Monday, 22 December 2014

Tour de Helvellyn

This race has a special place in my heart after last year when it became ultra number 62 and the last run of the year. I was hoping that the weather this year would be kinder or that at least the water would stay in the lakes and streams. The plan was to drive up on Friday evening and sleep in the van in Askham.
Not as comfy as the van ;)
The hope was to stay in the Lakes and complete Bob's Wainwrights. The forecast suggested some of this might not happen. I should also point out at this stage that my preparation for the race had been less than ideal. Having decided to give up work the last week had been a wierd mix of the normal chaotic madness of the end of term, an emotional roller-coaster and rather a lot of alcohol. I did manage a run on Wednesday night but it was my worst street O of the season so far. So Saturday 20 Dec was my first day of freedom. I had to enjoy it.
We were the first vehicle in the car park and went in to the hall to say Hello and register. The weather at this stage was not too bad and the rain had not started. Once we had eaten we both declared we were shattered and decided on an early night. The wind rocked the van gently but the rain never came to much. It was cosy and took some effort to get up at 7 to be ready to run at 8 when it would be light.
Nick lokking festive. Photo Nav4
By the time I wandered inside Andy Splatcher, Nick Ham and Dick S had already started but I did find many other friends to talk to and went to start at the same time as Tony, Albert and Mike.

 I said bye to Bob who was off on his own adventures and jogged off. The others dropped me before we reached the open fell my legs decided that was enough for so early in the morning. I plodded on and tried to keep them in sight and not to let the gap grow. I love the moors that lead to High Street and the views were wonderful. It was windy but mild and dry (ish). Knowing the route meant I could relax and enjoy the scenery. I opted for the low route and road which might be faster because I caught Tony et al by Martindale church. The lanes were dry this year and we could see the col at Boredale Hause. Tony was running strongly and pulling ahead but I kept them in sight. The col was breezy but not bad plus we were not up there for long. Today my legs seemed unwilling to cooperate and even the descent to Side farm was an effort. I stopped for food, a small cup of tea and a quick chat with a lady I remembered from another race. No thigh deep water this year and at a bend in the road I spotted Tony ahead. I was very slow heading up Greenside past the YHA and the mines. I was catching some of the slower runners who had started early but was losing ground to most others. By now I knew I would not turn back and so I might as well just enjoy the day out.  Stuart was guarding the bridge complete with Si box and smile.
Always a smile. Photo Nav4
I passed Dick who I only just recognised with his coat and hoods all buttoned up tight. After a quick wave to the photographer
First day of freedom!! Thanks Nav4

it was up and up to Stake Pass. For the first time today I felt chilly and pulled my sleeves down over my hands.
Dick in disguise. Photo Nav4
I caught Albert and Mike but Tony was way ahead by now. The wind was fierece at the col but not blowing us off our feet. The steep descent allowed me to overtake some timid people but faster younger fell runners came bounding by. We had a diversion this year due to forestry work on the east side of Thirlmere. This was a  mixed blessing- indoor CP at Legburthwaite hall with hot drinks and food but a road route round the western shore of the lake. Tarmac was possibly easier and the road was flat but it seemed to stretch out forever.  I tried to pick off people up ahead one by one and make myslef try a bit harder but I did not have my racing head on (or the legs).
It took me over 4 hours to catch up with Nick  Photo Nav4
Just before the Blands farm I met Nick and had a chat, he was suffering with bad knees. Running slowly has benefits. I had time to admire Raven Crag, the fields used for mid-camps on MMs and places where we wild camp in the van. We crossed the main road at Dunmail Raise and climbed up beside the beck so there was no need for daring or fool hardy river crossings this year. Grisedale tarn was breezy but I was warm. The rocky path just had enough water on it to make me cautious and if I decide to do the race next year I will recee the grassy valley route which cannot be worse for me at least. I am sure Andy blasted down the main path.
I never caught Andy ;(      Photo Nav4
I was aware that I should try harder and made a bit of an effort on the track and lane into Patterdale. I took on more food at the farm and consoled myself that we did not need to climb Place Fell today. Once we were off the rockiest sections I caught two guys and tried to reel in the next as I headed back to the church. By now I was regretting having left my camera in the van as the weather was glorious really. There was plenty of daylight and I knew the way back from the Cockpit so being on my own was no worry. A couple ahead seemed to miss the turn off by the deep depressions but they were too far ahead to shout back. Perhaps they were just playing safe and heading towards the trees. I really enjoyed the run across the low fell, past the horses and down the lane just as the light was starting to fade. It hadn't been a fast run - my legs were tired, my toe was sore and my shoes were pressing on my achilles but I really enjoyed just being out there.

8 hours 32 compared to 8 11 last year.  Andy had a storming run of 8 hours 6 and Tony broke the 8 hour barrier. Still I guess 6th lady and first LV50 was not too bad. After download and a quick chat with Martin Stone it was wonderful to sit and eat Joe's soup!
Joe F (RO) busy. Photo Nav 4
Between us we Andy and I managed a quick Runfurther prize giving for the Calder valley lads who were unable to make the AGM and prize giving. Suddenly I was chilly. Time to head out to the van and change into warm dry clothing. Unfortunately I then fell asleep on the bed for a while and so missed chatting to the next finishers. Bob was shattered after his long and windy walk on the higher ridges so it was an early and quick meal in the pub and another early night. Perhaps I am already turning into an OAP.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

A weekend in the Peak District

The group had spent some time trying to decide on a venue for the Runfurther end of year award celebration and AGM. Fortunately at the end of November two different organisations had decided to put on a mini mountain marathon within a short drive of each other. Even better, one was on the Saturday and one on the Sunday. Perfect as we could have our Runfurther do in Edale which would be nice and central and people could do at least one or even both events. Andy and Dick announced they were camping. Nick looked shocked, it was after all the end of November, and booked a B+B. We of course had the van. It was chilly but fine in Preston on Friday evening but by the time we reached Derbyshire it was not only very dark but also very very foggy. As we drove along Rushup Edge we missed the road down to Edale and only just caught sight of the car park as we passed it. At the sharp bend a car had crashed and it was relief that we turned there and then to Blue John cavern and parked. Phew. It was wet, windy and foggy all night but I slept well. Daylight did not bring a vast improvement but after a rapid breakfast we set off for Edale and registration.
It wasn't long before the rest of the Runfurther crew showed up. We were all hoping for fairly early starts so that we would have plenty of time to get organised at the pub. The mist was making people nervous but there seemed little point in dithering, except to take my cag off and then seconds later to put it back on again. A quick check of the map showed some rather spread CPs to the west and most along the ridge to the north. I decided to go west  so that I could have as much or little time on the ridge as I needed. Clearly this was unusual as in the first 90 odd minutes I did not see a soul. It also possibly wasn't the best choice as people I can usually beat got more points by going east. I do not regret it at all. I had a great time all alone and after almost getting cragbound on a waterfall I headed up towards Brown Knoll.
Cold but sunny 2008?
 I have been to Edale in the sun but my main memory of Brown Knoll is from the Edale Skyline Race in such bad weather that I was twice blown off my feet and then sat down and cried when I was cold, tired and covered in snow.

 My other memories are of a great day out as a family running over Ringing Roger and then reversing the skyline route to mam Tour and down to Edale. The boys loved the mud and it was laughter and shrieks of fun all day.

Today it was  a slow but steady compass bearing plus trying not to fall in any of the deeper bogs. At last the trig point came into view and I shot off downhill to find a tricky control on a stream junction. It was satisfying being totally alone and not messing it up. Although I would probably have moved faster with others to push me on I was enjoying myself. I trudged over tussocks to Jacobs Ladder and the next 20 minutes or so made me realise that this was slow and time was oozing away. At CP1 right on the western edge of the map I met my first competitor of the day. The next CP looked straightforward on the map and the nav did go OK. What the map did not make clear was the rocky and vertical descent to the actual Si box. I survived and headed back up to the main path. The next section would be mostly following the main path east and skipping off for controls. In the mist it was hard to keep a check on distance and landforms so I did make several small mistakes. The further east I went the more voices I heard. Luckily it pulled me into my next control and the kind mixed pair also swapped a map with me when they saw how badly mine was disintigrating. Runners were now coming towards me in packs! Hmm. They were running with confidence and speeding each other along. Ah well. I peered down to a CP I had considered but it would be a long slow rocky scramble and then a hard pull back uphill. Somehow running along the edge I had my thumb over the CP on Ringing Roger and so missed an easy 20 points. Time was ticking so after dropping to a wall corner I decided it was time to head back. Down out of the worst of the mist and on grassy slopes the running was faster and I had a wall to guide me. I hit two more CPs and started to traverse the hillside with the hope of a final 15 points. I was tiring and not sure I had time. I bottled it and got back with time to spare. 35 points missed, silly really. The hall was buzzing with runners refueling with siup, tea, coffee, bread and cake. We compared routes and "if onlys" and I waited for the others to reappear. A quick change in the van and we drove upto the pub.  Andy and Dick had tents to put up but Bob and I sat with a beer. Phase 1 of the weekend was over. No photos sadly as there were no views and the air was full of moisture.

Next up was the Runfurther AGM and awards.  The room was cosy and I hoped not too many extra runners would turn up, nice though it would be to see them. The meeting galloped along nicely. We were all willing to stand again, nobody else wanted to be nominated ot to end up with a job and few questions were raised.

With the business taken care of and thanks given to all runners who supported us and all those who gave sonsorship we moved onto the prizes.  Si Berry had tuened up with a box of spot prizes and there were so few in the room that everyone recieved something.

 Karen McD brought the wonderful Grand Slam hoodies for Emma and Nigel and between us we distributed all the prizes, trophies and certificates. Then there was just cake and a quiz. People drifted off home and Andy, Dick, Nick, John V, Bob and I were left. More beer and chat plus food. We sat talking for ages and probably drank more than was wise in preparation for an event the next day. It was good being able to simply fall out the pub and crawl into the van for sleep. Phase 2 complete.

We had a restless night but were up in good time to drive to Totley and the walk down to the cricket ground soon blew the cobwebs away. What a difference a day makes- blue skies today and viability for miles. We studied the map at registration but soon admitted we were just wasting time and we should get going.

There was a small group as we ran to the first CP but then suddenly we split. I headed round on a good path. A bit of a detour but fast running so maybe not so bad. The climb up out of the woods was a struggle and I had not really got going.

 A group of deer flew across the path and the woods were beautiful. After the road it was up onot the open moor and time for some decisions. I found a good trod and although muddy it was gentle enough to run. I made a small error near the next CP but soon corrected and was on my own for a while. The views were superb. I soon regretted heading straight for the trig point CP on the eastern edge of the map. The deep heather slowed me down and I was wishing I had gone back out to the path. A runner appeared form the corner of my eye- a local who knew there was a small trod by the ruined wall. It certainly helped. Heading north on a very muddy path I missed a turn and realsied I was almost at the road. Oh well, it was not OoB and would be easy running. A quick out and back to the most northerly control was fast and then I headed down the valley. About time as I seemed to have been going up for ages. After the river I headed downstream and then after the felled area went up to a huge boulder. Except in reality several were almost as big and I had in my head that the river valley went south. It meant I kept searching and not quite finding. I must have lost well over 5 minutes but in the end there it was. The next CP was a must at 70 points, the highest of the day! I knew the area vaguely from orienteering on the Longshaw Estate. I then dithered about the best way to start heading back. Simplest although not very satisfying was the road verge. I pushed on the best I could and even remembered to eat a gel. It worked enough to tempt me into trying to get the last 50 pointer. I kept checking my watch and hoping that I was not being greedy as at this event one second late means losing ALL your points. Even after the final hilltop the CP was further down the gully than I anticipated. I am so glad that it was downhill through the heather to reach the path. Downhill and heather I can manage. I made myself run hard and when I hit the lane I was sure I would be OK. I passed the van and raced across the grass to the pavillion. 4 minutes to spare and a good score. I was pleased with myself and enjoyed my tea and biscuits. The only female to beat me was Karen Poole. Result. It was good to chat to Tindersticks of Chorley and interesting how he is keen to do more events like this and improve his nav for fell running. I wandered back to the van, changed, ate, collected all the Runfurther flags from Dick and then started to worry where Bob was. He appeared, in a T shirt, after a good walk on the area. Phase 3 complete and a really good weekend. Next year we should see if we can do the series.