Wednesday 30 September 2009

ACC Day 2 - Perranporth to Hayle

Saturday dawned, again I was up and wide awake well before the alarm. Porridge and toast for breakfast and due to short sleep I was almost dozing again by the time the bus had shipped us back to Perranporth. I fancied hiding under a few of the other runners bags, waiting while the other runners and VO2 team were distracted and then sneaking in to one of the many pubs I'd noticed here at the finish the day before.

But I didn't... I was at the line and off - very slowly - up the hill out of Perranporth. At this point I first met Stuart, who was one of the guys I'd been talking to on the forum about this the last few months. He seemed energetic and was well out of site by time I'd stopped to pee and take a few pictures - No! not of the pee, of the lovely scenery down this coast. I hadn't stopped to take pics the day before, but figured my legs could do with the odd break today. The picture to left is Perranporth, looking from top of hill back over the long beach we'd run the length of at the end of day 1. It was quite an up-and-down first few miles, lots of steps or trail descents and then ascents out of small bays. I quite enjoyed this as I was still going well both up and down, not as tentative as some down and willing to run more uphills than others. It was soon down to Trevaunance Cove and the first CP of the day - yeh!

Found some flapjack, gulped water and coke as this had hydrated me on day one well enough. Onwards and downwards, through Porthtowan. Feeling good and the average pace had dropped below 12's after the slow start, there was then a reasonably level section towards Portreath and CP2. Sandwich time, randomly grabbed a peanut butter which was a bit hardgoing and on to the beach under a high cliff before a shortish but steep climb back up onto the cliffs.
The sun was out now following the typical weather pattern of the weekend with overcast start and slow boil in the afternoon. Quite a long and flatish run now along higher cliffs with the odd twist to liven things up. I found myself playing random songs in my head - a good sign? Radio Gaga was good but I was surprised that "Jake the Peg" (Rolf Harris) was also in there, guess it suited the slow rythm of my plodding.  maybe I was distracting myself as the aches mainfested beyond halfway. The next CP at Godrevy head was a long time in coming. When I got there I was slowing, hot and had to walk awhile down into St Ives bay.
I caught up with a few other runners in the dunes as the path became multiple paths and four of us eventually abandoned the slow and hard dune navigation and headed for the solid sands of the 3 mile beach towards Hayle. This went on for a long time, my comfortable run pace now over tens even on the flat. The effects were different to the previous day, more stiffness, less energy, but no feeling of hitting the wall. Eventually the beach was left and the cliff climbed to head back on ourselves through Hayle Towans and towards Phillack. There was an extra CP here - ther to make sure we didn't cut through the dunes a mile back to the "back door" enterance of the holiday park. Like we would?

Running on the hard paths and roads through Phillack wasn't fun but at least the end was close, just up a small hill, a left turn into the camp, a steep drive I coul barely run up and then down the steps and the finish right at the holiday camp. A brief stagger to drinks, soup, food and massage if we wanted. This day was a bit short - ~24.5m - and I was slightly slower than the day before having never quite recaptured yesterdays pace after the steady start. 4:43, so 4 minutes down, but actually 2 positions higher in the standings. 20th for the day of well over 100 who had ran and walked these first few days. I was tired, but happy that all those long runs around the beautiful Yorkshire Moors, Dales and Peak district in the last few months hadn't just been a useless distraction. The 2 leaders had dipped inside yesterdays time of 3:37, to run sub 3:30.

So far so good, day two was probably harder than day one, higher cliffs meaning bigger drops and climbs when a bay or inlet was crossed, generally more rugged. It was also prettier and more scenic, more remote, no Newquay to cross ;¬) Certainly not as difficult as bleak Calderdale moorland, the muddy south derbyshire dales. Not in the same league as the higher parts of peak district, the Western Yorkshire dales, Sedbergh Hills or Lakes.

After a short massage I hoped would help I hit the sack for a few hours in a vain attempt to relax into a late afternoon nap. My legs were pulsing and twitching, trying to pump bllod around, clean out waste products, wanting to cramp, and did a few times later. I nibbled on snacks, took Ibuprofen, Glucosamine, dark chocolate - cos I like it, but did I heck have any cramp tablets in my medical bag of tricks.... grrr!

BBQ time, I seemed to arrive everytime they were waiting for more food to cook so only got one burger, lamb chop, breadbun and veg kebab. At least I got a chocolate banana and forced down a few beers. Most of us were all tucked up in bed by 11.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

ACC Day 1 - Padstow to Perranporth

So, after a journey longer than any of the marathons would take on Thursday I arrived at the quiet Hayle station and was picked up straight away by one of the votwo guys. I got to the site, got checked in and learnt my chalet partner for the next four days was already here. Got to the chalet and met Mike and three other guys who'd met at this years Marathon des Sables and kept in touch after enjoying there tent banter. I declined the kind offer of joining them for a journey into Hayle for a restaraunt meal as I already had a voucher for a meal on site. Votwo food was good and quite substantial, tasty, yet healthy and I chatted to a guy called Don who was there with his wife and daughter, all planning on running and/or walking the event. A completley different end of the experiance spectrum to Mike and the MdS survivors I'd just met. This pattern of extremes was repeated throughout the weekend, with marathon novices doing all three marathons, often, pretty respectably fast, then there was a guy in his early 20's who holds the 10 marathon in 10 days record contested the last few years at the Windermere Marathon and the guy who did the final two days to tick off marathon numbers 599 and 600 - gulp!

Come Friday morning I was up before the alarm, fitful and restless sleep so I got down to the catering tent for porridge, honey and some nutella on bread. I'd prepared my hydration backpack the night before with all the kit requirements. Not exhaustive compared to some events but still plenty to remember. Checked everything and got my post-run warm gear together and headed down for reg and kit check. The check was quite thorough and applied to everybody and I felt fairly pleased that I had a smaller backpack than the majority of people. We had our briefing and then a long trip in the mini-bus convoy up to near Padstow. The trip was over an hour so we didn't start till early afternoon and there was a hilarious moment as nearly every bloke headed to the cliff edge to pee over it, a few yards apart like some kind of small army. I'm sure the ladies also found somewhere to lighten the load, but were more subtle about it.

12:10 and we were off, but not very fast as we herded at the stile. With over 100 runners - the walkers which took our number to roughly 200 had set off two hours earlier - the queue was long so many of use jumped the fence. I spoke to an MdS trainee for the first few miles as he told me the anecdote that Hugh Grant owned one of the big, remote, white houses overlooking Constantine beach we were passing. The first few miles were great, easy trails, grass, short sandy beach crossings and not much challenge. Very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security about this "challenge". I steadied my fresh-legged pace from 10's to nearer 11's, anything slower would have been too easy. Cliffs were generally low and the undulations small at first, this changed throughout day one and escalated over the following days.

There were a few beach sections and stream crossings on day one. The first was at Porthcothan beach. There were mutters from those in road trainers around me and I felt slightly smug in my f-lites, knowing if my feet got wet they would be dry again before I could dwell on it. The contours the path followed tightened a bit for a few miles culminating in a decent drop down to the beach at Mawgan Porth. On the beach I suddenley got the sensation of a wet arm, I looked around, nobody with water pistols, no rain clouds, didn't look or smell like seagull "output". Then something fell off my bag into the sand. I retrieved the plastic valve from my hydration pack tube, which had loosened until it had dropped off, brushed the sand off it as best I could. I'm useless in any kind of warm weather without plenty of fluid so loosing the valve could have been a nightmare at such an early stage.

8m down and on to CP1, mini mars bar, cola, water and off, no sense in hanging around whilst fresh. Off down the coast along Watergate bay, Newquay bound. It wasn't far to the next CP but definately harder going than the opening 10k. A variety of routes over and around Port beach were taken. I'm just glad I followed the right people and got to CP2. We passed several others later who had missed this in the maze of Newquay and lost loads of time doubling back.

