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Relaxed Trail Running in Yorkshire and the Lakes

January 4, 2015 at 22:09



I’m in the UK for New Year and visiting Yorkshire where I grew up. The Yorkshire Dales and nearby Lakeland are my playground for running. First run was up Ingleborough, out of Ingleton and up the Fell Lane route. The trail begins just above the village of Ingleton, and climbs gently at first along a track bordered by stone walls up to the first plateau.


From here onwards the surface varies from almost lawn-like turf path, through gravel track to gnarly lumps of limestone littering the way. The elevation increases in bursts which punctuate the plateaus at each level. Towards the top things become much steeper, with some craggy rock steps taking you over numerous false summits until finally the top plateau is reached. The top is perfectly flat and riddled with chunks of millstone grit, and incredible views over the Dales and out towards Morecambe Bay.


The Lakes

Here’s a great place to stay : The Linthwaite Hotel in Bowness by Windermere. We were after a night away and a proper good meal and wine, and this did not disappoint. They are super relaxed and the dinner and breakfast were really fantastic. The following day we set off to Grizedale to do a short trail run there – there’s a marked trail around the Tarns, which at 5.5km and a bit hilly is perfect for my Mrs who usually runs 5km flat trails. The trail is a real mixture of gravel path, logging roads and forest floor, passing through streams on the way and climbing up above the visitor centre to Grizedale Tarn at the top.




From there it’s downhill on a fairly technical rocky path with small streams running down it and back to the car park. We continued to the Drunken Duck Inn – a little off the beaten track between Hawkshead and Ambleside.


This pub is lovely, and to my great delight has its own microbrewery attached. So I tried 3 of their brews – the Pale Ale, the Westmorland Gold, and the Stout. While all were lovely, the Gold was something else – quite probably the best beer I ever tasted. It was that good.


So that’s the warm-up out of the way. While I’m up here I’ll try to run every day and fancy another shot at Ingleborough now that I’m familiar with the trail. Would be nice to hit it a bit harder next time round.

Breathing is a skill ?

December 11, 2014 at 09:50

Try to get your breathing under control !

That’s what Steve told me as we were running round the third lap of the Bierathlon last weekend, connected by a plastic beer crate containing 8 full and 2 empty beer bottles. We’d been running pretty hard on the first lap, pushed straight into the second without drinking, and then having drunk the first beer as fast as possible, we set off hard again. It was a bit faster than I’m used to running and I was panting like your mum.


Yesterday, I had in mind to do some intervals. A couple of weeks ago I’d done progression intervals from 5:00 per km down to 4:00 per km but it had got too dark to continue. I originally had planned 6 x 1km intervals for yesterday but a long meeting squished the time I had available so I ran 6 x 500m instead and decided not to progress them, just to run them hard – not sprinting though – and see what the times were like. I kicked off with a 1km warmup and finished with a 1km cooldown.

The first interval I set off as usual and by 300m I was panting pretty hard again, and it was then that Steve’s words came back into my head : “get your breathing under control“. So I wondered if I could just slow my breathing down and still run at the same pace.

The second interval I went off running the same cadence and stride length as before but used immense concentration (and this was hard to control) to breathe slower and more deeply. It seemed to work – I actually had no need to huff and puff, this kind of breathing gave me enough O2 and shifted enough CO2 out of my lungs that I could sustain the effort during the interval and did not end up totally out of breath like the first one.

I repeated this for the next 4 intervals and it worked every time. So maybe this is a breakthrough – I ran 3:45’s on average during these intervals and found it manageable. Previously I’d found that pace to be unmaintainable and so for me ‘fast’ meant running in the 4:10-4:30/km range and ending up out of breath.

It was difficult to decouple my old breathing rhythm from this cadence – I think because I started running very slowly originally in 2012 I’d dropped into a habit of breathing every couple of steps. My old slower self had a lower cadence and perhaps a longer stride length and I’d kept the original breathing rhythm despite getting faster legs – I guess this might have lead to me hyperventilating a bit or something.

