Sunday, 19 December 2010

Ding Dong...

Merrily on high and all those festive things.
I'll not be blogging for a little while, for reasons which will become apparent when I return. In the meantime I'd like to wish all my readers the merriest of times this Christmas and hope that all your goals be achieved in  the New Year.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A new training method

I had a new training partner for my run yesterday. HIs name is Jarvis, he's very quick, can run all day and has a brilliant level of grip on even the iciest slopes. He does struggle a bit with stiles though. Which is because my new athletic hero is a 10-month old jet-black cocker spaniel. (Hence Jarvis. Jarvis Cocker...) 
His owners were away yesterday and asked me to take him for a walk. I thought maybe I could take him out when I went for my River Loop run. Perhaps he'd enjoy lolloping along; after all, I've seen how much Charlie enjoys taking ultrarunning collie for a run.
The owner's last words to me were "He's got a harness because he pulls a bit and... (make strangling noises)... you know... on his throat". So my first task was to try and fit this onto his hyper-excited, wriggling body. Let's just say, it went on but I'm still not convinced it wasn't upside down!
And we were off.
Well, dear readers, I could not believe the power that could be generated by that small, well-muscled body. He shot along, nose an inch from the ground, bounding through the soft snow and dragging me skittering over the icy bits. It was the greatest fartlek/interval session I've had in a long time. (I think I'll call it a 'doglek' session). Jarvis would charge off until we reached the next  stile where he would either a) sit down and look up expectantly as if to say "This is when you have to lift me over" or b) he would jump up on top of the wall and wait, tail wagging while I helped him negotiate the down side. Once over, we were off again. As quickly as possible.

Needless to say, the whole experience was absolutely brilliant. So much so that I extended the run (also in the vain hope of tiring him out a bit) so we were out for about 50 minutes. I'm going to ask if I can borrow him again. I would love to be able to let him off the lead, but there are pregnant ewes about and I'm not sure how he would respond to my calls in his excitement to make friends with/chase them. Maybe in time it will be possible.

In all the excitement I forgot to take my camera, so I'll try and get some shots of him at a later date. But just imagine a cute-as-you-like black cocker with silky, floppy ears, perpetually swishing tail and, I swear, a big grin on his face and you won't be far out.

Smileyrating 10/10 from me 2/10 from Jarvis. He wants to go further, faster...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sunday's long, snow, steady

As a tabloid headline "Birds ate my snowman's mouth" might not be a bad offering, but it is precisely what happened yesterday to our neighbour's fine creation. He, and his two-year old son, laboured mightily to create a stunning 1.7m high snowman complete with cricket bat (in honour of the Ashes), a classic carrot nose and a very Raymond Briggs' Snowman-ish hat. But, crucially, the mouth was made of currants. Which is why, when my brother-in-law Pete and I returned from our run, the homme de neige was very much sans bouche and was left with a rather gummy smile.

End of local neighbourly bulletin. To the run. And what a glorious run it was too. I've no idea how far we went (I really must get my Garmin back up and running) but we were out for 1hr 27 minutes in about -3 degrees C, in dazzling sunshine. We ranged along the foothills of Potter Fell (our local fell) then turned and ascended its broad flanks, up to Potter Tarn and then along to Gurnal Dubbs and down. The snow was about 6cm deep - drifting to 2m or so where it blew against the stone walls. There were boot tracks, fell running shoe tracks, X-country ski tracks, toboggan tracks, rabbit, sheep, chicken, other unidentified bird and dog tracks. But we only saw two other people; he walking purposefully and happily, she trailing behind carrying her coat and looking as if she'd rather be anywhere else but out in the sparkling sunshine.

It was, in short, a fabulous run. It was made harder by the soft snow necessitating a higher knee lift with every stride, but it was brilliant. I'm only sorry that I forgot to take my camera so I can't show you any beautiful shots, but if you imagine opening any coffee table book of 'The Lakes in Winter' - it looked exactly like that!

Smileyrating 10/10

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The hills are alive...

...with the sound of puffing.
After a great 6 hour walk in the local snowy hills on Sunday - and therefore no long steady run this weekend - I felt that today I should make some effort and have a more intensive session. Admittedly, after sitting at a computer all morning, it was a joy to be out in weather like this...

which is why I'm grinning like an idiot (whilst squinting into the very bright sun)

Anyway, to business. Time for some Kenyan hills. And I know just the hill. It goes from the nearer tree on the right, up and round the corner to the upper tree on the right. It takes (me) about a minute to do, and gets my heart up to about 172bpm, which'll do nicely.

So I did 6 reps, which was about 12 minutes of continuous up and down running. It was fun putting fresh prints into the snow. After I'd done a couple I had the bright idea of using fresh snow for each uphill bit...

Photographic evidence of having done my hills! It was as knackering as Kenyan hills always are, but I have to say it was fantastic too!
Smileyrating 9/10

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Round and round...

...the sheep field
like a lumbering bear
one rep, two reps,
Less than half-way there.

