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Monday, 6 August 2018

Dog days without the dog......

Two midweek runs over Castle Hill passed without incident. The scary black dog was nowhere in sight.  Neither was it's owner's car on the car park so I could run my circuits and reps with complete peace of mind.
Running up that hill with no hassle from unruly dogs
(Click to enlarge pictures)
An email from Emma, the Police Community Support Officer, said she hadn't yet got around to speaking to the offending owner.  I wondered if her recent change of name from Wood to Goddard might account for a temporary suspension of Policing duties?   Regardless, my Bite Back spray seems to have proved a suitable deterrent.
Statue of Harold Wilson presiding over Huddersfield's
Food and Drinks festival last weekend
We wondered if Saturday was National Walking Day (though back in sunny Huddersfield it was National Eating & Drinking Day).  Other than in races we'd never before encountered so many people - or dogs - on our weekend runs.  Even in more remote places, along little known footpaths, we couldn't escape them.  The world and his wife were out enjoying the  glorious, warm weather.
And so were we.
Red Admiral
Leaving an endless stream of people along the riverbank we crossed the bridge at Linton Falls and struck uphill to Langerton Lane.  Early mushrooms dotted the fields and a Red Admiral butterfly posed just long enough for a photograph.
Tripping down the lane towards Burnsall
A posse of walkers were dawdling in the village of Thorpe, perhaps slowed in their tracks by the mid-day heat.  We ignored the 'Slow' sign on the uphill bit and turned right at the top along a trail leading to Burnsall.
Burnsall Fell turning purple with heather
On previous runs we've almost always had this stretch to ourselves, but not on this occasion.  Could it be that someone has written a new guide book to the area, or is it that more folk are learning to read maps?
Harebells by a mossy wall
We've no idea what breed they are but we came across a field full of sheep with 'sticky out' ears. Any shepherds among my blog readers?
Big ears...
And just beyond them, a motley gathering of tents in a secluded field where there hadn't been any before (nor is there any mention of a Burnsall campsite on the internet). We wondered if they were there legally?  Likewise whether a herd of beasties should be rampaging through a new plantation by Hebden Suspension Bridge?
How did those beasties get in there?
TomTom told us we'd run a respectable 7.14 miles with 622ft of ascent so good enough reason for a cooling can of beer in the garden after lunch.
The steep climb up to the top of Hebden Crag on Sunday's run
We'd planned a shorter run for Sunday but somehow miscalculated and finished up running a circuit of exactly the same distance. The heather is currently in bloom and we were anxious to get among it - and smell it.
Happy among the heather
  We'd barely gone a mile before it bombarded our nostrils with its wonderful scent.  We carried on, seeking more of it, crossing the dam at a dried up Mossy Mere.
Water shortage at Mossy Mere
Then over rushy haunts of zig-zagging snipe into Backstone Edge lane leading up to our peat cuttings on Hebden Moor.
Solitary peat cutter
A solitary, bare chested figure was stacking newly cut peat and bagging some that had dried.  It's hard work, as my wonderful partner can vouch for, and we didn't envy him toiling away in the mounting heat.
Miles of nothingness over Grassington Moor
Then again, I don't suppose he envied us either, running across the broad, empty expanse of Grassington Moor towards Blea Ghyll, miles from civilisation or any habitation. In 75ºF.
Looking into Blea Ghyll.
Blea Ghyll is a delectable spot where I've bathed in a pool at the foot of a waterfall where rainbows formed in the sunlit spray.  On a cliff overlooking the waterfall a kestrel nested in splendid isolation.  On Sunday there was hardly a trickle of water.  Only an eerie silence. Not even a bird cry.
Ooh look, helicopters....
We carried on over the moor, herding sheep as we ran the broad track, past a tarn where  damsel flies darted hither and thither, iridescent turquoise needles with wings sparkling in the sunlight.
Air planing downhill
My old bones were beginning to feel the strain.  I was glad to cross the 1,300ft contour to start the downhill run for home.  Passing familiar landmarks we swept down into Hebden Ghyll, past the bent tree and alongside the dried up beck where a rabbit was either dying of thirst or in the first throes of myxomatosis.
Hebden Ghyll
  TomTom registered 7.14 miles with 769ft of ascent.  Also, in the heat, I'd burnt nearly 1,000 calories and was mighty anxious to replace them.
 Not quite sure how many there are in a pork pie, half a jar of biscuits, half a bottle of electrolyte juice and a can of lager.
But it seemed to do the trick!

