Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Kinder Trog Fell Race 2017

The day dawned claggy. That should have put me on high(er) navigational alert. I knew a decent chunk of the race route. Fairly confident I'd say, but totally in the knowledge of where I'd get the map out. Well, me, along with many others took some interesting route choices in the clag. This was going to be one tough fell race for me - distance, ascent and the shear challenge was all a bit daunting.

This is a race with a description of 25.7km and 1062m ascent. I did a bit more than that!

After arriving early to register I walked the final kilometre through the village just so I wouldn't disgrace myself by getting lost on the last bit. Back at the scout hut things were getting busy, numbers being pinned on and Glossopdale Harrier club mates arriving.

10.55am and we're all gathered on the road ready to go. I was chatting with Cheryl when suddenly we were off...no shout of 'Go' or any sort of race organiser briefing that we heard, but then we were near the back of the pack.

The first 9km or so is pretty much all up hill. And my lungs knew it. I set off with the aim of completing the race, not pushing and punishing myself by blowing up on that first section so I eased to a walk fairly soon on the climb up to Lantern Pike. It was humid and the threat of rain and clag on the tops loomed.

With plenty of people around me we made our way over the fields and down to Monks Road. What a super boost to see Andrea and Brae on the track, then Julien, John H, Alasdair and Dave H on the road. It is brilliant to see club mates out supporting, thank you.

Onwards, I grabbed a quick glass of water from the marshals then crossed the roads. The marshals were brilliant and actually stopping cars for us. The next section was a combination of run/walk as we climbed towards Kinder past Burnt Hill.

Near Burnt Hill, thanks to Frank Golden Photography for the pic

The dreaded stone flags appeared soon enough. I got my head down and thought positive thoughts! Cheryl had pulled away long since but I had caught a glimpse of her ahead when I cross the main road. Too far to catch now, and that put me as last Glossopdale Harrier but still smiling because I was out doing it.

I ate a little, kept drinking and got myself up the steep stone steps onto the Kinder Edge path. At some point between the flags and here I'd put on my waterproof. The rain was now falling heavier, not just misty moisture and it was being blasted into my right ear so I reluctantly put my hood up, knowing I'd be heating up quickly.

I'm not a fan of the running around the edge path - rocks sticking up all over the place mean you have to pay constant attention to where you put your feet. This means I only tend to go that way when it's clear as the views are amazing. Not today - visibility at perhaps 50m at best shrouded us in rain and clag. I fell into a rhythm and saw three other runners not too far ahead. Knowing this section can seem like a long way in the clag (Kinder Down fall in XYEAR was totally clagged in too) I pushed myself on to catch them.

From not too far after the steep climb up, to somewhere above Cluther Rocks we were in a train of four. Hardly a word spoken, each in our own world. There was one chap who was mostly at the front and he was setting a nice pace. I could have gone faster, but this was good for me, steady, rhythmical and sensible given we weren't halfway. I loved the mesmerisation of our footfall and the pace that slowed to a walk on the slight inclines and rockier sections. Then picked up to a run naturally.

At some point after Red Brook and before the trig there's a section of rocks you need to climb up through and the guy at the front beared off to the right around them. I reminded myself I was running my own race so kept on the path I knew to be right. The other three runners dropped away in the clag. Cairns appeared like ghosts out of the mist. I knew I'd passed the trig point but couldn't see it. Then the triangle path of paving appeared and I was sure, totally sure, I needed to go right. That was my mistake.

So on the wrong route I trundled along. At some point I knew I was wrong. There'd been runners appearing from various directions already then all of a sudden Cheryl appeared coming towards me!! A short discussion later and we were continuing on my 'I know this is wrong but think I can put it right' route choice. She decided to be 'misplaced' with me rather than strangers. I also thought it better to drop out of the clag and put it right, rather than retrace steps and not really know where to go, wasting time. Without finding the trig point and then following a bearing you could wander up there for a while.

Sure enough we popped out on the Kinder Downfall route after negotiating the steep steps of Kinderlow End. We resigned ourselves to the climb back up to Edale Cross to pass the check point. The amusing clag-lost runners were all around - some looked like they were wandering aimlessly over towards Oaken Clough and I heard later some had gone down Jacobs Ladder.

