Wednesday 27 December 2017

Run and stay young......

I must have been doing something right over the Christmas period for according to TomTom my Fitness Age improved from 62 to 61.  I felt good, even in cold rain and snow, and could happily have run further than the 16 miles logged in my diary. If TomTom is to be believed, it was quality and increased speed that influenced my Fitness age.
Yippee, I'm getting younger!
Thieving Magpie dancing in the Solstice sunrise   (Click to enlarge pictures)
A Solstice run over Castle Hill was interestingly interrupted by 'Thieving Magpie', a group of noisy drum beating, stick clacking Morris men who dance at sunrise to the music of an animated accordion player on the 21st of every June and December.  Always, I'm invited to join them.  Always I decline, pointing out I'm a runner, not a dancer.  Each to their own.
Being blown around Grimwith in breaking light
According to a local weather forecast Christmas Eve morning should have been clear and dry for our planned run round Grimwith reservoir.  We were falsely lured out of a warm bed to be greeted by a blustery sou-westerly and stinging rain.
Battling against a sou-westerly with 200m to go.
Wind determines which way round we go so we chose to run clockwise to only have head wind for the short run back to the car.  Wind had dried the ground making it easier for running - which I reckon TomTom must have taken into consideration when assessing my Fitness age.
A young 61.  My new Fitness age...
We gave running a miss on Christmas Day.  First on the agenda was a 9am appointment to 'salute the happy morn' with Rev David Macha at a Communion Service in St Peter's.  I'm not sure how or why but my tenor voice returned for the occasion.  Could have been something to do with alcohol lubricating my vocal chords the previous evening?
A picture to remind friends and relatives what we look like
A  splash of sunshine lured us out for a stroll down to the river later in the morning.  Water was high and noisy, swilling the banks and  drowning the stepping stones.  We posed for Christmas day pictures to maybe email to far off relatives, to remind them what we look like, before scurrying back for the main item on the day's agenda.
The opening of presents.
Let the celebrations begin
This is always preceded by the uncorking of Champagne - also known as Cava or Prosecco - and handy placing of various tasty nibblies to sustain us through the strenuous performance of tearing off gift paper and ripping off ribbons to hastily discover what mysteries they conceal.
Resting between opening presents. 
That large box is hinting my house needs a clean up
'I was hungry, so they gave me nuts, chocolate and shortbread.  I was thirsty so they gave me Port wine, Merlot and malt whisky.  I was short of inspiration so they gave me running books to have me reaching for my studs (Zatopek should do it).  I told them I've lived here 40 years so I was given a vacuum cleaner!   For whatever other reasons I was given tooth picks, a miniature thermometer and compass, Radox and a CD of Kenneth Steven's wonderful poetry (which I suspect is to lure me back to the beautiful Island of Iona, my Spiritual home)'.
Ultra fast Hoka Speedgoats
I'm not going to list all the fantastic presents my wonderful partner amassed - mainly because I can't remember - but a star of her collection was an exceedingly fast pair of Hoka  Speedgoats.  She'll henceforth have not the slightest excuse for lagging behind.
'ere, wait for me
Actually, she tested them out on Boxing Day and they were indeed light and fast.  Most of the pictures I took of her were rear views as she streaked along the riverbank and up steep fields to the tiny hamlet of Thorpe.
A fair bit of water at Linton Falls
We'd started off in sunshine but the weather Gods must have seen us step out the door and it wasn't long before they sent a shiny white shower hurtling towards us from over Grassington way.
Rain sneaking up behind
Undeterred, we pressed on through wet fields towards Burnsall.  Noticing we still hadn't turned for home the weather Gods sprinkled some bits of white stuff over us.  That did it.  We buckled and took the short cut down Postman's Steps instead of continuing into Burnsall.
Postman's Steps leading to the river bank
TomTom told me I'd run fractionally over six miles, climbed 548ft, burnt 733 kcal at an average heart rate of 122 bpm and improved my pace since the last time I ran that distance.  He's very clever and very flattering, telling me I'm growing younger by the day.
I might have found the secret of eternal youth...

Monday 18 December 2017

Black ice - not nice......