So I’m now going to try and run a bit longer at pace and see if controlling my breathing pattern as I did in these intervals can be sustained. If it can – and I’ll need to train myself to do this – I think I’ll be in a position to make a bit of a jump in sustainable pace and use that to hit my speed targets in this and the next year. I’ve also decided to upgrade to a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor so I can look a bit closer at what my body is doing when I run.

Photo – Morning

December 10, 2014 at 23:29


// Jabba the Butt

December 5, 2014 at 11:59

The funeral was a colourful one. Big and brash, just like Jabba. A huge turnout, almost everybody in hash gear – even his mother and she wasn’t a hasher. The hash loved Jabba and Jabba loved the hash. The RA had read a moving eulogy, and they had sung a few hash songs in his memory.

His one skin hangs down to his two skin…

There were so many stories about Jabba. The time he fell over in the circle and they couldn’t get him back on his feet. The time he crashed his mobility scooter into a post box. The time he’d puked on trail and everyone had to run through it.

…His two skin hangs down to his three…

Jabba didn’t die on trail. He was at home watching repeats of Top Gear on Dave and he was reaching into the special fridge he’d installed right next to the couch for another beer, but couldn’t quite reach it. He’d grabbed the edge of the open door to haul himself up but his weight brought the fridge down on him. He was big but he wasn’t strong and he hadn’t been able to get himself up. 

…His three skin hangs down to his foreskin…

They found him 3 days later. The freezer compartment had thawed and the police said his face was covered in melted Phish Food. The downstairs tenant had complained to the landlord about the smell and the fluid seeping through, and the police were eventually called. The firemen used a hydraulic platform to get him out – lifting someone his size was a health and safety issue so the correct equipment was needed. 

…His foreskin hangs down to his knee

Jabba was cremated the following Friday. The Tuesday after, the hash was held in his honour and the trail was a tour of his favourite hang-outs in the city. They even brought his mobility scooter and took turns tearing up the pavements just like Jabba would have done. 

“It’s almost as if he were here !” 

“He was.”

“Yeah I guess in some way he is watching over us…”

“No, he really was here. Tonight’s trail wasn’t marked with flour…”

“…it was marked with Jabba.”

// Half Minds 2

December 3, 2014 at 12:36

Angelo chugged the dregs of his Elephant beer. They were seated in a pavement café. Angelo had been careful to select a steel framed chair, which although rusty was less at risk from buckling than the cracked and discoloured collection of PVC ones which formed the alternatives. Ultraviolet light was a bastard to PVC anywhere, but here in the tropics it was a huge problem. The girl was sitting opposite him. She was already on her third Elephant. 

They had negotiated their way out of arrest by trading the contents of their beer-trolley for freedom. The local cops were so corrupt they just couldn’t resist a bribe. They weren’t to know it was only down-down beer.

“What’s your name ?” he asked her.

“Camel Toe” she replied.

Progression Intervals

December 1, 2014 at 10:33

There wasn’t enough room for us all in the car on the way home on Saturday as we had visitors. I wasn’t keen on making a child walk home, so I opted to run home along the Linthebene instead. I run down there sometimes to combine running with visiting somewhere or someone, but I don’t really like it – along the canal it’s just straight and flat and dull. I much prefer woodland trails with twists and turns and all that business.

I had a bad run on Thursday last week, just plain out of energy. It was probably due to doing quite a lot of higher intensity work during the week, combined with a bit of a diet change. Oh and that bloody bulletproof coffee I tried which fucked me right up.

I ran 5km at a reasonable effort to warm up, doing an average of 4:32 per kilometre. Then I wanted to explore the world of 4 minute ‘something’ kilometres, and try to exert more control over my pace in that range. Up until now, when I run ‘fast’ for sustained distance (5km and above) I end up somewhere in the fours, but it’s never very predictable where in the fours I end up. I think the key to cracking another jump in speed is to become more controlled in the 4-minute-something range and be able to pick and sustain a pace over 5-10km. I remember when that was a struggle in the 5-minute range and now it’s easy, so it must be possible to do this in the 4’s too.

I devised a set of intervals to train it : start at 5:00/km then run each kilometre 10 seconds faster than the last – not all out speed – but trying to get as close to the target as possible.


