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Friday 27 September 2013

I Went Boxing Again ...

I went to that boxing class again. My arms no longer work. Don’t worry I expect no sympathy.
But if someone could make me a cup of coffee and put a straw in it, I would be most grateful.

Thursday 26 September 2013

High-Heeled Trainers, anyone?

After the abuse heaped on my legs from the long runs and the boxing circuit class, one of them has gone on strike. My left calf has rebelled and has tightened to a ridiculous degree meaning that I can’t place my left heel on the floor while standing. My leg is just too tight.

My brilliant solution to this was to wear high heeled shoes all weekend. Possibly not the most sensible answer, but when the left calf didn’t ease even after DOMS (or RAMBOBB) had withdrawn from my right leg I decided action – sensible action – needed to be taken. And I don’t mean treating myself to a HIGHER pair of heels.

I booked in a sports massage with a lovely lady who managed to squeeze me a place in her busy schedule at the last minute. She compensated herself for my lack of booking foresight by finding all the sore parts in my left calf by poking her finger in them very hard.

However, the ‘poking method’ worked and my leg - whilst still not feeling 100% is now feeling a huge amount better. And I’ve got lovely smooth skin from all the gel rubbed into it. I now have one normal leg and one silky smooth leg. It’s a bit Frankenstein’s monster to tell you the truth. One goat leg, one supermodel leg.

It looks as though New Forest marathon is off the cards this weekend. Luckily this was going to be my ‘run for fun’ marathon and Bournemouth which was to be my main marathon is still 3 weeks away but barring the invention of a pair of high heeled running shoes I’m just going to have to see how it goes. 

Wednesday 25 September 2013

I woke up with RAMBOBB ...

I woke up with DOMS. That’s Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness - not a new boyfriend. In fact it was worse than DOMS. I rechristened it RAMBOBB. Really Agonising Muscles - Brought On By Boxing.

And it was all thanks to the boxing circuits class yesterday. Not only was the class the equivalent of doing school PE in my pants due to forgetting my kit, my legs now REALLY ached.

I had a 22 miler scheduled for today. Luckily I was sensible and postponed it until the RAMBOBB wore off.

The end.

Um... no. Not quite. What actually happened was I woke up with achy legs and thought “Meh, this will ease when I start running. I’ll RUN the agony off. That sounds like a sensible plan and in no way a recipe to injure myself.”

So I drove to Pitsford which is a 7 mile loop around a reservoir. The weather was grotty. It was rainy. It was windy. I should have twigged that pathetic fallacy was trying to tell me something.

Maybe I should have taken more notice when the clouds formed “Do not run” over the lake. Nope. I also ignored the sheep bleating “reeeeee-st”, “reeeeeee-st”. (Amazing how they do that without human lips right? It’s those haunted sheep again) I thought – and quite sensibly – what do sheep know about running?

I had decided on this loop as I really didn’t want to run the 22 miles. But it was in the schedule. And the schedule should be strictly adhered to at ALL times. I had sore, tired legs and it was only 4 days since I’d done 2 races plus a 20 mile run. I decided that this would be a good route as after 2 laps I would be on 14 miles and this wouldn’t be far enough for me to call it quits, whereas on my 4.5 mile loop I might decide that I was tired at 18 miles and give up. This way I would be at least 1 mile within the target. Sensible? Of course. (Cough)

The aches DID ease after a few miles, but I found I was more tired than I expected and that the run took more energy than I’d expected. Plus with the faffing around in the morning and messing about finding the right carpark change, I worked out that I was going to be 15 minutes late for an appointment unless I really quickened my pace up. So I did.

This is where warning bells sound for the normal person.

Nope. It seemed like sensible planning. However, my lack of foresight and utter uselessness at maths caught up with me on my second mile of sub-8 running (about 17 miles into the run) when I realised that I STILL couldn’t make it back in time. So I stopped. I was still a few miles away from the car. I couldn’t get back in time so I stopped and rearranged the appointment. I should have twigged that I was in trouble then when my legs seized up.

Nope. Of course not. Blindness to anything other than target and stupid bloodymindedness to finish the 22 miler at any cost saw me running 5 laps of the bridge to make up the distance.

However, after the run I did all of my stretches and I did them properly. Possibly the only other thing that could have helped me at this point would have been to jump in the cold reservoir and let the freezing water soothe my legs. Nope. I decided a nice sit down (and a packet of sweeties) and then a 45 minutes drive back home would be the best bet.

