Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Great Lakes Run 2011 - 13 miles 7000ft.

Father's day weekend provided me with a slim excuse for a brief trip back home and funnily enough there was a race on that weekend. I also managed to keep up my new tradition of turning up at the last minute, this time thanks to Mark since he was driving. The weather didn't look too bad on the drive up, the forecast hadn't been too promising and it was spitting with rain when we arrived in Langdale plus all the tops were in thick cloud.

This race is becoming one of my favourites, this is its fourth year and apart from last year I have done them all. Today looked like it would be similar to the first year in terms of navigation at least, thankfully it was nothing like as cold and windy though. You park in the farmer's field; register in one of his sheds and start by the gate leading onto the fell. I was fretting about what to wear, it looked like it could be cold on the tops so I put my leggings on but as you can see from the photo I was a little overdressed, I'm becoming Mark!

As usual I started too close to the front but by the time we were in the cloud I had managed to find my pace. It seemed to take an age to get to the top of Bowfell, I have only ever been up this way as part of the race and so early on it's usually just follow the leader but there was one point where I saw a single runner off to the right and remember thinking I should have been going that way. I think we took the tourist route all the way up apart from right near the summit where the guy in front strayed too far right over the rocks and took me with him. After the summit it was helpful hearing a bloke shouting out: "Lindsy where are you?" further on.

Runners heading up the band that leads onto Bowfell.

We were still in the clouds all the way past Esk Pike then they lifted briefly for the climb onto Great End. Of all the tops in the lakes I have visited, the section from Esk Hause to Scafell Pike is my least favourite by far so I was glad to get a tour of some short cuts around there (not that there are many) from the girl in front. I was slipping all over the place on the rocks in my walshes and as I complained about this the bloke next to me suggested I stick to the pink rocks! Strangely enough they did actually feel less slippy, never heard that one before.

Over Scafell Pike and past the hordes I was careful not to head down into Wasdale by mistake then I noticed a couple of runners heading off to the left so decided to follow them. This was a decent short cut missing out Mickledore and brought us out just above the marshal stood at the bottom of the Gully leading up to Foxes Tarn. I was getting fed up with my new water bottle at this point, not being one for drinking from streams I bought a Travel Tap. The flow through the filter is very poor and I had resorted to taking the filter top off to drink the tap water I had brought with me, I filled it up on the way up the gully.

It's very steep here, there's a flagged section that heads right out of the gully and I was struggling with the gradient while trying to stuff salt and vinegar crisps into my mouth. It was at this point two years ago that I began to suffer with it being so humid, this time I was concentrating more on making sure I was going the right way it was so misty. As I passed the summit checkpoint I noticed a runner looking a bit confused, he didn't look like he knew where he should be going so I got my compass out and told him we should be heading generally south. There is some grassy running slightly off the ridge but you need to be careful not to head too far west or you could miss the next checkpoint. Running down here I began to get a sharp pain across my right big toenail which was a bit disconcerting.

Just at the point where I was becoming concerned I hadn't seen any other runners for a while slight side appeared darkly through the thick mist and there was the marshall waiting patiently for us. Over the top and continuing south I tried to give some tips to the other runner who had followed me since Scafell but I don't think he was taking much in - he seemed to have decided to stick behind me for a while.

Heading down off Slight Side we saw a small group heading back up from the west(!) then thankfully we dropped below the clouds and could see across Great Moss to the next climb. Heading round below Horn Crag on the last of the scree I slipped and used my right hand to break my fall. I noticed a bit later on that I had cut my hand right in the crease at the base of my little finger, nothing serious but it got a bit bloody.

I washed the blood off crossing the river then while climbing out the other side my left quad started cramping up, not something I usually struggle with that much and for me it's usually a sign that I haven't been drinking and eating enough so I slowed to a walk and tried to get some more food and water in. We had seen a group on a lower path from Slight Side so I suggested the guy in front catch them up.

I always seem to struggle at this point, the group in front headed up Swinsty Gill but I think it's better to head up Stonesty gill which seems less climb. It's still a struggle though, I caught my 'shadow' up again as we headed into the mist and a couple of other runners passed us on the way up. I was trying my best to get more water in but the bottle was so slow it was frustrating, I am beginning to think it would be better to just start drinking from streams!

