Monday, 19 December 2011

Henry Moore reclining figure in snow

The kids have moved on from snowmen. I thought it best to capture this creative phase.

Here's the Moore original for comparison:

I think I preferred the dinosaur and men period of last winter. I'm looking forward to their surrealist offerings.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Famous Grouse

This race was the final Pennine championship counter of the year, so there were scores of Pennine runners. Mrs Noel's was due to do the race, but she felt a little ill on the day, so decided not to. It was lovely and sunny - as it always is on this side of the Peak District. Unfortunately, my camera didn't deal too well with the conditions, so everyone looks like they're glowing.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Dunnerdale Fell Race

Dunnerdale Fell Race was a Pennine club championship race again this year. This race is during my off-season, so it was great chance to watch the race, heckle, and video it. Can you spot yourself?

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Monday, 31 October 2011

Screes and Great Whernside

"We should probably check if there are any fell races near where we are going on holiday," said Mrs Noel on the Friday before we were due to go to Nether Wasdale for a week. After a quick inspection of the race calendar, we found there was a race starting from the pub just around the corner from where we were staying on the day we arrived. Very bizarre!

Mrs Noel managed to finish first lady and win a meal for two at the pub - which was very pleasant. Thanks to the management of the Screes Inn.

Then on the way back from our week in the Lakes, we also called in on the lovely Kettlewell to do the Great Whernside fell race. This was the Yorkshire championship race, so a lot of good fell runners had turned up. Here they are not far into the race.

It was a good race to watch. Ian Holmes was chasing Carl Bell down the final descent. He was slowly, slowly gaining with every step. Unfortunately, they went out of my sight before the end. Apparently, Ian Holmes slipped and fell in the last hundred metres, otherwise it would have been very close. I had a quick chat with Carl while he was warming down and he sounded pretty relieved to have won.

Mrs Noel finished 5th, but was pleased to be ahead of some quality runners in a pretty high-profile race like this.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Last race of 2011

It was a great way to end 2011. The British fell relays will be my last race of the year, and I loved every minute of it.

If you discount all those fell runners who ran in other legs of the relays, and those who weren't there, and those who are better than me but couldn't get into their teams... bear with me here... then I'm the 22nd fastest fell runner in Britain.

Although in my rationale mind, I realise that this is like scoring a goal in a game of park football and imagining I'm Lionel Messi. I'm fairly sure I'm not in the top 500 fell runners in the country. But partly because of that "boyhood dream comes true" part of the mind that everyone keeps well hidden, it was great to be in an event like this and feel justified in pushing myself really hard like I assume the top runners do.

My teammates were great and dragged the team up to 21st place overall. We also had a ladies, v40 and v50 team out, who also did very well. I enjoyed having done the first leg and then being able to watch the drama unfold. My only regret was that in the mens' open race, there was very little "drama" around who would win. Dark Peak won it by a street in very unexciting fashion.

Will I be good enough to get into our team next year? My goal is to be better and be part of better team. Who knows what we could achieve. I shouldn't limit my ambitions. Where would today's champions be if they didn't have the drive and ambition to take them to the pinnacle of the sport. I'm hoping for 18th next year.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Things to do on a rainy weekend

1. Set up a rope across a river.
This was mainly for the kids. Here is my youngest midway across:

But the grown-ups couldn't help getting involved. We tried it hanging below the rope - this resulted in the lowest few inches of us getting wet. We also tried it above the rope. This was our friend Jason's idea and here he is demonstrating how it should be done:
I was surprised by how reliable a method this was, as it looks very precarious.

2. Play with the kids' toys.
This was the best magnetix model that was made. Note the two-shell design utilising squares and triangles.

3. Run a fell race.
Mrs Noel did Windgather fell race today. She wasn't mad keen on doing a long race (13 miles). But she needed to do it to complete the Goyt Valley series, which she won to retain her trophy. It was also a counter in the Gritstone series, which she finished in second place.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Ian Hodgson relays

Last year's Ian Hodgson relays were a highlight of our year. This year, the Pennine mixed team was even stronger, but we had some serious competition. Both Borrowdale and Bingley had put out strong teams. Presumably they'd seen our success last year and thought "we could have beaten that lot".

