Friday, 30 December 2011

Unwarranted gloom

An interesting run this morning. I did a familiar 4.3 mile loop up and around the lanes before breakfast - and really struggled on it. My legs didn't seem to want to work properly. My ankles, calves and knees were sensitive. I felt all ploddy and out of sorts.  Looking back at my records, I'm wondering if it's because I have fairly quickly ramped up the frequency with which I've been running, combined with the fact that it's all been on roads and I'm really an off-road runner. All of which is leading me to think that my next exercise sesson should be in the gym to do some strengthening and core work.
Sorry this is such a self-absorbed post. I'm just a bit light on the post-run endorphins today.
Smileyrating 6/10

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

On a roll...

After a little local trot out yesterday (A pretty level 3.5 miles or so, in the relentless drizzle), I was out again today for a more challenging run with my brother-in-law Pete. Staying on the roads again (I can't wait for it to dry out a bit so I can get off-road) we did a hilly route around the lanes. 5.24 miles, 396ft of ascent/descent, which I did with an average heart rate of 149 - 2bpm over my aerobic target of 147. So a good training run for me, (thanks Pete), though my legs did feel a bit bashed up at the end. A rest day tomorrow, methinks.
It was wild and chilly out but at least it didn't rain. There was even a hint of blue in the sky to lift the spirits. It's been so unremittingly grey for ages it was lovely to see it.
After a pretty relaxed year, I seem to be getting some regular running in at the minute. This is great, but I'm going to be careful not to push too far, too fast to avoid injury. Isn't that just the greatest excuse for sofa surfing watching telly and eating cake!
Smileyrating 8/10

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Of lightbulbs and goose terrine...

Another chilly day. Another soggy day. Another chilly, soggy run done. Miles in the legs and all that. After  festively dusting and vacuuming the house (and nipping out to Morrisons for spare lightbulbs to replace the one I dropped (don't ask)) I worked my way round my local lanes again for about 45 minutes at 8:45 min mile pace (quickest, 6:48). The bald statistics hide the fact that it was, despite the weather, a lovely run. I was enjoying it so much that I put an extra loop on the end just to get some more running in.

According to my Garmin, I burnt 551 calories, though Lord knows how it calculates such a thing. Anyway, I'm no expert in calories, having never counted one in my life, but in my book 551 equates to a slice of goose terrine (made by the lovely Mrs HF), 2 slices of bread, green salad, slice of Christmas cake, mince pie and glass of sherry that I've had since then - and will still leave some left over for the fish pie, glass or so of crisp white and hot mince pie + chilled yogurt I am looking forward to tonight. As I said, I'm no expert...

Happy festive waddling!

Smileyrating 1/10 for the weather, 9/10 for the running

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Hard and immensely satisfying...

(Ooh er missus).

After a day of festive preparation which included wrestling the Christmas tree from the downstairs shower (where it was standing to drain the rain from it) to the lounge and then subsequently festooning it with baubles various, I really needed to get out and get some fresh air. So I belted out, headtorch on, and ended up doing a top training session which essentially involved running hard uphill for 15 minutes to a high point on the local lane, gasping for breath for a bit, then running back, finishing with a  with a sprint. Only 25 minutes, so short, yet as sharp as anything I've done for a while.  It felt GREAT.

Now our tree is up, the festive season at HF Towers is officially open. This brings mince pies, chocolates, cake and other seriously non-athletic comestibles into play. Maybe my hard little run tonight was a sort of pre-emptive guilt trip prior to the munching. Well, I'm not going to obsess over it. It's Christmas. I'm off to open a bottle of champagne and toast the lovely Mrs HF.

Merry Christmas all.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Runner's Tip No.1: Don't trip over the sheep

I like winter running. I nipped out yesterday for my little River Loop run. It's only about 2.7 miles, but it's got a couple of proper little hills and some gentle upward trending sections, a nice downhill to finish and a flattish bit along the river in the middle. It was glorious. Lovely sparkly sunshine, crunchy underfoot with the occasional soft bit that gave a wet foot (wearing white socks was a mistake), and somnolent sheep that didn't skitter off as soon as you approached. Indeed, on the downhill section I was working my way towards a stile which lay in deep shadow of a wall, with the low wintry sun shining straight into my eyes. Suddenly, less than a metre in front of me, a lump of shadow started up and jogged away from me. Yep, I nearly blundered into a grazing ewe. I don't know who was more startled.
And there we are. Not a great training session. Not a run that can be ticked off a training plan. Just a nice steady trip out around familiar local landmarks; the sort of run that'll keep me ticking over until the New Year when, as every year, plans get made and 'training' starts.
Smileyrating    8.5/10

Thursday, 15 December 2011

'Tis the season to be lardy...

Yikes! Has it really been that long since I've been out for a run? Oh dear.
Since my last run, I've had a brilliant weekend's training with the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs Association. And their Christmas dinner. And five days toil at the compost heaps of Holehird gardens for the Lakeland Horticultural Society. And their Christmas lunch. There's a theme developing here. I'm off out again dog training tonight and tomorrow I have, no prizes for guessing, another Christmas lunch.

But today I threw off my festive indolence, stirred my stumps and headed out into the gloom and gentle sleet. I did a road route as I didn't fancy wading through knee-deep mire which is what the land round here is currently like. Even the sheep can be seen picking their way through it with a combination of distaste and delicately placed feet.  The lanes were running with water and covered in debris, with muddy trenches at the edges where the tractor wheels have chewed up the verges. The only life I saw were the stoic sheep and a flock of black, raucous, birds. I think they were rooks, but I suppose they could have been crows; I'm a bit hazy on the corvids. One Land Rover went sloshing past me. It was cold and misty and permanently drizzling. I and the weighty collateral damage from my multiple Christmas feasts toiled and laboured up the hills. But, you know what? I had a whale of a time. It just goes to show what magic things those endorphins are. I had no watch or Garmin, so I've no idea how long I was out, but it was great.

And that's what it's all about really isn't it? Getting out and getting round and having a good time while you do so.

From deep within the gorgeous Lake District, I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a successful New Year.

Smileyrating 9/10

Thursday, 24 November 2011

How to fool a Garmin...

After a knackering week (training all weekend with the mountain rescue search dogs - which meant lots of steep climbing followed by lots of lying down - shovelling 3 tonnes of compost at Holehird, the garden where I volunteer, 8 hours of shredding at Holehird and a gym session), it was a relief to go for a run this morning. It also helped that I was in Harrogate with the lovely Mrs HF for the Knitting and Stitch show, and Harrogate was a new town for me to run in.
I did a simple loop from our B&B at about 0730 this morning as the day was lightening. The traffic was beginning to flood into the town as I worked my way uphill past substantial yellow stone houses and seemingly endless restaurants, Indian, Thai, Japanese and fast-food.  It was one of those runs where you have no idea where you're going; you just follow your nose. Luckily, at the top of the first hill was a church with a striking steeple that I was able to keep an eye on as I worked my way round the loop. I dropped down a hill, left at a roundabout and back up another long hill, following 'Town Centre' signs, until I emerged at the International Conference and Exhibition Centre from where I made my way back to the B&B.
I've no idea how far I went because the Garmin took over 7 minutes to locate the satellites. At one point it pointedly asked me 'Are you indoors?'. On answering 'No', a spark lit up its little brain and it asked 'Have you travelled hundreds of miles since last use?'. Well only sixty-something actually. All this led me to think that the poor little thing was busily scanning the heavens for its familiar Cumbrian satellites and, when it couldn't find them, started looking for Yorkshire ones!
All in all, a super little run - and another town to add to my list of places I've run in.
Smileyrating 7.5/10

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Warm sun? It's November!

