|.....to Threshfield Moor|
Last week an email arrived from a running friend I hadn't heard from for maybe a couple of years, a chap called Doug Tilly who lives in a beautiful part of the world on the edge of our English Lake Distict . "I hear you're shortly to become an old man" he said, referring to my upcoming 80th birthday in three months time at the beginning of May. People shouldn't say things like that in case I start thinking it myself and actually become an old man. So I ignored his comment. Nevertheless, I'll shortly have to change a word in the sub-title of my Blog, from 'Septuagenarian' to 'Octogenarian'. Or maybe completely revamp it to something like 'Random jottings of a geriatric jogger'. Or maybe not!
|On a slippery slope|
It's been another productive week though mileage dropped to just 20 miles in the freezing conditions. Speedwork was out of the question for two reasons. Firstly I wasn't going to risk running fast with cold leg muscles - and in the sub-zero temperatures I just couldn't get them to what I considered warm enough: and secondly because the section of sandy path where I do my intervals had become so icy as to be bordering on dangerous at anything faster than normal cruising speed. So I chickened out and ran some easy enjoyable miles.
|Some of the residents|
But we'd an exciting day on Saturday. On March 10th we've opted to run a 12 mile off-road event over some wild, boggy country so decided it might be a good idea to recce the route while the ground was frozen. Big mistake. The Yorkshire Dales were still plastered with frozen snow which, on upland trails, had been compacted to solid ice. Every wall, fence and signpost on Threshfield Moor was coated with shiny verglas and festooned with icicles. Glassy stiles had to be climbed with great care. We wore Yaktrax on our trail shoes to better negotiate the ribbon of ice that masqueraded as a path through the heather where a few sheep and grouse eked out a bare existence. My wonderful partner was not happy as she slid and twisted, struggling to maintain her balance but quite unable to run in her normal style. After a couple of miles or so the cry went up, "I want to go back", a sentiment I'd also been considering as I sensed my body temperature dropping as we ascended higher into the Arctic air.
|Try climbing over this....|
But rather than retrace our footsteps we studied the map and agreed on a shorter route that would cut out a couple of miles and get us back to our car a fair bit quicker, hopefully before we froze to death! Strangely, from that point onwards I noticed she was running faster and more confidently although underfoot conditions were precisely the same. I must work on this!
Sunday morning saw me honing my ice running skills on a six mile jaunt along the riverbank where weekend walkers hung onto walls, trees and fences in an effort to stay upright on sheet ice as I breezed past them. The yard at Woodhouse Farm, which the right of way passes through, resembled a vast skating rink which walkers found most intimidating . After a few tentative steps most of them retreated to find an easier route. With Yaktrax I pranced across with ultimate ease, as gracefully as Robin Cousins performing his skills to strains of Ravel's Bolero, enjoying the experience and wishing the current freeze would last a little while longer.
On leaving Church later that day our circuit Minister, Rev Richard Atkinson, said "I don't suppose you've been out running in these conditions". After assuring him I had, his reply was a syllable less than the Bible's shortest verse - "You're mad" he said.
So there you are, I began the week with the inference I was rapidly turning into an old man, and ended it being pronounced mad!
However, when I got home, another email had arrived that partially restored the status quo. It was from a Dutch running friend who lives in some unpronouncable village/town outside Amsterdam (or is it Rotterdam? I forget which). His message began with the words "Hello youngster, I hope this finds you in good spirits.........". Now that's more like what I want to hear. That brought a smile back to my face. Thankyou Theo, I'll buy you a pint next time you're over this way.