing for about the first 30 miles. He had been wondering why it was feeling so hard. Luckily, he made it to Tittesworth Reservoir where there was a food station. I'm not sure what he ate there, but from then on, he was a man transformed. No longer showing any signs of fatigue, he seemed to get stronger as the ride went on.

Apparently there were three category climbs on the ride, but they weren't really marked, so the only one we could race up was Gun Hill. This is one of my local hills, so I was keen to get to the top first of our team. We had been very grown up when discussing our strategy of trying to beat each other up this hill. "We shouldn't really race, as there are 35 miles to go after it", and "it would be silly to race each other". Having said all that, Dave and I were very slowly edging faster and faster until we were pretty much flat out (which isn't very fast up Gun Hill, but it still felt hard).

For most of the rest of the ride, which included another pretty steep hill, I was feeling pretty confident. Although I was ruing putting so much into being 'king' of my local 'mountain', when the rest of the team went for a sprint finish, and I had nothing left. I pretended I was being mature of course, but that's not really in my nature. It seems my earlier assertion that the day should end up with someone being broken, had been proven correct - and it had been me. I was later told Richard had won a fiercely contested affair from Rob. Here's a photo of us after the ride - tired but very pleased with ourselves.
I'd like to thank Mrs Richard for on-ride support, all the organisers, and the many people who sponsored us. Between the team, we raised about £1,000 for the Prostate Cancer Charity.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Mrs Noel in Longshaw success

Today was Mrs Noel's race day - Longshaw sheepdog trials. She continued her recent run of winning something at every race she does by being first LV40, and 4th lady overall. She was actually 2nd LV40, but got a prize because first LV40 got a prize for being second lady (are you following this?). Mrs Noel's prize was a nice jar of greengage jam. As you can imagine, we were both very impressed and tried it once we got home. I've not tried this variety before - it's somewhere between plum and gooseberry.

Tapering? Surely running doesn't count. I got a bit bored of this whole tapering thing, so went for a run on Friday night. 5 miles, 1000 feet. I was quite good though. At no point did I do any quick bits, and I deliberately avoided my normal detour which takes in a good hill.

I'm eating pasta for England tonight ('and pear and chocolate pudding', says Mrs Noel, proudly). Did I mention I'm doing a long bike ride tomorrow?

Friday, 4 September 2009


Tapering - "in the context of sports, refers to the practice of reducing, or tapering off, exercise in the days just before an important competition" (source: Wikipedia)

Tapering should be a time for kicking back and feeling secure in the knowledge that all the hard training is behind you. A time to focus on the event and make sure all the mental and practical preparations are in place.

I'm not normally in this boat. Normally, like most people I guess, I haven't done enough training so am worried during the period when I should be tapering. This worry can lead to one of two outcomes: I either continue to train through the tapering period, in a desperate and counter-productive attempt to reach the overall mileage required; or I taper anyway when it's not really needed.

This time, I'm relatively confident that I'm not too far short of the amount of training required to keep up with my team-mates on a 90-mile (sorry erm... I mean 145km) bike ride. So last night I went out for a very gentle 1 hr ride before it got dark. This will be my final ride before Sunday's event. I just need to remember to eat a lot the night before and I should be fine. Is this a case of famous last words? Pride before a fall? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Jam (part 2)

It's raining tonight, so I'm happy to finish off the jam from yesterday. I've added loads of ginger to distinguish this batch from the previous batch made last week. I hope this lot should keep us in jam for the winter and allow the odd one to be given away.
In more interesting news. I've entered the Scafell Pike fell race. It's in about 3 weeks' time. I've been curious about this race for a while, as I like the idea of doing good hard Lakes races but don't like doing races longer than about 10 miles. So this race sounds ideal. It's very steep: 3000 feet, and it's not very long: 4.5 miles. I'm somehow masochistically curious as to what that immense height gain in such a short distance feels like.
I notice however that the ladies record time (which I normally use as a rough estimate of my time) is about 1 hour. I have also been told by a fell running friend that it's all on nasty scree-ey terrain, which I have little experience with from running mainly in the Peak District.
To jump topics again, it's only 4 sleeps to go until my longest ever bike ride - 145km. I like saying it in kilometres as it sounds more than 90 miles. There's something about doing more than 100 of anything that seems to add value.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Jam (part 1)

I've got a slightly sore calf today. I think it's something that I can run off when I next get out. So I decided not to do Eyam fell race tonight. Also it starts at 6:30, so I can only just make it, and it doesn't make for an enjoyable night's fell racing - dashing across the peak. I missed it by 2 minutes a few years ago. I was just getting out of the car when the whole field set off before I could even register.

