Thursday 18 July 2024

Tribute to Joss

 It would have been nice to wait a week and do it on the day of his funeral but then I would have had too little recovery before the L100. This was to be my third attempt- first one on my 50th birthday way back in 2011 when despite it being the end of May we were beaten by the weather! Second attempt going well but my partner on the day suffering and stopped at Dunmail. Hopefully it would be third time lucky.

Nervous anticipation in Pooley Bridge

This attempt would be different as it would be Eco and solo. Eco because there would only be one vehicle travelling up the M6 and then one drop at the start, a slight detour to Dunmail and then just a meet at the finish.

Slightly damp and certainly very cool for July

And to make it more value for diesel Bob would do two Wainwright walks, the following day we would do a walk together and then the next a SUP before the drive home. Eco also because there would only be one set of footprints following the JNC. 

Off over the 'new' bridge

Solo would be interesting as I had not checked out the whole route (I did make a couple of small errors or not get the best lines). I carried all I needed for the day and made all my own nav decisions plus of course when to eat and drink. I ran out of water twice but did in the end find streams. Towards the end my Garmin flashed that the battery was running out and this caused me some panic and wasted time too.

Several days later- view to the start and all the first hills

I did not really sleep well in the van at Dacre the night before but I guess you always get more sleep than you imagine on restless nights. It was a quick breakfast and a short drive to a deserted Pooley Bridge the next morning. The forecast was OK (for this less than superb summer) but the day dawned rather dreary and cool.

Sky line showing much of the route heading towards Kirkstone

After the obligatory photo on the bridge I was off and within 2 minutes there was a heavy shower of rain. I prayed that this would not continue throughout the day. The rain meant a wet field and so wet shoes and feet from the start, oh well. I made good time along the lane and up through the very quiet campsite. This was the site of my first ever KIMM with Rowena! Before long I was out on the fell and getting even wetter feet. The rain had stopped but the cloud and mist were low and the ground very very wet. There was bird song but not a sole to be seen. 

More skyline views- taken 5 days later.

Arthurs's Pike was soon ticked off and I checked the time. I was carrying the schedule for W50 and W60 without really being sure how fast I would be. It felt strange and a bit unsettling to be chasing the clock. Now I headed up onto the main ridge and little heads with big ears popped up. There were deer everywhere, lots of them and they kept popping up all the way to Kidsty Pike. 

The ground was far more boggy than I had expected but there was nothing to be done except to plough on. Once my feet were wet there was no point worrying, except perhaps about how deep I might sink in. Loadpot Hill, Wether Hill and then Red Crag all passed OK and I was slowly gaining some time compared to the schedule. The deer kept popping up and then running off but other than these, sheep and birds I saw nobody.

I made my little detour to Kidsty Pike and remembered to return over Rampsgill Head and then came the plod up High Street. I was still gaining a little bit of time and doing the mental maths spurred me on. From this trig point it was easy running all the way to Thornthwaite Beacon and on paths that I know quite well so even the relatively poor visibility was no worry. I had deliberately chosen shoes for good grip on rock and this worked well as I descended to Threshthwaite Mouth and then climbed Stoney Cove Pike. I had to back off a little on some very muddy sections but the shoes worked well on the slabs/ stepping stones. Pike Howe passed quickly and then I was descending to Kirkstone.

Not a soul about
It was still early morning and so very quiet as I crossed the road and began my climb of Red Screes. My legs felt the climb but I was now definitely up on schedule.  It was strange to be running this section but in reverse so soon after the Patterdale Boundary event. The ground was much wetter and there were no other runners about although I did see one walker as I neared Hart Crag.  The weather seemed to be slowly improving and it was getting warm. I ran out of water just before Fairfield. The summit was deserted but I did pass two walkers as I dropped to the tarn. I was a little cautious on this path but soon arrived at the col and started to climb Seat Sandal. The run off this was lovely and I made good time down to the road. 
Heading to the stile at Dunmail- almost half way in distance if not in climb

I could see our van. It was the one place I had asked Bob to meet me. I refilled my water, replenished food supplies and had a quick bite to eat and coffee. 

