Wednesday 26 August 2009

Fell runner......

....walker, climber - it was a case of getting up and down the hills by any means necessary last weekend. I not only doubled, but trebled up in 3 quite different races.

Burnsall Sports - Saturday 22nd August

Last saturday was the Burnsall Feast, and the annual running of the famous race from the village, to the Flag on the Fell and back. City of Hull AC made some kind of history by taking a coach to Burnsall, its unsure whether one has been there before. There local bus service is one of those metro-buses. There was a detour after we discovered the coach was taller than the arch on the main road in. The alternative included a 20 minute detour and some pretty bumpy and tight roads to get in there - our very patient driver performing the first heroics of the day. The question upon arriving was was there anywhere to park a coach. You had to smile really :¬)

Anyway a sunny but - thankfully - not too warm, day. The one and only shop did a great business on sandwiches and (really good) flapjack as the COH crowd nervously waited, and enjoyed the festivities before the first race. The first race was the new kid in town - the fell race being around since 1870! - the 10 mile road race. I was one of a few doubling up today, 10m race and fell race. Seemed like a reasonable plan, take the 10m easy and how hard can a 1.5m race be????

Off into the hills, undulating up Wharfdale to Grassington and then Threshfield. Then followed two quite tough climbs in the last 5 miles and despite an easy pace these weren't a doddle. I then couldn't help pushing on the downhill mile-and-a-half finish. 77:28 and and enjoyable run, with some great scenery for a road run. I did my best to rehydrate but this would always be best endeavours. I then headed out with a few of the guys to explore the first few fields of the climb in the fell race, it was rather concerning that the very first short climb felt hard - HEL-LLP!!

Anyway, 5pm and less than one hour 20 after completing the 10 miler I was lined up with over a hundred runners - many of these guys and girls mean and hungry propa fell runners. Bang goes the gun and we were off. As per usual there was quite a fast pace along the road to get field position before the narrow field entrance. The first field was quickly done and the second field offered two routes over a stream bed, muddy and shallow or dry but steep. I managed to skip over the mud well and caught up with a few of my fellow club runners who took second option. The field then steepened and into the third field and picking routes through low growing vegetation.

I felt at this point that the pace around me was a bit conservative so I decided to get overtaking between walks to catch breath. I maintained this, where possible as the track twisted left to wind up the hill and narrowed. Soon the top was in site, the track was hard going with mud, rocks and large natural steps to negotiate. I reached the flagged Cairn looking down over Burnsall - nearly 900ft below - 0.85m in 14:06. Simple advice was given to me as I slowed to figure which way down Keep going!", cheers for that. Turns out the route was to basically jump straight over the edge near the cairn. its a very narrow and steep path, basically scrambling down mud and rocks that are too close to vertical for comfort.

I'd felt strong nearly to the top but now my knees seemed to have lost all strength and the best I could do was keep up with those in front as a few more daring souls passed, jumping down the heather. I kept going, scrambling slipping down rocks on, my arse and strategically grabbing vegetation to control my descent or stop myself from falling. It was a mad few minutes - but just that, soon the fields became just a steep runnable descent. By the wall - just what we all needed, a wall to climb - the legs were recovering and I started to try and run as fast as I could for the line, which was now probably a lot less than 0.5m away. Nobody passed me and I managed to get close to the guys in front who were around 100-metres ahead at the wall, but no heroic overtaking today. I pushed hard for the line - the crowd support really loud and uplifting for such a small event - and crossed in 21:55, the descent taking me nearly half the ascent time. Another great feature of this event is the river just nearby whee runners , including myself and club mates headed to get cleaned up.

I was pretty happy with that, don't think I could have done much better first time around and after the 10 miler. Next year - 20mins ;¬) All in all, a great day out and great to tick off a category AS fell race.

Sedbergh Hills - 23rd August

I woke after about 6-and-a-half hours of sleeping like the dead. And repacked the kit bag for day two. I must admit this was worrying me more than yesterday. The forecast of rain and winds didn't help, but I figured a 14m fell race with a claimed 6000ft of ascent and descent. wouldn't be easy. legs didn't feel too bad, obviously 1.5m fell races aren't too damaging to legs. Headed to see COH AC clubmate Trev's house and we set off after a mug of tea. Sedbergh, which is right in the north-west corner of the Yorkshire dales and in Cumbria, is quite a drive from West Hull, no really direct route. Time went quick though as we talked about various runs we'd done or wanted to do in the future. Arrived at 11am and got registered and ready for the sociable noon start.

