Monday 24 August 2015

Running to a standstill.......

"There's the wind on the heath, brother; if I could only feel that, I would gladly live for ever." 
That snippet from George Borrow's book, Lavengro, was whirling around in my mind over the weekend as I ran myself to a standstill over the heather moors around Grassington.
Relaxing in my private patch during that 5 day rest.  (Click to enlarge pictures)
After a five day break straddling the previous weekend, when my body was telling me in no uncertain terms it needed a rest, I'd started to feel good again. A 5 mile run on Tuesday round the equestrian circuit felt effortless - until a hare broke cover and showed me the real meaning of that word. 
I felt pretty good on Thursday's 5 miler too, made better after seeing the sorry state of some possible new recruits to the 'Total Fitness' group collapsed over a metal railing near the top of Castle Hill steps looking incapable of ever making it to the top.
Bombing up the equestrian route after my rest
Come Saturday I think my brain got a bit out of control when it started sending messages through about a 10 mile run into the wilds of Mossdale. Surprisingly, when I mentioned it to my wonderful partner, she decided she'd like to go too, mainly to see and smell the heather at its glorious best, one of those milestones we both look forward to each passing year.
The heathery track to Mossdale....
It really is a wonderful sight, while it lasts.  But weatherwise that day we didn't have ideal conditions. It wasn't very warm, and it wasn't very sunny, so we didn't really experience that heady scent that fills the air on warmer days. But at least, it was a feast for our eyes. A shooting party of around thirty guns said they were after rabbits, but appeared to have had a lean time for not a single carcass was in evidence.
.....and the watery way out
We bantered with them before going on our way. Back home we came to the conclusion we'd have been plenty fit enough to run the Burnsall 10 mile race that took place that afternoon, especially since the cut-off time had been extended from 90 minutes to two hours. Ah well, maybe next year..
Bingley Harrier, Ian Holmes, running through Hebden on his way to winning the Burnsall 10 mile race
..Also taking place on Saturday was the inaugural running of the Glencoe Skyline race, a technical 32 mile route with nearly 14,000ft of ascent. The fun starts with a moderate rock climb up Curved Ridge onto Buchaille Etive Mhor to begin the high level half, then back down into the Coe before climbing up onto the Aonach Eagach ridge for a run to the Finish. There was live tracking of all the runners on the internet, so a great deal of time was spent on my iPad following the likes of Joe Symonds, winner in 7hrs 36mins, and ladies winner, Emelie Forsberg just 8 minutes behind him in 7hrs 44mins. I've walked and climbed just about every part of the route and it's mind boggling how folk can actually run it. Sky runners really are super human.  
Evening found me sprawled in my favourite chair with a glass of favourite malt whisky to hand, mulling over the day's activities while enjoying the thunder and lightning storm that raged outside. Nothing like a good firework display to end the day....
Staggering up the ghyll on Sunday after a busy week.....
Sunday dawned warm and sunny and got hotter as the day wore on. It was perfect for my wonderful partner to carry out her National Park duties on a 10 mile circuit of Barden Fell (wild raspberries and bilberries somehow found their way onto the menu that night) and, after Church, for me to set out on another enjoyable run over the purple expanse of Grassington Moor. By lunchtime the temperature had risen to 70ยบ, enough to warm the heather sufficiently to release its wonderful scent into the balmy air.  It stopped me in my tracks. Before I could run further I'd to have my fill of that sweet smell pervading my nostrils, the gentle wind sighing all around and warm sunshine caressing my bare skin. I sat on a peaty hummock, drinking it all in, savouring the experience. A pair of ravens tumbled about in the sky, as they do, but never circled above or treated me to spectacular fly pasts as a previous pair used to do.
......and a view looking back down
Heading back down the long wall, it struck me my 28 mile week was beginning to take its toll. My legs were crying out to stop. A walking party about 40 strong formed a guard of honour down the ghyll so I felt obliged to put on the style, to look like a real runner rather than the geriatric jogger I really am!  By the time I got home I was incapable of running another step and pretty soon fell asleep in my favourite chair enjoying the sweetest of dreams.....until a ringing noise ended my reverie.
"Put the kettle on" the phone said. 
What a jolly good idea, how did it know?

Monday 17 August 2015


Running last week amounted to a mere 16 miles before I was struck down by a dreaded lurgy on Friday. I'd been running reasonably well until then. On Tuesday I sprang out of bed rarin' to go at 5.20am - long before the alarm clock woke up. After a pre-run coffee I stepped out of the house at sunrise into cold, crisp morning air with a heavy dew on the grass that swished deliciously against my bare legs as I trundled across empty fields up to Castle Hill.
Sunrise as I stepped out of the house into the long grass on Tuesday  (Click to enlarge)
 I was rather hoping I'd have completed my routine and on the way home before the arrival of Kaiser, a seven month old spaniel with far too much energy and over whom his owner exercises very little control. He hurls himself at me and nips when I try to push him down - though his mistress refuses to believe that. But she would, wouldn't she?  Unfortunately, I'd mis-timed things yet again that morning and before I'd chance to change direction he came bounding across, jumped up and dug his claws into my thigh. It's not often I swear, but I did then! I got home, bleeding, after six miles and went straight to the medicine cupboard for the TCP.
Running the fields just after sunrise (my shadow appears to have gone ahead)
Understandably, I was a bit wary as I jogged along the lane early Wednesday morning. Instead of turning right onto Castle Hill I veered left, downhill, passed through semi darkness under the trees in Mollicar Wood and out onto the horse riding circuit I discovered last week.
That sweet smelling clover beside the jumps
Beside the row of logs, set there for jumps, is a broad swathe of white clover that smelt absolutely wonderful as I ran by in the first rays of sunlight. Bees and butterflies were already at work on the enticing flower heads. I struggled up the long hill to Farnley Hey, and sweated even more as I mounted Castle Hill for just one circuit before the downhill run for home.
View from the equestrian circuit
The dreaded Kaiser must have gone by the time I arrived, but Duncan was running circuits with his Alsatian on a tight lead. I'd only met him once before and asked why he didn't let his dog off to run free. "Because he hates women, hates men, hates other dogs, hates my mother, hates my brothers.....".  "Well, he seems OK with me" I said.  "That's because you're dressed like a runner". Oh, I see!  I'm reliably informed that a lady walks Castle Hill in the very early mornings with a full blown wolf, imported from Spain, that's helping to control the rabbit population up there. In spite of pre-dawn runs I've yet to meet this wonderful animal. Perhaps it's a ghost.
Duncan with Alsatian that hates everything. Wish it would meet Kaiser....
Wednesday was also the funeral day of my old friend, Clifford Hardy, who'd finally succumbed to the ravages of the dreaded Alzheimers. His hunting, shooting and fishing days are over and I thought it fitting, though apparently quite co-incidental, that his interment should take place on the Glorious Twelfth. In warm, sunny weather there was a good turn-out of mourners, but surprisingly few I recognized from our old drinking days in the long since demolished Castle Hill Inn. R.I.P Clifford. You were a larger than life character who brightened the world and cheered the lives of those you met. Oh, and I'll miss the geese you used to hang in my porch....
R.I.P. old friend
Thursday's five mile run took longer than usual. My pace was sluggish and in hindsight was probably due to the surreptitious onset of the lurgy that struck next day. Come Friday I'd hardly strength to climb out of bed. After coughing, sweating and sneezing my way through breakfast I informed my wonderful partner there was no way I was going to make it to her place in the Dales that weekend. I was in no fit state to travel, I wouldn't be able to run and I didn't want to infect her with whatever it was I'd got. Actually, it was just a cold, but you know how we men are!
Path through cornfields on a planned new route
I still haven't run since Thursday, though I've been on a couple of exploratory walks to suss out a route that will hopefully pass over Castle Hill after the dreaded Kaiser has gone. It's a shame Duncan wont let his Alsatian loose. Better still, that wolf..

Monday 10 August 2015

Longwood raiding party attack Fountains Abbey....

I made a wonderful discovery last week. Tucked away in fields surrounded by lush woodland is a riding circuit with nicely mown grass and logs placed across for horses to jump. Strategically placed notices warn 'Private, no public right of way' - 'Equestrian Ride for private use only' and 'Riders to have a valid number', but at 6 o'clock in the morning it's highly unlikely anyone will ever be there to police it.
 For me, that red arrow means 'This way please'   (Click pictures to enlarge)