Still smiling- a chance to stop and take my cag off

I had been eating quite well for me and having a mixture of Mountain Fuel bars, chocolate bars and some savoury snack was working well. 

Checking V55/V60 time schedule

It was tempting to linger and chat with Bob but I was keen to keep my gained time as I was now easily on the W55 times.

Tiny flat bit before the dreaded Steel Fell

The pull up Steel Fell is very steep but I was a little refreshed and it didn't feel too bad. 


The next section was in several places a boggy mess and was also one of the few bits where I felt I did not get the best line. I decided to just plough on but do wonder how much time I lost compared to the ideal line? It was a relief to reach High Raise and then be on the descent to Stake Pass where I would find better paths again. From Rossett Pike I was treated to some wonderful views and was also starting to see a few more walkers.  Despite having been up the path by Bowfell Slab recently I seemed to end up on a slightly higher trod. I didn't want to drop and realised it was a chance to take a more direct line. Going via the slab would mean a small double back to the summit whereas heading up the boulders led me to a higher path and then a short and easy climb to the summit. Others were taking in the views etc but I headed straight off towards Esk Pike and then Esk Hause.

All the walkers were on the main paths so I was soon alone again as I cut off taking the more direct line to Great End. Here I did get a better line than on my last visit and so descended more quickly. So quickly that I shot past the tarn and the stretcher box and suddenly realised I was out of water again. Fortunately there was water in the streams as I climbed Great Gable. I overtook a DoE group with big packs. I was feeling good and the kilometres were ticking by. I touched the memorial and began the less than great descent. I was a bit slow but did not want to risk a rocky tumble. 

What an amazing lump- blessed with superb running weather now

Kirk Fell seemed to take longer to climb than I expected but I was still making good time. I found the best of the three possible routes of to the north and could not believe how easy it felt. By now my phone did not have much charge left and I was keen to conserve it for a 'just in case' moment.  I had told Bob I would put Turf on so that he could follow my progress but did not dare.

I didn't stop to take many pics but this central section is beautiful

By contrast nothing felt easy on the long climb up Pillar. I knew roughly where the race line went and this saved a little bit of climbing but there still seemed to be several false summits before I reached the rocky plateau. I was so pleased to have arrived that I almost ran off in the wrong direction but luckily the view of Ennerdale checked me and I turned SW for Wind Gap. I was alone again soon having overtaken my last walkers soon the climb up Scoat Fell. The detour out to Steeple was lovely and took less time than I had imagined.

Then on the way to Haycock my watch started flashing low battery. I was sure I had put it on battery saver/ultra mode but evidently not. It gave me the option to go to saver mode now so I promptly did. It's not something I use often and so there was panic when the screen went blank. I thought it had just died whereas it was actually recording invisibly. Having no strava trace would not be a disaster but as I was running solo I was keen to have a record. I faffed a bit, tried to put my phone on strava  but struggled and in the end just decided to keep running.

What a superb day I had managed to pick

In my mind it was downhill now. Ha ha. The tricks we let our minds play. Initially it was and then came to very wet bog near Pot of Ashness before the steep, very steep, NNE shoulder of Seatallan. It made me realise just how tired my legs were getting although if it didn't come after 50 odd hard km I guess it would feel rather different. My brain was also getting tired. This and stressing about my garmin saw me heading off south. It meant I missed the path and had to contour back to it over lumpy ground. Damn, a few more minutes lost.

Then there was just the one peak left. Middle Fell. The bog passed and I was soon on better paths along the lumpy ridge. Some wet muddy sections gave way to the paths through the bracken and I could see our van. I jogged down inching closer and closer to the road. 

Heading to Greendale Bridge

Bob had found good parking but I had to shout that I needed to finish at the bridge.  We arrived almost together and so photos were taken.