Is it me or is the weather just weird this year? It's November 12th, so on my trot out today, I dressed imagining it was November 12th: Long-sleeved thermal, shorts, leggings, windproof -with hat, gloves, waterproof overtrousers, cereal bar and water in bum bag.  I should have dressed as if it was August 12th. The sun was beaming, the breeze was a balmy south-easterly, and within 45 seconds I was wrestling the windproof off and rolling my sleeves up. What a gorgeous day.

I did a familiar route around my local hills. According to the Garmin it was 7.38 miles with 931ft of ascent, which I ran at an average moving pace of 11.05minute miles. So not bad, considering I've not done any specific hill training for ages. It was just a lovely, steady/slow plod up to a tarn with the curious name of Gurnal Dubbs:
The route comes in from top right of the tarn and runs all the way round it. From here it continues on towards Staveley, past a place called Potter Tarn, which you can see in the mid-distance here:

Here's a curious fact about Potter Tarn. My hairdresser's Mum swims in it quite regularly throughout the summer. She's probably not supposed to, so don't tell anyone will you. In the shot you can just make out the path snaking down towards the tarn on the right hand side of the picture. This was a fantastic part of the route as it was on close-cropped grass (thank you Kendal Rough Fell sheep) which was a joy to run on. Lower down, the route degenerated into cow-trodden mud which was just hard graft, but still enjoyable.
All in all, a top run for a lovely day.
Smileyrating  9/10

Saturday, 5 November 2011

A christening in the sunshine

New shoes. Always an exciting moment for a runner. Here are mine, fresh from Pete Bland's in Kendal this morning, before I set out on a wonderful, life-affirming run...

Being such a glorious day, I headed out to the gorgeous runner's playground that is the Kentmere valley.  The village was busy, with lots of parked cars, but I squeezed into a space and (pausing only to photograph my new Roclites - as you do) headed for the Nan Bield bridleway which begins by winding its way between stone walls...

...before arriving at a point where the valley is laid out in front of you. Imagine these two are a panorama and you get an idea of how gorgeous the day was:

It was great to be out and I was ran fairly easily, enjoying the sensation of having mud, rock, grass and stream bed underfoot. The Lakes have had a lot of rain recently which means that the streams were in full spate, so I had wet feet for most of the way. It was refreshing, shall we say.
I ground on, being made painfully aware of how little hard running I've done recently; as soon as there was an uphill section, I really struggled, plodding and gasping for breath. After 45 minutes, I'd made my high point, paused for a cereal bar and drink of water and made my way back down.  Once the energy from the bar kicked in, I felt a lot better and really enjoyed the run. And it's no wonder. The sun was shining, the breeze was delightfully cool, the sheep were content, the Lakes looked superb and the route was gently undulating but tending downhill. I couldn't have had a better day to christen my new shoes:

As I approached the car at the end of the run, I caught my reflection in the rear windscreen. A vision of sweaty contentment I think you'll agree...

Smileyrating: 10/10 for the occasion, 4/10 for my running

Monday, 24 October 2011

Proper hills. Proper mud. Proper run.

I'll be the first to admit that my recent runs have been somewhat leisurely affairs. They've mostly been on roads and at a comfortable pace. I have justified this to myself by saying that I'm just getting over a cold, and am recovering from a calf pull and have to 'ease back into it gently'. But you can do that for only so long. Eventually you have to go back out and do it properly. And today was the day.
By lunchtime here at Hayfellaville the gloomy cloud had lifted somewhat. The breeze was picking up. The grass was drying out - a bit. So I decided to do my classic lunchtime route which I call the River Loop which essentially entails running up one side of the River Sprint and down the other. The river runs serenely down the valley, but the land undulates wildly either side of it, so it's always in interesting route to do.
I set off and immediately noticed the fatiguing effect of running on muddy grassland. I ground on along the river and past the sad little unofficial grave on the side of the path that I suspect is the last resting place of a local pet. I was shocked at how heavily I was breathing; but then, I always am. It's been a while since I've done the route and I was pleased to note that the dangerous oak tree bough that overhung the path, and forced you to limbo under it, had been removed. Also, the broken bridge that used to span a muddy stream has been replaced so the route is back as it should be. I managed to ease along up the hills, slowly but steadily, and had a lovely surprise as I bounded* down the grassy fields on the way home. In one of the fields I came across a few Jacobs sheep. For those that don't know, these are beautiful animals, white with chocolate blotches and short pointy horns. I've only seen a few in my time and they are rather splendid. I'll try and get a photo of one next time I'm out that way.

After about 29 minutes, I arrived back home. MY PB for this run is about 24 minutes, so it was hardly earth-shattering, but, with the hills, mud and buffeting wind, it felt like a proper run. I loved it.

*As in tottering in a rather more uncontrolled fashion

Smileyrating 9 for the run, 9 for the Jacobs'!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

If it's Thursday, it must be Middlesborough

Last week I ran in Sheffield for the first time ever. This week, it was Middlesborough's turn.  Mrs HF and I visited MIMA - the Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art - to see an exhibition by Ben and Winifred Nicholson - with  a couple of Alfred Wallis's in there for good measure. We drove over last night, stayed at the Thistle Hotel from where I set out early this morning.

I love exploring new towns and cities on an early morning run. This morning it was very quiet, with hardly any traffic. It was cold, crisp and clear with a bright blue sky. I've no idea where I went. I turned right out of the hotel and ran around following my nose, going down streets that looked interesting. I came across these bells on one street and liked the way they were silhouetted against the morning sky:

As it's not a very big place, it wasn't long before I came across MIMA, with a statue called something like 'Bottle of Notes' in front of it:

At the other end of the square is one of those random fountains; this reflected the light fantastically as the jets spouted and foamed:
All in all, this was one of those short, uplifting runs that felt really good. After the hills of Sheffield it was great to run somewhere that was absolutely pancake flat.

Smileyrating 8.5/10 (it lost a few points for being more of a sightseeing jog than a proper run)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Me and Jessica Ennis have a lot in common...

