Monday, 10 April 2017

The Lakes 42

Not  even mid April and this would be the third event in the Runfurther ultra series. I love Nav 4 events - low key, tough, great support and wonderful food afterwards. To top it all off the forecast was superb. Well before registration we were parked up with flags, banners and display boards erected and lazing with a cup of coffee in the sunshine.

Being asked to supervise the car park gave me an opportunity to chat to everyone as they arrived and also to sign up a few more for Runfurther.
Dick and Bob checking route choices
We ignored the temptation of two lovely village pubs and after a meal in the van and socialising in the hall we turned in for an early night.
Nick looking like he is expecting snow not sun
Our alarms went at 5am and as I struggled out of bed I spared a thought for friends driving up on the day and the even earlier start they would have. The dark was chilly but I knew it would be hot later and I opted for shorts. I wasn't alone. To keep it quiet and allow the village to sleep we were herded in the hall until the last minute and then a hushed group assembled outside the Queen's Head before being told to 'Go'. Those arriving on the day had parked down by the river so I only had a hazy idea of who was running.

Nick, Dick, Charlotte, Aleks and the Mercia crew were there on Friday night but I met Linda, Elise, Sarah and then Albert, Josie and Mick on the start line.
I started very conservatively and as usual struggled on the first, gentle, uphill. Josie seemed to shoot off ahead and I made a determined effort to keep Linda in my sights. Before many minutes we were off the tarmac and out onto the common. A group of horses guarded the gate but they were friendly and only one runner seemed reluctant to pass through.

A toilet stop on the common let Linda and others get further ahead but I consoled myself that it would be a long day and with no prizes for being first up Loadpot Hill. I surprised myself and before the first CP I had caught many of those who had overtaken me. Albert stopped for a loo break too and this allowed me to catch Josie. They were having a 'steady' day showing Mike the route. Bizarrely I was now first lady. Hmm, not at all what I expected.

As we climbed steadily the mist over Ullswater was replaced by the sunrise over the Pennines and then fantastic views along Kidsty Pike and across the rest of the Lake District.

 Helvellyn was a hard pull up but we were being encouraged by the front runners passing on their way down to The Knott.

Vandals had stolen the self clip on High Street so after a very quick search we shot off on the next section.
Back the way we have come
Turning and then arriving at The Knott and the lumpy ground en route to Angle Tarn brought even more amazing scenery into view.

I didn't care about minutes wasted I just had to stop for photos.

 I enjoyed this section and got some good lines on softer ground. On the smaller isthmus there was a tent and I suspect they were still in bed. Out needle punch was on the big boulder on the first isthmus.

 The path from here to Boredale Hause was wonderful and Travs from the FRA forum introduced himself. I lost a little bit of time on the descent to Side Farm but not too much - thank god for dry rocks. Real food at the George Starkey hut perked me up and I grabbed what I wanted and set of jogging and eating. Being speedy through CPs and feed stations can save huge amounts of time over a day.

I caught two runners as we joined Grisedale Lane and then concentrated on sticking with them and even picking off those ahead. The views into Helvellyn continued to amaze us and made the climbing seem easier. It was warm now and very sunny but not too hot. Once above Grisedale Tarn the half dozen or so of us fanned out in all directions. Some stuck with the Raise Beck path but I am not a fan of those rocky steps. I had hoped to pick the easy way diagonally over Willy Wife Moor but got pulled a little too high and had to track back and then down the forest edge. It was still preferable for my feet to be on the soft ground. Tom and his van were a welcome sight at the Wythburn church car park. I stopped to drink and fill my water bottle and again grabbed cheese and savoury snacks to eat as I climbed. I decided to ignore the OCT line and stick with the tourist path.

