Monday, 2 April 2018

Bob Graham Round Recce - Leg 1

Saturday 31st March, 10am I left home to drive up to Keswick, leaving the girls in the capable hands of my long-suffering wife.  The plan was to get there, check in to Denton House (the bunkhouse that I was staying in), then meet up with Pete Watson, his sister-in-law Lisa Watson, and James MacKeddie for a gentle trot around Leg 1 of the BG route.

As with all of the best laid plans, something went awry - most of the population of England it seemed had descended on Keswick, and James couldn't get parked, so it ended up just being Pete, Lisa and myself.

The weather was a bit grim, cold in the town with a chilly breeze blowing, but not too bad, cloud ceiling around 600-700m.  We set off through Fitz Park, the up the path to Latrigg.
Just past the car park, the wind picked up and I had to put on my coat to keep warm  We carried on up the main path, getting colder and windier, with snow starting to appear on the ground.  The in the space of about 10m of climb, we went from some visibility, to none.
It was pretty cold, but not too windy and ok as long as we were moving.  Just past the path junction to Little Man, there was a pretty cool ice formation on the fence.
From here to the top of Skiddaw, it feels a lot further than it looks on paper, especially into a freezing headwind with no visibility!  Up near the very top, the wind properly hit, nearly blowing us sideways off the top of the mountain!
Trig Point!

Pete reclining against the wind.
The next bit is a bit more difficult with no visibility, finding the turn offto get down, heading in the right direction for Great Calva.  After overshooting slightly, then retracing our steps, we found the stile and trotted off downhill, with the wind dying off and the temperature increasing (a little).
Just below the cloud ceiling.
 We managed to stick on the correct trod, and passed beside Hare Crag, instead of getting bogged in the heather like last time!  Next up was the horrible boggy trudge up Great Calva.  My least favourite spot in the Lake District.  Surprised it hasn't slumped in on itself as it's so boggy!
Heading towards Great Calva

Just past the worst of the bog, looking back towards Lonscale Fell 
Sunlight on the flank of Skiddaw

 We tagged the top, then followed the fence line down to Wiley Gill, then straight across (the bog!) to the climb up Mungrisdale Common.

When we got a bit closer to Atkinson Pike, we took an arbitrary right, skirting below Blue Screes and taking a direct line for the summit (or at least, where we figured the summit to be!).  We got it pretty bang on, then headed straight over to see what Hall's Fell Ridge was like, as we'd been down Doddick Fell last time.

It was interesting.
Just over the top...

Little bit further down.

Pretty steep in places.

Can see where we're heading now!

Clough Head in the distance, looking imposing.

Lisa "manouvering" over a tricky bit.

Favourite shot of the day

Looking back where we came from.

Catbells, Derwentwater and Sunlight in the distance.

Nearly there.

And down.  Top's almost clear now that we're down.
 Conclusion so far is that Doddick Fell is definitely faster if the weather's iffy!

Some splits:
Moot hall -> Skiddaw: 1:27
Skiddaw -> Great Calva: 0:50
Great Calva -> Blencathra: 1:10
Blancathra -> Threlkeld: 0:41
Total : 4:08

What I'm hoping to do on the day:
 Moot hall -> Skiddaw: 1:16
Skiddaw -> Great Calva: 0:40
Great Calva -> Blencathra: 1:03
Blancathra -> Threlkeld: 0:28
Total : 3:27

Best get training some more then.

For fuel around this bit I used 500ml of MountainFuel Xtreme, and 3x peanut butter, jam and sticky rice slices that I made from the Feedzone Portables cookbook.


Legs 4 and 5 next!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Lakeland 50 2017

These days, the official start of our Summer holidays is when we load up the car, and head North to Consiton for the weekend of awesome that is the Ultra Tour of the Lake District.  This year, it was a little different on a few counts.
1 - we headed up a day early, and spent a night in Ambleside.  The YHA is pretty cool.
2 - Mel and the girls were marshalling at Kentmere.  So I would get to see them an extra time on the course.
3 - I wasn't racing.  Don't get me wrong, I had no intention of hanging around, the plan was to run steady, get in under 9 hours, and not damage myself so I could have a decent crack at the CCC a month later.

Everything else was basically the same though.

Registration went smoothly, although every time I step on the scales, I seem to weigh more..I blame the Fintons breakfast I had before we came up (the best little cafe where we live sells amazing food!).  We hung around a bit, played on the park, and counted down the time until the L100 legends set off.  The girls also nipped in and got their faces painted as foxes (and they were amazing!).

