Helicopter training; Leader in Running Fitness course; a very wet 5 k trail race; a week’s sailing in the SW; and a half marathon.  With somewhat variable success overall.

Search & Rescue helicopters have been privatised; no more RAF helicopters.  The new ones are bigger, and in many respects better.  Not sure that applies to the down wash though.  So it was an interesting morning, right by Pendle Hill, with members of several Mountain Rescue teams participating.

And I’m due another certificate, this one for the running fitness.  Not sure I can demonstrate that skill any more (more of that later) but it was a good day and I did learn a few things.  An England Athletics day adapted for fell runners – quite different, therefore, I imagine, from  the original.

Jim Smith was a founder member of the Fell Runners Association, and he has been a member of Tod Harriers for a very long time.  Thus it was apposite that Andy O’Sullivan should dedicate one of his 5 k trail races to Jim.  A lot of Tod Harriers turned out; and the heavens opened.  I can’t remember being so wet in a race.  Happily it was short.  Unfortunately, not many were left standing to welcome Jim & his entourage over the finish line.  Another memorable evening.

This was my fourth trip on the Eda Frandsen.  A wooden boat, originally a Danish fishing boat, 80 years old, very little in the way of mechanisation.  eda-frandsen-624You sail with a crew of 3, but, if the boat is to get on, then the guests have to muck in.  Right up our street.  Falmouth to the Scilly Isles and back this time; previously we have sailed the Hebrides and Orkney.  Other than being sick as a dog on the transit to the Scilly Isles, it was another wonderful holiday.  I do think I prefer the N West; more variety than we got this time; if I do go again, it would be to Scotland.

And the (rather expensive) Rochdale half marathon.  Long standing readers may recall that last year I did the 10 k, having not been able to do a fell race the previous day, and wanting a race that weekend; this year the half was in the club championship.

Rochdale Town Hall - starts here
Rochdale Town Hall – starts here

I am flagging.  My time was worse than on the hilly Darwen half earlier in the year.  One consolation – 1st v 70.  Actually – the only v 70.

So – season of mellow fruitfulness & all that.  Clocks go back any time soon.

Last at last

Major life event.  It was bound to happen.  At least it was an English championship fell race.  And I was only last by 7 seconds.  Another of life’s hurdles crossed.

But before that – I did the ‘Sale Sizzler’.  Not a cheap sausage.  Sale is the home of the famous Sale Harriers and, as one would expect, this is a very well organised event; it was described to me as ‘pancake flat’ so you may well ask why I was there; someone put it in the club championship.  And, for a road race, it was a surprisingly enjoyable event, generally well away from traffic, marshalled by enthusiasts and generally a good event.  My time of course was appalling by comparison with the fast lads at the front, wanting a PB on a flat course, and my club championship points equally so – but there you go.

Just spelt it eqwally – doesn’t look that bad to me.

I went by tram.  Very smooth journey, except that, arriving at the destination tram stop there was no indication of which way to go.  Kindness of strangers, and all that.  All very ecological – and much pleasanter than getting round the M60 at rush hour.

So – forward, past a pleasant pack run on the fells, where we found that one of the area’s many conduits, huge stone channels taking water to one of the many reservoirs, had slipped down a hillside in the recent floods; path officially closed, but we did manage; and on to my final English Championship race of the year, Pendle 3 Peaks.

There are a lot of fell races on Pendle; this is an A medium, 16km, 870m of climb and as the title implies there are three ascents on the route.  A bit wet, but what I found debilitating was the wind, which was pretty constant.  No particular navigational problems, though that might have been different if the clag had been right down; and I was doing fine for the first 2 hours.  Predictably, my legs started to give way.

The women had been started 15 minutes ahead of the men; I was boxing and coxing with about a half dozen men bringing up the rear of the race, never actually at the back of these; then, just starting the final steep climb, I overtook a woman.  I deduced, therefore, correctly that I was now 15 minutes ahead of at least one other competitor.

It is really steep when you're going up it
It is really steep when you’re going up it

I got a couple of the men on the climb, and got to the trig point; but, from there on in, I walked.  And for the latter part I walked with the sweeper.  So the men ran past; and so did the woman; and however hard I tried, I did lose 15 minutes to her between the trig point and the finish.  Her time was 3.02.34; mine 3.02.41.  If I’d known . . . .

The sweeper told me that he had been with a very slow runner; he’d estimated the runner might do 5 hours or so; but one of his shoes fell apart and he dropped out.  So the sweeper came forward, found our group, and ended up walking back with me.

Anyway, as far as the English Championship goes, being last does not debar you from points; and I’ve ended up 5th V70.  Pleased with that.  Also, to my amazement, I am at present 13th V65!  This may change as there is another long race to come, not included in the V70 scores; but one or other V65 may get points in the final race and end up ahead of me.

