Tuesday, 27 June 2017

SW100 by Run WalkCrawl

This would be race 6 in the Runfurther series. I was doing the 100 and Bob the 50. We had recceed various bits and I hoped that not knowing some of the first 30 miles on my route wouldn't matter much if other runners were still around. I wasn't overly stressed about the race and had even worked out a time schedule based on an optimistic 4mph and then my Hardmoors200 pace of around 3.5mph. Surely I could do better than that pace! In the weeks before the race the distance did seem to be increasing slightly and it looked like 105 miles was likely. so 4mph would be 25hrs and a finish at 8pm on Saturday. Even 3.5mph would see me back before midnight and so not really two nights of running. How naive was I?

We arrived early as always and put up flags, banners and display boards. David Chetta helped, Thanks, and we got chatting to Chris from Up and under as well as Joe the RO.

I tried to go for a lie down later in the afternoon but there was too much going on and I wasn't tired enough to sleep.

 The forecast was for some drizzle over night but not heavy rain and not cold.
6 walkers started early in the afternoon
At registration we collected trackers, road books with descriptions and maps plus some larger overview maps.

By the briefing at 5.30pm people were in a state of nervous anticipation. It was not a big entry although double the numbers from the inaugural 2016 race.


 At 7pm we were off. The start is fairly fast on the relatively flat Taff Trail and then up into Castel Coch

 before dropping to more Taff Trail and paths across to the first self clip at Garth Hill. I knew the way to here and so was happy to let a few faster runners get ahead.

 As I climbed onto the common I could see runners up ahead and  soon caught Hugh. We ran together for some distance and this helped with a couple of fiddly bits of nav. Somewhere on this section we met up with Leigh who seemed local and to know the way- bonus. We arrived at Llantrisant CP1 in good spirits despite the damp and had a good scoff of crisps etc. It was still light and our pace was good at under 2 hours for almost 10 miles. In the next forest I took a crunching tumble. I had things in both hands so my knee and shoulder cushioned the fall and both wrists hit the ground palm up? I was winded and a bit shocked but OK. As we left the woods it was soon dark enough for head torches and the three of us stuck together using Leigh's knowledge. We found the self clip on Mynydd Gaer OK but then in the wet, mist and bounce back on our lights we lost the path and were soon in deep bracken heading too steeply down. We climbed and contoured back up, found the path and headed for CP2 in Glynogwr. The rain was now quite heavy and Hugh stopped to put on full waterproofs. He was also feeling miserable and talking of giving up. I got cold waiting but knew I would warm up on the next climb. Jerome, Alwyn and a few others caught us here after our stumbling in the bracken. I had opted for comfort not grip on my feet and after sploshing through calf deep water on the next paths in Ogmore Forest I was getting worried. If I do the race again I will recee the next section because we got it terribly wrong and then had a bit of tussock bashing to get back on track. Perhaps I should have gone more slowly and trusted my own nav, or stuck with Alwyn who ended up ahead of me yet again.
Better weather on my recee
The dark, wet and nav had taken it's toll and I was relieved to arrive in Treorchy and find CP3 in a warm church hall.  Soup, cake, custard and tea restored some positivity and I set off up hill again.At least I knew this section and I knew Alwyn was only a minute or so ahead. I soon caught him and we ran together to Castel Nos where we joined up with Giles and Jon. The rain had lessened now and we made it through the moors and turbines with no further nav issues.

Dropping down the gravel road to Hirwaun we lost Alwyn  for a while but he eventually found the CP.

 The four of us ran fairly closely all the way to the next CP. I was happy to lead this section  but Jon also knew the way. The cycle track should have been easy running but it seemed hard to pick up the pace and almost a relief to reach the undulating paths and woods after Penderyn.
From my recee- it was dark in the race
A rocky path behind the waterfall at Sgwd yr Elra was the highlight of this section and it was not as slippery as I had feared. Giles and Jon pulled ahead a little and Alwyn dropped back but we did all see each other at CP5 Ystradfellte. I had been running for less than 11 hours so despite the time lost in the dark it wasn't too bad. The drizzle had almost stopped and it was light again. Our drop bags were waiting and I tried to eat instant noodles but struggled. I debated changing socks or shoes but by now they were drier than they had been for hours so there seemed little point (possibly a mistake). Giles and Jon were ready before me and I thought it would be the last I saw of them. I power walked up the lanes to Blaen Llia pleased that I knew the way and that the weather was improving with every step. The self clip was on the summit cairn and by then I had rejoined the lads. They couldn't believe I had only walked and yet made such good time. 