CP2 of each day was the first sandwich stop. I sunck some water and grabbed a random sandwich. Cheese and pickle :¬) , always seems to help, can be dry, but I'm sure a change from sugary carbs helps. Off into Newquay, I tried valiantly to follow South West Coast path signs but this got difficult as they were just tiny stickers on lamp posts amongst a litter of street signs on bustling resort streets. Briefly I was alone, but then rejoined a group through downtown Newquay. I nearly took a wrong turn, but thankful to be called back. The path became evident again as we passed the grand looking hotel featured in the film version of "The Witches" and alongside the famous surfer mecca that is Fistral Beach.

One more headland and down to Crantock beach. Depending on tide crossing the river here can be a swim, but today we were thankful the tide was low and the bridge was usable. CP3, I had some kind of cereal bar, more water and coke and got off again. 16m down and there was now a bit of dune crosssing before a few undulating headland tours on towards the challenging section of the day. After some narrow, lumpy paths it was down dunes again to Hollywell beach. Route options here, you could go up a cliff or across a stream at the back of the beach and stick to the path. I kicked myself later, just a little, for taking the longer - slower - option. This climbed us up and around more rugged headland terrain past abandoned mines and a "danger area" - perhaps military? I was tiring now, my run around Ligger point to the vast Perran beach was slow and I stopped catching up with people.

Down the dunes and on the beach I followed a few hundred yards behind the next two runners, who seemed to pull away. 22m+ now and my stomach tightened and breath seemed harder, I always assumed this is a sign of walling so backed off the pace more as I tried to follow the nice, springy mid-beach sand on the near 5k beach section. I'd feared this bit but it turned out to be very runnable on a wide, flat beach at low tide. Perranporth took an age to grow at the far end of beach but eventually I was there. A short run around the small promenade passed less active daytrippers and that was it for the day. 4:39, quite happy with that

I never feel hungry at the end of a long run, but I gulped some liquid and put away a cup of nice veg soup and breadroll. I was worryingly stiff and tired and wondered if I could restore my energy supplies ok for tomorrow or if it would be painful fat burning much of the way? I've done two long runs in a row before, but this was three and my worry didn't ease till the food I'd ate kicked in and picked-me-up a bit. There was a big dinner back at the holiday park, I sure needed it. My roommate Mike turned up a bit later having been out quite a while - he hadn't trained much since MdS - and having to wait for the last finishers to get to the last minibus. Night finished with a few of the complimentary beers from organisers, sponsors and chilling in front of some TV comedy - Rock and Roll?.... nope definately more Soup and Roll.

With hindsight this was the easiest day, also my fastest, whether I should have held back more I don't know. If the next two days were anything to go by then yes. Other factors like eating and sleep may have been wrong also - not enough of either all weekend, neither by choice. I didn't force myself to eat when full and kept waking early.

September catchup

Work and prep for the Atlantic Coast Challenge have robbed me of blogging time the last few weeks. For instance I did the Good Shepperd classic fell race the Saturday before last. A challenging race with some big climbs and difficult underfoot, but also enough runnable bits and scenery to keep you enjoying it and looking forward. Its a bit distant now for me to report, but from a personal point of view I had a good run after burning up a bit too much energy at the start. Try this one, runs from Mytholmroyd, about 13.5m and 2450' up and down.

This last - long - weekend was my big challenge of the year. Started with a 9 hour train journey down to Hayle in Cornwall (near St Ives). Amongst other distractions I read a good chunk of Feet in the Clouds for a second time. Great book and worth reading for any who haven't yet. Some amazing feats of endurance described in there, but also some brilliant descriptions of the hardship of personal challenges in hilly and ill-weathered parts of the country. Anyway I was down there for the Atlantic Coast Challenge, organised by votwo (VO2). Big report to come, but to summarise...

This event follows the South west Coast path from Padstow to Lands End in three daily sections which roughly equal 78.6 - 3 marathons - mostly off-road, sometimes on very difficult trails.

Day 1 - Padstow to Perranporth - ~26m - 2700'
Day 2 - Perranporth to Hayle - ~24.5m - 2750'
Day 3 - Lelant to Lands End - ~28.5m - 4100'

Took me roughly 16:37 for the three days running, all challenging runs and day 3 would challenge the hardiest runner. Not just the increased distance, climbs and descents but also much rougher paths as challenging as nearly anything we have in the hills up north due to vegetation and stones/boulders being strewn everywhere for long stretches.

Thursday 17 September 2009

One week to go

This time next week I'll hopefully be all tucked up for my last recharging sleep before the Atlantic Coast Challenge (ACC). I'm quite excited, but have quite a busy week beforehand at work and getting prepared for this. Since doing 39m two weekends ago I've been cutting the mileage slightly, low 40's last week and probably this. Last 20+ last weekend over the wolds and just 15m on the Saturday plan this week and a token effort on Sunday.

My weekly mileage hasn't been mega, but certainly big for me and often concentrated around a long and a medium run at the weekend. Last 5 weeks have all been forties, fifties and one excursion into the high 60's which is a best for me. I've only done two runs this week (Tue=9, Thu=10), but weekend should get me to high thirties at least.

I find the mid to long runs at this stage a bit boring/tedious as I just want to be doing my big run next week.... now. So I've decided to enter one last race of 15m, ideal length and in Calderdale so will be hilly and muddy. I'm also not breaking the 20 so not depleting the energy stores completley - I hope. I'll give your the filthy details when I'm done.

Regarding ACC prep, I'm about ready bar the packing. There is a short required kit list but I'm hoping I can get it all in the new Inov8 race Elite 3 pack I've ordered. I can always nab a few velcro pockets off another pack. This is assuming it ever turns up - great time for a 5-7 working day delivery to actually take that long and a postal strike! Really hoping I get this tomorrow so I can use it on Saturday as sort of "dress rehearsal". I'm also undecided on shoes so I'll be taking road, mild trail and harsher trail shoes - leaving nothing to chance. If its like coastal paths in my area then the trails will be quite solid, but if its more like Calderdale or parts of peak district then it could be pretty muddy all year around. I've also started reading Feet in the Clouds again to keep the inspiration topped up. Food wise there is breakfast and dinner provided if you want it. On the run there is water, cordial drinks, and flat cola (latter of these I'll only experiment with if thoroughly sick of other two). I'll be taking one bottle of my own energy drink each day too, to assure I get all the electrolytes, etc... There are also supposed to be sandwiches at some CP, which is always nice and I'm quite partial to a cheese and pickle on the run. I haven't found it causes me stomach problems. At the end of each raceday we can also get soup and For Goodness Shakes. Both of which I believe will be useful to restock various drained resources. I've tried the shakes after a long run and often run well the next day. They may not be the reason but could well be a piece of the jigsaw.

Enough of that, I'm babbling on. I'll report again when  have something to report.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Standing in the footsteps of giants (well one!)

With no event or race to do this weekend for the first time since god only knows, I came up with the plan of doing a stage of the Wolds Way starting out in the countryside and finishing a mile from my door. I'd done this before in training for my first ultra in 2007 and figured it would be a pleasent way of getting some weekend miles in. I had a huge curry on Friday night which I hope would energise me and hopefully wouldn't give me "delhi" belly or killer wind.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step

My shorter journey was no different. I had to get up and on a bus from Hessle to Beverley and then a second bus to Market Weighton. I had one false start with my "one step" as I slept in till nearly 9, the next bus being at 10.15 would mean a late start by time I'd done the bus thing twice. My first, second, third, fourth and many after were then in vane as I arrived on time at the bus stop only to see it heading off up the road... british transport... early!!

