Tuesday 29 June 2010

The Great Lanhydrock Trail Run

Arriving at 09.10 we were among the first to register and pick up our numbers for this 10 mile trail run through the beautiful estate grounds of Lanhydrock House, a National Trust property in the heart of Cornwall. The race was scheduled to start at 10.00. We'd been on holiday in Cornwall for the past week, clocking up around 35 miles of mixed training including two sets of 15x150m fast repetitions and some swimming in rough seas, so we were reasonably fit. As prize categories only extended to MV65 I'd no expectations of winning anything but felt pretty sure my wonderful partner would take one of the LV60 prizes.
The start was a little congested so we back markers were slowly away, round a sharp left turn onto a narrow woodland path where it was impossible to pass anyone. It suited me fine, giving me chance to settle into a rhythm I intended to maintain throughout. Soon we were onto a wider track and the group thinned out as the tough got going. After a two mile loop we passed the start line to much spirited applause from the many spectators and supporters. We needed that encouragement to help us up the next hill.
The temperature rose to around 24ÂșC so a little hot for running, but most of the route was through sheltering trees as the trail wound it's way through delightful countryside, by a meandering river, past farms and wide open fields that were a joy to run. At some point I passed a young guy (compared to me) who spotted 'Runningfox' on the back of my vest. "I was looking at your website last night. Very impressive" he said. I only hope I lived up to those first impressions and didn't disillusion him!
As there was no category for geriatric 78 year olds I'd told my wonderful partner that my sole intention was to RUN rather than RACE this 10 miles, for there was no way I could beat the fit youngsters in the MV65 category. I'd settled into a steady pace and was running for sheer enjoyment.  Or so I thought!
As the route rose somewhat steeply up then along the top of a grassy field at 7½ miles I found myself catching a grey haired gentleman I guessed was an MV65 veteran and the old brain suddenly switched into racing mode. I surged past him.  The adrenalin was beginning to flow and my pace increased as I cruised along 'running loose, running with style, step by step, mile after mile', cutting down the distance to the group ahead. At 8½ miles I passed another tall, grey haired bespectacled gentleman who was running well but was destined to finish another place down his category as I began to think I might even finish in a medal position, maybe bronze. The last ¼ mile was downhill and I was flying by now (5.37 pace, according to my Garmin) overtaking other runners racing each other to the finish, one of whom was Hannah Clitherow, 3rd LV45. My time was 1.35.46 in 102nd position from 161 finishers. Not bad for a route with 1,520ft of ascent.
Gold for Old Runningfox
Until I actually saw the results in black and white I couldn't believe what I heard at the prize giving. Results for each category were in reverse order, bronze first, silver 2nd and gold last. A chap called John Gilbert was called out for silver in the MV65 category.  I said to my partner "Hey, that's the chap I passed at 8½ miles".  I got the shock of my life when the next name to be called, for GOLD, was mine. And to put a little icing on the cake my wonderful partner was awarded Silver for finishing 2nd in the LV60 category.
Years ago, too many to remember, I saw a film starring a young Paul Newman based on the life of Rocky Graziano, the middleweight boxer. It was called 'Somebody up there likes me' . I can echo that statement. At Church next Sunday there'll be cause for some special thanksgiving. Maybe even a few tears....
Results here.  Click on Lanhydrock 10.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Time for some proper training!

My first race of the year is in twelve days time and it dawned on me this morning I haven't actually done any specific training for it. For the past nine months I've been nothing but a plodder, gently going through the motions, avoiding anything that hurt, or seemed likely to get me out of breath, and mainly on days when the temperature felt the same outside the house as it did inside.  Lying in bed, where I do most of my planning, it struck me some sort of crash programme is called for. Last Saturday's 10.38 miles could, I suppose, be regarded as my 'long run'. So that's done and out of the way. Time now for some speedwork.

After breakfast I set out at a gentle jog through dewy fields  to a local landmark known as Castle Hill where I do my 'altitude training'. At a mere 900' the air up there is not exactly rare, but the effort involved getting to the top certainly wakes up the old cardio-vascular system and prepares it for the series of repetitions I do along a slightly uphill path towards the summit. I'd planned to do 12 x 180m but failed miserably and jogged back down feeling a bit disgusted with myself after only six.
My local Cricket field - for speed training

But I wasn't going to give up so easily. Closer to home is a perfectly level cricket field which I also use for doing fast repetition runs and my steps turned towards there for another six reps to bring my total to twelve. These reps are shorter, a mere 130m, but I run them quicker. After six reps I ran four laps of the field to warm down (where a  portly gentleman who'd been watching proceedings while leaning on his garden fence remarked "You're a very fit man, Sir), then jogged home. After 'Sticking' my quads, hamstrings and calf muscles I plugged my Garmin into the computer to read the results.  It told me I'd run 5.98 miles with 469ft of ascent in 63 mins 9 secs. But what pleased and surprised me most were those reps on the cricket field. I kid you not, I'd been churning them out at 5.54 min/mile pace. Hmmm, I reckon that's not bad for starters!

