Sunday, 22 June 2014

Weekend in the Lakes

Bob fancied a trial of a sea kayak. We have both canoed and kayaked before on rivers, lakes and even the sea but were interested in how these long slim creatures would handle. We booked a day of hire and company on Ullswater. We were parked up and ready to go before 9.30. Leigh and Patricia arrived and unloaded the boats.

 Various bits were explained and we were soon on the water. It didn't take long to get the hang of the kayaks and they were more stable than I had expected.

 After a quick trip to Silver Bay we carried on down the lake to Howtown. It was windy so we hugged the shore line and thought about how easy it would be paddling back.

They were a friendly pair and we nattered away. The weather was superb- warm, sunny and just enough wind to make it interesting. Near Howtown we found a quiet beach and laid out our picnic. Patricia was Italian and had baked bread, made pastes and more.

 After this leisurely lunch we packed up and set off back towards the sailing centre. The wind had reversed in this time so we had a headwind again, but nothing too serious.

 The wakes of the steamers gave us some fun and it was interesting spotting all our well loved Wainwrights from down at water level. We opted to forgo the cliff jump and make the most of the time in kayaks.

While Patricia went to check what time the centre would shut we explored up the river towards the bridge at Side Farm. We had some fun and it was a different environment to the lake but really it was too shallow and needed some rain.

 Plans then changed a little as Leigh rescued a swamped sailing dingy and we had a laugh at their conked out safety boat. It all added up to an extension until 7pm so off we went again. We headed for one of the larger islands in the middle of the lake and sheltered behind it before padding to the west shore.

There was a stiff breeze coming down the valley from the Helvellyn range but the foot controlled rudders let us keep a straight line. We had some wind assistance on the return and the sun came back out in time for our final picnic. 

The lake emptied fast although there were a few parties having BBQs on beaches. By 7 we were unloading the kayaks and thanking them for a great day out.

 Then we found we were locked in! No problem- we couldn't undo the padlock but we could use a screwdriver and undo the whole thing, drive out and then replace it. Supper in the Glencoyne car park was a simple affair but the midges kept us inside.  An early night and a good sleep, ready for our next adventure in the morning.
The kayaking was pre-booked so despite the SLMM venue being announced we were in that valley and not prepared to drive further in summer. We decided that if we stuck to the northern end and the main paths we were not doing anything wrong as we were seeing nothing new and gaining no advantage. We found space in our desired lay by (not a surprise before 8am really) and set off on the most hazardous part of the day - the road towards Glenridding for a few hundred metres. It was a relief to reach the track and leave the road behind.

The sun was out and it was warm. At the road junction we dropped away from the mining cottages down the the bridge and campsite. Then it was a long steady climb up beside Mires Beck and onto Birkhouse Moor. There were few people about and the views were stunning. Unfortunately it was also still and midgy.

Wainwright did not chose the highest point for his peak but it did give good views into the valley. Then we wended our way upwards towards the Hole in the Wall.

We left the wall that would lead to Striding Edge and contoured across to the tarn and the path that would take us below Catstycam. This peak is truly beautiful. We played on Swirral Edge trying to find the trickiest lines and most rock for entertainment.

Even up here the midges were out! I pointed out all the places I had had MM controls in the past and laughed at my silly error during the Tour de Helvellyn when I missed Little Man. The path was easy to Whiteside Pike and then on to Raise.

We met a few people but I had thought it might be more crowded, perhaps we were benefiting from out early start. We contoured below Stybarrow Dodd to Greenside on a tiny path that is probably wet for most days of the year.

 It was soft but dry as was the path out to Hart Side. Another trod took us around the head of Glencoyne and gave us great views to last nights camping spot and Ullswater. By Sheffield Pike there were more people but most were still on their way up. This is an interesting little lump with really intricate contour detail and a rocky path to the col before Glenridding Dodd.

