Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Evolution not Revolution

Things have changed in the last few years and DrunkenEuphoria was starting to feel like it needed a "rebrand". The note on the right contains a link to what I hope to be a new, interesting and exciting read.

For a start, I don't drink that much anymore, I wasn't exactly George Best when I started the longer-than-marathon journey with the Atlantic Three day challenge in 2009 and irregular ultra-trail events beforehand. It was based on my running forum name from when I started my journey towards my first London marathon back in late 2004. Like most in their twenties I "went out" more back then. Now like many in their thirties I'm more settled down. Also alcohol ain't exactly health food when your getting the miles in!

I'm older, if not wiser now, so I thought I'd base my new blog identity on my happy place in the World - The Yorkshire Wolds - the horseshoe-shaped chalk hills encompassing much of the East Riding of Yorkshire. It's my place to run and it ain't half bad, everyone should try an event this way sometime. Maybe once their tired of crowds, noise and fancy something less seen than the cities, towns and big national parks.

No chance of wholesale change, I'm not that creative or unhappy with the past. This just felt the right time and I wanted to see where this goes...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

50 Wold-erful miles

"Welcome to the Wolds"
 Wolds way memories

People I know, particularly runners can probably attest to the fact that I talk about doing the Wolds way in one go last year a lot! It was a real experiance pitching myself against the 79 mile undulating point-to-point Long Distance footpath. Running over a cool, drizzly summer Friday night, into a peaceful raining morning before completing on a cool, but sunny Saturday afternoon. With just a packful of food and drink and no outside assistance (barring a lift home from Filey at the end) it was one of the most fulfilling experiances I've ever had.

With this in mind an entry in the Woldsman 50 event this year seemed well overdue. With a circuit running the flat countryside away from Driffield, into the hills and almost unique Wold-land chalk valleys with trademark steep, short, ascents in and out of the almost symetrical and V-shaped valleys, before returning to Driffield. Another draw was that this would also be my first 50 - I've done 55 miles at Hardmoors a few times and several longer events. Finally there was the lure of LDWA hospitality.

Saturday morning and things didn't start particularly well, perhaps too relaxed with a rare, short 30min drive to the start line of a long event I set off in good time, but then on the edge of Hull remembered I'd left my pre-mixed energy drink, water and recovery drink bottles in the fridge. I'm a bit peeved with myself, but remind myself it's no big issue and even after retuning to collect I step into the hall at the Driffield showground nearly 45 minutes before the start.

A nights dining in Driffield and the Nemesis

After check in I caught up with Mark (Dalton) and Dave (Cremins) who travelled down together to this event and "bunked" in the hall. They filled me in on their interesting night attempting to tap in to Driffield's fine dining scene and finding a high carb feast of Chinese takeaway followed by cakes from tesco.

They'd had a disturbed nights sleep I learnt through the day of one guy who turned up to bunk without a sleeping bag, cover or cushioning and proceeded to almost freeze, his shaking audible to all. There was also a "cougher", who had driven the room mad of course (always one).

But a more mysterious presence was that of "the smoker" at the bunkhouse, recognised by Dave. Stories of whom make me think about the mysterious character from the X-Files. I wouldn't have thought long-distance running and smoking really worked together and this disconcerting mix - according to Dave - had wound up Jon (Steele) and Dave a bit a few weeks previously at the Calderdale Hike. He'd turn up before them at each check point, look all casual having a drag whilst Jon and Dave worked hard to find their way around the new route. I guess he was much aided by good nav choices as Jon and Dave aren't slouches. Though the teenager in me likes to imagine he actually stepped out of a blacked-out limousene a few hundred yards from each CP and trotted up.

Ready for the off

There was then fun and games with event HQ toilets. The blokes had one cubicle and a long queue, the womens had about 5, but were blocked. Thankfully I'd gone "a bit" before leaving home, but still had the feeling I was takiin g something out onto the course with me.

 So it begins

8am and we were off, I got an uneasy feeling (no, not the guts yet) as there were only a few in front of use in the first few hundred yards off the showground. Was I going way too fast? as I was almost involved in the cat and mouse game at the front of 'I'll follow you for a while so I don't have to bother navving as long as possible'.

Sledmere's Eleanor Cross

But as we left the outskirts of Driffield on a good track Dave, Mark and I formed a small second group. The group in front contained speedy Chris Brown, who usually finishes events ahead of us - he's having a bad day or me a good if I'm near or ahead. The others I didn't know and they were soon ahead and a few others caught from behind and ran along with us. Our early pace was fast, faster than 6mph and settled slightly as we reached more undulating ground towards CP2 at Sledmere and many fine momuments and statues - location of the grand Sledmere House stately home. The indoor CP further held us up with a delightful array or food. Mark was barely exaggerating when he said there were weddings with poorer buffets!

