Saturday, 25 November 2017

Peak Raid Glossop 2017

I've been really enjoying the Peak Raids this year. Running through freezing cold bogs while trying to workout where you are and where you are meant to be going is really quite fun. The November edition from Glossop promised to be fairly amusing, not only because it is our local stomping ground, but also because it is the final fell race in the Glossopdale Harriers Fell champs for 2017.
 In order for anything useful to happen at the area in the table where I was, I needed to have an excellent day and Chris W needed to have a shocker. Any other combination and there would be no change at all.
So a good day or nothing then.

It was bright, cold and clear. Ideal if you weren't totally comfortable with navving on Bleaklow... it can be a challenge even in slightly less than perfect conditions. There were nigh on 200 people entered into the race, so there was never going to be much time when you were going to be out of sight of at least one person.

On dibbing and getting the map, a cursory glance was taken, noting high point controls at Cock hill, James's Thorn and out at Alport head. There were a couple of controls far out on rough ground -but together, they only gave 50 points... I might as well miss them in order to ensure I had enough time to accurately nav through the quarry at Cock hill to get a single 50 pointer and not worry about slogging through groughs to find the ones far out.
Anti-clockwise it was then.

A quick run along Doctors Gate towards 8, and a whole horde of people were climbing the heather laced hill toward the approximate point. I joined them, making sure not too much height was gained, and contoured around to the CP. Done - from here to 9 was really rough ground - but there is a trod on the edge of the hill that runs along a series of butts. It doesn't run all the way along the hill, but it gains some time. That done, past the clough and drop down to another trod I could see that led me to the re-entrant. Bang on

CP10 was next, figuring I could take the trod, or I could just straight line it, I decided on the latter, which was good fun. Not sure it was all that much faster than taking the White Clough trod, but I gained time on others around me. The control was a little sneaky in that it was in another re-entrant, and not around the rocks, which you might assume with a quick glance at the map.

From there, a contour around the hill -it was fabulously clear, so you could see for miles. To be honest, I climbed a bit more than I needed to as I knew where a decent trod to Herne clough was, but I wasn't certain of hitting it at a lower level... should have been, but there you go. Climbed, hit the trod and zoomed straight to Herne, followed by a bit of bashing around looking for a pond. Fell in a bog most of the way up my legs, and eventually found the ice covered pond and associated Checkpoint.

From there, I was astonished to have more than 1.5 hours left, in fact, it was nearer 2 hours... excellent. The checks to the south east of the map were discounted and I headed up around the drainage to Fork stones and around Alport head. The point was on a stone, and after careful reading of the map, it appeared that it was a stone that was not in a grough... a look around and a likely candidate presented itself, lo and behold, there was the checkpoint. Excellent.

From there to the one north of Bleaklow head could have been done on an accurate compass bearing, but having been lost up there previously, the non-potential time-wasting option was taken. Run north west through the groughs until you hit Bleaklow head, and nav from there.
On my way over there was another guy standing on top of a grough in a sea of groughs looking confusedly at his map, the compass and the ground... No real features to be seen - not a great place to be stopped and wondering where you are.
Bleaklow head was gained without too much drama, a bob north to the fence line and a simple 200m bearing saw me bang onto the Check.
Loads of time left. Might as well head to the northerly most CP and curve my way around and get as many of them as possible....

A blast to and along the Pennine Way saw me pass a few club mates, I took the old PW rather than the new one which landed me most of the way up the grough that I needed, dibbed and surged to the quad track around the summut of Glossop Low. Down the track zoe and I had a quick snatched conversation as we dropped to 1, and then the slightly concerning part of the quarries towards the high pointer.
I needn't have worried. The cartography was excellent and the CP was exactly where it said it was going to be. Instead of following others, I read the landscape and ran straight to it... crikey, still more time than I anticipated.
Maybe I can finish the last 4?

Over to check 3 Shittern/Small clough and a contour around to pick up the path towards Dog rock, before diving down the hill to an easily found 5.
Here I *should* have gone a lot more east into the clough and ascended to get the 60 pointer at 6. However, fatigue was taking over a bit, and I was kind of running out of time, having glanced at my map I thought that I had 1 CP left - number 7... so bee-lined it. The ground was horrendously rough and the climb up to Shelf benches and beyond was so energy sapping. I might have to use it as more training - it was horrible!
Constantly checking my watch I was thinking that as soon as it hit the magic 20 mins to go mark I was just going to have to turn tail and head home without getting the point.

Thanks to Lynne for the pictures
Waaay before then the top of the plateau was crested and I stormed across to get the check (which was sneakily in a bit of a different place than I thought.... just about to turn, put my map away and head home with about 25 mins to go, something caused me to do an idiot check... pulled out the map and did a tot up....

