Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The last race in the Runfurther series- Warrington Way (40 miles)

This was a new race for our series and only the second year it had been run. I did not need it to count in the series but for some reason it became important to do it. The race was full but had a waiting list. Before the end of October I was in the race but not before finding out that not only was there another Karen Nash (I knew that, she lives near Halifax and does the RRR) but that we share a date of birth which really cocks up entry systems. Anyway I was now IN which was just as well as I was taking the mint cake and display boards plus then taking away all the flags and banners at the end. It meant a very early start and I never sleep well the night before anyway. I had not been to Lymm but knew parking was tricky and there was very limited space at the race HQ. No chance of using the van and sleeping there over night. The forecast was awful but as the week went on it did improve slowly. The drive down the M6 was in heavy rain and it was still raining as I found the Scout Hall and dropped off the gear and met Kieran the RO. I quickly found parking on a nearby street and sat eating my breakfast. By the time I returned Andy and Dick had also arrived so there were three of us to put up flags and banners. Having registered early there was plenty of time to chat as other runners arrived. By the time Kieran was making his RO briefing I had spotted Daryl, Debbie, Chris D, Glen and Huw, Adam, Gary, Michelle and Mike plus more. Runfurther were well represented and I wandered if we should be having the prize giving after the race.
As we drifted outside the dawn was breaking and the rain had almost stopped. It was mild. I had not had time to recee this race but we had been promised tape at all important decision points plus we had been provided with waterproof maps and race descriptions. What could possibly go wrong?
Fast men at the start
At 7.30 sharp we were off and streaming down the gentle drop into the village centre and then out onto the Trans Pennine Bridleway. It wasn't long before we knew what damage the weeks rain had done; there were huge puddles even on this wide gravel track. After a few km were turned onto tracks across the fields but these were firmer than I had anticipated and although wet and even muddy it was a hard surface to run on. We were on an anticlockwise loop and heading north. After crossing the M62 (the first of many motorways) we then turned west on more hard tracks. The puddles were enormous and I had long ago given up any hope of keeping my feet dry. Aldi dry socks would keep them warm enough. At the end of Croft village a lady relay runner caught me as I hesitated at a junction to check the map and route description. I was at this point first lady. We crossed the M6 and the M62 again before emerging into a pub car park and CP1. I wasn't loving the route but she encouraged me and we chatted which helped. At the CP there only seemed to be sweets stuff so I grabbed two jaffa cakes and left. I tried to stick with a group of guys as we continued west to Burton wood services but ended up on my own again. I crossed the A49 and the busy roads near B and Q OK. Then at Burton wood a minibus of Scousers desperate for a pee greeted me here. They were cheeky about my lack of speed so I was cheeky about the size of their appendages. Soon shut them up. The magic tape was a bit lacking so I had the descriptions out now. Even then I went off route at a farm and one lady shot by. Normally this would spur me on but today it just made me even more negative.
Great to see David back from injury
The route improved in terms of views for a bit but most was still on hard track or lane as we turned south across the M62 again and into CP2.

I had caught the other lady but really did not have my racing head on and as I said to Daryl 'I just can't be arsed'. I took more food here but was getting bored or jaffa cakes and malt loaf. I should have packed something savoury from home. I suspect that as it was cool and wet I was also not drinking enough.
Debbie at Fiddlers Ferry
Field paths and roads now led me to Fiddlers Ferry where we crossed the railway and the canal to join the Trans Pennine Trail.
Chris taking on one of the puddles
This section is very runnable but I was struggling today. As I crossed the Mersey and hesitated to check the way yet again two guys caught me up. They were in good spirits and we laughed. I stuck with them through the nature reserve but then pulled ahead. I should have just waited. I turned onto the Bridgewater canal OK and tried to keep 'Tri-man' in my sights. A random piece of tape and uncertainty about Hough bridge saw me leave the can and add a km to the route. It also allowed another lady to catch up and pass me. Instinct told me I was going wrong and I went back to the canal to find more runners. I was now a bit despondent but was with some good guys and this helped me get to CP3.

