Saturday, 31 March 2012

Trail running, and a Suunto Ambit

Yesterday I was out with a couple of friends, trying out a "trailblaze" thing.
A few trails in the UK have been fitted with orienteering like "dibbing" points. You get a dibber from the company that owns the points, do whichever run you want to do, and then send the dibber back. Your times are uploaded onto the website, and... well, that's it as far as I can tell.
Someone else was doing the dibbing, I was just out for the run.

The whole thing was the Trigger route backwards, but having to stick to the paths so that we could dib in to the points every so often. Starting at Edale, we followed the Pennine Way up Jaggers clough, North up the edge of Kinder, past Mill hill, Snake Summit, Bleaklow head, Crowden, Black hill, and finally up past the Isle of Skye road and about 2km down past the road to the final dibbing point, in the middle of no-where.
Mill hill
About 38km all told.

The end
We took it pretty easy, finishing after about 5hrs 45 mins. One of our party was suffering quite significantly from ITB and hip issues, but that didn't stop her from finishing.

The rather exciting thing was that I recently got hold of (read:- convinced myself to spend a stupid amount of money) on a Suunto Ambit, which I mentioned on a previous post Gamechanger?

I just bought the watch, not the one which comes with a specific Heart Rate monitor, because we already have an older Suunto, and figured that it *should* work with the Ambit. There is a lot of cross-talk all over the web as to whether it will or it won't work.
We have a Suunto T4c, and the comfort belt that came with that very much DOES work with the Ambit. Unless you really want the snazzy ANT++ version which comes with the Ambit, if you already have a Suunto HR belt, you don't need to.

As this is very much a preview and I've really only had a chance to mess around with it once, I'll keep it brief.
The finish of the run
On its first outing, it found satellites very quickly indeed, and when with someone else who had a Garmin (a forerunner 610 AND an Edge 800) the Suunto picked them up much faster then as well. Impressive.

The screens when in GPS mode are ridiculously customisable, so much so that I'm slightly confused as to exactly what it all means, but I'll be able to figure it all out once I've had a chance to play. Suffice to say the altitude graph as you are running is very funky, and the sheer amount of data you can access when on the run is mind boggling.
Ambit- Time out, current Alt, and total ascent
You can cycle through the screens you have chosen when on the run, but you cannot change which specific screens you wish to see while away from the computer. This is very much a watch which is designed to be used in conjuction with Movescount, the Suunto specific website. Within the site you can change things to do with the functionality of the watch, but not away from it. Great, but if the website goes down, I'd imagine it might be quite hard to change things on the unit.

Also, at this time, the gps track is on Movescount, but I can't find a way to export it to a .kml or a .gpx file, which is a bit annoying. As far as I can see, there should soon be that functionality, but it isn't there yet.

As far as the post run data, there is an awful lot when you upload to Movescount. HR, EPOC, Altitude, (which is measured barometrically, not via GPS), and a whole host of other gubbins.
On the run Alti graph
As I'm very used to the Garmin website, (and although I've used Movescount before), I'm not totally convinced by it and the way it works. Its almost a bit too social-media-like rather than training focused. Once I can work out how to get the information off the Ambit and use it on another site other than Movescount, it'll be nigh on perfect.
Just need to mess around with it a bit more to be honest.

If there is anything you want me to check out on my Ambit before you take the plunge, drop me a line, I'll try it and see if it is able to do it. (there is a lot of confusing Q&A bits and bobs across the web, I'll try and give you a decent answer, and if I can't, I'll tell you).

Oh, and then Lynne and I went to the Old Hall in Chinley and had an excellent meal, this picture only shows the starter, because by the time the Steak came, and then the Sticky Toffee Pudding, really, we weren't interested in taking pictures. Its got to be the best Sticky Toffee Pudding we've ever had. Definitely a big recommendation. (You might also want to book a table if you go there... its a bit good and you really don't want to be disappointed). 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Edale Skyline predictions- a look back

Writing some notes for a workshop I'm giving next week, I came across a quick scribble I did last week which had completely slipped my mind.

Lynne asked me how long I thought I was going to take going around Edale Skyline on Sunday, I had no idea, so sat down to roughly work it out.

The long and short of it was that I reckoned on about 3:40, which would bring me in at about 86th place.

As it was, I came in at 3:44:18, and 89th. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I inadvertantly switched off my Garmin part way through so have no idea how close the splits were to predicted, which is a bit annoying, but there you go.

Here is a breakdown of what I know.
Grindslow knoll- predicted 15 mins, actual- about 20
Jaggers clough- predicted 24 mins, actual 27 mins
Winhill summit- predicted 48 mins, actual 1:01
Hope predicted 1:06 actual 1:11

and then it all goes a bit skewy.
So I guess that was pretty good conservative guesstimation of when I might get around.
We were quite impressed- and here is a picture of the way I attempted to work it out. (No apologies for the handwriting).

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Edale Skyline Race Report

Ian and I looking at the inversion
Well, that was a fairly long one. Yes, I took it easy, yes my knee hurt, yes the weather was fantastic, and yes I had a fabulous day.

That's the Hope valley that is
As you may or may not know, I've been having a little bit of an issue with my left knee after the High Peak Marathon which you can read all about here. The main thing about the Edale Skyline was to have a good day out on the hill, enjoy the time on my feet, not to push too hard, and not to injure my knee more. Not entirely a return to fitness type thing, but more of a "get out running but not do anything stupid" kind of thing.

The day promised to be fantastic, sun in the sky by the time we set off to get to the start. Coming over the top of Lords seat there was a most amazing cloud inversion, with the Hope valley being swathed in a thick billows while the top of the hills bathed in glorious sunshine.
Kit check
The start was as it always is, a kit check, general banter, nervousness and an alert readiness for what was to come ahead. Great to see Stuart and Debs from Accelerate with lots of kit for sale as well! Soon it was time to head up to the starting field, and a gaggle of Glossopdalers wandered up that way, chatting about odds and ends, race lines, and vague timings that we may or may not manage to get around in.Stevie K was also there, and from the looks of him, he was trying to simultaneously pin his race number on, AND pierce his nipples. Not sure how effective he was at this, but next time you see him, ask for a quick peek. Sbrt was there too, and a whole host of people that I'm sure I recognised, but didn't say hello to. (Sorry).
Mark and I walking to the start

I for one had no clue about timings, it was all about getting around. Also, there were a couple of other things not altogether in my favour.
The clocks had gone forward last night- meaning I got less sleep than normal... but then that was the same with everyone.
The second was that I was up and about for about 7 hours the night before on a night exercise with Mountain Rescue. Which basically involved hoiking heavy gear onto a hill, doing stuff, lifting heavy people around, hacking about up a hill, and then carrying heavy gear back off the hill. Got back about 2am, so maybe not the greatest preparation for a 21 mile race.
Ah well.

