Saturday, 25 January 2014

A longish run home

Since last weekend I have been worried about my achilles. It was sore enough to stop me running after kids doing DoE in the way I usually do and I concentrated on stretches and core exercises in the week instead of running. I needed to test it out and I really wanted a run. Bob was handing over some orienteering gear and then planning a run so I got him to go a bit early and drop me off at Fell Foot.
I ambled up the lane and onto the hill. It is a desperate start and just gets steeper. After 5 minutes my calves were screaming and I had to stop. After 10 minutes I was almost in tears. I rested and plodded on. Once I hit the green road that contours the summit of Parlic I felt better and ran. It was calm and warm but looked a bit threatening. As I jogged up Fairnsnape the cloud got thicker but it stayed dry. I was glad I knew the way as I couldn't see far and the light was wierd. I stopped for a quick photo at the summit cairn and my camera blew off in the wind. So much for there being no wind today.
Poor light and low cloud at 9.45am
Fortunately no harm done and I tried again. I was trying out my RF prize of an Ultimate Direction running vest. It felt strange when I first put it on but I was becoming used to it. I like having the bottle holder pockets and it made access to my map and camera very easy. I was less keen on the water in the bottle sloshing up and down but maybe it will remind me to drink more often. I knew the next section would see me with wet feet at the least and buried in a bog at worst. I stayed clean until the big fence corner but did get muddy as I headed down to Fiensdale Head. It was almost a relief to hit the flagstones and run without mud spraying everywhere. As I dropped a bit the cloud cleared and I did wonder if I should stay on the tops. Common sense prevailed and I decided that hoping to meet up with Bob to get a lift back was too risky so I stuck to my plan.
Not sure I like / approve of the flagstones
I made very good time to Hazlehurst and my legs seemed to have got used to the idea of running by now. The lane to Bleasdale Tower was fast but the next fields were very wet and boggy.  I made a mistake at the next farm by trying to run from map memory and a parallel error had me cursing the lack of path in the woods. After 25 minutes of jungle warfare I arrived at a huge stream junction, checked the map and realised my mistake. Oh well. The promised path now materialsied and I shot off to Brock Mill. I didn't need a map from now as I just had to follow the river west downstream. The path got a bit busy by the car park at Brock Bottoms but although the paths were muddy it was good running all the way to Walmsley bridge. From here the land changed to crop fields but they were well drained. The path near Brock Side had a warning about adders but I did not see any. It felt strange running through stacks of expensive Land Rovers at the Brock garage but I trotted off keen to leave the A6 and get onto the canal tow path. The forecast rain had now arrived and I was getting wet. Worse the wind was getting up and I was running into a headwind. Parts of the tow path were a joy but inexplicably other sections quickly turned into swamps.  By Moons Marina I had had enough. I was soaked and caked in mud. I considered phoning Bob to see if he was en route back home but resisted.  After another mile I could leave the canal and head through Woodplumpton and onto paths that would take me home. The canal does an enormous westward loop here and I just could not face ploughing through more mud.  I did not see Bob on my short section of road so just got on with making progress to home.  Although I had stopped to put my cag on I was even getting chilled. Keep plodding...... I passed another runner and we exchanged comments about being mad and then the rain almost stopped, just as I got close to our estate. Still not a bad morning with well over 20 miles covered despite the energy sapping mud. Sadly sitting here now my achilles is sore again.
Trying out the UD running vest

