Monday, 8 October 2018

Week of wind and frost....

TomTom tells me total mileage last week after 4 runs was 16.77 with 1,636ft of ascent.   Considering my sneezes, snuffles and lack of sleep that can't be too bad.  I stayed low on Tuesday due to the cold, horrendous wind buffeting my hilltop cottage and did a few reps round the local cemetery.  Matt, a personal trainer was there, sans client, doing a personal work-out that mainly involved running backwards and sideways between the graves!
Back in my warm den after Tuesday's blustery run 
(Click to enlarge pictures)
The weather quietened down by Thursday but it was a dreich, gloomy sort of morning as I trundled up Castle Hill a little later than usual to find I had brief company in the form of another runner. Then the local poacher with his two whippets.  Then a keen walker from the village who's been walking the same 5 mile circuit round Farnley for so long I'm surprised he hasn't worn a trench.  First words from each of them was "I haven't seen you for a while", and I thought no, that's because you haven't been getting up here early enough.
Setting off to Grassington
 Saturday's run with my wonderful partner was a 4¾ mile circuit to Grassington, Linton Falls and back along the riverbank.
Some of the locals
With the onset of autumn we had high hopes of enjoying a riot of russet and gold tints, mainly among horse chestnuts lining the River Wharfe.
Linton Falls
After recent deluges the Wharfe was almost bursting it's banks and created a fine spectacle as it cascaded over the rocks at Linton falls, washing the feet of adjacent houses as it roared past.
Houses by Linton falls
"And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on a rock" (Matthew 7:25)
Nevertheless, I'm not sure I'd like to live in any of those properties though I guess they must already have stood the test of time.
Looking up-river to the weirs
We lingered on the bridge for quite some time, fascinated by the noise and torrents of water flowing beneath us, conditions beloved by white water canoeists whom we've seen there in the past. 
Changing colours along the riverbank
 We dragged ourselves away and spurted off towards Hebden for after an earlier 45 mile commute from Almondbury we were getting a little behind time.  Pork pie time, that is.
Pleasant running under the chestnuts.
The autumn tints aren't quite at their best yet, but they're getting there and I've no doubt we'll have many more colourful runs before the leaves fall.
Run wide, run deep...
We were soon back to Hebden Suspension Bridge which I climbed on to for a last shot of the river looking upstream, a view that never fails to impress.
Uphill to warm up
Sunday dawned bright and sunny but bitterly cold, the coldest day of autumn, so far, with a keen white frost glittering the landscape.  We'd a late breakfast then amused ourselves with The I's cryptic crossword until things warmed up a little. 
Still trying to get warm...
 It was 11 o'clock by the time we closed the door and set off running up the ghyll towards Cupola Corner.  We'd planned a six mile route round Yarnbury, Moor Lane and Tinker Lane before dropping back to Hebden.
Is this high enough?
But 'best laid plans of mice and men gang aft awry' according to old Rabby Burns, and they certainly did for us in that freezing wind.
Into the last mile
We decided to cut it short and head for home, as fast as we could, down into the partial shelter of the ghyll, back to a warm stove, the smell of burning peat and some badly needed nourishment.
How many calories are there in a pork pie?

Monday, 1 October 2018

Back running...

Well, I'm glad to say my wrist is almost back to 100% maneuverability, so I removed the brace and began running again ten days ago.
Back in action   (Click to enlarge pictures)
 I was a bit frightened the first morning.  In my eagerness I'd gone out too early, while it was still dark, and became aware of lots of debris blown about by horrendous winds the previous day.  I returned home for ½ hour until I could see better and feel safer, then set off again.
Beautiful, but a bit too early for running

A young fellow sat with a bottle beside him and smoking something rather obnoxious had beaten me to the top of Castle Hill and showed no interest in the impending sunrise. 
A favourite spot to see the sun rise

As usual, it stopped me in my tracks and out came the camera to capture the glory unfolding before me, as it had done on hundreds of previous occasions.  The temporary mast was plain to see beside the Emley Moor transmitter which is currently being modified.
Emley Moor transmitter - Yorkshire's tallest building -
and beside it, the temporary mast

There's been a glut of apples this year so I don't feel I'm stealing anything if I treat myself to any shiny ones within reach on my morning runs.  Or anywhere else.   
I gave these sour ones a miss

