Sunday, 11 November 2018

Roaches 2018

This is a race I've been meaning to do for a very long time. It just kind of happens at the "wrong" end of the year for me to be enthusiastic about it. (What a rubbish excuse - don't let it stop you!). This year, though, having barely raced at all, and it being in the Glossopdale championships, it was about time I gave it a bit of a go. This is indeed a "proper" fell race with no pretensions of grandeur. 6 Quid for a 15 mile blast with 1k of ascent, free tea, and cake for a quid at the end. (and soup for 1.50 - you can't go wrong!).

Pinning on my number... nearly forgot my watch as well!

 The route is glorious, snaking it's way up from the village hall in Meerbrook, up past Rockhall cottage (or, the Don Whillans Memorial hut, if you prefer), up and through the Upper tier of the Roaches before scooting along to the Gradbach, to Shutlingsloe (the top... not the bottom), and then back.

Having not signed on to a race for quite a while it took a bit to get into the swing of things. Of course there was the obligatory kit faff of bumbag or race vest- opting eventually for the race vest on the premise that at 15 miles, I was certainly going to need some food, and it is easier to get food out of a vest than a bumbag, and also, considering the weather there was the chance that hat and gloves and potentially coat were going to be going on and off throughout the race.

It being 100 years since Armistice, there was a 2 minutes silence at the beginning of the race. By this time the persistent rain that had characterised the morning was abating, and the tops of the Roaches could be seen through the lifting cloud. The start was as you would expect. No countdown, just a "go", and we headed off down the road. A kilometre of the black stuff helped separate the field out a bit, with a fair few people going off a bit flipping fast. As we went down the track and up to the farm of "doom" I passed a guy in road shoes. While I admired his optimism, I was unsure as to whether he had quite realised what he was letting himself in for.

The farm of doom - infamous for the farmer filling his yard up with slurry especially for the race for various previous editions was unexpectedly and most pleasently surprisingly empty of slurry. It wasn't the only thing that concerned me about the race, but it was certainly something that had put me off the race in the past. Up we went, up to the Roaches road, and up onto the tops of the Roaches. Last time I was here... oooh, goodness knows. We ran under the Sloth, Black and Tans, Holly tree crack etc, and I busily tried to take my mind off the running by recalling various days out on dry rock here in the past.
Trying not to walk at all, I was slowly taking over a few places along the rock strewn path, and we made our way to the trig, with the slightly concerning tailwind that promised a fair old fight on the way back down the course on tired legs....

From the trig it was a dive down on the paving slabs, watching a couple of runners ahead of me really get into full flight - not a chance of catching them at this point, so I eased into the descent to the top of Sandbach woods where the decent became a delightfully technical nightmare of loam, mud, slippy rocks and tree roots. Bliss.
I motored along and caught up with them, overtaking through the trees and down to the river crossing where another overtake was effected.
A steep climb out of the stream to a gate- where the bottom 2 bars were out, presenting a fun conundrum. Over or through/under. We go over gates ALL the time, so I chose the latter. Onward and up a semi-runnable climb with someone trying to hold onto me, so I weaved around like an idiot. We hit the top and down the road together, then up another long bank which led to, glory of glory's a big slightly uphill field of Turks heads.
Me, StevieK, Mark Dav, AndyO and Nick Ham

Having struggled to break free from the 2 directly behind me, I lolloped off through the field taking whichever line I wanted in the general direction of the next gate, and it was not long before the close breathing behind me receded a fair amount. To boot, I also nearly caught up with the next couple of guys as well. Rough ground in the middle of a bit of a trail race? Brilliant, coming back will be fun too!

Left through a gate and down a bridleway, on the descent there was a sneaky little path you could take - and now the closest guys to me were a fair distance ahead - 3 of them... down and over a couple of stiles, through some fields. and a point where I wasn't exactly sure where I was going - but went down a descent that was very remenicent of the fabulous descent at WoodbankXC (with the minor issue that I was going to have to come back up again), down to the water stop and then the ascent to Shutlingsloe. The guys in front ecked out their lead from me on the tarmac hill prior to the turn up onto the hill proper. Voices were getting closer to me from behind, and we could all see the top runners just breaking into the downhill section.

I managed to get to the gate where uphill runners meet downhill just as the leader at that point - Si Harding - went through. I got through and started the ascent of the rest of Shutlingsloe, running as much of it as possible. No overtaking on the way up, and no lost places, but I took one back on the way down. Now it was a back to base along the same route.... but against the tide of all the runners behind us.

Lots of goodwill and mutual shouts of welldone etc as I ploughed down the road. I managed to keep hold of my place as I went up the Woodbank-esque slope, but lost the place as we went back up to the road to the guy I had passed down shutlingsloe.
No bother. I watched him gap me and make his way to the next guy up as we hove up the Bridleway, but then made some progress along to the gate. Then... turksheads.