On towards the hills and after a steady track descent the first real climb, which took us to a farm with dogs which barked at everybody who went passed, this was even pre-warned on th route-descrip - they must have drove the owners mad that day as maybe 100 woldsman-ers would have passed through in dribs-and-drabs.
One of the early climbs
We must have climbed a bit in the route to here as we had a fairly big drop down towards an outlying eastern tentacle of Thixendale - the village of the dales name sits in a central part of the dale which the extends out in many different directions. A bit about Thixendale here.

But we didn't head into Thixendale yet, but the hills were here to stay for awhile and we started the walk-steep road climb out of Fairy Dale, which the levelled out at the car park for Wharram Percy and CP3.

The Wolds

Climbing Fairy Dale
After snacking at CP3 it was a downhill track to the site of the Medieval village of Wharram Percy. I need to spend some time looking around here one day as I always seem to just "pass through" on runs (this is part of the Wolds Way long distance footpath). We passed the foundations of medieval buildings and the major remaining structure, the roofless church, which has in part existed here since the 12th century. About this time my bowels made it known that I could really do with a pit-stop at Thixendale.

Wharram Percy Medieval church
We then climbed the muddy bank up to Deep dale. It briefly started to rain again as we plodded along the muddy dale top track. It soon stopped, but this didn't make trying hard to maintain a forward momentum on a mud path any more fun. After quite a long section Dave, Mark and I were glad to turn south and cut through another dale before the picturesque descent into pretty Thixendale.

An unexpected pleasure at Thixendale was a choice of hot food! Barely before I'd mixed another bottle of energy drink and changed maps my pasta with spicy sauce was served up. Very nice - Mark and Dave even found room for desert! I was also pleased to make use of the indoor WC to shut my bowel up.

Along plod along the top of Deep dale
 Outside it had started raining quite heavily so it was also time for all to don waterproofs. We took a walk down Thixendale main street and outta town digesting our early lunch and dodging puddles. We were soon off-road again and following a sedate southward bound dale bottom path out of Thixendale.

The heaviest shower of the day was soon over, but I chose to keep my waterpoof smock on and just adjust the zip-neck to regulate heat. It wasn't a warm day and the cold, strengthening wind from the north sea - often channelled through the dales - and frequent showers made the smock very useful as wind and cold protection. Being the kind of day it was I never overheated sufficiently the rest of the day to take off this protective layer.

Irrisistable lamb picture
It was a mostly dale bottom path to the next CP. First Thixendale south and past a large earth sculpture (which couldn't really be appreciated by running past it and must have been designed to be appreciated by Wolds wayers descending into the dale. Then a right branch to Bradeham dale, left branch to Wayrham dale - past an army of molehills - before climbin g to cross the A166 (York to Driffield road). After a climb up Callis wold we had the most fun descent of the day into - another - Deep dale. We then followed, pretty, Deep dale until a brief right turn to the Givendale scout hut, CP5.

Swooping down to Thixendale
The hilliest bit

We briefly retraced our tracks to then leave Givendale via an initially fairly steep plod uphill to then drop into Millington dale. My Grough route made this the toughest section of the route by climb - less than 5m but over 1000ft ascent makes this about as hilly a few miles as you can run in East Yorkshire.

The most fun descent of the day, to Deep Dale.... 2

Through Millington including down the drive of somebodies swanky modern pad before taking a snicket path - am I in Calderdale? - to the big grassy bank which is the other sidewall of the dale. We pretty much walked all of this near 350ft+ in less than 1/4 mile climb. Joining the Wolds way at the top for our second stint along this route.

Much as I like the Way this section is a bit of a head-doer. A slight climb along a field edge before a descent to cross, striking, Sylvan dale with 150ft stepped and on toes climb to bruise the calves a bit. Then follows another gentle rise and fall along a field edge before descending and ascending semi-steeply across a second branch dale from Millington dale. Once this levels out you then rejoin the main dale running on a muddy, narrow path (Huggate Sheepwalk) along the edge of the dale, slightly climbing and today into that wind!

A tough climb from Sylvan dale
I got my head down and decided to run this bit to get it over with - I'm happy enough running into a wind and seem to find it easier than some who seem to switch to walk mode when faced with a headwind. Nevertheless I was glad to reach the end of the dale and exit across a road to a tend picthed to block the wind and the next CP.

All downhill from here...

Grey sky consumes Millington dale

....said somebody at the checkpoint. After a chat and a yoghurt (nice change) it was on again along the Wolds way to roll over the fields above 700ft, often in wind and then drop down to meet a small road north of Huggate where we branched off the Wolds way for the last time today and took a pleasurable gradually descent along Cow dale, before branching left into Rabbit dale for a long stretch of running straight into "that wind". It doesn't look long on the map, but against strengthening resistance, Mark, Dave and I even took it in turn front running peleton style to share the workload and increase efficiency.

