Sunday 30 November 2014

November stats.....

Undulating 6 mile progression run profile (Click to enlarge)
I fell 10 miles short of a 100 mile target for November, but 90 miles still gives an average of 3 miles per day which is about par for the course nowadays. My average speed was 10:44 mins/mile which isn't very fast but looks slightly better when 7,657ft of ascent (around 85ft/mile) is added into the equation. This past week I've been experimenting with progression runs, i.e. starting off at a very comfortable pace (because the first 1½ miles is mainly uphill) and gradually getting faster each mile. Today, for example, my six miles were 11:49, 11:25, 10:15, 9:58, 10:14 and 8:44. A slight hiccup at the 5th mile was due to some nosey dog walkers interrupting my running to enquire what I was up to. They declined an invitation to join me, but their dog showed interest.

Castle car park in nasty wonder I've a sore throat
Until today the past week has been terrible with thick, cold, clammy fog restricting visibility to less than 25 metres. It was quite frightening running along the narrow road in early morning darkness with car and bus headlights materialising from the gloom too close for comfort. On Friday I almost collided with a girl runner coming from the opposite direction. On top of the hill was an eerie silence. Dog walkers were conspicuous by their absence so none of the usual shouting at recalcitrant pets. I'd the place to myself - which is how I like it. I'm a grumpy old so-and-so if truth be known, though if there were other octogenarians out running I'd maybe be more sociable. But I've yet to meet one. I guess many have thunk themselves into premature old age. They don't know what they're missing...

Monday 24 November 2014

Goodbye to the sun.......

Sunrise in October - left of mast... (Click to enlarge)
      After an early morning jaunt today I was a bit taken aback by how quickly the sun is moving into the southern hemisphere. I'd stopped to take a running selfie - an excuse for a brief rest after the steep climb onto Castle Hill - just as the sun was peeping over the horizon. In less than two minutes I was on my way again, my breath condensing in the frosty air as I set off to complete my five mile circuit. It wasn't until I got home and put the picture onto my computer that I realised just how much the sun has moved south in the past month. In a picture taken mid October it was rising well to the left of Emley Moor transmitter at around 80º from north (see above). In todays picture (right) taken at 7:50 am it was rising an awful long way to the right of the mast, due south east at 125º.  By 3.30pm it had disappeared behind the hill having given us little more than 7½ hours of daylight. Sometimes I wish I could migrate with the swallows...
      My back to back house faces due north, so unless I venture outside I see nothing of the sun at all. And look where it's rising, well to the right of TV mast
considering the moon is also rising in the south east and setting in the south west, I don't see much of that either (though I did see a sliver tonight when I went to the surgery for a flu jab). An item on the radio this morning was full of complaints from university students and other young girls about how dangerous it is to walk alone on the streets of our city at night. I wouldn't know; I'm a long way from the city centre and rarely go out after dark anyway. I haven't yet got around to running with a head torch in the early morning. I've thought about it but not sure what the local populace would think about me plodding through the fields or past their back gardens by starlight. It could be fun - if it wasn't for their dogs!
Burning bush(es) and grass, as sunrise sets the hill on fire
     Fields and lanes are becoming awfully puddly and muddy again. The cows have gone. I'm not sure where the farmer has put them. Maybe they've all been turned into steak, silverside, salmon cut or sausage meat! I miss my encounters with Charley, the chunky charolais bull, and his entourage, but not the hock deep mess they made in all the gateways, which is still there. Each time it rains it's transformed into a sea of sludge, so much so I've reluctantly changed my route for one that includes a bit more tarmac and a longish steep hill to start off with. On Sunday, to conclude a 21 mile week, I ran the first two miles on tarmac, then had to slosh back through slutchy slippery fields that weren't at all pleasant - and made worse by the worn out shoes I was wearing. I hope Father Christmas comes this year or I might have to join the barefoot brigade!

Monday 17 November 2014

Two Churches.....

