Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A family affair - parkrun

OK before I start, no I haven't missed a capital P off parkrun, that's the way its spelt and you can get into trouble for getting it wrong!
There will be a lot of you out there who have no idea what parkrun is and until May last year I'll be honest and say I didn't either.  So what is it, for this I will pinch direct from their website  "parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.  These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all"  and that sums it up.  You turn up to one of 209 (so far and that's just in this country) parks with a barcode that you have printed off when registered and at 9am you run/jog or walk 5k.  Get your barcode scanned at the end and a few hours later you get a time.  Simple and a great way to start your weekend.  It all started back in 2004 when 13 people took part in a time trial in Bushy park London, last weekend there was over 40,000 running all over the world.
January last year I had started a couch to 5k plan in the gym.  I wanted to build up some fitness, mainly as my little boy (now boys) was starting to grow up and I wanted to be able to run round a park with him kicking a football and doing all the dad and lad activities possible.  Little did I know this would become addictive. 
Anyway I finally got to the stage where I could run 5k on the running machine, it was a tad boring but I never had the confidence to run outside.  While having an online chat with a rally friend who had taken up running, it was suggested I should have a look at parkrun. There was 3 options fairly close to home for me to chose from, Bradford Lister Park and in Leeds there was Roundhay and Hyde Park (There is now two more in Leeds - Temple Newsam and Cross Flatts).  The only one I had heard of  was Roundhay but after doing a bit of digging I decided to give Hyde Park a try out, this was the first one to start outside of London.  Tina knew the area, it wasn't far from work and I had a colleague coming with me. 
So on Saturday 19th May 2012 I lined up at the start with 314 others, I was rather nervous but had my fan club there in the shape of Tina and Liam.  My trainers were nice and shiny and you could tell they had never seen a road or park but I was ready to go.  At first glance the park is fairly flat but I soon realised this was not the case. The first part is nice and downhill but then there are a couple of long steady hills before dropping back down at the other side of the park. You have to do 3 laps and there is a few marshals dotted around to make sure you keep to the right route and to offer much needed encouragement.  Think it was a shock to the system to be getting lapped so early on and I was surprised how much harder it was to run outside compared to the running machine. I couldn't do the full 5k without a couple of walking breaks but I finished 287th out of 315.  My time was 33.39.  Nothing special but I was happy enough for a first time.  The fastest on the day did it in 17.07, I couldn't have even done that if I had only done 2 laps!  In the finish funnel once I could finally speak I remember talking to the lass who had finished behind me, her name was Emma and she had done about half a dozen.
It was a nice feeling later to get the text message through with the times on and then check the email with the full list.  The following weekend I went back again and once again I couldn't get round without walking. I was disappointed that my time was slower. I finished near Emma again, this time just behind her and we chatted and we decided that the following week we would run together.  This made a huge difference as I finally got round with out walking and I think this is when I realised how much I prefer to run with people. I remember coming into the final turn on the park and was dead on my feet but I was pushed on to keep going all the way to the finish line. It was a new PB and I was buzzing and the parkrun bug had hit me.  Its hard to believe that a week shy of a year from my first parkrun Emma and I finished the Leeds Half Marathon together.
Over the next few months I would go to as many as were possible.  I was never going to be able to go every weekend what with Tina working and family commitments but I did have a stage where I got 4 PB's in a row.  The feeling at the end when you thought you had beat your time was great but then you had to wait for the official text to come through and it got to the stage I was jumping at every text.
Fast forward to today and I have only done 35 in total.  28 have been in Hyde Park where I have my fastest 5k time of 27.10. This was done with help of 3 other runners who gave up there own runs to help me, this is something I have noticed happens a lot at parkrun, many will help others in place of pushing for a time of their own. I did fall out of love with Hyde Park for a short period of time when I was finding the 3 laps were getting to me and I needed a change, which is when I went to Temple Newsam.  Now what a venue this is for a run, I did love it and it was very family friendly and Liam loved the farm that is there, but I soon headed back to Hyde Park because of the people I was getting to know.  I have also done one at Bradford, a couple at Wolverhampton when I go down to see my family and one at Sewerby whilst on holiday.  This one was amazing, running along the cliff top for 2 miles before cross country through the house grounds.  Nice cafe and a great family morning out with a lovely zoo.
So how and why did parkrun become so important to me, especially as I can't do every week and 35 isn't that many.  Well while doing parkrun I started to see a lot of people running in run club vests and Hyde Park Harriers seemed to be the most common.  I decided to check them out and went to one of their Tuesday night runs.  I found a very friendly run club who were very welcoming to all levels of ability.  parkrun got me a run club which a year on I am now a group leader, on the committee and running a few races.
The other major thing that changed with parkrun was my circle of friends.  I had been up in Yorkshire for a few years from Wolverhampton and my friend base wasn't all that big, but this changed through parkrun and joining run club.  Not just a new base of friends for me but also my family have been welcomed with open arms, there are some amazing people at parkrun/run club.  Liam loves going to the park on a Saturday morning cheering people on and even helped marshal by shouting which way to go. He gets high fives every week and I can't wait till the day I can run one with him. 
I have actually lost parkrun now to Tina.  This is the lass who said she would never be a runner but decided with her friend to walk one.  They did their first one at the end of June walking in a time of 48.58, 4 parkruns later her time is down to 41.49 and is doing a run walk plan with Jaz a good friend who we wouldn't have got to know without parkrun and who is adored by my eldest lad.  I don't mind Tina doing this, its great for her and I love cheering people on and am very proud of how well she is doing. I have said she is not allowed to get a 50 t-shirt before me (parkrun give you t-shirts after 50, 100 and 250 runs).  So until parkrun start a creche at Leeds, which is starting to be needed, I will take a back seat for now and enjoy seeing the effort everyone puts in.
parkrun takes up about an hour of your morning on a Saturday, or maybe a couple of hours as we have now become fairly regular at the post run cafe - another part that has added to our enjoyment and helped develop new friends. 
I would suggest to anyone who is interested in doing something different to get out of bed early on Saturday morning, pull on your trainers and find your local parkrun.  There will be one not to far away, there seems to be new ones starting up every week, don't fancy running but like the sound of the event, well they are always after volunteers who are such an important part of the parkrun experience, Marshall's, scanners, time keepers, token sorters they are all needed, just be careful though it could change your life as your weekends will be planned around your run!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Leeds Half Marathon

