Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Ronnie's Owd Cock

On holiday last week with family in Sheffield.  Mother-in-law appeasement took up quite a bit of time, so I only managed four runs but these included a hill session and all of the Round Rotherham race route, so all in all, a reasonable week’s training.

Tuesday was a hill session at the Sheffield ski slope.  20 years ago, this was a regular lunchtime session.  The centre’s expanded quite a bit since then and the bing on which it sits is now extensively wooded, so I couldn’t go my old route but the hill is just as high, so I could still get a useful session in – four reps of about 5 minutes up and down (off-piste of course – these skiers are a stroppy bunch), with about 2 ½ minutes jog interval, with a half hour jog there and back from Hunters Bar.

Thursday saw me on the train to Shireoaks, to jog a mile back along the Chesterfield Canal and pick up the RR route at about mile 28 at Turnerwood and I was on the course by .  The 50 mile Round Rotherham is definitely a race you need to do before you die.  When I did it in December 2008, relentless rain had reduced the course to a Flanders-esque trench-warfare quagmire, with the day being all about mere survival.  Thankfully, today was a total contrast; sunshine, firm footing even over plough and a sheer pleasure just to be out and about.  The course itself is one of stark contrasts, from leafy well-heeled rural hamlets such as Turnerwood (where cyclists are required to dismount as they pass the cottages, FFS!) and the hauntng gothic ruins of Roche Abbey, to post-apocalyptic Tinsley - all interspersed with some road sections and a multitude of paths along canal, river, woods, industrial estates and mugging alleys, radical changes in direction through hidden gaps in hedges, and mile upon mile of  proper cross-country over thick plough and stile in rolling countryside. But hey, without contrasts life would be dull indeed, so this course gets my vote as one of the best there is.

I wish I could take a leaf out of Yak Hunter’s book and take  an album of decent pics detailing every nook and cranny en-route  But what with a photo every couple of minutes, and all those stops for cake and coffee at the slightest opportunity which that repertoire seems to require, how would it be possible to actually fit a run in?  No, I’m afraid you’ll just have to put up with my usual few crappy snaps, snatched whenever I’m too knackered to muster more than a plod.

The RR is a very complex route and one which is impossible to commit to memory after one visit, at least for my enfeebled brain.  A useful feature I noticed this time was the small black and white Round Rotherham route markers which are reassuring to see in moments of doubt, but don’t expect them to spoon-feed you all the way round. I used the strip map from Henry Marston’s excellent site.  It’s generally very good and really all you need to get round, but it’s not perfect and you really have to read and adsorb every word, if you don’t want to end up in Nottingham.  There have been a few subtle changes to the route since I ran it but nothing too drastic.  One welcome change is the A57 crossing, which  now goes via an underpass.  The previous crossing was over the road - picture the WHW A82 crossing but with double the traffic at 90mph. And with the clock ticking away and frustrated runners queuing up like possessed wildebeast contemplating the croc-infested Zambezi – it wasn’t a happy recipe.

Roche Abbey - proof that Christianity did reach South Yorkshire
A zag instead of a zig got me lost for a bit in fields beyond Firbeck but on a training run, that’s no big deal and a bit of common sense and oh-so-clever “sun navigation” had me in the right direction and back on course within half a mile.  My pace wasn’t quick – in fact, I was adopting my 20 minutes run / 5 minutes walk and feed routine that I use for most of my 20+ mile runs – but the time seemed to fly by and I was soon passing through the 12th Century Roche Abbey, where Robin Hood was said to have taken Mass (yes, I too thought that was bollocks – Perhaps this was where Friar Tuck gained Mass too?).  Once Cromwell had ordered the Abbey's destruction, locals gleefully sacked the place, stripping lead, timber and anything of value in a matter of days - a proud tradition carefully handed down to today's generation of Maltby residents.  Needless to day, I didn't labour this point as I passed through the town.   After Maltby, I was onto a mixture of country road, paths and fields passing through Micklebring and Hooton Roberts.  Old Denaby, mile 47 in the race and 19 miles into my run, saw a return to the industrial zone.  I was soon into Swinton which has, as I observed, the highest dangerous dog per capita ratio on the planet.  Indeed, it would appear that if you’re an adult male here and not strutting John Wayne-style down the High Street with a Rott or Staffie straining at the leash, then you are required to just shuffle along, head lowered in shame.  And that included me of course, tresspassing as I was on their canal and river path stomping grounds, where I had to adopt the submissive “I’m not worthy of a bite from your noble beast” stance, whereby their tattoo-festooned owners would reluctantly yank the snarling mutt aside at the last moment.  It was a bit ridiculous.  They all need neutering to reduce aggression.  That’s the owners – as for the dogs, a muzzle would probably do.


