Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Long Mynd Valleys 2015

The second part of the Glossopdale Shropshire weekend took place just out of Church Stretton, doing that fabulous race which is the Long Mynd Valleys. A decent number of Glossopdale were in attendance, mainly because it is the first of our Championship races this year.
I was keen to test myself on it, and see if I could improve on my time from last year. Post- Titterstone Clee I
Group recce, post titterstone clee
managed 2:00:42. This year, I wondered if there was a possibility of a sub 2 hour race for me, despite the snow on the ground, which would make the going a fair bit tougher.

We arrived early, and could see that the day was going to be a fine one despite the cloud in the valley. Before we started, there would be a fine inversion for those who were on the top of the Mynd. However, it was pretty damn cold down in the valley where we were registering. As more people came in to register, Steve and I had a wander up the first hill, and then a look over the final descent, which was as steep as I remembered it from last year, but underfoot was very hard - frozen, and with very little give at all. It looked like it might well be a fast finish.

As the time came, more of us flocked to the parts of the starting valley which were bathed in sunshine - until we were called over to the starting pen. In the intervening hour between registering and starting I had managed to lose my elastic band with my number on it which needed to be deposited at CP2, so I was rebuffed from the starting pen, and told to find it, or else I would not be starting. No time to argue, I ran up to the registration, asked for another band, which was hastily penned by a volunteer, and then pelted back down to the start pen again.
Thankfully, the organiser was still waffling on about the pitfalls of running without appropriate gear, and where we needed to deposit the wrist band etc, and everyone else was standing around getting cold. At least I had managed to get in a final bit of warm up, even if it was a bit fast for my liking.

Soon enough (but not soon enough to stop us from being freezing), we were allowed to start, and off we went, haring off up the track, which had been pretty slippy earlier on in the morning. I had elected to wear Mudclaws - which have had a fair amount of wear, so not the greatest of grip, and didn't bother with spikes. Considering the race started at 1145, by the time we got to the top of the hill, the really cold ice would at least have been melted a little by the sun.
Well, and I lent Lynne my spikes for her boots as she was walking up some of the more shaded areas of the mynd, and was much more likely to encounter solid ice.

Up onto the first hill, and the guys at the front were still running. I thought about it for a moment, and ran as much as I could before thinking about just how long the race was going to be, and decided not to completely waste myself in the first 5 minutes, and took to a fast walk. There was already a selection being made, and I was not in the front group, but I was in the midst of the second group on the field, which was encouraging. 
The plunge down into Jonathans hollow was quite an interesting experience - last year it was nice and soft and studs sank into the earth and turf as we descended. This year it was rock hard, and if you weren't careful, grip was the first thing to go, so I opted for the slightly rougher line through the dead bracken, which was slower on paper, but faster in practice - overtaking a fair few people.
On the next drag up, I continued to pass some of those that had shot off a bit too fast and was pretty happy with where I was in the race.

The first proper slog of the day followed, and I found myself with Chris Atherton, a few Mercia lads, and Tom Bush, previously Altringham, and now moonlighting at Pennine, so I felt that I was in pretty good company.
Across and onto the top, the snow made itself known, and we ran though ankle deep slush for a while, picking our way through the longer grass to make our way to the bridle way, which was basically an ice rink. Tom Bush caught up and took the opportunity to make haste across the flat plateau, despite the underfoot slippiness.

Through the checkpoint and onward, where I momentarily forgot which was the next checkpoint, and ended up going a bit too far left down the next descent. Thankfully there were a decent bunch of runners catching
Icey on the tops
Tom and I up who were on pretty much the right line, so we swung back right and managed not to get horrendously lost looking for a checkpoint in the wrong place... the ascent out of 3 was a good climb where a Mercia runner, Chris A and I managed to distance a few of the other runners in the group that had caught us up, and at the top, the group in front of us appeared to be closer to us than it had been before- incentive to keep on moving, and get on with it.
A gel was opened and consumed, and it took a good while before I could work out what flavour it was - for some reason my head was saying Pink Grapefruit (I knew I had one of them), but my mouth wasn't reconciling the taste... Must have been going hard if I couldn't remember what apple flavour tasted like.

Across and down... I realise here that I have missed out another down, where Julien, Andy and Andrea were cheering us on, sitting in a suntrap, enjoying their day on the Mynd, great to see them out and about.