Some welcome light on a grey day

This only half worked as I put a fair bit of effort into getting through this wind tunnel quickly and probably went into the red that bit too long. Once we'd climbed out of the dale and along the road into Wetwang I struggled to keep up with Mark and Dave as they bounded down the road to the next CP.

Another good-humoured CP and we had a good laugh about the conditions and a few double-entendres as Mark got a vaseline rub-down on his back where his pack was chaffing. A bit of rice-pudding gave me some energy to go and it was on we go.

"Healing hands" at Wetwang
After a slight climb from Wetwang on road and hard track , there was a Driffield-bound turn and then a very long straight section of trail and track for the best part of the remaining distance, punctuated by a final CP at around 5m. Our pace had slipped a bit from looking like sub-10 earlier in the day, now to likely 10:30. And whilst I could still run my plod speed had dropped a bit below Mark and Dave's on this section.

As we cut through Little driffield in the last few miles I found some pace again and we all had a good run in. Chasing down another two just in front of us to finish joint 8th, 10:35, about one hour behind the first back. Quite happy with that as the wind made things hard work in sections, but with better pacing I probably should have gone under 10 on this course even this day. On the other hand.... a pat on the back, joint 8th of 166th finishers ain't bad.

After a bit of stew to put something back quick, our little group took advantage of quite an early finish for a long event and headed off home. A good soak and a good sleep the order or the evening and awake up refreshed on my birthday the next day, when I lavishly indulged in a breakfast and pub lunch out.

The Woldsman - 28th April 2012 - 10'35" - 50m - 4535 feet asc and desc (90.7 per mile)

Friday, 20 April 2012

Calderdale mk3

With legs still slightly aching from the Hull Marathon less than 6 days ago I once again found myself getting kit-checked in the now familiar Sowerby Cricket club. For what is always one of the best trail events of the year. It's almost a unique event in my calender as its the only event I regularly do with no set route. You just get a list of coordinates for checkpoints and plan your own route. A great little challenge, especially for those like me who don't regularly run the area.

I'd first been here in 2008. On a moody day, Calderdale made an impression on me I've never quite forgotten. I tackled just my second ultra, the first running around with usual running partner Mark. As we climbed to Top Withins the rain of the day turned to sleet and snow and it got very cold for awhile. I distinctly remember having to double up my thin gloves on the way down. Lots of rain beforehand also meant lots of mud too! I was knackered at this point from my average 5mph pace, only just over halfway and I reckon I held Mark up a good deal this day. The crossing of Hoof Stones Moor also provided a first as I mid-judged a jump over a muddy stream and sank in nearly to my waist. I was glad I wasn't alone as getting out wasn't a doddle. Then the sun came out and the last section of our 9hr 7min round was a lot more pleasurable.

I returned in 2010 to run around with Claire, expecting the worst of conditions again. Convinced that Calderdale moorland must be some of the boggiest and harshest around. Thankfully my negativity didn't scare Claire off and we had a very different day on a changed route. The sun shone, the air was still if anything some complained it was too hot on this day. And the moorland sections on route were amazingly dry. I though this must be a one off and my lucky day. The route was also a joy with climbs up Thievely Pike and Sttodley Pike contributing to make it one of my favourite routes ever.

2011 and the "mk2" route again - well for me. This time I ran around with Mark and - for much of the route - Dave. Conditions were as last year, if anything even warmer and we had a great round in 7:14.

So what would my "Calderdale route mk3" experiance be like? Much chat on the fellrunner forum beforehand related to the routes over Hoof Stones and surrounding moors, that had been reintroduced to the route following a 3 year absence. Following late winter warnings of a drought around much of England, it rained quite a lot in the week before the event. And when I'd last been in the area, during March, for the Wuthering Hike, the local reservoirs - unlike those almost everywhere else - were showing no signs of drought. Would I be in mud to my waist again sometime during the day?

Going well from the off and this year we leave Sowerby on a western bearing, with this years route being an clockwise loop. The previous route had finished from this direction which is the only way to approach Sowerby without climbing a hill immeadiately beforehand. A steady run walk and we were passed CP1 quickly and hit the trails as we crossed a valley south of Mytholmroyd. I got talking to another local of Hull, Simon, who had also been posting about the event on the fellrunner forum. So the early miles went quickly discussing our various events and our approach to training for hills being from such a flat city.

