6 at 60: it’s people who matter

This weekend I completed the Lakeland Trails series – 9 (I think) trail runs, all 14-15km except Cartmel 10km, and ending with the ‘dirty double’ this weekend at Glenridding.

My emotions and physical ‘oomph’ definitely fluctuate through the year, and recently I’d been feeling less enthusiastic about this particular challenge. I haven’t done quite as much training, I’d given blood about 2 weeks ago, and the change to autumn and the dark mornings and dark nights is getting to me a bit. BUT excuses out of the way, this was the weekend for doing 2 trail runs back to back.

Helvellyn on Saturday had also been entered by 4 of my friends, so it felt like a team effort. I’ve done the route and parts of the route before – most recently on my birthday in 2020 when Penny and I had walked up to Grisedale Tarn for a swim, just a couple of weeks after running up there (see https://runningin3time.blog/2020/08/31/grisedale-tarn-and-crummock-water-re-visited/ and https://runningin3time.blog/2020/09/15/birthday-micro-adventures/) – but last time I’d run the trail run route I’d been suffering from a broken heart. All I could remember today as I ascended the first hill towards the YHA was how physically heart-broken I’d felt that day: and in fact it’s not surprising as the physical effort does make your chest almost ache.

The rain was coming down and the wind was against us, taking our breath away, until we turned along a bit of stony, muddy single track. This is the sort of running I love – the wind behind me, my footing relatively secure, and a rocky, muddy path beneath my feet. I should add that it has taken me YEARS of practice to get more confident on this sort of trail, and even so yesterday I slipped about 4 times.

We dropped down between the valleys before rising up again towards Lanty’s Tarn – where it was very muddy and I fell over, fortunately on to grass. Anne was not so lucky later on – when we met her at the finishing line she had a lump on her head which by Sunday had turned into a colourful ‘black’ (blue/purple) eye. From Lanty’s Tarn we were again heading into the wind, with the rain slashing across us from the side: at one point a gust almost blew me sideways. I was already wet through to my underwear.

Wet through to my underwear (but still cheerful).

Rather than continuing on to Grisedale Tarn we then cut across the valley (I felt sorry for the marshals, but particularly for the one up here, exposed to the elements) and there was then a track followed by road all the way back down hill. Towards the end I was feeling tired – I should have stopped to eat a Graze bar, but didn’t want to undo my jacket to get to my bumbag – but I continued along the road and on to the finishing field. As I turned the corner into the home straight I saw Mark behind me – and picked up the pace to make sure he didn’t get past me! Mind you, it was close: and Penny came in about 5 minutes later, followed after a bit by Anne with her black eye but in a buoyant mood, and Tricia – who has done very little running recently but still managed to complete 15km and be smiling at the end (and who was going to be camping over night with her husband!).

Unfortunately it wasn’t a day for hanging around and exchanging stories, as we were all so wet, the rain was still coming down, and we were getting cold. I was staying at Penny’s overnight (it was nearer than going all the way back to Brampton, and my fab. neighbours and friends Mark and Laura had said they’d feed the cat) and I spent a lovely half hour warming up in the bath and watching an Italian show on Netflix – there’s a rather scathing review of it here but for a tired body and brain after a soaking wet run it’s fun (the reviewer is critical of Luna Park too, but I also enjoyed that – sometimes trite predictability is exactly what you want. Who says you have to be thoughtful all the time? And also both are helping me with my Italian).

After risotto and apple crumble (great carbo loading) and watching Strictly Come Dancing and part of Lord of the Rings I, I fell into bed and slept until about 8a.m. A bowl of granola and a coffee and it was time to get going again: this time Penny was coming along to support me (and leaving her husband to play with motorbike parts and watch motorbike racing).

Fortunately the weather was a LOT nicer and despite dire warnings about not being able to park, we parked at the Glenridding ferry car park – the steamers weren’t running which probably meant more spaces for runners. It did however mean that rather than the lovely boat ride over to Howtown to start the run, we were running from the same starting point as yesterday: the mud slides had amazingly drained a bit overnight, so the ground wasn’t too bad to walk on.

The run took us south to start with and past the field that we would have parked on if it hadn’t turned into a mud bath yesterday (this is where my car got stuck last time I did the Helvellyn run: it was bad enough having a broken heart but then to get your car stuck as well…). The stony path undulates through some grassy land before dropping down to come out just near a pub at Patterdale: across and down the road a short way and we then ran down the track towards the farm which advertises wool for sale, and from there turned to go along the lower path which runs parallel to the lake. I’ve only ever run this the other way round – once when I did the Ullswater trail race from Howtown and another time when Penny and I ran all the way round Ullswater (only two and a half years ago! https://runningin3time.blog/2019/03/25/following-the-daffodils-the-ullswater-way-and-memories/) when we were running round lakes for her 50th birthday.

It’s a beautiful route, and flashes of memory came back from running it before: some of the larger stones looked familiar. This time we rounded a corner and there was a climb straight up a hill. As I hadn’t studied my map properly I thought this was the only major hill (it was fairly small) and enjoyed the consequent descent back along a path which ran parallel to but higher up than the one we’d just run along. At one point I fell over but bounced up again: a guy behind me a bit later wasn’t so lucky and I didn’t see him again (I should have stopped to check he was OK but I’m afraid I didn’t).

Then there was a HILL. A steep, long hill. Strava was later to tell me that the total elevation for this run was 454m – about 120m higher than yesterday when we were going up the side of one of the highest hills in the Lake District. I think today we may have been running (ha! nobody was running – everybody but everybody was walking) up the side of Place Fell.

We came out near the top on a plateau which isn’t far from Angle Tarn, and ran down a steep track which I had previously been down after ‘running’ up to Hayeswater and along to Angle Tarn (https://runningin3time.blog/2019/06/23/an-almost-bonus-lake/). At the bottom instead of running into Hartsop – which is what we’d done before – the route turned back towards Patterdale, before retracing our footsteps back to the pub. This time we went a different way across the grassy bit before running downhill to the main road. I was struggling by now and walking bits and only crossed the finishing line after 1hr 53 mins (yesterday it was 1hr 39 mins). Even so it looks as if I did OK for my age group.

This is is something which really upsets me and disappoints me about the overall series, as they’ve told me that they’ll be measuring my overall performance on the FV50 age group not the FV60 age group – in triathlon it’s how old you are on 31st December in the relevant year, which would put me in the FV60 age group. I also didn’t get a t-shirt for this final race, which I’m quite, quite sure was the only one I HAD ordered a t-shirt for. So all in all despite some fantastic routes, I finished the series in tears – probably partly just due to tiredness: the t-shirt for today was black, so it didn’t look that great and isn’t that much of a miss and certainly not worth getting upset about. It’s just a pity that I’ll have nothing to celebrate having completed the entire series other than these blogposts (maybe they’ll have to do).

Fortunately Penny was there with a small bottle of fizz and we celebrated me finishing another challenge, before going to have lunch in one of the Glenridding cafes. I then picked up my car from her house and she gave me another bottle of fizz to take home, picked up two of my children from their Dad’s (the other one is self-isolating for 2 more days) and drove back to Brampton, to home and another warm bath.

Thank goodness for the moral support of friends.

Running and rain

It’s been raining here. It feels as if it hasn’t stopped since sometime in November – if not August. The ground is getting more and more sodden, grassy tracks have turned to mud, it’s impossible to run without slipping; the days have been dull and short. I really haven’t had much new to write about, running-wise: my ankle began to feel OK again (and to stop waking me up in the night with a dull ache) and my running fitness began to show signs of going back to where it was before I hurt my ankle. However motivating myself to get out and run – and then once I was out, actually to run more than 4km or so – has been difficult the past few weeks.

Until this last week, when I seem to have turned a bit of a running corner: and also to have got out on a new(ish) route. Plus Anne is now no longer in lockdown, so we’ve been able to meet up to run again.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some lovely runs up on Askham Fell, which always lifts the spirits – Penny and I managed to get out one unusually sunny afternoon at the end of November, and then we also ran down there in the dark one work evening under stunning skies (her husband was meant to come too – he was busy on a work call in the car, and we eventually saw the little light of his head torch coming towards us just as we had reached the halfway mark and were about to head back).

Over the past few days the rain has continued but there have been brief moments of sun. Today, as I ran towards Talkin Tarn, I had to stop for two trains and to tie up my shoe laces. As I waited I looked towards the west and saw a beautiful sky. The dark grey clouds were blowing over and the blue sky was expanding, while I love the silhouettes of the trees on the skyline.

Yesterday I met Penny to run at Greystoke Forest. Unfortunately even the permissive paths are closed at the moment, and rather than risk getting shouted at (or shot at?), we decided to take note of the several signs which made it quite clear that we wouldn’t be welcome. It opens again in April apparently. We’d wanted to run somewhere under tree cover in the hope it would be less wet: instead we ended up at Mosedale, near Bowscale Tarn, where we ran and some of us swam back in the summer/autumn.

We started up the road, the wind against us and the rain beating against our faces. As we climbed further up the hill we got closer to the river Caldew, crashing down over the rocks and not looking half so inviting as it did back in the summer. We turned south along the Cumbria Way after about 4km and ran for another 1km or so, the path firm but covered in water-filled-potholes. By the time your feet are wet (despite Goretex running shoes), you feel you may as well just run through the puddles anyway. The great thing was that the water was clean for a change – because the surface was stony, although there was a LOT of water, it wasn’t muddy.

We had aimed to do about 10km so at the 5km mark we turned round, after taking a few photos. My thighs were cold from having been facing into the wind and rain but as we turned back the worst of the weather was behind us rather than against us – and also we were mostly running downhill. It’s a beautiful valley and we agreed we’d go back another time and come back on the track which goes over the top of the hills and drops down towards Bowscale Tarn, rather than doing an out and back run.

As we ran back along the road we met an elderly man walking his two dogs. His hat blew off as we approached him; he greeted us in a friendly manner and then said “I’ve met you before, haven’t I?” It was the same gentleman whom we had met back in the summer, who had told us about the pools in the river – pools which we had driven to look at in the summer but had run past today. There was something very pleasing about meeting him again: the rain started pouring down even more heavily shortly after but he looked quite well-prepared, so I hope he enjoyed his walk.

We were drenched: my legs were wet up to my thighs; but it struck me that it was probably quite good training for winter open water swimming. The swimming group has decided to try to swim (outside) every month of 2021. In wetsuits, I’m glad to say.

An almost-bonus lake

and a new challenge (or two)

“What run shall we do next?” and “so what’s your next challenge?” were questions running around in my head unanswered. That’s the trouble when you’ve achieved a goal: it can be a bit of an anti-climax, like the weird time after exams when all of a sudden there’s extra time and you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself.

Fortunately with ‘exercise’ type goals there doesn’t ever seem to be an end. Even for ultra-marathoners there’s always that new race to do or a set-back such as an injury or illness can mean going back a few steps and having to start again. So it wasn’t long before – almost accidentally – a couple of new challenges popped their heads up.

One of the challenges to decide on is for the year I turn 60. The year I turned 50 I had a baby, and so the following year I attempted Kielder marathon (having said I’d never run a marathon), just after I turned 51. For my 60th birthday I was recently reading something which gave me the idea for a cycling and walking challenge – but it’s still more than two years away and so far it’s only an initial idea, so I won’t say any more here and now.

But back to the Lakes. Penny wanted to go for a run, as did I. She’d been on holiday with her husband and then to Lundy for a weekend with a friend, and in between the two her mother had died. She’d done very little running but also, I sensed, needed to get up into the hills for a run. I made a few suggestions based around the fact that at some point we both want to run the entire length of High Street, from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside (c. 23 miles ‘from Fort to Fort’). Penny pointed out that Askham Fell would be really wet, so we opted to drive down to the car park at Brotherswater, just south of Patterdale, and run from Hartsop and up past to Hayeswater to High Street and then back down.

The track goes uphill from the beginning, alongside the Gill which splashes down in leaps and small waterfalls from the lake, which is at 425m (1,400 ft). Towards the top just before we met the lake, there was a small pool which, had the weather been warmer, would have been tempting to splash or swim in.

Whilst we were warm from ascending the track (at a walk rather than a run I must add!), there was a strong wind and I was beginning to wonder about the advisability of going up on to High Street, which we could see ahead of us and which would be very exposed. We’d been through one rain shower already, you hear frequently on the local news about the unwary being caught out and about people being blown off hilltop ridges, and all the people we met were going in the other direction to us – i.e. downhill. It may have been my imagination but I got the impression that they thought we were nuts, if not even totally irresponsible, to be out on the hills in running gear when the weather was so changeable.

The lake itself is beautiful: the slopes plunge down into it in a way reminiscent but not as grey or threatening as Wastwater – the scree is surrounded by grass, giving the valley a softer impression than Wastwater. The wind was rushing through the valley and we headed to where we thought there was a bridge over the stream, which showed that there was then a clear route up to Great Knott and High Street. Although the Gill looked ford-able at this point, we decided that today was not really a day for getting soaking wet (i.e. accidentally falling in), and instead turned back a short way to a foot bridge. Having been reading up about Hayeswater in order to write this post, it seems that when United Utilities stopped using Hayeswater as a reservoir, the National Trust took over and installed a micro hydro-electric scheme and carried out repairs to the footbridge and tracks. The scheme is not visible: photos on the National Trust webpage show a small powerhouse looking like a traditional barn.

From the footbridge we could see some walkers coming down from the High Street direction, and we followed a slightly indistinct grassy path uphill towards them, before joining a better path higher up. The wind had not lessened, and Penny pointed out another track to our left, heading in a northerly direction. We passed this and went higher up – stunning views of Hayeswater and a brief lull in the wind meant we were able to open the map. Deciding being safe was better than going up on to High Street, which would be exposed on both sides, we turned a few yards back to this other path.

This was a joy to run on. A stony path headed downhill, clearly manmade, and continued to undulate over the hills to Angle Tarn, splashing occasionally through some small becks. The wind was still strong – I had to borrow Penny’s buff as I couldn’t see for my swirling hair – and pushed us against the hill, but it at least meant that the rainclouds which we could see in the west got blown away over us without us getting wet.

Neither of us had been along this track before and we were both enjoying it. At Angle Tarn we spotted a little red tent and we both commented on what a lovely place it would to camp; the Tarn itself looked gorgeous on this sunny blustery day, its wiggly edges surrounding a few islets. Somewhere else to go wild swimming when it’s warmer.

From here the path wound its way up and round until suddenly a wide grassy pass opened out before us: my first thoughts were ‘the promised land’. I could imagine being a weary foot traveller, slogging through the mountains, to suddenly come out on these verdant meadows, still high enough for spectacular views towards the separate ends of Ullswater, but with a less wild, isolated and rugged feeling than previously. Perhaps not surprisingly we came out on to a small level area where there were signs of industry – there had clearly once been a power supply or something here, and there was further evidence of this as we descended a stony and initially steep track down towards Patterdale and the valley floor.

We ignored the track which went down into Patterdale itself and instead headed in a southerly direction down and back towards Hartsop, passing Hartsop Fold holiday lodges (I commented how much nicer these looked than those green plasticky ones you see so often around the Lake District). A short jog back along the road and we were at the car, talking about doing the run again but taking the route we had originally intended; debating how far it was along High Street Roman Road; and commenting on how this was a potential ‘bonus lake’, reiterating how lovely it was, and how lovely to see bits of the Lake District we hadn’t before. The comment ‘this is why we live here’ is one which we’ve both stated plenty of times while out running. There is little that can beat being out exploring this gorgeous landscape under your own steam: in all weathers, but especially when the weather is good.

We had covered about 6.4 miles but as we headed towards the bar of the hotel in Glenridding for a quick drink before going home, we also discovered and agreed on our next challenge: to try, each time we go running in the Lake District, to run (off-road) routes that we haven’t run before.

I think we’ll have a lot of options!

London: walking through memories

My Devon aunt and uncle – who are extremely well-travelled – went to London to Kensington Palace, and reported on Facebook about seeing Princess Diana’s dresses.  I realised that despite living in London when I was younger for about 14 years, I’d never been to Kensington Palace (or even Kensington Palace Gardens). I hadn’t even realised it was open to the public. 

A few days later Virgin trains sent me an offer of 40% off train fares.  On an impulse, I checked out how much it was going to cost to get down to London and back in a day (I’d been down to London and back in a day for work, so I knew it that a day trip from one end of the country to the other was actually OK by train – it’s really quick to get from Carlisle to London as the trains don’t stop much so you can do the trip in about 3 hours 15).  It was such a bargain I booked the tickets then and there, plus a ticket to Kensington Palace – which not only had an exhibition of Diana’s dresses but also of costumes from The Favourite, a film about Queen Anne which I was interested in seeing.  I also arranged to meet another aunt, who lives in London and who I have seen very few times since moving to Cumbria (and having three children, despite having been close to her when I was younger – she was always quite a role model for me, along with another aunt who lived in Edinburgh. They both demonstrated that you could be single and have an interesting life: that women are definitely not dependant on some man or other for their happiness… an old-fashioned view I know but my parents demonstrated that being a couple was what made life worth living…).

So at about 6.30 on a cold winter Saturday morning I was standing at Carlisle station waiting for the London train.  The train goes through all sorts of places with which I have connections: Warrington, where NWDA’s head office was; past stretches of the Grand Union canal which I dealt with when I was at British Waterways; Watford which was my home for 6 or 7 years; Wembley where I worked for Brent Council.  As we travelled further south the sky grew lighter and the snow lying on the ground heavier; it always feels as if there’s something wrong when it’s snowier and colder in the south than in the northern border counties (what I like to think of as the ‘real’ north – Manchester is two hours south of me and yet to a southern – which I was until I was 40-something – Manchester and the industrial areas around there was the north. How wrong I was!).

From Euston I decided to walk to Kensington Palace.  It was a trip through the past, without being in any sort of chronological order.  I crossed the road opposite 355 Euston Road, where Railtrack Property once had its offices; I remembered looking out of the window and seeing the demolition ball swinging and the walls coming down of a building on the northern side of the road. There’s now a swanky new office development there, with cafes and restaurants around a central square.

At Portland Street station there was still a minimarket.  I sometimes used to walk along there to buy a sandwich and a bottle of Oasis for lunch.  We’d also often have pool cars and be heading out this way by car on site visits; the office had a garage underneath which was where I parked my bike when I cycled to work, from Beckenham up through Crystal Palace, round Elephant & Castle roundabout, round Trafalgar Square, and up Charing Cross and Tottenham Court Road, racing cyclists who jumped the red lights while I virtuously stopped.

I crossed Portland Place – memories of going to see friends who worked at Broadcasting House and sometimes seeing famous faces in the canteen – and headed past various mews.  One of them had once had a building which Westminster City Council owned, which I let to Crisis at Christmas.  It’s been redeveloped now – I wasn’t even sure which mews it had been in.  At Marylebone Road I had a vague recollection of being somewhere for a London Junior Branch meeting of the RICS; I admired the shops and thought how I’d all too rarely visited this street, which was somewhere I visited I think on my very first visit to London. At the age of 6 my mother had taken me to London and we’d met a friend of hers and had lunch at the Cordon Bleu cookery school. 

As I moved further west I was reminded how cosmopolitan London is, which was one of the things I’ve always loved about it.  The Turkish restaurants changed to Lebanese and Middle Eastern on Edgware Road, the air smelling sweetly of something which I suspect may not have been totally legal, men of a middle eastern demeanour sitting outside drinking coffee, discussing matters and sometimes smoking. I was pleased to see that Seymour Leisure Centre, which I’d dealt with when I was at Westminster City Council, has had its 30 metre swimming pool restored: one of the tasks I had had was commissioning valuation work to see if part of the site could be redeveloped for residential units in order to fund the necessary repairs needed to the pool hall.  I was tempted to walk in and ask to have a look round but didn’t.  After all, it was 25 years ago or more.

I dropped down Edgware Road past shops and restaurants with signs in Arabic, to cross over into Hyde Park at Marble Arch.  Where the cinema and hotel used to be is being redeveloped, but on the whole the streetscape of this part of London had changed remarkably little since I had last walked, cycled or driven around here. 

Hyde Park was where I ran my first ever 10 km race – in just under 50 minutes, much to my surprise at the time – and plenty of runners were out today enjoying the winter sun.  A father ran past pushing a running buggy, asking his child in French if he/she were ready to go home; groups of French tourists of various ages milled around; a lady walked past in the opposite direction speaking German into her phone.  Later on as I travelled back on the tube a group of Italians was talking near me: I love the multi-culturalism of London, where everybody rubs shoulders whether they live in the capital or are visitors.

At Kensington Palace it was interesting to see where initially William & Mary (‘the Orange’ – 1066 and all that) and later George II and Queen Caroline had entertained their court, or had some private time, and to see the costumes from The Favourite.  But Diana’s dresses were, to be honest, just a bunch of evening dresses with queues of people staring at them; and the ‘Victoria revealed’ exhibition which I’d thought would be interesting wasn’t open.  The shop had some rather expensive and quite nice things to buy and the café was full.  I bought some chocolate for my kids, a book for my Mum and a couple of small gifts for my London-Aunt and then headed away, grabbing a sandwich from a nice Italian snack bar in the gardens en route, fending off the starlings who were begging for crumbs.

Funny how when I go on the tube I resort to being the person I always used to be on the tube – impatient to pass people, walking or running up escalators – and that I still mostly remember which tube lines to take where and which stations to change at.  It took me remarkably little time to get to my aunt’s in Hampstead and I spent a lovely afternoon having a long chatty catch-up with her and eating cake. In fact really that was the best part of the day and the best reason for going to London.

I was back at Euston in plenty of time for the train.  Whilst in the morning I’d been smiling to myself as I walked across London in the sunshine, now I smiled to myself as I got on my train.  I love rail travel: the mainline trains always feel quite luxurious as you speed from the bottom of the country to the top; and I’ll be home before the evening is even that old.  Coniston tomorrow.

NB. Footnote: Coniston (running round it) didn’t happen as it was -5 overnight and my car handbrake wouldn’t release. Probably just as well as Penny and I ran just over 10 miles around Ridge Woods, up the Dandy and through Gelt Woods instead and from beautifully snowing it turned to rain and ice – and conditions in the Lakes are possibly worse than up here.

Wild Ennerdale

It was a rather dreary October morning when Tim and Tricia C. came to fetch Mark (from across the road), Bella (my daughter) and me in order to drive down to Ennerdale for the Ennerdale trail race.  I realised with surprise that it had been 6 years since I last ran this particular race, organised by High Terrain Events.  I had done the 15-mile route just two weeks after running/walking Kielder marathon – after one of the wettest summers I had ever know, that October had provided glorious sunny autumnal days, and at the end of the race I sat in a deckchair in the sun, drinking a coffee, soaking up the warmth and admiring the view.  Partners and children waiting for runners to complete the race had splashed in the lake in a beach area near to the finish.

Today however was completely different.  As we drove further west the weather deteriorated until there was a persistent chilly rain.  We passed the pub in Ennerdale Bridge where Penny & Tim O. had stayed overnight in their camper van and headed towards the lake, Tim C. thinking he’d drop us off and then go to find somewhere to park.  In fact we were incredibly lucky and got one of the last spaces in the car park by the Scout Hut.

There was the normal milling around before the race began, drinking coffee, getting cold outside and too hot inside, and going to the loo numerous times: and then it was time for the 25km race to begin.  The last time I had done the race all 3 distances had taken place on the same day – this time the 50km ultra (two laps around the lake and up to Black Sail YHA) had taken place the day before.  15 minutes after the 25km runners started, those of us doing the 10km set off.

Ennerdale-Water-mapThe first half of the route is relatively easy and level.  You head around the lake in a clockwise (south-easterly) direction, wending your way on a fairly narrow path with the lake on your right and trees on your left, until you reach Bowness Knott car park (please note we were going in the opposite direction to that shown on the map above).  At Bowness Knott you get on to a forest road which again stays parallel to the edge of the lake.  The land ownership around here is a mixture of National Trust, Forestry Commission and Unitied Utilities, and they’re doing very little in the way of management in order to allow it to be as wild as possible and for nature to get its own way (Wild Ennerdale).

Following the floods of recent years, bridges have been repaired and replaced across the rivers at the eastern end of the lake and Penny was telling me how they had had to work out a solution which fitted with wild Ennerdale but also allowed for flood water.  The bridges are therefore concrete, so water can just wash over them.  We stopped for a photo at this end of the lake: as this was a race I didn’t keep stopping and taking photos like I normally would, hence fewer photos in this blogpost.20181021_1110101.jpg

We now have quite a collection of the two of us looking into the camera with a lake in the background.  This time of course the hills can’t be seen clearly – the rain was persisting and the views were non-existent.

As the path turns up the south-western side of the lake, it wriggles through trees and over/through streams and becomes very rocky.  I love this bit and like the good friend I am (not), as I saw the chance to overtake a few people who were slightly more hesitant on the potentially slippery rocks, my competitive instinct arose.  I left Penny behind – something she has never done to me in all the times we have run together.  I have no excuses – I was enjoying myself.

It’s quite a demanding section as you need to pick a good line through the rocks and make sure you don’t slip and fall.  At one point I slipped into a stream – however by then I was so wet anyway it didn’t really make any difference.  The streams were running quite high and fast with all the rain and they cross the path at relatively frequent intervals.

There’s a bit of a clamber up and over Angler’s Crag, and marshalls were there to make sure you don’t fall in – there’s a significant drop down to the lake.  I knew by now that I wasn’t too far from the end.  As I overtook a couple more people, I wondered if they would overtake me back on the flatter section – always a spur to keep you running!

The beach where previously families with children had been splashing didn’t exist today as the water level was so high, and as I crossed the river Ehen evidence of the water pipeline which is being installed from Thirlmere to Ennerdale was all around to my left, the natural landscape a temporary muddy construction site, the large blue pipes lying on the ground ready to be buried.  I could hear someone coming up behind me, which spurred me on to keep running – and as I headed over the finish line even managed to put on a bit of a sprint.

And there was my daughter, soaking wet and cold and desperate to get home to the warmth: but it was nice to see a family face waiting for me.  Hanging around in the cold and wet is always far worse than running in the cold and wet – I always feel appreciative of the marshalls who stand on the course making sure runners are OK and cheering us on, but who are slowly getting colder and colder waiting for us all to run past. I was so wet I could just have swum across the lake and it would have made little difference, but at least I was warm from running.

We had all run well and as we travelled back in the car chatted happily and debated which run to do next – a night run may well be on the cards.  Penny and I still have Coniston, Ullswater and Windermere to do, the aim being to complete them within the year of starting the ‘runs round the biggest lakes’, which I think means the end of April… it means one 14 mile, and three 20 mile runs (we’re going to split Windermere into two so that we can do the off-road 40 miles route but over two days…).

Wild Ennerdale is a beautiful run – and all off road – and one I’d happily do again.  But I have to admit it is far more beautiful on a sunny day!

And here are some of the official photos (purchased by Mark Britton) as we run along the forest road… Tricia looking happy and fit; me looking worried; Mark already semi-clothed despite the weather; and Penny smiling nicely at the camera.  That pink jacket of mine does not go with that purple top………

 

 

Bassenthwaite

Bassenthwaite is one of my favourite lakes.  It doesn’t have the deathly darkness of Wastwater; it doesn’t have the choppy deepness of Ullswater; and it doesn’t have the pollution of people that Windermere has.  It’s not too deep, but still counts as one of the largest of the Lake District lakes – and is, of course, the only one which is officially a lake (as opposed to a mere, water, tarn, etc.).

I have a long-held ambition to do the Bassenthwaite triathlon but as I’m not back into triathlon training yet – and it will be a few years before I am, before I can leave all three children without parental supervision of any form in order to train at all three disciplines regularly – running around Bassenthwaite was something I was looking forward to.  I had no idea whether there were trails or whether we’d have to run alongside the wiggly and potentially dangerous A591 and the dual carriageway of the A66 but Penny assured me that she’d checked the map and it looked as if we’d be able to run off-road nearly all the way round.

As it turned out she was right, and in fact not only did we find trails where she had expected them but also some which weren’t marked on the map (there was one which we got on to and we weren’t quite sure whether it was private land or not, but there were no signs saying ‘keep out’/’private’/’trespassers will be prosecuted’ etc. so we hoped that it was at least open enough that a couple of runners weren’t going to be a problem).

We decided we’d do the trickiest bit first – the bit at the bottom of the lake, where there was a possibility that the path would be diverted due to the pipeline work (Thirlmere to Ennerdale pipeline) and where we would then possibly have to head steeply uphill to avoid the A591.  We parked at Braithwaite, crossed over the A66 and set out towards the lake.

Almost immediately it wasn’t clear where the path went but a kindly local asked what we were looking for and told us we needed to head through the field – the path led straight through the plants!  It then meandered through some fields and over little bridges, all quite clear to follow.

Bassenthwaite 30th Sept. 2018 (1)

When we got to the A591 there was only a short way to run on the road before we started climbing a forest track up towards the Osprey viewpoint.  We weren’t quite sure if we could have turned off before this, but thought doing so would take us through Calvert Trust land and that we might not be too popular.  It was worth the climb anyway – the Bassenthwaite 30th Sept. 2018 (4)view from the Osprey viewpoint was superb, and was followed by a brilliant descent down through Dodd Woods to the Saw Mill tea room (we didn’t stop for tea but it was useful to be able to use the loo and adjust clothing – Penny was wearing a pair of shorts under her leggings and getting far too hot!).

We then crossed back over the road to run around Mire House and along to St Bega’s church.  Having taken off some layers of clothing, it then got windy, rainy and chilly and we needed to put them back on again!  It was to end up being like that all day.

I hadn’t been to St Bega’s before, although I’ve driven past it loads of times.  It’s a really sweet little church with stunning views across the lake – and when we got to the other side we were able to look back and see it again.

This side of the lake the run route is really varied – from St. Bega’s we ran across fields of cows, through woods and came out by the lake at Bowness Bay.  As I have friends who live near Bowness on Windermere I wondered where the name came from – this is what Wikipedia tells us:  ‘Bowness’ (originally ‘Bulnes’) means ” ‘the headland where the bull grazes’, from OE ‘bula’, ‘bull’ and OE ‘næss’ ‘headland’, perhaps referring to the keeping of the parish bull.

There were a lot of stiles and gates but it was a lovely place to run, and then just before an activity centre where people were enjoying themselves in dinghys and on paddleboards, the path turned to a boardwalk through the trees.

There were then signs saying ‘Armathwaite Hall 1.5 miles’ so we knew we were getting towards the top of the lake.  At one point the path wasn’t clear, but purely because a stile was hidden by a tree!  Again we ran past cows and some sheep, and then through a wood.  We could hear the road ahead and knew we were basically at the top of the lake (is that the head, or is where the river enters the head?).

This was where we found a path alongside the lake through more trees, which wasn’t marked on our maps.  It was a gravelled path and clearly quite well-maintained, and a relief rather than running on the quite narrow B5291.  We crossed over the bridge where the river Derwent leaves the lake on its journey towards Cockermouth and Workington, pausing to watch the ducks.  The sun had come out again and it was yet another of those ‘good to be alive’ moments which happen so frequently being out and about in this gorgeous countryside.

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The track down the western side of the lake is then not the most exciting, except when it dips in and out of nature reserves (more unexpected but welcome paths which we hadn’t seen marked on maps), but it’s great that it’s there and it’s a good, level track which means you can get some steady running in (something I need to do more of – I’m getting into stop-start habits which is fine for social runs but not much good in a race).  The track runs parallel to the A66 and is an awful lot nicer than being on a pavement alongside the dual carriageway – thank you Cumbria County Council for building it!  But boo-hoo to all the contractors who left rubbish behind – there were road cones, disused vehicle batteries and empty cement buckets in the woods next to the road!

The path takes you through a tunnel under the road and you then come out in Powter How.  I’ve only just realised that (according to the map on the computer) this is the home of Bedrock Gin!  If only I’d known… except that we would never have made it back.  We knew by this point that we only had a couple of miles to go, but they were all on road – also despite being just about at the bottom of the lake, we had had to run quite a bit further south just because the paths don’t exist to cross all the rivers and streams which go into the lake at its southern point.  So the last bit was a bit of a slog, but eventually we saw the car (hooray!).  I even managed to speed up a bit to get to the car, and was pleased to see from MapMyRun that we had run 14.5 miles.

A short trip to Threlkeld where the brilliant community coffee shop was still open (and served us soup even though officially they had stopped serving food) and then back home.

I think this was possibly my favourite of all the lakes so far: it was as beautiful as the others (in places it was very similar to Thirlmere) and it was trail nearly all the way round.  Derwentwater was another stunning one, but there was less variation in the trail; Haweswater would have been the very best of all if the track on the eastern side was runnable.

I think there are now just 5 to go: Coniston, Ullswater, Windermere, Esthwaite Water and Ennerdale Water.  Even though I know Ullswater and Windermere are going to be really long I’m looking forward to them.

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New trainers; muddy trainers; hello Hadrian’s Wall

It’s ages (a few years) since I ran from Walltown Crags back to Brampton – the last time was when I was training for Kielder Marathon, the incredibly wet summer of (I think) 2012.  A lot has happened since then both to me and to my friend Penny, with whom I was running today – but as she said, “you can’t be depressed when it’s like this”.

It was slightly chilly as we set out from Walltown Crags, and within the first few metres we were saddened when we came across a recently dead sheep – and saw that she had died giving birth to her lamb, whose legs were sticking out at the rear.  Later we saw another sheep giving birth – we didn’t stop to see if that one was going to live and the farmer was nearby anyway, but it was sad that in the midst of the glorious spring weather with everything bursting into bud and new life, that here were two lives which had ended: and probably in pain and distress.

But here it is, a photographic presentation of our 20km very muddy springtime run from Walltown Crags along the Hadrian’s Wall path to Lanercost, where we then turned south through Quarry Beck and then Ridge Woods to head into Brampton.

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (1)
Brand new trail running shoes

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (3)
Between Thirlmere Castle and Gilsland

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (5)

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (6)
The milecastle at Potross Burn, Gilsland

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (7)
Running down past Willowford Farm and the ruins of the Roman bridge

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (8)
Over the bridge and up the other side (steep!) to Birdoswald.

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (11)

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (12)
Blencathra from Banks Turret

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (13)
Looking towards the Solway Plain and Scotland from near Banks

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (15)
The Irthing near Lanercost

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (16)
Delicate wood sorrel

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (17)
Very early bluebells!

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (18)
I love running through Quarry Beck Woods

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (19)

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (22)
My damson tree!

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (20)
New trainers… baptism of mud

Country Nights

I went to a party up past Hethersgill last night, right up in the middle of nowhere, in the wild country where the Reiver ghosts still roam.  I love it up there: rolling hills, miles of roads which could go anywhere, and a deep, deep sense of history – plus, in the daylight, endless views out to the sea and to the fells.  It was a typical country party: you drive up a track, cross a muddy farmyard to get there, and then have lovely mulled wine and sausages in bread rolls to eat (I missed the bonfire for a variety of reasons).  No evening dresses and high heels and no need for piles of make-up.  Bliss.

Driving back across Walton Moss I stopped the car engine and switched off all the lights.  It was black, except that as it was cold and clear the stars were shining brightly.  I could have been all alone in the world other than the stars looking down at me, and I was surrounded by darkness and stillness.  I wished I had my camera, except having just looked for ‘night sky’ images on google I’ve realised that in fact it would probably have been a rather dull picture: lots of black with the odd star dotted around.  But that’s where photos fall short: they can’t describe how you actually felt when you were taking the photo.

stars

I was working (at the computer – doing property valuations) today but by about 4.30 had cabin fever and needed to get out.  The sunset looked promising: a dark grey sky above a reddish pink base, the pinky-red striped by black linear clouds.  I drove up to the Tarn and walked around it as the sun went down tried to photograph the gently rippling dark waters of the Tarn, hills dark shadows in the background, trees silhouetted against the sky, pinks and blacks shimmering on the horizon and then the darkening sky above.  Unfortunately the camera wasn’t man enough for the job and the photos came out too light and grainy.

So I’ll just have to remember these nights and these moments in my mind’s eye: along with the full moons which have been so amazing the past few months.  Yesterday’s night sky and today’s sunset weren’t startling or dramatic, but in their own low-key way they were incredibly beautiful: and a reminder to get out there into the outdoors, whatever the time of day and whatever the weather.

p.s. looking through my previous blog I came across this post:  http://supervet-sarah.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/running-in-dark.html.  When I look back to things I have written in the past I realise that the things which are important to me are still important to me, and the things I love are things I carry on loving. 

Club la Santa, Lanzarote

This is just a brief post with plenty of pictures as a short memento of a fantastic holiday.  ‘Thank you’ to my friend Penny, who was an easy travelling companion, and to my Mum who gave me a generous enough cheque for my birthday that I could afford to go back to Club la Santa for the FOURTH time (I hardly ever go back to exactly the same place twice – there are too many other interesting places to explore, but I always have a fab. time at Club la Santa).  It had been refurbished and extended since I last went and is now really nice and modern – and the showers are fantastic!

We flew out of the UK on a day when there was snow on the ground.  The weather on Lanzarote was not perfect all week – it was very windy for cycling – and we even wore jeans (rather than dresses/skirts) some evenings, and fleeces – but it was as good as many a British summer and great to be outdoors exercising almost all day every day.  We agreed we should try something new every day so in addition to running, swimming and cycling we did:

paddle boarding; a fitness class on paddle boards; deep water aqua; Zumba; aerial relaxation; aerial pilates (and, in my case, aerial yoga as well); TRX; body balance; body attack; body combat, Taiji Qigong… etc.

By bike we cycled:

to the Fire Mountains (the visitor centre en route is great – and free – and I love the way it’s still so hot underfoot in the mountains themselves that dry brushwood will catch fire);

past Playa de Fumara, up to the Monumento al Campesino and then along a very bumpy road through La Geria to then head back down from Tinajo to Club la Santa;

and up through Soo, Munique and Tiagua to Nazaret and a house that once belonged to Omar Shariff – Lag-Omar – but which is now a fascinating ‘museum’ come party venue (I think the guy trying to sell me some Aloe Vera products was also trying to chat me up… telling me that Aloe Vera would make me sexy and that I’d come back in two weeks and want to kiss him… hmm…).

I especially liked the way that many of the roads had ‘watch out for cyclists’ signs – I think it was only on the route of the Lanzarote Ironman, but shows how popular the island is for cyclists.  At 856 sq km there’s only really one ironman route available – as a comparison, Cumbria covers 6,768 sq km: but has a total of c.400,000 people to Lanzarote’s 139,000. Both of course have their populations boosted significantly by tourists – something which the Lanzarotians seem to welcome: they were all incredibly friendly and seemed delighted if you even spoke a couple of words in hesitating Spanish.

I’ve mentioned restaurants in a separate post. We were a bit disappointed by the ones at Club la Santa, other than La Plaza in the square (where we were served by a cute English waiter who was a bit of an Orlando Bloom look alike).  Restaurant Atlantico is great for enormous quantities of food; El Lago was disappointing for what it seemed to be trying to achieve, although they make a lovely gin and tonic.  Talking of gins and tonics, the Welsh barman in the Sports Bar was a bit of a gin expert and took ages creating two masterly gin and tonics – he likes Martin Miller, which is one I had come across, bought and particularly liked when I had a dinner party recently.

So it was a week of lovely weather and fresh air, exercise as well as relaxation, food and drink.  It was good for the mind and soul as well as the body, and I was a little sad to come home.  One day I would love to take the kids there, as I’m sure they’d enjoy it too.

Time with the kids

views-from-mama-cakes-new-location-6I’ve had some fab. times with the kids recently, and the beauty of where we live has been emphasised to me once again.  When I think that back in the early spring I thought I might lose them all together… it’s not that we don’t have a lot of shouting and turmoil (Bella still tells me she hates me from time to time), but I’m now confident that I am who I am and that being me doesn’t make me a bad mother.  I’m their mother, and whatever I give them will be exactly that – something I give them, which nobody else can.  I may be volatile, emotional, frequently broke, money-wise (and therefore stressed) and – as they once said in a card to me – ‘the shouty fairy’, but I’m their Mum and I’m Me.  My way of dealing with life is not the same as their Dad’s, nor as some other people’s parents, but it doesn’t matter – it’s my way.  Some people will be similar to me – some won’t – and there’s not a right way nor a wrong way.

Over half term we went out and about: I know I’ve said it before here but the weather really has been fantastic recently.  We walked to Lanercost via the Ridge and Quarry Beck woods – my ex father in law picked up the boys from Lanercost but Bella and I walked back again; we went to Edinburgh and met up with my parents and went in the place that’s similar to the Puzzling Place; we went to Acorn Bank = spot the photo which is similar to one from when Edward was only two! – which was fantastic (and followed it with Rheged, where we had an argument but resolved it with ice creams).

More recently I’ve had a long weekend in London with Bella: thanks I have to admit to my generous parents, who paid for us to stay with them at the Regents Park Marriott, which was fab. (it has a Carluccio’s as a dining room and such, such fantastic and friendly service).  It was great to cover old stamping grounds and exciting for both my daughter and me.

I haven’t had much time for writing recently so I’m just including a whole load of photos.  It perhaps says something for my mental and emotional state that I haven’t written much – writing for me is a release in times of emotional turbulence (not always very appropriately, but it’s what helps me – I perhaps just need to remember not to be too public) – and generally (other than HMRC, grrrrr….) things have been pretty good recently.

Which reminds me that I must get on with some professional writing…