Blinded by Technology (Peak District Challenge)

5am alarms are usually reserved for going on holiday, but as I leap (stumble) out of bed it’s for an entirely different reason.  It’s to get a train out to Hathersage for the 50km Peak District Challenge which I’m running as a duo with Michelle Edye.  We’ve both been putting the miles and pork pies in over the last few months, with lots of training sessions out in the Peaks, so are hoping we’ll be ready for the challenge ahead.  This is a running/walking event, so when we arrive at the registration hall I use my powers of perception to weigh up the competition and I decided they were running if they were wearing shorts…… scientific I know.  Given the lack of legs on show it looked like most of the entrants were going for the walking option.

We’d all received our checkpoint info about a week before and we’d had a busy route planning session linking up the checkpoints, plotting onto paper maps and studying every inch of the route, however it will soon become clear that this wasn’t true at all.  Once we’d planned it I transferred the route onto Strava and uploaded to my GPS.  Whilst I think we’re both pretty comfortable with navigation, the plan was to leave the maps in the bag and use my GPS watch the whole way which meant far less stopping and more time running.

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“This is all very well and good, but where do we get to eat the sausage rolls?”

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Team “Lost in the North” pretended that this was a reasonable time to be up in the morning

Suddenly, we were off around 8:30am and trotted down the lane merrily.  The weather was pleasant, conversation was flowing, birds were singing (probably) so everything was going amazingly to plan.  I think we had a few minor thoughts that this didn’t seem to be the route we planned, but being slaves to technology, completely ignored it. It was when a gentlemen told us we were heading towards Froggatt edge that faint alarm sleigh bells started jingling in the back of my mind.  Froggatt edge was at the end of the route wasn’t it? We stopped and consulted the map, which I’m sure had an “I told you so” look all over it.  Sure enough we’d started going clockwise round the route instead of anti-clockwise!

Having already done 7km and some not-insignificant uphill the best thing we could think of doing was sit down on a rock.  Michelle phoned the race organisers who offered to pick us up, but the damage was done and there was no way we wanted any ferrying around, so we decided just to carry on.  50km is 50km whichever way round you do it!

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Froggatt Edge – some five hours before we were meant to be there

The people manning the first checkpoint seemed vaguely surprised to see us, which was an entirely understandable reaction considering they were actually the last checkpoint. Nevertheless we explained our situation, ate their lovely flapjacks and continued along the route.  With the initial disappointment out of the way we started enjoying the fantastic views and ticking off the miles. It actually turned out to be a good experience as sometime around halfway we started seeing other entrants coming towards us who we recognised from registration and who looked slightly surprised to see us! Clearly we were anti-establishment, the renegades, flouting the rules of the race!

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Somewhere in the Peaks.

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Yoga….  I think.

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Team Badges

The deeper we got into the route, the more people we came across coming the other way, all trying to give each other encouragement that “lunch checkpoints weren’t far away” which really depends on your definition of far.  Or lunch.  We met various runners on other (much-longer) ultra-races and most seemed happy to pause for a quick chat to see how far we were all through our challenges.  By the time we got to the last (first) checkpoint everyone had already gone home so we text them as “proof” that we made it and continued on for the last 10km stretch to the end.

Right about now, the heavens opened.  I’m not talking about a little shower – this was the kind of rain you should be looking at out of your window, shaking your head back-and-forth, whilst clutching a cup of tea.  After a while we probably couldn’t get any wetter so decided to try and get some kind of pace going, which we probably should have named “Slow+1”.  We soon came across a wiry long haired fellow also inevitably drenched.  We started chatting and he casually tells us he’s running to Sheffield and is around 40-50 miles in to a 60 mile race like this is the most normal thing in the world to be doing on a Saturday lunchtime. It was round about then I realised we are all probably insane.

I tried to high-five Michelle to get the spirits up.  We missed.  Twice.  We considered wading through a river to get back to the end quicker. Brain function was clearly becoming difficult.

A mere 7 hours 28 minutes, 55.6km and 1,300m of elevation after starting, we arrived back at the race HQ and were instantly presented with a curry which was gratefully received. Michelle started eating everything (note how she’s attempting to conceal a large tomato in her hand in the pic below), and that was the challenge over!

