Sunday, 30 December 2012

Stansted Stagger 2012

I haven't done an ldwa event for a long time (or updated this blog for that matter!) so since Mark decided to bring his clan down for New Year we took the opportunity to do the annual Stansted Stagger.

This year's event was a shade under 24 miles starting and finishing in the Essex village of Stansted Mountfitchet, also passing through Ugley, Quendon, Newport, Debden, Henham and Elsenham.

The weather was kind thankfully but the recent rain made for very muddy fields which became a pain towards the end.

Ugley church (St.Peter's). When I say that I'm not saying it's a poor looking church, it's a church in a village named Ugley, ask a local and it's pronounced "Ooj-ley"
There are a few 'hills' in Essex.

Quendon Church
They paint their cattle in these parts.

This section was a bit of a struggle into the wind.
This picture gives you an idea of the ground conditions.
We got quite close to Stansted Airport.

Postbox in Elsenham in honour of Olympian Ben Maher.

Another one showing the ground conditions.

Mark at the finish.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The RAB Mountain Marathon 2012 – The Cheviots

So, after the pain of the Saunders faded I decided I needed to do another Mountain Marathon and the next one I found was the ‘RAB’. Albert was in training for his Ironman and wasn’t too sure about it, but he contacted me a couple of days after asking him and said he was up for it. He’d also been asked by Tony Marlow (SROC) to partner at the OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) so doing the RAB with me would be like a training session for the OMM.

The location for the RAB was finally announced in early September as the Cheviots in Northumberland. I’d never been up that way and Albert said he had never really run round there either but we were assured by others that it would make for some good running (not that I do much running in a Mountain Marathon).

My preparation for this MM was pretty much the same as the Saunders so I’ll not go through that other than to say that I decided to test out a freeze dried meal the week before I went. BLEUGH!!!! it was awful so I resorted to my trusty Super Noodles.

On the Friday evening I left work and hurried home to collect my stuff and get off as soon as possible, I’d packed everything the night before so it should have been easy. Nope!! After having a bit of a barney with Joanne and shouting at the kids I tried to make up before I left. Then when I eventually left I needed fuel so had to queue at the garage and use the slowest pumps in the world. Next I needed cash so had to nip round to the cashpoint, after which I received a text message from Joanne telling me that I’d forgot my shoes. So, back home I went to collect my shoes and headed off again. Having had no tea I called at the chippy and it was packed. However eventually at about 7:15 I collected Albert and we headed off for Wooler where the event would start from.

We spent the Friday night in the back of my car. Seats down and inflatable mattress in the back and a good nights sleep. We woke to a beautiful clear sky with the sun just rising over the horizon. The morning was a little chilly but not too bad. Time for a Sausage and egg butty at registration before gathering our stuff and heading to the start.


At the start there was no time for hanging around, Albert wanted to get off. We dibbed the start, got the map and descriptions and tried to plan some sort of route.

The map your given is for both days and shows all the controls but only some controls are valid on each day. Day 1 focused on the lower section of the map Whilst Day 2 was to focus on the upper section. With a score course your route is flexible and at the start you make a rough plan but you need to adjust it as your day goes on. So with a rough plan in mind, we headed off.

Day 1 Route: 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 18, 19, 23, 25, 24

The route we chose for Day 1 wasn’t too bad up to control 12, the ground was relatively forgiving, however from 12 – 13, 13 – 18, 18 – 19 the ground was thick with heather and not really any trods to follow, really hard work. We did well finding controls especially 18 which we dropped right on to.

During Friday I had called at Galloways to get a Meat & Potato pasty. The plan being that I would have 1/2 on each day. At this point I now realised that I had left the pasty in the car. I was gutted.

By control 23 I was worrying about time so decided that we should head for 25 and then into camp however by the time we got 25 we still had 30 minutes left so with tired legs we decided to squeeze in 24 too before the day was out.


Day 1 Total: 210 points

Tented VillageAt the overnight camp, we got the tent up and got the kettle on. Thankfully a milkman arrived to sell some milk and he happened to have some fruit juice which went down really well. Food became a topic of conversation because apparently a Tesco Sandwich and a packet of biscuits isn’t classed as Mountain Marathon food. I’d also brought Super Noodles and Chicken Cuppa Soup, what more could you need??

