Sunday, 27 January 2013

No 5 That's Lythe

I wasn't sure what to expect from this event, especially in terms of the weather. After heavy snow on Friday Preston had seen a massive thaw and it had all disappeared here, although not in Wigan where we orienteered on Saturday night. How much snow would be left and would there be any ice? Then there was the forecast with some heavy rain and strong winds. Hmm. In the end I need not have worried. The worst on the snow or slush was as we left Kendal and although the wind was fierce on the tops the rain did not materialise. I knew the first mile or so would feel hard as we headed along the river and then up through town to the golf course.

 The tracks were torrents of snow melt and the fields in the very bottoms were lakes. I pressed on at the first checkpoint at Crossthwaite- and then fouund I was hungry. Once out of the farms on heading up to Whitbarrow the running was lovely although I was reduced to a walk on some of the climbs. The memorial cairn was not a place to linger but I was thankful we did not have driving rain.

 The view over the estuary and Morecambe Bay was fantastic but straight into the sun (yep we really did have sun). The descent towards Witherslack seemed steep and slippy but was soon over. Then comes a wierd little loop to take us all the the village hall. This time I did go in and even had a cup of tea and some quiche. This is the only section where I made slight nav errors the second of which meant I had to overtake Wendy. We quickly passed Gilpin bridge and started a section on lanes to get us north of Levens.

 Long straight lanes are not my favourite but they did allow us to maintain a good pace and I hooked up with three others and had a chat. Checkpoint 3 was in someones garage and the route continued through there garden. Here I lost my companions as they powered ahead up the hill and then I had to stop to get a stone out of my shoe.
(still need to practice with arms length photos!)

 After the next road I was on familiar territory and enjoyed the views back over the flooded valley to Whitbarrow. Gary had joined me by now and was keen to hang on once he realised that I knew the way.

 Regaining all our height onto Helsington barrow was not too bad and I knew that once we turned east it was all down hill. There was a rainbow over the valley and Scout Scar looked impressive.

The paths was a little slippy but the racecourse path was easy and then the road. Downhill on  this was harder than I expected and I was relieved to gain the main road and head through the park to the river. From there it was only a few minutes to the hall. It took longer than I expected at 4 hours 23 but job done, almost. I handed in my tally and then went back outside before I could get too comfortable. Another 4 miles ot so to add. I followed the river path as far as a huge flood, crossed the river and tried the other side for a bit, came back to the left bank and headed back to the hall. I must have been running slowly because I was getting chilly. Once my garmin showed 4+ miles had been clocked I was grateful to stop. 27.6 miles. The food was very welcome and I even managed to hitch a lift home. Thank you Mick.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

No4 Chorley- canal, tracks and all sorts

I was tempted to just prolong my lie in but Bob brought me coffee in bed and offered to drive me to the start of my planned run. ie Come on- get and DO it! By 10.45 I was leaping out of the car and onto the canal tow path at Botany Bay. I had decided my legs could run- so long as it was not too hilly and there were no endless boggy fields. I was soon trotting along the tow path towards Adlington and enjoying myself. There were lots of dog walkers and everyone seemed vey friendly. The path was mostly packed snow with just a few icy or boggy sections. The sign for Fredericks ice cream parlour, just a short detour from the canal, made me smile. Far too cold today. I left the canal at Adlington and had to resort to roads for a bit to take me up to Rivington. I was now over a quarter of the way into my run. The crowds here were amazing- most of Horwich, Bolton and Chorley must have come out to play in the snow with snow men and sledges everywhere.
The paths had plenty of snow but my feet stayed dry throughout, even if this did take a bit of negotiation at the southern end of the park. A big loop here on decent paths let me get a few miles under my belt and I even found some solitude. Once back near the village hall I followed the Anglezarke route in reverse. It got quieter but the paths remained good ie. still dry feet.
It wasn't long before I was at White Coppice and heading on the 'new' path by the side of the goyt. This brought me out in Brinscall and I knew I was more than half way into my planned run.
 I had to resort to lanes again up the hill to Wheelton and then down to the canal. I ignored the temptations of the pub offering snacks like bacon and egg burgers - something I was to regret later. This section of canal was new to me and I had no idea what condition the tow path would be in. Luckily it was still relatively frozen and I made good progress. This was the only section where I suddenly realised I was cold and had to put my cag back on and have some food.
I left the canal on the western edge of Blackburn and was looking forward to treating myself to a bacon and egg butty in the cafe near the athletic track. I knew the main car park was being redeveloped but had not realised the scale of the work. It was shut and I couldn't see if the cafe was open. I jogged a bit further into Blackburn but found nothing open. Oh well. About turn and start the homeward leg.  One look at the fields made me reaisie that the river path would be boggy and slow so a stuck to the lanes and quickly got to Riley Green and then Higher Walton.  It wasn't as pleasant as fields and tracks but it got me back to Preston in record time. I forewarned Bob and he arrived at the Capitol Centre only a few minutes after me ( I could not do all this without him being prepared to drive me all over the place and then come and collect me, especially as we are still down to one vehicle for now).  32 miles and suddenly I was shattered.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

