Monday, 27 May 2019

LDWA Hadrian 100

I was well prepared... a fair bit of running in recent weeks but not excessive, route checked on all the bits I did not know, reviewed in my mind running the Pennine 39 section backwards, food sorted, kit assembled etc.

Miffed that after a glorious week the weather was going to turn but hey ho. It was my first LDWA 100 and won't be my last. I was irritated at not knowing what food to expect as minimum at different CPs and so opted to carry far more of my own food than I needed to really.

Possibly the biggest meringue I have ever eaten- Corbridge on Friday
We spent the Thurs and Fri before the event in the Hexham area checking a few last minute questions and also meeting relatives for lunch.
Sycamore Gap Hadrian's wall in the sun
After a quite night wild camping in the van we moved down to the school for registration early on Saturday. Bob had opted for the mass start at 10am and so went to register early. we also collected our 'snack packs'.

We had not been informed what would be in these and I wasn't very impressed. I know it's not easy to please everyone but pepperami? two small tomatoes? a kids lollypop? and a bun sandwich that I had to unwrap to identify the contents.
The other Karen Nash, also 29.5.1961
I walked down to the Sele Park with him to see the runners off and to chat. At this stage it was still warm, dry and even sunny.

A flag bearing procession led them through the park and across the busy road. I then checked out various routes from the start and onto the course as we would be starting from the school. I tried to go for a lie down but wasn't tired enough. I ate, drank and then chatted to others starting later like Matt N, Kevin H, the Barry boys, Jamie, Kevin S and more.

Well before 1pm we were ready and after a few words our small group of about 10 were waved on our way. Before we had left the edge of the town we were fairly spread out and I found myself running with Matt. We did much of the Northern Traverse together and he is good company. We chatted as we ran and this reassured me that we were not going off too fast.
Only a few miles in
I knew the way but the several hundred walkers and runners ahead of us had left heavy trods across fields. We had both agreed that a 2pm start would put too much pressure on getting to the first CP but in the end we would have been over half an hour inside the closing time. We quickly got scanned and went on our way wondering how long it would take Kevin to catch us. The climb out of the village and up to the moor didn't seem as bad as on my recee and I was relieved to see a bog trod across the relatively pathless section. It didn't quite match my expected route but was good enough and the flattened grass made for easy running. Here we started catching up those who had started earlier.
Roman temple - not race day
Approaching Brocolita it was good to see that most had cut the corner (compared to the route description) and again a nice trod led us past the Roman Temple and onto the first section of Hadrian's Wall.
Nice grass path by wall- from recee
We were moving well and continued to catch people. As CP2 at Sewing Shields came into view we could see the weather forecast coming true. After grabbing crisps and banana we moved into the woods and put our cags on. I am lucky and don't sweat much so mine stayed on for the remaining 90 miles. At this stage the rain was just some showers, annoying but not bad and the wind was still just a breeze.
A mile castle
For a bank holiday weekend the wall was quiet and this made life easier but we still opted for the military road choice after Housesteads. This wide grassy path is much more runnable and friendly to your feet and cuts out some of the climbs and more importantly the rocky descents.
The bits to avoid by taking the military road
I had been along the wall, seen all the mile castles, remains etc many times and took lots of photos on my recee. We met Jamie along this section and the photo proves it wasn't even raining.

From memory it was dry all the way to CP at Haltwhistle but I may be forgetting the odd shower. We left the wall at Cawfield and joined the Haltwhistle Burn path which follows the line of an old rail line through the gorge and some mining. By now we were catching lots of others and the path was getting quite crowded. Luckily CP was in a leisure centre hall and so there was plenty of room. We stopped for tea, soup and sandwich. We had no pact of sticking together but for now were happy to do so. The tricky bits on routes are often through towns but I knew the way and we soon crossed the railway, the Tyne and the A69. The section through the blue bell woods at Bellister was pretty but quite undulating. After Park Village we joined the South Tyne Trail. This follows and old rail track and would take us all the way to Alston. I am not a fan of these trails as you can usually see ahead for miles, there is little variety and it makes me feel like I should be running hard. In fairness this trail was quite varied with sections of tarmac, some softer surfaces and then some awful hard core alongside the steam railway.
Glad we didn't need to drop all that way
The best bit on it was the viaduct over the Tyne and the fact the organisers had persuaded the house owner to allow us through his grounds so we didn't need to drop all the way down to the river and climb back up again.
Less than 48 hours earlier
Matt seemed to be full of running and I needed to slow for a bit. I kept in visual contact and we were soon together again. Part way along this was CP4 at Knarsdale and not long before it we caught Bob. He was in good spirits and his groin/hip not too bad. We slowed to chat a bit. On the way into the CP we were both stopped for a kit check. Mine was easy; a resealable water container/bottle but Matt got delayed. The village hall was a bit overcrowded so I grabbed a cup of tea, a bowl of fruit salad and shortbread before heading straight back out. I was sure Matt would catch me up again soon. I didn't like the path by the steam railway to Alston and concentrated on just getting it done. Amusement along the way was provided by Brian L and the dancing marshall at the level crossing. Still no Matt but he couldn't be far behind. In Alston I did consider mugging a supporter who was eating fish and chips with his van door open; the smell was inviting. I decided not to stop at the Spar as it was less than 4 miles to Garrigill and not raining. Running this section 'backwards' compared to the Pennine 39 felt strange but I had no route issues just stiffness over the stiles. By Garrigill it was raining, quite hard. John and Jenny were helping at this CP and it was nice to say hello. I can't have been at the table more than a minute when Matt arrived. We sat with tea, crumpets and tried to eat. I was starting to struggle to chew and swallow; an issue I often get on long runs when I have been moving too fast to eat early and often. Here we were offered another snack bag. It was meant to see us over to Dufton - yes, more tomatoes, bourbon biscuits and a sausage roll. I ate the tomatoes and left the rest. Charlotte had set off at 10am and we met her here ready to head off up to Gregs Hut.

Greg's Hut on a fine day in daylight
We left in rain but did not yet need our torches. It's a long climb up with just a few sections of flat or down which we tried to run. I say tried because in the gloom and failing light it was easy to trip on boulders. I had anticipated needing my head torch by 10pm and was correct almost to the minute. Not that it went on my head, the rain and gloom gave too much bounce back and so a torch held at hip height was better even if it did stop me eating or drinking. We were still catching people but they were getting fewer now. Greg's Hut came into view at 11pm, or rather the land rover headlights did. The hut was a bit crowded with people but we had space to put on over trousers and I even had some orange quarters. The marshalls were obviously worried about us heading up onto Cross Fell and were encouraging people to pair up and asking if we knew the way. We had both been on the route several time but still struggled to find the path initially when we left the hut. Higher up the visibility got worse but glow lights and flags with reflective strips showed us the way. Despite this in the gloom we overshot the trig point self clip by a few metres and had to back track. Across the plateau was OK but then we had to take real care finding the line to the flagstone path. Once on these we made better time and although very wet they we not slippery. The rain continued but the wind was less than I feared and it wasn't cold. My layers were damp from sweat and water running down my neck (I hate wearing my hood up unless the rain is really heavy) but I only had a short sleeve top and very thin merino base layer and not need for hat or gloves. The flagstones led us down, then up Little Dun Fell and eventually down again and up Great Dun Fell. Following the fence round the golf ball aerials led us to the road and the long long drop to Knock village.By now the weather was a bit grim and the wind was in our faces. The white lines on the edge of the road made it easy to stay on track  and I consoled myself with the thought that these should be easy tarmac miles. The road was littered with live and dead frogs as we continued to pick off a few more runner. We passed Ian F who was having a good run and were soon at the cars for the safety check. They told us there were 25 walkers/runners ahead and we passed all or most of these on the way to Knock. This road seemed never ending. At the village there was a small loop to avoid the sleeping residents but for me it was nice to get onto a softer surface and to have a bit of nav to occupy my mind. Before long we found the self clip and made our way into Dufton. To me it was a strange set up with our bags at the YHA and food in the village hall but I guess neither was big enough for both. I had hoped to sit and faff with dry clothing while I ate but soon realised this could not happen. I grabbed a dry shirt, dry socks and some replacement food to carry and went back to the 'breakfast' hall. It was 1am and the team from East Lancs were pleased to have some customers. A la Carte service gained me a double fried egg sandwich and cups of tea. For the first time nobody looked at me oddly when I asked for scissors and proceeded to drink 500ml of cold custard! I decided not to change but to just carry the dry stuff in case I needed it later. My feet were feeling a bit tender but I put it down to the log descent on tarmac. Matt and I headed back out into the night, rain and gloom at about 1.45am.
What you should have seen at High Cup Nick
We knew it would be a steep plod up to High Cup Nick but at least it let the food settle.Nearing the top we really had to concentrate as visibility was less than 2m and despite us both knowing the way in theory it was easy to miss the path either where there are multiple mini paths or sections of peat and rocks. This section cost us time and we didn't even manage 4mph. In daylight the big bridge across Maize Beck is easy to find but we almost missed the flagstones that lead to it and didn't see the bridge until we were almost on it. Then came the lumpy section with not much of a path. It was almost a relief to join the big track that would take us to Birkdale Farm and our next CP.

