Friday, 29 June 2012

Scottish interlude

Sorry it's been so quiet on the running blog recently. I've been away for a couple of weeks to Harris in the Outer Hebrides and it has become one of my favourite places in the whole world - not that I've been to all of them. Mrs HF and I recently spent a marvellous fortnight there. It was during all the Jubilee hullabaloo. We watched the soggy pageant on TV and had to laugh - we'd had a gorgeous day of unbroken sunshine and blue sky! Anyone who knows us knows that we very rarely get good weather on holiday; even in the Caribbean some years ago we had 'unseasonal, never-heard-of-before' torrential rain. This time though we had fabulous weather for pretty much the whole 2 weeks.

The beaches on the west side of Harris are magnificent. One day, Mrs HF and I had the whole 2 mile stretch of white sand that is Luskentyre beach to ourselves. It was so fabulous I even tried a bit of barefoot running, just to see how differently I ran. It quite surprised me to realise that it made not the blindest bit of difference! Biomechanically it seems that my usual shuffley plod is pretty much the same whether or not I wear shoes. The tracks in the sand were near identical whether in shoes (Innov8 Terrocs) or barefoot.  I wonder if it is because I usually run off-road anyway, in fairly flat shoes and so have unconsciously altered my style.

Apart from this experiment I ran a few times on holiday and have identified out a great route for next time. This is along the Harris Walkway a 20 mile long trail which, at the part I want to do, hugs the coast and dips in and out of gorgeous rocky bays. I would have done it at the time but, alas, my dodgy calf muscle started playing up again. This is an old injury and is basically due to an inadequately mobile sacro-iliac joint. So it's back to the stretching exercises and gym for me to build up the flexibility and core strength.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Blue skies running

Up and out this morning at 7am. It's an absolutely gorgeous day up here at the moment. Cool air, bright sunshine and blue skies. Perfect for running. So it was a bit of a shame that I felt really ploddy and laboured. It took about 35 minutes to feel as if I'd loosened up - and even then my knees felt like creaky gate hinges. I've not run much this week, but last week was good, with hill reps and a good tempo run, followed by a trot out with my brother in law Pete on the Sunday.
We've decided it's time to move house and have been looking around. Like a Herdwick sheep, I feel hefted to this region, so I'm pretty sure we won't be moving far. We had the strange experience of seeing our house on Rightmove this week and I have to say it looks pretty fabulous. I'd buy it!!
Smileyrating for today 6/10; for the previous week 8/10

Monday, 7 May 2012


Lovely run yesterday morning. I went slow and steady for 77 minutes along the River Kent and back. It was a gorgeous morning with cool air and clear sunshine. The river was as still as I've ever seen it; so utterly smooth it was hard to imagine that it was flowing at all. There were herons standing like statues along the bank. A pochard duck paddled around near the weir. Oystercatchers peeped loudly overhead. It was fabulous.
The route took in a wood, managed by the Woodland Trust. At this time of year the woods look at their best. IMHO. The bluebells are out, as is the wild garlic and the celandines. The whole wood was a beautiful, vivid mix of blue, white, yellow and leaf green.
As you can tell, I enjoyed my trot out. It was capped by meeting, on the way back, a superb weimaraner called Lucy, who I've seen on many occasions being walked around the village. She was huge but bounded about like a giant puppy, full of the joys of spring.
Smileyrating 9/10

Friday, 4 May 2012

Best laid plans...

Went out yesterday at 7am for what I hoped would be a nice brisk trot around the 2.7 miles of the run I call the River Loop. Well, it didn't quite work out that way. It was one of those outings when you just know, from the very first step, that it wasn't going to happen. My legs felt really heavy and my breathing laboured. Still, I plodded on, past somnolent sheep and bluebells shimmering in the woods until I eventually got back home relieved it was all over. I put my bad performance down to the fact that I spent all the previous day shovelling tonnes of compost at Holehird gardens where I volunteer. It was like a 6 hour gym session doing squats for 5 out of the six!
Smileyrating 4/10

Sunday, 29 April 2012

"Nice 'n Easy...