Last year I remember there had been some discussion about whether Daz Holloway or I should be in the mixed team. I got the nod that time, but Daz has since transformed himself beyond recognition, so I was happy that Daz was running our longest and hardest leg in the mixed team. He was partnered by Adam, who is also running fantastically well at the moment.

While the battle for mixed team success was going on, I was running as part of the open (mens') team along with Nic, who normally beats me but only just. Unfortunately, we made a navigational error on leg 2, so lost about 10 minutes for our leg 3 and 4 runners to try to make up. I could take 10 minutes off our time and say "we would have finished there", but navigation is all part of it. Plus that would assume all the other teams didn't make errors of their own. Luckily, the lads on legs 3 and 4 ran well and didn't repeat our navigational errors, so we finished in a respectable time.

Anyway, back to the mixed team. After two storming runs by the girls on leg 1 and the lads on leg 2, Mrs Noel and her partner ran the fastest female leg 3 of the day to hand over to our leg 4 runners well ahead of Borrowdale and about 50 seconds ahead of Bingley.

And who were running for Bingley on their anchor leg? Multiple fell running champion Ian Holmes, and three peaks fell race record holder Andy Peace. This pair are getting on a bit, but they're still winning good races. Although the Pennine boys ran a near-perfect race, they were pipped by 7 seconds. Apparently our lads had been closing the gap all the way down the final hill. It's amazing that after 4 hours and twenty minutes of running, only 7 seconds separated the two teams.

We'll definitely be back next year. It must be such a palava to organise this race, but it's definitely worth it.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Lantern Pike and barefoot training

Saturday was Hayfield Country Day, which means Lantern Pike Fell Race. I've only done this once, as Mrs Noel normally bagsies it, leaving me holding the children. This year we had a few offers of people to watch the kids, so we could both run. We both did fairly well. I was 6th, behind only one of the excellent trio of pacers/markers: Nick, Mark and Steve. Mrs Noel was second ahead of some fairly strong competition. Unfortunately, Mrs Noel missed the prize-giving, so I decided she would have wanted three bottles of strong ale.

Then today (Sunday) we went to Trentham Gardens and I started my barefoot training in earnest. Lots of runners sing the praises of barefoot running and it's become quite an "in" thing to do. There are even barefoot shoes, which are much more expensive than normal running shoes as it takes time for them to remove all the padding at the factory.

So when I saw that Trentham Gardens was home to Britain's "first and only" barefoot walk, I jumped at the chance. Here are a selection of the various surfaces we stood on. These are the feet of me and my mum. I say this in case there are any foot double talent scouts out there wanting to sign us up.

Not bad:



Nice to gritty transition:

I feel sure my feet and whole body and now invigorated in a life-enhancing way that I can't quite describe. If you're ever visiting Trenham Hall - it's worth a go, and there are foot showers at the end.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Barrels of plums

What an action-packed weekend! First, we went over to visit some friends and laugh at my mate Dave, who had once again been roped into taking part in the Great Edale Beer Barrel Race. This is where a group of apparently sane blokes (or women - there was a ladies' team this year) run about 5 miles with a full beer barrel. I think it weighs about 45kg.

We watched most of the teams come past, and they all had pain etched on their faces. They also seemed to be going very slowly, which showed how difficult it was as they were clearly trying very hard.

Then on Sunday morning there was a double-header. At 10:30 it was Coombes Tor - a new race which I did and was very pleased to finish 5th, just behind teammate Nick. After a bit of post-race banter we headed over to Padfield for their excellent Plum Fair. We all ate delicious plum pie and Mrs Noel defended her first lady crown successfully in the Plum Fair Scamper fell race.

