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!