Monday, 14 August 2017

Play misty for me......

Below was the sight that greeted me as I stepped out the door for the first of my dawn runs last week.  The sign points downhill, towards Huddersfield, but I ignored it and, as usual, went uphill.
To the Castle, of course.
Stepping out to greet the sun - or was it greeting me?
 (Click to enlarge pictures)
Fields were awash with dew and an eerie mist was spreading through the valleys as I climbed higher.  Rabbits ran ahead of me, indicating the absence of dog walkers.  I'd the hill to myself, which is just how I like it...
Then the mist came
It was Thursday and my first of only three runs last week.  I'd set off to do 4 miles but got a bit carried away with the beauty of my surroundings.  I finished up running 5 miles and felt fresh enough to have run farther.
Misty valleys
Mileage was down on last week, but still managed a very enjoyable 15 miles with a little over 1,300ft of ascent to spice it up a bit.
Clear and bright on Friday
Friday's run was kept to a strict 4 miles.  Unlike the previous morning's run there wasn't a shred of mist to be seen.  Perfect for photography if only I'd had time to take more.
Poetry in motion
Descending past the wood on my way home three young ladies were setting off up the hill, running in line, perfectly synchronised.
Ah, no-one will notice me scrumping at 6 in the morning!
Passing someone's  garden I noticed that apples were turning russet and would soon be ready for scrumping.
Uphill but enjoyable in the clear air on Sunday
Sunday dawned clear and fresh with not a cloud in the sky.  Instead of running directly uphill I turned left, dropping down into Mollicar Wood, then up through Roydhouse and a steep field towards Farnley Tyas.
Castle Hill from Farnley Hey
Turning right towards a distant Castle Hill presented me with a couple of problems.  The first was a virtual swamp of evil smelling slurry flooding across the public footpath. It appeared to flow from a hole in the ground.
There's a footpath somewhere under those clods
The second was a long, roughly ploughed field with ankle twisting clods that slowed me down a bit.
Arrival on Castle Hill...
As ever, I had to finish over Castle Hill and again I had the place to myself.  The views were superb and I was reluctant to descend.
...and a view from the top, to the heathery heights of West Nab,
purple in the morning light
 It was one of those days I felt I could run forever.  I love these wild runs, often with some wild and wonderful music rushing around in my mind, helping my pace, drawing me on, transporting me, obliterating discomfort.  Except my tummy was crying out for porridge, and running across dusty, ploughed fields had proved thirsty work!  I contented myself with 6 memorable miles.
But thinking about that run while relaxing in the garden afterwards, it brought back memories of a poem I wrote,  many years ago:

There are days
On paths that  zig-zag
High into the hills
We pass beyond the pain,
Catch that tingling in the scalp
That tells us soon
We'll treadmill out of time,
Out of self.

To rufflings of raven's wings
We'll rise above the stones,
Sail in the eye of the wind
To worlds beyond the womb.
In that transmigratory state
That's neither flesh nor blood
Male or female, warm or cold,
We'll run, like disembodied joys,
The gauntlet of eternity.

Only 15 miles in total but a thoroughly enjoyable week.  Deserves another glass of wine methinks.  Or maybe even a wee dram....

Monday, 7 August 2017

Dawn runs......

Last week marked a return to early morning runs, up at 5am and a quick cup of coffee before running to some vantage point just as the sun came peeping over the horizon.   The vantage point was, of course, Castle Hill, just one mile and a couple hundred feet of ascent from my garden gate to the landmark tower.
I'd forgotten how good it felt.
A new dawn    (Click pictures to enlarge)
So good in fact I maybe got a little carried away and ran it on three consecutive mornings before deciding it might be a good idea to save some of my energy for weekend.
Up, up and away
Running came easy as I powered non-stop up the steep bits in a cool morning breeze, racing the sun to the summit.  It beat me. I shall have to get up earlier!
Sun - shining upon the righteous!
Surprisingly, as I stood admiring the view and taking the above picture by the tower, another runner came pounding up the steps, hooded with ear phones rammed into his lug-oles.  He touched the wall of the tower and made off before I'd time to accost him.
A young pretender on my patch!
Friday was a rest day as I travelled to the Dales, stopping in Ilkley to do an extra large weekend shop, before the arrival of my wonderful partner's sister-in-law.  Sue arrived later in the afternoon by some devious route all the way from Carp in Ontario.
Bare House route
Saturday dawned bright and sunny, pleasant enough to lure us up the ghyll on a 700ft climb to Bare House.
A bit of colour on the moor
Heather was coming to its best as we ran up the lane beyond Yarnbury. Keepers, with their dogs, were out assessing the state of the grouse moor prior to next Saturday's so called glorious twelfth.
 Prelude to the annual slaughter.
Running towards Bare House, above left in the picture
From the end of the lane we'd a little respite, chance to catch our breath on a short downhill stretch towards Bare House, known locally as Barras. The landscape was bare too, and silent.  Curlews and lapwings have all finished breeding and returned to their seaside haunts.
Closing the gate at Bare House.
After closing the gate at Bare House there's a wonderful two miles of turfy trail down into Grassington. It undulates slightly in parts but one gathers enough momentum on the downhills to cruise over the uphills.
Downhill to Grassington
It's a popular trail for walkers as well as runners, so much so that indigenous sheep and cattle seem quite used to us all and hardly bat an eyelid as we sweep past.  It's wonderful, wild country and one of our favourite runs.
Ancient but still in good running order
Returning to Hebden through meadows of scabious and meadowsweet we popped out onto the road to find an ancient old wagon parked on the green, a relic of Longthorne's, the village hauliers, with an equally ancient tractor strapped on its back.
A glance at my Garmin told us we'd exceeded 7 miles as we closed the door just when it began to rain.
Ha ha, you missed us that time!
Heather by Grimwith reservoir
After that illustrious effort we'd a lie in on Sunday morning, till 6am.  After a quick coffee we were soon scattering the hundreds of partridge and pheasant poults along the road to Grimwith. Apart from those we saw just one solitary lapwing.
A dreich, misty morning
It was a driech morning, cloudy and misty but with very little wind.  A gentleman walking three beautiful Staffordshire Bull terriers was the only other person we met as we set off to run our circuit.
Running up that hill...back o' Grimwith
Two miles in, I tripped and fell heavily on the gravel track, bashing my elbow, bending a finger and knocking the wind out of my sails.
 I was hauled to my feet after a couple of minutes and was so mad that I set off to do some 5.50 pace reps - just for spite!
End of run - with bent finger
It had been a good 22 mile week, my highest mileage for some time, but with several imminent commitments it's doubtful if I'll achieve similar mileages in the coming two weeks.
Happy running everyone.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Easing back into gear...

