Posts Tagged ‘road’


Wow what a day, Sunday 13th December was! My very first West Yorkshire Winter League (WYWL) meeting at Dewsbury and it is a day I will never forget!

The day started with my car covered in ice, not the most encouraging of starts but when it’s cold in December you have to expect anything. Then it was time to have breakfast, get dressed and go and pick my mate up. Always happy to give someone a lift and even more so when they know where they are going. I’m legendary for getting lost even when it’s close to home. So my mate was a welcome addition to the journey.

And so with my mates excellent directions we arrived at Hopton Mills Cricket Club, Mirfield in plenty of time for the start and we were soon enjoying some friendly banter with our team mates from Queensbury Running Club (QRC). The party atmosphere was evident at the club with runners from eleven different running clubs all milling about the place getting ready for the start.

When the call came to start I went to the back and joined some of my team mates there. I do this because I’m not that fast and don’t want to get swamped by the faster runners and there were some seriously fast runners at Dewsbury on Sunday. The field was full of quality runners throughout who, irrespective of finishing position would put their heart and soul into doing their very best for their club and team mates on the day.

The starter gave the order to go and I set off steadily remembering that I have a long, tough race ahead of me and I would need lots of energy to get round the course in one piece. However after a couple of hundred yards this was soon forgotten as I started passing people and moving up the back of the field.

Immediately it was obvious that this was going to be a very muddy race as you couldn’t avoid it so I ploughed on going uphill through the mud and soon I was climbing the first serious hill. I had already decided I would walk up the hills in an effort to save energy for the flat and downhill sections. This would turn out to be a very good move.

The first hill came and went and soon I was keeping pace with the group in front and breaking away from the group behind. We hit some open country and I felt comfortable with my pace and form and then came the first mistake of the day. The woman in front turned right and for some strange reason I thought she was going for a pee! Unable to fully understand the broken English from the marshal I headed for a farm and because the road split in two I turned back to the marshal to ask which way to go.

The marshal pointed towards the field and I muttered something under my breath and set off after the pack I had been following. This pack though was now out of sight and in a field of nearly 300 runners I found myself in the middle of nowhere on my own! So I carried on running through mud and cow shit and even encountering the occasional bit of path.

I just kept going and still felt quite good. Stopping never occurred to me once. My only aim was to finish. I came down a hill and all of a sudden there was road, buildings and lots of runners! I was confused as to where to go but after asking some of my team mates in my usual direct way I was at the bottom of the final hill. I had also noticed that one of my team mates was catching me and fast so I decided I needed to put some pace into the final climb and create a gap for the finish.

At the top of the climb I looked back and could see nobody. I had done it and created the gap I needed on the final climb. I set off on the trail path but again I was lost as there was no marshals or markers to indicate which way to go. So in my usual way I just went straight forward and luckily there was a man with his son who pointed me in the right direction. I had to double back and head down the hill but by now two of my team mates had caught and passed me so I started to chase them.

But I had nothing left in my legs that would enable me to catch and pass them. I did my best and caught one of my team mates up but the other was too far in front. I did my best to sprint and thought I had done enough but then I heard some of the QRC runners who had finished shouting her name and realised she was very, very close behind me.

I thought the finish was two orange posts and I only just beat her here but apparently the finish was round the corner and because I had slowed down she beat me to the finish. I will say though that she is a great little runner who I have a lot of respect for and I couldn’t wish to lose to a better runner.

In the bar afterwards I felt light headed and I knew then I had given everything and some more on the day and I had nothing left at all. This was a good feeling and on reflection I believe that this race has made me a better runner mentally and physically. Added to this feeling was the fact that even the top runners took some wrong turns and found it very tough. When you know it’s not just you it does make you feel better in yourself and a part of the running community.

The next WYWL race is January 3rd at Idle and I feel ready for it and I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping I can do better but it is how it is on the day but I now know I can run and race cross country so I have nothing to fear.

