Sunday, 31 March 2013

No 19 White Bear plus a bit more

After finding the Bowland tops hard work I decided that I needed to pick a route where I could actually run a fair bit. I don't mind being out longer but any speed I had (which wasn't much) is being killed by long slow routes with walking, camera stops and even snacks in the sun.
I did the White Bear Way for the first time last year. It is another of those local and tremendously good value LDWA events. I was hoping I could remember the route and would not have to stop and navigate too much. On the event day I had run hard trying to keep up with a local crowd that knew the way, but that of course meant that I took less notice of the route. It is only 21 miles so I knew I would have to add some. Starting at the far northern end of Anglezarke reservoir gave me lots of options to add miles at the northern end of the loop and despite my late start there was still parking available.
By the top of Healey Nab it was clear that many paths would be muddy and the lower fields would be boggy. The fields to Limbrick did not disappoint and it was almost a relief to get on the canal tow path at Heath Charnock.  I gave Fredericks a miss today but on hotter days I fancy stopping for an ice cream. The canal boaters were up and stoking wood burning stoves and I loitered looking at a two berth wide barge that was for sale. Not convinced I really want to live on one. I navigated off the canal and onto the disused railway track OK but then missed a turn and only realised when I was almost on Wigan golf course. It didn't matter a I would need some extra miles anyway. It was soon put right and I was back on track to Little Scotland and Blackrod. The weather seemed to turn here but it was only temporary cloud and cool. It spurred me on across the fields to the M61 and Bolton services and then on to the edge of Horwich. By the time I was at the Castle on the shores of Rivington Reservoir the sun was back out.

 I then ended up on an unmapped path in the woods but emerged near Wilderswood in the end. There was less snow on the high moor and up at the masts than I expected although a family were still trying to sledge down one random but very full gully.

 The Belmont Road/track was blocked by impressive amounts of snow even though it is now well over a week since it fell- but it was nice and compact for running on.
At Horden Stoops I left the WB Way and stayed high on Spitlers Edge. A first time for dry feet along here today! The flagstones across Redmonds and upto Great Hill were free from snow so I made good time.

After Drinkwaters the lane had a fair bit of snow but it was fine for running until it got steep near Wheelton plantation and I suddenly found myself out of control and going just a bit faster than I was really comfortable with.

White Coppice looked crowded and then I realised why- the club house was open for refreshments, so I stopped for a very welcome cup of tea. I passed my car and carried on along the footpaths above the reservoirs before turning up towards Leadmines Clough and making my way back. The lane near Jepsons farm was open to traffic but had huge banks of snow.

 One car even stopped to ask me if it was safe.  At Manor farm, which I always admire, I had a choice.

I knew the path wood be boggy but I decided it would be preferable to the road. Having made it down the steep section I then did a spectacular tumble and coated myself in mud. All the walkers I met from here back to the car gave me strange looks and a very wide berth. Fortunately it wasn't far. Just over 28 miles and a very enjoyable outing on a day with blue sky, sun and warm weather.

Friday, 29 March 2013

No 18 Snowy Bowland

The idea was a short drive, on roads I knew were clear, and the hope of frozen tops with no deep snow or bogs. It sort of worked but was harder going than I had anticipated. I should know by now that what looks fine on an OS map does not mean it will be that way when you run in Bowland. I parked at Fell Foot and was surprised how much cooler and windier than it was at home. After a few minutes and a stiff climb it didn't seem so bad- perhaps I had just had the car heater on too high.

The steep climb up Parlic never gets any easier and my legs were burning by the time I hit the grassy track and could branch right and contour. The snow got deeper and less predictable as I headed up onto Fairsnape Fell. At least the water and bogs were all frozen! There were foot prints but I saw nobody up here.  Turning right to follow the fence to Totridge was tough and I was starting to think I should have gone up via Burnslack instead.
 I persevered and arrived at the trig point so was able to pay my respects to Bill Smith before descending to Hareden Farm. Unfortunatley the ground was boggy down here and I also got a damp foot. I was also conscious that my 'run' was taking a long time so followed the road and bridleway across to the Dunsop Valley rather than  Beatrix Fell - I know from hard experience that after Dunsop Head  to head over to Baxton Fell is dire for running.                                                                                 


The big road and track gave me a few easy miles on more runnable terrain and a chance to get back on a more reasonable schedule.  It was also very warm sheltered from the wind and in blazing sunshine. I even stopped for a quick bite to eat and study of the map. After Brennand Farm I took the shooters track north until it ended.