So today, to fit with the 'random other stuff', I'm making jam. Plum, pear, apple and ginger. It's called High Dumpsie Dearie, for some unknown reason, in the WI book of unusual preserves that we have. I think since that booklet was first published (our copy was originally sold for 2 shillings!), it has now made it into the full WI jam book. I'm quite a fan of it.
I make it in the microwave these days, in small batches. It means I can mix a huge pot (see picture) without the fear that it will all boil over. Also, this way it never sticks to the bottom of the pan.
However, we also had the second half of a film to watch. 'I loved you so long', a French drama, is 'an intelligent, observant drama about dislocation, fragility and the inner pain of unshakeable memories' according to Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian. We thought it was erm... how should I put it... good but quite sad. I can see why he's a film critic and I'm not.
Getting back to Jam. I didn't have enough time to make the many batches of microwave jam that would have been required. So that will be tomorrow night's activity as well. I can see the hits to my blog breaking triple figures. So much jam-related promise.

Monday, 31 August 2009

First climb in years

Bank holiday (part 2)

After the long ride on Saturday, I ran up to the Roaches, where a few friends had gone climbing. I managed to find them and did my first climb in about 4 years. 'Lazarus Crack' it was called, and it was a hard severe. For those who don't know the climbing grading system, this isn't particularly hard, despite the name. I didn't lead it of course, but it still felt slightly strange to be on a rock face again. I think I've climbed it years ago, when I used to be quite into rock climbing.

Carol took a picture of me - I realise my blog needs more pictures. My calves have certainly got bigger since the days when I used to climb a lot and do no fell running. Then I ran back (about 7 miles in total) and cycled to the local ice-cream farm (2 miles), to meet the family. I don't think I can count 2 miles, mainly freewheeling as training.

Today, I persuaded another of our visitors to sample a tour of the local steepest hills. The first one is the old road from Gradbach up to Flash, which is hard work on my high-geared bike. The second is up from Meerbrook to Roach End. I've just checked on the map and they only get 1 arrow to show there's a steep bit. Interestingly, some of the other local 2 arrow bits don't seem as hard for me. I'll have to investigate this arrow business some more.

Friends to play with - part 1

We had friends over this weekend, so there was always someone doing something energetic and fun. On Friday night I went for a small run (4.3 miles, 1000 feet of ascent). It was largely nice, although we got rained on.

On Saturday, I went out for a road ride with Jez. He's just been cycling in the Lakes and had done 250 miles in the week. I'm not sure if that means he should have been beating me by miles, or if he should have been tired. Anyway, he didn't show me up. We did 43 miles (and 6000 feet of ascent), taking in the Roaches, Meerbrook, Wincle, the picturesque Goyt Valley, Axe Edge, Longnor and some horrible false summits from Longnor up to the Winking Man pub. Luckily, I had half a slab of marzipan to keep me going.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Cycled to work - nice and easy

Nothing really much to report. 20 miles, more downhill and flat than uphill. Took it easy (1 hour 40). I'm hoping I don't stink of sweat for my colleagues.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Cycling - faster not harder

New sports are interesting because you're training your body to co-ordinate its movements in ways that it previously didn't need to. Using one muscle at a time is straightforward, but using lots of muscles at the same time is more difficult. Cycling should be relatively straightforward. It's only really your legs. However, I think I'm still getting used to wearing clip-in pedals.

Often in the movement-based activities that I've done in the past, such as rock climbing and yoga, it's better not to concentrate on which muscles are doing what. It's often better to concentrate on something more abstract, like a shape or a feeling. This was my realisation last week when I found I could lengthen my swimming stroke by pretending to be Superman.

