The Lakeland Lapland Festive Virtual Ultra

I can’t remember when exactly we signed up for this but it seemed like a good idea at the time because it seemed like it would get us out of the house doing some miles. We signed up as Team Double Dopey and because we had no idea how I would be, the plan was always for Kath to do most of the miles and I would contribute what I could. To cover the full trek distance of 234km we would need to do just short of 10km a day each over 12 days. That actually didn’t sound too bad! At the start I had grand ideas about doing lots of run/walk but I soon realised that I was once again expecting too much of myself and that I really needed to remember that I have been quite poorly and that really not that long ago walking 1km was pretty much impossible. So a reigned myself in and settled into the idea that walking was a good thing!

Today we completed the challenge with a whole day to spare and in fact we also sat Friday out and didn’t add to our total then because we were both really tired and heavy legged. In the end I did almost half of our team effort with 113.8km and Kath did 122km exactly. Mostly I walked. Here’s how my challenge went:

Zero (A Nightmare Before Christmas) sort of
  1. A shortish local walk ‘inspecting’ other people’s Christmas lights started us off on 10th December
  2. A shorter than planned run because of the now infamous bra malfunction on the 11th
  3. Another evening walk, more inspecting of Christmas lights again on the 11th
  4. A slightly longer distance (4.4 miles) of which the first 3 miles were run/walk on the 12th
  5. The 13th saw us walk 6.75 miles in the cold and wet and dry and warm feet have never felt so good
  6. On the 14th I just walked a short loop because my feet were sore
  7. On the 15th I went to Bolton Abbey and walked a stunning sunny loop of 7.6 miles
  8. I added another couple of miles to that with a short out and back walk in the evening
  9. On the 16th I combined a post office stop with a canal walk home adding another 5km to the total
  10. On the 17th I stopped at the post office again and looped home the other way round drawing Zero from A Nightmare before Christmas in the process (sort of)
  11. I’d just got back home when Kath finished work so we walked up to say hi to the grouse – they were grumpy of course
  12. On the 18th we rested and on the 19th we walked to Ilkley to the bookshop and back
  13. And later that day walked a loop with multiple errand stops
  14. Yesterday we walked 6.74 miles mostly in the sun
  15. And today, well we walked at dawn – out and back just over 5km
  16. And then we finished with a run/walk on a similar out and back route for our Solstice Saunter at dusk

It was lovely to finish the challenge with a run/walk and I found the 30 second run intervals much easier than I had the last time I tried them so walking most days has helped. The challenge also meant that I went out much more than I might have done otherwise – particularly on those rainy grey days. It’s been great all round really – in spite of sore feet at times.

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.

On being half way – or not

Ok, well, we are half way through the calendar year. Nearly at the end of another academic year and nowhere near where I wanted to be in all sorts of ways. Earlier in the year I was storming ahead with ambitious research plans for my sabbatical, more ambitious plans for all the other things I’d do while not caught up in teaching and administration at work and with my bid to run 1000 miles this year. After a super successful December of running clocking up over 100 miles, January was the same (helped of course by Dopey) and then February and March also came close to the 100 miles mark. April was a little lower with tapering for London but still I clocked up nearly 60 miles. May and June were rather crap – I came in under 30 miles both months.

It’s not that I have just been sitting on my arse – although I have done rather too much of that too! So I didn’t run much in May, oh well, it was just after a marathon, perfectly justifiable rest. June – well, I started with some Washington DC running but then didn’t do much else. The running was all tourist running with lots of stops and excuses to catch my breath and if that didn’t work, I could always blame the heat. We did a few good walks on the rest of the trip and a couple of runs at Chesapeake Bay. Then we got home and I did nothing. I nearly pulled out of the Solstice Saunter on the 21st June because I didn’t like the idea of running 5 hilly miles on basically no training.

However, I did go do the Solstice Saunter and it was a beautiful run. It was hard but I ran quite a lot of it and just walked the hills really. I was expecting to be significantly slower than the year before but even with my stops for a few pictures along the way, a chat at the water station and walking the hills I was only about 5 minutes slower and I very much enjoyed it. Then I did no running for the rest of the month. I did do the 10k Leeds Legal Walk on the Monday after and I went to Pilates class on Wednesday and then we had a lovely 10 ish mile walk yesterday.

We drove up to Malham and parked up and walked to the cove. There were a few people about but not many and for a little while we had the cove to ourselves. We lingered and listened to the gentle gurgle of water and the birds. Then we made our way up the steps at the side of the cove to the top. We stopped to help some kids with a map who then got told off for asking for help. At the top of the cover we waited for the kids to get going and as we were about to set off a peregrine gave us a lovely little display before flying off into the distance. We crossed the cove and started our descent on the other side and because we were chatting went the wrong way.

We realised after about half a mile and doubled back and got ourselves back onto the pennine way and made our way onwards to Malham Tarn. There we sat at the water’s edge with a sausage roll enjoying the views before moving on. We headed towards Gordale Scar and started making our way down. I don’t really like down. We got to the first water fall and talked to a couple of people coming up – they said the next bit was wet and slippery and technical. We decided to turn back. When we got back to the top we had a little sit down and a look at the map. We knew where we were exactly but the path we thought we should take next rather than going all the way back to the road didn’t seem to be on the map. We took it anyway.

We walked along the ridge and eventually made our way down into the valley and bought an ice-cream at ‘Gordale Refreshments’. It was lush. We walked with it to look at Gordale Scar from the bottom. It confirmed that we made the right call not coming down the last bit. Lots of people were going up it and there was a bit of an audience and it was definitely wet and looked a bit steep and slippery. Up might be a possibility for another time but I am not sure I’d want to climb down it.

From there we walked on to Janet’s Foss and then back to Malham for a coffee and a chip butty and the Old Barn Cafe. It was a lovely lovely walk. We did very little for the rest of the day. Today was a complete waste of a day really. I never got going and got naff all done. At lunchtime Kath dragged my sorry butt round our sheep look and in spite of initially being anxious about actually running and finding it very hard it was good to be out and running. July starts more positively on the running front.

So half way. I am at about 420 miles. So about 80 miles behind my mileage target. I am disappointed. I started the year ahead and I let that slip. But I also think I can probably catch up if it turns out I want to. I’m not sure I do. I enjoyed the run today and I feel ready to run more again now but I might change my mind next time I run. So I am half way to wherever – it doesn’t matter. Let’s just see where I get to – miles, work stuff, other stuff. Or at least that’s what I keep trying to tell myself. In reality though I am grumpy. I am grumpy about the first 6 months of the year. I am grumpy about things not done and fitness lost and at the moment they are the things dominating my thoughts rather than the things achieved. Hm