Monday, 22 March 2010

LDWA – Two Crosses

Sunday saw the running of the postponed Two Crosses event from January. The event was cancelled because of the heavy snow in January and rescheduled for the 21st March.

I was a little nervous of the distance as my mileage hasn’t been up to much recently but when I entered I had thankfully only entered the 18 mile route rather than the 25 mile route, unlike the first LDWA event I did last year, the Blackwater Marathon, were I just jumped head first in for a 28 mile event.

Up early to make it to Tottington for the 8am start I faffed about getting my rucksack filled with water and packing a few gels, I always get everything ready at the last minute, it’s just my way. I headed out and made it over to the start for about 0730. The LDWA events are great and quite relaxed with Tea, coffee and toast being made for everyone at the start. Milling around I said Hi to a few familiar faces and got ready to start in my natural position at the back of the group. One of the marshall suggested me and the group I was with should head forward with the other runners but at least by starting at the back I would get to pass some people after the start even if they were the walkers.

We headed out of the gate and the group I was with picked off the walkers one by one and by the end of the first street I think we’d just about cleared most of them. I didn’t want to set off too fast as I didn’t want to blow up but I couldn’t help but keep a steady pace that did see me pulling away from the group I started with although Mark, from the group, did start heading off with me but then dropped back to stay with his partner. Despite the forecast of a nice clear day the morning was quite misty and it had still not started to clear and even though you don’t really need your route instructions for the first part of the route I do like reading them so that I know where I am, however I did find them a little confusing in places and a couple of times I saw people being called back who had taken wrong turns.

By the time I arrived at checkpoint one I had managed to catch up a group of three girls and just trotted along at their steady pace past Turton Tower. The next section was about 2km of undulating path and with the mist still in there weren’t really any features I could focus on to try and work out where I was, however after a while came the point where the 18 and 25 mile routes split and I headed right, along the footpath towards the reservoir and the camping barn checkpoint. It didn’t stop me going slightly wrong using the POOR route description but as I descended down the wrong path to the reservoir I saw some runners ahead of me so knew where I needed to get to.

Just after the reservoir was the checkpoint, which despite being only our 2nd checkpoint it would be the 4th checkpoint for those on the 25 mile route and on entering the tent was like an Alladins cave of food. Tea, Coffee, Jelly, cakes, biscuits and a selection of sandwiches were available for people. I could have stayed there all day! Whilst having my Tea and a butty the group I had left arrived and Mark asked if would be ok to run with me as he wanted to run at a slightly quicker pace. I had no problem with that but I wasn’t sure if my pace would drop off later on the route anyway. We were all requested to sing Happy Birthday to one of the marshalls before heading off, so after a rendition of “Happy Birthday to you” which fell silent at the “Happy Birthday dear………” part as nobody knew the marshalls name, Mark and I headed off for the next checkpoint.

The next checkpoint wasn’t too far away and the conversation helped to pass the time. Only stopping briefly we headed straight on towards Bull Hill. Gradually climbing through farmers fields we managed to follow the route description but I constantly felt unsure about being on the right route. We reached boggy ground as we got closer to Bull Hill but at this point the mist was still in and I hadn’t any idea where Bull Hill actually was. Catching up to a lady in front of us who had done the route before we followed her before she told us she wasn’t exactly sure if she was going the right way. But then, all of a sudden, after wading through the wet, boggy ground the mist lifted and Bull Hill was right there in front of us. Looking back too was clear and we could see runners behind us. The world looks far different when you can see other landmarks.

Picking up the pace a little we followed the path that should lead us to the next checkpoint which has to be the other best checkpoint on the route as they were dishing up Tots of whiskey. It would have been rude not to take one and the marshall have to carry the bottles back down with liquid in them! Heading off now the route descriptions again became problematic partly because they were telling me to head of on bearings and I hadn’t brought a compass with me but thankfully we were heading for the Pilgrims Cross and having done the Pilgrims Cross race last year I recognised the area. Passing Pilgrims cross we followed a lone runner towards Peel Hill and kept a steady pace going however I could feel my legs starting to get tired now so I pulled out a Gel and had some of the cereal bar I had brought along with me.

