Friday, 27 March 2015

More recees around Calderdale

Having completed my good deed for the week and helped the PE department with a moderator and orienteering we decided to head east for a couple of days. The plan was to complete the recees of the Calderdale Hike. This had become even more important as Bob had switched to the long course. It seemed a shame to waste Tuesday afternoon so we parked near Summit and compared the official route and our preferred descent from the White House down to the valley bottom.

 It didn't take long so we were able to explore the official route up onto the moor towards the new wind turbines too.

 This route is slightly longer than the way I went last time but is certainly drier underfoot and in bad vis would probably be easier to pick the line over the top of the moor. The wind turbine construction is progressing and the foundations and plinths are in. All the extra traffic on their mud road seems to have compacted it and made it better for running on. It was a chilly night in the van with fantastic views of the stars and the distant sky lines.

Thankfully Wednesday dawned bright and sunny as we were not planning on speed. After a fairly leisurely breakfast we left Mankinholes and set off along London Road grateful that we did not have to climb Stoodley Pike this time. This section would be easy even to a newcomer to the area and we were soon at Erringden Grange.

The next section was familiar to me, albeit backwards but to Bob it was confusing. We spotted the tiny trod through the bracken and picked our way through twists and turns onto Hoo Hole Lane. By now it was getting warm and the section from Dauber bridge was up steeply to Nab End. From here though on race day we will know it is all downhill, with the church in view the whole time and almost finished.

After a quick pit stop for food at the cricket club we set off on the race proper and were pleased with the line all the way to Longley. The wooded section that follows will be fun if it rains but it is only 800m or so before a big wide lane.From Fiddle Lane there were several options. Bob soon decided he was not keen on climbing up the lane so we tried the road and old trail track combination. It was OK. Bob was tired by now and regretting a Park Run followed by a run on the fells. At least it was sunny and fairly warm.

It was easy to Ryeburn reservoir and we admired the houses. Then it was up and up some more, through woods, over fields and past an impressive old manor house to the lane.

The climb wasn't over as we passed Pike Law and moved onto Blackwood Edge. I experimented here a dropped over tussocky ground to the drainage channel.

It saves a little climb and was very easy flat running along the drain. I kept running on and waiting but around here my garmin died. I didn't fancy the road verge out to Windy Hill although if it is very wet under foot I may do that on race day. The M62 was busy as ever so we headed straight off towards Blackstone Edge.

 Only once we were on the tops and admiring the view and studying the boulder problems did another route choice come to mind here. I may have to return to test it out. The trods after the Aiggin Stone are not clear but I would be happy to just run downhill to the road at this point.

Today we were cutting off one the short route to get back to the van. Bob was happy at his own speed but not at mine as we followed the Pennine Way north. I ploughed on ahead and had time to inspect the poem carved into the rock and the climbs in the mini quarries near the reservoirs.

Once Stoodley Pike was in view again we walked together across the moor and down to the van. What a fantastic day.

Getting chilly now at the end of the afternoon but dry and sunny throughout. Ironically it was warmer overnight but we awoke to snow on the ground and strong winds. Time for coffee in bed as the day decided what the weather would be. It didn't rain so I had no excuse not to do the next bit. Bob dropped me in Summit and then moved the van to Slate Pit hill. I am obviously the kiss of bad weather on those particular fells. It started OK but by the time I was on Fox Stones Hill it was drizzling and blowing a gale. I tried an alternative route and am not convinced I prefer it. As I neared Long Causeway (not the Burnley one) the wind was blowing me to a standstill. After Rough Hill I met some desperate sheep. They mobbed me and pushed into me. I can only assume they were very hungry. I spent some time trying out a variety of lines after the stepping stones and the only conclusion I reached is that there is now easy way to the big track at Limers Gate. At least I have several options clear in my mind. The van was where I expected but Bob was still out so I set off to explore the next section. As I turned east I suddenly had a tail wind for the first time that day. I could have run to Tod in minutes. Instead though I cut off into the woods and the muddy path by the mountain bike tracks. I am not sure this will be the fastest line of descent for me. As I emerged at the bottom I met Bob and we explored an alternative near the old chimney. He then went back for the van and I explored another possibility from Height Top. I did not have long to wait down in Cornholme and it seemed tropical down there by comparison.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The week post Hobble turned out to be busier than I intended: I blame the weather. Monday was climbing as usual and then a jog round on Beacon Fell helping kids with orienteering. Wednesday dawned so beautiful that I could not resist the temptation to be out on the hills. I drove to Fell Foot and went for a deliberately longish slow run.