We’d pitched the tent around people we knew and that made for quite a social evening. The night drew in quite early though and the temperature started to drop so people retired early. The night was still young (about 8-9PM) but it didn’t take too long to get to sleep, the problem with this though was that it meant I kept waking throughout the night and it was a LONG night. At one point though I was rudely woke when Albert slipped getting into the tent and fell right on top of me.

Tony Marlow Albert Sunter Mark Sammon Darren Baker Karen Nash

It seems we’d pitched the tent on a slight incline which meant Albert kept sliding downwards and pushing me closer to the door, the cold from the side of the tent kept coming through my sleeping bag and kept waking me up. Added to this I noticed that the tent seemed to be right in my face every time I woke up. I found every drawstring in my sleeping bag though and tried to keep warm and get as much sleep as possible. It turned out that somebody had pulled one of the guy ropes form the tent so it was no longer tight which is why it felt so low.

The following morning I left the tent early to use the toilets. Despite the smell I have to say that this was the warmest I had been all night and I probably took a little longer to answer natures call.

Some warm milk on Weetabix and a good hot coffee and we were ready for the off. The competition was on, as on Day 1 Darren Baker and Tony Marlow had scored 5 more points than us. Better runners than me, I expected they would score well but you have to give it a shot to keep them on their toes.

Day 2 Route: 31, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 39, 42, 44, 2, 3, 1

Another great day with a clear sky. The day started with a minor mistake that most people seemed to make, heading too far up the hill then having to drop back down to go through the woods. It wasn’t long before I was de-layering as we headed up the first climb, Sinkside Hill. At the river crossing before 35 I thought I was going to be the first person to fall in, but luckily I kept my balance all the way across.

River Crossing photo 1 & River Crossing Photo 2

I had originally planned to visit 41 after 42 but with tired legs and worried about time I decided to miss it out. The ground on the Sunday was much better underfoot and it was easier to head for a path, plus the heather wasn’t as difficult as on day 1.

I have to say that I really didn’t want to do the climb up to number 3 but I knew I had to. Albert wasn’t going to let me off that easy. The last control was a busy one with everybody converging for the finish and then followed by a lovely downhill run to the finish and still with 25 minutes to spare

Day 2 Total: 210 points

Total: 420 points

On getting back to the car the first thing I did was eat my pasty, then got changed. We all gathered at the registration tent where we had food and got our results whilst comparing routes taken. At the time we downloaded Albert and I were listed in 14th position but by the end of the day we had moved down to 59th position out of 213 finishers.

It turned out that Darren and Tony didn’t score as well on day 2 so we beat them by about 5 points.

Overall it was a great weekend on a great area with great weather. Another layer of clothes might have helped but I’ll remember that for next time.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A summers morning on Winter Hill

Woke up this morning, looked out the windows to a clear blue sky with Winter Hill looking great in the distance. Decision made I headed out for a run. The problem with running on my own is that I sometimes give in a little easy although when I run with others I tend to try and keep going.

I stopped at the lower Barn to chat with Albert (who just happened to be passing) then saw Ed Swifts car pull into the lower barn car park. After chatting with Albert about his preparations for tomorrows UK Ironman I went to chat with Ed Swift.

Ed and the rest of his group normally run on a Saturday morning from the lower barn however today only Ed and John Coope had turned up and as I enjoy a chat on the way round I joined them for part of their run. Todays plan was to follow the Anglezark amble route for a while and see how things went. My plan was to stay with them until I felt like coming back.

There was plenty of chat and a nice easy pace. I like a nice and easy pace.

View from Rivington Pike

Running up through the gardens to Rivington Pike and then passed the Dog Hotel and passed the mast.

Plaque on Winter Hill. John & Ed heading off

Then down the ramp to Belmont Road, across the road and through the fields.

Crossing the pond

I don't understand why people run on roads


Besides the pond before heading for Belmont Reservoir where Ed and I split with John. From here we headed around Belmont reservoir to the Tockholes road and then across Belmont Road to head towards Great hill but turning off before hand to reach Spitlers Edge and then onwards to Horden Stoops.

From here we followed Georges lane and then dropped back down the car parks and along the cobbled path to the Barn.