Three reps, four reps
Only one to go
5! thank god I'm done
'Cos I am knackered so.

Round and round the sheep field
in the chilly sun
intervals are such hard work
A masochist's idea of fun

Smileyrating 9/10 for doing it at all

Saturday, 20 November 2010

An Apology...

I'd like to apologise to the Lakeland fells, particularly those between Sadgill, in the Longsleddale Valley, and Kentmere.
You, dear fells, stand there, magnificent in your altitude and isolation, your flanks combed by the wind, your marshy depressions dark and mysterious and your stony tracks washed clean by tumbling streams.
And how do I repay you? By stumbling up and down your stony tracks, by disturbing your stones and muddying your crystal streams, by plotching deep into your dark marshes, by polluting your wild windswept tranquillity with groans and wheezing.
You give me an hour and a half of fantastic cardiac workout, in glorious sunshine, leaving me happily knackered and glowing with a sense of returning hill fitness. And I give you water-filled footprints, flattened rushes, muddy scars and stony scrapes.

I'm sorry.

Umm. Will you be OK by next week?

Smileyrating 8/10

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Of squirrels, bears and breakfast

Busy, busy, busy. I've been working in Chester so haven't blogged. Sorry. I must tell you about my Sunday run. It was early, before breakfast and it was cold. In a Three Bears kind of way, the cloud was really low on the hills above me and the mist lay wet and heavy in the valley below me, but where I was it was just right!
I stayed on the road because everywhere was knee-deep in mud because of the recent rains. I ran up the hill, into the cloud - where the temperature dropped noticeably -  then contoured along a hill high above Kendal. The lane was running with water and it was littered with stony debris that had been washed from the fells and verges. The lane is bounded by moss-covered stone walls about shoulder-high. As I plodded along my eye was caught by a flash of movement. It was a grey squirrel, that ran alongside me for about 20m until the wall snaked round a tree, at which point it decided it had had enough of my wheezing and it disappeared up the tree. I tottered on. The lane steepened downwards and the air was full of the sound of streams rushing off the fell.
As I turned for home, the low, brassy, sun finally emerged from behind the cloud and backlit the mist, turning it into into sheets of gold. Beautiful.
As for the run? Well, I did it. It wasn't fast, my backside muscle still hasn't settled down and was aching a bit, but it is just such a delight to be out that I didn't really mind. I felt I'd earned my bacon and eggs!
Smileyrating: 7/10

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Bread and butter

Here's the scene: I've got a bottle of Pinot Grigio chilling, a brace of pollack fillets in the fridge awaiting Mrs HF's gastronomic genius (I could do a whole other blog devoted to this subject; SmileyEater?, SmileyGuts? Smileystuffyerface?), The Jam's 'Sound Affects' on the CD. And I did my River Loop run for the first time in many, many months.
Life's good.
After Sunday's mighty Kentmere Horseshoe, it took until today for my solidified quads to decide to flex enough to allow me to bend my legs sufficiently to permit running. So at lunchtime I tottered out. And it was shocking. I wheezed and huffed my way round. I plodded glacially up the hills. I creaked my way down. And I thought... this is what it's all about. This sort of run. When you struggle and groan and revel in the sunshine, the cool air, the beauty of the hills - anything that takes your mind off the fact that you are so not running-fit. The sort of run you do because you know that by doing it you'll feel better next time. This is training.
And, of course, once I'd twigged this, I relaxed into it and enjoyed it enormously. And probably got faster because of it.
So if Sunday was the Mrs HF gastronomic- de-luxe cake-with-cherries-on-top run, today was the bread and butter run.
And I reckon bread and butter makes the cake taste better.

Smileyrating: 4/10 for the performance, 9/10 for the weather 

Monday, 8 November 2010

A Happy Horsehoe

All the training books say that, on your long steady run, you should extend your mileage by, say, 10% a week. On Saturday I didn't quite do that. My longest run until then had been about 1.5 miles. On Saturday I did 13 with c.3600 ft of ascent. That's about a 767% increase! And it was utterly fantastic.
 Ultracollie (and Charlie) were up for a recce before his Lakeland 100 in July and fancied the Kentmere Horseshoe. So we met in a layby and set off in the most glorious cool, sunny weather. Three hours 39 minutes later we were back, necking strawberry milkshakes and stuffing our faces with flapjack.
 It was, as I've said, fantastic. After my miserable time since January, it was such a joy to be running again, and I couldn't have had better companions. DD and I chatted companionably the whole way round, and Charlie is just a delight, chasing sticks, trotting along the path, looking back to check where we were, and making friends with everyone he meets.

DD and Charlie making their way up Froswick. Charlie strolling.

A few seconds later - Charlie's got bored with strolling and has shot off somewhere!

As can be expected I struggled on the uphills, but managed to run on the flats and downs. But to be honest, I didn't care about 'performance'. I was just elated to be out, and I got round with nary a twinge from the operation scars. As I said, it was fantastic.
Thanks guys.