...does it every time". Wasn't that an old Frank Sinatra number? Whatever, it perfectly describes my run this morning. I managed to drag myself out of bed at ten past six for a nice, relaxed 45 minutes over the hills and along the river Kent. It capped a good week's running for me: An interval session, a hill rep session and a steady easy run. None of them particularly long - but I'm beginning to feel the benefit of the consistent approach. Also, much to my surprise, I'm actually enjoying getting out really early. Particularly this morning, as it looks as if the best of the day is over; it's clouding over and starting to rain.
Smileyrating  8/10

Friday, 27 April 2012

Up early (x10)

I started my hill rep session at 0650 this morning! I realise that this is not that early, but for us retired folk, getting up and out for this time was like being back at work! The hill in question is a small, steep lane, about 7mins 20secs from my front door. It's a place that holds, in a manner of speaking, fond memories; it's where, on one occasion, a startled sparrow flew between my legs as I was running down it and where, last year,  I fell off my bike and planted my elbow into the brambly wall that lines it! Nonetheless, it's a pretty, secluded, lane that has the added benefit of good blackberries in the autumn.
It takes me about 40 seconds to go from the bottom to the top and in my ten reps this morning my times were pretty consistent, conforming to the usual pattern of the middle reps being slightly quicker, numbers 8 and 9 being slightly slower and no.10 being slightly quicker because the old 'final big effort and then you can go home for breakfast' kicked in.

So, a satisfying start to the day, though what the blaclava'd farmer on his quad bike must have thought, as he called "Mornin'" on his way past, I've no idea!

Mind you, it was bloomin' freezing (hence the balaclava). The sun was out, but weakly, but the wind, combined with it being only 6 deg. C, made it really cold.
Smileyrating  7/10

Monday, 23 April 2012

Running and painting

Somewhat to my surprise, I found myself running intervals along the River Kent yesterday morning at 0655. Sheep and lambs looked up blearily at me. They'd hardly stirred from their night's slumber and must have wondered what on earth was going on as I lumbered past. Anyhow, I managed to do 5 x 30sec intervals as hard as I could and was shocked at how hard I found it. I was up and out that early (for me) because I've developed, over the years, the ritual that I have to have been out for a run before I watch the London Marathon on telly. And as I wanted to get Match of the Day in as well, it meant I had to get going early doors!
Normal service was resumed today, when I went out for a gorgeous run mid-morning. Basically, I just went out and ran around, linking routes together, with plenty of ups and downs, for about 45 minutes. It was fantastic. My average and max heart rates were a bit high; this probably just reflects my lack of fitness.

One reason I'm not in the best shape at the minute is because I've just come back from being in Spain on a painting holiday. One of the exercises we did was to use a small viewfinder and select a detail to paint. This is a great idea, because it really helps you to focus and cut out all the visual clutter that you get when you look at, say, a landscape. I did one of the wall of the hotel from the garden:

And another of a lemon tree The whole thing was a mass of abstract shapes:

Another exercise was to do a charcoal drawing in the olive grove and write notes about the percentages of each colour that was present. Back in the studio we had to cut up the drawing, rearrange it and paint the result, being true to our colour analysis. This gave a great abstract feel:

 I've been trying to use oils since Mrs HF bought me some for Christmas. I love them, but I've got a long way to go to get proficient with them.  I did this of Kate Rusby from a photo. (Sorry Kate, you're much lovelier than this). I quite like the hair and the jacket.

Before we went away, we went to see the Lucien Freud exhibition in London. Now that's proper portrait painting!! If you like that sort of thing, go and see it. It's fabulous.

More running next time...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Spring. What's not to like...

Gorgeous Springtime run early this morning. Fields full of lambs. The air filled with the liquid burbling of curlews punctuated by the piercing peep of oystercatchers. The hawthorn (or it may be blackthorn, I'm a bit vague botanically on this) is in flower; clusters of small, white, star-shaped blossoms turning the hedgerows into ribbons of white foam. They are fragrant too, but you need to be careful when you sniff them!
My route was a familiar one. I call it the 'Buzzard Loop', because I watched a pair of them circling above me on one occasion. It starts with a gentle climb and then contours along sheep-grazed grassland before dropping back down to the river. It took about 30 minutes and felt brilliant. The sun was fighting its way through the cloud, there was a fresh cool breeze and I got a sense of the land waking up. A cracking run.
Smiley rating 9/10

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sunshine. Lambs. Daffodils and...frogs