 


Ogden Water is a local nature reserve surrounding a reservoir local to Queensbury where I live. It is a lovely place to go for a run or walk and is very popular with people who visit it all year round. There is a path around the reservoir where you can take a leisurely stroll with children and dogs, or you can go for a nice run safe in the knowledge that there are no cars trying to kill you! Alternatively you can head up into the woods and run the trails that take you through them. This gives you the opportunity to try running off road in a reasonably safe environment without going too far too soon and getting yourself into trouble.

However as I have recently found out Ogden Water is also the venue for a New Year’s day fell race, the Giants Tooth, where competitors race up to the Giants Tooth from the carpark up the trails through the woods and on the surrounding path back to the carpark. The race is around 3 miles and is run at a fast pace.

On Monday 7th I decided to do a recce of the route. I printed off a map I found on the internet of the approximate route and familiarised myself with it. The trial up to the Giants Tooth is easy to navigate and whilst steeper than I realised should not present too much of a challenge for anyone who has been running. On trails it is not too dangerous either although care must be taken when ascending the first climb as there are some wooden sleepers that act as steps but in wet and muddy conditions can be dangerous is a foot is misplaced on them.

Once at the Giants Tooth most of the climbing has been done and you are treated to some stunning views over Thornton Moor, Queensbury and Halifax. If you are racing though you will not have time to savour the views as you will be too busy trying to get your best time! However this was the point where the familiar became unfamiliar and not for the first time I took a wrong turn and whilst not lost I struggled.

I tried to remember the route from the map and decided that out of the three paths in front of me I would take the one that took me furthest away from the woods assuming that this would be the route as the other paths may make the total distance too short for the race. So off I went running through water and mud as is the norm at this time of the year, following a vague trail through the marsh reeds.

Soon I came across a stile, not uncommon and climbed over it and looked for the next trail path. I soon spotted this and began a descent down a step and at times tricky path but one that was by no means unrunnable until I got near the bottom and the path disappeared. This was worrying as I needed to cross a stream at the bottom and begin an ascent back to the woods. I looked around for a stile but could see nothing. Not wanting to damage what looked like a newly erected barbed wire fence I looked for the safest descent to the stream and carefully began to negotiate a steep embankment where I had to create my own path as there was not one visible.

This was where the familiar became unfamiliar for me. I thought I knew Ogden Water and I thought I had walked and run most of the trails around it. However this was a new part of it for me and all of a sudden I felt very isolated from the outside world, hidden in the vee of a valley away from all other life. I was stood at the bottom of a small valley surrounded by nothing but marsh reeds, water and mud. I knew there would be others walking Ogden Water and the moors but there was nothing to indicate any sign of life.

This made me realise how dangerous running off road can be sometimes. You may think you know an area intimately and then decide to take a new path out of curiosity and find yourself in a place that is at once unfamiliar, dangerous and exciting. What is dangerous for me is that I never take my mobile phone with me on a run so if anything was to happen I would be stuck on the moors on my own with no way of telling anyone. If I had broken my ankle on Monday I may very well still be on the moors lying at the bottom of a valley.

Today was not to be that day and I continued my run which was now reduced to a crawl, up a steep embankment looking for anything that might resemble a path. I scrambled up the rest of the embankment and eventually found something resembling a path which led to a stile and back to the safety of the woods.

The rest of the run was on familiar trail paths and my pace picked up immediately, at some points surprisingly so according to Strava! And at the end I had done around 3 miles and felt a sense of accomplishment having discovered another part of Ogden Water. I completed the run in around 42 minutes which isn’t a great time for 3 miles but considering the descent and ascent of the valley I felt reasonably happy with it. If I go a different route I should be able to knock at least 5 minutes off that time.,

I’m sure that Ogden Water has no more surprises for me but you never know! Next time I do a recce of the Giants Tooth I will take a slightly different route that doesn’t go as far off the usual track and also have someone with me who knows the route. That should help me improve my time!