I made the next bus an hour later. I was pretty much the youngest person on there by 35 years. Had I stepped on a national express tourbus by accident? After a slow and round the houses 1hr10 mins journey for the 10 or so miles to Beverley. I just had enough time to use the facilities and grab a coffee and flapjack before getting on the next bus to Market Weighton.

Bellies gonna get ya

The longer journey to Market Weighton took a much more acceptably less-than-20 minutes. Here I got off and set about finidng the road to Goodmanham and my entry to the Wolds Way. To elaborate on the post title, a bit of history, Market Weighton was the home in the 18th/19th Century of "Giant" Bradley - 7'9", 27 stone, the Yorkshire Giant - rumours of eating Lancastrians for breafast are totally unfounded.

 I recalled last time finidng a public conveniences on the way and revisited as the belly took its 4th stab of the day of "clearing out" - to no avail, still got cracking wind now. This is obviously what happens when I deviate from the safety of a Jalfrezi or stronger and go for a mild, creamy curry, combine with peshwari nan, bombay aloo (spicy potatoes), mixed rice, cobra beer.... the list goes on. I spent a minute or two clearing the pipes and reading the bizarre story of somebodies first "manly love" encounter with their sports coach to get a fiver, on back of the door. Very elaborate and I won't take this story any further.

I finally started running just after 1pm, gradual climb out of the town and towards Godmanham. Here again there is history. Here in AD627 a Christian Missionary persuaded  the Pagan king of Saxon Northumbria to convert to Christianity. With the shade temperature probably now in the 20s and there not being much shade, any wind or any clouds I was considering converting from my running paganising as the god of weather had given me a "bum deal" today.

I soon hit the trail as it followed a narrow tarmac road through a pleasent wooded valley. This soon led me to the first proper trail - e.g. not road - as I climbed up onto the wold tops. Not a particularly inspiring section of run backdrop, more farmers fields, but it was plesenatly undulating and nicely even and reponsive underfoot. I was also happier as I had also gone topless at this point to cool down, stashing the shirt in the backpack and hoping the straps weren't going to rub my pale skin.

"Are you completely mental"

More history on these moortops, passing the site of a Roman Ampitheatre, which I will have to take the guides word for (I'm fed up of linking, click the previous link and scroll up if your really interested). I passed a few walkers out "enjoying" the weather, getting some fresh air and usually looking a bit hot and bothered. I passed two, curvy, girls, who'd also gone topless for their walk - calm down they still had bra's on. Being a gentleman, as always, I said "Hello". The immeadiate response from one being "Are you completely mental?" . Damn my lack of quick wit... I couldn't think of a witty retort so kept going, trying to think of one I can then forget to use when asked this question in future.

More fields and a drop into a deeper shallow sided valley the route crosses. The TV mast was visible across the valley at the next high point, the high hunsley beacon, but this was deceptive and still a good 4 miles away. There was first the grassy and quite pretty and undisturbed Swin Dale.

Man vs Sheep

As I said above, Swindale is a quiet place, but is home to a flock of well fed sheep. On one stretch the path is a narrow one between foliage and and electric fence to keep the four-legged ones on-site. As I ran along this a sheep that had somehow got over or around this fence was charging at me, it got to within a few feet and tried to stare me out. I'm no huge-menacing figure, but I think the sheep soon realised who was boss and did an about turn back up the narrow path, away from me at a speed I would have struggled to emulate for long today. I had been victorious in this encounter but had the sheep been brave I'm sure he had the physique to easily run right through me. As I approached the end of this path the sheep was heading back at me. Obviously still not figuring how to get back through/over the fence it had got to the gate and headed back my way. Sensing this could drag on I stood in the foliage and the sheep reluctantly passed. Good result for all involved. I do wonder if that sheep ever got back over the fence?

Anyway, back on track now, as the dale curled south again I climbed out, passing the beacon and mast and soon found myself descending into woodlands as the route got more interesting again. I'd done barely 10m and the energy levels weren't great, heat taking its toll. At least the woods provided 10 minutes of shelter. Then the hard work started again, across the valley where the now defunct Hull - Barnsley railway once ran and a big climb out of the valley, before another short woodland section and a descent to the edge of South Cave. If the first section was high ground and longer steady undulations these were now short and often steep. You'd really have to be going for it to run every step of the next of the next few miles after having done 10n already. I stopped to chew an energy bar as I climbed up Mount Airey and then dropped up and down for the next few miles through woodland and along roads.

Dick Turpin

I passed through Welton within site of the splendid - in that it sell beer on hot days that I should have been drinking rather than this lunacy - Green Dragon. It also has historic relevance (quite the tour guide today aren't I? ;¬)

Here in 1739 a John Palmer was arrested, drunk, after stealing some horses in Lincolnshire and trying to sell them on the other side of the Humber. He turned out to be none other than the legendary and infamous highwayman Dick Turpin.

I was flagging a bit now, I'd detoured from Wolds Way several miles back as it took a round about route to my next location, North Ferriby, and would have made todays run pretty much a marathon. I'd reshirted as now in an area with more people around, also I was getting a sore on my back where the pack was rubbing. I rejoined the trail just outside Ferriby as it heads into the plantation running down to the humber. Hard trails with sharp stones encased weren't much fun. There was also the lottery of whether I'd get to the river and have to turn back and add a loop if the tide were high.

I was lucky, there was a bit of beach to run on. But some conservation work meant it was all churned up with muddy, sinking sand like stuff. So I had to dance over the rocks making up the tidal defence for Ferriby for a while. Passing Ferriby I got a decent path again for the last stretch of W/Way. More history - your so lucky - 4000 thousand year old Bronze Age boats were found here. I think they were oldest discovered in Europe or something like that...

End in site, now the twin towers of the Humber Bridge and end of trail loomed quite large. Problem with large things though, they look big a long way off, but it takes an age to actually get there. The hard trail is nice on fresh feet but my feet were feeling it a bit, I tried to distract myself looking at the almost millpond like river and thinking about what I could eat when I arrived home. After over 2m of following estuary coast-line I finally got to the bridge and soon after I was pushing up the hill for the final mile to home.

~23m, 3 hours 51mins. Probably my fastest prep run for the - now looming - Atlantic Coast Challenge. Not intentional, just an easy and overall downhill route compared to most of my off-road ventures of late. In some ways this meant it was hard work, less stop-start, rough terrain, but more of the solid hard trails which probably give the legs a similar beating to the road runs you'd do for a marathon. Regardless, thats my last 20+mile prep run done, the big day is less than 2 weeks away now. 

Wednesday 9 September 2009

What goes up....

Being that my last few posts have been relentlessly positive I thought it only fair that I have a moan about a bad run and a slightly worrying evening.

With nothing particularly planned I headed out to the club run. It was a warm night, still over 20c approaching 7pm so I went out in a vest. I don't do the slower club pack run on a Tuesday that often, preferring to do my own thing and then do the club hard run on Thursdays. On this occasion I felt an easy runout would be a good thing after the weekend.

Legs feeling suprisingly good at start almost like I hadn't just run a 39m weekend and 67m week (both "bests" for me). I was turning over nicely at below 9 min/miling having a chat to a few people. A few miles in it started to drizzle and eventually properly rain, I was getting quite cool with only the vest and the run ended up as 10.5m with regroups, making it a 1hr20+ outing. I started to tire near end and quite stiff upper legs when finished. I'd also further cooled as we chatted at the end. temp had dropped to just above 10c by time I got back to car.