...well, she runs in Sheffield and yesterday... I ran in Sheffield. (Mrs HF and I were over in the steel city visiting our niece who is at university there). Though it sounds a tenuous connection, when I'm out running, especially on Sunday morning, I quite often find myself thinking of everyone else up and down the country who is out doing their Sunday run. I imagine I'm part of a virtual community; a 'runnerhood' if you like. We're all out, breathing the same air, feeling the same pains, getting the same benefit. It's kind of comforting and makes the miles ease by.  Also, I very often have virtual companions when I run. I have had for years. I've run with Douglas Wakihuri (remember him?) on many occasions. Similarly, Ron Hill's been known to materialise alongside for many a mile. Paula's looked in, head a-bobbing. And, naturally, the blessed Haile G has many times jogged along for a chat before effortlessly pulling away. Does anybody else do this, or should I be making an appointment with somebody with a couch in their consulting room?

Anyway, I was running around the steep lanes 5 miles outside Sheffield in a place called Dungworth. It was fantastic. As I left our hotel (The Royal, a very nice pub-with-rooms place) the sun was coming up in the east, and the moon was still pretty high in the sky to the west. I plodded up hill and down, following lanes, with no particular route in mind other than if there was a hill I went up it. I ran past fields of contentedly munching cows, and grazing sheep. I heard the sounds of the countryside waking up - dogs barking and cockerels crowing. It was lovely. Here's a pic that shows, er, nearly, just how lovely it was:

And naturally Jess (as I came to call her as I got to know her quite well) was running alongside for a while before disappearing off to do yet more reps around a track somewhere...

Smileyrating 9/10

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

That's more like it...

Peer out of window. Grey dominates. Wind swishing the trees about. Sheep snug fast up to the stone wall. Thirteen degrees. Not actually raining, but showerproof top put on just in case. At last, proper running weather.
Next up - careful stretches, warm-up leg swings and cautious arm twirls.
And then a nice, easy 40 minutes. Up the lane, along Potter Fell road, down to the river and back along the lane. It was the longest I've been out for ages and ages and it was fantastic to be back doing a 'proper' run; one where you have to work at it to get up the hills and where it feels just great to be easing along the flat bits.
It's been a while since I've done this route and I noticed the little changes; how well Paul's extension is coming along (he has a fantastic house which looks out over a distant Coniston Old Man), that there seem to be a few less chickens scratting about in the field just as you turn down by the wall where a squirrel ran alongside me on a previous outing. Where the stone wall looks a bit more precarious since the rains. The tree crashed to the ground by the tail end of the hurricane.
Back home, more careful stretches just as Roxy - my brilliant sports physio - has prescribed.  All in all, marvellous. No twinges, no creaks. Lots of puffing, but so what. I'm back running again.

Smileyrating 10/10

Friday, 30 September 2011

New life. New look.

I've been playing with the blogger design thingy. Hope you like the new look. Just thought it was time. If ever I can get a decent mugshot, I'll include that too!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

4 runs, no tweaks :))

Sorry about the long delay in blogging, but, now I'm retired (sorry to rub it in) I've been so  busy!  I've celebrated by having a fantastic holiday with the lovely Mrs HF around Scotland.
We started by overnighting at Fort William and then heading north-west to Sutherland, staying just outside Lochinver. We drove as far north as Durness, where we had the most yummy chocolate truffles in, of all places, a disused Cold War early warning station. Strongly recommended. There was a delicious irony in the fact that our waitress was Eastern European. I wish I'd asked if she was Russian. I suppose radar station to chocalaterie is the modern version of swords to ploughshares.

From here, we took the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway on Lewis. To be honest, I was a little worried about this three and a half hour crossing - it wasn't long since the tail end of that hurricane had swept through and the Minch is not noted as a particularly tranquil body of water - but it was rainy, and we had a really calm crossing. This is us leaving Ullapool behind.

From Stornoway we drove the forty-odd miles south to Tarbert, on Harris, where we stayed for a week in a lovely little house. It's the little bright cream building you can see if you follow the line of the red roof in this shot:

We loved Harris. I found an off-road path called the South Harris Walkway, which I used as a run. It started up a steep hill (from where I took the above photo) and continued along the coast. It was early morning, so the shot's a bit gloomy (or atmospheric if you prefer). It was boggy, with jewel-bright colours of heather and moss. Really quite gorgeous.

The beaches on western Harris are fantastic, though this shot doesn't do them justice. The sand is made of crushed shells, rather than crushed rock. It is this that makes the sands so beautifully white when lit by the sun. Also, it makes the water a beautiful colour.
Here's a wonderful picture that Mrs HF (in acrylic, with rag and palette knife) did which actually gives a much better feel of what the place was like:
Here she is, collecting sand for another project
And here's my representation of her, done in hard pastels and conte crayon:

After our week on Harris, we left for a few days on Skye which, in comparison, seems impossibly crowded and developed!!  All in all, a fantastic break. I did three runs, all quite hilly and on broken ground, with nary a twinge. I ran this morning back home (I did the route I call the Buzzard Loop) in unfeasibly high temperatures and 75% humidity which was, frankly, weird for this time of year. It was fantastic to run without feeling as if something would go 'Twang!' at any minute.  Hopefully, I can build up time and distance nice and gradually and feel like a runner again, rather than a hobbler.
Smileyrating:  10/10 for Harris runs, 9.9/10 for this morning (0.1 knocked off for the lack of sea view)

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Not a vintage summer

Here we are at the end of one of the peak running months of the year and what have I done? Developed a dodgy calf that is slowly responding to therapy. Developed a touch of patellar tendinitis in the other leg which I hope will respond to therapy. Done a few lowly runs, done a few bike rides, done quite a bit of time in the gym.  All in all, not a vintage summer.
That's the downside. The upside is that, from 1st September, I shall be retired! After a 22-year career as an advertising copywriter I won't have to get up in the morning wondering about earning my living. It's very exciting and very weird. But it'll give me more time to spend with Mrs HF and more time to do lots of other things, including, I hope more running.
Hopefully, a vintage autumn awaits!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

No runner is an island...

Running's a funny thing. It's essentially solitary, yet you can't do it alone. You need a support team.  Recently a new member was co-opted onto the Hayfella squad. Her name's Roxy. Petite, dark, pretty and skilled in inflicting nasty levels of pain. Yep, she's my Sports Physio and she's fantastic. Let loose on the dodgy HF calf, she realised straight away it was all due to a wayward sacro-iliac joint, tilted pelvis and, quite frankly, pathetic hamstring strength and flexibility. And there was I thinking it was a bit of cramp!
She gave me stretches to do, strengthening exercises to do and then ground her thumbs along my tender gastrocnemus in a way felt like it was doing way more damage than the original injury. I've never had a sports massage before. Doesn't it HURT!
Still, I'm sure that, once the 'treatment tenderness' as she delightfully put it, has worn off, and I stretch and warm up more assiduously, I'll be back enjoying the hills.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Blogger problems

I've been trying to leave comments on people's blogs (Old Running Fox, Running Bear et al.) but Blogger seems determined not to let me. I get to the 'Word Verification' bit, complete it, click 'Post comment' only to go back to the 'Sign In' page. Again and again and again.... It's very frustrating.
Can anyone help?