In deference to my knee, I had used a couple of lengths of Rock Tape to hopefully engage some muscles a bit more as I ran, in order to keep the knee in line, and prevent further injury, which is why I have tape on my knee in some pictures.
Ask Stevie about his nipples

The start was fairly interesting, we were there gathered in the field, a bloke was talking, I presume giving instructions which we couldn't here and all of a sudden, we were running. Oh, heck, switch the watch on, and... well, bumble along. As 350 odd runners forged up the hill, I allowed myself to be carried along, and soon there were a few people who weren't expecting to see me exclaiming things like... ooooh, I must be going too fast, I'm up with you! Well, whatever. I saw Julien go through the gate quite a way ahead of me, and there was a heaving mass of runners between us, so I just carried on.
Up the hill, there were a few conversations, but nothing really exciting, just lots of heavy breathing. Rich Seipp was in various places (I swear he teleports... these Pennine and their secret ways) taking video of the race.

Saying hi to SBRT
Top of the hill, knee not doing too badly, and along the flat. Taking it easy, and there wasn't much to really thing about except, "have I put on enough sunscreen"? not something that I tend to think in a race! Down into the first downhill sections, and we passed the first D of E group of the day. (there were LOTS). Wishing them a cheery good morning, it occurred to me that I might not be trying my absolute hardest, but then, there were a number of long miles to go. As we descended, my knee began to ache slightly.
Oh No.
The start. A glorious day
I continued, thinking it might go away, but it got a little more intense, and then, I got a massive stitch in my right side. Fantastic. Barely 2 miles in and I'm suffering quite exquisitely, this is ridiculous. Slow down a bit, check the Heart rate- it says just under 160bpm. Ok, we'll try and keep that for the majority of the rest of the time on my feet.

Down Jaggers Clough, and up the side of the Roman Road onto Win Hill. I catch up with a Pennine runner, its Hanno. We chatted pretty much all the way up the hill, distracting me very well indeed from my various ailments. So well that I didn't even notice they were hurting until we neared the top, he slowed to a walk and waved me off. I carried on, and after a couple of minutes began noticing my knee again. Hmmm. I need more people to talk to to distract me.
Train of runners going up the first hill
Up onto the top of Win Hill, with Chris Jackson cheering us all on from the sidelines. As I went up onto the pike, John Hewitt and Matt Dawson had just come down off the Pike and were beginning their descent, Matt shouting encouragement, John shouting abuse. Whats new?
Up over the Pike and down. It was a lovely descent, and once we hit the fields above Twitchill farm I overtook about 10 people, looking ahead to see the guy from Tring who tends to come up to the Peak for the races. I'll catch up with him at some point, I think.
Me coming off Win Hill (thanks Chris)
Bottom of the hill, into Hope and there is a water stop, I take a gulp from a cup and pour another one over my head, saying a brief hello to Rod Holt who was out (making sure to not spill ANY water on his rather beautiful bike), and off.
Overtaking another 6 people (including Tring man) in a single bound.

Off along and past the Cheshire Cheese, not stopping for a pint (mores the pity) along the road, and the OTHER knee started to hurt.
Coming down off Back tor
Hmmm. Maybe its just normal pain in the knees, rather than something more sinister? I'll just have to carry on going and find out. My right contact lens also started to smart about now, which really didn't help at all.
Just on the way up onto Lose hill I passed Matt Heason and family, who appeared to be out enjoying the fine weather, and lo and behold, half way up the hill, Hanno caught me up and we continued our conversation, whilst taking a somewhat slower pace, walking to the top of the hill.
A Dark Peak chap came past us, making a comment about the heat, and me wearing a pair of gloves... he was wearing leggings... As we walked up the hill, and he overtook, he made a comment about also joining a rambling club recently, to which the reply (from another Pennine) was, Yeah, Dark Peak is a bit like that, isn't it? I don't think he liked that all that much.

Saying thanks to Lynne
Top of Lose Hill, and Carl and Beryl were there, cheering us on, and we started the descent to Back tor and Hollins cross in fine spirits, saying thank you to the kind walkers who let us over the stiles before them, down Back tor, overtaking a couple of other runners who were not so sure on their feet, and Lynne was at the bottom with a big smile, a camera, water and some jelly babies. A very brief water stop, drink, over head, Hanno overtakes, and off I go again.
The one and only Hanno
The long indeterminable slog up to the top of Mam tor continued. I ran. I walked. I walked. I ate some Lucozade jelly babies, chatted with various runners around me and generally didn't go too hard. Left knee hurting again, but at least Mam was half way around.

There were HUNDREDS of people up on the hill, apologies if you were up there and I didn't manage to say good morning/afternoon to you, but I just didn't have time. Looking at my watch, it said 1:22, which was pretty damn good, so I plodded on.
The atmosphere at the top of the hill was like being on a road race, which was all a bit bizarre, so over the top, and down to the road, where I saw Ian, who had unfortunately pulled out with horrendous blisters- taking the intelligent decision to stop so as not to endanger his marathon chances later in the month.

Into the distance
Up the hill, fill up the waterbottle from the waterstop, and on up onto Lords Seat. More people. I haven't been out on a day with this many people on this hill for a LONG time. Ended up chatting to a bloke who was doing the race as a warm up to his season, looking forward to doing a half ironman over snowdonia, (Good Luck with that!) A right turn onto the moor, and finally, after an age on footpaths and rock hard ground, we get to the glorious squidgy peat that I'm used to. Across the moor over to Brown knoll took an eternity. Ahead of me was John Hewitt and Matt, whom I last saw back at Win Hill. Slowly, slowly, slowly I gained on them. First I overtook Matt, who looked like he was struggling- told him to drink more water- he had a load in his bag, John took much longer to overhaul, and I finally managed it before the trig point and checkpoint came into view. We wandered along together for a while, and then I took the lead.

Nice, that will do. I don't imagine it will last for long though.
The guys at Brown knoll had water, so I gulped a small glassful and continued, Chris's Dad was up by the Stile, cheering us on, which was marvellous, and then Dave Hogg was down by the beginning of the climb up onto Kinder, again, great to get support there as well.

John overtook on the way up, and a fellow ex-Glossopdaler, Alex, who had overtaken me in the past few minutes and gained about 50 metres, took the lower line around under the path, with John shouting that it might not be the best idea.
I may look like I can't run in this picture....
I followed John up over and onto the path, and Alex, who had gained a goodly amount of time on us before taking the line popped out between us, seemingly spent. I cruised past. Walking at this point was considerable more difficult and painful than running, which was an odd experience. I looked at my watch again, wondering how long I had been out. 1:22.
Hang on.
Damn. I must have pressed stop somewhere along the way. Damn.
Ah well. Press start again and carry on. Never mind.

Up to the Pagoda, and John took a sharp left, the racing line. Despite his bad rep for not being amazing at navigating (especially during races), I decided to follow him. Well, I know the route through the Woolpacks, this looks like being an adventurous line, what the hey?
A little bit of scrambling later and we are on the moor, trudging across it. He gains ground on me, and thats pretty much the last I saw of him till the finish. I traded places with a Dark Peaker in a white cap, and a couple of runners from Penistone and Chorley. By this time I was pretty knackered and a couple of people sneaked past me.

My knees were having episodes of pain, and then nothing, my feet were hot and very achey and I was not feeling on top of the world in any way shape or form. On the way up to Grindslow knoll I saw Carl flying down the descent... I knew he was in front of me, just not by how far, he was having a storming race!
The hours of exercise with stretchers and people last night, along with 18 miles or so of running were exacting their toll. I'm not far from home now, out comes the single energy gel in my bag, some kind of caffeine infused goo that I end up chewing, gulping down water as I do so. Lets see how that works.

We hit the top, turn around, and the Dark Peaker heads off in another direction. He's doing the down and up. Brave, but in this heat, possibly stupid.

Back north, to hit the south side of Kinder, I overtook 5 people just after the first stream, and ran with a guy from Chorley for a while, exchanging banter as to just how ridiculously hot it was.
Waiting for the caffeine shot to kick in... feet getting hotter, I found myself dreaming of the stream at the end of the race. Ringing Roger, the final descent is just around the corner, yet it seems so far away.
I eventually drop the Chorley runner on a slight uphill, and see another Dark Peaker, in Green shorts. (Green Flash... was that you?!) Slowly I close in, and overtake on another downhill section.
Jasmine cooling down
Then its the final run in to Ringing Roger, I overtake another guy, and then we're at the stones, I shout my number at the marshalls, wave at Rich Seipp for the Nth time today and start down the descent.

At long last! In the stream
2 people behind, 4 in front. The stones are hard and horrible, certainly not the greatest surface to be running down at the end of a long race. We overtake another runner, and down the zigzags. I suspect that everyone is holding back, waiting to pounce at the end of the race, so I bide my time as well. I'm feeling pretty good, certainly running well under capacity throughout the whole race, except maybe the last few miles. No short cutting, and then down and onto the grass, the final run in.
Lengthen the stride as we go down the slightly dodgy bobbly bits which are rutted, overtake 2, and then a glorious 200 metre downhill grassy section that begs to be taken at full speed.
I let my legs go and pound down the slope. No pain, no fear, no problem.
Last guy overtaken, and I get a little confused as to where the finish funnel is... to the left? to the right? I'll just run at the largest portion of people and see what happens.
Storming into the finish, yes I could have run the whole thing faster, no I don't really care.

I got around, my knees didn't cripple me, though they did give me a bit of gyp, and I had a glorious day on the hill. A short time spent saying hi and well done to all those who came in before me, and straight off to the stream to cool down my feet and knees.
Cool down company
THAT was a great relief. Lovely.

I came in at 3:44:58, in 89th place, pretty good for a bimble.

Well done to Jasmine from Carnethy for getting first Lady, Julien for 2nd V50 (and the amusing tea episode, though not so amusing for him), Mark and Gwyn for their excellent runs, (despite Gwyn not actually having run that distance ever before) and to Carl for a fantastic run.
Good day out. The results.
I knew I missed a photo somewhere. There you go. idp doing the "Deliverance" version of kit checks
Good day out, and I hope that everyone enjoyed it as much as I did, and that they didn't get too sun burned. Thanks to Lynne for all the photos, the transport and the beer that I'm currently drinking. Can't wait to see Dan Lane's photos of the event, even though I'm going to be walking in his photos(!)
Here is a link to the results, well done to Ian Fitz for organising the whole thing. Good effort.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Arc'teryx Atom SV- review

Me being snug. With some dodgy lens flare.
Fleeces are good at keeping you warm when its cold and there is no wind. However, as soon as a slight breeze begins, it tends to go straight through. Synthetic insulated jackets seem to be the answer to the problem of what to wear when its cold, windy and wet, when a down jacket would wet out too soon and a fleece would be too bulky and not provide any protection against the wind.

My down jacket is great, but standing on a hillside in the driving rain isn't the kindest thing I can do to it, and once wet, its as much use as a paper bag, and all my fleeces from years gone by, although still functional, are an additional weight which I could do without. Ideally I needed a synthetic insulated jacket before I moved up to the Peak District, and I'm very, very glad I bought one.

Synthetic "belay" jackets come in several flavours, with differing amounts of insulation for differing uses on the hill. They range from the super-lightweight Montane Fireball smock, for Mountain Marathons and as a layer that packs down to nothing, through to the ever popular workhorse, the Rab Generator Jacket (though the Atom SV is closer to the Generator Alpine) and the Mountain Equipment Fitzroy.

I decided on the Arc'teryx Atom SV for a number of reasons. Its main purpose was to be in my rucksack, ready to be deployed at a moments notice should we stop for any period of time, but it also needed to be warm enough to throw on over a shirt when going into town, and also, I managed to get it for less than I could get any of the other jackets- in my case an important point. 

