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.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Wild, wet and windy......

      It's been a funny old week when running was reduced to a meagre 9 miles. I'd an appointment with my doctor 8.30 Tuesday morning which effectively put paid to any thought of a pre-dawn run to watch the sun rise.  
      I did manage to get my bum out of bed early on Wednesday though the weather was pretty atrocious in our neck of the woods, very much a prelude to the main act the following day when Storm Doris took to the stage.  
A bit windy on Wednesday (Click pictures to enlarge)
      I was buffeted all over the place with a violence that took my breath away. After battling slithery, waterlogged fields and muddy slopes I aborted after 3 miles and actually toyed with the idea of going back to bed.  I resisted.
...and muddy
      Though Thursdays are normally running days there was no way I was going to venture out to battle with Storm Doris.  I switched the TV on for latest updates but could hardly hear it for the wind howling down the chimney.  Bird feeders were swinging all over the place and a silver birch in next door's garden was intermittently bending to near 45º.  All my crocuses wisely stayed shut.
It's rough up here in the Pennines...
Watch dog at Woodhouse Farm
      For all sorts of reasons both Friday and Saturday were non-days. An upsetting piece of news told me one of my mentors, Derek Ibbotson, who'd been suffering from dementia, had died in a local care home at the age of 84. The same age as me.  He was a Longwood Harrier and one time world record holder for the mile with 3.57.2  
R.I.P. Ibbo, you did our club proud.
Getting blown about a bit at Burnsall
      So it was Sunday before I donned my running gear again for a 6 mile run round Appletreewick (encouraged by a good kick up the backside from my wonderful partner!). The brief rest had done me good for I was running smoothly and easily from the word go.  Relatively speaking...
Running easy - into Appletreewick
      The River Wharfe was swollen after the previous days persistent rain and paths were a bit puddly as we set off into a cold, 14mph south west wind.  Other than a pair of goosanders, the odd mallard and a gull that circled me on Burnsall Bridge, we saw little in the way of bird life. 
Dancing along the river bank - leaving Appletreewick
      Walkers were out in force and I'd to reprimand one little group for leaving gates unfastened, a common occurrence that really annoys me (that, and cyclists who hurtle up behind me on narrow roads with no warning and others who hardly ever acknowledge my greetings).
Getting my hair blown off on Burnsall Bridge - and that circling bird
      Dunno whether it was the lay of the land or the winding of the river, but the wind that was against us on the way out was also against us on the way back.  Luckily, we'd warmed up by then so it wasn't much of a problem. For me!
      We were home for lunch.  It rained for the rest of the day...
Weren't we lucky?

Monday, 20 February 2017

Curlews, and the Snowdrop run......

      After a couple of 4 mile runs over the Castle mid-week it was time to up the mileage a bit on Saturday.  We set off to visit the village of Linton on what we call the snowdrop run.
The Snowdrop run   (Click pictures to enlarge)
      After recent rain it was a bit clarty alongside the Wharfe and I was skidding around a bit in my worn down studs. But if old ladies could cope with it, albeit with walking sticks, then so could I.
Beside the River Wharfe
      The temperature had risen to double figures and I could feel the warmth of the sun on bare legs. Hopefully, it will soon be warm enough for bare arms too for the start of my summer tan.
Running towards Linton Falls
      A loud roar filled the air as we approached the 'tin bridge' at Linton Falls where white water was thundering over the rocks and over the twin weirs beyond.
Bridge over troubled waters
      A pair of gaudy mallard were laying claim to a wee island in calmer water above the falls. We hoped they'd have enough sense not to nest there for they'd be in real danger of being washed away after the next heavy storm.
      Leaving the falls we took a route through fields from Threshfield school to cross and re-cross the old dismantled railway line to pick up a mossy lane to Linton village.
      Running up the hill beyond the school we were stopped in our tracks by the wonderful sound of the first curlew back to our area. It could have been navigating along the Wharfe to a favoured nest site in some quiet pasture. It's a favourite bird and a favourite sound I look forward to hearing each year, a sound that tells me winter is over, that Spring and new life are blossoming in the dale.