We had spotted a path just north of this last lump and it looked ideal as the map showed it leading down to the lay by where we left the van. I do not think it is a path used by many and some serious tree uprooting had blocked one section. We found a way through and carried on down the steep and fairly overgrown way. It did indeed take us straight back to the van. Now, decisions. It was hot and we were a bit tired but it was far too early to end our day. Once Bob had managed to drive out on the blind bend without any major incident we turned round and headed for the peace of the outer fells. We worried that parking could be difficult by now, especially for a vehicle as big as the van, so it was off to the twins Great and Little Mell Fell. I felt a bit guilty driving through Matterdale End that we were not calling in to see Claire- we should have tried last night but were both too tired. We found a wide part of lane and set off up a track. It wasn't long before we came to what seemed to be a promising stile. We should have carried on another 100m but we were not to know. After some jungle warfare with mammoth bracken we were back on a wide grassy track and making better progress.  A short section of ancient trees led to the open grassy top and wonderful views of Blencathra. The descent was much easier! We cheated and moved the van- I did think of Steve B and his epic run last week. How he must have cursed Wainwright for these outliers and then Binsey as well. This time no paths seemed to go where we wanted once we were through the gateway so we wandered up the pasture until we found trods heading the right way. The summit had a lovely stone trig point and views out to the Pennines as well as back into the eastern fells. A grassy path led south from the summit and what looked steep on the map would probably have been an easy and shorter way up but never mind. Another 7 Wainwrights done and Bob only has 70 odd left to do. Hopefully he will get some on the SLMM - the ones we steered well clear of this weekend.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

3 Rings of Shap

We included this in the Runfurther series this year as a long, so for us all 3 rings were compulsory. I almost didn't go as I felt so tired at the end of the week but I had entered, the weather was OK and being LDWA there were no harsh cut-offs. It was close enough to drive up on Saturday morning and still to have a little time to socialise. The whole RF team were there and a number who are doing the series.
I decided to avoid the mass start at 8 after warnings of many stiles in the first mile. In the end we went off in dribs and drabs- Dick, Emma, then Nick, me and finally Andy. Even before Wet Sleddale reservoir came into view it was obvious it was going to be very warm and humid.

There was congestion at the slippery stepping stones so we dashed straight through the river- feet would not stay dry in Mosedale for long anyway! This was familiar terrain after several runs and MMs and I was enjoying myself. It took me until after Mosedale cottage to haul in Dick- he was moving well.

The first self clip was up on Branstree and although the climb was tough it seemed small after munros. The grassy run to Selside Pike and down to the waterfalls of Mosedale Beck was wonderful and before long we met the road at Swindale Head and then the CP at Truss Gap.

 Fuelled by mini pizza I set off for Tailbert running close to Pam who knew the way and another runner who I saw all day but never found out her name. At Rosgill we turned south and ran back past the ruined abbey and across the fields to Shap. One ring down, 2 to go. LDWA know how to do food so I had tea, soup and quiche before setting off again.

Ring 2 headed out over the railway and M6 and I was mostly on my own. I expected to meet a couple that set off just before me but they knew they way and I did some dithering. Before Reagill I caught the unnamed lady and others. This ring just didn't do it for me. The route just seemed random, bits of it were awful - like the felled forest section and the fields of thistles so thick that no grass showed through! Then Nigel suddenly appeared and I ran with him for a bit, but could not keep up. Morland looked a pretty village but there was no time to stop and explore. After Morland there was a loop out north and people seemed to disappear? There was no self clip so I am not sure whether they got lost, if I was just going very slowly of if some took a short cut more directly to Great Strickland.  Probably just me feeling low and going slow. The CP here was behind a pub and I stopped for a proper refuel. It meant others caught me but I was flagging. Emma appeared looking very fresh and did not stop for long. I was in a big dip mentally- my achilles hurt, my shin was sore, I was hungry and didn't think this ring was great. Oh dear. Still with ultras if you feel bad you know it will be OK later. I arrived at the A6 and Hackthorpe alone and promptly missed a turning near the deer park. I wasn't lost but did slightly longer and with a little more climb than was necessary.

 I did get to run through a deer enclosure with nobody else and got very close before the deer slowly moved off a few metres. My spirits lifted a bit as did my speed because the two guys behind me never caught me up. From the high point by a wood it was a big track almost all the way to the self clip at High Knipe. I crossed the R Lowther on a lovely suspension bridge and headed to Bampton and Bampton Grange along the river.

