Two short runs

Well what a week! After last weekend’s incident I headed to a conference. My favourite conference in fact. The Association of Law Teachers. I was the Chair of the Association until I handed over at the AGM but more importantly than that, the Association’s members and conference delegates are my academic tribe. It was also great to be in Leicester where I did my undergraduate degree. So when I woke up on Monday morning I was excited to see that I still had plenty of time for a little run. It was just starting to get light. There were a few drunk blokes outside the hotel so I turned right instead of left and looped back round rather than running past them. I plodded my way up New Walk thinking about my student days. When I hit University Road I detoured onto London Road to run past the pub I used to work in.

Then I looped round Victoria Park and onto Leicester University campus, had a look at the Law School, took my usual crappy selfie and looped back. I had planned to take some more photos on my way back down New Walk but it felt good to be stretching my legs. I felt comfortable and strong so instead I just kept running and pushed the pace a little.

I got back on Tuesday evening – the usual exhausted but happy post conference delirium. Wednesday I had to go into the office and I thought my hay fever had started – turns out it was the beginning of a cold. I felt proper poorly for two days, then I felt a bit better on Saturday morning but not well enough to run so I volunteered at parkrun while Kath ran 10 miles plus parkrun. Today I felt a bit better again so we stuck with our plan of heading to Bolton Abbey. I had over ambitious notions of trotting round my loop but it very quickly became apparent that my lungs weren’t up for that. I made my way round the loop with little bits of running and stops to look at the bunnies on the Easter trail and lots of walking to just look around.

It may not have been the run I was hoping for but it was good to clear the old stale air out of my lungs and get some fresh air in. It was lovely to see the birds being busy and I spend ages running along watching a dipper in the Wharfe. The goddess Verbia was quiet today. Calm and calming. ‘You’re mind is ready’ she seemed to be saying ‘and your body will be too, just allow it to heal now’.

I crossed the river at the aqueduct and as I took a minute to just be I saw Kath coming along – she’d gone to Barden Bridge. I trotted towards her and then we walked/ran the rest of the loop together. It was lovely. We finished with our Bolton Abbey tradition of coffee and bacon sarnies. We were watched by a robin and a gorgeous female chaffinch.

It was a lovely morning.

Bolton Abbey Christmas Ducks

Before the last Dopey Simulation which we finished yesterday, we had a lovely little trot out at Bolton Abbey last Sunday. We gently plodded our way round the Barden Bridge loop with just a couple of walks up the hills. We were planning on going round the Abbey but neither of us really wanted to so we agreed to call it a day after that loop and bank a really lovely positive run.

We had our usual coffee and bacon sarnie and then got a second coffee to take away and walked towards the strid to look at the lights lining the way to Santa’s Grotto from the Elf Hut and to be near the river and see if Goddess Verbia had anything to say. She seemed a bit shouty and busy – not in an unsettling or stressful sort of way though. It was quite nice watching the Wharfe go about her business.

We walked the bottom path past the sulphur well and as we walked back up to the main path we saw an unexpected duck off to the side (sorry the photo’s a bit crap). He seemed quite jolly, if a little lonely. There was a female duck on the main path who seemed happily going about her business. Eventually she toddled off in the other duck’s direction so maybe his loneliness was short lived.

It was a lovely calm morning and not even hordes of children with obnoxious parentals and grandparents who get in the way could spoil that. As we walked back towards the car we met a group being led towards Santa’s Grotto by an Elf trying his best to keep the little creatures from running ahead by telling them that if they stayed behind him he’d tell Santa how good they’d been. Both Kath and I admired his efforts but couldn’t help laughing because his facial expression rather suggested he had the naughty list all planned out.

Dopey Simulation 1 – Miles in the Rain

Today I had a lovely little run/walk at Bolton Abbey and by ‘little’ I mean 10 miles. Nothing happened, nothing at all. No drama, no struggle, no serious tiredness, no pain… So that wasn’t necessarily expected. Long runs often mean some kind of drama and this one came after a 45 minute run on Thursday and a 4 mile run yesterday. So let me tell you about just how uneventful this run was.