 It was the right decision and armed with food and the camaraderie of a young guy from the NE I seemed to power up the tourist path. Then I spotted David up ahead. I had run with him for some of the Fellsman and was pleased to catch him as I had not seen him since Loadpot Hill.
Spot the line of runners
I used him to 'tow' me up to the trig point on Helvellyn and then along the ridge , down and up to Whiteside.
David climbing up from Wythburn. Photo John Bamber
It was busy on the tops and yet more and more stunning views kept appearing. The path down starts well and then as it swoops in zig zags there are some wonderful grassy short cuts. Out of water and thirsty I was pleased to find a stream and fill my bottle.

 The main valley path was stony and my feet started to suffer. I tried to stick to the verges but then they ran out.

All the others stuck to the lane but I turned right into the fields and across to the campsite to give my feet a rest.

 We all arrived at the road together so there wasn't much in it. The CP at GS Hut was our last chance to refuel so I stopped for melon, oranges and then grabbed more cheese and savouries for the climb. I had not set plan for Place Fell but now knew I would stick to the path most of the way to Boredale Hause - it's further but easier. I don't think I could have climbed, breathed and eaten on the direct ascent!

Part way up Place Fell I found a dejected Andy Ford - a bad stomach meaning no energy had floored him. I tried to encourage him and he did stand up to try again. The Trig point is quite a pinnacle and I had to almost fight my way through tourists to the needle punch but I had beaten those on the direct route. I had now stopped taking photos and was clearly in race mode because I took clever lines from here to Martindale church and overtook another two runners. My foot wasn't happy with the steep drop to Howtown but I pushed on, found water and concentrated on picking off the miles. I had a list of CPs and miles which when I checked suddenly showed me there were under 6 miles left and I was way up on time compared to the only other time I had done this race. This boosted my spirits even more and off I trotted doing mental maths and working out how good the PB could be. Arriving back on the common I could see a runner some distance ahead. They too were running most of it but slowing to a walk every now and again. By the cockpit I knew I was gaining so I pushed harder. From the fell gate it must be less than a mile. The verge was great, the rocky lane hell and then the tarmac meant the end was close. I didn't quite catch Matt Neale but spotting him had pulled me along.

I was so chuffed to finish. Shattered but a PB by almost 75 minutes. Time for lots of carrot and corriander soup, real bread, countless cups of tea and cake. I couldn't get the shower to work but Jill gave my a bucket of boiling water and the use of the disabled toilet room. Clean and changed I settled to more food and then moved to the sunshine outside the pub with a well deserved pint of Wainwright. I spent a very lazy evening chatting and waiting for Bob. I did think about walking to meet him but my legs were tired and I had no real idea of when to expect him. He arrived, with Charlotte after about 15 hours, and happy that the Grand Slam is still on.

 Dick arrived much later having gone awol and then struggling with a nasty path and navigation issues.

But he did get a right royal welcome and a beer.

What a great event, organising team, wonderful Off The Grid catering and such superb blue sky weather. One to remember.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Calderdale Hike

