Monday, 30 May 2016

Jura Fell Race 2016

I had 2 main aims for this year. Finish the Spine Challenger, and then get a Sub-4 hour Glass at Jura. Coming off the back of 3 hard races last weekend, I thought I'd be recovered and fit, however, I think I underestimated just how hard the races were, and how much effort I put in. A short run up to James Thorn on Tuesday ended up with me getting about 2km along the trail, sitting on a rock, looking at the view and then trotting back home.
Nothing in my legs at all. Nothing.

Roll on Friday morning and a phantom ache had appeared in my lower right back/glute. Psychosomatic. It has to be. I haven't done ANYTHING to make it ache. Nothing that sitting in a car for 7 hours can't fix.

Description of ground (I think you can blow that up enough to read)
Across to Islay on the Calmac ferry, then to Jura, and across the way we could see the top of the Paps shrouded in cloud. Nothing too horrendous, but enough to make me a little nervous. Yes, I've run the race before, but as for knowing the lines off the hill... no, not a chance. I vaguely know where I'm meant to be going (down), but the specifics.... not so much. Not to worry, the race isn't until tomorrow, so it was time to think about other things like renew old acquaintances, and pass the evening in the company of friends.

Looking back on the way to Pip2
Race day dawned pleasantly and the somewhat crowded house gradually came to life. We all got registered and kitchecked, and hung around chatting about lines on and off the Paps, timings, hopes and concerns. My lower back niggle had all but disappeared, the sun was out, and things were beginning to warm up, some cloud still clung to the tops though.
Soon enough we were in the start pen and then in a stampede of mudclaws and walshes, we headed off up the path and onto the fell. Well, bog.

Through the bog, which was mostly spend following other people, assessing whether they were going upto or beyond their knees in various places. Ahead of me the field was stretching out a little, this being a Scottish Champs race, a fair few decent names had turned up, and the guys at the sharp end were making their speed known. I fell in at about the same speed as Jasmin and we slowly worked our way up through a few of the guys that had started off a bit too hastily and weren't able to sustain the speed.
Up onto the first Pip, I checked my watch, about 36 minutes. Pretty much on schedule for a sub4, which was good. Jasmin had shot off ahead and I was chasing Konrad down the hill, whilst looking across the the Paps, which still had a bit of cloud encircling the tops. Not too much to be worried about, I hoped.

Down and up onto the second Pip, I grabbed a quick swig of water from Gwyn who was walking the route and had set off an hour or so prior to the start. Jim Mann came floating past, setting a decent pace up the hill, catching up and overtaking Jasmin. At the top he began to head north until Jasmin mentioned to him that it might be a slightly more cunning idea to head west along the ridge, unless he wanted a really long day out... 
I passed Konrad before the top, and then a fairly speedy run off with Jasmin and Jim helped with putting some distance into the guys that were now behind us. The 3rd Pip passed without too much bother, but with a variety of lines being taken onto it from the ridge, and then a lovely downhill section to the gap between Pip3 and Pap1, which is mostly a fairly decent trod with a bit of bog.
One of the few times Jasmin was behind me going uphill

Onto the first Pap of the day, up the "green line" of the stream where a lot of people were getting water. I wasn't entirely thirsty at this point, but had a swig of my bottle anyway, and thought that as the race was an hour old I should probably have something to eat, so worked my way through a fake Mars bar while turning my legs over up the hill. Despite all the hill reps I have been doing, this was still hard. The Pips do a great job of softening up your legs, and by the time you get here, a fair amount of climb, certainly a lot more than most Peak district races, has already been done.
The climb, as ever, went on for a very long time, and I managed to keep in touch with most of the people that had been around me at the bottom. We each dropped a tag off at the top with the marshals who recorded our numbers before heading a little along the ridge and then dropping off down the scree path. My legs were pretty tired by now, and I was beginning to get a bit of knee pain - mainly from muscular effort rather than from anything particularly sinister. A stitch was also beginning to develop, which might end up being a bit of a problem.
2 Paps, from, oh, I have no idea where.