 


Yesterday, Sunday 31st May I went for my first long training run, the first of many. To be honest I don’t know many places where I can go on a long run off-road despite living in a semi-rural part of the country. This is as much to do with my knack of just getting out there and running or walking but not taking any notice of where I’m going as anything else!

However I do know Haworth, the world famous home of the Bronte’s and the moors are said to have provided the inspiration for Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights. I have walked these moors many times myself and so they are an ideal place for me to start my off-road training as I know the paths and trails and can vary my route every time.

So off to Penistone Hill Country Park in my car I went and soon I was sat there in the car park looking towards Top Withens on a wet and windy Sunday morning. The scene could have come straight from Wuthering Heights and I would not have been surprised to have seen Cathy or Heathcliff come walking by, hand in hand, two lovers forever trapped on the moors…

This is the view that greeted me as I parked up

Haworth Moor 310515 Wet and Windy

But I didn’t have time to sit there daydreaming; I had a training run to do! So off I set on a familiar path to the Bronte waterfalls, Top Withens, then the Trig point on top of the moors and finally Alcomden Stones. This is around 3 ½ miles but always seems a lot further. The route starts off on trail before turning to rock and mud and then finally open moorland above Top Withens and on the way to the Trig point and Alcomden Stones.

Today though extra care was needed as the route was slippy and muddy because of the rain but I still made good progress up to the Stones getting there in around 45 minutes. Alcomden Stones are an outcrop of ancient stones allegedly where prehistoric men worshipped. I think it is a spectacular place simply because it is one of the few places where you can go and experience freedom from all the stresses of modern day life. There is nothing around for miles and you can feel free here.

But when you get here you also have a problem. You can go back to Top Withens on the trail that is easy to navigate or you can try and get down to Ponden Kirk. The problem here is that the trail runs out and you are left on open marshland and bog with no clear path. I of course took this option and followed the stream as closely as I could. If you follow a stream you will eventually come out at a point where you will be able to make a more informed choice of route.

I knew though where this stream came out but this did not make the run any easier. My feet got soaking wet standing in water and covered in thick mud as I made my way as quickly as possible across the marshland. But I enjoyed this, far more than I enjoy running on roads. This for me is true, pure running, in the wilds with the elements against you and you need all your wits about you to avoid coming a cropper and taking a wet and muddy fall!

But I managed to avoid falling and after a lot of jumping around over embankments and avoiding muddy bog I made it to the end of the route and Ponden Kirk. Most normal people at this point take the path over the top of the Kirk down towards the reservoir. Me however being a bit mad go down the side of the Kirk, a steep and narrow path just so I can go back up it. Yesterday it was very slippy so I had to be careful or I might fall and if you fall here that could be it…

Back up to the top path and having avoided falling I ploughed on down towards Ponden Reservoir and on to the path that would take me back up to the waterfalls and the path back towards my car. Apart from getting a bit lost the rest of the run was uneventful but satisfying as I was building up my distance training now.

That was apart from on the path from the waterfalls back to Penistone Hill. The path is narrow in parts and strewn with rocks, but I had a group of older hikers in front of me that were slowing my pace. To get round them I took some risks and jumped over and off rocks with a pace and agility that surprised me! The best moment came when one of them said ‘there’s a fell runner, bloody idiot!’ I took this as a compliment! Nobody had ever called me a fell runner before!

And 9.3 miles later I was back at my car. Feet soaking, dripping wet, muscles already aching, tired but having an immense feeling of satisfaction and achievement deep inside me from having achieved so much more in my first proper training session than I thought I could. I already have a route in mind for next week. But that’s another story.


Well if Tuesday was wake-up call tonight was a real slap in the face. In fact so much so that I’m going to have to finish this blog tomorrow. I am absolutely shattered and my introduction to off-road hill climbing has been a tough one, but strangely enjoyable too despite not being able to run the whole distance. My legs have fallen apart, parts of my body ache that I never knew I had yet something deep inside me wants to run this course again. I must be a glutton for punishment and pain.