Monday, 24 May 2010

Pike O’Blisco Regional Orienteering Event

With clouds on the peaks that promised to lift the Langdale valley played host to the LOC Regional Pike O’Blisco orienteering event. An early registration for this event was required (depending on your start time) due to the start on most of the courses being some 1.5km from registration and about 350m up the path towards the Blisco summit. The trek to the start made for a good warm up though, not that a warm up would make much difference.

I’d been planning to enter this event but hadn’t managed to pre-enter. Uncertain of which course I should attempt I plumped for the Black, the basis being it was no harder than the Blues/Browns just longer (10km as the crow flies). I hadn’t run much this week so I needed a long run out anyway. On meeting a few people in the parking area I was beginning to wonder if Black was the right course for me, one comment being “are you mad!”. I enjoyed the slog to the start as it helped loosen me up as I’ve been suffering lately. Just after 11:00 I lined up at the start and headed off.

Once I looked at the map I had a good idea which direction I thought I should be heading in, just ahead off me was Paul Turner (SELOC Chairman). Then about 50m from the start Paul stepped in some soft bog and his foot came out without his shoe. After stopping to help him recover his shoe from the vacuum that was holding it in the bog I headed for point 1 and decided to take a bearing just to check I’d read the map correctly but for some reason the bearing just seemed VERY wrong. I carried on and found the 1st control then decided to take another bearing. Again it seemed wrong so I head off in the direction I thought I should go. Finding another control (Not the one I wanted) I got the compass out again and this time compared somebody else's version of NORTH to my version of NORTH. It turned out my compass has de/re-magnetised itself and now SOUTH = NORTH.

From here I seemed to drop on to the points quite well with my only problem being speed over the ground, which I knew would be my dis-advantage. I ran the three shires fell race last year so had been around this area a little and able to pick out a few points that I had run over before. After point 6 a long plod over toward Cold Pike again managing quite well to drop on or very close to the controls. By the time I left Cold Pike and started heading for point 18, I was tiring a little and there were quite a few people darting in all directions across the landscape. However point 18 took me a little longer to find after finding two other controls in the same area before the one I actually wanted.

The final few points were dotted around Blake Rigg and Bleaberry Knott and by this time I was tiring, thankful that the last three controls didn’t have much distance between them, then lastly the finish tent and a nice jog back down the hill to the parking area and a cup of tea. Back in the parking field, there was a tent selling cakes. It seemed a shame to pass by the opportunity to eat cake. I resisted the opportunity to clear out the whole stand just buying 3 small cakes. A thoroughly enjoyable event, now if only I can try and speed up a little I can do something about my position!

I finished 19th out of 20 on the Black course in 2hr 28 min which I suppose isn’t too bad, for a 10km


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Fred Whitton Challenge 2010

What a cracking day out the Fred Whitton Challenge is. I was determined to start as early as I could due to having to drive the 300ish miles home after the event so I set my alarm for 4:45am the night before, after popping round to see the Sammons and take over their kitchen for my pre-race meal. Mark said he would come and support me which was good of him, though he did have an ulterior motive which was to go for a trot round the Coniston Fell Race route while I was out. I picked him up just after 5am then we headed up there, the weather looking really promising it was quite clear with little wind.

We got there around 6:30 and the centre was already busy with people getting ready and setting off. I picked up my dibber and some goodies then set about faffing around my bike; first lesson learned of the day was not to buy stuff on the way to an event and use it for the first time in the event. I wanted a mini-pump that would fit in my saddle bag (it didn't fit) so I had to try and mount it on the bottle cage mounts, the allen key for which I had only gone and left at home! Anyway while I was faffing around trying to find a suitable tool Mark just went and borrowed a multitool from someone and we used that. One more toilet stop then I was ready, about an hour later than planned.

Don't forget to dib at the start then I was off down the lane. Hawkshead Hill is not marked as a pass on the route map but it still makes for a good warm-up, I fell in behind a few blokes who like me were taking it steady at the start chatting away amongst themselves commenting on how many fast lads where there and muttering things like: "It's a marathon, not a sprint" every time someone shot past us. Over the top a good sized group caught us so I went with them on the descent down through Ambleside to the start of the long climb up to Kirkstone. The views as we got higher were lovely, early on a sunny spring morning looking out over Windermere it couldn't get much better!