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A brief catch-up

Hello again! It's been ages since I've blogged and stuff's happened. Most importantly,  congratulations to Mike and Pete, Mrs HF's brothers, who completed the Tour d'Etape (from Modane/ValFrejus to Alp d'Huez). A brilliant effort over an incredibly tough course under the blazing sun.

Since we've been back, I've been ticking over nicely, doing some before-breakfast runs, and some interval and hill sessions. Annoyingly though I've just kn*ck***d my right calf again (always a weak point), so I'm going to have to ease off for a bit. To try and get it sorted, I've booked myself in to Body Rehab, a sports clinic of high renown which is just down the road. One of their 'supported athletes' is Rob Jebb - fell-runner and cycling God - so they must be pretty good!

Because the calf's effectively kiboshed my running, I'm going to have to turn to the bike a bit more. Mind you, I went out on it on Saturday morning for the first time in ages and, rather embarrasingly (though also, it must be said, very comically), fell off.  I was trying to climb much too steep a lane when I ground to a halt and couldn't get my foot out of the pedal in time. I was abruptly deposited with my elbow in a brambly stone wall and my left calf and hip scraping the road. Ouch! I bear the scars of classic road rash with the added pleasure of picking bramble prickles out of my elbow.  I'll choose a different route next time.

Some great news to finish:

The man is Roger. Earlier this year his wonderful Mountain Rescue Search Dog, Beinn, died unexpectedly.  This little chap is Ted, his new dog.It hardly seems possible that this cute bundle could well be, in 2-3 years, charging up and down the fells finding people and saving lives.
But for now, it's hard to say who looks happier.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

A bientot!

I'm really into this 'no-watch' running caper. I nipped out at the end of the day yesterday for a cracking little run. I've no idea how far it was and I've only a rough idea how long it took (30 minutes). All I do know is that I missed the showers, felt strong on the flat bits and really struggled up the hills. Plus ca change. Which reminds me, my next run could well be in the Alps. We're off to watch my brothers-in-law try and cycle a stage of the Tour de France (this year's Stage 19, Modane-Alp d'Huez).
Alpine trails await! I don't think I'll take my watch.

Smileyrating 9/10

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Give me sunshine...

Another morning hunched over a word processor. Another morning's tension in the shoulders and brain. Bright sunshine outside.... It didn't take much to obey the call to go for a run today!

I popped round my new local route which is all uphill at the start and then downhill from about mid-way. It's pretty much all across fields, including one which is still knee-high grass (which caused great red weals where it brushed my legs - I must be more sensitive to grass than I thought), and one in which there are always a few hens free-ranging about. I felt really slow and ploddy, with tired (soon to be fetchingly blotchy) legs. Apart from that, it was great, with gorgeous warm sunshine, tractors buzzing about cutting the grass and swallows flitting about after the insects the grass cutting disturbs.

For the digitally inclined, here are the figures: Duration 27min 10s,  2.39 miles, 185 ft of ascent. Average pace 10:47 min miles. Average HR 141, max 162. Not inspiring from an athletic point of view, but most satisfying from an emotional one.

Smileyrating 9/10

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Runners' Rules

I think there's a rule of running which goes something like: 'Thou shalt run fastest when thou leaves thy watch at home - trouble is thou shalst never be believed'.

Well, I don't care. If tonight's run is anything to go by, it's true. I thought I'd nip out for a Buzzard Loop, before it chucked it down with rain. The last thing I agreed with Mrs HF as I went out the door was 'I'm just going to take it easy' (so no need for a watch), but as soon as I took my first stride I felt good. So I pushed up the hills, felt strong on the descents and enjoyed the flat bits. Net result: I felt faster than I have in ages. But was I? I'll never know.

Still, it's raining now. So that bit of the plan went right!

Smileyrating  9.3/10

A 'yow' called Nikon

After my last miserable effort, I'm delighted to report that I had a smashing run yesterday lunchtime. It was a warm, soggy sort of day (62% humidity according to the nifty little weather station gadget we've got on the windowsill) when I set off for a run that linked together bits of the routes I refer to as the 'River Loop' and the 'Buzzard Loop'.

It was on the first part of this that I heard, very distinctly, Click!, the sound of a camera shutter. 'Weird', I thought. There was nobody about. But then I heard it again, the distinctive click! of a camera shutter. I trotted on, looking around. And there it was. A bedraggled ewe (they call them 'yows' in these parts), head nodding with the effort, coughed/sneezed - and sounded uncannily like a camera. Phew. Mystery solved.

I then wondered whether sheep can get hay fever. After all, they are mammals, with mammalian immune systems and so presumably have all the necessary biological mechanisms to respond to allergens like grass pollen. Can you imagine being such a sheep? Sneezing and coughing, eyes streaming, wishing summer would hurry up and be over, being delighted every time it rained, going through a gate into a new field... oh bugger, more sodding grass... Atishoo! click....

Such musings kept me occupied for quite a while. The run was glorious. Even in the fields which have yet to be cut, with the knee-high soggy grass soaking my feet and legs (and leaving red wheals where my skin responded to the grass pollen) which meant I had to run with high knee-lift. Tiring, but good extra training. Rabbits were scurrying about. All in all, it was an enjoyable 35 minutes with 192 ft of ascent/descent.
Smileyrating 9/10

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Ho Hum.

Along the river. Up a small hill. Along the top. Downhill. Home. Just 4.6 miles. Average moving pace 9:45 min miles. Despondent.
Smileyrating 4/10. At least I got out.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Bimbling along

Went round my local River Loop yesterday lunchtime. Nothing special in performance terms. Not an interval session. Not a hill session. No fartlek. I just went out and ran. The weather was lovely - warm sun and cool breeze. Sheep and (large) lambs to say hallo to. Gorgeous ferns in the woodland alongside the river. The perfect antidote to being hunched over a keyboard all morning.
Smileyrating 7.8/10 (I'm getting very discriminating!)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

On losing count

I did a lovely hill session today. Lovely in the sense that it was Kenyan hills (where you just keep going up and down, trying to maintain as even a rhythm as possible) so you get into a sort of karmic zen mindspace where you just keep going and going. I was so mentally chilled (if physically boiling in the warm sun) that I lost count. I meant to do 10 reps and ended up doing 11. The reps took 2.05 miles - so I reckon that's about a mile up and a mile down.
That'll do nicely.
Smileyrating  8/10