Having to walk on tiptoes and not being able to put my heels down on the floor is normal, right?

Distance: 22 miles
Time: 3:07:40 
Avg Pace: 8:32 min/miles

Sunday 22 September 2013

Boxing Circuits: Rocky Balboa Meets Riverdance

At least once in every five times I go to the gym I forget something crucial. My towel ... multiple times, sports bra … regularly (although considering I can pretty much make do with a couple of strips of sellotape that’s not quite such a disaster). My crime today? Forgotten trainers. I thought I’d been super organised and I’d even remembered to write down the workout: 8x 1000m in approx 4 minutes starting every 5 minutes – see how organised is THAT! - but I couldn’t remember the basics.

I stood in the changing room with a puddle of lycra around my feet having just pulled out the contents of my gym bag to check that the trainers weren’t hiding in the mobile phone pocket or inside a sock. Nope. Definitely trainer-less. Not even invisible or miniature trainers in THIS gym bag.

I obviously looked confused about my missing trainers as an instructor asked me what was wrong. I explained my lack of footwear but multitude of lycra and she suggested the boxing circuits class.

Hmmm ... Let’s think about this.

Complete lack of upper body strength? Check.
Dangerously uncoordinated? Check.
Interest in Rocky films? Nil.

What could go wrong?

I turned up to the class and had a chat to the instructor. He confirmed that shoeless would be fine, but I might want to remove my socks also unless I fancied doing the equivalent of ice skating on the smooth floor. I’m all for cross training but I didn’t think boxing and skating would complement each other very well.

Luckily for me, the first thing I had to do was skipping. Girls are GOOD at skipping. Even uncoordinated ones like me. Well obviously when I say good, I only mean good compared to the average bloke whose skipping skills can be compared to his flower arranging skills. The facial expressions in the class ranged from ‘panic’ to ’what the hell am I supposed to do with this?’ as each person was handed a skipping rope.

After a brief session of skipping and tripping, we were handed a pair of boxing gloves. And given the warning “Whatever you do, don’t sniff the gloves.” Why would they need to warn us not to sniff gloves? Are we MEANT to sniff gloves? Am I missing something?


Trust me on this DO NOT SNIFF THE GLOVES.

While we were all occupied working out how to put the gloves on, the instructor was setting out a circle of innocent-looking equipment. A trampoline, a mat, a step, a mat, a stepper machine, a mat. two squished hedgehog ball things, a mat, BOSU ball, a punchbag. All sound pretty innocuous, right?

And they are innocent and innocuous. Unless your instructor wants you to do mental things like getting a six-pack and actually working hard towards this. Can’t I work slightly hard and get a new handbag instead?

The worklist was this:
Sprint on a trampoline and and do jabs with each step. Yep mental.
Crunches with jabs as you sit up. Not quite so much crunchy as squeaky towards the end.
A step with jabs each time you step up. Like step class but with boxing. I struggle enough with step class - this was an uncoordinated girl’s NIGHTMARE. The instructor stopped this early for fear of me giving myself a black eye and a bloody nose.
Two squishy things like punctured footballs with spikes to stand on. Looked a bit like rubber hedgehogs. I could stand on them OR do jabbing moves. Not both. Again my coordination skills took a beating.
Stepper with jabs. Not only did I have to not fall off the stepper, I had to keep my legs moving at the same speed and do jabs. Like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. I looked like I was riverdancing and attempting a Mexican Wave. Not pretty.
BOSU ball with jabs. A BOSU ball is like half a beach ball. Had to stand on this without falling off and make punching movements. Sigh.

I started on the mat: This was crunches with 2 jabs every time I sat up. There was a brief pause after the first one as the keys in the back pocket of my gym shorts ended up where you really didn’t want keys to be. It’s a lot more difficult to get things out of your pocket wearing boxing gloves. I probably should have taken the gloves off first, rather than pawing ineffectually at my own backside in the hope the keys would disentangle themselves from my underwear. 

The class would probably have been pretty entertaining to watch, but I felt humiliated. Not only could I not get my arms and legs moving independently, I was at all times in mortal fear of injuring myself with my own flailing limbs. So my legs were doing the equivalent of a riverdance, my arms were attempting to punch but I was cringing away from my own hands and at the same time trying not to fall off the step / mat / stepper machine / trampoline. It was basically the adult’s version of 3rd year PE class.

