Saturday, 1 August 2009

That's the cut back week done with and we're off for a fortnight in SW France this afternoon!

Been a good week though. Probably not from a weight perspective - after Thursday I decided to give up for a few days - but the running has been good.

Tuesday was a club run with a small break away group. It was in the rain and part road, part muddy field but by adding on a couple of miles on my own at the end I got it up to 7.3 miles. Wednesday & Friday saw 3 mile runs with Beth again - on Wednesday she did the 3 miles without a break and on Saturday broke her 3 mile record without really trying. Thursday I did an easy 5 miles and today I did a sort of fell run above Ilkley that worked out about 7.5 miles.

The latter was really good fun, so I'll blog it in detail for posterity.

The run started just above the slightly remote White Wells Spa (where Charles Darwin, amongst others, has taken to the icy waters) and then climbed steadilly for about 1.5 miles. For the most part this stretch was on a fairly new gravel track but after the first mile this gave way to a rocky, wet, muddy path where you needed to watch every footfall - a mental challenge as much as a physical one.

I stopped briefly to admire the view down into the Wharfe valley but as I was already amongst the mist and low clouds the view didn't stretch for far so I cracked on after a few seconds. From there I then climbed straight up a steep hillside to the left - muddy, with no obvious path through the wet bracken and heather. It was covered at no more than a breathless jog for around half a mile before levelling slightly onto a clearer mud path through the heather to the edge of an area of commercial pine forest.

The path through the forest was probably the most interesting - and challenging - section, despite it being straight and for the most part flat or downhill. Initially the problem was that the wide path was pure water and mud (it was raining steadilly and had been doing so for quite a few hours) and it wan nighon impossible to pick a route through it without going ankle deep at regular intervals.

That was just the start though. In the centre there was a section about 150m wide where all the trees had been cut down leaving a desolate post nuclear war landscape. Here the path became narrow and indistinct and far, far muddier. In some places branches had been layed across the mud to offer some sort of route over it but on one occassion I went through a branch and into peaty mud up to mid calf.

Then, after crossing a plank bridge I leapt into what looked like a muddy puddle and instantly found myself covered in mud. My leading (left) leg had dissapeared into the mud far above the knee causing me to lunge forward. It was all boggy enough that there was no risk of injury but my legs through to waist were black with mud which also splashed across my vest, arms and face. I gave out an instant hearty laugh. Partly the laugh of relief we give when we fall and find ourselves unhurt but partly becasue it was fun! Besides which I was pleased that in that state I looked a hardcore runner!

The final stage of the forest was equally muddy but very, very dark, like a long tunnel within densely packed looming pines, before I emerged abruptly onto open moorland.

Here the path was pretty non existent and I hurtled downhill through the heather, every footfall a mystery, before emerging onto a single track road a little way downhill of where I'd intended.

I then followed the road back uphill for a steep 3/4 of a mile before it stopped by some radio masts on the increasingly misty moor. Beyond a gate the road was relaced by a wide track of gravel, sand, rock and puddles which gave an opportunity to run downhill and on the flat in a more controlled manner. I was soon presented with a good view over Ilkley again and realised I was virtually back at the car so headed back 50yds to a path I'd seen on the left assuming (wrongly) that this was the one I intended to take to add an extra loop on to take me to 6 miles.

I'm not certain this was a path as it climbed and then descended via a series of miniture gullies (at the time I though they looked like they were set up for a muddy first world war re-enactment by midgets) where the dense bracken hid large boulders that provided the need for sudden changes of direction in the downhill bits. Eventually I met the initial gravel path I'd set out on and ran the last 3/4 of a mile at speed down the easy downhill.

Covered in mud, with legs far more tired than the distance or slow average pace might have suggested I had absolutely loved it!

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