Sunday, 30 December 2012

Festive Disorientation

At the end
I really haven't done many races this year, which is the reason why there haven't been many race reports- stands to reason really.
This, however, is the final race of the year, as far as I am concerned, a good reason to get out and about in the Dark Peak with a map, not following hordes of people, and making your own way between a number of checkpoints that may, or may not necessarily be there.

Chatting with a load of the regulars in the Bulls Head beforehand - it was the starting point, we weren't just there having a pre-race beer, Marvin (who isn't actually called Marvin) mentioned something about looking forward to the race report... so I thought I'd better do one.
This is for you Marvin.

Mr. Boyle coming in at the end
This was never going to be a fast one, more of a navigational amusement to get some distance in before the end of the year. The staggered setting off was all good, and I went quite late on. Struggling to see the map, I made a quick decision that Clockwise around was going to be the best way, though I had a hint of indecision about what to do in the middle.... but more on that later.
The first 2 checkpoints were fairly straightforward, and as I headed on up to the spot height I noticed that a couple of people who set off before me were already behind, but I hadn't overtaken anyone. Odd. But a nice feeling that I was holding my own really.
From the spot height, the old adventure racing rule of Ohms law came into play. Although the straight line to the next Check might look appealing on the map, its going to be over a bit of a fight through knee deep heather. The intelligent line, and the line of least resistance was along a path, past the reservoir.
At this point I passed John Stephenson, and we cheered each other on our way. We overtook a couple of others who had opted for the "straightline" route, which turned out to really not be the fastest way across.

There's the map. 
I battled through knee deep heather on the way up to the Checkpoint on the inspection cover, and was overtaken by Tom Brunt on the way up. Unsurprising. I think I need longer legs.
Got to the inspection cover and then kind of headed East, dithering whether to go up to the Trig point, quite a way away, or whether to go up there via another Check, which I was likely to get on the way back... I didn't make a decision for a long time, and lost out on a lot of height that I could have gained easily. As a result, Julien barrelled past me along the top as I struggled through bog, mire and heather. Dan C was up there too, but Julien just did his "thing" of keeping a relentless pace up on whatever is underfoot. He just disappeared further and further into the distance. Levitation. That's the only explanation I can come up with.

I got the Trig and then started the descent south, meeting Andy A and Andy O who were going Anti-clockwise around, making good time, and then, POW. Stitch.
I couldn't run, I could barely breathe or walk and was making some pretty spectacular noises. Rob Taylor, who was around the same area made sure that I wasn't about to keel over, and John Boyle zoomed past us at a rate of knots.
Wandering back to the pub
And I limped and hobbled my way down toward the next point. It was going well, my navigation had been excellent, (though decision making wasn't quite as spectacular), and I was running ok, but the constant lifting legs over heather while breathing heavily was taking a real toll on my hip flexors.
Matt D, having won a prize on Short score
Got to the next point and then found the pipeline across the top, which was heather free, and I managed a shuffling run round the Knarr. Down and up Arnfield clough to the shooting cabin, still nursing a bit of pain in my diaphragm, and then a final (relatively) slow run off the hill back to the Bull.

1 hour 50 mins or so. The winner was Tom Brunt in just over 1.5 hours. Impressive. So that puts me in about the normal place I would have expected to be in terms of time. Not disappointed with that, but a bit annoyed that the stitch came back.

The Food at the end was delicious, and the craic in the pub was excellent. A superb turn out from a decent number of clubs, and I'm off out tomorrow to collect some of the kites for Des.
A good day out was had by all, and thanks to Lynne for the photos.
And a race report wouldn't be complete without a picture of Brae. 
Postscript - as it turns out I was 8th out of 43. Not too bad considering the stitch, but annoying nevertheless.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

OMM cypher smock (vs Montane Spektr)

At the end of last year I was looking into a few new running waterproofs. The thin pertex Montane Lightspeed H20jacket which I had been using for a while was delaminating, and wasn’t all that nice to run in when conditions got really gnarly. A replacement needed to be found.
I had never really owned anything made with eVent fabric before, and so there were a couple of jackets on my radar, the ones that I ended up getting were the Montane Spektr smock, and then, when I realised how unsatisfactory it was for what I wanted, I sold it, and bought an OMM Cypher smock – which I previewed a few months ago.
The question is, has the Cypher smock lived up to expectations, and has it trounced the Spektr smock?
If so, why?