The end is insight now
I was super pleased to complete in 14hrs 38. My garmin had kept recording after all.  As a FV60 I had 18 hours but had hoped to manage the 16 hours given to FV55. I smashed it and was only just over the 14 hours given to FV50.  
A few more paces

Thinking of all the places where I lost a bit of time made me wonder if that time might still be possible. I had certainly not got the best lines in a couple of places, faffing with my watch took some too....... but actually who cares. 
Knackered but happy

I had had a great day out and completed the challenge my way- solo and eco. 
Suddenly tired now I can stop

I was glad the van was only a few hundred metres away with food, drink and my bed! 
Loved my JNC- Thank You Joss

So it was 3rd time lucky and I had picked a superb day and had an absolute blast..
Despite all the panic my Garmin did record it all

Food and sleep did the trick. The next day we did a recovery walk together bagging a couple of Wainwrights from Loweswater. 

Hen Comb and Melbreak (which Bob had not done) proved a really lovely afternoon and we missed the rain. Even better we got a celebratory meal and beers in the Kirkstile Inn. 

The weather was less good on Sunday but I did manage a SUP tour of the whole of Crumock Water which was flat calm and had the most amazing reflections.

Sunday 14 July 2024

Beat the Bounds Patterdale

 The inaugural event for this. True- Beating the parish bounds is far from a new idea but it has not been an event/race to enter before. Nicky the RO chatted to me at the Fellsman and was keen for me to give it a go. Runs on consecutive weekends would be interesting although today was not really a race (except once you start timing people then of course it is a race!) Mostly I knew the route but there is a twist. Modern paths do not always follow the parish boundary and so a GPX file was provided to show us where we should go and then on the map some 'virtual' CPs for us to try to hit too. I think most of us tried to do our best with this but we all seem to have slightly missed some of those CPs and some people certainly cut corners.

It was billed as about 43km and I knew it would have a great deal of ascent. I was slightly anxious about coming down Red Screes as I usually go up and the same on Stoney Cove Pike. I was also made more anxious by the weather forecasts all week. It seemed we would get wet, might have gales and maybe lightning! Fantastic.

Bob was injured so our plans of spending a few days in the van changed and I drove up early on Saturday morning. Soon after 7 I was parked at the cricket club and then walking to the school for registration. There was a full course, a half course and various family/kiddy offerings plus quite a wide start window of 5.30-9am. It was hard to judge the best time to start and I gave up calculating how long I might take to Kirkstone. The weather was very much better than anticipated so at 7.30am I set of in shorts, T shirt and long sleeved top. 

Flat calm on the lake first thing

Easy running along the paths that are parallel to the road led me through Patterdale and Glenridding. The lake was flat calm and I was already warm. I almost missed Stu as he was so bundled up in hat and coats but he spotted me and shouted a cheery hello. 

I found the track leading into Glencoyne no problem and there was a photographer waiting. 

Views back along Ullswater

I made a slight mistake at the farm but the lady was very understanding and let me through her gate. I then worked on reeling in the couple up ahead as I steadily climbed up the quiet Glencoyne. 

At the col near Sheffield Pike I caught them and found two young women from Leeds. We detoured to the summit of Stybarrow Dodd but not quite over the shoulder to the fence corner, oops. In our defence the cloud had rolled in and we thought we had done what was necessary. We ran pretty much together down to Sticks Pass and then over Whitestones and Raise.  They were faster on the descents but my stomping up hills kept me in touch. By Little Man it was clear one was pulling away and one was struggling. I ended up in the middle and chasing Zara for most of the journey to Kirkstone. Over Helvellyn and heading south we both stayed pretty close to the invisible boundary and both made the slight detour at Dollywagon Pike. 

Heading off Fairfield (no photos on Helvellyn as too cloudy)

From here the boundary takes a fairly direct line down and then up Seat Sandal. It is not quite pathless but it is steep and rough. I had chosen good shoes for rock but not quite so good for steep grass and mud. We started catching and overtaking early starters here and it did spur me on. I was also caught by later starting fast men, including some who knew me. The boggy mess at the bottom was short lived and then it was a tough climb to the next summit. Zara was slightly ahead but very much still in sight. The drop to the col near Grisedale Tarn was quickly over and then it was the long flog up Fairfield. I made good time here and smiled at the memories of May when we were there with our grandson. I stopped to take photos and a couple of guys pulled ahead but it was quite nice being a little relaxed and knowing that although I cared about my time it didn't really count for anything. I was on my own for a bit but after Hart Crag caught Zara and we realised that the men were not far ahead. After Dove Crag we had to stay by the wall and then spot the line of old iron fence posts, not turn earlier on the main path. I had thought about a short diversion to take in Little Hart Crag and so bag another Wainwright but I did not want to alarm the dot watchers and in the end was busy chatting to Zara anyway!

