Monday 26 July 2010

Comings and goings

Knee deep in heather at Wig Stones
My twenty three miles of running last weekend revealed a couple of premature happenings. One of the many things I look forward to at the onset of Autumn is heather coming into bloom as I run the high moors above Hebden and Grassington. The change is usually quite sudden: one week the landscape is a uniform, dullish brown. Next it's transformed into a vast expanse of mauve/purple that exudes a wonderful scent as my feet brush through it in sun and wind. Mid to late August, around the time of Hebden Village Sports, is the time normally associated with this annual display. This year, things are different.  As I ran towards Mossdale last Sunday (July 25th) I was amazed to find patches already in full flower.

And heather isn't the only thing ahead of schedule this year. Something else stopped us in our tracks as we sped through our fartlek session along the riverbank on Saturday. Mushrooms, those tasty, irresistable bright fungi that were sadly missing from our fields and menus last year are back in abundance. So, as soon as we'd showered and changed we were out foraging for more and came home with two or three pounds to make into lunchtime soup or to fry, with copious amounts of garlic, as a starter to our evening meal.

On the debit side one of our much loved Methodist ministers, the Rev Graham Kidman, preached his last sermon in Hebden on Sunday evening before his retirement.  He is one of that delightful breed of orators one always feels enriched for having listened to. He walks with a stick, slowly and awkwardly, and sometimes appears to have difficulty climbing the steps into the pulpit. But once there his deliberate, wisely chosen words and appropriate messages keep his congregation enthralled - for as long as he cares to preach. On Sunday I counted it a privilege to read the New Testament lesson for him, a passage from Paul's letter to the Philippians - that book that has us 'running towards the line for the prize of our high calling', an appropriate text for runners, and everyone else! We wish Graham much joy and happiness in his well earned retirement. 

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Back to the drawing board.

I'm currently in a 'must try harder' state of mind brought on, no doubt, by that ignominious defeat by Ian Barnes in last week's 7 mile race at Kilburn. Mind you, Ian is a very talented 'good for his age' athlete and actually won his age category in the corresponding race last year, but as a MV70 and still 7 seconds slower than my MV75 course record.  So what's gone wrong for me, or right for him? Well, it's obvious isn't it? He's been hotting up his training ready for moving up into the MV75 category, and taking it by storm, whereas I've been slacking and merely ticking over after my whiplash problems. So it's back to the drawing board, building up a good base mileage again, stretching, strengthening and, later, one or two visits to the track for some serious speedwork. 
So, what was I doing last week?  Well, it began gently with an enjoyable relaxed fartlek session incorporated into a four mile run along the River Wharfe after taking my partner's car to the garage for its annual MOT. This was followed by a hilly five miles on Tuesday, another five mile run on Thursday including 12x130m fast repeats, ten miles of steady riverbank running on Saturday and an eight mile fell run in somewhat horrendous condition on Sunday. Also, I began some core and back strengthening exercises and will increase them by two each day until I reach thirty of each.
In spite of zapping up the mileage my old legs feel in pretty good shape and I'm looking forward to my next race, a fast four miler on August 14th, to gauge whether there's any improvement in my pace/mile since Kilburn.  There'd better be!

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Kilburn 7 mile race

It's been one of those weeks when I wish I could go back a couple of days and do things differently. Training-wise it started off well, an enjoyable relaxed fartlek session on Monday, a steady 5 miles of x-country on Tuesday and some fast repetitions on Thursday. Then, on Saturday morning prior to the Kilburn 7 mile race on Sunday, it all went pear-shaped. My legs felt so good I decided on another fartlek session along the banks of the River Wharfe.
My mind must have been wandering as I jogged along the gravelly path towards the river. Next thing I was sprawled on the ground, my Rt leg twisted underneath me, a stinging pain shooting through my thigh and a hole in my elbow that appeared to have scooped up an awful lot of dirt. Normally, I'll be on my feet and on the move within seconds before any stiffness can set in.  This time it took somewhat longer, a good few minutes before I was up again and breaking into a limping, painful jog.