Monday 14 June 2010

With Lanhydrock in mind

A misty River Wharfe at Burnsall

My old body doesn't seem to be getting any fitter, but my mind is positive and anxious to get back racing again. From 20th June we'll be on holiday for a couple of weeks, camping in Cornwall, and quite by chance we discovered there's a 10 mile Trail run around the grounds of the National Trust property at Lanhydrock on 27th. Against my racing principles (the prize list only extends to MV65 category so I'll only be there to make the numbers up) I suggested to my wonderful partner that we might do it.  Much to my amazement she agreed, depending upon the outcome of a 10 mile trial run before posting the Entry Forms. 

And so it came about that last Saturday she set off along an undulating path by the the River Wharfe with a gusto that was quite mind boggling, leaving me trailing in her wake. She was determined to complete the 'trial' in a time that would satisfy her she could complete the Cornwall race without too much stress or discomfort. This she certainly achieved, which is more than can be said for me as I huffed and puffed and sweated buckets in my determination to catch her before reaching home!  I managed this, just, by the thickness of my vest!  My Garmin registered 10.38 miles with 936ft of ascent in 1 hour 46 minutes - which might just keep me out of last place!
Unbelievably, the Entry Forms are on their way.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Easing back into racing

After a wonderful nine mile run through some favourite Yorkshire Dales countryside in warm sunshine last Saturday, I came to the conclusion it's time to start racing again. Over the past year and a half I've suffered a painful whiplash injury that was much aggravated by any form of jolting or running. Now, after months of physio, neck exercises, sleeping with neck supports, applying homoeopathic creams and ointments, Collagen capsules, Devil's Claw, not to mention six-hourly doses of painkillers and anti-inflammatories, the pain is at last beginning to subside. 
78th birthday run, Isle of Mull

After twenty four years of running, racing and lolloping through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world I've reached the stage where I can no longer visualize life without running. So, throughout all this treatment I've endeavoured to keep moving, gently gliding along at a sedate pace to keep ticking over as best I could. Last weekend I decided to unleash the 'Old Runningfox' and discovered to my delight that I could zip along, for short distances at least, with no apparent adverse effects.

It will take time and hard training to get back into racing mode  but, to speed things up, I've posted an entry form for my come-back race in just over a month's time. I've opted for the low-key Kilburn Feast 7 mile road race in north Yorkshire on July 11th where, even if I fail to win my age category, every competitor over the age of 65 gets a free bottle of wine. So, I can't lose, can I?  Watch this space!

Tuesday 1 June 2010


As I read this it suddenly dawned on me that the current date was 30th May and a little shiver ran down my spine as I realised it was the 35th anniversary of Steve's death, to the day.  I felt I was getting a little poke from beyond the grave, prompting me to train harder and aim for greater heights. One of Steve's inspirational quotes is worth repeating:

"Some people create with words, or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run.  I like to make people stop and say, 'I've never seen anyone run like that before.' It's more than just a race, it's style, it's doing something better than anybody else. It's being creative."

I'll go with that, but in my case people will have to say 'I've never seen anyone so old run like that before!'

Thanks Pre, message received.


Hebden Ghyll

Towards the end of May when trees have come into full leaf, when the dawn chorus has risen to a rich ear-splitting crescendo, where every meadow, pasture and roadside verge puts on a multi-coloured display of wild flowers, then nowhere on earth is more beautiful than the Yorkshire Dales. It is a real privilege to be able to run through such a wild landscape. Last Sunday we took full advantage of all that this sensuous environment has to offer.
We set off up Hebden Ghyll with its babbling beck, primrose banks and flowering wild strawberries, over the old Miner's Bridge and past Loss Gill Side where a dozen or so black, and very lively, Aberdeen Angus stirks decided it would be great fun to race us for a couple of hundred yards or so.  Of course, they won and stood there looking very pleased with themselves as we plodded on past old lead mine workings towards the gaunt hill top hamlet of Yarnbury
Limestone country
The walled lane towards Bare House provided some welcome relief from a keen wind that became colder and stronger as we rose higher. Otherwise the sun shone from an azure sky with bright fluffy clouds.  From the top of the lane a breath-taking view opens up to reveal the whole of Upper Wharfedale with Buckden Pike and Old Cote Moor dominating the north west horizon. All this is rich, well drained limestone country with walled fields, old barns and turfy paths that are a joy to run. 
Black beasties
More black cattle were determined to bar our way, but we shooed them off, crossed the well trodden Dales Way and continued by old Iron Age settlements and field systems into the jaws of Conistone Dib. The  wide upland pasture  narrowed and funnelled us into a tight, rocky gorge with steep-sided walls made even more dark and gloomy by overhanging trees. 
Eventually we emerged into bright sunlight to run through the charming little village of Conistone before taking a rising track with fine retrospective views of Kilnsey Crag, a monolithic landmark with an overhanging roof where rock athletes can test their superhuman skills over 150 different routes.  
Looking back to Kilnsey Crag
Our track deteriorated into a rocky path that required care through another steep sided Dib that finally deposited us along the fringes of Grass Wood and Bastow Wood. Fairly soon we re-crossed the Dales Way and put on a bit of style as we ran through Grassington from whence it was but a short jog along High Lane, through the old hospital grounds and back to Hebden for some welcome refreshment. It had been a most enjoyable ten miles with a further ten out of ten on the scale of beautiful surroundings.