Route for today:

Thanks for the company today and hope to see you next week on Coopes Dozen.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon (sorry if it’s long)

slmmI don’t think I have done many things that physically and mentally took me to my limit but this was definitely one.

Earlier this year I started to pester Chris and drop hints about me wanting to do a Mountain Marathon (MM). I needed a partner and I thought Chris was the man to help me. But try as I might he wasn’t having any of it. In fact the mere mention of anything that involved a map and a compass or could be marginally described as orienteering and he went all quiet. You would swear he has a fear of maps and I know that isn’t the case. So during a conversation about this with Albert one night Albert kindly volunteered to partner me.

Having never done any MM before I had no idea of which course to enter. Harter Fell, Scafell, Kirkfell, Bedafell, Wansfell etc.. OK I can assume that the Scafell class would be hard as there was no Ben Nevis or Snowden Class. I decided, based on previous course distances, that the Carrock Fell & Harter Fell looked better suited to me however when I went to enter they were full and running a waiting list. So I plumped for the slightly longer Kirkfell Class and got a little worried, wondering if I’d bitten off too much.

In the past few months I have been trying to get some long runs in to build up my mileage and I’ve ended up with a couple of injuries (Achilles problem in my right foot for months now, Tight Hamstring & knee pain on the left and lower back ache) so in the week before the event I was a little apprehensive. I’m actually quite weak willed and give up on things very easy unless somebody is pushing me along. My main concern was the thought that I might want to pull out and let Albert down. A final massage from those fine people at SUMMIT PHYSIO (plug plug) and I was as good as I was going to be.

SLMM Map 2012On the Thursday it was time to pack my rucsac.

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Day 2 clothes
  • Waterproof Top & Bottoms
  • Titanium Kettle
  • Gas
  • Stove
  • Spork
  • Hat
  • Compass & Whistle
  • Food
    • 2 x Super Nooooodles
    • 1 x Chicken Cup a soup
    • Chicken & Bacon Wrap
    • Foil packed Tuna
    • Tea Bags, salt, sugar
    • 2 x Banana Protein bars
    • 3 crushed Weetabix and a Banana

You get the gist…

So Friday, with all the rain and warnings of floods around the country, I Set off to collect Pete Kidd and Albert already about an hour later than planned. Pete had asked me for a lift up a few weeks back. I’d forgotten until he rang me up the night before too (whoops). Anyway I went to meet him at Tesco and whilst we were faffing about he received a phone call from his partner who was thinking about pulling out because of injury (I think). After about 20-30 mins of calls and discussions Pete told me he was no longer coming and I headed off to collect Albert.

Friday in WasdaleArriving in Wasdale the traffic was mainly flowing in one direction. The rain had almost stopped and the parking/camping field was already well populated. After a shandy in the Wasdale Head Inn and a chat with some people we’ll never meet again we headed back to our accommodation. The accommodation was: an inflatable double mattress in the back of the bus. Quite comfortable and Albert took no time in going to sleep but I think my nerves were kicking in as I couldn’t get to sleep at all but eventually I think I managed to get about 3-4 hours sleep at the most.

Saturday Morning in WasdaleSaturday morning we awoke to a clear sky, you wouldn’t have believed it the day before. Despite only a few hours of sleep I was feeling quite good. The hills and the clear sky in a morning are great to wake you up. We headed to registration and collected our dibber and then got some Sausage and Bacon barms whilst we got ourselves ready. As usual I was faffing about, then I couldn’t find my 3/4 leggins I’d planned to wear so had to resort to wearing my full length ones only to find my 3/4’s as I closed up the car.

With no time to spare at about 7:35 we headed off to the start which was apparently a 20 minute walk. When they say a 20 minute walk they normally mean about 10 minutes to mere mortals and 20 minutes to people in wheelchairs. As we headed to the map collection point we passed the Kit check area. Silly me pointed to the woman and said “Do you need to check our kit??” to which she said “Yes, ok then”. Of course if I hadn’t said anything she would have just left us alone. Big gob!