As I ran across the fields and then out onto Saddle Fell I saw nobody. I went for a bit of an explore through peat bogs and heather  before I got to Tottridge.

 It slowed me down, gave me time to admire the views and still got the climbing in  my legs.

I spent a minute of two paying my respects to Bill Smith and then headed down to the Trough Road. Here I met my first walkers of the day- out doing a recee of the LDWA 100. Sadly this clashes with one of our Runfurther races this year and I cannot do it even though it is so local.As I ran along the grassy path by the river I scared tens of pheasants up and the noise became quite deafening.

 I passed a couple of walkers at the start of Langden but was soon on my own again. I jogged up past Langden Castle and crossed the river ready for the pull up to Fiensdale Head (I had promised Bob I would go nowhere near the old Fiensdale route after my escapade last summer). The top came sooner than I expected and I took a breather on the flag stones and looked out over the Fylde.

The rest was an easy jaunt across to Paddy's Pole, my favourite ridge to Parlic and then after a quick look at all the paragliders a quick drop down to the cottage and the car.

 It would not be ideal preparation for the final street O that evening but the day was too good to miss out. In fact my evening run wasn't so bad either. Thursday was dry and sunny too so we went for a slow bike ride down to the parks and out on the old tram way and back before I shot off to Beacon Fell again.  I didn't do much but ran the kids course slowly and with tired legs just to set a base time on my garmin. Somewhere in the next 24 hours I got confused. I think it was thinking about all my friends doing the Hardmoors 55 that did it. I set my alarm for early on Saturday and set off for Bury. Driving through Holcombe it suddenly dawned on me that LDWA events are usually on Sunday and I was 24 hours early. What an idiot! Ah well. It was dry, warm and starting to get sunny. I made the most of it by doing a recee of parts I was unsure of.

It is an event I have only done once before and although most is straight forward there are a couple of tricky bits.

The bog above Holcombe Moor was wet but nothing like as bad as it can be and by the time I had circuited Bull Hill and was heading for Peel Tower the ground was unusually dry.
Less welcome

The weather was improving by the hour but I sensibly decided to head for home and save myself for Sunday. A whole afternoon sat in the garden reading- wow, spring is definitely on the way. Sunday saw a repeat of the early alarm and Bob decided to come with me. We arrived in plenty of time for him to get an entry on the shorter of the Two Crosses routes and for me to chat to friends. I should point out that Bob had done Park run and been on Pendle on Saturday.

It would be very different to two years ago when I added 3 miles or so before hand to make it an ultra and then we had cold weather and snow on the  ground.  There seem to be more and more runners doing these events and the two distances start together. I tried to tell myself that perhaps those sprinting off were doing the shorter route.

 Some were but it made no difference I could not have gone faster. I was keen to stay in contact with other runners across the first fields and a couple of tricky turns but after Affetside I was fairly confident of the route. Running down the road before the first cross I spotted an injured Josie out taking photos and cheering us on. I was being pushed for pace here by Pete and another guy but fortunately I pulled away and felt under less pressure.

 The first checkpoint at Turton Tower had jelly babies and that was all I stopped for.  By now it was very warm and I had not only shed my windproof but was wishing I hadn't put two layers on. The moors looked superb, although Peel Tower off to the east looked an intimidatingly long way.

I reached the next CP alone although I knew Pete and the others would not be far behind. I prayed I could remember the way through to the next track. It is my local area but the tussocks, bogs and marsh grass make it confusing and I can still remember Ian Charters and I going wrong in the mist on an Anglezarke Amble a few years ago. I knew roughly the way I should be heading so I just picked the best line I could and it worked. I caught Carl up here and although he was faster than me once we hit the track I used him to pull me aling. Pete told me afterwards that I just seemed to stretch further and further away from here. Carl and I grabbed a jelly baby from the marshalls and set off on the climb to Darwen Moor. He was a stonger climber but I had the confidence of knowing where I was going. We ran together for the next few miles and although it hurt I am sure it improved my overall time. Once we crossed the culvert on the moor I expected very wet feet but although there were some boggy bits it was overall as dry as I have ever known it.

We were down at Cadshaw in no time and chatting away. The last few metres along the reservoir were starting to hurt so I decided to refuel and the CP and let Carl get ahead a bit. This CP must be in the running for the award of best LDWA food. The tables were laden with just about everything you could ask for, including full cheeseboard and grapes! I grabbed a sausage roll, sandwich and half a cup of soup. Drinking the soup as I jogged over the dam was interesting but it all gave me extra energy. Up to now I had only had jelly babies and a finger of fudge. Oh and half a bottle of Chia charge.  I could still see Carl up ahead and made a pact with myself not to let the gap widen too much. After the dam the two routes converge again and so the next few miles were spent passing walkers on the shorter route. Despite this I arrived at Old Cote Farm on my own and had a few moments of doubt as I contoured the hill that hid the people in front for a while.  The grassy track had no puddles and was very runnable plus I could still see Carl up ahead. The climb up to the maggot farm would be the last real climb so I made a big effort and at least it didn't smell today. I was on my own again and it was a surprise to crest the big peat hag and see streamers blowing to show us the way. I don't remember them two years ago in the mist! There were walkers just ahead and I spotted Carl over to my right by the abandoned vehicle (how it every got up there in the first place is beyond me). It seemed a shame after their efforts but I declined the spirits on offer at Naughty Corner and set off after Carl again.

The red flags were up and we could hear not just shooting but the rat-a tat of machine guns. Not a day to take a short cut then.  I skirted below Pilgrims Cross and was glad that yesterday I had taken time to study in and read the carvings on all 4 sides.

Just as I was getting tired I caught Helen A and her kind words of admiration put a new spring in my step.

Peel Tower was open today but there was no time to stop and go inside. It is pretty much all downhill from here and I knew I should be able to cut loads of time off my last effort.
Not quite so sunny on Saturday
I whizzed through the last CP at the end of the army road and headed for the golf course. Sadly Carl was somewhere ahead and getting lost but I didn't know this at the time. I shot across the road at the church and spotted Bob on the old rail-track. He claimed not to have seen the runner in front? odd?

He left his companion and ran with me for a bit but by now I knew the end was in sight and I so wanted to knock 30 minutes off my time. It hurt and in the end I had to be content with 4 hours 17, so 27 minutes faster than two years ago. Before I had chance to go back out to take photos Bob appeared and so did Carl.

 We then spent a well deserved hour eating, drinking and chatting with Albert, Josie, Pete and Dave. I can never get over quite how many cups of tea I can manage after these events and the soup was wonderful.

What a great weekend.

Monday, 16 March 2015

The real start of the season

The Haworth Hobble has come to mean the start of the season for me. This weekend would be my 8th consecutive year and it is how I started ultras so has a special place in my heart. This year it is again the first of 12 races in the Runfurther series. Maybe it won't end up being one of my discard scores this year? This year would be special because I had persuaded Bob to enter and join in the Runfurther fun.

We had been out on recees and he had set his own time limits.
I had pulled something in a glute over a week earlier and was bothered this would be a problem. So much so that I did not race at street O on the Wednesday night and just took myself for a long slow 15 muddy miles instead. We took the van and camped on Penistone again on Friday night allowing us to be at the start bright and early with the flags.

