Tuesday, 25 April 2017

It's a dotty old world......

      I'm currently living in a very dotty world after another injection of triamcinolone into my Rt eye.  It's a little nerve racking at the time when all I can see through that eye as the needle goes in is a mass of crystals swirling around in a milky solution.  It clears slowly. Very slowly. 
That troublesome Rt eye and bashed chin  (Click to enlarge pictures)
      After a while the Ophthalmologist will cover my left eye and ask "How many fingers am I holding up?"  "Six" I'll say jokingly before telling him there's only two.  Over a year we've got to know each other fairly well. He'll counter by asking "Will you be going for a run tomorrow?" and I'll refrain from responding with a naughty word.....
Nothing wrong with their eyes
      So I'm typing this on a spotty white screen with what look like flies dodging around the periphery as I move my head.  Birds fly across my window - except they're not birds at all but tiny black crystals that give that impression. By tomorrow or next day the crystals will disperse and I'll be OK for maybe another couple of months when the process will be repeated. I try to make the most of time between. Mostly in my Salomon shades.
Grassington Bridge route
      Saturday's five mile run to Grassington Bridge began rather ignominiously as I tripped and went crashing to the ground on a stony path before we'd even left the village.  In years gone by I'd simply have put my arms out to break the fall but as I've got older my arms seem no longer strong enough to do that.
After the fall - galloping off to Grassington
So it was my ribs and chin that bore the brunt of Saturday's trip. It stunned me briefly but I turned down my wonderful partner's suggestion to go back home and went galloping off through the fields to Grassington.  As fell runners do.
Low water by Linton Falls
      I don't know whether wandering tourists think we're mad or just part of the scenery as we dodge past in our shorts and vests. It's difficult to interpret their strange looks!  Others engrossed in conversation never even notice us, or anything else in the countryside for that matter. Dog owners regard their little beast as the most important thing in life and runners shouldn't upset them by charging about encouraging them to bite.
Passing a fallen tree by the riverbank - one of many
      By the time we reached Grassington Bridge only a slight headache reminded me of bashing it on the ground twenty minutes earlier.  The river was low and farther along, near the church, sand martins were flying in and out of their holes with bits of nesting material, preparing for their new brood.
Stepping stones by Hebden Suspension bridge - above water at last
      It was a very pleasant run in warm sunshine and slight breeze.  After arriving home I was told, in no uncertain terms, to "Get all that blood and dirt cleared up from your chin". I'd to apologise and explain I hadn't really seen it from where I was standing.  A swab of TCP and 600mg of Ibuprofen set everything right. That, and a seat in the garden, wallowing in sunshine with a chiffchaff singing up the lane.
Passing Loup Scar on the way to Appletreewick......
      On Sunday I woke up a bit stiff but after breakfast was persuaded to go for a six mile run round Appletreewick. It was sunny again and we'd hoped to photograph the last of the anemones in a wood along the road.  We were too late. They'd already been ousted by a host of bluebells interspersed with campion and lady's smock.  A fair swap!
.....under trees laden with Spring blossom
      Then, what really made our day, the sight of a swallow flying over Woodhouse farm. The first we'd seen this year. It's amazing how that tiny, happy little bird can lift our spirits and fill our hearts with a strange joy as though it was a harbinger of warmer days ahead and wonderful things to come.
      It's difficult to relate that sighting to yesterdays nasty injection and the spotty world I'm living in at present, but  I'm sure things will get better when all its friends arrive.
Hopefully tomorrow!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Good to be back....

   Yay, I'm back running again and delighted to say it felt like I'd never been away. I'd imagined I'd be panting for breath after the first ¼ mile but all went well.  
Feeling happy again running in that old vest    (Click to enlarge Pictures)
   Mind you, it was only a 4 mile jaunt along the riverbank to Burnsall and back on Saturday morning, with a few photo stops along the way, but I came home feeling really proud of myself.
Old Runningfox (85 on 6th May) is back in action.
Female goosander on the river
   Actually, with all the Easter tourists, it had been a bit of an obstacle course and I inwardly cursed a lady walking one side of the path with her dog trotting along the other side.
I hadn't seen the thin extension lead joining the two!
"Stand there a minute"  -  photo shoot by Burnsall bridge
   Later, a bull terrier type dog took a fancy to my calf muscle. I felt its teeth and warm breath and dearly wished it too had been on some sort of lead for it took a while to return to its shouting owner.
All smiles running by the river
   A duck race took place in the ghyll on Saturday afternoon and drew quite a large crowd of mainly visitors who, I believe, went home with 5 of the 6 prizes. 
£255.00 was raised for charity.
Here come the ducks. I think mine swam upstream...
   On Easter Monday, we ran another 4miles+ on a pre-breakfast run around Grimwith reservoir. 
Setting off round Grimwith
   There was a slight drizzle when we set off, the thermometer read 39ºF and a cooling breeze from the NE made for ideal running conditions. For me...
Flying past the thatched cottage
   Pewits were wheeling and diving around us, making their joyful sounds, and a redshank was calling over on the moor to our left.
Pewit enjoying itself
   A few Canada geese had returned to their old nesting sites having been missing for a couple of years.  They're handsome birds though not very well liked in our area.
Canada goose
   It was another very enjoyable run that worked up a good appetite for the steaming bowls of porridge, toast and coffee and hour later. 
Upon reflection, it was a great run
As we ate, goldfinches were breakfasting too on sunflower hearts and nyjer seeds outside our window.
Goldfinches having breakfast with us
   And we have tadpoles.  Shortly after the new pond had been filled with rainwater and various plants a small batch of frogspawn was brought from up the ghyll and plunged into its depths.  The little black dots have hatched, grown tails and are now swimming about in the sunlight.
Soon they'll be jumping around on the lawn
Tadpoles in the new pond
   We like frogs, as did a favourite Scottish poet, Norman MacCaig, who wrote an evocative poem about them,
One of the Many Days.
   Must go, I still have to log those comeback miles - and add them to the 39,514 already run.
  Where's it all going to end?

