My weekly mileages always tended to be higher in the longer hours of daylight, tailing off a wee bit in winter. But over the last six months, since I adopted this quite out of character habit of rising in time to watch the sun rise, summer and winter mileages have stayed more or less at the same level. Ideally, for a runner of my vintage, an average of three miles a day is about the optimum to stay fit and healthy and injury free - though inclement weather often dictates these figures average out over a month rather than a week, especially in winter. Anyway, with only a few more days to the vernal equinox, last week was probably the last time I'll be up early enough to watch the sun rise for at least the next six months.
|Maybe my last sunrise picture for quite some time (Click to enlarge)
Getting up at 6am last Wednesday I'd all on to drink a cup of coffee then run round the other side of the hill in time to see the raging fire lighting the eastern horizon. All very dramatic. From henceforth it will be up even earlier, so I'm afraid it will have to perform without me. Question is, will I still want to get up at 6am if there's no sunrise to watch? Over the past six months that morning spectacle has lured me out of bed like nothing before. My cunning little brain is already suggesting it might be time to enjoy a little lie in.....and procrastinator is my middle name
|I may be pumping iron, but I've a long way to go before I look like my eldest son, Alasdair, in his prime
Over the past couple of weeks I've exceeded my optimum mileages, 24 last week and 26 during Troller's Trot week, so deserve some easy ones to restore the status quo. Besides, I've been pumping iron too, a silly thing to do on my own, I know, but I've felt a bit lacking in strength lately. Normally I use very low weights with lots of repetitions for such things as upward rowing and bicep curls, but last week I was rushing upstairs during adverts between Cheltenham Festival races to 'clean' 53lbs (2 x 20 on a 13lb bar) in sets of 5 or 6 (I didn't count them). By the end of the afternoon I'd probably done around 30 lifts, which was quite enough for starters. There's no way I'm going to add 'jerks' to all these cleans. Those days are long past!
|Plodding up the long wall, well wrapped up, past the noisy frog pond
Saturday was a bitterly cold day, particularly in the wind chill at 1,500ft, when I'd made the mistake of wearing shorts instead of lagging my legs with something warmer. My wonderful partner was far more sensible and set off up the ghyll wearing nearly as many layers as an onion. But Spring was well and truly in the air. Hebden's first new-born lambs looked sorry for themselves, tottering around on wobbly legs, keeping close to their mums, hungry for warm milk. Faint splashes of yellow among rosettes of grainy sage-green leaves heralded our first primroses sheltering by a wall near the ford. Frogs were back to their pond up the long wall, and spawning, loudly, enjoying their piggy-backs. Curlews were calling. Lapwings were wheeling around in the wind like tatters of black and white cloth. Nearer Mossdale, golden plovers piped their notes of utter loneliness across the open moor. I love that sound.
|Shooting Hut in a cold, snow dappled Mossdale
Throughout the eleven mile run I passed but one solitary hiker, muffled up and too miserable to speak, or even grunt. Did my greeting sound a bit too perky, or was it just that he declined to speak to idiots prancing around in shorts on the moor in sub zero temperatures? Grouse didn't sound too friendly either with their constant "go back, go back" calls.
|One of the many hundred traps set by our over-keen gamekeeper
Unknown to many there's a heathery ramp starting behind a wall to the right of the main track, leading gently down to the Shooting Hut and new bridge over Mossdale beck, far below. I call it the runner's path - because I've never seen anyone else on it - and it was down this that I swept into Mossdale on Saturday, leaving my wonderful partner to go her own slightly shorter way. Sloping northwards, parts of it were still thick with snow. Below it was a vast swamp where the beck had overflowed, helped by melt-water, which I'd to contour round to reach the bridge. Somewhere in there our local gamekeeper has a 'stink pit', surrounded by snares to trap marauding foxes, which I was going to check on, but I'd no desire to wade through all that water.
|Where the beck disappears under Mossdale Scar
In the five miles back home I struggled to keep a steady rhythm. My legs can normally stand a fair amount of cold but, in the freezing north east wind chill, came close to getting cramp. So I hurried along slowly(!), past Mossdale Scar, across Kelber and down the lane to Yarnbury, anxious to drop down into the ghyll as soon as I could, hopefully out of that vicious wind. I think I'm going soft in my dotage. Or my head is! Morning coffee was a little late on Saturday...but getting my hands round it bordered on ecstacy.
|Cold looking lambs in Hebden Ghyll. Please, send us some sun
On Sunday morning I'd great difficulty straightening enough to get out of bed, let alone hobble down the stairs. After breakfast I was cajoled into running 4 miles around Burnsall, by way of a loosener, and asked whether I wanted to go before or after morning coffee? After swilling down 600mg of Ibuprofen to ease the pain I reckoned it best to go before and get it over with. I changed into running gear, this time with tights instead of shorts. On automatic pilot I couldn't possibly describe the run, what we saw or what we heard, other than it was still numbingly cold. My feet may have been moving - just - but my old brainbox, coccooned in a thick woolly hat, was at a frozen standstill. Someone once said - can't remember who - that he'll believe running is enjoyable when he meets a runner with a smile on their face.
Good job he didn't see me on Sunday.....