So, what to do next, turn and go the shortest way home or get down to the riverbank and complete the fartlek session.  To keep reasonably mobile I decided on the latter. I must have looked ever so funny, limping past the weekend walkers for fifty yards or so then launching into a fast and fluent 6½ min/mile pace for anything up to 240m. By the time I got home my thigh had stiffened so much I'd difficulty getting upstairs to my First Aid kit.  As a large black bruise began to materialize my wonderful partner was despatched to the local shop for a bag of frozen peas. At that stage I was 95% sure I wouldn't race the following day.
But miracles do happen. The rest of the day (and night) was spent resting and elevating it. Lashings of Arnica were massaged into the darkening skin to bring out the bruising, ice packs were applied to disperse the bruising, Diclofenac helped relax the muscle, Paracetamols reduced the pain. a compression bandage stopped it swelling during the night, and up to an hour before the 2 o'clock start of Sunday's race. Three hours before the race I declared 'all systems go' as we slung our Sports bags in the back of the car.
Ready for action. Well, almost
Conditions were ideal for racing, part cloudy with a cooling breeze, as the 300+ runners lined up for the Start outside the Forresters Arms. Not feeling quite 100% I started farther back than usual, so as not to be put off by runners passing me in the early stages of the race, and soon settled into a comfortable pace. After a mile we hit the first hill where I became aware of a car alarm sounding behind me and getting louder. In fact this noisy 'alarm' was attached to a baby buggy being pushed along at great speed by the child's dad! Strewth, I'd never been passed by anything like that before!
I'd been tracking a girl with the name 'Jackie' on her vest, past the ruins of Byland Abbey and on to the first Drinks station at just over 3½ miles.  I slowed to a walk to make sure of getting some fluid down before tackling the next hill.  I never saw Jackie again!  At the 2nd Drinks station I found myself another pace maker, a tanned young lady with long copper coloured hair, a small tattoo on each shoulder and bare midriff. We ran together to the Finish where I thanked her for her wonderful bit of pace-making. It turned out this 'young lady' was in fact Patricia Brobyn, winner of the LV60 category.  Well, she was young compared to me!
My Garmin measured the course at 7.27 miles with a total of 556ft of ascent which I ran in a slow 61.47 - a long way outside my previous MV75 course record of 53.54 - and 197th of 314 finishers. Needless to say, my below par performance earned me no prize this year. However, every finisher over 65 years old was awarded a bottle of rather nice wine so I didn't come away empty handed. Neither did another 31 male and female Super Veterans, one in their 80's, who'd crawled out of the woodwork at the mere sniff of some alcoholic reward!  
Full results here:

Tuesday 6 July 2010

A bit hot for running

This summer has been a bit of a scorcher. Well, it has in places I've been, and the path along the River Wharfe last Saturday, from Hebden to Barden Bridge and back, all but reduced me to a crawl. I cannot remember when I ran this ten mile route so slowly, if ever. There was very little shade from the merciless sun, sweat poured out of me, my vest and shorts were saturated and I squeezed enough fluid from my sweat band to water two plants.  I hope it doesn't kill them, or I'm in trouble!
It's a popular and picturesque stretch of river and walkers were out in force.  A party of around sixty children and adults impeded my progress through one narrow section. The campsite at Appletreewick was full to capacity.  Parents lolled around with cooling drinks while their excited children paddled and splashed in the river. The Wharfe can be dangerous but the water was low last weekend, so there was very little danger of anyone getting into trouble.
River Wharfe at Loup Scar
Normally I run to the turning point at Barden Bridge at a very sedate pace, then run back faster. Not so this time. I managed the sedate pace bit OK but on the return section my old legs felt a bit like those of the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz. I force myself to believe I'll ultimately derive huge benefits from these long energy sapping runs, that the training effect will stand me in good stead come my next race where I'll float effortlessly past anyone in my age category who happens to get in the way. I'll soon find out. My next race is only five days away.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Cornwall at it's very best

Old Runningfox cooling off by the sea
So, what else happened in Cornwall? In truth, not a lot. We were there to relax, to forget about the world and it's goings on, to cut ourselves off completely (particularly from World Cup football) and to enjoy all  that this beautiful bit of English countryside around Crantock has to offer. There wasn't even any phone reception on the campsite. A weather forecast on the day we arrived said that summer was about to begin in earnest with high temperatures and sunshine throughout the coming week, at least. Just for once, they were right. Hot sunny days were followed by cold, brilliantly starry nights that caused quite a bit of condensation in the tent.
Water lilies
We ran on every day bar one, sometimes twice and, in spite of hundreds of jellyfish, swam in pretty rough seas on a couple of occasions. It was coming up to full moon and some very high tides were roaring onto Cornwall's beaches and crashing onto the rocks. The surfing fraternity and body-boarders were having the time of their lives.
We indulged in Cornish fare, Cornish pasties for lunch, Cornish Cream teas mid afternoon, besides barbequed chicken, battered Whitebait, fresh herb salads straight from the garden and a fortifying rib-eye steak before our 10 mile race. Oh, and some beautiful bottles of wine to enrich our evening meals!
So much colour
There is so much colour in Cornwall, a rare quality of reflected light that enhances the whole landscape and blue shimmering seascapes. Hundreds of orchids adorned the Common where skylarks sang their hearts out from a clooudless sky. By the camp gate pads of bright water lilies floated on a pool alive with fish and nodding moorhens. We watched a female Kestrel regularly hunting, and catching, voles and mice in a newly mown field. 
The campsite we've patronised for the last six years was much busier than usual for the time of year. On occasions we've been the only ones there but this time it was more than half full over the nine days. Every other tent had a dog, all of which were suitably behaved, so it seems people can no longer afford to put their pets into kennels whilst they fly abroad and are opting for the cheaper alternative.
Holywell Bay
We'd booked for two weeks but sadly had to leave after nine days on learning of a death in the family. However, our departure was made easier by the weather breaking on our very last day. Just ten minutes after we'd packed away our big tent with all its accessories it rained! Until then we couldn't have ordered better weather.
We refer to it as our 'warm weather training camp'. Altogether this year, we clocked up 45 miles of delightful running including two sessions of 15x150m fast repetitions to sharpen up for the Lanhydrock 10 mile Trail race. It obviously paid off, as you'll have gathered from my previous post. Roll on next year's camp!