Monday, 27 October 2014


It would be my 4th MM of the year and my second paired effort with Rowena as usual. We had both been to the Cheviots before for Phoenix events and me for the RAB in 2012 so we knew roughly what to expect. We also knew the weather was unlikely to be good - it is the end of October after all.
The weather played havoc with our plans even before the start. Bob and I were hoping to stay north and go to Scotland to complete more of his Munro challenge. There seemed little point in the storms that were happening and forecast to continue. He in the meantime had volunteered to marshal at the OMM and I arranged to leave work early so that we could be there by late afternoon. unfortunately Rowena was stuck in Lancaster until much later. We met up late evening and kicked Bob out of the van to his tent. A favour I owe him. We slept well and even had a lie in. A quick trip outside had us doubting the idea of shorts and so we made a quick change before heading off to the start. A jog up the valley road warmed us up. The map was interesting- well no, actually it was rubbish. A 1:25,000 shrunk to 1:40,000 did not work plus the print was slightly blurred anyway. It made reading contours and fine detail impossible. I opted to keep my map out of the plastic bag as adding another layer made reading it even worse. Unfortunately some joker decided to laminate one side of the map? What I would have given for a Harvey's map on standard waterproof paper.
Finishing with dreams of soup and a cup of tea
Rowena and opted to carry our old Phoenix maps with us but decided my RAB map was based just a little too far north to be useful. I don't think we ran the best route on leg 1 but getting into the map and all the grassy paths that were not on the map was our excuse. It did mean we ran past Bob and could shout hello. The we got hot climbing the final ridge before this control and took our cags off... for the last time that day.  Within 20 minutes it was raining and they were back on.The next leg went well both in planning and executing it. True we had to jump off the path to avoid being mown down by a speeding lorry full of logs but we survived. The next leg was less good. Initially we failed to find the path we wanted out of the forest and so had to run further round the forest track to find another then we made a stupid mistake and shot off into the next forest on a ride about 700m before the one we needed. This was perhaps the low point of the day as we stumbled along rides that were tussocks and totally un-runnable. We got there in the end but had lost lots of time. We tried to run hard on the next leg to make up what we could and fortunately the wind and drizzle were on our backs. This would perhaps have been the trickiest control in bad weather but was easy today. Once on Shieldcleugh Edge we had a great run on a boggy path down to the Breamish valley and the next two controls passed without incident. We should have understood by now that paths were good and open fell was bad- except when you find all the little trods and paths that are not marked. Our route to 7 was not great but we made it worse with some fence confusion. We added about 2km and some climb. Oops. I have got used to doing MMs solo and we were not really back in paired mode as well as we could be.  The photographer at 7 looked frozen but cheerful. I must check their website and buy one! From there to the finish was uneventful and it was a relief to see the campsite. It had not been a great run but we finished in one piece and still friends.  We searched for a spot to camp and before long gave up the idea of a sheltered spot and just opted for an edge near a wall. The wind was fierce and being funnelled up the valley onto the SW facing slope. We got the tent up and climbed in just as the next shower came through. We had a rest before worrying about water. After several bouts of refuelling and chilling we were ready for a trip out. We had all our gear on including over trousers and cags.  We met friends in the barn and looked at the results boards. Some teams were still finishing and I really felt for them after so many hours out and still having to put up tents, cook etc.  It was a stormy night and although the tent stayed put it did flap lots and we got little sleep.
Our published start time was 8.20 and we certainly had not made the chasing start. We had a lie in. With all packed we went to join the toilet queue only to find it was barely moving and our time was running out. We abandoned and went to the start to be told all the times had been put back 10 mins? Why, by who and why were we not told? (apparently it was on the splits printout- but as we knew we did not bother to read it). It was so wet and windy waiting that we almost put our over trousers back on. Our route to control 1 was like back to yesterdays 7 in reverse. In fact a quick glance at the map showed a disappointingly similar route but in reverse. Clockwise horseshoe on day 1 and anticlockwise on day 2. I know an overnight in College Valley would have been more work for the organisers but I feel it would have made better use of the map and terrain. We had learned our lesson and on leg 2 opted for paths and higher ground even though it was a detour. The long leg was done with no mishap. The next leg we had no option but to straight line it. AS bad weather routes were the order of the day we skipped 4 and 5. The route to 6 did not seem obvious. We decided to avoid a climb over Bloodybush Edge but then did not chose the best route through the forest. At least we ended up on fast tracks but we did add distance. Looking at the map now I can see better options! To 7 we stuck to the high path, again a detour but good running. I silently waved to Bob down in a deep valley at a sheepfold. The remainder was basically day 1 in reverse with a slight variation towards the road. We were back and happier with our running and routes today. After soup and water we shot off to change out of damp clothes. Nobody directed us to download and it would have been easy to forget with the dibber buried under clothing. We wandered back to download and food in dry clothing. We met Tony and Albert  as we queued for food so Rowena was able to organise her lift home. We swapped tales and moaned about the food and total lack of tea! Bring back Wilfs and endless refills. The hotel wanted £1 which would have sort have been OK if we had thought to have any money with us. The pie was luke-warm and I did enjoy my 8 chips. No, the food was not what was needed to refuel tired runners and if it had been really cold and wet there would have been an issue with where to sit and eat. Chatting with Alice we were made aware of more issues to moan about- no female prizes at all? No cascading of prizes to spread the winnings? We retired to the van for a cup of tea. I took down Bob tent from Friday night and packed gear away in the van. The car park field slowly emptied and I made another brew and read. Then I had a nap. I woke to find it was quite dark. Hmm I had not thought about Bob collecting controls in once he could leave his station at 3pm. I guessed it would take him about 3 hours to collect all the controls and walk back, especially in the dark and with a big sack plus a bag of Si gear. I wasn't worried and then the OMM man appeared at the van. Had I seen Bob. Err, no not yet. There was no mobile signal at all and this year marshalls had no radios to save money, so I sat and waited. I did suggest that perhaps as he had a lift along the road on at am it would have been nice to have the same offer on Sun evening. Dave, the OMM man, and Mountain Rescue drove out to meet Bob. He was fine but could not find one path in the dark and did not want to wade the river before a walk back along the road. In the end Dave and he did wade and were soon back by vehicle. It was late by the time we left but at least we got the van off the muddy field with no problems. The A69 was closed due to an accident so we came back along the wall. It was almost 11pm when we arrived home. To late and too tired to empty the van; instead we fell into bed.

Clearly did not leave enough on the hill!
A good weekend with great company. However, next year I will be poorer and if I have to cut down from 4 MMs it could be the OMM that is axed. There were too many negatives that seem to be penny pinching yet it is not cheap to enter. I enjoyed my run and Rowena's company. It was good to see friends albeit briefly and all the volunteers were very friendly. Plus we completed and did not get injured.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Last race in the Runfurther series 2014

Believe it or not I have run the Round Rotherham 50 miler 4 times now! I first turned up in 2010 as it was in the Runfurther series. I had very little idea of what to expect despite having printed off the strip maps and the 'normal' maps. The strip maps are a special if not unique feature of this race. They make navigation very simple and work very well, although if you were to astray you could have big problems relocating (as Fraser and I did one one section a few years ago).

I am not great at broken sleep and so take our van rather than the offer of the sports hall floor. It is a well attended event with walkers or slower runners off at 6am, runners at 7am and relay teams an hour later. Although we start in the dawn it is fairly well lit for the first few miles and so few bother with head torches.
Smart shirts Thanks fastrax!
We had our Runfurther meeting on Friday night and then fell into bed at about 10. I slept well but was conscious that it was mild! The overnight rain had stopped and I awoke to hear Andy and Dick banging in the flags. Registration was simple and I soon had time to catch up with friends.  I did not have great expectations for my run this year.
Andy and the fast men
The last 3 years had seen me get progressively faster with a ladies win in a respectable time last year. My achilles was sore, the haematoma has not gone and my body felt tired. Still, you cannot drive that far, start and not make a decent effort. I had hoped to wear Hokas but the rain and fear of mud made me change my mind.
After a short briefing and instruction to use the bridge not the level crossing near the end we were off. A flat start on tarmac cycle tracks and pavements means speed. It is hard not to get dragged along although a quick pit stop in the bushes meant I lost sight of many friends for a while.