No 3 The Hebden

After our Wed night street O was cancelled due to snow and icy pavements I was worried that this event may not happen. All credit to Alan and Carole for checking so thoroughly and being determined that it would go ahead if it could. They kept us up to date and by Friday I was convinced all would be well. As it turned out there was less snow and ice than I had expected and the roads were safe and clear.

My next big debate was what to wear- both on my body and on my feet. This was not made an easier when I realised that all the warmest of my gear is still en route back from France. In the end I had more than enough and after a last minute change I did run in my orienteering shoes which have metal dobs. They gripped beautifully and my feet don't seem to have suffered too much.
It was great to meet up with so many friends again and say Happy New Year. I travelled with 3 Preston Harriers and caught up on their news and then met many forumites and ultra friends. It is always good to catch up with Nick, Andy Splatcher and Mick but I also managed to say Hi to Elise and Linda. Sorry I missed a chat with you Clare.

I had promised I would set off more conservatively than last year and duly started away from the front line, but by the railway crossing I could feel the competetive streak emerging and I knew I was going to run- if not eye balls out then at least respectably. It was a  winter wonderland with some lovely settings and views. I had only done this route once before so I was hoping to have company and easy route  finding. Not long after CP1 I made my only error- fortunately it wasn't far and the local postman put me right, much to Protodoc's amusement ;)  The run through the woods below Hardcastle crags seemed further than I remembered and I was losing ground on some fast men up ahead of me. Nick was going very well in his Kahootas and was cheery as always. The descent to CP3 wasn't too bad in my shoes and I made up some time. My treat was food at the CP, whereas last year I just ran on through.
Thanks Sportsunday for sitting out in the snow!

Everyone seemed to escape off ahead again as my stomach was digesting what I had stuffed in but they were still in sight.

Thanks SportSunday    - great pics                                                                                                           

 The photographers had picked a good spot with a huge drift blowing spindrif all over us. Then it was the long slog up towards Stoodley Pike.

 Once we breached the top I got second wind and blasted to catch the others up and got very wet feet in the process. Ienjoyed the decsent to CP4 though. This was fueled by my determination to stay with the lady who had just overtaken me- but infact she was doing the shorter course. I was now back with some of the men that had been infront and must thank Protodoc for his company almost from here to the end. He made me run faster than I would have done left to my own devices, chatted away and knew the route well.   I had a bad patch immediately after CP5, which I think was due to my dobs on the tarmac being less than comfy, but as soon as we left the tarmac I was happy again. The fields and paths here seemed to have collected lots of snow but it was a delight to run through with hardly any rocks and no boggy bits. The dobs were very helpful on some of the lanes and steeper fields. From Stake Lane I suddenly realised I was on my own but I needn't have worried as there were lots of footprints to show the way and I even managed to help out a lost runner on the final stretch.

4hours 22 was about 7 minutes slower than last year but OK I felt. I handed over my tag and prepared to add my extra miles before the warmth and food on offer made me change my mind. I did at first question what the hell I was doing but once I got going again I covered the flat ground quickly. There were lots of walkers and cyclists to say Hi to and the path at Hebden Bridge was crowded!
(never take your own photo from arms length!)

 I got some bemused looks as I passed some of the people once I turned round and ran back but job done. 27 miles and No3 completed.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Ultra No2. Part of the Ribble Way

I knew that I really needed to do a second run today to get back on schedule but I also knew it was going to be hard work. It was. I opted to get my husband to drive me towards Clitheroe so that I had to run back. It was cold and a little icy but I thought that would be good if the ground was frozen, plus cold and sunny was better than rain. Lots of positive thinking! Sadly the ground had only a thin frozen crust and some field paths were huge bogs. I also ran the last couple of miles in sleet- but at least I knew I was running home to a hot shower by then.
 Ribbleheadbangers... on a much warmer and sunnier day at my start point for today