 This still left a slog across the fell to reach Wolfhole Crag. There was less snow than last week and the sun was out today. The views across to the 3 Peaks were fantastic. I turned back south over Brennand Great Hill and then Millers House. With no real path this was slow going even where it was downhill. The depth and solidity of the snow varied hugely and I fell several times. My whole body seemed to be getting a work out never mind my legs.

Brennand Tarn was deserted and tranquil without the usual swquarking of hundreds of birds. At Whins Brow I had another choice to make. My feet were damp and cold so I headed down to the Trough Road and the old Lancashire- Yorkshire boundary stone. I used to come here once a year with kids doing fieldwork but rivers are not 'in' on our syllabus at the moment.
My original plan had considered Blaze Moss and Holdren Moss but I could not face the uncertainty of how frozen the bog may or may not be and knew I neede to get some miles done before afternoon turned to evening. I flew down the Trough road with just a short stop to admire some brilliantly colourful pheasants. I managed to ignore the temptations of the tea wagon and took the path up Langden Brook with a fair number of walkers out for a stroll (well they didn't look dressed to go far).
By Langden Castle I was on my own again except for a couple coming down- we recognised each other as we had passed hours ago below Totridge. Langden Castle by the way bears NO resemblence to a castle at all now, although the building does provide shelter in a storm. I could not believe how wet the path was as I trugged upto Fiensdale Head. It is quite deeply eroded so I guess it was filled with snow which has now mostly melted leaving a muddy mess.
 Turning for Fairsnape I found canes which must have been put out for the Fiensdale race last weekend. This was suddenly more runnable than most of the fell I had been on today and I made good time up to Paddys Pole. I guess I also knew the end was in sight and got a boost.
Looking back to the 3 peaks one last time as I headed up to Fiensdale Head
The return from there I could probably do in my sleep and it was a joy to run down the swooping path towards Parlic. The gliders were out and I got buzzed once by a model plane/glider . Then there was just the short steep descent to Fell Foot Cottage and the comforting smell of their wood fire. 
I was soon down in the car warming my toes (my right foot seems to suffer if it gets wet and cold. I think because it has had chillblains in the past). Another 28 miles completed, and I did enjoy my day out despite the hard work over pathless terrain in some sections, even if it did take well over 6 hours.


Sunday, 24 March 2013

No17 Clougha and a fight with the wind

I did think about having this weekend off, as I had been out all day Fri- Sat with kids doing DoE in the snow and cold, but knew that I would regret it and the forecast seemed OK. Down here it was cold but dry and even bright so I hatched a plan. The idea was to park in Quernmore and run east over Clougha, Grit Fell, Wards Stone, Wolf Crag the down the old Roman track to Brennand and back.
Clougha and all still seemed OK
Half way up Clougha I knew I would need to modify my plan given the wind. After Grit Fell my eyes were streaming from running, or trying to, into the wind and I needed some respite. At the pace I was going it would be dark when I finished. I shot down to Jubilee Tower and made up some time. I deviated to the road for a few km and then picked up the track back up onto the fell.
 It was uphill and cold but not as exposed as my due easterly course had been. After a quick break in the luncheon hut I cut east but well below the crest on the shooting track.

The luncheon hut
 I have moaned about these scars in the past but today I was very grateful for them. When the track turned south for Tarnbrook I carried on east for a couple more km before heading up to Brown Syke. I don't think I have ever been up here and kept my feet dry before. I was determined to get to Wolf Crag - I am not sure why but it seemed important at the time - but it left me knackered.

 At this point I not only had on two thermals but also my primaloft jacket and my cag. I ran down to the Roman Road across the fell but was then left with a quandary- which way now? In the end the wind helped my decision and I went NW for a bit. I did consider staying NW and then running back along the Lune but it would be a long way round and felt like whimping out. So, I took the next shooting track back up on to the fell and hoped that with the wind behind me it would be better.
Trying to make forward progress
I hit the ridge just west of Brown Syke and I guess it was better with the wind on my back. Some of the drifts were solid enough to take my weight but on many I broke through so my running was a bit cautious.
No snow- just lots of spindrift!
Ward Stone west
 Ward Stone was deserted but there were foot prints so I was not the only mad fool up there today. From here the wind seemed to pick up significantly and I was getting blown out of control as I headed down from Ward Stone west trig and across to Grit Fell.
Knackered but nearly finished
I hit the shooting track and headed north and into the disused quarries before turning to head back over Clougha and down to the car. Only just over 27.7 miles and it had taken me well over 5 and a half hours. Drove to Lancaster to find number 1 son and beg a cup of coffee.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

No 16 Two Crosses

Although this is a local LDWA event I had never run it before and the last time I walked the most NE bits was over 15 years ago when the boys were tiny. I was keen to get my extra miles in before the event so it was another early get up. I left Preston in drizzle but by the time I was on the Grane Road the hills were white from last night's snow and there was a disconcerting layer of slush across the road. Still I made it there in plenty of time and went out for my extra 3 miles using the cycle track along the old railway line and a couple of side paths that looked more interesting. By the time I returned several friends had appeared and the weather was looking not bad at all. Kevan was startled by my hair which I had bleached for Red Nose Day after the kids at work raised over £160 to persuade me. Nobody else said a word- perhaps not wanting to offend me if I had done it as a fashion statement.

