Monday, 27 March 2017

A weekend in the Yorkshire sunshine

The forecast was good and I was itching to be away and out on the hills. We had promised to take Chris to Leeds on Friday so that delayed our start a little. Late Friday afternoon saw us parked up at Bland Hill and ready to run. We even took a head torch just in case. Instead of just opting for some of the Blubberhouses route I went exploring.

First along the east side of the reservoirs which was new to me and very much in the sunshine. After crossing the A59 I continued up the Washburn valley. It was muddy at first but I was glad I persevered.

 At the top I crossed the dam and went exploring again along the east shore of the top Reservoir.  Bob explored the west shore I later discovered. I wasn't sure about a path on that side and was now well off my map so I continued across some moorland, fields and then found a footpath to cut back to the dam. Back down the Washburn, over the A59 and back on the other side of Fewston. It was getting chilly in the shade as I crossed the final dam and made my way up the field paths to the village hall.

A very pleasant 25km even if rather than flatter than usual.

 Lovely sunset from the van too - I love staying out.

Saturday we were meeting family in Ilkley so we made the most of the early sunshine with a run across Burley and Ilkley Moors.

I knew some of the area from Rombalds Stride and other fell races' plus we have orienteered on the area. It wasn't long before I was sweating and wished I was wearing shorts.

The paths south to Burley were a bit boggy but the edges on the Ilkley side were wonderful.

 I veered off the race route thinking I might run out of time (and I didn't want to miss my lunch) but I arrived back near White Wells with plenty of time and so was able to fit in some extra loops and climbs before heading back to the van near the Cow and Calf.

It was now hot and I sat in the sun recovering.
After lunch we moved the van to the top of Fleet Moss as Bob was keen to look at Fellsman routes on Dodd Fell. Langstrothdale was warm and sunny with all the pubs in Kettlewell etc fit to bursting. After Yockenthwaite it was quieter and we had the car park at the top to ourselves. This was a nice afternoon/ evening stroll - not a run. Yeah, right.

 By the time we left the lane and headed up to the trig point we were power walking and from the top we both ran off to check different lines.

 I was back at the van just as it was starting to get chilly but well before the light was fading. We dropped the van down to Deepdale ready for a longer run on Sunday. The stars were amazing and we had our usual peaceful night in the valley.

I was off before 9am and even as I headed up the road to find the gate onto the access land it was already getting warm.

Straight up the valley side was steep but saved running all the way back through Oughtershaw and up the road to the top of Fleet Moss. Once I was on route I followed the wall to the blue cup, or what is left of it.

There are some new fences but I stuck to my tried and tested route to Middle Tongue. There wasn't much snow left at all. From the CP there is another new fence which is quite handy to guide you across to the next wall crossing.

At last I was starting to run and make up some time. Before I knew it I was at Cray and climbing Buckden Pike.

There was more snow here and it was a real pain- some took my weight, other bits didn't and either left me drop into a foot print 8 inches deep or dropped me through to an icy puddle. There were piles of flag stones so I am guessing they plan to pave more of this soon. I made good time to the next road crossing and then came to hard pull, and bog, of Great Whernside.

The tops were fine so long as I kept away from the snow near the fence. Descending gained me more time but then I hit the bogs. It slowed me but nothing like the loss of time when I really sank in.

Well over my knees and liquid as I moved my feet. Oh, hell. It took some time to wiggle my way out and by then I was coated in the stuff. At least the remainder of the run is relatively straight forward and mostly down hill. Not long after Capplestone Gate I stopped to talk to some walkers having their picnic but otherwise I pushed on conscious of how long Bob may have been waiting for me in Threshfield.

Grassington was heaving and judging by peoples attire they had spent the day shopping, eating and drinking. I dodged prams, dogs and OAPs as I continued down to the river. It felt so much easier than at the end of the Fellsman and I was even able to continue running all the way up the hill to the school. My garmin died well before Yarnbury but I guess it was a total of about 23 miles or so.

