Friday 28 December 2012

A Very Merry Christmas.......

There's more to life than running.....
    The weather did it's level best to dampen our spirits over the Christmas period with lashings of rain, high winds, flooded fields, muddy paths and mist enshrouded hills. Our Christmas Eve carol singing around the village was cancelled on account of us not having enough hands to hold a lantern, an umbrella and turn the pages of flapping hymn sheets all at the same time! So in lieu of the usual mince pies and mulled wine to conclude the evening we retired to our own warm stove, had a wee dram and went early to bed.
    We'd intended having a short run on Christmas morning but the day dawned dark and diabolical. The farthest we ventured out was precisely one metre, as far as our elderly neighbour's front door - conveniently next to ours. She'd a wonderful antidote to the climatic conditions in the form of a fine selection of festive elevenses - on condition that yours truly used his considerable strength to dislodge the cork from a very fine bottle of champagne. We returned home at lunchtime leaving her in a rather convivial mood - and with an almost empty bottle!
Aladdin's Cave - the larger prezzies are in the annexe......
    Santa Claus had been rather generous. We suspect his sack felt rather heavy as he staggered around after all the sherry and mince pies, so had dumped most of it's contents under our tree. By the time we'd unwrapped everything the house was beginning to look like Aladdin's cave. So a huge thankyou to the legion of friends and relatives who gave Santa all those wonderful ideas! We're not sure where we'll put everything - apart from the Laphroaig and Damson Gin. I've already thought of a good place for those!  As darkness fell we drew the curtains, shut out the weather and celebrated in style, a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and a nice Chardonnay to put us in mellow mood. It was a Very Happy Christmas.
A damp run by the river on Boxing Day
    The sun shone for almost an hour on Boxing Day morning, chance for a longish run if we hadn't had to drive to Austwick to visit an old friend and deliver prezzies. By the time we got home in the early afternoon the weather had deteriorated, but we managed a short four miles around Burnsall, returning along the riverbank as it started raining again. A dipper in best bib and tucker curtseyed to the Queen on a mossy stone before plunging into the watery depths in search of his own ideas of turkey and mince pies - or even Brussel sprouts!
    There was more socializing, more eating, more drinking, more laughter and conviviality in the company of some running and mountaineering friends before a line was finally drawn under the protracted Christmas festivities on Thursday night. I'm ashamed to admit that running over the festive period amounted to a  mere ten miles, not nearly enough to burn off the thousands of excess calories consumed in that short space of time. And there'll be more to come when we've shot the haggis and marinated it according to a delightful Scottish recipe to celebrate Hogmanay.  Bring on the New Year - not least of all for me to enjoy a well deserved rest!

