Tuesday 30 August 2011

Hebden Sports

View from under 14's turnaround point 
    Being injured and unable to run throughout the whole of August Bank Holiday was very frustrating, but I was still able to get involved and watch others participating in our noble sport throughout the weekend. Three of us spent Saturday afternoon flagging and taping the various Hebden Fell race routes for the brave people who'd be giving it their all on Bank Holiday Monday as part of our local Sports day programme. Races vary in length to accommodate under 9's, under 12's, under 14's, under 17's and seniors.
Under 17 boy making it look so easy
Tiny tots simply run twice around a sloping field adjacent to the main arena. We couldn't flag it on Saturday because it was full of sheep and nobody, including the farmer who rents the field, had any idea who they might belong to!  On Sunday I put on my shepherds hat and herded them into another field where they were eventually fastened in for the duration of the sports. All went well on the day as the miniature fell runners trundled round with much verbal support both from proud parents and our animated race commentator, Ian Douglas.
Under 17 girl
    Much as I'd like to have done, I've never run the Senior fell race. Most of it I could cope with, the short 300ft ascent, a rocky scramble to the white stone at the top of the crag, the bumpy path through tall bracken and swift descent back into the ghyll. What I can't manage at my time of life are the three high walls with deep drops to a downhill slope on the landing side. My old bones aren't as solid as they used to be whilst my balance and co-ordination leave much to be desired. 
Tom Adams of Ilkley leads the senior
race up the crag
   This year I was marshalling at various vantage points where I could watch some amazingly keen youngsters, talented under 17's and experienced seniors making it all look rather easy as they flowed gracefully over each obstacle of the uneven terrain. There are times when I regret not having started running until the tender age of 54. I seem to have missed out on an awful lot!
One more false start young lady
and you're out!
    Meanwhile, back in the Sports field, there were flat and novelty races for all age groups. Those who regard running as too much like hard work could try their hand at Bat the Rat, Knock down Ginger, Field Quoits, Putting Contest, Football game, Train Game, Treasure Hunt or Tombola. With children in mind there was a Bouncy Castle that got rather crowded, a Bran tub and ever popular Face Painting. Long queues snaked out from the barbeque tent, tea and cake stall and ice cream van as folk sought to replace lost energy. After a Fancy Dress parade at 7pm the day's proceedings ended with the traditional singing of Rimington (aka 'Jesus shall Reign'). Well, it should have but no-one seemed to know the words! 