Through Troutbeck and down onto the main A-road up to the pass I was a little surprised to see marshals in the road, the first event I had done that you didn't have to give way at every junction. I noticed a headwind here too, blowing down from the pass so made an effort to catch up with a small group in front; the weather was looking a bit more gloomy further up which made me glad I had decided to put an extra layer on before heading off. I got chatting to a guy nearer the top who commented on the paramedic cars that were following us round he reckoned that they are usually kept busy each year on the descents. Kirkstone is more of a long drag than a short, sharp slap in the face that some of the later climbs are but nevertheless I was glad to reach the top and get some speed up. There were lots of people up here supporting the event which was really good to see as was the view. Not that I got much time to take it in. This descent is fast; I tried not to think about the 'what if?'s and concentrated on passing the slower cyclists while at the same time allowing room for the nutters who were flying past lying flat on their top tubes 'Le Tour' style. This as well as keeping an eye out for vehicles coming the other way and potholes in the road, we must have been touching 50mph at some of the steeper bits.

The gradient finally eased and I had a big smile on my face; it gave me a similar rush to a long, runnable descent in a fell race such as Great Whernside. It was here we caught up to a guy on a hand-cranked bike and I was impressed, his hands still frantically pedalling with the speed from the slope, he seemed to be loving it and I wished him luck as we passed.

I got some food down me then fell in behind a couple of riders for the flatter section past Ullswater, they were going a little slow for me but I would rather have waited for a faster group to catch us than try and catch one up. It wasn't long before I looked back to see quite an impressive sight, there seemed to be a group of around 30-40 riders spread out across the road as a peloton and they were gaining ground fast! There was no way I was going to be able to stick with this lot but it made for an enjoyable few miles before the climb up to Matterdale watching these guys work together as a group, steadily dropping people like me out of the back.

Climbing up to Matterdale End I was becoming mindful of trying to stick with some others for the drag down the A66 to Keswick, I needn't have worried though there were so many people out today if you lose one group another one will be along shortly! One guy was going slow here and a Saddleback support van pulled up alongside to offer him some help, I didn't know what the problem was but it was reassuring to know they were there to help out just in case.

Blencathra came into view here, left onto the A66 where there was some good supporters cheering us on then began for most people the only bad section of the route. This can be a busy road so it is just a case of sticking to the last metre or so of tarmac at the left in a long train of bikes until you reach Keswick. We passed the odd slower rider though and some faster lads came through, I noticed on the flatter sections I was struggling to keep up with those in front but it seemed more of a mechanical thing than me feeling tired; the guys in front just seemed to have less rolling resistance than me I found myself pedalling much more often than the guy whose wheel I was on. There was a group in a car here who must have been the family of one of the blokes in the group since they were stopping periodically in laybys and jumping out to take pictures and shout encouragement as we sped past, then back in the car to catch us up to do the same again!

I lost the group at the roundabout where we turned for Keswick due to a car (not every junction was marshaled unfortunately) so flew through the town trying to catch them up but this was unnecessary, again I was killing myself trying to stick with a group when I should have just slackened off a bit and waited for the next one to come along. The next group at this point though I had no chance sticking with since it was the wheelbase lot with Rob Jebb in tow; there were plenty hangers on however so it made for good progress down past Derwentwater and into Borrowdale. The road had a new surface in sections down here but there was still the odd pothole; I caught one while distracted struggling to keep up with a car behind trying to get past so I slowed down, drank the rest of my water and readied myself for the climb up Honister, I was going far too fast anyway. Rosthwaite was nice, I have fond memories of camping there (and some not so fond - have you ever camped at Stonethwaite?) and from doing the Borrowdale Race in August; the sun was out and I was feeling good with only a niggling worry of puncture from the pothole, my tyres were feeling a bit flat especially the rear.