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Traveller's 6

   Talk about winding down for the festive season, I did so little in the early part of last week that I may as well have stayed in bed! Apathy (which I'm neither for nor against!) plus some diabolical weather resulted in just two entries in my running diary amounting to a pathetic nine miles, the lowest since an enforced rest with a broken rib fourteen months ago. Tuesday's planned 5 mile tempo got shortened to a bumbly 3 miles of scary running over frosted pavements and trails. It was one of those days when there was insufficient ice to wear Yaktrax but a little too slippy in places for safety. As I'm very prone to falling  (I can even fall off my own doorstep) I erred on the side of caution, what with Christmas coming up and a booked holiday early in the New Year. 
Route and course profile
   By the time I'd got round to thinking about running on Thursday the day had deteriorated from sunny and cold when I walked to the village in the morning to thick freezing fog an hour later. I decided that keeping warm and reading a book was the better option. Friday was diabolical. Overnight drizzle had frozen into treacherous black ice causing chaos on the roads and an abundance of extra work for Accident and Emergency Units. I didn't even venture across the garden path to put bread on the wall for the birds but flung it onto the lawn from the safety of the porch. Since acquiring a bread maker the birds have benefited greatly. My loaves rise so much that full slices wont fit into the toaster so friendly blackbirds, robins and dunnocks thank me for the excess. If greedy magpies haven't got there first!
L65 category winner, at the prize-giving.......
   It wasn't until Sunday that the weather relented and gave us a decent day for running, which was just as well because we'd entered a local race - the Traveller's 6 - that started and finished at the Denby Dale Pie Hall. The hall was built using funds from the sale of a giant meat pie back in 1964. Altogether, eleven of these giant pies have been baked, the first one in 1788 to celebrate George 111's recovery from mental illness! One baked in the year 2000 to celebrate the millennium reputedly weighed an incredible 12 tonnes. The latest, baked earlier this year, weighed a mere 3 tonnes and supposedly copied the exotic recipe of the original one. I'd have loved a plateful of that. There were no such delicacies on offer for Sunday's race but there were masses of other culinary delights piled on a hall full of tables to feed ravenous runners as they staggered back from the hills. It was a gradely do, all for a nominal race entry fee of £6.00, but blimey, we'd to work hard for it.
....and an 80 year old fun runner.
   The route is officially described as 'challenging' which for us decrepit old wrinklies can better be interpreted as bl...y hard! A local runner was mortifying a visitor by telling him it had eleven climbs along its 6 mile length. Thankfully my little brain translated that as eleven enjoyable downhills. I positioned myself at the back of the start line-up and set off at a comfortable pace, undulating uphill for about 1½ miles before I could take a short breather. It seemed an awful long way to the 2 mile marker which I passed in 20.03. The third mile went by in 8.52 but a steep climb to the fourth mile, and beyond, actually reduced me to a walk for a short distance resulting in a slow 9.48. An unattached runner, Karen Thrippleton, had unknowingly become my pace maker for most of the race. We'd been side by side in the early stages but she'd opened a slight gap towards the end and crossed the line 6 secs ahead of me.  And unbeknown to me a 76 year old orienteering acquaintance, galloping Guy Goodair, was tracking me down and closing the gap behind, but I managed to hold him off by 9 secs to finish in 58.08 - 173rd of 202 finishers. Full results here:
   I was happy to finish in under an hour considering my Garmins 552ft of ascent and 6.10 miles (878ft and 6.23 miles according to Anquet) but a little puzzled regarding the strange distribution of Vets prizes. My wonderful partner was lucky enough to be awarded a rather nice New Zealand white wine (though we've no idea why) whilst male veterans pre-entered in the upper age categories apparently just ran for fun and don't qualify for prizes at Denby Dale.
   Ah well, Father Christmas will soon be here!

Monday 10 December 2012

Dancing on ice.....

Ice all down the lane on my run to Grassington......
Over the past week Christmas drastically interfered with running. What with writing and sending zillions of cards, shopping for all the right presents, not to mention an inordinate amount of time spent 'chatting' with Dell reps about computers and being blinded with science. Hence my brain, rather than my feet, has been almost stretched to the limit. I had to laugh, every time I surfed the Dell website a little box came floating down with a picture of a rather attractive white lady asking "How can we help you today? Chat now". But each time I clicked on it I was connected to gentlemen sounding of Indian or Bangladeshi origin with mainly unpronounceable names. They did help, and I went through the motions of placing an order but wont know for sure whether I succeeded until my 'basket' (as they call it) actually arrives - hopefully before Christmas.

and everywhere by the river on my way back....
I did get out running, I had to, if only to clear my befuddled brain. And boy, did I enjoy it. On Saturday conditions were similar to the previous week - wall to wall ice in the lanes and fields like skating rinks. For the first time this year I donned my Yaktrax Pros and went dancing across the ice with all the confidence of a latter day Robin Cousins. So if anyone is out walking in the frozen Yorkshire Dales and sees an ancient bearded figure racing gleefully towards them performing triple axels to the strains of Ravel's Bolero on his mp3 player, give him a big round of applause. It might be me!

...and what I wore to cope with it.
Sunday was going to be a more leisurely day but my wonderful partner decided otherwise. "I'm going to do some of those things you showed me, ten seconds fast, then twenty, then thirty....up to a hundred, then back down again". All done with a jog recovery - a sort of pyramid fartlek session. It had very much been a case of 'do as I say, not as I do' for I hadn't personally done that routine for goodness knows how long, but as I'd promised to run with her I felt obliged to give it a go. In spite of the hilly route around Burnsall it went rather well and I was pleasantly surprised how easily I concluded with the final 30, 20 and 10 sec sprints back up the steep slope into the village.  My mileage last week amounted to a mere 12 miles but it all felt so easy and enjoyable. Perhaps I should keep it at that for a wee while before gradually building up again for the Spring.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Winter fun and frolics....