We headed over the tops to the self clip south of Fan Fry and then on to the Storey Arms. This was half way but we had already clocked at least 54 miles! I was ahead of my 3.5mph my schedule of 9.20am but only just.

Jon had an amazing support crew and their encouragement helped lots. The CP staff were great and after a hot drink and food we were off up onto the Brecon Beacons - Corn Du, Pen y Fan and then the clip on Cribyn.
what we should have seen
Sadly although the rain had stopped there was still enough low cloud this early in the morning to obscure the views. We carried on round the rim to Fan y Big and then the new path over the previously boggy section to Carn Pica. My GPS died here  after 61 miles and pace of 3.6 mph- including the wet night, two nav blunders, a fall and time in CPs eating.It was warm and sunny as we dropped to Talybont reservoir dam and CP7. As I stood eating baby bel cheese and strawberries the first runner on the 50 mile route came past (less than 2 hours over the tops and he was flying). Tor y Foel loomed huge and seemed to take for ever to climb. Some fiddly nav took us down to the river and up the other side. We were all taking it in turns to struggle but still smiling. Again Jon's support crew came out to meet us and pointed the way to the Trefil CP.
Martin at his last CP
Martin Terry on the 50 had passed me coming off Tor y Foel and now Daryl and Debbie appeared too. The next CP was heaven- dry socks, hot dogs and bakewell tarts. Yum. Some energy restored.It was warm crossing to Rhymney Hill  and our pace was slowing a little.
Down and then up the other side
The path down to New Tredegar was chest high in bracken but nothing compared to the overgrown path up the other side.I was now feeling the strongest of our group and I think knowing the way does make a big difference. I arrived at Bargoed Common with a big smile on my face and claimed the last piece of pizza.
Jon and supporter Shaun at Bargoed
My new GPS watch that should have lasted for 30 hours had now died but I knew we were losing time. We also seemed to be doing more than the official miles. I had been beating myself up in my head about the lack of pace. On the day I blamed the dark and wet of the first night but in fact it was on the second evening and night that we lost marginally more I think. Being in a group was taking time at CPs and Jon was needing increasing amounts of time to deal with his feet. Mine were sore but I didn't dare look. I had not receed the next section and Giles' GPS was superb. The huge climb after Penalta Country Park took ages and sadly the track at the top had a huge new layer of very rough hard core which made it very difficult to run. On and on it went until we reached the edge of Llanbradach forest. Bob had receed this bit and told me to be careful. I am still not entirely sure what we did wrong but having failed to find the correct path the majority vote was for a direct assault on the slope through bracken and brambles. It cost us an hour and was dispiriting. More food and chocolate milk at the CP helped and Jon pampered his feet some more.
Jon and Darren - his support crew
Our nav troubles weren't over until we found our way across the metal bridge and reached the lane. It was now dark again and we had done somewhere over 84 miles. Jon was starting to suffer and his feet were sore. After a loop northwards we started the drop to Ty Canol. My tracker did something odd and so Darren and Shaun came out to find us. Jon told Giles and I to go without him which in the end we reluctantly did.  Only 20 odd miles to go; how hard can it be.
Bob on our recee of the cycle track

The cycle track seemed mercifully short  in the dark and we were soon through Waterloo and climbing onto Rudry Common and the self clip. It took a bit of time but we found the path into the woods and were soon climbing up over the Warren. I was describing the next sections to Giles as we went and he was checking the magic arrow on his GPS. Suddenly there were fairly lights and voices up ahead. Caerphilly Mountain.
Nick Ham on SW50

 We almost caught Gary here but he saw us, shot off and then used his excellent local knowledge to run without his head torch and keep ahead. We were now struggling but knew there was just one self clip on Craig y Alt. We reached the Taff Trail and I speed power walked while Giles jogged to keep up. Our feet were bashed and my knee was sore and stiff from the fall miles ago. The climb to Castel Coch felt like and Escher painting with a never ending upwards track but then we were running through the village, onto the river path and back onto the last section of Taff Trail. It was after 3.20am and there are no results out yet. We had ceased to care about the time and how we had failed to meet our hoped for deadlines of pre-midnight or even 2am. We couldn't believe that we were 5th equal. I ran almost 110 miles so perhaps a pace of 3.4mph. I still don't really understand what made it so much harder than the H200 but it was. Perhaps starting into a night and so not getting good running early on when the mind and body were both willing made a difference. Plus dense vegetation and fewer runnable tracks until I was too tired to run much anyway. We sat upstairs in the rugby club too tired to move. Chris brought us soup and then eventually we wandered off to bed. I couldn't sleep as my knee was so sore and swollen. Bob arrived back around breakfast time and seemed in a better state than me.
Winner on SW100 at last CP
A very slow morning of eating, drinking and chatting led to the prize-giving and then it was time to take down all the banners and head home.


