Monday, 27 July 2015

A leisurely weekend in the Peak District

We had no races planned and our volunteering was not required after all at Lakeland 100 so what to do? Then a message popped up on facebook or the FRA forum- running slowly around Bullock Smithy over two days does anyone want to join me? Actually YES. I have only done the BSH once before and it was after a long drive back from the Alps. I knew virtually nothing of the route and was still only getting into ultras. The first half I know a bit and also doubt I will be alone too much here so the plan was to join Andrew for the second half on Sunday. Bob is toying with doing the Long Tour of Bradwell this year but does not know the route. A plan was hatched. Watch the Tour de France on Friday, have tea and drive to Stanage.

We slept at the parking below High Neb but got an early wake up call from the ranger who said we shouldn't be there, but never mind. It was chilly as we left the van but the sky was blue and we soon warmed up climbing up to the Edge.

 I remembered to show Bob the sneaky little self clip that is easy to miss and was pleased to find the track had been repaired from its very eroded state two years ago when I last did the race. The 3km along the edge and up to the trig point were a joy.

 It was warm and sunny and the ground was dry.It did not take long to drop to the road and CP spot at Upper Burbage bridge.

There is a choice of three routes here. The western route is shortest but has some climb. The middle route in the valley can be boggy and the eastern route is slightly longer but very easy. We agreed on race day the eastern option might be favourite so off we trotted. The next self clip at Toads Mouth should be on the gate/path etc according to the grid ref and the description but I know I have had to stand on a rock in the stream and stretch up so I mentioned all this too. The next section to Bolehill went well and even without any tapes Bob thought the nav was quite easy. I stressed he must look for the self clip in the wall corner as last year Andy and I met runners climbing back up from the railway line. A few fields and then the riverside path brought us to Leadmill bridge near Hathersage.
View from Stanage tooking across the the mast at Wolf Pits
No CP today so we ate our own food as we climbed the road past the pub and then the lane to Hazelford Hall. The section to Stoke Ford was longer than I remembered but I was enjoying myself at a pace I found comfy. The path to Abney was a bit overgrown but as dry as it ever gets.
Not sure where the blue blob came from

I managed to run almost the whole way from Abney to the quarry track- bet I cannot do that in a fortnights time! There was no need to drop all the way to Bradwell today but we did need to get some climbing in our legs and so went almost to the tarmac before turning back uphill to rejoin Brough Lane. At Elmore Farm Bob thought the blue gates looked familiar and then realised this was the way the short route returns up and over to Bradwell.

 We stopped on Townfield Lane to admire a barn 'dressed up' for a wedding; it looked stunning. Shatton was quiet and non-touristy compared to all the other villages in the area. Footpaths from there led us north until we could join the disused rail-track path. It was a gentle gradient and we soon reached the cut-off where the long course drops to the fields by the river Derwent.

We admired the mill, weir and sculpture before climbing to Bamford to cross the main road.

 Bob had printed off new instructions and it seems Bamford Clough was shut.
Great views of the early part of the route
The diversion took us on an undulating route south-east past the water works and then north east up Hurstclough Lane. It seemed further to me and the climbs were broken up into stages. I wonder if we will go that way on race day? From the last hamlet there was just a short section on a quiet road to reach the van.

 Running backwards and forwards meant I covered 21 miles. We were not racing and were happy to have been out 5 hours 20 mins. I cannot get my garmin to load to strava so I have no idea what the climb was but on race day the overall will be 2094m. We refuelled at the van  and then set off in search of a shop and place to spend the night. I have done a few races in the area but do not know the roads well so it was interesting to keep arriving places and thinking 'I have crossed this road here'. The car park below Tideswell at the entrance to the dale was fairly quiet and starting to empty. We were joined by a huge german lorry/campervan that looked like it was set up to circumnavigate the world off road. I was tempted to explore the dale but Bob was tired so we sat eating, drinking and reading.

Sunday saw us up bright and early ready to meet Andrew on his campsite near Chelmorton. We do not know each other well so I was looking forward to making a new friend and having company on my run. Bob was doing his own thing near Shining Tor and then collecting me in Hazel Grove. The forecast said rain by 11 so not a morning to hang about. A rather sheepish Andrew met me at his tent. He was crocked and did not think his achilles would survive the run with me. Having explained where he had stashed some water we said bye. Bob dropped me on the edge of Chelmorton and I climbed a couple of fields to join the BSH route. I had only hazy memories of this but bits did come back to me as I ran and when I reached Earl Sterndale I spotted the church hall CP and the unusual pub (The Quiet Woman). The views on the next part were wonderful with funny little edges that I really wished I had time to go and explore. I helped a lost cyclist and pushed on to Dowel Dale.

 The section I most wanted to check was Booth Farm to Brand Top but actually it seemed easy. The old school room CP and the telephone box are good landmarks. I made one small error climbing to the road at Hilltop when I lost the path in a field of very long un-mowed or un-grazed grass but it did not cost me much.

The route to Knotberry looked complicated on the map but was easy and I was soon heading down to Three Shires bridge and then Cumberland Cottage.

From Clough House it is a road section but I was making good time and in positive mode told myself to make the most of the good surface. I met almost no traffic and was at Forest Chapel before I knew it.

Climbing up Charity Lane the drizzle started and I stopped to put my cag on. I did check the off road route but by now the rain was heavier and on race day it will be dark at this point. There seemed little point taking the scenic route here or over Kerridge Hill. One day I will go back and run the ridge and get to see White Nancy!

I was happy to leave the traffic on the main road and joined the lane contouring the hill but with good views over the Cheshire Plain. The next lane past all the quarries seemed to drag on and I think I must have been taken a different way in the race.
I left my camera in the van as the forecast was rain
I arrived on the edge of Bollington but made an error that took me in a look around the big factory so adding a few hundred metres. Hopefully I will get it right in the dark on race day. I was dreading the next section as tow paths and rail lines both stretching on into the distance are not my thing. The tow path was OK and I found the CP.  Along the rail track I tried to concentrate on a good pace as it was so level. I used other walkers and runners to pull me along and the bridge numbers to tick off the distance. Near Wood Lanes I stopped under a bridge to eat the last of my food. The rain pushed me on and a quick glance at my watch showed with a bit of effort I could be back before 1pm. Bob and I had arranged to meet at the garden centre and I had estimated I would be there by 2pm. As I was running along Towers Lane admiring the posh houses my phone pinged. In under 5 mins I would be there so I raced on and arrived at the van just as Bob was putting on a waterproof before heading to the cafe. Perfect timing. The van is great on days like this. I stripped, got dry clothes on and made food. Revived we decided against the garden centre and drove to Decathlon in search of bargains instead. Not a bad day with 5 hours and covering 24 miles. I will not have time to recee the rest but feel happier to have done the second half. We drove home in time for the final day of the Tour de France and Froomes victory.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Lyke Wake race

Bob chose this one and it was good. We drove across on Thursday evening and parked up at Lord Stones. The plan was to recce the lower route that by-passes the tops of the 3 Sisters. I knew the way over the tops and was fairly sure I could find the other path but it was all new to Bob.

The little rollercoaster route along the north side of Cringle Moor was familiar from Jon and Shirley's wedding race and we soon found the best way to avoid the tops of Cold Moor. The path just inside the woodland was great and led around the base of Wainstones too.

It did not take us long to get to the road at Clay Bank. Having got there so early Bob decided it would be good to see the next section too so we trotted off up the cobbled way and onto Round Hill and then Blowith Crossing.

A brief stop to eat and we turned round to jog back. It was warm and sunny. Bob stayed on the lower path and I went back over all the tops although I walked every hill.

A good morning of exercise although in retrospect perhaps a little more than is wise the day before a race. After lunch we moved the van round to Cod Beck and the Sheepwash car park ready for race day. I had one slow walk along the nearest fell side but otherwise I spent the day lying in the sun and reading. I think the sun was a mistake as I went to bed and woke up with a headache... too much sun and not enough water. Not the best way to start a race.

The LWW race is unusual in that you estimate your finishing time and are then given a handicap and a start time. If all is well we would all finish before the prize-giving and in quite a narrow window of time. Bob had little to gauge his time on and was off at 5.20am.  We had already been woken by an excited school group setting off on the route at midnight so his 4am get up came round rather fast. He was very quiet getting ready and I tried to pretend to still be asleep. I missed their actual start but could not really settle to go back to sleep, plus there was a stream of cars arriving in the car park. After breakfast I wandered down to the lower car park to register and hand over bags to go to the finish. Surprise surprise the man in charge was Roy the ice-cream man (he treated Bob to an ice cream in Whitby on the Princess Challenge run). It was not long before Shelli and friends appeared and then Jon and Shirley. Jon was starting half an hour ahead of me so the challenge was to catch him up. By 8.15 it was already warm and sunny.

 The start is along a section of quiet road until you join the Cleveland Way in Clain Woods. I got pulled along too fast but soon backed off and settled to run on my own. I knew this section well and was not worried. By Live Moor I could see some of the faster guys from our group which was nice. The cobbled steps were dry and so I was down at the road by Lord Stones in no time. It seemed early to grab any refreshments so I pushed on.

With only occasional glimpses of the others I ran along the land-slip path and then the woods on my own to the next steps down to the road at Clay Bank.

 This time I did stop for drink and some food. I could see Conrad and the others just ahead and so worked hard to reel them in as we climbed towards Blowith.

Perhaps I had tried too hard or perhaps it was the heat but the next section seemed awful to me. The disused rail track should be easy running but the hard track wasn't ideal for my feet and it just seemed to stretch on and on. I tried to concentrate on running and drinking and staying ahead of the group behind me. A supporter told me to 'just follow the track' as it went out of sight and round the next bend. I did and I switched off my brain. I spotted a building on the skyline to my left, ignored it and kept on the rail track. I hit the road but where was the pub and CP? There was nobody to ask so I crossed the road and dropped to the cycle track where a guy fixing his bike told me to go back to the road and turn uphill.

Bugger, I had extended the torture of the rail track by an unnecessary km and now had almost a km of uphill tarmac. I was cross with myself for the wasted effort and for also letting so many people get ahead. I stopped long enough to grab some rice pud but really should have eaten more. I sulked for the next 2km up the road and really struggled to get back running. The little path across the head of Rosedale helped improve my mood and I worked hard to catch the next guys and so have a guide on the next section. After another 2km or so of road we headed off across Glaisdale Moor. It was wet and boggy  and the change of terrain was welcome by me at least. I also learnt that Jon was only 8 mins ahead. Being small and light is an advantage over the bogs and I quite enjoyed this section. I arrived at the Hamer CP as Jon was about to leave. The CP staff were busy filling bottles etc and I hassled a bit to be on my way. With my race number clipped and my random kit check completed I set off after Jon. Shelli and some other fast runners stormed past looking strong. The path on this section was tricky for tired legs with narrow sections through the heather and lots of trip stones. I concentrated on sticking with Jon.

We were both struggling and ran in almost silence- not normal. I felt weird. It was almost as if I was not there but was looking down on us both running. I guess the sun over the two days had got to me. Jon sat with Shirley and was refuelling. I grabbed a drink but was struggling to eat so I pushed on. Mark R had turned his ankle badly but was continuing and this made me 'man up' a bit, plus I could see Emma up ahead. Simon Howe came and went but I was not catching the others. At least I knew the way here. I ran down to the level crossing on my own with lizards darting out the way and a small dead adder on the path.

Bob tells me he had melon at Eller Beck but I did not see any. I scoffed a handful of crisps as unusually the arch of my foot seemed to be cramping. There wasn't any food I fancied.

 I was slow climbing to Lilla Cross and was running steadily out of energy. Picking off slower runners helped a bit but I was not closing on Emma. I spotted a huge dip up ahead and convinced myself it was the A171 with the next CP. It wasn't, it was Jugger Howe Beck with a big down and up. I met Sarah the taxi organiser here and also Shirley who had come out to see Jon. She told me she had seen Bob at the CP and it was doubtful I would catch him now. I just could not run even when I hit the broken concrete road on the flat moor before the main road. Pathetic. I quickly grabbed water at the CP and ate my last gel, nothing else would go down. It is uphill to the mast but not steep. I should have been able to jog but even here it was jog a bit and then walk a bit. At the mast I had to make a decision - navigate across unknown fields or stick to the road. There was nobody else around so I went by the road. Not my favourite surface and definitely longer but at least I did not need to think. Not sure of my time yet but around 7 hours 20-25 I think. It was a joy to finish and try to sort out my cramping legs and foot. I even got a spot-prize of a chocolate orange along with my goody bag. Bob was made up to have finished before me. If I had not gone wrong and had opted for the fields perhaps we might have finished together! The sun I had been cursing all day made it a pleasure to sit and clap in the next finishers although I kept feeling cold.. more signs of sunstroke perhaps.

 Our taxi group gradually congregated and by 5.15 we were ready for the long drive back to Osmotherley.

A strip wash revived us a little and then a pot of coffee, bread and bacon sandwiches started to fill us up. This morning revealed an all time dip in weight so I had two breakfasts, two pots of coffee, bottles of water and my chocolate orange. And that was all before 10.30! I guess we will return to this race and we both estimated our times quite well in the end. Bob could end up with a tougher handicap next time. So, big thanks to Anthony, Roy and the Quakers who have taken this race on and stopped it from disappearing.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


After a fairly easy week where the running mostly involved children and short orienteering courses I felt my body had recovered from the Lakes 10 Peaks and was ready for the SLMM. The event centre was Torver and we were going up on Friday afternoon as usual to help with the parking (well Bob was; I did not seem to be needed this year).

 It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and I wandered the field chatting until it was time to visit the local pub to use their wifi and complete a race entry. Back in the field I registered, studied my old map from the Coniston event and worried about the weather forecast. Many friends would not appear until Saturday morning opting for a night in their own beds and an early start. Given the weather forecast of lightning, thunder and downpours this was perhaps a wise decision. My sleep in the van was rudely disturbed by one enormous crack of thunder. No rumbling warnings just an almighty bang. Otherwise I slept quite well and tried to ignore Bob getting up early to start Saturday morning car park duty. When I did emerge it was to a warn dry day but with very low cloud. Navigation was going to be tricky!

 Carmine and Jenny arrived and I hoped they would not regret my success in begging them a last minute entry. There seemed to be a huge queue for map collection but it moved fast once we were in the tent and people realised there was only one map correction- a bridge almost at the start. My 'frequent' MM partner arrived with her sister and we walked to the start together; it was good to catch up. A key aspect of Klets is that it is a solo course with the added challenge of deciding what order to visit controls and unlike most score events knowing that you must visit all of them.  My first control was easy nav following the wall and stream which was good for building confidence. This then immediately took a little knock when en route to CP2 I found a wall/sheepfold that was not on the map. The next leg was longer but I used my time on Walna scar road to plan my attack. Contouring with a slight downhill- so easy to get wrong. I prayed that I would know when i crossed the stream and not miss it or confuse it with another. Luckily I had caught up Kirsty who took longer to mark up her map and navigate to CP2. She had an altimeter and the confidence of this and two brains let us run harder. We both then headed off to Goats Hause and Brim Fell. At some point we wordlessly acknowledged that we were in this together for a while. The drop off Brim Fell was a bit iffy in the mist and we did not find the control immediately. We did not know it at the time but from here competitors made several order and route choices. To me the obvious route was to two controls on the north side of Grey Friars. Looking at the map later I can see why others decided to carry on down to Levers Water and collect the two SE controls early on. It was a stiff climb up to Brim Fell but then a good path contouring below Swirl How and round Calf Cove. In retrospect I should have gone to the further control first but in the end it perhaps made little difference. The clag and tired legs over rough ground were starting to slow me down. Once back at the col I had the best running of the day down from Great carrs, collecting one control and then aiming for Wrynose. Again I wish I had gone for the western control first as the path would have meant a better attack point. The next two were in Greenburn valley and it was slow going over boggy ground. Then even slower as I climbed to Prison Band and Kirsty pulled away. I found the CP quickly but then in my tired and hungry state made a stupid mistake. With my map folded I was convinced I needed to go to 113 and ran fast downhill towards Levers water.

