Monday 28 November 2011

A wild weekend

Burnsall and the River Wharfe
     Wild, wet, windy and bitterly cold would be an apt description of last weekend's weather. The storm was building up to gale force as we drove back home from Knaresborough on Saturday afternoon, bending  trees and buffeting our poor little car as we drove with dipped headlights through the misty and inhospitable hilltop village of Greenhow. It was a relief to get indoors, stoke up the stove and warm our hands around a mug of hot tea.  I couldn't help thinking about an intrepid walking acquaintance of mine, Alan Sloman, who was planning to camp with friends, and a dog, high on the slopes of Ingleborough. With winds gusting to 75mph throughout Yorkshire I somehow think there may have been a change of plan so can't wait for him to update his excellent and entertaining Blog to find out what really happened!
Riverside path - a delight to run
     We didn't sleep much on Saturday night, or Sunday morning, as rain rattled against our window like beads of slingshot. Come morning, the sky had cleared to a brilliant blue but there was still a vicious wind. Anxious to start building up mileage again I'd planned an eight mile route, half of which was on tarmac, as far as Howgill, and the rest along a very puddly riverbank back to Hebden. That way I wouldn't get my feet wet until turning for home!  I was accompanied by my wonderful partner who hates wind at the best of times but positively loathes it when it's freezing cold and gusting to umpteen miles per hour. I can tell you, this was a run she didn't enjoy!
The New Inn at Appletreewick
     There are three well known refreshment stops on this route, the Craven Arms and New Inn at Appletreewick and the Red Lion in Burnsall, which together attract hoardes of thirsty walkers at all times of year. There were no signs of life at any of them as we ran past on this wild morning, no cars or anyone sat outside at picnic tables gazing at the glorious landscape while quaffing a good old pint of Yorkshire brew. It was a good time to photograph these famous hostelries - if only I could hold the camera still enough! Even the New Inn appeared to be keeling over in the wind!
Pat Proudfoot's memorial
     Turning towards home we ran past Pat Proudfoot's memorial, an 18 year old member of Bradford sub-aqua club who saw in the year 1960 underwater in the River Wharfe but sadly died 5 months later. In the twenty or so years I've regularly passed this way her plaque has always been marked with flowers. The path through Howgill Wood required care as it was thick with fallen leaves that hid jutting rocks and raised tree roots. A shooting party was bagging pheasants across the river - or trying to. In today's wind I reckoned there might be a fair bit of deflection that would work in favour of the flushed birds.
Hebden suspension bridge
     The cold blast stung our faces and blew us about as it funnelled straight towards us down the swollen river.  In an elemental sort of way I was enjoying the experience of battling against it, though wishing I'd brought along a thermal hat and gloves. Next time! Hebden's rickety old suspension bridge was swaying a bit as we dashed across before climbing the final hill back into the village to complete a hard won but stimulating run.  I was happy to be back up to eight miles though my wonderful partner, being of slender frame and therefore buffetted around a fair bit more than me in the draughty conditions, finished quite exhausted. Hopefully the weather will be a little more clement when I go for the ten.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Brightening up my day

    Went for another good run today, a five mile frolic through Mollicar and Royd House woods, through fields of sprouting winter wheat, with a sharp climb over Castle Hill to round things off.
A pheasant came to say 'Hello'
   It was late afternoon when I set off and I'd half hoped the local badgers might be rooting about, or performing their ablutions away from their sett, but no such luck. The countryside was strangely deserted except for a large covey of partridge that flew off into the dusk. It was almost dark when I got home.
    The reason for my late departure this afternoon was this colouful visitor strutting around in my garden just as I was ready to set off. I was so fascinated that I really didn't like to disturb him, even though he was at one time feeding on some of my Spring bulbs. I've no doubt he'll be back for more!