Reaching the top of the climb I had to have a sit down and eat the remains of my food plus finally get the scree out of my shoes, the guy following me headed off as another runner passed but after 5 minutes or so sorting myself out as I headed off I found him sat on a rock not far off having a bite to eat. I had a feeling he didn't possess a compass but I didn't broach the subject.

Anyway things were perking up for me, plus the cloud base was lifting and heading north of Cold Pike towards the path past Red Tarn you could finally see Blisco in the distance. I was expecting to see Mark at Red Tarn but he wasn't there; he had planned on heading up Bowfell then over the Crinkles and handing out some jelly babies before the last climb so I was puzzled there was no sign of him - I was looking forward to some jelly babies too!

The last of my food was working and I took the climb up Blisco steadily, the summit was clear and you could see a few runners heading down the descent. I have never managed to find a nice, quick route down here. A bloke I had caught said he had been down this way a couple of weeks ago and there isn't another way down unless you go the long way round; still I was a bit wary having to down climb scary crags more than twice. It wasn't long though before we hit the last steep grassy section where my poor studs couldn't handle the gradient and I fell on my arse at the same time as a bloke behind me. There were three of us and we ended up sliding down a short way on our backsides, as if we were sledging like kids it was great fun though you needed to keep an eye out for any rocks!

Heading through the bracken I fell again this time on my left wrist which hurt and left me with a bruise but I was happy to be at the finish. I didn't carry a watch and had a feeling my time would be disappointing, I was 5 mins under 5 hours; about 15 mins slower than my usual time and was a bit surprised how much I suffered especially across Great Moss. Still, I was glad to get round and I think the main reason for me struggling was again not enough water same as Ennerdale I really need to sort out my water strategy before Wasdale; plus I had only run twice and biked once since Ennerdale having caught a cold... excuses excuses. Taking my shoes off I noticed my big toenail had split across the middle but I don't remember banging it on anything.

Thanks as usual must go to all involved with putting this event on, it really typifies what fell running is all about.

Drinks after the finish, impressive how sticky the mud was.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ennerdale Fell Race 2011 - Where I lost my bottle.

I'm developing a bad habit of turning up for events at the last minute; not only that, I entered Ennerdale just the weekend before after getting in touch with the organiser to check it was ok. We were staying in Wasdale for half term week and I thought it would be a shame to miss the race since I was in the Lakes anyway but I had to secure permission from my better half first.

The weekend before we met up with the Sammons at Hutton Roof for the fell race there, I like that race as much for the food after the race as the route itself. I had quite a good run comfortably beating my time from a couple of years ago but not quite matching my best for this route, I'd like to think that's down to the headwind on the way out than anything to do with my age (denial is a virtue in my book). The Sammons met us again in Wasdale the day after where me and Mark went for a trot up Scafell (not pike!), I enjoyed this run though Mark seemed to be suffering a bit with his legs. I tried to take it easy, not having done any big descents for a while and I didn't want to trash my legs for the week. It's the biggest single drawback of living in the south where fell running is concerned and something I always suffer with when doing big races, the descents really do make a mess of my quads.

I did a couple more runs during the week, I had half a mind to do the Blencathra Race Wednesday evening but it seemed a bit daft driving all that way when there were all the Wasdale hills on the doorstep, plus I think it would have been too much with Ennerdale at the weekend.

My favourite race is a toss-up between Ennerdale and Wasdale, I think Ennerdale probably wins on the simplicity of the route - just run to the head of the valley and back clockwise over most of the tops; however Wasdale has the edge in sheer brutality. I haven't done Duddon yet; I was considering it this year until I found out it was a champs race, they're just not me and since there's always scrambles for entries I think it's better to find something else and leave the place for somebody more keen.

Packing my kit early Saturday I had lost my whistle so I stopped off as Wasdale Head to pick one up from the shop there, it was after 10am when I got back in the car and I have to say I ended up driving like a bit of an idiot to get to Ennerdale Bridge 20 minutes before the start. Rushing around getting my number I got a stern warning from a bloke that the briefing was about to start so I sprinted back to my car to get changed and slap some suncream on since it was quite warm! I was sweating by the time we lined up for the start, still relieved to have made it. I spotted Pauline and said a quick hello before we all set off along the side of Ennerdale Water towards the first climb.