Then on this morning, the crysalis on the right developed into a small tortoiseshell butterfly. The kids and I watched as it slowly pumped up its wings before we set off for school. I felt a bit mean putting it outside as it's blowing a hooley today. Maybe the one on the left had a better idea in waiting a few more days.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

It's all about cogs

My roadbike must have been made by someone who lived in a solely downhill country. I'm not a great expert on gear ratios, but here's what I've picked up so far. The bigger your front cog, the harder it is to pedal. Whereas the smaller your back cog, the easier [edit: I meant harder - thank for pointing this out Darren] is it to pedal. My bike was made with 2 front cogs. One huge, one enormous. It was also made with 8 back cogs, all of which were tiny.

So last week I had this changed. My local bike shop fitted a smaller, much more sensible front cog and a range of 8 back cogs, some of which are quite large. I was unsure how much difference it would make. The answer was "lots". Now, without getting out of my seat, I can cycle up here:
 and here:

 and here:

 and even here:

I was hoping my new-found bike keenness might translate to improvements at Shelf Moor fell race on Sunday. Last year, Shelf Moor was the race at which I announced my English Championship intentions. None of the top 48 runners would fail to notice my glorious finish just behind them. Indeed, I was rewarded with 2 championship points.

This year I managed to run 5 seconds slower than last year, but beat my placing my 41 positions. For a much better account of the race, with pictures, see Steve's excellent blog. He introduced himself after the race and seemed a thoroughly nice chap.

Monday, 29 August 2011

In the presence of greatness

Mrs Noel wanted to defend her second place at Grasmere, so we were back in the Lakes this weekend. I found a race to do on Saturday - Dufton Show - which meant I was happy to watch the kids for Grasmere on Sunday.

Dufton Show race was organised by elite fellrunner Morgan Donnelly. It was great to see what a nice bloke he is as he organised the kids' races (along with his equally nice wife). Mrs Noel was eyeing up the ladies' field, to see if she would have won anything if she weren't running the following day. We both spotted a lass who looked fairly athletic, but it's hard to tell until they start running. We all set off and this lass led the other runners out of the showground and was in the front three as they sped out of my sight.

We later found out this was Lizzie Adams, who is very talented, so it wasn't a total surprise. She finished 6th in the end. A long way ahead of me in 10th.

I was pleased that my descending seems to be improving. I lost one place from the summit, but managed to stick with the guy until he beat me in a sprint finish. I wasn't too bothered about this, as he'd helped me set a good time for the whole second half of the race - everyone needs a pacer.

Then on Sunday at Grasmere we got to watch Morgan Donnelly win the men's race by a fair way. Record holder Pippa Maddams was also there to destroy the ladies' field - again.

I was watching from the showground, so couldn't tell what was going on. The guy on the tannoy announced that Melanie Hyder was in second place at the summit. This was to be expected as Mrs Noel had only just beated Mel the previous year in a sprint finish. Perhaps this year, Mrs Noel would have to settle for 3rd place. However, as the runners slowly came close enough to recognise, there was Mrs Noel in 2nd place. No sprint finish needed this year, and 27 seconds faster than last year. She must be doing something right.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Burnsall classic and scarecrows

On Saturday it was Burnsall Classic - a short hard fell race with a very difficult initial descent which is made from heather covering mud and gritstone boulders. We've done this for a few years now so knew it pretty well. My race went as well as could be expected, and I took 5 seconds off last year's time to finish in 14th.
In contrast Mrs Noel was 10 seconds faster than last year and was first lady. This is a fantastic result for Mrs Noel and ensures she'll be printed in the Burnsall Sport Feast booklet for many years to come. She was realistic enough to point out that many of the top runners had stayed away this year - presumably because there was a English championship counter the following day. But, as I said, "they have to turn you beat you". I think this ranks as Mrs Noel's finest acheivement in fell running.

Then on Sunday, we went with the kids to Kettlewell scarecrow festival. This was one of the best organised small village events I've ever seen. There were literally hundreds of scarecrows, and organised parking (with marshals). One display was about 20 rugby player scarecrows, complete with pitch and rugby posts. As you can see, they even provided silly hats so people could be the scarecrow's face for pictures. Note the absence of crows - I think I might be good at this.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Mountains and courgettes

We went to the French Alps for two weeks on holiday, which was great. I'm hoping the slight altitude will have worked as altitude training.