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Autumn runs

Woodland colours en route to Castle Hill
    After six frustrating weeks the old ribs are slowly healing so that over the past few days I've managed to clock up some enjoyable miles with seemingly no ill effects. On Wednesday I set off on my Castle hill route - yet again - in some unusually warm November weather that made running a sheer joy. As I've mentioned before, towards the end of this route there are a couple of 'Watch your Speed' traffic signs which, up till now, have always been 0.27 mile apart, according to my Garmin 305.   However, for reasons best known to itself. it has decided to chop off 0.02 mile and reduce the distance to 0.25, a straight ¼ mile.  This is all very well but it means that when I run this distance in the usual 1 minute 36 seconds my pace has dropped from 5.58 to 6.18 - which does nothing for my morale. This infernal gadget is slowing me down. Next time I'll run without it!
River Wharfe on the way to Burnsall and Appletreewick
     Saturday's run was a delightful six miles along the riverbank to Appletreewick, and back. It was another clear day with extensive views and sharp imagery. Only problem was, I forgot to take my camera so was kicking myself every time a likely shot materialized - like the incredible reflections on the still waters of the river, or the dozen or so canoeists paddling downstream, or the lone goosander sunning itself in a calm backwater. The miles passed easily, running at a steady pace while marvelling at all the magic of another glorious day.
     Sunday.  After a convivial evening of wining and dining that extended long into the night it was a somewhat sluggish old Runningfox that set off for Church on Sunday morning. Things speeded up a bit when I realised I'd forgotten my collection money and had to jog back for it, only reaching my pew on the last clang of the bell. But it was worth it as my somewhat depleted batteries were recharged at the communion rail - though I'm not sure it did my knees any good!
Grassington Bridge
     Our minister, Rev David Macha, is a keen runner who completed this year's Great North Run in a respectable 1 hour 38 minutes. Next year he plans to run two of my favourite races, the Burnsall 10 mile road race and the Upper Wharfedale off-road ½ marathon, both of which are tough courses with many hundreds of feet of ascent.  If I run these two races I'll be competing as an MV80 which is off the end of the scale as far as prizes are concerned. I'll have to think about that.
     In the afternoon as mist descended into the valley my wonderful partner and I set off through the fields for a five mile circuit to Grassington Bridge, then back along the riverbank where a few faster spurts made this into a fartlek session. It brought my mileage to 14 for the week, the most I've run since my unfortunate accident. It will be ages before I'm back up to speed again.  But I'm working on it.
Running back from Grassington Bridge along the misty riverbank
     Whilst surfing the net the other day I happened to click on the Mallerstang Yomp website. The 'Yomp' takes place annually over a 23 mile route (with 4,000ft height gain) over Wild Boar Fell, Swarth Fell, Mallerstang Edge and Nine Standards Rigg before dropping down to the Start/Finish point at Kirkby Stephen Grammar School.  I ran this race way back in 1996 and, quite by accident I'd imagine, set a new MV60 course record of 3 hours 42 minutes. Understandably I've been quite proud of this record over the years, so imagine my feelings on discovering that the official website lists a certain R.Moulding of Blackburn as the current MV60 record holder with his time of 3 hours 45 minutes - i.e. three whole minutes slower than my time. Needless to say an email to the organisers, with an attachment of the 1996 results, went hurtling through cyberspace at a great rate of knots with an urgent request to rectify this mistake PDQ.  As yet, my record hasn't been restored but an email from David Prince, treasurer to the organising committee, indicates they're looking into the matter and will be in touch with me soon.  But how soon is soon?  Watch this space!

Monday 14 November 2011

Cross training

Attermire Scars
    It's more than five weeks since I hit the deck with an almighty thud and heard that ominous crack in my Rt upper rib cage.  It's much less painful now though it still hurts when I sneeze or break into loud guffaws! The swelling on my Lt elbow has disappeared completely, so I'm almost ready to start serious training again. Hope springs eternal or, as old Isaiah put it,
"Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint". I like that!
    After four days of thick mist, drizzle and semi-darkness, the sun finally broke through last Saturday to lift our flagging spirits and spur us into action. We'd chosen to do a brisk walk up Penyghent, a 2.273ft hill which, along with its two higher cousins of Whernside and Ingleborough, forms a well known Yorkshire triptych attempted annually by thousands of intrepid walkers and keen fell runners.
Woolly beasties by the Attermires 
    Driving past the Attermires the landscape was bathed in golden light. Wraiths of mist rose like phantoms from a forest of pines. Looking back, as D.H.Lawrence put it 'through the wrong end of the long telescope of time', woolly mammoths, bears, reindeer, ox and rhinocerus roamed this area and sought shelter in the various caves, mainly Victoria cave, where many of their bones were later found. Today's woolly creatures were of a much tamer variety, rain-washed sheep on the high pastures and shaggy highland cattle that lumbered along the moorland road. 
My first 'real' medal
    At such an early hour the old market town of Settle had barely woken up as we passed through, it's square devoid of bikers and Ye Olde Naked Man's door firmly shut. We drove by the Ribble with it's salmon ladders and waterfall leaps, to the village of Horton in Ribblesdale with it's squat Church looking across to the quarry scarred landscape. The Church features on a most prized medal that marks the first of my three MV60 category wins in the annual Three Peaks race, perhaps the proudest moment of my racing career. By comparison my two London medals pale to insignificance.
Penyghent comes into view - briefly
    We parked the car, donned our rucksacks, then strode past Brackenbottom and up steep pastures towards the craggy nose of Penyghent. At the Pennine Way intersection we were enveloped in swirling cloud, so thick that other walkers only metres away became nothing but voices. From here on a little care was needed as clammy moisture made the rocks precariously slippy, though in many places conservation workers have fashioned a functional flight of stone stairs to aid ascent, or descent.
Up the slippery bit
    In little over an hour we reached the shrouded summit where a kind gentleman took a picture of us both at the Trig point. This is noteworthy insomuch as it's probably only the fourth or fifth time we've been photographed together during the whole of our twenty odd year relationship!  It was too cold and windy to hang about at the summit so we descended rapidly for 3 or 400 feet until we popped out below cloud base.
Together at the Trig point
    From here on we strolled at a more leisurely pace enjoying the wild situation, miles from civilisation, with only the calls of grouse or bleating of sheep to break the silence. Black crows stood sentinel on bleak fence posts scanning the moor.      Back in Horton we spurned the delectable delicacies of the Penyghent Cafe for a more frugal snack of malt loaf and cheese - meanwhile discovering our new thermos flask had a serious leak!
    Our six mile circuit had taken 2¾ hours to complete. I find it hard to believe that 16 years ago, in the annual Three Peaks race, I completed the whole 24 mile circuit, with its 4,500ft of ascent, in just 65 minutes more!
   As light relief from running I suppose our walk could loosely be termed 'cross training', which we quite enjoyed, though a little on the slow side and hardly comparable to 'the real thing'.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Hitting the trail again

