Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Looking forward...
I haven't really got any major events planned this year, I have been looking for something to do around July but haven't found anything suitable yet so this has meant my training hasn't followed any sort of plan either.

After the Peeler's Hike in Feb I concentrated on getting some miles in on the bike since I had entered Wiggle's No Excuses Sportive towards the end of last year. The main reason being it wasn't too far from where I live and it was free!

I had a good day out, the weather was reasonably kind apart from the headwind around the 60 mile mark which was very frustrating especially since I was having a bad patch at that point. I was impressed with the organisation of this event and really pleased to be out with lots of other cyclists on what turned out to be very quiet lanes around Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. I even managed (very briefly) to make it on the official video.

The following Sunday was another LDWA event that I entered at the last minute: The Daffodil Dawdle in Suffolk. I was surprised how dry the countryside is at the moment as well as relieved since some of the fields we ran through had recently been ploughed and if wet the mud would have been a nightmare!

This was exactly the type of event I like to do; just turn up and get your route description then when you're ready off you go. I spent the first few miles alone and at a couple of points on the route thought I was hallucinating; first I saw what I thought was a pack of hounds in the distance before I realised they were particularly silent for dogs - it was a herd of deer; then later on when we were heading through the village of Burrough Green where you run past a red telephone box which looked to be stuffed full of books - the village had turned it into a library where you can book swap! I saw tyregirl on the way round as well, last time I saw her was on the Steppingley Step last October.

Again another well organised and laid-back event, I feel guilty for hoping that these events don't get too popular; it's great to be able to go running in such quiet surroundings with the support provided at checkpoints all for much less than it costs in fuel to get there and back. Here's a map of the route that I found.

Next up for me is the Essex Walker Challenge, which follows a similar route to the Blackwater Marathon I did with Mark in 2009. Then it's up north for Easter break and Grasmere Fells, Tarns and Gingerbread I'm looking forward to getting out in the hills again!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Only March and the moorland fires have started..

Running on the Lostock AC Wednesday night the fire engines were present on Winter Hill. The glow from the flames looked to be coming from an area between the Pike and the mast but by the time we got up to Two Ladds the fire must have been out as the fire engine was just leaving and no fire could be seen.

Friday turned out to be another day for flames as the moorland over on the Belmont side of Winter Hill managed to catch on fire. Apparently 50 fire fighters from the surrounding areas were tackling the flames. Not sure how the fire started but the grass is VERY dry at the minute (on top layer at least) so it wouldn’t take much to take hold.

Today (Sunday) on a run out with Albert we headed up the back of Winter Hill. The flames seem to only have skimmed the surface but they have covered a large area as you can see below. As we headed from the Mast to the Pike there was also a small area towards the Boggy section in the middle that must have been the focus of Wednesday nights activities.

Looking out towards Great Hill after Fire on Winter HillLooking out towards Great Hill after Fire on Winter Hill

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

LDWA - Two Crosses (2011)

Trust the ITV To put James Bond (Casino Royal) on late on a Saturday night!!!

So with only 5 hours sleep I woke at 5.30 to get myself ready for the 8AM start from Tottington High school. The forcast was for possible showers over Manchester so I wasn't really sure if it should be a shorts or leggins day so as usual I just threw a whole heap of clothes in a bucket and decided when I got there.

This event always seems to be a busy one, based on how busy the hall was last year and this. With my usual level of preparation I forgot my route description and entry number but fortunately there were some spare descriptions at registration. Registration was a busy place and the queue for the dunny was even busier. By the time I had gone back to the car to get my footwear on I managed to miss the start. Although I wasn't the last to leave, as I was leaving Michelle (Alberts wife) and Janet were running back to the car for something.

Having decided on light weight leggins I was glad of my decision. Only minutes after the 8AM start a very fine, light misty rain seemed to start which pretty much continued on/off for most of the morning. Not long after the start I passed

Ray (Lostock) was also late leaving so I tried running with him for a while but my pace is a lot slower so it wasn't
long before I got caught at a busy stile and the gap widened as we passed through Affetside and the first of the 2 crosses on the route. My pace wasn't generally fast (by my standards) across the whole route. Heavy legs at the start gradually loosened after the first checkpoint (Turton Tower). I seem to recall the stretch between Turton Tower and checkpoint 2 feeling endless but this time it seemed to pass quite quick. I recall last year that the whole route seemed to drag on and on however this year it didn't. I think because you know the route it makes it feel shorter.

