Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Ben Nevis Race 2013

No update for a while. I've had quite an 'up and down' summer where running is concerned (pardon the pun). I managed to get a last minute entry to Wasdale where I ended up with my first ever DNF; it was far too warm for me and I got timed out at Pillar.

The next race for me was Borrowdale where I had a good run apart from turning my ankle on the descent to Honister, as it went over I heard a distinct crack and felt a bit nauseous but after a quick stop I managed to get going again. It went a couple more times on the final descent and had swelled up quite a lot the morning after but I was still pleased with how I felt generally during the run. It was also a novelty running down some of the corridor route following Ian Holmes, who I didn't recognise at first with his 'everyday' clothes on - he was out spectating with his kids.

Heading to Sty Head I saw Pauline who took this photo.
So I wasn't quite sure what to expect at Ben Nevis, I had had a decent month's training after Borrowdale having finally joined my local running club. We met a couple at Wasdale who just happened to park next to us and they are both coaches there! I had another good run at Blackshaw Head Fell Race the weekend before so I was hoping for a decent time lining up for the start.

Topping up at the burn.
It turned out to be sunny and warm at the start even though it had poured down most of the morning and as usual I was surprised with the pace up the road past the pub. I tripped up almost the moment the path started to rise but caught the fall on my hands, cutting my thumb. I seemed to struggle on the climb up to Red Burn, I just didn't feel that strong but after filling up with water from the burn and shoving some food down my throat I started to feel a bit better.

The climb up from there seems to go on forever but at least it was a bit cooler. At one point it went a bit dark and started hailstoning. By now the leaders were coming flying past on the their way back down and I heard one guy take a nasty fall on the rocks, he sounded like he winded himself.

I was a bit disappointed reaching the top in about 1h36m which seemed a bit slower than other years and the thought that the leaders would now have finished didn't help! Still, next came the descent which is the bit I enjoy the most. I managed to stick with a local Lochaber girl who was skipping her way down the scree and seemed to know all the best lines but on reaching the grassy bank I dropped back. This year the way down here was flagged but it didn't seem to change anyone's route down much. Sadly I turned my ankle again here the same as at Borrowdale; hearing the crack and feeling the nausea my first thought was how was I going to get down but after a bit of a rest and gingerly putting some weight back on it I managed to get moving again.
Rejoining the main path after the grassy bank. I was being careful not to turn the ankle again!

Then it was just a case of being careful where my left foot landed and getting to the finish in one piece. It's the only time I have done this race where I been almost pleased to get back on the tarmac where I would be much less likely to turn the ankle again! As it was I finished in 2h23 about 6 mins slower than my best but I can't complain, it's always a good weekend and at least I got round.

I was surprised to see you got a medal as well as a 'technical' t-shirt this year which might explain the increase in the entry fee. I made a quick trip back to the car to get changed and grab the camera to try and catch both Marks finishing:

They were both well pleased with their runs so it was a good weekend all round. Thanks as usual to all involved with organising the event and also to Richard Cowan for heading onto the hill to take photos.

Mark, Paul and Mark happy to be at the finish.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Borrowdale Fell Race 2013

Having attempted Borrowdale on 2 previous occasions in 2010 and 2011 I decided not to bother last year and went along to support others. This year I told myself I wasn’t going to bother again. Well I don’t think I’m as fit as previous years and if I couldn’t make it then there was no point trying.

When the entires opened I told others I wasn’t entering but then Chris told me that this year, being the 40th running of the race, there were free T-Shirts for all and even better you got your T-Shirt when you registered. So basically I didn’t have to finish the race to get the T-Shirt. So I entered, you can’t beat a free t-shirt.

“Been There, Done (part of) the race, Got the T-shirt”

The Borrowdale race only has one cut-off which is at Honister Slate Mine, just before the final climb up Dale Head. This checkpoint closes at 15:30 (4.5 hours in to the race). In 2010 I hadn’t even planned to do the race but came along as a support but on the journey up was talked into running (somebody we knew had dropped out and there was a free entry). I only managed to make as far as Great Gable with about 25 mins to get Honister (no way). In 2011 I made it to Honister but was still over time by about 15 minutes.

This year, although I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t make the cut-off, I still needed to push myself despite telling all my running colleagues that I was only coming along for the t-shirt. It didn’t stop me bringing some change with me in case I needed to catch the bus back from Honister Mine (it’s a long walk).

The race sets off and is quickly slowed down when the pack of runners all have to filter into a narrow track and is a very flat run for about a mile or so before you start the climb up to BessyBoot.

There had been a funny discussion on facebook in the week before the race about BessyBoot as the race map mentioned “turn left for the climb up BessyBoot (110o)” and Josie, who’s was doing this as her 3rd proper lakes race was worried about it being a very steep climb. She’d got her protractor out and everything! We tried to explain that if the climb was 110o then it would be an overhang. Eventually she realised the the 110o was actually a bearing and nothing to do with the gradient.

On the climb up BessyBoot Tony Varley (a doddery old pensioner!) wasn’t too far in front of me and he became my “carrot”. I pushed on and managed to pass Tony about 1/2 way up the climb and was very happy with myself as Tony always beats me. Of course Tony had been suffering with injury in the 2 weeks before the race but we’ll ignore that.

Once on top of BessyBoot the run over to Allen Crags is more of an undulating run. A new fence that has been erected acts as a hand hold for part of the route and with the recent dry spell the ground underfoot wasn’t really that wet. Fran (Horwich) caught me back up as we went across here and we ran together around Allen crags and to Esk Hause Shelter. After Esk Hause I needed to top up with water and make sure I took on food and now Fran pulled away from me. The next stage takes us from Esk Hause to Scafell Pike and it isn’t as much a climb as I thought it was in my mind and so I felt like I made good progress here.

On getting to the top of Scafell Pike, with it’s head just in the cloud, it was a flurry with people doing the tourist thing. Coming off Scafell there is a quicker descent down the Scree run (loose stones) to join the corridor route but I wasn’t sure of the path so ended up going back the way I came before turning down at the col. On the way down I passed Tony coming up who didn’t seem too happy with his legs and the injury he’d had.

The run down to Sty Head along the corridor route was good, with no mistakes but by now Sty Head didn’t have many supporters left to cheer people on. Us backmarkers need support too you know!

In front of me now is the long climb up Great Gable and I needed to take on food. I brought along a couple of sandwiches and decided I needed to eat those but it was hard work chewing them and getting them down. Pushing on I couldn’t quite see the top as the mist was just covering the top but eventually the marshalls appeared and I started the run down towards Green Gable. Chris had told me to try the wider line coming out to the right instead of the tourist path but somehow I think I still ended up on the tourist path but did manage to miss out some of the scrambles that path presents.

I wasn’t feeling strong by this point but all I wanted to do was make the cut-off. Looking at my watch I felt that my time was improved on previous attempts and so I pushed on. A couple of guys that were running in front of me seemed a little hesitant on the route here and chose to wait for me and let me navigate them over Brandreth toward Base Brown and Honister but as we got closer they ran ahead and ended up taking the wrong line (i think it is) which brings them down right behind the slate mine but isn’t as runnable.

Eventually descending down to Honister I could see the final climb up to Dale head. With another look at my watch I was confident that I would make the cut-off this time. Running through the car-park I could see that I still had 8 minutes left until the checkpoint closed. As I no longer needed the bus fair, I made a quick detour into the cafe and bought used my bus fair to buy some Lucozade before starting the final climb.

Zapped of energy I climbed Dale Head. It’s not a bad climb on it’s own but at the end of Borrowdale it’s a slog. Slow progress was made and on looking back there were only 2-3 people behind me, but that didn’t matter. I just needed to get to the finish.

Eventually the marshalls appeared and the final climb was done. The tired legs now had to descend all the way to Rosthwaite and they didn’t really want to. Descending the 1st half to the quarry was slow And allowed one runner to leave mee behind 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Darren Holloway Memorial Buttermere Horseshoe Race 2013

Saturday 29 June saw us heading up to Loweswater again, this time for the race. The weather wasn't sure what to do first thing and was forecast to get worse but I was feeling better than I had for the past few weeks of Lakeland trips.

Daz's family were there at the start and I found it quite moving listening to his cousin before the off. I took it easy for the first hour or so and was close to the back after the first climb but that didn't matter I just wanted to get round without suffering as much as I did at Ennerdale a couple of weeks before.

On reaching Grasmoor in the clouds I noticed the marshal showing concern for the lady in front. I caught up to her on the descent to Whiteless and noticed she was struggling - it was Karen Nash and she had fell badly on the ridge after the first climb banging her ribs as well as cutting her face and knee.

That set the pattern for most of the rest of the race, I would pass Karen on the descents and she would then come sailing past on the next climb. After Newlands I got the route round the side of Robinson almost spot on. I had overheard Scoffer chatting to some of the other top runners at the start saying how he was going straight over the top and didn't see the point of trying to find the good ground to contour round since you still had to climb up on to Littledale Edge but I wasn't so sure. I had a bad patch onto Dalehead but got some more food and water down me before the descent to Honister.

It was hard to judge pace on the downhills I didn't want to trash my legs with having so much further to go but I enjoyed the run down to Honister my dibber time for that stretch was about 9 1/2 mins. It was here I got a good look at Karen's face and it looked painful but she was determined to carry on. I had plenty of water and a few jelly babies here and that made me feel much better all the way to the next checkpoint.

The weather brightened up and I even managed to find a good route around Seat that I've never used before which I stored up for next time. Up Gamelin End Karen and Ed passed me again and I struggled over the rocky terrain all the way to the contour around Red Pike. I went right over on my ankle coming down off there but there was no damage done.

I filled up with water from the stream and also managed to find the contour route to the start of the last climb saving me dropping down too far into the valley. Drank the water and got some more food down for the final push, where Karen passed me again!

