Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Not the best week!

I guess it was inevitable. As a teacher to make it through to almost the end of November without catching a cold from some ***** little person is quite amazing, perhaps running gives us extra resistance to germs? That resistance ended on the 20th.  I almost decided not to go to our Wednesday night Steet orienteering but my competetive nature got the better of me. I thought I had a fairly mediocre run so was pleased but rather surprised to find I had done quite well. I did actually feel better, for a few hours, after the run. Must be the sea air in Morecambe. I struggled through to the end of the week with a banging headache and sore throat. Odd- I looked fine and felt awful, where as this week with a streaming cold I look awful but feel OK really. I stopped cycling to work- not much persuasion needed there considering the wind and rain. By the weekend I felt a bit better and was very frustrated to see dry sunny weather and to be stuck with a 2 day Outdoor First Aid course. The course was good fun and very helpful but I felt trapped. Luckily help was at hand in the form of the first night orienteering of the winter. Caton Moor was always going to be wet under foot after the months rain but predictably the wdry weather ended as I set off up the motorway on Saturday tea time. Once out and running it wasn't so bad- except for the 'bounce back' effect rain has on torch beams. It gave me an hour of running the best I can while navigating in the dark and slipping across muddy slopes or tussocks. It was not the most sociable event- having stripped and changed in the car I shot off with the heater on full blast, but I was glad to get out and enjoyed the challenge.
I did n't cycle yesterday and felt very guilty.. until work ended and the rain started again. Today though was dry. Yes, a chance for some exercise and a cycle to work and back.
So not much ultra running recently.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

An experiment

Having failed to get an entry for the Wensleydale Wedge I was disappointed but determined to make the most of what promised to be another mostly dry weekend. In preparation for next year I thought perhaps I ought to check that I really could do two ultras in a weekend without my body making too many protests.
Saturdays experiment used the Anglezarke Amble route- it is local and I know it well. PLus my husband was coming mountain biking. This could be a route I use next year when I have no race or event but need an ultra. It is only 24 miles but it is easy to add in some extra at the end on lovely trails by the reservoir. They are only a little undulating, compared to the rest of the route, and work well as an out and back. Having waited for the clag to clear we headed for Chorley and tried not to get depressed at the thick cloud obscuring Winter Hill. Once parked I leapt out and was off, worried that it might get dusk before I returned.
[Rivington Pike with its square Tower]

 Well before the Pike I had stripped off hat, gloves and cag. The views over the south Lancashire Plain with rapidly rising and dispersing cloud were superb. Shortly after crossing the Belmont road I got a taste of how wet and boggy today was going to be and en route to Turton it got dire (although at least the scary cows were missing). As I was cursing yet another stumble and mid thigh soaking my phone rang. I don't usually carry it but had been persuaded. Just as well it was my husband pointing out I had not taken a van key and so if I got back before him I would need to stand in the cold and wait. Damn. He galantly tried to catch me up all the way round but it was quicker running given the state of paths and bridleways today, plus he had taken a more leisurely start. I made good time to the Strawberry Duck but then seemed to slow on the big track to Cadshaw. Time for food. I am not good at food and running- both I love, just not together. It seemed to work and despite the headwind I ploughed on to Darwen Moor and the Tower.
 For me this always signifies the home stretch- a bit daft as there is lots to go but it is the outer limit of lots of our training runs and so makes me feel closer to the end. The good track allowed me to make up some lost time and contemplate the bog awaiting me when I crossed the Bolton road.

 It was no worse than I expected so I munched more food and soon saw the shelter cross and views back to Preston. It's down hill all the way to White Coppice so that was a joy. I did not realise at the time but my husband even with detours to avoid footpaths had now almost caught me up.  Before long I had crossed the lanes and was under Anglezarke quarry. Not far now. The last field is notoriously wet but after the bogs of today it seemed quite dry in comparison. Route complete. Now all I needed was a quick check that the van was still locked and a trot down to the Castle and back. It's not really a Castle but a folly. It was harder than I expected but I kept myself amused checking out all the Go Ape gear and trying to calculate min/mile pace etc. The ancient Garmin I had dug out was not performing well. I got back to the van with just enough time to check the map and Bob arrived with the keys. Perfect timing.