All too soon, the 100 guys were off, and the countdown was on to the L1.  The girls were super-excited, and Esmee was running it by herself this year (Little Miss Independent at 7 years old!).  The dance was danced, the countdown counted down, then they were off, at about 6 minute miles!  I had to nearly sprint to catch up to Josie!  We managed to dodge all of the people falling over, and were having a bit of to-and-fro with Charlie Sproson and his lad, until the heavens opened and the face paint started running.  We finished, with all the children's face paint looking a little more...sinister.

Back to the Sun Inn, for food, sleep, and to actually stick all the kit in my race pack!

Sleep was fairly broken, but I was up, at 7ish, feeling pretty good.  Collected together all the stuff I thought I'd need (along with the headtorch that was under the chair!) and made my way down to the event centre for breakfast.  Had a nice bowl of porridge, some of Rinaldo's fantastic coffee and chatted to as many people as I recognised!

Next up was the Marc and Uncle Terry show, which although it has been refined over the years, is still pretty similar to the one I sat through in 2010!  Next was on to the bus, just getting sat down as Mel and the girls arrived with the banana I had forgotten.  They passed it to a lady who passed it to me, then we waved goodbye and went on our separate adventures - me to Dalemain, Mel to Kentmere CP.

It was pretty cosy on the bus, I was sat in a row of 3, at the window.  Not entirely sure who was next to me, but the next lad over was Adam Firth, veteran of a few others and it turned out we had a mutual friend - Chris Baynham-Hughes, the man whom everyone seems to know.  We had a chat about this and that, I knocked back the banana, and half a bottle of Mountain Fuel Xtreme, and tried not thinking about how much I needed a wee.

The hour or so spare was spent downing the rest of my Mountain Fuel, chatting to Tony, Katie, Casper, Adam Lloyd and Kevin Perry, and cheering through the L100 Legends.  Kept my big coat on too, as the liquid sunshine was out in full force.  Finally people started funneling in to the starting pen, so I swapped big coat for small coat, and made my way in and to somewhere near the front line, having a nice chat with Kevin.

Countdown from 10, then we were off, chasing Marc around the 4 mile loop of Dalemain Estate.  Briefly toyed with the idea of catching up to Marc and racing him around the loop, then remembered what I was there for, just to enjoy it with no expectations of performance, and no chasing down everyone in front!  There was the usual mad dash of everyone charging past, but it settled down quicker than normal - maybe the weather had put a dampener on it, but by the time we finally got off the fields and on to the dirt road through the estate.  I had no idea what position I was in, and wasn't too bothered.

Past Marc at the Dalemain CP, over a few more fields, then finally onto some good trail towards Pooley Bridge.  I really enjoy the wooded section here, and there's always such good support through the town, gives such a good boost.  From Pooley Bridge there's a long drag up to the Cockpit, which is entirely runnable this early on in the race, and having the company of Matt Leigh (10th place last year in 8:45!) up the last bit.  From there, it's a protracted downhill all the way to Howtown.  It's really easy to go to fast on this bit and use a bit more energy than you need to at this early stage, but I just relaxed, and got down doing as little damage as possible.

Howtown.  1:25, 14th

Howtown is the Chia Charge CP, these guys are great.  Had a very brief chat with Jerome McCulla, some coke, refilled Mountain Fuel bottle, quick photo:

Back out of there, up the road, then off to Fusedale!  This section is the bit where people find out if they've gone off too fast - the hard way.  I had a nice chat with Adam Firth up the first part, then just kept a steady power hike going when it got steep.  At the top of the first steep section I passed my Old County Tops partner Simon Lowther who was still in good humour despite doing the 100, and a 50 runner.  Also saw Tony Holland in the distance, but slightly closer than I expected.

Second steep section, and back to power-hiking.  Up the top, and Tony is definitely getting closer.  I resist the urge to speed up overtake, just maintained pace and eventually caught him near the bottom of the hill, just around the where the bracken starts.  Turns out he was having...stomach issues. Down to the trail along the edge of Haweswater, one of my favourite bits.  It's undulating, and technical underfoot, and suits me well.  I passed a few 50 runners along here, and teamed up with Daniel Jones, eventual 8= place with his running buddy John Cook.  Apparently, John had just got back from Vegas, and was feeling a bit rough at that point, so Daniel and I kept each other company until we hit Sparta, a.k.a. Mardale Head CP

Howtown -> Mardale 1:44, 10th place.

Was in and out of here pretty quickly, cup of coke, refill bottle of Mountain Fuel and OMG CHEESE AND PICKLE SANDWICH! So I grabbed one of those, then followed Dan Miller and Richard Smith of The Endurance Store Trail Team.  I was steadily closing in on them, but then I really needed a wee, so I ended up just following them all the way up Gatescarth, then all the way down Sadgill.  I caught them heading up to Sadgill Wood.  They then shot past again on the descent into Kentmere, where we passed another 50 runner who had aggravated and old injury and was struggling on the descents.  Just outside of Kentmere I passed the legendary Mike Evans cracking on with the 100, then was paced into the CP by Kirk Hardwick, dressed in some sort of weird hybrid teddy-bear sheep, and my eldest daughter Esmee which was pretty special.

