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Monday, 22 August 2016

The colour purple.....

      Last weeks running amounted to a tough 20 miles with 1,800ft of ascent. I'm not sure why but I was struggling more than usual. Maybe it was the weather for it was rather humid, particularly at the weekend. On Tuesday there was thick mist that rose and fell in a strange sort of way. Initially it filled the valleys, low enough to allow a blood red sunrise for a few minutes. Then it rose and blotted it all out. 
Sunrise over the mist    (Click pictures to enlarge)
On Thursday I set out in mist and returned home in even thicker mist. It was humid too and I'd difficulty panting the few hundred feet up to the Castle without taking a walk or stopping for a breather. Another runner who'd apparently followed me up was collapsed on a seat and barely able to speak when passing him on my second circuit. So it wasn't just me!
Burnsall 10 mile race route
Back in the Dales, on Saturday, it was Burnsall Feast Sports and the 10 mile road race. There was a threat of rain, heavy rain, so I refused to go. I'm growing nesh in my dotage!  Instead, I waited for runners passing through Hebden and intercepted a couple of them as they passed by.
Melanie Steventon followed by Sue Straw running through Hebden
Melissa was the first, a FV40 who finished in 1.45.24.  Don Stead, her father, was an old adversary of mine in days gone by and finished only one place and one minute behind me in this race four years ago when I was 1st (and only) V80 in 1.32.04. Melissa's mum,  Joan, is a keen Parkrunner.
Chatting to Melissa Stead

 It was good to see another regular, Antonio Cardinale, plodding round yet again. He was closely followed by the sweeper vehicle but judging by his broad smile that didn't bother him one little bit. He loves this particular race regardless of how long it takes him or where he finishes.  I wish I could do that.....
Antonio Cardinale enjoying his run
      As road races go it's a pretty tough one, uphill from the start with over 1,000ft of ascent spread over its 10 miles. Five runners broke the hour on Saturday, the winner being Thomas Corrigan of Barlick Fell Runners in 55.57.  I also wish I could do that!
Heather up the ghyll
      My wonderful partner was on National Park duty all day Sunday, so I ran alone on a 10 mile circuit round Mossdale.  I'd barely run a mile before a friend, David Hoole, caught me up with Nelson, his black Labrador, on a lead.  He too was bound for Mossdale and complained that Nelson was slowing him down.  Huh, there was no way I could keep up with him.
Gate into Mossdale

      As I ran up the long wall towards the Mossdale track there was gunfire over to my left. Grouse shooters were out. It wasn't long before David came running back down. Nelson's tail was between his legs and he was trembling, plainly terrified of all the shooting.  I always thought Labradors were gun dogs?
More purple tints
      I carried on, following the track through carpets of heather into an amazing purple landscape.  A pair of peregrines circled ahead of me, gradually drifting to where the guns were. I was willing them to come back. 
      Down in Mossdale the track was flooded after heavy overnight rain.  My shoes and socks were soddened, there increased weight probably being the cause of my slowing down.  Well, that's my excuse!
Some of the cows that bawled a welcome
      A herd of cows with lots of calves among them were spread across the path and began bawling noisily as I approached.  I kept going and they parted to allow me through.  They were still making a heck of a din when I reached a stile where four walkers were looking on nervously.
      "You seem to have upset them, is it safe for us to go through?" one asked.  "Well, they let me through, even formed a guard of honour" I said, "so I think you'll be OK".  I hope to goodness they were for there's no help within miles of that wild place. I ran on.
Shooters cars
      A row of vehicles near Yarnbury obviously belonged to the shooting party. There was no sign of the guns but dogs barked as I ran past.  I'd always believed that grouse shooting was illegal on Sundays, I'll have to check on that.
      The beck was in flood as I ran back down the ghyll so my feet got another soaking as I crossed it. By this time I'd been reduced to the slowest of jogs.  I blamed the humidity but maybe I was just off form.  Soaked with sweat I sprawled on a chair and swigged a whole bottle of chocolate milk until I cooled off.
Hebden Beck with a fair amount of water
      By the time my wonderful partner arrived home from her duty on Barden Moor an hour later I was looking fairly normal again. But I didn't feel it! 
 I think I need a holiday....     