The first few cutoffs are notoriously tight at this race, I would say the first one is harder to make than that at Wasdale so for me it's tough at the beginning to balance going off too fast with taking it steady and risking getting timed out. It seems an age before you start to climb the fell and it was hot, Ian caught and passed me near the top where there was thankfully a nice cooling breeze blowing.

The views were gorgeous with the skies being clear so there would be no problems with navigation it was going to be a case of setting a good pace and keeping the food and water going down, I made the first checkpoint with about 4 minutes to spare which was better than the only other time I have done this race.

From there to Blackbeck tarn it was mostly follow the leader but there were a few bits where I remembered trods that those in front didn't know about. There was a bloke taking pictures at the tarn just before I filled my bottle up:


I ate some of my crisps and peanuts just after here and shortly after on the climb up Green Gable then went to have a drink and my bottle had gone! I couldn't understand it, I swear I'm always careful about dropping anything on the fells so I was really confused when there was no sign of it at all in my bumbag. My confusion turned to concern when I thought about how far was still to go and how little water was available after Kirk Fell, thankfully after chatting to the bloke alongside me who had noticed what I was doing he gave me a small, empty coke bottle to use. In the end I got round on the water that all the marshals had carted onto the peaks; not something I am comfortable with, relying on other people but there you go I made an embarrassing mistake... and costly the bottle had a water filter on it which cost me nearly 40 quid.

I have been racing in Walshes this year, not for any other reason than I bought them a few years back and stopped using them when the insoles fell out on my first run in them. In the interests of economy this year instead of buying a new pair of mudclaw I glued the insoles back in and have been using them. Trouble is I haven't done more than about 3 hours in them and at around this point in the race I started getting telltale hotspots on my feet, something else to worry about!

I had lost sight of everyone in front going over Kirk Fell just like last time so I was then in the same position as two years ago, wondering whether to try going down the scree gully which I have never done before. It must be about the third or fourth time I have been up there and got to what seems like the top of it but the scree just looks like it drops off a cliff. First time I went down a gully around there was in mist and I actually turned back, on this occasion I ended up doing what I did last time in the race which was stick to the 'path' down the crags then cut right a bit further down where the scree is less steep. There was a guy further up the scree who saw me sneaking onto the stones and shouted down: "I knew there'd be an easier way down!", I told him I wasn't sure about that in fact I wasn't sure there *was* an easy way down that side of Kirk Fell at all!

Climbing Pillar I met a couple of blokes from Ellenborough who offered me some water and jelly babies which I was really grateful of, I was pretty thirsty by that point. I was steadily getting slower and feeling a bit low so I stuffed some chocolate coated flapjack in my mouth; I always remember the race notes from a fellrunner magazine a few years back stating that you shouldn't be knackered by Pillar since there's still a long way to go, while not completely spent I was well on my way. Once off the ridge from there the ground gets a lot kinder becoming much grassier with no more big climbs but you only have to look across to Ennerdale Water to see how far you still have to go.

I trudged on running as much as I could, meeting one or two other runners who were suffering badly with cramp and I even got my map out at one point to check I was where I thought I was since there is a shortcut I took last time missing out Caw. Thankfully all the marshals were really helpful providing some water and encouragement though those on Iron Crag told me it was all downhill from there (it's not!).

I turned right instead of left in the woods before Crag Fell but that's not a major error it just meant I had to make my way across deep grass and heather back to the path but other than that it was just a painful trek past the last checkpoint and down that lovely descent to the finish. It's a shame I couldn't make the most of that descent the way my feet and legs felt I just couldn't pick any speed up it was too painful.

The air was blue on reaching the track back to the scout hut due to the guy in front collapsing with cramp, he couldn't believe it had struck in sight of the finish! It's a little tortuous that run in but it's still a fantastic feeling dibbing at the finish and grabbing a bite to eat with plenty tea and juice. I was about 10 minutes slower than 2 years ago which was a bit disappointing but I'm not complaining; I can't say I have trained as hard this year so far... that's right... blame the training... nothing to do with my age.

I'm still in love with this race; long distance fellrunning doesn't get much better, I couldn't thank the organisers, marshals and everyone else involved with putting it on enough. Next for me hopefully is the Great Lakes Run, another race with a cracking route across some rugged terrain in preparation for this year's Wasdale which I have entered once again, it'll be my third one.