I kept the speed down on the descent, figuring that to overdo it now might mean a slightly faster descent, but would certainly mean paying for it in a big way later. If the beginnings of the stitch were showing now, then the run down the road at the end was already promising to be uncomfortable...

The loose scree was particularly fun as it cushioned my feet as I cruised down taking a few places. Jasmin had gone off ahead, evidently feeling a lot better than she had done earlier in the race. I'd like to say that it was my photography-ing that meant she pulled out the lead on me, but I don't think that's really the case.
The trod off Pap1. or Pap2. Not entirely sure as I wasn't looking back
There was a gaggle of runners just up ahead of me on the climb of Pap2, but I could feel myself losing ground to them. The guys behind me seemed to be making good inroads into me, and there was an overwhelming feeling of just wanting to sit down and not go on. A gel semi-helped me to get my head together, and I forged on, up through the scree. The nice thing was that the stitch didn't affect me uphill, so I was free to go as fast as my rapidly tiring legs allowed.

That being said, I was certainly slowing down a lot here. I vaguely new the splits needed to get around and off the hills to be in with a fighting chance of a sub-4... but killing yourself to hit the splits still doesn't guarantee you to be able to get off the hill in time. We passed a spectator who mentioned that there was now less uphill than down for the rest of the race, which didn't entirely fill me with glee, and continued upward. A left around the buttress and then a ridiculously steep climb, hands on heather and stone instead of knees. The cloud was swirling around, but it was only feathery, not really clag at all. The group ahead of me were all but out of sight, and the guys behind had caught me up. Summiting, and then across the ridge, followed by a drop to the right, down a steep grassy bank that never really becomes the scree-fest that you expect, and down across to the next bog, before that final Pap.

I could feel my right leg beginning to cramp slightly as we began Pap3, which wasn't good - last time I ran Jura that didn't happen until the very last run off. So I swigged a little water and got stuck in, hoping it would go away. It did, and so I set about trying not to lose too many places on this climb. A much less technical climb, (still un-runnable for me in any state), I slogged my way upward. Jim Mann overtook me (again) along with a couple of others, and the climb just carried on going.
Jim Mann ahead of me up Pap3

Hit the top a way behind Jim and another person, and I followed them down a scree path, which was great to begin with, but I got a bit fixated on them, and instead of looking over to my left for another pile to follow, I concentrated on heading down until I overtook them, and then suddenly ran out of runnable scree.
Screes coming off Pap3. Just before running out of runnable stuff.
So I skittered off to the left, doing what I should have been doing anyway, looking out for the runnable lines, eventually finding one, and surfing down, slowly making my way down to the trod. I didn't stuff it up too monumentally, but certainly could have taken a much better line down.
Onto the trod, and now just a run across a moor, up the climb of Corra Bheinn, which took an agonisingly long time.
Splits in my head were coming and going, I wasn't going to get my map to check the numbers, if I did it would simply lose time, and the cramp in my legs would start. So I made my way up the hill with 3 others in close attendance, turned at the top, and looked at the absurdly long run off down to 3 arch bridge.
Looking back to the descent lines from Pap3

The beginning of the run off started promisingly, as I still had a fair amount of water. It got drunk and thrown over my head in equal measure, but slowly the stitch began to encroach and my enthusiasm for descending down tussoky bogland wained. The first stabs of cramp hit my legs, going down the adductors, last time this happened the best thing to do was to keep moving, trying to send messages to the legs that I wasn't going to take any nonsense from them.
It seemed to work for the most part, but at the crossing of the Corran River the insides of my legs cramped spectacularly. Still, not having any of it, I pressed on, with legs cramping. I can't recommend this, as it was ridiculously painful. Running through cramp makes it worse, but there was no way I was stopping. I may have used some fairly strong language, and at one point was reduced to a crazy hopping shuffle through more tussocks, but the sub4 was still on. Through an indeterminable amount of bog and cramp, and then bridge slowly got closer.
I managed to catch up with a couple of the guys that had got slower toward the road and we got over the stile together and went under the bridge to hit the road. I was, for once, quite happy to get to a road as it meant my cramping legs didn't need to be lifted quite so high, and so would cramp less. The
first 2.5km of the road went really well. I felt good, didn't push too hard, and the distance ticked away quite well.