Well today, a similar thing happened while cycling home. There I was pedaling hard and thinking it was a bit harder than it should be. So without thinking why, I decided to try to pedal quickly instead. Bizarrely, this was easier and I went more quickly. I can only think that when I think 'pedal quickly' I'm using my feet in circles rather than just pushing down on one pedal at a time. Now I'll have to remember to do this for the next few rides, so I can do it without thinking about it.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Swimming - uninspired

Maybe it's the lack of an event to train for. Today I was singularly uninspired. I must only have done about 25 lengths. When I've become bored of training in the past (normally running), I back off until I regain my enthusiasm. Luckily, I've got running and cycling to keep me interested.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Cycling - longest training ride

My training guide said I should be doing a 70-mile ride this weekend. So I decided to cycle back from my parents' house - Bingley (near Bradford, West Yorkshire) to Wincle (near Macclesfield, Cheshire). When I plotted this roughly, it looked like about 55 miles, but I thought the extra hills, relative to a "standard" ride would compensate for any lack of distance.

As you can see from the trace, it was pretty hilly (total ascent 6800 feet). It was also slightly longer than I had thought, at 61 miles. It was also quite windy, and unlike circular bike rides, it was in my face the whole way. I'm still finding my feet in cycling, but I suspect 5 and a quarter hours is not a good time for such a ride. My charity ride is in two weeks and it's 90 miles with 6500 feet of ascent, so I'm confident I've done the right training and any lack of achievement on my part will be due to my team-mates being better than me.
Today's ride was punctuated by Mrs Noel and the kids very kindly meeting me as they were travelling home. This involved much-needed moral support and smarties just when I could see the Holme Moss summit looming. I also had to stop in Buxton to buy some Lucozade as I didn't think I was going to get over Axe Edge without some extra energy.

Bunsall Classic Fell Race

For those non-fell runners, Burnsall Classic is about 1.5 miles long and goes straight up and down the fell-side next to Burnsall, a picturesque village on the River Wharfe. It's one of the oldest fell races and has a great tradition. The record is under 13 minutes, I think. It always attracts a few big-name fell runners, such as Ian Holmes who won it last year. It's part of Burnsall Sport Feast, which includes a 10-mile road race and lots of kid's races. It's also a bit of a fete, with bouncy slides and the like for the kids.
I did this fell race last year but didn't have time for a warm up, and Mrs Noel missed the race completely because we arrived so late. I have secretly been aiming for a top-ten finish in this year's race since then. However, I've mainly been concentrating on cycling for a few weeks, so didn't think my top-ten dreams were realistic.

We warmed up well this year and I remembered what I learnt from last year - it's hard to overtake on the way down, so it's best to reach the summit in the position where you'd like to finish. I did this pretty well this year and was only overtaken by a few people on the descent, and overtook someone who was a slightly slower descender than me.

With about a quarter of a mile to go (just as this photo was taken) I passed my sister who was looking after the kids. Although I hadn't told her of my top-ten aspirations, she said "you're eleventh". This led to a testosterone-fuelled sprint on the final road section to overtake the guy in-front of me (you can just see his heels in the photo). For once, the sprint worked, and I caught him about 20 yards before the start of the funnel. It's amazing how much sprint you can have left when it really means something. So I can tick another of this year's ambitions.
It was then my job to count the ladies in. First was quite a long way clear of the female pack, but second was only just ahead of Mrs Noel. She later explained she had fallen entering the final field otherwise she was might have taken second. Mrs Noel was also first LV40, so won two prizes. She's getting used to all this prize winning now, but she claims to be mentally preparing for the day when she comes home empty-handed. Perhaps I should suggest some championship races.

We stayed to compete in the egg throwing competition. This involves teams of two people throwing an egg to each other over increasing distances. If you break or drop the egg, you're out. My brother-in-law and I managed three successful throws and catches until I aimed one high and wide and he was only able to deflect it to smash on some child's leg. Luckily, the child didn't seem overly concerned. Here's a picture of the early stages of one of the heats. If you look closely, you may be able to see an airborne egg.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Running - do you remember how legs?

It seems like an age since I went out for a training run. But it's Burnsall Classic at the weekend, and although I'm mainly focused on cycling training at the moment, Burnsall Classic comes but once a year. It's also a classic. I wonder how many years of being just a race Burnsall had to get under its belt before it could justifiably call itself a classic. Surely Lantern Pike could now be called Lantern Pike Classic, as that's been going for more than 30 years (I think).

