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Monday, 10 December 2018

Wild and beautiful......the two bridges run

All Friday night a raging westerly rocked the house and roared in the chimney affording us very little sleep. Driving back to the Dales on Saturday morning a double rainbow arced across a gunmetal sky ahead of us.  We drove through it into gale force torrential rain that continued all day and well into the night.
The path had become a stream   (Click to enlarge pictures)
By Sunday morning things had calmed down, the sun came out and our minds clicked into running mode.  At 10.30 we donned suitably studded footwear and squelched our way by soddened fields and flooded lanes towards Grassington where the last of the Dickensian events was taking place.
Wait for me...high water down High Lane
Goodness knows how many inches of rain had fallen but for much of the way we were paddling through water over the tops of our shoes.  But hey, we're fell runners, we can cope...
Wallowing in a few moments of warmth at one of the drier parts
 The forecast had been for wall to wall sunshine but, as is often the case, they didn't get it quite right.  There were welcome sunny spells that gave warm respite from the bitterly cold cloudier conditions, but they didn't last long.
That bearded falsetto.
Strange wailing noises assailed our ears approaching the flesh pots of Grassington.  The entertainment had begun - for some.  A little later, wandering down the busy street past well stocked stalls, we arrived at the source of those weird high pitched sounds to discover it wasn't a lady, as we'd thought, but a bearded falsetto gentleman.  We didn't stay!
What the Dickens?  Kids dressed for the occasion
In early days it was considered de rigueur to dress appropriately for  Dickensian weekends, not just  stall holders and active participants but most visitors too.  It was a glorious, colourful sight that added greatly to the atmosphere of the event.
Morris dancers
Sadly, that seems to be no more.  Very few people nowadays dress for the occasion though one group of people, the Morris dancers, might seem to take it to extremes.  The black faced, gaudily dressed flag-crackers were stood around awaiting their turn to clatter their clogs.  It was too cold for us to hang around so we missed their performance.
Tantalizing
We left the gathering crowds and tootled down to the raging River Wharfe.  Roaring under the bridge it was quite a sight after all the hours of heavy rain.  Some people who'd parked in Linton to walk into Grassington were quite concerned about crossing the bridge and raced across rather quickly.
Nip across quick before that pillar gets washed way..
We always find it quite fascinating when the water is high and invariably stop for the obligatory photograph before heading on our way.  Sunday was no exception and, to be honest, I found it more interesting than anything that was going on in the streets of Grassington.   
But don't tell the organisers!
Hebden Suspension Bridge.,
We dragged ourselves away and trotted off down river, heading for home.  With very little running over the past few weeks yours truly was beginning to feel the strain.  Forward progress was little more than a gentle jog. interspersed with walks, for the next two miles to Hebden Suspension Bridge..  A guy in shorts admitted "I always hate crossing this bridge" and, like people at Linton Falls, was rushing to get it over with..  I nipped over to take a photograph before trailing up the road into the village, trying to keep up with my wonderful partner who seems to be taking over the reins.
For the time being..