We came out of the field with me ahead, and I continued to pull away down the slope and up the road, where I sucked down a gel in anticipation of the steep and slippy climb out of Sandbach.
Down the field, through the gate with no bottom - underneath again - of course - smacking my left radius as I did so causing my hand to go numb for the next 15 mins or so. Blasted down to the river, knowing that the guys behind me would be a lot more circumspect. I wanted as much space between me and them when I left the river, so went at it quite well.

Never look back - and off up through Sandbach wood. I ran it all, having being told I was in 10th place, so kept it up all the way up. My left hand was still numb and I tried putting on a mitt - it kind of went on, but the thumb bit didn't go in the right place, so I ran along with what looked like a badly deformed hand for a while til I could it it on right again...

Up to the flagstones to the tops and I couldn't stop now... up to the trig point, and it wasn't far to go - but with quite a lot of treacherous rocks on the floor, I could imagine going flying quite easily, especially in my fatigued state. It took a while to get a gel in, but finally I managed to, and fairly flew down the hill, down back past the Sloth and the rest of the upper tier, back down to the road, past the most enthusiastic marshal I've ever seen, and along the long and really quite tiring fields back to the farm, the road and, ultimately, the finish.

No-one overtook me at all, and I came in 2:16:00. 11th place. (so someone must have miscounted somewhere along the line) - so not quite top 10, but considering the next person up was about 2 mins up on me, that was not a gap I was about to be able to close down.

Thanks so much to all the marshals, the organisers and the good people who made the cakes, soup and tea.
What a great fell race. Old school. Hard on the legs, fair pricing, and good grub. A no nonsense proper race. Do it.
(Thanks to Nick Ham for the photos as well. I swear he'd go faster if he didn't take quite so many photos - but he does take good photos). 

Oh, crikey, and I need to say sorry to Ed Gamble for totally confusing him with someone else and commenting about Beams in our house. Sorry about that! (and thanks for pointing out the mistake in the OCT blog of 2017 as well - I meant Grasmere - not Ambleside).
Also - amazing to see Chris Jakeman again after all these years - last time we met I was still in Snow and Rock. Looking forward to see what he does with Raidlight.


Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Hodgson Brother Mountain Relay 2018

Not raced since June? Nope. Not really. However, the Hodgson Brothers Mountain Relay is always one which I will turn up to for the club if needed, unless injured, of course.
Again this year I was on leg 4, I think it must be the 5th time I've done that leg now. I suppose I should count the coasters.

This year I was heading out on the course with Chris Webb- we have forgiven each other for the Ramsay Round earlier this year, and were looking forward to having a bit of a blast around what is essentially an AM in the Lakes.
We had a basic understanding of about how long the other guys on the legs 1-3 would go, and didn't want to get to the start of the Leg too early. Leg 1 took a little longer than planned because of a bit of an injury, however, that got taken into account and we started jogging up to the start from the finish field when we heard that Leg 2 had finished.

Easy jog out and then it was a matter of about 10 mins wait before Mark and Mark came ploughing down the hill and into the changeover area.
It was damn breezy out there, with a significant amount of buffeting even at low levels. Despite that, we opted for the vest and no under-option figuring we'd be traveling fast enough to keep warm. And that we did.

There was an option to take a straight line instead of the path at one point, but we kept on the line that I've done for the past few years, overtaking a few teams on the way. Near the top of Fairfield we took a slight deviation to the obvious, and that seemed to net us a place or 2 as well.
Across the tops it was really blowy so we had to be pretty careful about where we were running, and not getting blown off the tops. Chris was strong on the ups and I had to really work hard to keep up. Downhill I managed to retain some semblance of ability and made him work hard to keep up with me.

Over Cofa Pike instead of the sneaky line that goes under... I must go and recce that one day, and then up to St Sunday. My line off Sunday was a little off, though we didn't lose too much time because of that, and then a fast downhill to the end, coming in at 1:15:52. My best time for the leg by about 5 mins, which was pretty decent. I reckon we can take another 3-4 mins off that on a good day with some intelligent reccying.
Still - 17th overall on the leg and 34th out of 70 team- happy with that. 

Monday, 18 June 2018

Trail Marathon Wales 2018

Coed y Brenin - a place that I typically think of as mountain biking territory, mainly because I spent some time there a good number of years ago thrashing around the bike trails... this was before the "new" visitor centre was in place. (and that must have been there a good 7-8 years... right?).

A number of Glossopdalers had entered either the trail marathon or the half, we didn't really mean for it to be a particular club weekend away (as evidenced by the fact we were all over the place in terms of accommodation), but it was great to have so many of us bimbling about the event centre.
As a trail marathon it is fully signed, totally on trail (ie. fire road or single track) and had a load of drink and food stations. There was no need to carry anything, unless you were a little unsure of the "food" that was being provided. Having never tried any of the gels from the sponsors (torq), I thought it might be a cunning idea to take stuff that I was used to, and so packed 3 High5 gels into various pockets in my t-shirt and shorts.
Water was not going to be a problem, partially as it was raining and partially as the course seemed very generously stocked with stations.

The trails were mostly hard packed with some sections of slightly muddy bits, so the best shoes I had for that were a pair of battered old x-talons, so I wore them.