Through Seatoller I almost stopped at the toilets there, I remember reading recommendations to do this since at the feed stop in Buttermere there is only limited facilities but in the end I didn't - a decision I regretted. Then began the climb up to Honister, this starts off really steep through the trees and I saw a couple of riders get off right there and start walking. I was in bottom gear and stayed there for most of the way up to the slate mine but I had managed to find a nice steady rhythm and was getting a bit warm now the sun was out. The traffic got worse further up but people were patient enough and I don't remember anyone getting in the way. Sweat was dripping off me as we climbed above the trees and again I was aware of the bumps through my back tyre much more than usual, there just didn't seem to be enough air in it. I was climbing at about the same rate as a Swedish bloke who breathlessly commented on how another 2 riders could just breeze past chatting away as they had just done, I could hardly reply. There was loads of support again here one woman was shouting out "Come on lads you're doing well" at which point a girl climbing just behind us shouted back: "and lasses!". It wasn't much longer until we rounded the corner and passed the slate mine then it was brakes on straight away, the road drops off steeply and quickly so you have to be really careful not to let your speed get away with you or else it becomes really hard to slow down due to the bumps and ruts in the poor road surface. Two riders had come a cropper further down; it was a bit of a blur but one bloke was sat with a foil blanket on next to a paramedic on the right-hand verge and someone else was off on the left. The road bends to the right there with a dry stone wall at the left, on top of which was a slightly mangled looking bike. From reading some other reports after the event this could have been the guy who built up too much speed, slid sideways into the wall breaking his collarbone and knocking himself out.

Once again I tried to block out the 'what if?' thoughts and focus on the road, luckily there was little traffic coming the other way and I was thankful for that my brakes were taking enough abuse. One bloke with no fear at all came flying down the outside shouting out: "ON YOU'RE RIGHT!".

It's a nice ride down towards Buttermere once the steep stuff is behind you but I had forgotten how far it was from Honister, the descent had cooled me down nicely but my gloves were now quite damp so as soon as I stopped at the Hostel I packed them away. It was very busy here, they were even running out of sandwiches. I was feeling a bit queasy which is always a sign for me of not eating and drinking enough so I got some food quick, settling for a banana, some jam sandwiches and flapjack then plenty juice. Once my water bottle was filled I debated leaving then and stopping for a pee in a bush somewhere but the climb to Newlands starts almost immediately so I went inside the Hostel to find the loo. Thankfully there was only about 4 people in the queue but what with only having 2 toilets it still took about 10 mins. While in the queue I overheard a guy on the payphone talking to some supporters: "Where are you Whinlatter?".... "Aye, I'm at Buttermere I couldn't get a signal"......."I will carry on to meet you but I'm quitting, I'm covered in bandages I dropped it down through Borrowdale". At which point everyone in the queue turned round to see the damage the guy had done to himself, poor bloke he looked in a bit of a mess.

I contemplated checking my tyres here, or getting them checked but just wanted to get off; it was busy and I had already spent far too long there. I dibbed and set off down the road then before you are even settled you turn right and head up Newlands Pass, a guy in front said he didn't remember it being so close to the food stop but I said it's one thing they mention in the route notes: not to eat too much due to the next climb being so close. This is a nice climb with some fantastic views, unfortunately I heard a "POP!Hiiisssssssssss" from just behind me where another poor bloke's front tyre went. Still, better here than about 5 miles back coming down from Honister.

Having never been up this way before I wasn't sure what to expect and the climb does kick up steeply towards the top but I was still feeling ok and even managed a smile for the photographer at the top. Another steep drop off here similar to the Honister one then it was a nice descent down through the quiet valley where the only drawback was the headwind. It seemed to take ages to reach Braithwaite where again there was lots of support before the climb up Whinlatter. I don't remember much about this climb apart from there being lots of trees and quite a few cars on the road, it certainly wasn't much trouble on my granny ring. I nearly went the wrong way at the top following the bloke in front who pulled off to the right where the mechanics were, again the support here was great.

Things after here got a lot quieter and I continued to enjoy myself, a nice steady descent through the lanes towards Loweswater where I spent long stretches on my own without seeing any other cyclists. At one point my mobile rang in my back pocket, it was Lisa asking how I was; due to having no signal for most of the route I hadn't managed to speak to her to let her know how things were going and it was a bit odd for both of us to be talking while riding the event. Heading down through Loweswater you could hear sirens echoing up the valley, I never saw the vehicle but whoever it was they were speeding up towards Honister.

This part of the route dragged for me, I was starting to feel tired and my mind was wandering; with the various slight ups and downs you couldn't stick in one gear and find a rhythm and I just wanted to get through Ennerdale Bridge and reach the feed stop. Fangs Brow was the next climb and not too long or taxing; there were a few groups of cyclists heading the other way here presumably on the coast to coast, most of them had huge panniers with them. I think the guy next to me on the climb must have hit a real bad patch since he stopped pedalling and dropped his head into his hands resting on his handlebars letting out a huge groan. My knees were starting to ache a little above the kneecaps which made me wonder whether my seat height had dropped a bit, either that or just another symptom of fatigue.