I caught and overtook 2 runners, and then about 2km from the end the whole thing fell apart. The right quad cramped, swiftly followed by the left, then the hamstrings on both sides, followed by a stitch, my speed slowed dramatically from "not a care in the world" to "I can barely walk". I slung the bumbag around my shoulders to take the weight off my tummy, and "ran" crabwise for a while.
The runners that had been overtaken came past as I lurched forward. My watch said I had a decent amount of time before the magic 4 hours passed, and with about 1km to go, Jim Mann cruised past my staggering attempt at forward locomotion.
The run stalled to a walk for 20 paces before I gave myself a talking to and managed to run in to the end, coming in at 3:51:55 or so. Just a tiny bit faster than last time, but looking at my splits, I lost 7 minutes on the road in comparison to then. Thankfully I had quite a time buffer.
Well earned.

My body was totally done in at the end. The journey home hasn't done it any favours either. I can still feel the stitch if I do anything too fast, my quads and adductors still hurt in the same places as when they were cramping. I suspect they just need a bit of rest, and then a whole lot more strengthening.
The stitch thing is a bit annoying as no-one really knows what causes it. There are as many theories as there are people who suffer it, and I suspect that what caused for me a few years ago is not the same as the cause now.
I have, however, got the glass, proof that last time wasn't a bit of a fluke, which is always gratifying. Now I need to sort out this stitch, and the cramping legs and I should be flying.

Results sheet 1
Results sheet 2
Results sheet 3
Thanks so much to the organisers, the marshals on the tops and the people that make this race happen. It really is one of the highlights of the calendar.
John Ryan, eyes on the prize. Well. The pub.
Tim C coming in toward the finish
Relaxing in the sun as others finish their race.
 Thanks also to John H for letting us sleep on the floor of the cottage, John D for the lift up and back, and the Carnethy/Glossopdale Massive (no I don't *just* mean Alex McVey) for great craic and a superb weekend away.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Lantern Pike Dash 2016

Caity and I numbering up
Last of the 3 days in May, and my legs are really feeling it.
Over to the Lantern Pike Inn and the usual suspects are beginning to turn up. This is a proper race. Sign up is in a horsebox in a field, there is a stream crossing, a fence to jump and the potential to be mauled by some aggressive looking geese before climbing an absurdly steep hill to the top, turning around and running back down it again.

Not a lot to say about it apart from the insanely fast dash down the first field - my hamstrings were letting me know that they weren't really appreciating the fact that I was making them run hard for the 4th day in a row. Si Bailey shot off ahead and leapt over the fence, taking the lead from whoever had the opportunity to get through the tiny gap in the fence first.
I must have been about 6th going over the stream, just with Lucas, who I was battling with on Friday.

Photo bomb from Joss
I walked up most of the hill, keeping up mostly with others, but Chris motored past, as did Will M from Pennine. Working as hard as I could I just couldn't keep pace with them. Over the first stile, and onto the second, Lucas, Will and Chris had pulled out a decent lead on me, and Nat (the guy I sprinted against yesterday) was hot on my heels.

Made nothing up on the final ascent, and Si came storming past down the hill, followed after a considerable margin by Alastair Campbell - the winner for the past 2 days.
More people coming past on the way down, and lots of supporters shouting at us at the top.

I made the turn at the trig, blowing hard, and set off down the most direct line I possibly could. Lucas was long gone, but others were just about catchable.
Made no places by the first stile, but was gaining ground, ditto on the second and was right behind another guy.
Caity giving Daz a run for his money
The ground steepened and I shot past him, then Will, then Chris, and was chasing down another guy. We came across the stream and he slowed radically, I put the hammer down and pulled past him, coming in for 5th.
Just under 13 mins.
Si Bailey cruising in for the win

I had to shoot off to something else, so didn't get to stay for prize giving.
Just like to say thanks to the organisers and the marshals for the fantastic races they have put on. Its shown a gaping hole in my training, and thats always a good thing.
Me on the last corner
Well done to Caity for beating the womens record today, and to everyone that has run over these days. Hope you all had as good a time as I did.
This is just how much fun it is.