We caught up with the lone runner just as we approached Peel Hill but then on the descent down from Peel Hill He kept catching us up as I stopped to try and make sense of the route description. In the end we just stuck with this guy as he had done the route a number of times and wasn’t reading any instructions. Just before we reached the last checkpoint I managed to slip on a stile which by now was already wet and coupled with the excellent grip of the wet shoes I was wearing, I just slipped right off the stile as I was half way over it. As a result the top of my leg scrapped across the top of the fence. It wasn’t cut but just stung a little however I knew that was gonna make a nice bruise in the morning.

After the final Checkpoint only 2 miles on was the finish but it still seemed to be quite far away and the descriptions still were hard to follow. Turning off the road and onto the final path (the disused railway line), My legs had started to stiffen and my pace slowed more but 3 hours and 31 minutes after leaving I arrived back at the youth centre ready for a nice bowl of soup, some rice pudding and more importantly a couple of cups of tea.

I think I’ll plan a few more of these in to try and get some miles under the belt but with only just over 2 months before Joanne is due she won’t let me venture too far away so trips to the Lakes will be out until late June or early July.


Orienteering @ Wycollar Country Park

Pendle Forest Orienteers hosted an event at Wycollar country park on the far side of Colne on Saturday so we all headed out so Josh and I could take part. Josh initially wanted to do a Yellow course and I sort of talked him into doing the harder Orange course which on reflection was a bad idea. Joanne and Oliver headed of to the café whilst Josh and I headed off in the pouring rain to the start.

With it being called a country park I guessed it would be similar to Haigh Hall  or Lever park but in actual fact it was really just a run over the farmers fields. I was supposed to be shadowing Josh but I quickly needed to give him advice as he just looks and heads off without double checking and then just keeps going. He doesn’t stop to check that he is passing expected points on the map. As a result he ran right passed the first point and when I called him to check where he was he adamantly wanted to carry on. After MAKING him check his map he realised that he had gone too far and he worked his way back, still managing to overshoot the point again. After the first point he seemed to get his bearings and we managed the next 3 points without a problem.

As we headed up the hillside the rain came down a little harder and Josh was starting to get cold. He’d forgot his gloves and his hands were getting cold plus he’d put long shorts on and the long grass was prickling his legs. As a result of this he was starting to loose concentration a little and I had to start doing some of the map reading, trying to get him to look at the map with me at each control.

As we headed back down the hillside the wind eased and he picked up a little, with the final few controls being found quite easily. I couldn’t help but think on this course he probably SHOULD have gone for the Yellow option but it can be hard to judge without knowing the area. At the finish Joanne had a cup of Tea and a Bacon butty ready for us. I’m sure they both tasted nice but only Josh can answer that one as I didn’t see any of it!

After the event we all headed over to Oswaldtwistle Mills for something to eat and let the boys get some sweets from the sweet factory. Unfortunately they weren’t making sweets on the day so they couldn’t watch sweets being made :-(

Next week is SELOC orienteering at Darcy Lever in Bolton in the morning and SROC at Yarrow valley, Chorley from lunchtime so we might try to fit both in, however this time I’ll let him build his confidence a little and do the Yellow, possibly even by himself (Well with me about 100m behind anyway).


Monday, 15 March 2010

Street-O – The Results!

And so with the nights staying lighter the night Street-O comes to an end. What a good little series that was! I managed to do all 10 of the events and tried to push myself hard during each. It’s a challenge not only to read the map whilst running but to be able to gauge your timing and get back as close to the time limit as possible so as to make best use of the available time. In some instances though the penalties are not as severe like at Lytham where the penalty was 1 point for every 3 sec late. This means only 20 points per minute are lost so it could be worth being late back if you can claw in those extra few points.

