Gettysburg Tourist Run

Well, we are home and jet lag is a bitch. My grand total of achievements for today is to get out of bed briefly and to make some hummus and then some lemon drizzle cake. I might add eating said cake to that list shortly. Still, there are tourist running blog posts to be caught up on!

We left Shenandoah on Friday morning and on the way out of the park stopped at the Northern Visitor Centre called Dickey Ridge and did a little loop walk from there. We just did the short Fox Hollow Loop which was a nice leg stretcher. We kept our eyes peeled for another bear, there were signs that one was in the area and warning people not to talk the loop with dogs as the bear was aggressive towards dogs. We didn’t see one though but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.

Then we drove to Gettysburg watching the landscape change again as we went. After a little walk round, a drink at the bar and a shower we headed to the Mason Dixon Distillery for food and a drink or two. After trying a spirits flight and then another cocktail our morning run was never going to be all rainbows and unicorns.

We set off and went in a straight line from our hotel until we hit the Gettysburg National Cemetery. It was too hot, too humid, too everything. I was struggling to breathe and my legs were heavy. I huffed and puffed my way for that half mile feeling pretty crappy. Well what do you expect drinking a mix of vodka, rum and rough as a bear’s backside stuff the American’s call whiskey.

We walked round the cemetery and then into the Military Park. We walked through the park from monument to monument. It felt a bit odd to run so we didn’t. I was more than happy to walk! It is a quite spectacular site and the scale is hard to capture.

After a quick pee stop and after having seen lots of people running through the park we decided to run back to the hotel. It was roughly 2.5 miles ish and had some hills in. I wasn’t optimistic but clearly walking round the park had woken my system up and as soon as we started running I knew I felt better. We plodded our way back through the park and then along the road rather than through the cemetery and actually it was a good little run in the end.

After breakfast we set off for 3 nights at Chesapeake Bay to wind down completely before home. The first run there I have already blogged about here.

Shenandoah National Park – hiking and a little bit of running

We entered the National Park in our trusted Neville at the most Southerly Point – at Rockfish Gap. We started our leisurely drive up Skyline Drive stopping at many of the look out points. We stopped a few miles in to do a short walk to the summit of Turk Mountain (all the trails we did have information on them on the website if you want to look). It was a really clearly marked and easy trail. I am not hill fit at all so it was a little more sweaty and huffy/puffy than I wanted it to be but it was a great walk. 

It took us maybe an hour and a half to go up and come back down and there were some good views from the top. After that we continued our drive up to Big Meadow Lodge. We had lunch (with really poor service), drove back down to the waystation, visitor centre and shop and looked at that for a bit and then eventually got checked in after being told to be back at 3pm for our keys and waiting until 3.20. When we got to our room the housekeeper was still there. It was not a great start and we were both tired and a bit grumpy. 

We decided to head out for a little explore and were soon cheered up by chipmunks which are darting about all over the car park. We walked up to the Black Rock summit – an easy ten minutes from the car park and watched the weather blow in. We managed a selfie in a bit of a cloud gap but that was all we got. After a bit of a chill out we had food and a bottle of local white wine in the tap room and planned the next set of adventures.

6thJune didn’t start well. I struggled to wake up. Even after coffee I felt sluggish and sleepy. Probably the wine – which had been nice but clearly hangover inducing. We set off for a little run and it was so so hard. The plan was just to run down to the big meadow, have a walk round that and then run back up. I really struggled and as we turned off one trail onto another and started going up a little bit I felt really sick. I stopped and we walked a little. Kath had some polo mints in her vest and having one helped with the nausea. We saw a deer and that cheered me up.

We got to the big meadow and followed some little tracks through for a while watching some deer in the distance and people with ridiculously sized cameras watching the deer and probably looking out for bears too. Then we ran/walked our way back to our room and I had a little cry. I felt utterly crappy and unfit and like the best thing would be just to stay in the room and let Kath go explore. Then I got over myself and we went for breakfast and set off on the days adventures.

