Sunday, 8 December 2013

The taste of the country

I was out cycling yesterday near Macclesfield Forest. It was the first time I'd been out cycling for about three months, so it was nice to be out. It was with a friend who is visiting for the weekend, and I was showing him the fantastic views across the Cheshire plain.

The conversation went something like: "Look, you can see the cooling towers on the Mersey, and if you look slightly north, you can see BLEEAAAAUUUU! PLAAAH, SPPPAAHH" as we cycled past a muckspreader and he coated us and our faces and open mouths with manure. We has seen him coming and thought it was fine, because he was spraying in the other direction. However, the wind (across the Cheshire plain) was picking up all the small particles and throwing them across the road.

Lesson learned! Don't talk as you cycle past a muckspreader.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Famous Grouse fell race - taking it easy is tiring

Normally, I don't race in the winter. Instead taking time to put on weight and look after myself during the dark nights and short days. I tell people it's my cheese-eating season.

I'm feeling OK this year, so have kept ticking over and doing the odd race. Today was Famous Grouse - a pleasantly low-key race of about 5 miles. I last ran this 7 years ago, and had no great expectations. Unlike my normal race routine, I had a few drinks the night before, didn't train much in few weeks running up to it, and didn't eat beetroot before the race (BBC story).

I had told myself that I was taking it easy. This is all well and good, but as soon as I started running, my normal competitive edge kicked in. I was also practising my new downhill technique of tipping my head slight back. It seems to help my balance somehow, and ensured I kept up on the downhill sections.

The upshot of this was that I was about 3 minutes faster than last time, and finished in 6th place, which I was very pleased with. However, I'm now very tired. I've had to tell Mrs Noel I'm too tired to put up the next cupboard in the kitchen, and am having trouble stringing sentences together.

Mrs Noel is made of sterner stuff - she was 3rd lady today, but was quite happy to have a go at the cupboard when we got back.

A nice big meal and a non-drinking relaxed night should really help restore me.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

I won a fell race

Yes, you read the title correctly! I won a fell race. After about ten years of slowly improving and attending lots of local races that the top runners might not fancy doing.

It was Disley Diamond Dash. This was the second year the race has been run. Last year was part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations - hence the name. It was about 5 miles and did a pleasant loop of Lyme Park.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "it must have been attended by only about ten runners". Well that's where you're wrong. There were 18 runners, and most of them had done fell races before.

This probably means I'm now part of the elite crowd and will be afforded a great deal of respect at national championship races. Rob Jebb will turn to Morgan Donelly and say "watch out for that Noel - he won at Disley last week," before beating me by more than a minute per mile raced (as always).

I can at least dream.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Chrome hill race report

Chrome hill is a local coral reef, and it's a race I've not done before. Luckily, the warm seas had retreated in time for non-aquatic runners like me to test themselves on it's slopes this afternoon.

I was a bit nervous about this race, as it's famous for people getting lost on the course. It's happened several times in recent years, so I was keen not to fall into the same trap. Thankfully, there was another local runner, Rick, who knows the course a bit and is a similar pace to me.

The race leader, Lloyd Taggart is a lot faster than the rest of us, so we couldn't really follow him. So it was left to Rick to lead the rest of the field. When Rick was ahead of me, he led us well, and when I was ahead, Rick was like a sat nav; shouting things like, "head for the tree. That's where the stile is," and similar helpful tips. This was very kind of Rick. He could have shouted, "turn left and keep going until you reach Whaley Bridge".

Towards the end of the race, I managed to outpace Rick on a flat section to finish second. I was very pleased with this. It was also a good race for Mrs Noel, who finished first in the ladies race. This was a welcome return to form after coming 6th at the Hope Wakes race in midweek.

On to the prizes. Normally, fell race prizes are handed out in an attempt to handicap faster runners and hence even things up a bit. Winners normally get alcohol, chocolate or cakes. However, today, I was given a book on how to run faster. Maybe they picked it specially after realising that I was over 2 minutes behind the race winner, and he would have been further ahead but he had won a race the night before!

Friday, 14 June 2013

The 3-mile challenge

The company I work for has decided it's a good idea to encourage us all to lead an active lifestyle and build team spirit by having a sponsored walk. We've been asked to raise £30 each (target, not mandatory) towards Barnardo's.

The goal is to walk the circumference of the earth between us all combined, on one day - next Friday. And because there are about 8000 of us, we will need to walk 3 miles each. This should be very pleasant, as long as the weather's OK. However, I'm feeling a bit sheepish about asking people to sponsor me to walk 3 miles.

We've also been given pedometers to see how many steps we take in the days leading up to next Friday. This has caused some competitive nature at work. One of my colleagues has taken to walking to the more distant toilets, rather than the ones near his office.

I'd already planned to do a long run over this period, so it will be interesting to see how many steps it takes me to run the five trigs of Shutlingsloe, Shining Tor, Burbage Edge, Axe Edge and the Roaches.