Monday, 10 April 2017

The time of the singing of birds is come......

      With the exception of a few short sprints on my way to the village, or back and forth across Gibraltar Farm campsite at Silverdale in search of someone who might lend us a tin-opener, nothing has yet been done in the way of serious running.  But I've been keeping reasonably fit and active so Easter should find me back in the hills wearing my trademark RUNNINGFOX vest and favourite trail shoes.
Exploring the coast path at Silverdale on arrival   (Click to enlarge)
      My Rt eye continues to be a problem and last weekend's camp at Silverdale had to be aborted when it objected to the vicious sunlight, particularly when concentrated through the prisms of powerful binoculars at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve.  It became bloodshot, blurred and stung so much I could hardly keep it open for more than a few seconds in spite of wearing polarized sunglasses for the duration of our stay.
Evening aperitif
      It was disappointing because there were so many beautiful things to see in that Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so many footpaths to be explored, so many rare birds to spot.  Marsh harriers were performing their annual sky dances, avocets were colonising the estuary, cattle egrets were skulking in the reed beds and noisy but secretive Cettis' warblers were getting twitchers very excited.  Otters had been spotted too.
Tree in evening light
      We saw and photographed quite a lot before my stupid eye declared it had had enough.  We returned to camp, packed the tent on Sunday afternoon and returned home in hopes of getting advice or an early appointment with my Consultant ophthalmologist the following day.  I did, and glad to say, things are a little better now.
      Here are a few pictures taken before the trauma:

A heron paid us a visit

Courting mute swans

Cormorant, or shag, or something...


Little egret by the reedbed

Greylag goose

Black headed gulls eyeing the floating nest of a great crested grebe

Saturday evening sunset across Morecambe Bay

We saw many other species but such is our limited knowledge of ornithological matters we were unable to name them.  But we were lucky enough to hear and see a Cetti's warbler which, we were told, is quite rare in our region of the hemisphere.  I dearly wanted to see the avocets but in the time taken to walk to the estuary my eye would probably have given up the ghost.
I've a feeling another visit may be on the cards in the not too distant future.
Happy running everyone.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Walk, don't run......

      I'm still resting - from running - and starting to feel some energy seeping back into the system. The 'Arizona' pills have helped me sleep longer with no noticeable side effects other than requiring a little more effort to get out of bed each morning.
Resting in the sun...     (Click to enlarge pictures)
  I'd intended spending a month resting and recharging the old batteries but warm Spring weather has got me chomping at the bit and rarin' to go again after only a couple of weeks.  Fifteen miles of walking at the weekend was quite enjoyable but I'm missing that natural rhythm of running.
Ring ouzel country...Mossdale
      I walked over into Mossdale in search of ring ouzels. Last year the first male arrived on March 13th, the earliest ever recorded there. This year, and twelve days later, I sat around for a good while by the shooting hut, watching and listening, but none came.
A splash of colour in the garden
      Gardening has been demanding my time. Work in the local cricket field, just over the wall, eventually persuaded me it was time to mow the lawns. Ready for lying on. Bees were busy on the flowering currant bushes and a cheeky robin was flitting around in case I unearthed some tasty morsel while hoeing round the Spring flowers.
Heather burning on Grassington Moor
      There was much activity on Grassington Moor as a gang of gamekeepers were burning vast areas of heather, supposedly to encourage new growth.  I just hope none of our ground nesting birds have already begun laying eggs.
Away from the crackle and smoke
      I found a sheltered spot to lie in the sun, well away from crackling fires and acrid smoke, to doze for a wee while in haunts of curlew and lapwing.  Far from the madding crowd.  Peacock butterflies were spreading their wings on warm stones for the very same reason I was spread out on the springy turf, to take our fill of healing ultra-violet rays.
Geese and oystercatchers by Mossy Mere
      On a rare visit to Mossy Mere, beyond Scar Top House, a colony of greylags were fraternising with oystercatchers among the reeds at the waters edge.
Getting closer to the greylags
 Geese took to the water as we approached while their black and white tuxedoed friends flew around noisily before landing a safe distance away.
Mossy Mere
      Warm weather has lambs frisking in the fields, leaping like lunatics, racing around or playing king of the castle, as they do. Below them in the ghyll coltsfoot and primroses are dotting the banks.  Jackdaws are making new homes in a rocky outcrop overlooking the beck, with a great deal of arguing.
Coltsfoot in the ghyll
      All this energy and activity in the natural world, the warm and colourful and noisy pageant of unfolding Spring. It really doesn't seem right that, of all the times of the year, I should choose Spring to be resting.
      Where are those running shoes....