The Cypher Smock is very very yellow. I know that you can get it in Black, but that wasn’t an option when I bought mine. (The one I found on offer was yellow, so I snapped it up). First up,the sizing. I was a Medium in the Spektr Smock- and that only just about fit me. Medium is the smallest it comes it. The Cypher, I am a small, and that fits me pretty much the same as the Spektr I had. However, here we have the first of the major differences.

The Spektr relied upon elastic around everything in order to help it fit. Non-adjustable elastic. I’m apparently relatively small and slight in the grand old outdoor world (at least according to clothing manufacturers), and even with the smallest of the Spektrs, the elastic was not enough to keep the fabric from billowing around me. I like to be able to cinch a jacket in around me, especially around the lower hem and the hood, in order to actually protect myself from the weather, and make the jacket a bit more molded about my body.
The Cypher has an adjustable elastic waist hem closure. Brilliant. Ok, it may weigh a couple of grams more than a strip of elastic on its own, but the usability of it makes it a lot lot more useful.
So far score one for the OMM.

The Hood
Nicely wrapped up
Since having a Mountain Equipment Changabang, I haven’t ever really found a jacket with a hood I have been happy with. Until I put on the Cypher. I have quite a small head, and so quite a lot of hoods just seem to float around my noggin. I turn my head, and the hood stays in place, or worse still, I end up craning my neck in order to try and keep the hood in the right place on my head as I walk or run around the hills. (which ends up with a stiff neck and a horrible headache).
A hood that locks down onto your head, encloses around it and also has a slightly stiffened peak – well, that’s a brilliant combination, and if I have to pay for it in a slight increase in weight. So be it.
You guessed it. The yellow marvel has done it again, wrapping my head up in cosiness so that as I turn, it turns. As I look somewhere, it does so, if I look into the wind, it stays on my head and doesn’t blow about.
The Spektr on the other hand, has no compressing ability onto the head in any way shape or form. It relies on a simple non-adjustable elastic band around the face, and when your head isn’t actually big enough to fill the cavity which is the hood in the first place, there is no way in which to make it small enough to fit your head. Even using a hat (which is recommended by the manufacturer) didn’t solve any problems. So when I used the Spektr in bad weather, I got a wet head whether I liked it or not – as soon as the hood got put up, it blew straight back down again. If I was alpining, and wearing it under (or in my case, maybe even over) a helmet, it might have worked, but non-helmeted, not a chance. (Apologies, I didn't have the foresight to take a photo of me in the Spektr hood).

Yes, I bought the Spektr, partially because the closure system looked pretty funky. I was SURE that I would be able to work it out and make it my own. Try as I might, with gloves, without, I hated the damn thing. It took ages to undo it, and even longer to do up. I’m not the kind of person that gives in easily, but flipping heck, using it just made me LONG for a zip.
Which is exactly what the OMM has. A 2 way zip for venting as well – which is another thing the Spektr doesn’t do. The Cypher even has a small pocket in it. Not huge, but enough to keep a couple of energy bars or a compass or a small pocket thesaurus in. (but its not waterproof, I must hasten to add, so please don’t blame me if you ruin you thesauruses… thesauri… thesaurasisisesii? I have no idea…) Anyway.

So there you have it, in terms of features yes, the OMM wins out, but we knew that anyway. Do the features make it a better jacket than the Spektr? Well, yes, actually, it does.
I used to make excuses not to wear the Spektr, I carried it a few times, but generally just tried not to wear it – and that meant not going out in foul weather, which is a bit silly really. Since buying the OMM I have used it a lot. I have to say that I look forward to wearing it and I am very impressed with the breathability and the feel of the jacket as a whole.
Wrapped up in the Cypher smock
On recces with friends who have been in pertex jackets, they have been impressed with the build and the quality of the jacket, and have expressed a lot of interest in it. Especially in the howling wind and driving rain, them flapping around in a paper thin "waterproof" garment that "isn't rustly", with me snugged up inside the Cypher running along next to them. I’ve purposely run on “warmer” evenings when others have just been in thermals to see how I go – again, impressed, the jackets venting and breathing properties seem to keep me relatively comfortable no matter what. I certainly haven’t been stifled in it.
And no, I haven’t noticed that the fabric sounds particularly “crinkly” – which is what puts a lot of people off eVent jackets. I find the flapping and snapping of sodden pertex a lot more annoying than any noise eVent makes as you run.

