Monday 23 February 2015

A Mossdale run

Porridge with sultanas, milk and a splash of golden syrup, then toast with butter and marmalade, and a jug of coffee finally got me out of the house to clear the frosted windscreen to drive back to the Yorkshire Dales. The in-car thermometer read 1ºC so the heater got turned to max. Low sunlight from a clear sky dazzled me through side and windscreen mirrors and I didn't altogether trust the road surface through Queensbury where everything to left and right was white with frost.
Head down, steaming past the bent tree near Cupola Corner...(Click to enlarge)
 Back in the Dales it took two more cups of coffee and two carbohydrate filled rock buns to finally get me upstairs to perform various ablutions and change into running gear. Meanwhile my wonderful partner was well on her way, storming up the ghyll for a head start. She was rewarded with a first sighting this year of a flock of lapwings, no doubt bound for their regular nesting sites. I missed them. Serves me right for being so slow.... 

Mossdale run profile....
We'd agreed on a steady run to the wilds of Mossdale which, as can be seen from its profile, is rather hilly and a little over ten miles. Not easy, but for a couple who this year will have accumulated 153 years between us, I think we coped rather well. The sun shone bountifully upon us, though a cooling wind across the open moor didn't exactly encourage us to stand and stare - or take many photographs.Unusually in this quiet place, we passed a couple of walking parties, three mountain bikers and an elderly gentleman whose GPS had led him far astray. Or his brain had!
Enjoying myself, bouncing across Kelber towards Yarnbury.....
  Unlike last week's fatiguing run to Barden Bridge my legs were feeling strong again and I really enjoyed bouncing over the springy turf, down past Bare House and on towards Yarnbury before dropping back into Hebden Ghyll. At the end of this run I didn't feel at all tired and it was reassuring to know I could have gone further. Which is just as well. In two weeks time I might have to....
The Clarendon in summer....
 To replenish stores of depleted glycogen, Saturday night was spent feasting and drinking. It began at our local hostelry, The Clarendon, where a convivial crowd had gathered to offer fond farewells to our genial hosts, Ashley and Hayley Crampton who, the following day, were moving to pastures new. That whetted our appetites for the main event of the evening, the demolition of a veritable food mountain all cooked and baked to absolute perfection by our wonderful neighbours, Charles and Barbara. As a friend of mine was wont to say, "It was a gradely do".
Harbinger of Spring, the curlew   (Photo from internet)
 Sunday dawned cloudy and bitterly cold. After Church it was a struggle to forsake our cosy fireside and don some warm running gear to face the unruly elements. But after yesterday's long run we needed a short one to loosen our legs. Four miles, we decided, would be quite enough as we headed into the wind and sub zero temperature to run to the village of Burnsall and back along the riverbank. Then, as we ran past Ranelands, a wonderful thing happened.  A curlew called - its iconic notes floating on the wind and lifting our spirits sky high. The weather could do what it liked after that, it couldn't take away our joy of hearing that harbinger of Spring that made our footsteps all the fleeter as we went our way.
Returning by the fish farm during Sunday's run....
 We passed a pair of gaudy goosanders idling around on a calm stretch of river and wondered if they were considering starting a family?
Within the hour we were back to the confines of our cheery cottage with warm soup and dancing flames in the hearth to dispel the winter gloom as curtains of sleet and hail swept across the banking outside our window, obliterating the landscape. Time to start the crossword....

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Dawn run.......

The temperature in my wee cottage plummeted during the night. I got up too early. The central heating hadn't fired up. Radiators were still cold, and so was all my running gear. I reset the control switch for it to fire a bit earlier in future - then went back to bed until things warmed up. It was 6.30 when I re-emerged from under the covers and after a quick (ish) cup of coffee nearly 7am before stepping out into an arctic wind to set my Garmin and get under way.  Gosh it was cold. Both my neighbours' cars had frosted windscreens and grass was crunchy underfoot through frozen fields. The thinnest sliver of a moon hung in a cloudless sky, a celestial icon over the luminous landscape of breaking dawn.
This morning's dawn run....   (Click to enlarge)
  I recognized the fluted notes of blackbirds, and a robin chirruped as I ran past Clough Hall cottages, but I'd no idea what the other early morning songsters were. Certainly I wasn't one of them, not today in a wind chill temperature of 23ºF. I was on a second circuit of Castle Hill when the sun peeped over the horizon. I forgot to note what time it was, possibly around 7.25am, when the glowing red ball spread a veneer of palest pink over the frozen landscape. A perfect work of art, a burning bush experience that lifted my spirits and sent me home rejoicing - but something very difficult to explain to sceptics who don't, or wont, understand why people run....

Monday 16 February 2015

Going the extra mile.....