So much better than the forecast- looking east

After Scandale Pass I was conscious that we needed to stay by the wall and not take the diagonal path towards Red Screes. I had not spotted that we should actually go even further SE before heading for the summit. Looking at the tracker traces I don't think anybody did! I had now pulled away slightly and so led the way down the rocky steps and path to Kirkstone. It was mostly dry and far less hazardous than I had anticipated. 

Back to Ullswater again

I checked in and grabbed food and a cup of tea, Busy eating flapjack I forgot to refill my water but only realised once across the road and climbing behind the pub. 

I decided it would not be a real trouble and that I would find water if I needed it. Zara stayed longer at the CP and I never saw her again. 

It seemed a long way in this direction - I usually do this from the other direction heading downhill to Kirkstone. I was passing people though, including Lesley Malarkey (great effort by her as a V75). 

A nice surprise on Stony Cove Pike was to be met by Matt N. He was marshalling there in case it got wet and people were anxious. I knew the boundary followed the wall here and tried to stay true to this, only to find that the GPX file doesn't for some reason. The rock was dry and easy. I met my first two SLMM pair here and think they were doing Scafell/Elite, pretty sure I recognised them as lads I knew as kids when they orienteered. It was a long long pull up to Thornythwaite Beacon and here I started to meet SLMM folk in numbers, including friends. Staying by the boundary meant taking the big grassy quad bike track near the wall and this was fine until the first blast of rain came through. it was enough for me to stop and put my cag on and to hide my phone. I should have checked the map but in my delight at running downhill I veered from the wall and slightly missed Short Stile. I was soon on the short climb up Knott and my strava trace shows that I went over the top even though the tracker suggests I did two short straight lines here. I think perhaps it was only set to record data less often. 

I knew the drop to the col would be fast and that once I crossed the main path that the climb up Rest Dodd would be boggy. From here to Boredale Hause was the trickiest bit of the whole route so far as sticking to the boundary is concerned. Many people assumed it follows the wall but iinfact it seems to cut across 'nothing' to Satura Crags. 

Don't often go this side

It then does follow walls to Angle Tarn and here we met lots and lots of SLMM people. They had kindly flattened the marsh grass and so long as you picked the correct elephant track it was great. I have only been on the west side of the tarn orienteering and again slightly missed the virtual CP down by the lakeside/crag. I had now caught David and Ewan and we ran sort of together trying to pick the best way on pathless ground from Stony Rigg to Boredale Hause. Here the weather brought another short sharp shower. We were together most of the way up Place Fell although I missed one line going over Round How whilst they contoured round on the true boundary. I have never gone off Place Fell to the north and the boundary is not where the paths are. We made it to the Knight, a new mini summit for me. Interestingly my strava trace shows we reached the cairn but the tracker thinks we stopped short- we must have been too fast!

Just the final stretch now and a rather gnarly path at the start. David stopped with cramp but insisted I pushed on. Ironically I caught walkers who let me pass and in doing so I missed the grassy line down to the big track. My path ascended a little before a steep drop to Side Farm where I could see David just ahead. Easy running on the big farm track soon led to the back of the school and the finish where we crossed the line almost together. David though had started 5 mins after me that morning. 

There was plenty of drink and cake as we sat recovering outside. I was quite pleased to have beaten 8hrs 30. I finished 7th overall, 1st F, 1st M/FV60, 2nd M/FV50 and only a few minutes behind 5th and 6th place.  

Oh- and a long segment record and a few PRs on Strava. We moved inside for more chat, lots of wonderful soup and yet more cake and tea. 