 Luckily I was desperate for the loo and stopped before I descended too far. Idiot, once my map opened it was obvious that 113 was on the side of Brim Fell. I was now on my own and off route. I lost more time storming back up and over Sunlight Crag when really I should probably have carried on down and used the path. It gave me an unusual route to the last real CP of the day. Yewdale was lovely but I was tired and there was nobody but me to decide the pace to Tilbertwaite and the overnight camp. My silly errors had allowed Kirsty to overtake my overall time but at least I had finished and enjoyed my day.

Lesson learnt- just because the weather improves don't stop thinking, when you need a wee stop straight away so your brain is not distracted and carry a small pen to tick off controls visited. Bob met me at download and kindly filled my water bottle while I waited for milk. He had also saved me a nice camping spot next to his tent and Rowena.

The warm sunny weather made for a glorious evening camp. It was very sociable with Julie and Tony coming to camp nearby and then Peter and Steve too. Carmine and Jenny appeared and although jenny found it very different to anything she had done before I hope she enjoyed it.

The evening was spent eating, chatting and wandering the camp until the sun went behind the hill. It never really got dark and even at midnight it was bright enough to walk thanks to the full moon. Sadly one control that was on the Klets course had been stolen on Friday. It affected those who went that way early in the day, not me. Because of our varied routes etc this gave the organisers a real headache but in the end they used their best judgement and gave time to those who had lost time searching the best they could. Tony had given up and gone for a long walk collecting CPs and also peaks. Chris BH had gone home to his family.

I slept quite well and was pleased to see the weather was still good. After a quick trip to the toilet and another to collect control descriptions I stayed zipped up in the tent avoiding the midges. Those of us not in the chasing start could begin any time after 8.05 and there was quite a queue meandering up out of the valley floor to the track onto the hillside. Most courses seemed to go north and I found myself alone in Yewdale. It should be very runnable but I was struggling to get my legs in gear so it was run a bit walk a bit. Just before the col over to Coniston Claire appeared and we ran together to the control on the old mine chimney before she gradually pulled away as we climbed from Levers water to Levers Hause. I found this very steep and hard going and before long two others had also caught me up. Eventually we reached the top and it was another run along the path below Great Carrs and then back to Calf Cove. Once we were on the path my legs picked up a little and I was able to stick with Tony.
Thanks to ony for his company and photos
The control on Knots was easy and we opted for the steep descent to Tarn Head Beck and then the path around Seathwaite tarn. I knew the next control would be tricky and we used the stream from Saturday to check before searching for the correct rocky spur.  We found it quite quickly but in the mist it would have been a nightmare. Scott came running past and David W joined us along with Kirsty.

The drop to Blind tarn was easier than I expected and we were soon running to two controls between the quarries south of the Old Man. Only 3 controls left! The first was easy but we wasted time on both the others. Tony almpst forgot the final control on a stile ( a mistake that would cause Oli to be disqualified) and then there was just the final rocky lane and the event field.  I thought 4 hours 11 was quite good until I saw that the winner had completed in 2 hours 48! Ah well.

Overall results show me 13th of 26 starters, 3rd vet and only 30 mins down on Kirsty over the two days. What is really great is two other women doing the Klets this year whereas for the last 3 years I have been the only one.

I ate my post race meal with Tony, Rowena and Jennifer and then waited for a post race massage and the prize giving. By 3ish we were ready to go and we left the field as the first of the heavy rain arrived. Not a bad weekend at all.