 It is a tough race and should continue to grow and gain a reputation as hard. Big thanks to a great race organiser and team, cheerful and efficient CP staff, to all those I ran with but especially Jon and Giles and lastly to their support crew of Darren and Shaun. Will I go back? yes probably but I will want to recee the few bits that I did not know and hope to improve on my time.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Dales Way in a Day

This has been on my bucket list for a while now and several things came together for me to decide now was the time. I thought (ha ha) that I had recovered from the H200, I was frustrated that we had not gone to Scotland as planned, the weather was fantastic and I was at home doing chores, I couldn't get a last minute places in the LDWA 100 and then the dot watching started eg the Dragons |Back....... time to go and run. I like to do something special on or near my birthday and this would allow me to do that and see the boys and their girl friends at the weekend. The forecast was good and Thursday was not forecast to be quite as hot as Friday (but what did they know).

We drove up to Bowness on Wednesday evening and watched the sun set over the lake. It was warm in the van overnight but I slept OK and woke just before my 4.30am alarm. There was low cloud and thick mist over the lake so at least it would be a cool start.

Plenty of time to prepare and have breakfast before we dropped down the hill into town and I jumped out at the foot of Brantfell Road. I had not been able to find definitive information about the length of the route or indeed the exact start and finish - just that it was Bowness and Ilkley.
Probably just their advert? for me it was the start
I seemed to be doing in reverse but as a linear route I don't suppose it much matters which way you go. I tried to establish the mileage but the web told be anything between 78 and 81 miles and I couldn't be patient enough to do a detailed plot on OS maps that would get me any closer to an answer.
Oops- a bit fuzzy and hasty here
The sign said 81 miles so I will go with that, especially as I started down the hill and then had a couple of short side diversions to the van.

OS route shows that in my direction there was 2314m of climb and a high point of 522m which I guess was at the top of Cam Road.
The best time to see Bowness 5am
I had done no recee but was hoping the signage would be good and I knew the section from Oughtershaw to Bolton Abbey and most of Dentdale anyway. By 5.15am I was away and stomping up Brantfell Road and onto the fellside. It was strange and silent, even the sheep were not properly awake. A mixture of fields, low fell, paths and tracks with just the odd bit of lane led me eastwards towards Staverley.
The sun breaking through as I approach Staverley
So far it was well signed and I only needed the map twice to confirm that the FP was actually also the DW. Running through the low cloud had be drenched from top to bottom. My hair was soaked as the cloud condensed out on my hair and my legs from thighs down were drenched from wet meadow grass. It did though allow me to crack a good pace and get a load of miles under my belt early on.

After Staverley it was a beautiful riverside path and still only pleasantly warm. The signs were still good and I was still making great time and way up on schedule. I was also eating and drinking plenty. From Burneside onwards towards the M6 I have to say the signage was less good and I was very pleased I had a 1:25000 map with me. One path was quite overgrown and several times I was not 100% sure. I passed a lady having breakfast in her garden and we agreed that it was already very warm. She also commented that not many people passed this way so perhaps this section of the Dales Way is less well used as well as less well signed.

The mist had now gone and I got views back to the lakes (when I remembered to turn round) and on into the Howgills. The M6 came and went and suddenly there seemed to be a myriad of paths. The Dales Way was not exactly clear and O  only had a 1:50000 map of this bit. I sort of wondered whether I might see Bob on this section as he was moving the van to Millthrop near Sedburgh and hoping to go for a run. I pushed on heading south and by the river when there was any doubt. I never did meet him. I fact until I reached Sedburgh I did not meet a single walker or runner.

 From The Lune river bridge west of Sedburgh the signs became good again and the running was nice easy grassy paths plus I met a few runners and dog walkers to say hello to.

 Views into the Howgills and memories of the OMM and other runs there distracted me and I soon emerged onto the road and found the van. Still no Bob so I refilled both water flasks, replenished my food, ate and drank lots and set off again. A phone call confirmed we had missed each other and he sounded miffed. Later when he retraced his steps and found the signage north to south was nothing like as good he understood how it might have happened.