Back in September last year I was sat watching the Great North Run and had some strange idea about running it myself.  Now considering I had only started running in January in the gym this was quite a leap forward.  I was enjoying parkrun and was starting to feel progress with running club and this would give me something to aim for.  I then decided that maybe I should put a half marathon in before hand so I wasn't going there feeling too much pressure about the distance and could enjoy the day.  That's where the Leeds half marathon came into it.
December the 2nd 2012 I signed up for the Leeds half, which wasn't until 12th May 2013.  Plenty of time to get myself fit and ready....well it should have been.  The first part of 2013 started quite well, I was enjoying my running, most weeks I would be at running club and some weeks it would be 2 nights and most weeks I'd get to do parkrun when Tina wasn't working.  I was also taking part in the cross country events which was helping with my fitness.  I knew I would lose a couple of weeks at the start of April with the birth of my second little boy but was confident I'd get a few long runs in during April.  Easter Saturday I ran a PB at Leeds parkrun and all was looking good and I was delighted when Easter Sunday Sam Ryan Edwards was born.
From this day to the start of the Leeds half I didn't get half as many runs in as expected. I had one of those months where I couldn't get over a cough and a cold.  I had a couple of weeks of a head cold but I had over 4 weeks with a chesty cough (plus pulled a muscle in my chest through coughing) which wouldn't clear and I ran with this a couple of times when maybe I shouldn't (since been told if its above the neck you can run, below i.e. chest then don't).  In April I managed 3 outings at running club of which the last was a steady run round a park with 3 others who were coming back from injury and became known as cripples in the park! I was gutted that I had to pull out of a 10k run at Harewood, it was my own choice but there was no way I would get round.  On the 4th May I made it to Bradford parkrun and coughed my way round and tried again on the Monday to do 5k and felt drained.  I wasn't enjoying my running now and was putting pressure on myself to get right for the coming weekend. A few people tried to make me feel better and pointed out that there would be other runs and the Leeds half would be there next year.  I knew they were right but I had my parents and sister coming up to see Sam and they had already said they would come to watch and I really wanted to do it.
On the Wednesday before I went to a flat 5k race, when I say flat I mean Yorkshire flat which means its flat apart from the hill you go down then back up.  Again I was coughing too much and had no energy.  I spent the next few days taking everything and anything I could to try and clear my chest.  Soon the morning of the event came and that's when the best medicine of all kicked in...Adrenaline.  I was pleased I managed to eat in the morning and I headed down to the Edge in Leeds to meet up with fellow Hyde Park Harriers getting ready.  I actually felt fairly relaxed talking to others and we had some pre run fun with photos.
We joined the thousands making their way to the start, I had two possible running partners for the day.  Manesha from running club or Emma from parkrun.  I'd meet up with Manesha at the Edge and thankfully we managed to meet up with Emma before the start after it had seemed we may have to meet up in the first mile.  9.30am ticked round and we crossed the start line about 5 minutes after this.  In the first steady mile the group of  Hyde Park Harriers that I had been around started to spread out and I was pleased to see that Manesha was heading away from Emma and myself.  Pleased as I had been worried I would hold her back and as Emma was still struggling with a cold as well we were happy to keep each others pace.  Our aim for the day was to get round, no walking if we could manage it and hopefully beat the sweeper car at 3 hours!