Yeah, I know, I've said this before....(Click to enlarge)
Last weeks fall in the Lake District left me as stiff and inflexible as an old board for the rest of the week. Ibuprofen was marvellous for killing the pain but little use as a lubricant. My wonderful partner often talks of a design fault in the human body, intimating that God should have created grease nipples over the main moving joints! I could certainly make use of some at the moment. I'm pathetic when I ease out of bed in the morning, forcing myself upright and holding onto the wall as I totter off to the bathroom. And the nodding donkey act, trying to put my socks on, particularly the right one, would make the devil laugh.Then of course, I've got to get down the stairs. Breakfast is sometimes late!

Path onto the moor by Coalgrove beck...
Hence, running has been a bit of a struggle, but I forced myself out on three occasions to chalk up another nineteen miles, if my maths are correct - a five, a six and an eight - though I've got to admit I was running out of steam on that longer one. It was foggy and a cold 6º as we ran up the ghyll through yet another guard of honour, hoping they'd see us and lower their guns until we were far enough away. Another shooting party were blasting away at pheasant and partridge in Blea Ghyll, so our run was accompanied by a constant sound of gunfire. We'd have preferred some peace and quiet. After 2½ miles we split to go our different routes.

 I was running well up to the high point at 1,500ft
Saturday....running well up to 1,500ft.....
but had to walk short sections on the way down. I'd bounded across Grassington Moor and over Bycliffe Hill at a fair rate of knots (for me) until I'd to stop and rebuild a little cairn that marks a place where I rejoin the track - or leave it, depending on which way I'm running. A short wooden post marked the place for long enough but each time I passed it had been pulled out and thrown away. So I hit on the idea of building a small cairn. Surely that wouldn't be intrusive? Surprise, surprise, the stones have been thrown away every time I've passed. The culprit, I suspect, is our local gamekeeper who, God forgive me, I'm beginning to hate. He's the one who's cleared the moor of everything but grouse, encouraged, I suppose, by his stinking rich employer who lives on the continent and doesn't give a toss for any other form of wildlife in our area. As long as there are sufficient grouse for his wealthy clientelle to blast from the sky three or four times a year, he's happy.

My wee cairn, It's not doing any harm, is it?
Maybe it was a head full of negative thoughts poisoning the system that disrupted my rhythm and reduced me to a walk on several occasions descending into the ghyll. Serves me right. Our friendlier local shooters had enjoyed a good morning judging by the number of pheasant hung by the brace over the sides of their vehicles. I'd have stolen one but all eyes were upon me as I ran the gauntlet of guns and dogs on the way back to the village. We're occasionally given a brace, dressed and oven ready, by way of a Christmas present - though a Colorectal Consultant I'd the misfortune to see on a couple of occasions recently strongly advised against such things, or any red meat, along with bread, all dairy products, anything with seeds in it and, worst of all, alcohol. Needless to say, we didn't quite see eye to eye.
Sunday...running the autumn riverbank...
Running is very much a spiritual pastime. Running can make you feel more alive; out on the open moor, in the  mountains, or any wild and lonely place, you become less of a person and more a part of the great scheme of things. The great outdoors becomes both a gym and a Church. Sacred thy body even as thy soul is the motto of a certain body building organisation - but running is also a great way of combining the two. On Sunday I sampled both and, for once, the great outdoors certainly came out best. In the morning we'd enjoyed a pleasant riverside run together among scintilating autumn colours with geese and goosanders for company, passed the time of day with other runners we met, and with only a soothing sound from the rippling river as opposed to all the gunshot the previous day.

Who's a silly goose then?
In the afternoon I was reading Psalm 51 for Rev Roger Fox, a Methodist minister and healer. For the uninitiated it's David's prayer for forgiveness after his adulterous affair with the beautiful Bathsheba. With much shouting that ensured 'the deaf shall hear' and some extravagant gesticulations to amplify his salient points Rev Fox left us in little doubt we were all sinners in one way or other - though not necessarily adulterers. I fully expected him making an altar call inviting each and every one of us to fall on our knees and beg forgiveness - just as David had. The funny part was, all of the congregation bar one are in our 70's and 80's. Or maybe it wasn't funny. I'm afraid if I'd to choose between any two similar events, the wild run would come out top. Grassington Moor on a balmy summers day, or in the freezing winter, is a very fine Church. Indeed, it really is God's country.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Ullswater jaunt....