Also the punchbag. It didn’t do what it did in films. In films, boxers hit the punchbag, it makes a satisfying ‘thwack’ noise and swings around, at which point the film hero does some awesome quick punches and looks cool. This is LIES. This doesn’t happen. Or it didn’t for me anyway. When I hit the punchbag, it didn’t move. It made a noise like ‘pfft’ and that was it. Basically I got farted at by a punchbag. I was scared of my own hands and getting sarcastic comments from the gym equipment.

In a fog of fear, humiliation and sweat, I managed to get the circuit done. Not only had I not injured myself, everyone else had managed to avoid my waving limbs, I hadn’t thrown up, wet myself AND I hadn’t fallen off the trampoline. I was expecting a boxing contract any second. Or a ‘well done’ badge at the very least.

Then the instructor informed us we had to do it all over again.

Friday 20 September 2013

Wolf Run ... A Story in Pictures ...

Once upon a time, there was a mud run ... 
... And a pit full of mud. And my sister. Who was determined that once, just once she was going to beat me in a race. So she jumped into a pit of mud. And splashed ....
(My sister is the blonde one, I am the one with dark hair getting splashed. Note to self ... keep mouth shut in mud pits ....)
 And splashed some more ...

And some more ...

Finally I escaped from her and climbed out of the mud pit. The photographer spotting that my mouth was actually full of mud decided to snap a picture ...

Then there was a slide, made of polythene sheets and filled with water, washing up liquid ...

... And mud ...

At the end of the run was a final obstacle. A muddy slope and a pit full of muddy water. As I am a sensible runner, I decided to enter this pit carefully and gently ...

Well kind of.

... I got a mouth full of muddy water. Ruined my running clothes. Totalled my trainers. But had an AMAZING day ...

... And will be back for more next year. 


Thursday 19 September 2013

Leamington Parkrun: Knot Tying, Hill of Death & Pushing 10 Year Olds in the Hedge

This was to be my first time running at Leamington parkrun. I had no excuse except laziness – it’s just down the road and was no further really than Coventry parkrun. I call Coventry ‘my local’ parkrun despite the fact it’s about 20 miles away and doesn’t serve beer and peanuts. To my way of thinking anything I describe with the word ‘local’ should have a colourful name such as the “Tippling Philosopher’, “Golden Lion”, “Bold Dragoon” and serve drinks of a wobbly nature. And not involve running.

It wasn’t just distance that had put me off trying this parkrun though. It was something worse.

The Hill.

Capitals deserved. I hadn’t seen this gravity-defying oxygen-mask-requiring mountain but every time I mentioned visiting Leamington parkrun, this part of the route always got a mention by someone in the know. Of course, this shouldn’t matter. Hills are fun, right? Flat routes are boring routes. And if you ask me, I’ll tell you that I run parkruns for the fun of them. I don’t always run to get a new 5k PB.

But, secretly? Of course I do.

I would like to go for a sub-20 time but on this course I appreciated that this probably wasn’t terribly likely unless I was allowed to exchange my trainers for rollerskates on the downhill parts. I was however looking for a sub-21 time and ideally knock a few seconds off of my last parkrun time. A girl has to have goals, right? And all that speedwork had to count for something ...

The first sign that things might not go to plan was during my chat to a marshal. I’d asked him about the route and mentioned how pretty it looked. He agreed. Then looked me in the eye and said this course was the “worst in the midlands for speed” Oh. Maybe I’d better change my time goal to sub-30 minutes ...

We all lined up at the start and as I looked around, all I could see was pretty hedgerows, a nice flat playing field and a couple of lost golfers. I decided that the Hill of Death must be a tall tale to stop parkrun tourists from visiting and eating all the good cakes.

We set off in the usual parkrun start rush of flying trainers and accidental elbowing. I was feeling fresh, comfortable and had my heart set on a good time. The Running Gods knew this. And they decided to give me a kick up the arse for my optimism and sneakily untied my shoelaces about 200m in. Just before the first corner.

I decided tripping myself up on a trailing shoelace and falling on my face wasn’t the best strategy for a PB so stepped out of the stampede and retied my shoelace. I’d given myself an additional task now; make up the time lost and weave around the hordes of enthusiastic runners who had overtaken me while I’d been practising my knots.