The hills north of Sedbergh are scary b****r's, huge steep sided grassy monsters rising high from the plateau where the town sits at about 500ft above sea level. The race was underway on time, roughly 150 runners off at noon, no great sprint at the start unlike yesterday. The first climb today dwarfed Burnsall, but thankfully wasn't all packed into quite such a short distance. The first section of the hill had most people running on their toes due to steepness, it gradually got less steep but then we hit the low cloud and visibility was reduced to less than 100 yards. The climb continued onwards until about 2 miles - 1500ft gained already. Then came an equally relentless descent, fast followed by a respite before the first section of "uncomfortable steepness" as we reemerged from the hill fog. By 3.5m we'd dropped most of that gained 1500ft..... Cruel buggers these fell races.

I've always quite liked descending and always figured I was at least better than average at it. Today people were flying past me as I didn't feel confident for grip. I'd opted for Roclites for the comfort, judging by most others around the mudclaws would have been a better option for traction on wet grassy and muddy descents. I persisted onwards, helped by the positive I seemed better uphill than most, often overtaking on the slow runs and steep bits that were walk/climb.

Fog ended at about halfway as I contoured on a series of muddy and narrow paths with deadly drops to either side at one stage or another. I properly fell forward at CP3, I'd made it down a tricky descent but then slipped on a rock in the stream banging right knee and cramping left quad. Thankfully no blood and just an ache to add to the left knee I banged yesterday, the cramp cleared instantly. I got up and started the trek uphill, glad to be done with another lethal descent. The descent to CP4 was blood-curdling on tiring quads and I was so glad that the next section was a long, gradual climb with some runnable bits for over two miles. A change from the status quo of straight up, straight down, or tricky - if runnable - flat contouring. Rain was getting heavier so I stopped to put on a waterproof top so I could pack away the sodden wind jacket. Good timing and I think this helped me on the remainder and especially this section into head-on wind and rain not running much so needed to keep warm.

At the end of this climb was the highest point, The Calf, about 650m, I think, about 2/3 of a Scaffell Pike. We were also into thick fog again, and a narrowing of field made navigating off others who may know route wasn't an option. Me and a fella from the North York Moors AC joined up and found our way through the fog and onto a nice, steady, long descent to Sedbergh which I enjoyed after the "cheese chaser" style steep descents of earlier. We exchanged shoe woes, he was getting "jip" from his fell shoes, not worn in and tearing his feet apart, I had intact and comfy feet but no grip on most the steep descents. Enforced navigation stops had re energised me and I ran all the descent and then most of the way to the final trig point and cairn (a modest 400m+ high). I then performed best endeavours in the mile descent to Sedbergh (another potential killer).

I was dead chuffed to finish in 3:26 on my debut. Not fast for the 14.5m covered, but this was the hardest 14.5m of my life. I never truly appreciated the severity of the hills in fell runs in this area till now! Trev, who is a bit speedy, had run 3:06 and a good 60th position, I was 90th of about 150. Winner was low 2:20s, an inhuman time, but I suppose modest compared to Keith Andersons 1991 record of 1:58. Keith must have hammered the descents, a fact backed up by the fact he also holds the fastest recorded descent time at Burnsall fell race I did yesterday, about 3mins30 for the ~0.75m, my modest descent being over double that!

Monday 24 August 2009

Marsden Moor Meander

I'm getting a bit behind on these reports, here we go....

The 20 mile+ events just keep coming. This was another organised by an LDWA group, this time The Irregulars. Running in this area, the Colne Valley, was also a first for me. To ready myself I imagined it would be something like the mudfests in Calderdale, just to the North. In reality it was far more runnable, part due to reasonable conditions of late, part probably the route choice of organisers.

Got there with plenty of time before 8:30 start so was able to top up the 6am porridge with tea and toast - a small thing, but it all seems to help. Promptly off at 8:30 and I made schoolboy error of not getting near the front in a walker dominated event. There was a narrow bridge after 10 yards so I wasn't going anywhere fast. Like a lot of these events there is quite a steep climb almost straight away heading out of town to get the blood pumping. I also knew I'd need to be more navigationally-minded than in higher profile events as there weren't many runners and we'd soon spread out over Slaithwaite Moor. This first section was at times uneven, rocky and a bit muddy and soon led to a small valley crossing and across the first - of many - dams on Deanshead Reservoir. Before not to long the M62 was in view and earshot. Took me a bit of time getting to the road, crossing Saddleworth Road, with another descent and some quite wordy instructions. Soon I was through the tunnels under the split carriageway into a steep wooded descent and down beneath a dam wall (Booth Wood Res) to CP1. Cheese and pickle sandwiches, what a start :¬)

Climb up onto towards the next moor now and a bit of indecision over the instruction "in about 75 turn left onto track" cost me 5 mins. I went down it, then thought it was too well made to be a track and much less than 75 yards up road. I headed back checked out further up before heading back. A bit annoyed with myself I pushed on wanting to see if I could catch somebody in front to run with. Past a farm and through a few fields got me onto the moortop, plenty of navigational aids along way and decent footing meant a nice long stretch of running. This continued off the moor and down a track towards the next dam crossing at Green Withins Res. Damn these Irregulars like their Dams! Still good going so ran all the back to and over M62 to nearby CP2. It was Windy at this CP on the accurately named Windy Hill beneath the radio masts. Chocolate crispies were the order of the day.

