Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Long time no post

It's been a long time! There is a draft of last year's Ben Nevis race knocking around but as this year's race is only a couple of weeks away I think it's a bit late to bother posting it now.

Anyway I had a good run there and it was also the first time for one of my clubmates John (who did the Cumbrian Traverse with me last year). I *think* he had a good run but he's not entered this year, Mark missed last year's due to a second-class stamp and has pulled out of this year's due to orienteering - in fact this is the reason John's not doing it as well come to think of it.

I had spent some time on Gran Canaria leading up to the Ben. It's a fantastic island for cycling.
I explored some of Gran Canaria on two wheels, culminating in a ride from the coast to the highest point on the island (strava trace here). This set me up for a good climb up Ben Nevis where I felt much better towards the top than in previous years.

Suffering on the lower slopes last year
I was lucky enough to get an entry into our club's team for the FRA relays at Middleton in October - me and John ran the nav leg but there was very little nav involved with it being clear, a decent route on fells I had not visited previously.

I did the Yorkshire 3 Peaks race for the first time this year but felt woefully unprepared - the last 2 climbs really took it out of me and I finished about 30 mins slower than I hoped. It's not really my sort of race but I'll definitely be back for another go. I also fluked a win at the Darren Holloway Buttermere Horseshoe, chickening out of doing the long route due to struggling with various niggles and just hadn't done the miles so I switched to the 'short' which in the end only had 6 entrants, I was still shocked on reaching the first summit to be told I was leading on the short course. It's a great route, taking in the wonderful grassy descent from Whiteless Pike into Buttermere, hopefully there will be much more support next year when it's back at the end of June.

Just got back from holidaying on Porto Santo - a small Portugese island off Madeira. Here's some photos I took while out training:

View north from the south of the island. The closest peak you can see is Pico Do Ana Ferreira, which was not far from the hotel. I got close to that summit on one run but it was very rocky near the top and I ran out of time.
'Hidden' bay at the southern tip of the island. This was a tiny pebble beach only accessible using the steep path down the mountainside. The island was full of hidden gems like this.
This was generally how I got round the island while training. It was only around a 15 mile round-trip from the hotel and made crossing the flat middle of the island (where the airport is) easier. Pico Facho and Pico Juliana in the distance.
The previous picture shows the start of the path to Pico Branco and Terra Cha, two peaks in the north-west of the island. I locked the bike to the fence then headed up the 2.3km path.

Lower slopes of Pico Branco. You can just about pick out the path through the volcanic rock (apologies for the poor exposure!)
Panorama from a bit higher up, just before the path splits.
Helpful sign at the split point.
South from the summit of Pico Branco
View of some more hidden bays, north-west from the path to Pico Branco. The drops on either side of the path here were very steep.
Looking South from the path to Terra Cha.
Summit of Terra Cha, looking across to Pico Branco. This building was complete with barbecue.
Path back from Terra Cha, looking to Pico Branco. Viewed at the original size you can make out the path from the following picture (centre left).
Path down from the split point. As can be seen from the previous picture the fence is a sensible addition.
Panorama from the path down, showing one of the few reservoirs on the island.

I took this one evening from the southern tip of the island, watching the fisherman at sunset. The uninhabited Ilheu da Cal just across the bay and Madeira (in the clouds!) on the horizon.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Cumbrian Traverse

Had a great day out doing the Cumbrian Traverse with a friend from the club the other week.

Report can be found here.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Another Catch Up

No updates again for a while, not enough hours in the day most of the time!

After Ben Nevis last year I didn't do much until December due to various niggles that I get from time to time. I had a go at a few cross country races that the club I joined last year are involved with which I found surprisingly tough; not that I don't like short races but sustaining a hard, fast pace for 30 or 40 minutes especially on the flat is not something I am used to or particularly good at! I did enjoy the team scoring element though where even if you finished many places down you were still contributing to the overall results.

One of the few places I ran during Autumn despite the dodgy knee/hip - this was coming off Fairfield into Grasmere in between the rain showers.

New Year's Eve I travelled to the Essex coast for a fell race believe it or not. That was a good laugh; on the first muddy downhill I passed at least 10 runners who appeared to stop dead because of the slippery slope and ended up in third place but then just like a proper fell race I got lost so ended up about 9th at the finish. The race fee was either chocolate or alcohol and everyone got to take home a prize, people getting their pick in race finish order.

One of the cross country events I did, this was the Hertfordshire Vets XC at Royston where there were actually some ups and downs.
I managed to get an entry to Box Hill in the middle of January but couldn't really enjoy it due to knee problems. I'm glad I went though; it's a decent route though more of a hilly cross country than anything - still manages to fit 1700 feet into less than 8 miles. Nice, grassy final descent too.

Final descent at Box Hill, great fast grassy running.

Following that was 2 weeks of next to no running but a change of physio got me back into the cross country then in the middle of February I sneaked a run in at High Cup Nick. It was a toss up between that and Flower Scar on the same day, neither of which I had done before but looking at the routes I decided to head North to Dufton. I had a good run, it was a very windy day but it was behind us on the climb, turning into the wind and rain at the top was a bit of a shock but I just put my windproof on then enjoyed the descent.

Final descent through the fields at High Cup Nick. Photo linked from the Racing Snakes Website.

March brought another local race I hadn't done before - the Orion 15. Billed as a classic cross country race it's 15 miles around Epping Forest with some ups and downs thrown in. I had a good run and finished just under my target time of 2hrs. I've done a few races with free beer at the finish but this was the first one where they had champagne, celebrating their 60th year.

We had a week's stay in Glencoe just before Easter so as usual I had a look at the calendar to see what was on. New Dungeon Ghyll was another I hadn't done before so I did that on the way to Scotland, quite wet for most of the way around and also very misty which made for some interesting routes! This was the first race I got to try my Innov8 X-Talons and I was less than impressed - I slipped and fell over twice on the wet stuff where normally I would have complete confidence in my usual mudclaws.
Coming down to the finish, being careful not to slip in those damn X-Talons. Conditions weren't great though.
Things were even worse in Glencoe where I was on steep, wet grass which was still flattened from the recent thaws and forced to slowed to a crawl due to the constant slipping. The tread just didn't dig in at all. I was pretty pissed off after that run, I really liked the shoes due to their lightness and comfort but the grip just left much to be desired.
I had a good run up the valley near where we stayed - Gleann Leac ne Muidhe. You can just about see a small rainbow I captured over Loch Leven.
I ran the last section of the West Highland Way while up there. Beautiful surroundings and met a few characters on the route who had done the whole thing.

On the way home from Scotland I fitted in a run at the Boulsworth Bog Fell Race. I wore the x-talons again thinking that it was very dry and there wasn't much steep ground on that route, they were much better. I still went and bought a pair of mudclaws though for the next race I had an entry for - The Teenager With Altitude.

On the first climb at the Teenager. Shiny (not for long!) new mudclaws. Photo courtesy of Athletes in Action.

What a day! Gorgeous weather from start to finish and a cracking route. Just my sort of race; start at the bottom of a big climb looking up at the first summit checkpoint then a good few hours spent running (& walking) over some big hills. I started off really slowly and planned to take it easy until we reached Newlands Pass which worked well though I still got a huge cramp as the gradient increased onto the last climb of Catbells. That stopped me dead for a minute or two but it's my own fault for neglecting to eat & drink towards the end. Great descent into the finish though and felt very tired but happy to have got round.

Next up for me is a Cumbrian Traverse that I have planned with a friend from the club, really looking forward to that just hope we get some nice weather for the views.

Mark as we crossed over Brandreth during a recce of the middle section of the Cumbrian Traverse

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Ben Nevis Race 2013

No update for a while. I've had quite an 'up and down' summer where running is concerned (pardon the pun). I managed to get a last minute entry to Wasdale where I ended up with my first ever DNF; it was far too warm for me and I got timed out at Pillar.