Tuesday's dawn run round the cemetery was a bit iffy, lots of ice and crazy patterned skid marks where cars had been sliding around.  But it was one of those occasions when all thoughts of danger were cancelled out by the sheer joy of being outdoors on such a beautiful morning.
Tuesday's sunrise over the War graves  (Click to enlarge pictures)
I pottered around effortlessly at an easy pace, breathing the pure, cold air under a cloudless sky and never met another living soul.  Not a solitary dog walker or Personal Trainer putting clients through their paces.  I was in the zone. I didn't want to go home. 
Until my stomach reminded me it was way past breakfast time!
A bit skiddy
Come Thursday I rose early, donning running gear as the kettle boiled for that first mug of reviving coffee.  Then I happened to glance out the window and didn't like what I saw.  A long line of cars with dipped headlamps were crawling down the main road towards the village.  My worst fears were confirmed when I stepped outside to investigate.  Black ice.  I didn't even reach the garden gate, it was so treacherous. 
Studs can cope with this - but not that black variety
It was the same on Friday.  Three times I attempted to get out and three times I turned back, clinging to the wall.
Black ice frightens me.
Long sleep, low pulse and a convoluted route on Tuesday
Saturday dawned clear and beautiful but the dashboard thermometer was recording -3ºC as we drove back to the Dales.  There was ice on footpaths and verges but roads had been gritted, so we'd no problems reaching Hebden village.
It must be Christmas
It wasn't until we'd had coffee and changed into running gear that I discovered TomTom had run out of juice.  It was a blessing in disguise for while it recharged we were able to drag the Christmas tree into position and bring all its baubles and coloured lights down from the loft.  Meanwhile, bright sunshine was melting most of any remaining ice and making it safer for us to run.
At 11am TomTom was ready to go.
Reflections at Burnsall
We chose a riverbank route to avoid any slippery tarmac.  Conservation workers long ago levelled rougher parts of the river path with tons of gravel to make it accessible to wheelchair users - thereby making it ideal for runners too.
Easy running along the River Wharfe
My old Canon camera doesn't like cold weather, especially if the battery is starting to run low.  I'll start to focus on a subject and the darn thing closes up causing me to miss getting the shot. 
Watching a male goosander fly up-river.  Can you spot it?
On Saturday the opposite occurred.  The lens stayed open, for a change, as I focused on a female goosander.  But just as I was about to press the shutter the duck dived out of sight.   Fooled again...
Taking a breather at Loup Scar.  I'm allowed to at my time of life!
Other than a pair of goosanders and a few mallard we saw little in the way of bird life.  A dipper flew by as we approached Loup Scar and that was it.  Roll on Spring.
I love these mossy walls near Postman's Steps
By lunchtime, any ice on the road had cleared so we ran home through Burnsall and down what we call 'Postman's Steps' to make it more of a circular route.
According to TomTom......
TomTom said we'd run 5.83 miles with 388ft of ascent but I don't always believe him.  He can be very flattering at times.  Like when he says I have a Fitness Age of 62.  I wish!   At 62 I was running sub 3 hour marathons at around 6min 36sec/mile pace.  Nowadays I can't even run a mile at that pace, let alone 26 consecutive ones.  My current pace is almost double that time.  I don't know who the 62 year old guys are that TomTom compares me with.
They must be lousy runners.

Monday 11 December 2017

Cold as the grave......