On the way back up the other side of the valley we somehow got dettached from the rest of the field..... Ok, I'll admit it, Mark, Simon and I were busy gassing and must have missed a turn without others around at the time to correct us. No big issue though, funnily enough this often happens to me and Mark, perhaps we talk too much and should put more energy into navigation..... probably not ;)

No big issue though. Checked map and GPS and we turned north and saw the path running below along the hillside so we followed a parallel path at higher level rather than descend again and add distance. The path did run out though and we had to hop a wall, barbed wire fence and then "commando roll" beneath more barbed wire, but we kept a direct approach and joined CP2 (Erringden Grange), just from a different direction to others.

Onwards and the next target was Stoodley Pike, should be easy today, with an apprach from its shallow, east flank rather than a trudge up from the west. Stoodley pike (CP3) bagged and all is well so I try and keep a good pace down the west-side, dodging walkers, joining the road at Mankinholes to soon reach Lumbutts and CP4 at the church. First full-food CP and I gobbled down a cheese slice sandwich, I do love a sandwich to break up sugary snacks on the longer runs and the Calderdale Hike always provides!

Now after our, almost, frantic round of early CP they started to space out from here on and the route options also started to explode for some sections. Considering we'd been lost..... no off the optimum route once already, maybe I needed to pay better attention to the map. I had a GPS breadcrumb line to follow, but this wouldn't be much help if I'd mapped my route onto a naff path or something.

Leaving the CP we followed others through the car park of a tempting looking inn. And at ultra-plod speed we had adequate chance to even check out the beers on offer. Wonder if I could sell a night away in an inn near "Mankinholes" to the missus..... on second thoughts I'll probably just say its in the more, attractive-sounding, Calderdale.

We descended to and navigated through Millwood and up the bank, sometimes following those little Calderdale low key paths, that could equally be into somebodies back garden. I was confused approaching the Cross Stones checkpoint (near Golf Course) as people were running back towards us and onto the road. At the time this confused me, but looking at the map now I can see how the road route might have been faster underfoot, but it looks a bit longer and can't have been as much fun.

Perhaps the road-following folk knew what was coming next though. A multitude of route choices awaited. At first there were two paths running alongside each other, just seperated by a wall, which made me nervous. The other path peeled off downhill soon though, so I was briefly confident again that we were on route. Then we hit a route choice and I persuaded Mark and another to follow me down a path I mistakenly thought was the Calderdale Way.

We were soon off route again and opted to climb up, slip down, choose a new route and then recommence our climb up a slippery muddy bank up to East Whirlaw. As we edged around a field the farmer came out of the house, "has he got a gun?", "no", "good, keep going".

Back on track and nav got easier again, a decent, sometimes paved path allowed Mark and I to catch a few people who'd got ahead of us on route choice. Soon we were at Mount Cross (CP6) and our next destination loomed into view north. Soon it would be the time for the big route decision.

We headed up the road and joined th track onto the moor. It quickly got a bit damp underfoot and as we steadily climbed we had to navigate around a few water obstacles. The face wind increased and almost within site of the Hoof Stone heights trig and CP the came hail started. This was one of those times where you think, if this continues for the whole moor crossing its going to be horrible! Visions of 8 hours of wind and rain running at Hardmoors 2010 entered my mind. But, thankfully it was brief and ended almost as quickly as it begun.

Big decision time - we asked the CP staff which way people were crossing the moor. The options here are; north along a boggy fence line onto a good eastward trail, east along a possible boggy permissive path to hit a possibly boggy path north, or go as straight as possible diagonally across the moor. It turns out all options had been taken that day so we decided to be bold and cut diagonally across using a lone tree and then Gorple Lower reservoir as our lines.

This went pretty well, suprisingly runnable, not as wet as the alternative routes it seems (we worked around a few pools of standing water and easily jumped cloughs), and the tussocks were confined to thin stretches. I'm not saying it was easy running, but not as tough as I'd prepared for. The only slight disadvantage is we had to drop a fair bit of height to Gorple Upper reservoir dam wall and then it was a trudge back up through some heather to get to the path leading to Widdop reservoir. I reckon we even over took a few people on other routes using this less-distance option.

One thing never changes with this event and that is a well stocked CP at Widdop, here I snacked while mark mixed up some more energy drink - I wasn't through first bottle yet as had been taking on water in one bottle at other CP. We got back on the brief downhill road section before a climb on the Calder/Aire link to meet the lower of the three Walshaw Dean reservoirs.

The next section was fairly tough as we climbed away from the reservoir to Top Withins. I was pushing a good run/walk pace and Mark and I overtook and made good ground on a few others - including a local who told us he was knackered, which didn't sound good at barely over halfway (I've been there in 2008!). The near constant headwind since the climb to Hoof Stone heights was wearing people down. I still felt pretty good though and confident I was well within myself despite the marathon less than a week ago.