Hang on. Thee is a point just up the hill from me worth 60 points. Double check.... damn. I forgot about that one! Do I have time? 25 mins left, its 700m away and up a steep bit of hill.... but I know how to get off the top, and I KNOW I can get to the finish from a lot further away in about 20 mins. The CP has to be done.
A lot of people were coming down from there, and I pretty much blindly followed sheep trods up the hill to approximately the right place... 50 yards away from the point I could see it, so I packed the map away, shoved a gel down my throat and prepared for the run off.
Dib the point, timecheck... should be loads of time. Turn and run.

The upshot was that I got back with 8 mins to spare. Very glad that the idiot check was done, without that I'd have finished with plenty of time left, but 60 points down! Valuable lessons learned even in my own back garden.
Overall, 4th, which I'm more than happy about.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Peak Raid Totley Nov 2017

I was  a little more prepared for this one - in that the alarm went off and I got up, had breakfast and went... as opposed to being woken by Lynne 45 mins before the start saying "were you going to do that race....?) so, bonus there.
The area around Totley is not all that familar to me. The fact that there are a number of bogs, lots of reed and rushes and an awful lot of turks heads is well known, so the going underfoot was going to be a little challenging, especially when still on the way back from injury. The idea of the day was to have fun, enjoy the nav, and maybe to put myself under a bit of pressure. If I lost points because I was late, that wasn't an issue. There is nothing riding on this race, it is a time for experience.

The day was bright and cold, and although all the more experienced orienteers tend to start later in the time period, I decided that I'd start earlier, get some time on the hill by myself and not follow other people around. Start time was about 8:30, and off I set into the sharp, cold air.

Somewhat excitingly, my navigation started off terribly. The first checkpoint was bang where I thought it was going to be - but unfortunately I had a bit of a crisis of confidence about 30 metres away from it, turned round, ran back where I came from for about 5 mins before telling myself I was an idiot, and then going back and finding the CP in exactly the place where I thought it was going to be. Lack of confidence and a little bit of inaccuracy as well. Ah well, thats 5 minutes down the drain, nevermind. Crack on.

So far the terrain had been track, track, turks heads, bog, turks heads, bog. So in order to give my legs a bit of a rest, I tried to make the next bit as smooth as possible by following some trods.
No such luck into the bombhole of my next CP. No, no turks heads, but instead heather, heather, reeds, river, reeds, heather.
Great, no rest for the wicked then.

By this time there were a number of others out on the course, and we battled through the heather to the nearest path to get down south on the Clockwise round that we had put ourselves on. There was a fairly decent path right over to within about 400m of the next CP, and once that track ended it was again, bog, bog, reeds, knee deep water and a fight through some bracken before getting to the sheepfold.
So far, so good. No-one was following me, I had a decent amount of time left, and my nav was getting me to the right places. The next CP was going to be a little more fun as it was "on the edge of the wood" with no real identifying features to attack it from, so a bit of accuracy and cunning was called for. Not only that, but it was across the way, through what can only really be described as a sea of heather.
Bash Bash Bash. Through another boggy river and a load of reeds, and through the trees I can see the kite. Marvellous. Punch, and onward over more heather until a lovely path going towards the next CP. Across to my left were a herd of deer running away from some brightly clad runners on the other bank, and I wondered if I'd see them later. (I didn't).

Up to the boundary stone, dib, and then a bit of a complex one to find my nemesis - "small re-entrant". I really hate these things. It took a while with me furtling about in various places, losing a good few minutes. To be honest at some points I was really confused about where I was, and now looking back on it, I was really too far north and didn't take note of the several changes in contours around me (and the big stones that should have been a clue....).

From there, Northwards and then west to the next obvious one in the sequence, and then North again along some really runnable paths - feeling good picking up the one between 2 boulders, and north again, taking some fun and complex paths in order to stay within the rules - not running on the road where it was hashed out.
2 hours gone. 1 hour left.
Choice time - go a long way out for a 50 pointer with the prospect of another couple on the way back, or go safe for a 40 pointer, but which takes me pretty much into a dead end (all the other points near it had been got...)

Now is the time to learn. Go big.
I set off to the other side of the map from the race HQ and as I was running there I was thinking "this is probably not going to work... run faster". It took an age to get to the vicinity of the CP and another age to find the damn thing. I must have lost another 5 mins rooting around in heather and rocks for it and nearly gave up. It was another of those which if you found direct, would have been fine... but faffing and having to find and re-find locations to get to it really ate into my time.

Got it. 30 mins to go. 8km direct to get home. This could be tight.... especially as direct wasn't going to be a possibility, and there were a lot of workarounds to do.
Knocking back a gel and some bloks I headed for home as fast as I could (which after 2.5 hours was not all that fast). At one point I worked out I needed to do an 18min 5k to get back in time, which wasn't going to happen. Eventually I got back 10 mins late, so a penalty of 175 points.
54th ish.
Had I played it safe and gone with the 40 pointer at that crux I would have been joint 9th. If I got there with enough time and I could have gone for one of the others a bit closer to home I might even have come 8th or 7th.
Ah well. Experience in the bank. Good to know.

It was a 30km day as well, with 900m of ascent, so a decent day out by any standards. Fabulous.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Glove choices 2017/18

Yes, my hands are still quite nesh. However, I have reduced my vast pile of gloves to only a few that are in regular service, and this gets refined still further for winter use.
Generally speaking mitts are now my main choice for warmth, so nothing with fingers really gets a look in. If you have warm hands in gloves, I envy you. If you don't - read this.


My general rule is to have a warm layer and a waterproof layer (obvious, no?). With any luck, the warm layer is also windproof, and the waterproof layer is even more so. For running they need to be as light as possible, but this does mean some level of fragility if you're heading up over rocks and scrambly bits.

Running - Warm layer

From last winter I have been using Montane Prism mitts. They are ridiculously lightweight and pack down so small I sometimes think I've forgotten them. They see regular use throughout the year and are now beginning to show some signs of wear. As they are a synthetic insulation, holes in the fabric shouldn't mean they leak much (as a down glove would). When they get wet, and the wind is blowing, without an extra waterproof layer on top, I do find that the temperature in my hands gets lower...
That's the size of em.

small - but warm. (mine are the old style with no touch screen snazzy bits like the new ones)
The other thing that is a bit annoying about these is that even though I have small hands, and I have a size S, getting your hands INTO the damn things is a bit of a pain. The wrist restriction is very tight indeed- great for not letting anything into your hands, but an annoyance to get them on. As you can see, my pair are beginning to "go" at the wrist closures.
Oooohh - beginning to go at the seam. (what a rubbish picture)
The Super-prism mitts are out and about now, but they're heavier. As a solution, they are pretty neat, but once they get wet, that's it. I'd rather have the versatility of 2 gloves which are equally light.

Running - Waterproof layer

Extremities tuff-bags. Made of Goretex paclite, these are as waterproof as you're going to find. Also, even without an inner layer, the amount of wind that they cut means they are a decent warm layer on their own. No - there is no insulation, but the palm is ever-so-slightly re-inforced.
These, added on over the Prisms, or indeed, any other glove or mitt really make a massive amount of difference to hand warmth and dexterity (once the gloves are off). I'm onto my second pair of these, not because I have worn any of them out yet, but because I was an idiot and lost a pair at a race.
Blinking brilliant mitts.

Tuff Bags - with a decent palm grip

Tuff bags - with a good closure around the wrist as well. The gauntlet is long and also has an elasticated cuff.

Walking/rescue - Warm layer

Considering that I'm probably going to put these through a lot more abuse than the running mitts ever get, these mitts have to be proper solid and (hopefully) unbreakable. Considering that these Montane Extreme mitts are still going 4 years later shows that they are made of stern stuff. No they are not waterproof, and the insulation is pile, but wow, they are solid and dependable. The inners to the Waterproof outerlayer of the Montane resolutes are made of the same insulation, but without the solid palm material. Both of them get used as insulation layers, but often as not, the Resolute outers get deployed over whatever else I am wearing.
The thing I love about the extreme mitts is you can "carry" them like this

The fluffy inside of the resolute mitt. (the palm on the extreme is like this, whereas the back is Primaloft)
My extremes are going on the thumb...

Walking/rescue- Waterproof layer

My Montane resolutes are getting a little long in the tooth - and are unfortunately no longer made. You can see the material over the thumbs is getting worn a significant amount so "waterproof" might be overstating things a little too much at the moment. The palm is rock solid, and for the most part, these are indeed waterproof. Should I buy another pair? Well... I really only need a pair of the waterproof shells - and luckily enough, Montane make a pair. Not eVent any more - they have a deal with Gore now, so there is a set of shells in Proshell - the Endurance Pro-mitt. Expensive... but lovely.  Mountain Equipment also did much the same thing, but I can't see it in their current range - Extremities also do something much the same - the Guide tuff bag - oooh, choices.
delamination? de- something-ing on the thumb of my Resolute mitts.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Peak Raid - Hayfield. 2017

Ah, I'm getting back into the swing of things again now. Rehab is continuing and I thought that a nice nav event might be a good idea. No fixed distance, the ability to bail at any time and no-one really to race against. This had the added bonus of not being a million miles away, and also on relatively local stomping grounds.