After not meeting @SarahHope during the Beacon Bash a few weeks back, she managed to pick me out as I ran passed her before the Jumbles reservoir (I wouldn't have known it was her but I am rubbish with faces). It wasn't long though before her and her running partner(also Sarah) caught me up and she introduced herself. Although I hadn't decided on the 25 mile or the 18 mile route on paper, in my head I think I was only ever doing the 18 mile. So on reaching checkpoint 2 I headed right for the reservoir and my next checkpoint, Aladdin's Cave!

LDWA events are great. On my last event, The Peelers Hike, I managed to burn off a whole 4500 calories but with all the chocolate cake being handed out en-route I think I managed to eat 3000 calories during the run, so they don't do much for your waistline (well not my waistline!). Anyway, I didn't want today to be the same so it was a couple of cups of juice, a cup of tea and a slice of cake only (I left the biscuits, sandwiches and Jelly alone).

From here you head past the Strawberry Duck and down through the woods before coming out at..... well some place in the middle of no where, I have no idea where it is, other than the next checkpoint is in sombodys garage and he has my favourite car (A Jaguar XF). From here you head over the fields up towards Bull Hill, apparently part of this route passes a maggot farm and the stench is apparently awful, but I didn't smell anything. I think Alberts nose must be even more sensitive than mine (although today I do seem to have started with a runny nose).

After the maggot farm you head out onto the open moor and just like last year the moor was thick in mist but a couple of experience runners I was following seemed to know the route well, advising the 2 Sarahs to "Make sure you don't go left". As we turned and bore right from the path one of the Sarahs jumped over a narrow bog and ended up about knee deep in it and unable to climb out. One of the to men I was following came to her rescue and lifted her out. Once we crossed the flat moor we came upon a trod which we all followed. After a minute or so following this trod we all looked left to see the two experienced men had chosen the right path and we were heading too far up Bull Hill. I should have known this as I had been telling mayself we didn't need to go up the hill. Anyway, we cut across and rejoined the right path and arrived soon after at "The Naughty Corner".

After a tot of whiskey, I picked up a couple of sweets to keep me going and headed of along the path towards Pilgrims cross. It's like dejavu, I was only passing that cross in the other direction about two weeks ago (Peelers Hike). With the moors still fog bound I hoped I was on the right path towards Peel tower. A moment of indecision came as I crossed the stream as the trod normally used in the "Pilgrims Cross" race seemed to have been churned up by a vehicle and I wasn't really sure which path to take. Again I made my choice and was happy when I came upon the double gates just before Peel Tower. Not that I could see Peel Tower, in fact I couldn't even see the top of Peel Tower when I was stood right underneath it.

From Peel Tower you follow the main path down before taking a stile on the right and a rocky descent down to the road. Then cross the road and through the farmers fields as you descend into the woods. Not long before the last checkpoint and but by now although my body was coping well with the run my legs had started to stiffen up and I was gradually getting slower.
Last year I managed to trip over the stile around this point and bruised the inside of my leg but not this year. I was EXTRA careful. Out onto the road and up to the final checkpoint near the entrance to Holcombe Moor Training Camp (Military). Just the same as last year, the marshal told us (The 2 Sarahs were with me at this point) that we had come the wrong route were we should have come across the fields. He made a cheeky comment about not telling anyone we had gone the wrong route when in actual fact we HAD followed the route and he mustn't have read the description for a few year. I must admit though that other than the section near the maggot farm and the route down from Peel Tower and into the woods I didn't use the route description at all. Each part of the route came back to me as I ran it.

We left the final checkpoint together and heading over the fields and through the woods to the golf course. After crossing the golf course though my tired legs were slowing me down and the 2 Sarahs just started to run ahead. Soon after it was the final stretch along the cycle track that led back to the High school and finish. Not sure how long it is, but at the end of your run it does feel like it goes on for some way.

Miraculously my finishing time was EXACTLY the same as last years 3hr 31mins. So I mustn't be improving at all!!!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

New Chew

Albert called a couple of weeks back to ask if I would join him as a team entering the New Chew race. My first reaction was hesitation. Albert is a MUCH faster runner than I am and I would only slow him down, however the New Chew race is a replacement for the Chew Valley Fell Race which is apparently only being run every 10 years or so because United Utilities are trying to regenerate the area, so as a compromise the New Chew is an Orienteering event. Not an Orienteering event in the British Orienteering sense but one organised mainly for runners and as an orienteering event it will attract less entrants anyway, it also allows runners to take many different routes over the moors which keeps UU happy. Albert is getting better at navigation but still lacks confidence, hence why he asked me to join him.