Yes, the OMM is a brilliant winter running jacket. I have to thoroughly and heartily recommend it. Yes, it may be on the expensive end of the market, but it works. It really does. Perhaps I should have made the jump earlier and bought one a year ago, however, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try out a Spektr before I sold it and went for this one.
Cypher smock, folded up into its own hood. 
Im sure the Spektr is fantastic as a ridiculously minimalist shell for alpinists who are looking for something to stick in their sack in the hope that they will never need it, but for running, it really isn’t up to the job.

OMM Cypher smock
Good cut. Good zip/vent. Good hood and compression. Not rustly or crinkly when running. Solid in all weather.
Excellent gnarly weather running jacket.

Montane Spektr Smock
Good cut. Rubbish hood. Closure system needs more work. Not rustly or crinkly when running. Solid in all weather – except the hood.
Not so good as a running jacket, probably excellent as a lightweight waterproof for climbers/ alpinists who pray they never need to use it.

Post script
I must hasten to add that the Montane Air Jacket looks pretty excellent as well. From what I have read, it looks like a jacket that takes the basis of the Spektr, and adds a fair few features (including a map sized pocket) and makes a very nice package. However, as I have the Cypher and it works well, getting one of those might be a step too far for the bank balance. I'd recommend it from looks alone, but have not tried one in a shop, let alone in anger. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Racing Overkill?

Thinking back on the past year or so, there have been some *really* busy races. It is testament to the success of fellrunning, and people getting outdoors and enjoying themselves. However, is there a price that is being paid, literally- by us, and also, by the countryside?

Small races were, and indeed are the lifeblood of Fellrunning as a sport. They are one of the reasons why I love it. A small band of people gathered at the bottom of a hill on a cold and most probably wet day, waiting for someone to shout "go", wherupon they run up and down a hill. Or some variation on the theme.
Races have got bigger. Hundreds of competitors now turn out for the "classics" like Edale Skyline, like Borrowdale, like Snowdon. The Bob Graham is becoming little more than ticklist fodder for adventure tourists and there is a trod appearing around the more popular routes, the OMM- which boasted more than 1000 competitors last year is becoming more of a money making draw every year. While anything that gets people out of their armchairs and away from the modern disease that is the television is a good thing, are there too many people getting out and doing fell races?

Well, perhaps, and perhaps not. I don't want to seem like the kind of person that thinks that running in the hills is only for people that have don it for year upon year, or those that have the experience, or else how else to other people get into it. But, in balance, if you have a race around what is essentially a bog which has a fairly fragile ecosystem, you have a greater chance of it being wrecked by excessive recceing for perfect lines, and then you have 400 people running over much the same area of ground for a couple of hours which creates more erosion.
And if the racing line isn't actually on a readily established trod on open country, by the end of the race it will be a huge muddy scar on the landscape which only gets worn more as people now see it as a path and use it on a day to day basis.
Not so good. You can do it on a road because there is no damage to the surface which you are running on, but off road, we need to be a bit more careful and a bit more intelligent about choices.

It's quite an issue, as a few years ago the FRA was concerned that the sport might be dying out, that race numbers were declining, and that the sport might become an ex-sport, consigned to the memories of a few hoary old men drinking pints in a Lakeland pub.
From doing a few races last year and this, I have been picking and choosing my races more carefully, and will do again next year as well. While the continued success of the races is excellent and brings money to the scene and glory to the winners is good, I find myself drawn much more to the quiet backwaters of the country. Yes, if I enter a Championship race, I have the opportunity to race against some of the best athletes out there. However, I'm quite likely to do that if I enter the little ones too.

Thinking about it, I was wondering if something along the lines of pop-up racing might work. The organisation of a race, with the route not being divulged beforehand, but the distance and ascent being known. Word of mouth - twitter or a website a week or so in advance with a nominal entrance fee - (I'm always a bit shocked if I have to pay more than £4 to race) Everyone turns up, gets a brief about the race, and is given the route. Someone shouts go, and while the racers race off into the distance, someone else takes the cash, heads to a local place and spends the race money on a couple of prizes, and the winner is the fastest person home, there will be a sweeper who goes around, but essentially, you are on your own out there, unless you get help from a fellow competitor if something goes wrong.