The course may or may not have been altered because of Storm Brian (I think it was a shorter course than originally planned), and I cleared the whole course, which was nice. This is really a bit of an aide memoire for me as to what happened and how it went.
Aside from getting up late and having a bit of a fraught time getting over there - certainly not my normal calm self from the get go, I thought it went ok.

The start was at Bowden Bridge carpark, so a bit of a distance from Race HQ - the warm up jog was quite welcome, considering the longest I have been on my feet running in the past few months has been 45 mins. This could be interesting.
From the start it was a short run back down the road and a hook through the campsite to CP11.
Then a nice run back up the final part of the Mount Famine fell race where I spent a lovely 5 mins searching in totally the wrong place for 12. Having got the brain fart out of the way, got back on track with Pennine Jims words ringing in my ears "what are you doing up there?!" I ran on to get 12, and up to 13.
To get to 6 a number of runners were contouring around under the Dragons back. Yes, there was a lovely trod there, but at the end of the trod was a fence which on the map is a purple bar, so *technically* not one you can cross. To stay within the rules I headed up over the Dragons back and down onto the main path to hit 6 in good time.
On the way over there I passed Matt Huxford who very nearly sent me the wrong way with some light-hearted "banter"... but when I'm in nav mode I tend to be very doubting of my own abilities...managed to keep it right though.

From 6 to 15 there was some amazing bog/heather/turks heads to bash across for a long time if you wanted to. Or. You could go along the flags for a way, hang a left and bash straight down 400m to the CP. Best to save the legs from large amounts of rough ground. I chose ohms law and took the line of least resistance.
14 to 5 was a bearing, and went without hitch, and again, 5 to 10 was pretty much straight lining it through heather to find big paths up to the 3 knolls. No problem.

10 down to 9 was again a bearing. By this time there were people overtaking me and I was trying not to follow their lines. The bearing was taken and I headed a lot lower than those that had overtaken. Turns out I got a better line as they got to where they thought it was, and then had to shufty back round to where I was heading to.

9 to 8 could have been taken by a direct and very heather bashing line through 4 streams. I saved my legs and took the paths. Slightly longer, but much easier and more runnable. No idea if it saved me time, but it certainly saved me effort.
8 to 7 was a direct path, as was 7 to 4 and 3.
3 to 2 was a horrible bash. No decent paths, a lot of up and knee high + heather. If there was a better line I have no idea where it was. Those that were moving fast, I suspect, were just good at moving fast over very rough ground. By now I'd been out for 2 hours and I was getting tired. My line was terrible, but I got there, and then the line to 1 wasn't too bad. Also helped John Stephenson out as well as he was walking past the CP.

The final push off the hill was past 20 trees, and relatively straight forward, and there was tea and biscuits at the end.
8th overall in 2:22 and 5th in class. I'll take that. 

AND I was allowed to wear my number on my shorts. Nice.
Thanks to the guys at Peak Raid and Accelerate.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Losing faith in Suunto.

Disclaimer - I don't own a Suunto Spartan. I'm just angry for all those people that do. 

What are Suunto playing at?
I really have no idea.
my original ambit

The Spartan series was launched quite a while ago now. Summer 2016. At that time I was pretty impressed. Theoretically they should have been amazing watches. Lets face it. If they can take the Ambit series and improve on them, wow, the next generation of watches should be superb.
Yeah. In theory.

I've watched in dismay at the number of people that have shelled out ridiculous amounts of money for a Spartan to get what is pretty much a semi-functioning watch. We should have figured this was going to happen as it is what happened with the Ambit series, and just seems to be the way Suunto now operates with its GPS watches.
They make the watch and give it fairly rudimentary things, a shoddy operating system and a load of bugs and then just go straight to market with a really snazzy advertising campaign, pushing it with a load of high profile runners.
Lots of people buy the watch for nigh on £500 and then, for the next year or so essentially work as beta-testers for the company getting more and more frustrated by the fact the watch doesn't do what they bought it for.
What a time in the morning to be up... My Ambit Vertical

A friend bought an Ultra last year so that he could use it for the Dragons Back. Used it through the race and then a glitch meant that the entire week of running was lost from the memory. (Ok, so losing data is not a massive thing for some people... he still got to run the race and has the experience, but if I lost that amount of data, I'd be pretty pissed off).
Think about it. Spend that amount of cash on a watch, and you'd expect the thing to work, and work well. You don't expect to be a glorified tester for a company that doesn't seem to care about the details.

When the Ambit came out I was one of those that was less than impressed about the continual issues. When the Spartan came out I figured it would be a long time til the kinks were ironed out. With the latest upgrade as of October 2017 - more than a year after its original release, the Spartan range finally get things which the Ambit range has had for ages. People shouldn't be excited about the fact they *finally* have a countdown on their watch. That's ridiculous. It's barely creditable that Suunto didn't put one there in the first place. For that amount of money glitches should be few and far between, not a regular annoyance. I'm angry even though I never bought one!

