Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hardmoors 55

This was to be the second race in the Run Further series this year. It would also only be the second time I have run it as I usually manage to double book the weekend with DoE activities. Back in 2010 we ran clockwise and the weather was foul with strong winds and rain causing dnf for some with hypothermia.
cheat- as ths photo is not mine. Bus queue.

 All Hardmoors events are friendly and I was looking forward to the race. The linear route causes some complications and an early get up. Andy Splatcher collected me from work and drove to Helmsley.
Having taken me to the Youth Hostel he went to stay with his mum in Scarborough. I got organised, ate and then walked into town for chips and a pint. Mick C appeared- he was staying in a tent at the sports ground, which had been my original plan. I thought 5am was early enough but some blokes decided on very early showers so I was wide awake when my alarm went. I had assumed bus at 6 and then race at 8 so was shocked to find we were not running until 9. Less daylight at the end of the race was my first thought. However by the time I got off the coach I felt queazy and was glad of the extra time. I checked out Tony Hollands shop but could see no poles- I was hoping to check sizes and think about some for the UTMB. I chatted to Tim from Chia foods and he hopes to sponsor us next year. It was good to meet up with people and I had a long chat with Alison B.
 I helped Andy put up the RF flags in the freezing cold and still had time to chat. It was clearly going to be a day of very mixed weather. The start line was dry and sunny but on the lane up to the woods a ferocious shower hit and people were scrabbling for waterproofs. I was plodding steadily here and not getting too stressed at being overtaken, after all there are hours to go yet. By High Cliff Nab I had settled into a reasonable pace and was happy admiring the views north to the wind farm in the North Sea. Soon Rosebury Topping came into sight- and testing little out and back.
Guisborough Woods
At this stage all was well and although the final climb is stiff I enjoyed it and was soon heading for the car park below Newton Moor.
Had to buy ths one- Thanks guys, helps me to remember the bits I really did enjoy!
 The path upto Captain Cook monument was not as steep or rutted as I remembered and the path through the woods was a joy. The steep road down to Kildale was a bit of a jolt to the legs and I must have pushed the early pace too hard because I arrived at Kildale a bit sore and 3rd Lady. Andy was there with his camera and Sarah and Andy were ruuning an efficient CP. I was not looking forward to the next section as it would be a long slow upward plod on tarmac. I ran with another lady (must find out her name) and tried to use this to keep the pace reasonable.
A little out and back up Rosebury Topping
Somewhere on this section my right foot started to be painful. I had worried about my achilles and my quad but not my toes! The stoney tracks were not helping and I ran on grass verge when ever I could and swallowed the first of my painkillers. It sort of worked and I headed off over the moor. I like the next section- true it has more than its share of ups and downs but it is varied and fun. Somewhere around Hasty Bank the weather horizon started to change and banks of dark cloud appeared.
Cook monument
 I had wondered how I would find doing this run 'backwards' but the navigation was easy and I cannot figure out how Colm and I got so confused around Lord Stones back in 2010. On Carlton Bank the wind got up and the first of the hail/sleet arrived. By Live Moor I was coated white and my legs were soaked. Thank goodness we were descending and into woodland. I was lucky to catch some men and this made sure I turned at the correct point after the ford. Here I momentarily caught 3rd lady- not for long though. It seemed to shock her and she disappeared fast, whereas I ambled towards Osmotherly. I had been eating a bit but had promised myself that I would stop and eat here. Plus I had to wish Jon's dad Happy Birthday. A cup of tea, peaches, rice pud.... stopping was not good for my foot. The pain got much worse like a very intense version of feeling arriving back after numbness. I grabbed some food from my drop bag and was just saying bye to Andy and Sarah when Emma and Helen arrived. I had been wondering when they would catch me as they are never far behind.
Sunshine before the hailstorms
I set off on the long ascent to Sqaure Corner eating a wrap and taking more painkillers. I had been looking forward to the track across Black Hambleton and on to paradise farm but today despite trying to use some men ahead to 'tow' me I was starting to struggle. It was warm and sunny and I had totally dried out- I even considered shedding my waterproof. After Sneck Yate all but one of the men got away. The views off the edge of the escarpment were wonderful and I couldn't help but enjoy it despite finding it such tough going. There had been much debate about the steps or diagonal path down to the White Horse car park. The sloping decsent was harder than we expected and the climb up the steps left my legs protesting. Emma and Helen caught me up again and seemed turbo charged. I clung onback past the glider field and out to the main road but they were pulling away. By Cold Kirby I knew I had lost them even though I could still see them up ahead. The road section along the Rye valley seemed interminable and I fought to keep the man ahead in sight. We climbed into the last wood together and consoled each other that it could not be far now. The light was rapidly failing but I did not want to stop to dig out my torch. Fortunatley the path was big and apart from one section of steps fairly level. Somewhere above Duncombe Park I nearly went splat in the mud but a torch may not have helped as the guy behind fell anyway.
Clay bank? one of the big downs and ups
 The last kilometer was thankfully downhill  and I could see the lights and chucrh tower. Andy had put flags at the end of the track and another on the Town Hall. Suddenly the market square was there and it was over. I must have looked a sorry sight because Jon was so concerned he came and took my shoes off for me! Upstairs we were treated to drinks and food- waitress service courtesy of Kelly and a young lady. Shame I felt so ill and could barely eat. Normally once I have had a couple of cups of tea I am ravenous but not today. I managed to hold it toegther until the prize giving and was able to clap more finishers in. After half and hour of trying to feel better and failing I curled up on the floor in the corner and waited. An hour later I still felt dreadful and knew there was nothing for it but to retire for a shower and bed. The shame was the pub next door had an extension until 1am and I had run with my wallet. Andy very kindly drove me back to the youth hostel. After a wonderful hot shower I fell into bed and slept until about 11pm. I did feel slightly better then but could not face a walk back to the market square. Thank God I was not in a tent at the sports ground as per my original plan. I still cannot decide whether this race is a continuation of my hopeless start to the season. A PW at Haworth and a tough time today. It was faster than in 2010 when I took 11.09 but that was in dreadful weather and I lost 20 minutes in a car trying to warm up. Still I did get a trophy as first V50 lady and it is good for the RF series to have some other ladies competing for places at the top of the leaderboard and getting good points. I might be able to add more photos once I see what Andy took.
Smiles at the start- I was in no state to take photos at the end.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Haworth Hobble