Ok, the concept might need a bit more thought, and this is in no way a money making venture, but its a thought as to how to bring fun and spontaneity into fellracing in a small group.
Yes I know we can just get out running. Yes I know that I'm being a moaning old man talking about how things should be, and yes its great that people are getting out and about. I'm not saying that the whole thing is being spoiled, but I do prefer low key events, and its slightly concerning and annoying in the way everything seems to be becoming increasingly commercialised - I tend to be shocked

Maybe I'm just getting old.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

What bugs me...

What annoys me about looking about to buy outdoor kit is that there is barely anything which deviates from the main lines which manufacturers say about their products.
It's almost as if no-one has ever gone out and bought their stuff, and there is never any real information about what it is like to use.

At the moment I'm looking at a couple of rucksacks. One of them is the OMM adventure light 20, along with the leanweight compressor. I think it looks fantastic, and I'm pretty sure the rucksack is a good one, but I simply cannot see how the compression system fits onto the new version of the Adventure Light.
I borrowed one from a friend, and I STILL can't see how it would work.
You'd think that someone, somewhere on the web (including the company that produces them) might actually have got around to clipping them together to show just how it works and that these things actually DO work together. Otherwise its just a leap into the dark, and annoyance when they don't work.

The other one I'm looking at (for a different purpose, I must hasten to add) is the Grivel Freney. I've seen them on the internet, all with exactly the same blurb as Grivel says on their website. Which doesn't actually help me in any way shape or form. As far as I can see, no-one has ever bought one, certainly no-one has ever reviewed one, and so it would seem that there is no resource on which to see if it is any good or not.
Its really quite hard to actually find anywhere that sells them as well.

Both rucksacks are almost periphery items in the world of outdoors-ness, so maybe not quite as popular as other rucksacks which lots and lots of people buy... but the problem remains - the manufacturers write a lovely aspirational bit of blurb on their website, it gets copied by every other website out there that is trying to flog their stuff, and there is no real point of view as to quite what it is like. Added to that, unless you know someone who has bought one and owns it, the first time you see the item is when you buy it off the internet and it arrives on your doorstep.

I realise this is just the way things are, but the most annoying thing, and something that could be done better is different perspectives on gear... not just the same generic blurb that the manufacturer has stated, but real thoughts on stuff that people have used.
I suppose thats why I do this blog... to give a slightly different perspective.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Gloves - finally, a decent walking pair?!

I think that I may have actually found a solution to cold wet hands.

Montane Resolute Mitts
If you have ever read any of my other glove posts, you may think that I am beginning to be a little obsessive about cold hands, and the amount of gloves I may or may not own. However, I recently bought a pair of Montane Resolute mitts.

First things first, yes, they are mitts, but hey, I wanted something that was crazy warm, and more as something that was going to go over other thinner gloves. I have quite small hands so I figured I'd get some Mediums and they would probably be pretty damn big.
Not so.

The Mediums are about right for my hands with no other gloves on, unless I have the thinnest silk liners I can possibly find. So if you want a pair for going over other gloves, go a couple of sizes larger than you think.

The trigger finger inner
I've been out on a couple of enforced walk and stand in the cold in the past few days, and I had a number of gloves on me to try and keep warm. As a brief idea, it was wander around in the cold (yes it ended up sleeting and snowing on us, on Kinder, in October), and I spent about 2 hours standing still, so not your normal running around the place, pumping blood through arteries to hands at full speed kind of thing. The second occasion was out on a very windswept hill in the middle of the night, teeming with rain, gloves on, gloves off, gloves on, gloves off, cold wet hands, nightmare scenario.

Amazingly grippy palms
Let me tell you what happened.
Warm. Dry. Hands.

I couldn't actually believe it. I don't think I have ever been in a situation (without hand warmers, and in some cases even WITH hand warmers, where I have had cold, wet hands on the hill, and not had to wait until I got back home before they actually warmed up. No liners were used, just the Resolute mitts.
On the first night out, I started out in my Arctery'x SV gloves, got cold fingers, even as we walked. When we stopped, I thought I'd have a blast with the new Mitts, and astonishingly, my fingers warmed up. That in itself is nigh on unbelievable as it is, but the fact that I was standing still in biting wind, sleet, and general not-nice-ness meant that the increase in comfort and dexterity within my fingers was notable and very surprising.
The inner's inner. Fleecey pile. mmmmm
As mentioned, the second time was in rain and wind- traditionally the kind of place where if I take off gloves to do something that requires dexterity, or if I'm wearing a glove which provides relative dexterity anyway, my fingers freeze and I get quite miserable very quickly.