 This farm is the highest inhabited farm in England. The CP was in a big barn and we were welcomed with hot soup and offers of much more food. Kevin caught us here. He had found the nav over High Cup Nick even more of a challenge as he didn't know the area but was in his usual good spirits. It was still raining. On the plus side it was getting lighter and we were soon able to turn our torches off. The rain continued and probably got heavier and the wind was a bit stronger.
I did not divert to see Cauldron Spout this time
I spared a thought for those still going over the high tops as we plodded on past Cow Green Reservoir and into the valley.
Turning off to waters meeting
At Waters Meeting CP we had another stop and refreshments,in my case mostly chocolate milk which always slips down well. It made me think how much easier it is when Bob supports from the van and I can have what I want and when I want it.
More churches than houses in this valley
I decided that I needed to check my feet as the left one was now beyond tender. They were both sodden and slightly macerated. People looked at them in alarm but I knew I either stopped or carried on and ignored the discomfort. I knew nothing was likely to stick without a lengthy wait for them to dry out and so just changed my inner socks- pretty pointless as the out socks and shoes were drenched and the paths and roads all waterlogged and puddled too, but it felt nice to have a soft dry sock next to my skin for a short while. I told Matt to push on and Kevin had already left. I would see them both at CPs but ran the remaining 30 miles on my own. I knew I would not be able to stick with Matt for the whole race but had appreciated his company on the first day and especially through the night. Now it was good to be able to slow when I needed to nurse my feet or stop to eat. Would I have gone any faster with company? Probably not as my feet were terribly sore and I was struggling to eat enough. I don't mind my own company and used the time to do mental maths working out pace, time sand distances to CPs and expected finish times.
I didn't mind the climb up to Coldberry End but the track down to Cowshill was painful.
Even in the sun it was gnarly on my feet
At this stage I could still see Matt and Kevin every now and again plus the rain was less. I caught them both up at Cowshill but they were ready to leave before me.
Not race day
The CP was run by the welsh group and it was nice to be able to congratulate Alwyn on his Dragon's Back performance, and to meet his wife. I probably stayed a few minutes longer than I should have chatting. I saw nobody on the whole of this next section except a guy offering refreshments from his car at Killhope.  The ground here was soaked but that was no surprise as it was boggy even when we receed in a dry spell.