Everything was going well until Monday night when something rather strange happened that knocked the wind out of my sails.   As a last resort the nephew of a very old friend of mine, Herbert Lambert, used Facebook Messaging service in a last ditch attempt to contact me to say his uncle had died and his funeral was at Skipton crematorium next morning at 11.40.
Skipton crematorium
I'd known Herbert since 1948, had walked and climbed with him throughout Britain and into France when he was one of the fittest people I'd ever met.  But on a recent visit to him at a Keighley Care Home, he was a skeleton of his former self, clinging to his zimmer, hardly able to walk.  At the ripe old age of 93 he was ready to die.
Herbert tending his garden at Austwick in the Yorkshire Dales
His funeral was well attended, but by people I'd never met or heard of before - save for one who made himself known to me, so I wasn't quite alone.  Herbert was a Humanist. I'm a staunch Methodist. Instead of prayers and hymns we had poems and secular music. There was no singing.  It all felt a bit joyless.  But I'm glad I was there to pay my last respects and give a gentle wave as the curtains closed.
Dawn breaking over Grimwith reservoir
It took a wee while to get over that.  It was five days before I summoned up enough energy to run again on a dreich, bitterly cold Sunday morning when we should really have stayed in bed.
Getting lighter
It was barely light as we drove to Grimwith reservoir scattering hundreds of pheasants and partridges that will soon become subject to the annual slaughter.
Dawn patrol.  A cacophony of wild geese
Geese made wild music, bugling across the breaking dawn sky, changing direction and arguing, seemingly unsure which way to go. As they do..
Next month's dinner
Pheasants were everywhere.  In the wooded and more vegetated area at the back of the reservoir some exploded from beneath our feet, making us jump, putting us off our stride.  Grain had been scattered along the centre of the track to make sure they didn't stray far away, out of gunshot.  They call it sport...
Half way and it's become much lighter
It was easy running along the back straight as the sky became lighter and colours brighter.  The wind was on our backs for a while and the rising sun on our faces.  Little flotillas of mallard squawked and talked among themselves.
The last gentle rise
It was mainly flat and rather enjoyable, passing the thatched building then up the gentle rise, over the wooden bridge and back to the car park.  Here, the vicious wind gave us a final blasting making us glad we were on our way home to bowls of hot porridge and a warm stove.
It's good to be back running again but sometimes the nicest part comes after I've stopped...