At the kit check the lady seemed to ask us for everything we couldn’t find. Pencil and paper, first aid kit and storm shelter/survival blanket. We had pencil and paper, then Albert couldn’t get to his 1st aid kit as it was at the bottom of his bag and neither of us recalled the Storm shelter being mandatory however both of us had packed a foil blanket so she was happy with that. We collected our map and headed off on the path behind Wasdale head Inn around the back of Kirk Fell to the start with plenty of time, so we thought.

We just arrived at the start (a little rushed) as they shouted out our time “08:03!!”. We’d bumped into Vicky and Jane on the way to the start who were due to set off at 08:02 so they rushed through to the start box in front of us.

Finding the 1st controlNow the map you collect at the start has no controls on it. When you get into the start box, just as you are about to start, you can pickup you control descriptions sheet which contains the controls descriptions and Grid references. On starting people tend to head off about 5-10m and stop to mark where they think their controls will be before planning their route and heading off. As the course is linear then the order is fixed so you don’t really need to plan any further than the next control ahead so with the 1st control plotted we both headed off up the first climb from the lowest point in this valley up towards the 1st control which was a re-entrant about 500m from the start.

What a view

The orienteering on a MM isn’t really about fine navigation like some other orienteering events despite the fact you can be looking for stream bends and gullys I think you find that once you are in the right sort of area then the control is pretty obvious, it’s more about reading the map details and finding the optimum route to the control. So the orienteering side of things was relatively easy (for me) and even Albert seemed to be doing well with the working out the sites and the route we could take.

I’m not a fast plodder and Albert straight away started to set the pace for the whole weekend. I expected as much though and had tried to spend weeks warning Albert that he was going to be going at my pace and not his and that he might need to pack some warmer clothes for all the hanging around he might do, however he’s a great guy and did nothing but encourage me to keep going all weekend.

On the climb to control 1 I plotted the next 7 controls and worked out where the finish would be. We’d had a hint that the overnight was going to be in Ennerdale however it was more like Nether Wasdale. Control 1 came easily and we headed of for Control 2 near Green Gable. Over Black Sail Pass and around Kirkfell towards Great Gable before taking a shorter route across to Green Gable to find the control sitting in a gully. It wasn’t hard to find though as there were a small influx of people heading for the same control.

Control 3 was passed Styhead, below Lingmell/Scafell Pike and I knew the route in that general direction so didn’t need the map too much until we got to Albert on the Climb to the corridor routeStyhead. The route from Control 2 to the col between Great/Green Gable though became a matter of traversing the rocks and was slow going. I think it would have been quick to drop down and take the path. Over the col and down to styhead we seemed to be followed by a couple who had passed us on the climb to Black sail. After Sty head they stayed high for too long and despite us being higher than we should have been we arrived at the control much sooner, being passed by one other team on the descent down. Once we arrived at the control I turned to see what looked like about 8 teams all heading for me from various angles.

We’d dropped down quite a bit for the last control and control 4 was located just over the top of Lingmell which meant a long steep slog up to the corridor route and over to Lingmell. This climb really took it out of me. I think I was ok until this point but suddenly I found myself making the climb much more difficult than I normally make it look. I was stopping and resting and teams kept passing us but eventually, once on the path I tried to keep pushing on.

From Lingmell we had to drop before contouring around Scafell to Slightside to look for a Sheepfold, again the climb slowed me and by the time the ground sort of levelled out I was jogging at a very slow pace and constantly wanting to walk. I hadn’t really eaten anything by this point despite it being a good 3-4 hours (I think) from setting off and I didn’t feel like eating. I’d eaten some crisps and a couple of Maoams a little earlier and tried to eat an energy gel but it didn’t seem to do anything at all for me. The sheepfold came and went and I tried to eat Jordans nutbar I had brought but it just took all the saliva I had in my mouth so I ended up spitting most of it out.

Looking up the valley

Control 6 was on the descent from Whin Rigg as you come of the screes however the path from Slightside/Great How was slow, boggy and a slog in places particularly for my now tired legs. Albert kept pulling away and waiting for me and I kept thinking that he must be getting a little pi55ed off with me but he always met me with a smile and encouraged me to go on this definately felt like the longest leg of the day. The descent down from Whin Rigg, through the bracken was a little slippy and I wished I’d had the grip of my Inov8 Mudclaws. The RocLites I’d chosen were a great shoe overall and I’d chosen then for there comfort and I probably wouldn’t have been able to do the whole weekend in the Mudclaws.