The Haworth Hobble

This race has a special place in my heart. Not only is it the first ‘proper’ race of the season for many of us it was also my first ultra. It is hard to believe it is 6 years ago that I was taken to the race by a friend and club mate. Now it was to be the first race in the ‘new’ Run Further series. My points from the race almost never count as I am too slow over the shorter distance and so early in the year but it is always well organised and friendly. Yesterday was no exception.

The caretaker greeted us before 6.30, let us park in the school car park and we put up the flags.
 Andy handed over Clif Bars so that all who registered would receive one and then he settled to sign up new members and distribute unclaimed prizes. It is a popular race and the huge turn-out meant a queue at registration and a slight delay to the start so there was plenty of time to catch up with friends.

Down in the town it seemed mild but we had spent the night on Penistone Hill rocked by the wind so I set off wearing plenty. After a few yards of walking the field spread out as we headed for the moors.
I tried not to let the excitement make me set off too fast and steadily climbed up to Withens. It was into the wind all the way and tough going. The flag stones have been extended and it was an easy run down towards the reservoir. I am never sure whether the best route is to cross the first dam or stay on the moor. I suspect there is little in it. I walked more of the road up to Widdop reservoir than I am proud to admit  and some I had been running with got ahead. I refused to be disheartened and consoled myself with the fact it was a long way yet. It was to be a game of cat and mouse with the same runners for much of the day.
At Long Causeway we thankfully turned and had the wind on our backs. I refuelled with a tuna wrap and set off up the road dreading the swampy path down to the next farm. The next CP had an array of food and I grabbed a dounut.  I like the next section of race as we contour above Tod and the ancient worn gritstone flags always make me wonder just how many feet have passed that way. The pull up towards Mankinholes did not seem as bad as usual- perhaps I was going much more slowly! I probably should have eaten but most bits of me hurt and I was concentrating on just keeping going. Fortunately I climbed Stoodley with 3 others and I was determined not to be dropped. The initial drop off the moor is fine but by the time we were at Callis Woods I was struggling again and dreading the drop into Hebden and climb up to Heptonstall.

