Hasn’t the time shifted by this year? Despite many people’s lives seemingly being put on hold due to the COVID-19 it seems bizarre that in the last week we had passed by the Summer Solstice and into summer-time proper. Which, to be fair, is probably why it’s raining now.
This last week has been another one of summer-weather proportions. By which I mean it’s actually been hot and sunny as opposed to the usual Manchester grey and soggy.
The daily exercise routine has now been going for 14 weeks, one less than the lockdown itself as I took a few days off towards the end of March. I had a think about my own fitness in the light of some of what I’ve been up to this week. Whilst I’m much fitter than I was back in February, the lack of any specific training goal is very apparent now. In a world without COVID, I would have been out in Chamonix this weekend racing the Marathon du Mont Blanc. It’s safe to say that in my current state of fitness it would be all about getting around the course and have no mention of any racing at all. Sobering and something to bear in mind for 2021 which is when the race will next go ahead.
My original plans for exercise this week were similar to last week, with a focus on cycling for the first few days knowing I had a long run planned in at the end of the week.
I had a work job to attend on the Monday morning anyway so decided that a ‘long way around’ cycle would be the order of the day:
When I say ‘long’ I actually meant, very short. It just wasn’t as short as going directly. The reality was that I was still getting over Saturday’s long run from Marple to Kinder and back and it was just nice to have a gentle cycle (I don’t think I do any other sort except for the ones where I fall off!) on some country lanes. Simple and easy riding.
Getting home I fitted in some piano practice which went OK. And messed around with a few synths which didn’t result in anything. C’est la vie I guess.
I was back out in the evening to run an intervals session for Marple Runners. Thankfully it wasn’t too warm, not that I did any more than the warm-up and warm-down runs. I did get lunched-upon by horseflies whilst in Brabyns Park which left my legs swollen and very itchy. You’ll be glad to know I haven’t included photographs; my legs are bad enough as it is when they don’t have teeth-marks in…….
Somewhere along the way I decided that Tuesday was a great morning to drive to Fernilee reservoir for a run. I’ve cycled past it many times and never stopped off and today seemed like a great opportunity to visit when, hopefully it wouldn’t be too busy. At least if I drove there I could focus on the run whilst there. If I cycled I’d be focussed too much on the journey either said and wouldn’t make best use of my time there.
It was a warm day, with a forecast for the week of soaring temperatures and copious amount of sunshine. Fernilee is very accessible and I’m sure at weekends it must be heaving. As it was, the place was still very busy even on a ‘regular’ Tuesday morning.
The elephant in the room at Fernilee is that it lies at the bottom of a couple of decent sized hills. The chances of me just circling a reservoir when there’s hills available are practically zero (except for during races around reservoirs). It also means that the vast majority of people stay at the lower level, which suits me.
Aside from the starting point and the close proximity of some hills, there wasn’t any route plan in mind. That’s one advantage when running for oneself, you can freestyle the run based on how you feel at the time, rather than having to work out the chances of a group mutiny as the gradient increases! The first mile was flat along the side of Fernilee, but as soon as I was able to cross at the other end, so the climb started. Upon reaching Erwood car park (the existence of which I was unaware until reaching it) I checked the map and followed a trail alongside the Kettleshulme road to take me up towards Pym’s Chair. I cycled up this way a couple of months ago and having seen various footpaths from the road was keen to get over and run some of them.
As it was I decided to leave the road I was alongside to take a trail directly up to Cats Tor, one of the peaks not far from Pym’s Chair. From here there was a decent trail path which took me over to Shining Tor, a peak I’d not visited since the trauma of my Peak Skyline race last August. There were plenty of walkers up on the path and it was nice to chat to a few of them on this section, one couple telling me they walked from Pym’s Chair to Shining Tor every week.
After the obligatory photo I headed back the way I came but with a view to take a more direct route back. I’d seen a trail from The Torrs down to Erwood reservoir on the map although hadn’t spotted it on the way up. I passed a fair few of same people on my descent and in conversation ascertained that the path I needed was quite but not massively obvious (phew, not just me being unobservant). As I got to the trail it turned out it was very obviously a trail………. So down I followed it.
I saw signs to the ruin of Erwood Hall which I’d seen on the map, so popped in to have a look. Although not many photos due to a family having a picnic in the middle of it all, so I went for angles where they weren’t so obvious!
Getting back down to the car park it became clear that this is a very popular place to visit. Cars were “parked” (abandoned) all along the road by the reservoir; whether the car park was full or just not convenient enough for people I didn’t check, but there were plenty of folk about. Rather than sticking to the road I followed a footpath into the woodland on the opposite side of Fernilee from where I’d arrived and had a great run through there, save for being chased by a dog whose owners had absolutely no control over. It got bored and ran back eventually, I presume at least. They may of course still be wandering around the woods looking for it as I type this up several days later……..
It was very warm when I got back to the car and I escaped before it got any busier with people arriving.