The parkrun itself was lovely. The start was on grass but the main route was made up of narrow, pretty paths which wound and twisted between hedges and around a golf course. The paths narrowed in places and there was a fair amount of congestion as runners of a similar speed were running shoulder to shoulder, but the atmosphere was a good one and camaraderie ran high. The hedges occasionally opened out to show gorgeous views and on a sunny morning it was a lovely run.

Well. Most of it was a lovely run. The slight uphill which turned into a vertical slope - down which I fully expected skiers to come hurtling – dashed any expectations I might have had for a PB. Twitter buddies had told me that it was as fast to walk as it was to run but I decide that as I was out for a run I may as well try. I overtook the woman in front of me and a 10 year old boy who were walking up it. I made it to the top in triumph having run all the way up and just as I paused to adjust my victory signs and try to gain control of my heaving lungs and spasming calves, I was overtaken by the boy who had walked up the hill.

While fully supporting the valuable work of the NSPCC, I determined to push him in a hedge. If I could catch him.

The next section was all downhill. A fact I tried desperately to take advantage of, however my legs were having none of it. Having been pushed to run up the side of a mountain, they were now firmly telling me that if I was expecting anything below a 7 minute mile I was most definitely “having a laugh” and could “sod right off”.

Fair enough. I tottered along the rest of the route with wibbly legs and wished I’d had enough foresight to invest in some of those trainers with wheels. While I might not be able to run at speed, I was pretty sure I could roll downhill like a champ. Despite my lack of leg control and inability to control my soaring heart rate, it was a lovely parkrun and running on trails was a nice change from the tarmac and roads I would otherwise be running on.

Coming along the final section of path, I thought my body was shutting down and my eyesight was failing. (Although this is a pretty standard feeling for me at the end of a 5k) From what I could see, there were woolly sheep on the path in front of me. Squinting and hoping I wasn’t about to be trampled up by a flock of woolly creatures – bearing in mind I was in the middle of rural Warwickshire, I got a bit closer and realised it was two ENORMOUS Labrador retrievers. They looked confused at the crowds hurtling –  or in my case, trundling – towards them but the owner obviously felt our 5k fitness would be improved with hound-hurdling and not-tripping-over-a-dog training in the final 200 metres and left them to wander in the middle of the path. I appreciate his thoughtfulness in attempting to improve our training, but couldn’t help feeling that maybe I could return the favour by giving him a being-throttled-with-a-dog-lead Krypten Factor style challenge.

Everyone is a coach.

Reining in the murderous thoughts, I realised I was on the final stretch and tried for a burst of speed. My legs rebelled and flailed about as though I was at a Riverdance audition but I put my head down and focused on the fact that I could have a massive steaming cup of hot black coffee and possibly a slice of cake at the end. This did the trick. I aimed my body in the general direction of at the finish funnel and managed a finish like an octopus doing a Mexican Wave.

I finished and clasped the parkrun token in my sweaty hand. And was clapped by the 10 year old who had finished several minutes earlier. I reached out to push him in the hedge but had no strength left and managed only a half wave.

He waved back.

Recovering at the thought of a coffee and cake, I got myself moving in the general direction of the cafe and met up with some of my lovely Twitter buddies. I was relieved to note they were real people although I wasn’t sure how they escaped from my phone. Laura (@TheLozzatron) was fab! And just as lovely in real life as on Twitter which was a relief as she does triathlons and would be quite capable of using her super-triathlete strength to beat me up if I wasn’t polite to her. Chris (@Rock_and_Droll) had been marshalling and cheering  on the people at the bottom of the Cardiac Hill, safe in the knowledge that he didn’t have to climb the thing this week. It was lovely to catch up with them both and a relief to find out that neither of them appeared to be mad serial killers masquerading as runners. Although maybe they save the axe murdering for the 2nd parkrun visit.

33rd / 235 people
4th woman /69
1st in age group

But 32 seconds slower than PB ... I had fully expected to knock a few seconds off of this but a combination of things meant that I was slower than I’d expected. However, it was a lovely route and really friendly group of people. Sometimes it’s not all about the times.

Goals achieved:
Sub 20 time: nope
Sub 21 time: nope
New PB: nope
Children pushed in the hedge: 0 (but only because I couldn’t catch him)
Massive hills found for hill reps in future: 1
Real life friends made: 2 (waves at Lozza and Chris)

I reckon that’s a win.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Runaway Frog

I found another frog on my run and tried to take a photo but it hopped away. Don’t think it liked the smell of sweaty runner. Or maybe I looked hungry.

There was a frog there half a second ago ...

Thursday 12 September 2013

Yorkshire 3 Peaks: Sheep that say “Moo” & Bacon Sarnies

The Yorkshire Three Peaks walk is an endurance challenge of 26 miles and which includes approx 5,000-foot (1,524.0 m) of ascent and descent going up and down the mountains of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. The aim is complete the challenge in under 12 hours.

The Mr and I arrived at the hotel at 10.30pm after a 2 and a half hour drive. Thanks to a full tank of petrol, snacks for the road and a refusal to stop for the loo (the threat of having to use a coke bottle meant that good bladder control was at a premium) it was a straight run up the M6 from Junction 1 to Junction 34. Easy peasy. And arriving late at night meant that I didn’t see the flatness of Warwickshire turn into the peaks of Yorkshire and put the fear of sheep into me.

I’d booked the hotel over the phone and had been assured that I could have a lovely breakfast at whatever ridiculously early time I wanted. However, our views on what constituted “a lovely breakfast” differed and rather than the massive greasy fry-up I’d hoped for, there was a jug of cold milk and some boxes of cereal. Bother. I made do with cold Weetabix. I’d never had cold Weetabix before and wasn’t sure how to get it to congeal. Weetabix should be hot! Damn you, Weetabix heathens! 

I DID eye up the rice crispies but it looked as though a child had already beaten me to the free toy and I decided that crispy rice wasn’t worth the risk of a dodgy tummy. On a windy mountain. With lots of hikers. And sparse cover.

The challenge officially starts at Pen-y-Ghent Cafe in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and there is an ancient clocking-in machine which you can use to record your start and finishing times. If you complete the circular walk within 12 hours, you’re invited to join the Cafe’s 3 Peaks of Yorkshire club. However, the cafe doesn’t open until 8am so we put a card with our name and information and our start time (6:40am) through the postbox instead.

We got sidetracked for 10 minutes taking photos and having photos taken by the Pen-Y-Ghent Cafe signpost, but we set off at around 6:50am. Running rucksack on shoulders, pick’n’mix in hand and map, compass, spare pick’n’mix and chocolate in a map bag around my neck. 

As is tradition at the start of EVERY race or challenge, my treacherous bladder told me that I was desperate for a wee. I ignored it. I’d managed the entire Paris marathon with my bladder whispering “wee, wee, wee!” the whole way round like a chorus of Little Pigs on their way home and I had managed not to cry, stop or wet myself there.    

We turned right from the cafe and passing – and ignoring the first signpost to Pen-Y-Ghent - we continued up to the church and took the second lane on the left up past the primary school. The road grew narrower and narrower and steeper and steeper and soon we’d passed all of the houses and into the country where the lane was bordered with dry-stone walls.

Sheep. Sheep are white, fluffy things with bulgy eyes that say Baaaaa. Right? Nope. HERE sheep are kind of grey lumpy things with coats that look like old-lady-off-Jeremy-Kyle-hair and with shit besplattered backsides. Also these sheep didn’t – or wouldn’t – say “baaa.”

In fact, the sheep in the field opposite the first stile up to Pen-y-Ghent said “Moooo.” I’d like to confirm that I wasn’t under the influence of anything other than Weetabix. I have seen sheep before and they have definitely said “baaa”. While I do not in any way consider myself an expert on sheep, I have it on good authority (nursery rhymes for instance) that sheep say “Baaa.” COWS say “Moo.” This was a SHEEP. It said MOOO.

It concerned me so much that I sidetracked our mission to get The Mr to listen to it and I would like to confirm that he agreed that it said moo. I looked at the sheep suspiciously. It looked back and moo-ed at me. I have my suspicions about that sheep. There was probably a farmer behind the wall, practising his specialist ventriloquist’s act and wetting himself at the confused townies. 

The climb to Pen-y-Ghent really starts when you cross from the lane into the field over a stile. There are a series of small but steep rolling hills with a dirt path made by the thousands of feet that cross this way. The ways over the dry stone walls are by gaps – for the very slim or those with long legs – or stone steps made by blocks sticking out of the walls or ladder stiles. So the long stretches of walking between mountains are interrupted by the equivalent of walking up to the height of a child’s slide and then walking back down again.