We topped out and dropped slightly to Top Withins where people were sheltering behind the ruin or the marshalls tent (obviously drew the short straw). We ran into Nick here who was taking pictures, he's wrote an event report here, which is of his usual high quality and has some bits about feeding slugs you donm't want to read about whilst eating. he was debating route and trying to find the high-level path marked on maps over Haworth moor.

After a quick tuna sandwich we were off again, persuing a small number of people just ahead. We mad good pace and caught a few at the Bronte Bridge, where we spotted the aforementioned 'knackered guy' trudging up a hillside path rather than taking the undulating tourist path like others. After a quick consult of map, we decided to follow as it looked like a brief climb would then lead to a straight track downhill and less distance than the around Haworth moor route that others were taking.

This route choice was just as mapped and no difficulties. We arrived at the Tom Stell's Seat CP near Pensitone hill just after Nick, who we were just behind at Bronte bridge, so it is obviously a much-over-muchness route choice here. After a quick banana and time to refill my energy drink the long trudge over Top o' stairs was we navigated past Leeshaw reservoir and mostly walked up Stairs lane mark and I chatted with Andy who we often see at events. It's not the most inspiring section of an otherwise really good route so it was good to distract ourselves until the fairly steep descent at the other side to the Grain Water Bridge CP.

Here, Mark introduced us to what is possibly a revelation in ultra-runner nutrition, jelly beans which were apparently never the same flavour twice. I'm not so sure about that, but as we marched up the bank along the bridleway to the next CP, I was pleasently suprised my the variety of flavours - including coffee and one that tasted like those 'fiery' gobstoppers I used to get as a kid. Better still, Mark picked these up for a bargain price somewhere, so I'm going to look into getting some of these :)

Soon the bridleway dropped us down to the CP at Horse bridge where I had my third sandwich flavour of the day - ham - and passed on my appreciation to a jovial crowd of marshalls and walkers there. On leaving the CP and starting the pleasent wooded climb to Delf End we passed 'knackered runner' again, who said he was shot, but was keeping going well. He'd passed us at the CP as like many was meandering around at these less then me and Mark. This synchonicity turned out to be a good thing later. Part way up I was suprised to see Andy on an adjacent path across a falling stream from us. He'd been a bit ahead so must have had a delay somewhere and we got to Pecket Well together.

The climb went on after Pecket Well - nearly 900ft in a mile and a half, its quite a long, almost uninterrupted climb you don't really think much about beforehand - and we made a small nav error and detoured a few hundred metres. Back on route and quickly through Delf End CP we grouped with 'knackered runner' again who helped us with a good route over - the potentially very soggy - Midgely Moor. The route followed my map and GPS trace quite closely, but on the ground some of the paths were quite minimal. We got across the moor quickly via a cut corner to a path between the two air shafts. It wasn't until we were comoing off the moor that the ground briefly got quite watery. This was expected from the map and was a necessary evil for the best line.

We then followed the moor edge path at a steady jog, dodging quite a bit of water, but making good time and finding a good track downhill to the indoor CP at Jerusalem Farm. I think there is also a Herod farm on this route or nearby, all very biblical, wonder if there any more references amongst the areas agriculutral residences? We followed our new guide out of the CP who opted for a mostly downhill, if slightly longer than optimum route, but on road which got us moving along well.

Into Luddenden foot and through the last CP. I felt a lot better today than when I got to the same point on the 2008 route. So Mark and I had a good run along the canal path knowing that the climb to Sowerby when it came is quite slow. We were navigationally assisted again as our guardian angel called us back again when we overshot the turn off to Sowerby. After a good solid march up the hill we ran into and through Sowerby and up the drive to the inviting cricket club.

Not a fast time, over an hour slower than last year, but I felt good and well within limits all day. We'd arrived in just behind Nick, Simon, Andy and our reliable navigator for the day. I enjoyed potatoes and chilli sat outside the club house in warming late afternoon sun. Then Mark and I made good on our most constant topic of discussion all day and stopped off at the Kashmir in Bradford before heading home. Some cheap polish lager and a strong, authentic and cheap indian curry topped off a great day.

Another great day out and a good recce for a faster blast at the course next year.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Pot holes in the road - a rare long venture on the road

The first Hull marathon on easter Sunday was a bit of a mixed bag in that the organisation and route were a bit shoddy by big marathon standards. I guess its a learning process for the organisers, but some won't return and many won't be happy if it is proven that the course is short and they've lost out on a PB, Good For Age or Championship qualifying time. Also there was the very upsetting situation where the first lady over the line had quite without realising - poor or missing marshalling! - run less than the full distance (maybe by as much as 3 miles!). And without a garmin to suggest otherwise and only one mile marker at 13m (that I saw) she was suprised at the end and accepted the prize. Only for the actual female winner to arrive soon after and wonder how somebody had got in front of her.