We've arrived back to find that our three courgette plants have run riot. So we're eating courgettes and marrows for the next week. Although I can't find anything on the internet on the training benefits of this, it should make for an interesting week as I exhaust my current repertoire of courgette recipes. Courgette cake anyone?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Bob bug - did I catch it?

I've not previously understood the attraction of doing the Bob Graham round.

For those not aware of this, it's an endurance event which you can undertake at any time, where you run up and down 42 Lake District peaks. It starts and finishes in Keswick and the challenge is to do it in a 24-hour period.

Many people have told me that once I support someone on a Bob Graham, I'll understand it all and it won't be long until I too am putting in the ridiculous training sessions that are needed before trying one.

So last weekend I supported Lisa's Bob Graham attempt. She was going for an anti-clockwise round starting at 8 in the morning. I was supporting leg 2, which included 9 summits and took about 5 hours.

For those who can't remember, last weekend was exceptionally rainy. In the end it was the conditions that led to Lisa falling behind schedule and eventually taking the sensible decision to abandon the attempt after about 20 hours (20 hours!!). All credit to Lisa for getting so far in such horrendous conditions - I have no doubt she would have done it if hadn't have been such a shocker of a day.

So do I now understand it? Well I think I do. From what I got out of the day, it's a lot to do with the sense of cameraderie. I cetainly enjoyed it, despite the conditions on our leg. And I can appreciate that the sense of achievement must be massive.

But having said all this, I'm very happy to support the odd Bob Graham rather than do one myself. For a start I'd have to train a lot more, and I'm rubbish without sleep. So come on Lisa, pick another date, and we'll pray for a clear day this time.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Cat and Fiddle down-and-up fell relay

On Wednesday night it was my fell race - the Cat and Fiddle down-and-up fell relay. This is the first fell race I've ever organised and I was a bit nervous that something would go wrong. In hindsight, I guess that organising a relay was a bit more complicated than a normal fell race.

On the night most things seemed to go well. I had a great team of marshals and helpers and I think the people who took part enjoyed themselves. The weather wasn't very nice, so I'll try to improve that for next year. I'll also remember to take some pictures.

I'm already thinking about what eco-batons I can use. It was carrots this year. It was funny watching the look on people's faces at registration when they were handed two race numbers and a carrot.

I was pleased to see some very good runners turn up. It was also nice to see how many couples and family partners turned up. It made for a nice atmosphere in the pub when I was giving out the prizes.

The results are here. I reckon the men's open, mixed open, male V90 and Mixed V90 will be hard to beat next year.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Conditions, conditions, conditions

In fell races, every race is different. So you can't compare your times from one race to the next, as a roadrunner might compare a time for a 10k race. So one of the ways to judge yourself is against your times from previous years.

Two years ago I ran Hope Wakes fell race in the wet and was pleased with how I did on the night. Last night I ran Hope Wakes in hard, dry conditions and took over 2 minutes off my previous time.

I can hear some of you saying "but Noel, that 2 minutes is probably down to the different conditions, and not any improvement on your part". At which point I am putting my fingers in my ears and I'm saying "I can't hear you. La, la, la, la".

Some of you might also ask how I did against the runners I am normally close to. These 'markers' provide another good way of telling me how I did in any given race. They represent my peer group, and between them, show me how well I should be doing. Well on this occasion, I'm once again ear-fingered "la, la, la, la" -ing.

2 minutes! If I keep up this level of improvement, I'll be in the national team in the next 5 years. Glory days here we come!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Back to form - Edale

It was Edale Country Day today, which means Edale fell race. At 5 miles and about 1300 feet of ascent it's my kind of race - quite steep and nice and short.

I remember being pleased with my time last year, so I was very pleased today to take about 25 seconds off it. And the key to my success? Well, it's a number of things.

Firstly, I've now got enough weeks of decent mileage under my belt. It normally takes about 6 to 8 weeks of training before the full benefits come through.