Sunday, 29 May 2011

On the Question of Why

Why do we run?  I reckon the answers range from "It's just what we do" to "I'm keen to reduce my 10k/marathon/mountain marathon time", taking in the "I'm thinking I'll stay ahead of the Grim Reaper for a bit longer" along the way. It can be a complicated thing, this running lark. But not for me today. Today I had a really simple answer to the question. I ran to get the papers. And how liberating it was. I had purpose. A destination. I was the hunter-gatherer chasing down my prey. (OK, a bit of a stretch, but you catch my drift).  
I was five strides from the front door before I realised that the baseball cap was not a good idea. It is essential to keep the drizzle off my glasses, but a liability in the warm gusting gales that were blasting in over the fields and paper factory. I ran a loop through a little hamlet called Bowston on a route that took me along quiet, rain-washed lanes alongside fields with sheep and lambs huddling snug against the stone walls for shelter. The burbling song of curlews reinforced the air of desolation. Not a person, bike, car, dog walker, cyclist or tractor did I pass.
At the paper shop, the lad behind the counter looked with some distaste at the sweaty scruffbag shoving an Observer into his rucksack, and watched with mild bemusement as I extricated my money, with some difficulty, from the zipped back pocket of my shorts. To his credit, he managed a weak smile on receiving payment. 
The final leg was just half a mile or so uphill to home. It was a shock to realise that, because of work and other commitments, I have not been able to run for a whole week. No wonder I was feeling lardy and grumpy. And that's also why I run. Because if I don't, I'm not at all the pleasant, even-tempered Smileyrunner I want to be.
Why do you run? 
Smileyrating 9/10

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Running update

I'm sure you've not been losing any sleep about it, but in case you were wondering what's happened to Hayfella, the answer lies in that 4-letter word that begins with W and ends with K. Work. And if you had another in your mind you should be ashamed of yourself.
I've been in beautiful Copenhagen and not-so-beautiful Basingstoke with ultracollie but have managed to get a couple of little bimbles in: The first was a beautiful run around a local route I call the Buzzard loop (because I was buzzed by buzzards there last year). This was memorable because it was one of the most deliciously fragrant runs I've had for a while. The hawthorn on the hedges, the cow parsley along the verges and the vanilla/banana aroma of gorse (who'd have thought that gorse, that botanical thug, would have such a delicious, heady smell. You have to be careful where you stick your nose though) were lovely.
Smileyrating 8.5/10
The other was in Ireland last Sunday and, entirely my fault, was one of the most tedious affairs I've endured for a while. We (Mrs HF and I) were staying at her sister's and I thought I'd just nip out before breakfast and simply run along the main road for 25 minutes, turn round and run back. What I hadn't realised was that the road was dead straight. There were houses and gardens on either side, but the gardens were boring. The road, being so straight, was boring. The sky was grey. Boring. The only excitement was when a red Seat Ibiza overtook another car and shot past about three feet from my left hip. If only I'd've taken advice and gone round the lanes; at least I would have had some bends to enjoy! Ah well. It was done. Another 57 minutes in the legs (I overshot my turn off on the way back) and I felt better for having done it.
Smileyrating 5/10

Monday, 16 May 2011

It's not running, but...

It's been a tragic week or so for the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs Association. One of our most experienced dog handlers and an extraordinary man, David Watt, died in a accident while piloting his own aircraft. His funeral is later this week.
Twenty four hours prior to this tragedy, search dog Beinn, a brilliant dog with many finds to his credit, died unexpectedly at home. He was only 6.
As my readers know, I help out as a 'dogsbody' for the Association (I lie about on the fells to give the dogs someone to find when they are training). Doing this I have come to appreciate the strength of the bond between handler and dog and the enormous committment the handlers make, both to the Mountain Rescue part and to the Search Dogs part.
So, if I may make a gentle plea: If you're up in the Lakes and see a Mountain Rescue Search Dogs box - do pop a coin or two in. The money goes to help train the next Beinn.
A memorial walk for David was held on Saturday along Mickleden Beck in the Langdales. If you'd been planning a quiet walk there, you'd have been disappointed. You would have met  about 65 MR people and 46 dogs! The sight of them all (dogs, not people) charging after a tennis ball was something to see.  Astonishingly, during the minute's silence, the dogs fell silent too. They are special animals.
To finish on a positive note. Roger, Beinn's handler, is planning to train another dog.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Don't you just hate...

Well, I do just at the minute. But that's because I've just got back in after doing 8x30s with 30s rests. I should have done 10, but was so jiggered, frankly, that I came home.
I'm of the opinion that intervals are like medicine. You may not like it at the time, but it'll do you good in the long term.  Provided the side-effects don't get you!
'Twas a gorgeous day for running though. Blustery, but sunny and dry with lovely springy grass to bound over.
Smileyrating 5/10

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Don't you just love ...


This time of year, seemingly whatever the weather, they erupt from the moorland trilling loudly overhead.  And so it was this morning that my laboured run up to Potter Fell was accompanied by their distinctive liquid song.

It was a classic Sunday run today. I'd watched Match of the Day, had a bowl of muesli, and headed out . It was warm and windy, but thankfully the torrential thundery downpours we'd had last night had passed through. Everywhere was wet and sparkling. The River Sprint - so dry just last week - was again rushing and roiling over the rocks. Lambs were skittish. Last night was probably the first thunderstorm they'd ever seen, so I guess it's understandable.

I was anything but skittish. It was a struggle for about 25 minutes before I got into the swing of things and relaxed into the running. In fairness, the first 35 minutes or so were pretty much all uphill, so that might explain it.
By the time I got to the top of the hill, and the land flattened out into heather-clad moorland, I was puffing and wheezing like leaky bagpipe and was grateful for the skylark's beautiful  song.

For the stat minded, I did 6.64 miles - so not huge - was out for 1hr 9minutes, averaging 10.12 minute miles, and climbed 779 feet (c.240m).  My average heart rate was 153, which is midway between my aerobic and interval target HR (147 and 160 bpm respectively). Certainly it was way above my LSS target HR of 134bpm.  I'm putting it down to the hills.

Smileyrating 9/10. It was hard, but great!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A much-needed jaunt

There are times when you just have to go for a run. I'd had a frustrating day at work, grappling with a problem that I was struggling to solve, I had drunk too much coffee and I was anxious and fretful. "Go on, get out", urged Mrs HF, "And we'll go out and eat afterwards". So I donned shorts, top and Roclites and headed out into the evening sunshine. The air was surprisingly cool as I made my way up the lane and across the fields on a route I call the 'Buzzard Loop' because it passes close to where there are a pair of said birds nesting in an old tree.
As I bimbled round, the exercise worked its magic. I calmed down, thought nice thoughts, said hallo to the lambs and even did a couple of intervals between stiles. Even thought he grass was lush and green, the ground was bone-jarringly hard beneath it and I ran past areas that, only a few weeks ago, I was having to skirt because they were under water. It's amazing how dry it's been this Spring.
And we did go out afterwards. It was delicious.
Smileyrating 8/10

Monday, 25 April 2011

An arty aside...

I've been asked whether any of my artistic efforts from our recent holiday in Spain could go on the blog. With trepidation, I offer these...

Firstly, an olive tree, rendered with a bog-standard Pentel signwriting pen, on watercolour paper. When you wet the Pentel ink, it flows like watercolour.

As part of the course, we were asked to draw 'A Seat'. This is my effort. It's drawn in turquoise oil pastel, pretty much in one line, with a watercolor wash over:

In a more avant-garde moment, I tried to depict a towering palm tree, growing close to our room, using just a palette knife and acrylic paint. This took about 45 seconds to do and turned out far better than I'd hoped!

