Monday, 25 January 2010

w/e 24/1/10 - And all I needed was this one to get me back on my way

It wasn't long before I realised there was no time to waste
There was soul all around me
Everybody let go
It wasnt long before we realised
There was no time to waste

Some days, some incidents, some events, some defining moments just steal up on you and take you by surprise. Out of the morass of problems of life emerges a bright shaft of light, guiding the way forward. And there really is no time waste when you sense it.

And so this week proved to be.

The training has been ok, but nothing special. The fitness levels have felt barely adequate. The commitment sporadic. The head has been un-focused, even at the best of times.

So the only question on my lips since Saturday has been "where the fuck did THAT come from?"!

The start of the week provided no hint of what was to come. I started a new job on Monday and, whether it was tiredness from that, a realisation that some of the "dream" I came here for had, for now, been deflected and deceived by one of life's curveballs or just the fact that I couldn't be arsed....but the net result was that I didn't run from Monday to Wednesday!

The weather didn't help of course. Still icy in places, drizzle, cloud....I had no real incentive to go out. I didn't want to road run on Tuesday night and couldn't be bothered with the social aspect of a Wednesday night run.

But on Thursday, I arranged a day out over Pendle and zoomed off to one of the areas I have really enjoyed since I moved up here. Once you get over the back of the hills and into the cloughs, you could fool yourself that you were in one of the bigger mountain ranges.

It was a smashing run, enhanced by encountering deep snow drifts, and by the rays of sunshine providing warming respite from the recent weather.

The plan had been to do the full tour route, but common sense prevailed, and with an evening run planned with Kirsten, the half tour route provided ample fun, followed by broth and coffee in the little cafe at the car park. Fantastic! I felt on a high, which showed (I think) later when we headed out for another 6.5 miles, parking at the Hinchcliffe and heading along the last part of the Hebden route, to see what the snow was like (much better by the way!).

All in all, a smashing day, and I felt renewed enthusiasm for my running. But I still can't say I felt very fit.

Friday saw me head off mid-afternoon to Stoodley to do some hill reps and get that much-needed ascent in. I headed up to London Road, and then did 4 x reps of the steep side, up to the top. The legs were tired, the back was still a bit sore from the fall last week.....but I stuck at it!!

Now this was all well and good....but with 22 miles planned for Saturday, perhaps I'd have been better not to have gone out and trashed the legs? Still, the plan was to set off "steady away" and just make it round the pressure.

Saturday morning dawned, a little grey but with hopefully a brighter day ahead. We were up early, wolfed down some breakfast...and then got on our bikes to cycle down to Mytholmroyd. What a cracking way to start the day!!

We arrived with just enough time to lock up our bikes in the centre, get our tags and head around to the start. And then we were off!!! Just enough time to wish Kirsten a nice run....and I headed off, trailing a few of the fast lads!

And somehow, from somewhere, unexpectedly....everything fell into place and I felt great!! I really thought I was "steady away", but heading along from Brearley, I caught up with Nick Ham, who has a reputation as a very decent long distance runner. If I can keep in that sort of company, I'll be happy! But of course, the thought was there that there was a long way to go, and the legs would fall apart at some point.

Only they didn't! And without too much effort (certainly not flat out), I kept pushing on, and kept passing people, particularly on the ascents.

And then, somewhere around Pecket Well, I hooked up with Dave from Tod and Ginny from Middleton, who are both planning BG attempts this year. And we provided good company for each other, spurred each other on, and provided that nice little bit of competition that would otherwise have been missing.

And we pretty much stayed together to the end, pushing on quite hard after coming down off Erringden Moor, running all the ups and keeping good speed on the flatter sections.

Route-finding was spot on, and we headed down off Scout Rock, past home to turn back towards Mytholmroyd and the finish. The three of us entered the centre together and handed our tags in. Ginny asked "what time is it?" since none of us had a clue. The answer - 2 minutes to 12 - astonished us. As I said..."where the fuck did that come from?"!!! 3.58 for 22 miles and 4,000ft, that's absolutely smashing. Plus it's nearly an hour faster than the previous year!! (and nearly 3 hours faster than the year before that...but that's another story!)

As always at LDWA events, the post-run food was GREAT!! I went and got pie and peas and sat with Rich and Carolyn from Brum. I sat chatting and eating, then wondered whether to go home on the bike and get changed, then come back to meet Kirsten, who I suspected might finish in something like 5.30/6.00.

