A walking kinda weekend

Our Lakeland Lapland virtual ultra adventure continues. The weekend was all about walking. After a coffee and pancakes we decided to get organised and walk across to Ilkley to go to the Grove Bookshop to buy a present for one of our friends. It’s about 4 miles across the moors and it looked like a gorgeous day to head up and across. I have no real fitness at the moment and certainly no hill fitness so I knew I was probably going to find bits quite hard going and my feet have been painful so I was a bit concerned about that, too. But I like an adventure and I like a good bookshop so this was always going to be my kind of adventure.

We set off up the hill. It was a lovely mild morning and soon we were in grouse territory with grumblings coming from everywhere. While the way up from this side is a pull, it’s also a has plenty of almost flat sections to get your breath back. There were lots of birds around – mostly unidentifiable against the light as they flew by. We saw what we first thought was a kite because of the size but it was the wrong colour and on closer inspection the wrong shape, too. Not sure what it was but it was great to watch it glide in and out of view for a while.

Soon enough we were at the top and finally had the track mostly to ourselves and no longer had to worry about cars coming. We navigated our way around puddles and down the other side. I must have been tensing my feet and not walking properly because going down really hurt my feet. By the time we were about half way down the pain was actually making me feel a bit nauseous. But there aren’t many things I won’t do for a bookshop browse and we had come so far that turning round and not making it down to Ilkley just seemed silly – so onwards, even with painful feet.

Eventually we got all the way down and on the flat my feet recovered quite quickly. We stopped our watches and put our face masks on and went into the bookshop. We spent a little while browsing, picked the present we’d come for and then headed out again. There was a huge queue at Betty’s which we just laughed at. Imagine joining a queue of at least 25 people for a takeaway coffee/tea/cake… There were a few little market stalls on the other side of the road including a little coffee van so we got coffee and sat on a bench watching Ilkley people trying to navigate life. There was definitely a type that was out and about in Ilkley on Saturday – a sort of designer wellies with not a speckle of mud on them type rolling up in their range rovers (also no mud). It’s not a type I have much time for.

Grouse on Ilkley Moor- taken Feb 2020

After coffee we started the long long climb out of Ilkley back up onto the moor. The first mile felt a lot longer than a mile but mostly I tried just to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. On uphill sections my feet don’t hurt and given that this was all uphill for quite some time I didn’t need to worry about them at least. I was trying very hard not to get frustrated. While I have never been able to run up to the moor – from either side – it was a bit embarrassing to have to stop and admire the view so much. Soon though I could hear the grouse again – John Ruskin apparently said that one can’t be angry when one looks at a penguin, I think that it is impossible to feel frustrated or sad or angry when one hears a grouse.

So it took forever, and we were passed by runners and cyclists who did have the required fitness, but eventually we made it to the top. Now for the downhill. I was worried about my feet. I tried to stride out a bit more and walk a bit faster to see if that would make me walk a little more normally and be less tense. It seemed to work and I got all the way down without my feet hurting. Result! So our buying a book adventure added 14km each to our total.

After lunch we decided to set off again and run some errands. We had to drop off some home made granola at my mum’s, pick up cats’ medication at the vets, drop the present we bought in Ilkley off and then drop something else of at Kath’s mum’s. So off we went. This is something I definitely wouldn’t have done as a walk without the challenge. I would have driven down to the vet to pick up the medication and then would have stopped off at mum’s probably – and most likely I would have done this while already out and about anyway. The other two stops we might have done on a walk – but probably not the same walk. Another 7km later and we were home. A Saturday total of 21km walked and just over 40km left.

Sunday morning started with coffee and french toast and Kath charged her camera battery before we set off on our walk along the canal. We made our way down through the village to the canal and didn’t have to go far before Kath spotted the glittering blue of a kingfisher. We watched it for a few minutes before it flew off and we moved on. Less than a mile further on we saw a second kingfisher. Again we stood and watched for a little while. It was definitely a different bird, it was bigger than the first and slightly darker in colour. It flew back in the direction we’d come from so we moved on again and a little further saw kingfisher number 3. This one was more nervous and didn’t stay on a branch for long and disappeared into the vegetation to hide. So we left it to it and walked on.

A little further on we saw a rhino runner. If you’ve ever run or watched the London Marathon you might be familiar with the rhinos. I can’t decide if I am annoyed or proud of the fact that all of the rhinos overtook me at both my London Marathon attempts. But anyway, there were a few runners about and we realised that it must be an event. We didn’t give it much more of a thought as we came off the canal to do a little loop through a farm and back streets. Once we turned back onto the canal to head back towards home though we got caught up in a bunch of runners. They were doing the Grim Up North Bingley Christmas Canal Race. We talked about races for a bit and as we approached the stone bridge almost back where the farm loop starts, we saw a lovely dog without a human. It seemed pretty clear she was a farm dog but she came to say hi, trotted alongside us a little and then stayed by the farm turn off.