A gorgeous day out and a Yorkshire sun tan. We even stopped for an ice cream on the way home and then to top of Mother's Day Matthew cooked the tea.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A bit more training

The full scale of what I have embarked on this spring is starting to dawn on me. Ultra 1 is out of the way now the Haworth Hobble is run. It was a PW and I don't think the mud was the only thing to blame. Sprinting at Street O is now over for the year so I can concentrate on LDWA events for shorter 25 milers , runs from home and the next ultras to keep improving... I hope. After April with the Calderdale Hike, Lakes 42 and The Fellsman I will either be fit and ready for Hardmoors 200 or knackered.
Last week I charged round the streets of Blackburn in the dark. I collected loads of points but also made my glute sore again. Bad weather then let me do lots of stretches and strengthening. Last weekend I think I started to gain webbed feet. I have never been so wet over a 2 day period. The drive to Slaidburn on Friday evening let us know what the ground would be like. water was spurting up through drains, finding ways up through tarmac, pouring down gardens through garages and down driveways and the river burst its banks in Dunsop Bridge. We slept in the van at Slaidburn hoping the river there would behave. After helping at registration I was then a roving marshal for much of the day.
Graham making good progress over the bogs- they got worse as did the rain
Bowland Knotts area was covered in standing water and huge peaty bogs. I ran around checking on trail markers and ringing a cow bell to help the first runners through the fog. It then cleared but the rain just got heavier. The fell above Croasdale was awash and the event re-routed.  I left the event and ran home from Beacon Fell. I didn't envy the runners who would finish before midnight never-mind the walkers, some of whom were very inexperienced and were hoping to finish by breakfast. The path along the Brock was thick mud and water. The rain just got heavier and by the time I reached the van in Barton I looked like I had been swimming in the river.  Time for a hot shower.
Sunday would be more of the same according to the forecast. It was another LDWA event; the Two Crosses. Tottington is not too far to drive and I know most of the route quite well. This time (unlike Peeler's) I was determined to stick to a steady pace and not worry about sticking with friends.
2015 and we had SUN
The first fields were grim - waterlogged, churned up by horses and with all the manure and slury pushed towards the narrow path to discourage use of the footpath. It was a relief to reach the road at Affetside and then the tracks at Jumbles reservoir. By now Andy F was long gone and so were Albert, Tony and Rowena. It made it easier to just stick to my plan and my pace. I was though with Steve W and this continued from start to the finish; we took turns at leading. Turton Heights was boggy but it always is. The section after the main road was worse and although I should know this area I messed up by not crossing to the wall soon enough (sorry Geoff) and Steve got away. Once on the big track and heading for Tockholes I worked on reeling in Geoff and then Steve.
Cheerful marshals despite the weather
I was confident in the rest of the route and hoped Geoff would not miss the tiny stile as he headed down to Cadshaw.

It took ages to catch Steve as we bog surfed through the woods and then sploshed around the reservoir. I am sure reservoirs are designed with an overspill to prevent floods but this one had not got the message. Most of the path was knee deep in water and some parts deeper. It would have been easy to veer left and end up swimming in deep water. I didn't stay at the CP long but had time for a sandwich and banana and custard (I avoided the trifle as last year running with a tummy full of trifle was dodgy). It wasn't long before we were on our way to Orrel Cotes and as I jogged up the lane I thought I saw Rowena just disappearing. I nearly shouted and perhaps I should have done. Instead I tried to catch her up, if indeed it was her. By the maggot farm I couldn't see her and so perhaps I was mistaken. The moor across to the side of Bull Hill is pretty featureless but I knew the way and there was just enough visibility to be sure. Steve was now tracking me on a parallel trod until he got ahead just before Naughty Corner.

Neither of us stopped here and I was grateful  for the company as we worked our way across to Pilgrims Cross and then Peel Tower.
You couldn't see that far when we were up there! It cleared later in the afternoon.
The ground was wet and boggy but now the rain was heavy and the wind was in our faces. I was getting cold but knew it wasn't far before we dropped off the moor to more sheltered paths. The path into Redisher Woods was saturated and unstable. Skiing down, even in mudclaws, and catching hold of trees was the only hope. I was slow but stayed on my feet. Now I had Steve to chase all over again as we headed through fields to the army access road and then the very boggy path to the golf course. We crossed the road near the church together and all that remained was the old railway track which is now a tarmac cycle path. It was easy running and although I normally dislike the hard surface today it was a joy. I pulled ahead but only a little.  I was happy with 4hrs 49 in those conditions.

Arriving in the hall dripping I was very surprised to be asked where Rowena was. I was sure she was ahead of me. Apparently Albert and Tony had gone faster and she had made several errors. I was not sure where she went awol allowing me to get ahead without seeing her but looking at Strava it seems to have been two small errors after Redisher Woods.