Keppel's Column - unfinished due to lack of funds - TFFT
 From here, it was just a stone’s throw to Wath College, where it did seem odd to be passing the race finish when I still had 12 miles to do on my own run  - but my strong sweet tea / apple juice mix kept me topped-up nicely, and it was only the climb up to Keppel’s Column, at about 31 miles, that I started to get weary.  Keppel was an Naval Admiral who was court-marshalled in 1777 for getting humped by the French.  Astonishingly, he was aquitted (don’t know how he wangled that one – I mean, a humping’s a humping, n’est ce pas?) and in celebration, his mate, big-cheese something-or-other owner of Wentworth Estate decided to build the monstrous carbunkle in his honour but it had to be truncated, sans statue, because he ran out of money.  Whatever the reasons for lack of funds, I strongly suspect that improving the welfare of his estate tenants wasn’t one of them.  A couple of miles more and I had completed 34 miles of the RR route, where I veered west to jog the mile to Meadowhall and catch the tram back into Sheffield.

Satrurday morning saw me heading back out to Meadowhall to pick up the RR route where I left off, and complete the last 16 miles to Turnerwood.  And the day was a cracker – even Tinsley seemed only mildly depressing in the morning sun.  No walking breaks today but my legs were a bit heavy from the week’s exertions, so again an overall steady pace was in order.  The River Don here was once the most polluted in Europe.  Indeed, when industry here was in full swing, Fig trees proliferated along its banks.  Germinating from seeds within sewage effluent, heat from steel mills and factories along the river banks created the perfect micro-climate for the trees to thrive.  Some are still there but have been in decline since the '70s.  On the up-side though, creatures such as fish have now returned in abundance, and a "Don trout" is no longer slang for a floating jobbie.

Posh part of the 'Nolly at Turnerwood
Ten miles into my run, just after Rother Valley Country Park, I passed the derelict part of the Chesterfield Canal, one on the first in the UK.  So in the same year that Keppel's mate was fannying about with his Folly, some engineering of actual use was being done, to link industrial Chesterfield (perhaps as far inland as you can get in the UK) to the North Sea, via the Trent.  Sandstone from nearby North Anston quarry was transported via this canal to rebuild the Houses of Parliament, after they were burned down in 1834.

Passing under the M1 for the final time near Woodhall, a pleasant jaunt over rolling countryside soon had me re-joining the canal at Turnerwood, to complete the Round Rotherham route and a satisfying week's training. 





Ronnie's Owd Cock - Somehow better from a glass
My endeavours this week had earned me a thirst-quenching 14 training pints.  And being on holiday of course, social pints were in order too, so it's fair to say a few ales were supped.  Those of the Barnsley Beer Company were particularly good and I would have to recommend Ronnie's Owd Cock - a superb IPA - as the pick of the bunch.  Despite its excellence though, I just can't see it flying off the shelves at Morrisons.


 

1 comment:

Yak Hunter said...

Good to see you back blogging again. Like the Round Rotherham commentary and the geodesic dome. Only 2 years or so ago I wouldn't have thought of stopping for cake in the middle of a run but its become a bit of a habit...