PS. I could hardly walk on Sunday and today (Monday) my quads are still sore enough to make creeping downstairs a right pain. But who cares. Hayfella's back!
Smileyrating: 10/10 doesn't do it justice somehow

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sunday worship

I'm very excited. I managed to get out yesterday (Sunday) morning, before breakfast, for my half-hour walk/run. This may not sound much but it had two things going for it: 1) It reintroduced the idea of getting out for 'The Sunday Run' a familiar ritual cherished by all runners and 2) I walked for 5 minutes, then ran for 10, then walked for 5 and ran for 10. So, wow, I ran for 20 whole minutes!
It was a bit gloomy, but deliciously cool with not too much wind as I made my way up the lane. On this route, about 15 minutes in, there's a beautiful white house that looks down the valley. It is home to a collie dog that sits on the cattle grid at the entrance to the drive and barks at everyone and everything that goes past. It's given me many a fright on a pitch black night when I'm running past. Anyway, she was out loose yesterday. She saw me, barked and came lolloping up. 'Uh-oh', I thought, 'savage beast alert'. So I stood quietly. And she promptly sat on my foot and leaned on my leg, chin upraised ready for it to be tickled. So I obliged and made friends with a real softie of a dog. Mind you, I think she'd rolled around in something ripe so it was a bit of a smelly experience, but there's a country dog for you.
All in all, a terrific run. I hope it's the start of regular Sunday runs. I've got a long, long way to go, but hope to get there, one run at a time.
Smileyrating 8/10

Friday, 29 October 2010

A pain in the a**e. A qualified success...

I did my little run on Wednesday. 5mins brisk walk to warm-up, then 5 mins light jog (uphill), 2 mins walk, 5 mins 'run', 5 mins walk then 5 mins 'run'. A gorgeous, blustery day (for some reason I've never minded running into a headwind. It feels as if I'm 'leaning' on the wind which is very comfortable. Must be my own peculiar biomechanics I suppose) with warm sunshine and a cool wind. 
You would have noticed the inverted commas in the word 'run' back there. To be honest, rather than 'run' I had more of an 'active shuffle' thing going on, but it was definitely not walking and it was as quick as I've covered the ground for a long time.

You won't believe this, but while I've been hors de combat, the council have been out and made all the lanes around here steeper. In fact, thinking about it, I expect all councils do this so they can watch the struggles of runners and cyclist's returning from an enforced layoff. Well, they did a good job around here, I can tell you.  I felt like one of those, let's be charitable, chubby, souls being forced to undertake an exercise regime on one of those 'Let's Torment Some Fatties' reality TV programmes. It was ghastly. Not quite hissy-fit, burst into tears and stuff my face with comfort chips ghastly, but depressing nonetheless. I'm definitely at Level 0. And on top of that, the day after, I had an ache deep in my right, ahem, buttock which seems not to want to fade away. Great.
So why, with my Level 0, achy-arse, Max HR = 205 (something wrong, surely), utterly unfit condition am I strangely drawn to ultracollie's kind offer to accompany him on the Kentmere Horseshoe next weekend? Must be the thought of the 'very, very easy pace'. Mind you, it'll have to be. I can't do any other. Yet.

Smileyrating: 10/10 for getting out at all. 1/10 for the resulting experience!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

On twingettes

Five and a half hours walking with Mrs HF around Caw and Stickle Pike (near Coniston) on Sunday. 
An hour's weights at the gym on Monday.
And nary a twinge the whole time. Yippee!
Things are looking up.
I'm still getting the odd twingette but that's it. These happen at the weirdest of times - like when hitching my rucksack up on my back in order to tighten the waist strap. Or when putting a lightbulb in an overhead fitting. Or squatting down to tie a shoe lace. It's profoundly irritating.
Anyway, I think it's time I began to consider turning myself from victim to runner. I've been hunched over my computer today, so now would be a good time. But it's raining. Maybe tomorrow. Better not rush these things. Tomorrow's forecast is looking better anyway, so I'm thinking of, say, a 10 min walking warm up followed by a couple of minutres running to see how it goes and then gradually extend the time. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Smug, moi?

Gym today. Lots of cross training then weights and core. I was at one with my inner Plank. Feeling really good about it too.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

One more step forward...

Just had a great couple of days. Yesterday Mrs HF and I took advantage of the gorgeous sunshine and walked for 3 hours - one and a half along the river to lunch at the famous Wilf's in Staveley, then one and a half back. With not a twinge from my midriff the whole time. This may not sound much, but it's such an improvement on just a few short weeks ago where I struggled to walk at all.
Today, we went to the gym. Did fast-ish walking on the treadmill, some weights and some core strengthening. I've discovered I can do the core exercise known as the 'Plank' without a twinge. Which is great, because it is brilliant for core stability, but also a bugger because I've got no excuse not to do it!
So, once again, the slow grind towards some form of fitness begins. I hope I can sustain it this time.

Friday, 8 October 2010

A funny way to spend an evening...

