Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Fell Shoes 1: Muddy Fields 0

In anticipation of running nine miles across muddy cliffs and over ankle-zapping pebbly beaches in a little over a month's time, I've been getting used to training in fell shoes. Sparer than either road or trail shoes, fell shoes are more versatile than cross country spikes in that you can run on roads in them, while still having the benefit of nobbly bottoms (don't say a word), that afford grip in boggy conditions. 

M won an age category at a marathon last year and was given a fifty quid voucher for a local running shop as a prize. He kindly donated it to me so I could get the fell shoes. With all the rain we've had here these past ten days they have come into their own and I am flying with confidence down muddy, slippery slopes where previously I trod with caution.
I think it probably says something about me that my favourite and most treasured shoe collection has little to do with kitten heels or expensive leather boots and instead consists of brightly coloured gor tex in various grades of cushioned sole :o)

The cold bug is still lurking so, mindful of that and the knees (which are improving with the right exercises- the culprit is the gluteus medius- you'll find me doing lots of corrective half clams throughout the day), I've been keeping training steady with regular three mile sessions during the week as well yoga, Parkrun on a Saturday and a long run on Sundays. I'm averaging 15-20 miles a week with some hills thrown in for good measure, which I reckon is about right.

This Sunday I decided to take the phone with me so I could show you what the Chalk runs we do locally are like. This one is an eight miler that goes across some lovely countryside through woods and valleys, over parkland and up along the top of a huge Chalk escarpment. It includes the Famous Chocolate Mousse Hill, although I'm not convinced you get much of a sense of scale from the photos.

The dogs know the way and set off ahead up the track, an old Green Lane that escaped the embrace of tarmac and as a result retains echoes of the way-farers of the past.


This is a view I am very used to... M and dogs out in front. Much of our long runs follow this pattern :o)


The way leads across fields through an old farm yard where geese wander and ducks waddle...



Then it's down a deceptively steep claggy hill, across a lane, through some woods, up a hill, over a stile and out onto a private drive, climb over a gate into parkland where Curious Cows graze, over another stile, down a footpath and out onto a lane where Ted is sometimes allowed to remain off the lead because he stays at heel. Pop, to her indignation,  remains on the lead because she's naughty :o)


A quarter of a mile along the lane a hole opens in a hawthorn hedge. The path beyond snakes up through fields high onto The Chalk. There are lumps of flint and the ground is hard here, glassy when it rains. A kestrel flew over my head as I navigated my way through the hedge. It lacked the silver head of the male so must have been a female: I watched it soar above us for a moment before turning to climb up on to The Chalk. Steadily, steadily, ever up. Pop likes to quarter pheasants in the wood on the right. You can gauge her progress from the position of the indignant squawks. Ted stays on the field side, keeping a wistful eye on any birds that explode out of the trees. 


At the top of the climb a stile leads into a beech wood....


And on the other side another stile, which Ted always finds hard to navigate. He whimpers, worried that we'll leave him behind. I show him where badgers have nudged the fence up and made a respectable Ted-sized hole through which he wriggles, clearly relieved, while Pop waits impatiently on the other side having long since leapt over the stile with her Pa...


Stopping to take photographs to document the run means I fall further behind than normal, and while Pop is happy to run on ahead, implicitly trusting that I'll catch up eventually, Teddy is anxious if we're not all in sight at the same time. He does not like his family to be too far apart. I hear him before I see him, as I emerge from the wood out onto the Chalk, high above the rest of the world. He has a particular bark he does when he's worried: it's mid way between an instruction and a plea to catch up. He finds me coming out of the trees; there is a worried look on his sweet face that catches at my heart.


His relief when I put the phone away and start running again is evident. He stays just a little in front of me, turning his head every now and then to make certain I am following. We soon catch up with the others and enjoy a half mile or so of flat ground before the land dips again, this time tumbling away down the Chocolate Mousse Hill which is heavy-going after the rain. It isn't long before the base of my fell shoes are thick with mud, the added weight of it tugging at knees and ankles. M and the dogs become specks in the distance as they disappear down the gradient.




I run all the way down and all the way up, which is an improvement. At the top the path snakes between two fields passing gates gloopy with mud where horses gather to watch us, and on into the woods where a cinder track winds through the trees. It's pockmarked with puddles. I run through them, washing off the mud. Ted skirts around them; M jumps over them and Poppy aquaplanes through, her vigorous shake afterwards scattering hundreds of droplets of muddy water in a brief, rainbow-shimmering arc.

It's another mile or two back to the car over the fields. By now we're in a steady rhythm of running, side by side and chatting, turning over the week that's been; our achievements and the things we want to work on; the children and how they're getting on; friends; colleagues; irritations and joys; what the week ahead brings. The dogs know the route well and settle into a different rhythm themselves: Ted's labour-saving economical trot, shaving the corners off so he can catch up without exerting himself  Pop still surging ahead, racing off, circling back. The GPS attached to her collar switched itself off at 4k, but we reckon she must run a good mile further than the rest of us.

We reach the car in about an hour twenty, which is not fast but not too bad given the terrain, the cold bug and two sets of aching knees (M managed to slip on ice last week and has wrenched something. It's all about the knees in our house right now). 

All my focus now and for the next month is on finding and understanding that steady rhythm that will carry me round the Cub. All thoughts of hitting time targets have ebbed away, although I'm sure they'll be back once the Cub is done. The discipline of running has become the glue that holds my days together. I'm not sure where I'd be now without it.

Certain folk were gratifyingly sleepy that night. There's nothing quite so cosy as a dog stretched out asleep in front of a fire after a long day, eh?



Hope all are well?

CT :o)







28 comments:

  1. I like the stretched out in front of the fire but best of all. Warm and zonked. x

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  2. Still looks very muddy, for some daft reason I thought running a chalk topsoil would be a better drained and less boggy experience

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  3. Hey CT,
    My runs look quite similar to yours I think. I've given up the route that Marc likes, because it follows the main road out of St Ives. Not enough to distract me. I like to engage with my environment as I run. Notice things, hear things, enjoy the peace. That kind of thing. I ran this morning, and saw a huge group of long tailed tits. They came along just at the point when I thoughtmy lungs were going to give out, and distracted me enough to keep pushing on! I'm signing up for some 10k runs; my next challenge. Can't believe how far I've come, and totally get what you say about running being part of the fabric of your life. Who would have thought it!
    Leanne xx

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    1. That's so great about the 10ks- I know just how you feel. You go, girl! 🤗

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  4. Lovely to see were you have been running, the dogs looked pooped . That would be me if I just walked that far never mind run !!
    Amanda xx

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    1. The funny thing is I can run 8 miles far better than I could walk it! X

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  5. What a gorgeous run, I particularly love the path at the start and that lovely downwards hill. I was just talking to a friend today and saying that in our house we have nothing at all to wear to smarter functions. But when it comes to outside things we mud we're sorted. I have the right clothes for mountains, woods, allotments, muddy fields, all of it. But smart, no, not at all. Glad the running is going well. How adorable those little doggies look. Well done all. CJ xx

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    1. I have got a few dresses, but am generally far more comfortable in outdoor kit! I need a new jacket for running in cold weather- am looking forward to finding one more than I would department store shopping 😉 X

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  6. thank you so much for taking the photos....it's so lovely to put a visual to it. i think running through Scenery distracts one from the possibility of tiredness and aches and pains.

    when i was a child, the walks involving climbing over stiles were my Very Best Favourite...it was lovely to see one!

    xo

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    1. So glad you enjoyed seeing it. Part of tje fun of trail runs is the obstacles - gates, fences, stiles, mud etc xx

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  7. Lovely to see photos of your route; beautiful countryside. Love the way your dogs are so protective of you. The end photo of paws splayed is very similar to the position my cats adopt in Bliss position by the fire. Could do with some knobbly bottoms myself in all this mud, although I have now plotted the driest route round my sports field :). I'm off to try some half clams. Any knee exercise must be good in my book. Continue the good work in those fell shoes. B x

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    1. Good luck with the half clams - I'm still doing them every day too. Glad you enjoyed seeing the pics. It was nice to document the run in pictures x

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  8. Bless Ted's little worried face when he can't see everyone at once! I looked a bit like the dogs post run this morning. It was my first run in nearly 3 weeks with this wretched cold - my legs felt like lead and I thought my lungs would burst. I only managed about 2/3 of my pre-cold distance. Hey Ho. Your run looks much more picturesque too! xx

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    1. Yay for you for getting back to it. Don't worry, you'll pick the distance up again really quickly x

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  9. You could do with some wellies to get though all that mud but isn't it glorious to be able to run away from the road with all its fumes. x

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    1. Running in wellies would be interesting 😆

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  10. Lovely. It's a great run straight from the pages of Richard Askwith's book "Running Free" which I finished yesterday. I mean RA's book not your run! He takes his dog Nutmeg on all his runs.

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    1. Have you read feet in the clouds? We read it when M was training for the Bob G with friends a few years ago. A great book.

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  11. Gosh, I mean to comment after every post but somehow never do. Sorry! Anyway I wanted to say, I love all your posts but particularly your running ones. I trail run as often as possible as, even when the weather is awful, it's so much nicer than the road. Totally know what you mean about the shoe thing, I have some very beloved Salomen fellraisers which are amazing. I'd take them out of a burning house well before any high heels!! What shoes do you run in? (how sad am I?? Maybe I should get out more!!) And as for dear Ted, what a total sweetheart. Don't they tug on your heartstrings when do that. In days gone past my old collie cross used to do just the same thing; I suppose not surprising with the herding breed in him. My current collie is too busy chasing down errant deer to be worried!! Have you thought of this run at the QEII park? http://secondwindrunning.co.uk/p/qe-spring It's all trail and looks fab :-)

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    1. I complete get your running shoe love! My fells are innov8 mudclaw 300s. So comfy, they are fab. Although I think fellraiser is the best name 😆 Off to check out the link now- thanks for sending it. Yay for getting outdoors running through fields with woofs x

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  12. It was good to see your run even if it meant that you were lagging more behind that usual. It is so muddy here at the moment too. I hope you were able to recover in the same way as the dogs after your walk! Sarah x

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    1. I did fall asleep in front of the fire on the sofa 😊 X

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  13. Oh but your run looks beautiful! You must marvelous after a run like that. I like the thought of running with the Mister too.I have been trying to enthuse the benefits of running to my own but he hasn't gotten the bug just yet. :) x

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    1. It would be great if you could persuade him to come with you. I look forward to our Sunday run together all week xx

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  14. That is a magnificent run..over the hills and far away. Makes me feel quite homesick. The dogs crashed out gave me a giggle....plum tuckered out!
    Lovely.. I've booked flights home for Christmas this year...family Christmas..first in 16 years...whoop dee do!
    Love to you all xx

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    1. Ah, well, when you're back at Christmas I'll take you out on the run then you can enjoy it too! Love back to you all xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x