As this is a jacket for quick stops, fast warmth and convenience, it needed to be big enough to engulf any jacket I own, yet be streamlined enough to go under any other jacket I own. An interesting conundrum, but the cut of the jacket enables it to do that with ease.
The Atom is made with a silk like face fabric that Arc'teryx calls Luminara Nylon. It has a silky tactile feel and a fantastic DWR coating. It is 20 dernier ripstop, with good weather resistance, and apparently, is very breathable. The jacket itself is not classified as "waterproof" as it doesn't have taped seams, however, standing in the rain for a while is not an issue at all, as the water beads fantastically well, and sheds like a ducks back. (cliched I know, but its the only way to really describe it).

Lycra cuffs. Comfortable. Sleek. Convenient.
The inside fabric is, again, Luminara Nylon and it feels really very silky. Not something that you tend to say about fabrics on outdoor jackets. Wearing it into town just over a t-shirt is fine, and the lycra wrist cuffs are brilliant. I was never a fan of jackets without adjustable wrist cuffs, but recently there seem to be better ways of fastening around the wrist. The Atom is perhaps one of the most comfortable that I have come across.

Internal Pocket

It has 2 hand warmer pockets and an internal storage pocket that is pretty damn big, the hand warmer pockets have one side of them made with the Luminara Nylon and have the front side covered with fleece, so you get warmth and comfort at the same time. Mmmmm.

The tail of the Atom comes down a fair way and keeps your bum warm- quite an important point, you might agree, if you have ever been on a hill with a cold bum.
Also, you can roll the whole thing up into its own hood. Great to have a small package just on top of the sack to shake out and stick on at a moments notice. You can crush it down smaller, we've even managed to get it into a 1litre waterproof bag... but I've never had the need to when going on the hill.

The hood itself is easily big enough to accomodate a small helmet (we're talking petzl elios type thing), and it has a volume adjuster as well, so that if you aren't wearing a helmet, it doesn't blow about too much.
As I mentioned, the fabric is silky smooth, however, I'm not sure how bombproof it would be if you started to scrape it up and down granite slabs. It might be fine, but as soon as the going gets gnarly, I'd tend to take it off and stow it in the sack, or wear it as a mid layer with a more robust jacket over the top.

Fleecy cheek pad, and annoying internal drawcord
A lot of thought has gone into what can make this jacket comfortable. The baffle around the mouth and cheeks when the hood is done up is covered over with light fleece and there is a small lycra flap across the back of the neck to prevent drafts from wafting down your neck. Nice little touches that show a well thought out bit of clothing.

The Atoms are insulated with Coreloft, Arc'teryx's version of primaloft. It is made with 100% polyester and is a lightweight and thermally efficient polyester staple fiber insulation.
Arcteryx says "Core Loft is constructed of a double strand of continuous polyester filaments. The finer yarns (1 denier) are "crimped" to help trap air molecules which in turn help trap body heat while the larger yarns (3.5 Denier) provide loft and resilience from compression. The fibres are siliconized to help add resistance to moisture and decrease drying time."
Yes, the jacket dries fast, I can attest to that, and the fabric appears to be breathable to a point, I certainly wouldn't go running in it, and its not really a noticable trait as you sit around getting warm on a hill.

To be totally honest, as far as I can tell if it is warmer than primaloft of the same weight, it is marginal. I'd love to give a comparison with drying times, but don't have a primaloft jacket to compare it to.

Yes, every jacket has its good points, but they also have their bad points.
The Atom has relatively few, but they are worth mentioning.
This happens EVERY time
The zip, designed to be easy opening- so that you can just pull the open part of the jacket and the zip undoes- works well. Too well. If you are sitting around, or even moving slightly, and the zip is not done all the way to the top it has a very annoying tendency to creep down until the jacket is gaping open. On a short walk through the fields the other day, despite the fact the zip was done up to the top, it kep creeping down. Every 3 or 4 minutes I had to re-zip it up to the top. Not a deal breaker, but a bit annoying.

The thing which is most annoying is the the toggles to cinch down the hood are on the inside of the jacket. Yes, it may make the outside of the jacket look sleek and snazzy, however, there is a minor issue in practice. Imagine you are sitting there in a rain/snow storm and it starts coming in through the hood. You want to close it up. You have to undo the jacket, fumble around inside the top for the drawcords (probably dispensing liberal amounts of snow/rain inside the jacket at the same time), pull them tight, and then do up the zip again. However, now, when you do the zip up, the cords don't sit down nicely inside the jacket, nope, they get caught up and stick out the top, and generally go up your nose. Really annoying.
Adjusting the hood. Thankfully not in a blizzard

Looking at the Atom SV vs the LT- The SV, as I mentioned has a hood, where as the lighter version- the LT, does not. The other major difference is that the SV has insulation all the way around the body. It is windproof throughout, and once zipped into it, with the hood up, it is like a cocoon. Fantastic, as long as you aren't about to suddenly break into serious amounts of exercise. You'll need to take it off soon enough, unless its ridiculously cold.
The LT on the other hand has underarm panels that are made of stretch fleece. not windproof, but they do let the jacket breathe a bit more, and may be a little more practical should you be using it to keep you warm as you participate in activity.

No, this isn't a jacket for hyperlightweight fiends, and people who want a slightly warmer layer to stick in a small sack for a Mountain Marathon. It's just a bit too heavy for that. As a belay jacket for a climber, yes, this would be a great jacket to throw on in a very cold place. Maybe a little too feature rich for someone on the higher end, if you are likely to be sitting on a belay for quite a long time as your partner hacks about above you, yes, this is a good jacket.
All packed up and ready to rock
I have used this in various situations of high demand, carrying things on and off hills, and then spending quite a while sitting and waiting in cold, wet, nasty conditions, before carrying other things back off hills, I've used it as a top layer and a mid layer, and I've used it for wandering down into town.

How I would improve it
Looking at the other options, I prefer aspects of other jackets, but I also prefer specific things about the Atom.
If I could have an insulated jacket with the cuffs and pockets of the Atom, with the hood pullcords on the outside, and a zip that didn't unfasten as you walked along/ sat still, it'd be pretty much perfect.

I can honestly say that despite its faults, this is pretty much the most used jacket for general hill walking, cragging and day to day life that I own. If I was going to pack a rucksack to take with me onto the hill right now, it'd be one of the first things on the pile.
The perfect jacket for hurrying up and waiting.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Lads Leap massage and an easy run

The weekend was pretty busy.
Saturday was taken up by Lads Leap, an English Championship race which I had entered a while back. I was very much looking forward to running with and against the best runners in England, but with my knee still not 100%, it was not to be.
Pre event massage at Lads Leap
I have run the course before, reccying it with Glossopdale, and it was a shame that I started feeling a bit of a niggle in my left knee as we went down the first descent. Running against 400 other guys, giving it everything they have with an appendage that isn't quite working properly maybe wasn't going to be the best idea in the world.

I decided to do the intelligent thing (though not the "fellrunning thing") of listening to my body and didn't run the race.
We were there in the capacity of Massage Therapists though, and had a great time talking with everyone from the fellrunning family, helping out with injuries and little things that cropped up. Although there were never times when we had huge queues of people waiting for a massage, once we started, we didn't stop for quite a while.

A checkpoint at the Rab MMM
The evening was filled with merriment as the Glossopdale Massive took over a room in the Globe for the best part of the evening, it was a 40th birthday, and that seemed like a good enough excuse for everyone to get to the pub. A great evening was had by all.

So my attempt at running in a Championship race was foiled, but I did get out for a bit of a run on Sunday. Lynne had entered the Rab Mini Mountain Marathon down in Macclesfield forest, and as I don't know that area well at all, I thought I'd go along for a bit of a run- not entering the race, just running about the place with a map and a camera seeing how my knee held out.
As it was, the weather turned out ok, despite warnings of rain and wind, (though there was a little snow and ice over the tops). The event was 3 hours long, so I planned to be out about 3 hours, at a nice easy pace.

Snow on the tops

All in all it was a delightful day in which I got up Shutlingsloe, across to the Cat and Fiddle, over to Shining Tor and back again. Roclites may not have been the best footwear decision I have ever made. It was still quite slippy underfoot, and I nearly came a cropper more than once. Happily, I stayed upright for the entire time though.
The knee seemed to cope admirably with the 23km that I got around, twinging occasionally, but generally being fairly uncomplaining. The hip mobility and glute activation work must be paying off.

Cat and Fiddle
So it would seem that I am fit enough to contemplate doing Edale Skyline next week, which was part of the reason for not doing Lads Leap (didn't want to crock the knee in a short race which would stop me from enjoying a longer day out on the hill). Its going to be a fun one as I have a night walk  planned for the Saturday night, the clocks go back, and then a race on Sunday. (and no, the night walk is not something I can get out of). Glad I won't be driving back from Skyline!
Runners in the mist

It looks like mobility and strength work over the next 6 days. Brilliant!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Ooooh. me knee. Again.

Since finishing the High Peak Marathon I've been getting a bit of gyp with my knee.
See here on my Global Therapies Blog as to my hypothesis and theory as to why it hurts, and what I intend to do about it.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

ShAFF- Charlie Spedding Lecture

So I was at ShAFF yesterday, doing the rounds, giving out free massages, for which, there will probably be a blog on the Global Therapies site pretty soon.
I only went to one thing yesterday, and that was a lecture, organised by AccelerateUK, given by Charlie Spedding.

For those of you who don't know (and I didn't), Charlie is the current fastest Briton to run a marathon. Sub 2:10. What is more astonishing is that he ran this time in the mid 1980s, won the London Marathon, and Bronze in the Los Angeles olympics.
Added to which, he is a really nice guy, and delivers a fantastic talk.

What was interesting was the way in which he spoke about being, although a fairly talented runner, he wasn't spectacularly successful, or indeed, ridiculously fast. For 10 year he ground out the miles in small track meets, not really setting the world alight, but doing quite well, thankyou very much.

It took a quantum shift in his mental attitude to arrive at the point where he was going to be really good. It wasn't just the training that he stepped up. As a talented runner, he certainly didn't slack in his training in the years leading up to his "epiphany", he was present and correct, and mentally there (how many of us go through training without mentally being "there"?!) but it was the language in his head, the subconscious talk about his training and his progress that he changed, which seems to have given him another level.

Ok, so it wasn't JUST that, but I am always struck, in the same way he is, that as Brits we are stuck with this concept of "not bad". We try to say things are good, but use the word "bad" to explain it, and qualify it with the word "not".
That has so many negative connotations that its not funny, why can't we start using positives to describe things? Anyhow, I'm way off track.

The talk was more about his road from coming dead last in his first ever race (the kids 100m at school) to his Olympic triumph. There wasn't much about his training schedule, (beyond not training HARD, but training PERFECTLY), and a fair amount of time was given to how he was mentally able to make himself a better runner. A lot of time was spent analysing his London Marathon victory, and explaining about what he was thinking, when he was thinking it, and how he tactically ran it. This, with clips from the race to illustrate his point was a good window into the mind of a master tactician.

He then went through the Olympic race in much the same way, and what makes it more interesting, was because although it was run in almost exactly the same time, the mental game, the tactical game and the physical issues for that race were so different. Charlie has a way with words, and an excellent speaking style, if you think that listening to someone talk about running marathons is boring, this man will change your ideas on that. I was wondering how he was going to fill the time up, and when he was finished I was astonished how time had flown.
Truely inspirational.

I don't know if he is giving his talk anywhere else, if he is, seek him out and listen to him, failing that, apparently his book is pretty damn good too.

On a final note, he was 32 when he was at the olympics. I heard one of the audience talking to him afterward saying that he felt like he had missed a trick by not applying himself in his late 20's to really become the best that he could be, and that at 31 or 32, he felt it was too late.
Charlie, ever the optimist, who, by his own admission can turn any bad thing around to make it good in his own head, came back with the comment... well, I was 32 and I won Bronze. The gentleman that won Gold, he was 37 going on 38.
There is always time.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Thoughts on gear post HPM

Now I've had time to recover and work out what happened over the High Peak Marathon, its about time to look at the gear I was using (and also other people), and have a think about what was good, and what was, frankly, a bit useless.