Spot the Kingfisher!

The rest of the walk was uneventful as we kept stepping into the side to let runners come past and tried to look out for the kingfishers again – or any other interesting wildlife. There were plenty of ducks about but the swans and geese must have moved further along. We had been thinking of going a little bit further along the canal and up through one of the estates but we could see the canal was busy with people and we were both beginning to really need a pee. So we took the shortest route home.

We were toying with the idea of going out for another short walk in this evening but we’re all warm and settled with cuddly cats and the weather had deteriorated so we’ve decided to stay in. I’m also tired – in spite of a long afternoon nap. We’ll probably finish tomorrow and do our Solstice Saunter as part of the finish. 20.43km to go in the virtual ultra and 2 days left if we need them.

A Bolton Abbey Walk

The Lakeland Lapland Festive Virtual Ultra continues. I have given up the idea of doing much running on this. I want to make a contribution every day if I can and my feet are struggling a little – and they struggle more when I run. I had my therapy session over at Bolton Abbey earlier today and I was very much looking forward to a walk afterwards. I had my heart set on doing a sort of figure of 8 loop from the abbey to the Cavendish Pavilion and then on to Barden Bridge and back. I was however a little worried about how my feet would hold up. Once I set off though I realised I’d be fine, they actually feel better when I am using them.

I walked slowly towards the stepping stones with the abbey in the background and crossed the bridge across the River Wharfe. There were a couple of people walking on the bottom path that forms the Welly Walk so I walked up the top path and didn’t see anyone else until I got the bridge at the Pavilion. It was nice just walking along lost in thought and enjoying the sunshine. I crossed the bridge and went to get a coffee and walked on towards the Strid sipping it. There were a few people about but not very many and wherever possible I took the route they weren’t. I caught up with some people just before the aqueduct and decide to just fall in at their pace and stay a few metres behind them. I stopped to watch a dipper for a minute or two and then carried on – the people in front went across the aqueduct and I had the path to Barden Bridge to myself again.

I briefly stopped on Barden Bridge, like I always do and took a picture before enjoying walking on spongy grass and saying hello to the sheep as I walked back towards the Pavilion. There were loads of little birds around and squirrels everywhere. The sun was actually quite warm and I stopped again to watch a pair of red kites overhead. as I headed back into the wood on the path there were a few people coming the other way which confused me a bit and initially I didn’t know why. After the 3rd or 4th person passed me I realised what was wrong – they were going the wrong way. The estate is operating a one way system to help with social distancing and for a second I panicked that I had got it wrong and it was me going the wrong way. I wasn’t. I don’t really mind but my brain somehow wasn’t prepared for meeting people coming the other way and I found it irritating because it meant I actually had to look where I was going more than I wanted to.

I got back to the bridge by the Pavilion and a walker asked about the length of the circular route or what I’d recommend. We had a little chat and together managed to persuade his little dog that the gaps in the wood on the bridge would not swallow him up alive or despatch him straight into the depths of the Wharfe. I took the opportunity for a toilet stop and then wandered across the long long car park alongside the river. I was getting a little tired now but the sun was still shining and I found myself smiling. As I went through the gate to the field I had to cross there’s a sign asking you to pick your own path so I did just that and turned left to stay right next to the river. I went down to a little pebble beach and then back up the steep hill to the road.

The final section took me into the Priory Church to light a couple of candles. I’m not religious. I don’t believe in God and even less in religion but I do very much believe in the power of silence, reflection and light and they can often be found in churches. Just as I lit the candles a lawnmower started up outside so the quiet didn’t quite work but it still felt nice to pause for a second and stand and just be. I walked through the cemetery and back up to the car park for a total of just over 12 kms.

West Yorkshire December Outings

Odin hiding

It’s a Sunday in December. It feels cold. It has been grey all day and I am not sure it ever really got light. There’s been wet stuff falling from the sky or just hanging in the air and even our youngest two cats don’t want to go outside. It’s the sort of weather that would usually make me pull the duvet over my head and hide, reach for more mince pies and just alternate mugs of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and hot water until it is time for a hot bath a hot water bottle and bed. In short, it’s a West Yorkshire December Sunday.