Borrowdale Fell Race and a 10 mile road race

I never got to the pack run this weekend – went to Old Trafford instead.  Never been before.  It’s big.  It was Wayne Rooney’s benefit match; 3000 Evertonians and a massive crowd of United supporters.  Anyway, we made ourselves heard.  And I was impressed that Koeman has definitely tightened up our defence.  We had as many chances as they did in a goalless draw; hopeful signs for the new season.  First match next Saturday; Spurs at home.

Nor did I run Borrowdale.  27 k and 2000 m of climb; my expected time probably noticeably over 5 hours, and, these days, my legs give up by about 2 hours.  I’ve entered twice; gave up at Great Gable once, timed out at Honister the second time.  No – I was there to assist the Race Liaison Officer.  He chose to observe the start and the finish, so I went up to the check point at Sty Head.  Nice day, albeit a bit windy, exciting and interesting watching the runners coming through.  Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue Team turn up in force every year; they see it as a good training day out in the hills.  So, as well as a couple of marshals at each check point, there are also a couple of MR members, keeping tabs on the race, keeping contact by radio right round the route, and generally contributing to keeping the competitors safe.  Organisation excellent as always, and a good day out for the 380 odd runners.

But I did plod round 10 miles of the lower Lune Valley from Lancaster City Centre.

Judge's lodgings Lancaster - where the judge who tried the Pendle Witches lived
Judge’s lodgings Lancaster – where the judge who tried the Pendle Witches lived

A good route, surprisingly free of traffic, but I found it hard; perhaps still the fag end of my infection.  My legs were heavy, and I took five minutes longer for the second half of the race than my, already slow, time for the first half.  As always, some more points for the club championship.

And when I got home, straight into energy sapping jobs around the house and garden, because the family had been doing this on Saturday and also Sunday morning.  I should sleep well tonight.

Family & Friends in the Lakes again – and Ambleside Sports

Not as big a do as last year.  Back at Windermere again, and a most pleasant week with family and friends.  About 19 of us at the peak.  Weather fair to middling.  Food – we catered for ourselves – excellent.  Company ditto.  And the accommodation just as excellent as last year.

I managed to sit in a canoe, windermere canoe

walk up a little hill, walk along a very fine lake, play chess with a 6 year old, kick a fairly squashy football, and generally convalesce from a horrible cold before doing the Ambleside Sports BOFRA race again.  The Rydal Round, also from Ambleside Sports, was curtailed this year; I think because of the very misty conditions.

My niece’s husband, from Berlin, was somewhat startled by aspects of the race; I think he’s a road runner really, used to flat asphalt.  As he was in road shoes I entertained hopes of getting past him on the downhill, but it was not to be.  Weather conditions at the Sports were less clement than last year – a fine drizzle throughout.  My 4 year old granddaughter managed 3 rosettes and 2 lollies, so was fairly satisfied with that.

Shropshire – high and low

You’ve not heard of Wild Edric?  Unfortunately, you’re not alone.  There is a book, but it’s been out of print for a while, and I’ve not laid hands on a copy.  His way is also referenced in the little freebie leaflet for Clun.

We had a fine day at the Great Yorkshire show; most of the shearing I watched was with hand shears and I find it impressive that there seem still to be plenty of practitioners of this craft.

exciting when there are 6 competing
exciting when there are 6 competing

And, of course, I watched the pole climbing; an 80 foot pole.  Imagine climbing that!  and what if you’re 84 years old?  in less than a minute.  The youngsters strive to do it in 10 seconds.

The next day saw us on a train to Church Stretton.  Wild Edric was a Saxon who seems to have had the same approach to the Normans as Asterix & Obelix had to the Romans.  I presume he met a sticky end though I cannot confirm that.  He rampaged around Shropshire & vicinity apparently, and a bit of the Shropshire Way is said to be named after him.  Not that anybody would know.  Or does.

Here in Calderdale, we have the Calderdale Way – a loop around the area.  Like the Rossendale Way.  And plenty of others.  They do it differently in the West Midlands.  Rather like a cross between an octopus and a deranged spider’s web, the Shropshire Way has tentacles going off in all sorts of directions.  I don’t think one can walk the Shropshire Way – only walk on the Shropshire Way.

So we went up the Carding Mill Valley – been there before for fell races, and it’s lovely.  Over the Long Mynd and down to Bridges.  Could have stayed there for a day or two; the pub was nice, the beer good, and, though we didn’t have any, I gather the food is good.  Then on and up to Stiperstones.

Really pleased I’ve been there.  A ridge, some similarity (alright then, not a lot) to the Long Mynd, but these individual great big rocky outcrops on the top.  We climbed one of them so that we could say we’d nabbed another trig point.

