Wednesday, 24 June 2009

I love summer!

Don't you just love these long, sunny days? After a day working at the computer it was a pleasure to get out for a super 7 miler along the Longsleddale valley. The route starts with a couple of miles that tend uphill, but it's along a lane; cool and sheltered by the overhanging trees and lined with ferns and clouds of midges. It then breaks out onto open fields full of somnolent sheep.
I saw not a soul, though you could hear the noise of traffic on the nearby A6. It felt as if I had this magical corner of the Lakes all to myself.
I felt good, pushed it and felt as if I was going quite well. The Garmin told the true tale of course (well, its version of the truth. For some reason it stopped after 20 mins. I didn't notice for about half a mile!): 9.09 min miles, for 7.97 miles and 1350 feet of ascent. Still, at the moment I'm happy with anything under 10 min miles, especially off-road. A good run.
This might be my last blog for a while, for reasons I'll explain next time. Bye for now and smile when you're running.
Smiley rating 8.5/10

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

On looking Californian

The world witnessed a weird sight today.
Smileyrunner in shorts (gasp!), T-shirt (no!), baseball cap (never!) and shades (what were you thinking?!) running in the powerful sunshine for 4 miles. I looked Californian. Without the tan, teeth, ripped musculature, flowing locks and good looks, obviously. I would have taken a pic. but left my phone at home.
Still, it was a nice, flowing, pleasing little run, only interrupted for the purchase of a few stamps in the village shop and to post some letters. But, boy was it hot. The countryside had that heavy, indolent feel about it. If, in your mind's ear, you turned the sounds of the birds into the sound of crickets, you'd think you were in the South of France. It was like running on holiday. And that's why this humble little trot, which I did as a tempo run, gets such a good rating.
Smiley rating 9/10

Monday, 22 June 2009

A run, a chat, a sneeze

My brother in law, Pete, was up this weekend, so I had company on my 'long' run (9 miles this week) which made a nice change. It's been a long time since I did an accompanied training run. We had a thoroughly pleasant time of it on a route which we named the 'Three Rivers' because the course takes you along the Kent, the Mint and the Sprint, with a few hills, a bit of golf course, the edge of a light industrial estate and caravan site in between.
I'd hoped to splice together two previous routes, but it didn't quite work. For the key bit I was trying to remember a walk that Mags and I did about a year ago, but we were running it in reverse and I made a mistake with about 3 miles to go. So on my midweek runs I'll try to put it right and get the final piece of the jigsaw into place.
The grasses are absolutely at their best at the moment. Great waist-high stems with nodding pink panicles making fields look like shimmering purple water, all pinpricked through with startling yellow buttercups and white daisies. Very beautiful - and a bugger for my hayfever as I was itchy-eyed, sneezing and wheezing as we went.
My training goes up a notch this week, with my Tues/Weds/Thursday runs being 4/8pace/4, whereas I've had 3/6/3 for a couple of weeks. Next weekend's long run is 14 miles. And so I creep ever onwards towards the September marathon and next April's 53...
Smiley rating 8.5/10

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Well, THAT didn't work...

It seemed like such a good idea. For my '6 mile, pace' today I thought I'd just follow the Dales Way, which runs towards Windermere to the west, and, um, Yorkshire I suppose, to the east. It's one of Britain's major walks. Must be clearly marked. No need for such fey affectations as map and compass, surely.
It was the waist high sodden grass that first alerted me to the fact that my course and the official, well-walked, path had obviously drifted apart. That and the lack of any signage, however vague. So I just did one of those 'follow-your-nose' type runs where you run roughly in the direction you want to go, going around the edge of fields (so you don't flatten the crop. Well, any more than the day-long rain had done) until you find a gate or stile or way back to sanity.
It was actually pretty good fun, apart from the field of inquisitive steers that, in that slightly spooky way they have, ran along about a pace behind me. They were so little, I couldn't actually hear them. So you can imagine the shock when, on stopping to try and find a way out of the field, a dollop of cow dribble plopped onto my calf. JESUS! I'd no idea they were that close.
I tell you what, this running in the country lark is packed with incident. I feel sorry for those folk who, when they go out for a run, just go out for a run, run, and then stop. They don't know what they're missing!
I did the 6 miles, varying the pace by the cunning ruse of running hard up the hills on the way out and then running hard down the hills on the way back and running hard after every stile or gate. Overall, there were 2.76 miles of uphill, 2.41 of downhill and 0.96 on the flat and my heart spent most of its time in Zone 4 (80-90% of max). So the run became a weird hybrid of hills, intervals, tempo and fartlek. Hintertempfart I shall call it. Do try it.
Smiley rating 7.5/10