I couldn't resist and set off running the grassy turf, avoiding the logs on my first visit, but jumping them all the following morning before climbing the steep hill towards Farnley Hey and up onto the Castle . After 5 miles and 582ft ascent I jogged home feeling somewhat knackered. But happy. In spite of all the notices, I've a sneaking suspicion I'll be there again.
My new X-country route
Something else quite out of the ordinary occurred last week. Maybe I was a bit non compos mentis at the time, or too much wine the night before, for on Saturday morning I allowed myself to be driven to Fountains Abbey to take part in their weekly Parkrun. We were greeted by an old running friend, Bill Wade of Holmfirth Harriers, who assured us we couldn't possibly finish last because being last was his job that day, acting as 'sheepdog' to make sure everyone got round safely.
My wonderful partner with the 'sheepdog'
I was determined to stay within my comfort zone, to run at my own pace whatever happened, and under no circumstances to get into racing mode. And that's exactly what I did. But in spite of running in a somewhat blinkered state it didn't stop me enjoying the truly magnificent water gardens and a beautiful reflection of the Abbey on the unruffled surface of Half Moon pond that almost stopped me in my tracks. All this under a cloudless blue sky.
....and yours truly getting ready for action
 I wanted to spend some time taking pictures after the race but the Parkrun takes place before the National Trust property officially opens its gates for the day and has to be vacated by 10am. Drat!
Gathering for the start at Porter's Lodge
A sheltered valley with no wind was conducive to running reasonably good times, in spite of uphill sections at the start and finish of both laps.  My mile splits were: 9.10, 9.31, 9,02 for a 28.57 finish which, oddly, is a two minute improvement on my last Parkrun back in 2013. Full results here:
Fountains Abbey in the sunshine. We couldn't have chosen a better day.
We were amazed how fast the morning's results and relevant statistics were all worked out for by mid afternoon we received emails confirming that my wonderful partner and I were both 1st in our age categories and yours truly had set an M80 course record. The Longwood Harriers raiding party had struck again!
The track across the moor on Sunday's bumbly run
By complete contrast we set off on Sunday for a quiet bumble around Grassington Moor and Blea Ghyll. Unlike the previous day we'd threatening skies and a sighing wind that blotted out any birdsong there might have been. But it was unusually dry underfoot which made for good running along scant sheep trods and over the mossy moor alongside Blea Beck.
A bit puddly down Backstone Edge Lane.
After the puddly bits down Backstone Edge Lane, where I did repetition runs in times past, it felt good to open up to sub 6 min/mile pace for a short distance before jogging home after 7.32 miles and 745ft ascent.
Three of the moor's residents. I often wonder what they're thinking?
25 miles with 2,537ft ascent was the sum total of last week's runs. Actually, it was a bit more than that for I never count the 'point somethings'. One of these days I may start doing when I'm trying to make low mileages look a bit more respectable in my dotage!
Happy running everyone.....

Monday 3 August 2015

Rain, rain, go away.......

Two things happened last week that haven't occurred for quite some time. Firstly, I ran on five consecutive days, something I only normally do whilst on holiday. Back home I'll run a maximum of three midweek, then two at the weekend, using Monday and Friday as rest days. When my alarm went off at 5.30am last Tuesday a swift glance out the window revealed some pretty diabolical weather. I slipped back into bed!  It rained all day.
A driech morning on Castle Hill     (Click to enlarge pictures)
The second unusual happening last week was that I ran a total of 30 miles, again something I haven't achieved since our holiday in the Scilly Isles.
I was chomping at the bit on Wednesday and couldn't get out the door quick enough to scatter the rabbits on Castle Hill during a quiet six mile run when I'd the whole hill to myself. On Thursday it started to rain two miles into another six miler and I got home soaked to the skin. A hooded Montane jacket that wasn't exactly cheap proved absolutely useless, so has been replaced in my bumbag by a far more functional Karrimor jacket that cost me a mere £14.00 from Wiggle.
Friday was a bit brighter
I wouldn't normally run on Friday but, not only was it the driest day of the week but a bit of totting up in my running diary revealed I'd clocked 99 miles for the month of July, and Friday was the last day. So of course, I had to take it over the hundred with a relaxed 4 mile jaunt around the fields. come to think of it, that's another first for this year - reaching 103 miles in a month.
Happy on Saturday's run to Howgill - before it rained
Two weekend runs both necessitated the wearing of waterproofs. Typically, on Saturday's eight miler, the weather gods waited until we'd reached the farthest point from home, at Howgill, before tipping their buckets upon us, but at least, I'd a decent jacket to keep me dry.
Hooded up. After it turned soggy running back by the Wharfe at Burnsall
On Sunday, due to some interfering medical problem, I didn't get out the house until 3pm when it was spitting with rain even as I closed the door. Regardless, I ran an easy six miles, maintaining a steady pace while climbing 650ft to the old lead mine workings on Grassington Moor, then a swift run back down the ghyll to shower and cool off ready for Church.
Heavy rain stotting the river by Hebden Suspension Bridge
Maybe I should run consecutive days more often, and maybe lift the mileage a little, for last week certainly finished on a high as I felt to be moving comfortably at a good pace. 
I have friends who run every day, and have done so for years but their bones and joints aren't quite as old as mine, though Ron Hill's can't be far behind.
A bit of muscle maintenance. Giving my legs some 'Stick' after Friday's run.
My philosophy is just to run as I feel, listening to my body and keeping within self imposed limits. Running is the easiest and most natural form of exercise. I'm hoping, just hoping, it will help maintain a reasonable amount of fitness in this ancient body of mine to keep me active and about for a few more wonderful years. Or until it finally gives up the ghost in one of the wilder parts of Grassington Moor........
Mushrooms - fresh from the field
A nice bonus of this warm(ish) damp weather is a profusion of field mushrooms. On Sunday morning, when I was 'a bit under the weather', my wonderful partner had the presence of mind to take a bag with her on her morning run. She harvested enough for a tasty lunch of fried mushrooms on toast. It's a shame they don't grow all year round for they're far tastier than the forced counterfeits we buy in supermarkets. Especially with a bit of garlic.....