Monday 29 June 2009

Clotted Cream and Coast Paths

It took six hours to drive from Yorkshire to our much loved campsite at Crantock in Cornwall. We arrived at John's door at Higher Moor spot on noon to be allotted our pitch in a delightful position that caught both the morning and evening sun. We'd asked for the 'Asparagus field' but it was fully booked by a group with enormous tents, big cars, over-proportioned bodies and inflated egos. I couldn't even get a 'good morning' from them! By one o'clock our tent was up and we were enjoying a much needed brew in body-hugging sunshine and a pleasant breeze.
Two hours later, when all our gear was sorted out, we set off on the first of our daily runs around the Common, four miles of undulating paths lined with orchids and a myriad other flowers, where skylarks sang joyously in a cloudless sky and quivering kestrels hovered. In the twelve days that followed we ran another 86 miles, mostly in the early mornings before the heat of the day, and all but one in similar sunny conditions when the whole of nature was bursting into an extravagant fullness of life. Of course, with a combined age of 140 years, we bumbled along at a fairly sedate pace whilst other runners, mainly women, showed us a clean pair of heels, amongst other well shaped bits and pieces!
While washing up one evening I got chatting with a lady called Sue who, it transpired, lives less than seven miles away in Yorkshire. She said her sixty year old partner, Eddie, is also a runner and often runs one of the same routes as me over 'Castle Hill' back home. So I went for a word with him, inviting him to join me on one of my morning runs round the coast path. Whether he'd seen my extra spurt as I re-entered the campsite at the end of one of my runs, I don't know, but he was having none of it. "There's no way I could keep up with you" he said. It was disappointing in a way but, being seventeen years older than him, I took it as a compliment.
By way of training for a half marathon at Masham in North Yorkshire on July 5th I'd worked out a twelve mile route predominantly along the south west coast path but which later veered off through Ministry of Defence property and back by inland paths. It looked feasible on the map. My partner and I were jogging along very nicely over two miles of dunes when we came to a locked gate with razor wire across the top barring admittance. But the funny part was, we were on the INSIDE and couldn't get out. We'd somehow wandered onto a vast Army firing range with the added danger of unexploded shells, bombs and goodness knows what besides. We couldn't retrace our steps quick enough, and very light ones at that!
Our ears pricked up when a motor cycle drove onto the campsite one evening. A glance out of the tent revealed it was drawing a huge six foot strawberry shaped trailer. It stopped, the driver lifted the lid and almost disappeared inside the darn thing, his legs flailing the air like some clown as he delved in to dish out its luscious cargo of Cornish strawberries and clotted cream. We couldn't resist and willingly handed over our £3 for this special treat. They were some of the most flavoursome we've ever tasted and a welcome change from cheese and biscuits to finish our evening meal.
Although we recognize most of the common butterflies around home we're not familiar with some we encounter elsewhere. But we did manage to identify the beautiful Painted Lady that joined the Red Admirals, Tortoiseshells, Heath Fritillaries and Common Blues which brightened up our walks and runs. My partner returned all excited one morning after seeing a fox calmly strolling back to his den in a thicket by the beach before the tourist hordes arrived. Apparently a fox regularly crosses the campsite at night (maybe hunting for scraps), as do four or five badgers which often make an awful mess as they rip up the grass in search of worms. Since a top Government Vet told him they carry all sorts of diseases, John says he'd shoot all the badgers if only it was lawful! Buzzards once nested every year in an enormous pine tree, the young of which used to drink at a fountain in the garden on leaving the nest. Alas, they've been driven away by crows, magpies and marauding gulls. Thankfully, the Buzzards' lesser cousins, Kestrels, still hover around the campsite and over the Common, hanging in the air almost motionless.
For some inexplicable reason the Methodist Chapel was shut when I went to worship at the advertised time on Sunday morning. So I hurtled a quarter of a mile down the hill to the beautiful old church at Crantock and got there as they were singing the first hymn. I fumbled with the door and shortly a steward let me in. I assume the door is normally locked against visiting tourists and sight see-ers while services are in progress so I felt honoured to be allowed in whilst others, later, were turned away. Compared to Methodist services it was quite 'High Church' with much waving of incense and tinkling of bells during the Communion service, but very enjoyable and easy to follow on the printed sheets. So I felt quite at ease. But I gave my knees a nasty bashing when I flopped down all too hard at the altar rail to partake of the bread and wine. Unlike the comfortable cushions in churches back home there was just a thin layer of carpet on a stone step! The Minister was a lady of Dawn French proportions, but of somewhat different intellect, who preached a creditable sermon on the Storms of Life. The stewards, and everyone else, were extremely friendly and welcomed me heartily. I'll go there again. It was collection money well spent!
After being kept awake until midnight by four giggling girls, then by two guffawing cider-quaffing couples till one in the morning, I suggested to John he place notices in all the toilets stating 'STRICTLY NO NOISE AFTER 11PM' - explaining that we geriatric runners have to be up in the morning, so need our beauty sleep. "Who are they? he asked. When I told him he simply said "Well, they're going this morning." The toilet walls remain unadorned.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Upper Wharfedale off-road half marathon run on Saturday, June 6th, 2009

