Sunday, 19 October 2014

FRA relays 2014

Glossopdale had 4 teams in for the FRA relays this year. Mens A and B, and Womens A and B. As ever, there was the last minute panic of people being ill, being injured and dropping in and out of teams, but our capable team captains handled all the hustle and bustle with aplomb.

The relays were held on Middleton fell this year. For those who don't know where it is, its a bit south of Sedbugh and a bit north of Kirkby Londsdale. And if you don't know where they are, its basically just a bit to the right of the Lake District.
Being in Leg 2, I was in an early car to get up to the start. Fell running and early mornings tend to go together very well. Or at least, they just seem to go together.

Pennine Legend John Doyle, warming up. Or is that Billy Connelly?
We faffed around for a bit, putting up the tent, a fairly amusing prospect given the rather fresh breeze - which we just so happened to put up pretty close to the hand-over/finish line - perfect for loud shouting at our teams, and indeed others. No matter how well we did,
or didn't do, I'm pretty sure there wasn't anyone else who rivaled us for supporting volume. (Except for maybe the MC on the mic, who kept up a constant humerous babble throughout the entire event.. a good effort).
The leg one runners all set off at a ridiculously fast pace, thrashing off up the hill. The course, from where we were stood was one of those that fell runners dread. "Very runnable". Or, as others have put it, "horrendously runnable".
Mark and I set off to make ourselves ready for leg 2, figuring that we had about 45 or 50 mins before our leg 1 runner, Jamie, got back. We got kit checked, stood about for a bit as we watched the top few teams come in and change over before we wandered into the holding area.

The Start
The first Glossop runner in was Chris, our B team leg 1 runner, swiftly followed by Caity, the Ladies A team runner. Pennines A team had long gone by then, and Pennines V40 team, with Stevie K and Noel had also gone off, but all of a sudden Jamie came into view, round the corner, and tagged us off on our Leg.

As mentioned in the last race report- the Ian Hodgeson relay, being matched with someone who has beaten you in all the races you've ever done with them doesn't half focus the mind on training. Unfortunately I've had a cold for the past week, and DOMs from a particularly nasty training seminar last week, so I haven't been doing anything outside for the past week... I only just managed to get out for a short run yesterday to check that my legs still worked. My basic idea on this horribly runnable route was to hang on to Marks coat tails as he stormed around.
We blasted up the start of the hill with the wind behind us, overtaking a couple of teams before we got out of the first field, and were closing in on the Pennine V40 team pretty fast. I wondered if we weren't going off just a bit too hot, but nothing really to do but keep the pace up. I managed to get in front of Mark as we started the long traverse/ascent up to checkpoint 1, overtaking Stevie and Noel. We kept up a decent pace all the way up, taking teams all the way, and gaining back places on the Glossopdale B team (Harshan and Tom), and the Glossopdale Ladies (Zoe and Julie) before we got to the checkpoint.

A bit of walking, a lot of running, and an awful lot of breathing, and still we climbed. Up, and past a Bowland team, HBT ladies, Helm Hill, and so on. My ears popped for the 2nd time on the ascent, and suddenly I could hear again. We hammered on up the hill, I wasn't so concerned about who we caught now, but rather that Stevie and Noel didn't catch us back up. Mark took the lead, and I struggled in his wake, but we stayed very well matched through the whole way up, which I was very happy about.

We actually hit the top a lot faster than I expected, and dived down the otherside of the hill, passing a very shouty Andy Fox (if you've never seen him excited, get out on an FRA relay), and followed the flags (which were quite unhelpfully yellow, against a backdrop of yellow grass... exceptionally hard to see), down to the "pointless" checkpoint, a 200m drop, and then a climb straight back up again.
I waited for Mark at the bottom of the drop, tying my shoelace, before facing the climb. Pennine V40's were behind us, but in eyeshot, closing us down as they dropped down the hill, but I was relatively confident of our climbing ability... though the field was stretched out in front of us, up a hill that was Jura-like in steepness, but not in terrain.
At times, it was less like the FRA hill running champs, and more like the UKA uphill bearcrawl champs. It took us a while to get up that steep slope, covered in heather, and tussocks and holes, but Mark and I were in touching distance as we reached the top, and began the run through the mist up to the summit.