Ted Hughes was inspired to write:
Curlews in April
Hang their harps over the misty valleys
A wobbling water-call
A web-footed god of the horizons

New moons sink into the heather
And full golden moons
Bulge over spent walls

Mossy lane to Linton
      In a few more minutes we were passing through the gates of Linton House where lawns were smothered with shining white snowdrops, the most we'd ever seen. But perhaps we say that every year when we visit this site.
Snowdrops at Linton House
      Reluctantly, we left them to jog through the pretty little village, watching mallard playing in the water by the bridge and revelling in the warmth of sun on our bodies before striking steeply uphill to Langerton Lane and the hidden hamlet of Thorpe.
Running down to Thorpe
      Daffodils buds were thinking seriously about opening in a wild bit of garden where aconites and snowdrops were flowering among a mass of fallen berries.  And hiding among them was a solitary primrose, a bright splash of yellow in the kaleidoscope of colour.
Early primrose
      From Thorpe we'd a mile of enjoyable downhill running to the suspension bridge over the Wharfe before striking up through the ghyll back to our village. A steady 7 miles to put our snowdrop run to bed for another year.
Back to the suspension bridge
      We were up early on Sunday morning for what's becoming a regular run round Grimwith reservoir. And we were glad we did. The sky was burnished copper as we drove towards Dibbles Bridge but it disappeared behind the hills as we turned into the huge bowl of Grimwith.
Waterfown at Grimwith
      A noisy gang of oystercatchers wheeled away over the water as we ran across the dam.  Then greylags kicked up a rumpus as we passed a favourite grazing area below the old ruined barn.
On our regular run
      But best of all, a pair of curlews were calling across the water and another solitary one answered from the moor high on our left.  Before that we'd spotted a lone lapwing but further along a whole flock of them took to the air as we approached.
Toiling uphill to the finish
 All those harbingers of Spring lifted our spirits and filled our hearts with joy.  And a field of lambs at Turf Gate on our drive home only added to the euphoria. 
      A couple of hours later in a crowded chapel in Grassington I'd an awful lot to be thankful for. 
      I'm sure I out-sang everyone.  Judging by the looks I got......      

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Four seasons

      A light covering of snow on last Thursday's morning run over Castle Hill.
Snow  (Click to enlarge)
 Ice on a proposed Sunday morning run round Grimwith with a wind chill of -5ºC. Not wearing Yaktrax we aborted on grounds it was too dangerous.
      Cold, clammy mist on Tuesday's run.
      A gorgeous sunrise on today's (Thursday) run.

There are new born lambs in the fields, crocuses are flowering, oystercatchers are back on the river and feathered friends are coming to the bird table in pairs. 

Can Spring be far away?

Monday, 6 February 2017

Clothes don't always make the man......