First up we were going to to the Hawksbill summit loop which would take us to the highest summit in the National Park via a looped trail that was described as moderate and busy in the guidebook that we had bought the day before. We pulled into a car park and then realised that we had pulled into the one before the one we were actually meant to park in. A quick look at the map determined that we could get to the summit from this spot and that it would take us up a fire road and would be an out and back walk. We decided to do that to avoid a busy trail and to give me some confidence. It was a nice walk up and while a little huffing and puffing definitely happened, it wasn’t too bad. We were rewarded with some stunning Blue Ridge Mountain views.

After the Hawksbill summit we walked back down the way we came and saw quite a few people making their way up now so we had definitely timed it right and chosen the right trail as there was a steady stream of people on the other one as far as we could tell. We drove onwards a little and stopped at the Skyland resort for a pee. It was a little early for lunch but we had read about a short easy trail which was only a roughly 1.5 mile loop and close to Skyland so we decided to walk that. It was called the Limberlost Trail and was a path aimed at families or those struggling to walk longer or more challenging trails. There were frequent benches and an activity sheet for kids at the start of the trail. We walked round listening to the birds and chatting. When we were done it was time for lunch.

After lunch at Skyland we drove back towards Big Meadows to do the Dark Hollow Falls walk as an out and back or, if we felt like it, with tagging on the Rose River Loop. The Dark Hollow Falls trail starts with a gentle but steady decent. It’s a definite trail rather than track with roots and rocks and later on some muddy sections but it really isn’t too technical. I was doing ok and really enjoying being out. I was thinking about how much trail running has taught me about my ability to do this sort of thing and some of those reflections formed the basis of my latest #Run1000Miles ambassador blog which went live today.

We arrived at the top of the Water falls – just above the Dark Hollow Falls where there is a little cascade. We sat for a bit on the rock, sipped some water and waited for the walkers around us to clear. Then we moved on. It was steeper downhill here and I had a few moments were I didn’t really want to be doing this. However, the setting was too stunning to consider not doing it. It was busy though so we just kept moving, stopping only to let people who were making their way up the path come past us. When we eventually arrived at the bottom we had a proper look at the falls. They are stunning and then decided that we would walk on.

We looked at the map. After having come all the way down the way we did we thought that going back up that way with the number of people and the steep bits would actually not be fun so we decided to walk part of the Rose River Loop but then pick up the horse trail that runs between Skyland and Big Meadows and walk back along that to the car park. That would avoid the worst up and should avoid people altogether. I looked at the map and declared ‘that sounds good because we are nearly at the lowest point now so should start gently climbing again soon’.

And off we went. Down. More down. And then more down. Clearly I can’t read an elevation map. We were not in fact nearly at the lowest point. We were about half way down at this point. We wound our way along the river which was a stunning and set to a wonderful soundtrack of trickling water which got stronger through the cascades and quieter in the pools. We spend about a mile and a quarter going down a fairly technical trail. Every time it evened out and we spent a bit of time walking alongside a pool or slow flowing sections we thought we were at the bottom and then came the next cascade. Eventually we were as low as we could go though, crossed the river over a bridge and started going up.

We came to some more water falls. They were busy again which struck me as odd because on the trail itself we hadn’t really seen anyone at all. As we made our way further up a family coming down told us that they had just seen a bear. I was a bit scared and excited at the same time. We kept our eyes open but there was no bear to be seen. I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or disappointed.

Once at the end of the trail we needed to find the horse trail. The map in the book turned out to be inaccurate but luckily we had the paper map the visitor centre had given us. With the help of that we found the trail and continued walking up hill a while. We were a good mile or so into the trail, maybe even more when we say our bear. There it was. Maybe 60 metres off the trail munching on leaves. It knew we were there as it looked over a couple of times. We stood and watched, in awe. I felt very grateful for being allowed to be in its space, to watch it and to share a brief moment with it. Then we moved on and left it to it. Given how quickly it could just disappear from view even while we were watching it, I am sure we had probably been seen by quite a few bears all day – this one just chose to let us see it.

After a shower and some tlc for my really quite impressive heat rash we bought some Limberlost Lager to celebrate a good day of hiking (and having hiked the trail of the same name) and sat with that in the Great Room in some rocking chairs to talk about the next day, plans and to wrap our heads around the fact that we had seen not only deer and all manner of birds including a peregrine but also a black bear. It had been a 38000 step day though so we didn’t last very long before falling into bed.

