Tuesday, 28 September 2010

3 Shires 2010 and sore legs!

I’d not done much running in the previous weeks but with Ben Nevis, then the Horwich Downhill Race, Orienteering on Formby Dunes I don’t think I’d let my legs recover from the Ben. Whilst they had felt fine after the race I maybe should have rested them a little more. Anyway, the Thursday before 3 Shires I went for a training run with Albert and Tony up on Winter Hill, nothing to hard and only out for 1 1/2 hours. I do have to push a little harder when in company as I don’t like people having to keep waiting for me and if I run alone I tend to go easier on myself. Anyway, after the run I felt fine. The Saturday morning of the race I woke at about 3AM to make Lucy’s bottle and couldn’t walk down the stairs. My calves were murdering me! This wasn’t a good thing on race day.
I really like this race. I don’t think it is just one thing in particular. It’s a race I took Chris to twice before doing it myself and I like the village of Little Langdale. I like the buzz of the race. I like the run through the ford at the start. I like the spectacular route the race takes and I love watching this video on youtube  and up to last year it was the longest fell race I had ever entered. It’s just great!!
Me at the startI’ll not got through the full details of the race route as I have already done that in blog entries from last year (1, 2). Parking this year was at Hodge Close quarry because the recent rains made the field too wet for cars which meant a 25 minute walk from the parking to the start. We met Ian and Pauline Charters and Mick Green on the way so there was plenty of chat as we went. My legs were still feeling sore and I was already having doubts about completing the race. The race was delayed starting so Albert bought a 2nd round of tea which meant I would need a couple of toilet breaks en-route.

The race headed of and with the narrow bridge over the ford out for repairs it meant everybody got wet at the start. After the ford my legs felt slow and heavy with a steady stream of runners passing me I felt slow too. By the start of the climb up Wetherlam I think I was about 20 from last and by about Click to see larger picture. Runners look like ants heading up the hill 100m into the climb I was considering retiring. I had to keep stopping to stretch my calves, of course losing the odd position when I did. By the time I got 1/2 way I decided I would just see what my time was at the top and if it was much off last years then I would retire.
Surprisingly I made the top in the same time as last year so carried on however this didn’t remove the thoughts of retiring. The run towards Prison band and up to Swirl How still felt slow and heavy but I did manage to make up a couple of positions on the climb. The 3 Shires stone would be my next opportunity to retire and on the descent round Great Carrs and down to the stone the retirement feeling was starting to fade. Hitting the checkpoint in 1hr 50min (the same time as last year) I continued onwards to the top of Blisco. Again I managed to pick up a couple of places on the climb. At one point a sugar rush kicked in so I started running but after about 25m slow running up hill the sugar rush ended and I carried on walking.
On the run from Blisco the runners trod was pretty well defined in most places. Eventually it starts to drop before cutting across to the fence crossing but I always seem to stay too high and veer off the path. I have a marker that I head for and it works for me. Not sure if it is much quicker but it definitely isn’t slower.
Passing Blea Tarn (without falling and getting cramps this year) the climb up to Lingmoor was as hard as I remember from last year. Slow steady steps, pushing on for the top which isn’t too far (on fresh legs) but eventually it comes. The marshalls guided me along the right route as last year I ended up sticking to the wall which isn’t the best way as there are a few more ups to tackle on those “fresh legs”.
Running in to the finish I noticed the line of runners queuing for the free tea and pasties after the race and the thought of a pasty made me smile. Imagine my disappointment on finding all the Meat & Potato ones had gone and only Cheese and Onion were left. So I sulked and just had two cups of tea and some left over flapjack.
I finished the race in 3hr 36min which was 3 minutes quicker than last year. Considering how I felt slow and had heavy legs all the way round I’d hope that on good legs my time would be quicker still. We’ll see how it goes next year.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Ben Nevis 2010 – From the back!

Having entered the Ben Nevis Race early this year I have been a little worried about if I would be fit enough to make it. I had plenty of time to try and do more training/lose more weight but it didn’t happen. Then in June along came my little princess Lucy. I’d not really done many long runs or been up to the lakes much to get some climb into them. So after cramming in Kentmere, Rydal Round and a failed Borrowdale I was still feeling a little less than confident about making the cut-offs at Ben Nevis. In fact I have to admit that at one point I thought about not starting race at all.

DSC02231DSC02233Heading up on Friday I collected Chris at Glasgow Airport and we took the wonderful drive up past Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe. Arriving in Fort William around 7PM and straight out for food to our favourite restaurant the “Grog and Gruel”. Food seemed to become my topic for the weekend after eating some Stornoway Black Pudding. This has to be the best black pudding I have EVER tasted.