Andy joined us and with help from his club mate Jackie the four of us had the 8 flags and the two new banners up in no time. Thanks to Si at Beta Climbing for the new banners. This left plenty of time to faff with gear and catch up with friends ...Graham, Mick, Linda, and so many more.
Age is no barrier to ultra running
I was also able to thank Ian S for setting up our Runfurther Strava club before he zoomed off to the front of the race. I was still nattering as we gathered on the cobbled hill near the Fleece. Runners seemed to be stretched almost up to the church but no worries as surely they will be sent back down the hill. NO, suddenly we were off and I hadn't even heard the race start!
I was way back waiting for Brett to chase the creepers down the hill!
Oh well, I had wanted to start steady and slow. My plan must have worked because unlike some years when mad enthusiasm has taken over I was able to run all the way to Bronte Bridge. A small queue for the gate allowed me time to take my gloves and cag off and stuff them in my sack. It was almost a perfect day for running- warm compared to recent years, very little wind and dry. Timy remnants of snow only.

I was happy with my time upto Withins Ruin although a bit worried that I could still see Mary up ahead. I chatted to others on the new (ish) flag stones and then overtook some runners on the descent and the drainage channel.

I opted for the road at the dam and it wasn't long before  familiar slap, slap told me Andy had caught me up. Gradually I am learning, so I let him go and carried on at my own pace. I hoped Bob was enjoying his day.

 I rushed through the first CP feeling no need for food just yet but did manage a finger of fudge as I climbed onto the moor. The views to Pendle were superb and I enjoyed the easy track. I had been pleased to see Vic M back running the series but she was having stomach issues and keen to know how far to the next CP. Then I caught Graham, also having a bad day. I slowed as we made the final climb to Long Causeway and a small group overtook me. A jammy dounut as I jogged up the road revived me and prepared me for the horrid mud below Stipperden farm. I don't think that bit of path ever dries out. It was here I caught Andy up.

 Last weekends excellent time at Trollers was taking it's toll today. I was determined to run my own race but catching people was giving me confidence. The next section was no where near as wet or muddy as I had feared it might be and after no time at all we emerged at the golf course. The sneaky little path by the church always makes me timid but I emerged at the main road in one piece. I didn't use the rough ground short cut and actually overtook 4 runners by taking the slightly longer easy route.  I knew the climb up to Mankinholes would be tough but I stuffed a gel down and drank some chia. Taking part in Joe's nutrition study has taught me I need to eat and drink more plus introduced me to Torq gels which I like. The fields at the to were wet but I was now spurred on by the thought of another dounut. I declined the whisky though. I lost no places going up Stoodley and my legs felt better than usual as we started the big descent.  Supporters were out in Calis woods- thanks Mandy and Charmian. The tarmac descent to Hebden is my least favourite part of the whole race but I tried to smile at Phil aka Capt Krypton. The 'normal' people in Hebden always look at us as if we are freaks and this year was no exception. I ate more on the road upto Heptonstall and was motivated after a chat with Jesse. A sharp stone in my shoes caused me grief on the descent to Horse Bridge but I was reluctant to stop until part way up the next climb I felt I had no choice. At least Salomon laces make it a quick and easy task. I tried to use others to pull me up this climb and although Carol and a small group slowly pulled ahead I did manage to hold my own with most of the others. Leaving the last CP I spotted Helen catching me up. Her knee was giving her some issues but she pushed on with determination to Top O Stair. I gained some yards back on the descent to the final reservoir and suddenly realised I could perhaps get a PB. It gave me just enough motivation to push hard over Penistone even when my Garmin died.

 It wasn't enough to catch Helen quite but a sneaky little new to me route after the church let me catch 3 others and fly into the finish.