So, THE best part of the day, and the thing that really boosted my mood into the stratosphere, was suddenly seeing Kirsten appear at the door, having done an astonishing 4.46!! That's faster than my time last year!!

But to be fair, I'm not surprised that she DID the time, because I've been telling her over and over again what enormous potential she has as an off-road runner. The good thing was that she delivered, so that now she's starting to believe. And there really is nothing better (as far as I'm concerned) than seeing someone realising their running potential. And, again, she hadn't gone flat out and didn't feel ready to drop at the end. Which suggests better things are to come (I KNOW they are!), especially with the focused training she's now doing. She'll meet her goals for this year (ambitious as they are!), I'm sure of that.

So she scoffed her food, I drank 2 gallons of tea...and then we headed back on our bikes...where she left me trailing in her wake! I'm a wee bit scared I won't be able to keep up before long at this rate!

So all in all, a fabulous day, and we both wore huge smiles of satisfaction as we headed for the Fox & Goose, with Rufus in tow, to down some celebratory pints. There we met up with Clive, who kept us entertained, before we headed home with a takeaway treat, before collapsing into bed...only to find we couldn't sleep because of the adrenaline still surging through our veins. There is NOTHING like a runner's high! :-)

And so to Sunday, and the plan was to recce the half Trog. It was a drizzly, misty morning, but with all that enthusiasm, we had to go out!! So we parked up in Old Town, struggled with initial directions, found our way to the top of High Brown Knoll and then down into Castle Carr estate and back up again....and then it all went wrong!! A pathless, trodless, boggy, tussocky, wet, cold, tramp across the moor. Well after moving so well the previous day, we really couldn't be arsed. So about turn, back over High Brown Knoll to drop back to the car. And decision made...neither of us enjoyed bog-trotting and both of us agreed that it was not what fellrunning is all about.....we'll forget the Trog and head down to "proper" ;-) fellrunning terrain on the Sunday to really put a good effort in at the Valleys. Still, it was good to get out, good physically and mentally. It snowed on us, the conditions were fairly miserable, the legs were a wee bit tired, the minds even more so....but we ploughed on!! That'll stand us both in good stead in those darker moments we'll have this year on long distance events.

I think I'll blog seperately about Sunday in fact, and what it said to me about my views on fells and fellrunning, and about where I see myself in the future (where I've always seen myself). It was really clear that this area is just a stop-gap, just a mid-way point. And I'll enjoy it for what I can, make the most of it....but with bigger and better plans in my mind, to be put into action in the not too distant future.

So, anyway, the end of the week sees me with a real renewed enthusiasm for running, delighted that the legs are still there from all the training I did last year, excited again with the prospect of having a goal for the year, and very, very determined. This was a 10,000ft week, and that's the standard from now on. The head's been through a lot these last few months but, out of that, I'll find greater mental strength that will carry me on a journey.....

Total for the week - 50mls & 10,000ft

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

w/e 17/1/10...And Pride Is Just Another Way, Of Trying to Live With My Mistakes

Denial is a better way
Of getting through another day
And silence is another way
Of saying what I wanna say
And lying is another way
Of hoping it will go away
.....And you were always my mistake...

An enjoyable weekend on the fells reaffirmed how much I love to be out there enjoying myself, whatever the weather. And yet, conversely, it also conspired to make me question if I really want to push myself so hard for the BG. The fells are there to be enjoyed, appreciated, loved...for what they are, not as an "obstacle" in a "challenge".

I'm still trying to work out if those feelings are my true ones or whether, underneath, there is an appreciation that my base level of fitness for this year is nowhere near what it was last year? Is there time to rectify that? Indeed, is that better, in that I can plan training to peak at the right moment instead of feeling tired and wearing myself out too soon?

Or perhaps events of the last six months have had an accumulated effect that has left me wanting to enjoy rather than always looking to push myself. There's no doubt that, in life generally, I've come to the realisation that my current state of mind is looking for some stability, a settled future, rather than always looking for more and always being restless, as has been the case in the past. Those feelings may well have permeated into my running. Only time will tell if the edge comes back, as the weather improves and I up the training.

Anyway, back to the week in question, and it started out with a Tuesday trot out on snow and ice covered roads with Calder Valley, putting in some efforts on hills and enjoying a nice chat with a guy who I'd met on the Saturday at Elise's run. A good run, although a bit dodgy in places with the conditions.