The next section was a down and steep up to pick up the bridleway past Mount Famine. We kept a good pace and soon enough were at the top. The usually very boggy path was nicely dry and before we knew it we were on the descent to the next road crossing.

Having a good natter on the bridleway heading to the road crossing to Peep O Day
Thanks to Frank Golden Photography for the pic
Another friendly face (Carl) appeared and boosted our moral. The road crossing was negotiated safely then the climb up to Big Stone. It teases you, sitting up on the horizon, seemingly getting closer but feeling like it isn't doing so. We got there in the end, along with cramp hitting Cheryl's calves. Finally the last climb was done and we were at about 3hrs 30. Could we finish under 4 hours? We had a vague idea how far it was but pace was slowed a little as we did map reading necessary to keep us on the right paths. Plus cramp stops, then on the final descent though the trees to Phoside my right knee started to be really painful with each foot fall. Ouch! Nothing for it but to carry on. Forward progress will get you there in the end, however steady.

Across the two fields and the really muddy bit you couldn't avoid - right up to my calves! Down the slippy concreted track and the final road crossing to a massive cheer from Des (cheers for that, made us smile!!). Through the car park with about 2 minutes to go until our self-imposed (well mine I think) deadline....across the bridge....into the field!! yey! Once Cheryl realised that was actually the finish she stopped insisting that I left her to push on....we crossed the line together, hand in hand and smiling - 3 hours 59 minutes and 42 seconds. And we weren't last. Not that it really would have mattered because we finished.

The finish line still had a good few runners and supporters there who cheered us in - that was wonderful. Thank you all.

Thank you to the race organiser, marshals, tea and sandwich providers, photographers, those who supported and anyone else involved. It's a really tough race, challenging conditions and one which I will definitely be doing again. (at least I should get a pb if I don't get misplaced again :) )

A big thank you goes to Cheryl for the delightful company - I'll get misplaced with you in any race :)

My record of the route is 26.8km and 1181m of ascent....so a bit over on both counts. I am really pleased with my time and will be back.

For your amusement - the route choices taken by the racers!

As a final note (rant), my experience was a little damped by a few other runners. Please, if you are going to do a race where it is advertised with these abbreviations  - "ER, PM, LK, NS" - read the descriptions and do your homework. NS means you need Navigational Skills. Yes the route was "PM - partially marked" but NS means you might actually need to get your map and compass out, or recce the route beforehand. Don't constantly ask those around you which way to go, is this the right stile, do we go down here etc...and certainly don't harangue the marshal to physically show you the route when their job is to take numbers of other runners approaching to ensure the safety of all. It was tiresome to hear your tirade. It is your responsibility to learn the skills required for the race you have entered. Rant over!

Friday, 9 June 2017

Wincle Trout Fell Race

The motivation to run this race was pretty much entirely fuelled by the novelty that each finisher receives a trout! What a random and useful souvenir to receive by going for a run! This year's race was also one of our Glossopdale Harriers championship races, so it seemed right that I run it.

Tim and I haven't been to Wincle or the area before so drove down really early with a picnic and a plan to recce the start and finish in a leisurely manner before the 2.45pm start. As it happens, we got there so early we walked around the whole route in the glorious sunshine. I do like knowing what is coming along the way in a race so this was a very helpful recce walk.

The route is a loop taking in a few steep descents, a good section through forest on the Dane Valley Way, onto moorland and enough rutted farm fields to mean I didn't want to fully let go on those descents for fear of turning an ankle. There was also a refreshing river crossing and nettles to dodge. Each third year the race starts in a different place, the top- middle- or bottom of the hill. 2017 was the toughest finish, being entirely uphill to the fields high above the Dane River.

crossing the River Dane

letting my legs run free on the firm grass

the final uphill zig-zags were hard on energy sapped legs

the finish straight - more uphill and I just couldn't get past anyone

The race was 8.6km and took me just over an hour. I am pleased with how I ran - measured effort without breaking myself. I always feel like I should be able to give more in a race but at the time it feels like I am putting everything into it. I'd recommend this race to others for sure, the village fete was worth the £1 entry fee with traditional stalls and lots to see. Thanks to the race organisers - the course was wonderfully marked and marshaled, giving the runners no chance to go wrong.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Lantern Pike Dash fell race

For many reasons I chose to run the Lantern Pike Dash fell race this year. The main reason being because I can. Not perhaps because I want to, this race isn't one I would seek out with masses of enthusiasm. But, I can run, so I did run.