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

......and later in the frost

Peering out the window at 7am on Tuesday my neighbour's car had changed colour, from black to white, and so had the barn roof.  There was no hesitation, like will I or wont I, it was a definite 'yes' in favour of getting out for a run.
The moon and Venus   (Click to enlarge pictures)
A waning crescent moon hung in a clear, frosty sky with Venus shining like a diamond a little farther to the west as I jogged along the lane.  I was well wrapped up with a buff pulled over my nose and mouth to warm the air I breathed.
Arriving at the rim together - the sun and I
Last week's slushy fields and gateways were now frozen and rutted making it more pleasant for running.   Stars disappeared in the dawning light, a robin gave a brief burst of song from a holly bush by the cottages and a rabbit hopped away rather stiffly.
A convoluted route to the summit
I'd taken a different, longer route onto the hill, brushing through brambles and steeply up past prickly gorse bushes to arrive on the rim just as the sun peered over the horizon.
Dawn light
A chill wind from the west ensured I kept moving through the frozen landscape, enjoying the changing colours with only brief stops to aim my camera at some eye-catching scene.
Wind and frost on the summit
Like that rabbit I passed earlier my old legs weren't performing as well as they should.   I abandoned my usual set of hill reps to jog home with porridge and hot coffee in mind.
Approaching slippery flags through the gorse
Stone flags coming off the summit were slippery with frost so I ran warily, remembering a time when I lost my footing and landed in a heap ten yards farther down.  I was younger then, and faster!
Frosty field
Arriving home tingling and invigorated a hot shower took preference before the obligatory glass of cold chocolate milk.  
The porridge boiled over, but what the hell, if the world had come to an end it couldn't have taken away the magic of that last hour.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Running in the rain......

It rained all day Saturday, making it a miserable day for the first of Grassington's four Dickensian events.  Then it rained all night.  It was forecast to rain all day Sunday too but when I sneaked out of bed at 7am, although I could hardly see across the road, there were no raindrops on any of our windows.  
We decided it was fit to run.
Setting off into the gloom   (Click to enlarge pictures)
Half an hour later we were driving through thick mist to Grimwith Reservoir scattering hundreds of soddened pheasants and partridges that don't look plump enough yet for the annual slaughter.
Strangely, we were enjoying it!
We parked, donned our waterproofs and set off into the gloom.  We'd discussed whether or not to take cameras with us for in wet or misty conditions pictures are rarely in focus.  We decided to risk it and were fairly happy with the atmospheric results.
At the bridge over Blea Beck
After days of rain we'd anticipated a sea of mud on parts of the route, causing us to return home with black feet, but were surprised to find that although quite wet in parts it hasn't yet deteriorated into its usual winter state.
Upon reflection......
Par for the course, mist turned to rain as we approached the point of no return, but after very little running during the past four weeks I really didn't mind.  It felt good to be out and building up fitness again.
At the half way point, and it's raining heavier
Other than the local pheasant population we saw little other bird life.  A family of mallard in a huddled line by the waters edge looked rather sorry fot themselves.  A gaggle of greylags materialized from the mist and disappeared just as quickly.
Tall tree, tiny figure
We'd seen another car on the car park when we arrived and half expected to pass other runners on our way round.  We didn't and surmised they'd set off in the same direction as us.  
And much faster!
Grimwith Lodge on its broadening shoreline
Unusually, after many days of heavy rain, water level in the reservoir is quite low.  It's normal capacity is in the region of 22 million cubic metres, making it Yorkshire Water's largest reservoir, but it's now vastly depleted and showing wide margins of stony banking.
Come on, another two hundred yards and we've cracked it...
Into our last ½ mile, a stretch of gentle uphill.  The old legs were beginning to feel strong again and the ascent was easy. 
Finished ......and happy
  We wouldn't normally venture out running in suchlike conditions but were glad we did.  In a masochistic way we really enjoyed it.  We were glad we'd taken our cameras too, to record the conditions, 
or we might never have believed it!

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

A good day...

In spite of dense fog and temperature hovering around zero I managed to get out running again this morning.  With the exception of Keighley Parkrun, which I never should have run in my bronchitic state, it was my first run since November 2nd.
Not a lot to see, even if you  (Click to enlarge)
Fields have become slippery and slutchy again and I was glad I'd chosen to wear Inov-8 X-talons with sufficient grip to help me stay upright.  I have seven different Inov-8 models for varying running surfaces.  In spite of adverse conditions it felt wonderful to be out again, alone through empty fields and up onto Castle Hill before sunrise.  Actually, the sun never shone all day.
Lt to RT:  Inov-8 X-talons, Trail Rocs, Mud claws