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Another dawn run......

 I was out the house before the clock struck six this morning, and a very pleasant morning it turned out to be.  A local farmer had been mowing fields of grass almost into the wee small hours so a wonderful smell greeted me as I stepped out the door.
New mown hay - though a bit sparse...  (Click to enlarge) 
I hadn't run for five days so my legs were fresh and moved easily along the lane to cross the road into the fields beyond.  A waning moon hung in a clearing sky above Castle Hill.  Blackbirds sung their morning matins.  A cock pheasant crowed and shook his feathers, violently, as they do.
Spread over a mile the 250ft of ascent to Victoria Tower didn't feel too bad.  I cruised round the perimeter path and was relieved to note that a certain person with a vicious black dog was nowhere in sight.  Neither was his car. 
A path to myself

 After several attacks I'd reported him to the local Police Community Support Officer who assured me she'd contact the guy and stress to him that his dog must be kept under stricter control.  Meanwhile, I'd taken matters into my own hands and sprayed the snarling creature with Bite Back on the last occasion it came hurtling towards me. 
 I haven't seen it since!
Recommended to stave off dog attacks

After my third circuit a car arrived with the first of the morning dog walkers.  Except they didn't walk.  The car door opened, a dog shot out and went rampaging round the hill at great speed in search of rabbits while it's owner remained in situ.
A fresh breeze kept me cool as I launched into a short session of hill reps.  Or should that read a session of short hill reps?  Well both actually, they're only 100m and nowadays I never do more than ten.  Especially if anyone is watching!
A splash of rainbow colour...
Towards the west a swathe of rainbow colours enhanced the sunlit landscape, a focal point to gaze upon, and photograph, between reps. Any excuse for a rest!  Alongside the perimeter path fireweed was growing in profusion and I wondered whether those curious looking elephant hawk moth caterpillars still crawled among the stems.  I couldn't be bothered to look...
...and more colour - fireweed
An abundance of apples on a tree just over a garden fence are ripening nicely.  It's a shame the branches don't extend over the fence to make picking legal.  Not that I can't reach over on the way back from some early morning jaunt.  And most probably will...
Ripe for the picking
Arriving home after a very enjoyable 4 miles, a neighbour was just coming out the door to climb into his car on the way to work.  My work-out was finished.  
Now, what on earth was I going to do for the rest of the day?

Monday, 16 July 2018

A lazy week......