Splish Splash I was having a….

Run. I was having a run. No that sounds wrong. I was running. Well sort of. I was out there putting one foot in front of the other at varying paces. It looked like it was going to be another of those days where it just doesn’t happen. I have a ton of marking to do – the kind that takes forever because it’s formative so needs even more detailed feedback, we went out for lunch and that took longer than we wanted it to and the weather – urgh.

Anyway, I had ordered some new trainers ridiculously reduced – some Inov8 Roclite 305 gore-tex ones for under 50 quid. I mean it would have been rude not to. So I set myself a target of 5 more essays and then I could/had to go run. I put long pants on – yep time for big girl pants, too cold for 3/4 now I reckon – a long-sleeved top, my rain jacket and then because light was fading fast, a bright neon yellow t-shirt over the top. I looked a right plonker but I wasn’t about to be cold! Then I put the new shoes on and set off.

I can’t really do a proper review because it was only a short plod and I walked the uneven, muddy, trail-y bit because I couldn’t really see where I was putting my feet and my ankles were quite stiff and I am terrified of injuring myself. But  – why the hell did nobody tell me about gore-tex trainers before? I had so much fun not avoiding puddles and splish sploshing around that I started searching  puddles out to jump into them – and I still have dry socks. I can do puddles and have dry feet. It’s magic! I never had gore-tex trainers before. Getting some somehow always felt like a step too far – they’re for proper runners. I don’t really go anywhere where I need them, or for long enough that wet feet really matter… so the complete crap would go in my head.  I tried some once and they felt really tight and inflexible compared to the non gore-tex version so I presumed they were all like that. I was wrong. Love these. Bring on the puddles!

Happy running and splish splash splashing about!

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:

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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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Cliffe Castle and St Ives Estate

I live in a gorgeous part of the world. Yes, yes, I know, I live in Keighley which doesn’t immediately inspire visions of gorgeousness… but there is loads of amazing countryside on our doorstep and there are some lovely parks around too. I have lived here for quite some time now and the connection with this area is even longer and yet I had never been to Cliffe Castle Park apart from one brief run through it on the Keighley 10k and I have never been to the St Ives Estate in Bingley either – apart from once visiting a client at a care home there. That seems so totally implausible and it’s a bit embarrassing really. But maybe it’s also normal, we never spend enough time exploring what’s right on our doorstep do we.

IMG_2366So this weekend I ticked off those two place – now I can at least say that I’ve been and that I am more than just a little bit likely to go again. So let’s start at the beginning. Saturday’s Dopey Plan called for a 5.5 mile walk. We thought we’d jog down to our fairly new local parkrun at Cliffe Castle. I thought it would be just over a mile – it’s actually almost exactly 2 miles. We jogged the first mile or so, then walked the bit cutting through some backstreets where we weren’t too sure about direction. We arrived with about 10 minutes to spare and then my 3rd and Kath’s 4th parkrun were ago. Kath trotted round in a rather impressive 32 minutes something as I plodded my way round slowly. I felt fine and was actually enjoying myself but I didn’t feel strong. The course is nice. It starts off with a down hill on a wide path before turning left onto a gravel path which is quite narrow – no matter for me, I just let everyone go ahead of me on the downhill! It is mostly flat as you come off the gravel path onto a tarmac one and into the wood. Then the climb starts. You turn left and start going up. You just keep going up for quite a while.

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It’s a bit narrow and on the first lap I got stuck behind a group of people walking slower than I would normally while the parkrun frontrunners lapped us. While the climb is a bitch, once you’ve done that it’s easy – downhill mostly. On my second lap I tried to power walk the hill too fast and had to stop on the steepest bend to get my breath back, on the third lap I got it right – a fast positive walk at a pace I could sustain all the way and from which I could start running again immediately when I got to the top. As I ran past the house for the final time Kath saw me and came to join me so we ran the last bit together. Just up to the finish is a slope, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to run it but as we headed for it Kath told me I could do it and the music speakers blasted out Born in the USA. I ran. It was a slow 5k but it felt like I was finally getting back to normal. We walked back home and, though tired, I felt good.