      There are times when I feel so good, I could run forever. Well, the mind does, the body usually has other ideas. Last week mind and body were in total agreement with each other - both of them in 'sod off' mode. Maybe 16½ miles the previous weekend was too much for someone catching up to Methuselah, or maybe my biorhythms were in the critical phase, but I've really struggled since. The weather hasn't helped either, no smiling sunshine pouring out its healing rays, or stuffing Vitamin D into systems of erstwhile sun-worshippers. All we got was cloud and clag hanging over the hills, bringing semi-darkness and making it difficult to take any decent photographs. 
Some Valentine's day things...not the Nytol!  (Click to enlarge)
  It didn't stop me churning out 21 miles over three runs to show complaining muscles I'm still their boss and they've got to do what they're jolly well told, though I'll admit, it hurt a bit at times. My two early morning runs around Castle Hill, each of 5 miles, were tolerable though I'd to spend considerably more time stretching and 'Sticking' before settling down to porridge and toast with Liz Green, our local Radio Leeds breakfast- time presenter.
The dreary scene at Barden Bridge, no blue sky and no sun
 Come weekend we'd planned a long run, ostensibly in preparation for a 12 mile off-road jaunt in the Troller's Trot on March 7th which my wonderful partner appears keen to do. As yet, I'm not sharing her enthusiasm even though, some months ago, it was my idea.  I really must be more careful what I say and start engaging brain before I open my big mouth!  She's very hard to talk out of things once the seed has been planted.
A rare splash of blue along the riverbank path
Saturday was a non-day so far as running was concerned. Half a ton of logs arrived at 10 in the morning and dumped by the roadside from where I'd to shunt them into a coal shed with a doorway only 5ft high whilst my wonderful partner did the stacking. The afternoon was spent resting our aching backs, catching up with various sports (notably England thrashing Italy in the Six Nations) and fasting until our Valentine's day meal in the Clarendon Hotel, our local hostelry.
A stretch of river by Woodhouse Farm, and misty hills
 Sunday was forecast to be the better day weatherwise but the real meteorological powers that be had other ideas. Hardly once did the sun peep from behind dense cloud while a bitter east wind kept temperatures to around 36ºF. Vastly different from the previous weekend. Three cups of tea and one of coffee wasn't so much to get  well hydrated, more a cunning delaying tactic to avoid facing the elements. It was 11am when I finally got out the door, my wonderful partner having tired of waiting and set off alone. Both of us were bound for Barden Bridge, 5 miles away, but each went different ways so never met.
Almost home......passing Thor's Gill
I'd opted to run there by road, through Appletreewick and Howgill, then back from Barden Bridge via the riverbank. Reasoning behind this was to get into some sort of rhythm at the start then have a little respite from running at the 30+ stiles and gates on the way back. That was the plan and it worked reasonably well, though I'd forgotten how much hillier it was along the road, or how much further - almost an extra mile. Some sort of off-road transport would have been appreciated over the last 2 miles, preferably a microlight to negotiate the narrow suspension bridge! To put it mildly, I was knackered when I got home. I'd a shower, stuffed some lunch down, then promptly fell asleep. At 3 o'clock, when our afternoon service began in the village, I was still in dreamland.  So alas and alack, last weeks sins remain unforgiven.....

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Another good day.......

After Saturday's 9 mile run around Kettlewell and Conistone Pie I'd made a special point of stretching well and using The Stick to ease aching calves, hams and quadriceps. My shoulders ached too, it must be the awkward way I run. A short, gentle run was planned for Sunday morning in an attempt to ease away the tension and get things working smoothly again. A runner's 'hair of the dog' so to speak.
Our churchyard is full of snowdrops, can Spring be far away? (Click to enlarge)
 During a sermon spawned by Englands famous victory over the Welsh at Cardiff Arms Park the previous Friday evening our rugby loving Minister, Rev David Macha, urged us all to ponder on the truly great happening in life, to feed our souls on unforgettable memories and meaningful milestones - which was a silly thing to do because my mind immediately wandered away from the rest of his sermon and subsequently lost my place in the service book during Communion.
Onward and upwards, crossing Hebden beck
. I'm very good at pondering and was casting my mind back to one of my own life-changing victories that took place in the Pennine Marathon on July 5th, 1987  when, at the ripe old age of 55, God quite unexpectedly showed me I could run. In 28 years since, I've never stopped running and never stopped thanking Him for this wonderful gift that continues to enrich my life well into my dotage.
Crossing the stile onto Grassington Moor at Cupola Corner.....
  But it took more than Communion wine to stir my old bones into action.. Two strong cups of coffee, each accompanied by one of my wonderful partner's chocolate brownies, finally gave me strength to climb the stairs and change into running clothes. It was another glorious morning, hardly a cloud in sight and only the faintest breeze to stir the trees as we set off on our 'short' run.
Bank of cloud at the 'stone man'
  However, as we fell into a rhythm going up the ghyll, dodging the icy bits and jumping the beck, we began to enjoy ourselves and unanimously agreed to go further, to get some miles in the bank, if ever we're going to enter local Park Runs or other low key events again. We continued climbing, into the sun, to the high point at the 'stone man' - the cairn at 1,500ft - where we turned for home. 
Running briefly towards the sun again on the icy Mossdale track...
  What we hadn't really noticed was a great bank of freezing fog creeping surreptitiously closer behind us which we'd have to run into on our way home. It was amazing how the temperature plummeted with each 100ft of descent into the village. I'd to don a woolly hat and should have brought out my windproof jacket too to preserve a little heat, but what the heck, we'd soon be home. 
Into the rough stuff down the long wall..
 We finished our run (7.38 miles) in totally different conditions to those we'd set off in. Then, quite perversely, as we sat warming ourselves with bowls of soup at lunchtime, the fog lifted and cleared for the rest of the day. And I pictured our Rev David Macha, his work done for the day, setting out on his own training run in brilliant sunshine. The sun shines upon the righteous, so they say. Dunno what we did wrong to deserve all that fog?