But I reckon what also helped was the exercise bike in the hotel gym while I was away on business last week. It was one of those where there's a screen in front of the bike and you try to keep up with your virtual pacer. Check out their website: You can set how fit the pacer is, and there are loads of different courses. I did a few 10-12 mile "hilly" courses and a one reps session on a virtual track.

My pacer

It's funny how even virtual competition makes me try harder. I'd never cycle for 45 minutes on an exercise bike without having "someone" to aim for. Even if it's a yellow-jerseyed man with a big "P" on his back. And the fact that I know it's just a load of pixels doesn't stop me from trying to beat "him".

Does this mean I'd be better if I trained with someone else? Personally, I like the simplicity of running or biking whenever I want to, rather than having to arrange times, wait for people, and travel to somewhere convenient. But perhaps my competitive nature would drive me to train harder.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Victory at Wildboarclough

It's a great feeling when you've trained for weeks for something and then it all comes together on the day and you take first place. That's what it must have felt like for my brother-in-law, who was victorious with his very first throw in the welly wanging competition at Wildboarclough fete. Here he is proudly holding his prize - the whisky, not the welly.

Mrs Noel and I were also competing in the Shutlingsloe fell race, hoping to retain our first local and first lady trophies. In the past I've been third in this race, but this year I was scanning the people at the fete before the race, and there were about 6 or 7 people who I knew would definitely beat me. Once the race started, it became apparent that there were also some people I hadn't spotted who would also beat me.

I've been fell running for about 8 years now, and I think this is the first time I've ever used navigational ability or local knowledge to my advantage. Near the summit I broke slightly right to overtake about 2 or 3 runners, and managed to stay clear of them to the finish. I finished 7th and retained the Frank Hooley Memorial Trophy for first local. Mrs Noel also retained her larger and more impressive first lady trophy, in fine style despite not having trained much due to her creaky knee.

I also picked up a coconut (from the shy) and a jar of orange curd from the excellent cake and conserve stall. Once I had a pint in my hand and the sun came out, I couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather be.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Carneddau and Vanessa Chapel

These two races are at two ends of my fell running scale.

On Saturday, I did Carneddau, which runs up the 3rd and 4th highest mountains in Wales. It was blowing a "hooley" at the summit and I was very lucky to have a Dark Peak runner in front of me who knew where he was going.

It took me over 2 hours, and I was pretty broken for the last half hour. In the end I lost about 5 minutes on the Dark Peaker who I was with at the summits. It also has about 2000 feet of descending in one go. I can't really train for this in the Peak District, so my thighs were trashed by the time I reached the flat section at the end.

I was 9th out of about only 50 runners. A disappointing turn-out for such a great race. Especially one that demands so much time and enthusiasm from the numerous marshalls who sat on the summits in the dreadful weather. Here's me looking wet and tired after only about 40 minutes. This pici is from the Al Tye's excellent photo site.

Then on Wednesday night, I did Vanessa Chapel fell race. This is a classic Peak District fell race, relatively short and mainly on footpaths. There are also many more fell runners in and around the Peak, so there were about 180 runners in this race. I was pleased to finish 16th, two places behind my Pennine team-mate Steve, who is getting better despite his advancing age (only joking Steve).

Although I'm much better and the short and less steep stuff, this is only because this is what I train. Towards the end of the Carneddau fell race, I asked myself "am I a mountain man?" The answer was a defnite "No".

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Crawling at Cressbrook, running at Rainow...

I think I'm improving, after my long winter off racing.

I did Cressbrook Crawl last Saturday and was about 2 or 3 minutes down on where I think I could have been. Then on Wednesday night I did Rainow fell race. This race includes quite a bit of my lunchtime run when I go out from work, and includes the landmark White Nancy - an old summer house that is built on the summit of one of the Bollington hills. At Rainow, I was much closer to where I think I could have finished.

I have another chance to run past White Nancy today when I do Bollington Festival fell race. I'm hoping to beat my time from last year, but only because I got lost in last year's race.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Moor fires

I suspect there are lots of downsides to long dry spells. One of them is the moor fires that rampage across the country fuelled by strong winds and young kids with nothing better to do.