Loads of thanks to the organisers who put on a great event, and to the checkpoint marshals who give up their time to stand on there in the cold for hours on end!  I think we had the second quickest time for the 50km, but doubt it will stand with such a large deviation from the suggested route.

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Done.  Ultrarunning badge in the post.

And so the long-running journey continues……  Man vs Mountain (Snowdon) on 3rd September and the Project Trail 50 miler in November!

Man vs Barge

The weekend before the big Peak District Challenge, randomly, Michelle and I entered a race called (Wo)Man vs Barge. At the risk of spoiling the whole story, Michelle won and I sort of won.

The race was a random Facebook find which looked like a bit of fun during the last bit of tapering. It was a five mile jaunt over a hill racing against a canal barge travelling through Standedge tunnel, which I now know is the longest canal tunnel in the country. Whilst its great to know these things, coming from the Black Country I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for the Netherton tunnel which is legendary in its own right!

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The barge in all its glory

I’m not delusional about my running ability, I’ve worked hard over the last couple of years and can just about get a parkrun under 20 mins, but generally in races there are loads of quick people zipping off way ahead of me so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself running with the top five and being able to keep up! We were soon doing some serious incline when someone behind shouted we were all going the wrong way! I turned around to see a stream of runners going along a separate path! No!!!! This had seemed to be a chance to actually do well in a race! I bounded down the hill and soon met up with Michelle who’d also made the same mistake. By that point we were single file and walking with the main group and queuing to get over stiles, disaster!

As soon as I could, I made a break for it, knowing it was going to take some serious effort to get anywhere near the new front of the pack. Things started thinning out and I could see a couple of guys far up ahead and it took a big grit of the teeth to eventually catch up with them around about the highest point on the race. Like life, it was all downhill from here🙂 Being in a team race next weekend any injury would be an absolute disaster, so I completely disregarded this and I flew down the hill as fast as I could knowing there were a couple of guys hot on my heels.

Suddenly I was at the end and was told I had come first.  This was slightly confusing as there was a bloke in front of me! It turns out he was doing two laps so I’d “won” the one lap race! Given my mess up at the start I was grateful to accept and got presented with a Standage tunnel plaque! Mere minutes after I crossed the line Michelle came bounding over the line first female by loads and received her plaque! It was Cheshire cat grins all round – the Peak-District-Pork-Pie-Eating had clearly been working and what a way to taper before our 50km run next weekend with a team win!! A beer on the canal path followed by chip butty at the local pub made for a great morning!

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Winners!

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Its longer than the Netherton tunnel😦

Peak District Challenge next weekend!!

A bit of final gear chat, I really am liking my Columbia Montrail trail shoes. So much so I’m going to use them for the Peak District Challenge to give them a proper long run out!

Lost in the North

I have now officially received the training plans for Project Trail.  Gone are my original visions of spending the first week gently looking up intervals on the internet over a cup of tea.  Oh no, this is straight into it….  the Project Trail training programme is via. TrainAsONE which generates a plan and updates as you upload your runs via. Strava or similar.  The software is currently beta so its great to be involved at this stage and see how this is developing.

Whilst clearly the aim of Project Trail is to canter around 50 miles of Wendover Woods, I currently have more pressing issues ahead of me – namely the 50km Peak District Challenge, or the PDC as us trendies now refer to it.  There are some options of distance, from 10km to 100km, and I’ve gone for the 50km.  This time I’m part of a duo and I’m fortunate enough to know someone else silly enough to want to do it (Michelle) and, for the record, the entire thing is her fault.

Here’s how it happened……

I just can’t seem to stop entering races.  I used to get drunk and buy stuff off Amazon, but now I get drunk and enter races.  Whilst on our usual Tuesday night chatting/running session I was moaning about not being sure what to enter next and later I got a text about the PDC!  When I saw you could enter as a team I instantly started crafting a cunning plan to persuade Michelle to enter.  As it turns out all I had to do was ask, and then spend some time convincing her that the 100km might be too far!