Once up Fangs Brow the view got even better, you could see out over the coast to the Isle of Man on the horizon. Western Lakes is my favourite part of Cumbria by far, it seems quieter than other parts and somehow more remote. The ride was good over from here down into Ennerdale Bridge, we must have had a slight tailwind since the speed came easy. On reaching another cattle grid at speed the guy in front hardly slowed and did a little 'bunny hop' to clear the grid which looked a great idea so I had a go; this might have worked if my tyres had had enough air in them but as it was I could virtually feel my rims hit the road so I wasn't going to try that little trick again.

We passed some nice downhill switchbacks on the way down to Ennerdale Bridge then picked up some good speed on the lanes before the village, definitely a tail wind. I was already thinking that we were almost at the food stop but then remembered the sign at Calderbridge saying 9 miles to Ennerdale and that is over Cold Fell. On the climb up there I started getting cramps in my left thigh on every 'pull' of the left pedal so that was another sign telling me to drink the rest of my water and eat something.

More often than not in the reports I have read people describe this climb as a real drag into the prevailing wind off the sea, thankfully today that wasn't the case as the wind if anything seemed to be helping. It didn't take too long to get over the top and gain some speed, it was a decent run over to the second feed; the view spoiled somewhat by the blot of Sellafield on the coast. A few tricky hairpin bends later I pulled into a busy, sunny Calderbridge at about 2pm.

First thing I wanted to do was get my tyres checked so I went over to one of the support mechanics who was stood next to two big track pumps and said something like: "Have you got a trackpump?". He gave me an odd look as I realised what I had just said so I just smiled and asked him whether he could check my tyres, sure enough they were about half what they should have been which explained the bounciness over the bumps and maybe even the decreased rolling resistance. I can't believe I rode so far without checking them.

Once again I wasn't hungry but that shouldn't stop you from shovelling the food in however I had grown sick of sugary and oaty things so was pleased to see plenty of tuna sandwiches, they tasted fantastic! Surprising how the quality of food seems to improve the further into these type of events you get it must be a biological thing, something to do with the body making sure it gets what is lacking. There were some nice fresh orange segments here as well as lots of cake and flapjack, I even tried the energy drink but it tasted foul. Off inside for another toilet stop where I could hear somebody dry heaving in one of the cubicles. More juice then I sent a quick text message while listening to the paramedics planning their logistics over Hardknott then it was time to get going. The atmosphere at that second stop was great and I felt like I could have stayed there a lot longer but I just wanted to get back.

The roads down that way are quite familiar to me now since we have spent some time round there the past few years, it's not far to Gosforth but that road can get a bit busy. My phone bleeped just on the section with the depressing view of Sellafield, it was Mark telling me that Rob Jebb had just finished. Through Gosforth then down towards Santon Bridge I was feeling refreshed and led a small group down through the lanes, pedalling hard, burning all those calories I had just eaten so that I reach empty just in time for Hardknott! Up over Irton Pike we passed a few slower people, though I'm sure they were just sensibly pacing themselves.

I fell in with a group from a club I can't remember now but they were in yellow and blue, through the lanes of Eskdale. I'm sure it was in my mind but I detected some tension, everyone seemed to have gone quiet and there were a lot more riders taking their time. We had done nearly 100 miles though by that point.

Me, foremost in my mind was my bladder I must have drank a little too much at that last feedstop so I decided to stop after that cattle grid at the bottom of the climb and nip behind the wall. The amount of people I saw who just crossed the grid and got off to walk was surprising. I clipped back in and set off to see how far I would get and it was hard work. I got up that first ramp and past the zig-zags leading up past the fort sweat already dripping from me but I was thankful for the slight ease in gradient; the route notes say to use this to get your breath back and I did. The support up here was again really encouraging even the riders walking would say something good as you passed.

The trouble with Hardknott is not just how physically tough it is with 100 miles and plenty hills already in the legs, I think mentally the fact that you can see virtually all the climb from the bottom up breaks you. I was supposed to be recovering and steeling myself for the last push to the top but all I could do was watch the riders in front reach the next set of hairpins and thinking there was no way I was going to be able to get up those the way I was feeling. It was my lower back more than anything else my hips were swaying all over the place! I passed another guy walking just before hitting the steep bit and as he said:"Well done" I said I wouldn't be that far behind him in getting off and walking, I had obviously made my mind up and on reaching the last viciously steep hairpin I could take the cramps in my back no more so just stopped, unclipped and got off.