We met up with my parents near Crowden on Sunday, but what started as a small plume of smoke in the distance had soon developed into a grey cloud that was blocking out the sun. By the time we'd packed up and were driving home the police had closed the roads to the area and fire engines were pouring in from about ten different towns.

So when it's raining and nasty in a week's time, I'll try to remember that we wanted a bit more rain.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Can you spot a good runner?

I'm often intrigued by the biomechanics that define someone as a good runner. Things like leg strength, cadence and stride length are obvious determinants of speed. So if this is the case, we should be able to tell who are good runners and who are not, simply by looking at their running style.

There are, however, exceptions. I am often overtaken in fell races by someone who looks like they were designed based on a drawing done by a 5-year-old. Conversely, I very occasionally overtake someone who looks like a proper athlete.

So how good are you at spotting who is fast and who is not. Here is a collection of short videos showing club runners in the Kinder Downfall race. From my memory, these runners were not consecutively placed - so you have a fair spread of finishing times. I should also tell you that this is after about 8.5 miles, so the runners are probably quite tired now.

Can you place them in the correct order?

Runner A:

Runner B:

Runner C:

Runner D:

Runner E:

So how did you do? The answers are shown here. I'd be interested to hear how many you got right. Before anyone points it out, I realise it's hard to spot how much training someone has put in (ie, fitness).

Saturday, 2 April 2011

What do tadpoles eat?

We're growing frogs in a washing up bowl. They've hatched from frogspawn and are developing nicely as tadpoles.
Wildlife pond!

We don't want to be bad parents, so we've been researching on the internet what they eat. Apparently you can buy tadpole food or fish food, but we're not that keen, so we were looking for another alternative. Some websites say they'll eat lettuce. We put a few small bits in with them and they completely ignored it.

Luckily, Mrs Noel found another website that says they like dog food (the dried stuff). And hey presto - they love it.

Yum yum. Thanks Noel.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Was I ever a runner?

I was hoping to be in the thick of training at this time of year, but I've been fighting off some 'general feeling a bit rubbish' cold-viral-thing for the last few weeks. I haven't even felt like jogging, let alone running.

I realised I had to attempt to get out of this lethargy yesterday when I got a funny sort of muscle cramp thing walking across a park in Buxton. Walking!! Slowly!! So yesterday afternoon I went out for the slowest 5 miles I've done in a few years. Today I followed this up with another 2.5 miles.

At times like this, it's like my body is trying to convince me it's never been a runner. It's like it's saying "no, you must have me confused with some other body - wouldn't you rather be sitting down?" Fortunately, I know that after 3 or 4 runs, my body will be saying "wheeee, this is so much fun - see if you can go any faster".

I think this is why a lot of people don't go running regularly, even though they might go to the gym or something similar. It takes 3 or 4 outings before you get anything back from running. And for many people, they don't reach that point before deciding it's not enjoyable.

I'm hoping my next blog entry will be something like "the joy of running" and not "lung infection finally takes hold". Watch this space.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Every young girl's dream?

I notice I'm writing a lot of blog entries reminiscing about childhood.

It seems one of my mum's childhood dreams was to drive a train. Here she is posing in the cab of one of the steam engines on the Worth Valley Railway, which runs from Keighley to Haworth. I always thought it was supposed to a boy's aspiration - I'm told she was a tomboy as a young lass.

Mum was also impressed by the firebox, and even took a picture of it. We've all spent a fair amount of time trying to work out what "file to retrieve" means. Smug points to anyone who can work it out.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Rhine to James' Thorn

I was in Basel, Switzerland, for work on Friday and I managed to get a nice run along the banks of the Rhine before flying home. There was some lovely architecture to look at as I ran through the city before running alongside one of Europe's great rivers.