My hands got wet and cold. I thought damn, thats it, cold hands for the next 5 hours, stuck the Resolute Mitts on, and within 5 mins, my hands were warm and dry.
Let me say that again. WARM. DRY.

That cycle was repeated a number of times throughout the evening, and my mitts are currently drying out. However, as someone who has suffered for years with cold and loss of dexterity in the fingers, I have to say that these are the best walking gloves that I have ever ever owned.
(better than the Sealskinz lobster mitts? I hear you ask)
For walking, yes, I believe so. I haven't completely and comprehensively tested these things yet, but from 2 experiences where I know I would have been suffering, they are superb.
...And a D ring to attach them to you!
Top marks to Montane for these, and if you want to send me a pair in Large, they would be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Head torch - Silva Trailrunner Plus

I've been using this headtorch for about a year now, for winter evening training runs, night nav sessions, races and night rescue scenarios. There are a number of really good headtorches out there on the market, by Hope, Petzl, LED lenser, Fenix etc, but I chose this one. Why, and has it been a good buy?

I originally bought it because I am a bit of a sucker for new bits of kit that I haven't seen reviewed by other people, or even used by other people. (However, the Petzl Nao is firmly on my list of things that I'd love to get my hands on).
After using it on last years High Peak Marathon
The Silva light unit is very small and lightweight, especially if you get the one with the waist mounted battery unit. This one takes 4AA batteries, the normal Trailrunner takes only 2AA batteries and has a correspondingly lower amount of battery life. (I've never used one of these, so can't actually tell you what its like with the batteries on the headband).

A lot of people will go on and on about lumens, length of light, and all that kind of stuff. Which is nice, and lovely, and indeed, objective. However, you can get all of that off the back of the packet, or somewhere else off the internet.
(oh go on then, since you ask - 80 lumen, 45m and 48hours).
Not stellar figures if you go by other headtorches on the market, but when running, I'm not totally convinced that its all about wearing the equivalent of a Nightsun on your head. With the Silva, it was the lighting pattern and the general comfort that I was really enamored with.
3 LEDs
The first thing you notice is that it has 3 LEDs in the lighting unit, with the smaller 2 of 3 pointing at different angles to the main one. Interesting. I was originally of the thought that these were for lower light levels like on the old petzls. A main one for running and smaller ones for looking at maps etc. Yet when you battery it up and switch it on, all 3 come on at the same time. The 3 lighting levels don't actually correspond to how many lights come on, just how much light is being pumped out of all 3 LEDs simultaneously. Why would it do that? what possible benefit would it have to working like this with all 3 permanently on?

Intelligent lighting
The packaging alludes to this with its "Silva Intelligent Light" beam pattern. Instead of just focusing on one specific area in front of you, there is a big beam that goes out on ahead, and other smaller beams around  the area, but aimed more down toward where your feet are going to be. All at the same time, so as you are running, it gives of this rather nice all encompassing light which gives distance, and also peripheral vision as you pound along the path/heath/moor/bog.

For generic running I tend to keep the beam on mid-power, so that I have something to really ramp it up to when hurtling down hill. Its nice for my eyes to get used to a certain level of light as I run, and then when things speed up, I hit the bright setting to give me more of a fighting chance to get down the hill without tripping over something. The low setting gets used when I'm map reading, or going really slow, and don't actually need to see all that much around me.
If anything, the only annoying thing is that the low setting is just a little bit too low, and I wish there was an intermediate setting between low and middle. A minor point, but worth mentioning.

Back of the torch unit
As mentioned I used this torch for night exercises, and I have to admit that when you have to take your rucksack on and off, and the battery pack is in the top pocket of the rucksack, its a bit annoying to get things on and off. Equally, if the battery pack is in a coat pocket, if you then take the coat off, where does the battery go? Slightly annoying, but equally, it wasn't made specifically for that, and a smaller headtorch with an enclosed battery would probably do the trick.

Where this torch excels is on a day to day basis. In the evening, going up onto the moors, battery in bumbag, doesn't feel like anything is on my head, and just blasting about on a training run. I've never actually used the belt that it comes with to wear the battery pack around the waist - its always just shoved in a bumbag. There is a small band of silicone (or some such thing) around the inside of the headband so that it doesn't slip, which is a nice touch, and the actual light unit itself is also adjustable up and down. (As you would expect). It's waterproofed to IPX6, so I can wear it in the Peak district without being worried about anything damage occurring to it because of water ingress.