 I knew the start would be fast, especially as some people were running the slightly shorter 18 mile route. Josie and Albert disappeared into the distance so I settled into a comfortable pace and before long had the company of Hopey and his mates. They knew the way so I stuck with them til Turton Tower.  I think  Two Towers would be a better name for this race as you go past and close to both whereas I never saw the first cross as it is a bit further up the road. As we climbed it got nippy and I had to put my cag on- well, yes OK, it gave me a chance to slow down too. Climbing up from Green Arms Road to Turton Heights the snow was about 4 inches thick but sadly not very firm or frozen so by the time I hit the A666 CP I was fairly wet and muddy.

 The next bit was worrying me but despite the snow covered bogs and tussocks plus not being able to see more than 100m in the gloom I made it through to the big track without any detours. The next section is home territory and I knew the way. The track was full of icy puddles and my right toes went numb but before long the next CP was visable with two marshalls reclining in deck chairs! The climb onto Darwen Moor was slippy with the mud and snow and I couldn't decide whether to follow the approved route or stick to the big track.
 In the end I did turn at the culvert and picked up the higher path but there was only one set of foot prints in front of me so others had obviously stayed on the big track. It wasn't the easy running I had hoped for but I never sank in above my knees so that was a bonus. Running along the side of Turton Reservoir seemed to take ages but I was rewarded with a mug of soup at the CP. I did not know the next bit but it looked straight forward and by now I was catching the walkers on the shorter route which helped with navigation and gave me people to pick off (I know LDWAs are events not races but....). I had run on my own since Turton Tower so it was nice to have some company even if it was just to say a fleeting Hi. Climbing towards Bull Hill there was a disgusting smell and I assumed a sheep was dead. Apparently it is always like that as it is a maggot farm. Ugh. The route across the top was flagged but otherwise was a two tone landscape of black mud and white snow. 
The next high CP 'Naughty Corner' offered me refreshments to my surprise. I could not believe they had lugged stuff up there. I said No thanks and ploughed on only to find out later that there was whiskey and all sorts. Oh well- I just have to do it next year as well. I got to the very splendid Peel Tower a bit knackered and my 'numb' foot was no better. The descent was not easy as it started on a very rocky track and ended down some very steep and slippy mud. I whimped out and walked a bit, but did stay upright.
One CP to gow and I could smell the finish. After a narrow muddy path it was across the golf course to the church and then into Greenmount and onto the old railway line. This should have been an easy and speedy finish but I shamefully let the guy behind me overtake- not by much but I just had nothing left in my legs. As we handed in tallies at the door I could smell the soup. Yum. LDWA events are superb for both their marshalls and the food. This was no exception, infact we had a choice of three kinds of homemade soup! It was good to sit and chat with Tony, Albert and Josie. Albert had made it round in an heroic time given the conditions but was now looking decidedly off colour. Josie had decided he was going too fast and bailed onto the shorter course so we think I was first lady on the long. Very satisfying. A new event and a good 28 miles plus completed. Probably the muddiest I have been for a while too.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

No 15 Howarth Hobble/ Wuthering Hike

This is where I did my first ultra and signed up for what was then the Vasque Ultra series. A fellow Preston Harrier took me and said you might as well have a go! I therefore have a soft spot for the race and this was to be my fifth consecutive outing.  I never seem to have a great run here but my times are fairly consistent regardless of where the bad patches come. A meal out with friends the night before was not the best preparation but nevermind. This year I drove and tried to persuade another harrier that if they did this and Calderdale they might as well sign up for the ultra series. We arrived in plenty of time (even allowing for me to discover I had parked on a 2 hour limit and needed to move) so it was good to catch up with friends.  The forecast was fairly awful but as we assembled on the cobbled hill it did not seem so bad. I am sure I have memories of being herded back to the pub in previous years but this year we were strung out some way up the hill as the started announced off you go. I had promised myself a steady start and really meant it this year. It meant that when we left the road I felt much better than usual, but I then hammered the next bit!