My Ambit vertical still works, it's ok. There is currently no need to buy a new watch. However, when it decides to die on me, I suspect that my next watch will not be a Suunto - from the current crop, it would be far more likely to be a Garmin FR935. Hellishly expensive, but a product that works as you expect from the moment you get it out of the box.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

What no reviews?!

Speaking to a few people recently, they mentioned that I hadn't really posted all that much up recently, or indeed this year. Although I may not have done all that much in the way of racing (partially to do with me being a bit on the injured side and there is another blog about rehab coming out soon)... what about the reviews?

To be honest, I haven't actually got all that much new kit. The idea of writing stuff and testing it pretty much til it falls apart means that I have some rather excellent kit which seems to be holding up admirably, and although it has been used and battered beyond belief, it is still going strong.

The stuff that has broken has fallen by the wayside, and although it gets reviewed, they are lost in the mists of time.
Just sitting here and thinking about it, the kit I use for running at the moment is pretty much identical to that which I ran in the Spine Challenger a couple of years ago.
Waterproof- OMM Aether. Exactly the same one.
Waterproof bottoms - Montane eVent trousers - exactly the same pair.
Insulated top for winter- Berghaus hyper smock - exactly the same one
Shoes- either Mudclaws, x-talons or, if it's icey, OROCs (funnily enough - the same pair)
Gloves- those montane Prism mitts are still going!
Watch- still the Ambit... (though I wish I could afford a new Garmin (shock horror)
I have the same helly hansen, the same shorts, my SOL bag is always in every bag I take on the hill, and on longer days out, the OMM Adventure 20 (despite being VERY battered and worse for wear) still gets used.

Kit for the OCT this year

Yes, I have an Ultimate Direction pack, and a Salomon Sense3 pack which I somehow managed to pick up from a shop about to throw out their test stuff, and beyond that, the only thing I have spent any money on in terms of kit has been getting a couple of t-shirts and replacing worn out trainers.

A cold recce of leg 2 of the PB. Oh look. Same Jacket. Same bag. Same Buff.
There is no way I'm doing a review on a t-shirt. I mean come on. Use some common sense. Thankfully the current crop of in one year and out the other trainers have stayed as close to previous designs as in the past, so that is great.
The only unfortunate thing is that the OMM adventure 20 has been discontinued. I bought a brand new one a few weeks ago, ready for the current one to basically fall to pieces, so that gives me, oh, another 5 years to find a decent replacement. The current crop of "replacements" for the Adventure20 are not particularly worthy - mainly because of the zip top- which frankly I just don't trust.

Vert K this year. Shock horror- a "new" bag. Well. I've had it 3 years now.
So there you have it. No gear reviews because everything I'm using appears to be wearing exceptionally well. Not necessarily good news for the gear manufacturers as they aren't getting my cash because of breakages, but good in terms of the economics of my pocket.

I AM going to have to replace my waterproof top at some point soon though - and the new Aether Smock has some interesting looking things on it... INCLUDING an outside pocket (woop) which was the main thing that made it a disappointing jacket... I might just have to wait for it not to be somewhere north of £200 before I commit to it.
watch this space. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Alan Kirk Memorial Padfield Scamper

This race was run in memory of a lovely and talented runner and climber, Alan Kirk, who will be sorely missed by the local outdoors community. He passed away last week.

This was to be the beginnings of my come back from injury. I have been off running since mid-June, and re-habbing in various ways, shapes and forms. A sub-10k run around the local area seemed like a nice way to break myself back into the running thing. Not too long so I wouldn't massively overdo the distance, and not so technical that I would end up cronking myself into a rock.
Not only that, but a decent enough distance to assess over the next couple of days how well my recovery is going.

Chatting with Jules pre-race
The Scamper was chosen as a local race for the Glossopdale fell champs as well. I need to do 2 more races in order to qualify anyway, and this is the shortest of them all, so it seemed like an intelligent plan to enter.

What a delight it is to enter a local race without all the bells and whistles. Since being injured I have almost closed off in despair at all the "gnarly" and expensive races that are popping up all over the place, promising medals and t-shirts and this that and the other. It was a true delight to pay a fiver, get a number and just go and race in the hills against other people in similar states of raggedy old vests and shorts.

The idea was to go out easy, enjoy the climb, because that generally doesn't hurt at the moment, and then not go too crazy on the downhill, as it seems to be the impact that is the driver for the hip tenderness at the moment.
And then Des told us the race would be run anti-clockwise. Great, so the downhill would be down a hard track, instead of nice, soft bog. Ah well, we'll just have to see how it goes.