Every year I dream of a zip wire across the valley. Climbing out of Horse Bridge I was overtaken by some but also managed to do some overtaking myself as I concentrated on trying to wind people in one by one. The moors were less muddy than I remember – not so dry we kept dry feet of course. Suddenly we were at the Top o Stair and I knew it wasn’t far. I wish I had taken note of our start time but trying to do all the mental maths took my mind off the discomfort. It might be a PW but please let me keep the time under 6 hours became my internal chant. I was lucky to have a companion who was about the same speed and this pulled me along. I lost him as we came off Penistone Hill but then caught him up as he was not sure of the best way through Haworth. 

Bob had come out to take a photo and I staggered into the school for food and recovery. Waiting for our committee meeting and then taking down the flags meant masses of time to chat and sign up new members for RF.
I even ended up with a bottle of wine. All in all a good day out so thank you Brett and team.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A poddle on Pendle

A super hard run on Wednesday night at Street O had left me more exhausted than seems reasonable after a 75 minute run. The area was flat which helped my achilles and I knew that area well which helped my planning and navigation. I finished in a bad way but in retrospect it was worth it for some good points.
I had no energy to cycle on Thursday or Friday so by the weekend I was keen to be out on a hill. I'd been told the race on Pendle was pre-entry only but Bob had planned to run from the Nick so I joined him. We arrived to a stiff cold wind and a summit lost in cloud. The wind carried me to the turn off for Ogden Clough and then as I dropped it got much warmer. I bumped into Vic M who I had not seen in ages and stopped for a chat then it was an easy run down to Barley. I met plenty of others coming up ready to support the race and then runners using the hill to warm up. I dropped some Run Further flyers off in the village hall and bumped into the Preston Harriers (minus Mick and then John G appeared too)
 I was tempted to get an entry and run with them but was far from convinced that my legs were ready and although I wanted a run I did not want to hurt my achilles. I left them a jogged back up the lane before crossing the dam and heading up to the woods. My detour let the runners get ahead on the lane so I dropped down to the next dam, crossed the stream and headed up to the trig point just behind the runners. I kept an eye out for Bob but did not hang about in the clag. The race crosses the big ladder style and heads towards the Scout cairn so I dropped down the flag stones until the broken wall. I still missed most of the runners but a quick chat with the lady at the back suggested she was struggling. I ran with her across the moor and then down to the reservoir.
 Hopefully it kept her going and when I peeled off to climb up above Deerstones there were two ladies together and some guys not too far ahead. The climb up is less eroded than I remember but just as tough. I wasn't racing so stopped to eat a wrap in the sunshine and to admire the view. As I got to the top I could see the tail runners in the distance climbing the ridge to drop back towards Barley. After crossing the wall my run was easy- a slight climb and then down hill all the way.
The weather was clearing and Pendle looked beautiful. I was tempted to turn back towards the summit and go towards Mearly but we had planned on about 3 hours and I didn't have that much energy.
Despite the sun it was chilly in the wind. I climbed the rock behind the van to get a view and had a short run over the fell to the west. Back at the van I changed my wet shoes and socks and settled to read and eat whilst I waited for Bob. I was tired again and happy to fester for half and hour. Hopefully as I am helping Bob at Street O rather than running I will have energy by next weekend and the Hobble and the first of the Run Further series. Interestingly I do not think the Hobble has gained me counting points except in the first year I ran when I did fewer races.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