Thinking back I could have just rested and stretched my back but it all boils down to what your goals are; I just wanted to get back, sure it would have been nice to be able to say I rode the whole route but that will have to wait for another year, at that point my main aim was to finish as soon as I could and walking was quicker than battling the gradient. So I did what felt like a walk of shame to the top, even some of the supporters lining the route would be shouting encouragement to those still pedalling while remaining distinctly quiet as I passed.

It wasn't long before I could clip back in and ride past the Mountain Rescue guys at the top and get ready for the descent. This was very steep and really dangerous, the hairpins are really tight and the road surface is rutted and broken which meant you have to be very careful while braking, which you pretty much do all the way down. My brakes were getting louder towards the bottom which I assume was due to them getting hot but they still worked well, more than can be said for my arms! I passed a bloke who seemed to be fixing a puncture, what a place to end up with a flat but he looked to be in good shape so that was a blessing at least.

The wind seemed to be blowing down from Wrynose pass which made progress across the valley slow, or I was just too knackered to be able to pedal hard enough. I got as far as the last steep kick up to the top and had to get off again, Hardknott had broken me I was so slow on the steep bits it was quicker to walk. Over the top and past some familiar running territory at the 3 Shires Stone for another scary descent into Little Langdale, this one is not quite as bad as the last descent down from Hardknot but there are still some dodgy hairpins and I was less lucky with traffic here. Again the pressure on my arms was hurting but it wasn't too long before we were heading down through the lanes past the Three Shires Inn, more familiar running terriotory; it made a change passing the pub completely knackered on a bike as opposed to on foot at the end of the Three Shires Race.

Down past the T-junction and then up onto the main Coniston road it was good to see marshalls and policemen in the road keeping an eye out for you, one of them telling me it was only just over 2 miles to the finish now. There were a few cars queued up waiting especially on the way out of Coniston, all the cyclists who had obviously finished well before me showered, changed, packed up and heading for home! This was a long 2 miles; there is a slight incline for the first stretch but the rest makes for a nice end to the route. I was feeling quite emotional too, thinking back over the months since getting the entry back in winter and the long rides I had done since then. It felt good arriving back in Coniston and heading to the finish, loads of people on the lane and the was Mark wondering where I had got to.

We couldn't quite remember exactly what time I had set off and it seemed I hadn't beaten 9 hours but when I handed my dibber in a got my printout my time was 8h48min so I was reasonably chuffed with that. A bit disappointed to have walked on the last two passes and if I hadn't faffed about at the feed stops I probably could've knocked over half an hour off that but considering I hadn't ridden 100 miles up until the last weekend of April this year I was very happy.

It was good to have a lie down on the sports field and get some food down me, Mark had been for a trot round the Coniston Fell Race route so at least he had something to keep him occupied for a few hours anyway and he even offered to drive back which was good of him. I was completely spent but over the moon, it was a prefect way to spend a day in the saddle and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys long days out riding. Thanks must go to everyone involved with putting the event on the whole day went without a hitch the organisation being flawless. I even wanted to buy a t-shirt but the only size they had left by the time I finished was XL.

Thanks to Mark for the support too :) Oh and don't forget the missus for giving me all the passes to let me train!

Friday, 7 May 2010

As ready as I'll ever be.

I can hardly believe we're already in May, or that my last update here was from the middle of February! The weekend after my last update I had a terrible time on the bike, being so stubborn I went out on the bike despite the sub-zero temperatures first thing on the Saturday and fell off on black ice in the middle of Billinge. My poor bike hit the deck as hard as I did; luckily it was ride able and again, being so stubborn I carried on. I got as far as Up-Holland towards Ashurst Beacon then fell off again, this time on my right side.

Even I got the message then and trundled off back to my Mum's with my tail between my legs to lick my wounds. I felt such an idiot, when I got back ice had formed on my helmet and across my handlebars just to remind me how cold it was. My legs were a bit of a mess too I had a good case of road rash on both hips plus my knees were gashed, as I warmed up they really started to sting.

Anyway once the sun had come out and most of the ice cleared I went back out and did the rest of the route bandaged up, finishing on the mast road up Winter Hill which became impassable towards the top due to the snow. I always seem to learn my lessons the hard way and I won't be taking my bike out in that sort of frost again.

It took about three days for the sores to stop weeping and about a week for them to stop hurting! My poor cross bike needed some patching up too. I did the Kentish Killer at the end of Feb which was a sportive on the roads across some of the North Downs in Kent and it was typical for me that the day before there was gale force winds and torrential rain forecast. The 100Km route had unfortunately been shortened to 70Km when I registered but by the end I was glad, the only time I remember being so wet with clothes on was at the end of the Ben Nevis race last year! I was quite tired too even though I had only been out for about 3 1/2 hours. My first ever sportive and I really enjoyed it, gaining some good experience on the roads with other riders and also showing me what a difference a good road bike makes; with my cross bike and 'road style' tyres I struggled just to keep up with the groups on full road bikes, pedalling like buggery to stick behind other riders who appeared to be freewheeling!

I spent March running a couple of times a week and cycling much more, my Sunday rides getting steadily further; up to 5 hours and by the end of the month I was really fed up of getting numb feet from the cold even though I had 3 pairs of socks on.

Over Easter as Mark mentioned we spent the week back up north, I brought the bike with me hoping to do some of the Fred Whitton route while we were staying in Wasdale. I wanted to get back into the running though as well so I went out early Good Friday morning to test out the knee (and the fitness!) over Winter Hill way. I always find it odd going up there when the burger vans are setting up smelling all that grease cooking first thing. My knee felt ok though and all the cycling seemed to have helped with the uphill running.

Rivington Pike Race

Easter Saturday I couldn't make my mind up whether to do Pendle or The Pike race. I have done Rivington Pike a few times but never done Pendle, in the end with some pressure from Mark I decided to do Rivi Pike. I started towards the back and decided to pace myself, it would have been good to match last year's time but considering that last year I had been doing about 30 miles a week leading up to the race and this year only running twice a week I can't complain. In fact I reckon I reached the top quicker but lost it on the way down, I have lost lots of leg speed. Main thing was the knee felt ok.

Junk food at the Sammon's that night then we arranged to meet at my Mum's for nine the next morning. My plan was to get out for seven and do a couple of hours on the bike, then head up to Horwich with Mark to meet up with Albert & Tony for a couple of hours running in the hills. I had a good morning but I probably should have eaten a bit more before heading out; I was getting tired on the way back through Horwich to Tony's house. The great thing about running in a group with people like Tony & Albert is you get to see routes and paths you didn't know existed; including some you might not usually take, like running on the concrete bricks alongside Belmont Reservoir (don't ask!).

We headed up to Wasdale Easter Monday and I went for a ride Tuesday morning from the farm, it was so wet and windy riding out of the valley and felt a bit odd; I'm so used to running on the fells when we come up here I felt I was missing out on something. Over Irton Pike and up through Eskdale I saw a couple of other cyclists going the other way then as I got to the bottom of Hardknott pass just before the cattle grid another cyclist caught me up and said: "Here we go". I really wasn't planning on going all the way up but I couldn't resist, I mumbled a reply to him along the lines of: "I dunno I might just chicken out here" but carried on anyway. I quickly realised that the gearing on my bike is not set up for these kind of hills, I'm pretty sure the lowest gear is a 38 tooth on the front with 26 at the back and I had hardly reached the first set of bends leading up past the fort before I was breathing out of my arse. The other guy was already past the fort and I had to stop, my cadence was just too low to get anywhere. After a few more attempts I reached the less steep section where I could see the other guy on the skyline, taking a last look back at me struggling before he disappeared down the other side. I gave up trying to cycle all the way up when I nearly fell off just trying to get going on the final steep bit, the wind was blowing down from the summit of the pass and it was quicker to walk with the bike. At the top I stopped for a bite to eat before heading back the way I came, this turned out to be even tougher with my dodgy brakes. The front ones judder and really need replacing, they just weren't safe on those gradients so I ended up walking down most of the way! It was a nice ride back with the wind behind me but the rain came back and I was glad when I finally got back to the farm.