We got to Bolton Abbey at 9am, had a pee, set off separately – I wanted to run 1 minute, walk 1 minute to make sure it was nice and easy and I have enough left for tomorrow. Kath did her own thing and I watched her disappear up the slope, got distracted by something and then couldn’t see her anymore. I didn’t know if she’d gone the top or bottom way. I just kept plodding along in the rain, passed a red spaniel with its humans and it said hi and bye. I got to mile 1 and then mile 2 and saw Kath at the other side of the river and jumped up and down and waved but she didn’t see me. I crossed over Barden Bridge and saw two blokes with a black dog which was excited to come through the gate into the field with me.

Half Way Point

Mile 3 came and went and then mile 4 and I was happily running a minute and walking a minute. I briefly stopped at mile 5 to take a half way picture and plodded on. A little after that I met another red spaniel, a baby spaniel (with her humans) who had trouble keeping her excitement under control. I plodded on, mile 6, past the Abbey and up through the grounds and then back down the other side down through the field and into the car park, along the car park and towards the Cavendish Pavilion. There was a split second where I wondered whether maybe the 7ish miles I’d done was enough and the temptation of a steaming cup of coffee was real but I quickly turned right across the bridge to tackle the aqueduct loop the ‘wrong way round’. 

Kath coming down the hill

7 miles. I was just about to walk up the steep long section that usually terrifies me running down it the other way, when I saw Kath coming down it. We had a quick chat and on I went. I wasn’t strictly sticking to the 1 minute/1 minute anymore now. I walked a little more of the uphill and ran more of the downhill rather than taking the intervals where they fell. 8 miles. Then pretty much 8.5 miles as I reached the aqueduct and crossed over – and on I went. I was getting a little tired now but it was all still very comfortable.

I met a couple more dogs and their humans, 9 miles. I stopped for a picture with Rudolph and plodded on. I tried to text Kath to ask her to order me a bacon sarnie so I wouldn’t miss the breakfast serving time but I had no signal. I counted down the Advent Calendar Christmas trees as I passed them and weaved my way round small people and their obnoxious parents who seemed to fill the entire path with prams, bags and swinging limbs. I could see Santa’s grotto. 10 miles. I sped up. I had just a few minutes before breakfast would end. I made eye contact with an elf outside the grotto who tried to stop a family from stepping out of the grotto and into my path but failed and I nearly mowed down ‘grandma’ who seemed to take my ‘excuse me’ as her cue to step further into my path and fling her arms out. We did a slightly awkward little dance and I was through. Just a few more steps and I was done. Tailwind rebuild recovery and a bacon sarnie together with a huge cup of coffee seemed like a suitable way to celebrate a good run

Me and Rudolph

So how are we doing with the Dopey simulation? Well it has all been about the rain – the run today was mostly in the rain. The run last night was all in the rain – it was a plod but  I got out after a day of 6 hours of teaching and the best part of 10 hours at work. Thursday I actually managed to get out when it wasn’t raining. Kath and I happily plodded our sheep loop and just as we got back it poured it down. So there we are, it’s going well. The big one is tomorrow. 20 miles. I’m mildly terrified but also looking forward to it. See you on the other side.

Grumpy Grouse and too many miles

So last weekend we were due to run the Bolton Abbey Half Marathon in the Run for Manorlands event. I was not as nervous about it as I thought I might be. I felt good after the kingfisher miles when I woke up and thought that actually it might be ok and I would worry about the remaining miles to get me to the 20 it said on the plan after the event. However, Kath was struggling. It was clear that doing an organised event with people, a fixed time and fixed route was not going to work or be good for either of us. We decided IMG_2851not to go and run round here instead. Soon it became clear that that wasn’t going to be healthy either. A long run was too much for our fragile brains. We did manage to get out in the afternoon for a short little run and walk and even got Kath home for the start of the rugby while I toddled along to the co-op. I saw a very pretty duck on the canal if I remember my days properly.IMG_2886