This morning's view from my window
     As I awoke this morning and gazed across the fields, another beautiful day was dawning, so I couldn't resist an early breakfast before donning my trail shoes and getting out there to do what my body is designed to do - RUN. A faint blue haze still lingered in the valley from all the bonfires and firecrackers of Saturday's Guy Fawkes night, but overhead the sky was almost cloudless. An autumn nip in the air made conditions ideal for running.
Since cracking my rib(s) the farthest I've run over the last four weeks is half a dozen 120m repetitions across a cricket field (left of top picture) to assess just how much pain levels would be affected during exercise. I found it was OK so long as I wasn't expanding my chest too much (as if I could!) by panting too heavily or breathing too deeply. 
    So off I went, somewhat nervously, for a slightly longer run over a route I often write about in this Blog, the three mile circuit of our local landmark, Castle Hill.  I reasoned that if my breathing did become laboured enough to cause distress, I could always walk a little till I was back into my comfort zone.  I was trialling a pair of New Balance MT101's that fit like gloves, superbly snug and comfortable.  
The view towards Emley Moor television mast
    Surprisingly I didn't seem to have lost any of my speed as I began the gradual ascent through a field of newly calved cows, past trees displaying their autumn dream coats, out onto the rough track along Clough Hall Lane, then up the final steep slope to the table-top summit.  I was not alone up there. The sunshine had brought out car loads of Sunday morning strollers - most of them with dogs - and all of them with cheery 'good mornings' as I loped past.  
    I stopped only briefly to drink in the gorgeous panoramic views, to Holme Moss and Emley Moor with their towering media masts and across scores of miles of urban sprawl to the whizzing wind farm by the wuthering heights of Haworth, one time home of the famed Bronte sisters.  My descent was a little cautious at first to limit any jarring to my chest but after the steepest bit I was back up to speed again. On a short road section I even managed a measured 0.27 mile between two 'Watch your Speed' signs in 1.36 which, according to my Garmin, equates to 5.58 pace. I was back home in 28 minutes, which is only slightly above average for this hilly route. The animal is happy again. Well, reasonably!!
Clogged up shoes
    Back home I removed my new Trail shoes to find both soles were totally clogged with dirt and would probably have offered no grip at all if the need had arisen. They may be comfortable but I reckon they'll have to be reserved for dryer trails. I believe this shoe was designed for New Balance by one of my running idols, Anton Krupicka, who runs high Colorado peaks like Cameron's Cone and Green Mountain before breakfast, or so I'm told. Maybe he just has a very late breakfast!  I can only assume that Colorado trails are less earthy and more rocky than here in Yorkshire. I'm not knocking the NB MT101 shoe,  for I'm sure it has it's uses in more conducive conditions, but for the coming winter I'll be turning to my tried and trusted Inov-8's, mainly Roclite 315's, or maybe Mudclaws if the ground churns up really squelchy. 

Tuesday 1 November 2011

I couldn't resist.......

Path up Castle Hill
     It was such a beautiful autumn day I couldn't resist going for a gentle walk. Wearing my New Balance 101 trail shoes for the very first time, to break them in, I walked a short route I often run, a mere three miles over Castle Hill to drink in the panoramic views and feast my eyes on the wonderful autumn tints.
Trevor Ellis running high
    Quite by co-incidence I met one of my running contemporaries, a chap called Trevor Ellis of Hartshead Running Club who was up there on a training run. In spite of having had a heart attack that slowed him down for a while, he's a long distance specialist and still planning marathons well into his seventies . Having just ascended several hundred feet he was glad to stop and chat for ten minutes in the warm sunshine. And so was I.
Bright Holly berries
    His company and conversation was most inspiring, so much so that I left him feeling a bit of a wimp. For goodness sake, if he still had the guts to get out and run following a coronary what was I doing pratting around with much lesser problems of cracked ribs and a swollen arm? 
    So, on the way home I found myself turning into our local cricket field with it's wondrous green, flat turf with absolutely nothing to trip me and send me sprawling to the ground again. Dare I risk it? Yes, I jolly well would. I wasn't exactly dressed for running but I took off my jacket, placed it on a bench with my camera, then set off for half a dozen repetition runs across it's widest point, a good 120m.
Trial run
    The first tentative run took 28 secs, the next 26, the next 25 and the last three were all 23's.  After a short warm-down jog I put on my jacket and walked slowly home as if nothing had happened! Back indoors I grabbed a handful of nuts and raisins, poured myself a glass of orange juice and sat down with a rather broad smile on my whiskered face.  The ribs had survived.  Thankyou Patti for your prayers.