The freezing weather continues and I'm beginning to wonder whether I'll soon be eligible for an extra fuel allowance?  But in spite of all the ice I haven't yet resorted to wearing Yaktrax, though some of my routes have been modified to avoid known slippery pavements and ungritted roads.  I'm lucky insomuch as I can step out the door and in less than 25 metres be running on grass. 
Staying low - thankfully not so low as some!  (Click to enlarge pictures)
It was well below freezing for midweek runs, so sensibly stayed low to avoid wind chill.  Most cemetery paths had snow on them but only the tarmacked one from the main entrance was slippery.  I took shorter, faster steps up that one for my uphill reps and found it quite enjoyable (particularly as a Personal Trainer and his client seemed reluctant to run in such conditions).
Setting off to Grassington
The dashboard thermometer told us it was -3ºC as we drove back to the Dales on Saturday, but beautifully clear with hardly a breath of wind. We lit the stove to warm the cottage and made ourselves a mug of coffee.
Obstacle on High Lane, but nothing we couldn't cope with
  Then, my wonderful partner managed to get an envelope jammed in her printer and we'd difficulty extracting it to get the machine working smoothly again.  Probably feeling neglected, the stove sulked and went out.  By the time we'd re-lit it the sky had clouded over, obscuring the sun for the rest of the day.
Which side to go?
Undeterred, we set off over frozen fields to the flesh pots of Grassington where folk from far and wide were braving  the second Dickensian weekend festivities.  High lane was plastered with ice though most of it was avoidable.  It still slowed us down as we pondered which sides of the lane were safest.
A joyful bunch of carol singers, especially the one on the right!
Grassington was heaving with sight-seers, thronging the streets, queuing at various food stalls, warming their hands round mugs of hot chocolate (suitably laced), joining in the carol singing, watching the Morris dancers and various other colourful entertainers.
Leeds Morris men do their thing..
But the surprising thing was that very few people this year were traditionally dressed in Victorian hats and clothes.  It was mainly stallholders who'd made the effort to dress appropriately to suit the occasion
and this sweet little girl
There'd been complaints the previous weekend that no-one had provided a donkey for the pregnant Mary to ride upon while Joseph knocked on various pub doors seeking some place for the infant Jesus to be born.  In desperation an alpaca was hurried into use.  But it wasn't quite the same!
Some strange looks..
To be honest, such crowds and festivities are not my scene and I was glad to be running through the car park, down the Snake to Linton Falls and heading for home.
The Wharfe by Linton Falls
With most people crowded into the village the riverbank was appreciably quiet and we'd a pleasant run back to Hebden.
Hurrying home before the snow
But the sky had darkened, our cameras had difficulty coping with dull conditions and we'd a distinct feeling that snow wasn't very far away.
Less than a mile to go - to a hot drink and a Keelham pork pie!
  It felt wonderful to step back into a warm cottage where, I'm afraid to say we stayed for the remainder of the weekend.
Just a short uphill now...
Not that it was intentional.  We'd planned to do a Sunday morning run but, because it was foggy, decided to fit a new curtain rail in the bedroom first.  The fog duly cleared but I'm afraid it was after lunch before us two fuddy-duddies had mastered the intricacies of our task and got a curtain hanging again.
Next weekend, we'll try to get our priorities right...

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Not much to report...

It's been a poor week for running and photography.  Just three short runs amounting to 8 miles and a weekend when I never stepped out of the house other than to bring in more coal and logs to keep the cottage warm.  A banana back was the problem,  aggravated somewhat during a contretemps with an irresponsible dog owner on Thursday's dawn run up Castle Hill.
My Castle Hill circuit  (Click to enlarge)
It was an icy morning.  Gritters had been out all night.  Not only had I to wear a jacket and hat, and lag my legs, but also wear a buff over my mouth to warm the freezing cold air I was inhaling.  Reaching the perimeter path round Castle Hill at breaking dawn I noticed what looked like a 20 stone Sumo wrestler ambling towards me through the gloom with a huge black Labrador of similar proportions and a very unfriendly spaniel, neither of which were on a lead.
Gritter in action  (picture from Huddersfield Examiner)
As I got closer the spaniel flew past and proceeded to attack from behind, thankfully without actually biting, while the overweight Labrador backed off a few steps before hurling itself at me like a sack of coal, bouncing me off the path and temporarily numbing my Lt thigh.  I limped off, swearing and massaging my leg while the Sumo guy shouted at his idiot dogs and carried on his way.
Sunrise brought no joy that morning.
A bit dodgy past Ashes Farm on the way home
Saturday and Sunday heralded Grassington's first of two Dickensian market weekends.  I'd planned to include it in a five mile run with the idea of getting new and different pictures for my blog but it wasn't to be.  There was no way my back would allow me to run.  Crosswords became the order of the day, and I struggled with those.  We both did.
Sunset, for a change, from my window
I forget which day it was, my wonderful partner was struggling to fix a curtain rail in the bedroom but eventually finished up breaking it and having to take the whole thing down.  It corresponded with the rising of the latest super moon which that night cast its luminous light through the curtain-less window to sweep through the room and across the bed, filling my sleepless brain with mega doses of Puccini and that beautiful love duet sung by Rolando Villazon with the amazing Russian Soprano, Anna Netrebko -   
O Soave Fanculla   
...Lovely maid in the moonlight...  
There's still a wee bit of romance left in the old dog!

Monday 27 November 2017

What we pensioners do for fun...