Here I had a very welcome cup of tea before crossing the M56. Somewhere here after the stables and the paddling lake we went through I caught Daryl again. He was now more negative than me! I had a shock when I turned the final map over and found the description was in a much smaller font. Did that mean it was further? No, this last leg was actually the shortest. It must just be tricky. Fortunately I was now navigating carefully and the tape seemed more reliable. The slurry pit farm was rank and the fields were wet but I preferred this to road and hard track. It was also more scenic.
Daryl smiling and the motorway signs
We crossed the M56 again and the noise of traffic seemed to be constant but the fields, small lanes and woods were pleasant. At some point we crossed the M6 not far from poplar services and after a short stretch on the A50 came the best part of the whole route. Fields, woods, small paths, mud, a man eating pot hole in a puddle where I stumbled wet up to my hips, ups and downs. Now I was enjoying it. The woods merged into  more woods and Lymm Dam and the lakes . It was a shame it would soon be over, I could have run another 10 miles on this section. An iron arch way signposted Dingle and the village. We were nearly home. Past the Cross, up Pepper Street and we were done.  It had taken me 6 hours 49 for just the 40 miles. Round Rotherham, which was the inspiration for this race, at 50 miles and had more hills but had only taken my 8 hours 34. The mud and my black mood had taken it's toll.
Great atmosphere, balloons and all
 It was good to sit in the hall and to chill, chat and refuel. The post race chili and cous cous was amazing and I managed endless cups of tea.

 I was 3rd lady and less than 4 minutes behind the other two- once my mood lifted I had started gaining time again in the last 10 miles.

 A great RO and team, the weather turned out better than we dared to hope but the route is too fast, flat and tarmac for me.

A short run and a longer run

November turned out a little busier than I first thought. After the OMM we had a'free' weekend but them helped with an orienteering event locally. I did skive off for quite a long run on the nearby fells as I was not really needed and it was far too sunny to sit in the forest. I had no desire to run from home on tarmac or local fields but the Bowland Fells were perfect and I didn't get anywhere near as muddy as I had anticipated.

After a very speedy run on the lanes to Brock Bottoms I then wandered upstream through the woods for a while.

I found what was for me a new shooting track, a new memorial to airman killed in the wars

 and then after a bit of bog bashing and heather hurdling I was on my favourite ridge from Fairsnape to Parlic.

Fields and lanes led me back to Beacon Fell just in time to help collect in controls.
The forecast for the Sunday was less good but I was determined to get out. We drove to Austwick and had various loose plans to run from there. We might even see each other at some point on the way. It was chilly but not really cold. It was also a chance to try out the new running pack I had won a couple of months ago at a race. the pack is too big for many ultras and not quite big enough for a MM but for a self supported long ultra or a wintry day when I was carrying plenty of spare layers it worked well. Austwick was quiet and the parking is free. It's a pretty little village with a great cuckoo festival and short fell race.

I headed out up Crummock Dale and then up Moughton Scars. Running on nice grassy paths and on undulating ground meant I made good time so I headed back to Sulber Nick and Thieves Moss before heading north again en route to the col just north of Ingleborough Summit.

Pen y Gent looked moody in a cap of dark cloud but I was not going that way today.

As I gained height the cloud thickened and then it snowed. Not much but enough to add a sprinkling on me and the ground.

I had plenty of time so went exploring north east over Simon Fell and then across to Park Fell. Hindsight suggests I should have stuck by the wall but I followed a nice wet grass track and was too lazy to get my compass out and see that I was heading east. My punishment was over 30 minutes of stumbling through tussocks and hip high wet grass. From Park fell trig point it looked obvious but there was a maze of paths as I headed down to the Ribbleshead railway station. The extra warmth down here meant my wet tights were now steaming and drying out nicely. Just as well we had not planned to park here as it was almost full. I joined the big bridleway under the viaduct and headed north towards Dent.

 Just before the watershed I cut left to pick up the path to Whernside. I met quite a few people on this stretch; presumably they were doing a Whernside loop for the pub and parking at the viaduct. Again as I climbed I lost the views and it snowed again. The odd section of the path was icy but nothing serious or any reason to slow down. From the summit it was an easy reverse of the Fellsman to run down to the road and the Hill Inn. It felt tropical here by comparison and I even contemplated taking layers off.

In the end I slowed to eat and was fine but it was nice running on short grass and without the pressure of a race. I am not a fan of the path from Ingleborough to the Hill Inn. The greasy rock makes me over cautious and I usually lose at least a dozen places here on the Fellsman. Today though I was going up and I much preferred this. Just before the col it got very much colder and the grass had beautiful mini waterfalls and icicles.

The short section on the plateau was very low viz and cold! Not a place to hang about. I used the shelter wall to find my compass and took a bearing to find the path to Little Ingleborough. Again I was cautious over some of the rocks and flag-stones.

 On this section I met Bob and stopped for a quick chat before heading off to Gaping Gill. I then got engrossed in running and forgot to climb at Clapham Bottoms. Suddenly I found myself at Trow Gill.

Ah well, no worries. An easy run on a good path took me down past Ingleborough Cave and then through the woods to Clapham.

This section was very busy. I knew Bob would drop to Thwaite lane but I preferred a softer path and so opted for the slightly lower field paths. A rather frisky herd of cows were guarding the final exit gate but I made it through without incident and then less than a km through the village and I was back at the van. As I sat warm and dry with a cup of hot chocolate the rain began. Bob appeared later but claimed he was not that wet. It rained harder as we drove home so we felt grateful to have had the best of the day.

Thursday, 3 November 2016


I have had a rest from this event a couple of times in the last few years.  After the Borrowdale event and all the media hype and safety issues the organising team played very safe with bomb proof parking etc but this meant buses and some constraint on the competition areas. Elan and Dartmoor were OK but for me had lost some of the MM magic. I skipped Comrie but did Howgills in 2012 as it was so local and I love those hills. I then did Brecon A course with a different partner. The Cheviot in 2014 was the first event for the new team and they struggled in some ways- poor map, awful food, no tea at the end. no female prizes.... Last year we were in NZ so I missed the Tweedsmuir event.
This year ends in a 6 so it would be back to Galloway. Also in the absence of the LAMM and a social clash that meant we missed the last Highlander Rowena and I were keen to be a team again. In the RAB, SLMM and GL3D I had run solo.
I must be getting soft in my old age because I have got very used to sleeping in the van on the Friday night. Parking for camper vans was predicted to be tricky and we missed the deadline for booking on the commercial campsite. In the end Bob drove us up in the van and then he moved off to do other things.  He did first drop us at the event centre for us to register and put up our tent. Parked near by and let us eat and sit chatting in the van until dark  and then drove back to let us out with all our gear. The forecast was for very mild weather and it was warm on the Friday evening. The event marquee was roasting as they had all the heaters hired for 'normal OMM' weather. Sadly they also had a party with music which kept us awake until almost midnight (told you I was getting old; and grumpy). I was hoping the mild forecast would stay true all weekend as I had packed my very tiny sleeping bag.
We were up bright and early with a torch lit breakfast and then a quick toilet trip before the walk to the start. We had the earliest starts which suited us fine as we were less likely to finish in the dark or find there were no good spots left to camp. We ignored the glow lights and stuck to the quiet road as our torches were buried deep in our sacks and we did not fancy twisting an ankle in the woods. As we moved onto the open fell the daylight started to appear- very slowly.
Little vis at the start
We were worried we would need to loiter and go at the end of our start block just in order to be able to read the map!
Wet but smiling
The low cloud, mist and drizzle was delaying the light. We had time for a chat with Nicky and Jean off on the Elite and Wendy and Sarah on the A. Then Maureen and John Ashton ushered us towards the start pens. In our enthusiasm we overshot one small path and had to backtrack 300m and then the paths seemed odd. It soon became clear that wet quad bike tracks were not mapped, even if they were pretty large. By the time we got close to CP1 there were about 8 teams looking for the small crag.
Tough terrain and low vis
There was only one on the map but more rock on the ground. The next leg went OK but showed us how rough the ground was going to be for most of the day and then a nice broken wall guided us towards CP3.  It looked simple on the map but this was potentially the trickiest CP of the day; a small marshy re-entrant. We were lucky and Rowena's bearings were good all day.
Thanks Jim
A quick discussion on the best route for the next leg soon became irrelevant . We had not planned to go up and over Kirriereoch Hill but it was the best running we had all day on short clipped grass and no mud. We were soon at the top and dropping to rough ground and bog again. We picked up a trod from CP4 to Loch Enoch that gave us some respite.

Despite the mist it was wonderful scenery with rocky outcrops and white sandy beaches. No time to stop and sun bathe today but our next leg did lead us right round the loch and then to the crag called the Grey man of Merrick. We took our eye off the ball here and had a bit of a wobble when the terrain all locked the same and we couldn't see a loch. Luckily we spotted the small path and all became clear. I enjoyed the little trods and muddy paths that led past two more lochs and then to the Rig of Jarkness (what amazing names). The next two were straight forward before some big track running to Loch Trool.
Collecting acorns or Halloween?
We almost made a silly error as I had my head down stopping up hill eating a gel and missed the knoll off the path. A rapid descent and the climb again soon put it right.

A mini disaster when Rowena's knee stopped her descending  saw me taking both sacks as we ran the best we could on easy paths to the western end of the loch, over the bridge and round to the finish.

Our error and the injury perhaps lost us 20 minutes but at only 26.6km straight line distance the 7 hours 55 mins shows just how tough some of the terrain was.

The weather was mild but also dreich. We got the tent up and were happy as always to be able to get into dry clothes and make a brew.

 We did wander to see the results and use the loo but the damp meant we stayed in the tent most of the evening and so saw few people. The mild windless night also meant some of the worst condensation ever. Still, my neo-air made for a reasonable night and it was dry in the morning.
We guessed we would be heading south to the Minnigaff hills and it was so.
Easy path on day 2
The whole day was much more runnable and started with very easy running on the undulating path on the south side of Loch Trool.
Thanks Bob
Shame I had no camera as the reflections in the loch and the autumn colours were superb.
Bob again
The big boulders at Corse Knowe of Glenhead came and went before a fence led us up to CP2. Contouring but on fairly runnable grass ticked off CP3 and 4 before a climb over Curleywee let us drop to a crag. Rowena's bearing was superb on the next leg and we picked up another quad bike track over Bennan Hill.  From Cp1-CP5 there had been little route choice but now there certainly was. It took a few minutes but I think  it was worth it. We dropped to the forest and a big track rather than climbing and contouring on tussock ground. It did mean a big climb up Nick of the Brushy but again we found a wet track and then the fence led us to a perfect attack point. We were both surprised that it took much less time than we feared. By CP8 we were being funnelled together and meeting people from all the other courses. We had dire memories of the last section of forest in 2006 with a muddy ride in knee deep mud but today was much better.
Thanks Jim- nearly at the end
One small knoll in the pine forest and we were on the river path. Rowena's knee behaved perfectly today and we were able to run on the good path past our van in the visitor centre car park , over the road bridge and into the last short section of wood. It was getting muddy and would be worse for later runners but we were nearly back.

Some pleasant parkland and then a very wet elephant track led to the finish line. A much easier day of 20.6km straight line that took 5 hours 11 minutes.

Download showed we had moved up 3 places and we kept our position of first ladies showing age is no barrier.

A quick kit check and then we moved on through the marquee. Cups of water on the line, then tea from Bowlee Scouts and a nice hot meal. We sat chatting with Kevan, Sian, Shane, Duncan, Tony, Albert and then Chris V and his nephew. Warm dry and even sunny weather made it easy to change, take the tent down and wait for the prize giving.

That over Bob, who was only down the road, came and collected us ready for the drive home.
A great weekend with a fantastic partner. I do fancy a go at the A again though and even wonder if it is not too late just to try and complete an Elite course before I really am too old and slow. We will have to see.