Running Adventures in the Yorkshire Dale

This weekend was a long weekend in the Yorkshire Dales, a part of the country I have never visited before. It was a wonderful weekend of running on fells and trails and relaxing by a log fire, in the Yorkshire Dales. I can’t remember what I used to do on holiday before running dominated all holiday plans.

Public transport is very limited in this part of the world, much more so than Snowdonia or the Lake District. I can’t drive and we don’t have a car so running was the perfect way to go further than if we were walking.  We stayed in Settle which is accessible by train, on the famous Settle-Carlisle railway, and it proved to be the perfect base for challenging runs.

Malham Cove and Goredale Scar are fairly close to Settle but not easily accessible by public transport (although there is a bus from Skipton which we used to get back to the railway and on to our base).  Following the Settle Loop route which is part of the Pennine Bridleway, the run involved rough tracks and lots and lots of mud. We ran over the Bridleway, then dropped down to the top of Malham Cove, ran across to Goredale, then back along the river into Malham finishing with a view of Malham Cove from below.

My navigation skills were a bit off at the start, so we ended up doing a couple of miles of proper fell running to get to the lanes and bridle path. Definitely more fun than starting with a couple of miles of lanes though. Starting at around 500ft and climbing to 1200ft within the first mile was tough. Especially as the steepest part of that was up a muddy grassy hill slope (what did I say about fells being more fun than lanes?!). My lungs and legs felt ready to explode.

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Struggling up the very long hill…

There was snow on the tops between Settle and Malham too. Bitterly cold so very glad for all my warm layers. Despite having a rucksack full of warm layers to put on at the pub for the journey back, I realised I’d forgotten clean dry socks. Must always remember fresh socks.

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Still going up!

Navigational errors also resulted in a pointless run up a hill with a 14% gradient warning sign. Malham Cove was stunning, although the limestone rocks were horrible to walk on in my Saucony Peregrine trail shoes. Goredale Scar was beautiful too.

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Goredale Scar. Still a couple more miles to run.

I attempted to record the run on my Garmin but there was so much stopping and starting, for map reading, rests, and to take photos of the amazing scenery, that it kept going into power save mode. So I’ve plotted the route very roughly. It works out somewhere around 12 miles with 2240ft of hills. I am trying not to care about time or pace and just enjoy it. After all it was a run about challenging myself to different terrain and taking in the fantastic scenery. Walking to Malham and Goredale Scar would have been a very long day, whereas we fitted in all the sights and a pub trip within the space of 4 hours!

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View the route on Plotaroute.com

Wirral Way Trail Half Marathon 2017

Race: Wirral Way Trail Half Marathon 2017
Location: Wirral Way – Hooton to Thurstaston
Date: Sunday 8th January 2017
Finish Time: 02:02:55

A damp, foggy, and surprisingly mild January morning saw around 700 runners take part in the first Wirral Way half marathon. I only entered this race because my brother wanted me to do it, then he was forced to pull out on the orders of his physio but I decided to give it a go anyway. Starting on the Wirral Way at Hooton, the route took us along bridlepath with a little bit of road, and then mud towards the finish at Thurstaston country park. A flat course for a trail race so perfect for first time runners.

Due to very narrow parts of the course, particularly at the start, we were set off in small groups at 15 minute intervals. I was booked on to the 10:15 group so enjoyed the luxury of not having to get out of bed until 8am. Rare for a race! Setting off in small groups was good because it meant the race felt low key and relaxed. The only downside was I was running on my own for a long time as the group spread out quickly. Thankfully I started to catch up with slower runners and then the faster runners from later groups started to overtake.

I went into the race unsure about how I would do. I didn’t have a target pace or time in mind. The distance alone wasn’t my worry but rather running that distance in my trail shoes. I was undecided beforehand about what shoes to wear. Although it was muddy, it was no worse than canal towpath routes that I usually run in my road shoes. I was glad to have my Saucony Peregrines on for the small section of churned up muddy field. I happily skipped through that whilst others around me tentatively walked through the mud.

My pacing was surprisingly good, and I managed not to burn out towards the end. I think I surprised myself by how strong and fit I felt, with enough energy left to push hard in the last couple of miles. I’m doing the classic post-race shuffle today as my legs have siezed up. So I must have pushed myself. The marshalls were brilliant and other runners were wonderfully supportive. The last few miles involved a loop back, and runners passing who were approaching the finish were passing on words of encouragement. Love a friendly race!

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Low quality blurry photograph makes me look fast.

The weather was rubbish. Lots of drizzle and I made the error of starting the race in my glasses. Eventually I gave up attempting to wipe the rain off on my top, and took them off. I figured I had better visibility without glasses than with them on. Thankfully they just about fitted in my little running bag.