It was cold, heaving down with rain and blowing a gale for the start of the Upper Wharfedale ½ marathon so I waited until the very last minute to decide what I was going to wear. In the end I opted for running tights rather than shorts because my old legs are subject to cramp when they get cold. A thermal top, running vest and lightweight Paramo rainsmock proved an ideal choice for my upper body whilst for footwear I wore my trusty old Inov-8 Roclites. Suitably dressed I didn’t mind the elements at all. Throughout the race I was running at exactly the right temperature.
The first ½ mile from the start at Threshfield is flat or downhill but I resisted the temptation to push it at that stage knowing the next 3¼ miles rises 680ft to the first checkpoint. I settled into a steady rhythm that I managed to maintain for most of the race. A Rotherham Harrier came alongside, chatted briefly and went slightly ahead. At some point I got ahead of her and pulled her along. She was determined she wasn’t going to lose touch!
From the 1st checkpoint the route drops 500ft in the next 1½ miles, crossing the river Wharfe at Conistone before the next 2½ mile/780ft climb to the top of Mastiles Lane. A Cuckoo was calling and I'm sure it was mocking me! The Rotherham girl was ahead of me again at this point, intent on running all the way to the top if it killed her. I must admit to walking the last 100 yards or so up this 1 in 4 to give my running muscles a few moments rest. I was mighty glad to get to the juice stop at the next checkpoint.
The next phase was one of the easiest, about 1½ miles to the third checkpoint at Bordley with only 90ft of ascent. Here I declined the offer of water, thus getting ahead of my Rotherham companion, and plodded on through the rain. Beyond Bordley there’s a steep downhill with a 250ft climb out at the other side. Here I must admit to walking again (only because I couldn’t run!) and by the time I’d got to the top my shadow was just behind me again.
The next checkpoint was unmanned so we’d to click our dibbers in an electronic timing device fixed to a gatepost. The guy in front missed it so I’d to shout him back – thus gaining a place! After an initial 80ft or so of climbing towards the next checkpoint, also unmanned, the rest of the route was all level or downhill. It was also quite boggy and for the first time in the race the mud was above my ankles.
By this time the rain had stopped, the sun was trying to get out and Skylarks were singing. I took off my rainproof smock, which took a bit of controlling in the nasty wind, and eventually got it rolled up and tied round my waist. Meanwhile the Rotherham girl was streaking away down the field ahead of me, passing a Clayton-le-Moors harrier who impeded my progress at the next stile, complaining how slippy it was. Over the stile I surged past him, gathering speed now, and closing the gap on the black vest ahead of me. All at once she bent down to tie a shoelace and I almost collided with her. From there to the finish it was me doing the pace making, crossing the line a few seconds ahead of her. But we’d helped each other a lot so mutual congratulations were due.
My official time was 2:17:54 which I was quite happy with given the nasty, wet conditions for three quarters of the race. Annoyingly, the prizes finished at the MV65 category but, at 77, I was awarded a prize for the oldest finisher. I enjoyed the day immensely and was delighted with my level of fitness off a crash training programme. Alison (Hargreaves) was there, clocking a time of 2:41,:37, but husband Andy was in the Outer Hebrides, sailing to St Kilda as part of his Sailing Proficiency Certificate. Gilly was there too - winning the LV50 race in 2:09:02, so she's considerably faster than me now. "Aye, but it's taken me thirty years to do it" she said.
I celebrated in the evening with a choice piece of rump steak and half a bottle of 14% Rosemount Estate Shiraz. Roll on the next half marathon at Burn Valley in early July.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Cooling down.....