Anyway, back to the reason I post things on this blog. Unless it falls under the category of 'random other stuff', it's about training. I did 4.2 miles and 1000 feet of ascent. There were two people out walking with a spaniel, which was doing that very pleasing heather bounding. I wasn't very focused but it was good to remind my body that I'm mainly a runner.

Swimming - technique clicks but not speed or breathing

I'm not sure how I can have got better from last week. Perhaps I became totally immersed in Monday's TI class despite not receiving any tuition (not that I begrudge that - it was busy). But today, my stroke length increased.

It's funny, I think there's too much to think about if you try to think about each joint and muscle. Today I found a better way - pretend to be Superman for each stroke. This way I twist my body more and adopt a pose that seems ideal for the long gliding bit of the stroke. Of course I know it as the classic one-arm-forward Superman flying style, but it seems to work, so great.

I just need a childhood-memory-based skill technique that allows me to master relaxed breathing and going more quickly.

Mrs Noel does Eccles Pike

Mrs Noel did this last year, and as I'm supposed to be cycling training at the moment, it seemed fair for her to do it again. It's nice and short and steep (3 miles, 817 feet of ascent). Mrs Noel has been nursing sore feet for a few weeks and seeing a physioterrorist, so wasn't sure how she would do in her comeback race. She needn't have worried - as usual she did pretty well and finished 3rd lady. She was waving her bottle of wine and voucher about very proudly when she got back.

This is her training for Burnsall Classic at the weekend. I'll have to see how good cycling is as training for short fast fell races. I suspect it's not very good - Mrs Noel may end up beating me.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Cycled to work

It's certainly easier than cycling home, due to the height drop. I did it in 1 hour 25 minutes today. This is faster than cycling home last night despite not trying very hard today. It was also nice and sunny, so I could go more quickly down the hills. Last time I cycled in, it was very wet, so I had to be a bit careful on the hill corners. I've a busy day today at work, so that's all for now.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Cycling home - hillier than cycling in

I cycled in last Wednesday and left my bike there. Today I cycled home which means I'm forced to cycle in tomorrow as my car is still at work. It's 20 miles each way, so it's like doing 40 miles in a day (only I have a big sleep between legs).

Cycling back from work is harder than cycling in as I work in Knutsford, which is on the Cheshire plain, but live at about 1000 feet in the Peak District. I was thinking the big hill up the A54 was much harder than I expected, but then realised I was still on the big front cog. I suspect Lance Armstrong makes similar mistakes all the time.

I was trying to 'give it some pasty' on the way home and was pleased to do it in about an hour and a half. Tomorrow I'll have to go a bit more slowly as I don't want to be too sweaty for my colleagues. I have a change of clothes at work but no showering facilities. If anyone has any tips on all-over washing using those tiny sinks you get in the toilets, I'd be keen to learn them.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Total immersion swimming class too busy

I had decided that I needed a few more tips on what I was doing wrong before I reinforced my mistakes through more practice. So I turned up to my local TI swimming class to get a few pointers from the excellent instructor. Unfortunately, it was very busy and there were a few first-timers. So I didn't get any tuition.

I'll have to go again next week - watch this space.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Cycling plus 1 again

After our trip down the Manifold Valley a few weeks ago, I was keen to up the mileage when we hired bikes (plus tag-alongs) in the Forest of Dean. We hired them from PedalBikeAway: and they seemed pretty good for our needs. I think we did about 20 miles, including some hills. Mrs Noel was pretty broken by the end so it must have had some training value.

I should have worn my Garmin if only to see how easy it is to get lost in on Forestry tracks. Mrs Noel at one point wouldn't let me have the last bite of my sandwich in case we were "lost in a forest, miles from the nearest road." Luckily, we also had a large chocolate bar, so didn't have to start hunting the wild boar! ...and we found where we were after another 300 yards.

Cross-training - canadian canoeing

I'm not sure what canadian canoeing might be cross-training for - swimming perhaps? Anyway, Mrs Noel, the kids and I kayaked down the River Wye for about 4 hours on Thursday. It was largely enjoyable except for when my youngest decided to change sides and we nearly capsized.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Cycled to work

20 miles, largely downhill and flat. I'm more confident about being able to do 90 miles now - cycling on the flat is easy. It was so wet, even my clothes in my bag got wet (much to the amusement of my colleagues).