As per usual lots of good shots can be found on Ian's blog. Thanks also to Paul Dobson and Sharp Images for taking pictures on the day.

Coniston - DNF & Inov8’s

Last year during the Lakes-5 day Orineteering I bought a pair of Inov8 Mudclaw 270’s. They were a nice fit but needed just a tad of cushioning.  They were the outgoing model so were on offer for £50 at Lakesrunner. Back in January at a GoOutdoors sale I bought me a pair of Inov8 Mudclaw 333’s for £35 (50% off), well they are the “Grippiest Most Durable Fell Racing Shoe”. Being the slightly heavier model they should have the extra cushioning I needed. I kept them nice and clean, in the box until I needed them.

Well as it turns out I needed them sooner than I thought as the 270’s wore out a lot quicker than I thought they would. Considering I didn’t really use them much over winter they started falling to bits after not that many miles. Certainly no where near the mileage I got from my Mudrock 290’s. I tried e-mailing Inov8 and Lakesrunner but never got any reply from either of them (That’s Lakesrunner off my preferred list of shops, it could be harder to veto Inov8 depending on shoe options I find).

I’ve worn the 333’s a few time so far this year but normally on training runs and ended up with cramp in my feet. They are VERY comfortable when I first put them on but after a few miles or on downhill sections thats when the aches start. I had assumed I just needed to wear them in but with the long spell of hot weather we had around april it was difficult to give them a good “Bogging up” with no moisture on the hills. I mentioned this to Chris and one of his suggestions was to try twinskin socks.

Joanne and the kids came up to Coniston for the race. She was planning to take the kids for a walk whilst I raced. Arriving early enough I still managed to be running to the line on the last minute.

DSC00077Setting of up the hill I found the going tough from the start. Going up the first ascent and the twin skins seemed to be allowing the shoe to move too much. I can’t tie shoes up to tight or it forces cramp onto them, but today the shoes just seemed to be moving much more than normal. As the shoe moved at the back it moved the sock further down the back of my foot. By the time I was 1/2 way up Weatherlam I’d stopped three times to fix my socks, my feet were cramping and I was starting to feel the beginnings of a blister where the shoes were rubbing as the sock disappeared.

In the end I just gave up. I’d only gone about 2 miles and I didn’t plan to be messing about with footwear all the way round. I turned around and headed back to the start to let them know I’d retired. As I descended to the finish it brought no comfort to me when I saw the race leader hurtling down the final descent and beat me back to the finish completing the whole route quicker than I went 1/2 way up the first climb and back down.

I called Joanne and met up with her and spent the rest of the day family by the lake. It was still an enjoyable day if not for the disastrous run.

Oliver and Josh              Lucy

Surely the Inov-8 shoes can’t be this bad??? I’ll wear them in some more.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Anniversary Waltz 2011

With not much mileage in my legs I entered the Anniversary Waltz, near Keswick. I have had my eye on this race since last year. Teenager with Altitude setting off!Albert had entered the Teenager with Altitude with Ian Charters and was planning to take it easy and not race the route, just run with Ian.

Setting off slightly later, my race headed up the valley, up Robinson. There was no cloud on the way up but by the time we neared the summit (with the other back markers) the cloud had dropped and we didn’t come out of it for a while after that. It stayed with us all the way to Hindscarth and Dalehead. Only after Dalehead did we drop out of it enough to see where we were going.

Before long it was up hill into the cloud to HighSpy. By this point I was being regularly passed by the runners on the Teenager route. I looked back and was convinced I could see Albert and Ian but they never passed me. After HighSpy I headed over Maiden Moor, at one point loosing my bearings and convincing myself that my compass was wrong until all of a sudden all the cloud simply blew away as if some higher being was trying to tell me “Oi, look where you are numpty!”.

CatBells, the last descent in the backgroundSo now after trusting in my compass I headed North towards Catbells and the steep descent to the finish. As I ran down the last descent I could feel Cramp kicking in and just tried to hold back enough to prevent my legs screaming.

Overall I think it was a bit of a poor run. Tiredness seemed to kick in a little early and my legs weren’t really flowing right. I’d finished though and after a few cups of tea with Albert (Who, along with Ian had also become a little lost on Maiden Moor) we headed home.