The last few controls on Day 1 were more about covering ground to get you to the campsite. Trekking over farmers fields, then a climbing concrete road before a terrible route choice (the shorter route) across tussocky, boggy ground which overall took the last of the life from my legs. At one point I got stuck in a bog and I had to work them out slowly as they were on the verge of cramping up. There were many times over this last couple of hours where I questioned my sanity and seriously considered retiring despite the fact that there was NO WAY Albert would have let me!

Vicky & Jane crossing the streamApproaching the finish I could see the overnight camp. A farmers field 1/2 full of tents. Portaloos positioned up and down the field and people milling around socialising. Jane and Vicky caught up to us at this point, mainly because of my seriously poor pace at this point. Vicky kindly shared a couple of sportsbeans with me and we plodded on to finish with similar times. I was glad though to get the rucsac off my back as my shoulders were really aching now.

The view from the camp was great and you could see other runners converging as they finished their courses from different directions which carried on for some time after we finished.

Day 1 finished after 8hrs and 18mins.

Spark OutAlbert setup the tent and I don’t seem to recall what I really did at that point. Without too much trouble the tent was up and we both got changed into dry gear (using carrier bags to stop your dry socks from getting wet when you use your wet shoes). We ate and had a coffee and I went to read the results whilst Albert caught an hour. After while I came back to the tent, Albert went for a wander and I thought I would catch a few winks before we ate our 2nd course however I didn’t wake. By the time I woke it was nearly 11pm. Albert was sat in the tent besides me on a foil blanket after eating his 2nd course and making a coffee plus taking a picture of me asleep and none of that woke me up (mind you I was wearing earplugs too).

Albert was ready for sleep now and I decided it was time for a brew as it was too late to eat really so whilst Albert went to sleep I made a brew and sat in the open doorway of the tent watching the yellow moon rise over the top of Seatallan whilst being eaten alive by midges (I’m still scratching now).

Cup of tea in the morningDay 2 and I awoke feeling a little sharper. We had breakfast and a brew and started to pack up the tent. The queue for the toilet was already about 30m long. The “chasing starts” for the the leaders in each group started after 7 and an announcement was made that we could collect our control descriptions for Day 2 and start plotting our intended routes. Mass Starts were from 08:00 – 08:30 so we finished packing our bags, plotted the controls and then went to the start.

The tented village

Vicky and Jane commented that about me still being around for day 2 and I said I was feeling better whilst inside I was hoping I wasn’t going to have a similar blowout to day 1.

With a good track from the start we jogged for a while and I felt ok. The rucsac was on a little tighter as it had chaffed the base of my back on day 1 and I was trying to find a comfortable position for it. It didn’t take long for my shoulders to start aching again though. We dropped off the track and onto the open fell and I lead us on a bum steer by heading off the path too early which meant we had to drop to cross a stream and climb back out; Must pay more attention to the map!

With so many people heading out on the mass start it wasn’t hard on day 2 to locate the controls as there were many people around . Control 1 was easily found and control 2 we dropped right onto because we were following a line of others (although it was a little higher than I expected it to be). Route choice for control 3 now, we started to do a little bit of climbing. Do we go over or round the hills? We decided to go over as they weren’t that big but the ground in between would have slowed down any herd of stampeding buffalo. We made up a little ground before re-joining the line of people that had contoured around.

Like a line of antsAfter plodding over Nether Wasdale Common and losing my bearings again slightly (distance this time) we rounded the hill to see a line of people (similar to a line of ants) heading for a large cairn and as our control was a 2m cairn we headed right for it. Although when Albert checked the control number it wasn’t the control we were after. So a quick “concentrated” look at the map showed my mistake and we headed east for another 500m to the correct control. We weren’t the only ones to make the same mistake too.

Control 4 involved a trek passed Greendale Tarn (Where old Joss Naylor was out for a run and saying hi to a few people) before a steep drop down to Nether Beck and a climb back out alongside Black Beck over Blackbeck Knotts. The two days of trekking were now catching up with me again and ANY climbs slowed my pace right down. Albert offered me a snickers and even suggested breaking it up and leaving it placed on rocks up the site of the hill to coax me along, meanwhile I was doing the Effort vs Reward calculation and thinking a Snickers just wasn’t worth it for that climb. Thankfully Albert just gave me the whole Snickers.