 This ring took a slightly different line back from Rosgill and involved a field of intimidating cows. In the end they did no more than look. The ring had taken longer than I had hopped but it was longer at about 24 miles.  This time I refuelled with rice pudding and cake.
I grabbed a head torch and an extra layer but could not be bothered changing my socks. My feet were not the issue. I suddenly realised I should text the boys and be clear that they should eat without me and perhaps even go to bed. Mistake. The reply from Chris said they were in A and E as Matthew had stitches but they had burst!  Apparently they'd be fine without me. So, should I carry on and run the 3rd ring? In the end commonsense prevailed and I decided they were big boys, had a car and could sort it out but I twice nearly turned back in the first mile. As I left Shap for the third and final time unnamed lady was only just in front and before we crossed the M6 we were together. Once the food had settled I felt good and pulled ahead on lovely wide grassy paths towards Oddendale and Pot Rigg.
Last photo due to dim light and racing hard
On the way to Lyvennet Beck I spotted a runner of course- it was Graham who I hadn't expected to see again. That meant Emma was probably not too far ahead either. We crossed the B6260 and the route got interesting again. Up onto the limestone, past a big stone cross - the jubilee monument on Beacon Hill. Then into Great Asby nature reserve and another lovely path through the limestone. Somewhere here I lost Graham even though I stopped for a wee. I was flying down the track and then road and into the CP with two very cheerful marshals. My good spirits were back and I was loving it. There was a short section of road towards Great Asby and then fields and track towards Gaythorne Hall. I had a slight dither after a stream crossing but only seconds before I was sorted.  The road section to Bank Moor looked long on the map but it passed quite quickly. I left the road at the high point and set off down a wide green track, down and down to Crosby Ravensworth.  I still hadn't seen any runners ahead but I was running fast so I must be gaining on them? The evening was still warm and even now I was regretting put on an extra T shirt but too concerned with running to stop and take it off. Around Oddendale I thought I spied runners up ahead. Yes. I couldn't see them around the quarry area but I was convinced they must be there. Running worried about getting home is certainly motivating (cheers boys). The motorway bridge is nice elevated and they were even closer. I was a bit cheeky as I just tried to hang in behind but no let on I was there. Fortunately it was not really dark and my eyes had got accustomed to the dimness. I held back until Shap itself and then sprinted. I finished about a minute after Emma but knew she had started earlier than me. I had not idea of her exact time though. First job was a phone call home. I had definitely done the right thing staying to run as Matt had gone to the pub to watch the England match with his mates. Chris who had had a night out on Friday was having a lazy night in. How different they are. So another in the RF series completed and some good points scored. (now know it was first lady in 14.23 and a new ladies record by over 10 mins- just glad Nicky and Gaynor were not able to run even tho they had entered)

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


We knew it would be a long way north and it was! Fortunately the Head let me out of work early and 4 of us shared a car and I wasn't driving. We were later leaving Lancaster where I left my car at Rowena's than I had hoped but Tony drove well (fast) and we made up time. A short break at Hamilton left us refreshed and we met some other competitors. Then there was just one more short wee stop. It was a glorious evening and the mountains got more magnificent as we drove north. We pointed out the Cairngorms to Albert and Tony enjoyed the far north in new territory. We arrived in plenty of time and in sunshine.

Bob was on car park duty and had been kicked out of the van for the night by Rowena and I. Tony and Albert went off to their hotel while Rowena and I settled to a huge meal of spag bol, not forgetting to take cups of tea to Bob and Dave J. We then registered and chatted to the many friends that volunteer at this event. I managed to resist the beer but did taste some of John's. After a quick mooch round the shop and a chat to Rick and Angie it was off to bed with the prayer that the band would stop at a reasonable hour (they did).

Sue, John, Frances and Eddie

We slept well and awoke to a cool dry day. We had masses of time for breakfast and last minute gear fusses and decisions about what to wear. Our start time involved the 9.10 bus. Studying the map and making the most of eaves dropping we worked out where the start might be very roughly and exactly where we thought the mid-camp would be. It wouldn't help much as we still had to run the terrain and make route choice decisions but it is always nice to be thinking.

Bus starts mean a little compression of the starters so we were not alone as we headed for the first easy control on a fence/gate. Even heading to CP2 there were other runners around us. Here we took some time to get into the map and realise what would be mapped and what would be ignored. It is not easy navigating in complex terrain on an enlarged 1:50,000 map. Almost all of us stopped far too early on some ribs of rock. Then looking ahead and using the major streams I worked out where we should be, helped by a couple of runners bending to dib at the control.