Mardale -> Kentmere, 1:16, 9th

 Into the Cp, got sorted out by Mel, said hi to Paul Grundy, Dan Milton, Emma Hardwick and a few others, posed for some photos, had a coke-and-salt cocktail (Yum!...blergh...), refilled Mountain Fuel, posed for a photo or 2 grabbed a biscuit, then was chased out of the CP by my wife with Kirk following, brandishing a GoPro.

I had a nice, steady trot up Garburn, walking the steepest bits, cheering on the 100 runners when I saw them (although this year, it was looking a little more sparse in terms of 100 runners).  It was a pleasant surprise to see Debbie Martin-Consani and co at the top, then it's all the way down to Troutbeck.  Again, a nice trot down here without going for any land-speed records like previous years so I could keep my quads intact, with some fantastic views.  I was expecting Dan and Richard to come bombing past me at some point down here, but no such luck.

Troutbeck came and went, with some vocal support at the top of the road climb, then it's some fantastic running from here to Ambleside with some quality views over Windermere.  I managed to run most of it, except for the steep bits, which was pretty satisfying.  I was also still feeling really good, having to consciously stop grinning as walkers were giving me funny looks...  Hitting Ambleside, the noise and clapping and support was amazing as I trotted into the CP, paced by my Support Crew.

Kentmere -> Ambleside 1:22, 7th.

Everything happened pretty quickly here.  Quick hello to Charlie and Mike, bottle refilled with Mountain Fuel, coke was drunk, momentary indecision over before I spotted more CHEESE AND PICKLE SANDWICHES!  Grabbed one, then off I trotted towards Loughrigg Fell.

I quite like this bit, as it's a good honest grunt to the top, then a nice descent down to Skelwith Bridge.  Nothing untoward or unusual happened here, saw 2 L100 runners, some sheep and that was it.  Saw the awesome Lee Knight at the beginning of the trail to Elterwater, then just relaxed and enjoyed to run along the river.  It felt nice to be running relaxed along here with no pressure for position, or time limit to run to.  Mel and the girls were waiting in the carpark by the bridge, for another lot of quick hugs, then Mel lets drop that "there's a guy in a Salomon top, only about 30 seconds behind you!  Get a move on!".

Almost pulled me out of my Zen moment, had to remind myself that I wasn't there to race, just to enjoy. (Also turns out, that bit of news was from Kentmere, and the guy in question was the one who had aggravated a previous injury.  There was noone within quite a few minutes of me!)

Kept on running steady, round the Wainwrights Inn, good to see Matt Wilson there, then the long run into Chapel Stile CP, which really didn't seem so long at all this year.

Ambleside -> Chapel Stile 53 minutes, 7th

Again, everything was efficient.  Bottle of MountainFuel refilled, coke consumed, biscuit grabbed, off I jog.  Also this time, a lady who was staying at Chapel Stile was going to join me for a bit.  She was training for the Nessy marathon, which a mate of mine is also doing later this year.  Unfortunately, and probably a bit ungentalmanly (is that even a word?), I was still moving well and left her behind after a short while.  This section up to Blea Tarn is quite undulating, and reasonably hard work but was quite enjoyable this year, although the zig-zags are always tough!

Blea Tarn and Blea Moss are an absolute joy to run along, the first smooth and fast(ish!), the second some nice technical running.  Great fun!

Chapel Stile -> Unmanned Dibber 45 Minutes, 7th

Hadn't seen any 50 runners since I left Kentmere, and was starting to get a little lonely!  Steady trot down the hill, past Fell Foot Farm, along the track then start the steady climb up over the second-to-last hill.  Here I got the news from one of the 100 runners that a 50 was not too far in front, and flagging.  I'll admit, here my self control dropped a bit.  By a bit, I mean completely.  I went on the hunt.  I ran most of the climb, then properly ran down the other side into High Tilberthwaite, keeping a good pace along the road into Tilberthwaite CP.

Unmanned Dibber -> Tilbethwaite 26 Minutes, 7th

This stop was my shortest, just grabbed half a bottle of coke (no MF this time, sorry Rupert!) and was off, but not before I found out that my wife is now more recognisable than me! (Oh hey, aren't you Mel Brennan's husband?  Well done, keep going!)

A solid power hike up the steps and oh hey, there's the 50 runner!  Russell was sat, eating a bag of crisps, with a thousand-yard stare.  I gave him a bit of encouragement, then moved on.  Somewhere along here was a photographer in a side-cave, which was a surprise, but the biggest was seeing a bloke in blue look back, then start running a bit.