That evening I received an email from Marple Runners asking for members to sign up for the ‘Mob Match 5km race’. I knew other clubs were doing this virtual event and heard a few comments on Monday night that Marple were doing it too, but with not being on Facebook any more I’d missed the initial information and thus assumed I’d missed the event sign-up. Great to get involved but a little frustrating that I only got into it just as the weather was moving into ‘ultimate summer’ mode. I’m not 5km race fit anyway and running in the heat generally ends in disappointment. That said, I should be able to get an OK time even if it’s not stellar. Just a matter of when I could do it!
Wednesday morning was very warm and the day was only going to get hotter. I was in a quandary over what sport to do today. Having done a hill run yesterday and knowing there was a big hill run coming up in a couple of days, I wanted to rest the legs as much as possible. But now I also had to fit in a 5km virtual race at some point when it wasn’t going to be hot. The forecast was for cooler (and wetter) weather at the weekend, but with the downside that my legs might be trashed from the hills. There was more weather forecast pondering done from a tactical point of view than I’ve ever done.
Anyway with that in mind I went for a bike ride via Wilmslow and Prestbury. Because I’d not done that route in a long time.
By the time I got home the temperature was way up beyond my comfort zone and I ended up sat outside in the shade fiddling around on the tablet playing card and word games. I had wanted to do some music but the house was stifling and I didn’t fancy that.
Yoga was a very warm affair in the evening despite having all windows and doors open. Normally I’d be self-conscious about people looking in through my window as I’m trying to execute a balance pose (despite having limited balancing ability even when both feet are in contact with the ground). This time I really was beyond caring. They don’t have to look in. And it’s them that might need the therapy afterwards!
I’d made a vague decision that I’d give the 5km race a go after yoga. I had wanted to go to one of the Stockport parks where there’s a flat 1km circuit which works well for such things and the idea of going out later on would hopefully mean fewer people wandering about. However it was still 26 degrees Celcius out there which was too warm. In the end, I decided to run on the bypass even later as I thought there would be more light, and fewer obstacles (the footpath is well away from the carriageway). So at 10.30pm I was trying to run a fast 5km virtual race. On a mostly-unlit bypass in 23 degree heat.
I went out hard, survived 2 miles before imploding in the final mile. It wasn’t fast for me and it definitely wasn’t pretty. 20m6s is a long way from my best; I’d hoped to get under 20 minutes but couldn’t manage it in the conditions with my current level of fitness. But it’s a time to be submitted and if manage to do anything better before Sunday evening then that’s an option.
I don’t think it dropped below 20 degrees all night. It was a real scorcher!
Thursday was to be a repeat of Wednesday, except that no 5kms were going to be attempted. With a long mountain run planned for the following day it was all about a gentle bike ride in the morning followed by sitting in the shade all afternoon.
I did the reserve of a bike ride I did a few weeks ago, heading up through Higher Disley up to the Brickworks from behind and then a long descent back home. It dawned on me that this would be the first week in a long time that I’d not done the Airport run (although I did run on a bit of the bypass last night).
On my approach to home I popped into the supermarket at the petrol station to pick up some ice-cream. If ever there was a day for ice-cream this was it. And I wasn’t being denied it!
There was much more forecast watching to be done. The weather was set to break into electrical storms on Friday, which is something to bear in mind when you’re planning on running in the mountains. That being said, it looked like they weren’t going to hit until the afternoon, although we’d probably get significantly rained on whilst we were out. But we have kit to deal with rain.
Given it looked like that was it for the good weather I made sure the car had the opportunity to charge from the solar panels, I baked some bread, and some flapjacks (important supplies for long runs) and mowed the lawn. And then I flopped into a hot heap somewhere shady with a beer!
After a short night’s sleep in the heat the 6am alarm call was not particularly well received. However, with the run setting off at 7.30am from the other side of Hayfield needs must.
We’d discussed the route before as a couple of the group had already recce’d it. Rather than just covering the Kinder Plateau, the plan was to run up from the base of Burnt Hill (we did this last week) and then follow the trails all the way around the back of Kinder before finishing off with the Plateau before dropping back down Burnt Hill. The route was going to be approximately 20 miles and would take all morning at a leisurely run-walk pace. Here’s our route:
The group started off big so once we’d done a photo we split into two based on pace. That way nobody gets left behind which is really important when you’re out off the beaten track especially when most of the group hadn’t been on the ‘other side’ of the mountain before.
It was a wonderful run; the opposite side of Kinder is much greener than the grit stone rocky Plateau side which is pretty barren. There’s also lots and lots of amazing rock formations which have been worn away over many centuries of Peak District weather.
As we were on the Edale side of the mountain we could see the rain, first in the distance and then increasingly closer. No sounds of thunder which was a relief but it was clear the storms were coming. Throughout the traverse of the opposite side of Kinder we saw no other people. But from this point we gradually saw increasing numbers, some lone walkers and some groups.