Monday, 10 August 2009

Swimming - need direction

No, not "direction" as in I keep bumping into people. "Direction" as in I'd like to improve but am not really sure how. I did another 45 lengths (-ish I can never keep count) today and it's definitely getting easier, but I think my technique is getting sloppier and I worry I'm reinforcing bad habits. After about 40 lengths, I checked my strokes per length and it was 23!. That's bad from my usual 19.

I also realise how dull the swimming aspect of my blog must be without me knowing what I should be doing. I'll make an effort to attend another total immersion class. That way at least I'll be able to tell the world what I'm doing wrong.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Hello bike training

Today was my first day of serious bike training. I've got a month until my 90-mile ride and I'm pretty worried about not being able to do it. It's not the speed that worries me, it's the endurance. Traditionally I'm rubbish at endurance events as I don't really train for them.

So, today I did the first of what I consider long rides - 30 miles. I know you serious bikey types will say "30 miles, you lightweight, that's an evening ride. You should be doing 60 miles and taking it steady." But this comes back to why I don't train for endurance events. I haven't really got the time. I can't justify prioritising most of a day to train slowly when I could be enjoying the day with my family.

Politics aside, here's how it went.
Distance: 30.45 miles
Ascent/descent: 4,400 feet (~1400 metres)
Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Average speed: 13.5 mph
Average heart rate: 123

And the key question: could I do another two of those after this one? Answer: absolutely not, I was broken by the end. Solution: more training.

The one consolation is that the tour ride I'm training for will be nowhere near as hilly (only 2000 metres in the 90 miles), and it's the hills that kill me. Especially with my bike that has 42 teeth on the small cog at the front. For those non-bikey types, that means it's hard to pedal up hills because my lowest gear is still pretty high.

So, today's ride is a start. I hope to look back at this and be able to see how far I've come.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Sutton sheepdog trials

This is a tough race. Because it hasn't got too much height gain per mile, I keep making the mistake of thinking it will be easier than it is. In actual fact, it's pretty steep and there are lots of ups and downs, but it all starts after about a mile of flat at the start (and the end).

I normally aim to be top 10% of the field, but I wasn't too confident about today's race when I saw the calibre of some of the runners who turned up. It was hot and humid, which made it hard to run and ideal for twisting ankles down some of the rutted fields. We were comparing blisters at the end.

I managed to sneak up to 12th place with about 2 miles to go. But then inexplicably took the wrong track and then had to back-track out of a gorse thicket. While I was playing about, someone passed me and then extended his lead despite my indignation and attempts to catch up. I was then made to work very hard to stay ahead of the guy behind me on the flat mile to the finish, and just managed to stay ahead to finish 13th. I later found out there were 129 starters. Damn that person who pulled out at the last minute (but wasn't going to beat me). ;)

We stayed to witness some of the excellent sheepdog trials, drink beer (only one) and eat cake.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Gentle recovery run

I'm not sure if you're supposed to do recovery runs after a rest day, but it always seems to help after a race even if it is two days later. Anyway, it's Tegg's Nose Fell Race tomorrow, so I couldn't do a big session. Again, about 2 miles in about 25 minutes.

For those of you who were starting to think that my blog was all training and were disappointed about the lack of "random other stuff". Here's some bee news. After being told that honey bees (and wild bees) are on the decline in the UK, we had a swarm on a bush outside my work in Knutsford. The swarm was about the size of my thigh. They seemed quite happy and I couldn't think of any nearby hives, so we left them to it.

Swimming - starting to enjoy it

I went swimming yesterday and I'm reaching the stage where I can keep doing front crawl without having to stop as long as I go slowly enough. This almost makes it enjoyable. Previously it's always been a chore - a means to an end to improve my triathlon and aquathlon times.

Running is like this, after coming back from an injury the first few runs are no fun and I wonder why I ever used to enjoy it. Then after about three runs I start to enjoy it again. I'm hoping my swimming is going that way too. Perhaps I should be less focused on times and just build up a broad base of swimming stamina (and hopefully a robust technique) before working on my times. I'll try that for a few weeks and see what happens.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Cracken Edge - 6.3 miles, 1300 feet of ascent

As I said in yesterday's post, I was keen to beat previous yeas' times for this race. Conditions were quite muggy and the ground was very wet, so I wasn't hugely confident.