The only part of the route I hadn't looked at properly was the last descent so inevitably I went wrong but not too badly - just catching Karen before we reached the stony track round the back of Melbreak back to the village. It was a really good feeling running down here even though I was shattered but the last little kick up the road to the finish was torture. It was nice to get a round of applause from everyone sat outside the pub too!

It was spotting with rain at the start where Darren's cousin said a few words. 

Down the lane from the start. That cap and windproof was on and off all day.

The ridge to Whiteless Pike; Mark was sat up here enjoying himself taking photos.
Climbing up from Newlands Pass. It was good to see Paul Dobson here taking photos.
The track leading down to the finish in the village.

Comparing results at the finish.

Nice to finally take the weight off my feet.
I had a really good day out even though I took over 6 1/2 hours and I was really impressed with how Karen coped with her injuries. Quite a poignant day in some respects; I only knew Daz from speaking to him at races particularly Ben Nevis but he always came across as a nice bloke and I was shocked to learn of his death last year. He seemed to live for running on the fells and loved all aspects of the sport; obviously loved by those close to him and the fact that this classic race has been resurrected in memory of him proves how well thought of he was.

Thanks to his family and everyone else involved with organising the event.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Ennerdale Fell Race 2013

Saturday 8 June brought another Ennerdale Horseshoe and a good turnout of runners in the sunshine. I didn't  have much of a plan apart from getting round and hoping to at least match my average time of about 6 hours.

It wasn't to be. They had extended the cut-off times again which meant I could take it easier in the early stages and it was nice to see Joss Naylor on top of Great Bourne the first checkpoint handing out encouragement/abuse (he commented on how I didn't have a sweat on).

I followed some good lines up to Haystacks though deciding to go right around Seat was a bit of a mistake without a recce since I ended up clambering down some scree - I didn't head right enough. After Blackbeck Tarn I began to suffer and felt like I was going backwards; every climb from then on was a struggle.

I got to Pillar about 20 mins before the checkpoint closed and had a drink and a sit down, taking the opportunity to clear the scree from my shoes and socks. From there it was a slow plod over the easier ground to the finish. I met a large group of Achille Ratti members near Scoat Fell going the other way who were supporting someone on their BG who seemed to be going well.

There were very few other runners in sight by the time I had passed Haycock. Mark and Pauline were heading up there to take pictures but they were well gone by the time I arrived. There was forestry work going on in the woods before the final climb; it was a novelty having to clamber over all the pine trees.

I don't know how I got up that last climb and 6 hours was well out of the window but I managed to trot down the final descent happy that I had managed to get round.

Relaxing before the start.

...also fueling.
At the start with much of the route ahead.

Albert and Tony at the off.
On the approach to Red Pike, thanks to Paul Dobson for taking this one.

Albert climbing Haycock.

Ian on the final descent with Pauline chasing.

Albert got tired waiting for me at the finish!

Feeling worse for wear at the finish.
Maybe I didn't drink enough, maybe I was suffering from the last 2 long weekends or maybe I just haven't put enough work in this year but I can't complain. 3 great weekends of running on the trot in great weather and even better company.

Thanks as usual to all involved in organising the event! Thanks to Mark & Pauline as well for the support (and for driving Mark!).

Some more photos on Ian's Blog and Mark uploaded some here.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Duddon Valley Fell Race 2013

My first Duddon and it was tough. My right leg had been giving me some trouble since the recce last week so I was a bit apprehensive about the race. The forecast was good though so I just planned on taking it easy and getting round in one piece. Mark was thinking about doing the short one but he wasn't fully recovered from a bug he had on Thursday.

The Finish behind the Newfield Inn.
Signs to follow through the woods to the start. Mark took lots of photos after the race started; his plan was to drive up to Hardknott pass and take photos of the race but he spent so long playing with the camera he missed all but the last 5 or so runners!
At the start still smiling

Heading for the finish over 4.5 hours later and not feeling too great.
Quite a long run out to the first climb but the views were lovely. The climb up Little Stand was just as much of a shock as everyone had said it was and I was regretting not taking a camera along with me. Great descent to meet Mark by 3 Shires stone too but by the time I had passed Swirl How I was getting cold and couldn't run as I felt I should have been so it was a struggle from then on.

Caw was very deceiving and the air was blue at one point where I was almost looking for the summit marshal as I crested what turned out to be the pikes before the final climb and realised how much of the route was left!

I was happy I got round, it's a classic route. Thanks to all involved with putting the race on!

Buttermere Horseshoe Recce

Bank holiday weekend saw me heading up to the lakes with Mark for a trot round the Buttermere Horseshoe. I've got an entry for the race at the end of June so we spent a day looking at various options.

Mark posing above Whiteless Pike while we enjoyed the view.
Studying the options on the map.
After Honister Mark started to get tired and by this point nearing the top of Gamelin End he was a bit fed up.

Around High Stile later in the day.

 It's a corker of a route I just hope we get weather like this on race day.