Overall I enjoyed being able to run along the Wirral Way. I wouldn’t normally run on that route because I’d worry about being too isolated if running on my own.  So doing it as part of a race was fun. I’ll definitely look out for it again next year.

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Finish line photo from Mick Hall photos  http://www.mickhall-photos.com

 

Winter Running

I’m back to blogging. The last couple of months have been very quiet on the writing front, but thankfully not on the running front. I’ve been suffering from an almost non-existent internet connection for the last two months, but fingers crossed all is finally fixed.

Winter running season is here and I must admit I haven’t been the most enthusiastic about getting out in the dark or the cold miserable weather. I struggle with winter. It’s the darkness. Waking up in the morning is a struggle and leaving work when it is dark is rubbish.  Energy levels drop and the winter illnesses go round and round the office.  It isn’t all bad though. I love a crisp winter’s day, a morning frost, snow on the hilltops. Even being awake to see a sunrise is nice if it is a pretty one.

Last year I barely ran over the winter, especially in the run up to Christmas. Strava has 2 hours logged for November 2015 and 4 logged for December 2015. This year I’m doing a lot better for 15 hours for November and 7 so far for December. Partly because I’ve upped the mileage anyway this year but mainly because I’ve got a better winter months system in place.

Mix it up

I’ve been trying to mix up my training more over winter. Going out for a mid-week run in the dark after work never appeals at this time of year.  My favourite routes become unsuitable. I dislike road running in the dark. I generally dislike road running but not going off road on my own in the dark. Pavements around here aren’t the best and tend to disappear or have cars parked on them meaning straying into the road on occasions. Plus crossing roads in the dark makes runs stressful. So I have mixed up my training with sessions, staying closer to home and doing more hill sprint sessions and interval runs.

Winter kit

Reflective running kit is our winter friend. My go to running tights have reflective dots down the sides and round the waist, and I tend to always run with my reflective waist bag. I could do better with the top half though and need to invest in more reflective long sleeve tops. Thankfully the cold doesn’t bother me as much.  I rarely run with a hat or gloves but always have my packable running jacket in my bag.

Light Up

Light up reflective arm bands are probably the best thing a friend has ever given me. I keep them in my running waist bag so I can be reflective and lit up at anytime. Useful if I haven’t worn my hi-vis I find myself running for longer than expected, and ending up in darkness (or even dusk).  Head torches are useful to have in the bag too, although I’m not a fan of excessive head torch usage. I’ll get have it ready for an unlit or poorly lit road but generally won’t use it if there are streetlights.

Festive spirit

Christmas lights have proved to be dark night motivator for December. My spirits were lifted whilst pounding the pavements on a very wet, dark evening, by the sight of twinkling Christmas lights on decorating houses. We took the festive spirit one step further this week at running club with a Christmas lights run. Our route took us round local villages to see the fantastic Christmas lights. Everyone wore a santa hat too.

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Christmas lights run

A Pain in the Foot

I’m out injured. I am suffering from metatarsalgia. Not sure of the cause but probably long distance road running in old worn out running shoes. After my half marathon the ball of my foot was very painful. Particularly after a long day at work on my feet. It went away so I thought all was well so I ran at the weekend.

I’ve learnt that 10 miles trail/fell running is not a wise idea when you have been suffering from a sore foot. Too many pointy stones to upset my foot. Running on wet boggy moorland is good for painful feet so it wasn’t too noticable until I got back on the road. Once I got back on a hard surface however I was struggling to continue through the pain.

I did a tentative run last night in my new Brooks Adrenalines. The joy of lovely new cushion shoes! It was a treat for my feet. My foot still felt uncomfortable though but not overly painful.

So I’m forcing myself to be sensible and resting. The rational part of my brain knows resting won’t undo all my training this year. I only have one more half marathon coming up soon and I know I can run it. Yet I feel guilty for not running. I feel annoyed that I’m not training. Disappointed with myself for not making the most of the last week of light in the evenings for running club.

I just want to go out running.

Having an injury is mentally painful as well as physically painful.

 

 

Wirral Half 2016: A Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon

Race: Wirral Half Marathon 2016
Location: Birkenhead to New Brighton
Date: Sunday 11th September 2016
Finish Time: 01:57:47

This is one of my favourite races and the 3rd year in a row I have run it.  Last year I got a half marathon PB with 02:08:07 and I wasn’t sure I could match that this year. I’m not sure why I felt so un-confident going into this years race, considering I’ve run further, trained harder and actually continued to run over the summer.

I love the course for this half marathon. I grew up on the Wirral and love running by the sea. The race starts in a beautiful park, passes by the docks, and then follows the coastal path. There is only a couple of sections on roads which makes a nice change to most races. You get views over to Liverpool across the Mersey and then lovely running alongside the sea. It is also very flat which is a welcome change from my usual hills.

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This wasn’t taken during the race, but on a training run earlier this year. Similar weather though.