On around the third of the steep fields we were overtaken by a fell runner. He was obviously a fell runner. Wearing shorts despite the chill? Check. Ruddy cheeks? Check. Over 65 but still going faster than me? Check. Plus he was running on the fells. Yep. Definitely a fell runner.

I wasn’t sure whether to envy him or not. Usually when I see runners I get the ‘I wish I was going for a run” feeling but considering we were climbing a very steep hill and my heart rate was maxed out just walking up it, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I could manage any other speed faster than ‘shuffle’. I don’t think there’s a race category for ‘Fell Shufflers’. 

As we got to the last of the fields, we climbed over a stone wall and the path took a sharp turn to the left. The first mountain of the three towered above us. It was bright sunshine and there was an autumn tang in the air but it looked sleepy and peaceful. Quite unlike how I know it can be, with snow drifts, howling winds and ice. It looked a pleasant climb in the sunshine but I wasn’t planning on underestimating how dangerous these mountains can be.

The body of a lady had been discovered near here a few years ago and she has never been identified which seems so sad. Someone, somewhere must be missing her.  

This mountain is one of the most fun to climb especially in the sunshine. It’s steep in a rocky way and there’s a sharp scramble to the top. The path leading up is made of slabs and steps but it’s proper hands and knees climbing.

We got to the top and the trig point. Well near the trig point. A group of women decked out in full winter climbing gear, but with perfect makeup and hair were having the equivalent of a photo shoot in front of it. After us waiting for 10 minutes to get a snapshot, they finally moved slightly to one side, thus ensuring that while their photos might be done, they wanted to ruin anyone else’s if they got the chance. I resisted the urge to wee on their sandwiches and we set off towards the next mountain. 

Now for the fun bit ... running the down hills! We’d decided to travel light today so had the obligatory map and compass and first aid kit, money, spare shoelaces, torch, snacks and camelback but that was it! It sounds a lot but that all fitted into a very lightweight camelback and running belt.

We passed a lot of people with great big rucksacks. Absolutely no idea what they had in them – they didn’t seem to contain sleeping bags and tents. Maybe they thought they’d get stranded and very hungry and didn’t fancy chasing mooing woolly beasts for food. The Mr and I were more practical. We’d never catch a sheep if we got lost. They’re just too quick. We’d eat a hiker instead. One with a big rucksack on and perfect hair. Particularly if they’d just ruined our trig point pictures.

We ran down the mountain. The paths were very good apart from occasional loose stones and I got overtaken by The Mr. As he ran past his voice drifted back... "I'm like a gazelle ...” (Then the noise of a stumble reached me and a muffled swear) “...On roller skates!!"

At the bottom of Pen-y-Ghent, the paths were gravelled and well maintained and there were signposts and the route was well marked. Very different to how it had been when I’d walked the route 3 years ago.

I’d been telling stories of The Bog and had even invested in some Seal Skinz waterproof socks after falling into the bog last time and having to walk the remaining 20 miles, brown to the knees and smelling as though I’d been paddling in a portaloo. However, The Bog never appeared! The paths avoided the area and there was no sign even of where it had been. There weren’t even any slightly damp areas - the streams had been bridged and squelchy areas gravelled.

The walk between Pen-Y-Ghent and Whernside is long and fairly flat. Well flat compared to the mountainous bits. Without the threat of the Bog of Doom, it was uneventful except for the sheep and the occasional stile. The area is beautiful and in the sunshine it was lovely to walk. The birds sang and the sheep baaa-ed (and mooo-ed) and apart from the occasional warning not to tread in the dead rabbit on the path it was perfect.

There’s a turning off the stony trail which leads you over a stream and down some grassy hills and following the path brings you to a fork in the trail. One way tells you to “fasen the gate” (sic) and leads over a wall with a gate at the top. The other path leads you over a wooden footbridge over a stream.

“I remember this bit. I got lost here last time.” Smug face. Not going to do that again. Ha! “I remember that bridge. We DON’T go over that bridge.”

“The one with the 3 Peaks sign on?”

“Yep. We DEFINITELY don’t go over that bridge.”

Checked the map. Checked the instructions. The instructions are clear about heading over the field towards the farmhouse and not going over the bridge. Got to the farmhouse gate and was confronted by a big sign with ‘no public right of way’ written clearly on it. Hmmm. Saw another footpath sign and stile but the path was blocked by lots of tree branches. This doesn’t seem right. Quick Sarah – look as though you know where you’re going. It was getting difficult to maintain my I-know-Where-I’m-Going face wading through knee high grass though.