A short trot followed to Control 5 at Scoat Tarn and a climb out of the basin on the east side passing a stream flowing from over the top of a 4-5m high rock which had the loveliest tasting water of the weekend. Once on the path from Red pike, and now in the mist, the navigation for the rest of the day pretty much stayed on paths. We followed the path to control 6 at Wind Gap before climbing up to Pillar. Vicky and Jane had caught is up on the climb from Scoat Tarn and we’d ran together until this point but then descending from Pillar they seemed to drop behind a little.

Control 7 was located just before Black Sail pass so no need for the map from the top of Pillar (There are some steep drops off the north side of that!). I managed to make up ground on the descent passing quite a few people on various different courses. Control 7 was also like a line of ants but with that done we just had the last control in the base of the valley near the Day 1 start.

Final crossing and last controlAs we dropped down the slope near Black Sail, Albert was on a mission “Scree! are you good on scree, lets go!” so we hit a scree run whilst others were gingerly trying not to slip on the grassy slope besides it. At the base of the scree was a small trod that others had aimed for. So we tried to make up ground again passing a few people. My quads were killing me and I had to keep stopping for a break but eventually we crossed the stream to hit the last control then head for the final run in.

Albert was pushing me to jog and I tried where I could. Totally exhausted we arrived back at Wasdale head and I crossed the bridge to finish. Albert headed to download and I went and stood in the stream and washed my legs whilst trying to take it all in.

The queue for food was massive and with Beanfeast and weak tea as the lure we decided to head back to the car to get changed and make a proper brew. It’s amazing how quick the body starts to recover though because after only about 20 mins, some food and a cup of coffee I started to feel much better, although still tired. Once changed, we packed everything into the car and headed for home.

At this point I have to say thank you to Albert, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to take part or even complete this event. He plodded on all weekend and NEVER seemed to be in a mood or be phased by my slow turn of speed. In the next couple of months he will be competing in the IronmanUK (Bolton) and in August is heading back to the Pyrenees to run the 160km Grand Raid des Pyrenees where he believes he can shave a few hours of last years time (where he ran with blisters and a broken toe). Thanks Albert and Good luck!

jjWhilst I didn’t run the Saunders MM for any charity I do support Joining Jack. Please take some time to read about Jack here:

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Harvester 2012 (Orienteering)

What is the Harvester?

The Harvester is an Orienteering relay that is held overnight. Teams (typically) consist of either 5 or 7 members with each leg being of a different length or difficulty.

This year the British Army (BAOC) were hosting the Harvester down in Borden near Guilford. So we cobbled together a team of 5 and headed off to show those southerners what we were made of.

So how did it go?

After a long drive down we arrived at the Army Barracks and setup the tents. As we weren’t starting until 2am we all headed out to find a local pub and get some much needed sustenance inside us. Some of us had more than others but it was two for one (on a Saturday night) you can’t beat that.

Back at the tent some of us bedded down. I wasn’t running until the last leg this year so I expected to be heading out sometime after 7am. I didn’t expect to get much sleep but got more than I expected.

Start time: 2:00am

During the night I woke and could hear Melody rustling around. She told me that Stephen (Leg 2 runner) had just headed to the start to wait for Kevan (our leg 1 runner). I woke a little later to hear rustling and expecting it to be Wendy (our leg 3 runner) but it was again Melody. We started to discuss if Kevan was back or if he’d gone straight to bed when he arrived. It turned out that during his run the battery on his headtorch failed so he had to resort to a hand torch, then he got a groin sprain on top of that struggled massively on on of the controls.

Leg 1 (8.25km) complete: 2hr 15mins 55sec

By this point the sun was already above the horizon and as I was now awake I headed to the start with Melody. Stephen came through the radio control (denoting about 1500m left to run) and Melody went into the changeover area. Stephen seemed to have had a good run in comparison to Kevan.

