Sunday, 31 March 2019

It all turned out well in the end

We drove up to the Lakes on Friday after a few hours of indoor climbing. First stop was Keswick to collect box loads of Mountain Fuel from our fab sponsor Rupert Bonnington. Sunbathing with a coffee on the common above Askham completed the afternoon.

 By 6 we were down in the car park and putting up flags and banners. The display boards were up and spot prizes from all our sponsors laid out along with free mint cake from Romneys. Registration opened early so that job was ticked off too.

After pasta in the van it was back inside to socialise with other runners and volunteers. Great to see Matt Neale and Hisayo both wearing their Northern Traverse hoodies, as I was. Nick eventually arrived after a long boring delay on the M6 due to a lorry fire.
My self doubt grew and grew overnight. I knew I had not really run much due to our NZ travels and also our ski trip. I was praying that time on my feet would count for something and that the first 52 miles of my NZ dnf race would help. Running for 3 hours on Thursday was probably not the best idea in retrospect and I had a sore toe.

 By the time I went into the hall as the sun was rising I seriously doubted my chances of a respectable time and was resigned to battling it out to finish. At least the forecast was good, there would be good company and it is a fantastic route.
Well before the 6 am start I moved outside to see how warm it was. Decided to start in cag and gloves but as I suspected they were not needed for long.
Josie at the start
I tried to go slowly at the start; not easy as people sprint up the lane, through the village and out onto the moor. Past experience has shown me that if I go to fast I will be walking by the cattle grid. It helped having Richard Lendon, Carmine and others to chat with. Richard I haven't seen for year and Carmine was having a training run for the Dragons Back.

Across the common and heading for Loadpot Hill I was still feeling like I was rubbish but the views were at least now letting me enjoy myself. It is always interesting when the field splits and runners take their preferred lines. I saw Josie. Tony etc head off towards the trees but soon enough we were back together again.
Alwyn crossing the common in the early light
I am not sure that there is much in it. The sun was coming up, the mist and low cloud was atmospheric and I was going at a pace where I could chat. I was pleased to be with Josie, Tony and others. It gave me the mental boost that I needed. Matt Neale was also close by so the company was excellent.

From Loadpot Hill the grassy running is a joy. There was one dodgy moment where I almost followed a group heading off south, god knows to where. I shouted them back and I think we all made it to High Street.
Oh heck, we go over those next
Joe had wired the self clip to the trig this year after the theft of two years ago. This CP has a little out and back which I quite like as you get a chance to see the front runners and then also those who are just behind you.
Josie and Albert (photo from Toney Donnelly)
The next section is straight forward and I know it well. A few little lumps and rocky bits but mostly a good path. Barney was running with a friend who was new to ultras but a fast runner. We stuck together over the next section and I showed him the lovely grassy short cut after the Knott which not only cuts the corner but saves your feet from the gnarly track.

Back in geography teacher mode I explained what an isthmus was- the next self clip was by Angle Tarn on that feature. Then it was off to Side Farm and greeting the first of the day's walkers coming the other way. We joked about refusing to look up at Place Fell as we neared Boredale Hause; it would be the last beast of a climb later that day.

The path down was being repaired making it even worse than usual but I arrived at the CP unscathed. I topped up water but forgot to pop inside for any food. Nevermind, I has some bars and some Mountain Fuel jelllies in my sack.
Steep slopes everywhere- its a tough route
My foot was sore from the descent and I expected to hobble a bit towards Patterdale. I must be getting better at ignoring it because I made good time and could soon see Matt just ahead. I used him to pull me along and up the Grizedale path.
Sometime around now I must have decided I was racing after all as I stopped taking photos. It was also damping us from the low cloud. Then Tony appeared and we climbed together debating which route to take from the tarn. Spotting the tarn itself was not easy in the low cloud but we both wanted to cut across and avoid the rocky path down the beck. We climbed a bit more than ideal to avoid boggy ground but on the whole got a good line all the way to the bridge before Wythburn. Hearing the cars on the main road was our aid to navigation - no map and compass today. I spotted Michelle ahead and wondered if I could catch her. (I did and was ahead for all the next miles until we were heading back over Askham Common. She beat me by 2 mins in the end)
Wythburn had good food as well as water. I tipped in magic powder and grabbed loads of cheese, crisps and dark chocolate to fuel me up the monster climb to Helvellyn. It goes on a bit this climb and I needed a jelly too. I stuck to the tourist path as I think it is easier and just as fast as the OCT line.
Helvellyn (Toney Donnelly)
Nearing the top it was back into the gloom of low cloud and it was cold enough to put my gloves back on. The path was busy and so was the route to Little man and onward.I was pleased to get off the high top and to be running and climbing to the last self clip before the descent to Glenridding.
Whiteside (Toney Donnelly)
The big zig zag path is OK but the grassy direct line better and kinder to sore feet. Then there was the decision of straight down the road or the field path and track to the campsite. The road may be quicker but I wanted to save my feet. Catching runners at Side Farm we decided there was nothing in it. Here I got a big surprise as Martin T appeared. He is usually some way in front of me but had got disorientated in the gloom at Grizedale Tarn and done a bit extra plus wasted time sorting it out. He didn't hang around long and was soon powering up the path to Boredale Hause.
Up and up and up some more. Last big climb
Refuelled by more real food and a jelly I felt reasonably good here and was pleased to be ahead of Michelle and just ahead of Matt. I paid for it later though. Clambering up the rocks to Place Fell trig I got pain under my ribs and started to panic that the hernia/diaphragm issue was about to happen. I took some time and it went away. Meanwhile Michelle was off and running. We were on the home straight now and I even started to look at my watch and work out possible times. From Martindale it should be all runnable and I did try my best. Michelle opted for the high route which we now know is slower but she caught me again as we climbed to the common. Matt also caught me and the two of them had kept more in reserve. I was pleased to run all the way from the last path junction, down to the cattle grid and down into the village. I was chuffed to get 9hrs 28 (4th woman and 2nd Vet W) which is only 10 minutes slower than my PB from two years ago. I had anticipated a slow slog and perhaps 10hrs 30 at best. So 2019 running is now going better and I am feeling more positive.
Post race recovery at Nav4 events is wonderful. A choice of 3 homemade soups, real bread, huge slabs of cake and as many gallons of tea as you can drink. It was cosy in the hall so I didn't even bother going to wash or change.Instead I spent the early evening chatting and welcoming back the next 40 or so runners and signing up new and returning Runfurther members.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Kick starting 2019