The guys soon started leaving in search of a TV to watch England in the Euros. It was a good event and nice to raise money for the community- parking, cake, the event, teas etc. A number of friends had not known of the event, although it was on Si Entries, so I suspect next year it will get even more customers.

Tuesday 2 July 2024

Pennine 39 (37 really)

 One of the best weekends in my racing year again. No Ts, no medals, no stress just a great route, wonderful people, lots of food, drink and banter. Thanks Joe and all at Nav4.

It's my 8th time at the race and it always a little different. No need to worry about sun cream and running out of water this year as grey skies were pretty consistent. After we had collected more mint cake from Romneys we moved on for a damp walk around some Kentmere Wainwrights. It was quite nice to explore these at just a fast walk and to revisit lower 'lumps' that I would often dismiss. By late afternoon we were in Alston to claim a space at the garage car park area.

Photo from Stu Smith- love these guys

We wandered up to the YHA only to find the whole Nav4 gang and extended family were already unpacked and drinking tea. It didn't take long to put our flags and banners up and then to join them. Bob was going to cycle and help at CP1 near Cauldron Snout and then explore more on his bike afterwards.

A decent sleep in the van and we awoke to very grey skies and 'damp' but not quite raining weather. Not really what either of us wanted but not cold either. Bob got dressed in multiple layers before heading out on his bike. I debated layers and shorts before walking up the YHA for the toilet and to chat. Before 8am we were starting to gather by the garage ready for our coach. It felt quite strange not really knowing almost any of the other female runners. It meant I had no idea what to expect but I did know that Claire, Dsepina and others were missing so hoped my Runfurther points would be good. Nick and I bagged front seat which helped me not to feel travel sick and also meant we could wave at a very soggy Bob as we passed him. The drizzle turned to rain over the high point near the County Durham boundary but then ceased again as we reached Bowlees.

We were gradually herded across the field and over the delicate bridge to the start area and a chance to take the obligatory waterfall photos at Low Force. It was now warm enough and dry enough to stash my cag. As is the usual way with Joe there was a quiet 'Off you go' and we had started. Steve Jones led for his usual 2 mins and then Rory and Phil slowly started pulling further and further away. The first section is easy and very runnable path but I made myself hold back rather than risk arriving in Dufton blown up. A few blokes overtook me but that was fine. There was no time to worry about diverting for the view at High Force as we followed the Pennine Way westwards.

The rocks below Falcon Clints were very damp and greasy so I slowed even more here and decided that losing 10 mins in the race total was better than an uncomfortable fall. It was a joy to reach the end and to start the mini scramble up the side of Cauldron Snout to the marshalls waiting at the bridge. 

No blue skies today

Bob had made it and had time to get changed and warm. A quick kiss and I was on my way. He promised to let me know how far behind me the next woman was. Before long I caught the first back marker from the early start. It was Dom so I slowed for a quick chat as we went through the gates at Birkdale- the highest inhabited farm in England. I then worked on reeling in 'white shirt' man who had overtaken me on the rocks. I had the luxury of knowing the way having done the race many times before and just ignored the 'damp' as I headed towards High Cup Nick. I overtook some more early starters here. The low cloud parted enough for the spectacular view but I didn't stop for a photo today. 

Today's view was much more cloudy but still impressive

I found the lower path and had to slow again briefly for greasy rocks but was soon onto better ground and running down the grass edges. I saw Jenny up ahead- it had taken me a long time to catch her and we had a brief chat as the gates off the fell. I then concentrated on chasing two faster men all the way down the track and then tarmac into Dufton. 

Photo from Stu Smith

I helped another early starter find the village hall and our first real CP. I was eager to grab food but not waste much time. I had hoped to see Siobhan and ask her to update me on any rival but she wasn't there. I grabbed cheese and melon before leaving with an oaty date cake. I didn't even have time for a quick Stu hug. Orange shorts man had an exploding water bottle but collected the bits and led me up the lane and back onto the Pennine Way. It was muddier than I can ever remember on the walled path and it was a relief to reach the first stream and start on the long steep straight track. It also gave me a chance to look back. There was nobody in sight, not even white shirt man. I caught an other early runner and was glad of his shout when I lost concentration at a path junction. I could hear him behind me as I climbed higher onto the open moors amongst the tiny streams, old mine workings and hushes. The climb has a series of flatter ledges  and I tried to run when I could.