Maybe the persistent heat was sapping my energy.. For much of last week I'd all on to walk up the stairs or stroll a few yards up the lane to sit in the garden with a can of refreshing beer.  Whatever, I only managed to get out running twice.
Relaxing and recuperating  (Click to enlarge pictures)
The first run was one I'd rather forget.  But I can't.  As readers of this blog will know, I prefer to run in the early morning before the heat of the day.  Unfortunately, a certain heavily built, tattooed character turns his dogs loose on Castle Hill before he goes to work and they are not very friendly.  
That dog
One of them resembling a black labrador has attacked me three times, once bouncing me off the path and last week snarling and frothing at the mouth until the owner grabbed its collar and held it away.  I took a photograph of it and on closer study came to the conclusion it may not be pure labrador but could have bull terrier blood in it.  Labradors will normally lick you to death.  This one frightens me to death.  I reported it to the local Police, enclosing a photograph, but a standard reply back  seemed to imply I'd sent it to the wrong department.  Hopefully they'll pass it across the desk to the right department?
Running up the long wall in glorious sunshine
I put the shock behind me for an enjoyable run over Grassington Moor on Saturday with my wonderful partner.  After the commute back to Hebden we were a little late setting off.  Temperatures were already well into the 70's so a plentiful layer of sun screen was applied before stepping out the door.
Approaching the cairn at 1,500ft
We took it easy for the first  4 miles which is all uphill to a cairn around the 1,500ft contour.  The top half of the cairn has either fallen down or been vandalised.  We suspect the latter.  My wonderful partner replaced one or two stones on Saturday but sometime we'll get around to completely rebuilding it.
Time for a wee rest to soak up the atmosphere.
It's a wild landscape where we rarely see anyone else.  Just a few sheep, the plaintive calls of golden plovers, a few skylarks and the wind sighing through the rough grass.   We absolutely love the atmosphere up there and spent a little time relaxing by our old marker cairn that guides us down from our runs over Bycliffe Hill.
Winding up for a fast mile
From the cairn it's downhill all the way back to Hebden and I couldn't resist a fast run for the next mile or so.  I wanted to know what Strava or TomTom would make of it but all they'd recorded was a best 400m effort! I didn't really expect getting anywhere near my 4.05 of 28 years ago but thought I'd at least get a mention.
Running down to Cupola Corner
My wonderful partner trundled down at a more leisurely pace, passing the derelict old lead mine buildings to join me at Cupola Corner for a steady jog down the ghyll together.
Back in Hebden Ghyll
We'd run an enjoyable 7½ miles and worked up quite a thirst I was anxious to assuage. After a shower and pork pie lunch I was soon reaching into the fridge for a cool can of lager to take up the garden and while away the afternoon among the flowers, wallowing in sunshine.
Sat still - for a few minutes
My wonderful partner is quite incapable of sitting still for more than a few minutes while out in the garden.  A weed has to be pulled, a plant watered, or take the shears to a few tufts of grass, or pick a few black currants, or raspberries, etc. etc.  "For goodness sake, sit still and relax" I'll say.  And on Sunday she actually did, long enough for me to take a picture of her.
Dunno whether it will ever happen again...

Monday, 9 July 2018

Kilian and me......