Surprisingly, another runner, a fast moving girl, had reached the summit before me and already done her circuits.  With a cheery 'good morning' she went hurtling back down, leaving me alone in the eerie silence.
That dog...
To get some strength back into my legs after their recent lay-off I launched into a series of hill reps, only 100m but fairly steep and I ran them fast.  I'd only done three when 'that dog' materialised from the murk, the snarling, frothing creature I'd reported to the police back in July.  I spoke gently to it as it sniffed my legs.  It stood back, eyeing me suspiciously before returning to its shouting owner and I wondered if it remembered me as the one who'd sprayed it with 'Bite Back' those four months ago?  I'll start carrying that spray again - in case it's forgotten.
A friendly nuthatch
I beat a hasty retreat in the opposite direction to return home after only three miles.  But I was happy and felt I'd earned my chocolate milk and hearty breakfast.  A nuthatch seemed happy too, totally ignoring the nuts as it scoffed the last of the seeds from the feeder.
It's been a good day...

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Hardly a walk in the park......

"I've brought my running stuff" my wonderful partner announced upon arrival at Windhover, a statement that prompted a naughty word to pass through my mind.  What she meant was "I'm intending to do the Cliffe Castle Parkrun in Keighley on our way back to Hebden in the morning".   Not fully recovered from whatever nasty lurgy it was that had flattened me over the last three weeks I was in no fit state to accompany her but knew full well I would.  "OK, I'll jog round behind you" I said,  preferring that to standing around in the cold waiting for her to finish.
But it didn't quite work out like that.
A Strava profile of the course from my watch
(Click all pictures to enlarge)
Saturday morning dawned cold, windy, damp and misty - conditions that reduced the number of participants to just 137.  Or maybe it was the steep hill on each of the three laps that put people off ever returning to run this course twice.
Being fell runners, we coped.
The lady's W70-74 course record stood at 39 minutes and a few seconds, a time I'd told my wonderful partner she could beat.  I'd meant it as an incentive to put her foot down and set off in pursuit of a new record.   And she did.
Through the roof
We were both a bit shocked at the steepness and length of the hill on this course and were forced to adjust pace accordingly.  For me it was a case of hands on knees and walk as fast as possible to get to the top - as fell runners do - but my heart rate went through the roof.
A celebratory dram
However, there was a happy outcome for us, more so for my wonderful partner who crossed the line in 37.57 to set a new record in her category, but a record for me too with 36.12 in the M85-89 category.  Longwood Harriers raiding party had struck again.   Back home in the evening we'd a celebratory dram and fell into bed feeling smug and happy.
Top and bottom of it
  To be honest, my record was fairly meaningless, only happening because everyone else of my vintage had sensibly shunned this challenging course.   When/if ever we're both fit again we'll have another go at it and try to improve those WAVA gradings.
Hebden Crag
I was a bit stiff the following day (a gross understatement) so whilst my wonderful partner attended a compulsory National Parks meeting in Grassington I took myself up the ghyll for some gentle walking in an attempt to loosen up.
It was a cold day of clear, blue skies with a gentle breeze.  
Scala Falls in Hebden Ghyll
I scrambled past the foot of the crag but had no desire to ever climb it again.  Then on to the Miner's Bridge where I failed to get any decent pictures.  I lingered an hour or so in a warm, sunny hollow, taking pictures of Scala Falls before my battered body began telling me it was badly in need of sustenance.   I turned for home, deciding I'd better take notice of it.  
For once...
Post script: On the wall of my study is the inspiring text "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".   I've always thought Paul should have included the words "God requires me to do" after the word 'things'.  That poses the question, why would He ever 'require' me to indulge in anything so physically demanding as Keighley Parkrun?
God only knows...

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Not much good, mostly bad and ugly......