From the off I was very much off the front group pace, with Ali Campbell and Si Pymm setting a bit of a level, with Chris Webb close behind. After the first bunch up at the bottle neck I noticed Paul Skuse was also ahead of me, as was Caity.
towards the end.
I mooched along with Dave Soles for a while, trying to make sure any gates that could be opened were opened - 95 people jumping over gates in quick succession doesn't do them much good. By the time we hit the stream crossing I had caught up with Skusey, and overtook him on the jump across, and then tried to stick at about the same distance away from Caity on the climb to Cockhill.

It was going relatively well until Rookie Error of the day - shoelace came undone. Talk about lack of racing - indeed any kind of running experience at all...

By the time I'd sorted it out, I was back with Paul, and we topped out and started the descent together. It was a bit fun underfoot, and eventually I distanced him, and caught Caity in pretty much the last field, holding her off for 10th place at the end.

Hamstrings are a bit shot, as is my left calf, but that's just lack of running practice. At the moment I can feel the hip a bit sore, so I'm off to sit down. The acid test is how/if it recovers/improves over the next few days.

Thanks muchly to Des for the organisation, and the last minute chance of direction. Always nice to have a bit of a change of plan.
I wonder if they'll do that at Jura next year?!

Monday, 4 September 2017

TDS race report

As you may or may not know, the main race I was aiming for this year was the TDS. 110km and 7000m of ascent from Courmayer to Chamonix. Quite an amazing route as far as I could tell. The points needed to gain access to the race came from the Spine Challenger 2016 and the Bryce Canyon 50 mile 2016.
Training started in earnest at the beginning of the year, and I was racking up the miles and ascent nicely, right the way through to June, having got a fairly decent time on the Old County Tops in May. All was going well, until in the first week of June I felt a little ache in my right lower back - just above my bum. Technically - in my Sacro-iliac Joint.

No problem. Ease off and let it heal.
Except the ache turned into pain, and then the next day I could barely put any weight on my right leg as it hurt so much. Oooh. Problem.

The next few weeks were taken as rest weeks - though I was booked to go out to Chamonix to have a look around some of the course where I would be running at night. I managed a day of reccying - about 20km, with a fair amount of pain relief, but the 2nd day, a planned 30km day, which would normally be a doddle - was called off after a mere 2km as I literally couldn’t walk.

2 months out from the race, and this was a bit of a bummer. There was the distinct possibility that I could rehab myself back to walking in time for the race - though 110km might be a bit of a stretch, I would probably be able to stumble my way around within the 33hour cut off. The possibility of running for that distance was not an option. I could barely run 100m, let alone 100km.

As the days and weeks rolled past, more and more people asked me about the hip, how likely I was to run, when I would make a decision etc. The idea was to get out to Chamonix a week before the race and make an informed decision there.
The idea of making an “informed” decision when you are surrounded by a load of psyched people, wall to wall sunshine and amazing scenery did seem a little out of place, though. That was not a situation which was conducive to being intelligent.

Having not run for 4,5,6,7 and finally, 8 weeks, the main thing I wanted to avoid was doing a single event and then destroying myself for the next 3,4,5 etc. months. That would be really silly. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy racing, but I would much rather have 5 months pootling around in the hills with friends than doing a single massive blow out in a race which I might not even finish.

And so it came to August. I had not run for 6 weeks, and to be honest, I didn’t fancy just walking the course. Entering it for it’s own sake was not on the agenda. The bullet was bitten and I withdrew my entry.
I’d much rather DNS than DNF.

We went out to Chamonix for the holiday anyway. We walked, we drank beer, I managed to get a short alpine day in with a friend, and we had an amazing time.
Was I annoyed that I wasn’t running the TDS? Yes. A little. However, I know that I still can barely run 5km without pain. Attempting a race of that magnitude would have been folly and stupidity. We’re home now, and the rehab continues. I’m hoping to get out for some shorter races soon, and maybe even dabble a bit in XC this winter. The hip is still not pain-free, but the movement continues.

Will I enter the TDS next year? If my points still stand, yes, I think I will. Not because it is unfinished business, but because I can’t see any other time that I will bother getting the entry points. We’ll see what happens.

Til then - I hope to see you on a hill some time.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Wincle Trout 2017

A race that changes character every year. The start/finish area has 3 options, one at the bottom of the hill, one midway up, and the last at the top of the hill. Each year the location is swapped around, for reasons that are not known to me.
This year was the start/finish at the top of the hill, so certainly the most brutal finish of the variations.
Lynne and I got to Wincle ridiculously early and walked around the entire route, which was very useful in determining where all the pinchpoints and stiles were. (and there were a lot of them). If you're Simon Bailey and 3 mins ahead of everyone else it probably doesn't matter, but that isn't me.