Gave up and asked a farmer. Waded back through the knee high grass. And walked over the wooden bridge with the 3 Peaks sign on it.

Through more fields and over an iron bridge, sturdy and massive. Our footsteps echoed as we walked over it. Seemed strange to have it here on this tiny track. Wondered if there was a troll living underneath it as our footsteps trip-trap, trip-trapped across it.

The path was fairly clear now, mud, gravel or stone tracks winding through fields and between hills. Mile after mile of rolling green hills, streams and sheep. There are haunted sheep in those hills. I stopped to check the map and looked up and I was surrounded by sheep. They baaa-ed at me in deep, resonant voices that sounded strangely human. I had found a sheep that moo-ed earlier and now I was surrounded by animals that bleated in the voices of old men. 

We’d kept walking and hadn’t stopped but when we spotted the coffee van just before the Ribblehead Viaduct, we decided a hot cup of coffee was in order. The cafe owner was a miserable old woman who had obviously decided long ago that she had an uninterrupted revenue stream from all of the walkers and therefore didn’t need to be nice to any of them. Although I don’t want to be unfair. Maybe she was just allergic to gaiters, rucksacks and woolly socks and was suffering pangs of jealousy at the natty attire of all of the sweaty, muddy walkers. 

Drank our coffee and all of a sudden Spiderman sprinted across the road. The Mr leapt up and bellowed “Can't be beaten by Spiderman!” And took off after him. I watched in puzzlement and ran after him to find a bemused man (who was raising money by doing the challenge in a spiderman suit) and The Mr puffing and panting behind a hillock looking triumphant.

The next stage of the journey towards Whernside is one of the most distinctive parts of the route. Ribblehead viaduct is 440 yards long and has 24 high arches which tower 104 feet above the ground. It’s beautiful and a compelling landmark on the walk, standing as it does at about the halfway point. However, so many people died building it in the 1870s, Midland Railway paid to extend the village graveyard at Chapel-le-Dale and several of the graves are thought to be mass ones.

There are remains of the navvies encampments still on the moor, showing where they lived and sometimes died. It’s not a very nice place to think of people living as it’s so bare and bleak. The wind whistles and there is no shelter except for a white house on the left of the path. This is Blea Moor Signal box and there’s no road up to it so every day the signalman has to walk over a mile to reach it.

The path starts getting steeper after this point. The path is stone slabs about the size of a rough thick paving slab with about a 2 inch gap between each one. This is the most difficult part of the walk, simply because it’s so dull. The hill drags on and on for two miles. We were lucky that we had views on the left of a lake and the hills but often it’s cloudy or misty and all you can see is the next grey slab in front of you. 

After the slabs stop, the path steepens – which isn’t much fun on legs tired from climbing - and then it’s a walk up to the trig point. There’s a tiny little gap in the stone to get through to it as the point is behind a dry stone wall. It would be a bit irritating if you climbed all the way to the top of this mountain to not get through the gap! However, the stone wall had been collapsed a bit further along so maybe an angry Sumo Wrestler enraged at his inability to get a photo of himself at the trig point had charged the wall enabling future generations of walkers – and wrestlers – to get the desired pic without having to resort to photoshop. 

It was nice to get to be at the top of Whernside as this meant that we were now past the halfway point! And I still had pick’n’mix left! We still had plenty of water left in the water bladders and I didn’t think I’d need a refill as there’s only a short walk from Whernside to Ingleborough.

We ran a short section of the descent but soon the side steepened so dramatically we were walking, then picking our way down carefully. In fact, this was the slowest part of the day. Slower even than the ascents. My toes were getting sore from the descents as the constant downhills meant my toes were hitting the end of the toeboxes. I tightened my shoes to try and combat this but didn’t hold out much hope for my toenails. I wouldn’t take a bet on how many toenails I’ll start next week with. 

We passed some people repairing and rebuilding the path on the way down the mountain and a sign proclaimed they were Friends of the Three Peaks. The paths had been well maintained and well signposted so I decided the least I could do would be to donate some cash to them as thanks. They’ve probably halved my laundry bill just by diverting around the Bog of Doom.

There is a farmhouse stop between Whernside and Ingleborough – The Philpin farm. There are loos available to customers and a selection of emergency items ... dry socks, shoelaces and ice cream! Surely EVERY day is an emergency ice cream day? Despite this, we didn’t stop. Despite the people eating their ice creams and looking happy with their non-sore toes and their cold drinks. Smug gits.