      "Charles Booth please" a voice shouted my Sunday name from somewhere down the corridor in the Plastic Surgery unit. I set off in the direction from whence it came but no-one was there. I pushed partially opened doors. Rooms were deserted.  Eventually two nurses appeared, chatting cheerfully. One of them checked my name and led me to a room where an immaculately dressed man sat at a table peering stony faced at notes in front of him.  
      "Ah, the gentleman I came up in the lift with" I said, recognizing him. I assumed it was Mr Mahajan, for that was the name on the appointment form. But he didn't have the courtesy to introduce himself.  Without so much as a glance he ordered "Sit down" - as if he was speaking to a dog. Immediately my hackles rose.  I took off my coat, ready for him to inspect the eruptions on my back and arm. 
      "Where was the biopsy taken from?" he asked. I pointed to the wee scar on my forehead. He got up from his chair, yanked my head round to examine the spot, then proceeded to do a little drawing of my forehead, shading the area where he planned to operate and telling me there'd be a little scar afterwards. Meanwhile the nurse, Amanda, unceremoniously stuck a swab stick up both my nostrils to test for bacteria. 
      I told him about the potential BCC's on my back and on my arm, how they itched and sometimes bled onto the bed sheets. He wasn't even listening. "That's all, you'll receive an appointment for day surgery in two to three weeks".  
Like hell I will, not with you matey. As soon as I got home I rang the hospital to cancel the operation, effectively discharging myself.   I don't want to see that rude, ill mannered and unfriendly Mr Mahajan (?) again, ever.
New vest, courtesy of Terry Lonergan at 'Complete Runner'   (Click to enlarge)
Running-wise, it was another poor week. Twice I'd rolled out of bed in darkness, donned my running gear and stuck my nose out the door to start my run only to find it was windy, raining and misty.  I aborted on both occasions, not wishing to get cold in my eye to aggravate any remaining inflammation. 
My guardian angel at Cupola Corner on Saturday's run 
      So it was Saturday before I braved the elements to set off with my wonderful partner for an 8 mile run over Bycliffe Hill.  It had forecast wall to wall sunshine in the afternoon but guess what, we'd set off in the morning into a nithering south westerly and sporadic showers.  And where did the first shower hit us?  At 1,500ft on the windiest and most exposed part of the moor.  I didn't mind, I'd stopped to don a windproof jacket and my eyes were protected with wrap around shades and a cap.
A sprinkling of snow at the marker cairn
      To make things more atmospheric and enjoyable there was a light dusting of snow across the higher part of the moor, highlighting a sheep trod all the way across to the Mossdale track. The shower soon fizzled out to allow a smooth 3½ mile run for home, down the long wall and into the ghyll just as the sun came out again.   It would, wouldn't it, when we'd nearly finished.
Back into the ghyll as the sun came out
      I've a bit of catching up to do this coming week - between a visit to my doctor and an appointment with the optician...... 
I sometimes wonder if I'm starting to get old?  

Monday, 30 January 2017


      It's not been a good week, not for my camera, my eyes or my broadband connection. They've all conspired against me.  A series of pictures taken in perfect conditions on a dawn run last Thursday were all out of focus.  My old Panasonic Lumix seems none too keen on early morning activities but graciously agreed to take this one picture of Thursdays sunrise. 
Sunrise on a braw morning   (Click pictures to enlarge)
 I've since had words with it, tinkered with its settings and it seemed OK on Sunday's test run.  Here are some I took.
Hebden beck meandering through the village
      Actually, it wasn't a run, it was a walk. This time it was my Rt eye that was out of focus after another of those dreaded triamcinolone injections that didn't go quite right on Saturday.  I reckon most of the tetracaine ran down my cheek instead of into the eye to anaesthetize it. 
Signs of Spring (?) in Hebden Churchyard. 
      Iodine swabs stung like hell and I nearly leapt off the operating table when the needle pierced my eyeball to inject nearly 8 mgms of cortico-steroid, double the usual amount.  High strength Ibuprofen relieved much of the soreness afterwards, allowing me to go into hibernation mode for the rest of that day.  And night.
Hebden's only functional Church - St Peter's
      Church went by the board on Sunday. I was in no mood for company so set off up the ghyll for a solitary walk with my camera. Except it didn't work out quite like that.
Passing Pickering End
   Other people were up the ghyll, friendly souls from the village who were all too damn sociable. I was too polite to tell them to beggar off but gradually out-walked them to spend a couple of hours bumbling around on my own, having strong words with my camera.
..and Hebden Crag

      Fast forward to Monday when I've commuted back home, had lunch, warmed up my den and switched on the computer ready for work.  Except my broadband is playing up and there is insufficient download speed to get my pictures into Google for editing and getting them into my Blog.
..a quick visit to Scala Force
      I phoned Plusnet, my broadband provider, where a guy called Josh seemed more intent on talking me into an upgraded package than sorting out my problem.
...into the rough stuff farther up the ghyll
He later emailed me, blinding me with science about SNR margins and decibels and asking me to switch off my router in 4 hours, then switch it back on and leave it on in order to fix the problem. After ten days it should be OK.  Huh!  In ten days I might have switched to BT.
...across the Miner's Bridge
Some good news at the end of the day - I've managed to edit pictures in Google and get some into my blog.
..and a darkening sky towards end of day
No running shots as we never managed to get out together last weekend with hospital matters on Saturday and consequently in no fit state on Sunday.
Things can only get better...