Friday, 21 September 2018


Due to a persistent wrist injury that prevents me from running I've nothing fresh to blog about.  So I've been reminiscing about some racing milestones.  My running career began rather late in life, a month before my 54th birthday in 1986, so there was a lot of catching up to do.  But mainly due to encouragement from a chap called Alan Taylor who took a jogging class at Huddersfield Sports Centre, I caught up rather fast. 
That wrist  (Click to enlarge pictures)
It was Alan who first recognized my racing potential, both physically and mentally, and soon had me running with a number pinned to my vest. The first milestone came quite unexpectedly a year later in July, 1987.  With training that only amounted to around 22 miles per week I'd optimistically entered the Pennine Marathon, a local event with nearly 2,000ft of ascent along its undulating route. 
The Chippendale Trophy for 1st MV55 in the Pennine Marathon
It was a scorching hot July day and runners suffering from heat exhaustion, cramp or dehydration were dropping like flies by the roadside.  I plodded on and was amazed to learn I'd won the MV55 category with my time of 3.30.04.  I left the field with a silver cup, a voucher for £25 and a bath towel donated by the Sponsors, Ellis & Booth.
 Life was never the same again..
The following year I set a new MV55 course record of 3.05.47.
That meaningless London medal
A Sikh called Ajit Singh, who finished 2nd to me in the Pennine, was responsible for my MV60 milestone in 1992. "You really should run London, you'll beat them all (meaning the MV60's) and be a world champion" he said.  Being out of work I couldn't really afford to go to London but Ajit was insistent.  "You can stay with me and my friends, it wont cost you anything but the coach fare".  I was persuaded.  And Ajit was right.  I did beat all the MV60's to win the British Championship and was told I'd the fastest MV60 time in the world that year with my 2.54.18.  My medal arrived weeks later with an explanatory note from Alan Storey but no engraving to say what it was for, i.e. 1st MV60.
I was pretty disgusted with that...
At the other end of the scale, 1st MV60 in the Leeeds Abbay Dash in 37.28 was another notable achievement of 1992.
 Northern Veterans 10,000m record holders
Can't find the trophy!
As an MV65 I ran quite a lot of Track races and was rarely beaten in my category.  Some of my best times were: 100m in 14.9, 200m in 30.8, 400m in 67.1 and a memorable 800m at Don Valley Stadium in 2.28.1.  But one that sticks im my mind most was a Northern Veteran's 10,000m Track Championship at Leverhulme Park, Bolton in October 1997.  A friend of mine, Eric Smith of Otley A.C. (sadly, now deceased), had held the record for 10 years and I was determined to take it off him.  I knocked ½ minute off it with a time of 39.31.  I believe that record still stands.
Fell Runners Association MV70  Championship medal
Between December 1999 and February 2004 I only raced once, a 10K road race at Wesham where I won the MV70 category in 45.54.  So, when the Fell Runner's Association announced they were going to include an MV70 category into their series of Championship races I wasn't sure whether I'd be fit enough for the challenge.  The winner would be the one with most points after four races.  I decided to give it a go.
..and the reverse side
I won the first two - the 9 mile Noonstone Fell Race and 4 mile Buckden Pike - but suffered a severe calf injury with 2 miles still to run in the 12 mile Kentmere Horseshoe race in Cumbria. I plodded on to finish 2nd and in doing so amassed enough points to win the Championship without having to run the last race.
I didn't race again for 12 months.
MV70 trophy - except I was 75 that very day
With my 75th birthday looming I searched through the racing calendar for an event that actually took place on my birthday.  A flat 10K road race at Kings Lynn in Norfolk, The Great East Anglia Run, seemed to fit the bill.  I got there to find prizes were only being awarded in 10 year age categories.  There was no MV75 category.  Oh well, I hadn't driven all that way for nothing.  I'd just have to beat all the MV70's.  And that's exactly what I did, blazing through the Finish in 45.32.
Weeks later I was 1st MV75 in the British Masters Athletic Federation 5K Road Championships at Chorley with a time of 22.24
Then Gold medallist in the British Masters Athletic Federation 800m Championship at Alexander Stadium, Birmingham in 2.46.11
No-one can say I'm not versatile!
Running into my 80's in the Ilkley Trail race
finishing far from last
Reaching my 80th birthday was in itself a milestone!  I was beginning to lose interest in racing because it was a bit embarrassing being awarded 1st prize in a category in which I hadn't actually beaten anybody!  But I was still a force to be reckoned with as many, much younger than me, found out as they trailed in my wake - like in the 7 miles and 700ft of the Ilkley trail race where I finished 165th of 219 runners in 67.27.
2012 MV80 Track & Field rankings
Racing on the Track at least meant I'd a little competition so I'd one final fling at the Yorkshire Veterans Track & Field Championships and finished up topping the British Rankings at three distances.
A favourite little trophy
In a hilly 10K road race, the Bentham Beagles Bash, I finished in the top half of the field in 54.31, an MV80 Course Record.
All in all, I ran 20 races as an MV80, then called it a day.  There's a slim possibility I might do a 5K Parkrun if only to add another course record to my collection.   But then again.....

Friday, 14 September 2018

Menorca again...

Following Burnsall Sports on Saturday 25th August, then a busy day marshalling fell races at Hebden Sports on 27th we flew South on 29th for a couple of weeks in the sun on a favourite island in the Balearics, Menorca.
Our hotel, the Xuroy  at Alcaufar, Menorca  (Click to enlarge images)

 Consequently, we've been too busy enjoying ourselves to have had any time for blogging or any other work involving computers, the internet, wifi and suchlike chores.   So there's a lot of catching up to do.
Sarah Cumber on her way to winning the Burnsall 10 mile race (again) in 1.04.31 