Here's something to try:  Go into the garden at 6 o'clock tonight and find yourself a nice knobbly bit of lawn. Put an empty garden compost bag down. On top of that, put a sit mat and sit on it; then recline with your shoulders and head resting comfortably on, say, a rucksack. Stay there until twenty past eight, watching the sun go down and the stars come out.
If you replace 'lawn' with 'marshy Lakeland fell', you'll get an idea of how I spent last evening. I had my first proper experience of 'bodying'for the Lake District Mountain Rescue Dogs, (see earlier blog). My job was to make myself comfortable 'hidden' behind some clumps of rushes and wait for the brilliant dogs to find me.
It was a beautiful evening. The sky was largely clear, but as the sun set, it set on fire a huge bank of cloud blown in by the cool easterly breeze. I lay back, comfortable and relaxed.
My radio squawked into life. It was Ollie, who was directing the night's training: "Ollie to Body Steve - Einich (dog) and Joy (handler) are on their way. Don't do anything. Play dead". "Body Steve to Ollie. Copy that. Play dead".
I lay back and watched the shadows creeping up the hill opposite. Within seconds I heard panting and the drum of footsteps and Einich, a border collie, thundered in, ran over me, licked my face and sat by my right ear barking furiously - just as she was supposed to do. A few minutes later, Joy hove into view and we both extravagantly praised Einich and rewarded her with a few throws of a tennis ball which she absolutely loves. In this way she learns that finding people is the quite best fun she can possibly have in her life.
Pretty soon she was off - there were two more 'bodies' out there to find - and I resumed my tranquil observation of the waning light and rising stars. It was so beautiful.
And so the evening passed, with Einich being followed by Sam (a large, very handsome border collie with the most almighty loud bark) and Kitt (a small border collie but so fast and agile and incredibly intelligent). It went dark and got colder as the breeze picked up. I put my hood up and my gloves on and watched as the handler's headtorches pinpricked the darkness.
The dogs all found me on the way back. This time I could sense them coming by hearing the panting and the footsteps and by seeing the flashing red lights on the backs of the special jackets they wear.
At about eight twenty it was over. Pack up, headtorch on and trudge back to the car with the other bodies, comparing notes; "Were you cold?", "Did you get midged?", "Did Sam bark as he should?".
What a brilliant introduction to this fascinating world. Training continues year round, through rain, snow, hail and gales. And I hope to be out there with them, lying on the ground for them to find.  For them it's play, but of course it's critical play. The dogs have already been called out 56 times this year. And the nights are drawing in...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

On the mend again...maybe

Well, it's been a funny ol' time. For a couple of weeks I've not wanted to blog because I've been pretty despondent about my state of health and fitness and wanted to spare you a self-pitying whinge.
In a nutshell, my doctor thinks I've had an unusual post-operative complication whereby a nerve or nerves are, in some way, being stimulated into firing, leading to random bolts of searing pain along the surgery incision. The result has been weird and unpleasant. I'd be walking along when, out of the blue, wham! I'd wince and lurch all over the place before carrying on until the next attack.
Unfortunately, this coincided with a holiday to St Ives. This is very hilly, with lots of steps, which seemed to set it off quite a bit! (Here's a picture I did, inspired by the view from our apartment window, based very loosely on on the styles of two of the St Ives artists, Bryan Pearce and Ben Nicholson)

Mercifully, though things have improved a lot this week and I did the shopping today with only a few twinges. I think it'll be a while before I dare risk running though.

Whilst in St. Ives we saw some exquisite Maggie Hambling paintings in a gallery. They were small oil or acrylic image of waves and were full of movement and life. So I thought I'd have a go...
Hmmm. Keep practising I think! If you've got this far, I might as well inflict one last painting on you...
Just to show I need a lot more practice with watercolour too!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Bl**dy weeds...

Think I've put my recovery back again. I was tugging some weeds out of the garden when I felt a burning pain in my affected part. So my running must come to a halt again. Heartsink time.

Monday, 6 September 2010

On thoughts of Africa...

Another 7 o'clock trot out this morning. I did 4 minutes running with 1 min's walk, times 3 (or, in my shorthand '4 on, 1 off  X 3'). Pathetic really, but I'm creeping back towards being a 'proper' runner (I fancy having a go at ultracollie's genius 'Four Trigs Traipse') and I had only the slightest of discomfort at the end of the third running leg which eased off as soon as I walked. So I think things are getting better.

It was another beautiful morning, with a warm south-easterly breeze. Yet it had a poignant edge: Over the past couple of weeks I have been watching with pleasure the swallows as they wheel and dart above the house and skim over the fields snapping up the insects disturbed by the tedder as the farmer dries the grass for winter feed. They are brilliant little birds and today, as I went down the lane, there they were, all lined up, chattering, on the power line like children attending a new school in their new uniforms. When I came back, a mere 25 minutes later, they'd all gone, every last one of them. I wonder if we'll see them again this year or whether, even now, they are winging their way to their wintering grounds in Africa. I felt a little pang of sadness at the loss, but cheered myself up thinking that sometime soon, under an African sun, there may be someone out for a run whose spirits get lifted by the arrival of those same swallows.

