New Shoes – Update

I’ve had my new shoes for a month and I have to tell you that on the whole they are not too bad. My original review can be found here.

I’ve had them for just over a month, and I’ve run just over 100km in the New Balance and just over 60km in the Asics.

First off the New Balance road shoes. 5 out of 5. Very comfortable and they feel great. I can’t fault them. I will definitely be buying these again.

The Asics trail shoes are also very good, but not perfect. I don’t know if the perfect trail shoe exists, especially not with the trails and fells near Lancaster. They are very comfortable, especially on good trails and on the road. Unfortunately, when the trail becomes fell they let themselves down. If anything they have too much support when the ground is very rough, boggy and uneven. Me and my lovely wife did a run/walk from the village of Staveley at the weekend, and the route had a mix of everything. Helen was wearing her Saucony’s, the same that I used to have, and they were hard on her feet on the road sections, while I was fine. We were both good on the farm track and trail sections, but on the tougher sections I was struggling while Helen was fine. I suppose the answer is to have two different trail/off road shoes and wear whichever pair are most suitable for the terrain.

It will be interesting to see how both pairs look in another couple of months. I generally replace my road shoes after about 800km and by them they still don’t look too bad. Trail shoes generally get replaced before I would like to, as the uppers don’t seem to wear very well. Time will tell.

Run Happy at Home

Another medal (smiley face emoji).

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A couple of months ago I mentioned that Brooks had a promotion where if you uploaded a run(s) to a website they would send you a medal (or two) to be picked up at your local running shop (read about it here).

From their website Brooks made it appear that there would be different medals each week, although the quality didn’t look too good. In the end there was only one medal, but it is really good quality, and it was free. Additionally, when I went into my local running shop in Lancaster (https://runnerscentre.com/) to buy a new pair of Brooks GTS 20 I forgot to pick up my medal, so the owner dropped it off on his way home. Note, he does have to walk past our house on his way home, so he wasn’t going too far out of his way,  but even so, it was very good of him.

I also don’t mind promoting Brooks as they are my go to road running shoe, and have been for a number of years. I use Saucony shoes for trail running.

Anyway, support your local running shop.

Hardcastle Crags

The second morning of our little camping trip to Hebden Bridge we drove across the town to Hardcastle Crags. Read about our first day visiting Stoodley Pike here. I had looked at the map and spotted a car park and a route that looked promising. Unknown to me Hardcastle Crags is owned by the National Trust. The car park is therefore free to members. I didn’t have my membership card with me, and neither of us had any money. We left a note in the car and hoped that we’d be OK seeing as the car park attendants were not there yet. Anyway, Hardcastle Crags is a beautiful wooded valley with the 19th century Gibson Mill at it’s heart.

Our run headed up through the wooded valley, slowly climbing all the time. With tired legs we walked the steeper sections and ran the flatter bits, passing the Mill and plenty of other visitors. After a couple of miles we climbed out of the wooded valley and turned east up and over an unnamed hillock, admiring the views from the other side of the valley.

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We weren’t in any rush as we ambled beside an old stone wall, before we came across an old derelict farm building. If you had plenty of spare cash I’m sure it would make a great holiday home, as long as you had a 4×4 to get there. Helen wanted to go inside to have a closer look, but it was my turn to be the sensible one, so I suggested that it probably wasn’t entirely safe.

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The path then dropped steeply down onto a busy little bridleway, with walkers and mountain bikers. At a gate three older men on e-mountain bikes passed us. I loved seeing this, as it would be unlikely that any of them would have been able to enjoy cycling these hills without the battery powered oomph. I know that one day both me and Helen will be riding e-bikes.

From here the trail was downhill for almost two miles as we returned to the car  park. Helen had a very big smile as she loves downhill running. Both me and Nelly struggle to keep up with her once she gets into her stride.

Just under 5 miles with a little less climbing than the previous day, but another great run. As a bonus, the car park attendants looked like they had only just started work and hadn’t reached our car, so no ticket. Back at the campsite and we enjoyed a full vegetarian breakfast at the Honesty Box Cafe located in the campsite.

Stoodley Pike

Making the most of campsites being allowed to open again, me and my lovely wife booked three nights away at the Old Chamber campsite in Hebden Bridge. As much as we like the Lake District, we felt it wasn’t right to visit at this time. There have been a number of alarming news stories about people parking and camping all over the place, and then leaving a mess. Hebden Bridge seemed like a perfect alternative and not too far to drive from Lancaster. It is an area that apart from visiting briefly last year the day before I did Canalathon (read about it here) we haven’t visited.