The third mountain, Ingleborough is sharp, steep and long. On my previous Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge, the mountain had inadvertently been christened “FuckFuck” mountain. It’s the final peak and you look up ... and up ... and up. And then you see the people crawling up the side of the mountain like insects. Then you say its name. 


This time climbing it, there wasn’t much water coming down the side of the trail. Previously, I’d climbed it in a rainy October and the water had been running down the cliffs so you were climbing in a small chilly mountain stream. It was windy today but the visibility was brilliant and you could see the viaduct in the distance, small and perfect like a bridge in a model railway. It looked as though you’d be able to reach out and pick it up. 

I couldn't tell where the trig point was so aimed for the biggest group of people assuming that this would be where the trig point was. Nope. I accidentally interrupted a picnic. They didn’t even offer me a sandwich.

Finally found the trig point and had the obligatory photo. This was the final mountaintop of the day ... unless things go horribly wrong or I realise I’ve left my mobile phone at the top of the last mountain and have to go back and retrieve it.

Looking down the side of the mountain, I could see the trail winding down the hills below like a sinuous snake. Can I just emphasise that ... DOWN the hills. All downhill. Brilliant. And there was now only about 5 or 6 miles between me and a massive fry up. And an ice cream. I reckoned I could RUN  that distance within an hour. Especially with those incentives. 

I looked at The Mr. He gave me a filthy look and told me his feet hurt and there was no way he was running 6 miles. I suggested a bacon sandwich. He sighed and started running.

The path down alternated between smooth dirt and gravel, broken stones and steep edges and limestone boulders. The surface could be aurally determined by the girlie screams behind me as The Mr tripped over stones and trod on pointy rocks.

Eventually things came to a head. He shouted in a grumpy voice that he wasn’t going to run ANY MORE and it didn’t matter how many bacon sandwiches there were. We compromised and walked quickly. Well I walked quickly. He shambled. And shuffled.

Just as we were walking down one of the last hills, we were overtaken by a middle aged couple with coordinated anoraks, bobble hats and those alpine sticks. They seemed a nice couple. If slightly matching in a there-are-bodies-under-the-patio kind of a way.

I looked at The Mr and mouthed “Bacon Sandwich.” He looked back and sighed and broke into a shuffling run, the kind of run any zombie would be proud of. Good. No matching anoraks any time soon then.

We made it back to the cafe and checked in at exactly 8 hours from when we started. We bought a bucket of coffee each and a selection of snacks which we dug into with the fervour of a couple of Donner party survivors confronted with non-human goodies.

After a few moments of silence, The Mr looked up. “You were really patronising, you know. With the whole bacon sandwich thing.”

I grinned at him and pointed at the pile of food between us on the table. “Well it kept you running, didn’t it?”

Garmin info here: 

Distance: 24.96 mi

Time: 7:50:47

Avg Pace: 18:45 min/mi

Elevation Gain: 4,663 ft

Calories: 2,321 C

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Smoke Alarms & Procrastination

Well that run was a complete cock up. I procrastinated all evening and was sitting around eating chocolate when I realised I needed to get out of the house.

It was 9pm already and if I didn’t crack on I’d be running at midnight. And have a tummy ache from all the chocolate I’d eaten in 3 hours while procrastinating.

Got into running gear – still grumpy. Put headtorch on – in the sulkiest way I could manage and tied shoelaces. Tight.

Got out of the house and started running and thought, “Actually this is pretty good. I like running.” I had 3 minutes of fast jog, 3 mins of marathon pace and 3 mins of 10k pace scheduled over a 9 mile route. Fine. Nice and simple. Nothing too complex for my tiny minded, chocolate-eating self of 9pm to comprehend.

Then the phone rang.

“Are you in the house?”

“Nope. I’m running. Why?”

“All the smoke alarms are going off.”

“Shit. I’m coming back now.”

Got back to the house, the Mr had been upstairs and had assumed I’d been cooking (at 9pm? Really? I only ‘cook’ takeaways at 9pm) hence the smoke alarms and prompting the phone call. Apparently it had stopped after one beep anyway.

So my run was cocked up due a low battery in the smoke alarm. Sigh. I went around and tested them all again. No low batteries, no further beeps. No run.