Sunday, 26 June 2016

A local weekend

After considering plans to travel to NW Lakes for the Darren Hollway Buttermere race and then trying to finish quickly and get to Whinlater 10km to marshall for Gaynor I decided it was too far and with an 11am start too much pressure for speed- both on the fells and on the roads. It was a couple of years since I had run the White Bear Way from Adlington and fancied another go. It is a bit like a LDWA event but organised by the local SCout Group for their funds. I asked around but nobody I knew was going. Never mind- I know the area well enough that I would not get badly lost.
I arrived nice and early as we park in the nearby factory and walk up. It was warm and dry, blue sky and big clouds. After registration I discovered I would know people after all as I bumped into first Suzanne and then Isaline and Martin. We chatted and ate (yes even pre race at these events) as we waited for the walkers to depart. Not many were left by 9am when the runners set off and some of those would inevitably be doing the shorter route not our 21 miles.

It felt chilly as we waited but I am glad I resisted the urge to put on another layer. By the time we had run through the housing estate, across the park and over the railway line to the canal I was already warm. Last time there seemed to be more runners and I ran chasing Albert, Tony etc so did not need to worry about the route too much. I was hoping I would remember it. The canal was easy and then the old rail track. I didn't remember the lanes but I could see Isaline et al just ahead. I had my tally clipped but ignored the food and water at the CP as my stomach was feeling fragile. It gave me a chance to catch them up again. At Blackrod there was a  route change this year due to a closed rail bridge. The rain shower had almost fizzled out so I used my written instructions and yelled for the others to turn back. It was more tarmac and they caught me on Crown Lane in Horwich. Now we were almost back on route as we set off on field paths and lanes to the car park near Rivington Castle. Again for me it was a quick CP stop. There was no marshall at the Castle but we went ther as instructed. I missed a turn, and so did others, but apart from adding a kilometre or so it wasn't serious and we were soon on the big bridleway in the woods above the high school. I was glad of company on the next tricky section but we were now catching walkers anyway. The next section was easy along the old rough road and then over Rivington Pike. A bit of a pull and no marshall but it is the route. I was feeling stronger now and on the stony track from there to Horden Stoops I was pleased to have worn my Hokas. Another quick CP and I spotted Suzanne just ahead- she "couldn't be arsed to go up the Pike". I soon caught her and we ran together to Jepson Gate and then down to the reservoir and along to the road. On the pull up to Healy Nab I got ahead and I knew the way off from orienteering there. I never saw Suzanne again. I had a few moments of doubt on small over grown paths below Healy Nab but it all seemed to fit the description. Again a bit of a glitch at Bibby Farm campsite but I found the? a? footbridge over the motorway and knew I could safely get to Limbrick. I even recognised the last fields before the muddy and slurried path leading to the village and out last CP in the Black Horse car park. I was now totally alone but not bothered. A few paths and tracks before the railway crossing and the canal. I ignored the temptations of a Frederick's ice cream and turned onto the canal. This is not my favourite section and despite the flat easy path I did twice grind to a walk. I was glad of my garmin telling me it was less than two miles, then under 1 mile as this kept me going.Once off the canal it is almost over and I was soon back at the Scout Hut. My certificate says 3 hrs 34 mins but my garmin reads 21.27 miles 3 hours 28. I was very pleased with my pace and although it is not a race as such happy to be first lady back. After copious cups of water and tea I felt able to eat. A big hot pot and then several pieces of apple pie and cream. Yum. We sat chatting as the others finished not many minutes behind me- a referendum and EU free zone! I must have made an effort because driving home was hard and my eyes kept wanting to close. No pics today thanks to the early rain and then me having a race head on.
Sunday was a recovery run. We parked at the Roddlesworth visitor centre and it looked like rain so my first miles were in the woods and down to the reservoir. Perhaps we would get dry enough weather to go up to the Tower and the moor later.

 I love these beech woods and there are so many paths to explore and choose from.

 I had no real plan but ran towards Abbey village and then doubled back through the woods all the way up towards Slipper Lowe before dropping back to the valley bottom and then climbing again almost to the visitor centre. It was not crowded and ever dog I met was very well behaved and had a friendly owner. Some paths were muddy but the main gravel ones were dry so my feet were damp and my shoes a little muddy but my legs were quite clean. Heading back up I realised I had time to go further and the sky looked more promising.

Time for a trip up the Tower. From Slipper Lowe it is a steady but easy climb up the the crest of the spur and then a wide path all the way to the tower.

I did a nice loop on the moor before spotting Bob up ahead. I chased and caught him in the clough leading back to the car park.

 I sat in the van happy with my 11 miles and Bob did another loop in Sunnyhurst Woods. Not a bad mornings effort.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Pennine 39 a whole weekend of fun

Race 5 in the Runfurther series would be a new race for me and should get my four counting races in the series sorted out. Nav4 put this race on last year but for a very small number of mostly close friends. This year we almost filled the free coach that would take us from race HQ to the start; but I get ahead of myself. On Friday we were delayed slightly as selling inflatable kayaks got underway. We arrived at Alston YHA to find the rest of the team already putting up flags and banners.The job was soon complete. We had our tea and sat watching red squirrels as we waited for Joe to return and registration to open. Registration was speedy- collect a plastic bag and your number and go! No kit check and I suspect Joe would laugh if we later found ourselves cold and wet through not carrying the mandatory kit. Alston is only small so we set off for a short walk to a pub. Great start to the weekend catching up with gossip and meeting old friends.
Preparation- Nick Ham
Saturday was a more leisurely start than many ultras as the bus was not leaving until 8am. We ate in the van before moving inside to find Nav4 catering in full swing with porridge, toast, eggs and much more. It was chilly compared to recent weeks and I opted to carry a thicker layer and switched my T shirt for a thin thermal.I was worried about my foot and chose the widest shoes I owned that had a decent grip (I later wished I had chosen ones with more cushioning). I am not a fan of bus starts but the empty roads meant a gentle ride and no nausea today.We could see all the main tops were already free of cloud so the forecast looked like being correct.
Bowlee- Nick Ham
In Bowlee we dashed for the toilets one last time and then made our way across the road to the start. With a typically informal 'OK off you go' we dashed off. Within a 100m or so we were crossing the Tees and joining the big Pennine Way path to head upstream.
Crossing the Tees- Nick Ham
The very gentle gradient made for fast running although Andy R soon let Chris D go and I could not keep up with Andrea. The river gave us wonderful views of rapids but the path dinked in behind trees so we missed High Force itself.
Easy running- Nick Ham
 I had been here in the past but it was years ago and I was praying that I would keep runners in sight and that the PW would be well marked. Half way to CP 1 we crossed the river and did a little loop north before returning to the Tees and a slightly more technical piece of path. Highlight No1 was just around the corner. We contoured below Falcon Clints, turned north through a little gorge and there was Cauldron Snout in all it's splendour.
Cauldron Snout- Nick Ham
A short scramble up rocks where the hand and feet holds seemed designed for taller people than me led us to CP1 below the dam of Cow Green reservoir. At this stage there were three of us running fairly close together and it helped keep the pace up. The farm track to Birkdale passed quickly and then it was the stony miners track up to the red flag marking the edge of the firing range. We had a moments hesitation at the Maize Beck bridge as we saw runners sticking to the big track. We ignored them and followed the PW. It was a shorter route and let us gain the wonderful grassy paths all the way to High Cup Nick.
Near Cauldron Snout- thanks Jim Imber