Smileyrating: 9/10. Lovely run, but with a hint of melancholy

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Oh what a beautiful morning...

It's 7am. I'm out the door. Just up the drive I see...

"Morning sheep!"  I begin my 10 min warm-up walk as specified on my program. A gorgeous scent wafts past my nostrils. Aha! that's why...
10 minutes later, I'm fed up with walking. I'm warmed up. At the crossroad I can go left or right. Right leads up a hill. I go left...
At last, grass. I start my 4 minutes jog. The dew-soaked grass gives me wet feet immediately...
This small rise leads to the river, where it all flattens out. The river is so tranquil this morning...
This part is beautiful and flat. As I run along, quicker now, I see a heron fishing in the river. You'll have to look hard to spot him...
All too soon, I'm at the halfway stage. Just touch the wall by the steps and then turn back...

I retrace my route, running gently 4 minutes on, 1 off. It's been so long since I've run, I'm shocked by how hard I find myself breathing. I see the steam of the paper factory rising vertically in the still, cool morning air. It's been a beautiful run, but it's over all too soon.
I lean my soggy Roclites against the wall of the house to dry and think; This is a sight to stir any runner's soul...
Roll on tomorrow!
Smiley rating for this run: Sorry, but it's got to be a 10

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Soggy feet and a doggy treat

What a great day. 7 o'clock this morning found me doing careful 2 minute intervals on the flat path along the River Kent. It was cool and beautiful at this early hour. The dew was yet to burn off the grass and my feet made a pleasing swishing noise as I ran gently through it.  For the first time in ages, I got soggy feet while out running. It felt great.
The river is tranquil now as, curiously, were the sheep. They're normally a little skittish at this time of year, but this morning they grazed contentedly, raising their heads to look carefully at me as I ambled past before returning to their high fibre breakfast.
My rehab programme recommends I run for 2 minutes, followed by 2 minutes walking, repeated 3 times.  This sounds as if it's hardly worth getting out of bed for,  but I followed it religiously and finished wanting to run more and with no discomfort. So maybe it works. I have to do this a couple more times and then I can up the intervals to 4 minutes on, 2 minutes off, for a further week. I'll let you know how it goes.
Smileyrating 10 (I'm still over the moon at getting out!)

I made a few new friends tonight. Their names are Kit, Skye, Bruach, Scar and Annie. They are very, very special. They are all Border Collies who are, or who are training to be, search and rescue dogs for the Search And Rescue Dogs Association. I have volunteered to be a 'dogsbody' for the Association to help train the dogs. When I've learnt the skills (how to respond to each dog, how to get it to bark when required, the right level of play to use depending on the stage of its training etc.), it'll mean spending my thursday evenings, and the occasional weekend, lying in a bivvi bag out on a mountainside, pretending to be an injured climber or walker, waiting for one of these extraordinary animals to come and find me.  At the moment it means getting to know all the dogs and their handlers, so I get lots of doggy playtime. It's great!
If you should see a 'SARDA' collecting tin on a counter of your favourite gear shop, do drop a few coins in. As with all Mountain Rescue in the UK, it's all entirely voluntary and made up of dedicated people who turn out, dog in tow, because somebody else's world has gone horribly wrong.

Monday, 30 August 2010


As the days perceptibly shorten, as condensation appears on your car windscreen in the morning, as the sycamore leaves in the hedgerows become dusted with the silver of mildew and the blackberries hang in juicy profusion, something strange is spotted in the fields along the River Kent. 'Tis a strange, shuffling creature with a big grin on its face. Yes! it's a Hayfella, bimbling along in the great wide open for the first time in months.

Following strict instructions from Mrs HF, I walked briskly for 10 minutes to warm up, then entered the fields where I ran gently for 30s followed by 30s-1min walk. This was repeated for 20minutes and then I walked home. And the good news is, that I had no ill effects in the nether regions at all. (Perhaps I should point out that surgery has left me with two 4 inch long scars, one on each side of my groin, right where your knicker elastic goes!).

The running was simultaneously brilliant and awful. Brilliant that I should be doing it at all. Awful in that I've got such a long way to go before I can run anywhere as I would want to run.  But today, in the most beautiful conditions imagineable for running, the brilliant won out.

Swim tomorrow. Then run again on Wednesday. Maybe I'll run for a whole minute. Double woo hoo :)

Smileyrating for this run: How could it be anything other than a 10!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

HR Sorted

Thanks to the genius of Mrs HF, my HR queries are solved and I now have three numbers to guide my training from as soon as I can start running again.
Here's the method she used:
Assume HRmax = 180 and HRrest = 48.
180 - 48 = 132. This is the heart rate range.  To work out the training zones you take the required percentage of the range and then add back in the HRrest. So...

Long slow steady training at 65%      = (65% of 132) + 48 = 134
Cardio/aerobic training at 75%          = (75% of 132) + 48 = 147
Interval/anaerobic at 85% or above   = (85% of 132) + 48 = 160


Now all I've got to do is to get healed enough to actually run. I've had a bit of a set back while turning over inadvisedly in bed, so it might be a week or so yet.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

On heart rates

Took my resting pulse in bed this morning. 48bpm. It might have been lower, but I had to get out of bed to get the heart monitor and strap it on!
Still,I'll settle for 48.