This is the bridge I ran across:

Then on Sunday morning, we drove out to Glossop to do James' Thorn. A great fell race, organised by the ever-friendly Des. Here is the view as we drove through Flash (Note the sleet, and mist).
Thankfully, it had stopped sleeting by the time we started the race. At about 4.5 miles and 1600 feet - it's steep and unrelenting. I was fourth Pennine finisher and 11th overall. Not quite up to my best I guess, but I haven't been back training long after my winter lay-off. So I was pleased with it.

And did I want to be back jogging along the banks of the Rhine at any point during the race? Not at all. The only place I would rather have been was about 5 places higher up the field.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Oh, to be a kid again

I remember being a kid and wishing I was older so that I could do cool stuff like staying out late, driving a car, and putting on my shoes without undoing the laces.

Well, now I'm a grown-up (in age at least), and I don't often wish I was a child again. I'm now quite happy that I can drive my Czech-made hatchback to work, come home late, and ruin the backs on my shoes. It truly is a wonderful life being an adult.

However, occasionally there are some things that make me envious of children today. Lego is one of those things. On Sunday, my youngest got a lego camper van from his great grandpa, and it's... in a word: fantastic! That thing on the left of the picture is a barbecue, with a lego fish cooking on it!!

Thinking about it, I realise it's a strange sort of envy, because I could buy myself one of these and play with it all night if I wanted. I think what I'm actually wanting is some sort of childlike appreciation of seeing something like this for the first time, but mixed with a grown-up sense of nostalgia about lego and the inherent sense of freedom associated with a camper van and a surfboard.

Do I sound old when I say that I hope my youngest plays with it as a camper van for a few days instead of turning it into an aeroplane?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Intervals - time machine

I've now got a few weeks worth of miles under my belt, so today I did some intervals. Me and another bloke where I work went out at lunchtime and did six lots of fast running for 2 minutes, separated by jogging for another 2 minutes.

Einstein's theory of relativity states that objects going close to the speed of light experience time differently to those that are not. I'm not an expert on relativity or travelling quickly, but time was certainly altered today.

Every time we started running the fast bits, the 2 minutes seemed to take ages. Whereas when we were running a lot more slowly, each 2 minutes was up before we'd even started to get our breath back.

On returning to work, I sent an email to the journal Science, so that others could benefit from my groundbreaking discovery. I'm hopeful that time travel can be developed based around the same concept.

For the rest of the afternoon, I had a lot to do, so stayed in my running kit and ran round the office, trying to slow my time so that I would have more time to complete the report I was working on. Unfortunately, I had to nip back to the computer every few minutes to type another word.

By home time, imagine my surprise when I realised I'd only done about 20 words. I was also very tired. I can only conclude that the time machine effect doesn't work inside buildings. I will let Science know about this first thing in the morning. Actually, it will have to be at 10am tomorrow, as I notice I've got a meeting with my boss and the head of HR first thing. Perhaps they're interested in getting more people to try my experiment, or maybe moving me to an outside office.

Albert Einstein relaxing after a hard set of 12x400m

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Navigation - where it's at

This was my first chance to sample some of the delights of my club's winter navigation challenges. This one started in Hayfield and went for a very nice meander around the local area taking in four wall/fence junctions and the like. In total, it was about 9 miles.

I've not got a great sense of direction so thought it would be a good chance to develop my navigational ability. I was set off as one of the last runners, on account of my fairly good running ability - when I'm fit and I know where I'm going. Unfortunately, today I wasn't and didn't. I was also telling as many people as would listen, that I did some more cycling hill reps yesterday, so I wasn't going to be setting a good pace.

I was set off with a team-mate Darren, who seems to be running well after missing some of last year's races for a variety of reasons. For the first mile, it was easy enough to follow Darren and not really worry about navigation. I was thinking that this was kind of cheating. So it was lucky that he then ran off into the distance and I had to do some proper map reading.

In the end (1 hour and 36 minutes later), I completed the event and was rewarded with soup and cake from various Pennine members. I'd really enjoyed it, but hadn't done very well. In handicap terms, I think I was dead last. Even looking at time taken, I was a long way off the leaders and those who I should be close to. Darren beat me by over 20 minutes - nice one Darren. I'm hoping this will serve as a baseline from which I'll work up in future navigational events.