Monday, 15 August 2016

Our Andy strikes Gold again......

      Repetitive details of midweek runs and weekend jaunts around the Yorkshire Dales have become much of a muchness over the years, so much so that readers of this blog must be bored to tears.  Visitor numbers appear to be down to single figures so I reckon it's time to remove it from public view and go private, at least until something different happens that's worth sharing. That could be some time away.
Saturday's run by heather at Grimwith   (Click pictures to enlarge)
Due to various eye problems involving endless appointments with three different Consultants our holidays have been drastically curtailed - so not much new material to brighten up these pages.  I'm still waiting for vision in both eyes to stabilise so I can be tested for a pair of spectacles that will enable me to drive (legally) again and share the driving to far off places.  Until then I'm very much confined to barracks.
Smelling the heather on a run to Bare House and Grassington
  Meanwhile, running (without glasses) is starting to improve again, both speed and distance-wise.  Two recent ten milers felt very comfortable and lately my old legs have produced some fast 6 min/mile bursts I never thought I'd see again. Maybe it's inspiration from the Olympics?   Or something rejuvenating from the scent of heather that came to its best around the glorious twelfth.
Geriatric pose in front of heather!
Saturday's run round Grimwith was our fastest this year, could be something to do with running a clockwise rather than our usual anti-clockwise circuit. It was windy, very windy, and we lost count of the number of sailing dinghies capsizing as they tried to turn before hitting the bank after a lightning scud across the water.  Our main objective over the past two days has been to enjoy and photograph the heather before it rapidly fades and turns brown.  Great Whernside viewed from a distance is a sight to behold when its steep flanks glow purple in the August sun.  Likewise, all the high moors back o' Grimwith and right down to the waters edge.
On the run down from Bare House
 Highlight of the weekend occurred on Saturday afternoon when a crowd gathered around the telly in our village pub to watch and cheer as our local hero, Andrew Triggs Hodge, rowed to victory as part of the illustrious 8 man crew that took gold in Rio.   It was Andy's third gold medal.  His two previous victories, in 2008 and 2012, were in the coxless fours but this year, along with Pete Reed, was moved to the eight boat to strengthen the crew and it certainly paid off.  They led from start to finish.
The victorious 8 man crew.  Scott Durant, Tom Ransley, Andrew T Hodge, Matt Gotrel, Pete Reed, Paul Bennett, Matt Langridge, William Satch with cox Phelan Hill (happy little guy at the front). Andy at front right.                                             (Picture poached from Andy's Facebook page)
Andy's performance totally eclipsed any activity of ours and, of course, was duly celebrated with a rather large dram worthy of the occasion. 
Cheers Andy, and all.  You really did us proud!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Dawn runs, heather and black beasties.......

      I awoke to voices in the bedroom.  It was World Service on the radio alarm clock telling me it was 4.55 and time to get up.  Instinctively I swung my legs out of bed and headed for the stairs landing where running clothes were draped over the radiator. In the breaking dawn I dressed quickly, made my way to the kitchen and put the kettle to boil for a cup of strong coffee while lacing up my trail shoes.  A spoonful of demerara went into the coffee for extra energy.  I drank it quickly, paid a final visit to the loo before stepping out the door, clicking my Garmin to locate the satellites until, at roughly 5.25, I was setting off down the lane for a wonderful dawn run.
Dawn on my running track   (Click pictures to enlarge)
 That's been a (mainly) Tuesday and Thursday morning ritual for the past two years with getting up times adjusted relative to breaking dawn.  Before visiting Menorca in 2014, when early runs were essential before temperatures climbed into the 80's, no-one could have persuaded me to run before breakfast. Now I find it preferable.  There's something smugly satisfying about returning home before neighbours have stirred from their beds, knowing I can take things easy for the rest of the day while they still have to drive half way across Yorkshire to start work.
Same dawn - with rabbits
 So that's how things went on two mornings last week. On the first of those mornings, at 5.40,  another runner had beaten me onto the hill and was doing circuits at great speed. There was no chance of any socializing, his was serious training.  He wasn't up there to watch the sunrise, sniff flowers or pick bilberries. Six minute miling was more his line.  I got out of his way, into the field above, and stayed there until he'd gone!  He'd be home, stretched, showered and maybe enjoying a nice glass of chocolate milk long before I got home for mine.
On Saturday we ran the 10 mile revised route for my wonderful partner's U3A walk two weeks hence.
      It was warm and sunny as we set off up the crag, brushing aside the bracken.
Heather was not quite at its best but beginning to light up the moor as we ran towards Mossy Mere.