I have pretty much no idea how I got to checkpoint 4, but clearly recollect going down the path from 5 to the first of the big hills. There was a mountain biker off his bike clutching his leg part way down the descent, but he had a good gaggle of mates with him that looked like they were sorting him out - nevertheless, I mentioned it to the marshals at the bottom of the hill. The first of the big hills on the return leg.

I had noticed on the way out that a few of the guys I was running alongside were really going hard at it, while I seemed to be not breathing too hard... well, certainly not as hard as them... They were certainly running faster than me, but I had held some back. This next section was the reason.
Jules, Andrea and Andy's suntrap
Running up toward the first ascent, the one with the choice.... left or right. Last year I went right. This year, a group of runners were ahead of me on the right, and a couple of Mercia guys were just with me as we started up... they went left.
Decisions.... go right. 
The first of the hard ascents, no running here, hands on knees and pound out the rhythm, onward and
upward. Tom had followed me, and all the other Mercia runners had gone left. Slightly concerning that the locals had gone the other way, but no time to think too much on it. I tried to catch the guys in front, but despite them seeming to be just out of reach, they crested the top of the hill a minute before me, and had disappeared off the convex hill leaving me a little concerned that I had no idea where the good line was....

I could see runners in the distance going up the next hill, so knew where I needed to be. The group I was following up the hill was far off to my right and a way away down the hill, with a decent yomp across the bottom of the hill before the next ascent... well, I wasn't going to follow them - not with a fabulously rough, brackeny descent that led direct down the hill. Decision made.
Direct line.

I have no idea if I made or lost time with my most enjoyable direct descent... it certainly wasn't as smooth as the line far off to the left, and I have no idea where the Mercia guys got to, but I didn't see any of them for a while. Bracken bashing and slipsliding down the hill, no-one to follow, just trying to make sure that my legs were still going to work for the next ascent.
I leapt across the river at the bottom, passing 2 other runners, and started up the second of the hills. Again, chasing those guys that were just in front of me, yet out of reach.
Until 1 of them slowed, and then another... 2 more overtakes for me, on an uphill section - not something that happens too often, and I was still gaining on them, but then they hit the top of the hill before I had a chance to get on their tails... but this was not a crest with a direct descent, but a traverse around a valley... but a traverse that was this year, deep in snow. A slow, and leg sapping traversing ascent.

I could see a lovely little descent line, with a sharp ascent on the other side, out of the snow, and with my legs still feeling like they had some life in them, I thought I'd try that out. It probably wouldn't be faster when both lines were dry, but with snow around the top... it might work.
Plunge down, and then the grind up... footsteps behind me... some idiot is following me. No idea who, I'm certainly not going to look behind me.
The guys going across the top, or at least the faster ones, were crossing my path quite a way before I reached the top, but another 2 at least had fallen behind, and there was another one just in front of me as I popped out onto the path.

We reached the checkpoint together and punched our numbers on the control, but my legs seemed fresher and I launched down the hill in front of him, not looking back, and never saw him again.
At the bottom of the hill I downed another gel, ready for Yearlet, and the amazingly horrendous climb it was about to present, and made my way to the bottom of the tributary that lead up to the steeps.
Still that gaggle in front of me- and yet, still no sign of the Mercia guys that had taken that left hand line 2 hills earlier. Up to the bottom of the hill, a left, and walk. Walk. Walk up the hill.
me, trying quite hard.
Chase the guys ahead of me, but not too hard, don't want to blow up before the top. There is no time to stop and rest, no time to relax on this climb.... the end is near, and every step needs to count. Every step takes me closer to the end.

Three Quarters of the way up, another guy from the group in front slows and I overtake him on a patch of
snow. Finally, near the top of the climb, I see one of the Mercia guys that had taken the other line... coming up from the nose of Yearlet. He reaches the top before me, and starts the descent... but this time, I know the descent (unlike last year with a bit of a detour), and chase after him. I know there are others close behind, and so don't even slow when we hit ice and snow on the trail.
A flat section, followed by the road crossing and then a final dip and long descent before the closing dash.
I close down the Mercia runner, knowing that I am also being closed down by another runner... with the final fast blast coming up there was no way I was going to fall foul of someone overtaking me.
I overtook the Mercia guy, and went hard to the tree marking the last plunge.
What a superb descent that last line is.
Legs burning, lungs burning I hammer for home, and came in 14th.
1:55:52. A good 5 mins faster than last year.

Just after finishing.
Great race, great result.