It is a ridiculously short race, departing from a field behind the Lantern Pike pub, going up to the trig at the top of the hill then turning and coming straight back down. 2km logged on my watch and an unconfirmed race time of 29:43. I ran with a running mate from the Glossopdale Harriers - her very first fell race and we were aiming for a sub 30 minute so target hit nicely.

The hill is stupendously steep...no real path, just a vague trod through the grass and heather and bilberry bushes. Going up there were times I needed to pull on the flora....and coming down Mandy did a spectacular slide - deliberately of course. Much merriment and fun was had, and a massive load of us from Glossopdale were there creating a sea of blue and orange.

Mandy and I...at the very top and about to round the trig before the descent

Thanks to whoever took the photos and to Mandy for a brilliant 30 minute dash up and down a hill on a gloriously sunny day.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Yomping adventure

We live in such a gloriously beautiful place, Glossop, right on the edge of Kinder Scout and Bleaklow. This weekend the moorland was home for the night...a bivi in a cabin without a door. And it was breathtaking.

Myself and Eleanor left Glossop with heavy packs containing all we'd need for the next 24 hours. Self sufficiency on our backs and no pressure to be anywhere at any time in particular. Our route took us up past Chunal cabin, to Mill Hill and down Ashop Clough. A brew stop at the ruined cabin was our first real stop but we didn't loiter too long in the chilly wind.

Onwards down the valley we entered Lady Clough on the final part of our route for the day. The woods were delightful, wandering through pine trees next to the babbling river. We paused in the woods to collect a small supply of firewood, just in case we could light a fire safely. Then up the valley, across the road and on to the cabin. Our 4 star accommodation for the night.

Our luck was in - a flat stone big enough to build a fire on. We got settled and chatted the night away. Tealights surrounded by foil created a wonderful warming glow in the cabin. A small quickly built wall in the doorway stopped any sheep joining us for the night and at dusk, when it started to get dark we climbed into our sleeping bags and drifted in and out of sleep through the night. I was definitely on the cool side of being comfortable but it was worth it for the peace and glorious dawn witnessed through the doorway of the cabin.

An early start was in order just to keep warm - breakfast and a good coffee set us up for the meander back to Glossop. Our time on the return leg was spent discussing future adventures.

Sunrise, just quite simply glorious

Happy adventurers!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

London Marathon

At 26.2 miles, any marathon is going to be a decent challenge for me. Add tarmac, plus 40,000 other runners and who knows how many thousand spectators into the mix, it's going to be busy and even more demanding. An epic run in many ways.

I chose to run in aid of Glossop Mountain Rescue Team. Knowing my completion of the marathon was what compelled people to part with hard earned cash for the MR team absolutely spurred me on. Thank you to each and everyone who has donated, it is very much appreciated and for a very worthy cause.

As I lined up on the start line (well about 800m back in the starting pen) I knew I had around £430 raised, so I was running each kilometre for just over £10. Believe me when I say that at about 22 miles I was breaking that down into 100m chunks and however hard my brain worked I just couldn't calculate what each 100m was worth...the tiredness had well and truly set in, but the distraction meant another mile or so passed before I was alongside the Tower of London and into the final stretch.

My training had gone really well during January. I decided to focus on road running pretty much exclusively because as a fell runner I avoid tarmac as much as possible. I needed to shift the balance and inoculate my legs against the repetitiveness of the hard surface. In February training took a back seat - not entirely what I had planned, but a trip of a lifetime to Tasmania meant that my attention was elsewhere. Come mid March, and with around 5 weeks to go a long run was cut short - knee pain. Ouch! The remainder of training was focused on healing well, and negating further discomfort while still getting in volume. So for example I did 10km runs on 3 consecutive days and no aggravation of the knee issue. Super. All set to run.

A selfie on Tower Bridge!
On the day, the weather was far warmer than recent running had been. My watch recorded 23 degrees as we made our way around London. The forecast of 13 degrees was certainly way lower than it actually was. Nutrition and hydration went well for me and it wasn't until around the 3 hour point that it started to get really quite tough. I'd already been taking walk breaks from around 25km. Then around 35km my knee started to really not be happy. I was certainly OK to carry on, and that's what I did, just with plenty of walk breaks and keeping the pace steady.