The plan was to do more running through the rest of the week, but on Wednesday the conditions were as bad as I think I've ever known. The slight thaw had frozen hard turning everything into a treachorous skating rink. I headed out for a walk down to the main road and slipped unexpectedly, coming down to earth with a crash and a shot of pain right up my back. I lay on the ice for half a minute, regaining my breath, then realised I couldn't actually stand up again because it was so slippy. So I crawled on all fours to the side of the path, got up gingerly and made my way home. By the evening I felt a bit sore, on Thursday and Friday I felt too stiff to run.

But by Saturday, I was feeling a bit better, and with it being Kirsten's birthday, it would have been rude not to have headed out! The original plan was to go away for the weekend. But with the cars still stuck and unable to move, we decided on a Trog recce. Which changed the moment we saw the conditions!!
The birthday girl gets acquainted with the slightly taller Joan

We headed up via Foster Clough, and on up to Churn Milk Joan. Even that part was tough. But once up there, running was near impossible and most frustrating. We struggled along and decided to drop down into Old Town. At this point, we realised we'd got £4 between us, and the chance of a half and a packet of crisps at the Hare and Hounds was too good to refuse! The landlord did us a "credit crunch" deal allowing us to have crisps and nuts :-)
Working hard at our running :-)

Refreshed, we decided we'd follow the Hebden route around to the crags and take it from there. The path through the crags was ridiculously slippy, but fun. From there, we climbed up to Slack before dropping down past Popples and into Hebden, to run back along an even slippier canal towpath! :-)

A tough trip out, but overall an enjoyable one. Enhanced of course, by picking up Rufus the dog, managing to get the car out, and driving down for a couple of pints down at the Fox & Goose (where Rufus is a much-loved regular! :-) )

With transport now available again, we decided to take a trip out on Sunday, down to Shropshire to recce the Long Mynd Valleys route. As soon as we got out of Yorkshire, the sun started shining and conditions were much milder!!

By lunchtime, we were down at Carding Mill, where the Newport crowd were assembled, having just finished a run. We donned layers and headed off towards the golf course. Within five minutes, we were both stripping off layers in the heat! Initially there was a little snow, but conditions were fine. However, as we headed up the gully from Jonathon's Hollow, things got tougher and that continued over the top to the head of Motts Road and on to the main road over the Mynd. I say "main road", but it was clear nobody had used it for a good while and there were several inches of snow on it.

A good descent down Ashes Hollow, a slippy ascent to Barristers Plain and then another snowy gully over to Minton Batch and a good descent down there on a mostly clear path.

We were enjoying ourselves, relishing the warmer conditions and the chance to be out somewhere different. But here, in Minton Batch, the race "begins" (you'll know what I mean if you've done it!). Three steep, tough ascents follow, with three steep descents to match. But Kirsten was staying really strong on the ups, and more than matching me on the downs. Every time we got near the summits, the sun shone on us and it was a wonderful afternoon.
Heading up Callow, fantastic!

We took the direct descent off Yearlet (which is definitely quicker than the "usual" way, especially if you like steep descents), climbed up the last "little sod" in the gathering gloom and, before we knew it we were back at the car, having enjoyed a wonderful afternoon out.

Kirsten heads up the last climb on all fours!!

Fish and chips in Shrewsbury, then a couple of pints with my son in Telford, before driving back up to Yorkshire feeling nicely tired from a lovely weekend.

And that encompasses everything I said at the start of this blog. It was a "leisurely" weekend, at no time did we push ourselves to the very maximum, but it was all the more enjoyable for that. Do I was to swap days like that, for days when I hardly have time to look around? I don't know, we'll see.

Plenty coming up, including the Hebden this weekend, That's Lyth next weekend, the Trog/Valleys double weekend after that. I confirmed with my mate Chris that we're doing the Old County Tops together again, which will be fantastic. We'll be looking for sub-9.30, which should be achievable. Plus it will be lovely to be out on the fells with him again, my partner in the first Old County Tops I did.

So all in all, the mood's not glum, it's just uncertain about what I want at the moment. Time will tell.
Total for the week - 27.5mls & 7,500ft

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

w/e 10/1/10 - They Ask Me If I've Had The Voices Yet...

"They don't think I know any true answers.
It's true that I haven't quite finished yet!
When it all comes out in the wash, they'll eat their words.
I've got all their names and addresses,
Later on I'll write each of them a thank-you letter."