Monday, 15 June 2009

Ooh me aching bones

Not many larks about this morning, but I got up with as many as there were. At 0550 my feet hit bedroom carpet. At 0600 they hit Wilmslow pavement to do the 12 miles I should have done on Saturday. (I couldn't do it then, because I was out with the British Pteridological Society hunting for interesting ferns. What a life I lead).
It was a very pleasant morning as I ran from Wilmslow, through Alderley Edge for 6 miles, there to turn round and head back. I quite like out and back routes. Psychologically, turning for home feels good, every step takes you nearer, whereas with a big loop it doesn't feel as definite somehow.
I was doing pretty comfortably until 9 miles, where everything started to ache - particularly the groin muscles and right ankle for some reason. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the route was largely on road, though I ran as much of the grassy verges as I could. (Thank you Cheshire Council mowing teams).
After a bit of a battle, I got home in 1hr 48, which is a bit rubbish but at least I've got the miles in my legs.
Smiley rating 7/10

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Is it summer yet?

I ask because it wasn't here at 0650 this morning when I nipped out before breakfast and do my programmed 3 miles.
It was a still, soggy, heavy sort of morning with low cloud, the grasses stooped beneath the heavy dew and the trees bowed under the weight of the sky. Adding to the gloomy atmosphere, the sheep were all lying down, preserving their dry warm patch.
The dew was really heavy so my feet got soaked running through the long grass. It was freezing! My toes went numb, which is not what you expect in June. Still, it was nice to get out.
I felt dead slow again. I think I can still feel Saturday's effort in my legs, or maybe yesterday's. Oh well. Onward.
Smiley rating 6/10

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

On cognitive dissonance

Being smug is an unattractive thing, but feeling smug is, well, pretty good really.
I know this, because I'm feeling it right now. I've done my 6 miles and went out when it was sunny. Now I'm back it's raining!

I did a super route, through the village, along the River Kent, through a golf course, along the river again, and then through some fields to home. Lovely mixed terrain, with few hills. I felt I was running really well and began to think that this (for me) more serious training is beginning to pay off. I'm sure I'm thinner because my Garmin HR strap kept working loose!
So you can imagine my disappointment when the stats showed I was just sort of bumbling along at 9:30s/mile. Mind you, I did have to slow down in the last mile or so because I was trying to find a new way home, but still. I guess that there's a mismatch between how you feel you're running and how you're actually running sometimes.
Something I did notice today; when you run early afternoon mid-week you see an awful lot of people out walking their dogs! One particular lovely black St Bernard-type decided to bound along with me for a bit until he was called off by his owner. He looked a bit disappointed to stop. I like to think he was enjoying himself. I was.
On ultracollie's recommendation, I've entered the Lowther Trail run on 9th August. I think that means there's going to be 11 of us! It looks nice. 13 miles, mixed terrain, c.1500ft of ascent.
Smiley rating 8/10

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

No pain, no breakfast

3 miles at 0645 today. Gorgeous morning, cool and sunny.
Ran the 'lost camera' route. Alas, didn't find it. MInd you, the grass has grown another couple of inches. Talking of grass, my legs pricked itchily in the shower as I washed the pollen off.
Pleasant run, but hard, as it was relentlessly uphill on the way out. Still, it's another tick on my programme. 6 miles tomorrow.
Smiley rating 6/10

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Bedraggled runners unite!

Awoke at 0430 this morning to the sound of torrential rain pounding on the skylight. Oh great. The weather forecast was right. Then I realised that it would be another 8 hours before I was on the start line of Garburn (one of the Lakeland Trails series). Maybe things would improve.
They did. We set off in merely light sleet at 1230. For safety reasons, the organisers shortened the route from the projected 15 miles to 11 miles. This was because snow and strong winds were forecast on the Garburn Pass and the Mountain Rescue were concerned about runners getting hypothermia in the time it would take to reach them.
I must admit I was glad. My programmed long run today was only 11 miles, so this change of plan suited me perfectly! And it was quite hard enough thank you. We had rain pretty much all the way round which, as I have written about before on this blog, is a right b*gger for those of us who wear specs as it makes foot placement that much more iffy on the sort of stony terrain we covered. At its worst, we had great fat sleety dollops of rain blasting at us while running over moorland, through calf-deep puddles of freezing water. I knew that ultrarunning collie, runningbear and hordes of others were out at Wharfedale and events around the country and felt we were all one soggy, chafing brotherhood. I hope you all had a good time. I felt pretty ropey but was chuffed when I looked at my Garmin stats later: 11.89 miles, with 1,521 feet of ascent/descent, in 1:57:29, at a moving pace of 9.58. Oh, and there was a curlew bubbling away at one point on the moor which always lifts the spirits.
I hope everyone racing today had an enjoyable time and has a feeling of personal satisfaction.