Dib at the top, and then a hoon down a hill, with blustery weather buffeting us from the left as we slipped, slid, ran and fell down the hill. Another 3 teams overtaken on the descent, another dibber, and then the final stretch back to the handover. It was only about 2-3km, but into the wind all the way, and across rough ground. My legs were shot, but everyone was in the same boat. Stop and walk, and a load of teams would have come past us, so we battled on. Overtaking Buxton, and tucking in with Rossendale.
About a mile away from the end, we were neck and neck with Rossendale, both teams as fast as each other, as I noticed my shoe had come undone. Again. (for the more observant of you, no, I was not using the patented "wendy dodds technique" of doing my laces up, as mentioned at Kentmere).
Ah well. I'm not stopping now, by the time I've done tying it up, they'll be too far ahead to catch.

As we ploughed into the final descents through the fields above the event centre I realised that the transit areas were getting really muddy. Quite deep and muddy. Loose shoe and deep mud was most probably going to end up with me losing it somewhere, so I made a decision that if it came off, I'd just leave it there, and come back for it later.
Thankfully, I managed to dance through the last few bits of bog and retain my footwear, coming into the finish area a good 10 seconds before the Rossendale team, handing over to our leg 3 runners.
Me and Mark coming into the finish.

The terrain was horrendously runnable. The wind was ridiculously stiff. Mark and I ran out of our skins, coming in 27th fastest on our leg, bringing us from 84th to 40th overall. No wonder I felt rough at the end for about 20 mins.
We slowly recovered, eating and drinking, and the other Glossopdale teams came in, with the Navigation leg guys going out.

Soon enough, Dark Peak A came in for their final transition, sending off Rob Little on the final leg with a good couple of minutes lead on Calder Valley in 2nd. If we were to be anywhere near as good as last year (in our heads) we needed to get our final leg runner off before Rob finished. Unfortunately Tim C, running with Andy O on our Navigational leg had twisted his ankle pretty badly within the first few miles of starting, and they were not quite as fast as they wanted to be. However, they ran on, and managed to get around the Nav leg and get our leg 4 runner, Alasdair, off about a minute before Rob came flying into the finish. Superb, we're doing pretty well, it has to be said.
Charlie and Andy hand over to Al.

Al came in 50 mins later (or thereabouts), the GDH A team coming in 50th overall. There was obviously some stiff competition this year at the sharp end of the race, considering that we were in the mid-twenties last year. Still, room for improvement next year, I think.
Al, with his perennial double thumbs up pose.
As a team we managed to get all our teams off on leg 4 before the mass start, something that hasn't been done before, so well done to all those involved.
If you blow this picture up, you can see Alice jumping with joy as Sue and Jude are arriving just before the mass start, giving Alice a few minutes headstart on everyone else.
Also - fantastically well done to both John Hewitt, running his first race since Dollar - a good comeback from injury - and also to Alice, running with a dodgy tummy, and generally not feeling exactly well.
John Hewitts race face.

To be honest though, I think everyone on all the teams deserves a mention as they ran with heart. And that's the important thing.
Womens A - Caity Rice, Zoe Barton, Julie Cox, Cheryl Stitt, Lindsay Palmer and Jo Nuttal
Womens B - Alison Holt, Rachel Walton, Vicki Hamilton, Sue Clapham, Jude Stansfield and Alice Willson
Mens A - Jamie Helmer, Mark Ollerenshaw, Andy Oliver, Tim Culshaw, Alasdair Cowell
Mens B- Chris Jackson, Harshan Gill, Tom Young, John Stephenson, Charlie Eaton and John Hewitt

Well done guys. Well run.

And finally, can I say how wonderful it is to see Si Coldrick out on the hill and racing well again. Great to see him well after the Cow episode earlier this year.
Good effort Si. I swear the titanium gives you an extra few seconds of speed.