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Not my day x 3

Burnsall and the River Wharfe - before the rain
   After a steady week's training (a delightful five miles cross-country, a good interval session on the track and six miles gently trundling along the River Wharfe) affairs took a steep downward turn at the weekend. My old body is getting a bit out of control.
   On Saturday we went along to Burnsall Feast Sports to spectate, socialize and take a few photographs of friends and acquaintances competing in the 10 mile road race, the Classic Burnsall Fell race, not to mention the hilarious Mummers doing their stuff on the village green. 
My old mate, Bill Wade. 1st MV70
in the 10 mile race - 1:21:32
   So what could possibly go wrong when I wasn't even competing? Well, for starters a curbstone had craftily twisted itself 45ยบ so that it's upward edge formed a nice point that crunched into the nick of my posterior when I tripped and crashed down on it. To complicate matters, a little bit, my Rt knee hit the ground with an almighty crack - the same knee I twisted in a rabbit hole 12 days before.
   Fortunately, this happened towards the end of the day, ages after Alan Buckley had stormed home in the 10 mile road race in a fairly creditable 55.26, long after the keen as mustard kids had swarmed to the base of Burnsall fell and come hurtling back like miniature maniacs (all of whom ensure us that fell racing has a very healthy future) and just before local lad Ted Mason came scorching home in the rain to score his first ever win in the Classic Fell race.  I limped back to the car to be driven home for more Voltarol, more Paracetamol, more Arnica.
   On Sunday with the old adage in mind that attack is the best form of defence, I dragged my protesting body onto Grassington Moor, supposedly to get some good shots of the heather at it's wonderful purple best. Guess what? The sun went in. I wandered around for ages waiting for breaks in the cloud but eventually gave up and set off home. Back down in the ghyll the sun sneaked out again - "Yoo-hoo!" - so I retraced my steps, only to find the battery in my camera had given up the ghost. Definitely not my day - again!
Leaders at the start of the Classic Fell race
   Monday dawned clear, sunny, warm and very inviting. The umpteen grams of pain-killer, lashings of Arnica and yet more anti-inflammatories appeared to have done their job so nothing wrong with a gentle jog down the riverbank, I thought. After ½ mile I parted company with my wonderful partner, on the premise she might be going a bit too far, or a bit too fast, and struck off in the opposite direction towards the stepping stones by Linton Church. Feeling rather fresh after a couple of miles I reckoned it might not be a bad idea to do a few wind sprints, maybe ten times 75m at a fairly fast lick with a walk recovery. I was enjoying them so much I somehow lost count. On the final one, which turned out to be number fifteen, and which I'd decided to do 'really' fast, there was a sharp pain at the back of my Rt thigh. You've guessed it. My perishing hamstring had thrown a wobbly and yelled 'Stop'. According to my Garmin that last intense burst measured 3.36 min/mile pace on the Richter scale which I was rather proud of!  But I limped home a bit disconsolate, back to the pain-killers, the anti-inflammatories, the bag of frozen peas, the Arnica - and a tearful partner who can't bear to see me injured or hurt.  You'd think she'd be used to it after twenty years!
Local lad makes good. Ted Mason of Appletreewick
storms home alone for his first ever win in this Classic Fell race
   However, all these annoying little setbacks of mine were well and truly put into perspective when we learned of the drama that unfolded after we'd left Burnsall on Saturday. We'd watched in total admiration, not to mention a furtive tear, as a 62 year old totally blind man crossed the finish line with a broad smile, along with his 'guide', to complete the 10 mile road race in 1:34:28. A magnificent achievement. The applause was tremendous. Imagine my surprise when this very same person ran past me, with that self-same smile on his face, to begin his ascent of Burnsall Fell in the Classic race. I couldn't possibly comprehend how a totally blind person could negotiate thick heather, hidden boulders and high walls in the slippery conditions of the deteriorating weather. Two days later we heard the sad news that he hadn't in fact made it. It was rumoured he'd suffered a massive heart attack on the way up and died almost instantly. His name was Mike Ogle a member of Chorley Harriers and his 'guide' was Jackie Redmayne who is understandably devastated by his death. Both of them had looked so happy setting off up the fell.
   I'd like to think he died with that same big smile, doing what he enjoyed doing most, running the wild and lonely places, a free spirit who refused to give in to failed faculties but got out there and still endeavoured to live life to the full. Rest in Peace Mike. You were a credit to humankind and an inspiration to us all.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

