Monday 31 July 2017

Easing back into gear...

The majority of our population regard running as too stressful to even contemplate, not just to knees, joints, tendons and muscles but mainly their minds.  Conversely, for us who've run for a large part of our lives and suddenly for whatever reason find ourselves grounded, stress can rear its ugly head within a matter of days.  Withdrawal symptoms flare up with a vengeance and can't be assuaged until one foot starts moving in front of the other again at something a little faster than a walk.
Even for octogenarians...
Back into gear and feeling good  (Click pictures to enlarge)
 The last three weeks have not been easy but rest and medication seem to have halted rapid weight loss and normalised bodily functions.  On Sunday, with some trepidation, I donned my trail shoes and jogged gently up the lane on the heels of my wonderful partner.
Our first excuse to stop
It was sunny with a fresh breeze that filled the air with a heady scent of meadowsweet.  A young wall-eyed foal provided our first distraction that necessitated an impromptu photo shoot before jogging happily along through a field blue with scabious.  The remnant of a passing shower felt cool and refreshing. I was easing into my stride again, feeling good.
Flowery diversion through Grassington

 It felt wonderful too to be running alongside the River Wharfe again, dodging a few rocks and exposed tree roots along the way, listening to its chattering music.
"Now on the polished stones it danced, like childhood laughing as it went" (Shelley - The Spirit of Solitude).
Running the riverbank

Eleven young goosanders swam upstream, hugging the far bank but there was no sign of any sand martins.  We feared the recently swollen river may have risen high enough to flood their nesting holes in the banking.
Procession of goosanders under the far bank
It was a happy runner that crept back into the house, all smiles, 4 miles later. I wont go so far as to say 'I'm back' but as yet I feel no ill effects so the prognosis is looking good.
Nearly home - and I'd somehow got ahead!
A little later, a dinner party with three invited friends could really have counted as a celebration.  It was a convivial gathering of cavers, climbers, walkers and runners that feasted, quaffed and bantered well into the night.  
It was a gradely do and a fitting end to a long, wonderful day.

Wednesday 19 July 2017


Last weeks page in my running diary was an absolute blank. Not a single mile recorded. Nothing. Nil. Zilch.  If I'd kept a 'walking' diary it wouldn't have registered much more than 12 miles either, 2 miles up and down the riverbank looking for kingfishers, a 5 mile circuit of Mossy Mere photographing gulls and oystercatchers, plus a couple of strolls down town for shopping.
Goosander on River Wharfe   (Click to enlarge pictures)
Easy walks don't count.  I don't class them as exercise.  They don't triple the heart rate like running does.
  They uses to do, in mountaineering days, on 11 coast to coast backpacking jaunts across Scotland carrying heavy loads, Munro bagging, high level traverses of the Swiss Alps, or even circuits of Yorkshire's Three Peaks.
Walking the Munros - Meall Buidhe in Knoydart (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
  Many British walks/scrambles, like the Aonach Eagach in Glencoe, Cuillin Ridge on Skye or Snowdon Horseshoe are in wild, potentially dangerous areas that raise the adrenalin levels and make for long exciting days in the hills. 
Getting high on adrenalin - Blaven, Skye  (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
I loved that type of walking, and a good old banter over a pint, or two, in the pub at night.
Beginning the Cuillin Ridge traverse - 22 summits in a day  (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
A traverse of the Cuillin Ridge with mountaineering partner, John Mortimer, was  probably one of the most exciting days of my life.  We left the campsite in Glenbrittle at 6am,, traversed the whole of the ridge in 11 hours and were in the Sligachan Inn celebrating our achievement before closing time.  A braw day, as they say in Scotland. (Finlay Wild subsequently ran the entire ridge in just under 3 hours!).
My type of walking - winter day on Seana Braigh  (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
By the time I took up running, aged 54, it was too late to attempt fast traverses though I ran many of the 283 Scottish Munros to eventually become the 2,699th  'Compleatist' in 2002.
On a run up Ben Hope - looking towards Ben Loyal
(Courtesy Stuart Scott)
Reaching the tender age of 80 marked another milestone insomuch as I decided enough was enough.  No longer would I subject my body to rigorous training routines to stay competitive.  Hill reps, cruise intervals and the like were beginning to hurt like hell and would more likely destroy my body rather than do it any good.  I'm no Ed Whitlock or Faujit Singh.  There are other things in life besides running.
Soloing Tower Gap on a climb up Ben Nevis   (Courtesy Stuart Scott)
Between 80 and 85 I raced a few times, using up inbuilt reserves, until racing fitness dwindled to a point where I no longer felt competitive.  That's it, I said, from now on I'll continue running slowly and enjoyably, purely for fun, fitness and my love of the great outdoors.   And so I have.

M80 Rankings from 2014
Imagine my surprise the other day when I happened across something I hadn't seen before, some rankings from 2014 I didn't know existed. A friend had persuaded me to do a couple of Championship races as a parting gesture and I complied, just for fun!  Little did I realise I'd feature in the British, European and World rankings for that year.
It's taken me three more years to learn the meaning of the word Serendipity!

Tuesday 11 July 2017

A bad tummy, Canadians, Penyghent and a load of bull......

It's been a frustrating week.  I wont go into details other than to say that certain bodily malfunctions prevented me from doing all I'd have liked to do.  Starting a week's course of Metronidazole (antibiotics) I'd been advised against strenuous exercise and told to take things easy.  
As if I could!
Struggling over Castle Hill  (Click pictures to enlarge)
Runs were limited to just two, each of 4 miles, both of which ended in disaster, not to say a certain amount of embarrassment.  It could be some time before I don trail shoes again.
A strange plant appeared in my garden which I'm told is called Astilbe.  I've no idea how it got there for I certainly never planted it.
Long tailed tit at the feeders
I'd like to think it's a present from the birds I feed each day, a seed stolen from someone's garden and conveniently dropped into a shady corner of mine they perhaps thought looked a little bare.
Yours truly and David with his auntie Sheila
We'd company at the weekend, all the way from Canada, and felt obliged to show them some of our wonderful Yorkshire countryside during their three day stay.
Our route over Penyghent
 My wonderful partner's nephew, David, had expressed a desire to visit Penyghent again, a hill he'd climbed  on a previous trip to England in 2004 whilst I was taking part in a fell race over it.  
An excellent idea, we thought, for on a clear day we'll see a huge chunk of Yorkshire from its 2,277ft summit, and that should be enough!  We drove to Horton-in-Ribblesdale to find it bulging with people and cars.  Hundreds were taking part in a sponsored walk over Yorkshire's three peaks of Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough to raise money for British Heart Foundation.
So we'd plenty of company.
Kim, going strong in the initial stages
David's partner, Kim, had never tackled a hill of such magnitude before so it was a baptism of fire for her. But she's young and fit so it posed no problem.  Coming from a metropolis like Ottawa she was fascinated by our Yorkshire countryside with all its free range cattle and sheep of which she took endless photographs.
Onwards and upwards
The day had dawned clear and sunny but not too warm, so excellent conditions for our 6 mile jaunt.  Swallows flitted around Brackenbottom.  Lots of  Wild mountain thyme inspired a verse or two of that beautiful song made famous by The Corries.  I've sung it scores of times on climbing meets and I'd love to think my mountaineering friends will raise their voices and sing it at my final curtain.
If they haven't all gone before me!
Up the rocky nose
To borrow a phrase from Miles Kington , "C'est un bleedin' doddle" is how I'd describe Penyghent's rocky nose, the hill's main obstacle where hands as well as feet are required for the ascent.
Kim enjoying herself on the steep bit
 It was soon over and smiling faces were happily making their way to the Trig point at the summit.
All smiles at the Trig Point
After the obligatory photograph we relaxed behind a wall, out of the wind, to refuel with sandwiches and juice before the easy downhill trek back to Horton village.
Relaxing before the descent
Charity walkers had all gone, trundling off towards Whernside and mighty Ingleborough, another 21 miles of energy sapping terrain. Some were already struggling and it's doubtful whether they'd complete the circuit in time to collect their medals by the 7pm finish.
An easy stroll down
There was no cut-off time for us.  We strolled leisurely along, our Canadian friends intrigued by dry stone walls, verdant limestone landscapes, the deep depression of Hunt Pot, extensive views - and a prime bull that posed to have its picture taken.
Hey, don't mess with me......
 It was a great day.  
Next time they honour us with a visit, we'll maybe take them over all three?