I then actually managed to run twice during the week! On Monday and Thursday I dragged my butt round roughly 4 miles. I don’t really remember anything much about Monday’s run – it was along the canal and it was in the morning I think and it was promising to be a beautiful day. On Thursday we went up. Kath went ahead and she picked me up on her way back down. I plodded my way up Ilkley Road towards Ilkley Moor and saw pheasants and inquisitive fluffy cows and a kestrel. Just as I was beginning to long for enough breath to be able to swear at the hill something caught my eye – red kites circling above me. I stopped to watch them for a while, got my breath back, marched up the hill and saw Kath. We stood together and watched the kites a while longer before making our way back down.

 

We moved the weekends around so this weekend then became our long run weekend. Yesterday the plan said 8.5 miles walk. We vaguely toyed with the idea of getting the train up to Haworth and running to Top Withens but as we went to bed on Friday we were talking about plans and agreed that Kath should just get out and run if awake early and ready to go. She did exactly that and was back not that long after I’d woken up. I had actually planned on going back to bed for a bit but Shackleton had other ideas and was curled up in the warm patch I’d left. So I sat on the sofa a while cuddling our Ernie-Cat and when Kath got back we had breakfast and then did sort of nondescript Saturday IMG_2950things for a while and then I set off on my run. I was planning on taking it really easy and do a 1 minute run/1 minute walk with more walking if needed. I wanted as much as possible in the tank for today.

I had a lovely run out. I stuck to the intervals all the way with the odd longer walk or longer run to let people pass or to get past them. At no point did I find it hard, at no point was there a mental battle, I was just out enjoying the autumn sun. I stopped the watch after 8.5 miles and then walked the remaining half a mile home. It felt good to have had a positive outing and to have completed a full week of the Dopey Plan.

IMG_2953Today was the big one. We were supposed to cover 20 miles. We’d already said we would probably not cover the entire distance because we wanted to go to Bolton Abbey and run there and go up to Simon’s Seat on Barden Moor. Anything over 16 ish felt ok in my head given the terrain we would cover. I felt up for it this morning, perhaps a little anxious but generally fine about going. We parked in the top carpark because there are still roadworks blocking the road down to the Cavendish Pavilion. We set off from there and made our way down to the stepping stones and crossed over the bridge. We stayed on the bottom path and ran/walked until we started going up, then we more walked/ran and eventually just walked. So the elevation profile gives you a sense of our adventure today:

Screenshot 2018-11-18 19.27.26

Basically it was a hike with a little, tiny little bit, of running thrown in. To be honest, the up was fine. It was hard and I am so totally not hill fit but it was fine, it was a challenge and one I knew I’d rise to – might just be a matter of time but if there is a hill I will get to the top of it eventually. I could have run some of the bits along the top – particularly for example the ridge line between Lord’s Seat and Simon’s Seat but the path is flagged and the flags were wet and I’m a wimp and also I was conscious that I had a very very long way to cover still. we reached Simon’s Seat. No really, it’s there.

 

We’d been running in a mixture of low cloud and mist and that easterly wind they talked about on the forecast – yep it was there. Still it was somehow lovely. There were no other people for a start. It wasn’t a menacing wind, just a wind and the mist and cloud felt like it was hiding us from the world beyond, keeping us safe from the hustle and bustle. There was a hint of magic in the air interrupted only by the chuntering of the grouse.

Anyway, the problem with going all that way up is that at some point you have to come IMG_2973back down. I’m not a fan of down. It took me longer to get down from Simon’s Seat (about a mile) than it takes me to run 5km on the flat. It pushed a whole load of buttons and took a huge amount of mental strength. The views were pretty good when I remembered to look and we had some giggles on the way down. More grouse – they must the grumpiest bird on earth. They sort of go from a slightly surprised but more irritated alarm call to a grumble to flying away chuntering like they are muttering grouse profanities under their breath. We did get really close to one which grumbled but refused to fly off – though I am now muddled as that must have been earlier between the two Seats.

Anyway the down. A few times Kath reminded me to just keep moving and that it is actually harder if you stop. She probably has a point. At one point though she called back saying ‘just keep your momentum through this bit’ as she glanced back she just saw me perfectly poised balancing on one leg saying ‘yep, too late’ as I ungracefully flung myself forward, slipped on the mud, wobbled, caught myself and whimpered. We dissolved into fits of giggles before moving on. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, we were down, on a proper lane. I set the run/walk intervals and waited for Kath to re-tie her shoelaces. I felt drained. It had been a physical challenge in the sense that  the up is pretty brutal when you’re actually not all that fit and that my ankles and core most definitely got a workout on the way down and it had been mentally pretty tiring. I really wasn’t sure I’d have another 10 miles or so in me. Kath read my mind (usually does) and suggested that we could split the run. So rather than turning towards Burnsall, we’d simply head back towards Bolton Abbey and then head home and go out again later in the day. That sounded like a more manageable plan and would still justify the medal the Run for Manorlands team had so kindly posted us.

IMG_2975We ran walked a lot of the way back. It was ok. In fact some of it was actually fun and I felt strong and positive and there weren’t any major battles going on in my head. I was tired and my back and hips were tightening but it was all ok and the scenery was stunning. We made it back to the Pavilion, Kath stopped at the loos and then we did the last push back to the car. We drove home and planned to go straight out again. As we got home Kath wondered whether maybe actually we’d done enough. We’d been out a long time and we had worked hard. I should have listened – that was the sensible call. At the very least we maybe should have had a longer rest. But no. In my head the 12.6 miles we’d done were nowhere near close enough 20. In my head I needed to go out and do more. So we set off. About half a mile in I decided that actually it was good to have made myself go out again. At a mile I knew it it wasn’t. I had nothing left. There were people, too many people and it felt like Kath was running really fast and I couldn’t make myself go any faster. Then there was some traffic noise and I physically flinched and then there were more people and I could see more ahead and I couldn’t run and I couldn’t stop the rising panic and I couldn’t find the words to explain to Kath and we got our wires crossed and I just wanted to be somewhere else, somewhere quiet, maybe with the grouse. We walked home. Another 1.85 miles added.

As we got in the house I started crying. I’m not even really sure why. 14.45 miles will have to do for today. It’s not 20 but there are no ups or downs like the ones I tackled today at Disney. I had a lovely time out there – I shouldn’t have gone out again, not straight away anyway, but we live and learn. I don’t feel broken now, tired yes, broken no. Every time I close my eyes I can hear the grouse chuntering and see that one suspiciously watching us as we made our way past. We saw herons and dippers today too and for the first time realised that the pretty birdsong we couldn’t place belongs to a dipper. It’s been a good day and the 1.85 mile meltdown doesn’t change that.

Sunday weigh in – I’m the same and Ernie cat has put on 400grams which is awesome news!

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The Goddess Verbia and Squirrels that drop out of trees

IMG_2402Ok so those two things are not actually related as far as I know but then you can never be sure with a goddess.  It has been a tough week. Monday feels like soooooo long ago. I recovered reasonably well after my 14.5 mile adventure last Sunday and Monday I was a little tired but not actually sore. Tuesday things did not go to plan. My plan was to drop Kath off at the station, leave the car at the station, run back home, get ready for work and make my way back to the station – this does make sense. No really it does. There are no car parking spaces after about 7.15am and I wanted the car to be there in the evening. Anyway, because the university has a timetabling system which isn’t supposed to be able to timetable us in two places at the same time, but apparently can do exactly that to at least one of my colleagues, I ended up teaching at 9am. It threw out the rest of the week and I have been slightly confused ever since. I know, doesn’t take much.