     It was hard work trogging up rough bits of Backstone Edge Lane but a welcome breeze kept us cool.

      The run down to Grimwith on springy turf was sheer delight.

      Boats were out on the water, the wind in their sails whipping them along.

      Beyond Grimwith we took it steady up to the high point, passing a group of walkers around thirty strong.

      The long downhill track from there took us through Appletreewick pasture where we could mainly escape the gravel by running the grassy bits.

      Then it was into the walled confines of Kale Lane with its beautiful views across Wharfedale to the hills beyond.

      Back along the river towards the crowded picnic field.

      And home through lower Hebden Ghyll where we'd to slap these black beasties off the path, out of our way.

      It's not often they agree but Garmin said it was 9.88 miles and Anquet said it was 9.88 miles, so I guess it must be. It's a smashing route with reasonable underfoot conditions, pleasantly undulating but not too strenuous, and with great views. The U3A walkers should really enjoy it.
      If not, they can blame me....

Monday, 1 August 2016

No country for old men.....

and especially not for me!
      A couple of midweek 'bread & butter runs', each of 5 miles to keep the old legs ticking over, didn't quite prepare me for the rigours of the weekend.
A woolly audience as we set off to Mossdale  (Click pictures to enlarge)
 On Saturday we ventured into the wilds of Mossdale again, then back via Grassington, basically because there are one or two nice downhill sections where we can disengage brain and let our old legs move at whatever speed they jolly well want to!
Downhill into Mossdale, brain disengaged...
After leaving Hebden Ghyll much of the going is on springy turf, squishy upland pastures and grassy fields - all of which are kinder to runner's knees and don't hurt so much when we fall.  Usually!
Nearly home - running up High Lane
At just over 10 miles, with well over 1,000ft of ascent, it was the farthest either of us had run for quite some time.  I can't speak for a certain other person but I was pleasantly surprised with how fresh and relaxed I felt after it.
Not so the following day......
The easy bit round Grimwith reservoir
      "I thought we might run up Gateup Gill tomorrow, as far as the shooting hut" my wonderful partner said, in the casual way she does, "and we could maybe pick a few bilberries on the way back". It was another of those recce-ing runs to suss out a route prior to leading a group of unsuspecting U3A walkers through there a few weeks hence.  My antennae twitched a little at the suggestion I take gloves to push aside the bracken but I ignored the gentle warning and left them on the table.
Pheasant chicks on the path ahead - or they could be partridge...
      The run round Grimwith was pleasant enough but the gate into Gateup was locked and there was barbed wire along the top. But such little things don't stop fell runners!  We ran on, scattering hundreds of pheasant and partridge chicks feeding at the track side.
So far, so good
At a point where bracken was too thick to penetrate any further we struck steeply uphill, grassy at first, then through reeds, sphagnum moss and boggy bits towards Great Wolfrey, a rocky outcrop sprouting from knee-wrecking heather at around the 1,500ft contour.
Heather beginning to bloom
     Wisely, we unanimously agreed to abandon the idea of going farther, but very unwisely returned downhill through shoulder high bracken, thistles, rocks and hidden holes that gave us all sorts of problems.
Picking bilberries. A shot from my prone position...
      All at once I dropped into one of those said holes, twisting my back as it enveloped me like a straight jacket.  "Help" I shouted but was able to wriggle free before help arrived. As I lay there panting I noticed, just inches from my nose, lots of ripe bilberries.
On the way down, having escaped the worst
      I was thrown a polythene pot in which to collect some of these wild delicacies - which was a fine excuse for me to stay on the ground a while longer until I'd recovered from the shock of falling into that wretched hole.  It wasn't long before hands and legs were a fine shade of bilberry red!  Which matched the blood.  After filling the pots we thrashed around for ages, mostly out of sight of each other, following a fence through head high bracken and thistles, falling down more holes, into water, wondering where each other was, trying to escape.  After a while we abandoned the fence line, climbed higher out of the bracken, back onto grass and a runnable track.  Sorry, a joggable track......
Runner's leg...
      I was reminded of a quote by Richard Askwith in his amazing book 'Feet in the Clouds' when, after an even more horrendous energy sapping epic, wrote "This, I should add, is what I do for fun".
Happy again. Bilberry tart, ice cream - and wine
      After showering, patching myself up and swallowing a mega dose of Ibuprofen, our evening meal of roast lamb, roast parsnips, etc. was complemented very nicely with the added treat of scrumptious bilberry tart and lashings of ice cream.  Not to mention a mellow malt whisky we'd most definitely earned and very well deserved......
      Oh, and the proposed U3A walk through Gateup Gill into the hell beyond was quite sensibly struck off the list and a somewhat easier one added in its place.
It's a good job we went....really.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer......