I had never been through Millthrop before as the road to Dent by-passes it. It's pretty and quiet yet so close to Sedburgh.

A short climb led me over the spur that would then drop me into Dentdale. The track down was shady but I soon emerged onto a very quiet lane and it just got hotter and hotter.
Blue bells on the hillside and meadow flowers by the river
The tarmac didn't help but even when I arrived at the field paths by the river I knew I was getting far too hot.

The views were lovely and magnificent displays of bluebells and meadow flowers helped but I was wilting. Near Dent I sat on a stile and forced myself to eat and drink. Probably about 30 miles done so be pleased with what you have achieved and keep trying to refuel.

 I probably should have diverted into the village for an ice cream treat but didn't think of it at the time. I guess I was keen to push on. The valley just seemed to get hotter and more and more airless. Long before Stonehouse I was running short on water and begged some from a farm house.

I then dropped to the river and splashed water everywhere. I lay down would have been sensible but I wanted to keep my feet dry.
The river down to a trickle
In fact had I removed my socks and shoes I would have seem the harm done my the early wet meadows and realised how urgently I needed to change my socks. Ah well, easy in hindsight. Stonehouse to Newby Head is a lane.

It was hot and uphill. It had been uphill since crossing the spur from Millthrop. At several points here I decided I had had enough. Then I thought how much I had wanted to do the route, how Bob had happily driven to Bowness and would be moving the van all day so there it was, you asked to do this so enjoy it.
Redshaw and my Fellsman CP
Leaving the tarmac after the viaduct gave me a lift and although there was still more uphill at first I did then get both a little breeze, some boggy ground and the drop to Gearstones. It revived me a little. I arrived to a text that said Bob was on his way. Damn I had beaten him by about 10 minutes. I begged more water and sat in the shade to wait.

 I did try to eat once he arrived but only chocolate milk would go down. I collected more water and gels and decided to push on. Bob was baked from his run and now insisted he wasn't bothered about another run himself so he would meet me at some extra points.

I think he realised better than I did how hot I was getting and how much I would need the water. The big white track of Cam Road stretched ahead with several false summits.

I tried to take my mind off  the climb with the views to Ingleborough, Ribbleshead viaduct and the surroundings.

 Since leaving Stonehouse I had not seen any walkers and I almost missed the two sitting under the bridge in the shade. Up and up I plodded to the high point of the route.

 It was a joy to leave the track and drop off the hard surface and see Oughtershaw Beck and the valleys I love.

Sound ground led me to Nethergill and then easy track to Oughtershaw itself. I met a few more people now but it certainly wasn't crowded. I did get some amusement from some sheep that had figured out they could cross the cattle grid by some neat side stepping as it was partly silted up and then I worried as they charged ahead of me and out onto the road coming down from Fleet Moss. I herded them into a driveway in the village and hoped for the best.

Again I was very relieved to leave the tarmac and be next to the river again in Langstrothdale. I knew the van would be at Deepdale but I did stop and splash water about before this. I really envied the tourists sat paddling their feet and legs and the dogs that were swimming.

At the van I felt like a cartoon character with water spouting out of me in all directions. I don't normally sweat all that much and I was drenched.

I should have stopped here and bathed in the river. It would have cooled me and allowed me to see the state of my feet. As it was I just sat, drank and sweated. It was close to 30C and in the van it reached 34C even with the fan on full blast sucking fresh air in.

Having the van was great but I also knew that the temptation was to sit for another 15 minutes or so and gradually get slower.

I couldn't eat so I made myself leave. At least there were now beautiful grassy paths and my favourite Langstrothdale and Wensleydale. I knew I was close to 50 miles now and told myself it would soon start to cool as the afternoon became evening; well we can all hope.

Having a few walkers about made it easier to keep jogging (I wasn't really running now) and I steadily picked them off and reeled them in.

 The path to Yockenthwaite and Hubberholme with it's dumpy little church is a favourite and before long I could see Buckden too.

 I did think of diverting here and going for an ice cream but knew Bob would be waiting in Kettlewell.

After Buckden the path crosses the river and there was more shade. It shows how hot it was as this is not something I would usually search out.I passed some very pink walkers and a couple asked me where I was heading. they looked a bit shocked when I said Ilkley. Then they asked where I had started. Bowness. So then they asked where I had started today. Yes, Bowness. They clearly thought I was mad and they are probably right.

This and being grateful not to be climbing the tops as on the Fellsman route motivated me all the way to Kettlewell. Here the path plays a nasty trick.
What do you mean, I've got to go to the bridge.