The next race for me was Borrowdale where I had a good run apart from turning my ankle on the descent to Honister, as it went over I heard a distinct crack and felt a bit nauseous but after a quick stop I managed to get going again. It went a couple more times on the final descent and had swelled up quite a lot the morning after but I was still pleased with how I felt generally during the run. It was also a novelty running down some of the corridor route following Ian Holmes, who I didn't recognise at first with his 'everyday' clothes on - he was out spectating with his kids.

Heading to Sty Head I saw Pauline who took this photo.
So I wasn't quite sure what to expect at Ben Nevis, I had had a decent month's training after Borrowdale having finally joined my local running club. We met a couple at Wasdale who just happened to park next to us and they are both coaches there! I had another good run at Blackshaw Head Fell Race the weekend before so I was hoping for a decent time lining up for the start.

Topping up at the burn.
It turned out to be sunny and warm at the start even though it had poured down most of the morning and as usual I was surprised with the pace up the road past the pub. I tripped up almost the moment the path started to rise but caught the fall on my hands, cutting my thumb. I seemed to struggle on the climb up to Red Burn, I just didn't feel that strong but after filling up with water from the burn and shoving some food down my throat I started to feel a bit better.

The climb up from there seems to go on forever but at least it was a bit cooler. At one point it went a bit dark and started hailstoning. By now the leaders were coming flying past on the their way back down and I heard one guy take a nasty fall on the rocks, he sounded like he winded himself.

I was a bit disappointed reaching the top in about 1h36m which seemed a bit slower than other years and the thought that the leaders would now have finished didn't help! Still, next came the descent which is the bit I enjoy the most. I managed to stick with a local Lochaber girl who was skipping her way down the scree and seemed to know all the best lines but on reaching the grassy bank I dropped back. This year the way down here was flagged but it didn't seem to change anyone's route down much. Sadly I turned my ankle again here the same as at Borrowdale; hearing the crack and feeling the nausea my first thought was how was I going to get down but after a bit of a rest and gingerly putting some weight back on it I managed to get moving again.
Rejoining the main path after the grassy bank. I was being careful not to turn the ankle again!

Then it was just a case of being careful where my left foot landed and getting to the finish in one piece. It's the only time I have done this race where I been almost pleased to get back on the tarmac where I would be much less likely to turn the ankle again! As it was I finished in 2h23 about 6 mins slower than my best but I can't complain, it's always a good weekend and at least I got round.

I was surprised to see you got a medal as well as a 'technical' t-shirt this year which might explain the increase in the entry fee. I made a quick trip back to the car to get changed and grab the camera to try and catch both Marks finishing:

They were both well pleased with their runs so it was a good weekend all round. Thanks as usual to all involved with organising the event and also to Richard Cowan for heading onto the hill to take photos.

Mark, Paul and Mark happy to be at the finish.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Borrowdale Fell Race 2013

Having attempted Borrowdale on 2 previous occasions in 2010 and 2011 I decided not to bother last year and went along to support others. This year I told myself I wasn’t going to bother again. Well I don’t think I’m as fit as previous years and if I couldn’t make it then there was no point trying.

When the entires opened I told others I wasn’t entering but then Chris told me that this year, being the 40th running of the race, there were free T-Shirts for all and even better you got your T-Shirt when you registered. So basically I didn’t have to finish the race to get the T-Shirt. So I entered, you can’t beat a free t-shirt.

“Been There, Done (part of) the race, Got the T-shirt”

The Borrowdale race only has one cut-off which is at Honister Slate Mine, just before the final climb up Dale Head. This checkpoint closes at 15:30 (4.5 hours in to the race). In 2010 I hadn’t even planned to do the race but came along as a support but on the journey up was talked into running (somebody we knew had dropped out and there was a free entry). I only managed to make as far as Great Gable with about 25 mins to get Honister (no way). In 2011 I made it to Honister but was still over time by about 15 minutes.