Funniest part of the day: Watching one lady drive her car in to the farmers gatepost. Luckily the wood was rotten and it just snapped the thick pole without really doing any damage to the car. How she didn’t see it I don’t know!!

Essexwalker 26 mile LDWA (10th April 2011)

So, what happened???

Well, a few days before we went to Essex I strangely started with Shin Splints. Running in my road shoes which I don’t normally do (run in them or run on roads lately), I assumed this was this was the reason.

On the morning of the run Chris and I headed to the start in Purleigh. This is the same place the Blackwater marathon started from and this route actually covers about 90% of the same route.

I was a little worried about the shin splints and hoped they wouldn’t return and cause me to pull out early. I set off (Chris decided to set-off 10 mins after everyone else) and things started well. However about 2 miles into the run the shin splints started. I pushed on and then at about 2 1/2 miles I pulled a muscle just above the back of my knee (is that the lower ham?). It ached but I carried on slowly with a small limp in my stride (Chris passed me about this point too).

My first thought was to see how it was at Checkpoint 1. I was definitely last at this point. The runner in front was just in sight and I tried to make a bit of ground. By the time I approached the 1st checkpoint (4 miles) I was just about with him. The pain hadn’t worsened and the shin splints had eased a little so after a quick drink I decided to continue on and re-assess the situation at Checkpoint 2 and head off running with the other runner for a while from this point.

I’m not going to describe the route, most of it is covered in my Blackwater Marathon post. We ran on and on reaching Checkpoint 2 I was no worse and without the shin splints (Which incidentally I haven’t had since). A quick stop for a biscuit and juice and I decided to carry on the whole route as long as things didn’t get worse. The next section was the dreaded Sea Wall. This sea wall is about 5 miles long and isn’t the most interesting parts of the run, however this time the weather was far better (if not a little too hot). Running together still for a while I couldn’t keep up and gradually dropped back and back. Reaching the 15-16 mile mark and Checkpoint 3 I was starting to tire and the leg pain was getting to me (it was more the constant ache that was). After too long a rest at CP3 setting off again was a struggle. I’d started to stiffen up and it took a good 5-10 mins to loosen up but not fully.

This section of the route differs from the Blackwater Marathon in that it adds a 4km section making up for a section cut out between CP1 – CP2. By this point I’d decided enough was enough and followed the direct route I knew to miss out this section and straight to CP4.

At CP4 I could have got a lift back to the start but I was still convincing myself I could finish what was left of the route. So I set-off after another rest and after about 400m I decided to get out the map and find the direct route to the finish.

I arrived at the finish shattered and a little sore after covering 22.5 miles, gutted.

I haven’t run right since then!!!!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Last run on Skye

Not being one for any of the royal goings-on that week I wanted to get out somewhere on the Friday before we came home. After my experience of the Cuillins so far I decided to head up what is generally thought to be the easiest peak to climb - Sgurr na Banachdaich, as long as you head up Coir an Eich and along the south side of An Diallaid. It was a gorgeous day, there was quite a few people heading up there and I got speaking to a couple on the summit from Lancaster who took my pic.

Glenbrittle bay from the way back down. You can just see the ridge on the lower right where I met a group looking a bit shell shocked.

On the way back down I met a group of blokes who had headed up the harder route straight up the side of Sgurr nan Gobhar, one of them looked quite worried about getting back down and they were asking me which way I had come up in the hope that there was an easier way back.

Not sure what was with my expression!

Panorama taken from the summit, in good weather the views on Skye are stunning my photos don't do them justice.
I took this picture on the way back down, one of the many waterfalls alongside the path, Sgurr nan Gobhar imposing in the background.
View of the war memorial above Carbost where we stayed for the week.
I had a great week on the island; everything from the hills, the deer (ok maybe not their ticks which I picked up almost as soon as putting my shorts on!), the golden eagles with their huge wingspan to the sunsets from quiet, secluded bays and would love to go again to explore some more of the hills.

On the drive back we stopped for a break near Glengarry at a curious spot where many cairns had been built beside the road...

A long time no Blog!

Well it’s been sometime since I have contributed and a few things have happened. I changed jobs and have retied from a couple of races. Each to be discussed separately. I had previously written up a blog post on my laptop but never got round to uploading the photos to it so it’s still there. I’ll try and dig it out and upload the photos. We’ll see.

Watch this space. More will follow soon!