 By Elsecar I had caught up with Dick and Emma but not Andy or Nick.

The slopes after the railway were slippery and I was glad I had some grip on my shoes. As we entered Wentworth I spotted Nick up ahead and used this to pull me on.

We ran together towards Kepplers Column a huge local monument and then down into Grange Park. I was not hungry or thirsty yet so just grabbed some banana and ran on.
I ran on after grabbing a piece of banana
The next bit is the least attractive of the route as you drop to a main road, take a narrow littered path to the canal and head a kilometre or so to Tinsley.  It is deprived and rundown and industrial but soon passes and makes me glad I live and work elsewhere! This is nearly 15 miles and I was still catching walkers who had set off an hour earlier as we ducked under the M1 and emerged onto redeveloped land. Getting under Sheffield Parkway seemed more overgrown than usual but the next 2km is pleasant by the river and means we are nearly at the cricket ground CP. I grabbed some more to eat and headed off past the reclaimed land where Orgreave Pit used to be and then over a road and into more semi-rural land towards an impressive railway viaduct. Rother Valley park should be a nice section and a celebration of 20 miles completed but somehow for me it is always a low point for my body, in fact Nick once found me in tears there. I kept moving this year but it was a hobble with sore achilles. It was also getting very warm and unbelievably humid. I do not sweat much but today it was pouring off me. Oh well, keep plodding as it is not far to Harthill and half way. Things become more rural with grassy paths, fields and woods. Then after passing under the M1 it is up in to Woodall and some gentle uphill fields to the next CP. I was sure I had a cup of tea here last year but today had to make do with water and jam sandwiches. Andy was apparently about 20 minutes ahead somebody told me. I needed a rest but knew that getting going again would hurt. I must have looked a sorry sight as I wormed my way out through a car park full of relay runners waiting for the change-over. We are now definitely in the countryside and I wandered what the arable fields would be like. I had forgotten to top my water up and ran out. Not good on such a warm day. Fortunately the fields were much less muddy than I have seen them before, less skiddy and had bits of straw and crops in for better traction. I watched a small plane take off at the grass airfield and prayed that the unofficial CP after the canal locks had water. They did. One day I will explore the pretty hamlet and the locks here, but not today. The water helped and I headed off to Woodsetts at a slow but steady pace. This CP is my favourite and I re-fueled with soup, tea and more. One runner was dropping out here and as I got up to hobble to the loo I did wonder if I should be continuing. This time it was really tough getting going again. Relay runners were starting to fly by now but each one was friendly and encouraging. I was also catching up some runners who had perhaps set off too fast. there was still no sign of Andy and I spent almost the whole race waiting for Emma to trot past me. Again I ran out of water but managed to beg some from the kiosk in the park and enjoyed my run through the woods. Passing people is always good for morale. I was reluctant to stop at Firbeck and so did not eat enough and missed the savoury treats on offer there. I now had company and several of us took turns to run off ahead, be caught, use the others to catch up ... repeat again and again. It kept us going.

Roche Abbey looked attractive in the afternoon sunshine and I caught and overtook a couple more people. 61km done and turn to the last page of strip maps! The 5km to Maltby passed quite nicely and it is on grass or small paths. At this CP I knew I needed to eat but could not stomach what they had on offer. I knew it was a bad idea but I pushed on anyway.I would have killed for a pizza or meat pie. My climb up through Maltby was pathetic but I managed to pick up once we left the tarmac, plus I spotted Splatcher ahead now. I didn't really feel like it but slurped some gel and water and cracked on. I refused to let Andy pull ahead and tracked him and a distance. It got me through Micklebring and under the M18. Climbing the stiles there was painful but my body was grateful for the sugar of the gel and I caught Andy in the next field. We muttered how tough it was to each other and I tried to push on. I had more gel and slowly reeled in a couple more runners as we crossed the ploughed fields and kale to Firsby Hall farm. The rutted stone track down to Hooton Roberts was not as bad as I remembered and neither was the climb out of the village. I passed Sharon here and knew Old Denaby was not far. A herd of shaggy cows guarded the gate at the top of the lane but luckily they all moved when I slammed the gate and they did not chase me down the field to the last CP. I was now an hour behind last year's time but at least I thought I would finish. I cursed them closing the level crossing and swore at the steps up and down the footbridge. The canal and river paths are good and only 5km to the end. We skirt the edge of Swinton, follow the remains of a bit of canal and then head over open land on good paths and cycle track to the sports centre. The last bit is easy to run as you can see the floodlights on the sports pitches and know the end is close.  There is always a small crowd at the finish and a lovely lady finding us bags for muddy shoes and doing waitress service with cups of tea! As I sat and tried to ignore my throbbing achilles Nigel appeared. He had completed his grand slam and so was understandably happy. Then Emma finished so her grand slam was secure too. Well done to the two of them. Andy finished as we were sat chatting and he looked more wrecked than me.  I moved indoors for food but then missed the prize giving by going for a very welcome and much needed shower. It was good to chat with Nick and others but I was tired and needed to drive home before I felt too wiped out so I missed Dick. The winning ladies this year were only just over 8 hours so great runs by them.
Cannot believe how happy I look. Well done Emma. (ta Nigel)
I arrived home to find cars all over the place and what seemed like hundreds of young people wanting a party. I eventually got the van on the drive without running anyone over or hitting the car. I was glad I had showered earlier and could go to bed with minimum effort. I was more dehydrated than I had realised and could not figure out why I felt like I had a hangover.

Runfurther 2013 2014 (thanks Nigel for spotting that error) series complete and I think we have done a good job of keeping the ultra series going. Only a few days and we can announce next years races.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


This nearly did not happen as both Bob and I felt so trashed earlier in the week. By Wednesday we were definitely not going. Bob had a heavy cold and I felt wiped out after the UTMB, LDMT and H60, plus my achilles really hurt. I even tried to sell my entry on two forums. By Thursday we were thinking about it again and on Friday evening we packed. At this stage I guess we knew we would drive up on Saturday morning unless there was torrential rain or worse. The forecast was quite good.We knew there would be lots of friends there and after all you do not have to run hard or competitively do you? Ha ha.
The view from the toilets!
Luckily it was only just over an hours drive from home and the 'open' start window made it easy to just turn up. By the time we had registered we had bumped into Tony, Albert, Mark, Stewart and many more. My pack was over 5.5kg but did not feel that heavy. Bob and I wished each other luck and went our separate ways. I walked to the start with Chris V which was great until I realised I was so busy chatting that I had not started my watch until after I marked up the map. marking up the map seemed to cause me more brain ache than was reasonable and I was unsure how much time to estimate it had taken. Within the first few hundred metres Chris BH and partner came past me but I knew I would not stay with them for long. The pack seemed to split into two - those heading north around the edge of the map and those going west up and over, down, up and over etc.I am not very good at score events and either dither for ages or make a decision and then think everyone else will have made a better one. Today I decided to make a decision, stick to it and not to worry about what else I might have done. The first control was easy and there were about 6 of us together. I used this to spur me to run harder on the next leg. Chris gallantly held up a river fence debris catcher (what do you call them?) and I kept up almost to the next control. Now it was decision time. I headed SW and then got caught in the confusion of tracks and OoB in the valley bottom. It worked out OK but was a long way over rough ground to the next high point and then there was still another valley to cross. At this point I was sure I had made a mistake. The OoB was even worse in Longsleddale. I found my way to the more northerly access point but wondered how many would cheat and use the marked track through the OoB. As I hit the road in the valley bottom I had to decide left or right. Right was closer but a mistake as the big track would have been faster. Still I made it to the ridge and got my 40 point control. Things were looking up, especially as the next one was 30 points. I was pleased with my nav and looking forward to some better running now I was off the tussocks and steep slopes and on big bridleways down into Kentmere. I thought I was on my own but just as I entered the village I heard voices and found Sabrine V plus partner and Richard D passing me. I tried to keep up and did as they hesitated at the Garburn track. We climbed together to the next control and then they all shot off. The next high point control was on Troutbeck tongue but that seemed too far for me so I headed for the Kentmere horseshoe path. It had been  thick mist and drizzling for a little while but now the wind got up too. Just as I was losing my sense of humour Albert and Tony appeared.