Too much stuff?
At the start, it was a bit of a gear junkies' dream with all these people flashing around fantastic bits of kit. I saw one bloke with a Petzl Nao, which aren't meant to even be released yet. Nice.
I was very impressed with the Hope vision 1, which Chris, on my team had. It was pretty damn bright, and lasted forever at what seemed like a ridiculous intensity. It uses 4 AA batteries. Not sure what it feels like to wear on the head, considering my Silva trailrunner plus has a waist pack for that amount of power. It was like looking at a car headlight when you got blasted by it.
I think the main difference between the Hope and the Silva is the beam pattern. The Silva is much more of a diffuse beam that gives a great pattern all over the floor in front of you, where as the Hope very much concentrates the beam in a powerful spot in one particular area.

After part of the night was through and the fog was so thick that the light on my headtorch wasn't even reaching the ground without being bounced off into my face, out came the trusty Exposure lights Joystick, which as a hand torch, weighs next to nothing- about 92 grams, and pumps out a decent amount of light for 10hours. (and a whole lot more on high, but only for 3 hours). (I only have the MkII version, they are now up to MkVI and 325 lumens max output)!
Yes, I would love a petzl Nao, but the Silva, along with the extra beam provided by the Joystick was easily good enough for what I needed for the amount of time in the dark. Very happy with that.
The only annoying thing was when I took my rucksac off to change into and out of waterproofs, the headtorch (with battery pack in the rucksac) had to come off. Not the end of the world, but slightly annoying nevertheless. It could be solved by having the wire routed through to somewhere else on me... but that would mean carrying the battery pack on my person rather than in the bag, which is not what I was looking for.

mmm. Nice. Proper colour for Mudclaws
Shoes- there were a lot of different types, as to be expected. My inov8 mudclaws did well, and through the grough and hag fest that was Bleaklow, I wouldn't have had anything else. It was so rubbish underfoot that I was still slipping, even with crazy studs on my shoes. I wouldn't have liked to do that with less grippy shoes, though when we got on the flagstones from snake summit, they didn't feel like the best shoes in the world. I think that it might have been an idea to put a pair of Superfeet insoles in the shoes, considering the distance of the race. By the end, your biomechanics are getting pretty dodgy, and any help that you can get is very much appreciated. I did it for the 15 trigs, and in hindsight, with my knee aching a bit from a slightly dodgy running style in the last phases of the race, it would have been a good idea.
(improving the muscles and gait would be an even better solution rather than relying on a "crutch" to help my running style be better, but after about 40 miles, things start to fall apart. Need to work on the legs)

You can see the 22 is a bit large for this kind of thing
Rucksacks- I knew that my trusty Berghaus Bladdered would probably be a little too small, as would the Osprey talon 5.5. The next smallest bag that we have is the Osprey talon 22. The added bonus of this pack was the fact it has 2 waist belt pockets. stretchy side pockets, AND stretchy pockets on the shoulder straps. Lots of places to stash food and items that you need on the go. For that, it was excellent, though the actual bag itself was a bit too big for what I needed. A smaller, more compact bag would have been good, but I just don't have anything like that which has the amount of stash space in it.
There were a lot of OMM last drops, and OMM Ultra 12s around, which I have to say, do look pretty good. There were of course a number of OMM Classic 25s, a number of bags that I didn't recognise (shock horror!), and a couple of trusty old packs which were still going after years of abuse.
Looking around, it would have been nice to have had a Haglofs Ace M pack for the race, but I suspect that although I want one, I probably won't have enough need to actually go and buy one. 

A well cut spektr smock
Waterproof- Used the Spektr smock, and it performed very well. The key point was that even though it was blowing hard on Bleaklow, I still had my head torch on, which kept the hood firmly on my head. Not so sure how well it would have faired otherwise- my head isn't quite big enough to fill it!

Gloves- the trusty Sealskinz lobster mitts were excellent. There was one point up on Swains head when my hands were definitely getting cold, but that was because of a lack of decent windproof cover, not through badness of the gloves. We stopped to waterproof up, and my hands heated up very quickly indeed.

Underlayers- I wore a helly hansen warm freeze base layer and a Rab vapourise stretch top all the way around. At times, yes, I felt a bit hot, at times, yes, I was a bit cold, and there were a lot of others who wore just a base layer with a waterproof overlayer when they needed it. Had we been going faster and keeping body temperature up all the way around I suspect this would have been a better option, however, the speed we went at was pretty much the right speed for the clothing I had planned. Any slower and I would have been cold and miserable the whole way around, though I could have gone faster and not been too worried about the smock overheating. (note, I mean that in terms of body temperature, not the fact I could have gone faster, I don't think I could).

Thinking about it, if I had the stamina, ability and endurance to go fast all the way around, keeping my temperature up, the ideal layering system would be the merino base layer with the spektr for when it got wet, and a Montane Fireball smock should I lose heat. However, thats an ideal, and I probably won't be getting a Fireball smock anytime soon either. Slightly heavier fleeces will have to do, and its good training to carry more weight!

Socks- I bit the bullet and used Sealskinz socks, with smartwool ankle socks under them. I have to say, I was very happy with them. At no point did my feet feel like they were going to drop off from cold, and nor did I get any blisters in painful places. (I did have 1 blister, but didn't realise until this morning when I found it, so it doesn't really count). I'm not totally convinced by them yet, mainly because of all the bad experiences I have had with them, but this time, brilliant.

So, most of my stuff, apart from the decision to carry a bit much food was great. Was there anything I took that was a waste of space and weight? No. There are a few things I would like to invest in were I to do this kind of race again- a lightweight 4man bothy and a rucksac that is small, but easily accessible, but beyond that, it all did its job marvellously well.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Bog Warriors take on the High Peak Marathon

Julien and Ian, pre-race
An MEP, and IT consultant, a construction consultant and a massage therapist go for a run in the fog and bog.
Sounds like the beginning to a very bad joke, but that was basically last night. Having been drafted into a team, pretty much at last minute, (though it was actually more like 2 teams that had been amalgamated together, with me tacked on at the end), I had not had the chance to neurotically worry about the weather, conditions underfoot, navigational problems, and all the other things that can make a long run go from challenging to downright unpleasant.
As it turns out I spent most of Friday day poring over a map and google earth, looking at lines that I had no idea if they were still on the ground, and trying to memorise key bits of the route which I had never done. Packed up all my stuff (I took far too much food, but thats another story), poked my head out the window and realised I could see a few planets and stars and thought, "oh, we've been lucky, a kind of clear night".