This race might be unique? Every three years the route changes. This adds some navigational challenge and for those of us living close enough it also gives some wonderful opportunities for scouring maps, searching out best routes and then putting them to the test. providing you arrive at each CP and stick to legal rights of way then the route is your choice. This has provided hours of fun.
In some ways the event is like a LDWA event with walkers, long cut offs and masses of food (especially at the end).
An easy place for flags, banners etc
We arrived the evening before as usual to be ready very earl;y to put up flags, banners etc for the first walkers registering at 6am. The long runners were not due off until 9am so this gave me lots of time for breakfast, chats and general faffing. The forecast was mixed with the possibility of some heavy showers. I had woken with an upset stomach but felt fine now.
Decisions! Photo Nick Ham
I knew where I was going; I thought. Then after a chat with Kevin I found there was an alternative route between CP1 and CP2. I now know there was an alternative between the last two CPs too. April is going to be busy but I wasn't worried and was happy to race.
Glad we go up these        Photo Nick Ham
It started well and the 'new' section from Kevin was good and runnable but as it was further and had a bit of climb I made myself run hard to get the benefit. Before CP 3 at Ryeburn Reservoir I knew it was too fast for me and I would not sustain 6mph. I did not run hard on Blackwood Edge and should have been able to go faster here. I promised myself that once I cut down to the goyt I would try harder. I opted for the main road and M62 junction next and although this isn't very pleasant it did gain me several places. Turning back north from Windy Hill the promised rain arrived. I tried to pretend it wasn't much but by the time I had crossed the M62 footbridge it was quite heavy. Time to stop and put a cag on. I cut up to the south end of Blackstone Edge and then dropped down to the 'drain'. This saves some climb and is a nice flat running path unlike the rocks, mud and jumble along the top. Again I gained time and places on the way to the CP at The White House. Trail shoes were good on the lanes and rough tracks but they made me a bit cautious on the mud. The next bit is confusing if you have not run it before and one fence makes it look impossible. I met Carol and friend at the mill and showed them the way by the side of the fence and down to Sladen Fold. I had already decided that this year I would not visit the wind turbines (although the new road is now quite good) and instead I was sticking to the canal and heading north. I wasn't running fast but three guys on the road running parallel to me spurred me on. As I turned up Ramsden Wood Road I lost sight of them until I emerged from the short steep woods and could see them heading up the valley. My route was now all on track and lane. I would have liked to have run  it faster but I plodded on and reached the CP before the team of three. Then heading up to Trough Edge End I spotted Bob up ahead almost on the skyline. This gave me another reason to push harder. I caught him before the Limers Gate track and we had a brief chat. My right glute, hip and quad were now suffering from the pace but at least this section was easy running. The team of three and I arrived at the Slate Pit Hill CP together. I grabbed food and walked on. They got ahead in the muddy mountain bike area but we climbed from Cornholme to Mount Cross together.
Lancashire Dinisaur  Photo Nick Ham
The rain had now cleared for good so cags were stowed. They then powered off and I hit a low point. Oh dear, only 25 miles in and I was struggling.
Does this bit ever dry out? Photo Nick Ham
I watched them pull ahead and pottered on to Cross Stones and the golf course. I was now alone and found it hard to make myself run harder. I was eating plenty I thought but just couldn't do better. It was a slow flog up to the church at Lumbutts where I filled my water bottle and had a sandwich. At Mankinholes I realised that my right foot was becoming and issue. Sitting in the middle of a muddy path and taking off my dry sock got some funny looks from passing walkers. Fortunately nobody was around when massaging my foot in the belief it would help brought on massive cramps in my toes and arch! Along London Road (a big track) I was able to pick off walkers from the shorter route and this gave me mini targets to aim for. Plus my foot recovered now it had a bit more room in the shoe. After Errington Grange only about 5 miles remains but there is a big valley in the way. I set off for Hoo Hole and the road to Cragg Vale.
The winners strava not mine- same til the end, just slower

This is where, I later found out, the leading men dropped to better running. I was totally alone as I climbed steeply to Nab End quarries and the last CP. I forced a gel down, ignored the fact that two years ago I had finished by now and made a determined effort to run (albeit slowly) all the way to the finish. With just a minor altercation with a bus on a narrow lane I was back in Sowerby and soon passing the church and heading up the path to the cricket club door.
Thanks to our sponsors
7hrs 14 was a PW for this route and for all 9 runs I had done here but I was surprisingly still second lady. Nicky was an hour or so ahead of me. Chris  had been back long enough to get clean, change and put a Runfurther postcard on every car in the car park. Kevin had won in 5hrs 10 with Ian not far behind in second.
Nick and Nigel chatting in the late afternoon sun

No results up yet but Nick, Bob and Dick all finished OK.
I might add more photos from Nick later
Next year of course it will all change again; in fact rumour has it that there are special plans for next year as it is the 40th anniversary.
Photo Nick Ham

I hope to be back as I love the event, orgainsers/ volunteers and the challenge of a new route.