This year, although I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t make the cut-off, I still needed to push myself despite telling all my running colleagues that I was only coming along for the t-shirt. It didn’t stop me bringing some change with me in case I needed to catch the bus back from Honister Mine (it’s a long walk).

The race sets off and is quickly slowed down when the pack of runners all have to filter into a narrow track and is a very flat run for about a mile or so before you start the climb up to BessyBoot.

There had been a funny discussion on facebook in the week before the race about BessyBoot as the race map mentioned “turn left for the climb up BessyBoot (110o)” and Josie, who’s was doing this as her 3rd proper lakes race was worried about it being a very steep climb. She’d got her protractor out and everything! We tried to explain that if the climb was 110o then it would be an overhang. Eventually she realised the the 110o was actually a bearing and nothing to do with the gradient.

On the climb up BessyBoot Tony Varley (a doddery old pensioner!) wasn’t too far in front of me and he became my “carrot”. I pushed on and managed to pass Tony about 1/2 way up the climb and was very happy with myself as Tony always beats me. Of course Tony had been suffering with injury in the 2 weeks before the race but we’ll ignore that.

Once on top of BessyBoot the run over to Allen Crags is more of an undulating run. A new fence that has been erected acts as a hand hold for part of the route and with the recent dry spell the ground underfoot wasn’t really that wet. Fran (Horwich) caught me back up as we went across here and we ran together around Allen crags and to Esk Hause Shelter. After Esk Hause I needed to top up with water and make sure I took on food and now Fran pulled away from me. The next stage takes us from Esk Hause to Scafell Pike and it isn’t as much a climb as I thought it was in my mind and so I felt like I made good progress here.

On getting to the top of Scafell Pike, with it’s head just in the cloud, it was a flurry with people doing the tourist thing. Coming off Scafell there is a quicker descent down the Scree run (loose stones) to join the corridor route but I wasn’t sure of the path so ended up going back the way I came before turning down at the col. On the way down I passed Tony coming up who didn’t seem too happy with his legs and the injury he’d had.

The run down to Sty Head along the corridor route was good, with no mistakes but by now Sty Head didn’t have many supporters left to cheer people on. Us backmarkers need support too you know!

In front of me now is the long climb up Great Gable and I needed to take on food. I brought along a couple of sandwiches and decided I needed to eat those but it was hard work chewing them and getting them down. Pushing on I couldn’t quite see the top as the mist was just covering the top but eventually the marshalls appeared and I started the run down towards Green Gable. Chris had told me to try the wider line coming out to the right instead of the tourist path but somehow I think I still ended up on the tourist path but did manage to miss out some of the scrambles that path presents.

I wasn’t feeling strong by this point but all I wanted to do was make the cut-off. Looking at my watch I felt that my time was improved on previous attempts and so I pushed on. A couple of guys that were running in front of me seemed a little hesitant on the route here and chose to wait for me and let me navigate them over Brandreth toward Base Brown and Honister but as we got closer they ran ahead and ended up taking the wrong line (i think it is) which brings them down right behind the slate mine but isn’t as runnable.

Eventually descending down to Honister I could see the final climb up to Dale head. With another look at my watch I was confident that I would make the cut-off this time. Running through the car-park I could see that I still had 8 minutes left until the checkpoint closed. As I no longer needed the bus fair, I made a quick detour into the cafe and bought used my bus fair to buy some Lucozade before starting the final climb.

Zapped of energy I climbed Dale Head. It’s not a bad climb on it’s own but at the end of Borrowdale it’s a slog. Slow progress was made and on looking back there were only 2-3 people behind me, but that didn’t matter. I just needed to get to the finish.

Eventually the marshalls appeared and the final climb was done. The tired legs now had to descend all the way to Rosthwaite and they didn’t really want to. Descending the 1st half to the quarry was slow And allowed one runner to leave mee behind