I got home, feeling cold and some loss of coordination/feeling in hands - surely I couldn't be hypothermic in summer? I knocked up a quick spicy, tomatoe-y pasta and washed it down with a warm ale. I still felt crap, lethargic, and achey and a hot shower didn't help much. Last thing I want is a cold a few weeks before the Atlantic Coast Challenge!

In bed I started overheating like I had a fever and I had a "stressful" dream night. Woke up in early hours, sweaty as hell with a headache. Took an ibuprofen which seemed to help as I woke up for work feeling a bit tired but generally ok. Got through the day with strong caffiene and feeling just about right now.

So, I'd love to know what was that all about? cold, fever, then gone within 12 hours. Had getting wet and cold bashed my immune system so I fell pray to a virus? If so, nice of it to pass so quickly. Anybody else had a quick onset and recovery like that?

Peak Practice

Another big double weekend for me and a mini adventure in the peak district. I met up with Mark - my often partner on these off-roaders this year - just off J1 of the M18 and we piled our camping and running gear into his car. Then it was off towards south Derbyshire/Staffordshire for the Hills and Dales 22m challenge. We followed a melee of country roads to the start pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Cutting it quite fine by the end. At  the start just had time to clear the pipes and get my CP tally. Also a pleasent suprise to see Collie Dave at the start, which was fairly local for him. Caught up with Dave properly along the way and I saw the dogfight incident, it was definately instigated by the other dog - a little yappy thing with small dog syndrome, Charlie was very restrained not to give him a good pasting.

It was very boggy underfoot from the off, fairly hilly as you'd expect in the area and a section on the solid High Peak trail. Time seemed to pass quite slowly on this one. Not due to a boring route, but I possibly was already thinking about tomorrows run. This route included some of the challenging bits from Dovedale Dipper of a few weeks earlier, except route didn't head as far south missing the scenic but steep climb in and out of the river valley, and long plod along the bottom dodging walkers and tourists.

Instructions weren't always the best so we deviated from route a few times adding a bit to the 22. Quite tired by end and concious of not emptying the energy stores completely so took it easy on the uber-boggy final 2 miles. Nature of course made it quite slow and took me about 4:46 - I ran 4:41 at flatter and dryer 26m Smugglers Trod last week. As with most LDWA events the usual selection of goodies on route inc. oatcakes and fruit cake. The meal at end was steak pie, chips and mushy peas - A* for food.

So me and Mark stiffly shuffled back to the car and headed north to Bradwell and our campsite for the night. Landed after 3 and got our priorities in order at pitch by getting fold up chairs out and having a bottle of beer. Tent soon followed, then another beer. Next was an explore of town. We found the "lively" pub about 1m away, big screens for the England match and some very enthusiatic (half-cut before start) supporters. After the match headed to nearby pub we'd been recommended for food and I wasn't disapointed with homemade Chicken Madras. Sank a few more beers, after 4 pints and 2 bottles, I was starting to think I'd maybe had too many to run well tomorrow so took a bottle of water to bed with me. Slept well, no strong winds or rain made for a pleasent night.

Lay in till 7 on Sunday, then up for some beans on buttered bread Mark had knocked up, a fine host. Then off to the West of Peak District, Totley, on outskirts of Sheffield for another day of pure, un-diluted, hill-running in the Exterminator - a 16m class A long fell race. Casual start, me and Mark were first to pay and claimed numbers 1 (Mark) and 2 (moi) and the start was 30 mins later than advertised too. We looked at previous year results and agreed with our pre-tired legs that 3:30 would be good going on this course.

Start was 30mins after advertised so a few extra pees in start field required. Finally we were off with one lap of cricket field and then off into the hills guarding the town. I felt very flat before the start but I soon seemed to pick up, ran a decent downhill from first trig and ran most of the long climb that followed - uphill seems to be my strength, my downhilling is average (for a fellrunner). Great course, made more pleasurable by being much dryer than yesterdays route which lay only about 30 miles away. All sorts of views and variations with boulder climbs, twisting descents through heather and some nice solid-trailed hill climbs. Before I knew it I'd knocked out 10 miles.