By Knock Old Man I had caught another early starter and decided I needed to stop and put my cag on. It was breezy but not knock you off your feet windy and the rain was more of an annoying drizzle than real hard rain. I ran hard towards the road knowing it would keep me warm. Climbing to Great Dun Fell was strange as the low cloud reduced visibility to about 50m and so the radar domes were hidden. Many of the flag stones were under a fair amount of water but they did not seem slippery and I ran fairly well down to the col and up over Little Dun Fell. I passed a pair of female runners here and was surprised they had opted for the early bus given the progress they were making. Heading to Cross Fell the visibility deteriorated a little but I wasn't too bothered and could still see the tall cairns and then eventually the trig and shelter. 

Visibility about 50m today

I picked up the main path heading north no problem and then debated about taking the short cut trod. Just before it I bounced across an area of very bouncy bog and as I slowed spotted the trod. Perfect. Today I got the line perfect and decided I must usually head too far right. The grass on the trod was a different colour and so easy to follow. It brought be out a little further back on the main track but was easier running than my usual line.

Gregs Hut seemed deserted until a head poked out the window. I shouted my number and ran straight on by. Knowing to expect the worst of the next section helps. The yellow brick road has mellowed a little and is now easier to run on plus I no longer expect it to be all downhill. I stopped to take my cag off now I was out the worst of the wind and predictably the drizzle started again. I could see orange shorts man up ahead and worked on not letting the gap grow at all. I had time to check my watch and do some maths. I could be on for a PW - the greasy rocks, my slow steady start and running alone with no real incentive to race hard had slowed my pace. I tried to make up some time on the descent to Garrigill but knew it was going to be some way off my fastest times.

There were no marshalls in the road and so I could not just shout my number and had no choice but divert to the village hall. Siobhan and her boys were there. I quickly refilled water, grabbed a banana and left. Running through the village I suddenly realised I had not asked about the possible diversion. This last section along the river back to Alston is only about 5km but in some years it has seemed to really drag. This year it sped by. The bridge had big CLOSED notices but was not locked or barricaded so I crossed. Later I found others had continued and crossed at the ford. I could see no runners and was surprised not to see Orange shorts man.  Deciding to make the best I could of my 'slower' time I ran fairly hard on the nice grassy paths but cursed the many stiles, especially when I bashed my shin on one. As I reached the little climb up to the woods and final path I had clawed back a little time and so ran knowing the flags would not be far. The short flight of steps to the YHA are always a shock to the legs but I had finished. Not quite a PW, 1stF and 1stM/FV60, in fact even 1st M/F V50 and 5th overall. Reasonably consistent since 2016 with 7.04, 7.26, 7.06, 7.00, 6.55, 7.21, 7.04 and now 7.23

Bob was there taking photos. Rory had won and was already on his way home. 

Phil had resolved his car charging issues and was now patiently waiting.A few minutes later orange shorts man appeared he had missed the turning near Low Scilly Hall and ended up down near the river. 

Soup and cups of tea revived me and I did not feel too bad at all. Clearly running just that bit slower had been kind to my body! I soon felt good enough to go for a shower before returning outside for more food.

Race time 7hrs 24  although my watch says 7hrs 23

The smoking fire pit kept the worst of the midges away and we were able to loiter around outside, cheer in the next runners and swap tales form the race. David N, jenny, Nick, Steve and others all finished. In fact ALL the runners who started did finish!

With almost all of the runners back we helped reorganise the dining room ready for our evening meal. There were 28 eating so it was cozy and a bit noisy. 

Photo Stu Smith

Dom finished and as last runner got tremendous applause. He had spent a long day on his feet! The food was excellent and the wine flowed freely. It was sad to learn that Jos had died the night before - so many memories, he will not soon be forgotten.