After the afore-mentioned syringe full of cortico-steroid to gunge up my Rt eye it was a couple of days before I ventured out of the house again to allow it chance to clear.  On this occasion it cleared rather quickly prompting me to think the Consultant must have reduced the amount injected, from 8mg to the original 4mg.  Regardless, it was six days before I plucked up courage for another run.
My trusty Inov-8 Terraclaws   (Click pictures to enlarge)
On Saturday we'd woken to a winter wonderland as first snows of winter painted the landscape a uniform white, sparkling in dawn light under a cloudless sky.  Pure magic.  
Passing below Pickering End - Hebden's answer to Wuthering Heights
Sadly, there was no time for photographs as 45 miles away a hundred assorted saplings were waiting to be planted at the foot of Hebden Ghyll. Remarkably, there was no snow in Hebden, much to the relief of the intrepid gang that turned out for digging holes, planting and tubing.
Crossing the Miner's Bridge
Saturday night was clear and cold.  Jack Frost worked hard throughout his moonlight shift, turning water to ice, coating car windows and generally making a nuisance of himself to those who don't always appreciate such things.
Icy water, moss, bracken and a cold blue sky 
 It wasn't easy leaving a warm bed on Sunday morning knowing what Grassington Moor and remote Bycliffe Hill would have in store for us.  But eventually we did, though I'll admit to becoming a bit nesh in my dotage and lingered over three mugs of strong coffee before slowly donning running gear and activating TomTom. It was 11am when we stepped outdoors into the winter sun. 
getting high...
Weekend walkers who'd arrived earlier to block the village with their cars had all mysteriously disappeared.  We'd the Ghyll to ourselves as we jogged gently uphill, over the Miner's bridge and past the waterfall to the heathery heights beyond.
Ice is look at!
The gravel track across Grassington Moor gets longer every time we run it, or so it seems.  We reached a spot far from civilisation where opening scenes of Casino Royale were shot way back in 1967.
Endless track and icy puddles to old Casino Royale film set
   John le Mesurier was M's chauffeur though local sheep thought he was a shepherd bringing them feed!  Ursula Andress also starred, cough, cough, just saying...
Posing on the desolate 1967 film set
Bell pits, sink holes, swamps, and maybe snares, call for care and undivided attention over Bycliffe Hill, the absolute epitome of desolation and loneliness.  In my dotage I've lately resorted to carrying a mobile phone over this route, not so much because of its obstacles but more the likelihood of succumbing to cold and exhaustion in the Arctic conditions that prevail there.
Crossing Bycliffe Hill
On most routes I just carry a whistle hoping, in cases of emergency, I'll have enough puff for the statutory six blasts a minute to call attention to my plight.  Such is the remoteness of Bycliffe Hill, I reckon no-one would ever hear my whistle.  Particularly if they're as deaf as me!
Dodging a boggy bit over Bycliffe with a shower looming ahead
We crossed without incident, enjoying our wild surroundings while dodging bogs and odd patches of snow across the trackless waste.  Typically, as we neared the high point, the sun disappeared behind threatening clouds, wind increased and showers sped across distant horizons.  
Starting downhill...
But we were dressed for wintry conditions and didn't care, knowing we'd soon be dropping down to our marker cairn on the Mossdale track, to a short stretch of smoother, more runner friendly terrain. our little marker cairn beside the Mossdale track
   At 1,500ft on the exposed track that Arctic wind was blowing straight into our faces so we didn't hang about.  We noted the Stone Man, a large cairn marking the high point of the track has been vandalised and is now only half a cairn.  It was too cold to stop and begin a repair.
Into the shelter of the long wall - with another shower threatening
We dropped quickly down to Howgill Nick and turned for home down the long wall that sheltered us from the nithering wind. 
Stone with phantom fossil stud marks!
 With only three miles left to run, all downhill, we could relax and poddle gently home at a speed least harmful to our legs and ageing joints.
Crossing Coalgrove Beck...

A runner caught us up, one we'd never seen before, heading for Grassington before it rained.  A stone with fossil stud marks called out to be photographed.  Then another unknown runner passed us, running strongly up the beck in the opposite direction.
...and finally back to Hebden Beck
It was getting busy.  Time to call it a day - before suffering the ignominy of being criticised for our doddering behaviour!  At least, we'd survived the challenging eight miles.  TomTom, I discovered, had thrown in the towel at three!