I'm so glad I went to Burnsall for history was made in the Classic Fell Race (2.4km/274m ascent) when an ex neighbour of ours smashed a women's record that had stood since 1984.  40 year old International mountain runner Victoria Wilkinson sliced 36 seconds off Carol Greenwood's old record to win in 15mins 58secs.
Victoria Wilkinson on her way to smashing the Classic Burnsall Fell Race record
Victoria broke 12 iconic fell race records in 2017 including the Classic Three Peaks of Yorkshire mentioned in my blog 1st May 2017.  What fell race enthusiasts find absolutely mind blowing is that one week after Burnsall she blew away Pauline Stuart's 34 year old record in the Ben Nevis race (14km/1347m ascent). She ran up and down Britain's highest mountain in 1 hour 43mins and 01sec.
My mind is still boggling......
Competitors in the Hebden Crag race

Hebden wasn't quite so lucky with the weather as Burnsall but it stayed fine and there was a good turn-out for all the planned activities including the various fell races.  Hebden is much more low key, classed as a family fun day with novelty races, traditional games and stalls. 
It's famous Crag race is a bit more serious.
Antonio was struggling a bit...but finally made it
Antonio Cardinale, a 69 year old veteran of Otley A.C . who turned up for the Crag race had maybe underestimated its severity which, I'm told, in years gone by included 13 walls, 5 gates, a river and 400ft of ascent. It's since been drastically modified.  Antonio completed the course to wild applause from an appreciative crowd.
Local lad Ted Mason of Wharfedale Harriers was the easy winner.
We flew to Menorca on Tui's amazing Dreamliner
Then came Menorca which I've enthused about extensively in the past. Being creatures of habit this year's activities on the island were much the same as before.  We ran the same wonderful routes west or north along the Cami de Cavalls (the way of horses), repeated some walks and swam in the same idyllic limestone cove.
View from Room 206
Here are a few pictures chosen at random from my files.
We'd emailed Xuroy's receptionist, Adela, weeks before arriving to ask for Room 206 which catches the early morning sun but is much cooler in the afternoon and evening than the brilliant white painted balconies overlooking the pool that face west and become stiflingly hot.  Adela duly obliged.
Morning glory
Other than two long-ish runs that were impossible to complete before breakfast we were up and away early enough to watch the sun rising as we passed the Martello tower.
Arrival at Punta Prima
On previous visits we'd discovered a trail through private grounds that avoided the main tourist path from Alcaufar to Punta Prima.  We rarely met anyone nor experienced any opposition along it.
Running back to Alcaufar
The coastal path back to our hotel is pocked with rough and jagged limestone that requires serious concentration.
Alcaufar from the Martello tower
We always detoured to the Martello tower for a brief breather and to admire the wonderful views along the Southern coastline while a colony of swifts swooped around us.
A Fly By runner at the Martello tower
Invariably, we passed other early morning runners most of whom returned our greetings.  A speedy girl in yellow could, according to Strava, have been Nicola Hearn from South Shields.   Hi!
Back just in time for breakfast
In a little over ¾ hour we were closing the wicker gate behind us to recross the sandy beach in time for a shower and well deserved breakfast. I believe other hotel guests regarded us as rather odd!
A doctor at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary kindly gave me this wrist brace
That beach may look rather smooth and harmless but it was the scene of a nasty fall that badly damaged my Lt wrist during our first week.  600mg of Ibuprofen morning and night, plus liberal smears of a strong Voltarol gel, relieved the pain sufficiently for me to continue running.
Until I fell again on a last 8 mile run before flying home!
One of our pace makers 
Another favourite route went North along the Cami de Cavalls as far as some farm buildings at Rafalet Vell. We call it the tortoise route for obvious reasons.  We invariably encountered some along the way.