Full results here.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Ian Hodgeson Mountain Relay 2014

Early Morning Pick Up.
It's October, which means we're coming toward the end of the fell racing season, and the relays have begun in earnest before the XC kicks in. This year we've had a few injuries across the spectrum of Glossopdale, and so the team for the IHMR didn't look quite the same as it did a few weeks ago (with the ever gallant Andy O standing in on leg 2 at the last minute).

As such, we weren't entirely sure quite what the running order would be, as it happened, even until we got there.
The team takes shape
I picked up Andy O and Mark O and we travelled up in the morning, expecting to meet up with the rest of the team at Patterdale. Everything was going well, as we picked up Phil just outside Patterdale, having ditched his Camper-van somewhere. Caity and Al soon turned up, and having registered the team, I was busy handing out numbers and commemorative coasters. We got around to 30 mins to go before the start, and Jamie arrived, fresh from a night of no sleep, thanks to a child being ill, so that was everyone except for Tim C, who was ostensibly meant to be our leg 1 runner.
Time ticked down.
10mins, 5mins, 3min... as the teams were being called to the
Tim and John Arrive!
start line, a car crawled its way through the crowds. Its Tim and John. Yay! However, by this time, Plan B had already swung into action, and Jamie, who needed to get back to the family joined up with Phil on the start line while the logistics for the rest of the day started in earnest.

Tim, Mark, John and I stood around with a cup of coffee, watching the leg 1 runners hoof it off into the distance, with Phil and Jamie somewhere around mid-pack. We then went off to get changed, as John enjoyed himself trying to work out just how to put his bike back together.
Soon enough (too soon, in fact, but nevermind the details), Al was back, and the 4 of us, with John gamely trying to keep up on a bike, headed up to Kirkstone pass, ready for the change over from leg 2-3.
We figured it would take about 45 mins for leg 1, and maybe 1:30 or so for leg 2, all things being well.
Phil and Jamie, heading off on Leg 1

We were one of the first cars up at the pass, which wasn't a bad thing, getting a parking space being a bit of a priority. It was flipping cold up there, and the mist was down. Same as a year ago - there really wasn't a whole lot to see around the place, though occasionally the veil of fog lifted slightly, and we were given a glimpse of Red Screes.
Soon enough the car park began to fill up with runners and supporters. Big Jackets on, and we wandered around re-acquainting ourselves with the fellrunning fraternity. Unsurprisingly, Borrowdale stormed into view first, Morgan Donnelly and partner being a couple of minutes ahead of the next pair - Calder Valley, who in turn were followed by Dark Peak.
The view at Kirkstone, taken when the cloud had lifted...

No need to worry, we weren't expecting Andy and Caity til a fair while longer.
We stood in the wind, and looked expectantly up to the hillside. Team after team streamed in. Pretty quickly, Pennine had come and gone. More and more teams came and went. Andy and Caity must have got lost. Hopefully they got lost, as that would mean neither of them is injured...
Pennine Handover
Then Pennine V40 arrived in- and Stefan gave us the news that he'd seen the Glossop pair heading off somewhere that wasn't the right way... Ah - our suspicions were correct. well. Nevermind. We'll just have to try and make back some time on the last 2 legs.
Pennine Womens team came through.
Pennine Ladies, handing over

The marshals were beginning to debate when to have the mass start, as there were now only 8 teams of 70 left on the hill.... We knew it was coming, but it was forestalled as a couple of teams were seen through the mist, making their way down toward the road. Andy and Caity! Yes!
As they came in, decrying their navigational skills and a twisted ankle, Tim C and Al shot off up Red Screes and we all bundled into the car for a welcome bit of warmth.
Andy O and Caity come storming in
Caity and Andy can join the many many people that have messed up navigationally in a race. Not really a problem. Ok, we may have set off on leg 3 in 62nd place, but really, thats a minor issue. They're relatively non-injured, and learned something from the situation. We're here for a decent day out in the hills and were never going to win, so we settled in to see what happens on the next 2 legs. Added to that, they've probably got the most distance AND ascent for their money out of the whole lot of  us today.