No major navigational blunders as I nearly always plenty of runners to follow (170+ starters), just occasionally out-foxed by a local who knew a shorcut. Lots of challenging up and down, but also some nice level-ish bits unlike the last A Long fell race I did at Sedbergh which was a different and more savage beast. Also unlike at Sedbergh I could handle the descents here and wasn't on my arse every 2 miles. I was strong on the last moor crosssing taking a few more places and then held position with a Dark Peak fell runner breathing down my neck on final descents, always doing good to hold off a fell club runner on a descent I figure. One last victory lap of the Cricket field and I crossed the line.

I probably wouldn't be lieing if I said that all things considered this was my best race ever off-road. The only way I could have been faster would have been not to run nearly 23 miles the previous day I guess. I was well happy with my time - 2:54 for about 16.5m - and unlike with a hard-earned, but painful, 10k PB I had enjoyed some scenery, a great variety of challenge and felt I had just enjoyed the race. Finished 60th out of the near 180 runners, well inside the top half which isn't easy to crack into when your up against guys and girls who train on this terrain day-in, day-out. I could feel myself smiling as I ran those last few miles. Only 42 mins behind winner which I'm happy with too.

Mark and I had a quick beer at the pub conveniently across the cricket field to end a cracking active weekend. Good running, enjoyed a few beers and plenty of grub and found a great race to have another crack at next year.

Monday 7 September 2009

Three day weekend... three days running?


The weekend before last - bank hol weekend - I headed up to Robin Hoods Bay for the Smugglers Trod. Another first time event for me and an enjoyable run out on a flatter, dryer and more runnable course than many LDWA challenges supply. This was not lost on the running crowd who were there in force and the leaders finished the 26 mile event in an impressive 3:40.

Highlights included generally dry trails over moorland, through fields and along river valleys - Littlebeck; the several mile long, wooded river valley section was very enjoyable. The middle miles varied from solid moorland trails to almost unfollowable trails through heather or long grass. thankfully no major detours or extensions. I was quite glad to get to the CP at the trig high above Ravenscar. After 20m and a long moorland slog with the hard trails no longer enjoyable on battered feet. All that remained was a few miles around the bay to RHB along the old railway line track - quite a nice smooth trail to run, bike, etc... Oh and a slightly sadistic right angle turn downhill to the coast and thus a climb up the 1:4 hill out of RHB back to the finish.

Hard work, but I could have pushed harder and been faster knowing the route. 4:41 for 26m does stand as my fastest off road 20 something though. Challenging enough as 26m always is, but a million miles away from the Sedbergh Hills race of previous weekend. Great hospitality from the Yorkshire Coast LDWA bunch, loved the efforts they'd gone to with the dressing up and some cracking baking. Yum yums will live long in the memory and I definitely want the recipe if I'm ever to sort myself out some high calorie and high sugar food for something like an Antarctic Expedition!


My good intentions for another 10m or so today were dashed by an unscheduled attempt to destroy my liver which didn't finish till roughly 5am. Up at ten I didn't do much all day accept eat. I tried to run at about 6pm. Drizzle had dampened my enthusiasm so I'd downsized plans to 5 or 6 miles. I ended up making decision to return home about 1.5m out, jiggling motion of run was making me feel sick, had to run and walk home very steadily, a very sorry site no doubt.


All that was bad was good again. I delayed my excursion till early afternoon but I was fresh, well fuelled and the weather was cloudy and a bit muggy. I ran from parents so lacked a water bottle but still managed a speedy 15m on roads and good trails, including a good number of the local short challenging climbs. I planned route to pass - what I hope was - a source of fresh running water at two parts of run, but was still dehydrated by the end. Also tried new shoes, F-lites, which proved, as I suspected to be great on East Yorkshires bone dry trails. Slight blister but 15m out of box isn't bad.

2 out of 3 ain't bad