Around the Windy Hills and dangerously close to Lancashire now ;¬) but a South-eastern turn took me to Piethorne Res. I enjoyed this bit, contouring between and around the lush green hills of the area and then down to and across the edge of Dowry res to CP3. Flapjack and then onwards on the pennine bridleway. Caught up with a few more runners at this point and feeling good. Onto the Oldham Way and then up onto Castleshaw Moor where the path got less distinguished through peat hags, but still with marker posts to keep us on the right track. Myself and the four runners I was closing on now rejoined the pennine way as it ran along gritstone edges. We all leaned at comedy angles towards the cliff edge to counteract a brutal strong wind blasting from the lower lands to the west. Just occasionally a gust would shift you sideways midstride or a gap in the wind would have you swerve towards the cliff edge!

Thankfully we dropped out of the worst of the wind to a main road and the final CP. 17.5m, just before scheduled opening time of CP but thankflly they were open. The final section saw a following of the pennine way, rounding another reservoir mostly on a paved stone path. Not sure how they laid this but its superb and good to run on even when the rain started and it got a bit wet. This long, fast section culminated in a long, steady, descent shadowing Blakely Clough before crossing it and climbing to a small radio mast. It was a steep descent from here, so I went down as safely fast as I could. I crossed the bridge at the valley bottom and climbed to the self clip.

It was now downhill all the way. This was quite pleasent as I seemed to have downhilled a lot of late so half expected a sting in the tail. There must have been a lot of Stealth climb throughout - gradual, almost unnoticable height gain which made the descents more noticable. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't easy, over 3200ft ascent and descent, but rarely have I enjoyed hills so much. I picked up the pace so "road run" speeds on the wide smooth track alongside Blakely and Butterley reservoirs. The tarmac road into Marsden was actually too steep and stung legs, used to softer surfaces for 21 miles. Just a few easy instructions to get through Marsden and I was back at the parochial hall where I'd started 4:16 earlier. Thoroughly enjoyable and well organised, ticked a lot of boxes without being excessive in difficulty, or dificult underfoot. The post-event meal was usual good standard, a nice bit of pasta and then banana's in custard, winning choice.

I think I'll be back for this one in years to come. Cheers "The Irregulars"!

Rules of post race recovery were observed back in East Yorkshire, guiness - for Iron - lager - for hydration - BBQ - for protein and carbs. Sorted!

Wednesday 19 August 2009

The importance of cross training

Its somewhere in the background of the big picture when your a runner, but you just can't ignore it if you want to train hard for something. This was todays XT session less ordinary...

Suffer warm bus, dehydrating steadily.
Arrive at KC Stadium, dodge in and out of other fans to develop muscles for twisting trails.
Climb steps to stand, self explanatory.
Rehydrate using a h20 and carbohrdate mix, a popular XT energy drink known as beer, side effect is enhanced enjoyment of forthcoming "session".

Take seats and promptly barely use for entire first half, developing various leg muscles as guy in front never sits down.
Action on the pitch tests your patience - important for a long distance runner.
Half time, once again weave through crowds to promptly hit queue at "Energy drink only" window.
Rehydrate further, possibly too much as need to visit loo... hydration is a science!
Commence the difficult second half of session, where patience is further tested, and just occasionally, will to go on with session is severley tested.
Second half appears to be all descent - hard on tiring legs.
Unexplained nausea...... maybe caused by smug spurs fans.
Abandon stadium, make haste to nearest exit, practice weaving again whilst in a dehydrated and slightly tired state.
More warm bus, urge to kill rising.
Get off bus, face the demons saying further "energy drinks" are needed, this will not help the second half-induced nausea or the mental battle to go on.
Arrive at finish, sleep will help the pain and anguish caused by the session subside. Now take a few days rest from cross training and do something more constructive.... e.g. running. You will cross train again, it is important, you just don't quite know why.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

So far so good

I got around the Marsden Moor Meander on Saturday, with something to spare, 22 miles in 4 hours 16. There's a report to follow. I even managed a short run Sunday after a lay-in / hangover-sleep-off and before Sunday lunch. 4 miles, easy, undulating, road and trails. Hardly a sign I'm ready for 3 marathons in 3 days, but at least I didn't feel like death on Sundays run and could have done more if I had time. Running after Sunday Lunch just isn't an option, almost a religious conviction that I don't run on a bloated belly! Unlike the fella in the pic I tagged on.

Monday was cross training - dumb-bell exercises, core strength, stretching, body resistance exercises - and tonight was back on the roads, 7.5m of ups and downs with 45mins of that in a fartlek-style short effort and shorter recovery. Feeling quite good, but still a way to go. I am feeling slightly more tired at work, especially on Mondays, but managing to garner strength for evening runs. I'm still at relatively low mileage, hitting 40+ most weeks but including 20m+ events at weekends that's not excessive. I plan to hit 50's and 60's. The long runs are important but I also think the time on feet for conditioning and consecutive day mileage are essential.

I have a feeling the running planned for this weekend will be a challenge like I haven't faced before.

Sunday 9 August 2009


The post title and picture are perhaps a bit OTT. Its not like a major change, but nevertheless I feel like I've just closed off one chapter of my running adventures and started another one.

9:30 - I lined up on a warm and windless start line for a flat 10k where I could give my PB a serious dent, plan was starting at near pace and gradually winding up to something under 41mins. Didn't happen - all the km's were somewhere in the 4:05 to 4:20 region as I just saved scraped under 42. After talking to a few other runners I headed back to the car and as I sweatily-stretched, I mulled over that this is my last planned road run until about October. A bit of a disappointing one but I now had a single focus on off-road, distance training until October. A 40min 10k is a long term target of mine but doesn't fall in with plans this year.

10:45 - On the way home I pulled up at the quarry access road turn off. Got out the car and started to run up the stoney road up onto the Wolds. Not totally sure why, warm-down? pick-me-up? maybe... but I think I actually wanted to give my new training plan a starting point, or start a new chapter. I ended up doing nearly 5 more miles on undulating trails and roads. Slow going, but I felt good again, felt I had saved the weekend from being just 6 hard road miles and now had a good session in the bag to take me into next week when I'm going to start my hardest training plan yet.

Marsden Moors Meander up next week, anybody else doing?

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Dovedale Kippered

Not sure if "kippered" is actually a word, but I think I've heard it and that's how I felt at the end of the Dovedale Dipper

I'd been lulled into a false sense of security by some comments on the FRA forum LDWA events thread. Along the lines of first half or even first 2/3 are easy, only one big hill, good surfaces most the way. Maybe last year this was more true but the recent rain meant good trails were now saturated in places and hills had inexplicably grown around the course.

Set off around with Mark and it is a gentle introduction. Rolling hills out of Hartington and nice green valley views along Dovedale. Then you run a section of the Rolls Royce of trails, the High Peak Trail. One of many ex-railway line trails in this area heading up to the highest ground further north. Now relaid as a smooth and responsive path with an extremely gentle gradient. All the way to CP1.

Gets more difficult after this, lots of field crossings meant this must be well up there on the "most stiles climbed in one event" stakes. These areas also seemed to accumulate mud. Before CP2 at Longnor there were plenty of muddy or wet bits and the odd hills too.

Next section contoured along shallow, River Manifold valley and then a very marshy climbing section before next CP. Apparently, or so I was told, this section was the only bit the winning lady walked. Winning fella apparently didn't, obviously a robot ;) Legs feeling it by now after swift start which was too early to be good.

Difficulty ramped up again now from, CP 3 to 5. Now it was time for some hands on knees climbing after a steep drop into the Manifold Valley and steep up other side around Ecton Hill (369m). Following some hefty undulations and a CP the new terrain was a contouring run on a narrow, slanted path which twisted ankles at all kind of angles to stay upright. Saw a couple of guys heading back, I think one of the had fallen and hurt/fractured wrist on this bit :(

Next CP was very welcome, topped up on water and then spilt a load of orange trying to refill cup - dodgy jug lid... oops. I was running on my own now as I had slowed to a new comfy plod pace. Brief chats with a few others who I passed or passed me and then a steep and slippery descent towards the road to final CP. No heroics here, damp soil and tree roots aren't a good accompaniment to tired ankles. At final CP I unleashed the power of fruit jellies, tasted good but the boost was short lived.

The next 5k was a bit like the signature part of race, fantastic, wooded, steep sided valley or "gorge" (cos I like that word). Running on a trail, along bottom, close to the, fast flowing, narrow River Dove. Really nice and if I wasn't struggling to run I would have loved this bit. The final sting in the tail was the climb out of Wolfscote Dale, deffo hands on knees, probably even if I'd have been fresh and planning on just running this 300yards. This just left a short stagger back to Hartington. The lack of a village was disconcerting for awhile, but then it appeared, between the hills, church spire showing the way.... I'm not religious but this sight was salvation today!

5:09, roughly 3200ft, which isn't that much over 26.4m, but felt it at the time. Winner broke the record with an astonishing 3:33!

Again I've suffered badly in closing 5-6 of a long run. Common theme here, need to slow down at start and up midweek mileages in training, so my overall mileage is a bit better and I can push up the endurance a bit.