The rocky road to Arncliffe

Recovered - to take MV75 prize
   Last week was not the best of weeks, a most unsatisfactory preparation for a forthcoming race, but it finished on a high. For starters, my Monday morning training session was painfully interrupted by a severe bout of tummy trouble that had me dashing for cover along the riverbank in order to 'go'.
   Things got worse in the afternoon during a walk from Conistone to the site of an old Iron Age settlement above the aptly named Bull Scar. I say 'aptly named' because a huge bull and his assorted multi-coloured harem came trundling up the path behind us towards the stone circles. (How is it whenever I see a bull words like Rump, Ribeye, Sirloin, T-bone and Porterhouse spring to mind?). Thankfully, he was not aggressive. I didn't feel like running.
   Funnily enough (!) about half an hour later I was actually rendered incapable of running. While looking for a huge cairn 18m across by 1½m tall that had mysteriously melted into the landscape my foot jammed in a rabbit hole throwing me sideways and twisting my Rt knee. It proved a very painful limp down the steep hillside back to the car.
Middlesmoor and Lofthouse Silver band doing their stuff
   On the way home we came across an elderly gentleman crouched by the side of the narrow road trying to remove a cagoule that had got tangled around the rear wheel of his electrically operated mobility buggy and brought him to a halt. It was jammed solid and I'd to tear the offending garment to pieces to get it off.  I wondered why he was not responding to any of my questions and comments. It turned out he was virtually stone deaf, not to mention almost blind! He was a braver man than me to drive his contraption along a winding Dales road hardly wide enough for two cars to pass each other.
LV65 winner
   Back home the offending knee was smothered with Arnica and 75mgs of Voltarol was swallowed day and night for the next four days. By Thursday I was hardly aware of any pain so decided to try a short run. After a mile warm-up I launched into ten very fast wind sprints on the local cricket field, then jogged home. Everything felt OK, so it was all systems go for the Arncliffe 4 mile race on Saturday.
   The morning dawned wet and cloudy, as it had done for days, (or maybe weeks!) so we worried about the state of the field used for parking cars at this event. Our fears were unfounded and we'd no problems getting in or out. Crowds were a little sparse for this years event which, besides the road race, sports a fell race, welly whanging, strong man competition, bric-a-brac stalls, stirring music by the Middlesmoor Silver Band and a colourful commentary from the irrepressible Dales character, Roger Ingham.  
   Sadly, there was a much smaller turnout than usual for this smashing little race. Although mildy undulating it's quite a fast course as it follows the road by the River Skirfare for a couple of miles to Hawkswick, then crosses the bridge before returning up the other side of the river and back into Arncliffe. 
Ted Mason - winning the Fell race by a distance.
   With only 66 entries there was hardly any congestion at the start so we were all away pretty fast behind some decent club runners. A bit too fast in my case. I was struggling a bit along the flooded road mid-race but managed to rally again in the last mile to finish 44th in 32.25 - 24 seconds faster than last year but a long way short of my MV75 course record of 29.30 set in 2007. It was quick enough to take the MV70 prize and the added bonus of a kiss from the delightful lady presenting the vouchers!  I was invited to return next year to set a new MV80 course record. God willing, I'll be there to give it a try.
   My wonderful partner was 1st lady over 65 but missed out on a category prize which were a bit thin on the ground this year due, we suspect, to the very low entry and consequent limited budget.
   Surprisingly, we were still capable of running on Sunday, a gentle seven mile trot to wallow in the heathery delights of Grassington Moor.  A week that had begun in pain for me ended in joy and feelings of satisfaction for both of us. And long may it be so!
Full results here:

Tuesday 9 August 2011

My running week

Castle Hill
     Last week began with one of my regular five mile circuits run at a fairly sedate pace around Farnley Hey and Castle Hill, through waving woods and fields where harvesters were at work threshing the ripe, golden corn. With goodness knows how many hundreds of feet of ascent along this Pennine route, some of it steeper than 1 in 4, I've little option than to run at a sedate pace, though I always finish up feeling a little disgusted with myself, thinking a man of my experience really should do better! Tuesday's effort took all of 55 minutes.
     The following day I made up my mind to run it faster and to assist in my quest decided to enlist the help of my Garmin 'Virtual Partner', a facility I've never yet used. After setting my watch for 53½ minutes I pressed 'Start' but no Virtual Partner appeared to set the pace for me. Possibly he realised how arduous it was going to be and refused to run it with me! Oh well, I'd set off, the countdown had begun, so I wasn't going to stop and fiddle around to see where he/she had got to. (I really must give my Virtual Partner a name, like Freddie, or Paula, someone I can chivvy when they're getting behind). I plodded round, retracing my steps of the previous day, and finished in a time of 53.13 - 17 seconds inside my target. I was happy with that.
Miner's bridge over Hebden beck
     Thursday was declared a day of rest, mainly because it was chucking it down and I don't mind admitting at my time of life I'm very much a fair weather runner. But on Friday, for the very first time this year, I reckoned it was time for a bit of Track work. Whatever brought that on you may ask? Well, I'll tell you what brought that on. While studying the results and statistics from the previous week's Park Run it came to my notice that two people have deigned to get ahead of me in the overall Age-Graded League table. Being of a competitive nature I decided to do something about it and make the top of that League Table my very next goal. That should keep me motivated!
     Based on my 5K time of 24.36 my optimal speed for 400m intervals is 1.46 - according to the McMillan Calculator - so, after a mile warm-up I ran 8 x 400m with 200m jog recovery. In a mile warm-down I incorporated half a dozen wind sprints to reintroduce my old legs to more intense speedwork. The whole session took 54 minutes, a good workout which, if I can repeat it a few more times, should produce a PB at my next Park Run. Well, that's the plan!
Heathery heights
     It chucked it down again on Saturday which gave me another nice excuse for a rest. After Church on Sunday I went for a ten mile run into the wilds of Mossdale. You might call it my other Church for many of these solitary runs trigger a rich spiritual experience. I ran past cushions of trembling harebells in Hebden Ghyll, over the old Miner's bridge and up to the heathery heights of Grassington Moor, scattering the day-feeding rabbits that fled to safety in nearby rocks. A late curlew called a plaintive goodbye as he sailed across the purple landscape, no doubt bound for coastal feeding grounds where he'll spend the winter. Most of his friends left ages ago.
     A solitary walker enquired the way to Middlesmoor. I directed him as best I could but couldn't help thinking he shouldn't be wandering in such a remote area unless he carried the relevant map, and a compass, and knew how to use them. In which case, he wouldn't need to be asking me!
     Leaving Mossdale I slowed a little over Kelber pasture so as not to spook a great herd of cows that became a little agitated when their calves started carreering about at my approach.
Mimulus in Hebden beck
     Two equestrian ladies rode past, one of whom was quite well proportioned compared to the size of her horse, a scene that invoked an involuntary chuckle as a Thelwell drawing sprung to mind.
     Sheep at High Garnshaw scuttled away noisily as I bumbled past. It's so long since I passed that way they must have forgotten who I am. Hopefully, they'll get used to me again and hardly turn their heads.
     My legs still felt strong as I trundled back down the ghyll, racing the chattering beck bright with yellow mimulus, down to the bridge, and home. All in all, it was a pretty good week with another 25 solid miles into the old legs.

Monday 1 August 2011

Huddersfield Park Run

Some of last Saturday's fun runners
Park Runs apparently began in Teddington way back in 2004, the brainchild of Paul Sinton-Hewitt, and have since spread throughout the British Isles. Only recently did I learn they'd actually been taking place in my home town of Huddersfield at 9am each Saturday morning for the last 17 weeks. Curiosity lured me along to sample the 18th event last Saturday, July 30th.
Park runs are not strictly races, but more for fun, fitness and friendly rivalry. Whole families can get involved to test their prowess over an accurately measured 5K route. They are free to enter but each participant must be pre-registered and be in possession of a barcode that must be brought along to each race and is vital for recording results. No numbers are worn and the whole race can be set up in five minutes flat - the length of time it takes to align the cones for the finishing funnel.
All smiles approaching the Finish funnel
It was an ethnic mix of 126 runners that lined up in glorious sunshine for the 18th running. Some wore fancy dress. Ages ranged from under 14 to the 79 years of yours truly. After a few brief instructions from a guy dressed as Robin Hood we set off around the beautiful Park on a three lap course. 
This was only the second 5K race I've run in 25 years and I haven't quite got the hang of them yet. Basically, I settled into what I considered to be a maintainable race pace, then just hung on to the guy in front for as long as possible, hoping he'd pull me round to a half respectable time. I think he did. My 24.36 in 39th position actually gave me 1st place in the overall age-graded results. I was happy with that though I'm sure there's room for improvement. 
My wonderful partner finished 87th overall in 29.27 and 1st lady in the age-graded results. Surprisingly, after our very first run, both of us now rank top of our age categories for the whole series - so I reckon we've set ourselves up to be shot down!
Full results here: