Monday 26 September 2011

Yay, I'm back!

      I hope the four buzzards circling the sky near Appletreewick didn't have their beady eyes on the scaled down carcas running below them along the riverbank. After weeks of massage, stretching and various recommended exercises to rejuvenate my dodgy knee and strained hamstring Old Runningfox was back in action. And boy, did it feel good.
    After the recent shock of discovering how I'd piled on the pounds during three weeks of inactivity I was determined to get back to my running/racing weight. Such things as bread, potatoes, anything with sugar in it, butter and 80% of milk all went by the board until such times as the scales registered 140 lbs and I was back running again. That day was last Saturday. 
    Rather nervously I laced up my old trail shoes, did one or two warm-up exercises and stepped out the door for a 5 mile circuit by Grassington Bridge and back along the riverbank, past all the old chestnut trees displaying their gorgeous autumn colours. After taking it steady to the half way point I felt fresh enough to turn it into a fartlek session, pushing the short hills and launching into 50-60m acceleration runs along the flatter parts of green turf. I couldn't believe how well I was moving. 
    Rather predictably, in spite of having finished my run with some warm-down stretches, I was a bit stiff the following morning. Getting down the stairs was not easy! There was no pain, not in my knee or anywhere else, just that general muscular achiness that follows a good work-out, the sort you can laugh about rather than cry over. 
Body-hugging Fastrax top and Bandarf
    After breakfast on Sunday I could hardly wait to lace up my shoes and set off again on a slightly longer run, along the river to Appletreewick and back, a very pleasant six miles. This time I took it steady, all the way, revelling in the renewed joy of freedom, movement and rhythm. It felt absolutely effortless so I could only assume the five week lay-off must have done a power of good, enabling me to recharge the batteries and fire up the old engine again.
    If all goes well the next five weeks will be spent gradually building up the miles in preparation for the Guy Fawkes 10 mile race at Ripley on November 6th. I'm looking forward to pinning a number on again and getting out there snapping at the heels of my contemporaries. Roll on, let battle (re)commence!
    PS. With a cold nip in the air I donned my new Fastrax thermal top for the first time (courtesy of a voucher I won in the Arncliffe 4 mile race) and must say it kept me wonderfully snug and warm. It's tight fitting enough to almost display my six-pack - and probably would if it wasn't hiding under it's layer of fat! The buff I'm wearing in the picture is actually a Bandarf. I refuse to pay the crazy price 'Buff' charge for there minuscule bits of material. Bandarfs are just as versatile, fit more snugly, cost around ¼ the price, but don't, as yet, come in the same range of colours. There are many different ways of wearing them. I never go anywhere without one.

Saturday 17 September 2011

Resting uneasily

    Little did I know when I stepped out the door and took my first tentative steps at the tender age of 54 that running could become so addictive, nor how frustrating it can be when injury strikes and I'm unable to get my four times weekly fix. To paraphrase a quote on radio today, running in the great outdoors is my drug, my gym and my Church, so it's perfectly understandable why I'm currently experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
My drug, my gym and my Church
    Although the pulled hamstring seems to have resolved itself my Rt knee still aches slightly and isn't quite ready to start pounding the trails again just yet. Walking is no problem as proved on the island of Arran where we stravaiged many, many miles and scaled thousands of feet of rock, bog and heathery slopes. It's when I sit in the same position, for example when driving with my foot on the gas pedal, that it aches most. Various straight leg exercises, stepping forward down a small step then back up again, anti-inflammatories and massage with 'Green lipped mussel extract and Glucosamine' gel appear to be having the desired effect. Hopefully by next week I'll be pulling on the old trail shoes again and starting to build up the miles. 
   In the meantime, to maintain motivation, I'm dipping into a vast collection of running related books and watching the likes of Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake streaking across my television screen at speeds of around 44mph. This afternoon Mo Farah will be scorching around the streets of Newcastle in a two mile race while later in the day local Yorkshire lads Alistair Brownlee (World Champion Triathlete) and Andy Hodge (World Champion and Olympic Gold medallist in the coxless fours rowing team) will be gracing our TV screens. Tomorrow, I'll be glued to the set yet again, trying to spot one or two acquaintances competing in this years Great North Run, a ½ marathon of world-wide renown. This year it's predicted 54,000 runners will take part. If that lot doesn't inspire me to get out the door next week, then nothing will! Who says running isn't addictive?

Monday 12 September 2011

Five days on Arran

High on Beinn Tarsuinn - feeling good
to be back among mountains
   Being a mere 19 miles long by 10 miles wide the Island of Arran is often described as Scotland in miniature and that's a very apt description. It's an island with something for everyone, for walkers, mountaineers, runners, golfers, pony trekkers, geologists, archaeologists, for shoppers and beach bums, for visitors to breweries and distilleries, for swimmers, wildlife enthusiasts, landscape artists, photographers, fishermen, for browsing around ancient castles, listening to the skirl of Pipe bands, watching traditional Highland Games, meditating with Buddhists, exploring dark caves - and a host of other things. And all this set among the most breathtaking scenery with accommodation in some of the prettiest villages you'll ever see. It was my first visit to Arran but I'm sure it wont be my last. I was VERY impressed. 
Part of the wild life
   Not that the weather was conducive to seeing much of it whilst we were there. Storm force winds estimated at 48mph, and gusting to nearly 70mph, roared through the glen driving torrential rain for hour after hour after hour. Our tent, a Hilleberg Kaitum, rattled and clacked and danced about like a mad thing. The noise was such we'd great difficulty hearing each other speak. But it held firm. Not a peg came loose or one drop of water penetrated through to the inner sactum. Elsewhere, tents were flattened and a campervan awning was blown away never to be seen again.
Path up Goatfell
   We were more than a little concerned after reading a notice stating 'This campsite floods after heavy rain' - and it didn't come much heavier than this. The river, only feet away, rose alarmingly as water poured from the surrounding hills till we imagined a tsunami type wave sweeping us away in the twinkling of an eye. Mercifully, it never came. Eventually, blotches of blue appeared in the sky, the sun peeped through and a rainbow spanned the glen. We pulled on our boots and set off to gain the high tops in the cool freshness of a rain-washed landscape.
18ft Standing Stone on Machrie Moor
   Heather was at its purple best as we clambered by white water streams, noisy waterfalls and up high angled boiler plate slabs to the summits of Beinn a' Chliabhainn (675m) and Beinn Tarsuinn (826m). Since becoming a runner, 25 years ago, I've missed the mountain environment. It felt good to be back, getting to grips with rock again and be surrounded by serrated towering giants in this wonderful wild landscape. 
   I was reminded of a time on Ben Nevis when Hamish Brown, just returned from Ireland, was so happy to be back in familiar surroundings he was jumping up and down with excitement while proclaiming "I don't wanna go down". I know what he meant! We climbed Goatfell too (874m) by an amazingly well constructed stony path that must have taken years to complete.
Lochranza Castle
   On another dreich day the sacred landscape of Machrie Moor transported us back 4,500 years as we explored it's stone circles, cairned burial chamber and giant standing stones.  By contrast, the ruined Lochranza Castle only dated back to a comparatively recent 13th century.
The pretty village of Corrie
   Further imminent storms strafing across the Atlantic in the path of Hurricane Katia forced an early departure from the island, but our appetites were well and truly whetted, enough to ensure a return visit in the not too distand future - but hopefully in more clement weather.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Going wild

     It may be some time before my next Blog posting. On Sunday, after welcoming our new Methodist Minister, Rev Janet Clasper, to her very first Communion service in our Chapel, we're taking off to the Island of Arran for a week of camping and mountaineering. I'm not sure how my dodgy Rt knee or tight hamstring will react to this but I'm hoping another week's rest will help ease them back into running mode. With lots of stretching, and a few strengthening exercises, they're definitely improving so I'm keeping my fingers crossed they'll be ready for the exceedingly hilly Guy Fawkes 10 mile race on November 6th.
David & Rev Janet Clasper
    Another penalty of not exercising, but still eating the same amount of food, is we put on weight.  That has certainly happened to me, to the tune of nearly 3lbs in the last couple of weeks.  My body composition monitor tells me I'm up from 142 to 144.8 lbs. It also tells me I've got 16.8% body fat, my BMI has risen to 22.7 and my visceral fat is up 1% to 8%. My resting pulse has also risen from 42 to 48bpm. It's amazing how an old body can deteriorate in such a short space of time but hopefully I'll be getting back on track after raising the tempo somewhat on the rocky heights of Arran.
    A text I read this morning assures me "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8.28). I'm pinning my hopes on that!  Here's Kari Jobe with a few other people who love God: