Sunday, 25 October 2015

Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra

It was the last in the 2015 Runfurther series, which for David and I meant we just had to complete this one last run to make our Grand Slam. How hard can that be? Well harder than I imagined. In fairness my competitive spirit did not help matters. A fast run round Ramsbottom on hilly tarmac to get some points on the board for street O left my legs more tired than I had hoped and left one hamstring a bit sore. Added to the on-going achilles issue was the worry that whatever is wrong at the front of my right foot is now not a mortons neuroma? The consultant was positive it was but the ultrasound scan guy on Friday was sure it is not. I don't care what it is but I would like them to decide and sort it out for me.

We drove up to the borders on Friday and arrived in beautiful sunshine with time on our hands. We parked in Bowden and went for a walk up through the woods and onto the lowest and closest of the Eildon hills.

The views were great, the autumn colours in the woods were wonderful and the ground was firm and dry.

We had the added bonus of the local children setting up a mini race diversion over their playground swinging bridge. They were delighted when Bob followed their arrows and went over it. We found the rugby club easily and parked up for the weekend. Andy and I met with ROs Naoni and Angela to hand over Clif bars and put up the display boards. We camped next to the sculpture in honour of Hutton the father of geology. Bob and I settled down for an early night but the local youth had other ideas and entertained us with fireworks and handbrake turns across the car park. By midnight all was quiet.

Saturday morning saw us up bright and early putting up flags and banners before a hasty breakfast, registration and a quick chat with friends.

 It was chilly but not really cold and so far the worrying forecast of rain, heavy at times, had not come true.

 It was getting very hot in the rugby club and almost a relief to be herded out and across the road to the grassy mound. The ROs are potty - my proof was a loud warm up to YMCA complete with a huge dancing squirrel.

 By 8.05 we were on our way and running north through the streets of Jedburgh. I tried not to go off too fast but as I was with Carmine I had clearly failed again. After a mile we turned off onto paths and lanes before a quick section of parkland, a suspension footbridge and the first woods. The whole course was marked with pink dayglo signs and easy to follow.

After the bouncy bridge we turned on to Dere Street which was much better than it appeared on the map. It was in places also much more muddy than the woods we explored the day before. Shortly after the sign commemorating the battle of Ancrum Moor the rain arrived and within minutes was heavy enough for me to stop and put my cag back on. Sadly I also buried my camera safely away and so missed the chance of some photos. 10 miles brought us to Maxton and the first CP. I needed neither food or water yet and so ran straight through and onto the river section. From here to beyond St Boswells we followed the river on a variety of paths. There was mud on the river bank, wooden walkways over boggy bits, steps up and steps down.

Some idiot had stolen one sign and a whole gang of us climbed masses of steps only to realise it was the wrong way after all. Carmine had by now vanished into the distance but Andy was still only just ahead. Crossing the A68 took a bit of time and by Rhymers Stone I was hungry. Walking and eating slowed me further but I knew I would need the energy.

I caught Andy again on the final climb onto the volcanoes but not for long. David joined us as we topped the last of the three and then they shot off on the descent into the woods.

 I joined Andy again for the run through Bowden. The same children were insisting we all went over their play bridge and I think every runner humoured them.

 I grabbed a couple of jelly babies and more water before remembering Bobs joke about Pant Well from the the day before (yes we were - Panting well).

As we hit the lane at Whitelee Andy pulled away again and it the last I saw of him. I did meet some great local runners though and Craig from Dumfries chatted away as we ran back along the river banks. I tried hard to use his encouragement and keep up but too much was hurting and I slowed to a walk along a flat section at the golf course. It was odd doing this section as an out and back but I struggled to remember what we had done that morning with any accuracy. Except the steps. Did I mention the steps? I think this are has as many wooden steps as Hardmoors 60!

 I kept trying to run and used the relay runners that kept appearing as an extra incentive. A mix of walk and run brought me back to Maxton. I stopped and ate my rice pudding, plus I scrounged some orange pieces and refilled my water. It was then even harder work getting going again. The lane out of Maxton can only be about 2km but it was all uphill and I just could not move.

 I did revive a little when we left the tarmac for the woods and Dere Street but the mud was slippery and slowed my progress a bit. The food started to work, I gained a couple of places (perhaps I should have eaten more and earlier) and I enjoyed the last section of wood before the suspension bridge.

Climbing over the kerb barrier on the A698 made me feel like an ancient granny but only 5km remained now. True there was yet more tarmac uphill but the end was in sight. In retrospect I wish I had shouted at myself more and made my body run all of the last 5km. To walk even flat bits seems to have failed badly and if I had run perhaps I would have scarped under the 7 hours. In fact if I had run more of the last 10 miles I would have been with either David or Andy and I am sure they would have shamed me into a run! What a relief it was to reach the grassy knoll again. Noanie and Angela were still bouncing up and down and another girl had the mike and was shouting and cheering every runner in. This race gets the prize for the most bonkers RO team. I looked for David to celebrate our Grand Slam but think he must have shot off to get changed. A few minutes later I started to chill badly and did the same. The hobble to the rugby showers was well worth the effort and a cup of soup started to revive me. Andy and I slowly hobbled back to the knoll for the prize-giving.

 Well done to Ian, Ken and Kevin on 2nd, 3rd and 5th places. Big well done to Andy for 1st V60 and to Martin for 1st V50.

It was too cold to linger so we retired for more soup and were still sat there when Bob appeared. second race in a row to be sponsored by a brewery! I must be in a bad way because this time the beer is still in the bottle more than 24 hours later. Eventually we had all the flags and banners down and agreed to meet up in town. The pub was struggling with the crowds so we settled for fish and chips before going back for one quick drink. We were shattered and not long out of our beds. The year is complete. The Runfurther series is over. David and I both managed our Grand Slams and now our bodies can rest and repair.

Monday, 5 October 2015

A mini holiday and an adventure into the unknown

After much debate over flights, ferry ports etc I booked the Heysham- Douglas ferry and set the dates to allow a mini holiday. Taking the van is not the cheapest way but it allowed me accommodation and for us to move the Runfurther flags, banners, display-boards, prizes and the all important Clif bars. Andy was coming with me and neither of us had been before.
Big lumps for such a small island
Despite leaving Preston in what we thought was plenty of time the Lancaster traffic made the last few miles a little fraught. Even more so for Mike and Barney who were luckily on a motorbike and so able to weave through the congestion.
It wasn't long before the runners converged on seating in the cafe area and introduced themselves. The crossing was flat calm and we made the most of the sunshine admiring the off-shore wind farm and then eventually the Manx fells and Douglas harbour.

We met one of the ROs, Mark Murphy, to hand over some Clif bars and to find out exactly where in Port Erin the finish would be. As we parked on the prom I recognised Charmain and Steve (well, their van) and it was good to have some help putting up all the Runfurther and sponsors flags. We checked out the coach departure point and headed off to what we hoped was a quiet night with a sea view.

After a quick meal our bags were sorted and we were ready.  Then the phones started ringing. The coach was full and we had been found lifts in a car. Great a lie in! Ah but what about the Clif bars? Steve and Charmain thought we had over-slept at 5.45 but I opened the door to a bemused Steve, handed him a huge box and said see you in a couple of hours. Following a leisurely breakfast we checked on the flags and went to wait for our lift (thanks Eleanor and Jackie).

 By 8am we were registering in Ramsay and meeting up with Chris who had flown plus David who had only just got off the ferry.

There was just time for a mad scramble for toilets before it was 8.30 and we were off. The numbers at this race are not great and there had been an earlier start for the slower runners but even so I was taken aback by the pace at the start. As we left the outskirts of town I realised there were only three runners behind me. Heck, I hope I make the cut-offs and hope I can keep some runners in sight to help show me the way. (I did, but it meant running faster than I wanted and Andy left alone did all his own nav for miles).
Hill 1 North Barrule
As we left town and crossed the dam of a small reservoir the ascents started. The race is only 50km long but has 2500m of climb. It is also a superb route of almost all fell race terrain with very little track and virtually no tarmac. My feet thought they were in heaven even after bogs and river crossings.

With the first hill looming I made an effort to catch others and to keep Eleanor (a Manx runner) in sight. Fortunately the yellow vests were easy to spot as was David's white shirt. The run along the crest of this hill was superb and although the distant views were misty/hazy I could see enough to appreciate the hills the island had to offer.

Another summit at the SW end and then a quick road crossing before the direct ascent of Snaefell. The Civil Guard and a policeman made sure no TT wanabees ran us down and we were soon crossing the rails of the mountain train. A local runner showed me the grassy way down and it was a fast drop to Bungalow. Here I relaxed for the first time when I found I was an hour inside the cut-offs. There was water on offer but I had plenty and had not yet taken my thermal off. Next stop the top of Beinn-y-Phott. Each summit had a self-clip needle punch and a flourescent flag.
Some very small trods and deep heather
A drop to a col and we were on our way up again; this time to Carraghan. This time at the summit I suddenly found myself alone. Even as I ran off down the main ridge I could see nobody. Ah. stop and think. I could see a reservoir and had no memory of that being on route. Then I spotted forest off to the right. I might not have found the best line but at least I stopped before it was too late. A boggy descent and a river crossing soon brought be to Injebreck. The plod from there up to Colden was a tough section with almost no path and deep vegetation. I ate and concentrated on keeping in touch with Eleanor and David. The next part would be seriously tricky in mist but today it was easy to spot them up ahead thank goodness. The day was warming up now as we dropped down through a gorse covered hillside and met the TT road near St Johns. Another policeman saw us safely across and I began to catch runners who had started an hour before us. After a quick chat with Roger who I had met at the RAB David and I set off on the old rail line to St Johns. This section should have been easy running but my legs were tired from the hills. Crossing the car park we saw runners waiting for the shorter race start and lots of local support. The path up through the woods was nicely graded and I ate as I plodded on. The views back to Peel and the coast were superb. Another hill, Slieau Whallian, was gained and the terrain changed to lower land and forestry. The next 4 km were my low point and I should have stopped to eat more. The paths became stony tracks and my feet objected. The front runners of the short race came storming by and I congratulated them. I recognised Lloyd and Jackie Taggart but no others. It was a tough section for me but soon the next road crossing at Round Table appeared and I started to run again.

Normally I am not keen on out and back sections but as we did this on South Barrule it was great to see the faster runners storming down and also it gave me a boost as I realised some of the competition was not as far ahead as I had feared. Yes, I know I was meant to be taking it easy and caring for my achilles etc but it is a race after all!

Running back downhill I regained my positive thoughts and headed off towards the coast. The hills were not over but the scenery changed yet again and there were more runners around me again now. Cronk seemed bigger than 400 odd metres but I knew we were getting closer to the end now and the next few kilometres along the hills by the cliffs were beautiful.

There was a cruel descent to Fleshwich Bay and then a steep pull up Bradda Hill. Some blackberries gave me a pick up and I was up. No more climbs.

A quick glance at my watch confirmed that if I made an effort I could keep all those I had just passed behind me and make it back inside 7hrs30 which had seemed a distant dream earlier in the day. I loved the last few km and soaked in the monument on the headland and the bay at Port Erin.

The last section was well flagged and on lovely grassy paths with just a tiny section of tarmac on the edge of town. What a joy to reach the finish in the little section of park on the cliff top. Charmain and others cheered me in. 7 hours 24. Not too bad at all. Stuart was only seconds ahead of me and Isaline only about 10 minutes ahead.

I was happy as I found my finish, dug out a warm layer and sat chatting. David managed a superb run in 6.59 and so for both of us the Grand Slam is still on. I sat with others on a bench and drank my beer- great to have a race sponsored by a brewery.

 Andy appeared from an odd direction but was happy to finish without knee pain. Chris Davies and his wife smuggled us into the hotel for a shower and a drink and then revived we all went to take down the flags. Again the extra help was really welcome. We all met up at the Cherry orchard for a meal, drinks and the prize-giving. What a great event.

Another quiet night down on the harbour and then Andy and I had a day of sight seeing.

A huge pod of dolphins leaping around near Peel castle,

 a drive round some of the TT course in the van, a visit to the Laxey wheel and port, an afternoon of reading in the sunshine and then a long slow walk in Douglas.

So thanks to Andy for his company and to Mike and Barney for their company on the ferry and to the weather gods for such great sunshine and a flat crossing.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Hardmoors 60 (aka GS race number 10)

I'll start this report with an apology and a warning. Apparently by BSH report was awful. My time at H60 was little better but I did enjoy the day out. So here goes.

We arrived via Leeds having dropped the youngest off in his new home for his last year at Uni. The gates to the Sea Cadets were closed and the rugby club looked busy so we drove to the Slapewath lay-by and spent the night there. After our meal it got dark quite quickly under the trees and we settled for an early night.
Andy and Chris catching up on gossip
By 6.10am we were at the race start and putting up Runfurther flags- only half this time so not such a big job. Then it was breakfast and kit check before the coach arrived. Jobs completed I managed to find plenty of friends to chat to. It was good to see Dave and Kayleigh Ralphs again and also to see Chris Davies back running.
and Mick who I have not seen for a while
Andy was there despite a sore knee and David and I were both hoping to finish despite injuries. Maybe wisdom comes with age. Bob had decided the steps would be too much for his damaged knee and Dick although making a great recovery from his broken hip opted to marshall today. I managed to give away a couple of Giraffe neckwear rewards and can only apologise to those who finished late and hoped to collect them at the finish. I missed the race briefing as I was in the toilet but it did mean I settled into a spot on the lane towards the back at the start.

I was hoping to start at a steady pace and enjoy the day. The forecast was for a warm sunny day. Once we left the tarmac and started up the narrowing lane it was a little stop start until we were over the stile and out in the fields. By the time we were climbing through the woods I was stripping off a layer and chatting happily to other runners. After High Cliff Nab I caught up with Martin (who guided me through the last 12 miles on my first attempt at this race) and this should have warned me to slow down.

Instead I hung on and used his knowledge to get to the new first CP and out to the beach. I had also spotted Andy up ahead but sensibly decided to let him go. As we reached the cliffs the day was warming fast and the views along the coast were stunning. Ironically my achilles was not too bad yet but I had a pain up the front of that shin and my other calf was sore. I ignored it all and concentrated on the views and taking photos.

 It was such a lovely day and I thanked my lucky starts that it was not raining or horrid. I can never remember the route along the coast or even the order of places until I get there and suddenly it all makes sense.

I need not have worried about the diversion near Skinningrove because there were marshalls and although it may have been slightly longer it saved the sandy descent to the beach and the risk of sand in my socks and shoes.
One daunting aspect is seeing just how far it is
We also got to see more of the village including fishermen's cottages and the small hut selling fresh fish. Then it was up on to the high cliffs again with views down to the Alum spoil.

 I must have got into some sort of steady rhythm here because the next thing I knew we were descending towards Staithes and the narrow footbridge and quaint streets.

I caught some runners who had just overtaken me before Staithes but it was not long before the pulled away again. I tried to concentrate on eating knowing that I had more food in my drop bag in just a few miles and also that I should eat now before it got hot and I got really tired and found I had no appetite.

 The next section of coast path had fantastic views down  onto wave cut platform and it distracted me wonderfully. Probably didn't help my speed but it did improve my enjoyment. I did lots of mental maths about 1/4, 1/3 miles, hours etc. Runswick would be roughly 1/3 of the way there. The steep tarmac down to Runswick hurt but was mercifully short. I took my time getting my bottle refilled and eating the rice pud from my drop bag.

Getting going again was tricky, or perhaps I had just eaten too much, so I walked a bit and jogged a bit along the beach laughing at how confused I had become in the dark on the 110 when I thought I couldn't find the ravine.

 No such worries today and I was soon on my way to Kettleness and more wonderful cliff top views.  Oh, and the first of the Wykes and steps. The food and painkillers had kicked in and I ran well along the cinder track to Sandwell. Somewhere in this stretch I passed Andy who announced he was stopping at the next CP. I presumed his knee had not recovered as he had hoped. No CP here today but I did stop to use the loo and to refill my water bottle yet again.  The inlet at Sandsend was packed with families enjoying the sun but the pavement was fairly clear and I was pleased to find I could run most of the way to Whitby and was leaving people behind for a change.

 Before long the whale bones were in sight and the abbey beyond them. I loathe the next bit as it is always packed and there is the smell of fried onions etc. The quayside and the swing bridge were not too bad and running in the road gave me a relatively clear path.

The narrow cobbled pedestrian streets to the abbey steps were another matter. The tangle of families, pushchairs, dogs on leads, toddlers, window shoppers, ditherers etc drove me mad  and it was a relief to reach the 199 steps up to the abbey. I was tired but felt OK.
Two trashed but hopeful Grand Slammers
At the top I met David with his family in support. He said he was struggling so we had a short break before pushing on to the CP at Saltwick Bay.

The path from Whitby to the caravan site is easy running and |I could see the Runfurther flags and then Dick, John V and others.  Chris D was stood waiting having decided to pull out injured. A quick chat and more fuel and it was off south towards Robin Hood's Bay. Half way now so just keep thinking positive.

I pottered on enjoying the scenery. It wasn't fast but things were not hurting too much and I was making progress. The next CP had moved to a better location on the grass opposite the pub. The beers were tempting but I settled for melon, veggie roll and more water.  It was hot and I was starting to feel thirsty- a sure sign I was not drinking enough and would soon find it hard to eat. The climb up the steps after Albion Street was a challenge and I stopped at the top for more painkillers. The steps down to Boggle Hole were drier than I remember and so not greasy which was a real bonus. More steps at Stoup beck, oh heck. I could see the hotel on the cliff at Ravenscar but it took a long time to get any closer. I spotted other runners up ahead and made a determined effort to use up some food and catch them up.  I was also truing to decide what to do about footwear knowing that the 3 miles or so on tarmac in Scarborough would be hell. The CP in the church was wonderful. Bob was still there and fetched me cups of tea, cheese and pickle sandwiches plus melon. Martin's wife put vaseline on the rucksack rubs on my back and Bob brought a change of shoes from the van. I do not own road shoes and the Hokas are first generation. They are a bit clown like and I rarely use them. I hoped the change would not be a mistake. Two thirds completed, how hard can it be? David and I set off together but he was now feeling better as the air cooled whereas I suddenly felt chill and had to stop and put on my thermal. Then once we left the lane I realised my feet were too loose in my shoes and I had to stop and put a second pair of socks on. This was perhaps the most comical part of the day. I couldn't find a seat or stile so sat on the grass. As soon as I bent forward both thighs cramped up. It left me rolling around on the floor not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Thanks to all those who asked it I was OK and I hope the comedy act helped you on your way. Five minutes or so later and I was on my way once more and pleased to have spent the time as I tackled the steps at Hayburn Wyke.

Scarborough Castle looked huge and loomed from a long distance off. I tried not to think of the prom but just that once at the Spa it was only 11 miles to the finish and I could walk that.Coming off Scalby Mills and down to the Sea Life centre I spotted Emma sitting on the wall. She looked down so I joined her for a moment. I didn't dare wait long in case I seized up. Another runner appeared behind me and we used each other to try to keep the pace up round the North Bay and onto the headland. It was later than I expected and I now started to worry that my torch would have enough battery. The seaside tourists were supportive but slightly bemused when they understood what we were doing. At least two asked me where in town the race finished and their faces when I answered Filey were a picture.

I reached the Spa just as the waves were getting big as the tide was in Nikki warned me to stay off the low path near the 'star'. I really tried to eat here but after one bit of melon and orange almost made a reappearance decided just to get on with it. I was tired but not tearfully so for a change. (Scarborough seems to be my low point). As I reached the gravel path up the hill I was forced to turn my torch on and I jogged to the road above Cayton Bay all alone. The marshalls there felt mean but sent us down on the Cleveland Way. Sadly I misunderstood the instructions and went down and down to the beach. Partying teenagers took pity on my and advised against the beach as the tide was in. I declined their offer of beer and pizza and climbed back up to the path junction. I could have done without the diversion and extra climb but hey ho and at least I knew the rest of the route well. Climbing onto the last cliff section my body rebelled, First a toilet stop and then some painful minutes of dry heaving. Once I had been sick I felt better and trotted on. Normal fold will think this mad but I am sure other runners will understand. I had company on the last section of path which helped keep the pace up a little as we both took it in turns to try to run. The lights of Gristhorpe gave us false hope but I knew to just keep going. I hoped I could find my way across the last sections of grass and I did. I hoped the tide mad miraculously gone out so I could run the beach- it hadn't. Along the prom I met runners coming from all sorts of strange directions and roads. They smelt the finish and ran on. I walked. It seemed wrong to run the last few hundred metres having walked so much. Tired but less trashed than last year. My feet hurt but my legs were in better shape than usual- proof I had not run hard. Dick and Bob were there to greet me which was nice. Bob had taken flags down at the start, taken them to Dick at Slapewath and then Dick had put them up again at Saltwick. Bob meanwhile had gone for his run, tended to me at Ravenscar and then put flags and display boards up at the finish. It took me a while to recover and I struggled to eat solids. I was too tired to be bothered with a shower and once I had washed my face, neck, hands and arms I felt fairly clean.

I was amazed to find I was first LV50. In 2012 it took me about 12 hrs 30, then the next time 13hrs 30. Today was 14 hours 6. I had forgotten we had started late at about 8.11am. I guess if I remembered I might have tried to scrape in within the 14 hours. At this rate in 5 years time I will be getting timed out!

We sat talking til midnight and although it was a shame to miss the later finishers suddenly all I wanted was to go back to the van and fall into bed. Bob took care of all the flags and boards and then me.

So job done and the Grand Slam is still a possibility for me and for David. Hardmoors races are wonderful- the ROs, the friendly marshalls, the other runners....  The winning men were just over 10 hours and Kim England was not far behind in 4th overall and 10.35. Awesome. Several Runfurther runners had a good day out. Ian Symington was second in 10.10,  Martin Terry was 1st MV50 in 11.09 and many others finished- David, Dave and Kayleigh, Mick C, Steve S, Alison and Marie and Harry G. Breakfast in the Greasy spoon cafe started to repair the damage.