Finally, and thank you for your patience, an abstract triptych. This is a representation of a hill-top town called Salares. I took a photo from near the river, looking up into the town and was struck by how the glaring white walls and red roofs showed up against the uniform pale blue sky. The white is the paper, the sky is (I think) cerulean blue gouache and the roofs are cadmium red gouache.

This is the simplest of the images, yet it took the longest to create. The sketchbook page shows the labour pains...
Results notwithstanding, it was a great holiday. If you fancy it, it was Frances Winder's course based at the beautiful, idiosyncratic, hotel called Finca el Cerrillo - and it's already fully booked for next year!

Easter jaunts

What a beautiful day Easter Sunday was. Sunny, yet cool. Pete, Mrs HF's brother, was visiting so we went for a nice little leg-loosener run. 
On Saturday, we had spent 5 hours walking in the Howgills (gorgeous, massive, rounded hills, remarkably steep in parts), so our legs were a bit trashed. Hence we decided on a nice local route which went out flat along the River Kent and then turned hillwards and returned over some gently undulating farmland. Only 4.6 miles with 310ft of elevation gain, so nothing too strenuous, but it was surprisingly hard work.
The hawthorn blossom is at its finest just now; making the hedges great snowy swathes of delicate white. The fields are full lambs. Particularly cute are the Swaledales with their blotchy black faces and little black knees. They certainly make this time of year a special time to be out.
All in all, a pretty good Easter weekend's activity. Which will have to do for this week as I'm off to Munich first thing tomorrow for work and won't be able to get out until Friday. 
Smileyrating 8/10

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Good to be back

Just come back from a week in sunny Spain, where I've exercised nothing more than the creative side of my brain and wielded nothing heavier than a Prolene size 6 artist's paintbrush.
So, about half a kilogramme heavier than when I left, on Monday I set out on a gentle loop around Hayfella acres - and a gorgeous loop it was. It was only about 2.7 miles, but I put together sections of two different routes into one satisfying new route. Pleasantly undulating without being too heroic. Mostly off-road an sheep-cropped grass. Rather too many stiles and gates, but that's unavoidable. Every field full of cutesy lambs and watchful ewes (or 'yows' as they're called up here - you may have heard them called that on Lambing Live).  All in all a beautiful little run. 
Only marred by the fact that I think I may have re-tweaked the a*se muscle I pulled a while ago...
Smileyrating  9.5/10 (0.5 knocked off for the bum tweakage)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Retail excitement

Last night, on the way back from the pub, I peered through the windows of the new-look Pete Bland sports in Kendal. It was a hive of stocking-up activity. From what I could see, it's going to be fabulous. It was due to open yesterday, but wasn't quite ready - but any time now.

Slow run, quick post.

Headed east on the Dales Way on Sunday. 5 miles out, and 5 back. Legs and lungs were fine, but the route was, shall we say, tedious. After getting some fine views of the Howgills, the run descended into one where you're forever micro-navigating, trying to find Dales Way signs and heading blindly into enormous fields with only the compass to guide the way. Which was good for my navigation, but so frustrating. I longed to be out on the tops, following a fine ridge; instead I was splotching around quagmires trying to find the gate fastening. Grrr!
So the10.44 miles took me 2hrs 16mins (!) but I did go up and down 908ft, so it was a good training run in the blustery sunshine and showers.
Smileyrating (thanks Kate) 6/10

Thursday, 31 March 2011

An affair of the heart...

I've blogged before about the wayward nature of my heart rate readings. Somehow, if I set an HR target, I can never actually run to it.
Until today.
I set out intending to do a fairly short run, keeping to a heart rate of 147bpm, which is my aerobic target rate. And I managed it!  2.39 miles, 131ft of ascent at 09:11 min miles, average heart rate 146 (with a max of 164 going up the steepest hill on the course).
Rather ridiculously, I feel very pleased with having done it. It was a cracking little run too. Very blustery, but with lots of  lovely lambs to keep me company.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Runners' beer goggles

Why do we do it? Why, on a beautiful Spring day with fluffy white lambs in the fields and fluffy white clouds in the sky, do we go out and make everything hurt by running intervals?
I don't know. But it is what I did this lunchtime. 8x400m (roughly - it's two fields worth of effort) with 1 minute rests between them.
It was a slog from the word go. As they do, they got progressively harder until it got so embarrassing I stopped. Not the most technically advanced way of training, but I'd recently watched the film about Graeme Obree, the Scottish cyclist; his home-made approach worked pretty well, so I'm optimistic mine will work for me.

Whisper it quietly, but I'm thinking very seriously of entering a fell race. Somehow, running with a number pinned wonkily to my chest seems strangely alluring. It's probably the endorphins talking. The runner's equivalent of drinking too much beer and taking on the world.
Smileyrating  4/10 for the effort, 10/10 for the conditions

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Oo-er, I might be in PB-land

My usual lunchtime run is a route I call the River Loop, because it essentially goes up one side of the River Sprint and down the other. Looking back at my times for this rather lovely little trot out, I see that it usually takes about 27-30 minutes.
So you can imagine my delight when I did it in 25:13 today.  For the 2.7 miles/174ft of ascent/descent it meant an average moving pace of 08:55 min/mile, which is the first time I've dipped below 9min/mile, offroad, for ages - if ever before!   This could be a PB.
Of course, the dry figures tell only half the story.  It was the first run this year without wearing leggings! The first without needing a windproof top! The first without serious mud! All in all, it was a beautiful dry day and underfoot was lovely sheep-cropped grass which is the finest running surface of all. After all my tribulations of last year, it is such a joy to be running - and to be running hard - once again.

Happiness abounds in the Smileyrunner camp.
Smileyrating  9.9/10.    To be 10 it  needed to have hurt less!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Ooh! me aching parts...

From which title you've gathered that today's blog is a tale of creaking and groaning. In short, and continuing my apparent fixation with Garmin stats, I did 9.73 miles, with 954 ft of ascent, in 01:49:08 this morning, between the muesli and boiled egg courses of today's breakfast.  My average moving pace was 10:58 min/mile, my average HR was 156, max 172.

All that just goes to show that figures are only part of the story. Because it was a gorgeous run, even though the weather had not yet decided to play ball by being sunny. That came after I got home. I started off in the gloom and headed off up Potter Fell, by way of the first part of my normal River Loop route. The very preggers sheep were grazing contentedly as I trotted past and my friend (and fellow dogsbody for the Mountain Rescue Search Dogs) Peter's soppy old collie, Jess, came to see me for a stroke. 

Some 38 minutes of pretty continuous climbing later, I was astride the stile at the highest point, watching the clear sunny skies approaching over Windermere to the west. The wind was pretty cold up there; the temperature was only about 5 degrees, so the wind chill was noticeable.  I then dropped down to Staveley and came back along the River Kent, through the woods where the bulbs (possibly little narcissi) were poking through anticipating the forthcoming warmth before bursting into flower. 