I got a fast start and was feeling good on the long climb. The middle section was all about hanging in there. After losing a few places (as always) on the descent, I managed to put in a strong finish in a time of... [drum roll] 49:09. So it's a new PB, which I'm very pleased with, and will increase the pressure on me in next year's race.

Results will probably appear on this site in the next few days:

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Recovery run

In preparation for Cracken Edge tomorrow, I trotted round a 2-mile circuit in 25 minutes. Although I'm a convert to recovery runs, it's still hard to run slowly enough to keep my heart beat below 130 when I get to steep uphill sections.

My target for tomorrow is 49:33 (last year's time). I was faster three years ago, but I think that was because the course was slightly different.

Swimming - feels easier but not faster

I really like the idea of effortless, smooth swimming. Having done a few total immersion classes, that's what I'm aiming for. However, I'd also like to get faster - and that's what it's all about for triathlons - I've yet to see one advertised where they give marks for style.
So I'm hoping to notice some speed improvements over the coming weeks. Today I did 16 lengths (400 metres) in 9 minutes and was overtaken a few times by the old man swimming next to me.
Perseverance is a wonderful thing. I'm all for it, but it's nice to have a few clues that you're going in the right direction.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Fartlek (4 minutes on-off, on-off)

After the lack of proper training at the weekend I was keen to get in a good session. Today's session was a repeat of 4 minutes at "short race" pace then 4 minutes at "all day" pace. I felt pretty good on the race pace sections, so I'm letting my expectations of Cracken Edge raise slightly. It's also a counter in my club championships (my club is the Fat Boys) and I'm still in the running [drum-cymbal] for a chance to win the medium championship (for those non-fell runners, medium fell races are between 6 and 12 miles long).
You can see from the trace where the race-pace 4 minutes were - heart rate is the red squiggle. Ignore the bit at the beginning, where it looks like I'm running flat out without a warm-up. My Garmin sometimes does this, but then as I get more sweaty, the heart rate monitor works better and stops telling me I'm about to pass out when I know I'm not.

Cycling (ish)

Went out yesterday with Mrs Noel and the kids one two bikes with tag-alongs. I had my eldest on the back who was very helpful and competitive. We cycled along the manifold valley to the cafe at the end and were very pleased to do 16 miles in total.
In a month, I'll be doing 90 miles in a day, so it's a bit worrying that I was starting to flag towards the end of the (largely flat) ride.
This week's training will be geared towards Cracken Edge on Wednesday night. This is a very good fell race starting in Hayfield. It's one I've always liked and consequently I normally push myself pretty hard. Because of this, I've had some of my best and worst finishes here in the last few years. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Friday night run

It started off as a normal run that was going to be slightly longer than my normal 5-mile runs. However, within about 300 yards, I realised my legs were still "empty" after Macc Forest Five (Wednesday night). I think it's fair to say that a hard slog for 25 minutes on the bike last night wasn't the ideal recovery.
As you can see from the Garmin data, my heartbeat (red squiggle) is largely below 140 - not trying very hard.
It's funny how my sense of remoteness is directly linked to how tired I am. On today's run I felt like I was really "out there" in the wilds, even though I was only about 2 miles from the house. It's not a feeling I'm very pleased with. Ah well, it's a rest day tomorrow before a spot of cross-training on Sunday. All will be revealed...

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Latest gear news

I've joined the ranks of proper cyclists and bought some clip-in pedals and road biking shoes. I'm told they make a huge difference. Having tested them, I would agree. They (a) allow me to wear shoes that would embarrass John Travolta, and (b) allow the world to laugh as I fall off my bike while testing them.

Here's a picture of what it looks like as I cycle across the gritstone flags and ...erm a rug.

This is in anticipation of a 145km bike ride (90 miles) I'm planning in a about 5 weeks time.


It wasn't a very focused session today. I'm currently aiming to do 8 lengths of a 25-metre pool in 3 1/2 minutes. I'm at 4 minutes now.

To put that into perspective, that's about half as fast as Michael Phelps doing butterfly. Although my lack of a £10,000 superhero-swimming suit may be hindering my progress.

Apparently it's all about stroke length and stroke rate. Currently I get about 19 strokes in per 25 metres, but when I try to up my stroke rate, my strokes become rubbish (so I'm doing more in a length) and I get really tired.