Thanks to Lynne for the photos and video.
Apologies its not better quality- blogger wouldn't let me upload the original....

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Mount Famine Fell Race 2016

The Middle of 3 days of Madness in May. Longest of the race, and certainly the most suffering. Mount Famine is 5 miles of high amusement and leg burning ascents.
After the pre-race banter we had a bit of a wander over to the start to scope out the best line up Elle Bank, which was particularly squidgy this year.
Daz and I chatted for a bit about the best line (there isn't one) and how to not completely blow yourself up in the first 4 mins of the race.

Soon enough we all lined up, I was over to the far right this year, and on the Go we hammered up the bank, slipping and sliding all the way.
By the time we had got through all the brambles and trees and vertical turks heads on perhaps the best start to a fell race anywhere, we hit the top, with the guy that won yesterday way out ahead, essentially doing a Simon Bailey.
MarkO was just in front of me, along with 2 others, one of whom I managed to overtake- then on the next little uphill section Tom Brunt came ambling past, as did Ross Litherland. Down and up, I managed to get a little bit of time back on the first hard climb, went past a load of guys who were walking, and was even catching up with Tom ,but then the climb went on for longer... and I started going backwards. MarkO and the others came past and I ended up chasing them all the way along Dragons Back.
Tom was disappearing into the distance as were the gaggle of 5 in front of me, there was another 1 or 2 in close attendence behind me and there were huge thoughts of just stopping and having a bit of a sit down.

The pace didn't slow, and ahead of me, it was certainly speeding up a bit, so I lost some time, and I tried desperately to eke out a decent rhythm up South Head and Mount Famine, keeping my place intact.

On the descent into Dimpus Clough I let go, and passed one of the guys on the gnarly turks heads, and chased MarkO for the rest of the way down, eventually catching him at the bottom as we circled past Geoff on the checkpoint.
He led for a short while, and then I managed to overtake, and realised why it was easier to follow... bit of a headwind. Across and over the stream and onto the climb proper.

Lots of breathing going on behind me, and not many in front. I managed to tap out a decent pace, and passed someone on the way up, not giving away any places. Ross Litherland was way up ahead, and I was unlikely to catch him.... the key was keeping people behind me.
The top came eventually, and it was straight back into the running. Someone was close behind me, and I managed to keep the pace up enough that he only came past me near the downhill of the first part of Dragons back, where he fumbled a bit going down and I shot past on the rough downhill.

Clear away down the hill and up to the second half of the Dragons back, I was on my own.... it was taking the guys behind quite a while to catch up to me. I certainly wasn't going all out... my legs were feeling tired, and really letting me know they didn't want to go faster. It wasn't until the final descent that there was breathing behind me, the same guy again?
Then a Pennine vest appeared beside me and got half a metre on me on the first part of the descent. Not being particularly happy about that I responded and dropped as quickly as possible down the grassy slope, without being too crazy and hit the gate and the path first.

We were pretty much neck and neck right the way down the Bridleway. Rocks and cobbles and goodness knows what were all over the place, and we did pretty well to not come a cropper. I led through the whole downhill, and managed to keep ever so slightly ahead.
Constant thoughts of just how nice it would be to slow down and chill out were going through my head, so I kind of ignored them and kept it up.

Down to the final turns, and the last 200m, through the playground and I could feel him dropping back a little, over the stream and the final field, I stuck it all on the line and sprinted for the line, just crossing over a few seconds behind Ross who had massively slowed down because of a stitch.
5th overall, in about 48:21 I think.
Pretty happy with that.... I wonder if I'll ever get to the point of hitting sub 45? That'd be quite something. 

May Queen 2016

Lovely little 3 miler this evening. First of the Hayfield series, and my first short race for quite some time.
Originally I was going to be doing the Old County Tops this weekend, but unfortunately circumstances have dictated that to not be the case. There was also an invite for the Scottish Islands race, which would have been amazing, but things didn't quite come off there either.
In preparation for next weeks Jura, I decided that a bit of short fast stuff should be good, especially to see how I go at speed, considering the stitch that keeps re-appearing.