Autumn view of Ullswater....(Click to enlarge)
     Running-wise, it was a leaner week than of late, with just 19 miles in the bank, but made up for it with some wonderful days walking in the Lake district over the weekend. We'd been invited by friends to stay at their luxury flat on the eastern side of Ullswater, between Pooley Bridge and Howtown, and arrived there around lunchtime on Saturday. After a quick snack there was sufficient daylight left for a six mile toddle round the southern end of Hallin Fell, over the bank to the shore path by Ullswater and on to Howtown pier. Unfortunately, I'd yet another painful fall on a slippery path by Martindale Church resulting in aches and pains to various parts of my anatomy that required mega doses of Ibuprofen to keep me moving. A planned five mile run on Sunday morning had to be substituted with a gentle two mile walk around Sharrow Cottages, Swarthbeck and Auterstone to ease the old joints back into action before running a slightly shortened route in the afternoon to the base of Hallin Fell and back.

      I spent the evening re-reading 'Feet in the Clouds' - Richard Askwith's inspiring book which he describes as a tale of
On reflection, we'd a short run on Sunday afternoon...
fell-running and obsession. If ever there was a tonic to counteract gloom and despondency, and get me firing on all cylinders again, this was the one I was looking for. Characters described in the book are credited with a masochistic disregard for danger and pain that verges on lunacy. What I'd suffered in that poxy little fall over in Martindale was nobbut a scratch compared to some of the accidents suffered by fell-runners on a more or less weekly basis. Some carried on running with broken bones, covered in blood and torn apart, but still got to the Finish before collapsing in a heap after giving it their all. Nearest I ever got to such heroics was running the last two miles of the Kentmere Horseshoe with a badly torn calf muscle to put the 2004 M70 Fell Running Championship beyond the reach of all my contemporaries. Since then I've become a bit of a wimp.

At the 'bridge of sighs' over Groove Gill...
Monday was forecast to be a cold, dry day but cloudy with very little in the way of sunshine. And so it turned out to be. Ideal for plodding up Fusedale and onto Pikeawassa without incurring too much of a sweat. Thanks to 600mg Ibuprofen before going to bed, to subdue any lingering aches or pains, I'd slept reasonably well so was able to match strides with my wonderful partner as she hared off along the bridleway to Mellguards to join the concrete farm track into lower Fusedale. She's not renowned for hanging about, as many of her regular U3A walking friends will vouch for, but speed doesn't prevent her from spotting any flora, fauna or points of interest that happen to be around. She pointed to a red deer stag and a pair of hinds on the ridge above us which my old myopic eyes would never have otherwise focussed upon.

      The steep, grassy path up Fusedale was muddy in parts and
Rest stop by the ruined building under Gowk Hill....
running with water. We stopped briefly at a bridge over Groove Gill at 1,250ft which over the years has become particularly meaningful to us. One of our favourite little spots in the Lake district. And I needed the rest! From there on, by a tumble-down building and on towards Brownthwaite Crag the rushy ground was particularly squelchy with some ankle deep areas that were difficult to avoid. Things improved as we followed a brackeny path to an awkward stile before striding upward to the turretted summit of Pikeawassa. Two well behaved Jack Russells, running free, totally ignored a herdwick sheep grazing by the path. And the Herdwick totally ignored them too. Funny how they know!
Old Runningfox on Steel Knotts above Ullswater...
A cold wind hit us as we reached the 1,360ft summit, ensuring we kept moving along the exposed ridge of Steel Knotts for a quick descent to Steel End and an easy walk along the road back to base. Pikeawassa is a grand hill with some wonderful views, east to High Street where we've had many a joyous run, south to the deer forest on The Nab where the annual rut is noisily elemental, west to the mighty Helvellyn range with its notorious Striding Edge, north west to those wonderful ridges of Blencathra and, down below, the vast expanse of Ullswater where Outward Bound school participants and yachtsmen spend many a happy hour ploughing through the water amid the most amazing scenery. As we reached the pier at Howtown a steamer, the Western Belle, was just leaving. A brief safety announcement floated across the water, followed by the words 'The bar is now open'. God, I could have murdered for a pint of cool lager! Next time, I thought, sod walking and running up those perishing hills. I'm going for a sail!