We’ve been busy training at various locations over the Peaks planned on Strava route-builder – I’ve put some links at the bottom of this post to several of the routes we’ve ran.  Running as a team will be interesting as races are usually such solitary events and of course there is the added pressure of not wanting to let her down after all the hard works thats gone into this.  Its not just been running training, we’ve been practicing our pork pie eating, our “how-soggy-can-you-get-your-trainers” sessions and most importantly perfecting the “missing-a-train-so-you-get-to-go-to-the-pub” strategy.  Here’s a few pics from training….

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Mainly worrying about missing essential Facebook updates whilst up here

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17 miles in and a crinkly sweet potato becomes the best thing ever!

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Paths? Where we’re going you don’t need paths!

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I’ve never been so pleased to see Lyme Park

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Team “Lost in the North”

The race is 20th August, so I’ll post about how we got on!

PEAK DISTRICT ROUTES

Macclesfield 27km (this was done incredibly hungover) https://www.strava.com/routes/4180229

Glossop 14km https://www.strava.com/routes/4313977

Staley Bridge to Greenfield 30km https://www.strava.com/routes/4994797

Hathersage 34km (route from Trail Runner mag) https://www.strava.com/routes/4994924

Lyme Park to Macclesfield 19km https://www.strava.com/routes/5179009

Macclesfield to Lyme Park 38km https://www.strava.com/routes/5947541

Chinley 16km https://www.strava.com/routes/6003656

Manchester Circular (Canal, Heaton Park, River Irwell) 32km https://www.strava.com/routes/4180083

 

 

Project Trail: Meeting the team

After the fantastic news that I’d been selected for Project Trail I headed to our nation’s Capital for the photoshoot last week.  To avoid ridiculously priced peak time trains, instead of my usual Tuesday Sweatshop run from the Manchester Arndale, I ended up going down the night before.  I phoned Murray, arranged a quick warm down game and headed off for Wimbledon.  I arrived at Euston, had a disciplined pint to relax (£4.90 and served by an Aussie – clearly I had arrived in London) and then got the tube out to Wimbledon.

Quite an uneventful night followed in the smallest hotel room ever, but I survived and headed on to Wimbledon Common to meet the Men’s Running team……  I soon met up with Rick (the editor) and the rest of the team, along with a friendly familiar face, Anne-Marie who i’d completed the Thunder Run with the previous year!  It was about now that I started eyeing up the piles of boxes on the car park which was our gear hoard – full kit from Columbia Montrail, a TomTom Runner Cardio watch, some Adidas sunglasses and enough High5 nutrition to make me seriously concerned about making it back to Manchester carrying this lot on public transport!

After meeting the other entrants (Jon and Nic) and also the competition winners from Women’s Running, we all eagerly changed into our new fancy trail running gear and headed further into the Common to find some suitable spots for photographs which will be used for the forthcoming Project Trail articles.  I’m much more used to being on the other side of a camera, but managed to pull out a few tough-runner poses even though I’m not a fan of being in “the limelight”.  We were asked a few interview questions to be used for the mag and did a quick video interview (links below), I definitely get very self-conscious in front of a video camera!  A quick run round the common later to try out our new gear and it was time to head off home!

A really great part of this whole experience is getting a training plan devised by Robbie Britton.  We have a call scheduled this week to discuss the plan so proper training will be starting very soon and apparently, I’m going to have to get very very used to hill reps!

Here’s the three of us just before heading off home, and some links to the YouTube videos below.

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Jon, Dan (me) and Nic

Project Trail: The Photoshoot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUFSQPic-GU

The Interviews:

Dan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr_N29marhw

Jon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbJkK9pcZ_Y

Nic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDbOizg5m1o

 

Project Trail

Out-of-the-blue, I’ve been given a fantastic opportunity to be part of Project Trail after entering a competition in Men’s Running mag!!!

What is Project Trail I hear you cry!  It’s an ongoing feature in the mag where 3-4 guys are entered into a race, trained up to within an inch of their lives and then featured for a few months to show their progress.  The race this time is a biggie…..  Its the Wendover Woods 50 miler!  As well as race entry we also get training plans and advice from Team GB’s Robbie Britton and lots of free running gear!!  If its anything like previous “Project Trails” then there’ll be a regular feature on how me, and the other two competition winners, are getting on, so my ugly mug will be out there in a national magazine!  I’m off to Wimbledon for the first photoshoot this week so am covered in fake tan, and am plucked and preened to within an inch of my life (last 18 words not true).