Anyway I have been happy with my positions at each event considering I am not the fittest person around and it’s my first season, managing a respectable place in the league tables in the Gross Scoring and the Age-Adjusted category. (Final league results are still to be add at the time of writing)

I was surprised to find out though that going into the last event I was actually the best-newcomer BUT (godamit, always a but) I was pipped to the prize by Pete Kidd (SELOC) on the night. That has spurred me on to try harder now!

With the FRA calendar getting busier now I’m going to struggle to get in a good mix of Orienteering events with Fell races along with letting Josh do some of the Orienteering events, plus with the baby due in June that is going to rule out any trips afar for a 4 week period around then.

Next event is the LDWA Two Crosses on Sunday. 18 miles across the moors around Bury, Bolton, Belmont and Rossendale. As it’s a walkers event I should be ok once I run out of steam.


Monday, 8 March 2010


I decided a couple of days before the close of Pre-entries that I would enter the 1/2 tour of Pendle. I missed out on the full tour at the end of last year because I didn’t think I was fit enough to do it, although I suspect I actually was. I sent off my entry form on the 28th February with pre-entries closing on the 1st March, but with the Royal Mail being as spectacular as they are these days I knew it wouldn’t get there until the 2nd at the earliest. Following this I then read on the FRA forum that the race was now full so I wasn’t sure if I was actually in or not.

You know, I don’t mind all of this pre-entry malarky because of restrictions that are imposed on crossing the land etc but if a race is going to be defined as Pre-entry then is should be a requirement that the organiser makes available an entry list online prior to raceday, even if it is only the day before, it’s not hard in todays interconnected world to get this information published. Barley isn’t a fair trek for me but it’s still 40 miles each way and it’s a long way to travel to find out your not entered into a race due to limits. (Sorry, rant over)

Anyway, after collecting young Fowl-up I arrived at Barley and headed in to see if I had a number. On walking into the hall I was surprised to see that there was a sign up for “Entries on the day” but thankfully I DID have a number to collect. I picked up a map which thankfully I didn’t need as it was a poor photocopy.

Back at the car, I looked up to the top of Pendle hill and seeing spots of snow I began my dilemma about layers and if I should have leggings on. Spying a few people with leggings on I convinced myself I would wear them but then on the last minute I decided not to. Although I did have a Helly, my vest AND a windy top to start with.

All the runners milled around on the start line and I settled myself into my natural starting position (At the back) before the crowd headed off. At the back we don’t normally hear the pre-race commentary or the word “GO!” and the conversations suddenly end when the crowd of runners suddenly head off in front off you.

I ran the Pendle Hill race last year and the race heads of down the same road but it doesn’t turn up the hill as soon. Eventually turning up the up off the road the climb gets hard quite quickly but by this point the leaders already have quite a gap on the people socialising at the back.

On the trek up to the peak of Pendle Hill I managed to swap places with a few people a few times but generally I made ground. Passing the peak and after the turn I found the running difficult to get a rhythm on the hard icy ground. It isn’t really what you would call a downhill either it’s just a gradual descent for about 3 miles and for over 1/2 of that I could constantly hear someone breathing down my neck,  I kept pushing on but eventually I lost a couple of places to two runners but with passing a couple on the way down I hadn’t really lost any places. During the descent though I looked over to my left and could see the front runners in the distance heading up the 2nd climb. I don’t know how they do it!

After the 2nd Checkpoint and reaching the end of the descent I took the opportunity to take a gel and take on some water before the start of the next climb. I could see it from this point so I knew I was going to need some extra energy soon. And I think I made the right choice as on the next climb I managed to pick off about 4 places but that was tough little climb which by 1/2 way up I was actually starting to enjoy it although I was a little uncertain about the awe of “Geronimo!” to come. At the top of the climb I sort of expected the descent to come quite quickly but it didn’t and there was a little plateau before eventually the ground ever so slightly started to descend, the path split (and the mountain rescue guy pointed his head down the right (left) path and I reached the top of Geronimo!.