Leg 2 (6.14km) complete: 1hr 33min 16sec

Melody headed off and I expected she would take around an hour to complete her leg so after a brief chat with Stephen we headed back to the tent to wake Wendy.Back at the start with Wendy we waited for Melody and the organisers were talking about mass start times for 7:45. Stephen arrived at the start all changed but was more concerned as to why the breakfast caravan hadn’t arrived.

After an hour an a half, Melody still wasn’t back and I needed to dash back to the tent to get my compass ready for the mini mass start. I expected Wendy would have been off by the time I returned however we both ended up in the mass start.

Mini Mass start: 7:45am

Wendy and I headed out of the start area and opened our maps. it took me a few moments to get my head into the map but before long there was a steady line of people running across the first field. I didn’t really struggle with any one control that caused me any major delays however I had a couple of small hiccups that could shouldn’t have happened.

  • I over shot on control 3 along with about 2 other people who were also hunting around for the same control.
  • I took too long to start running through the nettles at control 4 because I was only wearing 3/4 leggings so spent time looking for another way through. I’m not shy of nettles, there were just quite a few of them.
  • I took the slightly longer route to control 5 to avoid stopping to read the map.
  • A moments hesitation on the way to control 7 lost me about 30 secs stood reading the map.
  • Again I opted for a long route on the longer leg to 12 instead of navigating the warren of paths through the wood, then I overshot the control and was drawn in bay another that I KNEW whilst heading to check it wasn’t the one I wanted.

On the way to control 18 I caught up to Wendy and we did controls 19 and 20 pretty much together. Passing a SYO runner looking for her control as I nipped into my 21 she stopped me when I exited to confirm her location. Glad to help I did and headed for my last control and the finish.

I’d made it to the finish ahead of Wendy and went to check the results to see Melodys time however it wasn’t on the sheet so I checked at the download station. Melody was back thankfully and all controls complete. Shortly after I finished, although a little longer than I expected, Wendy finished.

Leg 3 (4.77km) complete: 2hr 56min 28sec 
Leg 5 (8.25km) complete: 1hr 24min 38sec
Leg 4 (6.1km) complete: 1hr 32min 42sec

A couple of us had planned to do the Level D event afterwards however Kevan had a groin strain, Stephen had already ruled it out and had a sore knee, Melody had probably been out long enough, Wendy was all up for it and I had a tight hamstring (with the SLMM coming this weekend I didn’t want to push it) so overall we decided to pack up and head home.

To our surprise we were not last. There actually existed a team that was slower than us and on studying the results a little more we were only 1min 29sec behind the team in from of us so a slightly better result was in our grasp.

On the whole the event was a resounding success for us. We didn’t get disqualified like last year and the team spirit was excellent!! Bring on next years event and hopefully we might be able to get more people to come along.


Saturday, 5 May 2012

One of my first proper runs in the lakes

What an episode!!!!

This weekend on Winter HillLast weekend the weather was pretty rough. Not really thinking about it, I planned to go up to Winter Hill and Albert decided to join me. Man it was rough, so rough that we re-thought our route and after a brief visit to the top of Winter Hill we headed down in to the Gardens and around Lever Park. The wind and rain was horrendous. However it did make me recall one of my first proper fell running experiences and I thought it was worth sharing with everyone.

I hadn’t been running on the hills that long and was still very green about all aspects of being in the hills. Chris decided it was time for a good trip to the Lakes for me. Looking back I wouldn’t say I was unprepared ‘but’ I had no map or compass, no whistle, no waterproof leg cover, a pair of fell shoes a size too small and absolutely no idea where I was going. I was TOTALLY dependent upon my best friend!!

We parked in Coniston and Chris had decided we would go and cover the Coniston Fell race route. The route starts in Consiton and loops up to the top of Wetherlam, then heads west and heads to Swirl How before heading south over to the Old Man of Coniston. A route of 9 miles and 3500ft. Of course I didn’t know this at the time.

We headed off and all was well, Chris said he knew where he was going so I just followed. The morning started off ok and as I recall I don’t think it was raining at that point. We headed up the first climb which was a bit of a shock as it’s quite steep. Then Chris told me that we should head up “this path” beside the quarry. This was the first of a couple of navigation errors. It wasn’t too bad it just meant we took a slightly longer route. Within about 4-5 minutes Chris had realised his error and instead of turning around we decided to continue on and go round.