 It would have been a nightmare in the mist. The next 2 controls passed without mishap and we enjoyed some running over the plateau rocky areas. We made a slight error at 5 but soon corrected. things were going well, too well. The next long leg had several possibilities and we don't think we made the best of it. Rowena's original idea had been to stay high but we didn't due to a bit of early climb and the temptation of a big downhill run. We ended up trying to cross 3 major streams and the first two were in deep rocky ravines. It was so frustrating trying to find a relatively safe crossing point without cliffs to climb down and with a possible scramble up out the other side. We were convinced we had lost at least half an hour here although route gadget suggests it was less. Perhaps we just ran the downhill bit fast and then powered up some of the climb after the streams in our anger/ frustration.

The section to CP7 was very steep and we tried to keep others in our sights as we climbed to a high col and then dropped to a river.  The nav got easier and then there was just one control left. We hit a path and agreed speed on the path would be good. Frances had cycled up the path to the bridge and encouraged us that it was all downhill from there. Either she was winding us up or did not realise we had another CP yet and it was not downhill! The control was further round the hill than I had anticipated.

I ignored the huge deer antler - no hope of carrying that, although I did think about it. The last section was downhill and a big track.

 Once on the track it never occurred to us that we could cut the corner but it probably wouldn't have saved much. Bob appeared at the finish and took our photo- he is still in Scotland so that will have to wait.

It was a joy to finish in warm dry weather and with stacks of day light. We pitched the tent near Tony, Albert, John T and Julian. Having collected water we went downstream to wash. the river was not deep enough or steeply banked so we couldn't soak our limbs easily but the mud came off. The early evening was spent lazing by the tent with cups of tea and soaking in the view into Liathach/ Torridon.

A quick trip to the results board suggested we might be first ladies? What had happened to the others we wondered. Bob kept us updated and we were 27th overall and yes, first ladies. More food, more food and then the rain came.

We finished our meal in the tent and settled down for the night. The rain kept us trapped and we knew we must be dehydrated as there was no need for a toilet break for hours. Somewhere around 1am we were both awake and sensed the rain had eased. We agreed a quick wee was in order.

 Sadly I stripped to keep gear dry and had not anticipated the plague of midges! Earlier the breeze had kept them away but in the calm night they had massed ready for the attack. We brought loads back into the tent and took ages to get comfy again. Pre-warned we put on full waterproofs before emerging for breakfast.

 We were treated to a beautiful double rainbow but the midges were still out. It was relaxing not to be in the chasing start as it meant a flexible start time. We didn't hang about. having had tea and porridge we re-packed, used the trench toilet (and acquired more midge bites) and were off. Marking up the map and trying to concentrate in a midge storm was awful and it was a relief to be off along the lane and out onto the hill.

As we climbed we found a breeze and the midges disappeared. We overshot the first control and it did cost us 5 mins plus but then we were suddenly in a pack of chasing start runners. It was tempting to hang on to their coat tails and we did. Sadly we also gossipped and lost contact with the map. It wasn't long before we were struggling to decide exactly where we were so it was fortunate that there were some big features and no mist. Lesson learnt. The nav to the next CP was easier but the CP was on top of a Munro- Maol Chean dearg at 933m. There was nothing for it but to run as much as we could and then plod steadily upwards. Ironically the steep and very loose gully took my mind of my aching quads and the last bit went fairly fast. I felt great pity for those who had needed to descend that route the day before and was very grateful that our route off was much more of a path and less steep. So much so that I really enjoyed the next leg down to a little lochan. CP5 proved a bit of a slog as the terrain was quite rough and we both struggled to run and by the time we did get to grassy slopes we were knackered.

Just 2 controls to go and they were really just to pull us in towards the finish. The final section of track looked so easy and short but my foot cramped up on the stony track and made running so painful.

 We lost a few seconds and vet placing as a result. Overall we were still 27th, still first ladies and on the vets handicap 3rd, missing 2nd by 36 seconds. Not a bad weekend, although we both agreed it had been a tough one and our total time of 13.20 confirmed this.

No other B at the LAMM had taken us that long. Ultra running has not helped with big climbs, running over rough stuff or general speed! We were lucky to have the van, a hot kettle and a chance to strip and change in comfort. Then having tried to find and remove ticks for the survey it was time for Wilfs and a refuel.

We sat in the sun with Rowena's sister and brother in law for the prize-giving and 20th celebration cake and sparkly drink. After a hurried goodbye to Bob we piled into Tony's car for the long drive home. By 11 I was home showered and using tweezers to remove yet more ticks. The midge bites were desperate and stopped me sleeping once the first few hours of exhausted sleep wore off. Still, a great weekend with a wonderful MM partner. Thanks to Rowena for her partnership and to Tony for driving.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Wedding Race

After a week of big walks it was back to the North York Moors. Not for a massive ultra this time but to help share the celebrations of Jon and Shirley's wedding. We arrived in plenty of time and parked up at Lords Stones more easily than I expected. It was a glorious day- warm, dry and sunny. As we had missed instructions about the dress code we were among the few that were not in dresses or ties etc but never mind. It was good to catch up with people and find out how the were a week after the H110 and H160.

 We spent time lazing in the sun and chatting outside the Yurt that had hosted the wedding. Bob had decided not to run but he found friends from marshaling duties. So many had accepted the invitation that Jon decided we ought to have registration and race numbers. I was intending a slow fun run but once you put a number on it becomes serious! I did set off nice and steady and kept it that way for almost 2 miles. Then I was into my stride and loving it. What a change to run over these hills with fresh legs or without the need to conserve strength for the many miles to come. The stone slabs and steps were bone dry unlike a week ago and so were a joy to run down. I even remembered Martin D's little trod which let me gain about 5 places. Suddenly we were at the road and half way. Turning back was fun because we kept meeting friends running towards us. I did lose count of the hills and hoped that there was only one more up. Blasting down was such fun but would have been easier if I had not spent and hour sipping a litre of water. I have not run a short (7 mile) race for ages and really enjoyed myself. I made it back as first lady- but only because Shelli had run the shorter course with her daughter.

We lay in the field and clapped all the others in and then finally Jon and Shirley arrived back- not sure where they had been- and ran up our guard of honour together. Jon did appear with Shirley on his shoulders, but not for the final run in. We retired to the renovated Lord Stones cafe. They had sold out of ice creams but I had a beer, Bob had a coffee and then we all had a BBQ meal. Very pleasant. By early evening it was time for us to go. We still had a long drive back and I had work to prepare for having not been home for 10 days.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Scotland- Last day

We were both up early and it looked like being a good day.We set off up the nature trail stripping off layers as it got warmer.

Within 90 mins we were on the summit of Meall Corranaich. Today was going to be good value in terms of many peaks in the first few hours. It was an easy drop back to the col and we were soon high up on Beinn Ghlas even though there seemed to be no path at first.

 Here we met Polish and his friend for the first of many times in the day. It was an hour per munro and after 3 hours we were on Ben Lawers. We did not seem to be pushing the pace just walking strongly. After this summit there is a big drop before the climb up An Stuc.

 It looked enormous from the foot of the col but by 4 hours we were on the summit. My metabolism seemed to be in overdrive today and I was constantly eating, in fact I worried that I would run out of food. Meall Greigh is just as high but after a rather eroded drop off An Stuc gaining the next summit seemed easy.

Around here we started meeting quite large numbers coming the other way. They had left a car at the NT car park, driven back to Ben Lawers hotel and were doing a linear walk.

 The last peak was totally different as it was much more grassy and rounded. Polish had asked us about a way back. We had confessed we were not at all sure but showed him our plan. We dropped straight down to a tiny reservoir and a water intake pipe. The map showed a big track contouring the hillside for much of the way back where we wanted to go.

 It led us back for over 5km. Just I was getting bored with counting water intake number signs and my feet were sore from the stones it veered and headed sharply down to the main road. We left it and carried on with our contour.

This was fine at first but then the water intakes stopped and so did the trod. We paused a while to watch a helicopter rescue on the summit and then decided to drop to the in-bye wall. It was boggy but led back towards the car park and minor road.

 As I stomped up the road I planned to move the van down to meet Bob. I turned and couldn't see him but he was not far behind. He got a shock when he saw the van moving!

 It wasn't sunny enough to sunbathe but we chilled at the van before starting the long drive back to the North York Moors. Another long day and a superb end to a wonderful week.