Thanks muchly to Lynne for photos and race support, especially as she wasn't able to run the race herself... (she was a bit gutted to say the least).
Thanks also to the non-racing contingent of Andrea, Jules and Andy O - who provided race support and banter throughout the weekend.
And of course well done to all the GDH runners who had some excellent results over the weekend, I hope you all enjoyed it as much as me, enjoyment being more important than results.


  1. You describe the Long Mynd Valleys fell race within your first two lines of your blog post as 'fabulous', yet the rest of your post serves to pull holes in the race, and the people that invest their time to put on such a fabulous race. You've insulted a lot of people who volunteer for the good of the sport.

    The 'waffling start' is there to keep you safe...you obviously need waffling to as it's evident you got a bit cold at the start, and need a reminder as to how to keep warm during a race (which includes the start from an insurance point of view).

    Evidently, from your blog post, you've relied on local runners during the race for navigational aid, but not wholly, and from your Titterstone Clee post, it's apparent you have gripes about this. Perhaps a map is good, what if your fellow runner falls, need assistance, and you need to give a GR? No, you wouldn't think of that....or the headache for the race organiser, because, well, you just said it it 'waffle' they were talking about at the start.

    You moan consistently about a clamp down on rules, yet your writings are evident to why those rules are in place. Most runners abide by them, yet you feel you shlouldn't carry a map for Titterstone Clee? You moan about getting too cold at the start of a briefing for the Long Mynd Valleys because you got cold - YOU are precisely the reason those briefing go out - and you got cold - because you are too arrogant to think those rules apply to you too. It's bugger all to do with how fast you are, who you over took and whose arse you kissed. Get over yourself. You are the reason why rules have been closed in, and we know, because you told everyone about it.

  2. Dear Anonymous, thanks for your response. Let me respond in kind.
    Where shall I start?
    Maps and relying on locals for route finding.
    Yes, I looked where locals were going as I was running. They tend to have the best lines, which are not evident on a map. So I followed them. No, I didn't look at my map, which I had on me at all times, because I didn't need to. If you take the time to look back on my other races, the only time I have needed to use a map in a race, I got it out of my bag, I applied my knowledge with a compass, worked out where I was, and where I needed to be and got on with it.
    Its a little insulting that you appear to believe that I have no navigational ability as I followed other runners.... but as I say, the best lines are not on the map. Indeed, on the Titterstone Clee map, its blank. The only paths go in the wrong direction, so I feel pretty vindicated in saying for a race that involves 2k up, and 2k back, with a trail of runners all the way... asking for everyone to carry a map is a bit excessive. Which is perhaps why the FRA says they can be optional for S races should the organiser see fit. (and there are quite a few S races in the Lakes where no kit is required, but I digress).

    Getting cold. I get cold. Thats why I ALWAYS have kit on me. No matter the time of year. However, I was quite warm in the sun, until the race organiser called us, I believe the term was "a bunch of pussies", or something like that, to bring us out of the warm, and into the cold shade of the hill where we proceeded to stand still for 10 mins for the "waffle". I get cold, but to stand around getting colder because I am dressed for RUNNING not STANDING is a bit silly. And yes, if I break my ankle on the hill, I have appropriate kit to deal with that, and the subsequent drop in temperature... I'm not about to get the stuff out waiting for a race to start as in my book, that doesn't constitute an emergency.

    Maps again. If a fellow runner falls, (and yes, thankyouverymuch, that is at the very forefront of my mind, being a member of a Mountain rescue team), and I need a grid reference, I have this lovely bit of kit on my watch that gives me a 10figure grid reference. Should that fail, I will use my hill knowledge from being in the hills a lot of my life, outdoor qualifications and a current stint in MR to look at a map and go "oh look, here I am".
    In the case of not having a map - if it is a hill the size of Titterstone Clee, with a race line as defined as it, even without a map, I suspect we wouldn't have too much of a problem finding the person.

  3. Part 2
    Where next?
    Yes, the race is bloody fantastic. Booting around the Mynd is a great experience, and I really enjoyed it. The bit I didn't enjoy was the bit at the beginning, being treated like a 5 year old. I run for the enjoyment and the freedom it affords me, and the chance to test myself against others, I don't go there to be patronised by others. I don't think the "waffling" at the start was in any way shape or form any better than a lot of the other succinct and polite pre-race briefings that I have had the pleasure of listening to in the past.

    Right, talked about Cold. Talked about maps. Talked about GRs, Talked about Local Knowledge.
    Um... People following rules... yes, maybe they do, maybe they don't... as I mentioned, I don't seem to remember anyone getting checked for a map at the beginning of either race, nor were any of the numbers checked for punch holes at the end. I'm not complaining about that, just stating facts, so how would you know if they were following rules....?
    And also with a fair amount of griping as well. I just happen to be the one that has put my thoughts down on a blog and made them public.