Dressed to impress on WetherlamSoon enough we were back on the path up towards Wetherlam but the rain was threatening us and as we climbed we eventually climbed into the mist. By the time we reached the top of Wetherlam the rain had started and there was a little wind to accompany it but things were deteriorating more and more as time passed.

Being new to all this I was just a little worried. I’ve never covered ground fast and then I was even slower than I am now. My legs were tired by now and the weather was worrying me. I like to know where I’m going and I didn’t plus not being able to see more than about 50 metres didn’t help my confidence. I think I’d already had enough. We ran down towards Swirl Hause before the climb to Swirl How, I remember hoping that Chris was going to call it off and take me on a direct route down. This path here looked like a good option, not that I knew where it took me I just wanted to go down! No such luck, Chris ploughed on and up Prison band towards Swirl How.

Fashion victim on Swirl HowChris smiling on Swirl HowThe climb up over Prison Band to Swirl How isn’t too long but it’s rockier than anything we’d covered so far. Before long though we’d made it up to the top of Swirl How and said hello to the first people we’d seen all day. We stopped here for a break. I don’t recall what I had brought with me but it wasn’t much and it didn’t last long. We ended up moving just to get out of the wind but the rain was still hitting us. Chris was smiling and seemed to think this was all fun, I wasn’t as impressed

Standing up there with the elements testing us I had had enough. After a quick stop we headed off, Chris leading and me following like a little lost dog. After a few minutes of running, the wind trying to blow us sideways Chris stopped and said “We’re going the wrong way!!”. “How do you know?” I said,

”The wind is blowing in the wrong direction!” ??

When we’d left the car the wind had been blowing from the south apparently and the route from Swirl How to the Old man of Coniston takes a southerly direction. Chris had determined that because the wind was blowing sideways across us that we must be travelling the wrong way. In hindsight I would have used a compass but I didn’t actually have one.

We returned to the top of Swirl How from the direction of Great Carrs and this time headed off into the wind towards the Old Man. My confidence in Chris’ abilities to navigate me safely had plummeted by this point and I just wanted to go back to the car, I mean who navigates on the wind?? On the way down two walkers were heading back up in the opposite direction to us. They stopped us to ask for help. One walker pointed in the direction up the slope we had just come down and said “Is this the way to the Old Man?”. Well that was it, no more, I trusted Chris’ directions no longer but what could I do. No map, no compass, no idea! All I could do was carry on following Chris despite my doubts.

Chris convinced me and the two walkers that they were travelling in the wrong direction and we were in fact travelling in the right direction and we headed onwards.

We’d started now on the incline towards the Old Man but I had no idea how far it was and little confidence and low energy by this point. The wind and the rain were battering us and I had a major low. At one point I crouched down behind a cairn to get out of the wind and told Chris I was just going to stay there for a bit. “I know it’s awful” he said “but the quickest way off this mountain right now is to carry on, it can’t be that far”. Pulling my self up from behind that tiny pile of stones I carried on. I warned Chris that if we got back to the car I was going to punch him!!

Image040As we carried on I noticed another walker on a parallel path, always good to know you’re not alone, and about 400m-500m later we came upon the summit of the Old Man. 3 fools up here in this gale, I thought, until of course I walked around the back of a large boulder that sits at the top. As I rounded the boulder I saw what I think was about 15-20 people hiding out of the wind chatting away and smiling drinking tea and coffee.

Surely there must be a cable car somewhere???

After a moment to catch a breather we headed off on the final descent back to Coniston. The path drops down through the old copper mines and past Low Water. The wet stone and the Adidas swoops didn’t get on very well and I lost a lot of confidence in these shoes that day (in fact I don’t think I wore them again after that).

It’s amazing how quickly your situation can change in the lakes. One minute I was huddling down behind a cairn wanting to die and the next we were out of the mist, wind and rain heading down towards Coniston and feeling much happier.

On returning to the car I needed food. I punched Chris first although not as hard as I should have, then went for the apple. When your tired and zapped of energy your body must make food taste nicer. That apple was the tastiest apple I have ever, ever had. Chris admitted at that point that he had (at that time) never been out in weather as awful as that before.

I’m not sure why this experience didn’t turn me off running in the mountains but I’m glad it didn’t!!