I knew it was a 50 runner.  I knew I had to pass him.  I'd obviously been closing in on him, so I just kept the momentum going.  By the time we got to the flattish middle section where the No Limits Photography was taking snaps, I could see the white sticker clearly.  By the time we were 3/4 of the way up the very final climb, I edged past him.  Gave him some encouragement, then did my best to drop him.

That didn't happen.  He stayed on my tail for the final section of the climb, the flat bit of path to the descent down the quarry, then he was on my tail all of the way down the quarry.  A quick hi to Janson Heath, who was not exactly having the time of his life, then down to the road, followed very closely by Michael.  Down the road, as fast as I dared, he was still breathing down my neck.  Off the hill, onto the flat road, past Ben Thomas for a quick hello, past the Black Bull, can't push yet, across the road, up to the petrol station, hit it!  I went, pushed hard up to the corner, then nailed it all the way down.

I really need to stop getting myself into sprint finishes on long races.

Michael dibbed in 20 seconds later

Tilberthwaite -> Coniston, 38 minutes (2nd fastest of the day?), 5th.

8:32:36.  Interestingly, my 2nd fastest time, only 4 minutes down on my PB, but with a whole lot less hurt.

Medal and t-shirt collected, cup of tea downed, then it was time to sit down and catch up with the other racers, my family, and watch other competitors finishing.  Probably the best bit of all of this was watching my wife and eldest daughter (Esmee, 7) make and deliver somewhere between 50 and 100 cups of tea to all the finishers.  Esmee was pretty reluctant to head back to the hotel at around 9:30, she still wanted to keep on with her tea-making duties!

Things that worked well:

  • Not starting off like a lunatic, and not descending like one.  My quads and energy levels felt loads better, and the runnable sections in the later race were actually both runnable and enjoyable.
  • MountainFuel, + checkpoint coke and food.  Kept my energy levels up, with very few flat spots.
  • The amazing support of my family - it's a massive boost to see them out and about, and they loved the experience of marshalling.
  • More hills in training.  Definitely helped build stronger legs for those punishing protracted descents.
Things that could have gone better:
  • Probably should have adjusted my laces a little tighter.  Big toes kept hitting the end of my shoes on the long descents, had some pretty interesting under-toenail blister things at the end.
 A massive thanks to MountainFuel for supporting me with race nutrition, and AmerProSports for their help with Salomon and Suunto equipment.  Also to all of the people at Trail26, and the marshals who help make the event the success that it is, and my family for their amazing support.

Next on the list of things to do, is recover in time to give the CCC a decent shot.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Dark Peak Ultra 30

After the success of the Ladybower Trail Marathon,  the R.O. David Riley asked me if I would like to run the inaugural Dark Peak 30.  One look at the route, and I was sold!

The route starts and finished in Edale, and takes in Lords Seat, Mam Tor, Lose Hill, Win Hill, Stanage Edge, Ladybower Reservoir, Win Hill (again!), and the Kinder Plateau. An epic day out.

As race day approached, some interesting names started appearing on the start list - Paul Grundy (3rd in Lakeland 50 2014), Dan Milton and Richard Bardon from The Endurance Store Trail Team (winners of Grand Tour of Skiddaw Team category), Stuart Walker (Just back from the Alps, and rapid enough anyway!), and Ste Lord (current record holder of the Hardmoors 60).  I figured at worst, there should be at least one of us from Team Mountain Fuel on the podium at the end!

After an incident-free drive up, I arrived with plenty of time to drink my pre-race Mountain Fuel Xtreme, pay for parking (ouch!), have a coffee, catch up with everyone and lay out my best pre-race excuses.  I had everythin packed and ready to go, 1 bottle of Mountain Fuel Xtreme made up ready, 2x sachets ready to make up at the checkpoints and a small stash of jelly babies to get me between feed points.

Ste asked me if I was going to be taking pics on the way round.  Not this time, as I was confident my sports hernia and rib would hold out.  I was racin'!

After the briefing, where we were promised over 7000ft of ascent, we were off.  Stu Walker, myself, Ste Lord, Matthew (Breakall?) and Paul Grundy trotted off out the front.  A steady trot along the road to the start of the Pennine Way, then it's a steady climb up towards Broadlee-Bank Tor before descending down to Upper Booth.  Stu and Ste both made a small gap on the climb, which Paul and myself closed up a bit on the descent.  From there, it's about a mile on the road to the Chapel Gate track up towards Lords Seat.

Chapel Gate track.   Photo courtesy of Rob Graveley.