A little while back, someone whose opinion I respect told me that, in the run-up to this BG attempt, I should spend as many days out on the fells as possible with the people who would be supporting that they could get to know me, know my style, see what motivated me.

Not an easy thing for me to do. By my nature, I don't let many people get THAT close and I happily choose long days out on the fells on my own for a fair amount of the time. I love the solitude, the added excitement and danger of knowing it's just me and the mountains and I'm in deep shit if I get an injury THIS far off-path! I love depending on no-one, and conversely, no-one depending on me.

But I've pondered over that advice and recognise that it is indeed good advice.

And I've also pondered over what DOES make me tick. What pushes me and motivates me when the chips are down.

And in the midst of life's (sometimes) uneasy lessons, I've observed that I do need to be backed into a corner, so that I come out fighting. Ironic, for somebody who is so non-violent. Or perhaps that's the point. You have to push and push to a point where I eventually explode and then channel that in the right way. I can cite examples from my past.

I guess the good news is that a few people just lately have started backing me into that corner. I feel a sense of indignation at the moment, which may either subside, or rise, in which case I need to channel it. Thank-you letters are being drafted ;-)

I probably need someone (the right someone) to tell me outright that I can't do the BG and that I'm not up to it - that will guarantee success!!

This week's training has been severely interrupted by the weather again. Heavy snow, waist-deep drifts. There's no point getting stressed. Get out there, enjoy it, hold on for the better weather and the chance to head up onto proper fells.

Wednesday evening saw me head over to Littleborough on the train, and join 4 other intrepid souls on an adventure up to Blackstone Edge. It was never fast, it was frequently disrupted by falls in the snow. It was also fucking cold!! :-) But above and beyond all that, it was great fun. I thawed out with several pints in the Red Lion afterwards, before donning cold shoes again for the train journey then mile run home.

Friday saw me head up onto Midgley Moor in lovely weather, to watch the sun going down from Churn Milk Joan, which had a very poor 2p on top....things really are tough in West Yorkshire!

Saturday morning saw an early bus ride in freezing conditions, into "Pretentious-ville" ;-) to meet up with Elise from the club who'd decided to do a 50k run to celebrate her 50th. She hadn't reckoned with the snow!! I got there for 7.20am and thought nobody else was turning up....but by 7.35, there must have been over 20 runners heading up to Stoodley...a great turnout. Conditions were wild on the top, over Erringden Moor and up to the Pike, as the snow started in earnest, whipped up on strengthening winds. Past Gaddings, the wind tore to chill us all to the bone and leave one side of everyone covered in ice and frost! It got warmer on the drop down into Tod. The plan had been to do the whole lot, and the weather was certainly improving. But the head had other ideas and I lost the will on the way out of Tod, consumed by other thoughts. Best to call it a day, rest and reflect. A good early morning out for the most part anyway.

Sunday saw us heading out to "recce" the Hebden (although why you'd recce an LDWA event I don't know ;-) :-) ) Bus to Hebden, walky-run up to Slack and then pick up the route. Tough going again in the snow and ice. Jumble Hole Clough was descended on the higher path, the climb up to Stoodley was hard work in freezing cold winds which was causing drifts. Dicks Lane was a wild place, me cutting a trail through thigh-deep drifts. The route across the moor was lost in the snow, ending in a boggy last couple of hundred yards. And then the descent into Spring Wood was a bit dodgy and a half-slip right at the top spooked me for a while. I was fed a peanut bar to lift my flagging spirits, and was fine again soon after. The wind was really whipping up now and it had started to snow again. Added to which, progress was slow in the conditions and the light was starting to fade. We made our way up Cragg Vale to the road crossing point....and then the fun started!

Once we'd crossed the road, the route headed initially across fields and then along an enclosed track...all of which had seen strong drifts, and the wind was still whipping the snow across us. Progress was painful. One minute on top of the hard snow, the next plunging in over knee-deep. We struggled on the meet the road again and decided, in view of time and tiredness, to follow the road along for a while, before dropping down to Robin Hood Rocks and back over Scout Rock. A really tough day out, a proper workout for the legs and a good lesson in keeping going when conditions are tough.

The snow has started to melt now, and hopefully in the next couple of days I'll be able to get the car out. Plus, with some of the snow gone, I'll be able to get back to some proper runs!!

Total for the week - 37mls & 7,000ft

Thursday, 7 January 2010

w/e 3/1/10 - The Way We Miss Our Lives Are Life..