I then got a lift over to Edale with Sue, another late entrant, (though she had at LEAST 2 and a half weeks notice!) and as soon as we started driving, the clag came in. And it stayed in. Over the hill and into Edale it was approaching peasouper conditions. So much for a clear night then. This could make navigation a bit amusing.

race HQ
Once at the race HQ I had my first problem of the evening, finding out who my team were. Never met them before and only knew one of their names. A quick text to Ben to tell him I was there and was wandering about in a turquoise helly (maybe I should have been wearing a carnation as well...) we soon met up and had a brief chat about potential route choice. Howard was next, a veteran of HPM's, having a number of them under his belt. When I met him I saw he had a Lowe Alpine Contour runner bag- anyone who has one of those is alright in my book, so we sat down (or rather, stood up, considering the mass of bodies in the HQ and chatted about the slightly less obvious lines in the race).
Kit Check
Chris turned up soon after, and by 2230 we had registered, and got our kit checked, there wasn't long before we started, and people were gathering by the door. Being the 3rd running team off was a little daunting (not many lights to follow), but all too soon we were out of the door, away from the bright lights, and off down the road on our way up to Edale Cross.

The key to our plan for the run was to keep it nice and steady for the first half, so that we had enough in the tank to be able to run the last few miles as well. It took us 15 mins to get up to Hollins Cross, with Chris spending much of the time trying to work out how his new headtorch worked, and by the time we reached the checkpoint we had been overtaken by a couple of teams, and had overtaken a couple as well. We then dropped over the back and took a lower line on the South side of the hill, while all the other teams elected to go over the top. We jogged through, and got to the top of Lose hill before any of the teams that passed us, and they ended up going past again as we trundled down the hill into the to the outskirts of Hope. Which was nice, mainly because they were young and excited about running around like idiots, and having to pass the same team twice in about 30 mins when they were going as hard as they could is always going to be amusing.

Up Winhill, past Twitchhill, and we were doing well, keeping it steady, and not having too much trouble in any way shape or form. We hit the trig point check point, dibbed, and then shot off down through the woods. Thankfully, as one of the teams who started first, we had the advantage of not having a mass of teams on the descent to get past, or who were attempting to get past us. Down to the bottom, and straight up the other side, staying on the road up and over into High Neb. Legs were still feeling good, I wasn't wearing gloves as it was still fairly mild, and it was still clagged out, so we couldn't see more than about 10 metres in any direction. This looked like being a theme for the evening. We passed one of the walking teams just as we crossed the cattlegrid before heading up onto the moor.

Despite the low visibility we made our way to the checkpoint, dibbed and got out of there, continuing up and over to Moscar. Along this stretch we were overtaken by what looked like a very strong team, recognising this wasn't going to be the first time this evening that was going to happen. We jogged along under the edge, which you couldn't see unless you were standing directly underneath it, it was like being enclosed in a fog bubble that contained just us and our lights. Along and down into Moscar, the first food station, and the first opportunity to pull out if you were really feeling bad. As we walked in a voice piped up out of the gloom "is there a Tim Budd in this team"?
Oh no, who has been spreading rumours about me? I warily replied to the affirmative.
"Oh, Hi!" comes the answer, "Caroline McCann says hello!" Nice. Thanks Caroline!

We grabbed a little sustenance, a cup of tea, banana etc, and I refilled my water bladder, and off we trotted down the road with Howard recounting how this was a new part of the run, with the original route taking more of a scenic route through the fields, but it's had to be re-routed due to various issues.
Check point. In the Clag.
Bottom of the road, and hang a right, up onto the moor. This is where things could begin to get interesting. We haven't been lost yet, but this could be our chance, especially in the continuing zero visibility.
Not much of a problem getting up there, though there was a moment of doubt as we couldn't find a very obvious path. Then we found it, which led us directly to the Checkpoint, then up and onto the edge, getting a little confused and wayward around Saltcellar. I've never been up this way before, and I can say now, that considering the view (next to nothing), I still haven't really been up there!
A couple of teams came hurtling past us, as we got to the really quite massive path, which we followed along to Back tor. Its a long way along that path, and there was a map stop to make sure that we had not missed it, and just as we hit the turn off, another team passed- I recognised the voice, and it was Julien, Mark, John and Jasmine from High Peak Roller Bladers, bouncing along and doing well, not even checking to map read. We followed their lights across to Lost Lad, and had a minor navigational faff working out exactly which direction to head in to hit Shepards clough, but it was worth it, as we beelined in perfectly, hit the CP and turned to head up the route I had seen on Google Earth the day before.

Still minimal visibility and working from memory to a trod that I wasn't sure was going to be there worked perfectly. Up the side, and over foul clough, and a team came up behind us. I figured we were going in vaguely the right direction if there was someone following us, and as they passed, lo and behold, it was Julien and the High Peak Rollerbladers- again. No idea how we got in front of them, but we did.
First teams at Snake Summit
Directionally I now got a bit muddleheaded and have no idea how we really reached the next CP, but reach it we did, and then some. Ian Winterburn and Tiggers Brown Vests passed us just as we were getting to it, and we started out on the long horrendous bog monster patch that just seems to go on forever.
We walked. I couldnt see anything for mist except lights around us. At times, I couldn't even see the ground in front of me for the mist, and at several points after crossing massive groughs we lost the path completely, only to find it again a little later on.
It carried on like this for, oh, about a year or so.
Teams passed us, yet there wasn't anything we could really do. The path wasn't what you could call runnable, and my legs were beginning to burn. I was constantly on the look out for massive bogs which could swallow you whole, and at one point, Ben stepped into a puddle, that ended up coming up to his waist. The only reason he didn't sink further was because he threw his arms out. He got out, commenting that he didn't even touch the bottom.
Flipping heck.

Later, much later the path began to swing West, and underfoot began to take on a slightly different character. Less bog monster, and more will sapping nightmare that can only be described as the terrain leading up to Swains Head. We hit the navigational point of the mushroom stone dead on, (a stone which I hadn't heard about until yesterday, and has only seen 1 photo of), and then carried on up to Swains Head.