The food looked tempting, very tempting but I needed to change and get dry. Luckily the toilets were spacious and I stripped naked, washed the mud off in the sinks and emerged clean, dry and warm to the delights of the LDWA feast. Two bowls of soup (from the 6 on offer), loads of sandwiches, many cups of tea and a Manchester tart and I was revived. Bob had done the shorter route and so we sat together; along with Josie, Albert, Andy, Mark S and others. Rowena appeared less than 20 minutes after me; a bit frazzled, soaked but OK.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Haworth Hobble-Race 1 in Runfurther 2017

It was a full race this year with no entry on the day; a first? This was partly due to the race being used as the British Trial for IAU World Trail Championships. There were many new faces and later names in the results that some of us did not recognise.
As usual for us the day started early. Having slept in the van on site Bob and I were up at 6am putting up flags and banners before moving inside and putting up display boards and giving  Brett the Romneys Mint Cake to hand out at registration. It was dry and mild with many dressed in shorts and vests, so things were looking good. I found friends to chat too- vCarmine who I have not seen for ages and Sarah and Andy who will be doing H200 with me.  
The bumper entry meant we were a little late starting and the crush of runners meant many were not herded back downhill to the start line at the Fleece.  Starting down there possibly added a couple of minutes to my time but it was pretty insignificant in the overall time. I had chatted to some of the ‘elite’ before the start and that would be the last I saw of them, except in the distance as we climbed to Withins ruin.
I was determined not to race too hard and to practice a sensible pace for the long race I have in May. It didn’t work. Despite my efforts the first couple of hours showed 6mph+ pace. Oops.  It felt fine at the time but I paid for it later. I had also opted for grip not cushioning in anticipation of mud. Again, it did not work out. I would have been better with more cushioning.
The first miles to Bronte Bridge passed very quickly and I was surprised to queue less than usual at the first gate. By Withins we were quite spread out and although I lost places being a softie on the flagstone descent I felt fine. 

By Widdop I knew I was pushing too hard and backed off a bit- after running to look good for the sportsunday cameras that is. 

I chatted to Helen briefly but soon decided I should not try to keep up.Before Long Causeway my glute was troubling me and I was cursing my early pace and the hard sprinting of Wednesday night. My pace dropped here and I let those I was running with move ahead. I found Josie hobbling and walked with her for a bit as she debated pulling out at the next CP on Long Causeway. 
Chris D powering ahead

The CP at Stoney lane was a welcome sight and I grabbed a hot dog and a piece of pork pie. It must have helped because I ran on a bit refreshed to Todmorden (or was it just that it was mainly down hill?). A shock awaited me at Mankinholes as there were no donuts! I took a cheese and onion pie instead.  The climb up to Stoodley Pike was as tough as always. The dry weather meant there was quite a crowd at the top ready to cheer runners on. I had eaten plenty and initially ran well but by the time I reached the woods I was suffering and let the mixed couple pass me. My glute was now very sore and now my foot was complaining too. 
Nick going well at this stage

Ironically the climb to Heptonstall didn’t seem too bad as the uphill helped my foot and not running much relaxed my glute.  My joy didn’t last though and the climb up Crimsworth Dean was a real low point. I ran much less than usual of this section and the pain in my foot was intense. I hobbled on the best I could but in a very negative frame of mind and feeling stupid to have even entered the H200. I had a chat with Rachel here and she too slowly pulled ahead even at fast walk pace. At this stage a pw was a cert and even 6 hours looked a big ask. 
Bob on his 3rd HH

The last CP and Lane Head means only 4 miles to go. Apologies to those around me at this point who thought they were running with a nutter. A severe talking to myself: Man Up, get on with it, don’t be such a wimp etc etc and I set off up the lane. I caught Rachel and some others and it boosted me a little.

 My garmin battery had died but near the Top o’ Stair it occurred to me that we had not started at 8am so perhaps if I really tried I could still finish in under 6 hours.  So it was run, jog, walk intervals all the way up the lane and over Penistone Hill.  Luckily I know the way and was able to help a runner just in front of me who kept slowing and was uncertain where to go. Not pretty and a PW by 5 mins but I finished in 5hrs 53. 

 I wasn’t happy with it but hey ho... and then I found that despite all this I was first FV50 so perhaps it wasn’t too bad. After several cups of tea, pasta and stew and a donut or two I was feeling better.
The field was superb this year. I think 6 men broke the record and 8 finished in under 4 hours. 
Tom Payn won in 3 : 54:18 and then Gareth Hughes, Matt Roberts and Kyle Greig all in 3:55. First Runfurther runners were  Ken Sutor 4:12 and Keving Hoult 4:16. First woman was Julie Briscoe in 4:31 and then Sally Fawcett 4:38 and Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn 4:39. I cannot believe that only a few years ago I beat Katie at a Hardmoors race. I am not sure if the female record was broken but think it was. A great start to the RF season and a few new members joined up too.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Time for an update to kick start the ultra season

I did say there would be a gap and a delay... Skiing was wonderful as always. I love just being away in France in the van. Val Cenis had plenty of snow unlike some areas.

 It was ****** cold at minus 20 plus wind chill but dry and sunny.

We managed picnic lunches each day but did seek a sun trap for vin chaud on a couple of afternoons.

We drove down through France at a fairly leisurely pace intending to do some Via Ferattas. The first one, which would have been new, did not pan out as it was market day and there was nowhere to park the van. We continued south west  and revisited a tough little feratta at St Series.

The last time we were there it was over 30C and people were jumping in the river. First time I have done a VF in long trousers and at least 3 tops! Still, it was fun  and brought back some good memories.

We then found a new VF (and climbing area) a bit further inland near some huge show caves. The VF was easier but interesting. Then we were off to Spain to climb. I did also manage three decent runs while we were there- love exploring even if it means less speed.

 It took a little while to get used to things but we loved it.

We climbed at more than half a dozen crags plus a  big day on the Bernia Ridge and a couple of VF.

Loved inland (but not the coast), wonderfully warm people and I am sure we will be back. The drive home was interesting with blizzards in central Spain, gales in France and so on. We did stop off at the highest sand dune in France for a little bit of hill training. We had a day in Dieppe and this allowed me a fast run on an old rail track that is now part of the green London to Paris cycle route. Very flat, could see ahead for miles - not what I love but it did make me run at a fast pace.
The plan was always to be back in time for the Anglezarke Amble which is a local LDWA event with a great route to kick start the training and the ultra season.

  I knew it would be tough on the back of no training and I was right. It didn't help that it was muddy and the Pennine Moors had a dusting of wet snow.

There seemed to be fewer runners than in the past but perhaps it was just that walkers and runners had separate start times this year.  I caught up with friends - Pete and  Dave from Preston Harriers, some of the Winter Hill gang and also Nick from Runfurther.(thanks to him for the photos that day).

 For the first mile or so Nick was ahead and I could not keep up. I was worried about how much fitness I had lost. The descent off Winter Hill was so slippery on compacted snow and frozen grass that it was a slow job.  Near Turton I started to struggle a bit but pushed on the best I could.  Climbing to Darwen Moor I caught John G who was 'having a moment'. We chatted and ran together to the Tower before he found fresh energy and pulled ahead on the way up Great Hill. I stopped at Slipper Lowe for a cup of tea and Isaline caught me up here. Isaline, Dakota and I reached White Coppice together but again I slowed a little and they finished just ahead of me. It was my slowest AA  ever, but only by about 8 minutes which considering the lack of training and the mud was perhaps not so bad.

Valentines day saw us playing catch up and doing a 'late' street O run. I ran my heart out and was convinced I had done well but later found Matt D had done SO well that my points were disappointing. Ah well. In true romantic style we ran round in the cold and dark, met back at the van and had a bag of chips on the way home.
The next weekend saw us in the Lakes. Saturday's forecast was not great so we ran from Oddendale near Shap.

I explored a bit going further east than usual but then coming back on route, passing Bob and returning via Crosby Ravensworth. At the van I decided to add in a bit down to Shap and then also north exploring new paths that gave me another load of climb back up Oddendale itself. We moved to Askham and prayed the overnight rain would stop.

I had planned a L42 recee for distance and climb but it wasn't that great on the tops. The valleys were warm and sunny so I binned High Street and dropped deep into Martindale, climbed the Nab and made my way to Angle Tarn.

Bits were slow in bog with no paths but I saw close on 100 deer and had a great time. After dropping to Side Farm I continued on towards the whole in the wall but again saw clag on the tops. I dropped to Glenridding for a pie to fuel me up and over Place Fell.

The top was misty so I didn't hang around but pushed on to try and catch Bob who would probably be on Askham Common somewhere by now. Around the cockpit I spotted him ahead but on a different path.  It was not all fast running but a great day out and with over 2000m of climb.
clearly my garmin died.......

Next up was a trip to Newton Stewart for a friends birthday party. We went up a day early and ran around Glen Tress.

I started fast and on good tracks but then decided to revisit some of the lochs and beaches from the OMM.

 I was unable to cross one stream

which resulted in a big drop and then a climb but I was happy with 20 miles or so even if it was rather damp.

It was hardly on the way home really but I was desperate to do a reccee of the Wolds Way. I have never walked or run there and had no real idea of what to expect in terms of terrain, ground/ path conditions or route finding.
Very old garmin has long battery but no way to upload data

 For logistical reasons I started on Monday near the middle (close to Kilnwick Percy) which allowed Bob to move the van to Filey and get a run of his own in. The weather was varied  and the damp made editing Jon's route notes annoying but I really enjoyed my day. Exploring new places is always fun and some of the grassy dales were lovely. It was also muddy. Not the black peaty sloshy mud of home but thick slipperly clay mud.I managed 4.8 mph which included phone and toilet stops and writing changes to the race route notes. I regret not taking a camera now but knew I would struggle to use that as well, plus I didn't want to get it wet. The WW is actually pretty well way marked and only in 2 places were Jon's notes essential. I am though happier to know what is in store and to have checked out a new area. Even the run from Filey school to the Brigg was slightly different to my last Hardmoors race so just as well I checked.
We then drove to Hull and checked out the race start. Tuesday saw me doing the first part of the race from Hull, along the Humber and then the first section of the WW.

 Overnight there had been a slight frost but it was cold, breezy and bright. Sadly the rain from the previous few days had turned much into a mud bath. Hopefully it will be drier underfoot in May.  The urban part was interesting  and although I had a bit of a panic when the path along the Humber seemed to be going on forever. I think I had edited Jon's words to nothing as this bit was so obvious- keep the water on your left and head for the big bridge! It was a relief to reach a couple of his landmarks and know all was well. From the bridge the route climbed which was hardly a surprise. I had started at a good pace and was pleased as this was on top of yesterdays run. Then the mud and flooded land started to slow me down. I had good grip today but it didn't stop the mud from sapping my strength. I got a little despondent as my pace reduced and I could not get the average mph back up no matter how hard I ran the good bits.  Again, the route was mostly straight forward although again I found one section which went on longer than I expected and caused me to question my navigation.
Last weekend was Peeler's Hike.

 It is a fairly local LDWA event but I have never done it before. I have been urging my Mountain marathon partner to do some LDWA events for years now and am pleased that she has decided to give it a go. I was planning to use this event (it's not a race) to do more at about 4.7 mph and get used to it. It turned out rather differently.

 There were not many runners which was a surprise but Josie, Albert and Tony were there. The forecast was a bit grim and although the rain wasn't heavy it was wet for much of the day. I knew Rowena could easily out run me on at least the first 18-20 miles and told myself to just let them go. A combination of banter, safety in number with the nav and their pace all pulled me along. It didn't take me long to suss that we were doing more than 6mph. Every time I backed off I seemed to then close up and we were together again. In the end I decided that the damp day was not a day to loiter and it would be best just to run as a loose group of 6 (6th person was ankle tag man- don't know his name or his crime but he contributed least to the nav that's for sure). Up until Affteside I was too hot but then having got damp when I undid my cag I was soon chilly once we skirted the firing on the army ranges and emerged at Peel Tower. Chill kept me running to escape the moor and descend to Helmshore. An error in lampost numbers caused some confusion but not for long. I had worried the route back would be a tarmac trail along the sculptures. It wasn't. It was very varied and I don't remember much sculpture. I recognised some bits near Nuttal Park from a street O run and liked Burrs Park area. This last section also had some of the wettest fields on the route but by then we were wet and muddy so sploshing through did not matter. On the edge of Bury Josie and Tony found second wind and pulled ahead. Albert slowed to be kind to a sore glute and I ran hard to keep Tony in sight with Rowena not far behind. We were all given the same time at the finish and this was 10 minutes faster than our garmins showed? Not a great excercise in self discipline on my behalf but a great day out with friends.

Phew. Written in a hurry but now up to date. I have aimed high (very high) with the Hardmoors 200 but hopefully it will be a good adventure. I am scared of failing but then on the otherhand what is the point of easy targets? and what if I succeed?