We were started by a bloke with a gun- as in a rifle, who appeared to be aiming it off into the forest on the other side of the hill- where the 2nd half of the marathon went (I half expected to see the victim as we trailed around mile 20...)  and the pace was quite tasty for the first hill.
The ups were pretty much exclusively on fire-road, and I worked my way into 3rd place by dint of the fact I didn't want to be caught up behind people on the single track downs.

As we motored along the tracks the guys in front (a New Balance athlete and a Salomon athlete) disappeared into the distance I settled into a nice pace alongside Gwyn Owen from Eryri. We chatted and generally passed the time as we carried on through the forest. He was most definitely stronger on the uphills while I left him for dust on the more technical single track downs. This worked well for the first half of the race as we basically followed the Half Marathon trail laid out by the trail centre.

It was passing the feed stations that we stopped, had a quick drink and retied shoelaces etc. that Gwyn learned the faster guys were 5 mins ahead... (the information came in welsh, hence why I got the information 2nd hand). Every time we passed a drinks station there was a cup disgarded about 300m further on, evidently from one of the 2 runners ahead of us. Now this might be perfectly normal behaviour on a road marathon, but in the race briefing the organiser was totally and utterly explicit in saying NO LITTERING under ANY circumstances.
If the rest of us are beholden to that, then so should the guys at the front of the field who are sponsored. Gwyn and I were pretty unimpressed by that, it has to be said.

We carried on, mostly together, but occasionally passing one another on the more challenging ups or downs, I was beginning to feel the pace, considering that although I've done some long stuff recently, it has mostly been walking AND running, not just running AND then running some more... still, I held on and we eventually came past the Sting in the Tail- the offroad uphill leading back to the trail back to the trail centre and the halfway mark where we started passing the half marathoners who were on their way out.

Down past the trail centre, across the river and over to the other side of the road and we were onto the second half of the marathon, I was beginning to feel it, especially on the right hip flexor... a bit of a pull, but nothing horrendous. Maybe I should have stopped at the half marathon mark? I was in 3rd/4th so hey, might as well carry on and see what happens.
As it happened, Gwyn took the opportunity to open up and basically put a massive gap on me on the road. There was no way I was going to respond, and going up through the trees I could see why -I was beginning to be caught up by 2 runners, Gwyn obviously wanted to keep ahead of them. Personally- with a bit of a pull on my leg I was perfectly happy just to motor on at whatever pace I could to see how it went.

All was fine, and I was enjoying the rain until mile 17. Bang. Stitch.
Damn.
It starts as a minor pain in the abdomen and within about 15 steps goes from a niggle to a searing stabbing pain that simply cannot be ignored. It's like having a needle jabbed into your stomach and wriggled around and the only way to stop the pain is to stop and/or put pressure into it.
Once it goes- after about a minute or so, the best way to mitigate against it is to run at a pace low enough that you don't re-aggravate it, or run in a bent over stance so that you don't stretch the abdomen... running uphill in a bent over stance is fine, so I can shuffle my way uphill, but as soon as I get to anything remotely properly runnable and try to open up, BANG, stitch. Swearing and walking and pressure to the tummy.

The race as a race was over, but I certainly wasn't going to just stop and give up. It's only a stitch and as long as I run well within myself I'll be able to finish. So I limp along very slowly, trying not to aggravate the pain, though it keeps coming and going.
One by one people start to pass me, which would normally be galling, especially if I'd had blown up because of not eating properly etc. But now there was a simple air of resignation.
I walked into the next feed station and one of the marshals was quickly on the radio "control, we have an injured runner..." to which I replied fairly indignantly "I'm not bloody injured, I've just got stitch.".
Had a drink and carried on. At which point, 300m further on, I found ANOTHER paper cup. Considering that I was no longer being particularly competitive I picked it up and ran back to the aid station to put it in the bin - getting passed by another runner. Ah well, whatever.

The rest of the second half continued in much the same way. Mostly shuffle running, a bit of walking and swearing and generally wishing there was more single track. The vast majority of the latter half of the marathon was fire road- which suited the more road based marathoners down to the ground, me, not so much.
Passed another feedstation, found another cup, ran back to the station to put it in the bin, another runner comes past... I'm pretty much past caring about placings now, but the guys ahead of me dropping litter- that is NOT on.

In the final mile or 2 I get passed by a guy who must be V50, good effort, and then in the final mile I notice a couple more people who seem to be taking things quite seriously and are putting a lot into it. Not wanting to be too easy a target I figure that the final mile isn't too bad, and once I'm finished, it's done, so I pick up the pace a little to keep ahead of them- and in the process pass the older guy about 100m from the line. From there it is an easy jog to the end, finishing in 3:46ish and 13th place.

Generally speaking a decently organised event, well marked with a decent amount of drink stops. To be honest, to me it was more like a road marathon but in slightly nicer surroundings. If I was to do it again, I'd probably just do the half - the slightly techy stuff was much more fun than bashing out fire-roads.

There are some pretty nice pics at sport pictures cymru, but I'm not going to post any as they don't allow reproduction without permission.