I didn’t have a set idea of pace in my head at the start. I positioned myself in between the 2hr and 2:10hr pacers and thought I’d see how I went. I started off fast, and was very aware of that, but felt ok so just kept going. About half way I caught up with the 2hr pacer group, so attached myself to them. I suspect if I hadn’t my pace would have dropped off at this point in the race because I was finding myself running out of energy.  I was struggling to keep up with the pacer and dropped back.

It was a warm day so I took the opportunity to pour water over my head at each water station.  Eating Kendal mint cake helped with a much-needed energy boost. Around 11 miles I caught up with the 2hr pacer again, and he told me to keep on pushing, so off I went. Thanks for the encouragement whoever you are!

It was just a case of digging deep and pushing myself to the finish then. I past 12 miles and realised I had 10 minutes to get to the finish before my watch hit 2 hours. That was all the motivation I needed to just keep pushing onwards.

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I can see the finish line!

I found some energy for a sprint finish which completely finished me off. I love a sprint finish. Especially if there are other runners around because it always feels great to overtake a couple of people on the way to the finish line.

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The timing of this race always coincides with my birthday week and friends birthdays so it is always a hectic time of year. My pre-race preparations were once again less than perfect. I went on holiday, lots of birthday celebrations for my 30th during the week and a friend’s wedding on the Friday night. This means I am extra happy about smashing my PB.

 

(Wo)Man V Barge

Race: (Wo)Man V Barge
Location: Marsden to Diggle
Date: Saturday 13th August 2016
Finish Time: 00:51:05

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The race started at the entrance to the Standege canal tunnel in Marsden and finished at the other tunnel entrance over in Diggle. A boat went through the tunnel and we all ran over the hills. There was the option to just do one way, go there and back or do a three leg run. I chose to just do one but really push myself to go as fast as I could. I had a wedding party to go to later on and didn’t want to risk being out in the hills all day.

One of the toughest races I’ve ever done but also one of the most fun.  It was tough due to the terrain and the long climb. It was all up hill for almost 3 miles and then downhill for the last part. The first mile of the route was through long wet grass and lots of mud which was tough going, with lots of slipping about all over the place. Quite a few stiles to climb over in this section to which meant bottlenecks and queues but I was glad of the chance to get my breath back.

We were treated to an opportunity to gain some speed along some farm lanes, and a nice fairly flat section along a dirt lane. Then it was up on the moors, including a muddy section of the Pennine Way, but atleast it there were no horrible boggy bits. The wind was quite strong on the tops and we were running into it, throw in the odd rain shower for good measure too. Putting suncream on was definitely a mistake, the rain washed it into my eyes.

I really struggled along the Pennine Way, so stopped for a short walk and a square of chocolate covered kendal mint cake for much needed energy. Then I told myself to just keep pushing on as the downhill would soon arrive.

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A photo taken on the Pennine Way (taken from our running club Facebook group)

The downhill was fun! All on paths, but very rocky uneven paths, so the whole way down I was repeating to myself ‘don’t fall over, don’t fall over’. I made it down and finished in 51:05 which I am very proud of. I was actually the first female from my club to finish although most of them were doing more than one leg of the race.  At the end we were rewarded with a beer, from a very fine selection of bottles. Followed by free chip butties at a local pub where I chatted with other runners whilst waiting for my partner to finish running all 3 legs.

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Photo thanks to Louise Luna Galvin

It was a very friendly race. Lots of chatting with runners before and after the race, in particular the big group from Knowsley Harriers who had come over for a running day out. You don’t often get chance to chat with other runners at races as everyone sticks with thier club groups, so that was an added bonus to a fun day of running.

 

Going off road: Alphin Pike

This weekend I ran (walked/crawled!) up my local big hill Alphin Pike.  I don’t know the exact details but Strava tells me I reached 1521ft, starting at about 480ft, which makes this little adventure a contender for the highest point reach on a run for me.

The climbing was lung bursting. For the climbing  I alternated walking and running, with running being almost impossible on some of the more erroded bits of path. I admit I stopped for a sit down on a stile halfway up in an attempt to get my breath back.

What I enjoyed most about this run was the feeling of freedom. I didn’t bother switching my Garmin on and not having to worry about pace or timings was liberating. This was the most challenging, and longest off road run I have done on my own too. Normally if I’m out on my own the off road bits tend to be smaller hills, less challenging terrain. But I survived and I loved it. Just don’t tell my Dad I went running up wild hills on my own or I’ll get a telling off.

Once I reached the trig point I felt really great so decided to run along some of the paths up on the moorland before the fun of the descent.  I’m definitely getting the off road bug and a love for challenging hills.

Mossley 10k 2016

Race: Mossley 10k
Location: Mossley, Greater Manchester
Date: Sunday 17th June 2016
Finish Time: 00:57:41

It’s been over a week since the Mossley 10k and this post has been sitting neglected in my drafts folder because I’ve been so busy having a good time running.