Monday 3 November 2014

Ton up.....

     Having chalked up 100 miles for the first time this year, October turned out to be quite a good month runningwise. In fact, I ran quite a bit further than a hundred miles if all the fractions were taken into consideration - plus the warm-up sessions and 1200m I raced at the Yorkshire Veterans T&F Championships - which I haven't counted. From a total of 19 runs 15 were enjoyable early morning jaunts over and around Castle Hill, most of them at an easy pace with just a few fartlek sessions prior to the two track races. Each of those 15 runs included an average 468ft of ascent so I suppose that could count as hill training. The only other training I did, to use the term loosely, was two supposedly 'fast' miles by way of sharpening, though I'll never know how fast they were because I pressed the wrong buttons on my Garmin and didn't realise my mistake until I connected it to my computer! It must have been enough for it enabled me to top the British 800m Rankings and reach 2nd place in the 400m Rankings - which have got to be the highlights of the month, if not the year. Here is a break-down of my 15 Castle runs....
These times will be slow for most people - but look at those elevation gains....(Click to enlarge)
My wonderful partner, running up Hebden Ghyll....
      A 10 mile run round Mossdale on Saturday brought the week's total to 25 and was a cracking start to the month of November. A large shooting party up the ghyll, bagging pheasant and partridge, kindly held their fire and formed an impromptu guard of honour as my wonderful partner and I jogged by as fast as we could to avoid being sprayed with gunshot should their activities resume. After 2 miles we parted to go our different ways, she on a shorter seven mile route whilst I continued uphill to the high point at 1,540ft. The sky was darkening and a cold sou'westerly blew me up the hill. But it would be blowing full frontal as I dropped into Mossdale to turn for home - as it was doing already for some mountain bikers I passed, all of them togged up to their watering eyes.
      I'd to literally force myself down the rocky track into the valley against the wall of wind, but I was
....and Old Runningfox breasting the wind down into Mossdale
enjoying it in a masochistic sort of way. A dozen or so horses grazing a limestone pasture at 1,400ft were sensibly staying close to a sheltering wall - unlike some Aberdeen Angus yearlings that got a bit skittish as I divided the herd running through Kelber. By the time I reached Yarnbury I felt to be losing the battle, running out of energy and beginning to feel a wee bit knackered. Pace was slowing and my lungs weren't at all happy at being saturated with all that cold air. But hey ho, only two miles to go now, to the luxury of a refreshing shower, warm, dry clothes and a reviving mug of tea in front of a hot fire. Into the last mile and back in the ghyll I was thankfully out of the wind. Shooters had suspended activities for lunch and greeted me enthusiastically with waves and encouraging words as I passed through their ranks, belying the way I felt by trying to look good. It's amazing how we runners can put on the style when someone is watching. Or how we suddenly produce a burst of speed in the finishing stretch of a race when we've been almost on our knees a minute before.
Top of the British 800m Rankings, but was it worth the strain? Well, maybe.....
      So that was the week that was. 25 miles in four days of running bringing the month's total to a round 100. With maybe a couple or so bonus miles if we add up all those fractions, races, etc..  I can't honestly say I've enjoyed all of them, but my old body seems to reap the benefit of their cumulative effect. Running, to my mind, is the most natural of exercises, though not necessarily the easiest in later years. The trick is to listen to one's body and not go beyond the limits of what it tells you.

Pity about those three seconds...should have done some training
      Racing, as in those Track & Field Championships, is like telling the old body to sod off and mind its own business for a wee while. Following on straight after the 400m race that 800m hurt, really hurt. I came away from the meeting feeling like a befuddled zombie. I'd to keep moving. I daren't sit or stand still in fear of keeling over. I'd taken my body beyond its limits and in a quiet sort of way, which I fully understood, it was telling me of the dire consequences of repeating such things. I'll listen, for a while, until maybe once again I get the urge to show my contemporaries I'm still around, and I'm not done yet..