What I'm uncertain about is my max HR.  As I rapidly approach my 54th birthday then the '220 minus your age' rule of thumb (or should that be rule of ventricle?) gives me a max of 166. But on my bike ride the day before yesterday I had an average of 152, or 92% of my theoretical max. Now I'm pretty sure no-one can exercise at 92% of their max for 44 minutes, so I think my own max HR must be higher.

Until I can get out and do a maxHR test, I'm going to use 180 as my max. This is a figure from my last maxHR test, performed at least 10 years ago. Even this higher figure means that I was biking along at 84% of max, and, when walking yesterday (I went to post a letter in the village and took the longer way home, walking briskly all the while [isn't 'briskly' a fabulous word?]) my average was 95, or 53% of max.

I think I need to find the more sophisticated rule of ventricle for working these things out. Can anybody help?  It seems the height of conceit to imagine I'm doing my stuff with the heart of a 40 year old.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

It's a start!

After being hunched over a computer all morning I took advantage of the fine weather to nip out for a quick 30 minute walk this lunchtime. What a gorgeous day. Lakeland in full colour. Enough tumultuous cluds to make it look exciting, incredibly vivid green grass - thanks to all the rain - and peculiarly pink-hued sheep.
I had a fantastic time and... (dramatic music under...)...I RAN A BIT!! All of 50 metres up and over a grassy hummock but it's a start. I felt a slight groin pull, so will have to be careful, but WOW!
It's hard to imagine just how good it was to feel the wind flowing on my face as I eased over the grass. It's dispiriting how knackered I felt after having done it! I'm back to square one and will have to find a nice programme to ease my way back in. But that'll be fun compared with not being able to do it at all.
One good thing - being so out of condition, I got a huge endorphin rush from running just one little hillock. The fitter you get the longer/harder you have to run to get it! 
Sorry for the breathless tone. I'm a bit excited.
Smiley rating 10/10

Friday, 9 July 2010

One step at a time...

An update. I'm on the mend. I can sit, get up again (which was harder than it sounds a couple of days ago), walk around for a bit, and very nearly wash and dry my own feet. This sounds weird, but I couldn't bend for a few days; I could just about reach my knees! I can do my sandals up now, but socks are an impossibility!
I'm still not allowed to lift 'anything heavy' - but what is heavy? The coffee pot? The cast iron griddle pan? The hosepipe to water the fern collection before the ban comes in? Shopping bags? Can I take the bins out? I've done all of those except the shopping bags, which is the only example the surgeon came up with when I asked the question.  It's all suck it and see. But I can begin to picture myself out running again....
This is the dangerous time. Overdo it now and I could be back to square one. I must be patient.
One side-effect is that the enforced idleness has meant I've put on weight. So I'm now eating less. It makes life cheaper!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The journey begins...

Had my operation yesterday and would like to say a big Thank You to all the staff at the Day Case Surgery Unit at Westmoreland General, Kendal who made the whole experience as stress-free as possible.
Today finds me very sore, with a bruised groin sporting two whopping dressings. The ibuprofen+paracetamol is dulling the pain and, as long as I don't move below the waist, I'm all right.
In fact, today is a very good day. I'm thinking of it as the start of getting back out on the fells. I've just got to heal, strengthen, walk, and then, finally, finally, run. I'll get there.

Monday, 14 June 2010

There's light at the end of the tunnel...

...and it's glinting off the surgeon's scalpel.
I'm due to go under the knife on the 30th June. With an estimated 4-6 weeks recovery before any thought of gentle running. So, fingers crossed, I'll be donning the old fell shoes towards the mid/end of August. Maybe I should treat myself to some new shoes...

Monday, 7 June 2010

Lardy update

Well here we are. Five weeks after my 'pre-operative assessment'* I still haven't heard when my operation is to be. Despite phoning the person concerned once a week.
And no running in all that time. True, I am walking quite a bit, and have started swimming, but it's not the same. Trust me, nothing makes you appreciate running more than not being able to do it. I've mentally wiped out this year. I hope to begin training again as soon as I can, post-op, and then work towards getting back again next year.

*This was it, pretty much in full, after the necessary groinal probing:
You look a pretty fit young bloke. Do you smoke?
Allergic to anything?
Not that I've come across yet.
Right. You'll be getting a letter from my secretary.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

I'm just a media tart

A while ago I was asked to write a daily diary for BBC Radio Cumbria for their feature 'Little Cumbria' on the Ian Timms show at about 1745.
I did this, and recorded it today in the BBC studio in Kendal. I say studio, it's a room with a pair of microphones and headphones and a friendly engineer called Suzy (or Susie, I forgot to ask). Anyhow, I went in and did my stuff and was delighted to do it in one take, with no fluffs or serious glitches. It took me back 30 years to my days on Radio Hammersmith, Hammersmith Hospital's radio station - except we didn't have ISDN lines back then.
If you're interested to hear what it was all about, then try BBC Radio Cumbria, Ian Timms' show at about 1745, on the iPlayer. It starts on Monday and continues all week.
Next blog will be a thrilling pre-surgery update. You lucky readers. In the meantime, keep running and enjoy it. I'm thinking of you. It really is pretty desperate when you can't do it.