 You can see the car park but have to carry on to the road bridge and then double back.

In that time the cafe and garage both closed (promptly at 5pm) and so there was no ice cream here either. Instead I slumped in the shade. Too tired to bother struggling to the van. Bob refilled my water but I couldn't contemplate food. I was probably grumpy but he didn't complain. Up ahead was the climb above Scargill House.
Conistone Pie (honest)
Once I got going the short lane and then the climb didn't take as long as I expected and there were some bonuses- a breeze of sorts and the first almost all day, more walkers to keep me going and huge amounts of bird life, including some very angry birds wanting me away from their young. I was motivated knowing that from Grassington there was at most 20 miles left. Before long the walkers heading back to Kettlewell had all passed me and I was left alone with the snipe, curlew and buzzards, plus some very inquisitive sheep who thought I would let then through a gate.

 It was a struggle but Grassington was downhill and so I ran, sort of.

I ignored the sunbathers and the splashing water of the weir and trotted on to Linton and the van.

 It should have been cooler by now at gone 7pm but I was still roasting even in a chair outside the van and in the shade. I also had stomach cramps, although a 5 minute lie down did ease these a little. I was certainly a bit frayed round the edges now. I decided to take my torches, although if Bob managed to park on the A59 after Bolton Abbey there should be no need. I also left my camera which was a shame in retrospect. For some reason I also picked up an extra top just in case it got cooler? I had the next bit broken into real bite size chunks and that plus the scenery really helped. I met a huge duck family herding their young across the path, a family of baby grouse very confused about where to go, hundreds of rabbits and then near Burnsall a runner. At first he asked me to run with him and I laughed. Then he slowed and asked where I  was heading etc. He generously gave up his fast run and ran with me most of the way to Bolton Abbey. He assured me he would get his speedy run on the return leg. It was good to have company as we passed the gorge before Burnsall, the village pubs full of drinkers and eaters and then on past a deserted Barden Tower. The ice cream van at the bridge had gone hours ago. This section s a bit blurred- no camera, a faster pace than my body really wanted to go and a bit of chat. It pulled me another 10 miles closer to my goal and clawed back some time on my schedule so I am grateful. We parted company before the Abbey but I was surprised how many people were still about even in the dying light. I decided I couldn't cope with the stepping stones and used the bridge and then suddenly I felt trashed. A nearby seat was just too tempting. I stopped, ate some food and a gel, was sick and inspected my feet. Oh dear. the ball of my right foot has shed about 4 layers of skin. I thought it was all healed after H200 but it clearly never re-attached itself. Wet feet early on, ground in dust and dirt plus the heat of the day had done more harm. Thank goodness Bob was not far away in the van. I found him easily and surprised him as being with my running partner had upped the pace. Although there were probably only 6 or 7 miles left I changed my socks - a bit late I know. The next section was back into the unknown and as I left the van I decided I needed my torch. I also discovered that parts of this next bit were not quite so easy to nav or quite so well signed.It was cooler though and the end was in sight. I had to slow on one section of path as it was covered in frogs and I met several deer thinking it was now safe for them in the dark. A kind man directed me off his driveway and onto the path and after one lap of the church yard I put that error right myself. The section after Addingham seemed to take forever although I enjoyed the dark woods and meadow paths where I kept myself amused as sheep got startled. I kept a look out for the ancient bridge but trying to figure out what ILTSC was tested my brain more. (Ilkley lawn tennis and squash club).Then suddenly the park appeared and I knew it was 500m max. True there were steps up to the bridge but I had made it. 11pm so about 18 hrs 45.

I was trashed. I drank a bottle of iced water, gave myself a strip wash and fell into bed. I do love our van (and I love the driver even  more). We drove home early the next morning and I refuelled on eggs and bacon. I felt all was well. As they day drew on I felt more and more ill. I still don't know if it was heat exhaustion or food poisoning but I was ill. I spent almost 48 hours with a banging head, unable to eat much, throwing up what I did eat or drink and feeling totally incapable of moving or rational thought. I am not good at being ill. Still I did it and did not give up either in the heat of Dent, at Deepdale by the river or at Bolton Abbey when I was trashed, sick and my foot hurt. Thank you Bob for letting me have my Happy Birthday to me. Over two days later and I am sat quietly in the shade eating as much as I can in a desperate attempt to regain 1/2 a stone and be recovered for the LAMM next weekend. I have even googled the Dales High way......