Three runs last week were all over-shadowed or upstaged by greater sporting events.   My 4 mile pre-breakfast gallop through Mollicar Wood and back through mown fields to escape the impending heat paled to insignificance by England's routing of Columbia in the football World Cup later in the day.
On Tuesday's pre-breakfast gallop    (Click to enlarge)
I'd been feeling rather proud of myself when Strava told me I'd achieved my second fastest ½ mile, one mile and one km times even though I'd set off feeling a bit groggy through lack of sleep.  Then along come Gareth Southgates boys to win an incredible penalty shoot-out for the first time since 1996.
Bedtime,  except it wasn't
After full time, extra time, then penalties, it was way past my bedtime when the match finally finished.  After further sleepless nights (damn heat) it was Saturday before I ran again.
What's that climbing over the wall?
Then, it was another short one.  "Where do you want to go?" my wonderful partner had asked over a quick cup of coffee after our commute back to Hebden.
Heading for Grassington
"Through the fields to Grassington and a quick run back along the river" I'd replied, not sure whether I could even manage that after a glance at my phone said the temperature was already 75ºF, and climbing.
Reaching the Wharfe 
Ah well, mad dogs and English (people) go out in the mid-day sun, so off we went - wearing shades and smothered in Factor 30.  I'll swear I'm getting dafter in my dotage....
Stepping stones and Linton Church
We hadn't gone more than 250 metres before our first distraction and photo stop.  "What the heck's that?" I asked when a large, strange shaped balloon wafted around in the breeze by Longthorne's garage. It transpired some enterprising young lady in the village has begun selling Ice cream at that very spot.
She wasn't there.
C'mon, let's head for home
Water in the river was low and stepping stones were high out of the water making it an easy passage to Linton Church.  There was a wedding there and one of our neighbours was on his way to play the organ.  He was so smartly dressed I didn't recognize him!
Siesta time for sheep
Sheep were moving into the shadow of trees to escape the heat.  Two runners passed without a word, either too hot or too full of their own importance. I hate that.
Pleasant running alongside the river.
Chestnuts by the river offered a small amount of shade for us, but many of them have been stricken by some strange disease that is killing them off.  Their skeletons lie all along the river bank.
Tree insect!
We met very few people and surmised most were staying at home well stocked up with beer and barbecue fodder ready for the 3 pm kick-off between England and Sweden in the World Cup.
Not far now to a shower and a few cool drinks
Leaving the river we stepped briefly onto the road before turning up the ghyll path for the steep climb back into Hebden, and home.  On hot days like these I sometimes wish I wasn't so much of a gentleman and could barge into the shower first!
With no television set to watch I deserted the garden at 5 o'clock to Google the World Cup score, 2 - 0 to England. 
They'll do for me.
Not much sunshine up the ghyll on Sunday
My wonderful partner was out of the house at 9.15 Sunday morning on National Park Ranger duty.  I was off on my own shortly afterwards on a 10 mile run I haven't attempted for many months.  Mossdale.  If my friend Antonio should think I'm training for the Burnsall 10, then rest assured, I'm not.
Happy, but a bit sweaty in Mossdale
  This was indeed an ideal training run for Burnsall in years gone by with its 1,000ft of ascent to strengthen the legs and mainly downhill finish to develop a bit of speed. I last ran Burnsall when I was 80 and (again) took the prize for 1st local runner!
Agitated lapwing
On Sunday I was lucky.  The forecast got it a little wrong.  It was mainly cloudy when I set off up the ghyll and as I rose higher there was a gentle breeze to cool the sweat on my forehead.  Both lapwings and curlews got very agitated as I ran past their breeding grounds in the jaws of Mossdale, so obviously still had fledglings.
Stile in new rabbit-proof fence 
Everywhere was tinder dry making for very pleasant running, down the length of new fencing (erected overnight) into Yarnbury, then back down the ghyll to a village heaving with weekend walkers.  I'd no appetite for food but probably drank 2 litres of fluid to replace all I'd lost.
Bare House, track to Mossdale and that new fence
Unusually, I'd been carrying my phone and heard several strange bleeps as I ran along.  I'd ignored them but on a later check it was my old running friend Doug Tilley informing me of Kilian Jornet's attempt to break Billy Bland's 36 year old record of 13 hours 53 minutes for the Bob Graham round in the English Lake District.
Kilian Jornet  (Picture from internet)
 Kilian is the amazing Catalan runner who has run up the highest mountains of each continent including two ascents of Everest last year without oxygen.  I wasn't surprised to learn he smashed Billy Bland's record by just over an hour to finish in 12 hours 52 minutes.  His run of 66 miles over 42 Lakeland summits with roughly 28,500ft of ascent somewhat snuffed out my little 10 mile jaunt round Mossdale!
Ah well, maybe next week...

Monday, 2 July 2018

Just do it......