According to Look North's Paul the weatherman yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures reaching 26ºC in the shade. Today is grey and overcast, 10º cooler, and much pleasanter for my 4 mile morning run to Farnley Hey and back. This will be my last run before Saturday's Upper Wharfedale half marathon where I hope to give a good account of myself. As yet there's only one other runner in my age category, a guy called Robert Hall, who I've never heard of. I'm looking forward to more friendly rivalry with Andy Hargreaves, Alison and Gilly, not to mention the post-race banter!
As promised by Gareth Sear at my new sleeping bag duly arrived at 11am. It felt very light when I took delivery and I couldn't wait to unpack it and slide inside to make sure it was the right size for me. It's perfect! It's a smaller, womans, bag so not as much spare room in it as there is in my Marmot, and should keep me warmer. It's also lighter, 850 grams compared to the Marmot's 1,100 grams. I'm looking forward to snuggling into it in Switzerland.
There's an interesting article called 'A Runner's Plate' in the current issue of 'Running Free' magazine. It mentions the Harris-Benedict principle for assessing the amount of calories required daily according to age, height, weight and the amount of exercise we do. Based on my statistics, I require 2,145 calories per day consisting of 59 grams of fat, 134 grams of protein, 134 grams of carbohydrate and 76 grams of alcohol. So that's where I'm going wrong, I'm not drinking enough wine with my meals!

Tuesday 2 June 2009

The runs.......

I awoke this morning with the galloping trots so didn't get out for my morning run as early as I would have liked. Just as I was about to set off a visitor came, Dave Watson, telling me his tale of woe about how he'd torn a calf muscle in the Leeds 10K race. He repeated this story several times, presumably to make sure I understood all the agony he'd gone through, not just at the time of the actual tear, but all the torture he subsequently went through at the hands of the physio. By the time he left I was ready for the loo again.
It was 8am when I locked the door for a second time and toiled up the road to Castle Hill where I'd planned twelve hill repeats. In the heat I only managed six. My mouth was parched and I wished I'd taken some water. I think the diarrhoea may have been partially responsible for my lack of fluid. I trotted down to the cricket field for some faster reps but, again, I only managed six, watched rather disdainfully by two guys who've recently had a new house built and who's patio looks straight down the wicket. They were lounging in the sun, one rather obese, the other smoking, as if they were in Tenerife. I spoke as I passed them, trying to be sociable, but all I got back was a grunt! My Garmin said I'd only done 5.35 miles - in 53 minutes. I'm sure it tells lies.
After morning coffee I replied to Markus's email, with it's wonderful pictures that brought on a severe bout of nostalgia, taking me back to my final Munro, the Mamores and wonderful wild campsites. Then I searched the running forums for anything interesting, or any replies to my posts, but nothing exciting was happening. One post about the Halifax 5K race confirmed my belief that the chap who calls himself Epocian is in fact Guy Goodair, a friend of Peter Wilson.
Then the post arrived with a package to sign for. It was my replacement Anquet mapping for Great Britain North, plus a 1:25:00 section of the Crantock area. I uninstalled the old Anquet maps and loaded the new ones. At first glance I don't think the new Great Britain maps are any different from the old ones, so I could have wasted money there. But I do like the larger scale Crantock map. The interface for these newer versions is quite different from the older edition and it's taking a bit of sorting out and understanding - for my old brain. Unlike the old system it wipes any routes from the map when you log out - unless you save them, which I still haven't figured out how to do. I must learn, quickly.
My partner rang at 2pm, as she has almost each day since she arrived in Canada. She sounded a bit weary, or perhaps a little tired of the necessary routine of daily hospital visits to her sick brother, taking the dog for walkies, watching videos and spending time alone. I do hope there's good news of his progress before she leaves on Sunday. She'd apparently had a rather stressful day yesterday when taken for a meal out with an old friend of hers who now lives in Canada. There journey was blighted by road works and long diversions, not to mention her friend's 80 year old husband who was driving!
An email from Gareth at informed me my Women's Rab Quantum 400 sleeping bag will arrive before lunch tomorrow. I hope it's the right size for me, unlike the walloping great thing it's replacing which would fit two of us inside.
The weather deteriorated this afternoon, clouds blotting out the sun, but it's still very warm. According to Paul the weatherman, today has been the hottest day of the last few good ones. It was certainly very warm when I was trying to run this morning. However, there was a glorious sunset tonight but whether it presages another good day tomorrow remains to be seen. Sunset? Good grief, it must be time for bed!

Monday 1 June 2009

First writes

This is Old Runningfox's first attempt at blogging and not at all sure how to go about it. Most of what I write will be about running or training, or travel to exciting places - like our recent visit to the Outer Hebrides. Regarding the latter I made the mistake of emailing a friend and including photographs of the dazzling white beaches where we'd camped wild on Barra, Eriskay, Harris and North Uist. He was most impressed and wanted a list of their locations which I refused to give him. I hope he wasn't offended, but I tried to explain that such sites are to be kept to ourselves. Those wonderful places wouldn't be the same if all and sundry were wild camping there. Neither would the locals like it, though most of them welcome responsible overnight campers and are very helpful and hospitable.