I drove down to Sykeside, where Mark and I ostensibly began warming up - firstly by actually warming up with the heater in the car, and then with a bit of a run about. Not expecting Al and Tim to arrive any time soon, we killed time, chatting with some Pennine runners, and I ran up to the look out point to see what I could see. The Dark Peak Ladies had gone off a good few minutes before, along with a few other teams, but Pennine Ladies were still hanging around.
Catching up with fellrunning buddies
I turned around to look up the hill...What could I see?
Al. And Tim.
Crikey. They'd picked up 22 places in the leg.

My view, shortly before realising that Al and Tim were right behind me.
I hammered back down to the start pen shouting for Mark, tearing off my jacket and throwing it at Caity. Mark appeared into view, jacket still on as Al dibbed the dibber, and handed it over - and off we went. Following a pair of runners up the path to the first checkpoint, Mark comically trying to take his jacket off and run at the same time - eventually got it stowed into his bag and we started up the main drag to Hart Crag. On the way up there is a split where we could see 4 teams in front of us take the right hand choice. Uphill through bog. All the way to the top. I remember recceing this with Andy 2 years ago. The quickest line then was up the path, and thats what I'm going with today.
Ignoring people in front of you taking one line and doing your own thing is quite difficult when the clag is coming down. Mark was a few steps behind me, and I struck off up the path. If we can take these hard, we can take back a decent few places up here.
No-one else around.
Keep it up, legs pumping, arms working hard, Mark having trouble behind me - which I'm happy about. I was thinking it'd be me fighting to keep up with him. (the hill reps must be working).

We popped out out over onto the top of the rise, with the rest of the hill to the top of Hart Crag in front of us, but, most importantly, with the Dark Peak Ladies and 3-4 other teams still somewhere off to our right, in the valley coming up to our level. Excellent, time to bust on up to the top. Keeping on keeping on.
I led on up through the mist to the top, dibbing in at the summit, as another team appeared out of the mist from a completely different direction. Wierd.
Thanking the marshals, and running on fairly tractionless rocks, off into the mist we went. I was fairly confident of the route, and just blasted away, knowing that on a good day, Mark would trounce me completely, on an off day, he'd only just be behind me. Through the mist, on and upward to Fairfield, past Daz's memorial plaque, and memories of 2 years ago, and then a storming descent through the scree to St.Sunday Crag.

Across St Sunday, we very nearly took a very very bad line, which I again remember reccying a couple of years ago and thinking - no. Never do this route. Luckily, we just stopped leaping down an inviting looking gully, and carried on along the right path.
Off the craggy bit, and down some fantastic grassy lines that I was just making up as I went along, and then the climb to the top. It went on for quite a while, and with no-one to chase up the hill, it was a real drag, but at no point did we stop running. There were a pair who appeared behind us, and were following our every move. I had my suspicions that they would shadow us all the way and then try to out sprint us at the end.

Nothing really to do but go. Over the top, dib, and down the rocky path, making up lines around footpaths, staying on the grass as much as possible. We flew down the hill as hard as we dared on slippy stones and bog, aquaplaning through puddles, and if anyone ever tells you that their Inov8s are the grippiest shoes in the world and grip to ANYTHING, well quite frankly, they aren't running hard enough.

Final dibber before the horrible stone step descent to the show ground, and we were finally overtaken by the lurkers behind us. Mark was running hard with loud footsteps as we charged down the road, but they were just too far ahead of us for a sprint finish to change the outcome. Shame, but there you go. 1:19:38 - 3 mins faster than last year. Excellent, and we picked up a further 5 places beyond Al and Tim's effort.

We ended up 35th overall, and in the end, barely 2 mins behind the Pennine V40 team. Not too bad a come back from quite a navigational amusement on Leg 2. Good day out on the hills, and with some great lessons learnt.
Well done to the team, Phil, Jamie, Caity, Andy O, Tim C, Al, Mark O, and of course, the irrepressible John H for his support throughout the day.

Apologies for the lack of photos during our leg, I was a bit busy trying to put one foot in front of the other as fast as possible... and finally, a link to the results for the day.