Monday 9 February 2015

The Kettlewell run.....

After my usual pottering around on Castle Hill last week, 8 miles in snow and ice, it was nice to have a change of scenery at the weekend and go somewhere we haven't been for quite some time. Once again we were sussing out a potential route for members of the Skipton U3A walking group but, of course, we had to run it. We couldn't have wished for better weather, blue skies. exceptionally clear views and warm sunshine that worked wonders on our hard working muscles.
The long climb out of Kettlewell (Click to enlarge)
It was a long, long climb starting from the village car park, up a rough track heading towards Great Whernside before turning south east onto open pasture land with ever widening views of Wharfedale's surrounding hills.
Heading towards Langcliffe pastures

We continued to climb, gently across rolling pasture land with lingering patches of snow and soft turf underfoot. Occasionally there were icy patches, mainly in gateways where water had filled tyre tracks and then frozen.
There were lots of ladder stiles to break our rhythm, usually with compacted snow and ice to step into.
At Capplestone Gate, Great Whernside in the distance
After three miles of running we reached our high point at Capplestone Gate where, after climbing 1,000ft, my wonderful partner decided it was time for lunch - a Mini Mars Bar! To be fair, if it wasn't for her I'd never eat anything during a run, but we' left food and drinks in the car for light refreshment after our run.
Ice on Bycliffe Road
There was quite a lot of snow, deep in places, down the long wallside from Capplestone Gate down into the jaws of Mossdale where we joined Bycliffe Road. There was more deep snow and occasional pools of ice to negotiate, again, mainly in gateways. Although I'd Yaktrax in my bumbag, just in case, there was never any cause to use them.
Much of the snow could be avoided but even if we had to run on it, the sun had softened it sufficiently for our trail shoes to provide plenty of grip.
Conistone Pie - iconic landmark on the Dales Way

 ...and Yours Truly atop Conistone Pie
We followed Bycliffe Road as far as the deep cut ravine of Conistone Dib at the top of which we cut off right to follow the Dales Way back to Kettlewell. Until this point we'd hardly met a soul and had remarked on the total silence broken only by the occasional call of a cock grouse or the cronk of a solitary raven. Approaching Conistone Pie the air became filled with voices, exuberant and excited children on a country walk with their masters.
Sunset over Hebden on Saturday - a perfect end to a perfect day
My legs had begun to ache a little along the three mile stretch of broad pastures, stony lanes, and ladder stiles back to the busy village of Kettlewell which had filled with tourists in our absense. Garmin said we'd run 9.12 miles with 1,160ft of ascent which is considerably more than either of us had run for quite some time,. It felt good to get home and relax after such a wonderful day in the hills. In the evening we were treated to a gorgeous sunset that had me reaching for my camera to get one final shot to end a perfect day.
Map of the days route...

Tuesday 3 February 2015

On a slippery slope....

Running clever......trying to stay upright in snow and ice.....
It was jolly hard work running in ice and snow today, trying to stay on my feet without resorting to the use of Yaktrax. After this morning's session I'm aching in muscles that haven't ached for ages, and I only ran four miles, for goodness sake. My usual remedy for this is to dissolve ½ kilo of Mag Sulph in a bath of hot water and soak for an hour while listening to nice music filtering through from my study. Unfortunately, my supply has run out, (Mag Sulph I mean, not music) so must remember to replenish my stores in case these freezing conditions persist. After all, I've gotta keep running if only for the sake of regular readers of my inane jottings.

Speaking of which, of almost 200 independent countries in this big, wide world of ours, people from 110 of them have visited my blog. One can't be sure how many have actually read it, as opposed to
....and dodging those runnels of ice along the lane
having logged in quite by accident, but quite a few must have done because they've been kind enough to leave some very nice comments which are as encouraging to me as I hope some of my ramblings are to them.  Only today someone remarked in her blog "You continue to be an inspiration to me". Well, I'd have her know it's positive comments like hers that inspire me to keep on running and blogging when I don't always feel like it. It works both ways. So thanks to all of you.....