I am really hoping that the dnf in New Zealand doesn't set the standard for the year so I jumped at the opportunity for a run the Peak District when an email arrived. The High Peak Marathon (which bears no relation to a marathon as it is 42 miles, dark and over some pathless moors) is a new race for me and so that was a bonus. Teams of four set off at intervals in the dark and run through the night to finish at various times the next day. I only knew one person on our team and was a bit worried whether or not I would be the weak point but I needn't have worried. The team was super friendly and we were all of a very similar pace it seemed.
I arrived in Edale at about 9 pm and wandered about chatting to friends from orienteering and mountain marathons. By 10 pm our team was not only complete but thanks to Steph's dad who was injured we had a lightweight shelter and very small light sleeping bag. Kit check was done and we managed to swap to a slightly earlier start time of 11.11pm.

I had maps on waterproof paper but was hoping not to need them too often. Julian had done the route before, Andy knew some of the area and Steph had been over some of the route with her dad. The only tricky bit looked to be the new bit over Bleaklow which would be pathless. We set off in high spirits chatting away and were soon mixed up with other runners and in particular Geoff P's team. The forecast was not great but considering last year the event was cancelled due to the Beast from the East and in other years the weather had been foul we were lucky. It was dry and quite mild as we climbed up to Hollins Cross and Lose Hill. A short drop and then a rougher climb led to Win Hill and the gnarly descent down Parkin Clough. I must be getting old because in the dark and on muddy rocks I felt very insecure. Fortunately Julian was no better. A short road section followed so there was plenty of chatting as we headed towards Stanage. At this point I still knew where we were and had a reasonable mental map. The path north below High Neb and along to Moscar was easy running. It was here that the fast teams and eventual winners came flying past. I spotted Jasmin and Konrad plus also the ladies team of Sabrina, Carol and Mary. Another short road led to a well stocked CP so we grabbed flapjack, sandwiches, tea and more water before dropping to Cutthroat Bridge and back onto the moors. We had done about 12 miles and were in good spirits. Somewhere as we crossed Derwent Moor the wind increased and so did the rain but it was not really unpleasant. We were still moving well, for us, and happy. From Howden Edge we dropped to just north of LadyBower Reservoir and it was a little more sheltered running in the valley to Humber Knolls. We were about half way and now the tough bit appeared. A mixture of worsening weather, a relatively pathless section and a biorythymn low point at ?am made the trek to Grinah Stones seem hard. When we got there it got worse. We had been moving more slowly and were cold but the CP had vanished in the gloom. Eventually we established that it was incorrectly placed at the bottom of the crags - not nice in the dark and wet. We had to stop and put on more layers. I run cold and so now had two thin thermals, my prism and my cag. I added over trousers for food measure although I probably didn't need them. Bleaklow was a bit grim but now it was getting light and we knew it wasn't far to the Pennine Way and good running. We didn't hit the CP at the ford as cleanly as I would have liked but it wasn't far back up stream. The CP at Snake Pass summit was very welcome. A chance to remove the extra layers, grab more food and top up drinks. The cup of tea was a bonus as was the improving weather. We probably had about 12 miles to go and the next section was easy nav and good running. I am not a fan of flag stones but where erosion has reduced the moors to a boggy mess I can see the need. The good path meant we were soon at Mill Hill.

We were all too tired to run every single step but we were doing OK and heading for Kinder Downfall.The path was a bit more gnarly over the rocks but still good running with one very short pathless section to by pass the hill en route to the CP east of Edale Cross. I have pretty awful memories of Brown Knoll from the 2007 Edale Skyline race but it has now been paved and although sticking to the flag stones made the route longer it was easy all the way to Rushup Edge.

 The end was now in sight and we were running slightly faster. Bob appeared, out for his walk, and took some photos as we carried on to the road and the path contouring below Man Tor. It was quite crowded on the path to Hollins Cross now the sun was out. A quick glance at my watch and I knew we would be back before midday. I hoped we might be under 11hrs 30 but despite a sprint finish and overtaking two teams in the final miles we finished in 11hrs 33. Not too bad at all for a scratch team. We were 2nd vets; until you applied the vet handicap. Our young ages of 21,40,53 and 57 gave us far too low a total to do well compared to the older teams with all four runners in their 50s or even 60s.
It was good to sit, eat and drink. I had been worried about my possible hernia from Snake Pass onwards. It hadn't really misbehaved but felt tender and so I was anxious the whole time.
Would I do it again? Yes; although I would want to recee the route so that I was less dependent on others, especially over the Bleaklow area. After food and chats I managed a couple of hours dozing before Bob returned. Not a bad way to start the weekend.