Whilst I have been working hard at running, this really will be a challenge…. 50 miles…. that’s just a bit less than two marathons…… its 16 parkruns…. its…… really…… far…… am I going to be able to do this?  One thing is for certain, its going to take something pretty serious to stop me🙂

I have written the odd race report on this blog, but I do intend to do more frequent posts on how the whole experience and training is going and, ultimately, a full report on the race itself.  I considered starting a new blog as this one was really dedicated to my exploration into music, sound bending and camera mangling, but then it dawned on me I really was overthinking it.  Given all the content that’s been posted here since I started it in June 2012, running is just another “tentacle” emerging and another part of my life…..

With the evil pincers of available time closing in on me, I have unfortunately taken a break from my piano lessons as over the last few months had been able to dedicate less and less time to it, and really want (and need) to dedicate the required time and effort to run a fifty mile race just a few short months away!  There are still a few songs in the pipeline which will get finished eventually.  At least I can blame one of them on Mat because I’ve been waiting since October 2015 for him to send me a bassline, but these things can’t be rushed eh?🙂

I set up a new Twitter account more geared towards running, so follow it HERE @allhailthetrail

In honour of this momentous time, I have drawn a stick man running up a mountain…..

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Coniston (Photos and Marathon Running)

I spent some time in Coniston in the Lake District last weekend, predominantly to run a marathon (which I report on below), but first up are a few photos I took over the few days.

A Gate

First up a lowly gate combined with the fantastic evening sky

A Coniston Lake

The beautiful calm of Coniston

A Grange

This is Grange-over-sands where we stopped off on the way.  I initially wasn’t too taken with this shot, but the more I look at it the more I like it.  Nice sky, great brickwork and a summery girl at the bottom to bring in a bit of colour.

A Coniston view

A field, a couple of hills and some drama

Race Report: On to the run itself.  Having recently run the 50km Canalathon followed swiftly by Manchester marathon, I was reasonably confident for getting round the Lakeland Trails Coniston Marathon.  Its only a few extra hills isn’t it?  In my head I’m already a long distance trail runner, but the reality is quite different.  I’ve ran a marathon distance three times (all during 2016) and done plenty of trail running but never actually combined the two, so this was my chance to get out there and prove it!  I had about 8 weeks since Manchester marathon so no sooner had I recovered and started getting the distances up it was time to start ramping down again, my longest run being a hilly 30km in the Peak District.  Was I going to be ready for this??  Well here I am ready to go, 8am with a lovely stroll down to race HQ where it’s a hive of activity.  Its worth noting now that even pre-9am it was already looking to be a scorcher of a day.

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Living in Manchester I’m an expert at rain running, point me along a canal towpath and I’ll splash along for as long as I need to, but running……. in this heat?! We were off around 9am and I got into a reasonably comfortable pace but as we entered the first climb many shifted into a “power-hike” and I shortly followed suit (with hindsight I’d have taken it a lot easier at the start).  It was tough running, mainly as very little of the route was shaded so the sunshine was quite relentless, but things were going reasonably well and I got to halfway around 2 hours.

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The picture above was taken from near enough the highest point in the race at around 15 miles, so whilst there was a reasonable amount of climbing (my watch said 920m) it was pretty much several “ups and downs” rather than one large climb, but the views up here were fantastic and make this type of running so much more rewarding than pounding the pavement.  I really had begun to tire by this point and knowing there was another 10+ miles to go in 25 degree+ heat was quite a challenge on the mind.  I’m a stubborn bastard though so I kept repeating my mantra “The finish line doesn’t move, you do!” to get me through it.  I also put some music on (hip hop of course) but that did kind of ruin the natural vibe of the run.

Five or so miles later I found myself approaching a dead body face down in some “scrubland”.  I was quite unsurprised given the heat but thought I had better investigate just to make sure that they were either dead or doing the finest “planking” session in the north-west.  Rather than death, the unfortunate runner had got something worse – cramp.  Planking seemed to be his cure for it and he assured me he was ok, so given it was nearly lunchtime and all I continued on into the heat.