There was a decent turnout over in Hayfield for this little Friday evening race, more than 100 runners, which I think is a record for them. Glossopdale had a fair few out as well, with a good number of them having their first taste of non-road racing as well. Well done all.

The start down the road was a kind of inbetween state, not all out sprint, but certainly not sedate. I knew I had to get near to the front as it gets very thin very quickly, and if you're behind the wrong person going up the single lane your time/placing gets hammered through someone elses pace.

I fell in behind Mark Burton (flashbacks to the last time I ran this race in 2012) and kept with him up the first incline. It had started raining just as we were lining up, which, although the temperature had dropped to a more acceptable level, had made it a bit greasy underfoot, so the first fast descent on hard track was a little interesting.
Across the bridge and over a couple of stiles, and I eased past Mark on the ascent up the cobbles. Taking a bit of a wide line (as I was a bit oblivious to the actual line enabled Mark to get back next to me, but I was first out of the field, nearly took a wrong turning (thanks to Roger Ashby and his humungous dog for pointing out the right direction).

Up through the trees and I can hear breathing right behind me, which basically continued right the way up the hill towards Lantern Pike. 2 Buxworth guys were ahead, and basically out of reach, but I could feel people bearing down on me.
Lucas from Pennine overtook just as we climbed the final steep section to the top of the Pike, which surprised me as I was fully expecting it to be Mark, but he slowed down immediately, so I overtook and led to the top, and down through the single track, but he had the speed along the flat to the descent, and maintained a small lead all the way down through the trees to the final road section where he eked out another couple of metres, to the encouraging cries of the local crowds.

Nev was also there egging me on, and my head was full of the old "ah, shall I let him go? Its only a race. No... I'll go as hard as I can, no, I'll let him go" type of thing.
I followed him up the road, and about 300m to go decided I wasn't having it at all, opened up a bit an cruised past him, hopefully imparting a sense of "well this speed is easy, maybe I should have been going this speed all along".
Down into the finish, and 3rd in 21:25. A good few minutes faster than a couple of years ago, and good enough for a top 3 finish in most of the previous years results.

Happy with that, but although my hill climbing is coming along, I'm still lacking basic speed, and speed on the hills.
Thankfully, no stitch though, which was a bonus.
Mount Famine could be interesting though....

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Moel Eilio Fell race 2016

The start.... imagine 300 runners trying to get up here at the same time
I knew that Moel Eilio was always going to be a bit of a fun race. I had booked in some early morning Mountain Leader work on the Saturday, so was looking at 1000m of climb with a rucksack prior to a decent length race. Not too much of a problem, as long as I treat it as more of a training run than a full on heart and lung bursting race.

Then I realised it was the Intercounties Fell race as well, which meant that the great and the good of the fellrunning world would be descending on what I was expecting to be a quiet little Welsh race.
Quiet? Nope. This was going to be crowded, there were going to be fast guys and girls all over the place, and they would be going out "full bore".

Not too much of a problem for me, but something to be aware of.

In the morning I did the work I was booked in for, and climbed Snowdon 1 and a half times helping various clients out at various points, and knew that I was in no condition to be belting around at the front of a race which was going to be heading out at the ridiculous pace that Mounsey, Bailey and Jebby et al. were going to set.
Indeed, there were a mass of runners wearing their County vests and were out for fast times. 300 runners starting on a single track road is a bit of a recipe for a crowded start, and as someone racing for myself, not worrying too much about the overall placing, I opted to let the over-eager racers get the front of the crowd, and I hung back a bit. Normally not a good tactic, especially if placing and timings were an issue- but it would be good to start mid- to back - pack and see who I could overtake through the race.

The start of the race goes up the final descent of the Eryri marathon. A long, long climb up a road/track of various steepnesses, eventually coming off that route to turn left and continue up Moel Eilio.
At the gun, as expected, the guys at the front set off at a fierce pace and there was a general surge forward, despite the fact it was at least 5 or 6seconds until the part of the crowd I was in was even able to walk forward, let alone shuffle or run.