I don't think I've stopped running, permanently, though my body is currently telling me I ought.  That persistent cold and raucous cough, coupled with rampant IBS,  have taken their toll to the point where I'm somewhat drained of energy.  But it will pass.  Hopefully.
My healthy diet?   (Click to enlarge)
My red, runny nose has been glued to a computer searching for exercises and diet that might relieve symptoms of abdominal pain and rumblings.  Salad leaves from Italy, peppers and celery from Spain, prawns from Nicaragua and wine from Chile, amongst other things, interspersed with Yoga exercises (some of which give me cramp and I've yet to master the Boat Pose) have made for some quite unusual days.  Vick and Beconase have been forced up nasal cavities to  attack and eject any nasties lurking there - and to enable me to breathe sufficiently to stay alive while practicing the aforementioned silly exercises. 
At times (well, twice actually) I've opened downstairs doors in the house to indulge in some Slow Jogging from room to room - until too knackered to carry on.  Slow jogging is not supposed to do that!

Woodpeckers, long-tailed tits and goldfinches on the feeders by the window take not a blind bit of notices of my comings and goings, probably thinking to themselves what strange creatures humans are.
In many cases they could be right!
Against my better judgement I forced myself out for two runs last week over my beloved Castle Hill.  On Tuesday I passed two teenage lads sat up there in the half light before sunrise, which I thought strange. It was half term.  They disappeared quickly as a fire engine came tearing up the hill.  A hoax call?  Maybe.  But it was no hoax four nights later when the fire brigade were called out at 9.30pm to a massive blaze that desecrated the hillside, burning grass, charring trees and destroying gorse bushes.
Much of the vegetation facing the road on the right has vanished
(picture courtesy The Examiner)
I walked up this week to assess the damage.  It's a sorry sight though it doesn't affect the paths where I run, clearly visible in the above picture, but rabbits, foxes, mice, voles and resident birds will all have been ousted from their sheltered habitat.
Such mindless vandalism.
A wild November skyscape over Castle Hill
Years ago there was a beautiful old hotel on the hill where yours truly spent many a happy Sunday lunchtime in an eclectic gathering of hunters, shooters, fishermen, artists and various trades people - before I became a runner.  It was vandalised by its new owners, the Thandi brothers, who, in re-modelling it, thought they could get away with sneakily building a structure bigger than the approved plans.  They failed and were ordered to remove every stone.
Click on the above link for the pub's history.
A final shot along the lane
testing the panorama mode of my new smartphone
Well, that's it.  Time to wash down some Doxylamine with a soporific drink and crawl into bed perchance to dream. 
Hopefully by next week there'll be a little more activity to report.
In the meantime, happy running everyone.

Monday, 29 October 2018

A grave situation......

 A howling gale raged all Tuesday night and into Wednesday.  At some point in the wee small hours I shut the bedroom window because the roar was deafening.  Come 6.30am I was zombified and could easily have stayed in bed.  I got up, made a strong cup of coffee, put on my trail shoes and forced myself out into the semi-darkness.
That angry sky  (Click to enlarge)
Common sense told me to stay low.  I jogged slowly to the sheltered surrounds of a local cemetery and launched into a series of short hill reps among the many intersecting paths between the graves.  Matt, a Personal Trainer, was already there doing his strange backward and sideways runs while waiting for a client.  After ½ hour I'd had enough and decided it was breakfast time.
Keeping low - though thankfully not so low as most here
 On the way out I noticed the name of another friend had been engraved beneath that of her husband and son.  I'd been wondering where she'd got to?  Her son, Robert, died while running over Castle Hill. Rumour spread that it was me for he was bearded and of similar build.  Neighbours were relieved when I returned from my travels a week later. Back from the dead!
Autumn by the Wharfe
 Thursday was a disaster.  I should have stayed indoors and turned up the central heating to sweat out this lingering cold with all its ghastly gunge.    Instead, I huffed and puffed and coughed my way round local fields and woods to return 4 miles later in a state of collapse.  I haven't run/jogged/wobbled since.
Tranquility
So I'm currently resting, thankfully not in the same way as those I ran amongst on Wednesday morning.   My list of friends and relatives reclining in various graveyards seems to have outgrown the ones that are left.
Life can get a bit lonely approaching ninety!