Down and down to Bishop’s Castle.  A fine town.  We stayed in an absolutely amazing B&B; a 1564 house.  Constructed of oak.  On the main street.  Rescued from dereliction 30 years ago by the previous owners and then by the current ones who laboured for ten years before setting up the B&B.  We will go again.

We got to Newcastle, Clun, Craven Arms and finally to Ludlow, another place very well worth visiting.  When high – lovely walking with breathtaking views.  Lower down, Shropshire appears to be a land of nettles, thistles and brambles, largely strategically positioned around stiles and gates one has to go through, as there is no alternative route.  Plus one large field of inquisitive young cattle, which, en masse, did prove a little disconcerting.  Next time we might stick to the upland walking.  Though it was of interest to walk through varied chest high crops (sometimes varied within the same field).  And I guess Shropshire is one of the few areas where arable and livestock farming continue cheek by jowl.  Not what we have in Yorkshire.

Other than the stinging plants, Shropshire also has an impressive density of castles to the square mile; and impressive castles, at that.  I liked Clun.

Here it is
Here it is

Though it’s actually much more impressive as you approach along the Shropshire Way.




Sedbergh Sports Fell Race – British and English Championship race

Since the Dales Way walk I’ve managed one evening training with the Search & Rescue team; one pack run (now back in Yorkshire, as it’s a new month); one team call out; one evening marshaling junior fell races at Greenfield; and in the meantime  to see the 2 Euro semi finals.  Hyperactive obviously, in an attempt to overcome the pain of the referendum result.

The junior races were an absolute joy.  Youngsters coming from all directions (they didn’t actually lose any of the runners), many of them sliding on their backsides past me down the wet grass of the steep hillside, road shoes not quite the thing considering the conditions.  One hilarious sight was of four big 15 year old lads proceeding very gingerly down the steep hillside with its wet grassy/stony surface; two tiny boys in club vests (?U10’s?) appeared and went skipping down past the big lads, who were left open mouthed and way behind.  And I received really nice thanks from several of the runners, for marshaling.

This weekend Joyce is in London; it’s another of her more or less annual reunions with the ladies with whom she trained as a nurse now virtually 50 years ago.  Amazing that once again there will be about 8 of them together this weekend.

5.6km, 400 m of climb.  Weather conditions much as last Saturday, when we were at the highest point of the Dales Way; warm, windy and wet.  Just shorts and a vest.  I was in very grave danger of being last today; that would have been a first for me, I’ve never yet come in  last in a race.  I managed to get past a nice chap from  Pennine Runners about half way up the first peak, but I was not that far ahead, and he’s always been better than me on the downhill.  So after the second peak, going back down, I was expecting all the time that he would come hurtling past me.  He didn’t – and, indeed, we waited a long time for him to come in behind me.  I did beat him at each of the two previous EC races this year; and the reason is that his descending is now impeded by knee problems.  My benefit from his bad luck.  I think I got 6 EC points.

Well in front of me, it seems, were huge numbers of runners going down the steep grassy hillside on their backsides – perhaps I should have taken a leaf out of the juniors’ book from Thursday, too.

I found the race hard; maybe I should not have had so many sandwiches in the car on the way up.  After the race I was not particularly hungry until well into the evening, though I’d only had a piece of cake shortly after finishing and nothing else.  I guess if you over fill the fuel tank then the vehicle moves more slowly.  I’ll try without next time and see what difference that makes – if any.

View of Sedbergh – Howgills behind.


We’d walked past Sedbergh on the Dales Way; nice to be back in the same area so soon.

Dales Way

A long packrun, rather soggy underfoot, with some steep climbing; then into a train first thing, walk across Bradford, and arrive at Ilkley to walk to Bowness on Windermere over 5 days.  We’ll be back at Windermere later this month for another family holiday in the big bouse, albeit on a smaller scale than last year.  And a day at Ambleside sports.

Highlights include walking beside some stunning rivers; the bootleg Beatles at Grassington; lots of birds; excellent accommodation, especially for our last night, at Burneside; the nice teenager on his rather damp Duke of Edinburgh expedition, stopping us just outside Hubberholme – can I ask you some questions?  we’re doing a survey.  Where have you come from today?  what is the purpose of your journey; lots of other people we met; sitting on the bench on the green at Buckden; the lovely church at Hubberholme; excellent food – at Burneside, for breakfast, I had a giant American pancake, 2 pancakes arranged as a double decker with summer fruits and lashings of maple syrup; and, I thought, the bracing crossing from upper Wharfedale over to upper Dentdale, though Joyce thought it unpleasant as she would have liked to linger to enjoy the lovely scenery.  Not something either of us was going to do in the weather conditions we met there.

Shropshire next, for another 5 days walking.

Kettlewell typical small dales town
typical small dales town
Bowness culture shock after 5 days' walking
culture shock after 5 days’ walking


Tod Park 5k

This road race was entirely in the park.  So it does seem fair to ask – why is it at a ‘road race’ price?  Certainly not as expensive as some road races, but fell race organisers charge a lot less.