We had been able to see the rim for a while but approaching from the east always gives a moment of 'Wow!'. No time to stop though Neil had shot ahead and Greg overtook me too. The grassy path led down to Peeping hill and beyond. I concentrated on keeping Greg in my sights and tried to reel him back in.The grass gave way to track and then tarmac as we neared Town Head. I caught Greg, and to surprise Mike S, as we met the Dufton village road sign. A couple of hundred metres  through the village and we arrived at CP1. I had made a determined effort to eat well before getting here to pick up my drop bag so I refilled my water but did not need food. I was able to help a worried Carol set Chris D back on track and to see Andrea heading out through the village when I thought she was way ahead. She was hesitant about the route and when I caught her up we jogged, walked and talked all the way to Knock Old Man. This bit had seemed so easy when our recee started in Dufton but now it was not as runnable as I had hoped. My foot was sore- clearly the cortisone injection had not really helped- and as we reached Green Fell stomach cramp started and I needed a very emergency toilet break. Chris had by now got back on route, thanked me and was off on a mission to make up for lost time. It was nice to see Stuart at the CP and to know the worst of the climb was over. We headed off NW along the ridge with me showing Andrea and Greg the way. I could see Chris up ahead but had no chance of catching him. Great Dun Fell and the golf ball came and went. It was great to be on grassy paths and my foot improved despite the flagstone sections.By Little Dun Fell I needed to stop again! Greg shot by but Andrea was struggling with cramp. I caught him up on the climb to Cross Fell the high point of the day at 893m. No time to loiter and admire the shelter today, instead I quickly shot off down past the first cairns and along a tiny trod that short cut to Greg's Hut and CP4.
Greg's Hut and track- Nick Ham
 I daren't look round in case I tripped but Greg and Andrea could not have been far behind. I barely broke stride at the CP and tried to put distance between me and Andrea. I should have checked the map far more carefully for the next bit. I had convinced myself that we had now cracked it. Ha ha.  The stony track is actually 11km long and it was torture for my foot. I had also not reckoned on any uphill sections no matter how short. The stomach cramp was not continuous and yes, i needed another very urgent stop. Andrea caught me up and ran on ahead. I was frustrated but there was nothing I could do except minimise the gap. Robert had walked up the track to take photos and I must have looked a sorry sight. I prayed he would not have wanted to walk far but it was several km before I reached the bottom. Unusually I was pleased to reach the tarmac and jog through the village to Joe at CP5. I didn't dare eat any more and took tiny sips of water. He reassured me that it was now under 4 miles but to be careful with the nav. The river path was a joy despite tree roots etc and my foot eased a little. Half way back a bridge took us across the river and up through fields away from the river. I checked the map and waymarks carefully and all went well. At one waymark I hesitated and spotted Andrea climbing back up from near the river; not that way then. Only about a mile to go, come on legs get working. I risked one gel and enjoyed the grassy paths.
The stiles! Nick Ham
True the stiles were getting more awkward but the end was in sight. I spotted the cemetery over the wall and then the Runfurther sponsor flags. A few metres and a stack of steps and I was back.
At last- Nick Ham
True I missed the open patio door and went the long way round but hey ho. 37 miles , about 1500m of climb and I was back in 7 hours 4 minutes. Shame not to get under 7 hours but with the foot and stomach issues it was not a bad effort. Now I need to do it again and prove that I can cut 20 minutes off the time so long as the ground is dry and not boggy.
Runfurther chief photographer
The race was over but the event continued.
Bob back in under 10 hours- Happy
We applauded each finisher in, had showers upstairs in the YHA and started making a dent in the Nav4 legendary food spread.
and Dick not far behind
By 7.30 everyone was back and I was ready to eat more and more. Joe knows how to feed runners. Water, juice, crudites and dips, real bread, soup, chilli, lasagne, cake and puddings. Plus pop, wine, beer and hot drinks. We were still eating and drinking beer and wine at close to midnight.
The beer drinkers taking a break
I ran without my camera but Robert took great photos of the runners and Nick had promised to share his (so i might be able to add more later with luck) I took some on my ipad and was able to upload them straight to Runfurther facebook.
Second man and Mike- back from injury
What a brilliant weekend. Great weather, fabulous scenery, great RO and team, good route and very pleasant company.
Andy heading off to a familybirthday

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Update after a bit of a break

I've realised it has been pretty quiet on here for a while now.

Partly this was because we had a three week holiday in Morocco during May.

I ran in the GL3day at the start of May in what turned out to be a weekend of real contrasts. Saturday saw me run in thick low cloud, then crisp snow, then thigh deep drifts followed by more packed snow and then sunbathe at the end of the day. Sunday on the other hand beat me off the tops and caused my first dnf at a MM. The winds were strong and the rain heavy. I was not convinced it was safe for me to be on Ill Crag. Monday was less extreme and the RO this day decided on bad weather courses with a fair bit of running on quiet lanes.

Morocco was great. Fantastic scenery, culturally interesting and good trekking.

Despite some frustratingly short days there never really seemed a good opportunity to run although I did manage some great solo walks once the 'official' trek for the day was done.

I returned to find myself in a bit of a rut. Chores and family kept me at home for some time but I felt no inclination to run locally. I did try a couple of short local runs but felt pathetically unfit and cross. Making myself run also triggered my as yet unresolved foot injury. Luckily climbing on the indoor wall was going well and I enjoyed having both the boys around for my birthday. I had secretly hoped to run the Dales Way but was not in the right mental or physical state for this.
By early June I was itching to be away in the van and running somewhere interesting. Plans to reccee some of the Pennine 39 route changed when I discovered it was the Appleby Horse Fair and the area would be crowded. Instead we went to Shap.

Sadly the LDWA 3 Rings of Shap is cancelled this year due to lack of entries so or plan was to do rings 1 and 3 over two days - not fast but with lots of chance to explore interesting paths off to the sides when ever I fancied and also to make the most of the glorious hot and sunny weather.

 Ring 1 is like a fell race heading west up Mosedale and up to Branstree. The ground was as dry as it is ever likely to be (Mosedale and dry are not two words often found together) and I loved exploring the ridges to the sides of the valley path.

 The views from Roberts Seat were great and I wondered why the trig points in this area are just concrete rings on the ground?

From Branstree instead of following the race route I added a big descent and climb by going out to Harter Fell. This gave me some of the best views of the day- down Haweswater, over to Kidsty Pike and through into the higher peaks of the central Lake District.

Back at Branstree I trotted off to Selside on a lovely dry path.

Dropping on the race trod and past the crags I heard an agitated bird. The local buzzard was not happy and for the next ten minutes neither was I. It repeatedly swooped, sqwarked, dive bombed and attacked me.

 On it's second attempt at an attack from behind it's claws touched my sack. I was not sure whether to be awed by it all or scared. Luckily they have planted saplings on the fells side and used metal cages to keep the deer off. I used these and a zig zag run to escape. Bet it looked really comical.

 I arrived at Truss Gap tired and a bit frazzled. I had hoped to call in on Richard Lendon and see his new home but the place was deserted. Double shame as I had also run out of water now. They say things come in threes. At the next farm I was chased by cows and then at the next cottage I found an outside tap but could not turn it on. I resorted to steam water but the streams were very low so I was not really happy with this.

 None of this spoiled my day. It was very hot, wonderfully sunny, deserted and I was having fun. The pace wasn't fast overall but I clocked up 36km and was no longer in a rut. My foot behaved well until almost the end. Two litres of water back at the van rehydrated me enough to walk to the village shop for a tub of ice cream and a visit to the chippy later provided the starter for our evening meal.

 Sunbathing in solitude near Oddendale was the perfect finish to the day.
Friday was perhaps even hotter and I foolishly opted for a vest not a T shirt. Most of me was well weathered and brown but not the backs of my shoulders. Ring 3 in the race has always been 'let's get the job done and beat the dark'. Today I was determined to explore the side paths and interesting summits and limestone towers.

From Oddendale I headed south to the trig point beyond coalpit hill before turning back SE and joining the C2C towards Orton. I saw nobody for ages and the skylarks were the only noise. close to the Orton road I spotted Bob up ahead and ran with him until we reached Beacon Hill and it's stone cross.

The views into the Howgills and up onto Cross Fell and the Pennines were wonderful. Instead of dropping straight into the nature reserve I ran off to the Knotrt and another trig point. I ran along the ridge too but there was not much of a path so the ground was a mixture of tussocky grass and limestone. After exploring some stone towers /cairns I dropped back to the nature reserve and the big track to the road.

Bob would be far ahead of me again and I wondered when I would catch him up. Near Great Asby I ate and emptied my water bottle. the streams were empty so there was not chance to refill on the way to Gaythorne Hall or after it. The lane from the hall was easy running and I was soon past the road and on the grassy track leading to Crosby Ravensworth. Here I caught Bob again and as the pub was shut he gave me some of his water. He stuck to the route and plodded back to the van while I explored the track from Town Head. This was great and better than the race route. The stone track had a wide grassy verge and the whole thing soon became a grass track anyway. I turned left away from the van at every opportunity and found myself on a lovely path that led me back to the first trig I had explored in the morning. This just left a steady jog past Pot Rigg and the stone circle remains to arrive back at the van. About 38km of exploring in glorious sunshine. We lazed in the sun waiting for the rush hour traffic to disperse before reluctantly leaving. Reluctant because home meant decorating, gardening and planning an orienteering event. Tuesday was so humid that checking control sites became a walk rather than a run but by evening it was cooler and we drove to Lancaster for a sprint O. It was great fun but I will never be a sprinter and my orienteering and decision making was rather rusty. 9 minutes for the prolog and 20 for the final left me panting and my muscles thinking 'OK we are warmed up now so what is next?' It was too far to sensibly run home.
Time was running out to recee any of the Pennine 39 route so despite dodgy weather we drove to Dufton on Friday.

 Near Carnforth the rain was so bad we almost abandoned our plans but I am glad we didn't as by the time we parked it was dry and the low cloud was starting to break up.

I had no memory of the village so we explored a little and then joined the Pennine Way and set off for the hills. The initial climb is steady and fairly gentle so I was able to run almost all of it. We had planned to stick together today so I ran on and then back like an enthusiastic puppy.

By the time we reached Green Hill the sun was out and we could see Cross Fell.

The run over the tops of Great Dunn, Little Dun and then Cross Fell was lovely and a mixture of grass, a little bog and stone flag stones.

These stones should make the running easier but on the steeper downhills I never quite trust the greasy peat on them.

Cross Fell now has a big shelter cairn and we stopped to admire it and chat to walkers on the PW and one on LEGOG.

The descent to the col northwards gave us our first really wet feet of the day. Bob turned for home but |I explored onwards to Greggs hut and then cut up to the NE ridge and back to the summit.  Back at the col I chased down the wonderful grassy paths to catch Bob just before Kirkdale.

He had waited there and we set off to find the Hanging Walls of Mark Anthony. I am not sure we did find them but we saw some old earth terracing so maybe? We then suffered from only having a 1:50000 map and lost the path.

After deep bracken , a stream crossing and a field of very lively and excitable bullocks we got back onto our planned route and arrived in Milburn. The sky was now purple and it was clear we would get wet; very wet!

The last five miles on lanes were warm but the roads were awash and fields were flooded so by the van we were drowned rats. Almost 26 miles and a good day on mostly new territory. Either I was not running hard enough or my experiment with a wider shoe suited my poorly foot.

We then spent the weekend in the Lakes meeting friends we will go to Nepal with later in the year. Saturday was wet although we did manage a low level walk but Sunday was lovely and we scrambled in Duddon valley.