Winter solstice run last year. Lots of torches. 
I have to say though, I did break it recently. It could have been because I stuffed it into a rucksack too violently, I could have stored it wrong, I could have had it crushed up in a bumbag and a connection came loose. I have no idea. It started to work kind of intermittently - I got the impression that the battery life just wasn't up to scratch. I took it out for a couple of runs, and then bang. Nothing. Not even some light, just nothing. This happened a couple of times, and then eventually after rebattery-ing  it twice, with new batteries, nothing, I decided to send it back to Silva.

By this time I've had it for about 18 months, and used it very thoroughly over the winter. Silva have a 2 year warranty on technical failure, and replaced it within a week, I now have a new one sitting on my desk. Thankyou Silva, excellent service.

So, as a round up...
Wearing it with the snazzy downward behind ear cable director 
Brilliant for running, amazingly lightweight on the head, maybe not bright enough for biking, lightweight, excellent beam pattern, like the separate battery pack, except when using it for walking/with a rucksack and it has to be taken off.

Apologies for not having many pictures of me wearing it, its kind of difficult when you're out and about in the dark. I'm trying to work out how to get a picture of the beam spread, and when I get a decent picture, I'll put it up.

AHA! I have one now. Here it is. Retrieving the Glossopdale Goodie Box before being replenished and relocated. Yes. That is a miniature Bells. Very nice it was too.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Ian Hodgeson Mountain Relay

Its taken me a while to get around to this, for several reasons. I wasn't sure if I was actually going to write anything, but here I am.
As many of you already know, the IHMR hit the headlines for the wrong reasons this year. The incident occurred on the leg that I was running.

All I shall say on the matter is that it was a beautiful day, I have never seen the Lake district so clear.
It was a sad, sad day, and many others have written more, more eloquently than I ever could.
Rest in Peace Daz.

Here is a link to a fundraising page set up in his name.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Last day of the summer/autumn?

On Saturday a small (and select) group of us went for a little run from Glossop to Chinley. The main point of the exercise was of course to get some miles in our legs, and was nothing to do with the fact there was a beer festival going on in Chinley...

The day was beautiful, the running was fantastic, the visibility was spectacular- we could see right the way across to the welsh hills from Chinley Churn.

And of course, the beer was fantastic. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I didn't actually take any pictures of us at the beer festival, but suffice to say we had a delightful run over, followed by a prolonged session of sitting in the sun, chatting, and sampling some rather fine, and in some cases, very quaffable ale.
A lovely day out for what seems to have been the last of the good weather for a fair while.

Charlie, Lynne and Andy taking in the view down toward Chinley

Cracken edge

The Peak district version of the Windows desktop screen

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The triple dipper (the tripper)

Today was the 2nd year of the tripper, starting with the Coombs Tor race in the morning, a run across from Rowarth to Padfield and then a run around the Padfield Plumfair Scamper, then a long old wait and the infamous coal sack race up Redgate.

Just as before last weeks race I went out for a bit of a ride with young Mr Dawson, thankfully I was the one choosing the route this time, and I knew the roads didn't run out halfway along. However, it was the route that somewhat beasted me last December where I had to get bailed out by Lynne part way around... This time, though we blasted around snake pass, strines and back over holme moss in little over 3 hours (with a coffee break).
50 miles of not exactly perfect preparation for an 18mile epic, but there you go.

There were a fantastic amount of glossopdaleans out for the Coombs tor race, which is always good to see. Although its quite amusing to get to Rowarth by road everyone managed to get there pretty much on time, though Jack Ross was one of the last to arrive.
Thanks to Elanor Swan for the photo
There was a good bit of banter as we waited to start, with Sikobe giving out chillies to everyone that was going to attempt the triple.

We were set off with an almighty toot from the starting, um, tooter, and we commenced a mad dash to the bottom of the hill, knowing that there was a pinch point almost straightaway. Phil Swan put in a great burst of speed to be in the top 10 down the hill, and was commenting something about going off too fast.
Well, that's what he thought, and then overtook me up the next hill, going very well indeed. I decided that I'd generally enjoy my day out, thinking that my legs were a bit heavy, and that I wanted to have a bit of energy in my legs for the rest of the day.  Off went Phil, and then James overtook me, and a few others.
It wasn't until a good few miles on, after John Doyle passed me that we ended up catching back up to Phil and James. Julien was suffering in the heat, and he was rapidly falling back, not running comfortably.
Going up past lantern pike, we Phil was beginning to tire, and the running though a big puddle and spooking a load of cowes didn't help either. I finally caught up with him and James on the last ascent. Phil and I hooked down the last descent, following John Doyle and one other guy. We blew the other guy away with about 400metres to go, and I could see Phil was really feeling it, so in the last 50metres I took it into my hands to blast past John, which was nice, coming in 11th overall, 3rd glossopdale in.
Props to Alistaire for coming 2nd- a fantastic result.

The run over was all good fun, and 6 of us stuck pretty close together. We took a slightly different line to last year, but got over to Padfield in good time for the start of the Plum Fair Scamper.

I started out at the back with Andy Oliver and Charlie, thinking that we'd just cruise through the race, not too concerned about blasting it. All of a sudden we were actually pretty much last, being held up at stiles and gates, which was nice to get the rest at that point. I slowly worked my way through some of the back field on the way up the hill. I finally managed to catch up with one of the Jackson clan. Tony was kind enough to give me a couple of sips from his bottle, before I headed off on a very slow chase down of John Doyle. I finally caught him at the peak of the hill, and we ran down the hill together.
Just about held it together to keep John off at the end with a bit of a sprint finish for 31st, which was nice.
Lynne and I decided not to hang around for a further 2 hours for the Coalsack race. My contact lenses were dirty and needed to be taken out, so we wandered back across the fields to glossop.

A few of the original starters from Coombs that ran across and did the scamper stayed until the end to do the race up Redgate, which I believe John Doyle won. (mainly because I wussed out- at least he knows that he can beat me up a hill with a coal sack on his back... useful for when winter comes, I might be calling on your services John).
I'm now pretty damn tired, and will probably stay that way for a while, let's see how things go at Lantern Pike next week. Its on the Saturday so we'll have to think up something to do on Friday night to knacker ourselves out beforehand.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Shelf Moor Fell Race 2012

I haven't been out running properly in quite a while. What with being down in London, being knackered and having a few niggles when I got back to Glossop and generally not having the greatest of motivation, I just haven't really been out.

Look way too relaxed.
As a matter of fact, I tried running up pretty much half of the ascent of the Shelf Moor fell race last week, and was a bit concerned when I ran out of puff quite low down and had to resort to walking.
In the spirit of amusement in the face of adversity I looked out of the window this morning at what was basically an all enveloping cloud of clag sitting on top of Bleaklow and thought, yeah, I'll just have a bit of a jog around it.

(as preparation, I have to mention I was out on a magical mystery tour on a road bike yesterday, more notable for its rather exciting deviations onto bridleways, across fields and over barbed wire fences rather than the distance we covered. Maybe it was that which woke my legs up - the moral of the story is if you are out on a road bike with someone and they mention that just up ahead the road on google maps runs out, but that it'll probably be fine, be prepared for barbed wire).

My real motivation for running this race was to check that my legs still worked, didn't fall off, and generally that things worked before next weekend... Its the 1st anniversary of the "triple dipper". Getting a quick jog up and down the moor should be enough to let me know how things are going.
There was a relatively strong field out for the race, which is always good to see, even though this weekend has some other very good races on, so I decided to just start at the back and work my way through the field.

Charlie set the race off in fine style, with a, "Right then. Go" which seemed to surprise a couple of people. The front guys raced off, and I wove my way through the field from pretty much the back.

Letting the legs go down Lightside
As ever, the hill up to James's Thorn was horrible, and I walked a lot more than I wanted to, the clag on the top was thick enough to cut, and the peat was very peaty. Shame the race route didn't quite take the trig point into account, it curved just short of it, probably for safety as the rocks were very dodgy underfoot. I decided to go around the trig anyway.
The run back across the moor was just fantastic. Bog, peat, groughs, fog, just about able to see where you were going. The flagging of the course was pretty much perfect, and the way to go was very clear indeed.
Coming off the top of Lightside, the fog cleared and there were a good few people cheering us on, so I let my legs go a bit on the descent.

Finished in 20th place in about 56 mins, which I was quite happy with.
Some of the guys from Glossop excelled themselves, Mark Ollerenshaw, Tom Jackson and young Rory all in the top 10.
Well done to all who took part, and thanks muchly to all the marshals who stood around in not the most pleasant of conditions to help speed us on our way, and thanks to Gordon and the Swans for the pictures.