"A sad fact, of course, about adult life is that you see the very things you'll never adapt to coming toward you on the horizon. You see them as the problems they are, worry like hell about them, make provisions, take precautions, fashion adjustments; you tell yourself you'll have to change your way of doing things.

Only you don't. You can't. Somehow it's already too late.

And maybe it's even worse than that; maybe the thing you see coming from far away is not the real thing - the thing that scares you - but its aftermath. And what you've feared will happen has already taken place.

And in that way, our life gets over before we know it. We miss it."

The first week of the new year. Time to stop looking over the shoulder and look in the here and now (not even at the future). Time to make the most of the opportunities as they arise and appreciate the ones that have already arisen and continue to have resonance.

But not in a "New Year's Resolution" kind-of-way you understand! That's the preserve of the fat or sad or lonely, looking for the "easy miracle" which will improve their lives. When the truth is it's right there in front of them, no need to go looking too far.

From a personal point of view, more than anything, it means not looking too far ahead and thinking about June. Think (and BE!) in the here and now. Enjoy the training for what it is - an excuse for lots of lovely days out on the fells!!

The week started with a meet-up with my old friends from Newport. It was really lovely to see them. Perhaps I'd forgotten (as absence is liable to make you do) what a great bunch they are to run with. A slippy, slidy recce of the Valleys route. Very icy underfoot. 10 of us negotiating steep slopes and revelling in it. A fantastic morning out and I only wish I could have stayed longer with them. (1o mls & 3,500ft)

Tuesday and Wednesday were Christmas recovery days and offered no more than walks to the pub (for rehydration and taking in nutrients!). I'd earned them.

New Year's Eve saw a jaunt up to Penistone Hill in deep snow, to run the Auld Lang Syne. A crowd of nearly 380 set off and I discovered (or rather remembered) what I like and don't like about fellrunning. And one of the things I definitely like is the space you get to run out there on the fells....which was definitely not apparent at this race. Queues of people up the hills, others pushing in when they're halfway (plus!) down the field and going to win nothing. This isn't what I enjoy. Even during the race, my memory was flashing back to those majestic moments when all seems right with the world.....the descent off Helvellyn in the Old County Tops, when I clearly recall the uplift and excitement of seeing pairs of runners emerging from the mist, all over the fellside. In the past, I think (think? yeah right!) I'd have gone into my shell and brooded about my lack of enjoyment of the race. Instead, I decided to "opt out" and just enjoy as best I could. I slowed down, I took in the views, I enjoyed watching people around me floundering in the snow and mud and, actually, quite enjoyed myself. And I made a mental note to only do races which either have a low number of entrants, are open to route-deviations and/or are long!! (6mls & 900ft)

New Year's Day was the perfect antedote however! An icy 9am start in Dewsbury to the Hangover Hike. A smattering of runners, plenty of hardened long distance walkers. Toast and tea and off you go when you're ready. And a very pleasant morning out it was, skidding on icy paths, looking out across snowy scenery. By 1pm we were back in a fantastic, welcoming pub, supping a pint or two to wash down pie and peas (for £2.30 no less!!!!). What a way to start the year, while most people were in bed nursing hangovers! (21mls & 1,800ft)

Saturday was a rest day, watching the snow fall again in the evening. Unfortunately, I didn't move the car down to the bottom of the hill first, so it's still stuck outside, unused, 5 days later!

Sunday saw me head out (alone again, naturally) for a trot around the moors. I decided to do the Hebden route (just because I could!) on a very icy day, with plenty of new snow to make it even harder. I enjoyed myself, but time was against me. And the lovely downhills which can be motored were slowed to a crawl by sheets of ice. I enjoyed it though, made a couple of mistakes, took the slightly higher path down Jumble Hole Clough (I wasn't going on the edge of the drop with the path THAT icy!), slogged my way up to see THE most glorious sunset from Stoodley Pike, then descended down to Mytholmroyd in the dark (having not packed my headtorch!). A lovely afternoon out to end the week. (18mls & 3,500ft)

Total for the week - 55mls & 9,700ft

Well the weather shows no signs of abating, meaning no trips in the car anywhere. And any thoughts of heading to the Lakes for some trots over the fells are placed on the shelf marked "warmer weather". But a 50k around the Calderdale moors planned for Saturday, and hopefully another 20 miles on the moors on Sunday should keep me going!