A chat with them and a bit of company soon cheered me up; plus Tony was suffering even more than I was. We found the pond from Shane's promotional video and began the tricky decent to Kentmere reservoir. It was steep, rocky and the grass was wet. Not my favourite slope. it also split the side of my shoes. The climb to the enormous boulder was fine but the big climb to the ridge top was an effort. By now they knew they would be late and I thought I might be.  I toyed with trying to claim an extra control but decided against it. A lovely run down the ridge path soon saw me at the top of the final gully. This was steep too but as there was no rock I overtook many and made good time. I should have gone for the other control as well. I said I was hopeless at score events. A quick blast down the final track and I was back with almost half an hour to spare.A longer look at the map and a check with wiser folk showed that I should have gone round the north of the map anyway. Still I was back in time and in one piece. Later that evening I was disappointed to find slower runners had beaten me but pleased that I was first equal FV. I met Bob and was shown to where the gang were camping.
You cannot be in SELOC if you don't smile
Bob, Mark, Tony, Julie, Albert, Chris V, Splatcher and daughter, Steve Wilson and Peter.... all clustered together and Stewart, Kevan and others not far away. I was tired putting up the tent and relieved when Bob went to collect me some water. Drink and food revived me and I ambled off to find more friends and to collect more water. The stream was very low and I found a small swimming creature in the bottom of my next cup of tea! I spent most of the evening eating, drinking chatting and lying down.

 It was windy and cool but stayed dry. Well before it was dark I had been to the loo and battened down the hatches. I might have been cool when I went to bed but before long I was toasty and shedding layers. My trusty neoair is a worthwhile luxury with great insulation and relief for tired hips. I had planned a small lie in but in the end I was up at 6 and could easily have been ready to run by 7am. I faffed a bit and set off for the start around 7.30 only to discover that I had no idea where my dibber was. Panic! quick unpacking of sack and search of tent and there it was. Phew.
Along with many others I had spent some time trying to guess a sensible route for today but without control values or knowing exactly which ones would be active this was hard. Then at the start line we were informed one of the ways through the OoB was now shut. I left the campfield and turned right- this was downhill! I decided to get as many of the western controls as I dared and plan on the hoof. This was fine for the first 6 but then tiredness crept in and the realisation that staying there could make me late or would lead to running back on the A6. I hated the idea of that road run and so binned some precious points and added in a load of climb, but at least it was more satisfying. Bumping into Hanno and Colin sat debating their route cheered me and I stopped for a chat.

We should have collected the 30 pointer but they like me were stressed by the OoB and worried about being late back. The climb up out of Longsleddale was steep and long but the two controls were fairly easy to find. The cluster towards the finish were on big features but I could not see which order would be best and this was made more complicated by being undecided about getting an extra control if there was time.
Thanks to Steve Burt for most of these photos
I bumped into Bob at the second of these controls and told him I was heading back next. I then realised that I had stuffed up the timing and was going to be 90 minutes early so I started to go for the extra control. Stumbling across tussocks had me doubting this plan and the fact it was only worth 10 points set my mind. I said bye to Hanno and Colin and turned back. Lots of pointless running but never mind. I made it back with half an hour to spare so perhaps I might have made it in time with 10 extra points. Who knows? It had been a frustrating day and those on the short had just as many points. After download I spotted Bob, Julie and Splatcher eating. I joined them for a great chilli stew, cake and lots of tea. The car was not far and it was good to get changed and have dry feet. we wandered back for more tea and met Hanno, Tony and others. Results were put up and it seemed despite an indifferent run I had managed first female vet on the long score. We sat outside with Sarah, Kate and Kirsty for the prize giving and laughed as Shane and Charlie tried to work out all the category winners. I even managed a quick chat with Nick and Claire. For me it didn't matter this year but I was pleased to see Shane give prizes for solo (as well as pairs rather than combined). He had not known it was any other way in the past and felt solo deserved credit for the extra effort of going it alone. Kirsty had a great run and becomes a vet next year so we will have to run better if we want to win again. I bumped into Sue hands and Helena several times over the weekend- I just hope I can still enjoy Mms for as many years as them.  All in all a great weekend and I was glad we made the effort even if it will not have helped my achilles.