It's the first proper climb, about 1000ft over 2.5 miles.  Paul and I kept a steady pace up here, not forcing a run, keeping a good power hike going on the steeper bits, running the gentler inclines.  Both Ste and Stu pushed hard up here, with Stu opening up a good gap.  I guess training in the Alps makes a small difference here...

Just before the high point of Lords Seat (second highest point on the course, and only by 20ft or so), I had to stop for a quick wee, and Paul got a bit of a gap on me.  Not much visibility up here, but didn't see anyone sneaking up behind, so pace appeared good.  I wasn't too bothered about thrashing myself to catch up to him, as I thought I'd be back with him before we got to Lose Hill...

View along Lords Seat, with Mam Tor, Back Tor then Lose Hill in the distance.  Photo courtesy of Rob Graveley.
There is some great running along the ridge, so I just enjoyed myself along here, slowly closing the distance between myself and Paul, gaining occasional glimpses of Ste in the distance.  I think I was about 15m behind Paul when we summited Lose Hill, before he got a rush of blood to the head and charged off the side like it was the end of a fell race.  I was a bit more sensible, trying to make my descent as smooth as possible to save my quads for the descents that I knew were coming.

Down into Hope, there is a short road run before the left turn to the road up to Twitchill Farm.  It was at this point that some low-life had removed some race signage, which had temporarily confused Paul - he was a lot closer to me going up the road than I had expected, and when I caught him just above Twitchill Farm (he waited for me at a gate) he filled me in about his minor misadventure.  Onwards, and upwards then.  Literally.

From Hope to the top of Win Hill (our next high point) it's just under 900ft, in just over a mile.  It was mostly a power hike, with little bits of running until nearly the top.  Some amazing views back towards Lose Hill, and over to Ladybower Reservoir, then straight back down Parkin Clough to checkpoint 1.

This bit is steep.  900ft of descent, in half a mile.  Both myself and Paul were restrained down here, to save both quads and faceplants.  Then it was the checkpoint, and feed station!  Sachet of Mountain Fuel into bottle, filled, face stuffed with choc-chip muffin and a few other bits and pieces that I can't remember (careful to avoid the Flapjack of Doom), a small handful of Haribo, then I was on my way again, with Paul following just after, trying to decipher a confusing conversation about the leaders - on his own about 10 minutes ahead?

No rest for the legs as from here it's another 1000ft climb up to Stanage Edge.  The first part on road was great, found some rhythm, then I found a cyclist on a ~£4k Cervelo to trot past on my way up.  It's the little things that keep me happy!  I think I surprised Amanda Riley and another marshal at the car park beside Dennis Knoll, then carried on up on the bridle path towards Stanage Edge.

Just over 3 miles of climbing, and about 900ft of climb later, I made it to the edge.  Here, you sort of turn back on yourself and run along the edge, still ascending to the high point of High Neb.

The path up to Stanage Edge (left) and the path along the edge towards High Neb (right).  Photo courtesy of Rob Graveley.
As I turned the corner, I looked back and saw Paul about half a minute back, along with Ste Lord.  The previous conversation made sense now, as clearly Ste had also taken a wrong turn on the lead up to Twitchill Farm (which he confirmed later).  Now Ste is a much better climber than me, so I put the hammer down a bit and hit threshold effort all the way to High Neb, then maintained it on the descent down to Moscar road crossing.  I was pleased to see I still had a bit of a gap on him.

From the road, there is a 100ft climb, then another short descent down to another road crossing, and it looked like I was holding my distance.  From there, it's a short descent past Moscar House, then a long climb up to Derwent Moor past the grouse butts.  It's about 400ft of up, but I kept running as much of it as I could, not looking back as I didn't want to see how close Ste was!

Descent from Derwent Moor to Ladybower Reservoir.  Photo courtesy of Rob Graveley.
A lovely descent followed, but I was still careful not to go too hard as there was still a good amount of climbing, descending and running to be done, and I needed my legs to be in as good a state as possible.  I still wasn't hanging around, mind, and got on with the job, sneaking a look back at an opportune moment.

Ste was a lot further back than I expected him to be - bonus, looks like I've got the edge (ha!) on the descents.  At the bottom, Ste was nowhere in sight, so I made myself scarce, getting out of sight to try and get some sort of psychological boost on him.  The flattest part of the course it this part, along the side of the Reservoir then back to the checkpoint at the bottom of Parking Clough.  I pushed hard along here, knowing I could refuel soon and have a "rest" whilst clawing myself back up to the top of Win Hill.

Got to the checkpoint, had my powder in my empty bottle ready to go, snaffles a choc-chip muffin, rinsed some salty nuts around my mouth, drank some cola, grabbed a Reeses Peanut Butter thingy for later and a double choc-chip muffin for the climb.  Straight back up Parking Clough.  900ft in just over half a mile.