I've said it before, I never, ever looked at my watch during a race, preferring instead to run entirely by 'feel', always believing my body could judge optimum pace far better than any watch.  It amused me to see runners checking their watches at every mile marker, presumably to assess whether ahead or behind schedule.
One of those enjoyable dawn runs  (Click to enlarge)
My body set my pace according to fitness level and acquired training effect so there was never any computing to do on my part.  Time rarely crossed my mind.  I just ran the best my body would allow me to run on the day.  The inquest and analysing began only when I got home when occasionally I'd get a wonderful surprise - a nice PB, an age related course record or occasionally a British Championship.
Tuesday's 5 mile route
Old habits die hard.  Even though I haven't raced for years I never peer at my TomTom watch while actually running.  I merely click it at the start and finish of a run then plug it into the computer to download and charge while I have my shower.  Which is what I did last Tuesday after an enjoyable 5 mile run round local fields, woods and hills.
Love those sort of surprises
Still sweating I sat, draped in a bath towel, in front of my computer to learn the worst!  But I couldn't believe my eyes when TomTom said I'd just run my fastest 5 miles (with 597 ft of ascent) and improved my Fitness Age to 66.  So there you go, running does actually make people younger - by a whacking 20 years in my case!
Stepping stones and Suspension Bridge at Hebden
Things didn't go quite so flowingly at the weekend.  On Saturday we visited a 93 year old friend who's recently been transferred from hospital to a rather opulent, up market Nursing Home.  "Gosh" I said to the receptionist, "have you got room for me in here?"  I quickly changed my mind on learning that weekly rates amount to a staggering £831
Paddlers in the river at Loup Scar
By the time we'd driven to Hebden the sun had reached its zenith which meant we were in for a sweaty, uncomfortable run.  I envied people splashing around in the river at Loup Scar as I ran past.  I say 'I' because we ran separately, me having trouble with my nether regions again - don't ask - which somewhat delayed my start.
A flotilla of goosanders 
There were crowds of weekend walkers to dodge around, and their dogs, but all were polite and chatty, giving words of encouragement and shutting gates behind me. In the intense heat they gave me little chance for rest.
Burnsall beach and corner of Daggett's field
Jeremy Daggett's field in Burnsall was brimming with picnickers, sunbathers and folk paddling in the river.  A pungent smell of barbecue smoke and charred meat stung my nostrils as I ran through.  I wasn't tempted!
Early purple orchids - I think!
I'd never before noticed the delightful little patch of wild flowers near the bottom of Postman's Steps.  Maybe it's only appeared this year.  And nestling among the carpet of blue were some beautiful early purple orchids that, of course, provided another excuse for a few moments rest.
Running back over the Suspension Bridge I noticed algae is already forming on the river, as it does when water gets low in hot weather.
Algae forming a scum on the River Wharfe
"Remind me never to run in this sort of heat again" I said to a non- running neighbour as I turned in home lathered with sweat.  It was ages after my shower that I cooled down sufficiently to fancy any lunch.  It was fluid I needed most. A bucket full of it.
Setting off into the boundless blue on Sunday's run
More sensibly, Sunday's run was a bit earlier in the day but nevertheless the sun was rising into a cloudless sky as we set off up the ghyll trailing our black shadows. A grey wagtail in the beck gave us our first excuse for a rest as it flitted from stone to stone in search of food for its fledglings.
Yellow wagtail
Sheep had already sensed the increasing heat and were seeking shade in the lee of a dry stone wall.  What they didn't know was that the sun would soon be directly overhead and their cool shade would be gone.
Sheep in disappearing shade -
or have they picked the wrong side of the wall?
We'd set off to do a seven mile route but were already feeling a little uncomfortable in the rising temperature.  "Maybe we'll just go round Yarnbury and make it a mile shorter" I suggested.  My wonderful partner quickly agreed. "The mountain pansies should be flowering on the Yarnbury track" she said.
No mountain pansies but a few splashes of thyme
"Oh, I wasn't meaning that particular track, that way will cut it down to only five miles" I said.  Subconsciously I believe we both thought that would be far enough!  So that was the way we went.
At a stile approaching the tiny hamlet of Yarnbury....
Unusually, we hadn't seen a solitary soul.  There are usually cars parked around Yarnbury and walkers wandering along the tracks, but there was no-one.
....and standing on the slightly raised curve of the overgrown henge
We crossed a field containing a henge that dates back to the Neolithic/Bronze age.  Sadly over the years its 22 metre circumference has become so overgrown as to become barely recognizable among the thistles and tussocks in which it lies. But we found it.
Legging it down Moor Lane
We climbed over another stile to run down Moor Lane where a lone lapwing was flying around.  We surmised the majority of them had already returned to the coast where feeding will be much easier on the wet seashore than the baked ground of the Yorkshire Dales.
Keeping going up Edge Lane
Turning onto Edge Lane we encountered our first, and only, hikers of the morning who gave us a cheery "Well done" as we shuffled by, determined to keep going up the steepish hill ahead of them.
Knapweed
I'm afraid to say we succumbed to yet another tempting short cut at the end of Edge Lane, down a narrow path leading steeply downhill to the welcome shade of a wooded area where knapweed was growing in profusion.
Almost home and still the sky is blue
From thereon it was a gentle run past Garnshaw House, through a couple of fields and down a stony lane back into the village of Hebden - to a cooling shower, drinks, lunch, then if I dare say it, a short siesta out of the sun.   I sometimes wonder if I'm getting old?
Sunset - and time for bed
  Not according to TomTom.  At my present rate of progress I could soon become a teenager again.
  In my dreams....