Things I learned today...
  • Having Mags (and niece Helen) at the start/finish was wonderful
  • Vaseline on the feet is great (thanks urcollie)
  • Frijj strawberry milk shake immediately post-run is great
  • I should have taken a peaked cap to keep, maybe some, rain off my specs
  • Resist the temptation to use fingers to wipe the rain off your specs as long as possible - you're into smeary-vision world very quickly else
  • Chocolate-covered Kendal Mint Cake at the water stations is brilliant - thank you organisers
  • My Montane wind/showerproof top, though fabulously lightweight, wasn't really up to the job. Must investigate a better alternative for serious rain

Smiley rating 7/10 for performance, 9/10 for the race organisation

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

On despair

Sad run today. After pounding my keyboard all day I was up for getting out to do the '6 mile pace' demanded by my programme. It was such a lovely evening that I thought I'd take a few pics for the blog with the new Coolpix camera that Maggie had bought for me as a surprise present. So I tucked it into my bumbag and did the first 1.3 miles across the fields up towards Potter Fell. This is quite steep and I pushed it quite hard. I thought I'd catch my breath while taking a few pics.
So you can imagine my horror when I discovered that the camera wasn't there. Somehow it had worked it's way out of the bumbag. It was lying somewhere in 1.3 miles of grassland and uncut meadow.
So I spent a disconsolate hour and ten minutes going slowly back to my start point and then going back over the whole route again. To no avail. I must have walked past it three times, but I couldn't find it. I know it's only an object, a 'thing'. But it had special significance and I'm very sad.
Up until then I was really enjoying my run too, I felt as if Iwas going well.
Smiley rating -10

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


My programme for this week says 3 miles today, 6 mile pace tomorrow, 3 miles the day after with 11 on Saturday. (I'm following Hal Higdon's marathon training schedule, prior to moving smoothly onto his ultra programme later in the year (in 14 weeks time)).
So I was out of the house this morning, just after the sports news at 0630, and it was brilliant. The sun was up, but the shadows were still long. The air smelt wonderful, full of the fragrance of grass, earth and flowers as the sun's early warmth lifted the dew.
I followed a familiar route for the first mile and a half and then, rather than just turn back the way I came, I followed a footpath sign across a field I'd never been in before. And that's when I had one of the most fantastic experiences I've had as a runner. I was making my way across this broadly domed field when I heard a really loud 'peeeiow' sound and a two large shadows flew over me. It was a pair of buzzards wheeling around, gliding just a few feet from my head. They circled round, calling out, before lazily drifting off to a copse of trees where they alighted on what looked like a dead branch. They were HUGE. And majestic. And magnificent. It made the fact that the footpath had disappeared and I had no idea how to get out of the field completely unimportant.
I realise this log is reading more like a 'Nature Notes' article in the paper than a proper athletic running log, but I guess that's just the way my running is going right now. I'm getting the miles in, I'm working towards a long-term goal that seems, frankly, terrifying, and I'm getting some extraordinary experiences right on my doorstep. So I'm going to keep at it and see where this journey takes me.
See you tomorrow....
Smiley rating 9/10

Monday, 1 June 2009

Hello Lakes

So, 6 miles for my 'long' run this week, back home in the beautiful Lakes. I did it on Sunday. A Sunday of unbroken sunshine, dire warnings of UV exposure on the telly and with half a bottle of champagne inside me because it was my wife's birthday and, well, driniking champagne on your patio in the sunshine is such a rare treat that it seemed churlish not to help finish it.
Still, I left it a couple of hours thinking that I would have detoxed a bit and it would have got cooler. I was wrong on both counts. Nonetheless I headed out, with the plan of running out for 3 miles and then turning back.
This would have worked well if, at 2.8 miles I wasn't working my way round the perimeter of a newly-sown field trying to find where the footpath went. With the heat and the low sun, the thought of 'Sod it' went through my mind and I decided to turn round there and then and tack the extra 0.4 mile on the end.
This turned out to be an inspired idea because that final 0.4 was through the most gorgeous mixed meadow, full of calf-high buttercups and clover, alive with insects. The sun caught the face of each of the flowers turning the meadow into a pointilliste jewel.
So I had all that and little champagney burps all the way round. It was the sort of run that training purists would frown upon, but it was a delightful experience all the same. And that's what counts really. I'm not going to shatter records and trouble finishing tapes. It's the experience that counts. But I'm going to leave it a bit longer after the next bottle of shampoo.
Smiley rating 8/10

Bye Bye London

The final 3 miler of my London trip was another early morning jaunt around Islington. I found yet another new route (not that it's hard in London!) and nipped round pretty easily, despite it being incredibly warm.
As I ran I mused on plane trees. As you do. They are very common in cities as they cope well with the pollution. On one road I ran along they had been severely pruned to lift the canopy. They looked like gaunt lollipops with tall trunks and a clutch of naked branches sprouting from the top. They looked butchered frankly. But they can stand it for, high up, little buds were sprouting new leaves and the low sun made the characteristic smooth, splotchy bark stand out clearly.
Not a great run. Not a bad run. Just a run. Nice enough for a smiley rating of 6/10. My next run according to my programme, is a 6 mile slow jobby back home.