I was at the top of the first set of steps when I saw Ste heading towards the Cp, so I figured I had about 1-2 minutes on him, depending on how on point his Cp game was - he'd clearly made some ground on me on the flat run in!  Not much that I could do at this point apart from get myself up the hill!

Parkin Clough.  Steeper than the photo looks!  Photo courtesy of Rob Graveley.
I kept sneaking looks back, and couldn't see anyone, so I stopped looking until the top.  I looked back, then there was Ste, about 30 seconds or so back.  From Win Hill, there is a 2 mile descent, with about 500ft of elevation loss, so I figured about here was as good a place as any to try and get a good gap, as I knew there was another good climb from Hope Cross up to the Kinder Plateau.

It was a good idea at the time, but by the time I got to Hope Cross, my legs were feeling a little worse for wear!  There's a steady climb on a bridle path to the path up to Crookstone Hill, which I managed to run, then run/walk up to the edge of the Plateau.  Ste was a way back now, so I let myself start to get a little excited about 2nd place.

Kinder Plateau is not flat on top, however, with another 300ft of climb still to over the next mile, I couldn't afford to let up.  I love running along there though, so it was a really good mental boost and I fell into a great rhythm along the edge, until I hit the descent to The Nab.  I ate the Reeses peanut thingy to celebrate, and then headed down the switchbacks, enjoying the last descent into Edale village.

Across Grindsbrook, then down the road, back to Edale Village Hall, and the finish (5:14).  Stu had almost finished his Pie and Peas, having already been there for just over half an hour (4:41), then Ste arrived 5 minutes after I did (5:19).  It's a massive shame some twazzock moved the sign as it might have made for a great battle at the the end!  Paul Grundy finished an excellent 4th (5:26) with Pete Watson (who looks like he's going to be very good at these, and is from my running club Erewash Valley) number 5 in 5:43.  Dan Stowers achieved his goal of beating everyone from The Endurance Store, coming 6th in 5:46.

And there was a toasty hot Cornish Pastie and Peas waiting for me when I finished....mmmmmmmmmmm!

First lady back was Miranda Singleton in 6:41.

Thoroughly enjoyed my day out, easily the best, and toughest 30 mile route in the Peak District, and one of the best 30 mile races I have done.  Massive kudos to David Riley for yet another event which is destined to become a classic!  Have a look on Facebook for the Peakrunner Trail Series.

As ever, I'd like to thank Mountain Fuel (Link: ) for fuelling my race, and to TrainAsONE for the dynamic, adaptive online training (Link:

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Curbar Commotion

To do well in a fell race, everything has to go your way. Some things you can plan for, others, not so much.  Saturday's Curbar Commotion was a mix of both and was the difference between a top 20 and top 10 result.

Everything in the lead up went quite well, with no niggles carried over from the Hardmoors 60 or VO2 max test, and the hernia wasn't really hurting much on the downhills either so I was looking forward to giving it a good test.

We arrived nice and early, I drank my pre-tace Mountain Fuel Extreme and all of the pre race prep went really well (got changed successfully), then we headed into the pre-race briefing.  Usual sort of stuff, but was starting to need a wee.  We were counted out, and onto the start line.  I was having a chat to Chris Perry, when everyone else started running.  Mistake number 1!

Off we went, steady climb up a short road section where I tried to weave my way past the people who were more switched on then myself.  Managed to get clear a little, just in time to stop for a shirt queue at the stile.  My main aim for this race was to beat a club-mate of mine, who was leading our fell-champ series, and he was about 30m ahead of me at this stage.

From the stile, it's a very narrow section until the next short downhill road section.  I made my way past some more people, then it's a short uphill to a long, flat path that runs below the edge.  And I really needed a wee.  Mistake Number 2 (or probably 1, if I'd realised it in time) was not going for that extra wee before the start! It was starting to hurt where the hernia is, but I was closing in on the people in front, so was determined to hold it.

Which lasted for about a mile.  Dashed off the track, instant relief, but my target was now a lot further away, and I was stuck behind some people that were travelling slower than I wanted to.  The flat bit finished, and it was the climb up to Curbar Edge.  I managed to get past the slower traffic, then it was back up to full speed along the edge.

About half a mile along the edge, is a left turn into some fairly heavy going to cross over to White Edge.  I make my way past a couple more people, then up to the trig point.  From here, it's go time.  A beautiful run across White Edge, mixed with some descents, it was my chance to make up some more time on my target up front and I spent the next 1.5 miles at pushing hard.

I was closing the gap, slowly, then it was a quick road crossing, and a slightly uphill drag to Wellingtons Monument.  A chap from Stockport caught me up here, he was moving really well.  From here, there's just under a mile of quality, fast downhill.  I let go, and hoped the hernia would hold.  Just as I let loose though, a bloke falls down just in front.  On go the anchors, check he's ok, he waves us on.  Go time.  I spend most of the descent under 5 minute miling, dragging the Stockport guy along with me, making some good time on my target, who is now only about 30 seconds in front of me.