But the course wasn't bad overall. The good was two long road stretches in and out of Hull and out and back crossing of the humber bridge to break up the event with a few hills and views. The bad was a few too many turns late on, a parkland section which was more like "good trail" and a narrow and quite horrible out and back where somebody could have potentially fallen in the river. But I know plenty of people who ran a good time, even incorporating the possibility of a slightly short course.

Unfortunately my pace, mostly into the facewind was too much in the first half - it seemed too easy for 6m, started to get hard work in more undulating 7-13m, by 14m (turnaround) I couldn't sustain it. This was accompanied by my body deciding 3 gels in a 6.5m stretch was too much and I felt bloated and nauseous, so I didn't have another gel till 20m and this didn't help my energy crisis.

Realising it wasn't going to be my day to hit my 3.15-3.20 target pace - I'd got greedy* - I just plodded around the rest from 14m, slowing a lot. Even this wasn't easy after awhile and I had to walk bits, more down to demotivation than anything I reckon as I probably could have maintained more pace but lost interest and starting to thinking of saving myself for events in weeks to come (Calderdale Hike 6 days later and Woldsman 50 less than 3 weeks away). I completed in 3.35. It is a PB, but nowhere near what I should be running I was behind several people from my club I can beat at most distances.

I should know better after having done 5 road marathons previously. But a few years of no road marathons and few long runs on concrete obviously made me a bit laxse. If I have a bad few miles in a long off-road trail event I can usually pick up again after running/walking easier for awhile. No such opportunity over 26.2m at faster pace.

* With it being a measurable distance I think this made me too competitive. It's much nicer to have the unknowns of a trail route where its 'you versus the course'. 33m may take me 6 hours (Osmotherley Phoenix) or 7hrs30 (on the hillier Long Tour of Bradwell course). I think this is what put me off flat road marathon courses in 2009 and has again.

Anyway, no indulging in self-defeat for me, too much to do. As I write this I'm also looking at the new Calderdale Hike route that I'll be following tomorrow. Wondering just how wet it will be up at Hoof Stone Heights - an area where during my last visit during the 2008 Hike I got stuck to my shorts in mud on a very muddy and cold day for my second ultra. Happy days.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Big three for March - 3: Hardmoors 55

This is it, an easy week on the running front has brought me to the start line rested and confident. 'The battle would probably all be in my head today',  I thought as the event got underway.

As it turned out I had a great day and banished any tormenting demons along the way. Not as fast a time as previous years as we steadied our pace along the way as Mark wasn't having his best day. But, we both got on with it and Mark got through it - with a few belts of water and ditching of energy drink and was running well again towards the end. 

I just felt pretty good all the way, into Osmotherley only slightly off last years 10-min/mile pace for the first 22m but feeling a lot fresher, through the hills before Kildale in section 2 with energy to spare and I felt I could have run every step from Kildale to the end. Enjoyed it so much we even took a wrong turn at Bloworth crossing to add an extra mile and a half.

The event was good as always. The brilliant Cleveland way route speaks for itself and will offer the same varied and interesting journey for eternity I'd hope. Jon Steele and team handled an increased field despite quite small starting facility at Helmsley and off on time. Marshalls were friendly, obliging and pretty much all went the extra mile to look after us as we tired - at Kildale we were waited on hand and foot as usual. Some of the remote marshalls such as on the rock stack at Wainstones and on top of Roseberry Topping had lugged some drinks and plenty of snacks up to these point - massively appreciated! And even at lower level remote points there was water before needed on what was a not-too-cool-not-too-hot kind of day for March. Seacadets place was also good at end with hot food for a quid, tea and coffee and beer (well actually we brought our own beer, but nobody seemed to mind).

Now I just need to straddle the line between good training and overdoing it now and there's no reason not to have more string days like this in 2012! The next big event is something peculiar called a "Road Marathon", think I've done these before in the dim and distant past and they may have something to do with my preference for the long, slow, off-road and scenic. But I couldn't resist the challenge when laid out in front of me, of the first - for a long time - Hull Marathon.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Big three for March - 2: Wuthering Hike/Haworth Hobble

I still don't know why this event has dual names, both are true enough, but I prefer the Wuthering Hike tag, which usually gets a smile from those knowing of the area when I mention it.