My main learning from today is this:
  • Make navigational decisions while running uphill, even if they are a fair way ahead. I can read a map running uphill without having to slow down, but I can't do this downhill.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Flash! Aaaaarrgh

I'm now getting back into a sort of training plan, having spent most of the winter doing the odd jog here and there. I've been out running 3 times this week, and I fancied something a bit different today. So I tested my new cross-training technique - cycling hill reps.

The good thing about cycling is that it's not an impact activity, so you can do it when your joints are sore from running or as a recovery activity. It also isolates your big thigh muscles so is good training for uphill running. The bad thing about cycling is that it takes a long time and there are often long bits between the hills.

So, why not do hill reps on a bike? There are many answers - such as "because it's dull". Still, I've not grown tired of it yet. I'm quite lucky in that I live within a few miles of Flash - Britain's highest village. Old Flash road deserves more than the 1 arrow it gets on the OS map. The steepest bit has over 100 metres of ascent in not very much distance and I'm pleasingly tired by the end of it. I can just do it on my road bike, but the gear ratios are not really designed for hills, so I prefer it on Mrs Noel's heavier mountain bike.

Today I did four reps of it and my thighs are now pleasingly achy, despite the rest of me not feeling too tired. Hopefully I can get out for a run tomorrow. I'm sure I could do a lot more ascent if I went out for a proper bike ride. However, that would take 2-3 hours. Today's reps took less than an hour, including the time taken to get there and back.

Here's the profile from my mapping software.

I await comments:
(a) from proper cyclists, saying how I should be doing more reps, harder hills, and using my road bike, and
(b) from fell runners, saying how this type of training won't help.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Statistics for ladies

Normally I try to get into the top 20% of fell race fields. In the last year or so, I've even managed to sneak into the top 10% of some race fields. This is possible if there are 150 people. It's harder if there are 15!

The number of ladies entering fell races doesn't often lend itself to such analysis. There might be 10 women in a field, and one or two of them are normally disproportionately fast.

Last Sunday's Tigger Tor race was one of the few exceptions. Mrs Noel did it for the first time, and there were loads of ladies there. So I felt very helpful doing the maths and pointing out that she was in the top 10% of the ladies' field (5th out of 67) and of the lady-vets' field (2nd out of 27).

I stayed at home as our youngest was a bit ill, so I have no photos of the day. However, I can show the marmalade that was part of the prize. I realise I've done quite a few photos of jars of conserves, so am trying to make them more interesting with unusual camera angles. What do you think?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The future of running vests?

Would the colours of the club vest have an influence over which club you joined? I don't think it would for me. It also seems not to for any members of Dark Peak Fell Runners as their shirt is brown and purple!!

So if you could design your favourite fell running vest, what would it look like? Here are a few examples that have been designed by some of ever-young members of Pennine - note the tassles on the first one.

I'd like to apologise in advance to any clubs who find their best fell runners leaving in order to design their own vests to rival these ones. They probably feel, like I do, that 60s-inspired flower power designs are sadly lacking in amateur and professional sport.

For those who would like to see what other club's vests are like currently, there's a handy guide here as part of the Durham Fell Runners site. You'll notice there is a startling lack of love-hearts and tassles.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Exciting kitchen utensil news

I realise it's been a while since I last posted, but it's all been a bit dull in the world of Noel. Mrs Noel has of course been doing well with her running and was first lady at Famous Grouse fell race, which was more than a month ago now.

So why have I posted now after such a long period of inactivity? Well, Santa brought me something that I felt I had to share with the world. It's an apple peeler and corer. I'd seen one of these at a friends house a few years ago, and was delighted to get one for Christmas - thanks Mum. However, when I describe it to people, it's a bit hard to visualise (even with arm movements and analogies to other kitchen utensils).

To fully bring it to life, I've had to step into the 21 century and video the proceedings. Interestingly, once I'd uploaded this onto YouTube, I noticed there were several other videos of exactly the same thing. Anyway, this one is mine. Enjoy!