Winter arrived with a vengeance last week, nipping all the remaining leaves from the trees and leaving but a tracery of bare branches etched against the sky. The previously sodden landscape developed a thick, hard, slippery shell of vicious ice - which made running a little more interesting. In fact, I went sledging last Thursday, quite unintentionally, and without the actual use of a sledge.
Bare trees and a winter sky around Castle Hill
Having awoken to a glorious sunrise I couldn't resist a run up Castle Hill for a bit of 'altitude training'. Near the top I'd to cross the road on a steep bend which overnight had been transformed into a ribbon of treacherous ice. I knew I was going to go down so prepared myself to land as gently as possible. Bang, straight onto my backside and sliding merrily downhill as I simultaneously crabbed my way towards the side where I wanted to be. Fortunately, I got away with no more than a wet bum and freezing wet gloves. Shortly afterwards a local Ranger, who's become familiar with my antics over the years, arrived on the scene to sand and salt the offending stretch of road. I could tell by his face he was plainly of the opinion that geriatric joggers shouldn't be frollicking around in such conditions.
Undaunted, I continued my training (if you can call it that) with 16 x 200m reps at a comfortable pace, clicking my watch at the beginning and end of each run without actually reading what it said. Rather than give myself a set time for each rep, I ran within my comfort zone, listening to my body. I'd guessed I was clocking around 48 seconds for each rep - with the exception of one much faster effort when I was spurred on by a yapping dog that decided to join in the fun - and got shouted at! Both the dog and its owner must have sensed my annoyance and disappeared smartish before my next rep! On downloading the information from my watch onto the computer I was pleasantly surprised to find I'd been averaging fairly consistent 45's.  I was happy with that. On Friday, the last day of the month, I ran a gentle three miles to bring my total for November to a straight 100 miles.
Ice all the way on Saturday's run
Saturday's run turned out to be a bit of an epic. I'd set off up Hebden Ghyll for a measured 8 miles to bring my total for the year to exactly 1000 miles.  My intention was to cross Grassington Moor before taking the narrow, almost invisible sheep trod over Bycliffe Hill, then a nice downhill run back to the village - one of my favourite runs where I can guarantee to be absolutely alone. But I was well and truly stymied in the arctic conditions and reached a point when I wished I wasn't alone.  Before I'd even left the village I was struggling to avoid widespread ice. It continued all the way up the ghyll and onto the moor where I ran into an additional hazard - a biting northerly blast that had the temperature plummeting way, way below zero. Picking my way across the moor towards Bycliffe, dodging the ice, I sensed my body temperature was dropping rapidly towards danger levels. I'd climbed to around 1,350ft and Bycliffe was still another 150ft higher. And probably a lot colder. 
The village of Hebden - nestling under the hills
All of a sudden I felt very vulnerable, not to mention quite frightened, as the freezing mass gripped my chest and penetrated my ears. I pulled on a jacket, turned around and descended as quickly as glassy underfoot conditions would allow. Fairly soon I'd started to get warm again so I detoured into Yarnbury, ran down Moor Lane towards Grassington and back along Edge Lane (which had wall to wall ice) before dropping into the village to complete an exciting 8 miles. The thermometer outside the back door was recording 26ºF (-4ºC) so I shudder to think what it must have been 700ft higher up on the open moor with that numbing wind-chill factor. I stoked up the stove, moved my chair a bit closer and, apart from attending Church on Sunday morning, stayed within spitting distance for the next two days. Maybe that Ranger on Castle Hill was right!    
Anyway, after achieving both targets over the weekend, 100 miles for November and 1000 miles for the year, I reckon it's time to take it easy for a few weeks now, rest on my laurels, relax and enjoy the festive season, recuperate and regenerate before coming back with all guns blazing again in 2013. Well, that's the plan!