Sunday, 22 February 2009

Of lambs and clarts

Sunshine. Blue sky. Fluffy white clouds amid the grey. The grass getting more vividly green as its chloroplasts wake up and kick the magic of photosynthesis into a higher gear. You'd be forgiven for thinking it was spring. Particularly when you add in the swathes of snowdrops (is it me, or are they particularly good this year?) and the first few lambs bouncing about looking uncertainly at the world. All in all, a morning to make you feel good and a morning that found Mags and I out on a brilliant route under Whinfell Ridge. The rules for these Sunday outings are simple: Run when you can, walk when you want. This formula is guaranteed to give you a good time, you can put as much effort in as you want ('Challenge by Choice' as the outdoor adventure industry mantra has it) and you get to explore new areas. I tend to dash about like a mad thing, looking for the next stile, the next landmark,while Mags makes more steady progress. It's a bit like fartlek, only less disciplined. Cripes, I even felt like doing a few intervals when we got to some particularly smooth, grassy slopes.
Of course, not all was smooth and grassy. "It's a bit clarty" said a friendly walker referring to one of those walled lanes that leads to a farmyard. His uniformly glistening, well-clarty, boots certainly bore this out. It suddenly made our feet, shod in New Balance trail shoes or Montrail Highlanders, feel vulnerable, but not even decades of cow dung, inches deep, could spoil such a cracking run. The only thing that spoilt it was that I forgot the fruit pastilles, so when we were struck by the urge for breakfast, all we had was water. Hey ho.
Smile rating 8/10

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Of skylarks and spaniels

"Right...", says my stern inner voice, "... you've had a week's fantastic snowshoeing in Chamonix; the best snow for 15 years, 6 hours a day, at least 700m of climbing, a refreshing -4 to -16 degrees C. You'll be all fit and ready for a nice trot over Potter Fell to Staveley and back along the river".
Sometimes I hate my stern inner voice. No more so than when grinding to a halt up the grassy slope through the mist, with steamed up spectacles, that leads to the track which in turn eases its way to the top of the fell. Readers, I felt like a lardy pudding, with legs like string and lungs with the strength of wet paper and the capacity of an acorn. Grumbling, I ground on and then, as is so often the way, Nature offered a reward. This time it was a skylark (or at least, it sounded uncannily like a skylark. I'm no ornithologist, but I presumed it was overwintering up on the moor) trilling joyfully, maybe at the thought of the oncoming spring. At once my spirits lifted - as did the mist - and all of a sudden the running got easier as I went down off the fell and discovered a new footpath that avoided having to come out of Staveley on the road.
The river was lower than I expected, the woods were full of snowdrops and vivid green leaves of bluebells which promise a beautiful show to follow.
Only one dog out today - a lovely little long-haired spaniel that was determinedly pulling its owner along. "She's on her way home to her breakfast" said her owner. So was I. And after 9.79 miles, with 1,178ft of ascent/descent, at an average pace of 11.05, and a shower, I got to it. And as I munched I thought of ultrarunning collie doing 19 miles and 12 miles and planning a C2C of 190 miles. And my little effort seemed rather pathetic. But the skylark was wonderful.
Smile rating 3/10 pre-skylark, 8/10 post-.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Of slush and snowmen

In Hyde Park last Tuesday the snow lay 8cm deep and perched precariously on the black bronze statues. There were snowmen everywhere, signs of magical way that snow brings out the inner child. Sadly, work pressures prevented me from running during the week, so my training slipped back a bit.

However, I managed to get out for a short River Loop today - this is a lovely run that starts out following the river high on the grassy fells and loops round to finish through the woods alongside it. It's a lovely run, full of interest; stiles, walls, gates, bridges, fields, road, wooded footpath, cascades... it packs a lot in in its 3-if-your-lucky miles. I took some pictures and once I've discovered how to get them from phone to computer I'll try and post them. It was cold, and bright and the hills were still streaked with snow, as if giant pigeons had been a bit liberal with their poo. A bit like some of London's other statues if you get my rather tortuous drift. The wind was freezing, as it has been all week, but it was still a smashing little run. It was nice to be home.
Smile rating 8/10

Monday, 2 February 2009

Whoever said...

...the hardest steps in running are those from your bed to your kit couldn't have been more right on Sunday. The easterly wind was battering the roof tiles, the weather forecast was full of snowy doom and the duvet was extra snuggly. But, as always, a certain stubborness takes over, and the thought of not getting out, not training and not being ready when the decent weather comes, seems worse than the act of actually doing it.

So I headed out, just a 7 mile easy run today. Because of the strength of the wind I elected to stay low rather than go high on the hills, and I went along the River Kent towards Staveley. It was lovely underfoot because the ground was part frozen , and it was close-cropped by the sheep (Thank you, sheep). They were wisely huddling in the lee of the walls and hedges, their grubby, greeny-grey fleeces being parted by the wind to reveal surprisingly white roots - a sort of reverse peroxided blonde.

On the outward leg, I found a new route through the woods. I love the feeling of exploring as you run. You sort of know where you are (with a river to follow you can hardly go wrong) but you're never quite certain if the footpath you're on is going to veer off in an unexpected direction. This one skirted the sewage works (the romance of running, eh) and rejoined the riverside to my halfway point. Then it was back, flogging against the wind all the way, to well deserved porridge and that feeling of self-satisfaction you get when you've done your run and you've got the whole of Sunday stretching ahead.

Smile rating for this run 7.5/10