As performances go, not my finest hour, I think I gave up on a fast one early doors. But it's a very nice event, worthy of a mention untarnished by my lacklustre effort. I'm sure somebody out there, who is more organised, will already have an informative and entertaining blog post on it. Here's my highlights and lowlights in 10 bullet points (I'm trying to keep this - reasonably - short):
  1. Things you'll probably only see at this event or in this area #1 - Upon getting to event car park, paid my few quid and was told to "Drive over to the guy in a dress...", who would direct me to park. Must be a "Bronte sister" thing, an amusing start to my race day.
  2. Earlier start than of late for an 8am mass start - up just the wrong side of 5 - **WARNING DON'T READ ON IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT PRE-RUN BOWEL ACTIVITY** - and out the door too quickly. This had the often experiance effect that I hadn't had that relax time post-breakfast whioch allows bowels to kick in. So I tried to stop at services, some success but not enough. Arrived T-minus 45mins at race start, bit late, loads of people here, long queue for number, seek out toilets - DOH!! Long queue for portaloos. So @ T-minus 8mins to race start made do with a very long pee in a 'quiet' spot around back of race HQ. Which helped a bit by decreasing any bladder pressure on bowel. Does anybody else have issues like this if routine is a bit disturbed?
  3. It a grey and overcast start and a lot of very steady uphill onto the famous moors. No great views of this landscape for now.
  4. Things you'll probably only see at this event or in this area #2 - In Bronte waterfall area Mark - who I ran around with - pointed out that the usual wooden sign posts as well as a few other languages were written in Japanese. Well I never.
  5. CP 1 at the Widdop Reservoir Dam - It was like being at the seaside on a grey winter day. The mist and wind blowing waves into the dam wall from an unknown source creates a strange illusion as we cross the dam.
  6. Behind enemy lines - Much like the Calderdale Hike route of the last few years the route of this event took us into Lancashire, carefully evading border controls obviously. Seemingly not impressed, the route soon takes us back into Gods own county.
  7. Here comes the sun - Soon after long causeway (CP3) as cloud rises and the route drops the sun comes out. Yeh! But it seemed our goose was already cooked today and the late-winter sun's pleasent rays weren't going to help us. Mark had taken a bang on the knee slipping on wet rock and said he wasn't feeling that fresh today anyway, I felt much the same and Simon - who it has to be said was running a bit better than Mark and I - felt much the same as we slowed during the hilly second half.
  8. A string in the tail - Claire warned me about this. I didn't feel great going into the second half and the hills in part 2 weren't going to aid our pace. First a climb to Stoodley pike - a must in this area. Glad of the shot of Jura whisky at the CP before the climb, whisky never tasted so good.
  9. Next climb, Hepstonstall. Apparently the pub there last year was offering impromptu refreshments - not of the alcoholic kind - this year we just climbed up to go down - DOH!
  10. As we found a "just get around" pace once a 6 hour round had slipped away it was back up again on the muddy track to pass Hollin Hall and down to the last CP before the finish. Then a long tarmac road climb to Top O't Stairs.
From here it has a mostly downhill hobble via Penistone hill - of the great Woodentops fell races - back to th start in Haworth - 6:30 - quite a way off Simon and Mark's great PB's on this route (can't help thinking I cursed us). Over stew, Mark and I decided we'd need an easy week before the - significantly longer - Hardmoors 55 next week.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Big three for March - 1: Golden Fleece Circuit

All is going well so far this year. Having completed two good months training with just a few LDWA challenge events in the mix it's now time for the switch up with back to back weekend events over marathon length.
  1. Golden Fleece Circuit - 26.5m
  2. Wuthering Hike - 32m
  3. Hardmoors 55
The first of these events was the Saturday before last. I entered this new event organised to commemorate a local man and an opportunity to run an LWDA challenge-style event on my doorstep. But having done it I've realised its the first step back up to longer distances and days out. My legs also confirmed that on Saturday!

There was a really good turnout for a supposed 26.5m event from South Cave despite a grey, overcast sort of day. We'd be out through local villages and parkland into the agricultural rolling hills of the East Yorkshire Wolds. Returning to face its toughest hills in the closing 3 miles. The 'supposed' comment comes on the back of me plotting the route and finding it to be at least 27m on the map - maybe 26.5m was a string measurement - which usually means more when on my feet. Anyway, no complaints here about a bit of extra mileage, all a bonus to me.

I set off out with Mark, a conservative start worked well to have a catch up and for me to digest the last of breakfast. Over field edge tracks to Everthorpe - a little hamlet which unfortunately shares its name with a nearby prison - and then to North Cave. Here we emerged into the car park where there is a Rudolph's Romp refreshments checkpoint. For some reason I had it in my head there would be one here today, but consulting the map set me straight. No issues, I don't particularly like to eat so soon into a run.