Friday, 31 August 2012

OMM Cypher smock, Preview

Starting out with a bit more running after a month or so layoff, (life doesn't half get in the way sometimes), I'm getting back out on the hills in search of a bit of peace, quiet and adventure. As you may well have read in a previous post, the Montane Spektr Smock didn't exactly come up to expectations in terms of a decent, rugged and dependable jacket.
There were far too many flaws with it, but that is all documented in the afore mentioned blog.

Having managed to sell it on to a lightweight traveller, I concentrated on looking for the next jacket on my list for trying out, and was able to come across the OMM Cypher Smock at Ratrace for somewhat less than the general £200 asking price, which was a complete bonus.

I have received the jacket now, a size Small (I was a medium in the Spektr). It fits well, and the key points about it which appear to make it as good as, and indeed better than the Spektr are that it is made of the same stuff, (3 layer eVent), but it has a hood with volumisers AND a peak, which means that it actually fits on my head, and doesn't blow around the place letting large amounts of wind and water in, it has a zip opening, which means that I don't have to try faffing around with the tornado roll system when the weather is particularly horrible (or indeed, when it is generally quite nice), and it is bright yellow.

Oh, and has a pocket. Not the most important thing, but when you want to put a compass or a bar somewhere, it is there to be used. Excellent.

I haven't yet used it in anger (having only just got it out of the packaging), but overall, it looks flipping excellent, and ticks all the boxes that the Spektr did not.
Its almost made me want to see a deterioration in the weather so that I can head on out and test it.

Rest assured, when I do, I shall report back with as many good and bad things as I can find about it.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Olympic Volunteering

It's now long enough after the Olympics for the whole thing to have pretty much sunk in. I have overcome the sleep defecit, and am just about functioning as a normal human being- but haven't yet managed to get back into all the running and cycling that I was doing beforehand.
(Odd isn't it that the olympics were meant to inspire everyone to get out and do stuff, and yet I was far more active before I went than after I came back... it was probably something to do with a minor tweak I picked up down there, but there you go)

This is just a short post with a couple of photos (we have a total of more than 1000) about the whole thing as there have been so many stories, articles and column inches written about the whole thing that at some point a line will have to be drawn. Rather than write a whole huge long rambling story, I thought it might be nice to write a few of the things that really stuck out in my mind.

 - The atmosphere in the park, the velodrome, and even the tube was amazing. Everyone was focussed on what was good about London and the Olympics.
Inside the "drome"

 - 6,000 people in an enclosed velodrome make more noise than 80,000 people in a stadium. When Chris Hoy kicks, he really goes for it.

 - When you have 70,000 volunteers all in the same uniform, it doesn't feel quite so horrendous as when you first saw it. No, it will never be fashionable, no, the epaulettes did not look good, but the number of people wearing it made it ok rather than laughable.

- Walking through Stratford first thing in the morning, surrounded by police with guns, people in purple shouting "Good Morning" at you, and being ushered in the "right" direction feels strange, and uncomfortably close to a police state.

 - No you can't bring any kind of drink, and only a small amount of food into the Olympic park, but you can pay exorbitant amounts of cash for "food" once you are in there.

 - Enthusiastic volunteers make things work - and work well.

 - Speak to everyone you can, and learn from them. Tomorrow they may well turn out to be a Gold Medal winner.
"The Bolt"

 - No matter where you go and what organisation you work for, middle managers will always have had the same training  - "management by dictatorship"

 - When volunteering be prepared to be knackered for the vast majority of the time, but still have a smile on your face.

Yes, it was a jolly old time, and I learned a lot. It was not only the meeting of the athletes that was fantastic, but the opportunity to meet with and talk to other health professionals, physios, sports doctors, paramedics etc. with in a sporting context as this enabled me to see how the whole thing was put together, and also enabled me to appreciate the differences in what we do and the angles from which we are coming from in terms of sports people and their injuries.
My time in the velodrome watching athletes practice and perform to the best of their abilities, and also seeing them as normal people was very inspiring. They are normal people doing extraordinary things. 
Christine having won her silver

GB pursuit on target for Gold

GB Pursuit practicing


Team Global Therapies outside the Velodrome

The bell in the drome. (The one that goes "ding")

The Coolest bike of the lot. The derny.

The flame

Early morning at the velodrome. Definitely the best time to see it, without the crowds
Me, attempting to look very cool indeed.

Inspiring as a whole, but knackered me out. Just need to get back out running again now.