Apparently, we are also allowed to include biking - with the pedometer in a sock or somewhere similar so it captures each turn of the pedal. So any excercise this week is not about time or placing, it's about number of steps. I'll try to provide updates on my Twitter feed.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Trophies from the Lakes

On Saturday both Mrs Noel and I went to the Lakes to run Fairfield Horseshoe. This was an English Championship race, so attracted the cream of English fellrunning.

Normally Mrs Noel returns from a fell race with some sort of prize, but was resigned to coming home from this one empty-handed.

Luckily, she noticed the Lakeland shop after the race. She now seems very pleased with her new dishcloths.

Perhaps fell race organisers should start giving these out as prizes in the lady vet40 categories.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


We had some things to do in the garden so I decided it couldn't be too hard to drive a digger myself.

Once it was delivered, it took about an hour to find the key and then to find how to get it started. I then printed a list of instructions from the internet about what not to do.

After that it was a fairly smooth learning curve. There were definitely moments where my brain hurt trying to do three things at once with two hand controls. It helps not to think about it, but sometimes you have to think "back towards me, and down and tilt".

Careful now!

The good thing about digging in this way is that you don't get tired. So on Sunday, I went for a nice slow long run before a day's digging.

On bank holiday Monday, I went to do a great local race called James' Thorn. I was second at this last year, and it was the start of a good string of results for me. So I was keen to see how I was doing versus last year. Unfortunately, a few talented runners turned up, so I was fourth. However, I was twenty seconds faster than last year, so am very pleased.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Spring at last

Spring arrived today at midday. I went for a run in the morning, with a hat on, and with frost on the ground. There were still a few patches of snow in the hills.

Then this afternoon we went for a bike ride with the kids. It was too hot for a coat, and we saw a swallow, mating toads, and frogspawn.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Victory at Wolf Spit

On Sunday it was Wolf's Pit fell race. I didn't have a hope in hell of winning anything. So I was very pleased when two of my talented team-mates told me on the starting line that we could be up for winning a team prize.

Their advice to me was "try to stay ahead of Dark Peak runners". The trouble was there are dozens of Dark Peak fell runners in races in the Hope Valley. Whenever I got ahead of one, another one (or sometimes two) would get ahead of me.

I finished 25th, which I was quite pleased with, having only done about 3 weeks of training after my winter break. Luckily my teammates finished in 3rd and 6th, so I got my moment of triumph and a very nice hat.

Mrs Noel, as always also did well - third lady and part of the winning ladies team.

I just need to put in some proper training now, so I can aim at top ten myself.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Lower league football

As a lad, I used to watch a lot of football, so a mate and I decided to take in a lower league football match. We picked Burton Albion vs Morcambe. It ended 3-2 to Burton. Here are my scores for various aspects of the night.

The ground: 8 out of 10. Small but reasonable toilets and catering. Friendly stewards. Cheap parking outside the ground.
The standard of football: 6 out of 10. Morcambe seemed to think the ball was safer 50 feet in the air. They only started passing to a teammate's feet after they went 3-0 down. The Burton Mail talks of the Brewers struggling against the "Shrimps fluid 4-3-3 system". From what I saw, they could have played 5-0-5 for all they were using their midfielders in the first half. Burton in contrast looked fresh, lively and inventive.
The beer: 3 out of 10. It was in plastic glasses and I still can't get used to chilled bitter. I guess if we had wanted a proper pint, we shouldn't have got a beer at the stadium.
Value for money: 8 out of 10. £14 for an adult in the main stand or the end of the ground. Seating would have been more - that's one of the advantages of lower-league football: you get to stand.
The atmosphere: 7 out of 10. It's hardly the Kop at Anfield, but there were a few good chants and lots to cheer.
The pies: 7 out of 10. Standard Pukka variety, but not too soggy.

Overall, it was a good night out. I'll be watching out for the name of Billy Kee (Burton's two-goal hero for the night).

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Lad's Leap fell race - Video

It's important to stand in the right place to capture the essense of a race. I didn't quite manage it on this one. You'll see why. Enjoy!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

The unearthing of Keith

I once heard that some Inuit people give a name to the seal they are about to catch. This shows respect for the essential part that seals play in their way of life. Similarly lots of people give names to their cars, as then they feel a greater bond between man and machine.

Well, the other day, Mrs Noel and I were digging out stones from the garden to build a dry-stone wall and came across a large stone that we couldn't shift. Perhaps foolishly, I gave it a name. And although we couldn't move him on that day, I knew I would return to "Keith", as he is now known, and unearth him from his muddy slumber.

Today, after about 20 minutes of digging up and moving smaller stones, I felt the need to once again take the battle to Keith. After about 45 minutes with a pick-axe and a long piece of metal tubing, I had succeeded.

In the fading light I sat next to Keith, panting with the exertion and dripping with sweat, but very pleased.

My only concern now is that the waller won't use him and I'll have to think of another use for him. Maybe he could be a centrepiece for a rockery.