It is possibly the least wasted I have felt at the end of this race which in some ways makes me think I should have run harder but in other ways is pleasing. I did get a PB of 5 hours 28. I still only drank about 300ml but at least I ate a fair bit.My times over the last 8 years have gone from 5,44 at first to a best of 5.30 and a PW of 5,48 last year. It was good to have tea (several cups), pasta and cakes before dashing out to the van to change.

I was able to greet friends as they finished instead of sitting in a messy heap like last year and tried to hand out as many Runfurther fliers as I could. Brett had delayed the prize giving til 2pm so we were able to distribute Runfurther prizes and spot prizes from our sponsors. Just as we were leaving for a committee meeting at the pub Bob arrived back.

 It was great to just manage a photo of him finishing. He was tired but not trashed and although cross to be a minute over 8 hours he was pleased to be well inside his self imposed time limit.  A pint and a meeting later we were back to take down the flags and make our way home before it got too dark. What a great start to the season.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Troller's Trot

This was a new race for me although the event centre was well known from the Fellsman. The forecast for saturday was much better than Sunday so perhaps I would be lucky this time. Despite tractors and grannies on the A59 I arrived in plenty of time. I was registered and still had time to reduce the gear in my sack and catch up with friends. It was good to see Mick again and to know he was back running.

 We also spotted Rachel Hill returning after 18 months off with injury.
I knew that Andy had a last minute entry and felt his broken wrist would be OK so long as he didn't fall. The route was mostly on tracks and good paths so hopefully all would be well.

We swapped injury stories- my glute area is still not right after a street O that was obviously too fast. Still the sun was out and it was warm, I almost wished I'd worn shorts and certainly did not need my cag.
We congregated out at the front of the school before heading out onto the lane. The start was bound to be fast as it was flat and on a good surface. I tried not to go off too fast. From the rugby club we headed west along lanes and then out onto the moor. It was boggy in places but not too bad. before long we hit a track and then a lane and were heading for the villages of Hetton and Rylestone with the first manned checkpoints. It was a disappointment to find only dry buscuits but nevermind. By now my early speed had caught up with me and my leg was protesting and forcing me to walk for short stretches. I remembered the track to the skyline from a MTB adventure years ago.I head the slap slap of feet and knew Andy was just behind me.

As we headed out to Rylestone Cross and Embsay Moor he got further and further ahead.  It was frustrating but I hoped by slowing my speed my leg would ease off and allow me to complete. I made decent time down over the moors and past the Barden reservoirs and was soon crossing the river at Barden. It was picturesque near the Priestshouse and the ruins of Barden Tower and I don't think I had been there before. I ignored the real dairy ice cream van at the bridge and pushed on. The scenery changed yet again as we headed uphill onto an old track and then across fields to another pretty village and Parcevall Hall.

This led us into the start of Trotters Gyll, although we branched left ontot a grassy gully rather than going up the gyll itself. From here I knew it was all downhill.

Burnsall was full of tourists enjoying a beautiful spring day and many were walking along the river. From here the Dales Way follows the river all the way back to Grassington.
Burnsall was busy
I did try to run and managed for much but my last km was pathetic even though it was now flat. To my credit I did overtake 3 others who were also struggling and saw off a rival who had been with me all morning. I wish I had known how close it was to 4 hours. In my despaeration to make sure I did not forget my garmin I had started it early but forgotten this. Arriving at the bridge I thought the 4 hours were up whereas I finished in 4 hours 56 secs and it took me more than 56 secs to get up the the school! It was a joy to run into the finish in the daylight. I have only ever finished there at around midnight after a hard day out on the Fellsman.

I won a Toblerone as first FV50 and once I'd had a quick rest scuttled off with Andy to find food and pour over Calderdale Hike and Fellsman maps. He was shuffered to have got round without injury, sub 4 hours and to have beaten me. He also got a Toblerone as firts MV60. As we were finishing our food we were joined by Alison B and then the Trawden girls. If I moved east and wanted a club I would have to consider joining them they are always so friendly and cheerful.