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The view above, whilst fantastic in it own right, I found quite soul destroying.  I had around five miles to go and running had become almost optional with the vast majority of people around me resorting to trekking along feeling sorry for themselves, and what could we see? Mainly nothing but a long dry path, not a water station or shady forest in sight.  But as I mentioned above, the marathon organisers were hardly likely to bring the finish line up here to me so jog on I did.  I did come across a small stream so I filled up my hat and poured the lot over my head which did seem to invigorate me somewhat!

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An hour or so later and this is me in the last 50m, incredibly relieved!! Wind-on about 2 minutes later and I was in the lake, oh the lovely cool lake.  I finished in a time of 4:42:21 which to put into perspective is a whopping increase from my Manchester marathon time of 3:27:37, which goes to show what the hills and heat can do to you!  A fantastic organised race with a really good crowd.  “Interestingly” I finished 62nd, which was also my race number so clearly I carefully planned my time and finishing position🙂

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Its done, dunno what all the fuss was about!

I learnt a lot about pacing (slow slow slow) and a lot about my own abilities.  I know I have loads to work on to build up for some long races later this year and all being well some even longer ones next year!

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Soothing marathon feet!

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Goodbye for a while Coniston.

HDR Photos (Greenfield, MOSI, Media City)

I’ve been experimenting recently with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, which is taking 3 (or more) photos at different exposures and combining them to get the best exposure range across the picture.  I’ve been using some software called Photomatix which came free with a magazine and has a few “painting” type settings which with various tweaking seem to give a surreal effect.  I really like the output, but i’m going to struggle to take a “normal” photo again!  So….. here they are…..

First up (and probably my favourite of the bunch) a couple taken around media city in Manchester, home to the BBC and ITV:

Media City Bridge

BBC Building

These ones were taken at Greenfield just a short train journey from Manchester on the edge of the Peak District (bottom one edited by Mat to get a better composition):

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Finally, on a wander round the city, I visited the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and popped into the Cathereral:

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CHURCH

I really like how most of these turned out and the almost strange effect that can be achieved.  I think it maybe works better on more “human built” things than the natural world, but lots of future experimenting to do!

Race Report: Canalathon and Lyme Park

Canalathon 50km

Last July, I entered an “Ultramarathon”.  I must’ve been on a running high because the furthest I’d run was a half marathon, but it seemed like a suitable challenge!  The race was the “Canalathon”, the course starting close to my flat in Manchester City and weaving its way along the canal to Soweby Bridge in Yorkshire, a total of 50km.  Clearly that wasn’t enough for some people who took the 75km and 100km options, but 50 was enough for me!

Time rolled around and suddenly it was 27th March 2016 and I was up at stupid-o’clock (not helped by the clock going forward) loitering in a retail estate car park on the outskirts of Manchester along with a few hundred other runners.

After a quick race briefing (run 50km that way *points*) we were off.  I know these canals well and knew they would soon get clogged so got myself in a good starting position and settled in to a comfortable (although faster than planned) pace.  I’m not going to etch out every detail so I’ll try and summarise in blocks: –

  • 0-10km – What the hell time is it? When did I agree to this? 50km seems an awful long way.
  • 10-20km – This is awesome, I’m a hero!!!!
  • 20-30km – Past half-way, and I’ve got to do that again!!!?
  • 30-40km – “Only” 20km left.  Eating anything anyone is offering you and that I can find in my bag.
  • 40-50km – Everything hurts.

There was great support all round the course and it really helps to get some cheering when you’re at a low-point.  I really do appreciate the organisers/volunteers who give up their time to make these things happen – standing out in the cold on a canal by Rochdale all day really does take some dedication!

Then suddenly it was over. I didn’t actually realise I was at the finish point so had to be told to stop! And that was that, after many months of tough training, endless talking about it to anyone who would listen, it was all over.

I definitely wanted to finish under 5 hours but I ended in position 15 of 166 finishers with a time of 4:26:35, so a great result for me! Link to Results

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Before and After (for some reason I seem to have to lean to the right)

 

Lyme Park Night Run 6km

I wrote most of this back in January after the race but didn’t get round to posting, so here it is.

Lyme Park…….. A glorious escape from city centre life, perfect for a summers day picnic or a cheek flushing stroll to try and catch a view of some deer.  That’s why I was there on a cold, dark, wet Saturday night along with 300 or so others excitedly strapping on a head torch.