It was getting cold. Even with my Mitts on, my hands were cold, I was beginning to shiver, I hadn't eaten for ages, but didn't want to get any food out because it would chill my hands even more. It can't be to much further. Another team passes us, and I'm stumbling through the groughs. Right. Action.
We stopped to put on waterproofs, and in the meantime I grabbed food and started to nibble. Couldn't eat any faster or I would have come to a dead stop, but at least I was getting food into my system.
The drag up to Swains Head, which I have only done once before, in relatively good weather was as bad as I remembered. It took and indeterminable amount of time. We lost the path, we gained it, and lost it again, and ended up hitting it by instinct.

A quick stop and then carry on through groughy wasteland. The original plan being to work our way up the ridge, (not something I was looking forward to in my windchilled state). Going across to, and beyond Swains head was definitely the worst point of the whole race. I was questioning why I was there, questioning why I wasn't tucked up in bed somewhere, why I decided to even do this race at all, and how nice it would be to just stop. If there was a Minibus there that could have taken me home, I'd have got in it without hesitation at that point.
It was light by the time we hit Snake summit
On and on through the groughs, and eventually we hit a path heading south. Take this one.
I had an inkling that we had gone far too far to the West and that we had actually hit Far Black. As we continued up the hill, in the shelter of the grough, I was convinced. Brilliant. A chance to conserve some energy by not shivering and make good time by going up the "path". Which by now had been pretty churned up. The mud wasn't quite bog monster status, but it had a lot of Gloop factor.
Up the grough, and (eventually) bang onto Bleaklow stones.

From there, there are a couple of interesting and exciting navigational ways you can take to get to Bleaklow Head and Wainstones. I know them, but not all that well, and it was decided that we would follow the stakes. A safe option under the circumstances. It was just getting light, and by the time we were mid Bleaklow, head torches were finally off, and instead of seeing nothing but darkness and fog, we could just see fog. Nice to have a change.
To Bleaklow head. good navigation by Ben, and then to Wainstones, and a steady jog down to Snake summit. It was fantastic to finally get proper running again after a few hours of trudging endlessly through ankle/knee/waist deep bog.

We made good time down to Snake, where Lynne and Matt Dawson were cheering on all and sundry who passed. They had been there since some ridiculous time in the morning, and they were a welcome sight. Lynne took a load of photos, and they are going to be taking up a large portion of the photos in this blog.
mmm. "food"
We stuffed a load of food into our mouths, I replenished my water, and looked forward to the rest of the flagstones across Bleaklow. Cross the road, with a longing look at my car which Lynne had driven up to Snake Summit- and across the flags. A shuffle over the stones was the next order of the day, over to Mill hill. I knew it was a long way, and I knew it would take a while, so I kept up what I hoped was a decent pace and we played yoyo with a couple of other teams as they walked and ran, and we walked and ran. It was complete purgatory. Legs hurting, muscles just about working and causing grimaces at every step. It was just time to grit the teeth and keep on keeping on.
off into the clag
After another couple of years later and we finally, finally, finally reached Mill hill. Across and up to Kinder, where we passed Andy Howie from Pennine.
The climb to Kinder was horrible, and I can honestly say I have never felt such heavy legs on a climb. My adductors and vastus medialis were beginning to really hurt, as were my feet. Across the top we were just shuffling, and there was nothing more to it than that. Along past Red Brook 2 figures popped out of the mist, John and Charlie, who were out for a run. Apparently they had taken an "interesting" line and just happened upon the path as we appeared out of the mist, (I would love to say that we ran past, but really, it was much less than a run).

Coming off Kinder is a bit of a blur, and we hit Edale Cross, where Carl was camping out, taking photos- another delightful surprise. I could barely believe how many Glossopdalers were out, and it was a great morale boost. The Haribo came out at this point, and I knew I'd be surviving on sugar up to the end of this now. Passed Brown Knoll, and I fished around for another haribo packet. I came out with some Kendal Mint cake. Well, its not haribo, but it will definitely do.
Across and over the bog to the North East of the trig, checking a bearing we slushed through the mud, now pretty much immune to anything.
Just in case you were wondering, yes, the clag was still down, and no, the visibility was no more than 20 metres at best. Still clagged in, after 10 hours or so. Off the hill, and across Lords seat. About 300 metres before the next checkpoint there were a kindly couple doling out haribo and coffee. More sugar. Excellent. Just what I need.
The wind was blowing across the edge, sending hard mist into our heads. (thats rain). Last check point, and we are still running. Fantastic, making pretty good time at the end. So glad that we are still running instead of walking this last part of the grind.
A little further ahead, who should we bump into, but Becky, Alison, Lindsay and John Stephensen. Another uplifting moment as we toiled on to the final point at Edale Cross.
Legs really hurting now. I can see that Ben is also suffering, wheras Howard and Chris seem to be not all that much worse for wear.
Its the superhuman old man syndrome. Once you start them running, they just don't stop.

Final downhill into Edale and a "sprint" up the road to the end.
Yes, its still misty and claggy, and we stopped the clock at 11:18:51. Not too shabby at all, considering we were an amalgamated team with very little preparation. In the end we were very well matched as a team, running together all the way around, never with anyone lagging behind or shooting off ahead. A brilliant effort.

Discussing tactics, post race
Julien with the Mixed team trophy.
High Peak Rollerbladers- 1st mixed team in 9:18 or so. Mark, Jasmine, John and Julien
Lots of things hurt now, and I think I may take a couple of days rest from running, but it was a fantastic experience. The only thing that annoyed me was that we ran through crappy weather for the entire thing. I'm sure that there are some fantastic views to be had across the entire route. I suspect that I'll be doing it again in the summer when I can actually see what is going on, so that I can appreciate what is out there, rather than running on what is essentially a boggy, treacherous, clag filled treadmill.

Thanks to all the marshalls who stood out in the bog for hours for us lot to come past and dib, and for the great organisation. Well done to High Peak Rollerbladers, who finally won a prize after a number of years in perpetual 2nd and 3rd place. (ok, they were still 2nd overall, but only by about 15 mins), its one heck of a trophy as well.
And of course thanks to Ben, Chris and Howard for the camaradarie and the trot around the hills. It was (mostly) a pleasure. For a team that was put together at the last minute we hung together well, and ran well. A great night out, but next time... its going to be in the daylight.

If you're interested, here is the track.