The majority of our population regard running as too stressful to even contemplate, not just to knees, joints, tendons and muscles but mainly their minds.  Conversely, for us who've run for a large part of our lives and suddenly for whatever reason find ourselves grounded, stress can rear its ugly head within a matter of days.  Withdrawal symptoms flare up with a vengeance and can't be assuaged until one foot starts moving in front of the other again at something a little faster than a walk.
Even for octogenarians...
Back into gear and feeling good  (Click pictures to enlarge)
 The last three weeks have not been easy but rest and medication seem to have halted rapid weight loss and normalised bodily functions.  On Sunday, with some trepidation, I donned my trail shoes and jogged gently up the lane on the heels of my wonderful partner.
Our first excuse to stop
It was sunny with a fresh breeze that filled the air with a heady scent of meadowsweet.  A young wall-eyed foal provided our first distraction that necessitated an impromptu photo shoot before jogging happily along through a field blue with scabious.  The remnant of a passing shower felt cool and refreshing. I was easing into my stride again, feeling good.
Flowery diversion through Grassington

 It felt wonderful too to be running alongside the River Wharfe again, dodging a few rocks and exposed tree roots along the way, listening to its chattering music.
"Now on the polished stones it danced, like childhood laughing as it went" (Shelley - The Spirit of Solitude).
Running the riverbank

Eleven young goosanders swam upstream, hugging the far bank but there was no sign of any sand martins.  We feared the recently swollen river may have risen high enough to flood their nesting holes in the banking.
Procession of goosanders under the far bank
It was a happy runner that crept back into the house, all smiles, 4 miles later. I wont go so far as to say 'I'm back' but as yet I feel no ill effects so the prognosis is looking good.
Nearly home - and I'd somehow got ahead!
A little later, a dinner party with three invited friends could really have counted as a celebration.  It was a convivial gathering of cavers, climbers, walkers and runners that feasted, quaffed and bantered well into the night.  
It was a gradely do and a fitting end to a long, wonderful day.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017


Last weeks page in my running diary was an absolute blank. Not a single mile recorded. Nothing. Nil. Zilch.  If I'd kept a 'walking' diary it wouldn't have registered much more than 12 miles either, 2 miles up and down the riverbank looking for kingfishers, a 5 mile circuit of Mossy Mere photographing gulls and oystercatchers, plus a couple of strolls down town for shopping.
Goosander on River Wharfe   (Click to enlarge pictures)
Easy walks don't count.  I don't class them as exercise.  They don't triple the heart rate like running does.
  They uses to do, in mountaineering days, on 11 coast to coast backpacking jaunts across Scotland carrying heavy loads, Munro bagging, high level traverses of the Swiss Alps, or even circuits of Yorkshire's Three Peaks.
Walking the Munros - Meall Buidhe in Knoydart (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
  Many British walks/scrambles, like the Aonach Eagach in Glencoe, Cuillin Ridge on Skye or Snowdon Horseshoe are in wild, potentially dangerous areas that raise the adrenalin levels and make for long exciting days in the hills. 
Getting high on adrenalin - Blaven, Skye  (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
I loved that type of walking, and a good old banter over a pint, or two, in the pub at night.
Beginning the Cuillin Ridge traverse - 22 summits in a day  (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
A traverse of the Cuillin Ridge with mountaineering partner, John Mortimer, was  probably one of the most exciting days of my life.  We left the campsite in Glenbrittle at 6am,, traversed the whole of the ridge in 11 hours and were in the Sligachan Inn celebrating our achievement before closing time.  A braw day, as they say in Scotland. (Finlay Wild subsequently ran the entire ridge in just under 3 hours!).
My type of walking - winter day on Seana Braigh  (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
By the time I took up running, aged 54, it was too late to attempt fast traverses though I ran many of the 283 Scottish Munros to eventually become the 2,699th  'Compleatist' in 2002.
On a run up Ben Hope - looking towards Ben Loyal
(Courtesy Stuart Scott)
Reaching the tender age of 80 marked another milestone insomuch as I decided enough was enough.  No longer would I subject my body to rigorous training routines to stay competitive.  Hill reps, cruise intervals and the like were beginning to hurt like hell and would more likely destroy my body rather than do it any good.  I'm no Ed Whitlock or Faujit Singh.  There are other things in life besides running.
Soloing Tower Gap on a climb up Ben Nevis   (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
Between 80 and 85 I raced a few times, using up inbuilt reserves, until racing fitness dwindled to a point where I no longer felt competitive.  That's it, I said, from now on I'll continue running slowly and enjoyably, purely for fun, fitness and my love of the great outdoors.   And so I have.