A run today certainly would have been, erm, let’s say bracing and actually if fitter I might have quite enjoyed a relatively speedy sheep loop followed by a shower and lounging in front of the fire. But I am not fit and speedy isn’t an option at the moment. But just staying in wasn’t an option either because Kath and I are doing the Lakeland Lapland Festive Virtual Ultra. It started on 7pm on the 10th and runs to the 22nd December and in that time we need to cover a total of 234km between us as Team Double Dopey. It works out at 9.75km each every day for 12 days (with the cushion of a 13th day if we need it because of the activity upload window they allow). My plan was always to walk mostly as I really wasn’t sure how I would be doing at this point. The plan was also for Kath to cover most of the distance and me to contribute as much as I can. And that is pretty much how it is working out.

The challenge has been good for getting us out of the house more than we would have otherwise. We started with a walk round the neighbourhood on the 10th, then we had a run each and a joint walk on the 11th and yesterday we both ran and today we walked together. I spent most of yesterday being disappointed with my run and most of today being quite proud of it. I changed the running intervals from 15 seconds to 30 seconds and thought I would run our sheep loop with an added loop we call the farm loop. It goes along the canal but instead of out and back along the canal it loops round some back streets and through a farm yard.

I managed the intervals quite well. I slowed to slower than slow snail’s pace through the muddy bits down the hills and my feet were getting sore because I tense them too much but it was all fine. I stopped at a canal bridge to chat to one of our friends and while there saw Kath coming back from the farm loop. She stopped too, briefly and then I set off again and she came with me to keep me company on the rest of my run. I’d got cold so getting going again took a bit of effort. I didn’t make the farm loop but did a shorter out and back and kept the intervals going until just after 5km. Then I walked the remaining 2km home to make sure I didn’t injure anything that was niggling. I am happy with that – though I wasn’t yesterday – it’s a good run/walk effort and I keep forgetting just how poorly I was and how much better I am doing. Patience…

We finished yesterday on exactly 50km. Today My legs felt tired but mostly my feet were both quite sore. My right calf muscle also felt tight. That and one look at the weather meant I decided I wasn’t going to run today but would get wrapped up for a walk instead. Kath agreed. So we set off in the grey drizzle that, over the course of our nearly 11km, just got worse and worse. We both grumbled a bit about being cold and my feet were a bit tender in sections but it was also really nice to be outside. Towards the end we started talking about having hot chocolate to warm us up when we got in and somehow just that in itself was lovely. The anticipation of hot chocolate and dry socks is something powerful indeed. The last km or so was quite tough. I was tired. Part of me was grumpy about that. I have no business being tired after a 10km walk that wasn’t even marching or striding out but I am trying to be kind. I am still recovering and slowly slowly building fitness. The last bit was also into a headwind that was driving the now quite heavy rain straight into our faces so it wasn’t much fun. But then we were home and quite soon we were warming up from the inside with hot chocolate (80Noir Ultra of course) and our feet were dry and cozy and the daily distance for the Lakeland Lapland ultra were in the bag. And that feels like a good day.

A minor plod and a major bra malfunction

Late morning today I decided I wanted to head out and add some kms to Team Double Dopey’s efforts in the Lakeland Lapland Festive Ultra which Kath and I signed up to in what must have been a fit of madness. 234km between us over 12 days. Yep fine. Not an issue… aaaargh. Anyway I will do a separate post on that adventure in due course. For now, the plan was simply to add a few miles to our total.

I set off with my 15 second run/45 walk alert set and in spite of the very grey day it felt nice to be out. Sometimes I really like low visibility – it means I can’t see how far I potentially have to go and it pushes me to just stay in the moment. Right there. Not even thinking about the next step, just this one. As I set off I realised I was bored of 15 seconds. I decided I would just slowly run the first part of the route without walking. It’s all downhill. I thought it might be nice to see if I could manage that without being too knackered later on. I know I have a tendency to go too fast or miss too many walk breaks early on so I agreed with myself (it was a conversation, I’m an awkward sod even with myself) that I would run no further than to the point where my route levels off – probably just over half a mile in. I did as I was told (by me).

It was happy running. I gently made my way down the hill and it actually felt good not to be stop-starting. I went very slowly, conscious that I haven’t run for any length of time for quite a while. It felt good. Comfortable, familiar. I got the the bottom of the hill and levelled off and used the walk breaks. So ok I was breathing a little harder but I was hardly really out of breath. That’s so exciting to write. I was not out of breath! I haven’t been able to say that about walking upstairs for some time! So I was on a happy plod and settling into my intervals. All was good and as I turned a corner and headed for another slight downhill I decided to try another couple of minutes of running. Towards the end of that run something didn’t feel quite right. I couldn’t work out what, took the next walk break and then set off again and then I realised: My boobs were not as contained as they should be. In fact they were well on their way to escaping completely and given the running, not entirely happy with their new found freedom and bounce.