The first two miles past and we were feeling happy with our pace and neither of us seemed to be struggling with our chests which was a relief.  The first 3 miles were fairly flat and it was in this section I saw my family cheering us on (Tina, Liam and Sam, My parents and sister and Tina's parents) and all was good.
Mile 3 to 4 are the first really tough ones as we climbed up Stonegate road, we made sure we backed off our pace and to be honest we weren't taking too much notice of our mile splits.  Plenty of people were out watching, we took the chance to swap sides of the road so we could take the benefit of the guy who was out with the hose as it was starting to warm up now.  The first water station was just after the worst of the climb and most of that went down our backs.  At the top of this road I was chuffed to see my family again and a little lad handing out egg jelly sweets which was well received.  The next section we started to drop down the ring road before the last big climb up along the ring road to Lawnswood roundabout. There had already been HPH supports on route but there was a few up here just where it was needed. This climb, I think, was the toughest as it seemed to go on and on.  Once past the roundabout we knew we were past half way but I was already starting to feel the top of my legs getting stiff as my stride got very short. The next couple of miles were downhill and we both tried to work on this and soon I was past the furthest I had run.  It was around the 8 mile mark that I decided it was time we had the jelly beans I was carrying.  We both had a few and then the rest ended up all over the road as I failed to get them back in my pocket!!
We now found ourselves on Abbey road which is around mile 9.  From now all the way into the finish is mainly one long flat road, part of which I had done on the Abbey Dash back in November.  I was really starting to struggle now, even though it was flat my stride was so small and my legs were so stiff and we just didn't seem to be getting any further down the road, at mile 10 I tried to think it was just a parkrun to go but this didn't really help and my language was starting to get colourful.  Emma and myself were still working well off each other but didn't have any extra to give as we made our way closer to the finish.  We weren't sure if what we were doing could be classed as running but it wasn't walking and we were both happy with the fact our health was holding out.  There was a big cheering squad on Kirkstall road which perked me up a bit and my family had made it to their 3rd spot as well which was an impressive effort.
Finally we were back in the city centre and turned the corner to enter the final straight, gutted to see it was up hill but delighted to see the clock was showing around 2 hours 35.  This was better then we could have dreamt and I would have loved a little sprint finish but I was only just moving now.  We crossed the line together having got round all 13.1 miles, without walking, in 2 hours 31.  With the health issues the previous month I was very very happy and couldn't have done it with out my excellent running buddy Emma.  I managed to find Manesha and was delighted to hear she had finished nearly 10 minutes ahead of me, so proud of her and I must admit we both felt a bit emotional as we walked together after. 
I've had time to take in the day now.  I felt the pain that afternoon and stairs were a big issue the following Monday.  It took me until the following Saturday to try running again but I rate this right up there with my rallying achievements if not higher as this is more of a personal achievement.  I broke down a few personal barriers I have built up over the past few years mainly the nerves and putting too much pressure on myself.  I signed up for next years run the next day as hopefully if I'm healthy in the run up I have a PB target to get.  The medal stayed round my neck the rest of Sunday and I love the finishers t-shirt!