Along with seeing some club mates out supporting in Greenwich I'd been lucky enough to see a fellow Glossopdale Harrier around Docklands somewhere. Bumping into people you know is incredibly uplifting. If you're going to run a long race then I do recommend having someone out on the course to keep you motivated. Obviously the crowds are out in force and cheering you on, but there really isn't anything to match seeing a friendly face.

As my legs got heavier and I made my way down the Embankment on the final few kilometres who should I see again, but Jayne in her Welsh Dragon costume running along (she broke the world record in that hot costume!). Amazing to see her once, but twice!! We chatted and stayed together as Big Ben drew closer and closer. Both of us determined to keep moving. I totally have Jayne to thank for keeping me running in the final stretch. Sadly we lost each other with around 1km to go but as I turned onto the red tarmac of The Mall I knew I could run to the end....over the line and phew!!! I'd finished.

You then have the very well organised system of collecting a medal, a goodie bag with your finishers t-shirt and then your drop-bag from the lorry. It was here I bumped into another harrier, Cheryl, and we literally held each other up as we stumbled down through the tired and elated runners.

I am so happy and proud to have finished the London Marathon. Lasting memories will be of running with so many people around me, the noise from the crowds and loud speakers blasting out music, but mostly of the generosity and support from people back home. Donations to Glossop Mountain Rescue Team so far total £540 - a very big thank you from me and the team.

Also a big thank you to Tim - his support during my training has been amazing. From kicking me out of the door when I didn't want to, sports massages along the way, physio on my knee, picking me up in Stockport on the way home, post-marathon sports massage and super motivation - couldn't have done it without him.

A few stats....an official marathon is 26.2miles, or 42.16km. I recorded (and I started my watch about 2mtrs from the starting mats) 43.4km (26.96miles). It took me an official time of 4:27:04 and I ran at an average pace of 6:09 per kilometre. I recorded 135m of ascent. In training I struggled to find flat routes and in one of my 10km runs I did over 200m!!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Tasmania - East Coast trip

During our trip to Tassie our mates pulled a surprise on us and managed to grab themselves a week away from their farm - no small feat given they have pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, a dog, thousands of apple trees and much more to look after on a daily basis. Things were aligned though, they had two relatives/friends staying and helping on the farm so they could steal away with us and show us the stunning East Coast.  We are eternally grateful that we could share some precious time with them away from the farm.

The trip started by driving northwards through Hobart and on to the Tasman peninsula, staying in White Beach. We took day trips out to Cape Hauy, Fortescue Bay and round to Bivouac Bay, tried to do the hike to Cape Raoul but sadly the trail was closed for maintenance, and generally chilled out.

We then headed further north to the Frecinet peninsula for three nights in Coles Bay. However, Tim, myself, Rob and Matt headed out for a 2 night camp in the Frecinet National Park. First day was walking round headlands and across wonderful sandy beaches - quite a challenge with full camping gear walking over the soft sand. The camp was so close to the beach the waves crashing down kept me awake but oh, the Milky Way viewing was magnificent.

On the second day we hiked up and over Mt Graham to camp at Wineglass Bay. After two days of hot sticky weather and being covered in sweat and sunscreen we took a refreshing dip in the sea. Another fairly sleepless night (for me it was worse as I'd been ill, most likely because of heatstroke) but we had noisy neighbours on the camp! Shockingly annoying in such a stunning and remote part of the world. The morning brought predicted rain so with me still not 100% we departed early for the 2 hour hike back to the car and to the comfort of our beach cottage.

That evening we had a meal out then back to the beach and Matt showed the guys how to fish...we lucked out too, Matt and Tim both caught fish which we ate back in Geeveston the following night.

Here's this bunch of photos...most likely (definitely) out of order but you get the idea!

Cape Hauy, the guys looking down to the Totem Pole

The Totem Pole - a very famous climb that is not for the faint hearted

on the way to Cape Hauy

super amazingly fresh fruity icecream - made in front of our very eyes


kookaburra even closer! 

possum at our first camp

Climbing up Mt Graham

looking down to Wineglass Bay on right, Cooks Beach on left, from Mt Graham

on our way down to Wineglass Bay

Rob and Matt in the water at Wineglass Bay

Tim's fish read to cook