Anyone who has read WE Bowman's comical book 'The Ascent of Rum Doodle' (and if you haven't, seek it out; you will be rewarded with one of the funniest books ever) will be familiar with the character of Burley who, despite being chosen as the team's 'strong man' spends the entire book suffering from various sorts of lassitude - London lassitude, glacier lassitude and, at one point, sleeping-bag lassitude. I mention this because I seem to have been suffering from keyboard lassitude in that I have been out on my runs but not blogging them. So here's a bit of a catch-up from the glorious Lake District.
During the sodden weeks of late February and early March I've duly plodded round the lanes and done some work in the gym (though not enough). Now that the weather has taken a turn for the better (it's been extraordinarily dry for a whole two weeks now) I've begun venturing out off road - and how fantastic it's been. The daffodils are out and there are lambs gambolling about. As an aside, Mrs HF and I have a tea towel bearing the fantastic quote from John Ruskin: 'One cannot be angry when one looks at a penguin'. I reckon you can just replace 'penguin' with 'lamb' and it'll be just as true. I did a mixed route this morning which took me out along the river Sprint then wound its way through various fields back home. It was cool and hazy with the heat of the sun just beginning to be apparent. The air smelled beautifully of moist grass and the air was full of the high-pitched bleating of lambs. It was gorgeous.
As well as the occasional run, I must have shovelled tonnes of compost at Holehird gardens, Windermere (do pop in if you're visiting), and have been out walking - here at Red Screes...
I've also been out 'bodying' for the Mountain Rescue Search Dogs and was present when one of my favourite dogs, a German Shepherd called 'Keppie' passed her final assessments and was awarded her green tag. She's now officially on the list as a search dog. So if you get lost in the Lakeland hills and a German Shepherd charges in and barks her head off at you, be relieved: Kep has found you and help is not far away! If you fancy a trip out, you can meet Keppie on Sunday April 1st between 11:00 and 15:00 at the car park opposite the Kirkstone Inn, when the Lake District Moubntain Rescue Search Dog Association is having an open day. I'll be there too - quite possibly lying out behind a rock somewhere.
OK, what about the frogs?
Here they are, hiding among the fronds of some of the young ferns that I'm growing on for Holehird...

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Running with a purpose

It's lovely just going for a run because, well, that's what you do, but it's also good to have a purpose, an aim. Whether that's to beat a time, to do some reps, or to do a set number of miles, having a target gives a run some focus. Which is why this morning, before breakfast, I set out with a key purpose in mind. Yep, I ran... to get the papers.
I did a slightly roundabout route along the back lanes in the bright morning sunshine. It was about 3 degrees, crisp and fresh. It felt great to be out. Not a car passed me. All I saw were sheep and a couple of dog walkers. Forty-odd minutes later I was back home, ready for a day's slumping in front of the cycling and FA cup on telly. Bliss.
Smileyrating 8.5/10

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Do Kenyans do Kenyan hills?

The snow is melting slowly here. Muddy green patches are appearing on the fellsides and the sledge tracks, which are everywhere there's a slope, are gradually widening. Yesterday morning I was out helping train the mountain rescue search dogs. The car park and path to the fells were smooth sheets of ice, so I was glad I had my micro-spikes with me. These are a brilliant invention: slip-on spikey chains for your feet. Walking in them is just like wearing crampons - but without the front points. Wearing them I was able to scamper with total security over the ice. Even the dogs were scrabbling for purchase as they raced around, play-fighting and bringing us lumps of ice to throw for them. Once in position, I lay on my Multimat, looking out over the misty fells and fields and was periodically jumped on by excitable dogs wearing reflective coats and bells. It's really quite a strange experience. You can hear the bell approaching, then you hear the footsteps and the dogs' panting. In a flash, they're on you and, as these were young ones, they jump all over you and lick your face, delighted to see you. When they bark (which is a very important thing for them to do as it alerts the handle that they've found a 'body'; part of the the body's task is to encourage them to bark) you can reward them by playing with them. This can entail throwing a toy for them to retrieve, or playing with a tuggy toy - which most absolutely love - together with lots of petting and stroking. It's about as fun a way to spend a couple of hours in the fresh air as you can imagine. However, there's quite a bit of lying/sitting about to do, which isn't going to make me any fitter, so in the afternoon I resolved to go for a run.
Which is why you would have found me enjoying a Kenyan Hills session yesterday afternoon. The way to the hill followed an icy path along the river before breaking out into open fell. The snow was full of dainty sheep trails - sheep footprints follow pretty much a dead straight line, giving the appearance of a line of perforations in the snow - and the ground around the sweet-smelling hay feeders was well trodden. The ewes are, of course, heavily pregnant at this time (lambing has started further south) and keeping them in good condition is a vital part of the farmer's work. My hill was free of sheep this time and I contributed to the tracks in the snow by running up and down until a combination of fatigue and 'enough already' drove me back home. It wasn't the most earth-shattering of runs. Just a good, solid, and immensely  satisfying session that made me glad to be alive.
Smileyrating  9/10

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Minus 2 and Factor 20

What a great day! Cold, crisp, bright and sparkly. Eno* take note. I just had to get out. So I did. I went up to Sadgill and did a familiar route around an area of moorland called Green Quarter. It starts just to the right of this lonely farm and wends its way up a stony path.