Special thank you to my family for getting around so much, Emma for running with me, Manesha for all the encouragement and also to the amazing Hyde Park Harriers running club both for the fellow runners who were full of support but more so the supporters out on the route who were truly amazing, they seemed to be spaced out just where you needed them.  Thank you all.

'There ain't no barriers to the Hyde Park Harriers.'

Thank You to all the photographers - My dad, Jaz, Anne Akers, Dave McGuire, Kathryn Hogg.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Crash Bang Wallop

Anyone who has competed in any form of motor sport over a length of time is sure to have had a few dramas along the way, and I'm no exception.  Through my time in rallying I have been in a few "broken" cars and given plenty of work to the mechanics.  While looking back through my little black book of events I thought I'd share some of my bigger dramas.

My first few events only had spins but it was my 7th stage rally back on the 1998 Woodpecker event alongside Chris Hodson in his Mk2 Escort that I found the trees for the first time.  It was only a gentle slide into them (driver side) but we needed a bit of spectator help to get us going.  There was plenty there and a few weeks later I got hold of a video which showed plenty having problems there.

In 1999 the night before the Astra stages an accident meant that I didn't even start the event. This turned out to be the only time I went to hospital through rallying and only after getting home, and my dad took me to get my head cleaned.  I learnt a valuable lesson that night, as rally car seat belts can be a pain to get right so I actually wasn't wearing any as we were only heading a mile up a lane to where we were stopping.  Unfortunately the 205 I was in ended up on its roof and I bashed my head on the roll cage as we nearly came out the car.  From this night on I would at least have the lap belt on.  Still in 99 and the Somerset stages with Richard Sykes saw us going head on into a tree after a bump in a dip threw us off line.  Thankfully it was only a short stage so the stage maximum didn't affect us too much and we went onto win our class having won 11 of the 12 stages, my first class win.
My first full season was the following year with Sykes in the Peugeot cup and we started building up our speed until we got to round four the Red Dragon rally.  We found great pace and were leading going into stage 4, where disaster struck over the flying finish when we crashed heavily into a ditch.  To this day I believe I read the map (no pacenotes back then) right and there should have been more road to slow down between the flying finish  and the bend before the stop line.  At the time the atmosphere between Rich and myself wasn't great and wasn't helped by me undoing my belts and landing on him!!  He soon climbed over me to get out and we were later joined in the ditch by another car.  We got plenty of TV coverage from this as the crew were filming from the main road over looking the finish.
Two events later and heading too fast into a bend while trying to get a good start to the event we rolled four times into the trees and our Peugeot cup season was over.  Thankfully my rally career with Rich didn't end on such a low note, I had two more rallies and both went a lot better.  A 3rd in class on Rally GB that year and a one off Winter cup run out and a win a few years later
2001 and a high speed off with Barry Mayers got us more TV coverage. Lots of water before a square right saw us go straight on up a large mound and land on a wall.  The end of the year and a very unfortunate slide wide into a muddy section meant retirement for Mandy Twynham on the last stage of her first forest event.  A sad way to go out and the marshal who tried to help us wasn't too happy either when I shut the door on his hand.  The next event we did also ended in a ditch and Mandy found that kicking the car doesn't help!

2002 and one of my favourite events the Jim Clark Rally with Alan Doncaster came to an early end when we went off and got our Peugeot stuck on a wire fence.  It took us 20 minutes to cut the wire off that got wrapped around the wheel and brake.  We carried on for a short while and had a huge moment over a big jump which saw us heading backwards into a corner.  All good fun of cause.  The Red Kite rally in 2003 was very icy and twice we went off on the same corner.  I was with Olly Marshall in his 206 and we hit a pile of logs with the rear of the car first time through, then second time we didn't even get to the logs, sliding straight on.  Many others did the same that day as the event video proves and is very entertaining.

