Archive for February, 2020

There’s a group of us that for one reason or another are lucky enough to be able to run midweek when it’s quieter and run pretty much anywhere we want. I’m doing a PhD so can fit my studies round my running or is it fit my running round my studies? Anyway, four of us meet today at Ogden Water for a run in the snow. Two of the lad’s, Dave and Terry had driven up from Halifax and couldn’t believe how much snow there was up on the tops. Richard lives in Thornton and I live high up in Queensbury, so we knew what to expect from looking out of our windows.

We had no plan of where to run so Dave said he knew a route and we followed him. We set off up the path towards the Top Within house about Ogden Water but near the bottom we beared left over Halifax golf course. Running through snow is a unique experience and one I enjoy. The snow was ankle deep on the golf course and we made good progress despite this. From the outset we all decided that this run was about enjoying being out and making the most of the experience. Clear blue skies and a layer of white snow as far as the eye could see made this a stunning day to be out on the moors and we stopped several times to take in the views and take photos.

We climbed above Halifax golf club and onto Cold Edge Lane, running back towards Wainstalls before taking a sharp right that took us down to Haigh Cote Dam and Leadbeater Dam stopping to take more photos and admire the stunning views. We carried on to Castle Carr Road and dropped down into Upper Saltonstall making our way along Heys Lane before we climbed back up towards Castle Carr through some woods and past a fast-flowing waterfall. The sun was out and beating down on us as we made good progress up the hill back towards Castle Carr Road and the climb over the moors towards the Stepping Stones.and back to Cold Edge Road. Halfway up the climb we stopped and looked around. It was other worldly seeing mounds of snow with bog inbetween the wind blowing making the snow drift over us added to the feeling of other worldliness.

On Cold Edge Road we ran back towards Top Within house and down Withens New Road to Ogden Water. I found some speed here and flew along the grass verge through the snow down to the stile that takes you into the woods. It felt really good to get some speed up in the snow and even better that I managed to stay on two feet! We ran through the woods and back to the carpark. An awesome 8 ½ miles over hill and moor in stunning snowy conditions. Today was about enjoying being alive and making the most of being out running with great mates on a spectacular day for seeing some of the best scenery that Calderdale has to offer.

Last night, was the Calder Valley Fell Runners night score event where you run around the Calder Valley looking for markers in the dark. I’ve only done one of these events before the winter score and I think I created some sort of record by covering 8.1 miles and only finding one marker and I only found that because someone told me where it was! I decided not to do another score event as while I can run around the Calder Valley all day long, I don’t always know where I’m going or where I’ve been. So why did I do the night score event? Well I sort of got talked into it and found myself at Mytholmroyd Community Centre wondering how lost I would get. This time I had a partner, Sue who knows the Calder Valley very well, so I had more confidence than I did at the winter score event.

The drive over from Oxenhope to Mytholmroyd was stunning. The sky was grey and filled with snow. Large snowflakes swirled about in the air and the moors were half covered in snow making them look like a setting for a Bronte novel. It was very romantic, beautiful and dangerous at the same time and I very nearly pulled over at the top of the climb to run over Wadsworth Moor but carried on down into Hebden Bridge and on to Mytholmroyd. At gathered at Mytholmroyd Community Centre and I looked around at the other runners who had turned up. Everybody else looked to be far faster and more knowledgeable of the area than me so it was a great relief when Sue turned up with her friend Mand. At least I was with two people who had a far better idea of where we were going, and we had a chance of finding at a couple of the twenty controls that had been placed on the 9 mile or so route. We had a brief discussion as to where we would start and the direction we would go in or rather I agreed with Sue and Mand as I had no idea where to go!

We crossed over the road and headed along the canal in the direction of Luddenden Foot and before I knew it we had crossed back over the road and were running through a very wet and muddy field alongside the bank of the Calder river before going back up to the main road and heading towards the start of the Hebden. Everyone on a score event can go in whatever direction and route they want and during the night we kept seeing headtorches all around the area as our follow competitors searched vainly for the controls. By this point we had found two controls, and this doubled the amount I had found on my own at the winter score event, so I was already feeling satisfied with my performance. We kept going on the trail back towards Mytholmroyd with Sue and Mand discussing route choices and then asking me what I thought. The fact that I had no idea where we were on the map and didn’t have a clue where we were on the ground didn’t seem to deter them from asking me questions about which direction, we should go in.

I just agreed with everything they said and followed them around all night.
From the trail that leads to the start of the Hebden we got onto the end of the Hebden and after finding another control we were climbing up to Scout Road and the next part of our mini adventure. At the top of Scout Road, we almost went wrong in following the Hebden route again until I noticed a stile, looked at my map and asked whether we should be going up there? The ladies both agreed with me and I felt a sense of satisfaction in that I had been able to read the map and find the route! At least I had made some small contribution to the event!
We headed across some muddy fields towards Scout Rock and into Scout Woods. I was extremely grateful to be with two ladies who knew the area and could read a map. Without them there’s every chance I would still be up there wandering around now. We headed down a steep and slippery packhorse trail that I really struggled on. I’m not very confident on downhills in daylight and the lower visibility at night made it ten times worse. I had made a wrong shoe choice too something every runner has done at least once. I wore my Roclite 275s when my Mudclaw 300s would have been a better choice given the conditions, but it was my choice and I had to live with it.

At the bottom of the descent it finally flattened out and I could pick up speed again. We had collected a decent amount of controls and met some other runners as we headed through an industrial estate and back toward the community centre. On tarmac I was able to open up my legs and get some pace into my run. It’s good to stretch your legs. At the community centre we were delighted to find we had collected nine controls and weren’t bottom. This was due to Sue’s local knowledge and Mand’s ability to read a map and had nothing to do with my ability to run around like a headless chicken hoping that I find somewhere that has some vague form of life. We had worked as a good team and our reward was we were declared first mixed team back and we each won two small Kit Kats as prizes.

The drive home was more eventful than the drive over. I went the same route and was soon in a snowstorm as I climbed out of Hebden Bridge and up to the top of the moors. The road was covered in snow and there were a few moments where I thought I was going to lose it, but I kept calm and got down the other side in one piece. At home I had a celebratory gin and tonic to round off a good nights running in the Calder Valley with friends.

waters talks

Posted: February 26, 2020 in poetry, Uncategorized
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water talks to me
seeping in through my
shoes and socks encasing
my feet in liquid ice
freezing my nerve endings
until my feet are numb
and i’m running on stumps
the water telling me it
has the power to change
me at any time

Sunday was the Tour of Midgely moor fell race, finally! I say finally because I had done a recce of it on the Wednesday, but we didn’t do the right route, so I went out again on Saturday, the day before to recce the route and help with putting flags out. I was looking forward to the race and it was a relief for it finally to be race day. The night before had been hard. Even though I had done a recce of the route hors before the nerves still set in and I was wracked with anxiety about the race. Would I get lost? Would I have enough energy left to do the race? All these thoughts raced through my mind but I’m very lucky in that I have some very understanding and supportive friends and one of them had a chat with me about it and I was able to get a good night’s sleep.

I woke on time and soon I was setting off to Booth Cricket club near Midgely for the race. I arrived at Booth just in time to get one of the last spaces in the small carpark and proceeded to registration and then a chat with friends. The weather was overcast and light rain, it was better than it had been the day before as the wind had dropped. Soon it was time for the start of the race and around 130 runners gathered at the bottom of a muddy field all staring up at the climb before them ready for the off.

And then we were off! Everyone tearing up the hill as fast as they could. Well for a bit. It’s a steep climb so quite soon we were walking and with the stiles to negotiate there was the inevitable queues too, so we had time to catch our breath before we were over them and off running again. To my surprise I felt good on the hill and found myself running through a quagmire that was freezing cold and seeped into my shoes soaking my feet.