The Hebden 18 Jan

As my first 'event' last year I have fond memories of this. Bob and I drove over to Mytholmroyd on Friday evening and after a quick half in the pub fell into bed. I hadn't reckoned on the church bells chiming every quarter hour, including 12 chimes at midnight but it was better than getting up at the crack of dawn, just. By 7 we were registered and on the look out for the rest of the RF crew. I had prizes to organise and was fretting about having enough time to do this. Well before 8 I was back in the hall and finding so many friends to chat to. I started near Albert, Josie and Tony but knew they would disappear ahead before long. I was regretting wearing two thermals and my cag  as we climbed from the valley road but was reluctant to stop and take them off. I plodded on steadily if not speedily. I passed Nick earlier than last year so perhaps I was doing OK. The course was muddy and slippy which made the sections with rock and boulders tricky. The CP near Old Town came and went very quickly and I enjoyed the run to the woods at Hardcastle crags. Isaline shot past as we headed to Gibson Mill. The climb out from the river took its toll but I hung onto the rear of the runners ahead. I was not 100% sure of the way after Colden Water. In the end some went wrong and I ended up alone anyway. There is such a maze of paths there but at least it doesn't matter exactly which one you take and I emerged at Blackshaw Head just the same. The next bit had some tricky narrow paths and then the concrete road which should have been so runable seemed very slippy. As we headed for CP I was caught by Gill and her friend. We sped past the CP and over the railway ready for the climb towards Stoodley. The ridiculously cheerful photographers were in their usual place, although this year they were not getting covered in blown snow. Somewhere here I hit a bad patch. Gill sped off and I just lacked motivation and energy. I had eaten but it hadn't helped. As I picked my way through the bog and puddles on Dick's Lane Albert, Josie and Tony appeared. They had unintentionally added a little extra! It sort of spurred me on  and I kept them in sight as we headed round the hill and into Cragg Vale. From the pub in Cragg Vale I was suddenly on my own and eased off the pace... if only I had had my racing head on there were others just ahead.  CP5 came as a total surprise as I had no recollections of this part of the route at all. I got two guys ahead in my sites and worked on chasing them down. It worked and I led them through the tricky bit as we dropped towards the valley and houses. It always seems odd in this part of Yorkshire as paths lead through so many people's gardens. It was a hard plod back uphill but by the time we reached the beacon on a pole I could see Albert et al again. I tracked them all the way to the finish. I was joined by Catriona and Kevin.  We flew down the last fields but I could not raise my game in the big path alongside the railway. It should have been easy to just make a bit more effort but somehow I just couldn't. Albert et al stayed ahead but in sight to beat me by a minute. Catriona beat me by seconds in 4.13.  It was faster than last year, plus longer and muddier so I guess I should be content. Andy had a fantastic run in 4.05 and was very pleased with himself.
Andy still looking pleased some time later (photos Nick Ham)
 Much later I found Bob enjoyed himself more than he anticipated and so paired up with Elaine, switched to the long and completed in 6.35.
I refuelled in the hall with countless cups of tea, pie n beans plus crumble and custard. Andy and I were restless and full of anticipation for the RF meeting. We hobbled across to the van to change, set up in the pub and waited with wine and beer in hand. The relaunch meeting went well and so did the prize giving.
Dick - not only a Grand Slam but has worked hard getting us to company status
Considering only a week earlier we had virtually no prizes I think we had a generous amount in the end. Bob was shattered and never made it to the pub but he did drive home (for which I am very grateful).
A great end to a good year.
Thanks to the rain I took no photos and my camera man missed the prize giving. I will have to ask Nick if I can use some of his.
Thanks Nick- our treasurer to be.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Looking forwards: Looking backwards

Almost a month since my last race at Tour de Helvellyn so time for an update. I thought it would be interesting to take stock of last year first of all. I ran well over 2000 miles and that is before I add in three mountain marathons, numerous shorter runs like ten Street Os that are probably about 6 or 7 miles each. I was surprised to find that exactly half the runs had been events rather than just me going out with my garmin. True, I did also include a run along the Sandstone Trail with Andy Splatcher where we both set out to beat course records. I was pleased that it was not more solo runs. I had to use some where I simply could not find enough races or events within a sensible travelling distance and in holiday periods when I crammed extra runs into Monday- Friday. The solo runs were just as tough despite being slower. I loved exploring and having long days out in solitude but sometimes it was harder to motivate myself to keep moving. The longest race was definitely Jon's Hardmoors 110 (or 115 in my case). It is the furthest I have ever run and I could not believe how well it worked out. It has though given me the bug and I now do want to do some more long runs.  The Just Giving did not really raise all that much, but that was never the main purpose and I am sure they are very grateful for the few hundred that they received.

So now to 2014. It is actually Bob's turn and special year but I know I will still have plans as well as hopefully joining him on some of his adventures. I hope to do at least half of the RunFurther series. I have already pledged and entered to try Jon's Triple Ring of Steele (including the H110 again, but not the 160). I hope to fit in at least 3 and maybe 4 MMs and just before Christmas I was persuaded to submit an entry for the UTMB. I will know this week if I have won a place in the UTMB and if I don't then I might look for another long adventure. Already quite a busy year I reckon.
It has started slowly, just like last year. We were away skiing again for the start of January but I did manage a short run at an orienteering event on Saturday and a longer run, although not an ultra, on Sunday from Mytholmroyd. It was not really a recee of the Hebden, more a chance to check all was well with the venue for the meeting and prize giving for RF. First race/ event will like last year be The Hebden and I am looking forward to catching up with lots of friends.