Well, commonly it's stony. It's a bit different after it's dropped to minus 5 overnight!

The route soon tops out and heads across beautifully runnable moorland. It was especially runnable today because it was frozen.

Along the way, there were beautiful views of the fells around Kentmere.

Dropping in towards Kentmere I got a bit tangled up with a young golden retriever called Tarka. She came bounding out of a holiday home to see me, so naturally I made a fuss of her. Big mistake. I managed to get her to 'Stay' - but not for long. A minute or so later she was back by my side, full of the joys of the day. So I ran back with her, got her to 'Stay' and set off again. Three times. Eventually I gave up, and just tried to ignore her as I ran off.  It took her half a mile to realise I wasn't playing any more and to run home!

As I turned for the final legI realised that the ice on the path formed interesting abstract shapes and, by reflecting the sky, was a striking blue. What a painting this could make:

The final leg tends gently downhill, back to the icy path near the start, down past the farm and to the car.

 An absolutely tops run. Gorgeous day, gorgeous sunshine, gorgeous terrain. Bet Eno, in her air-conditioned studio in Salford, just goes on about how cold it was!!
Smileyrating: 10/10

*Our regional TV weather presenter has the magnificent name of Eno Eruotor. Trouble is, she's fixated on the temperature to the exclusion of almost any other meteorological criterion. We had a similarly cold, sunny, utterly gorgeous day yesterday. In her report at 2225 she kept banging on about how cold it was. Never once mentioned how magnificently sunny and DRY the day was. At the weekend, it's going to warm up and, probably rain. It'll be 6 degrees, grey, wet and utterly miserable. Bet she mentions how good it is 'now it's warmer'. Eno, we love it cold and bright!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

What a difference the sun makes

I've been a bit light on the running front this week, but I've not been idle. The gorgeous sunny weather over the last few days saw Mrs HF and I walking up Castle Crag in Borrowdale. This is a small, prominent crag which Alfred Wainwright, no less, described as 'the loveliest square mile in Lakeland'. For relatively little effort you get magnificent views of the Borrowdale valley. Needless to say, I forgot to take my camera, so you'll have to take my word for it, but it was beautiful!
Earlier in the week I got the opportunity to take my friend Peter's dog for a run up and around Potter Fell. She's called Jess and, like all collies, she goes potty at the thought of playing with any toy...

... and of investigating any body of water....

She's a great dog, even returning to me on command - probably the reduced fat chicken and beef doggie treats in my bum bag had something to do with it! Despite never having taken her before, she learnt that the swishing sound my bum bag made as I brought it to the front to fish things out of it meant treats - either nibbles or the tennis ball. As soon as she heard it she looked back at me expectantly then legged it towards me. We had a great time.
Also on the dog front, I've blogged before about a Search and Rescue collie called Bute that I've helped train (by lying down on the fells and letting her find me, basically). Well, she's passed all 10 of her assessments and is now a fully accredited Lakeland Search and Rescue dog. You can see her on the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs Facebook page. Apart from that, my only other exercise has been to move two tonnes of compost from one compost bin into another at the gardens I volunteer at. So you can imagine that the frosty sunshine outside is rather calling to me now...
Smileyrating for the 'Jess' run: 10/10

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Crikey! I might have a plan...

Happy New Year everyone!
And of course, being New Year, it's time for a New Plan. And, in my usual uncoordinated way, I appear to have stumbled upon mine. I'm going to try and keep going the momentum I've developed during the latter part of December by making January my Slow and Steady month; just gradually building up the mileage to increase stamina. Then, from February onwards, I'll introduce hills, reps and (weather -permitting) much more off-road stuff. All this is with the aim of enjoying those cool, sunny, Spring/ Summer days running around the gorgeous Lake District fells.

It's grey and raining out. Again. So the cool, sunny Spring/Summer days etc. seem a long way off!

Still, I got out this morning, in a lull beteween the rain, and did another 4.5 miles on the lanes - and it felt really good, especially when I sploshed happily through a flood that had spread right across the lane. The wet feet were worth it just for the look on the faces of the two walkers who were tiptoeing around the edge of it.
Smileyrating 8/10