February half-term break

No running in an attempt to rest my achilles and the weird sore bit on the other foot. I was however persuading myself that some big hills in Scotland would at least get some miles (slowly) and some climbs under my belt. We drove up to Scotland in worsening weather and by the time we left Hamilton services it was close to a blizzard. The road after Drymen was an interesting experience but we made it to Rowardenen unscathed. A quick meal and we fell into bed.
By morning the snow and rain had stopped and we set off on the first Munroe of the year and kicked Bob's adventure off to a happy start. The first section of path up Ben Lomond was through pleasant woodland that I remembered from the Highland Fling and then a rather muddy path onto the moor. The snow low down was rather soft but it wasn't long before we were plodding steadily upwards on firmer and firmer snow and then deciding we needed crampons  to make easy progress rather than picking our way timidly. The views back towards Glasgow were superb and the Loch seemed to stretch forever in a rather monochrome scenery.
Before the summit ridge we were lost in low cloud and picking a route to carefully avoid any cornices. The cloud cleared and we had great views in all directions- strong winds but blue skies and dramatic cloud-scapes. The snow had been blown into spectacular shapes and the summit cairn was well encrusted. We started a northward descent to return via the Ptarmigan ridge but after a few hundred metres at the first steepness the ice was too firm and getting the front points of crampons to bite was not easy. I was less than comfortable so we returned by the way we had come.
A shame but probably the best decision. Once off the top the wind dropped and it was quite mild- certainly warm enough for a quick picnic in the snow. Only as we were coming of the summit area did we see our first people of the day on their way up. Camping in the van had given us an early start and we had had the mountain to ourselves. We made good time on the descent and now had plenty of footprints to follow. The snow and path was even wetter lower down but we were happy with our little adventure.
We also had the best of the day as by mid afternoon the cloud and drizzle arrived. We sat and chilled in the van with coffee, soup and more food and made plans for the next day.
The next cluster of Munroe's were not far up Loch Lomond although the drive meant retracing our steps back to the south end of the loch first. A nice little lay by by the loch, sheltered from the road by a huge rock bank gave us a good camp site and another fairly early start. We moved the van to the visitor centre near the HEP station and walked back up the road and on up to the huge sub station. This was familiar ground for me as a LAMM had bussed us the same car park and then started on the electric/ water company road. It meant we also had an alternative map of the area. Neither of us were keen on starting with a long walk towards Sloy dam so we scaled the south ridge immediately behind the electric works.
 It was steep and the wet snow and grass were incredibly slippy. It was a joy to get higher onto less steep ground and deeper firmer snow. We followed our noses and headed north and upwards. We seemed to have the place to ourselves again and were rewarded by some fantastic views. We crossed the col where the main path comes up and spotted others climbing too. It was warm!! and when the sun came out I even sat and sunbathed. By the summit cairn of Ben Vorlich the snow was firm and the trig point was buried under wind blasted snow.
We had company here but nobody came with us to the true summit which was sadly in low cloud. In retrospect we should perhaps have continued to the north summit or returned over little hills but we wanted to conserve energy so that we could walk every day. We returned to the col and sat sunbathing and eating our lunch. Dropping to the dam road we realised that our route up had perhaps not been as bad as we thought. The walk back along the road was easy, if a bit boring. In summer we could have continued and taken in Ben Vane but we knew we had a shorter day light and the snow was sapping some energy.
Others reported a retreat off Ben Vane and the steep wet snow made us unsure what to plan next. Certainly the big corrie on Ben Lui would be too much of an avalanche risk.
We spent the night at the aptly named Rest and be Thankful. It was damp but the view back down the valley was almost alpine. The plan for the next day was Ben Ime and Ben Narnain.

 It wasn't too bad when we set off although it was already damp and the hillside was soaking. My boots and gaiters were struggling to keep the water out and once we gained height and hit deep wet snow it was worse. It seemed to take an age to make progress and arrive at the little dam.
Ben Vorlich done- 2 Munroes now completed.
It was now raining - not much but steadily. We trudged up and entered the cloud. Fortunately we were able to follow the fence line to the col and the gate where the paths cross between the two mountains. It was now true white out and I even felt a little sea sick. The rain up here had turned into snow which was some improvement. We decided on Ben Narnain as it was slightly closer- probably a mistake as it had more crags to worry about. we drifted a bit too far north and were on steep ground but unable to see a thing. It was getting dangerous so we retreated. By the time we arrived back at the fence our footprints had virtually vanished and neither of us were really keen on an attempt on Ben Ime.