Friday, 26 March 2010

A bonkers chaffinch

Sitting at the breakfast table today, we kept hearing this thumping sound against the window. Went to have a look. Couldn't see anything.  Sat back down again. Thump!
Looking out more circumspectly we saw this male chaffinch staring into the house from the back of one of the patio chairs. After a few minutes bobbing about he'd launch himself at the window and...Thump!  All a-flutter he'd fly back to the chair only to repeat the process a little later. With the same result. We reckon he could see his own reflection in the window and, it being the time of year when territory becomes important, he was trying to see off this persistent intruder.
Despite being mad (doesn't one definition of madness run along the lines of repeating the same action in the expectation of a different outcome?) he is very prettily marked.
I'm wondering if we should stick a photo of a cat on the window so he doesn't brain himself!

Not a running post I know. But I have been out walking a lot.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Damn! Blast! B**ger!

Not a happy post. 
Remember my swine flu / chest infection from Christmas? It turns out that the coughing that it caused resulted in not only a torn rib muscle but, whisper it, a hernia.  I've got to have an operation. I can't go running. I can't organise my garden (I've got lots of earth moving to do) and I can't shift rocks around to build terraces at the fern collection I help care for in Windermere. 

This bunny's not happy.

Mind you, I did pop out for a little River Loop before I went to the doctors. It was beautiful. Cool air, warm sun, a few hardy lambs. The memory of it will succour me until I can get out again, though Lord knows when that will be. I'm relying on you all to get out, train hard and achieve your goals. I'm with you in spirit. Good luck.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Did my new quick loop yesterday. In just over a week, I've run it in snow and ice, soggy slush and, yesterday, springy grass in warm sunshine. As an added bonus there were, hoorayy!!, fresh lambs. Some were so little that they stood, a little wobbly, and looked at me - they might not have seen too many bipedal creatures yet.  Needless to say, my transit through the lamb field was a little slower than through the others....
What a lovely run.  I managed to catch up with Mrs Hayfella on the final hill home; she was out doing her own training session, so we glided home together.
Smiley rating  8.5/10

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Stripey world

Popped out last night for a nice hilly-ish half hour.  It was freezing, with snow-laden clouds and a sharp north easterly wind, but the light was fantastic. It was dusk. All the northern-facing slopes of the hills were still covered in snow and gleamed silver in the early moonlight. The other hills were grey-green except where the snow still lay at the foot of the stone walls. The result was that the world was grey-green with white pinstripes.
On my way home, the lights were coming on, twinkling snugly in the folds of the hills, with the bright lights of Kendal bringing an orange glow to the sky. Against the dark menacing sky, with the moon shining weakly through, it was rather lovely.
I've done this route numerous times and there's always a collie dog, at the entrance to one of the farms, that barks as I pass. So I shouldn't really have leaped out of my skin as I went past...
Smileyrating 8/10

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

On perfection

Is there such a thing as a 'Perfect Run'? I pondered this on my little trot out last evening. I'd been hunched over my computer all day and was dying to get some exercise. So I went out and had one of the most beautiful runs in a long time. 
I'd recce'd the route the day before, trudging through the sparkling snow, (joining a small girl throwing snowballs at her Dad who was sledging down the field) to link up some footpaths that I'd spotted last year.  Now, 24 hours later, a lot of the snow had melted and the ground was just beginning to get squidgy, making it lovely to run on. The sun was just beginning to set, suffusing the air and remaining snow with a soft pink glow. It was cool and still. Perfect. I ran as strongly as I have since before Christmas and glided up the hills almost without effort. Perfect.  Inevitably, runs like this - from stile to stile, gate to gate - turn into interval sessions and I rang strongly across the fields. Perfect. 
I got back and looked at my watch:  26.15. And my first, instinctive, reflex, thought was 'Pity I didn't break the 26 minutes'. And that is why I think there is no such thing as a perfect run. It's not the run, it's the essential dissatisfaction we all feel whenever we do go for a run. We always want to do that bit better. So, not perfect, but then no run can ever be (discuss). But it was pretty damn close.
Smileyrating 9.8/10

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Sheer delight

The world is on the cusp. Poised between winter and spring. You get the feeling it could go either way; slip back into winter's sleety grey, like yesterday, or continue inexorably forward into spring's warmer embrace.

I did my River Loop again this lunchtime, in glorious sunshine. It was lovely. Interestingly, where the ground was in shade it was still frosty and hard. Where the sun had hit it was soft and muddy. Some of the stiles round here are lateral stones laid through the wall. On the shady side they were still frosty and icy. On the sunny side they were dry and grippy. A schizophrenic world.