The first great thing about this run was the fact it passes very close to my house, and my journey to the start line was a nice gentle jog down the road. None of the usual stresses about traffic, public transport delays or finding somewhere to park.  Less great was the hot and humid conditions. I really don’t like summer running so this was a challenge.

 

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The course is all road apart from the start and finish which is on the pitch at Mossley football club! The course is undulating, with a couple of painful hills, round here it could be a lot worse. The start is the downhill section though so it starts off fast.  A nice fairly flat last couple of km’s for a good fast finish.

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Everyone charges off extremely fast down the hill and its a challenge not to get caught up in it all. I am always fearful of starting too fast and burning out. I felt like I had gone out too fast on this one, and had to stop for a tiny walk break at the 5k water station to catch my breath and walk out a stitch.  I managed to pick up the pace towards the end and finished with a 9.40 min mile and then a 8.58 min mile. I had ambitiously set my Garmin to beep at me if I went slower than 9 min miles. Definitely ambitious given the hot sunny day.

I ran the Mossley 10k last year in 00:58:41 so this year was exactly 1 minute faster. If I’m honest I was secretly hoping to be faster than that but I’d had a couple of weeks of rubbish running in the lead up to the race, so I’ll take that time happily.

Finally the medals were fab this year as they came with little stickers to add your own finish time. I’ve never seen that before and didn’t actually realise it until someone else pointed it out.

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Mossley To Marsden: Running The Long Way Round

It’s been a double running weekend this weekend which is unusal for me but I’ve wanted to do this run for a while. As it has been dry recently I thought it was the ideal time to tackle some of the Pennine Way which has a reputation for being wet and boggy a lot of the time.

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Following the Pennine Way!

A hot and humid day with a couple of very welcome rain showers. Hard going in the heat, especially on the uphill sections but excellent views always make the climbs worth it.  The Pennine Way was fun to run along. I always enjoy bounding past walkers and leaping through mud and picking my way across rocky terrain.

The Route

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Followed the Huddersfield Narrow Canal from Mossley to Uppermill, then up a VERY steep lane to Dobcross. From there it was all along lovely undulating lanes and tracks all the way to Standedge. The final climb from Standedge Foot Road up to the Pennine Way was the toughest climb of the day.  A few steep hills to get up on the way but then once up at Standege it was time to enjoy the lovely Pennine Way paths.

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Looking back towards Saddleworth from Standedge.

From Standege we could have followed the direct route to Marsden following the Pennine Way to South but instead took a detour along the Pennine Way northwards up to the A640 and then looped back along paths into Marsden. A lot of the route was new territory for me so the pace was slow and steady with a few stops for phoros.

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Goodbye Pennine Way. Off to Marsden via Close Gate Bridge

Pennine Way running was wonderful. It may have a reputation for being a horrible boggy experience but where the paths are in excellent condition it makes for good running.

Another time I’d like to carry on along the Pennine Way, all the way to Hebden Bridge! This time though the perfect end was a refreshing pint and crisps at the Riverhead in Marsden.

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I’m a pro when it comes to sports nutrition…

 

ParkRunning – Birkenhead ParkRun

Apparently I last ran at a ParkRun in 2012. Also I’ve also apparently only run twice at ParkRun. I knew it had been a while but I could have been sure I’d done more than that…

Today I decided to run at Birkenhead ParkRun whilst back home with my family for the weekend. My Dad came to run and my Mum provided a useful water station part way round.  I had forgotten how awesome ParkRun is!

Today I pushed myself and managed a time of 00:26:47 which I was pleased with given the hot weather. Plus I was out for drinks and dinner last night so I lined up tired and dehydrated. I came 4th in my age category which sounds great although there were only 6 of us.

Birkenhead was lovely. I usually hate any looped courses but 3 x 1 mile loops of the park was quite pleasant and I found it quite useful for pacing myself. Birkenhead Park is a very picturesque park, although the ParkRun route only covers a small section of it.  Birkenhead Park, which is a Grade I listed park, is acknowledged as the first public park in Britain and was crucial in the Victorian parks movement. It is also said to have inspired the design of Central Park in New York.  Still Birkenhead provides a nice flat run on good paths with no muddy sections or running on grass required.

I used to run at the Woodhouse Moor event in Leeds back when I was living in the city.  It was quite a trek from my house to the park so maybe that is why I only went twice. I then moved to London and again didn’t live near any ParkRun events.  I still don’t live particularly near a ParkRun and would need to get a bus or train as I can’t drive. But I enjoyed today’s run a lot so next Saturday I make try to figure out the logistics of getting to my local event.

Image credit: By Eric The Fish (originally posted to Flickr as Birkenhead Park 09) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons