Friday, 28 October 2016

Will running sweat out my cold?

Not a great week. A sore throat and headache became a cold. The headache vanished but left my head full of cotton wool. I felt weak and tired. I was keen to be out in the fresh air and the forecast was good. We had entered the inaugural Ullswater way challenge on Sunday and I was keen to test my body. Plus I like being away in the van. I resisted all temptation in the New Balance shop and we parked up in our favourite place near Oddendale.

It was wonderful to run just for fun. No eye on km or times, not even a planned route. I was free to explore new paths, anything I came across and just enjoy. I don't do structured training and although this means I will never perhaps achieve my full potential it keeps the love of running alive. I think that matters more.
Lots of layers- determined to sweat out my cold
The start was deliberately slow and steady as I headed south on the big easy track. After the woods I turned SW and picked up smaller paths to the unnamed hill with the trig point and big cairn. Then I went exploring onto the old Roman road running sough towards Orton.

I think it is now used by the shooting set as I passed a huge wooden hut. Instead of dropping to the minor road I climbed to another small hill and followed a great quad bike track by the wall. A small detour took me to a lime kiln.

The quad track led virtually to the road I wanted to cross to climb up to the stone cross on the moor. I was having fun but had run about 6 miles so thought I should start heading back soon. I saw a few people in the distance but nobody close enough to speak to.

From the cross there were views into the northern Howgills and Cross Fell on the Pennines.

Following a new path I headed north towards the Crosby Ravensworth road. It was here that I met a man on a quad bike.

He was 92 and had 'escaped' from the farm kitchen. He was tired of being told he was too old to work and just wanted to be out. We had a chat and he assured me he would return before the family got too worried about him.

Some smaller paths after the road allowed me to head back on the reverse of the 3rd Ring of Shap route. My return had wetter and muddier paths but it was not a total bog fest.

 Up past the big granite erratics and I was back on the grassy paths which are so common here. The sun came out and I decided to add a little loop going roughly NE on grassy tracks towards Crosby but then turning and heading steadily back up to the van. I loved my run.

 I had not pushed it hard and so my legs and chest felt fine.

We moved to Dacre once Bob was back from his run. Sat in the van I worried he had been caught in the rain shower but it must have been very localised. Once he was back it rained hard but again was dry by the time we got to Shap.

There is a lovely little layby near Dacre and it was perfect ready for Pooley Bridge in the morning. I went for a stroll to explore the village.

It is only tiny but has an interesting church yard with an admiral and daughter of a Sir buried there and an old school house with an old English. I remember when the boys were small- " I am going to build a house with lego. Look, I have builded it"

The UWC was not really a serious race and Joe had encouraged walkers, joggers, families etc all to take part. Another relaxing day! We did not need to be early for the start but were worried about finding the car parks full. A leisurely breakfast and I still had time to play with. Bob went off to the start at 9 and I wandered around chatting. 

The plan was to wait til 10 but I had said Hi to timekeeper Paul and to Stuart and there seemed little point hanging around getting chilly. At 9.50 I set off. Just behind Jeff and Serena who I caught after the permissive path and camp site.

 There were some boggy fields on this first third of the route and we were already overtaking walkers. Running with them made me push harder than I had intended but it was good to chat and have company. Jeff was after a partner for the OMM in Japan- sadly we would be in Nepal by then. At the route choice we parted company - they explored the fields and I went up the lanes. The lanes were longer and had more climb. The muddy fields were marginally quicker. 

By Gowbarrow the sun was out and the views along the Lake or just of the autumn colours were fab.

 A flouro jacket on the summit led us to believe we must visit the top. There was no CP but the view was worth it anyway. The descent was slippy and the rocks greasy with mud from boots. Some of the walkers were already struggling and wondering what they had got themselves in to. Jeff shot ahead and by the time we reached the road CP he was out of site. I grabbed some savoury food but forgot to put any water in my bottle. Oops. After a squeeze under, over trees and a stile it was a rather boggy path up next to the wall towards Glencoyne. 

For Joe's challenge we were doing the high level variants over Gowbarrow and the Cockpit plus an extra bit in Glencoyne.

 At the end of the bog I caught Jeff (temporarily) and also Bob. The path then became a lovely little single track that was dry. 

This was my favourite part of the whole route. I liked the rock steps but was now starting to struggle to breath and my chest was not happy. A pounding heart even caused me to sit and let it recover for a couple of minutes before running off to the moonscape and bridge high above Glenriding. I passed Jane R and others before dropping to bell Cottage where Nicky gave me a giant hug and I handed over loads of beer bottle tops to her. A jelly baby from her youngest and a handful of cheese before I was off again. I passed the always happy Trawden runners and then the not so happy Andy F who had a sore knee. Down into Patterdale with a view of the flood control river banks, past the tourists and along the roadside paths to Side Farm.

 No stop here today but the big wide track along the lake side. 

At least it started that way before getting narrow and clambering over rocks and tree roots. I was still passing walkers and slower runners but not exactly racing hard. Near Howton I saw Sandra putting her mended ankle to the test. 

From here it was the home stretch and I knew it well. Up one field, through a garden and onto the big path by the wall. The new barn cafe was open but there was no time to stop today. I picked off runners as we climbed steadily to the trees at the top.

 The run round to the Cockpit was easy and I was so surprised to find no marshal that I stopped to take a photo. Only a mile or so left now and almost all was down hill thankfully.  Back into the village and the pub car park. 4 hours 43.

 It seemed very slow after 8.5 hours for RR50 but I was happy. Lots of refuelling with cups of tea and cake! 

Great gift of a mug from Joe and a nice chat with Jeff who finished about 10 minutes ahead of me and then Paul and others. 

Getting chilly I went back to the van and changed before returning to watch Bob finish. 

A great day out on a route most found tougher than expected. Quite a few bailed and took the steamer. I had not sweated out my cold and needed two sit downs to get my heart rate normal again but it was a great day to be out and the views were splndid.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Round Rotherham

So the short answer to my last blog is Yes. Amazing what you can do with a basic level of fitness and one decent run a week. I have a soft spot for RRR 50. It has a friendly RO in Sharon, lovely CP staff, it is well organised and has interesting strip maps thanks to Henry Marston which I think work really well. It is also more scenic than it sounds. There are some grotty bits and I am glad I don't have to live in Tinsley. The rubbish and fly tipping this year were upsetting but then the woods at Elsecar were beautiful, Roche Abbey and the countryside around it are great and many sections are in woods and pleasant if not dramatic countryside.
It was race 11 in the Runfurther series and I had persuaded Bob to go for it. There are 3 starts; walkers/ slower runners at 6am, runners at 7am and relays runners at 8am. The cut offs are generous allowing almost all to complete. many Runfurther runners turned up to improve on their points or to sneak in that important 4th counter for points on the leader board. I had a secret ambition to make my longer counters a full house with 1000 points at all 4.
We drove over the Pennines on Friday and found the M1 at a standstill. We crossed it quickly and parked in Thorpe Hesley. I have only gone wrong in this race once and on the rough scrub land after this village I led Fraser astray. to our embarrassment we got back on track having let about 30 runners get by in the meantime. There was a route change here now and I was keen to check it out. Brilliant- a little more tarmac and then a wide path through the scrub up to the ridge and all of it well signed. There was no way Bob could reccee all of it so he favoured concentrating on the end when it could be dark and when he would be most tired. Next stop Maltby via the delights of Rotherham. I was able to point out Kepple column, the main road where you cross to Grange Park and CP1, the wall and steps at Maltby and where you emerge from the track and cross the road to Micklebring. I then left him to check out how the strip maps worked and to see how muddy the arable fields were between Micklebring and Old Denaby. The navigation went well and he liked the strip maps. The fields were ploughed (but also rolled and planted) and not that muddy at all. We walked the last section from the College back to the river as an out and back at the end of the day. Urban bits can be tricky with so many twists and turns and it is always nice to know when you are nearly there! We met Andy Davis doing the same. He is high up the leader board but needs to stay close to Kevin Hoult to maintain his position.
The now deserted and dead end canal

After a brief committee meeting it was back to the college to put up flags and banners. Nick then drove to his hotel, we retired to the van and left Dick to the fun of the sports hall floor.
Andy had returned home with a cold and Nigel had pulled out with a hamstring injury. I slept well and the rain forecast for overnight never really seemed to happen. Bob was meeting Dick for the early start so I stayed out of the way in bed until he was organised. It was dark for them but the first bit is very straight forward and has many street lights.

Bob knew the danger here would be starting too fast. Before long he let Dick pull ahead. It was the right decision, in more than one way. navigation was not Dick's strong point today! I meanwhile got up, had breakfast and registered. To make sure you don't go off an hour early the runners do not register until after the 6am start. The race now uses Si and this is great with splits, instant results etc. It was also nice to see Steve manning the computer at yet another race this year.
RO Sharon and Steve with the laptop
Henry and I talked about the strip maps and why his aged dibber would not be compatible today. I also chatted with Charlotte, Kevin, Martin and Lydia, Andy, Les, TC,  Sharon and more before heading outside and deciding that I would not need to start in a cag.

As my last blog suggested I had no real idea how the day would pan out. I knew I must not start too fast but I felt fine. I was a bit worried that I was keeping up with Greg for the first 5 miles but there seemed little point slowing just for the sake of it. TC was racing ahead only to reappear behind me- and this continued for much of the day. Before long I realised that I was first lady and I suppose that motivated me to keep up the pace. In the rail yard of the steam train we caught the first of the 6am starters. I wondered how far before I caught Bob or even Dick. In the woods after Elsecar I hestitated at a junction. Runners and walkers were going left. I was sure it was right.... yep, I foolishly followed them. Luckily after 200m I knew it was wrong and quickly led a group back on track but some of the others had gone further and it was a while before we saw them.  The route to Wentworth, across the fields, through Thorpe Hesley and more fields to Scholes all passed without mishap. Unlike the big urban areas these villages are quite picturesque and I guess people commute to Sheffield.
Greg I think
Kepple column is a big local landmark and easy to spot for miles. We pass right next to it before heading down to the main road and CP1. I grabbed two jaffa cakes but sped on. I did have another moment of doubt in the next woods but all was well and I was soon crossing the road to more woods and fields. Somewhere on this next section I passed John Vernon who was mostly walking the course. I was passing walkers and joggers at quite a rate now and even TC popped up behind me again. The path between the warehouses and over the railway is not the most attractive but did not seem too bad today and it was soon over as we continued to the river and then canal path that led us to Tinsley. A bit grim and uphill so I concentrated on picking off slower runners and wondering when I would spot Bob. The mental maths said it should be by now and I was running well? After the Yodel warehouse more runners went astray and had to be called back. The next section is more attractive as the area has been redeveloped with the airport, hotels etc. It has been facinating to watch the transformation of this area over the years and after Catcliffe we run through what was once Orgreave. I always think of the riots, Thatcher and the communities that were hit so hard. The river path is now gravel not mud and houses are being built on the far side. After the river bridge I suddenly was faced with two paths and no runners in sight. Heck, which one. I pulled my strip maps out and once sure continued to the CP where I found Bob refuelling. A quick hello and we parted again, or rather I ran off. We didn't know it but Dick was not far ahead at this point but had decided to totally circumnavigate the lake and only realised his mistake when he saw a CP (the one he had already been to). I settled into a decent but not suicidal pace now and was confident that I knew the way for the next few miles at least.  A very short grot section near the old A57 and then we were on green space to the viaduct and then Rother Valley Country Park. 20 miles done and things were going well. This in the past has been a low point for me so I was quite pleased to run the section by the river and lakes and to make myslef catch the runners in front up the kilometre long access road. The route then moves into arable land but not until we have passed the pretty derelict canal and the luxury home that has now been completed. A few fields and a track led us under the M1 and up over the first real ploughed field to Woodall. It was here that the first relay runners came flying past. I kept my spirits up with the promise of soup at the half way CP at Harthill. The horses in the fields were more sedate than in previous years and relay supporters cheered us in. I had remembered incorrectly- no soup at this CP. I had a sandwhich, cheese biscuits and refilled my water. I was also caught by the next lady- Tara who was running with her dad. It was her first 50 miler. I set off ahead but knew she would catch me up.

The next few fields were ploughed but not too muddy. I did not want to burn up too much energy so decided to run my own race but try to keep her in sight. Luckily her dad was wearing a nice day-glo jacket!

The wind turbines, the grain silo and then the airfield all came and went. I was struggling a bit after the early pace but did not feel it was serious or that I had completely blown up.Before I knew it we were at Turnerwood on the Chesterfield canal. It is a pretty village and one of the houses always puts out drink for us, I was fairly sure I would remember the way through Lindrick golf course but tried to stick with other runners just in case. This is the other spot where Dick went seriously awol. The lane up into Woodsetts seemed steep but a brisk walk meant to pub and CP were soon in sight. Yes- soup at last. I was tired of sweet  stuff and had already eaten half my marmite sandwiches. I caught Tara here but in my haste to leave I forgot to refill my water bottle. Oops. Thankfully it was not too hot and only 5 miles to the next CP. Again I let her pass and pull ahead. Before Langhold Lake I met up with Gary and we cahtted about the LDWA 100 and the demise of the 3 Rings of Shap. Then to my surprise as we entered the park Andy Davis came past with two other runners. I assumed he was miles ahead. The park had been given a make over and looked good. Sadly they had also 'improved' the next track.I was not happy and did not feel that several tonnes of gravel for almost a kilometre was an improvement. Possibly my low point of the race and in fact my splits suggest I slowed a bit here. The paths to Firbeck seemed to take an age and I needed water. I stuffed myself with salty crisps and two cups of tea before heading off out.
Firbeck RAF memorial

The flat fields of the next section were a mental struggle and I was pleased to reach the pretty village of Stone and the fields of Roche Abbey.