Part of my route goes through a copse by the side of the river. Later in Spring, this will be carpeted with bluebells - they're already pushing up through the leafmould.

It's a lovely place to run, even though my lungs are still full of grilch and I'm coughing my way round like a phlegmy sealion. 

So, what with my appalling physical condition (I've never been so unfit at the beginning of the season) and taking pictures, it was a leisurely pootle round. But what the heck, it was beautiful and there's not enough beauty in the world, so I'm going to enjoy it when it's there!
Smileyrating 9/10

Friday, 12 February 2010

A brief diversion...

This is a Magellanic penguin, who lives (with 159,999 or so of his/her mates) on Isla Magdalena, a bare windswept island in the Magellan Straits. They aren't very big, but are inquisitive and incredibly cute. They were one of the highlights of our recent Patagonian adventure.

Patagonia straddles both Chile and Argentina and is an enormous, empty region with huge skies (below is a shot of the Argentinian steppe. If you turn through 180 degrees, it looks pretty much the same!) It looks (and felt) utterly desolate, scoured by a chilling wind, but there are sheep up here)...

The mountains are stunning. I'm almost tempted to rate the Andes as more photogenic than the Himalayas. These are the Torres del Paine, in Chile. The black 'cap' of rock is ancient volcanic magma that forced its way up through the ochre sedimentary rock and spread out on top of it like chocolate icing on a sponge cake. Erosion by ice and wind did the rest.

It is also home to awesome glaciers. This is the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina. The ice towers up 60m from the water - and extends to 120m below it. This giant river of ice is continually grinding its way to the lake; deep, explosive cracking sounds reverberate through the valley and great slabs of ice fall off and plunge into the lake with a great roar and huge splash. We waited for ages, but only saw one little bit break off - but that was impressive enough.

The lake below is not steaming...

This phenomenon is caused by the wind. It is so strong, it blasts onto the water, and atomises the surface into droplets which are then driven by the wind. The sunlight on the droplets creates rainbows which span the lake. It was an extraordinary site - but the gusts made it so hard to walk in. We were forever being flung off balance.

I wouldn't want you to get the idea that we had wall to wall sunshine. Our visit to the Fitzroy massif in Argentina didn't have quite the scenic majesty we would have wished. This is a viewpoint for the hugely impressive range...

An hour's further trekking took us higher and nearer...
We finished our trip by visiting Tierra del Fuego. This was a fantastic place, with the clearest, purest air I've ever breathed and stunning scenery. A real highlight were our trips on the Beagle Channel - named after Darwin's ship.

Back to running for the next blog...

Monday, 8 February 2010

Back from the end of the world...

Startling times in the Smileyrunner camp, and I almost swoon at the thought of writing it, but... yesterday I went for a run.

Now I know that's what you expect in what is ostensibly a running blog, but this was special. It was the first run I've had since the swine flu/chest infection/rib muscle tear triumvirate comprehensively knackered up my 'training' before Christmas. For the record, it was my favourite little 2.7 mile River Loop, in a leisurely 29 minutes, and it felt absolutely great to be back out on the frozen fields.

I appreciate that this is nothing compared to what you lot are up to, with your heroic mileages, silly hills, reps, gyms and skittering about the Lakeland tops on pointy things (you all know who you are, and well done everyone), but it's a start... and I have spent the last three weeks trekking in Patagonia.

The full details will appear in another blog (I'm sure I could blog ad nauseam about how fantastic it was) but I've got to download the photos first. So I must ask you to wait.

D'you know, I think I'll go out for another run tomorrow. It can get a bit addictive can't it.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Out at last!

Yesterday was a triumph. Mags, her brother Mike, and I went for a walk in the winter wonderland . We started in Ambleside, headed off up the Struggle and veered off towards Red Screes. It was beautiful, if very windy, with great swirls of spindrift hissing over the snow. The sunlight was strong, even though it was hazy with cloud.
After 2 hours of plodding uphill in the slippy snow I'd had enough and we turned back, leaving Mike to get to the summit and work his way back to the car park.
It felt great to get out, even though I was shattered after just 3 hours or so. We're off to Patagonia soon, where we will be trekking for c.6 hours a day. Normally, we try and get nice and fit before we go. This time I think we're going to get fit by doing it, which isn't ideal, but there it is. Having done yesterday's walk, I feel much more positive about it all. So I'm going to give it a high Smileyrating...
Smileyrating 8/10 for doing it. 2/10 for the nasty iciness

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Sting in the tail...

Just when the antibiotics are clearing up the chest infection, a vigorous cough resulted in a pulled muscle in my ribs. So now every cough and sneeze is accompanied by a stabbing pain and I can't lie on one side!
On the other hand, I did get out yesterday for an hour to clear snow and ice from our communal path. It was nice to feel I was doing something for the neighbours, after having watched their toil over the past two weeks. I was completely wrecked for the afternoon, so just had to lie on the sofa and watch the final series of the Wire. That's what you call a silver lining....