After Ben Vorlich- no photos on rainy day
It was a hard slog back down the valley in deep wet snow and a very muddy path in rain back to the van. thank God for the van- we were both changed, warm and dry in no time.  It also allowed us an excursion into Fort William, where I managed to get anti-balling plates for my crampons, and a long drive round to Ben Cruachan which dried out all the gear!
Our campsite for the night was great- quiet and with a tiny lochan which in the morning was perfectly still and with a superb reflection.
We both knew the Ben Cruachan bit from a LAMM. Given the snow we decided against the dam and main ridge, although I suspect it would have been OK. Instead we did a horseshoe from the Dalmally end. It had the advantage of a big track up into the hills for the first few kilometres- not something I would normally go for but anything to avoid the deep wet snow of yesterday.
The ridge was steep but we made good time ( Bob complains that it is not him that is slow but me that is fast, and now he has the recommended times to back him up. It was a pleasant walk and the grass was not so steep or slippy as on Ben Vorlich, or maybe the anti-ball plates were just doing their job. As we neared the top of the ridge we entered the cloud again. It was compass and pacing with quite a bit of checking! I was even glad of the GPS altimeter of Bob's Garmin as it did confirm each minor summit we were on.
 Stob Garbh, then the summit Stob Daimh and then Sron an Isean which we felt deserved to be a peak in its own right. We were lucky- every now and again the cloud broke and we got a few minutes of stolen views- down Glen Noe, across the the Ben Cruachan ridge and back down our valley. It was tempting to think of a jaunt across to Ben Cruachan and we could probably of made it but we left that horseshoe for another day.
We descended the northern ridge of our horseshoe until we left the cloud and found a large rock for lunch. Bob needed a toilet break and we split up. I descended west thinking I could cross near a small dam. He went much more due south. We both saw deer and I had earlier seen a fox. The dam was a sheet of curved steel- not crossable so I wandered upstream looking for somewhere safer. My feet got wetter. I then hit the big land rover track and met Bob as he arrived at the broken and missing bridge and also had to ford the stream. It was then an easy walk back along the track to the van.
We had been able to see another land rover track for much of the afternoon and it got me thinking about an easy route for the next day. Using it would get us two Munros - Beinn a'Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich. We were now off the main A road and had a lovely quiet lay by. We also had our earliest start and were out of the van before 8. It was mild but dry. As we headed up the track there were Highland cattle or shaggy cows as we refer to them. First there were sheep- stupid creatures herded themselves into a dead-end and then panicked. The cattle were placid but it was a bit disconcerting to find the bull with us while his lady friends were in the next field.
Stob Garbh - the day with views
Above the next gate were more cattle with very young calves. the track was steep but it got us a long way up the hill.  The other bonus was the footprints from others that had done the walk the day before. I would not religiously follow them but it did make it easy as they had compressed the snow and found a good line. The pull up the ridge to Beinn a'Chochuill was an effort but we soon disappeared into the cloud.  The summit ridge was a succession of false summits, especially as we could see noting! The garmin was useful again and told us to keep going, you are not there yet. We reached the summit but got no views sadly.
The ridge south was a joy and we were soon at the col where masses of snow had been dumped and the wind was howling. As we climbed to Beinn Eunaich we met a party coming the other way. They had no crampons on and were having to kick steps and proceed with extreme caution. It was great in crampons to just yomp along. Plus we still had all the foot prints to follow- which given how little we could see were a bonus. 
The descent was over amazingly quickly and the snow started to disappear. The sheep gave us an odd look. The grass suddenly got very steep and although we had taken our crampons off I got my ice axe out again! It was slippy and Bob took a tumble but we were soon safely down on the track. The cows stood and scowled at us- or perhaps given the shaggy fringe they just couldn't really see us.  It was mild again as we hot the valley floor but at least it was dry. The sheep were being herded and I got molested by a friendly collie. A shame not to get any views  but I enjoyed our walk anyway.  The forecast for the next day and the following ones was dire so we decided to cut and run. By 8pm we were at home and the van was pretty much emptied.
A deserted Glen Noe
A good start to Bob's adventure. Only 5 Munroes in 5 days but given the conditions I think we did pretty well. My achilles was sore but far from unbearable. We had managed to walk for 5 consecutive days and had had a good time.
A great start to half term and Bob's campaign