Monday, 22 October 2018

It's all in the genes......

I got my nose pushed out a bit last week.  With four runs amounting to 18½ miles, and 1,750 ft of ascent, I thought I'd done rather well.  But this was somewhat eclipsed by an amazing grandson, Ashley Walker, who roughly doubled those figures in the space of 6 hours 10 minutes while running the Rat Race Ultra Tour of Edinburgh on Sunday.
Bring it on   (Click pictures to enlarge)
Having not run at all in four months since finishing 20th in the Hadrian's Wall race last June it occurred to him last week that he really ought to do some training.  So he went out and ran 5 miles.  And that was it.   Of 413 entries he finished in (I think) 38th place.  They breed 'em tough in Yorkshire!
Yorkshire's two tallest buildings?
So, whatever 86 year old granddad did last week amounts to very little compared to what Ashley achieved. Nevertheless, I'll post a few autumn photographs for posterity. 
Got there eventually - my track round Castle Hill
On Wednesday I was up and running before sunrise and treated to spectacular skyscapes beyond the masts.
Looking across the valley to West Nab
On Thursday I was running through local woods, searching for deer, so the sun was well into the sky by the time I emerged onto Castle Hill. It was clear and the views were truly amazing.
Setting off across fields to Grassington on Saturday
Saturday was another crisp, autumn day and in spite of a raucous cough I couldn't wait to get out running.  Strangely, I hardly coughed at all once I got out the house.  Fresh air is good for you..
Changing colours at Linton Falls
So as not to exacerbate things I reduced my run to 4 miles and lingered at various places to admire and photograph the rampant autumn tints.
St Michael and All Angels Church in its peaceful setting
I love the view across the River Wharfe to the Church beyond, a beautiful pastoral scene where a family group were picnicking in the warm sunshine.
Escaping the crowds
I left the river to take a quieter field path back home - for reasons I wont go into!  Meanwhile my wonderful partner was spending the whole day attending a First Aid course at Linton in connection with her National Park Ranger duties.  She was indoors for 9½ hours.
By Hebden Suspension bridge
We got out together on Sunday but not where we'd intended to go.  We'd driven to Grimwith for a run round the reservoir but discovered the entry road was closed and will be for several weeks. We returned to Hebden and set off to run the Appletreewick circular.
Running back from Appletreewick
It was misty, there was little or no sunshine and an odd spot of rain somehow found its way onto my camera lens.  Otherwise, it was cool and ideal for running. And we were not alone....
Approaching Burnsall
Another runner wearing an expensive Salomon backpack somehow managed to sneak onto a photograph approaching Burnsall.
Brief rest by the Wharfe
It was a beautiful run and we felt glad of the circumstances that ruled out Grimwith.  The autumn tints along the riverbank were a feast for the eyes.  The mainly treeless circuit of Grimwith wouldn't have compared.
Speeding past the Red Lion in Burnsall
We were running well, TomTom proclaiming it was my fastest ever run round that circuit.  Maybe it was that Salomon guy that pulled us along?
Back to the Suspension Bridge
It was drizzling a little harder as we passed Loup Scar but we didn't care.  We were into the last mile, heading for home, coffee and hot porridge.
Unhappy heron
Autumn chestnuts were losing their leaves by the Suspension Bridge and a heron hunched on a rock midstream didn't look too happy.  Normally they fly away at our approach but this one took no notice of us.
Flying Finish
And that little run rounded off the week very nicely indeed. We shut out the rain, stoked up the stove and settled down to a lazy Sunday afternoon while tracking Ashley through Edinburgh, out to the Pentlands and back, to his exuberant finish at the Royal Commonwealth Pool.
And I thought that deserved a rather large dram!  Cheers Ash!