Monday 3 July 2017

Higher Moor - 2017

From Menorca's tortoises and nightingales, Crantock enriched our morning runs with outpourings of larksong along paths lined with with bright orchids, wild thyme and trefoil.
We've arrived    (Click pictures to enlarge)
We were camped for a couple of weeks at Higher Moor, a superb site that gives easy access to flower decked Cubert Common, a grassy undulating coast path and the fine, lesser known beach of Polly Joke.
Running the coast path round Polly Joke
As over most of the UK the first week was a scorcher and it seemed strange to have driven 364 miles from our homes in Yorkshire to sit in the shade!
Path across the Common
As has become the norm nowadays our morning runs were all pre-breakfast, most of them along a 4 mile route past Polly Joke, round the coast path with its crashing seascapes, past The Chick (an island where seals congregate on the rocks), past Holywell Bay then back over the Common, by the side of a golf course and up to a tumulus ready for a fast downhill sweep to the finish.
Running happy - past Holywell Bay
We ran a total of 33 miles, considerably less than the 49 we ran on our last visit. I blamed the weather, either too hot or too wet.  Nothing to do with Anno Domini.
Seals at The Chick
Seals were only on the rocks at low tide which had to co-incide with our running times in order to see them.  This only happened on three occasions though they could be seen swimming in the water at other times.  One morning they actually sang to me as I ran past.
Cooling off at Polly Joke
On hot days we'd potter down to Polly Joke to brave the swell and breaking waves as the tide swept in over the warm sand.  Most refreshing. In the searing heat we were dry almost before we'd walked back to the spot on the beach where we'd left our belongings.
Drying off....
At the sun's zenith it was difficult to find any shade back at camp but we found a partially sheltered corner where a tiny stream tinkled past under overhanging trees.  Thrushes sang, pigeons croo-crooed while chaffinches and robins added their own minor accompaniments to the wild music.
Our cheeky blackbird
A friendly blackbird flitted around too, particularly when it sensed there might be something to eat!
Tawny owl chicks saying Hello
One day our lunch was interrupted as we became aware of two fluffy tawny owl chicks observing us from a branch only yards away.  They seemed glad of our company and we spent much of the afternoon gazing at each other.
Ubiquitous pyramid orchids all over the Common
Pyramid orchids were flowering in numerous places on the common and became more and more abundant as time went by.
Rarer marsh orchids
 Larger marsh orchids, common enough on previous occasions, were more difficult to find this year but we managed to locate one or two hiding in the longer grasses.
Wild day at Park Head
On a wet and windy day we drove to Park Head, a mile or so beyond Bedruthan Steps, to walk the cliff top path above the rocky shore.  A sea of white horses flung spray and spume high into the air, creating a thick mist as it smashed against the shore. Atmospheric indeed. 
Strangely built wall and wild thyme
Inland, thick cushions of wild thyme collectively must have covered several acres of ground, much of it spilling against the unusual zig-zag walls we've only ever seen in Cornwall.
Getting high
Three quarters of the the way round, the rain ceased.  We turned around and mostly retraced our steps, hugging the cliff top path to an exposed rocky nose with a vertical drop straight down into the noisy sea.
On another day we visited the poppy fields at West Pentire, only a short walk from Higher Moor.
Poppy field by Polly Joke
Flowering in their thousands and blowing in the wind with a vast array of corn marigolds it really is a sight to lift the spirits on a dull day.
Poppies and corn marigolds
On the way back we passed a curious shop that deals in old phonographs and vinyl records - if anyone should be interested in such things.
For the record....
Newquay is not our scene but one day, it was Tuesday, we took a ferry across the Gannel and walked through to the fleshpots.
Ferry across the Gannel
After the big tent has been taken down and the tiny backpacking tent put up for our last night in camp, it's been our custom to have a slap-up meal before returning home early the following morning.
View down the Gannel
 A restaurant called The Fish House by the Fistral Beach had been recommended to us, so we went in search of it.
A dreich day at Fistral Beach

We found it - next door to Rick Stein's - and soon sussed out the best way to drive to it the following Saturday evening.
Bridge over the Gannel
Returning to Crantock, the tide was out and the ferry had run out of water.  It took us a long time to locate a bridge across the remaining deep channel and by the time we reached camp it had begun to rain.  It was 3pm and it rained all day and every night until 3pm Friday, three days later!
Hurray, it's stopped raining for a final run
Saturday dawned sunny and cloudless, perfect for a last run and hearty breakfast before taking down the big tent.  Torrential rain had dissipated quickly into the sandy soil enabling our tent to be packed away perfectly dry.
The 'five minute' tent - ready for a quick getaway Sunday morning
The  small and intimate Fish House with its friendly staff was indeed an excellent choice for our final evening meal.  We returned to camp happy and replete to settle down for an early night before Sunday morning's crack-o-dawn departure.
We were home by noon.  
Just in time for lunch!