      Weatherwise, last week was made for running.  Warm, sunny mornings with clear views, gentle breezes, birdsong and bright flowers all contributed to that 'good to be alive' feeling as I cruised along, happy and carefree, my feet barely touching the ground.
First light with mist in the valleys   (Click to enlarge pictures)
Tuesday was best. As I stepped from the door at 5.20am the sun was just clearing the horizon, lighting the mist that hung in the valleys.
My feet hardly touched the ground.....
Mist dispersed quickly as I climbed higher, views became clearer until, at 900ft, the world was ablaze with light. Rabbits were hopping in the air, chasing their shadows, and each other, and a stalking cat crouched lower in the grass as I ran by.
Cat - or young fox - skulking on the banking
It was a morning to die for. I lost count of the number of circuits I ran round the perimeter path, feasting my eyes on the colourful panoramas stretching for countless miles in all directions.
View west when the mist cleared
 I didn't want to go down but as I did I passed a young girl running up, a broad smile on her face, clearly enjoying the pageant as much as me.
Dwarf mallow growing by the tower
After breakfast I walked the same route again, slowly this time, savouring every minute, wallowing in that glorious feeling of sunshine kissing bare parts of my flesh. After all, I thought, there may not be another day like it this summer.
Strange cloud formation in the evening
In the evening I lounged in the garden sipping a fruity Merlot as clouds gathered in a strange formation around the setting sun. It was still gloriously warm, I wore nothing but a pair of light running shorts, my skin appearing to go a darker shade of brown as the light faded.  The animal was happy......very happy.
Setting out on Sunday's run

      Saturday brought a repeat of the seven mile run we'd done the previous Saturday - for no other reason than I wanted to experience the feeling of speed down that grassy 2 mile path from Bare House to Grassington. Then a gentle lope through a flower bedecked meadow back home.
The run down to Grassington
      A swallow joined our congregation on Sunday morning. I'd heard it twittering as it flew into the porch. Then it came inside and circled round a few times before settling on a high beam. I'd rather hoped it would perch beside us at the communion rail, symbolising the descent of the Holy Spirit to bless us, but it was having none of that......
Jogging home through the flower meadow
      Four miles was quite enough for me in the afternoon. Such was the humidity I could hardly run. I was dripping with sweat when I got home, looking for all the world like I'd swum across the river, so a cool shower was most refreshing. Not to mention a cold beer!
Meadow cranesbill
      A scrumptious game casserole in the evening and a wee dram of a favourite malt whisky nicely put the seal on the sunniest week we've had all summer. Let's hope it's not the last.
      The beer is in the fridge......