 The first plod from Great Mitton uphill to pick up the footpath down to the Ribble got me warmed up and then the sun came out, for a while. It was peaceful and beautiful so I just contented myself with where I was. I must get better at taking more pictures but couldn't be bothered pfaffing with my gloves and digging my camera out. The route follows the Ribble around some huge meanders with just a few detours up into woods and the slopes above the river. The navigation was fairly easy and before long I was on the outskirts of Ribchester. The next section to Hothersall was mostly track and so I was a ble to speed up a little. I also realised at this point that the total was not going to be over 26 so I added some extra along the lanes above Hothersall Lodge before returning to the Ribble Way. The next section had some very wet fields but I could just about remember the route across them from our adventures on the Ribble Challenge a couple of years ago. The descent to Brockholes is now well marked and on good paths as the Ribble Way converges with Preston Guild Wheel. I was tempted to stop for a cup of tea at the visitor centre but managed to resist and ploughed on towards the A6.
 Any excuse to stop.... and it was here I noticed my shoe was falling apart. Opps that's two pairs in a fortnight. I must bin them and get some more.

 This section should have been easy running but by now my legs were hurting and looking for any excuse to stop. I had a quiet smile thinking of how slowly we were moving by this point when we did the full route. Fortunately it's a well used section so I had lots of company and this kept me going today, after a fashion. I ignored the cafe in Avenham Park and plodded on towards the docks. Then the drizzle started and turned rapidly to sleet. OK I will stop and have that cup of tea after all, Marina coffee shop here I come. I must have been more thirsty than I realised because the pot of tea made three cups but they barely seemed to touch the sides.

At least it wasn't getting dark today. The Ribble Challenge is about 62 miles and even with an early start it was getting dark when we arrived at the end.

 I also changed my planned route a little here as the main dock road is exposed and a long long slow up hill. I worked my way back via Ashton Park, Larches and home. A quick check made me realsie I needed about another mile so I did a rather odd circuit on our estate. Job done, just, over 26.5 miles but not quite 27. It should have been a little more really but the sleet finished me off (what a wimp).

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Ultra No1 - A run to the handicap

There was nothing suitable in the calendar but our orienteering club was having it's annual handicap and prize giving. If I ran from home on an off road route I reckoned I could make it over 26 miles.The forecast was good and I was keen to get started on my challenge I thought it would also break me in gently as it is hardly mountainous. Despite the first 15 miles being on canal tow path it was certainly not all easy going. I had not reckoned with the MUD. I left the rest of the household in bed but waited until it was light.

 My first miles were sheltered and seemed to pass quickly. I saw almost nobody - just a fisherman, a dog walker and a canal worker in the first 12 miles. It was very peaceful with just swans and herons for company. I am sure I have run or cycled the route beofre but I noticed new landmarks including the Brock aqueduct.

 Every now and again there was the intrusion of traffic as I neared the A6 or M6 but it did not last long. By Garstang the rest of the world had woken up and I met more people to say Hi. It was here that I switched from canal to the Wyre Way. Between Garstang and Scorton it was positively crowded with walkers and cyclists everywhere. I joined the cyclists in Scorton for a hasty cup of tea. I had thought the canal was muddy in places but the next section of Wyre Way was atrocious. Fortuately it improved after a mile of so and especially once I had crossed the M6. I was now on paths that were new to me and soI  found places of interest to keep me entertained. The  Game Keepers Cottage just before Dolphinholme was the highlight, what a wonderful place to live. This land is Duchy of Lancaster/ Duke of Westminster estates and is both farmed and used for pheasant shooting. It was a bit of a pull up the hill out from Dolphinholme mill and it took me onto the most exposed field paths of my route. I was glad to drop back down to the river and then to plod on towards Abbeystead and the wier. Once I reached the road I realised I was going to be at the village hall far too early so I turned and continued up to the war memorial and Christ Church and then along the road to Dolphinholme and Wellington Wood to find my husband and the car. This last section did at least make me glad I had not done the whole route on tarmac. Not a bad start to my challenge with 29.6 miles under my belt. All I need to decide now is whether there is enough fuel in the tank and bounce in my legs to go again tomorrow!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

YES I still hope to complete this challenge

In case anyone is checking on this blog (probably not, not really sure who would be very interested) I thought I ought to add a little update.
We have been away visiting relatives and skiing. Had a great time until the journey back from the Alps when the much loves campervan died. Trauma and some hilarious, in retorspect, stories of our return to the UK etc. better news tonight. The van is to follow us home some time in the next fortnight.
I hope to do my first ultra this weekend.Yes, I know I am behind schedule- I'll just have to have a couple of slots in the year where I do more than one, but I knew that already really.