We arrived in plenty of time for a brew and to get ready to start. We had entered the 4.5hr Score event which meant we could pick our own route and just try to visit as many points as possible. There was also a 3.5hr score and a scoreless (Scoreless was a list of specific controls that you could do in any order). On setting off it was a quick glance of the map and to try and work out a general route to follow and then make adjustments as we went. We struggled to find the first control because we were looking for Orienteering type flags instead of what had actually been used which was a 1” thick post just stuck in the ground with some tape around the top. The next few controls were found with relative ease and then we decided upon a route to collect a few high value controls.

Being used to running at Orienteering type events and with the usual 1:10000 scale maps, I was thrown by the scale now using a 1:25000 Ordnance survey map. The level of detail of the OS map compared to an Orienteering map is far less detailed and made it difficult W Belfield, 1972to work out “exactly” where you were, this wasn’t helped by the fact them maps that were issues were slightly out of date (The latest map on the OS website has more fences on it) and poorly printed which made the contours difficult to read. There were a few times where I knew I was in the right are but not quite sure how far we had come along a path. Anyway, the further we went time seemed to go by far quicker. Each time I looked at my watch time was flying by.

We collected our 4th control and decided to head over the moors for our next control. The ground was “VERY” rough with big tussocks and boggy ground in between the tussocks and took it’s toll on us, well  me. Albert is like a whippet over any ground and I constantly felt like I was holding him back despite him saying it was fine. The ground eased a little and we managed to find a few sheep trods. Surprisingly we passed a grave/memorial at one point too (pictured), the name on it was “W Belfield” who died in 1972 (I did a quick search on the net to see if I could find anything about it but found nothing). Eventually we found the right gully to head up for the waterfall where the 5th control was located. Albert managed to go knee deep in the bog and when he pulled his leg out it was bright Orange, I went around it. Shortly after, his shoes were foaming, not sure what it was he’d stood in??

Another trek over rough ground following the “Grouse Butts” (Which we though was the name of the gully at first) to the next control and an then we headed for the Pennine way were were could make up some ground. When we eventually got on the Pennine way, most of the running was far easier (With a couple of little exceptions), but it was as we were running along here I realised that time was drifting by FAR too fast and we were still heading away from the start/finish (On reflection I think we should have headed back the way we came but hindsight is a wonderful thing). We both missed the “path” that was marked on the map ( I swear there was no path) so ended up running slightly further before turning on the next path at the soldiers stone and finding our 7th (and final control). It was at this point we decided (after looking how far away the road was) that we needed to take the most direct route back as we could easily be late.

We decided that the quickest way would be to follow Holme Clough which led us right back to the Dovestone reservoir. My thinking was that we would be able to pick up a trod around there (There is always a trod in gullies like that, right??). How wrong I was!!! There is a serious shortage of paths in this whole area. It took us at least 30 mins just to get to the head of the clough and then we followed it down. There were NO paths, trods, faint lines or anything here at all. The further we followed the clough the deeper AND STEEPER the sides seemed to get, and rockier too. The going was definitely slow and with the steep sides the map was in the mouth at times as we needed feet and hands to negotiate our way through.

Spot prize, New ChewAfter some time we made it to a track alongside Greenfield brook which would lead us to Dovestones reservoir and the finish but by this point, after over 4.5 hours I was starting to stiffen up. The rough ground had taken it’s toll. The run in (50% Jog/50% walk) was very long and slow and we eventually returned to the sailing club in 5hr 12min (42 mins late). We had managed to score about 145 points but lost 126 points (3 points per minute) in penalties for being late and covered about 14.5 miles. Our score was a whole 19 points and we were last! But we weren't in the negatives.

After two portions of pie, two cups of tea and some chocolate cake I started to feel a little better although my muscles had started to stiffen up some more. Tony and Paul Murray (Who had done the scoreless) eventually came back in after 6 hours and had covered about 18 miles. The look on Tonys’ face as he came in through the door said it all. Albert and I laughed but I think it was partly in sympathy too!

A bottle of Bulmers each though as spot prizes for Albert and me made it OK though. I was happy to have got something.

Thanks to Saddleworth Runners for putting the event on and they also asked if we can try to support their local track which the council are trying to shut. So please click on the link here and sign the petition if you have time.


Thursday, 3 March 2011

A double double - 2 good weekends of running.

Half-term brought an opportunity for a trip home so as usual I set about looking for a few events to do while up there. I stupidly entered the Anglezarke Amble before realising that half term was a week later this year, but the Beacon Bash was on the following Sunday then Peeler's Hike the Sunday after that. I have grown fond of these ldwa challenge events having recently done a few down south where I now live; The Gatliff 50K being one highlight where I had a great run on a very cold November day.