I also found that from the off, the field was rutted and dodgy underfoot, so a great chance to get ahead of the pack of road runners for the descent and not get caught behind people for the long run out along the side of the river.
Managed to get a decent start, and got away from people over the rutted fields, was in the top 10 going though the river and then settled into a pace. Overtook Jack Ross, who must have done an ankle as he pulled out injured soon after.
Then it was me and 2 Chorlton runners (soon to be joined by a Dark Peaker) who basically exchanged places for the entire race. I thought we were around the 7/8/9/10th place runners and was going pretty much as hard as I could, but felt there were a couple of gears missing that I couldn't access, especially downhill. That's the problem with focussing on distance and ascent covered, I'm just not training for short, hard races.

It all came to a head at the end, as you'd imagine. Final hill climb and I was pretty far gone. One of the Chorlton lot and the Dark Peaker got a length on the other Chorlton lad and me, and I wasn't going to let the other guy beat me. As it was we came 3/4/5/6th in the race.
I didn't expect that.
Pretty tired - more so than after the OCT, to be honest, but I guess it's a different type of racing.
And we all got a Trout for our trouble.

Great race, but if you want to do it, the entries open in feb, and it gets sold out in 4 days or so.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Old County Tops 2017

Chris and I were sitting the pub discussing his Paddy Buckley round back in February when he mentioned he didn't have a partner for the OCT this year. I don't remember actually saying "yes", but there I was, up at 4:15am having breakfast, waiting to be picked up for a dash to the Langdales and back in a day.
Despite being relatively nice and sunny in Glossop, true to form, as soon as we stepped out of the car in the Dungeon Ghyll carpark, it began to rain. Not only that, but as we queued for registration (not an easy task with 120 pairs of runners in a marquee), the heavens really opened, and all the runners that had already registered, headed back to the relative shelter of the tent, making things rather more crowded.
So it was waterproofs on for the start, and unsurprisingly Rob Jebb and Josh Jardine led from the get go. At the end of the first flat section, Chris and I looked over our shoulders and saw a huge gap between us and 4th place and began to wonder if we had gone off a touch fast... it wasn't like we were keeping up with Jebby and Jardine, but we were a lot closer to them than to the guys behind.

Waterproofs came off pretty quickly as we ambled down to Grasmere, and then cruised up the hill towards the tarn and Dollywagon Pike, we took a slightly hybrid line up the Pike - straight followed
by a diagonal trend, which worked as well as can be expected. (It's one of those eternal questions, which is the best line... straight or diagonal - the answer is, which ever one has the person with the strongest legs). From the top, we ascended into the clag where a bitter wind started to blow, bringing jackets and in my case, gloves, into play. We hit the top of Helvellyn at about 1:40, before bashing across and down to the second checkpoint, staying a little higher than I have done before, so getting a better grassy descent at the bottom. A team with sticks overtook us on the way down, but beyond that, nothing really exciting happened.

Up Wythburne, we took the line Caity and I took a couple of years ago, avoiding the bog in the bottom - which the guys with sticks ended up in (up to the waist), and after the traverse down to the Styx path, we took a slightly sub-optimal line towards Angle Tarn- where the sticks guys overtook us again.
We got to Angle tarn just as the weather began to break again, and put on the waterproofs on the move as we headed up into even greater murk, leaving the team we had been playing tag with slightly lower down, faffing with waterproofs.
From here on up, the weather deteriorated, I lost feeling in my hands, despite having Prism Mitts on, so getting food in, working compasses and taking photos were all a bit more tricky than normal. As you might expect, food and compass work got priority, so there aren't any pictures of the clag on tops... not that there was much to see there apart from us slipping around on the rocks.

Underfoot it was properly treacherous, so we took it steady over to the top of the Pike. Having not done the direct descent for a couple of years, we were not anywhere near as slick as I would have liked us to be, however, we got down without incident, and once down into Mosedale we began to warm up a little. Not a lot - mind you, there were clumps of frozen hail dotted around the valley floor, and there was no way I was taking my gloves off yet...

A bimble down Mosedale saw us get to Cockley beck for a well earned cup of tea and a sandwich as we turned toward the inevitable looming ascent of Grey Friar. Never an enjoyable climb, it felt like my legs were falling off as we went up. A slightly more youthful team from Howgill Harriers had caught up by now, and we went up and ontowards the Old Man of Coniston pretty much as a 4.
Again, the clag was down across the top. That, along with fatigue and general malaise meant that I was a little careless in my route finding, and we found ourselves dropping a little too low to the East on the way out to the final Top. Easily rectified, but it must have cost us a few minutes, and certainly expended energy that would have been better spent elsewhere.