The 2003 Scottish rally has to go down as one of the biggest low points.  Two different rallies over two days alongside Stuart Jones in his 206 and we crashed out of both.  The first one was the bigger one when we ended up on our roof in a boggy ditch and had to climb out the back of the car.  The car was fixed overnight including the second front screen after the bonnet had come up the day before and smashed it as well.
Considering the amount of rallies we did together and the speed he had, I don't think we did too bad.  We did destroy a farmers fence in Ulster when we crashed out the rally and got a right telling off from his dad as we hadn't noted the road conditions well.  The following year we rearranged the rear of his dads Mitsubishi Evo 3 when we had a heavy impact with a tree on the Jim Clark rally.  The same year I was also sitting with Robin Bolt in the RERT Peugeot and we retired from the Plains rally with a blown engine.  This wasn't helped by rolling in the first stage.
With Ed Stallard in 2005 in the Mitsubishi challenge and we crashed into a ditch on round 2 and couldn't get out.  On the fourth round we went off over the flying finish but were able to keep going but on round 6 a late call from me lost us loads of time with a broken brake calliper.  We came into a hairpin way to fast and the car wouldn't come round.  This was all my fault, as I just didn't call it in time.

In 2006 alongside Chris Moore in the Fiesta Championship and we nearly threw the championship away on the last round when we went to fast into a corner crashing through to the stage on the other side.  Thankfully we were able to recover and won the championship when our main rival crashed out on the last stage.  My final season in 2007 alongside Elfyn Evans and a huge crash in the Fiesta saw us fly over another Fiesta that was parked up and land upside down in the trees.  It was big and I think it was here that I realised what family and friends go through as we vanished for 3 hours from the results and had no phone signal.  I have a disc with about 24 pics from this one roll.  All in all I think I have had my fair share of accidents and am happy to still be in one piece.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Playing in the mud PECO style

Cross Country is something I don't remember doing at school, but after 6 months of running with Hyde Park Harriers I decided to have ago at the PECO Championship.  This is a 5 round series based around Leeds.  I invested in some trail shoes and had a practise run before round 3 at Bramley Fall Park gave me my first opportunity at an event.

It was just over 5 miles so I knew I had run further but the terrain was going to be completely new.  I'd had scare stories the day before about hills and people passing out, and I did get very nervous that morning.  Due to this I could only manage a piece of toast so not the ideal preparation.  Signing on was at the pub, £3 to enter including food after - bargain.  Down near the start all the different running clubs met up.  The PECO is more for teams with the first 8 men and 5 women scoring points rather than it being timed.  Thankfully there were plenty of Hyde Park Harriers men out so where ever i finished wasn't to be a factor.

A cold and frosty morning for the 11am start, so the mud wasn't too bad.  It was a 3 lap course of which I knew there was a hill on each lap.  Some went to check it out but I thought I'd not scare myself anymore and risk changing my mind.  Soon we were off and I started towards the back, steady climb up the field into the wood where there was a couple of bottle necks where it got narrow.  Soon we came to the hill and even on the first lap I didn't run all the way up, further round a second hill came as quite a surprise.  I was enjoying taking part even though the course was tough, but I didn't enjoy lap two when I was getting lapped by the faster runners, especially in the narrow places.  It was tricky and I was already watching my foot placement, guess I'd better get quicker in future.  It was nice to be getting some encouragement from a couple of the faster Hyde Park runners as they came past and "Go Hyde Park" from people dotted around the course is very welcome. 

Final lap and I was feeling it now and I had to walk in places but the marshals kept you going.  It was a great relief to see the finish and I even managed a little sprint, well it was downhill.  In the end I finished 247th out of 254 men but it was all about the experience.  I learnt a lot from this especially about my preparation as felt quite ill at the finish but soon came round after some food.
 Round 4 saw us at Barnbow Field not far from Cross Gates, and I felt I was going into it with a better frame of mind.  Pasta the night before and porridge in the morning set me up right, plus having my fan club of Tina and Liam along this time made a big difference.  I didn't know the course other then it was to be just one lap and there was a water jump which we were to do on both the way out and on the return.

I felt my running had been going ok the past few weeks after a sports massage on my calf's.  I'd been having issues with my right calf but after a good hour spent working on both I was now running pain free.  There was a good turn out of Hyde Park Harriers again, no pressure on me to up my speed, thankfully on a very pleasant morning as we set off.  The early part of the course was a run round a large field and soon gave us a taste of what was to come, mud, mud and more mud.  The first crossing of the water jump was cleared in front of a decent crowd, all waiting for us to mess it up of cause.  Then soon we came to what I thought was the toughest part of the course, up a long hill between two fields.  The mud here was unbelievable, at times it was hard to stand never mind run and even when running it felt you weren't moving.  I had to walk but I wasn't alone but this section really took it out of you.  Finally we got on to a better surface but even then it was tricky as some one fell in front of me, thankfully without any injury.  I was to fall over twice before the finish and both times were my own fault.  Rather then just running through the worst of the mud I was trying to find a drier line, why as I was already muddy I don't know.  This lead to me, first time, slipping sideways and the second time head first over a stump, thankfully fairly dry in both places. 

Back over the water jump and the long slog back round the field and one last climb, which I must admit to partly walking until I could be seen from the finish. Finally I made it home 194th male out of 198.  What was more important was that both the mens and ladies teams had a storming day winning their divisions.  The only thing I hadn't realised was the post event comparing of muddy legs on Facebook! I'd washed mine by then, I may not have won that but I reckon I have the whitest than anyone else ha.
Finally round 5 at Boddington fields and the event organised by my running club - Hyde Park Harriers.  This gave me the chance to see a bit more what is involved in putting on an event like this.  A couple of weeks before I had the pleasure of joining a couple of the organisers for a jog round the fields as they planned the route and it was interesting to listen to what they had to look for and consider in terms of obstacles, areas that the runners had to be kept off and where people could go the wrong way.  Tina and Liam got involved a couple of days before by making a few cakes, a request that went out to all members and made for a really good selection at the finish.

The day of the run and it was an early start, first job was a bit of car park duty, trying to fit all the cars in around the old student accommodation.  It was soon time to get ready and test out the ground, very muddy near the start and finish but thankfully after a few dry days some places seemed ok as we got ready for 2 laps.  The course layout was very interesting with a few long sections with some sections with sharp turns as you zig zag your way round fields.  As always a good turn out for the club so I got asked if I would do sweeper duties, run last and let the marshals know on the second lap that they could now start to tidy up the course.  Almost the same as course closing car really on the rallies and a great excuse for me running slow. 

First lap it felt a little strange, I wouldn't have been too much further up the field but I was holding back, and even so I was still getting cheered on.  The second lap I really started to enjoy it and was able to chat to some of the runners and thank the marshals along the way.  The course was very good and I enjoyed the experience and actually helped more then if I was running for a place.  It had been good to see the work involved, and the event seemed to have been well received and the food after was excellent.  All in all the whole PECO experience has been really good, running as part of the club, wearing the vest and getting the support is something all runners should experience.  I'm never going to be fast but I have definitely found something to replace the buzz I used to get from rallying.  I can't wait to hopefully have ago at all 5 rounds next time round, now  just have to clean my shoes!!
The men finished the event 4th which should keep them in the top division and the ladies had another excellent 1st place winning their division.  Well done to all involved through out the season.

Photos thanks to Nicola Forward, Ian Wilson and Woodentops.

Monday, 25 February 2013

My brief rally career

Over the coming months there will be many stories on here from my rallying days when i used to be a codriver. For now a brief overview of my career follows -

I started out doing 12 car navigational events in the Northern Exposure championship. First one was in 1995. In total I did 44 with 2 different drivers, getting 5 wins, 4 seconds and 7 thirds. I was first novice in 1995/96 and runner up overall with Paul Bunch in 96/97 and 97/98 seasons. Great way to learn maps and was great fun.