Monday, 27 March 2017

A weekend in the Yorkshire sunshine

The forecast was good and I was itching to be away and out on the hills. We had promised to take Chris to Leeds on Friday so that delayed our start a little. Late Friday afternoon saw us parked up at Bland Hill and ready to run. We even took a head torch just in case. Instead of just opting for some of the Blubberhouses route I went exploring.

First along the east side of the reservoirs which was new to me and very much in the sunshine. After crossing the A59 I continued up the Washburn valley. It was muddy at first but I was glad I persevered.

 At the top I crossed the dam and went exploring again along the east shore of the top Reservoir.  Bob explored the west shore I later discovered. I wasn't sure about a path on that side and was now well off my map so I continued across some moorland, fields and then found a footpath to cut back to the dam. Back down the Washburn, over the A59 and back on the other side of Fewston. It was getting chilly in the shade as I crossed the final dam and made my way up the field paths to the village hall.

A very pleasant 25km even if rather than flatter than usual.

 Lovely sunset from the van too - I love staying out.

Saturday we were meeting family in Ilkley so we made the most of the early sunshine with a run across Burley and Ilkley Moors.

I knew some of the area from Rombalds Stride and other fell races' plus we have orienteered on the area. It wasn't long before I was sweating and wished I was wearing shorts.

The paths south to Burley were a bit boggy but the edges on the Ilkley side were wonderful.

 I veered off the race route thinking I might run out of time (and I didn't want to miss my lunch) but I arrived back near White Wells with plenty of time and so was able to fit in some extra loops and climbs before heading back to the van near the Cow and Calf.

It was now hot and I sat in the sun recovering.
After lunch we moved the van to the top of Fleet Moss as Bob was keen to look at Fellsman routes on Dodd Fell. Langstrothdale was warm and sunny with all the pubs in Kettlewell etc fit to bursting. After Yockenthwaite it was quieter and we had the car park at the top to ourselves. This was a nice afternoon/ evening stroll - not a run. Yeah, right.

 By the time we left the lane and headed up to the trig point we were power walking and from the top we both ran off to check different lines.

 I was back at the van just as it was starting to get chilly but well before the light was fading. We dropped the van down to Deepdale ready for a longer run on Sunday. The stars were amazing and we had our usual peaceful night in the valley.

I was off before 9am and even as I headed up the road to find the gate onto the access land it was already getting warm.

Straight up the valley side was steep but saved running all the way back through Oughtershaw and up the road to the top of Fleet Moss. Once I was on route I followed the wall to the blue cup, or what is left of it.

There are some new fences but I stuck to my tried and tested route to Middle Tongue. There wasn't much snow left at all. From the CP there is another new fence which is quite handy to guide you across to the next wall crossing.

At last I was starting to run and make up some time. Before I knew it I was at Cray and climbing Buckden Pike.

There was more snow here and it was a real pain- some took my weight, other bits didn't and either left me drop into a foot print 8 inches deep or dropped me through to an icy puddle. There were piles of flag stones so I am guessing they plan to pave more of this soon. I made good time to the next road crossing and then came to hard pull, and bog, of Great Whernside.

The tops were fine so long as I kept away from the snow near the fence. Descending gained me more time but then I hit the bogs. It slowed me but nothing like the loss of time when I really sank in.

Well over my knees and liquid as I moved my feet. Oh, hell. It took some time to wiggle my way out and by then I was coated in the stuff. At least the remainder of the run is relatively straight forward and mostly down hill. Not long after Capplestone Gate I stopped to talk to some walkers having their picnic but otherwise I pushed on conscious of how long Bob may have been waiting for me in Threshfield.

Grassington was heaving and judging by peoples attire they had spent the day shopping, eating and drinking. I dodged prams, dogs and OAPs as I continued down to the river. It felt so much easier than at the end of the Fellsman and I was even able to continue running all the way up the hill to the school. My garmin died well before Yarnbury but I guess it was a total of about 23 miles or so.

A gorgeous day out and a Yorkshire sun tan. We even stopped for an ice cream on the way home and then to top of Mother's Day Matthew cooked the tea.