I did enjoy the grassy track leading down to Allenheads and my feet seemed OK once I got going. With that in mind I got scanned at the CP but did not go inside. I was slow stomping back uphill but tried to run when I could.
I wonder how many people spotted this climbing out of Allenhead
The rain had now stopped, mostly, but the wind had picked up. Running north along lanes from the self clip at Acton Bridge towards Allendale Town was hard work and I really felt I was slowing down. I had contemplated the river path and had been assured by the organiser that it was fine but 'they wouldn't know where to find my body if anything happened'. After the rian I thought it might be slippery and so stuck with the lanes. I had not receed these and had not anticipated what a undulating roller-coaster it was. I am sure I lost time along here but could not make myself go faster. At the Allendale CP I met Matt as he was about to leave and then sat chatting, drinking tea and eating custard and some small bits of cake. I knew I needed fuel but really couldn't face much food.

Or this climbing out of Allendale Town
Less than 10 miles to go. I was trying to do maths.
My nav marker- the tree notch on the skyline (Blue sky from recee)
How fast could I get up onto the moor, could I run on the moor, how muddy would the path though Dipton Woods be? By the time I hit the moor I had worked out that a PB was a given (barring accidents) and that if I tried hard I could even beat 25 hours. It motivated me. I really enjoyed the section across the moors and was grateful for the markers even though I didn't really need them.
Last CP
Jacqui came out from the CP to cheer me in and this boosted me too.  I didn't stop having learnt that my feet complained less if I just kept going. The woods were much drier than I had thought they might be and I picked up some speed now the end was in sight.
Bob on recee in Dipton Woods
A toilet stop cost me a few more minutes and then boisterous cows a bit more. Progress along the lane to the racecourse was slow but then there was just the final downhill. My battered feet complained but I ran it all.  Finish time 24hrs 43 and a new PB by over 2 hours.
The Standing Stone
Bob and organiser Bill came to meet me on the steps into the school. Kevin was first in 22hrs 40. At first I thought Matt and I were 2nd and 3rd but whilst I was in the shower two other runners who had started at 2pm finished so pushing us into 4th and 5th. Could I have gone 20 mins faster? Where could I have saved those minutes? I don't know, but I didn't. Feet issues were the fact of the day.
Macerated feet
I was disappointed for Bob. He had worried about his should, groin and hip but in the end it was the ball of his foot that defeated him, plus damp cold gear going into the night. He enjoyed his miles to Garrigill though.

 It took a while to recover but the free beer helped and the curry was great. A hot shower and we were soon ready to drive home.

It might have been my first LDWA 100 but I hope it won't be my last. Now time to check out where the next ones are.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

The Spire Ultra

A new race for Runfurther and it was great. We were happy to help Jamie and Clare with their local race for charity. It's in the third year now and slowly gaining popularity. At 32 miles with about 4600ft climb it was very runnable- Not my forte, with no big hills to stomp up and some long disused railway lines towards the end which to me felt like torture. Brilliantly organised, marshalled and huge plate of chilli at the end.
It was to be a special race for me as it would ultra race 100. I have only counted races with results and only those over 30 miles. I now have a total of 5256 miles with the shortest being 30 miles and the longest being 200. It includes 11 races of over 100 miles and an average distance of 52.6 miles. All in the last decade (almost: started March 2009, completed May 2019).
By Friday I was stressing that I would not find the way etc. I was anxious about needing to slow down enough to read and act on all the instructions etc. I have only been to Chesterfield before, some time in the late 90s when they made it to an FA Cup final and festooned the town in blue and white. I had studied the text and map but was worried about needing to slow down enough to read and act on all the instructions and the time lost if I went off route.

Bob and I drove down after a morning of indoor climbing. The weather was foul through the Peaks and drains were struggling to cope with the water. By the time we got near Chesterfield it had improved and we went for a short walk on a loop of the course near Holymoorside. It was enough to persuade me that I would need shoes with some grip and also that the text route description seemed pretty good. Jamie had suggested that a dead end lane in Heath would be better than a night by the start so that was our next stop. Again we walked a short loop before we settled down to an evening in the van. I didn't sleep well and Jamie had not realised that the church bells chimed every hour through the night. At least it wasn't every 1/4 hour.