On the moor it was even worse. The heavy rain the night before had saturated the ground and in parts there was no avoiding the large puddles of freezing cold water. My feet turned into two blocks of ice and I just about managed to maintain some feeling in them. I’ve been here before, but it doesn’t make it any easier, but it is a part of fellrunning in the winter, so you must go with it. To make things worse the wind had picked up considerably and the rain had turned to hail. Maybe this helped me as I didn’t feel tired and concentrated on staying on my feet as I battled the wind. I was even passing people at this point which gave me a boost.

I went through checkpoint 1 at Crow Hill and carried onto checkpoint 2 at Sheepstones. The run along Sheepstones ridge was really tough with the wind, rain and hail. This was my fourth run on this ridge in two weeks and everyone has been in high winds. I swear I’m going to get blown off Sheepstones ridge one day! Thankfully the descent started into the middle of the moor and there was a welcome change in the weather. It seemed to go from wind, hail and rain to pleasant sunshine in no time and once again I could concentrate on choosing the best lines rather than trying to stay upright.

After a short run across the moor I was at checkpoint 3 and a tricky descent down to Luddenden Valley. This was made harder by two runners in front of me holding me up. I couldn’t get past them because it was too narrow, and it wasn’t until we got to the field and open ground that I was able to put a sprint on and get past them. Checkpoint 4 is on Wood Lane at the bottom of the descent and after a very short sprint it’s back up the hill and back onto the moor. This is a steep climb and it really takes it out of your legs, especially when the ground it wet and muddy.

At the top of the climb is checkpoint 5 and it’s here that runners go off in different directions. I chose to stick with my plan and go along the wall. This is the route I know, and I was glad I did this as I found myself in my own and able to enjoy running without the pressure of having someone behind me. I felt good too. My legs had held up and I was moving well. I was surprised at how good I felt. There had been a point further back where my legs started aching, but I had run it off and was now going as fast as I could towards checkpoint 6.

At checkpoint 6 you go back over the stile and it’s back down the muddy hill. I sprinted as fast as I could here. There were some runners just in front of me and I thought I could catch one if I went for it. On the final descent to the finish I did catch someone! I’m not sure if he had slowed down too much thinking no-one was behind him or he was tired, but I went as fast as I could and caught him just before the finish line. I was really pleased to finish this tough little fell race in style.

It took me a while to get my breath back and longer for my feet to thaw out, but I was happy with my run. This was my best run for a while. After doing the recce the day before I surprised myself at how much I had left in me and how I didn’t give up. I finished in around 1 hour 20 minutes in 108th place. I could have gone faster if I hadn’t been held up and I’m going to learn the shortcuts for next year so I can go that bit faster. It’s a tough little fell race the Tour of Midgely moor and it’s easy to get lost if you’re not following someone and don’t know the route but I can only recommend it as a good test of your running. At the end I was happy to be able to text my friend who had listened to me and tell them I was happy with my run and thank them for their support.

silent snow

Posted: February 24, 2020 in poetry, Uncategorized
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snow falls silently
lighting up the night
creating a powder
playground for the
world to play in

It’s stupid, ridiculous and makes no sense. Why do I get so nervous and anxious the night before a race? I’m never going to win or even finish top 50 so why work myself into a state where I won’t sleep and just think about the race. It doesn’t make any sense but then running over hills and moors getting wet and cold doesn’t either. Unless that is your escape valve from reality for an hour or more. Then it’s all worthwhile and it does make sense, well to those of us mad enough to do it. And my little cat is going mad attacking anything and everything!!

sunlight on rain
reflects hundreds
of years of sweat
and toil of cloth
traders travelling
mile after mile
to make a pittance,
market traders waiting
all day for someone
to buy something,
anything, so they can
pay the rent. people
coming to lunch to
escape the office
for an hour returning
in the evening for
a G & T and a concert.
images merge in rain,
reflected back to the
sky a jigsaw of life

this water tastes better
that one doesn’t have the
floral notes and toffee nose
that this one has. I didn’t
have the heart to tell him
it was all the same water
from the same tap I had
poured into old water bottles
I had got out of the bin.
neither the water or he
were pure and smart

water knows

Posted: February 20, 2020 in poetry, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Water knows what you’re thinking
Seeping through your mind, flowing
Over every thought, taking it and
Twisting it round and round through
Its fingers, throwing it over waterfalls
Mixing them together in a tsunami
Of images before they come crashing
Down, splintering inside your brain,
Converging as rivers and streams of
Lava flowing down the creases of
Your mind, coming out of your mouth
In one final act of defiance against
The dam that is your mouth and
Flow into an unsuspecting world
To be judged by each and everyone