1997 - Started stage rallying with Chris Hodson in a mk2 Escort. First ever event at the Tour of Lincs Rally. Also did my first road rally with Paul Bunch in a borrowed mk1 Escort finishing 3rd novice.
1998 - Finished runner up in class in the Welsh National Championship alongside Chris Hodson. Also started doing a few more road rallies with Lee Bartlett in a Fiesta.

1999 - The year things started to change for me. Had 4 rallies with Richard Sykes in a Peugeot 106 when his regular codriver couldn't. Best result was 1st in class in Somerset where we were fastest on 11 of the 12 stages, the other we had a head on with a tree. Had a 1st overall on the Saw & Weld Novice Road Rally with Lee, winning by over 8 minutes.

2000 - Did the Peugeot Cup alongside Richard Sykes. Runner up on round 3 was best result but crashed out of the lead of round 4, which was my first roll. Did a one off rally on the Tour of Flanders with Robin Bolt, my first over seas rally and finished the year on such a high and an amazing experience when i finished 3rd in class alongside Sykes on the World Rally Championship Rally GB. A guy called Seb Loeb won the class, wonder what happened to him.

2001 - The experiences just got better and better as I went to Barbados for a weekend to do a rally there with my driver for the year Barry Mayers, finishing 9th overall and winning our class. Prize giving on the beach is the way to go.

2002 - Low key stage rally year but won the AWMCC Road Rally championship alongside Lee Bartlett with a 1st in class, a 2nd and a 3rd.
2003 - Won the Peugeot Winter cup alongside my new driver Stuart Jones. Started off with 5 rallies to earn the seat and we did 27 together this year, winning our class 9 times. We won our first ever Peugeot cup round and were also BTRDA class A6 winners. Low of the year was when we crashed out of both days of the rally in Scotland.

2004 - Amazing year. Peugeot 206 cup champion alongside Stuart, winning 3 rounds and being fastest crew on over half of the stages. We won the title on the final round when we lead from stage 1. BTRDA A6 runner up thanks to Robin Bolt and voted Wolverhampton & South Staffs car club competitor of the year.
2005 - Hard to follow 2004, but actually had one of my most enjoyable years in the most professional team I had the pleasure of being in when I was alongside Ed Stallard in the VRS run Mitsubishi Evo 8. Mixed year results wise but great experience. Helped Richard Sykes to his first Peugeot win on a one off winter cup outing.
2006 - Won the brand new Fiesta Championship with 2 wins and 2 seconds alongside Chris Moore. The championship went to the last stage where our main rival crashed and we needed to finish 2nd, which we did by .8 of a second. Also won the ANCRO Clubmans championship and finished the season with an outing on Rally GB.
2007 - Turned out to be my last full season. Finished 2nd codriver in the Fiesta championship alongside Elfyn Evans, son of Gwyndaf. High pressure season with mixed results including a very big accident. Finished the year with an amazing class win on the Rally GB, winning our class by 5 minutes.
I then quit the sport for reasons which will come out in later blogs. I've only been tempted back out on a road rally with the late Paul Adams and on single venue events with Ken Moore in his Subaru.

I'd like to thank all my drivers along the way for the great experience and chances given to me, there family's who always made me welcome, the teams I was in, all the mechanics who had to fix the cars, all the championship and event organisers, the speccys who have got us out of holes and all the fellow competitors I had the pleasure to meet. I've been very lucky to meet a lot of great people.

All my drivers - Paul Bunch, Chris Hodson, Shane Gamble, Lee Bartlett, Richard Sykes, Mark Gamble, Pat MacArthur, Robin Bolt, Barry Mayers, Simon Rigsby, Mandy Twynham, Alan Doncaster, Olly Marshall, Stuart Jones, Shaun Woodhouse, Ed Stallard, Chris Moore, Nick Edwards, Elfyn Evans, Paul Adams, Ken Moore.

Friday, 22 February 2013

To the Abbey and back

Leeds Abbey Dash 2012 - Sunday 18th November 2012

I always used to get nervous the morning of a rally, most of which was understandable with the dangers involved.  One bad note from me could affect our result, and maybe our whole season.  So I was a little surprised to be getting the same feelings the morning of the Leeds Abbey Dash.