Today we were to tackle about 15 miles. I was a little apprehensive but also really 43289087_419537471910638_2187069755976843264_nlooking forward to a new route and having a little adventure and it was a gorgeous morning. We set off along the canal towards Bingley, we ran down and then dropped into run/walk intervals of 2 minute runs and 30 second walks just before a little footpath that cuts through from Riddlesden to Morton – about half way along that there was a sheep on the path. We had several attempts at letting it come past us but it always changed it mind and kept going forward. It was clearly concerned about getting back to its field though so we hoped that it would go back as soon as as we had reached the end of the footpath where we could get past. It did. Along this stretch we also saw a sweet little black cat and for a brief moment we were running side by side with a sheep and a cat. Then the sheep went back and the cat changed its mind and left us to it.IMG_2373

I was tired by the time we got to Bingley. Kath saw a Kingfisher which briefly took my mind off things as I searched for it. As we came off the canal I started to really doubt that I could do the distance and suddenly felt really anxious. I think it was probably the traffic noice and busy-ness that seemed really noticeable after the quiet of the canal towpath. We walked through Bingley and headed into Myrtle Park and followed the path to Beckfoot Lane which is basically where the UP started. It was quite a lot of up after this. A lot of up. Once we got to the top of Beckfoot Lane we crossed over into St Ives Estate for a bit more up. Then we crossed the main drive up into the Estate, climbed a stile into a field and then another into a bigger field and made our way across. It would actually have been quite nice to run this bit – it’s flat. But the fields were full of cows. Gorgeous fluffy black and white cows (Belted Galloways), some were this year’s young I would imagine. It was a little nerve-racking walking through the fields but the cows weren’t interested enough to actually come and have a look, they just stared a bit. At the end of the 3rd large field there was a little metal gate into a wood and more up. The up was taking its toll now and I felt really quite tired, we passed 6 miles.

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The UP!

The route continued through the wooded areas of the Estate, past the Coppice Pond and

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Felt how I look

eventually (more up) past Lady Blantrye’s Rock and a monument . Then we continue on along the edge of the golf course until we eventually reached Altar Lane. After a brief stop to look at the view we jogged down until we reached the Druid’s Altar turn off, we thought we might as well have a look and the views before heading back down. After that we headed all the way down the lane until we dropped into Bingley again. The traffic noise hit me again and my neck and back pulled tight. I couldn’t shake the tightness and over the next half a mile it gave a horrendous headache. It was definitely the tightness rather then dehydration or anything. It eased every time we walked and I could roll my shoulders or get Kath to rub my upper back. I was really struggling now and at 10 miles could quite happily have just curled up and cried. We carried on the canal and walked a bit to try and settle. At the top of the 5 Rise Locks I managed a few more running intervals but with every step it felt like there was an explosion in my head. In the end we switched the running and walking intervals and I just ran for 30 seconds leaving the 2 minutes to try and relax my shoulders and get rid of enough tension so I could do the next run. We couldn’t just head straight home, we needed more distance so kept going to the next bridge and walked up through our local little wood. I now had nothing at all left. We stopped at one point and I wasn’t sure I could get home. I really thought that trying to do this distance had been a mistake and it was far too much so soon after that cold I’ve had.

I pulled myself together and managed another little jog and then another before walking the last quarter of a mile home to finish on 14.5 miles. It was slow, so slow and I was initially so disappointed. But now that I’ve been home a while, had a bath, a recovery drink and some food and now that the fire’s lit and I can smell our roast chicken cooking, I feel pretty good about it. I am not broken at all. I am tired, really tired but nothing hurts, no major chafing, and no major muscle soreness or stiffness (yet). I covered the distance this weekend and it feels really good to be back on plan. Recovery so far has been sitting on the sofa with a cuddly cat, writing this blog and watching rubbish TV to just unwind. Dinner won’t be long and then it’s time to curl up with a film and give in to the tired. Yeah I was disappointed but actually, it’s done, it was a lovely route and we had an adventure.

Oh yeah Sunday weigh-in – I jumped on the scales before the run and I’m another pound down.

It’s been a good day and I like this trail shoe selfie!

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