I’ve a race coming up on Sunday, the tour of Midgely Moor and being sensible I decided to do a recce of the route. While I’ve got a decent knowledge of the area this doesn’t necessarily mean you will know the race route and plenty of people have come unstuck because they assume they will know the race route and on the day find out they don’t. I asked a friend to come along, we’ll call him Derek for reasons that will become apparent. Derek has run around this area for over 30 years and is a good navigator so I was confident that we find the route and get round with few problems. However the best laid plans of mice and men proved to be the motto of the day.

We got to Booth just above Luddenden, parked up and ran a short distance to where the race started. Over a stile and we were climbing up a muddy field straight away. This is the terrain I like, steep, grassy and muddy. We walked up as 90% of fellrunners do, only the 10% or so who are have super human ability and fitness levels run up these hills. Us mere mortals walk them like any sensible person would! At the top of one hill there is another, as is usual in West Yorkshire, and after this one we’re at the edge of the moor and begin the climb up to Crow Hill and the first checkpoint. Navigating this part wasn’t a problem as Crow Hill stands above everything else at this point so it was easy to find it and walk to the top. We got to the top and Derek get his trusty compass out, took a bearing and off we set on a path that would take us over to Sheepstones. Except we went sort of wrong.

With Derek taking his compass bearings we passed the usual path up to Sheepstones and carried on past Churn Milk Joan until we got to a path that sort of looked like the one we needed. We took this path up to Sheepstones across moorland and arrived at the trig point for Sheepstones. Here we took the first path we saw and headed down. This was also a navigational error as we approached Hebden Bridge Golf club and the Calderdale Way that goes across the top of it.
We ran along the Calderdale Way until Old Town was in view and then we took a sharp right across the moor again following Derek’s trusty compass bearing. At the middle of the moor several paths cross each other. After taking one that headed back up to Sheepstones we turned round and headed back down and rejoined the path we were on originally and headed over to the over side of the moor. Yes it was as confusing as that!

We followed the route on the map across what is familiar terrain eventually getting back to the stile we climbed over to get onto the path to Crow Hill and going back down the hill to the finish. It was hard work and we made a few mistakes but we had a better idea of the route and I was now fairly confident that I would find my way round we few problems on Sunday.

That was until I uploaded my map to Instagram. A friend asked me if I’d dropped down into Luddenden Valley. Erm no I replied. Ahh you should do came the reply and the offer to show me the route on Saturday or risk following the pack round and hoping for the best. I took up the offer of the recce because I have been at the back of races many times and have found myself on my own with no-one around quite often. Another consideration is that the person in front may have as little idea as you as to where they’re going and you may both end up lost. This has happened more often than you might think and I know from races I’ve done where I’ve known the route and people have gone off all over the place. Following and hoping isn’t a good idea!

Yes it turns out that we had made a complete hash of our recce. Derek and his trusty compass weren’t as reliable as they usually are and we had done a tour of Midgely Moor but not the tour we set out to do! To be fair this is a fell race designed to test your ability to navigate and doing a recce of the route is essential. The map deliberately misses off many of the usual points of interest and it is up to you to find them. There are so many paths crossing Midgely moor it is easy to get on the wrong one and end up miles from where you want to be.

I’ll be doing the race twice in 2 days, but it will be worth it as I’ll know where I’m going. I’m not going to win anything so someone showing me round the day before won’t out anyone at a disadvantage and might prove helpful if I see someone lost during the race. And this is why I love running and fellrunning in particular as it is easier to get lost up on the moors and find yourself in unfamiliar terrain and not knowing where to go. You make mistakes, lots of them and learn from them and you don’t give in. People help you to get back on track and in turn you pass on your knowledge to others. Life for me mirrors running in so many ways and this is one of them.