And then the rain started. And after some umming and ahring about coats, we just went with it. It was really rather refreshing instead of being unpleasant. Although the disadvantage of wearing glasses was reduced visibility until I abandoned them and hoped that I’d be able to see enough without them. I used to always run without them but over the last couple of years my sight has weakened just enough to make it less than comfortable as my depth of vision isn’t quite good enough to tackle very uneven ground confidently.
We bumped into Emma & Nick who were heading in the opposite direction from Woodley to Hathersage (an even bigger adventure than the one we were tackling) as we picked our way along the south of the mountain.
When we eventually reached the trig point on Kinder Low itself we were aware of a drone up above us. We didn’t think too much of it but Steve managed to speak with the drone owner who subsequently sent us some amazing footage of us on our run. Really great to be able to show off some of the places we get to run and the footage does that brilliantly. If you want to watch it (it’s 3 minutes long) here’s the link.
It worth noting that the rain had long since stopped by this point, and as we descended down Burnt Hill we realised that the weather had cleared completely. The sun came out and the temperature soared. We’d missed the storms (or at least they’d been mis-forecast) and had a fantastic morning out on the hills.
The rest of the day consisted of eating food and disinfecting the outside bin which had gone rather nasty following 2 weeks of mostly hot weather!
It’s safe to say that I slept well last night. Amazing what a load of physical exercise and fresh air can do for you!
And whilst I’d not picked up any injuries or anything during yesterday’s run, my ankles were pretty stiff and sore so any ideas of a morning run were out. The rain had come over night but at least for a short while it was dry when I got up, so I jumped onto the bike for a 30 minute spin around Bramhall and Poynton. No agenda other than to get out and do something.
The last mile was wet but again not unpleasant, especially given I was nearly home by then. Once I got indoors, the thunder started, so I think I timed that as late as I dared!
The rest of the day was a blur of heavy rain and gales and certainly didn’t inspire me to do anything really. I ended up listening to a couple of Jean-Michel Jarre albums whilst I was busily doing nothing and really enjoyed them. It’s years since I listened to them (my tastes changed as did the style of his more recent releases). So whilst it probably wasn’t ‘time well spent’ I did enjoy it.
I also started to assemble the weekly blog which takes a bit of time trying to get all the media items located and then placed!
In the evening, we had a ‘music night’ gathering on The Sound Test Room livestream in the evening as one of the members of the community on there (that sounds pretentious but I can’t think of a better word) had just finished his latest album so we got the first listen ahead of release. It’s always really inspiring to see what other musicians are doing and how they create their projects. So much talent out there that exists away from the mainstream music industry.
Despite being a wild weather night, it was actually dry when I got up. Given the forecast was suggesting it was only going downhill from here it was my opportunity to get out for some exercise.
Although I had originally planned a cycle, the strong winds were somewhat off-putting. The legs were still a bit achy from the Kinder run on Friday but I also wanted to see if I could run a faster 5km than my over-heated effort on Wednesday night. After I’d got back from that I’d looked at the rules of the event a little more closely. It turned out that they were allowing runners to use ‘moving time’ as opposed to ‘elapsed time’ for their runs. Which basically meant that if you got stuck at a road junction you could stop your watch and restart it once you were moving again. Under normal race conditions the clock would just continue to tick as a stream of similar looking vehicles headed out to find garden centres to park in. The other rule (which I was previously aware of) was that any route should be either zero of positive elevation gain; i.e. you couldn’t find a 5km steep descent to run down. Not that we have many of those in Stockport.
On Wednesday, in order to satisfy that rule but trying to avoid unnecessary traffic delays I did an out-and-back along the bypass. Today I decided to jog out 5km from home to warm up and then try a flying 5km back home again. It has the advantage that once the effort is done, I’m practically home, rather than having a long walk back.
So this is what happened:
It was a lot quicker than Wednesday, with a moving time of 18:31 which is actually my second fastest 5km time. Although after allowing for stoppages around the road and also getting off the bypass the elapsed time was 19:28. Still a lot faster than my 20:06 on Wednesday but not quite as impressive as the moving time. Weather conditions certainly were in my favour this time around with the wind direction being with me rather than against! I’m nowhere near as fit as I was when I achieved that 5km PB in December 2018 but it was good to see a sub-20 minute 5km for the first time in over a year.
That makes it a full 14 weeks (91 days) of exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. It’s been aided by having mostly decent weather for the vast majority of the time to be able to get out. And there’s also a bit of good fortune in that I didn’t write myself out of it all when I fell off the bike in May (the arm is still repairing and I suspect will leave a permanent scar).
Lockdown (v1) looks to be relaxing considerably from next week, with the 2m minimum distance dropping to 1m (which realistically is ‘normal behaviour’ for the vast majority of the time. Indeed it appears that the guidance for those deemed most ‘vulnerable’ to the coronavirus is also relaxing in the forthcoming weeks.. The remaining businesses suspended due to the lockdown will be opening up again from 4th July so I guess next week’s update will be the last of the ‘lockdown chronicles’. At least until it spikes again in the autumn/winter and we get to do it all again.