After a morning wandering around Fort William and bumping into Ian & Pauline in the butchers (whilst looking for Stornoway Black pudding, not pies as was suggested!) we got ourselves ready for the race.

Before the race the runners are required to line up behind the pipers and they walk round to the start with the pipers playing. The race sets off around the field, out of the gate and off for a mile down the tarmac road to the inn before you start the climb up towards the peak.

Once off the tarmac I started up the path which had plenty of supporters cheering people on. It was at this point I passed Suzanne Budget cheering me on but finished by reminding me about the cut-offs. So now having managed to stop worrying about the cut-off and with them firmly planted back in the fore of my mind I pushed on as I felt I could.

Running/walking along the path the line of runners unexpectedly split off through the bracken. Given the choice I decided that less climb was good and stayed on the path. Of course the climb had to be done and not long after this the path turned back on itself and the rest of the runners I’d followed then headed off on another path up through the bracken to meet the runners that previously split. I felt that taking this route was quicker based on the runners i joined back with. Onward and upward the climb just goes on and on and everytime you look up you can only see more climb ahead of you.

With the first cut-off (1hr) still in my mind we split from the path as it again turned back to head up towards Red Burn. I did get held up a little here but not enough to make a difference, this didn’t stop me checking my watch constantly. Eventually I passed the marshall at 58 mins.

The path from here zigzags up the mountain but the runners turn straight off the path directly up the scree. The climb now is much more intense and the loose scree makes it even harder. After what seemed like about 15 mins of climbing I could hear some cheering from up ahead. On looking up I could see the leaders coming down. These guys make it look so easy! I carried on up the scree but by now was finding the climb very hard work and had to stop a few times to recover, losing a few places.

Eventually rejoining the path the climb eases off now and the route is mainly on the paths to the summit but it’s still a bit of a trek. The route was very busy with walkers and now all the runners descending made it even busier. It did look like a lot of the walkers were non too impressed by the constant stream of runners coming past. With the marshalls in sight I checked my clock to see how far off the cut-off (2hrs) I was, making it to them in 1hr 58mins.

Thanks to the marshalls at the top for the Jelly babies and then the descent. For some reason I found running over the rocky ground very difficult. I was passed at some speed by a few local Lochaber runners and also managed to pass a few runners myself, particularly once I got to the loose scree and was able to pick my speed up. I had to stop a couple of times as I’m not used to these big long descents and my legs were shattered. Reaching the grassy bank I managed to pass a couple of people by sliding on my bum. It wasn’t the comfiest part of the descent!

After crossing the stream the majority of the descent is now on the paths and i was again able to pick up speed a little. At one point another runner (of Wold Veteran Runners) fell in front of me and I stopped to help him up (Any excuse for a break, eh). Looking at my clock I wondered if I would be able to make it back in under three hours, thinking there wasn’t much descent left but I was wrong. Despite making it back to the tarmac in under three hours, the run in down the road is a killer and I eventually crossed the line in 3hr 07min 52sec, exhausted.

After a few cups of Tea and a slice of cake, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and then out for tea. Back in the Grog and Gruel I was looking forward to the black pudding again, and managed to talk the waitress into serving up a large portion instead of me having to order two starters. I tried to get black pudding added to the burger but she was having none of it. Id had the steak the night before and found too much fat on it, then I tried to warn Chris on the Saturday about ordering it and in the end he was wondering if he should have ordered the burger instead. After the meal it was off to the presentation and few beers with some of the runners.

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On Sunday morning Chris had considered going for another run and I was contemplating going for a swim, but in the end none of it happened. After a quick walk up the high street to see if the butchers was open (still searching for black pudding), it wasn’t, we checked out and took a leisurely drive back.

On the way back we took in some of the scenery and stopped of at a hotel where Chris and Lisa stayed a few years back.

DSC02256 Stitch

I had a great weekend and am already planning to enter for next year. Hopefully I’ll be aiming to beat the 3hr mark next year.

NB: Some of the above pictures were taken from here....http://trainnowlivelater.blogspot.com/


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Ben Nevis Race 2010

Only someone as clumsy and accident prone as me could smash my knee on a bedpost so hard that I had trouble walking, let alone running 6 days before I was due to run the Ben Nevis Race. I managed a bike ride 4 days before with some success but tried running 3 days before and didn't last more than 400m so I was a little apprehensive on my way up the day before the race.

Mark picked me up at Glasgow airport and we made our way to Fort William on a beautiful evening; me in a hurry to arrive, Mark getting tired after more than 5 hours in the driving seat. Even the stairs in the hotel had my knee complaining but to be honest I think it was more down to me worrying about it and noticing every niggle.

