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.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Bullock Smithy Hike

It was the 40th running of this event and we all received a very nice bone china mug to celebrate. It was also the 9th race in the Runfurther calendar this year; important for those of us doing the Grand Slam. After a week of big and high walks in the mountains I thought my body had recovered from the GRP. It hadn't. It turned into a long tough day where at times I struggled to remember this was meant to be fun.

 The race starts at 12 noon, presumably so that we all do some of the route in the dark? We drove down early and met up with Nick to put up banners and flags. It left plenty of time to chat. I had repacked at breakfast as Preston was so cool and cloudy. Now as it was getting warm I was regretting this and later really wished I had kept to my small sack.
George has done all 40 Hikes
At 11.30 we were herded down to the small park where the race starts and lined up to collect our tallies. There was the usual debate about which of 3 different start routes to take.

Initially I felt strong and raced off down the road, over the fields and golf course towards Lyme Park. Julie was supporting at the hotel and I stopped for a brief chat before heading off for Furness Vale.

By the time we crossed Hayfield Road after CP3 I knew I was struggling. Barney and Mike skipped off uphill towards Edale Cross and I plodded on.

 There were plenty of tourists out but I made good time down Jacobs ladder and David W did not get far ahead. Edale village hall at 18 miles was the first food except biscuits or jelly babies. The fruit salad and rice pud went down a treat but although I tried I was struggling to eat any of my own food. The next section was a reverse of the Long Tour of Bradwell- up to Hollins Cross and then down to Castleton.

 I grabbed a sandwich and topped up my bottle. I manage most of the sandwich but it was not enough. Stomping up Cave Dale I did my best not to let David and the others get too far ahead. It was like being on a bit of very old elastic; the gap increased and then I pulled it back again. This continued all the way to Peak Forest. Perhaps I was just pushing too hard and need to accept that I am just not as fast as those guys. It was a real effort and two pieces of an orange and a handful of crisps were not going to fill the gap. I tried a chia bar but didn't manage much really. Somewhere around here I started really resenting the amount of road/tarmac. True most (except the km or so on the A623) were quiet roads but my feet were feeling it and almost the whole section to Millers Dale and Chelmorton and Earl Sterndale and beyond was on tarmac.

 I hung on to the back of the group until the Millers Dale CP. Two cups of soup went down well and I topped up my bottle again. Barney and Mike had gone awol and were also there but not for long. They, David and others pulled ahead on the road and then on the broken road of the limestone way. It was also here that second lady came past. She was running well but taking some strange route options that included sticking to the real roads. Anne Johnson was supporting Bill and still at Chelmorton when I arrived. She kindly offered me her road shoes when I said my feet were trashed. Instead I made do with half a doughnut and pushed on. The weather had been wonderful and the views superb.

The fact I took so few photos shows how hard I was having to try and then how my head was not in the right place. But the evening was beautiful and it kept my spirits up. Thank goodness it wasn't raining.

The CP at Earl Sterndale is next to an unusual pub 'The Quiet Woman'. There wasn't much I fancied so just a bit of fruit and a handful or crisps.We had respite from the road until Dowel Dale and then again through Booth Farm and up to Brand Top. It was getting dark and the temperature was plummeting. I waited a little too long to don my thermal top and gloves and then spent ages trying to warm up.I knew I needed to eat more, that a torq gel and mouthful of chia bar was not enough. I managed a hot dog sausage and half the bun. Nick caught me up here and was clearly enjoying himself and having a good run. He was on for a PB and set of fart powered to Hilltop. In the growing dark he and one other guy pulled ahead and I was on my own. I wasn't worried as I had recceed this bit in the summer but I did have a moment of doubt after Knotbury and then lost the path in a bog before the climb to the A54. I now know there are two ladders up to the road and my torch was aiming at the wrong one. The stony track to Cumberland cottage was every bit as bad as I remembered, although it had been fine on relatively fresh legs on my reccee. This CP gets my award. From over a km away they spotted runners and started up cow bells, klaxons and cheering. A real welcome to a beautiful spot. As with all the CP staff they were kind, positive and encouraging.I knew that from here it was road, canal tow path and cycle track almost all the way back. At least it might be kinder to my toes? but then my skin and achilles started to complain. A different group caught me up on the long pull up Charity Lane and I managed to stay with them until Walker Barn. Nick was just leaving as I arrived but I needed to go in and top up my water. Sadly I could not face the cake on offer. I kept them and torches in sight until Kerridge but then they too pulled away and I was alone again.It was a shame as my route was less than perfect and I lost time in Bollington again. Nick knows a good way down to the canal that would have saved me 10 minutes. Unusually I was pleased to arrive on the canal tow path. I had started to wonder if I could finish or if I did just how long it would take. I power walked with a bit of jogging and arrived at Whiteley Green CP.  I must have looked a state but the 3 guys manning it were very positive and complimentary. One even escorted me to the cycle track on the old railway. Five miles to go. At this rate it felt like it would take me forever. I stomped along the best I could trying hard to run every now and again. I was alone except for a bike that went past. I did even think of asking for a backy! Leaving the cycleway at Coppiceside I was aware of running feet and torches. A whole group appeared. I perked up a little and was pleased to be led along a slight short cut. A few ran off but most were as trashed as me and struggling to keep up the running. The slow slight uphill from the garden centre on the Macclesfield road seemed like a very long 800m and I was wasted when I finished.  Nick didn't quite get his PB but beat me by 14 minutes and finished with David W in 12.20. In the end I was happy not to be further behind! Nigel had a great run in 11.19,  Ian S was second in in 9.35 and the smiley pair  Barney and Mike in 11.27. Bill completed in 11.39 and so gained almost an hour on me in the second half. I think despite all this I was third lady (the results show 2nd but I am sure one is missing).

Picture says it all- but I didn't actually cry
 So the Grand Slam is still on. However, note to self- body needs longer than a fortnight to recover from a big race like GRP. Need to consider whether I do the LDMT and I need fresh legs for Hardmoors 60.

The van has never seemed so welcome. After a meal of egg, bacon and toast washed down with milkshake I staggered that far. Bob boiled me water to wash my face and a bloodied knee and I fell into bed. Prize giving was at 10 so we had a lie in before I had our normal breakfast and then blagged another egg, bacon and toast one.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Post GRP in the Pyrenees

Sunday was a little surreal after a lack of sleep and disturbed night for both of us. We joined the crowd in the village square mid morning for the prize giving. After a couple of spots of rain the weather turned warm and dry again.  Leaving the van first thing my feet felt mashed and my achilles screamed but after a few hundred yards things improved dramatically. My quads were almost fine. The winning man still looked trashed- an emotional and physical wreck but an awesome time of 26 hours and a few seconds. After many congrats we joined the Sunters and Marlows for a beer or two.  Tim had bought tickets for the buffet but thought they would miss their bus and kindly gave them to us.

We joined Charmain and Steve in the field and having plated up masses of food in the marque we sat down to put back what the weekend had taken out. It took several trips to the food tables.  A long chat over a cup of tea in their van rounded off the day. Monday was a chores and recovery day- laundrette, supermarket and ice cream!
We then had a week of superb weather. Hot, dry and sunny. We didn't run but managed some incredible walks with fantastic views. As always we ran out of time and energy rather than routes to explore.

First up was a trip to the entrance of the tunnel to Spain at the head of our valley. The map only showed through routes over the cols but the ridge looked as if it could be walked. It could.

We had a great day exploring on surprisingly good paths considering they were not even on the map.
A drive over to Tournaboup sounded straight forward. After two mountain passes with hairpins etc the van was pleased to stop for the night.

 It was now getting seriously hot again but reasonably cool at the top of the Col de Tourmalet where we spent the night.

It felt strange driving through la Monjie and seeing the paths we had run on.
The next day was a circuit from Tournaboup up and over the col, past many lakes, views down to the big reservoir lakes and then back down the reverse of the race route from the cabin in the grassy pasture.

 We had tried to do the ridge between the cols again but after getting half way and over the first two peaks it seemed to peter out and we lost confidence and turned back. We had the place to ourselves for the first half of the day but saw more walkers in the afternoon.

Driving down to Luz was even stranger- thinking ' I ran through here too'. We found a gem from here. A drive up to Gedre and a desperate but failed search for bread led us to Heas and a wonderful valley. It was very quiet with just a couple of vans and by parking before the toll road and walking up instead we had a quiet route round the whole of the Cirque de Tromouse.

It might not be as famous as Gavernie but in some ways was more impressive as the cliffs surrounded you. The scenery here was totally different with lots of pasture below the cliffs and scree. We wandered at will and only as we neared the toll road parking and the madonna did we meet crowds of people. Predictably we lost them again as we walked back down the mountain to the van and they drove.

Our first sight of Gavernie filled us with horror. Crowds, payant parking for miles and still no bread shop?

 We dropped down the valley for peace and quiet and spent the evening on a via feratta and then slept there too.

An early morning start back up to Gavernie in search of bread found the places almost deserted. Clearly tourists get up late to potter. The bread shop was not open but the chef from the hotel was putting rubbish in the bins and kindly offered to sell me two bagettes when I asked. We still had no map but I reckoned the routes would be well way marked here and so not an issue.

 Up at the Col de Tentes there were more vehicles as the 'real' walkers gathered here. We set out for the Refuge and Breche de Roland.

 Despite Bob's best efforts to trip and smash himself up yet again we made good time. He has made a habit of leaving skin and blood on most of our walks recently. Once through the Breche we continued on a fairly easy path to Pic Taillon.

The views across Spain, into the Vignamale and even back to the Pic du Midi Bigore were amazing.

 I normally avoid out and back routes but we really had little choice and it didn't seem to matter much.

Bob needed a recovery day. His finger was an odd shape and his knee twisted, bruised and sore. My feet probably benefitted from the easier day too.

We walked along a grassy ridge with two smaller peaks but views into the cirques and then a second walk past a lake and over a col to Pic entre le portes. Again we risked routes not shown on a map and were rewarded with solitude and small paths.

A great day of soaking up the views and sunbathing.
The finale was a big day from Pont d'Espagne. We drove up through Cauterets and found a huge car park. It said no campervans overnight so we just ignored it and turned all the lights off early.

It was a superb walk to end on with an easy almost level walk in to Refuge du Clot and then a bit of climb to the huge Refuge Wallen. Much of this was through a beautiful valley complete with waterfalls etc.

 From this refuge we climbed to Col Fache and then having rested we went on the scramble to the Grande Fache at 3144m. 

We met a guy tracking the bouquetin they had reintroduced to the area last year (hunting and natural causes had totally depleted them). The return route allowed tiny for skinny dipping in a very cold tarn and then a long slow soak and wash in the river back at the van. Most people were taking 3 days over this walk which seemed excessive, although they did have big packs for hut to hut walks.

Cauterets  gave us a chance to replenish our food stocks and buy yet more ice cream. Time to leave the Pyrenees sadly but we agreed we had enjoyed it enormously and would be back. As we left and drove north through France the weather turned cooler and damper. Stops in Chartres and Etapes relieved the boredom of the long drive and allowed us to stretch our legs.