Feeding time for the cats
On a couple of occasions we saw half a dozen wild, feral cats a Spanish gentleman regularly fed and watered.
Morning feast - a change from birds and lizards
They fled from us but flew to him for a morning feast of fresh meat and water.
Collector's item
There used to be pigs at Rafalet Vell that would come running towards us as we leaned over the wall, maybe thinking we had titbits for them.  Alas, they're no more though bits of them may well have been on our bacon tray at breakfast time!  An old tractor neither snorted nor proved quite so interesting.
A wild morning at S'Algar
We'd vary our route on the way back, sometimes returning the way we'd come because there was more shelter from the relentless sun.  Temperatures climbed into the 80's most days.  On less sunny mornings we'd divert to S'Algar for a slightly longer run.
Not so much a run, more of a dance down the Cami de Cavalls
We ran on 10 of our 14 days in Menorca racking up 42 miles, the highlights being 2 x 8 mile runs along the Cami de Cavalls to Cala de Saint Esteve, then back along the coast to incorporate a wild swim at Cala des Rafalet.
Cala de Saint Esteve comes into view
First view of Cala de Saint Esteve's quaint little harbour will stop most people in their tracks, a little jewel in a barren landscape.  It's main attractions are Fort Marlborough, built by the British in the 1720's, and nearby Torre Penjat
Passing Torre Penjat (or Hangman's Tower)
As runs go, they don't come much rougher than this one, but we love it.
Not everyone's favourite place to run
The way ahead is not always obvious, especially approaching Cala des Rafalet where we became disorientated and had to make a ½ mile detour to a known path down to our favourite swimming pool.
Our wild swimming pool at Cala des Rafalet
We could see our objective from a distance but failed abysmally to locate the rocky descent through the bushes.
Ah, sheer bliss after a long, hot run
It's popular for wild swimmers, especially the Spanish who are usually there in numbers whenever we visit. The little cove with it's high limestone walls is a veritable sun trap - conducive to topless ladies and naked men.
Swimming with fish around her toes
There are fish of various sizes to accompany swimmers out and back.  Snorkelling is popular, some with cameras to record the underwater wonderland. Dragonflies dart around in the sunlight and tiny crabs heave themselves up onto the rocks to enjoy the warmth.
What we do when we're not running.
Lunch and liquid refreshment at Piccolo Mundo
Arriving back at Xuroy we'd a quick shower and hasty change of clothing to celebrate our achievement with a value for money set lunch at Piccolo Mundo, a nearby restaurant with panoramic views overlooking S'Algar.
Windmill on our approach to Es Castell
Oh, and we did a bit of walking too. Notably, a 9 mile morning saunter from the island's capital, Mahon, all the way back to Alcaufar. Passing windmills along the way our first port of call was the beautiful little watering hole of Es Castell.
Es Castell
We wandered around it's peaceful harbour where a semi-circle of boats gently bobbled at their moorings. Then it was up the hill for morning coffee with the locals and their charming children.
Cala de Saint Esteve
Leaving the cheerful chatting we strolled on, past Santa Anna before leaving the main road and curving round to Cala de Saint Esteve, a sheltered haven overlooked by limestone rocks.  There was joyful laughter from a family swimming in the clear, green water.
Leaving Cala de Saint Esteve on a rocky trail 
Onwards, up the steep, rocky trail following the Cami de Cavalls, past Eugenia and the entrance to Son Vidal before branching off through scrubland above Cala Rafalet and descending to S'Algar for some well earned liquid refreshment before returning to Xuroy.
Es Grau
Another walk from Es Grau to the Nature Reserve at Albufera proved rather fruitless. Not to mention stiflingly hot and sweaty.  Others had recorded seeing a book full of birds including various raptors.
Cocky cockerel at Es Grau
 All we saw was a few coot, some unidentified fish, a frog, a tortoise and a rather splendid cockerel stomping around on the beach at Es Grau.
The arrival of the giants
The crowds were a little too much for us at Mahon's horse festival and we came away early after watching the arrival of the giants to the music of a youth band, then the caixers parade into the magnificent cathedral for a moving service and beautiful singing.
A youth band.  What shall we play next?
  People were gathering in their thousands in the sanded streets for the annual spectacle of rearing horses and it was all a bit too claustrophobic for yours truly.  Not to mention dangerous for someone of advancing years. Cafes had been transformed into bars selling only alcohol, shops were closed and many boarded up in case of trouble.  Some streets were littered with rubbish.
Gathering crowds
We left for an early bus back to Alcaufar, leaving the expectant crowds to enjoy their  festival, so sadly missed what to many was the main event of the day, brave people surging forward to pat the horse's bellies, even their hooves, as the magnificent animals reared high in the air.
One of the many beautifully groomed horses at the festival
With lack of photographs here is a video I found on Youtube that shows how brave (crazy) some of the people are.
Right, after all these hectic activities this old codger is going for a rest!