Loughrigg Fell Race

Mark posing for the TV cameras:

Wednesday was the best day of the week, the weather was lovely as was the company. We drove over to Bowness to meet up with the Sammons, spent the afternoon there then headed up to Ambleside for about 5pm. I wanted to have a look round the Lakes Runner shop and also find out where the race was run from but they had already shut; luckily I spotted Ben just across the road who helps organise the race and said hello, he gave me all the details. There was quite a turnout in the park for an evening race and I spotted a TV camera filming us all warming up. My knee was still on my mind, it wasn't painful just tight around the outside of my left knee probably due to me neglecting the stretching again. The start caught me out, it's usually a sign of a bottleneck somewhere near when most of the field tear off like greyhounds and sure enough at the edge of the park there was a narrow bridge over a stream where we had to slow to a walk. Just after this we started to climb up a tarmac track where I thought it wouldn't be much fun on the way back down then the track became the usual hard-packed stone of well trodden lakes paths. I felt quite good here and started passing a few in front, the field was already quite spread out up the fell. The views further up were great; the sun was setting over Langdale and the sky was clear, we really couldn't have asked for more perfect conditions.

The leaders started passing us here on their way back down, always a nice sight but sometimes also a reminder of how far down the field you are though it wasn't that long before I started the descent too, shouting some encouragement to Mark who wasn't far behind. I really enjoyed the descent despite feeling like I should be much quicker, my legs just couldn't keep up, in fact I really enjoyed the whole evening; everything seemed perfect apart from my performance of course but I'm not particularly competitive! This is only the second evening fell race I have done, the other being Blisco Dash and I would thoroughly recommend both of them being very similar in laid-back, friendly atmosphere and typical fell terrain (well apart from the extra 1000ft or so up Blisco). I hardly had chance to get a drink and some flapjack before Mark finished, he seemed to enjoy himself too.

The family was getting cold now so we watched the presentation then left, turns out the TV camera was from and the race was going to be shown on Sky. The only disappointment to the whole day was not being able to get a table at the place we planned on eating at due to it being full so we got pizza on the way back to Wasdale instead.

Friday morning we were leaving the farm so I got up early with the intention of doing a long run round Wasdale but I woke up with a bit of a headache, probably a combination of sleeping in so many different beds the past week but also a stiff neck from cycling so in the end I just climbed Scafell instead. The clouds had come in after sunrise but as I got higher there was the telltale brightening of the mist that usually signifies an inversion and sure enough just before the final rocky section near the top the sky cleared and the view was wonderful. There was still quite a bit of snow on the peak so I had to watch my step then at the summit it was so peaceful and quiet, it was lovely. Shame I didn't take my camera but I took a few pictures on my phone then sat and ate some breakfast, it was a perfect end to a lovely week.

Back at the Sammon's that night we were discussing what we should do the day after. We fancied Yorkshire somewhere and I needed to get a long ride in so a plan was hatched for me to leave early in the morning and make my way up to Hawes. Mark was doing an orienteering event in east Lancs somewhere so the wives were taking the kids in our car then me and Mark would make our way up there mid-afternoon. It turned out to be a cracking ride on a lovely, sunny day. Took me ages though, I spent a while printing out the route at Mark's but got lost near Blackburn twice. I wanted to keep to the back roads and found some great, quiet roads over Bowland where I met loads of other cyclists on the way. I stopped in Slaidburn for lunch outside the post office in the sun and I counted almost as many cyclists as motorbikes, just after Slaidburn was a great road over to Ingleton where I hardly saw any traffic at all just lots of other cyclists. I stopped again at Ribblehead Viaduct for some more food from the old lady in her van there and Mark turned up. He offered me a lift for the last stretch but I wanted to ride it even though I was feeling a bit wrecked, I struggled but finally made it to Hawes and met up with everyone on the park.

It was the furthest I had ever rode and really enjoyed myself though it took much longer than I thought it would. Since then I decided to buy a new bike, one more suitable for sportives than my cross bike; I didn't want to spend money sorting my brakes, tyres, gearing etc. so got a Specialized Sectuer and to break it in did the 'Ups and Downs' sportive in Surrey a couple of weeks ago: 101 miles and about 8500ft of hills apparently but I was really surprised at the ascent figures. This was another really enjoyable event apart from the rain at the start but I was really knackered at the end, I think my seat was a little too low too since both my knees were sore at the top.

So that was pretty much my preparation for Fred Whitton tomorrow, I'm feeling a little apprehensive but more due to the warnings about potholes and fast descents than the distance. I plan on turning up as early as I can to give me plenty of time to get round, not really got a time in mind but anything between 8 and 9 hours would suit me. Once that's done I want to get back into the running and have a go at Duddon but that completely depends on the knee, oh and I'm entered into the Richmond 5 Dales Sportive at the end of this month.