    Oh, hang on... another thing about cold. I get cold because I am too arrogant to believe rules apply to me? No, I don't think so. I get cold because I get cold. You may want to look up Raynauds phenomenon. It has nothing to do with arrogance, and more to do with a neural issue and blood supply to the hands and feet. I wouldn't have got so cold had we had a nice short briefing, and boom , off we go. Like in most races, but there you go....

    Indeed, it is nothing to do with how fast you are, and certainly nothing to do with whose arse you kissed (I have NO idea where you got that from.... are you indulging in a sport which is different to the one I am involved in?) and is entirely to do with enjoying yourself, which I did for the most part at the weekend. I take great pains to ask people how much they enjoyed racing before asking them about results... it is way more important.
    The rules have been closed in because of a load of issues, and not because of a single one. I would not, in any way shape or form class myself as a reckless runner, and neither, I hope, would my friends or club mates. It is the rigid and inflexible nature of people and their interpretation of the FRA, and the FRA's own sense of pomposity that makes me angry and verbose.

    I apologise to those who I insulted (unwittingly... as the marshals were fabulous, as indeed were the lovely people registering runners, I said thanks to each and every one of them as I went around), but really, I think that if a blog post makes someone feel insulted, then they have pretty thin skin. I'm simply saying something that others are thinking.

    I hope that was a comprehensive enough answer for you, and I'm not entirely sure how to "get over myself". It sounds like quite a complicated manaeuvre.
    Love and Kisses.

  4. Those rules and reg's arent just for you though. Perhaps you would like special dispensation seeing as your awesome.

    At the end of the day; when you organise a race you can set the rules.

  5. If I'm honest, I have to agree with Zephr about getting a bit cold on the start, I too was getting chilly (despite the tube of embrocation lovingly smeared on my thighs by an *un-named* Shrewsbury AC runner in the car beforehand). Given the conditions, and the fact that the start was rather inconsiderately placed out of the sun, I took the decision deploy the old faithful RULE 5... for those unfamiliar with this technique, please cut and paste the following link into your chosen browser.

  6. No, the rules and regulations are not just for me... and I'm not sure at which point I mentioned my awesomeness... I tend to establish credentials rather than go the way of the superlative, but thankyou for your well considered opinion anyway.

    Yes, race organisers do get to set the rules, but if someone is travelling quite a way to do a short race, which, in the Lakes, may well indeed not require them to have a map with them, at least a) make it really really really bloody obvious that you want them to have a map, or b) give them the opportunity to get hold of one at your race. Titterstone clee is not the easiest of places to get hold of in terms of maps, and directing someone to somewhere that may or may have a photocopier to copy a map is not a good outcome as an organiser, or a runner.
    That is not cool, especially if the runners aren't even going to be kit checked. It just smacks of jobs-worthism

    Race organisers do indeed set the rules, but that doesn't mean I can't get annoyed about them, and pick holes in why I don't think they are appropriate to the race.

    and by the way, I think you meant "you're".

  7. "I can't get annoyed about them, and pick..."

    That comma is superfluous.

  8. Gah! I don't know which anonymous you are, but I bow to your grammatical superiority.
    Lovely use of the word "superfluous" as well... Kids these days just don't have the vocabulary.

  9. Anonymous is being a little uncharitable when suggesting that Zephyr is 'pulling holes' in the race. The only comment which seems critical is the one about waffling. Race briefings I've attended tread the fine line between officious and supportive, and one person's waffle may be another's sermon.
    His previous post on the Titterstone Clee race contains some constructive criticism about map requirements which I agree with. A fellrunner who arrives at a short race wouldn't always expect to be asked to carry a map. I understand this year was the first for a new race organiser and given some of the responses I heard at registration I expect the map requirement will be made more prominent and everyone will be happy. In fact if you know him, ask him whether he'd consider giving a mug or souvenir to those completing both races next time. I love having my brew and being reminded of a splendid weekend's racing in 2014 :)