But there's a hill.  Stockport guy drops me and I push up the hill, until my climbing legs come back.  It's not a steep climb, but after the mad downhill, it's hard initially.  There's about 3/4 a mile of uphill, then it's back to the downhill chase.  These are the bits I love, the technical downhill right on the edge of control.  Or just over the edge of control. Mistake Number 3!  I caught my foot on something, and down I went. cracking my knee, grazing my leg and catching my ribs on a rock.  Managed to keep my face off a large rock though.

Back up and running, adrenaline flowing, grin at the next marshal and angrily fire myself down the next narrow, tricky bracken laced descent.  I'm not quite as close as I was any more, but I still push as hard as I can. There's a short climb, then a fast descent down the road to the finish.

16th place, 1:08:43.

Plan is now to take it steady and hope my ribs recover in time for Windgather, a 13.5 mile fell race from Buxton.

Photo of the leg damage:

Thanks to Mountain Fuel (link here) for the #FeelGoodFuel and to TrainAsONE (Link here) for their adaptive training plan.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Hardmoors 60

This is probably a race that, all things considered, I shouldn't have started.

After pulling out of the Lakeland 50, I took myself to the doc, and was diagnosed with a sports hernia.  That would explain the lower abdominal pain then.  And possibly the small lump beside my left hip bone.

So after easing my way back into training, and updating my TrainAsONE goal to the Hardmoors 60, I decided that I would give it a shot.  I survived the 20 mile Stretton Skyline fell race, getting  20 minute pb with manageable pain from the hernia so my plan was not to go out hard, but to run comfortable.  And not charge down hills with my usual abandon, as that made my stomach pain worse.  I was also planning to manage the pain with Ibuprofen, which had the added bonus of making me more aware of keeping hydrated.

The main checkpoints of the Hardmoors 60 were about 10 miles apart, which made my planning life easier - 6 bottles of Mountain Fuel Xtreme, some jelly babies, (3 bags of approx 20 each), a Clif bar, another bar with dark chocolate and a mars bar.  I was also going to rely heavily on checkpoint food, as Hardmoors always provides some good snap.  My MF I had pre-measured into 4 zip-seal bags, powder in one bottle ready to fill at CP1 and a bottle ready to go.  I also drank a bottle on the bus from Filey, and pegged down my first set of Ibubrofen at 7am.

Everything went smoothly, straight through kit check, a quick catch-up with Kirk Hardwick, Lee Firman, Dave Troman, Richard from Clowne RR and it was time for Jon's classic pre-race briefing.  I also needed a wee.  Managed to get that sorted just before the start, found Kirk and Dave, then we were off.

My plan was to run easy and stay around 132-140bpm the whole way, and both Kirk and Dave were going for the slow start approach which meant I'd have someone to talk to for a bit and run with so I didn't get carried away.  My fallback plan was to stop and take photos whenever I felt I was getting too far "in the zone".

Start to CP1 - Highcliff Nab.  Easy start, mid-pack with Kirk and Dave.  Took it pretty easy, didn't notice Ste Lord shooting off at a sprint, which I'm pretty sure he maintained until the finish.  Kirk and I somehow found ourselves in the top few with Jerome McCulla, Lee Firman.  I started walking prety early on the climb up to the Nab, a brief Hi to Jason Milward up the top, took a photo:

Highcliff Nab to Saltburn Valley Gardens:  Theres a nice, protracted downhill until the first road crossing and everyone else pulled away from me here as I was on a mission to take it easy on the downs.  Nice little hill climb With photo op, looking back to the Nab)

Continued on to the top of the hill, looked like Lee and Jerome had pulled away from Kirk.  Nice downhill from here to Skelton Green, where I was caught by Gary Thwaites and Christopher Bell, who were moving along nicely.  We stuck together until we arrived at Saltburn Valley Gardens Cp (with another sneaky photo!)

There was watermelon at the checkpoint.  It was amazing.  Filled up bottle #2 of Mountain Fuel, had a very brief introduction to Emma Hardwick, Kirk's wife and support crew, and carried on.  

Saltburn to Runswick Bay:  Kirk, Christopher and Gary caught me up fairly sharply, and we formed a foursome that stayed together for a few miles.  We hit the coast, with a stack of supporters at Saltburn, and headed out along the coastal path.

I was doing my best to let the other guys lead out, but every now and again I would find myself up the front, so I'd stop and take a photo.