M80 Rankings from 2014
Imagine my surprise the other day when I happened across something I hadn't seen before, some rankings from 2014 I didn't know existed. A friend had persuaded me to do a couple of Championship races as a parting gesture and I complied, just for fun!  Little did I realise I'd feature in the British, European and World rankings for that year.
It's taken me three more years to learn the meaning of the word Serendipity!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

A bad tummy, Canadians, Penyghent and a load of bull......

It's been a frustrating week.  I wont go into details other than to say that certain bodily malfunctions prevented me from doing all I'd have liked to do.  Starting a week's course of Metronidazole (antibiotics) I'd been advised against strenuous exercise and told to take things easy.  
As if I could!
Struggling over Castle Hill  (Click pictures to enlarge)
Runs were limited to just two, each of 4 miles, both of which ended in disaster, not to say a certain amount of embarrassment.  It could be some time before I don trail shoes again.
A strange plant appeared in my garden which I'm told is called Astilbe.  I've no idea how it got there for I certainly never planted it.
Long tailed tit at the feeders
I'd like to think it's a present from the birds I feed each day, a seed stolen from someone's garden and conveniently dropped into a shady corner of mine they perhaps thought looked a little bare.
Yours truly and David with his auntie Sheila
We'd company at the weekend, all the way from Canada, and felt obliged to show them some of our wonderful Yorkshire countryside during their three day stay.
Our route over Penyghent
 My wonderful partner's nephew, David, had expressed a desire to visit Penyghent again, a hill he'd climbed  on a previous trip to England in 2004 whilst I was taking part in a fell race over it.  
An excellent idea, we thought, for on a clear day we'll see a huge chunk of Yorkshire from its 2,277ft summit, and that should be enough!  We drove to Horton-in-Ribblesdale to find it bulging with people and cars.  Hundreds were taking part in a sponsored walk over Yorkshire's three peaks of Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough to raise money for British Heart Foundation.
So we'd plenty of company.
Kim, going strong in the initial stages
David's partner, Kim, had never tackled a hill of such magnitude before so it was a baptism of fire for her. But she's young and fit so it posed no problem.  Coming from a metropolis like Ottawa she was fascinated by our Yorkshire countryside with all its free range cattle and sheep of which she took endless photographs.
Onwards and upwards
The day had dawned clear and sunny but not too warm, so excellent conditions for our 6 mile jaunt.  Swallows flitted around Brackenbottom.  Lots of  Wild mountain thyme inspired a verse or two of that beautiful song made famous by The Corries.  I've sung it scores of times on climbing meets and I'd love to think my mountaineering friends will raise their voices and sing it at my final curtain.
If they haven't all gone before me!
Up the rocky nose
To borrow a phrase from Miles Kington , "C'est un bleedin' doddle" is how I'd describe Penyghent's rocky nose, the hill's main obstacle where hands as well as feet are required for the ascent.
Kim enjoying herself on the steep bit
 It was soon over and smiling faces were happily making their way to the Trig point at the summit.
All smiles at the Trig Point
After the obligatory photograph we relaxed behind a wall, out of the wind, to refuel with sandwiches and juice before the easy downhill trek back to Horton village.
Relaxing before the descent
Charity walkers had all gone, trundling off towards Whernside and mighty Ingleborough, another 21 miles of energy sapping terrain. Some were already struggling and it's doubtful whether they'd complete the circuit in time to collect their medals by the 7pm finish.
An easy stroll down
There was no cut-off time for us.  We strolled leisurely along, our Canadian friends intrigued by dry stone walls, verdant limestone landscapes, the deep depression of Hunt Pot, extensive views - and a prime bull that posed to have its picture taken.
Hey, don't mess with me......
 It was a great day.  
Next time they honour us with a visit, we'll maybe take them over all three?