I didn’t get out to run until Wednesday afternoon. That didn’t go to plan either. I thought I would just try my Hokas one more time. You know just because. Well my legs don’t like them and my achilles tendon detests them. I got about a mile and three quarters in and had to walk because it was screaming at me. As soon as I took the Hokas off it was fine. I then meant to run again on Thursday but that didn’t happen mainly because I decided to rewrite my lecture for the nth time. I did make it to yoga though. Friday I taught for 6IMG_2418 hours starting at 9am and finishing at 5pm. Anyone who can give a 2 hour lecture, pull together an outline for a paper, have a chat about LLM dissertations, mark 2 LLM dissertations and then teach 2 two hour workshops and then still function on any level at all never mind run is not actually human. I nearly feel asleep in my pint!

So Saturday. It’s a wild sort of autumnal and I love it. The original plan was Cliffe Castle parkrun again but neither of us really wanted people. We went to Bolton Abbey Instead to run our little loop. Dopey Plan has 3 miles on it today. We haven’t run at Bolton Abbey for quite a while. The colours were spectacular and the Wharfe was well up. It was warm. After the usual pit stop we set off at a gentle jog up the first slope. About half way up I thought maybe  I should have gone with Kath’s suggestions of walking to the top and setting off from there. But I made it and recovered. The noise from the Wharfe encouraging me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. As a reward, just as we got to the top of the slope, a mass of leaves in all shades of yellow and orange gently floated to the ground all around us. It felt like natures very own congratulations confetti.

IMG_2414On we plodded. I could’t really decide if that cold I had is still lingering, whether I have lost most of my fitness or whether I just felt lazy today but it just seemed hard going. I focused on looking around, taking in the different colours and smells and consciously acknowledging the temperature variations with every landscape change. They were really noticeable and marked today. Descending (usually) into colder air actually felt really nice because I was far too warm in my long pants and with my rain jacket on. I took it off after about half a mile and tied it round my middle. As much as I was trying to look around and take in the wood it was the Wharfe that kept pulling my attention back to it. The sound of the water, sometimes gently encouraging but mostly urging us on with a more or less forceful roar, was always there and somehow demanding my focus.

As I walked up the hill alongside the Strid and struggled to catch my breath I tried to consciously draw strength from the power of the water surging down. I briefly closed my eyes, tripped over a stone and swore but I liked the idea of drawing on the power of the water. As we descended again I asked Kath whether she knew who the goddess of water was – not ocean but water more generally and we decided we didn’t know. Whoever she is though, I liked the fact that she was offering her strength for us to draw on so freely. All we had to do was listen. I tried to concentrate on that.

We crossed over the aqueduct and headed back towards our starting point. I’d sort of wanted to go further but the plan said 3 miles and I was finding it hard so we agreed that a positive shorter run would be better than a miserable longer one. I kept running. As we moved away and up from the Wharfe a little I missed the noise. It was like it was no longer talking to me urging me on. Running got harder. I was just beginning to fall a little behind Kath as I watched a squirrel climb up a really big tree a little ahead,  and then fall out of it. It landed really close to Kath and both of them nearly jumped out of their skin and stared at each other for a split second before carrying on along their way each as incredulous as the other. Laughing had helped me catch up.

We walked up the nemesis hill and then down the other side and the Wharfe was back. First with very gentle whispers and then with more urgency. At one point the path runs right next to the river and I imagined it pulling me along with it and I knew I’d be able to finish without walking. I powered up the last two slopes and kept going along the path taking us back to the bridge and across the Wharfe to our starting point. I’d found it hard, much harder than I probably should at this point in Dopey training, but I enjoyed every step. I also enjoyed our breakfast and watching the wind and the rain while drinking my coffee.

So when I got home I searched for information on a water or river goddess and I can do better than just some generic deity. Meet Verbia, the goddess of the River Wharfe. I know very little about her but I think I like her and I am certainly thankful for her help today. She often has a calm efficiency about her as she flows along her way but it doesn’t take much to get her going with some urgency and power that is a little bit scary. However it does take a lot to make her burst her banks (sorry Kath, I know rivers don’t burst their banks, they overtop but bursting banks sounds more dramatic and tantrum-y) and lose her shit. She’s feisty but controlled. I don’t know if she makes squirrels fall out of trees too.