My breasts had been granted their freedom by the zip on my bra most definitely not staying zipped. It was millimetres from coming undone completely. It was not in a place where it could discreetly be pulled back up, no, that would not have been 2020 enough. My route, deserted until this point had of course also become busy. I stopped to walk and smiled at the runner coming towards me. Once he passed there was a short window of opportunity in which I could unzip my jacket, untuck my top, reach under and re-engage and pull up the zip before a dog walker would round the corner and be in full view. If I got this wrong, the dog walker would get rather more than he bargained for when he set off on his walk. I was also banking on the two cyclists behind me staying put and continuing their conversation rather than setting off again and coming past me and on the couple walking in the same direction in front of me not turning round. Operation ‘put breasts back in place’ was a success and I think the only one who got an eye full was the dog running ahead of its human.

Picture from Sainsburys.co.uk

I tried to run a bit more but the zip had clearly had enough of keeping the escapees in and every time I ran more than about 5 steps it gave up a little. So lesson learned: Whatever the marketing crap says – sports bras with a zip at the front should never leave the house. In case you want to know, it was a Sainsbury’s Active Non Wired Sports Bra. I’ve worn it for yoga and for some HIIT workouts too and I actually really liked it before today. It has never shown signs of neglecting its duties before and I haven’t had it long enough or worn it often enough for it to be tired, jaded or bored of its job just yet. I suppose it just doesn’t like running. Well once I have finished sulking with it, it can go on yoga duty. I suppose I should just be grateful that it is December so even if I were the sort of runner who runs in just a sports bra, I wouldn’t have been out in just the bra on a day like today. Although if I had I might have noticed the issue a bit sooner.

Anyway, that didn’t go to plan but the end result is a rather pleasing looking distance.

I ran

I wasn’t really expecting to tell you this again this year! I had moments where I hoped and the odd glimmer of total madness where I dared to plan. But I didn’t really believe I would manage another actual run this year. When I last wrote I was testing the fitness water with some HIIT sessions at home – well parts of HIIT sessions. Well they felt sort of awful and I felt not quite right and weird. And then one day, about 10 days ago I managed all 3 sets, and it didn’t feel weird. It just felt hard. It felt like being unfit and not being used to any of the exercises and like maybe having started on the mince pies just a little too early this year. It felt familiar. My body does unfit really well. It understands what it feels like and what is asked of it. It grumbles in all the usual places and ways when asked to do something about it. It wobbles and creaks a little and grumbles but it also secretly knows which bits will be slightly less wobbly first, which bits need nursing along and which bits just need to get over themselves. It knows my thighs lie when they say ‘can’t’ but that my shoulders know their limitations and ignoring a ‘can’t’ from them is likely to result in a dropped weight or face plant. It also knows that my hips are quite bendy, my hamstrings are not. Being unfit and starting to get fitter is familiar territory, I was beginning to come home.

So if the HIIT sessions just felt hard but not being-poorly-weird then there was no real reason I couldn’t have a go at a run. Running feels scarier simply because I have to leave the house. If I don’t feel well I still have to get home; there might be other people (rude!) and there are other things to think about like traffic, curbs, potholes, dogs, cars, wheelie bins with minds of their own… so I made a very very gentle plan:

  • Week 0: Complete 4 HIIT sessions
  • Week 1 (now): 2 runs of 30 minutes running only 10 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run -same running interval
  • Week 2: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 15 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run using same intervals
  • Week 3: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 20 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run using same intervals
  • Week 4: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 30 seconds walking 30 seconds; 1 longer run 30/30 on Christmas morning

The I panicked about everything and did very little. Out of the 4 sessions I managed 2 and I struggled to get out to run. It’s now Thursday of Week 1 and after a day of pottering about in the kitchen baking I decided it was time. I found a pair of new New Balance long pants I bought a century or so ago (it’s 2020, time is meaningless) and got wrapped up warm. Then I went to set my watch and discovered that I couldn’t set a 10 second/50 second alert – it would have to be 15 /45 seconds or I’d have to set up a new workout to upload first. Hm. Ok well 15 seconds run it had to be then.

Kath came with me and we agreed just to do an out and back to the end of the road section of our sheep loop. It wouldn’t be quite half an hour but it would be a good start. So that’s what we did. 15 seconds of running – really concentrating on running form and going at a decent pace. It was pretty good. It wasn’t easy but my legs remember how to run and actually they weren’t too grumpy about having to move a bit faster and get the knees a bit higher and my lungs didn’t protest too much either. 1.5 miles all in and I am looking forward to the next one. I ran.