Sunday, May 20, 2007

White Peak Half Marathon 19 May 2007 Matlock

OK, I look nervous... its raining. I've dragged Billy and Nick up here to the Peak District to run this half marathon and the rain is lashing the windscreen of the campervan! The start is about a half a mile from where we parked and everyone is miserably cold. Nick and I started at the very back as everyone looked like pretty serious runners. Finally, we notice that the crowd is moving forward... I guess that's it then, we're off. Its about 2 minutes shuffling ahead until we get back to the starting line, I think.

By the time we get back to Billy and Nelly at the campervan, the sun is out and the gloom has lifted. We toss Billy our jackets and he cheers us on with Nelly pulling on the lead - she wants to run too, she's done all the training with me!

Nick is fit from climbing but hasn't run for a month because of hay fever. But he's pretty confident he can keep up with me, as he cruised easily through the last half marathon and only really gave it his best when he left me in the last few miles, and beat me by 4 minutes! But I've been running at least 3 times a week and doing long runs on the weekends up to 11 miles long. I feel like I'm ready for this one!

The race was described as "swift" and promised downhills, but we only found uphill runs and flats in the first 8 miles. Every time I got to a crest, I thought to myself, "OK, its sure to be downhill now" but there were dozens of false summits. Finally, the abandoned railway grade did steepen at High Top and we enjoyed a good long downhill which much have been a scary ride for a steam train filled with iron ore or coal! I followed the advise to lean forward and just relax and my pace picked up considerably! But then we were back into the low hills until the next roller coaster ride down to the river 800 feet below. I lost Nick racing down the hills, but I couldn't run but one speed downhill... and just hope I wouldn't fall down. That last mile stretch along the river was really tough, because my legs were used to the incline - they just felt dead. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and finally rounded the bend to find Billy and Nelly waiting for me before the finish line. My time was 2hr 05 min 35 sec (compared to the wining time of 1hr 11 min 38sec!) but I figure I can take off the two minutes it took me to get to the starting line - so 2hr 03 it is! A PR for me.

Nick came in a few minutes later. His thighs had really suffered in the decent as he hadn't been training. I think I'd better enjoy this win - its likely to be the only one I'll get! He's sure to be back in winning form by the Phidippidations World Wide Half in October!

Here's a short video of the race (click triange bottom left on screen below).

Monday, May 07, 2007

Field trip and family trip to the American West (21 April -4 May)

As the DTI supports Imperial College geology research into Transgressive Reservoirs, three spots on a fieldtrip were offered and I was one of the lucky winners. Despite five long days in the field and total submersion in the arcane jargon of sedimentology, it was fantastic... as if days walking through remote river-eroded canyons looking at cliff faces could ever be bad? The other corporate sponsors of the research came from New Zealand (!), Germany, Houston, California and the UK - really interesting people, all expert sedimentologists, who were patient with answering questions. Despite snow one morning, a bit of sunburn (and windburn) was the worst hardship we faced, and we managed to fit in a bit of culture as well as rocks.

We had a tour through the Pueblo Bonito ruins in Chaco Canyon, the centre of native American Indian trade and worship from 850-1200AD. Archaeologists have only theories about the use of the many kivas (round rooms) and other tiny rooms in the 5 story palace. We then moved on to examine the cliffs near Mesa Verde and wondered at the agility of the people that lived in the cliff houses perched high on ledges (wave ravinement surfaces, actually) in the sandstone.

Jet lag made early morning runs easy, so I explored the back streets of Albuquerque and Gallup, New Mexico before leaving for the field. Farmington was a bit too industrial for a run, but the last hotel in Cortez CO backed on to the mountains and I surprised a herd of elk, who joined my run for a few incredible moments. With only a few weeks before the half-marathon, I'm glad I could keep to the training schedule while travelling.

Then I flew to Pueblo Colorado to see my step-mother, Jewell and meet up with my sister Linnie, who was just out of surgery for her shoulder. We ate fantastic Mexican food with Jewell's sister, brother and his wife. Jewell put me to work in her garden, reminding me how I was neglecting the one at home! Her house is lovely and its good to see her settled in with family nearby. Jewell is working too hard as the Admin Mgr for a Charity for the Homeless, but finds helping people, particularly children, makes her feel it is worth all the stress and long hours.
Then back to Denver to meet up with Billy, his parents and niece, Lindsay. Bill and Sally bought a house near Washington Park where we met to walk, roller-blade and walk the dog... simultaneously! Curt's friend, Wendy had just returned from Washington DC where she testified at a congressional hearing on the care of cancer patients. She's a very cool lady!

We also got to see Quang Ho's Studio and he and Nancy, his wife, took us out to a trendy restaurant with fantastic wine. Bill and Sally treated me to a decadent massage and facial for my birthday - shopping, spa, lunch, more shopping - what an indulgent day!

So finally, back home for the Spring Bank Holiday and I managed a 10 mi run along the Chess Valley.
The trip was great, but its nice to be home! Nick, Ali, Tanya and I are planning a weekend in Matlock for the White Peak Half Marathon, with Billy as photographer - 19 May 2007.