Well I had been watching this video all week and I knew it was going to be a good run down which I think I handled quite well considering, although I suspect if I get the opportunity to try it again a few more times I’ll get better at it.

As you come over the crest of the hill and look down it looks very high and nerves kicked in a little. The ground was soft enough for my shoes to grip and I was cautious enough not to make any silly route choices but I can imagine it is a VERY different experience in the rain. I thoroughly enjoyed this bit though and took a good part of the lower 1/4 section on my bum, well it would have been rude not to really!

Crossing the stream and through the gate is a small final climb before a long run in over the fields and the final descent into the finish.

After picking up one more place coming to the top of Geronimo I couldn’t catch up to anyone else before the finish and the one person that was in front of me just seemed to be making up ground quicker than me.

Finishing in a time of 1hr 50min 13sec in 214th place from 244 runners I was very happy with my run and based on (my view of) my current fitness level I didn’t feel I could have given much more. It’s a start and is only my 2nd fell race of the year. I definitely felt that I had earned the MOUNTAIN of Chicken fried rice, Curry sauce and chips I polished off for tea.

Thanks to all the organisers and marshals, and to the mountain rescue guy for guiding me on the right path.



Thursday, 4 March 2010

Bleasdale Circle - 5miles 1250ft

Having not done much hill running recently I needed to enter a fell race. Bleasdale Circle would be the first one I have done this year as planned races were cancelled and more emphasis has been on doing some of the orienteering events. Last year I was unable to take part in Bleasdale Circle due to a knee injury but this year I have been ok.

I remembered on the way up to Bleasdale this year that last year Chris and I commented that it isn’t much further to get up to Parlick as it is Winter Hill so we should do more training up there however that never happened but hopefully this year I might make a few more trips up that way when the Lakes is not an option.

Bleasdale is situated just past Beacon Fell country park and seems to consist of a church, school and village hall at the end of a narrow track road. Registration was in the Village Hall, thankfully as there were not too many runners attending then parking wasn’t an issue. After doing my typical NO warming up I readied for the off. The starters horn didn’t work so with a quick shout we were off.

I recalled the first field being damp last year as I watched Chris head off and this year was no different, the land was sodden and I passed one runner at the end of the first field who was struggling to recover her shoe that seemed to have been sucked into a muddy hole. As we passed through the farm in to the field and the start of the climb the snow lay on the ground besides the wall and the more we climbed the more snow lay on the ground. The route follows a track for a while before turning directly uphill and hitting a much steeper ascent. I could tell here that the past few months of struggling to run and orienteering hadn't helped me any and I had a slow climb up to Paddy’s Pole. Once on the top I picked up my speed a little and passed a group of 3 runners who had passed me on the climb up. One further runner was a little too far ahead at this point and by the time I started my run up to Parlick she was still ahead.

The day had been nice and clear, some clouds to the south but otherwise the view was great as you run along the top looking down into Bleasdale. Reaching the top of Parlick I said thanks to the marshal in his windshelter and started on the descent. As I descended I caught up with the girl in front who was taking it easy on very wet, snowy ground where as I had opted for the brakes off approach. The ground got steeper and even my walshes struggled to grip and in the end I resorted to sliding on my ar5e down the hill. As I started to speed up during the slide I ended up having to direct myself towards a large clump of grass just so that I could grab something to slow me down. It was fun but very cold on my bum!

Finally you come off the hill and through a farm to start the final run to the finish. The last couple of fields again are quite wet here and it makes for a bit of harder running to the line. With 71 finishers (I think) I came home in 64 and about 1hr 5mins. I’m gonna need to sort myself out if I am going to be good enough for the Ben Nevis Race in September.

The 1/2 tour of Pendle this weekend coming. I just hope I’m going to be able to finish it! I’ll let you know.