Thursday, 16 March 2017

A wee rest...

      Much as I've enjoyed wonderful sunrises, fresh air and birdsong, recent bouts of vertigo, flashing lights and a lack of energy that frequently reduces me to a walk have finally forced me to rest.
Running tired last Sunday  (Click to enlarge)

      I've been thinking about it for a while but a snippet in Alan Sloman's blog by that intrepid long distance walker, Sir Hugh, finally prompted me to steady up. He wrote "I have a theory I think you will applaud that gets you out of all that training nonsense. As a young man it is possible to train and become fitter. There is an age limit (not sure of the exact age, but I know I'm well past it) when training only promotes further deterioration of the body, so it's better to keep what you've got in reserve to cope with the happy project you really want to do".  Wise words.
Happiness -  running along the riverbank on Saturday

      Chronic insomnia caused by a hyperactive brain that refuses to switch off is the main cause of the problem. My doctor is unwilling to prescribe sleeping pills.  Recommended herbal remedies have proved useless. So, against the wishes of my wonderful partner I've resorted to the internet.  Watch this space.
Male goosander on the Wharfe
      My log book recorded just 18 miles last week but in truth Sunday's 5 mile effort had quite a few walk breaks I wasn't happy about. 
Yarnbury dam, but no frogs
Redshank, golden plover, curlews and lapwings all contributed to the pleasure of our run as far as the dam at Yarnbury in search of spawning frogs.  There were none.
A few starlings
      We were however treated to a mini murmuration of starlings as we approached the dam, but they didn't hang around long enough to get a decent shot of them. Even if my camera had been working properly...
An audience of one in Hebden ghyll
      After 31 years of regular running the idea of a break does not come easy. Hopefully it wont last long.  I have new vests to show off and shoes to wear out. 
And besides..

Monday, 6 March 2017

A hard week....

      I'm becoming an old stick in the mud - literally.
In thirty years of running I don't think I've ever known the land so waterlogged or ever seen so much mud.  Each time I return from a run much of my gear goes straight into the washer and I vow and declare I wont repeat those X-country routes again until the land dries out.
Waterlogged, but wonderful on Thursday's dawn run  (Click to enlarge)
      But of course I do, because they're my favourite haunts, for birds that serenade me with their Springtime choruses, for horses I say hello to, for flaring sunrises and panoramic views across wild landscapes.  And, on Sunday, the noise of countless frogs performing their annual piggy-backs in a favourite pond up the ghyll. The pros outweigh the cons. Most of the time.
Good morning Crow
      Weather last week was largely better than forecast and I took full advantage of it, running on five days rather than the usual four.  It was a mistake.  After a sleepless night on Saturday (hyperactive brain) getting up at 6am for a freezing run round Grimwith brought on bouts of vertigo and flashing lights (of a bright purple hue) that didn't disperse until early afternoon.
Note to self: running 19 miles on four consecutive days with over 1,800ft of ascent, after hardly any sleep, is maybe not a very good idea approaching ones 85th birthday.
Setting out on Saturday's run
      Calm, clear mornings lured me out for three hill sessions during the week.  It was nice to note rabbits returning to their stamping grounds and local crows have grown so used to my circuits they've become totally unafraid.  Wise birds, crows.
High in the clear air
      A man whose dog took umbrage to my running said it was because of the head band I was wearing.  She doesn't like red.
Years ago a woman's vicious dog that attacked me said it was because of the red stripe down my tracksters. "He thinks you're a postman" she said.  It's a pity my favourite colour just happens to be red.
Then down the long wall
      Probably due to all the mud there haven't been as many dog walkers for runners to cope with recently.  A field below the Castle where four horses were clustered around what appeared to be an empty feeder is rapidly changing from green to brown.
Forlorn horses
One poor horse, sunk to its knees in mud, appeared to have lost a foot in height.  Enough to give it an equine inferiority complex.
Another squishy bit descending to the ghyll
      Further north, in limestone country, many parts of the Yorkshire Dales are normally a pleasure to run, water percolating through the porous landscape to leave relatively dry trails.
Not so this year.
Clear, calm and 3º on Sunday's run
Well trodden tourist paths along river banks, or parts of the Grimwith reservoir circuit, are in a disgusting state, ankle deep quagmires of inescapable filth.
The irresistible beauty of Grimwith
      One of my friends, Dave Watson, escapes such horrors by running circuits of our local cemetery, a training session enabling him to run 16 minute 5K's and win many of Huddersfield's Parkruns.
Maybe I should join him.