Saturday was a lovely morning and with a bit of time to kill we had a stroll around Fort William where Mark was spotted in the local butchers of all places by Ian and Pauline so he was soundly ribbed about being in search of pies already!

While warming up on the field I was happy with the fact that my knee would hold up, at least uphill! Mark was looking a bit nervous, he had been worrying about making the cutoffs since entering and there was nothing I could say to him that seemed to help. With the sun out it was reasonably warm and I was feeling great lining up for the start.

I'm not a fan of the first and last mile of this race but I think it's a necessary evil due to the size of the event. I took my time up the road, impressed as I always am by the quality of the runners at this race; the field was already stretched out far up the tarmac. I enjoyed the climb, I left it until as late as possible to cut off left through the Bracken following one other solitary runner off the path while everyone else had already headed up and this was quicker probably due to the fact that you don't get held up being bunched together on the narrow trod.

The clear skies were a blessing giving us views all around and it was inspiring heading up towards the Red Burn being able to see the huge line of runners slogging up to the summit. I had a gel and filled my bottle up at the stream before beginning the hands-on-knees trudge straight up through the scree, hot work where there was no breeze but thankfully most of the time the wind was there to cool you down. It wasn't much further along that the leaders came crashing down, just as I was passing the cameraman from the TV crew that were filming the race.

As the path became more rock than scree and the flow of runners steaming back down increased I ate a little coconut treat I had brought with me and drank the rest of my water, picking up the pace as the gradient eased. It was quite busy up there; in places it was hard to keep up a pace while trying to keep out of the way of runners heading back down and negotiate your way past all the walkers out enjoying their day.

Handing my tag in at the summit there was a rush of noise coming over the cliffs which at first I thought was a gust of wind but it was the rescue helicopter heading up over the north face, maybe they had another tv crew on board? I hope so since they would have got some fantastic shots from where they were.

I made a real effort now to pick off the people in front; my descending is much better than my climbing and I had a lot of fun crashing down over the rocks and through the scree, the only drawback being you have to concentrate really hard on the ground in front so you can't enjoy the view. I heard Mark shouting some encouragement to my left and I was glad he had obviously made it that far then a bit further down I had to slow down a bit since my knee had started complaining after a stumble where my leg got a little bent underneath me.

Reaching the grassy bank I was surprised that there was no sign of the taped off ground we had been warned about. It's steep here; my thighs had started complaining as I got near the stream at the bottom, relieved again to have only fell on my arse a couple of times.

Then it was just a case of trying to keep up a decent pace on spent legs, remembering where the little short cuts through the bracken were and trying to get to the finish quicker than in previous years. I thought I was in with a chance at first but I just couldn't run fast enough; all the downhill had taken its toll on my thighs so all I could manage was to pick off a couple more runners in front who were struggling even more than me before reaching the tarmac.

This was the usual torture; fighting off the urge to just walk back then on reaching the first little incline in the road some walkers tried to sound encouraging and said: "Well done this is the last little hill", "Oh no, I mean one more.... no two.... no hang on..." to which I had to laugh and just shout: "Stop it!".

Entering the sports field I realised I could just about beat 2h20m if I picked up the pace so a last spurt with a grimace for the cameraman there had me 2 seconds under by my watch at the finish. I couldn't have felt much happier!

It's always good to get a drink and a sit down in that field after the race, especially when the sun is shining. After a little rest I went to the car to drop my kit off and get the camera before waiting for Mark to finish by the entrance to the field. Just as I was getting a bit concerned for his time he appeared down the road, looking as knackered as everyone else does by that point. He was well chuffed to have finished in 3:07.

After loitering for a bit, chatting, eating cake and drinking tea we headed back to the hotel for a clean up and then headed out to the Grog n Gruel for the second time that weekend to eat. I was feeling ok, Mark seemed to be suffering a bit and we were both a right state travelling back Sunday. Even today 3 days after racing my legs still complain when I walk downstairs, whereas Mark reckons his aren't too bad; maybe I should try his black pudding diet he ate about 12 of the things over the course of 2 days. The Stornoway ones were nice though and I don't usually eat them.

I remember at my first Ben Race thinking it's a long way to travel and that I would only do it that one time, now I am counting down to getting my plaque: only 17 more to go! It makes for a great weekend in the Highlands and a bonus for me this year that we were blessed with good weather. Well done to all who ran, it was good to meet lots of friendly people and also finally meet some of the 'virtual' people I had previously only known online.