At the time the run up to Withens ruin and then down to the reservoir seemed easy and I felt I was flying. In retrospect it was perhaps too fast. and after a brief chat with Mick C he steadily pulled away into the distance. I'll never get it right.The weather up to CP 3 was OK but as we climbed onto the moor it was chilly enough to put my hood up and to put my gloves back on. From Long Causeway I struggled a bit and was disappointed to find no tea yet brewed at the next CP, although the hot dogs were ready.
The leg to Mankinholes was my low point - I was hungry, my thigh hurt and I knew I was going slowly. I turned down the whisky but accepted the ibuprofen. It took 20 minutes to kick in but then I was much better and was cross I had not taken some earlier. Stoodley Pike was wreathed in cloud but was just as tough as usual.

The run down to Hebden was less painful then I remembered and I even gained a place or two stomping up to Heptonstall. From there the race picked up for me and despite the deteriorating weater I enjoyed myself. The sleet was atmospheric and I never eally got very cold. I used the road upto Penistone to pick off a couplemore people and was then joined by a runner who did not know the way. He was faster than me so in an effort not to slow him down I increased my pace and led him back. At least the bad weather had kept most of the tourists away and the run through the town was less hazardous than last year. My time was faster than last year and my first attempt but slower than my best two. I could not decide whether it had been a good run or not. Mick C was back on form, but Graham T and Tony M were pleased with very good runs and had beaten me. Still, 15 ultras now completed and I am still in reasonable shape.
The pairs results were kept seperate so I am still not sure what the fastest lady really was but Josie can be pleased with her first lady on her first attempt at this distance. Her garmin clocked it at 31.8 miles and I think my time was 5.34. 3rd lady (excluding pair teams) and first old lady, so not too bad. The organisation was great, as usual, and Brett even timed to prize giving to perfection - just allowing me to pull my clean trousers on as he announced my name. The kitchen did great service and I was very grateful for the many cups of tea.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

No. 14 Limstone crags and sea cliffs

I'll admit that I was miffed as we drove up the M6 and the weather was not quite the wall to wall sunshine of yesterday but in the end by the time I ran it was fine, just the views were a bit hazy.
 The O club had an event at Hutton Roof so I helped with registration and had a chat before I set off. I also enjoyed some wonderful soup courtesy of the ladies in the village hall and took an egg roll with me that went down spuperbly later on. I was trying out some Salomon Speedcross 3s. Not sure yet- the jury is still out but the did have good grip on the few muddy bits I found.

I set off across Hutton Roof with no fixed route in mind. The paths that looked welcoming I took and headed roughly west over the limestone admiring the crags and limstone pavement as I went. After Hutton Roof I crossed the road and headed out for a loop on Newbiggin Fell and Farleton Knott.
Then it was a steep drop down to the road, canal and M6 before I could head through Holme and make my way across the fields to Hale. Here I was able to pick up woodland paths over the limestone again. It has been so dry for a fortnight now that the normally slippy paths were fine and even areas like Fairly Steps were safe to run down.
I nearly got damp feet crossing Arnside Moss but even here it was squishy rather than wet. Arnside Knott was quieter than I expected but the views across the estuary were good. I did take one of the railway viaduct but I must have rushed as it is not really in focus. The little path around Arnside headland was narrow and twisty with mini limestone cliffs below. The savory egg sandwich that I had grabbed to take with me was very welcome now!
Then I picked up the Lancashire coastal way and skirted round the edge of Silverdale and out to Jenny Brown's point. Here the cliffs are slightly bigger but there did not appear to be anyone climbing today. I took a bit of a detour over Warton Crag to avoid the busy road for a bit but had to drop back down to get over the Keer estuary. I ignored the tannoy from the stock car racing and headed south along the coast.  Marsh House farm get my prize for the farm that is the biggest dump. It is an absolute disgrace and that part of the coast path was not very runnable. Fortunately the tide was out and it improved when I headed out onto the salt grass flats. I got damp feet a couple of times but no serious soaking and made it to Hest Bank unscathed. I didn't really want to end up in Morecambe so I switched to the canal for a couple of miles to Beamont on the northern edge of Lancaster.

I had managed for food so far but had forgotten to put in water so I was very pleased to see the Spar. In fact I downed the bottle before I got to the front of the queue which caused some confusion. It was an easy run along the roads and across Rylands Park to the millenium bridge and where I hoped to finish.
However when I texted Bob was still at Hutton Roof so I set off along the river path and climbed up to admire the canal aqueduct over the Lune. I then debated where I should wait to make collecting me simple. Heading out to Denny Beck and all my little exploring loops meant I almost clocked 30 miles as my garmin died. I had failed to hear a text from Bob and was delighted to find I would only have to wait 15 minutes or so. Fantastic.