Sunday did not dawn with the cloudless blue skies I had anticipated but by 11 it was looking more promising. I had been meaning to run the Guild Wheel for some time, so now was my chance. It is a circular 21 mile route built to celebrate this years Preston Guild. Most is tarmac or light gravel so it would be fast going and hard on the feet. At least there wouldn't be any bogs. Being able to run from the door almost made up for the tarmac. The first 5 miles are my cycle route to work and I had cycled the rest a number of times.It is well used but that made for lots of hellos and good afternoons and a little competetiveness between me and some of the more recreational cyclists. By Brockholes and the Ribble I knew I could not only make it back before dusk but also add in a couple of extra miles down the old tram way. The park was busy but people and bikes thinned out after that and I used the miles markers to keep up my motivation. The last mile is all up hill- we should live somewhere else! Still, job done. I cheated really because I think I did 24 miles not the 'needed' 27 but I now know my body will manage two ultras back to back, especially if the second is relatively easy and neither are at race pace.
Next time on both routes I will take a camera.

Monday, 12 November 2012

RAB mini

With no ultra on the cards I decided I would enter what is left of the RAB mini MM series. I had missed the first as it clashed with the LDMT but could make the next three. I guess I should have entered earlier and shown some support because the late November one has been cancelled due to low numbers. Round 2 was Coniston- fells I know quite well and scene of the first SLMM that I did partnering one of my sons. Good memories. I was pleased I had bothered digging out my old map as the start location was very similar and I even headed out up the same hills. After a steep start I realised I had made a planning error and needed to drop a long way to collect a control- nothing for it so head down, blast into valley and then stomp all the way back up. Other than this I was mostly pleased with my route, although my route choice from 9-10 was not the best. I tried to stick with  or pick off other runners to keep my speed up and this did work well. Overall a pleasing run, which with the benefit of hindsight and armchair planning could have been improved to get another 20 points and joint 2nd place.  Score events always lead to lots of ifs and buts, well they do for me. Fours hours of good running and fantastic views. Yet another dry run!! It was a well organised event and a great event centre to socialise in afterwards.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

weekend of O

Strange weekend for me. After all the long stuff I have done this autumn it was two days of orienteering. The first was an urban race- not quite sprint but with winning time of 35 minutes much shorter and faster than I have been used to. My husband was the planner and I knew the area would be tricky. I did also get to collect some controls in afterwards too! And I stayed dry, again.
Today was traditional O and I had been looking forward to east lancs moors-but had forgotten the intricate quarry that we would go through. Some  hard navigating but also lots of sharp and slippy rocks, so not much running there. Quite enjoyed it but have to admit that when I looked at the skylines and blue sky I wish I had gone for a long run on reasonable paths for 4-5 hours rather than the 90 mins of orienteering. I think this has confirmed that it is long days out in the hills that I like, so that I return to work on Monday feeling I have made the very most of my weekend.
Still- the forecast is good for tomorrow so I can cycle to work.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The ultra series 2012

I owe the runfurther team a big thanks for all their hard work and for setting up such a great series. So Thank You Karen, Si and Mark.Without them I may never have discovered what for the time being is a great love. A fellow fell runner (Pete) took me to the Howarth Hobble 4 years ago and then pointed out I could enter the series. And that as they say was that. I was hooked.

This year I knew that a Grand Slam was not realistic - the dates clashed with SLMM, DoE with kids at work and other family commitments. I did decide to do as many as I could though and it was nice not to have the pressure of completing all 12. Perhaps I'll get round to a Grand Slam one year?
First again was the Howarth Hobble (33) or Wuthering Hike,  although I could not wait until March for this and so started with two races I had not done before - The Hebden (22) and Rombalds Stride (23) followed my local Anglezarke Amble (24), just to get me legs going.

Hope I can still run as well as Wendy in 10 years time!