This was part of the National Trust night run series, with both a 3km and 6km route available. The former mainly consisting of family/younger entries with the big boys and girls braving the longer distance. We lined up cautiously quite far from the start line which I instantly regretted when we started as it took quite some effort to get over the line, around the crowds and into some kind of position where I could get up to a proper pace. This was a squelchy mud bath with 3-4 punishing hills. The biggest difference I noticed with night running in muddy conditions is that in the light you subconsciously plan the optimum clearer path. With just the extent of torch light there is no such luxury so any wrong choice can take you deeper into the mud.

It was all over some 31 mins later with the last km being pretty much completely on my own, no one snapping at my heels and no chance of catching anyone in front so came in with no idea where i was in the ranking. The results came up on Sunday showing is placed 6th, but then having another look on Monday and five people were suddenly added in front of me, so 11th it was…. Slightly gutting (especially as I excitedly posted by best ever race position to FB!) but such is life.  My running buddy, Michelle, came in first female by over a minute, which is a fantastic result. So we got drunk after and talked about any other fun challenges that may be loitering out there! Post run recovery real-ale of course :-S

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Ancoats

Ancoats

Since my Lumix GX1 suffered a heat stroke in Gran Canaria and I replaced with a GX7 back in Sept/Oct I barely seem to have used it.  When I’m out running I see so many things I’d love to photograph, but the two hobbies are very incompatible! I finally took a local stroll without my shorts and trainers instead armed with a camera and thought I’d focus on one particular area – the southern part of Ancoats close to Manchester City Centre.

Before I even knew I was destined to become a Manchester resident I visited here back in 2013 with work so spent some eerie time in the deserted/derelict Morning Star hostel and school which I mentioned in THIS POST.  Its a strange area on the fringe of the city, clearly industrial, but lots of deserted/derelict buildings with pockets of nice flats, kind of like the Northern Quarter has burst its seams and some hipsters have spilled over Great Ancoats Street clutching their Macbooks and little dogs.  I’ve not gone for beautiful photos here (ability problems) so just tried to capture the vibe of the area.  So, without further ado, here are a few snaps!.

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Anita Street, very clean and well presented considering the surrounding area!

Coffee

Nestled inside an old Mill, a coffee shop serving Ancoats Coffee.  A true hispter hangout.

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I wouldn’t try getting in here….

 

Car

The hawk-eyed amongst you will be screaming “That’s not Ancoats!!!” and you’d be right.  I wanted to try out keeping some colour in a B&W photo so here is my first effort.  This car is in the NQ right by Cord bar and hasn’t moved since I began living here.

George Leigh Street

George Leigh Street

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I too, wish I knew the way.

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Swift half down Smith’s?

So there you go.  It was good to get out with the camera again and also try out a few different editing techniques on the pics above.  Until next time…..

 

Ectopic Beats

WALL

I’ve had an idea in my head for years about doing some kind of big doom metal track with crunching guitars and blast beats. I’ve finally got round to extracting the idea from brain to airwaves. Not content with keeping it straight “doom”, I’ve snuck in some 80s synth pop/rock, dark metal screaming, middle eastern twangs and some other synth warblings.

Not for the faint hearted or anyone with sensitive eardrums, here is ……. Ectopic Beats.

Techy stuff: All drums manually programmed on EZDrummer using the Drumkit from Hell kits, but I also managed to include a short section using the classic TR8 drum machine. For the first time I’ve also programmed all of the guitar lines (played through a Korg Kross) and most of the lead lines as well, using the in-built Cubase synth Halion Sonic. Its a totally different way of working and its been great to try something different and be able to change sounds after you’ve laid a part down, but then I don’t think you quite get the same vibe as “normal” recording.  Great to give it a try though, and that’s what the music is about on the site, trying out different stuff! The Arturia Microbrute also features here, leaving programming at the door, that’s just big dirty analogue sounds and live tweaking.

On other subjects, running is becoming all time-consuming now with the next few weeks dedicated to building up my fitness to achieve a 50km run at the end of March. Followed by the Manchester Marathon two weeks later. It may be my legs that end up in a bucket rather than the tentacles after that. I’m doing the run for sponsorship, so if any kind souls out there want to sponsor me, please visit my JustGiving page HERE

 

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