At about mile 8 my legs and lower back had decided they'd had enough, and it felt as if I slowed considerably. Never mind, the river was flowing, swift and silent, the grass was getting greener as I watched and there was the unmistakeable feel of Spring in the air. It was good to be alive and so, so good to be able to be out running. It was the 12 March 2010 - one year ago - that I had my hernia diagnosed and my running ground to a halt....

The boiled egg was pretty good too. Especially as it was followed, in pretty short order, by lunch at the Punchbowl in Crosthwaite - one of the finest eateries in the Lake District and, therefore, the World!
Smileyrating 8.9/10

Monday, 7 March 2011

Lots of work to do, so only a little run today. I did the River Loop, which is my default run. It goes from the door, up one side of the river Sprint, across a bridge, and down the other side. Though, of course, this being the Lakes, the River is the only flat bit of it. The route climbs 154ft up and down.

It's mostly run on grassy footpaths with just a bit of road in it. 
It's 2.68 miles long (thanks Garmin) and I did it today in 26.07. This isn't very quick in absolute terms (my average moving pace was 09:23 min/mile), but on looking back at my Garmin records, my best time from a couple of years ago was 26.04 - so maybe I was close to my PB today! I actually felt quite good too. I pushed up all the hills, tried to push over the tops and then did a couple of fartlek-y bits on the way back.

Not much to report other than I did it. Definitely more sheep about. It won't be long before we have the fun of lambs to look at (that'll slow things down a bit!) so it's a great time of year.
Smileyrating 8/10

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

I've just run a mile uphill. Admittedly it was the same 0.13 miles eight times over, but it all adds up. Yes! it was a sun-bathed Kenyan hills session today. And what a gorgeous day it was. It was only 5 deg. C, but the sun shone warmly on my back as I headed out to my hill rep field. Last time I was here it looked a bit different...

There's not much you can say about a hill session is there? I went up and down, in one continuous movement until I was knackered. Then I went home. It's one of those sessions where the benefits won't be felt until you find yourself easing up a hill that you normally struggle up.
He says hopefully.
Still, the fields are beginning to be populated by sheep now. The farmers are bringing them down to be nearer the farm to make it easier when they're lambing.  It's an exciting time of year.
Smileyrating 8/10

Monday, 28 February 2011

"Was that it?"

Have you ever had one of those runs where you think, as you're going along, "I'm doing all right here" only for these thoughts to change to "Was that it?" when you get back and take a look at the figures? It happened to me yesterday.
I set off , in a very cold NW wind and bright sunshine, to do about an hour or so, and headed out on a new road route. This took me from home up into the hills with wonderful views across to the Howgills. The dominant sounds were the wind and, particularly, the gushing of water. The river Sprint bounded and foamed far beneath me. Torrents of water spouted from the base of stone walls and disappeared gurgling under the road. I splashed through puddles and ran through rivulets streaming downhill, washing gravel and debris into furrows in the middle of the lanes. It felt good.
Mind you the numbers weren't great. I did 6.7miles, with 529ft of ascent, in 1:02:40, at an average moving pace of only 09:20min miles. I must admit I was hoping for better. I've got a long way to go!
Still, it was just great to be out, among the snowdrops and clear sunshine.
Smileyrating 7/10

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Captain Statto...

Just uploaded my 99th run to Garmin!
4.91 miles in 46.31. Average moving pace of 09:23 min/mile. Best pace of 06:05.
391 ft of ascent, 392ft of descent, which means my house sunk by a foot this morning.
Max HR 169; Average HR 141, so bang on my long slow steady pace, which is a pity as it wasn't really long enough for a long run. Still, I have family obligations this weekend so to get out in the sleet before breakfast was a bonus.
Saw 5 soggy sheep, one soggy old english sheepdog and 3 pigeons the whole way round. Felt fantastic at the end, particularly because the uphill bits felt a little easier.
Smileyrating 8/10

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Interval Animal

The sun is shining today so it was a pleasure to get out. Even if it was for an evil interval session. 8 x 200m over undulating sheep-cropped grassland. I know it's nothing in terms of serious athletic training, but it was enough for me to grind to a halt on the last one!
My excuse is that I had a weekend in the high hills near Helvellyn, where I was bodying for the Search and Rescue dogs (I spent Sunday peering out of a bivvy bag in the pouring rain and mist waiting for an excited collie or labrador to charge up and bark at me. It was brilliant.) so I reckon my legs are still a bit tired.
My best pace was 4.45 min mi for the 200m. It would be nice to be able to do it for a whole mile but, let's be honest, it's not going to happen. All I hope for is that it helps to make my  long runs go a little quicker and/or easier.

It's a busy time in rural Lakeland. At one farm they are building what looks to be a new barn - though I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't a new lambing shed later in the Spring. A tractor buzzed up the lane, the smoke from its exhaust showing the effort it was putting in to tow the full muck spreader up the hill. Another one bounced across the far field, empty trailer clattering behind.
Interestingly, there's not an animal to be seen. The Kendal Rough Fell sheep are out on the tops, but lower down the fields are eerily quiet. There's a sense that the land is pausing for breath before the full activity of Spring gets going.

Smileyrating 9/10 for getting out and doing. 3/10 for what was done!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Of mists and cake

I had a feeling today's run would be special. As I was undertaking the essential pre-run faffage (donning shoes, waiting for the Garmin to find some satellites, wondering if I should have a final wee before setting out) a swan flew over, its wings making that mellifluous whistling sound that they do. I could only just pick out it's white body against the morning mist. Moments later, a second one flew over, but it must have been higher as I never spotted it.
 I set off up the lane in the mist...
I was planning to run up to Potter Fell along to Staveley and back along the River Kent. The 'up to Potter Fell' part meant about 35 minutes of constant uphill work. It was mostly at a perfectly runnable gradient, if by 'runnable' you mean a sort of shuffling trot with wheezing to disturb the morning air. A lot of it was along a stony track, running with water; so refreshing for the feet.

As I climbed, I climbed above the mist... Looking back, the cloud filled the valleys

Near the top lies this beautiful little lake with the strange name of Gurnal Dubbs. There's a well built stone fisherman's hut at the far end, just out of shot to the left. It's a wonderful spot. Wild yet tranquil.

 My route lay right round the lake and then on, back down into the mist. The path goes across here, somewhere...

Then it was down into Staveley, through the village, and then back along the River Kent. I liked the way the sun lit the trees...

The river was wild and high today because we've had such a lot of rain.

And then, after 10.06 miles with 979ft of elevation gain, after having been out for 1.56.44, at an average moving pace of 10.55 min/mile, with an average heart rate of 154, I was plodding back up the lane towards home.
It was still misty.