First up, this goes on a long way - take it easy. I kept it aerobic up the hill and began to pass people. It was quite interesting as getting past fellrunners is normally pretty easy, as long as you have the speed. Going past roadies and xc runners on a narrow track is actually quite hard. They're all elbows and knees. 2 of them side by side basically take up the entire road with their limbs splayed everywhere, so overtaking took a fair amount of ducking, diving and dodging, as well as a few bursts of speed.

All quite amusing as I made my way up through the field. (maybe I should have started a little closer to the front... but I didn't want to have to jostle with all the guys and girls that "needed" to get a good start on the race).
Up ahead I could see Chris, and I was closing in nicely, so that was good. Lynne was up on the first climb, photoing and videoing, and I grabbed a swig of water from her. The sun was out, it was a glorious day, sunburn was potentially on the cards, as was dehydration, so a little more water at this stage in the race wouldn't go amiss.

Towards the turn I managed to catch up with Chris, and tried to put the boot in a little as the ground steepened. From this point on it was a mixture of walking and running, rather than attempting to keep running for the entire time (though I'm sure there were those ahead of me who ran the entire way). I caught up with Karl Steinegger just as we passed a guy in another county vest, bent over at the side of the path looking distinctly like he had tried just a bit too hard up to that point and was now significantly regretting his decision of "go hard or go home".
I bobbed along trying to make conversation with people about the delightful weather, or the view, but unsurprisingly no-one was really up for that, so I enjoyed the climb as best I could, and after 600m of continuous uphill, we hit the top. Fabulous views, and general sunniness meant I cruised for a short while as a couple of ambitious folks overtook on the slight flat before the first downhill, whereupon I immediately overtook them again.

The next hill was much the same, with the running order and general placings now being fairly decided, shuffling started occurring with people around me putting the boot in, attempting to get ahead, and then falling back. I concentrated on cheerily saying hello and thanks to all the marshals and running as much of the ups as I could without going into massive oxygen debt.

The heat was getting to a decent level, and I suspect that a number of racers were really feeling drained by it. By this time I was running out of fingers on which to count the hills, so I wasn't entirely sure how many we had gone up and down. Suddenly, in front of me appeared a runner who looked like he was taking the mick out of the way Nic Barber runs.
Oh - no, actually it *is* Nic. He must be really suffering for me to catch him up.

I followed him down the descent, and caught up on the final climb where we had a bit of a chat about how horrendous he was feeling and how damn hot it was, and we traded places up the hill with Lou Roberts and Annie Conway as they put in some fantastically inspiring performances running the whole final hill.

I jumped the stile ahead of Nic, and neither of us were really feeling the urge to go mad-dash downhill, having said that he still outdistanced me by a fair amount, though we both reeled in the same amount of people, through a bog at the bottom of the descent where I took a bit of a hand cooling face-plant, and a bit of a scramble where I overtook another couple of people who were being urged on by very competitive supporters. We hit the final track - the telegraph road, a long hard surfaced track with lots of bits and bobs to trip over for a final run in, and I was immediately overtaken by someone who was absurdly fast. They disappeared into the distance, and I set about pacing myself down the hill.

For those of you who have not run down that track, its a flipping long run off. It mostly goes down, but there is a little bit of undulation in it as well, so I kept my wits about me and set a decent pace, not letting anyone get close enough to pass me, but not knackering myself out, then a final turn off the path onto a steep and steepening B road to the finish.
Who is that just in front of me? The absurdly fast guy that shot ahead of me at the top of the telegraph road...
The road steepened and we were in the final 200m, so I lengthened my stride and shot past him, cruising into the finish in 53rd in 71:51.

What a delightful route. A superb day out and great company throughout.
I was a couple of minutes off Jez Brown, who is going superbly well this year, but I felt I ran quite within myself for the majority of the race, as well as starting at the back of the pack. Really quite happy with it as a day on the hill, getting in more ascent before Jura.
Slightly concerned as I was getting a bit of a stitch on the way down, so if there is anything to worry about, it isn't ascent speed, it'll be a problem of getting stitch on the way down or on the final run in.

Congratulations to Ben Mounsey who really read the race well and went all out to win it. This year is going to be a fascinating battle between him and Si Bailey.
Thanks to the organisers and the marshals.

Superb event.