And what even is this:

Gary, Kirk and Christopher dropped back a little after this point, then there was a nice long climb providing some good views back:

And forwards towards the next CP, Runswick Bay:

Trotted down here past Emma, who told me that Kirk was suffering from Man-Flu - he wasn't far back at this point though.  Christopher caught me up just afterwards and we ran into the CP (down a very steep road!) together.

I ate a lot at Runswick, and had a quick chat to Paul Hamer.  Bottle #3 of Mountain Fuel filled, with half a bottle of water as it was getting warm.  Off to the beach, with Chris not far behind (also was informed I was in 4th.  Made a mental note to slow down.)

Runswick to Saltwick:

Beach!  Ran along here a bit:

Then realised I had no idea where I was going.  Out came the map and directions, and off I went up the narrow gully.  Just up here, my foot slipped a little on a rock, and jarred my stomach in a fairly painful reminder that, as good as I was feeling, all was not well, so I took it pretty steady on the climb up.  Christopher caught me again in fairly short order, and off we trotted.

Don't remember much of this bit, was nice running though!  Looking back towards Runswick:

Along here, and somewhere before Whitby, Christopher fell back a little.  There was some really nice running along here, and I started to get into a bit of a groove.  So I stopped and took another photo, looking along the coast towards Whitby:

And then I kept on trotting, along the footpath around the bay.  Lee Firman made a random appearance from the left - he'd stayed on the beach a little too long.  Had a good catch-up with Lee as we trotted up the hill, past the golf course and then elbowed our way together through Whitby.

Nice place, but far too many people in such a small area.

Up the 199 steps, the crowds thinned out, and I took a couple of pics:

We carried on a further mile or so, and hit Saltwick CP.

They had watermelon.  I think I ate too much of it.  And flapjack.  Swirled some salted peanuts around my mouth and spat them out, then carried on feeling a little full and bloated.  I think Lee must have been starting to feel it a little as he dropped back. (And approx half way!  Yay!)  I filled up mountain Fuel #4.
Saltwick to Robin Hood's Bay:

I don't recall much of this.  There were some cliffs, some fields.  There was a family hilariously avoiding a paddock of interested cows.  I patted it on my way past.  They applauded.  I moved on.  I may have taken this photo :

Or it may have been after Robin Hood Bay.  Or after Ravenscar.  Definitely before Scarborough though.

Either way, I was trotting along feeling quite happy with everything.

The Robin Hood checkpoint had an orange.  I had that orange, and it was amazing!

Robin Hood Bay to Ravenscar:

There was a bit of climb in this section, but it's only a few miles to the next big CP, Ravenscar.  It was quite nice along here, and then a fairly long walk/jog up to the top of the hill where the checkpoint was waiting.

The very efficient people there filled up Mountain Fuel number 5, I snacked and had some rice pudding (hate the stuff, unless I'm running.  Love it when I'm running.).  And off I jogged.

Ravenscar to Scarborough.

Said Hi to Gary Thwaites, who was on his way into the CP as I was exiting.  I was also expecting a flying Dave Troman, who said he was going hit the second half hard.  So I trotted off, making sure I didn't work myself too hard and keeping my HR down around 136ish.  Once I was off the road and back on the Way, I hit the groove and went with it a bit.  Before I knew it, I saw Scarborough:

Well.  Happy days, just a half marathon to go!  Down the hill and onto the seafront, I got a move on along the paved path.  There were some pretty cool waves:

And some strangely colourful sheds:

But mostly it was paved road which, well, started to hurt.  And the CP was still ages away, around the sticky-out bit and around the next bay.

The next bay, I was not so fussed on.  Loads of dodgy people, arcades, and about 7 police cars, all with the common theme of "Let's Kick Anti-Social Behaviour".  Don't think I'll be taking the kids there...

But then I reached the CP and all was good.  Rinsed and spat some more peanuts, ate some stuff (can't remember what!) and grabbed a couple of jelly babies.  I was then directed away up the hill as the normal path was dangerous, as the waves were up over it.

Scarborough to Filey.

Up the hill along some footpaths following the green signs of happiness, then on to the Cleveland Way once more.  Some more fields, some up, some down, and a nice view:
Then onwards, towards a caravan park, and along the coast to my last glimpse of cliffs:

I ran along those, until nearly the end.  Then along towards Filey, past the abandoned(?) red tent, then down some steps (starting to hurt down them now), along the promenade, up a small hill and into the finish.

At last.

Ended up being 3rd male, in 10:13 behind Ste Lord (9:09) and Jerome McCulla (9:44).  Gary Thwaites was next back in 10:31.

An amazing day out, brilliant course, fantastic marshals and great company along the way made it a really enjoyable day.  Bring on the HM30!

Big thanks to Mountain Fuel for the nutrition, and TrainAsONE for the continued support of their online training tool.