Sunday, 22 March 2009

On reading 'Fellrunner'

Interesting article by John Easterbrook in the current issue of 'Fellrunner' magazine. He compared the record holders' times and the climbs in fell races and derived a mathematical model to explain them. One interesting number leapt out. Gird yourself. Record holders run flat bits of the course at pace of 5min 38s/mile. Yep. If you're not running 5.38, forget it.
With this happy thought in my head I set off, after a basic breakfast of cereals, toast and tea (the standard breakfast as developed by dietitians at the Institute of Pretty Much Everyone who Goes Running) for a fantastic local challenge; A loop which starts at Sadgill, heads up the Gatescarth Pass, veers northwest to Harter Fell and continues anticlockwise over the Knowe, Kentmere Pike and Shipman Knotts back to Sadgill. 7.8 miles, 2,210 feet of ascent/descent.
The ascent is grim. Gatescarth is an unrelenting stony path, in a beautiful valley, which starts off fairly comfortably and gets steeper and steeper as you approach the Pass. The journey was marked by the sight of a herd of sheep (who were curiously the lovely pink colour of sandstone in the sunset) being shepherded up the path by a Defender and two collies. The collies dutifully rounded me up with the sheep and the farmer encouraged me to go through the flock as he was taking them right to the top of the Pass.
Once at the Pass the freezing wind was absolutely howling across the tops. My windward side was chilled, but my lee side was in the sun and was hot. I was reminded of the old statistician's joke: "With my head in the oven and my feet in the 'fridge, on average I'm perfectly happy". Bundle of laughs, statisticians.
Once the ascent relented, the flat and downhill bits were fantastic. Wind-assisted, with gorgeously dry, soft peat underfoot and legs flowing. It felt brilliant. A final steep, stony descent to an equally stony path and that was that. A wonderful time in the hills. It's why you do the wet reps under grey skies in winter.
And did I touch 5.38? Did I **!$%£^&*!!! I did see 7.42 at one point, but the grovelling uphill resulted in my moving average pace being 13.35 with an overall time of 1hr 48mins. Now, 'Fellrunner' also tells me that the Langdale Horseshoe Fell Race on 10th Oct is 14 miles/4,000ft. That's double what I did this morning. So about 4 hours then. Hmmm...
Smile Rating 9/10

Thursday, 19 March 2009

On the magic of sunshine

I dunno. You spend most of the year plashing about in the cold wind and rain, praying for some sun and then, when it comes, all you can think of is 'Blimey, it's hot'. Or is it just me?
This lunchtime found me back out in my rep field, moving my rep stones from wall to fence post as I dutifully did my 8x400m (ish) reps. It was such a beautiful day, but my heart wasn't in it (though that's not my heart monitor was telling me!). It was a day for some lovely long, easy trot over the gorgeous countryside (I was thinking 'Kentmere round'), not reps all hot, sweaty and dehydrated. And then I thought of all those runners who were trapped in offices and workplaces, desperate to get out and I thanked my lucky stars and got on with it. Which is probably why reps 7 and 8 were the quickest. And why I'm going to give the session a smile rating of 8/10. It's amazing what a bit of sunshine will do.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Of daffs and nutters

Good, blustery, bog-standard, run today. One of those you do without thinking. Just 4.8 miles on a new, brilliantly undulating, route that followed Potter Fell road as it curved round towards Staveley and back. The snowdrops are looking a bit battered now, but they've been magnificent this year. They're gradually being replaced by the daffodils. The first few of the yellow wave to come were out, swaying in the wind in the grassy verge. There were a couple of woodpeckers drilling overhead. This is such a distinctive sound, but I've yet to actually see one doing it.
I'm reading Roger Deakin's wonderful book 'Notes from Walnut Tree Farm' at the moment, so my head's full of Nature type stuff. It's the sort of book that colours the way you view the natural world.
And so I drifted along, happy with my thoughts, as the magic of running exerted its effect; making me feel benevolent to the world and happy to spread bonhomie all around. So when I waved cheerily to the guy in the silver Range Rover as he came out of a junction, I was just being friendly. He looked startled. I reckon the word 'Nutter' was not far from his thoughts.
Smile rating 7/10

Thursday, 12 March 2009

It should be available on the NHS...