We arrived nice and early on the Friday, set up our tent and settled on down with a good book and a couple of beers, before our usual first night camping tea of sausages and beans, which was made all the better with a quick visit by Helen’s eldest son on his way from Lancaster to Wakefield.

The view from the campsite was amazing, across the whole of the valley. The campsite was surrounded by bridleways so we could watch mountain bikers and runners going past, sometimes quickly and often a bit more sedately. I love how the valley from Todmorden to Sowerby Bridge is so narrow, with the river, road, canal and then railway all squeezing into it, along with houses perched all over the place.

Helen is in training for the final leg of the Bay Limestone Round (read about it here and here) and wanted to run at least two of the three mornings. I had managed to create a couple of routes for my Garmin 920 (read about how to do this here), one of which would head up to Stoodley Pike. You can read Wikipedia yourself for more information, but the skinny is that the monument was initially built to celebrate winning Waterloo in 1815. The first one collapsed due to weather and lightning, so a replacement was built in 1856. The monument is very visible standing 37m high on top of the 400m Stoodley Pike, and on a clear day can be seen for miles. The day we ran up to it the weather was wet and misty and we could only just see the top.

20200718_0936121836113243.jpgThere are steps going up inside, although we didn’t venture up, partly because of the smell and partly because it was completely pitch black inside.

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Stoodley Pike is also on the Pennine Way, with the Pennine Bridleway skirting around the bottom of it. From the monument we followed the Pennine Way briefly before dropping down to Withens Clough Reservoir.

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We met a few local runners in the other direction near to the dam, before we headed on up the steep and never ending hills, following old tracks and bridleways back to the campsite. 10km with almost 300m of climbing, but done at a very steady pace. A great little start to our Hebden Bridge break.

Running Kendal to Lancaster

Over the last couple of months me and my amazing wife have ran the non navigable sections of the Lancaster Canal, i.e. the part from Tewitfield up to Kendal (read about it here, here and here). Yesterday my plan was to put it all together and run from Kendal to Lancaster along the canal. It would have to be a team effort though, so Helen agreed to drop me off in Kendal and then meet me a various prearranged points to supply me with water and snacks, and to give me a lift home if I was too tired or had managed to injure myself. Each section would be approximately 6-8 miles. (I had my phone with me in case of emergencies, but for some reason I didn’t stop to take a single photo, so any photos in this blog were taken on previous runs.)

We parked up at the Kendal sports centre, which was looking very sad having not been open for three months. Nelly, our silly pointer, couldn’t understand why I was going off running without her or Helen. She is 9 and a half and the full run would have been too far for her. I waved goodbyes and a few minutes past 9am I set off along the footpath out of Kendal where the canal used to be. This first part is very strange. In places the route is through fields with no sign of an old canal, and then in other places there is an old bridge and a grassy dip. There is also a small section along the road where the main dual carriageway to Kendal was built, but after this point the  canal looks more like a canal, albeit empty. I walked up and over the old tunnel, the only ‘hill’ on the route.

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Me and Helen had arranged that she would park up and walk towards me with Nelly and then run back to the car, giving me a nice mental boost each time. Helen spotted me and pointed our silly pointer in my direction, who ran full pelt towards me, happy to have ‘found’ me. We then gently ran the last mile and a bit to Crooklands, the first meeting point. The first section had been 7.5 miles and had taken an hour and ten minutes. Probably too fast. I filled up with water and had a snack before waving  goodbye again. The next meeting point was at Tewitfield locks.

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This is the nicest section of the Lancaster canal, picturesque, quiet and with a little rain the path was nice and soft to run on. I’ve mentioned before about plans to re-open this section of the canal, although the M6 goes right over it. The idea is to move the last lock to the other side of the motorway, allowing boats passage under. I crossed over the motorway and immediately a silly pointer spotted me and nearly bowled me over in her excitement. Me and Helen then ran the last mile back to the meeting point. 14 miles done. The weather had warmed up a little, so I drank a whole load more water and scoffed a banana before setting off again, not feeling too bad at this point. Next meeting point was just south of Carnforth.

From here the canal started to get a bit busier with more dog walkers and runners. I need to mention about the number of abandoned full poo bags that I’d seen. If you’re on a secluded grassy section of the canal it is much better the leave the poo, as it will decompose naturally in 6-8 weeks, instead of putting it into a bag and leaving the bag. A poo bag will take many years  to decompose. I’ve once walked four or five miles carrying a full poo bag until I found a bin. Rant over.

This section was also a bit shorter and it wasn’t long before the familiar hound was chasing towards me. So far it had taken me just over three hours, including stops, and had run just over 19 miles. By now my legs were feeling tired, but stopping wasn’t an option. I filled up once again with water and set off. Next stop home.

This last section seemed to go on forever as the canal winds it’s way around the landscape to avoid locks or tunnels. Nice views of the sea before heading back inland. I vowed that when I reached the aqueduct I would walk across it, drinking and eating, before the final push home. It was nice to see a whole family out running together as we seemed to leapfrog each other a couple of times.

I looked at my watch a few times to see what the distance would be, although I told myself that when I reached the steps off the canal I would stop my watch and walk the last few hundred metres home, no matter if I hadn’t quite managed a full marathon. I didn’t need to worry as my run was 42.35km or 26.3miles, just a smidgen over a marathon in a time of four hours and four minutes, with ten minutes stopping time.

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A couple of Strava friends saw my run and are planning on doing the same route themselves sometime in the future. For me, I might look at running from Preston back to Lancaster, again along the canal, although this would be approximately 31 miles. It also made me realise how awesome Ross Malpass’ run last year was, when he did the full 57 miles from Kendal to Preston in just under ten hours.

Back home and both Helen and Nelly were pleased to see me.  The rest of the day was mostly spent lying on the sofa reading, while Helen did amazing things in the garden. Another great day and a big thank you to Helen as I couldn’t have done it without her.

 

Blubberhouses

Make no mistake, Blubberhouses is a very strange name. Derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Bluberhus meaning house on the bubbling stream. It’s not a very big village. According to the 2011 census there were only 100 inhabitants. Anyway, that’s enough info from Wikipedia. Blubberhouses was the start and finish point for one of the best runs that me, my lovely wife Helen and our silly little pointer had ever done.

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We parked up at the smaller reservoir car park, which was already nearly full as we nabbed the last spot, and headed west along the old road parallel to the horrendously busy A59. Taking it easy, walking the up hills and gently running the flat and down hill sections was the plan. We also opted to go anti-clockwise as there would be a few short cuts back to the car if needed.

Up on the old road we both looked around as we could hear horses, but couldn’t see any. Possibly ghost horses. More likely Nelly’s paws were echoing off the stone wall sounding remarkably like hooves. We soon reached the A59 and took a few moments for a gap in the traffic. This next section was the only part of the route where I was worried about staying on the footpath, however, it turned out to be fairly clear which way to go.

Due to the young grouse on the moor Nelly was on a short lead, although a  baby grouse still managed to jump into her mouth. A gentle tap on the snozzle and she released it unharmed. Nelly will be telling her friends about that for a long time. Almost as exciting as that time she found a pheasant trapped under a car outside our house. We do have to be careful around birds as she does have a tendency to lose her little brain.

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With only four miles done we reached the high point of our run at the top of Round Hill. This was also where we first saw other people, 3 runners and a couple of mountain bikers. We followed the bicycle tracks down and then up to Lippersley Pike at just under half way round but all down hill from here. Again, more people, almost busy on the fell. A quick selfie with the beautiful Mrs B before setting off again. (Oh, and you might notice that I’ve had a trim.)

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A little further and we came across a small house, with security cameras at the gate. We stopped to take a photo of the Menwith Hill giant ‘golf balls’. Unfortunately they are not very clear on the photo, but the track  was great for running.

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There was a short section on the road towards the larger reservoir car park, with loads of cars passing us, so we opted for the slightly longer route which would take us to the Swinsty Reservoir, via a few sheep fields. Hitting the reservoir path we were immediately inundated with other people, and as we neared the higher Fewston Reservoir the number of people increased exponentially. The car park here was insane. Completely full. The last couple of miles were along the wiggly reservoir path which was very well maintained and very popular.

11.5 miles at a gentle pace, but we were all tired and thirsty. Both me and Helen had been carrying two water bladders, of which one of them was for Nelly, although she did supplement her water by drinking from muddy puddles and the odd stream.

Once home me and Nelly curled up on the sofa while my even more brilliant wife went to Aldi, bought a chicken and the cooked a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings. One of the best days out ever.

 

Fountains Abbey Parkrun

It’s Saturday 13th June 2020 at 3pm and it has been a very busy day so far. Up early to take Nelly, our silly pointer, for a 40 minute walk to the park, stopping off at the local free little library to drop off three books and pick one up. Gentle 25 mile bike ride with the beautiful Mrs B, who made sourdough blueberry pancakes upon our return and I’ve just baked a banana loaf. We’ve been keeping busy on Saturdays and if I’m honest, I’ve not missed parkruns half as much as I thought I would.

However, seeing as Saturday used to be parkrun day, I decided to blog about one of the best parkruns that we’ve ever done. Set in the the National Trust property of Fountains Abbey near Ripon, the run does almost two complete laps of the famous ruins. It was so good that we went back a second time a few months later.

Both times we made a weekend of it, staying at the Woodhouse Farm campsite. Very friendly, plenty of space, lots of grass for kids to run around in, perfect for families, although it was too busy for us to order food on our first night so we found a funny little pub a few miles away. Food wasn’t too bad and they let Nelly in. The second time, we stayed in a basic camping pod as it was in the middle of October and the  last weekend of the year that the campsite was open. Both times we went for a long walk in the afternoon with Nelly catching a rabbit one time and me and Helen having a play on a rope swing in a secluded wood. You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stopped playing.

Anyway, this blog was supposed to be about Fountains Abbey parkrun. The first time we were there I volunteered to run with Nelly, so I lined up at the back. The start is very narrow and there was no way the two of us could overtake many people for at least most of the first lap. The second time Helen lined up at the back with Nelly while I pushed my way to the front. I remember running behind a man with his very young son for most of the run, only overtaking them in the last km. Looking at the results and at the time he was in the JM10 age group. That young lad will be an amazing runner when he’s older. For me, the difference between starting at the front and the back was over two minutes.

As always the volunteers and other runners were all very friendly. Well, all except for one woman who barged in front of Helen as she crossed the finish line. I could possibly understand this if you were almost at the front, and my wife is an amazing runner, finishing 2nd woman overall at one parkrun and winning her age group many times, but on this day Helen was running with Nelly and as I mentioned, started at the back, so neither of us understood why this woman needed to push in front in such a rude manner. I have to say though, that is the only occasion in nearly 100 parkruns that we have witnessed such buffoonery.

Fountains Abbey parkrun is definitely the most picturesque parkrun that we’ve done, and we would recommend you should go there at least once in you’re in the area.

Running Along the Lancaster Canal – Part III

In the last month, me and my lovely wife along with our silly pointer have driven out to various points along the Lancaster Canal for a run. First off we started from Tewitfield (read about it here) and then the following week we started from Holme (read about it here). Today we started from near the village of Stainton, as close as we could park to where we had reached the previous outing, and once again headed north.

Less than a mile into the run and we came to the Hincaster tunnel and horse path, opened in 1819. The boats would be hauled through by hand, as the plaque states, with the horses going over the top, which is what we did.

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There was a neat little viewing platform that extended over the canal so that you could have a look all the way through the tunnel without climbing down onto the old canal bed.

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There were also a couple of small tunnel like features for Nelly to rush through, avoiding any trolls that might lurk there.

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It isn’t always easy to capture Nelly in full flight, as she runs like a crazy, but happy pointer. Not far after the tunnel we had to take a detour along a road, crossing the dual carriageway to Kendal, before rejoining the footpath. There is very little left of the canal this far north, with a few bridges standing in the middle of fields.

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We continued past the beautiful village of Sedgwick and across more fields, some with very placid cows and others full of sheep. Having been chased by cows last year we are wary of them, especially as a man was killed by cows near Ingleton the other week.

Before long we had reached the outskirts of Kendal where we decided to turn around and head back, instead of running into the centre. Disaster almost struck as first Helen fell over, grazing her knee and straining her wrist, and then Nelly started to limp. They are both tough northern girls, so we pushed on at a nice gentle pace, walking past the cows before stopping to take a couple of photos at the other side of the Hincaster tunnel. As you can see the canal is very overgrown.

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Back through the little tunnels and to the car, where Nelly could have a long drink. I was carrying plenty of water so during the run the three of us were OK but I had left extra in the car. Nine miles of running, slightly less than the previous time, but we were all feeling tired; it must have been all the styles we had to climb over, or the up-and-over section at the tunnel. Whatever, it was another great little run. As Helen said, she couldn’t believe that she would ever say nine miles was a ‘little’ run.

Driving back into Lancaster we were amazed at the length of the queue stretching along Caton Road for the McDonalds drive-thru. The easing of the lockdown means different things for different people. We weren’t tempted.

Once home we inspected the damage. Helen’s knee was a bit swollen and neither of us could see anything in Nelly’s paw. I’m sure that everyone will be absolutely fine by tomorrow morning.

Now that we have run the whole length of the disused section of the Lancaster Canal, what’s next? We might look at leaving a bicycle locked up at Tewitfield, driving to Kendal and then running all the way back to Tewitfield. There is a nice cafe at the Greenlands Farm Village where Helen and Nelly could rest while I cycled back to get the car. Alternatively, Helen could drop me off at Kendal and I could run all the way back to Lancaster (probably just over a marathon distance), meeting me at various points to make sure that I’m OK.

Running along the Lancaster Canal – Part II

The other week the three of us (me, my amazing wife and our silly old pointer) went for a run along the Lancaster canal (read about it here). Last Sunday we decided to run a bit more of the canal, starting just north of Holme at the exact spot where we finished our previous run.

Heading north again, with Nelly rushing on ahead, we took it nice and steady. Less than a mile the canal goes under the M6, so the path takes a small detour through a large field, which Nelly had to explore all of, before there is a short section on the road. We rejoined the canal path, letting Nelly off the lead once again, and continued north, enjoying the peace and quiet, and the scenery. Off to the right was the hefty fell of Farleton, towering  over the motorway (took a photo of Helen and Nelly instead of the fell).

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This whole section of canal is very well looked after, with signs and benches, along with a restored small old building which would have been used to monitor the barges and possibly to collect tolls. There is a great deal of work required if this section is to be opened for leisure boating, but it isn’t until you are almost at the village of Stainton that the canal no longer contains any water.

We continued to gently plod along, occasionally stopping to say hello to any horses. Apparently I have agreed to go pony trekking near here. The last time (only time) that I was on a horse was almost 30 years ago in Monument Valley with Navajo Native Americans. It was so long ago that they were still referred to as Indians.

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We ran a pleasant five miles out, and then ran the same route back, with Nelly being a little monkey for the short road sections where she  grumbled about being back on the lead. Once again she explored the whole field as we jogged the last mile back to the car. I am always amazed at how fit she is, considering she is 9 and a half, and all the scrapes she had when she was younger. Barbed wire fences are her bete noire.

Another great little run with my amazing family. 10 miles, nice and steady, although Nelly must have done 15. Back home and she went straight to bed, only surfacing at tea-time. There is a small car park near to where we turned around, so at some point soon we will definitely look at running the last section into Kendal. The last part is a little more tricky as the canal has mostly been completely filled in and covered over, so we will be relying on signposts and a map. Shouldn’t be too difficult.

Running along the Lancaster Canal

The Government’s recent advice is that we can all drive as far as we want if we want some exercise. However, we showed some restraint and drove less than 10 miles to the Longlands Pub carpark at Tewitfield. I expect that the Lake District was packed with visitors, despite nothing being open and the local police and authority asking people to stay away.

Our plan was to run an out and back route along the Lancaster Canal, heading north. This is a section of the canal that neither of us have ever run along before, although we’ve cycled alongside it in places many times. Bonus is that it’s fairly flat and it’s safe for Nelly to be off the lead. This is also the end of the navigable part of the Lancaster Canal. Setting off and immediately we came across the Tewitfield set of 8 locks, the only locks on the whole 57 miles of Lancaster canal.

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There are plans for this section of the canal to be re-opened, and although the canal used to go all the way to Kendal, at Stainton it has been completely filled in. A pair of locks have been kept as a feature next to the canal.

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A bit further on and the canal ducks under the M6 and enters Cumbria.

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We continued north, occasionally meeting people out for a walk, mostly with dogs. We all kept our distance, except for the three male runners, running together in a pack. The weather was nice and warm, without being too hot, almost perfect for running, although the lack of rain in the last month meant that the towpath was very hard under foot. Towards the village of Holme there was a book box for people to help themselves, as well as a sunflower box. We thought about taking a bag, but it might not have survived the run back to the car. There are a lot of great people out there.

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Just north of Holme we decided to stop, having done about four and a half miles. Good spot for a selfie and a quick drink before retracing our footsteps.

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Nelly was on the whole very good, returning when we called her and not deviating off the towpath, although she did have a good look at some chickens on the other side of the canal,  and she was most interested in the family sat on a bench eating sausage butties. She can be a devil for food. As we continued, Helen picked up the pace a bit, and when we reached the locks again, I stopped to take a few photos and never manage to catch up with her. My amazing wife is a very fit runner, even if she insists that she isn’t. You can make out Nelly in full flight also trying to catch up.

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Back at the car, and we’d done 9 miles in a moving time of one hour and 20 minutes. A very nice relaxed pace, and an amazing route. There are so many brilliant places to run without going all the way to the Lakes, the Dales or even the Howgills. We’ll be staying local for the next couple of months at least.

Bonus; when we were home we tucked into some homemade sourdough bread. Helen had been up at 5:20 am making it. Best bread ever, followed by a quick game of Azul which Helen won by a long way. Currently sat on the sofa with a beer. Helen has a glass of wine and Nelly is curled up in her bed. 8 tired legs between us. Another great little adventure.