This was to be my first 10k run, first big event with over 9000 people registering for the dash from Leeds City centre to Kirkstall Abbey and back.  Thankfully a fairly flat course for a distance i knew deep down i could do having run just over 9k with running club, but the nervous feeling was down to the fear of failing.  Personal pride was all that was at stake but my competitive side that i used to have was starting to come out.

Well i soon found myself at the mass start proudly wearing my Hyde Park Harriers running vest alongside my running buddy for the day Manesha.  We had been running together on a Tuesday night at running club and were happy to run at similar pace.  Officially the only target we had was to finish but deep down I wanted to be around the hour mark using my 5k pace plus a bit.  We were just going to take it steady though and see where that got us.

It was a sunny but chilly morning when the clock ticked round to 9.30 and the excitement was building.  Slowly we made our way to the start line finally crossing it a good 10 minutes after the fastest had started.  I managed to glance Tina, Liam, Peter and Rita my fan club for the day as we got going and was waved off.

The first K went quicker then expected without pushing hard.  We were just finding a comfortable place on the road and finding a steady pace.  I had said i wouldn't clock watch but had a glance and was surprised to see it was sub 6 minutes.  In my head I had split the run into 4 sections.  From the start to the viaduct which was about 2k, from there to the turn at 5k, back to the viaduct and then the run to the finish.

I felt good as we passed the 2k mark and was really enjoying the experience, not long after we started to see the faster runners returning up the road.  This actually helped me as i was trying to spot fellow Hyde Park Harriers and before i knew it the Abbey was in sight.  The turn brought the water station which was a bit manic but then we could settle in for the return run.  I started to feel my knee at this point but it was probably my mind just playing tricks.  Manesha and i both seemed happy with the pace even if conversation had dropped.  Passing the viaduct again and we knew we had less then 15 minutes of running left, but there was an incline before the run to the finish.

We were actually starting to pass a few as we climbed up, the Tuesday night practice of this part of the route was paying off and when we came round the last corner the finish was in sight.  Manesha suggested we find a sprint but i had none to give, but with a bit more encouragement we gave it a go.  Crossing the finish line was a great feeling, we had finished our first ever 10k and it was great that it was at a big event like this.  We were both delighted and looking at my watch suggested we had beaten the hour mark but i wanted to wait for the official result.  We collected our drinks, handed back our timing chips and finally got our finishers T-shirt.  Next time i need to run quicker as they only had large left, bit of incentive there.  Finally getting back to Tina the time had already come through on text, 59 minutes 59 seconds.  Buzzing was an understatement.  The whole atmosphere had been great, running in club colours added to it as we got plenty of encouragement along the way.

I know I'm not fast as I was one of the slowest Hyde Park Harriers men to complete the route but this was more about personal achievement.  What next??

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Why me

Why should I blog -

To be honest I'm just a normal family guy, happily married with a young boy and another on the way. I work Monday to Friday for a steel company. 18 years i have worked for them under different names (British Steel, Corus and now Tata) and for the last 5 years this has been in Leeds after moving up from my home in Wolves.

So nothing to interest people really. I used to have an exciting hobby as i used to be a codriver in rallying. I was the guy who told the driver where to go, while going 100 mph through a forest or down a narrow lane. In my time i didn't do too bad, won the odd piece of glass and made many friends along the way. I was also lucky enough to get to travel around the UK, France, Belgium and Barbados.

I wanted to write a book so my boy (s) could read in years to come what i had done in the past rather then think what a boring dad they have. The problem was i struggled to even get started even though i have plenty of stories and experiences in my head to share, putting it onto paper was proving hard. A friend of mine has a blog mainly for the photography and so i decided this could be a way to get my stories across with out having to link them all up. Also over the last year i have found a new love to replace rallying but still allowing me to get out and being competitive even if its only with my self. Running has given me a new lease of life and hopefully i can share some of the experiences i get along this new journey i am taking along with a few event reports. If your all lucky i may even share feelings on subjects i usually keep to myself and share my inner most demons.. or maybe not as i don't want to scare you all off.

I don't even mind how few people will ready any of my ramblings, those that do i hope you find them enjoyable. I will welcome feed back along the way on style or content but go easy on me especially at first. Enjoy.