The economics of putting a race on the road are more challenging; police and local authority to satisfy, maybe road closures and so on.  It all costs.  But in the park it must be less.

One of our club members posted ‘5 laps, no route choice, flagged, flat, tarmac. What’s not to like?’  Pretty much all of those, I’d say.  So – why am I doing it? I need it for the club champs.

I’d marshaled a local fell race 2 evenings before; I was asleep (or, rather, doing a sudoku) when the first runner materialised, considerably earlier than I had expected.  Poor time estimation on my part.  But apart from  that I managed to perform my duties satisfactorily.  A nice evening and a lot of satisfied runners.

Then the previous evening I took the pack run up and past Burnley’s singing ringing tree.

Singing Ringing Tree High above Burnley
Singing Ringing Tree
High above Burnley

I’ve been a few times before; once again I failed to perceive it either singing or ringing.  And it’s clearly not a tree.  But a nice spot, and a good route.

So the positives; I completed another club champs race;  I ran all the way without stopping; maybe that’s it.  Time? – don’t ask.  Running style? – don’t ask.  EQ (Enjoyment Quotient) – guess.

And it was referendum day.  Nuff said.  Most unsatisfactory.

Castle Canter

Another pack run been & gone.  Joyce & I have finally bagged another trig point; we walked the Gorpley Reservoir route that I’d done a few weeks earlier on a pack run.  A pleasant evening, though the ground a little damp underfoot; the bluebells had all disappeared from Gorpley Clough.

And, to put a damper on everything, this week we were reminded of the disastrous failure of the sea birds nesting on St Kilda, which was first reported in December.  Global warming is very real and extremely worrying.

So this is a new fell race, here in Tod; from Dobroyd Castle.  And as I’m a FRA race liaison officer I was assigned to report on the race.  I’d met with the organiser, Steve Brock, a couple of weeks ago and was impressed at the legwork he had put in; he was kind enough to say that some of the comments I’d made were helpful.

Dobroyd Castle High above Tod
Dobroyd Castle
High above Tod

A late 19th century castle, built at enormous expense and with a model farm beside it.  Lived in for a while by the cotton manufacturer family; underused for a long time; then a school for naughty boys; then disused; then a Buddhist retreat.  Now an activity centre – takes primary school parties who seem thoroughly to enjoy what’s on offer.

5.30 p.m. on Sunday.  At around 3.30 p.m the rain set in.  At around 4.30 p.m. the clag came down.  And the race goes over just about the most featureless terrain hereabouts; if it was not for the windmills, you might have no idea where you are.

57 hardy souls set off in the downpour;  I was soon flagging very near the back.  Things did pick up a bit, and I did catch a small number of runners; but once we got to the navigation section I would have found it much harder had I not had a lovely lady member of our club to reassure me and keep me on a sensible track.  We eventually crossed the finish line hand in hand.

A road race next, later this week; and, prior to that, I’m marshaling at a local fell race.

Otley 10 – Road Race

I have been to more pack runs; we’re at a new venue this month, the Queens, at Cliviger (our one annual foray into Lancashire); I went up Ingleborough one day, on my way home from meeting someone in Kendal; I’ve had meetings with race organisers in my role as a FRA race liaison officer; and, in that role, I attended the Hebden Bridge Fell race.

That was a lovely evening and a well organised and much enjoyed race; I’m sorry now that I did not run it (though that would have prevented me observing the finish funnel).  Not only was it a good race; there were no vet 70s, so I would have been in line for a prize.

So I thought at Otley, as I was the only vet 70 in the list of pre entries.  But it was not to be; my club mate and nemesis turned up on the night, and, as always, was well ahead of me.

I see Thomas Chippendale was born at Otley.  The town has an impressive clock.


It also has a food bank.

The first couple of miles are on a pavement beside a busy road; then you cross the Wharfe and get onto quieter roads and after a while the climbing starts and fairly quickly I slow to a walk.  (I originally typed – slow to a halt.  Pretty close).  Not good.  But it was hot, and I was slow.  I found it hard.  Eventually I was 311th out of 367.

Sometimes I was walking as fast as others were running; once I even overtook a runner in this manner.  Don’t know what it does to his psychology – but it cheers me up.

I didn’t actually pass all that many competitors; and a lot of those whom I did pass then got past me in the last half mile.  And I even found the final circuit of the cricket pitch hard, and I got overtaken there.  Ah well.  It’s a nice enough race, I’ve got some Club championship points in the bag, there was beer and cakes at the finish, and the Club’s next race is on the fells.

Actually that is true – but it’s in Wales, a monumental British Championship race, and I won’t be going.

The one after is a new race, here in Tod, which I will be doing and which I am looking forward to.  Also a fell race.  It starts and finishes at the Castle.