Over the road and through Hotham Hall park, a good tarmacced track and continuing along fairly flat land meant we could keep up a better than usual pace for an LDWA challenge. Hotham village offered first refreshments, a nice piece of shortbread and off along field edge tracks into the woods paralleling the Rudolph's Romp route still. This then changed as we turned right after a short while following a long straight track-cum-road to North Newbald, through and round two of refreshments. A water top up was appreciated as despite the dreich conditions it was fairly close so I'd sweated a fair bit.

A typical Wolds dale on a somewhat sunnier, summer day
 The flatness of the course can best be summed up when I tell you the first walked climb came after this checkpoint as we scaled to a small hill brow and round the field edge to then drop down into what Mark and I agreed was a typical, if small, Wolds dale with its typical, almost geometric cut out of rounded hills above.

A good steady climb followed, we passed a few other runners and I felt like we were going quite strongly, though I could tell the distance already covered quite fast could make the latter miles of thism one quite tough.

Through another checkpoint at and it was now around a few field edges to eventually join a track into Bishop Burton. This was a section I'd covered once in a longer training run before, so I shouldn't have got lost and didn't.... really. Mark and I simply got carried away with good pace and followed several runners in front on auto-pilot, I soon realised something wasn't right. I knew we wereen't far off right so consulted the map and found we'd turned left rather than right a few hundred yards back, following a better track which then curled round to parallel the correct route anyway. Our navigation check meant that the runners ahead were now too far off to call back, so we continued parallel and then cut right along a field edge track edeging two small plantations to pop back on the course for the addition of no more than half a mile - definately going over 27m today now!

It seems that Mark and I and the guys in front who were now probably heading to the north of Bishop Burton rather than south for a ~2m extension, weren't the only ones adding distance today. I was quite suprised to see Jon Steele and Dave Cremins pass along the road in front of us shortly before where the track hit it. mark and I had thought they'd have galloped off well into the distance by now, but it seemed some degree of detour had allowed us to nearly catch up.

We mad good progress south along the undulating road before hitting field edge paths again into Walkington and the next CP. More confusion reined in Walkington with people seemingly not knowing the right (or best) way through the village. I steered us in the right direction, picking up another who seemed unsure along the way. On heading out of the village, Jon and Dave appeared from a side track now just behind us, local knowledge was serving me well now. In fact, at around this time I told Mark I knew the rest of the route like the back of my hand and that he could shoot me if we went wrong from here on in. I think this was well received news, as he offered a response suggesting he was not worried and didn't have a gun on him anyway.

The penultimate descent, To lovely Woo Dale, on a Sunnier day
More Wolds undulations and Skidby came and went, taking us to the often painful stretch of track which is Riplingham road. Straight ahead for the best part of two miles all the while slightly uphill. We were both glad when we joined an adjacent track climbing away over a hill to the main road. At this point its fair to say we were feeling the miles, going on for 25m now, but at least we were holding our own in what was now a well spaced field. With one exception we didn't see any other runners in the last hour, a reflection of what the length and navigation of the route was doing to quite a decent sized field - for an LDWA challenge anyway.

We got to the last CP - at a pig farm. At the recent Filey Flyer we'd had a CP in a barn next to munching cows, there appears to be a theme here.... what next? The CP lady and girls were very enthusiastic, which is also true of all volunteers today and generally in these events. From here it has up and over a small hill to the "muddy cross roads" - a local tag for this somewhat muddy, dale bottom, confluence of tracks.

The final and toughest hill of the day (taken on a sunnier day)
With a right turn we were on the Wolds way and heading on a very steady uphill to tackle the final few and hilliest miles of the day. Rain broke out from the otherwise non-offensive drizzle and murk for the first time, but lasted almost no time as we pushed ourselves up the path, road and track to the top of Spout Hill near Brantingham. Coming down Spout hill, on a clear day gives you arguably the best view of the area as you look down over flat lands north and south of the humber and into South Yorkshire. Part way down we switched off the tarmacced drive onto a fenced path which runs down through pasture to meet the road at Brantinghams pretty church. Up the road and it was time for two short but steep climbs - pictured above. Firstly up and down into romantically named Woo Dale. Then on up the initially steep walk to top of Mt. Airey.

Looking back down this hill as we disappeared into trees we were quite surprised to see somebody at the bottom of the hill. We were finishing ok despite the mid-run pace, but these guys were obviously very strong. This made us pick up our pace a little towards the top of the hill and put a spring in our step as we rounded the farm, followed the drive sweeping downhill and then cut off onto the downhill path into South Cave. I kept having a look back during the final mile towards the finish, but we'd done enough to hold our hard earned place in the field.

So lots of quite fast pace for trail and the calves felt this over the next few days. But next up, my first attempt at the slightly longer - 32m - Haworth Hobble/Wuthering Hike over in Bronte Country.