We were now on the last page of strip maps and had clocked up over 60km. I was now in countdown mode - 4km to Maltby, 20km to the end. It worked and by Maltby I had caught them again. I had a strange sense of deja vu at the CP. I asked the lady to fill my water bottle to 2/3. She  replied 'so, half way?' No about 2/3. She passed it to me and said was it enough? It was half full. I gave in. This happened two years ago too- obviously fractions are not her strong point. She was though keen to help and pressed me to take food with me.
A lonely trig point
I struggled to get going along the suburban road and lost sight of father and daughter on the grassy farm track and lane into Micklebring. I was then surprised to catch them at the stiles and path under the M18. I chirped up and stuck with them. They stopped and I shot ahead. I ran a bit too fast really but put distance between us and prayed I would not see them again. It did mean I spent much of the last 11km looking over my shoulder and waiting! The path down to Hooton Roberts was the driest I have seen it and this helped me keep running. I couldn't quite run up the lane after the cross roads but settled for a jog walk combo until the metal barrier. A relay runner caught me here and I chased him along and down into Old Denaby. The CP marshalls here were very encouraging and the relay supporters loud as usual. It sped me on my way down Ferry Boat lane and onto the canal.  Only 4km left now , come on legs keep going. There were slower relay teams around me now and that really helped to pull me along. I broke the remainder into tiny 1km pieces and told myself not to lose it now. In Swinton a whole relay team were running with their last leg runners and they spurred me on. I saved their last runner from going astray at the canal and then suddenly we reached the cycle track and the last km. Finally I knew I was safe and ironically I found I could almost sprint (well there are no photos and it felt like a sprint to me). Not the fastest I have completed it but I was pleased to be first lady in 8 hours 34. Julian finished just behind me even though I had not seen him all day.

 After slumping into a chair at download I then settled with TC and others to serious refuelling and chat.

The prize giving for the ladies over I hobbled out to the van to collect shower kit. It was great to be warm and clean and it did revive me a little. I also had a massage.

Then I reckoned it was time to expect Bob. I wandered around outside and it was not long before Nick arrived..... and then Bob.

 He was faster than expected and so chuffed. Even more chuffed to beat Janet (by 50 seconds), to beat Dick and to be 1st MV70. Nick collected his special award for running 10 Round Rotherham races.

We were worried about Dick but her eventually arrived with tales of navigation problems.Yet more food and drink before Nick and I collected all the flags and banners.
A great race with super organisation, CPs and food. Thank you.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Will it be enough?

With the next ultra looming that is the burning question. I feel that I have not run as much as I used to or should have if I wish to compete rather than just complete. Having been away for the summer there seem to be things to do at home, jobs for Runfurther, plus it is nice to see the boys and I have visited my mum. Looking back carefully I have run but only at the weekends. I do not seem to have found the urge to run from home- except to check control sites for my street O event which is the first of the season. I think we have also been climbing both more often and at a harder level. In one stretch we managed almost 20 hours at two different walls.  After the Brecon 10 Peaks I had a weekend off and we helped at the Cumbria Way in a Day. it was interesting to see things from the other side and I did also fit in two slow runs- one across to Pike O'Blisco and another up to Lingy Hut. The following weekend was the RAB where I certainly got hours on my legs but perhaps not much fast running.

The area was great, except for the tussock bogs in the far SW corner

and I was pleased to be the only woman and vet to complete the A class and to come in the top 8.

  I also finished early enough to get changed, eat and enjoy socialising with loads of friends.

The next weekend we ran more locally and I did clock up about 27 miles but I was taking photos, enjoying the scenery and exploring as well as running.
Battery death yet again!
I love the West Pennine Moors and they are not yet too boggy from winter rain. Most of the paths were dry, puddles could be avoided on others and only a few sections were really boggy- and they are ones that never dry out.

A new pair of waterproof socks from Aldi kept my feet dry even on the bog approaching Great Hill.
Looking back to Darwen Tower on my first climb
A brief stop to remove a layer and I was off on the giant flagstone path south along Spitlers Edge towards Winter Hill.
The old
I prefer a more natural path but this path was a boggy mess and the flags have helped make it enjoyable again.
The new
Sadly it has also tempted more mountain bikers onto the area even where there are only footpaths, some of which are unsuitable for the bikes.
He wasn't impressed when I showed him the no bikes sign!
I crossed the road at Horden Stoops and found the big old track to the pigeon tower and then Rivington Pike.
Angry face? Would be a great place to live
I didn't quite make it to the top at a run but those steps are steep! Along past Pike Cottage I ignored my usual route  and stayed on the big track for longer before cutting up over Two Lads and then up to the top.
Looking back to Rivington Pike
I met Tony Varley on this section and had a quick chat.The short stretch of tarmac gave me a chance to eat as I ran so I was fuelled up for the run down to the main road. I didn't really push it so was amazed when two mountain bikers caught me up and said they had been trying to catch me all the way.
The Lakes in the distance
The sun was out, the sky was blue and the views were excellent in all directions.

I then went exploring which was perhaps a mistake as I ended up on some un-runable terrain as I wandered my way to Dimple and up onto Turton Heights. The map showed a path but I got stuck in tussocks and kept stumbling even at walking pace.
I even stopped to text Bob and say I would be late back to the van.I never thought I would be happy to be on the muddy path below the pylons but today it was a relief to get there. Turton and Entwistle reservoir was busy as I ran along the shore and headed up to the road at Cadshaw.
It will be a great oak forest in a few decades
I was now back on familiar ground and making good time as I ran up onto the moor and across to Darwen Tower. I met my mountain biker friends here again and they seemed amazed at how far I had gone. Around here my garmin battery died. I ran down to Tockholes, up through the woods, back up on to the edge of the moor and finished on the Witton Weavers Way.

I had time to sit in the sun with a cup of tea before Bob arrived back. A wonderful day to be out.
Others had been out testing the 3 Towers route - a new ultra that I must try next year, It visits Darwen, Rivington and Peel Towers. These hills might not be as impressive as the mountains in the Lake District or those on the continent but I would miss them if I no longer lived here.
The same age as me

Last weekend a birthday party took us to Haworth and so we stayed on Penistone Hill in the van before a run on the Sunday.

 Both of us were keen to fit in a long run before Round Rotherham 50 next weekend. The forecast was good and it was a glorious morning.

I set off early and met few people as I ran up to Bronte bridge and the Withins Ruin. later in the day it would be busy with the Withins skyline race, families and Chinese tourists.

 This is the only place in the UK where I have seen footpath signs in Chinese!  Not sure I approve of the religious signs stuck on the rocks though?

The ground was drier than I thought it might be and I was soon on the flagtone path running down to the Walshaw reservoirs.

  For now I was sticking to the Haworth Hobble route and was soon at Widdop dam and climbing onto Gorple Gate track.

I didn't want to go as far as Long Causeway and the horrid mud at Stiperden House so I explored to permissive path to both Gorple reservoirs. I even had time to stop and admire the old photos and neolithic axe head at the cottages.

Usually it is head down and race so I had never stopped here before. The next section had a multitude of paths and following the Pennine Way seemed too simple so I set off exploring. It wasn't long before I recognised bits from one of the relay races I had done some years ago. Eventually I ended up at Blackshaw Head and my next decision point.
CP from a previous race
I decided I was too tired to cope with Stoodley Pike and so explored again up and down tiny cobble paths on some very steep sections until I met the outskirts of Hebden. The whole area is criss-crossed with bridleways, cobbled paths and history. When I run on the worn down stones in the moorland paths I often wonder how many feet have been that way and where the earliest users were going.
It was ridiculously steep
I have never explored all the paths north towards New Bridge so today I ignored Heptonstall and went walk about. It ended up taking longer than just climbing up to Heptonstall and some of the paths were greasy enough to make for timid running but I enjoyed myself and arrived at the Blue Pig feeling fresh. I should have stopped for water but keen to escape the crowds I pushed on up through Hardcastle crags and towards Crimsworth Dean.

I had no water but there were lots of blackberries to feast on. I ate loads until two mountain bikers teased me. That was it. I was off and they couldn't keep up. I arrived at the top smiling and shot off to Grain Water ridge having stopped to drink from the biggest stream I could find.

 I paid for the pace and was a bit slow heading to the Top of Stairs. I had also made up enough time to tempt me into exploring again.  I should have used the YORM route but dropped lower to the Calder Aire link path instead.

Bits were lovely but some bits were the muddiest of the day so on the outskirts of Oxenhope I turned north to the van. I blagged some water from the end of the Withins Skyline race and did a loop of the hill. Bob was not back at the van so as my garmin battery died I set off for another loop of a mile or so in the last of the sunshine.

Huge grey clouds had been building for a while and as we drove home the rain began. We had been lucky and had the best of the day.
So now I hope I am ready for the 50 miles of Round Rotherham, followed by the fun of the Ullswater Way challenge, then the OMM, Warrington Way and a couple of Street O events in between.