A great run. And wondrous ginger cake (made by the lovely Mrs HF from a Nigel Slater recipe ('Double Ginger Cake' in the Kitchen Diaries, cake fans)) to finish.
Smileyrating 9/10 for the run. 10/10 for the cake.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Ouch, wheeze, b*****ks, f***. Repeat x 6

Yep, it's been hill reps again.
Only 35 seconds long, but oh so steep. It's never fun. But it's done.
The sun was shining. The air was crisp and cool. The birdsong is getting louder as they develop their vocal skills for Spring. All in all, a good session. The only blot on the horizon is that it'll have to be longer next time.
Smileyrating  7/10

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Just a quick blog...

The wonderful Mrs HF is just fixing lunch so I must be quick: After a really busy week, which included business trips to Copenhagen (lovely) and Basingstoke (er... Basingstoke), all I've managed to squeeze in this week is a little River Loop (2.7 very sploshy miles) on Tuesday, a gym session on Thursday and a gentle 6.4 miles this morning towards Staveley.

This morning's trip out, on lanes littered with debris from the thrashing winds and rain we've had this past 48 hours, reminded me of the one thing I like about road running. You don't have to worry so much about where your foot lands. You can just bimble along, nice and rhythmically, letting your gaze wander where it will. Mine found only sogginess. The fields were sodden, with huge great puddles in the slightest depression. The hedges were sodden. Sodden furrows of brown leaves lined the road. The sheep were sodden. The road ran with water. Everything dripped. Everything that wasn't dripping trickled, ran or splashed. But it was GREAT. Great to be out and great to be able to be out. I mentally said hello to the many thousands of runners that must have been out at the same time and felt one of the soggy brotherhood.

Gym tomorrow. I'm already dreading the plank exercises. Hey ho.

Smileyrating  9/10 

Monday, 24 January 2011

That's more like it

A cracking run this lunchtime.
I ran the length of Scout Scar which is a limestone ridge to the west of Kendal. It's a great, airy ridge, with views southward to the sea at Morecambe Bay and northward to the Lakeland hills. Underfoot it is quite tricky because it is composed of knobbly limestone. Barely any footstep falls on the flat. Not a place to run if you have weak ankles. And where it is muddy it is that soapy, slippy mud you get in limestone areas. 

The part of the ridge I did was 2.17 miles long, giving me a nice 4.34 mile round trip which took 42 mins. So, roughly 10 minute miling, which is OK at my state of fitness.  What I failed to realise as I set off was that the whole ridge slopes down gently southwards towards the sea. So the outward leg felt fine; but coming back was always tending uphill. That's why it felt so hard.
 Still, I wheezed my way through. In the bright sunshine and cold wind it was one of those runs that restores your faith in this essentially daft activity that we all enjoy. (Or should that be 'enjoy').
Smileyrating 7.5/10

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A duty run

Popped out yesterday lunchtime for an easy 3 miler. Beautiful day; cold, bright, sunny. Underfoot it was soft but not too marshy, with only one stream to run through. Everything was set for a gorgeous run. So why was it such a struggle? I felt leaden-legged right from the off. Every uphill was a grind. Every downhill was a creaky plod. No flow. No looseness. Nothing doing.
 I'm old and wise enough not to worry about the occasional run being like this, but it's been a while since I felt so yeeuch while out. It felt a shame to waste such a lovely day. Ah well. Things can only improve.
Smileyrating  4/10

Sunday, 16 January 2011

I now know why I'm a rubbish runner...

I've joined a local gym. Well, it's what you do in January isn't it! As part of the service they give you a Health Assessment where your blood pressure, BMI, flexibility and lung function among other things is checked. Well, everything's tickety-boo (I was unfeasibly pleased with my body fat of 16%) - except for my lungs. My peak flow rate is a measly 460l/min. This is less than that for a small woman (apparently); the normal range for my age, sex and height is 506-626l/min.   So I'm running around with only about 75-90% of the amount of lung function I should have.
 I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. Miffed, I suppose. Wondering how much better I'd be with 10-25% more puff. Resigned to my fate. Wondering, in my more miserable moments, if I've got some weird lung disease. On balance, I think 'Stuff it - I've just got to play the hand I've been dealt'. 
 And so, having been on a course all weekend, I seized the opportunity tonight to pop out for a short, hilly, tempo run. This was made all the more enjoyable by stopping briefly to pat Jess, a lovely collie who guards the drive of a house I pass. It was made more interesting by running through a flood that spread right across the lane. This flood is often there as it sits in a depression in the road that is drained only by a small hole under the stone wall. But we've had a lot of rain. So, as I ploughed into it, it was a lot deeper than normal and the water came up to over my knees. Needless to say, it wasn't particularly warm! And, of course, just as soon as I'd managed to warm up a bit, I had to go back through it all over again. It was like having your post-run ice-bath while you're actually running.
 Still, it was a bright, clear night with a good moon, which made the running a pleasure - even with micro-lungs.
Smileyrating 7/10

Monday, 10 January 2011

New Year, New Optimism

Well, hello again and Happy New Year to all readers!

My, it's parky out isn't it? Mrs HF and I are a tad more sensitive to it at the moment because we've spent the festive period on an Exodus trip touring Vietnam and Cambodia (hence no blogging). We're used to 28-31 degrees C and humidity upwards of 80%. So it was a bit of a shock when I went out this lunchtime for a quick half-hours poddle around the lanes in the sleety rain!

After the diabolical year that was 2010, I'm hoping 2011 will be a lot better, running wise. To that end, I'm going to try and introduce a bit more structure into my training this year.

I've been hugely impressed with Runningbear's spreadsheet, target HR, scientific, precision-running, timetable approach, even if I know that I could only stick to it for about 5 minutes before it all went pear-shaped. 

So my programme will be more yer classic slow, steady Sunday run, dipping into a rotating selection of intervals, hill reps, Kenyan hills, fartlek, doglek and tempo runs during the week. I'm going to go through the Bible, otherwise known as the FRA Fixtures Calendar & Handbook, to try and pick out some races that can act as mini targets through the year.

But first I needed to assess my baseline fitness after having spent three weeks doing nothing more strenuous than a bit of flat cycling and a couple of hours in a kayak. I also had my traditional festive cold which I'm now just getting over.  That was what today's run was about.

Basically I went up the hills from home for 15 minutes, turned round and came home, all the time monitoring the following:
  • aches
  • niggles
  •  degree of raspyness of the breathing
  • closeness to the 'bugger this for a game of soldiers' mind meltdown
  • level of agreement/disagreement with the statement: 'I'm getting to old for all this nonsense'
  • degree of curiosity about  'How fast can I run if I train properly and consistently?'
  • scale of enjoyment about defying the weather
  • my personal coefficient of belonging (0= outsider, 1=committed) to the fellowship of runners
 - not stuff that can be spreadsheeted (?spreadshit) very easily!  My conclusions are: my fitness is rubbish, but miles better than this time last year, my cold's got a way to run, I feel younger for having been out than not, sod the weather, and, though I tend to do my own thing, I like being part of the running fraternity.

Let's hope this optimism lasts.

Smileyrating for this run 5/10. Not great. Not total cr*p.