This is what I did :

Distance        Target  min/km      Actual min/km

1km                5:00                          4:59

1km                4:50                          4:47

1km                4:40                          4:36

1km                4:30                          4:25

1km                4:20                          4:18

The next one I turned into a jog to check the path ahead in preparation for the last one, it had got pitch black and I didn’t want to trip over a horse shit or fall in a gully or something.

1km                4:10                           5:28

So the last one at 4:00/km was in pitch black, I met a tractor coming the other way and had to make a little swerve.

1km                4:00                          4:02

All in all this was a really fun workout. It seems the faster I go, the more I tend to overshoot (e.g. run too fast). If I’d had more light I’d have kept pushing down into the 3’s until breaking point, but it was becoming really dangerous. My head torch was in the car and there’s no street lighting down there. I can see ways to progress this too – increasing the 1000m to 1600m, pushing down lower into the 3’s, joining the intervals into contiguous runs rather than intervals with a recovery between. Most of all though it was great and I’d do it again like a shot.

// Half Minds 1

November 29, 2014 at 10:47

Angelo slammed into consciousness. His hands, tied to bamboo with primitive hessian rope were a mass of tiny cuts and individual burns, some under the tips of his fingernails. Mud and something else spattered his shins. His Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 2 running shoes were gashed down both sides and flecked with a batter of red soil and white residue. As he grimaced, Angelo felt his facial skin tighten as though coated in crust.

My name is Jacques…” 

The first line of a song. Down, in the mud – knee socks at eye level. Down down down.

“…I’m a necrophiliac…”

The ache in his legs. He had run. In the dark. 

“…I fuck dead women…”

Dragging his torso upright he saw there was one other in the cage. Female, early thirties. Short dark hair. Clothed in a dirty purple t-shirt with a crudely drawn picture of a rabbit holding a beer. Baby pink shorts. Neon pink knee socks, holding a red bandana and the red had leached out, staining her hand. She was barely conscious.

“…and I fill ‘em with my jism”

Beyond the bamboo cage he noticed the street, the traffic noise. Bicycles and motorised scooters.

He looked back at the girl. 

She was waking and mumbling words : “Dirty Helmet…Dirty Helmet”.

Book Review – Jamie P. Barker – A Year and a Day, Book One : Winter

November 28, 2014 at 16:28


Jamie P. Barker is a very fast writer and a very fast runner from the Channel Island of Jersey. I had the pleasure of reading his latest work “A Year and a Day, Book One : Winter” and reviewed it on Amazon which was where I bought it from.


Not only does this paperback edition occupy three dimensions of physical space, it occupies a little bit more of the Y axis than your other paperbacks do, because it is in TRADE PAPERBACK format which, according to the New York Times, was Simone de Beauvoir’s favourite paperback format. So that’s “one-nil” to the book designer.


‘A Year and a Day – Book One : Winter’ is a series of vignettes depicting convenience retail life on a small island completely surrounded by the sea. Recounted from the perspective of the author, who occupies the commanding ‘counter’ position of a local SPAR shop – but is nonetheless still subordinate to the Colombian store manager – each episode spews literature words and readable paragraphs to create a hole which is way, way bigger than the sum of its parts.


Spanning two countries (including one island) and mentioning at least three retail chains by name, this slice of parochial life is more than just amusing : it is the essence of the very densest isotope of humour, fractioned, distilled, put in a centrifuge and enriched, packed in a bomb casing, surrounded by complicated explosives and fusing mechanisms, and then imploded – right at the centre of your brain.


Jamie P. Barker has crafted a truly remarkable work. His stream of consciousness narrative refines and perfects what James Joyce tried but ultimately failed to achieve in his entire body of work. The incisive characterisation, the documentary dialogue, the juxtaposition of the mundane, the disgusting and the surreal brings to mind a more scarred and depraved Will Self at his most disturbed very worst.


If you haven’t read this, you haven’t read. You can buy it here.

Way too much kit

November 26, 2014 at 17:39
I think these were definitely too much

I think these were definitely too much

We have visitors coming for the weekend and so I was trying to put some of my shit away. My wardrobe is a black hole of turd, because where the hanging clothes should go, there is a massive duvet, a massive sleeping bag, two massive synthesizers and two massive bags of clothes which were meant to go to charity 6 months ago. I have drawers too – four to be precise, I’m not that backward. In the drawers you’ll mainly find my running kit.

It started out with just the one drawer full. A harmless habit, running – some shorts, a couple of pairs of socks, a few t-shirts. Nothing heavy – that’s surely all you need. Then came the tights – two pairs. And more t-shirts, both the ones I bought and the ones you get free after every race. I don’t like training in event shirts, fuck knows why but it seems a bit racist and they’re always a bit shite. Apart from the Frankfurt 2014 one, I like that one.

And then people give me Wiggle vouchers to spend. Then I had to buy many more pairs of socks as it really doesn’t pay to recycle with my cheesy feet. Then cold-weather gear – base layers, thicker tops, some gloves. What used to be one drawer is now 3 drawers of running kit. I have more running kit than actual clothes – ok I work from home and I tend to live in the same microfleece for a good week at least, and when I go out it’s either running in running kit or hashing in running kit. But if I go on like this I’m going to have to sell up and move just so I can have a kit room. Mmmm. A kit room.

Switzerland’s Free Outdoor Gyms

November 19, 2014 at 15:36

I ran hill repeats yesterday. I’ve not done that for a long time and in keeping with my nicknames for other workouts I think I’ll call that session “The Reaming”.  Today my body said ‘no running’ and I listened, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the whole bloody day sitting here like a melting blancmange.

I’ve been looking into different training programmes for my next marathon training phase, and I might give FIRST / Run Less Run Faster a try. This one has you running fewer miles but running much higher intensity workouts and faster pace. In between it prescribes cross-training, and so I thought I’d go do a bit of cross-training today instead.

So I took my bike out. I ride rarely these days as I just don’t enjoy it as much as I do running. I recently got a new bike – it’s a Charge Plug 1 – a single speed effort which I’ve set up with a freewheel. I did try fixed gear and almost fucking died. It’s good though, simple and solid and riding round here is great with no gears. The landscape is all drumlins so it’s a constant undulation and without gears you get to work quite hard but in short bursts.


I rode it out following one of my regular running routes through the moorland north of where I live and then I remembered the “Vita Parcours” in the forest up there.  It’s an exercise circuit made up of various bits of wooden outdoor equipment, each of which has a sign suggesting which exercises you can do on them. There are 498 of these throughout Switzerland, with a combined course length of 1119km.

Now I’ve never actually seen anyone using a Vita Parcours, despite them being all over the place, well maintained, unvandalized, and free to use. I run through there a lot and I’ve yet to witness somebody actually getting it on.

I had a go.


The first obstacle I tackled was a log laid down on the ground, with smaller logs coming out of it at right angles along the length. The idea is to jump forwards over the smaller logs and sideways over the main log. Some kind of plyometric hopscotch thing. Harder than it looks, but not too taxing – I give that one a 6/10.


The next one was a sort of fence thing with cross bars at different heights. The exercises suggested here are inclined push-ups, either regular (facing down) or kinky (facing up). I’ve done the limbo through these on a hash before. I had a go at both official exercises and because I’m really shit at bodyweight exercises and anything upper-body I found this one hard. I guess that means I have to do it more, right ? 4/10


Moving on, there were more logs. This time laid out in a sort of children’s adventure playground interpretation of a railway track. It’s another plyometric jobby, this time you have to do two-footed frog-jumps over all the horizontal log sections. I think with a bit of practice this one could be really good – you know, if you lift your knees right up and jump high. I’m not so advanced yet. 8/10.


And finally the last one I tried (and there are many more I either have not found or didn’t try) was a horizontal pull-up bar. There are 3 exercises described. One is ‘hang off the bar and breathe slowly for 15 seconds’. I tried that one, and my hand hurt – I’ll try again with gloves on some time. The next one is pull up ‘up’ position and hold it. Finally actual pull-ups. This is my nemesis as my upper body strength is less than that of my 2 year old son. I gave it a bash anyway – I guess I need to stick at it. 2/10.

All in all it suits me better than a gym but I know it’s probably not as effective. I’ll try and do it once per week and then at least the local councils can rest easy knowing at least one person is actually using these things.