  10. Dear testedtodestruction
    Although this comment (my first and only) will be labelled as being anonymous I am in fact Charlie Leventon the guy who was timekeeper/starter at the LMVs and Titterstone Clee races.
    Can you please answer some questions for me and perhaps suggest ways of organising things differently viz:
    Our race procedures have been instituted after many years of running the LMVs in all sorts of weather conditions and were reviewed and revised in the light of the coroner's recommendations following the Buttermere race death; how can we organise the start differently to ensure that we know who has started - recalling that we have had cases in the past where someone has registered and then not run, causing all sorts of problems in confirming their wellbeing?
    What else would you recommend we do to ensure that nobody retires without returning to communicate that fact to race officials - as happened again this year?
    I welcome constructive criticism; I do not like being made to feel that I am a silly old fart when I read your blog. I have been a member of Mercia FR for many years - initially racing (both short races and longs races including the LMVs, as well as Mountain Marathons) but now have to confine my involvement to:
    - being the timekeeper (and start waffler) for some 18 races each year;
    - convening the Shropshire Summer and Winter Series multi-race competitions;
    - gathering together the information for and publishing the calendar of Shropshire Hill & Fell Races http://teamup.com/ks382806d87ae98646/.
    In addition I initiated and organised the Little Stretton Time Trial for 25 years - an event not run under FRA auspices but designed to give all participants a sense of adventure and athletic achievement http://www.timetrial.org.uk/.
    In responding with any suggestions you have, I think you should make it clear what races you organise - i.e. taking responsibility for being able to account for everyone without undue delay.
    Finally, the skill of delivering constructive criticism has to be learned. I don't mean that to be patronising; I simply offer it for you to consider. I remain involved with fell running because it brings its own rewards but non-constructive criticism is not something that I or my race colleagues enjoy. If you and others (as you imply or claim?) feel that the part I play in race organisation is over-played I will stand down but you must know that the queue to take up the role is a very short one indeed.

  11. I enjoy reading your race reports but a crediting a photo might be a nice idea. The photo of "you trying quite hard" is really good and I think the snapper would appreciate a credit.

  12. Anonymous, you are indeed right. I believe this is the first time I have neglected to credit a photo that isn't mine, and will seek to rectify that as soon as I can.

    Charlie, thanks very much for taking the time to write in the comments. Apologies for not having replied yet.
    In short, I'm afraid that I do not have specific solutions for the problems that you detail. I suppose that is why I help out with races rather than organise them. This may seem like quite a poor cop out, especially when I am mentioning things that I don't particularly enjoy about one race or another.
    However, instead of offering my own solutions, which will inevitably be picked apart, simply because of my inexperience, I would instead, perhaps point you in the direction of other races that I have participated in where things appear to have run smoothly, rules, apparently were followed and all was happy and joyful. (you know what I mean).

    Recently, Moel y Ci did a stand up job in welcoming 167 runners for a 5 mile AS. Prior to that, Cracken Edge, Cwn Pennant, OCT, Jura, Moelwyns.... Just a few that I perhaps would recommend whole heartedly as really welcoming, non-pretentious and open-minded races.
    Apologies not to write in more detail, but I'm out of time.

  13. (for clarification, Je Suis not Charlie) Unfortunately its only when things go wrong that you see why preparations are made the way they are. To complain about a 5 minute briefing at the start of a race is petty.
    To complain about being asked to carry a map for a race (and then not checked, the subtext here being; its on your head) is just knicker twisting nonsense.

  14. Ok, so perhaps the subtext here is "on your head be it", but perhaps I was taking exception to walking into race registration, and rather than being greeted by "good morning", got a bellowing "HAVE YOU GOT A MAP? NO MAP NO RACE" instead. Which didn't seem entirely welcoming to me.
    And given the emphasis on having a map, rather than there being any subtext of "on your own head be it", it was very much, no way are you running if you don't have a map... for it then not to be checked simply smacked of... hypocracy is too strong a word, but it was just a bit shit really.
    Had I not had a map, I would have ended up not racing, and going off somewhere else, being very jaded about the whole situation... especially if I found out that in fact, contrary to what I had been told, there was a subtext meaning that I *could* in fact run without a map.
    So, No. It isn't knicker-twisting nonsense, if you're going to insist on something, damn well check it. AM and AL races, fair enough. But for an AS? Well, if you must.

    As for when things go wrong. As Charlie points out, the last 2 years runners have retired without reporting. I don't know how to solve that, but it would seem that no matter if you have a robust system or a very simple one, you can't bank on there not being someone who doesn't listen.

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. Carl, apologies, i dont know where your blog has gone. I didnt delete it, the only ones i delete are blatent spam.... someone in blog land has decided that it needed to be got rid of, and i have no way of knowing who it was, or indeed how to get it back.
    Thanks for taking the time to comment though.