...should running. But not just any old running. Because going for a run is available to pretty much anyone anyway and is a prophylactic measure, not a remedial one when something's broken down. But there is a special form of running that should be available to help heal a damaged spirit. And that is running through, or by, fields of spring lambs. Be honest, who does not feel better by watching the little wriggly pipe-cleaners bouncing about, full of the joys of Spring?
This was my lot yesterday during my 40 minute tempo run. 10 minutes relatively easy (to the post box to post a letter as a matter of fact) followed by 20 minutes at a faster pace, then 10 minutes easing off (mind you, this was uphill, so it was slower but not easier). The trouble was, a chunk of the 20 minutes was past the aforementioned lambs so, shall we say, my attention to pacing wandered somewhat. Still, it was a brilliant run. Knackering, endorphin-rich and with lambs to boot. Not even the relentless drizzle could put a damper on it.
Smile rating 9/10

Monday, 9 March 2009

On the hatefulness of vagueness

It was the pylon that did it.
Maggie and I were out on our Sunday exploration, on a jaunt around Oxenholme. We were following a guide book and gradually began to realise that whoever wrote it didn't quite see the world as we did. So, for example, after about half a mile of 'I think this is right' we approached a stile in a wall leading into a large field. The instruction said something like '...tend half right to a stile' which, when you're presented by a dirty great field with hundreds of yards of wall isn't the most helpful of guidance. If it was me, I'd have written something like 'Cross the field to a stile just an arm's length to the left of that humungous great electricity pylon that even now you can't help staring at, such is its overwhelming visual domination of the scene ahead of you'.
Shortly after this, we had 'At the second gate go right following a wall on your right' which was fine except that a) you're never quite sure what 'second' gate means. What if you've missed one? What if the gate no longer exists but the gateposts do? Do you count it? and b) if you went right you'd be following a hedge on your right. No wall. Left wasn't an option as it led into somebody's garden. Straight on was a path - but again no wall. Retracing our steps to a previous correct instruction led us once again to the same place.
Then it started to hail. We'd been out for nearly 2 hours. We had had only a rudimentary breakfast. The map showed we were near a road that took a short cut back to the car. No contest.
And so ended one of the most frustrating of runs. Lots of muddy farmland. Lots of back and forth. Lots of anxiety and irritation about quite where we were meant to be. Grrrr!
Smile rating 2/10. No, make that a 1.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

On pulling ones socks up

There I was, whimpering feebly about having to do a few 400m reps because there were snow flurries flitting past the window when I read ultracollie's blog. 800m reps on a soggy, plashy track in the freezing wind. Right. Time to elevate those loop-stitch lower limb encirclements and GET OUT THERE. And whaddya know? It was fine. The snow eased off, the sun came out, you could believe Spring was in the wings, and my 7 x 400s were done in short order. I couldn't do them on my normal fields because the sheep have been brought down and they, as they do when this pregnant, stood, lay or mooched around moodily and watched, dull-eyed and disinterested as I did loops of my favourite field, moving my rep counter stones from one bit of wall to another.
Thanks ultracollie. You shamed me into it!
Smile rating 2/10 while doing it, 7/10 when it stopped.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Of the fugitting of tempus

Coo, doesn't time fly eh! In no time at all over a week has passed since I last blogged. In that time I've done 2 great runs and one so-so. The great ones were completely different in character, one from the other. The first was one of those, all-too-rare, magic runs when, from the very first step, it all seems to flow and you feel you could go as fast as you want for as long as you want. It was just 4 miles in Macc. In the dark. But it was magic. Definitely a 9/10 smile rating. The other was a 1hr47min run up and over Potter Fell from my doorstep. This was with my brother in law Pete who was up from London (before he heads off to go up Everest). We awoke to the sound of rain splattering the windows. It was the sort of weather that, if you get out, makes you a serious runner. Despite the meteorological challenge, it turned out to be a terrific run, hilly and muddy but always with that dash of self-righteousness you get from being out when you could be at home. It was great to run in company too.8/10 smile rating.
The so-so run was this morning's 4 miler near Staveley. I couldn't get going, it was just plod, plod, plod all the way. The tempus fugitted mighty slowly!! Still, there was a ray of light in the gloom; a handful of oystercatchers were flitting about with their wonderful piping sound filling the air. Last year they hung around the flooded fields in the Spring. Hopefully they'll do so again. Either that or they were blown in from the coast and seeking shelter. Either way, they bumped the smile rating from a lowly 2 to at least a 5/10.