Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Running in the Yorkshire Dales

That was a very pleasant three nights camping in the dales, despite a touch of sun burn, a very strong and cold wind and a ripped tent. I'll blog a little more on the trip itself later today/this week but it was a relaxing time.

Having come back feeling the size of an elephant (having had cooked breakfasts, hefty meals, ice creams and enormous puddings each day) I think I can safely say that camping is not a natural bedfellow for weight loss and that I have no chance of hitting my early June target now. However, I'm fairly relaxed about that. Firstly as its one of those times that you need to switch off, secondly that maybe I'm mentally not yet ready for sustained control and discipline after the marathon.

Running wise I did a fraction under 40 miles last week, which is pretty good for the 3rd week post marathon.

On Friday I did 7 miles along the canal and in the last couple of miles did 8 sets of strides: 100m at 1 mile pace followed by 200m jogging, then the next 100m and so on. It was good to run a little quicker after all the recovery miles and doing the strides was a reasonable little speed session but one that didn't leave me sore or tired, plus it broke up the monotony of a run very, very well. Enjoyed it.

On Saturday I was up and out at 6am despite it feeling extremely cold in the tent. I had planned to run from there but the coldness of the wind and the need for a flattish route meant I took the car down to the valley bottom and went from there. A nice recovery pace 5 miles followed. Still pretty hilly but not too bad.

For Sunday I'd picked out a route on an OS map that I hoped would be reasonably flat as it followed the river Swale. The plan was to run from Grinton along a mixture of single track road and bridleways to Crackpot, which I thought was about 5/5.5 miles up the valley. From there I'd cross the Swale to Gunnerside and head back along the road to Reeth and Grinton. I opted to take a belt with a 500ml bottle of water but didn't have room for the OS map. That meant I had to memorise where I needed to leave road/track on the outward leg but also meant I had nothing to refer to if I missed a turn or wanted to try a different route.

As it was a run a little out of the ordinary I'm going to blog it in a little more detail.

It still felt cold and there was a northerly wind on Sunday morning so after parking at Grinton I sat in the car feeling cold and tired for a few minutes trying to delay my departure, until eventually I summoned up the courage to get out.

The route wasn't that complex. Along a single track road until I pass the first road bridge then take a track that branches right just after. Follow that until it joins some road again a mile or two on, then after a few minutes take another track to the right and follow that and trail to crackpot, then just follow the road.

From Grinton the road climbed steadily and steeply so that instead of being fairly close to the Swale I was some 80m (in elevation) above it within the first half mile. That hadn't been part of the plan, and had my heart rate up good and early, and one of the two t-shirts I was wearing off and stowed in the belt when I reached the top.

The road then undulated in the sunshine for a good mile before a steady descent to the first bridge junction. Whilst that stretch had been tough to begin with, I'd kept the pace down and enjoyed the sunshine an views. Needless to say, no traffic passed me on the road on the outward stretch.

After that first junction I looked out for a footpath sign but didn't see one. As I entered a small hamlet I passed a cottage and saw a track heading right. It was in the right place and headed off at the right angle but no signage. At this point a dog came running out barking at me and his owner chased after. I could only see him from the waist up so asked him if this the track to Gunnerside. He was a tourist and hadn't a clue and seemed keen to get inside. At this point I noted that he below the t-shirt was only the briefest pair of scarlet pants and realised why he was looking to get away!

I carried on along the hill to see if there was another track in the next 50m. Had I had the map with me it would have been obvious: it marked the buildings, I'd have seen there was no prior track and I'd have noted it was a permissive track and hence no signage. Instead I reached another farm at the top and there, there was a 'footpath' sign but no track.

There are two types of farmer in the dales. Those that add their own signs on the property to help walkers/runners through - splodges of paint on posts, arrows on walls, rough and ready signs - then there are those that make life as difficult as possible - blocking stiles, having no signage, locking gates etc. Unfortunately this farm fell into the latter category and once throught the gate there was no indication at all of which way to go. I could see the track down a steep slope though and was convinced that was where I needed to be so just headed straight down the hill and over a locked gate. When I looked at the map later I found the footpath went at a right angle to the route I'd taken.

The bridleway track was a really nice stretch. Undulating just gently, not too far from the river, relatively stable underfoot, enclosed by walls but also trees and bushes amking it feel secluded and peaceful.

At the end of the track it joined the (dead) end of a single track road in a farmyard and a little beyond there were a series of potentially dramatic yet dry waterfalls and becks plus some extremely nice looking cottages and gardens. After the last of these there was a junction to the right that quickly petered out into a gravel track that followed the river side closely all the way along to Crackpot.

At this point I checked the Garmin and found halfway was 6.75 miles. Further than I'd expected but I thought that the road route back might be a fraction shorter.

Frome here I crossed the Swale, ran along the road through Gunnerside and along the continually unulating route. Not far out of Gunnerside I saw a footpath on the right but chose to ignore it as I didn't know quite where it went (though logically it was hemmed in by road and river so couldn't do much wrong).

Further along I saw another footpath sign to Isles Bridge and knew that one was fine, and took it. It was a pleasant route generally along grassy path alongside the Swale before reaching a gap stile at the bridge a mile or so on.

When I passed through the stile I saw another sign indicating 'Reeth 3 1/2'. This one proved to be another where a map might have helped. Initially the path took me along the top of a wall for about 200m: a 2.5m tall wall that was about .75m wide and topped with uneven slabs. To the right of the wall were reocks and river and to the left just rocks. The wind was buffeting strongly there and running along it took a little more concentration than might normally be afforded.

After that were a series of stiles along a grassy riverside path before heading into some woodland alongside the river. Here it got confusing again. There was a sign that seemed to be pointing left and a path headed that way but it was doubling back. Ahead was another path, unsigned. I tried the narrow track through nettles and wild garlic that doubled back but realised it was heading both in the wriong direction and towards the road. It had to be the other path so I headed back down and along that.

Mistake. This path was a sheep only route that clambered over/through fallen trees and crossed a dry beck before snaking up to the road.

The initial sign had said Reeth so I'd expected the path to follow the river to there, but checking the map later I saw that it did indeed double back to the road and got nowhere near Reeth.

From here I stuck with the road, climbing steadily then descending just as quickly into Reeth, then flat along the road to Grinton. Two or three cars did pass along here and in Grinton I saw my first runner. Earlier on I'd seen my first walker, possibly a 'coast to coast' walker, who, walking in the sunshine, had turned toward me, grinned and opened his arms wide just saying 'eh?' in a gesture designed to draw attention to/share just how lovely that part of the world looked in the spring sunshine that morning.

The Garmin clocked 14 miles just before I reached the car, but I daresay the terrain and profile made it feel 2-3 miles further. Enjoyed it.

Yesterday was a rest day, and today will have an easy 5 miles.


Laura said...

Sounds like a great run.. I'd never try to map one out like that, I know I'd get hopelessly lost haha

~Jessica~ said...

What an epic run. Sounds like you trekked all the way from the Shire to Mordor and back. And I can't believe there's actually a place called 'Crackpot.' I thought the fact that there's somewhere called 'Pity Me' a few miles from where I live was amusing but that's so much better.

Glad you had an enjoyable trip :)

Maria said...

I would have got lost!! And also, is there really a place called Crackpot???
PS it was a cotton t shirt not technical, but still pretty good.

Alison said...

I think next time Rob you should carry the OS map with you!

Good work on a 40 mile week though -- that's impressive!