It didn't take long to move to the start in the morning and the weather looked so much better. The flags and banners were soon up and we could concentrate on registration and kit checks.
Photo Nick Ham - the Runfurther discussion table
For a small race with an entry of fewer than 70 Runfurther had brought a fair number.... Dick, Bob, Nick, Kevin, Sarah S, Sarah and Ian, Matt, Sam,Steve, Daryl, Debbie, Martin, Stephen and Tim.

After a briefing in the garden quad at the Resource Centre we were walked to the start.
Photo Nick Ham
I found myself closer to the front than I had intended and then realised some were relay runners and speedy guys like Kevin. Oops. I probably set off too fast but it was good to keep people who knew where they were going in sight and it was very runnable.
Photo Nick Ham
A lovely mixture of field paths, blue bell woods, trails and some short sections of tarmac to link it all. I was soon pretty warm but by 5 miles or so had settled into a more realistic pace. Some point around here Daryl caught me up and it was wonderful to have company for pace and the route finding. He used his garmin while I read the text and refered to the map every now and again. It didn't stop all our errors but one was over excitement at a nice down hill and the other me missing a sentence when two bridges were mentioned. Neither cost us 5 mins in total but it did ultimately cost him his sub 6 hour finish which is a shame. CP 2 had food so I grabbed a banana and some crisps.The course profile suggested that the biggest climbs were in the first 10 miles or so. I resolved to walk the steepest hills in the hope I would save some running for the flat bits later. Daryl was happy to agree. At this stage we were being very polite and both suggesting the other should run on alone if they felt capable. Politeness didn't last. Between CP3 and 4 my foot started hurting and Daryl had stomach pains. Politeness was traded for farting (what is it about eating and running) and swearing as we tried to keep up the pace but were hurting!

 The week's rain had made some of the descents in the woods rather muddy but mostly it was fine. and the instructions were mostly making sense. I grabbed more food at CP4 but cannot eat on the run at that speed.

Luckily I was carrying some MF jellies and could manage those. Ian caught us up and was flying- a true runner who was loving the flatter course. No chance of me beating him today. We noticed huge storm clouds lurking and soon after CP5 stopped to but jackets on for a few miles.The last 14 miles or so were flatter but they also included some long straight sections which were mentally tough and more hard surface under foot which was the last thing my foot needed. I must be the only person who rejoiced at the sign of mud. Actually mud was also our friend with stud marks often confirming that we were on the correct route- well either that or all those in front were also off route. I have quite good map memory and as CP6 came into view I knew what was left. It spurred me on. The CP itself was highlight of the day- strawberries, grapes and melon! I was now also shadowing a runner that knew the way and so keen to hang on or at least keep him in sight. Daryl and I drifted apart a bit. As we climbed to Heath and scene of our overnight stop I knew there was about 3 miles left and it would be possible with a little effort to get under 6 hours. I upped the pace over the field paths and then the Five Pits trail area into the woods. All was OK until we hit the old railway line. My heart sank. It should have been so runnable but was such an effort. I blocked all other thought and worked on keeping the guys ahead in sight.

It worked and I think I finished in 5hrs58. Daryl appeared only a few minutes later.

Phew I had done it and had a great day to complete my challenge. 100 race ultras done, a race win, a new women's record and a top day out. Thanks for the company Daryl and for pushing me when alone I would have gone slower.

After collapsing on the floor outside the hall I did a second finish to get a photo but we soon had to move inside as it got chilly.

 Sarah C was second woman and Debbie was back soon too. Bob had left me a special card and the front runners had already signed it.

We shared cake as others signed too. Bob had been very worried about the 9 hour limit. His time is usually mine plus 50%. Not today.

He was flying and finished in under 8 hours. It's the big hills that now slow him down and today's undulating course suited him well.
Knackered but what a good run!
We sat eating and chatting until all runners were back. Then it was taking down damp flags and banners before the long drive home and a celebratory beer.
The question now is "What next?" Another 100 ultras in the next decade? Aim for 50 over 100 miles?