First of all I ran the Standish Hall Trail Race on Saturday afternoon and it was a case of leave the house at 2pm; register; get changed; 10 minute warm-up; run the race; drink some water; drive home! I got home before 3:45pm. I like this race - this year the organiser said it was the muddiest he had seen it and it was interesting that he asked anyone considering running with headphones to take them off. I struggled to get any speed up with not having raced in a long time and was only getting warmed up on the last lap.

The following day it was nice not to have to leave too early since Ashurst Beacon is reasonably local, there was a decent turn out of runners for the 9am start and it was good to see a few familiar faces. I'm not a big fan of mass starts at ldwa events it makes them feel too much like a race; I prefer to just set off when I am ready but as it was I went with the flow and it wasn't long before I was running along with canal chatting with Tony who I hadn't seen since last year. Another feature of these events I like is that you find unfamiliar routes to familiar places; The Beacon Bash takes in various sections of the Ashurst Beacon race, Parbold Hill race and Harrock Hill races. The route had some extremely muddy sections which made it particularly tiring; my calves were a little sore from the previous day's race and by the time we got towards Up Holland my legs were hurting. I dropped back from the group of runners from Wigan Phoenix I had been chatting to and began walking the inclines; tarmac stretches had started hurting too. Anyway it wasn't long before we had passed the Beacon - it made a change to be able to run what is the finish of the Beacon Race in reverse as a descent, and were on our way back to the finish. Again I was seeing parts of that area I had never run before, some of them very muddy and I passed one bloke who was in a real grump over the route description which I didn't think was too bad (I didn't tell him this). I finally got round in 3hrs46 feeling really stiff and sore at the finish then the best bit: the hot food. Pie, mushy peas, red cabbage and a huge spread of cakes, fruit pies with cream and as much tea/coffee as you can drink! Ian was saying every year they say: "Never again" after all the mud but then always seem to come back for more. Mark came in a shade under 5hrs looking a bit disappointed but a pie and a pint soon cheered him up.

My calves didn't come back to life until Wednesday morning by which time I had caught a sore throat so I didn't get any running in at all during the week. Saturday saw Bleasdale fell race with a new start of 2pm that I had decided to run in a pair of Walshes I bought a couple of years ago and hardly run in due to the insoles working loose. I like Walshes but they don't seem to like me; I tend to go over on my ankles more in them than I do Innov8 but my last pair of mudclaw are falling to bits. The weather was reasonably kind though the wind was quite strong; thankfully it was behind us most of the climb which helped.

As is usual for me I started off far too fast and spent most of the climb getting passed, I caught Ian up running across the top and he looked to be suffering from knee trouble; I felt bad for him after all the training he's been doing lately. I quite like the descent of Parlick on this route but I wasn't confident in those walshes - I ended up sliding down on my backside at one point just before this picture was taken:

The run back is a bit of a pain too, this year it was into the wind but the fields didn't seem as muddy as last time I did the race 2 years ago. I was reasonably happy with my time given the conditions and my current state (or lack!) of training. As usual there was a good atmosphere after the finish and we got changed and went indoors for another pie and peas.

The following morning it was pouring down when Mark picked me up around 8ish for the short trip to Bury for the Peeler's Hike. We wanted to set off earlier so that we could get back early in the afternoon but in the end were only ready about 20 mins before the start. The organiser wasn't keen on us going early so I left it but Mark managed to persuade him that he would be slow enough and set off. This being organised by the scouts there were more groups of walkers doing the short route than runners at the start, I counted about 10 of us; this suited me fine it meant less of a mass start.

It was windy and at times cold, and wet and it wasn't long before we were spread out into groups of 2 and 3 running over very muddy fields heading in the general direction of Peel Tower. I ran most of the way with Tony and Jason and a couple of ladies; one of who I remembered from the Beacon Bash the week before due to having her dog with her. It was well over an hour before we caught Mark who remained in sight until approaching Pilgrim's Cross. The headwind was a pain until we turned at Bull Hill to head down past the Ellen Strange stone and Robin Hood's well, all places I was seeing for the first time. From the White Horse pub it was mainly running down the Irwell Valley following the river Irwell and it had warmed up by this point; I had to stop down Nuttall Hall Road so I could take my helly off I was overheating. Tony managed to go wrong with the 2 ladies when we were unsure of the route (me and Jason stopped to ask a local) and we never saw them again until the finish, there were a couple of places where the route description was a bit vague which must have added 10 minutes to my time but I was glad to get back in a shade over 5 hours.

I'm not sure about the distance either since at the last checkpoint (there were 8!) the lady said there were around 2 miles left though Jason's watch reckoned we had done 21.8 miles - the event is listed as a 22 mile hike. As usual there was some lovely hot food and a nice relaxed atmosphere at the finish where the consensus seemed to be just over 23 miles with around 3500 ft of up and down.