The shorter ones are not my forte but the routes were great with lots of fell, hill and mud. Then April saw a steady increase in the distances, first with the new Calderdale Hike (37) route     and then with The Fellsman (61) at the end of the month. I had not realised that the Calderdale changes every 3 years or so as I had only done the last 3 years and they were all the same. I did not have chance to recee the new route but much of it was over terrain I knew reasonably well and there were plenty of other runners around for much of the race.
I nearly missed the Fellsman after a bad ankle sprain from orienteering but could not bear the thought of missing out. I'm glad I risked it rather than listen to all the voices of reason as I had a great run despite a desperately cold and windy day. The cold wind challenged us all day and by evening our eyes were suffering. Then the snow started....  the rest is history and I am just very pleased to have made it to the event before the decision was made to stop all runners and walkers. After so much hard work the organiser was very upset at having to cancel but knew that for some competitors and marshalls that it was the right thing to do.
May brought a 'new' to me Ultra on the Brecon Beacons (40). A great race with lovely waterproof map and a chance to run over hills I had not visited for years. My body complained violently after a fast start along the canal tow path and I was forced to walk through the quarries. Walking on flat easy terrain was distressing but I often think ultras are run with the mind not the legs so I pushed on. I really enjoyed the second half once my body settled into a rhythm.
 Smiling at last on Brecon 40


June was not an ultra month for me but I did complete the Ennerdale fell race (24) which I had never done before, plus the LAMM and then the White Bear Way (21) which is a local LDWA event. July still did not add any ultras as Osmotherly clashed with the SLMM and I had decided to be brave or wreckless and enter the Klets course. We have run and helped at the SLMM as a family for some years now and I would be reluctant to miss this even in the hope of a Grand Slam. It did not disappoint- after a week of very worrying weather the Saturday was glorious.
We then disappeared abroad to walk the GR20 in Corsica. A brief return to the UK in August gave me the opportunity for another 'new' to me ultra at The Long Tour of Bradwell (33). Another fantastic day out in beautiful scenery and sunny weather. Again I set off too fast and paid the price for a few miles, when will I learn? The autumn saw a fairly packed schedule. The Bullock Smithy Hike (56) may have been an ultra too far starting only hours after a long drive back from the Alps but I survived and completed. The route seemed particularly brutal with more track, trail, bouldery paths and tarmac than I had hoped for. I really need to revisit this when my mind and body are more prepared. The marshalls were great, as was the food at the finish. I also owe thanks to Mark C  and then others who let me tag along and showed me the way.

The GC cairn with Tony
This was rapidly followed by the Lake District Mountain Trial which although relatively short did include some big hills and kept me running hard for 3 and a half hours. There was no let up as the following weekend was the High Peak 40. At least here I was on familiar ground having done the race for the last three years. An orienteering friend was keen to complete the Gerry Charnley Way (38)and I had offered to join him on long day out. Gerry was a founder member of our club and early planner of KIMMs. His memorial cairn is below Esk Pike. We didn't manage a record beating time but had a wonderful day out. The end of September brought the Hardmoors 60 (63).
At least Hardmoors 60 was warm and dry. At Hardmoors 55 I got very scared and very wet and cold

I knew this would be tough and the descents to so many little coastal inlets certainly took their toll. A busy but very satisfying month. October would see the last of the runfurther series at Round Rotherham (50).
Borrowed from 2011 I'm afraid.

 It is a strange race that is nicer than it sounds, so much so that I may run it for the last three years. October also ended my mountain marathons for the year with both the RAB, where I continued to try to get to grips with score events, and the OMM with my ever forgiving long standing MM partner. The OMM also saw my record of running in good weather end! I had run every weekend in September and October without getting wet or cold. The OMM made up for that.

I am not sure about November and December yet. I may need to conserve some car fuel. I was tempted by the Grampian  MM but in my heart I know it is just too far to drive- perhaps another year.
The ultra series has given me so much:
 New friends- thanks for driving your van and letting me crash out in it Mick. Also big congratulations on your Grand Slam.  
New 'minders', Thanks Martin for your caring shepherding duties at Hardmoors as I would have been far slower left to my own devices and my own navigating in the dark..
So many friends, many I see at every race like Nick but some it was good to see after a long gap (Cat).
New scenery and places to race over.
More Clif bars than I can eat in a lifetime-  only joking. It is great to have sponsors for the series and they have introduced me to the wonderful Injinji socks.

 It has also given me the idea of a new challenge....... inspired by Jonathan Steele's 50@50 can I attempt 52@52 next year??  They may not all be races or events as some may need to be local so that I can cram extras in to compensate for the weeks when I am committed to other things. Unlike Jonathan I am not going to promise how many will be 50 miles or 100 miles. It may not work out but hopefully it will be fun having a go.

We all have to start somewhere.....

This is my first attempt at setting up a blog. Not sure how it will go or whether anyone will want to read it but I'll have a try.