Posts Tagged ‘wind’

Last Friday I did one of my more extreme runs, a run up to Alcomden Stones on the moor above Top Withens near Haworth. This was a planned run as I had checked the weather forecast and knew that heavy snow was forecast. With Alcomden Stones being high up and exposed I guessed that this would be my last chance to see them covered in snow for a while as spring and warmer temperatures come closer. I wasn’t sure how much snow there would be but looking out of my back window there was a decent covering so I assumed there would be a bit up on the tops.
On the drive up to Penistone Country Park I could see the snowline on the moors and knew I had made the right decision in going for a run. For me there is something special about running in snow that other weather conditions don’t have. I think it’s the fact that we don’t get snow very often and the way it changes the landscape and what you thought you knew makes it so special to run in. Clag (fog) is my next favourite as again everything changes and takes on a new perspective when you can’t see very far in front of you.
I parked up and knew that this was going to be a very different snow run to the day before when it was bright sunshine and stunning views for miles. The wind was blowing hard and visibility was limited even at Penistone. The top of the moor was obscured in a snowstorm but this didn’t put me off as this area is one I know really well and I was confident of my ability to navigate in bad conditions and be able to keep going if the weather worsened.
Soon I was running along the trail and through ice cold water. It’s a shock for a couple of seconds and then you get used to it. You have no choice but to if you want to run off road in winter. On the trail that leads to the Bronte waterfalls the snow was falling heavier and I still couldn’t see Top Withens as I can on a clear day. I was running well but being careful as the path was wet and ice could be concealed anywhere. The thought of falling and injuring myself wasn’t a very appealing one. I knew that if I did it could be a long time before I was rescued, and the cold conditions would make things worse. I had packed my emergency sleeping bag just in case.
I stopped at the Bronte waterfalls and bridge to take some photos. The waterfall was in full flow which doesn’t happen very often, and the bridge was glistening wet even in the gloomy conditions of the snowstorm. Over the bridge and up the hill to the path at the top of the moor that takes you to Top Withens. At the end of the path I could finally see Top Withens coming into view. It was hidden in the snowstorm but was beginning to appear from the gloom. I ran along the path as fast as I dared but I was happy with my progress. At the end the final climb loomed into view and I walked up to Top Withens.
Top Withens looked very dramatic in the conditions standing out like a dark monolith against the swirling white backdrop. It took on a sense of foreboding that it doesn’t normally have in better conditions and I knew that this view alone was worth coming for as it’s not a view very many people get to see. I took some photos of the house before I set off climbing again to my destination, Alcomden Stone high up on the moor.
The trail to Alcomden Stones was just visible and I began my climb to the top of the moor in deep snow. At the top the moor levels, out and I was able to pick up pace and even run in parts. I was running on memory and hoping that I was going in the right direction. A dark, grey object stood proud of the ground against the snow and I had reached the trig point on the moor. Relived, I could now see the stones a short distance away and I began to run towards them.
The snow on the top was deep. Grip wasn’t a problem but moving fast was because it was deep. I made good progress despite the deep snow and soon I was at the stones and able to take in how different they looked with a layer of snow on them but still looking bleak and black against the white and grey surrounding them. I took some photos of the stones and had a look at the path that takes you down to Ponden Kirk. I know there is a path there, I have run it in the past, but today I could see a start and an end but nothing inbetween apart from snow covered heather. I decided it would be too dangerous to try and run across this today as one wrong step and I could be knee deep in freezing cold water and a sprained ankle or worse.
I turned around and started my run back to Penistone Country Park. The weather had noticeably worsened by now. The wind had picked up and tore my jacket hood off my head. I carried on with droplets of ice hitting my face and head. My footprints had already been covered by snow and I was again running on memory and instinct. I made it to the trig point without any problems but then I started on the right path back to Top Withens and then convinced myself I was going the wrong way and went back to the trig point only to realise I had been going the right way in the first place.
I carried on this path and soon I could see the tops of the two trees next to Top Withens and I knew I was safe and off the top of the moor. At the house I could see the weather was changing for the better and snow was already disappearing in the short time I had last been here. The rest of the run back to Penistone was nice but uneventful. I kept a steady pace watching out for any ice and soon I could see Penistone and knew my warm car was there waiting for me.
It had been a short, exhilarating experience. I had never run in a snowstorm as bad as this or in one where I was so exposed to potential danger. I carried an emergency sleeping bag and had the What Three Words app on my phone, but the element of danger is still there and had I fallen and injured myself anything could have happened. It was worth it for me though to see the moors in their most savage and brutal beauty.

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.

storms come bringing
wind, rain and snow
rivers burst their
banks flooding towns
and villages trees
are uprooted power
cables come down
forces beyond the
control of man
are a reminder
of who is really
in charge of earth

Monday, 21 November 2016

Last Thursday I went for my longest run since the Yorkshireman Half a 14-mile run over Haworth and Stanbury Moors. I’ve decided to up my mileage now so that I have plenty of rest days and time to taper nearer the race.

I set off from Penistone Country Park on a typical November day, wet, cold, and windy perfect weather for training in! Setting off on the Withens Skyline route it was business as usual, mud, mud, and more mud! It’s a steep climb up to the top of the moors but you are rewarded with some stunning views before setting down the Pennine Way towards Walshaw Dean reservoirs.

The sky was dark grey and the atmosphere around the reservoirs bleak and foreboding. I felt as if I was the only person alive around here if not in the whole world! Places like this can be very scary sometimes! After finding a new hill to run up and down and then running around the reservoirs I saw a path splitting the hills at the top of the reservoirs and decided to take a chance and see where it went.

After about half a mile I found out. Going left I knew it would send me off course so I took a chance, went right and up a steep hill with no path and a lot of long grass to get through! At this point I wasn’t too sure where I was but sensed I was heading in the right direction to get home.

After ten minutes or so I began to see get near the top of the hill and saw some familiar views which was reassuring. As I crested the hill the Top Withens house came into view and while I still had a way to go to get to the Pennine Way I knew I wasn’t far away now.

Once on the Pennine way it was the well-trodden path back to Penistone Park. Arriving back at the park my Garmin told me I had done 12.5 miles so I decided to go the long way back to my car to make it up to 13.1 and get a nice half marathon distance in the bag for the day. I ended up doing 14 miles in the end so managed to get another mile in due to my ability to miscalculate distance!

It was a very good day training out on the moors. Some decent mileage in, plenty of running through mud and bogs and nice climbs too. Not every run will be like this, most will be a lot tougher but it’s always a good feeling to get a good training run under your belt.

last week it was warm and dry
no wind, no rain, no mud
i ran free, i ran with ease
leaping over rocks
flying down embankments
soaring over hills
splashing through streams

today my feet are wet and cold
covered in mud, heavy to move
running is slow as i fight the elements
wind rips the skin away from my face
the cold penetrates my clothes
laughing at my futile attempts
to keep it out

in a week summer has gone
and autumn has arrived

blue replaced with endless greys
clear skies with threatening darkness
dry, hard trails are now
thick with layers of mud
puddles litter the paths
leaves dance in the wind
as the autumnal opera begins