The other team had better legs than us (perhaps it was finally our rather exuberant speed at the beginning of the race which was getting it's own back), and they went off into the distance ahead of us from the final peak. Unperturbed, we set off in pursuit, though a bit of a lacklustre one, considering that I was beginning to get stitch. Our line down to 3 shire stone was fairly average, the pain from the road descent was as bad as it always is, but finally the sun came out, and I was able to take off my gloves and get a little bit of warmth and feeling back into my hands!
A gel was taken on the way in, just to keep the legs going, and we finally crossed the line in 7 hours and 29 minutes in 4th place.

Really happy with that, considering that Chris' aim was to finish in sub-8 and my aim was to finish in the top 6.

I have to say a massive thanks to achilli ratti for their organisation of the event - it was as good as it always is, and I shall be back next year for the 30th anniversary of the race.
Also, well done to all the competitors, not only those that had a horrendous time in the weather and managed to finish, but also to those that had a horrendous time and took the intelligent decision to bail at various points. Decision making in the mountains can be a hard thing to do, especially when racing - but the fact that everyone got back in more or less one piece indicates that as a whole, the racers made the right calls.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Teenager with Altitude 2017

I liked this race so much last year that I entered it again. 16 miles and 2000 and a bit metres of ascent and descent... whats not to like?!
Glorious day for it in the Lakes as well - started off a little chilled, with the promise of a bit of breeze on top, and continued throughout with blue skies.

The first climb was just as hard as I remembered, and my climbing has not improved on last years- in fact it has suffered a little. Off the first top, I was quite a way behind the first group (trailing behind the leaders) and was in amongst a few others. I followed Scoffer along on the low line from High Moss to Coledale track - which was the line I took last year and cronked my knee on.
This year - no knee cronkage. yay! Instead, I twisted an ankle - funnily enough within about 10 metres of where I did my knee last year. Wonderful.

Took a different line up Grasmoor this year- rather than the direct line, I went around to the right. I left Spyke at the bottom, and met with him at the top. If there was any difference in the times, it was totally negligible.
I ran with Spyke, swapping leads all the way over to Whiteless Pike, where there was the most spectacular view of Buttermere. The descent was one to be enjoyed, and after overtaking a few people down there, Scoffer was once again only 20 metres from me as we crossed the river to climb to Newlands Hause.

As is the norm, Scoffer et al. launched off upwards, and it was all I could do to look on and try to limit my losses on the ascent. By the time I'd got to the top of High Snockrigg (the best named peak in the Lakes, closely followed by Joppletey How), Spyke had once again caught and overhauled me.
Together we climbed Robinson by the path on the Right (again, different to last year for me), which is definitely the more efficient route, but my Hamstrings were letting me know they had had enough by then. Trying to follow Spyke became a bit like trying to follow a terminator as he marched his way upward.

I hit the top a little behind him, and as the hordes from the Anniversary Waltz appeared, I never quite managed to get back to him after that.

Down and up to Hindscarth was pretty fun as the quads were having a bit of a rebellion, though I picked my way through the Waltzers, keeping an eye out ahead for Spyke. Again, down and over to Dale Head, and a badly picked line off the top (waaaay too far right) saw me lose some time - so that going up and over the final ridge Jon Ascroft and a guy from Borrowdale caught me up.

The final tussle over High Spy, Malden Moor and Catbells saw us encouraging each other to make decisive moves against each other, and generally have a good old battle.
In the midst of all this, coming down off Malden Moor, I noticed a familiar figure, running down the hill with 2 sticks - could it be? Yup - it was Joss. We exchanged pleasantries as I passed - no idea how many others noticed him galloping over the fells today....

There was always a point where one of the 3 of us was ahead and one was struggling, with the other calmly moving in the middle, but it was not until the final descent when Jon had broken away, that I managed to gather myself and break from the Borrowdaler.

Finally, heels slipping in my shoes and blisters threatening, the final road section appeared and I stormed down to the end. 13th overall in 3:12. A minute slower than last year, but a place up.
We'll take that and see what the rest of the year brings.
It was an amazing day out, and once again, I'll swear that I'll go back and do the route when I can have the chance to fully appreciate the splendour of that bit of the Lakes - much less run and visited than the honeypots, but equally as glorious.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Paddy Buckley Support - legs 2 and 3 - and thoughts on timings.

I've supported legs 2 and 3 before. The first time was with Al. It was dark. I swore blind I'd never run leg 3 again. Then Jasmin asked me to help her on leg 3 last year, so I did.
Then Chris asked me if I'd do legs 2 and 3 with him this year. Not liking to let someone down, I said yes.
It was much the same as I remembered - dark, cold and windy on leg 2. (I wore waterproof trousers for running in for the first time since the Spine!), and leg 3 was a massive bog-fest followed by leg sapping climbs across the Moelwyns and Cnicht. All good fun.

Chris heading up Cnicht
This isn't really meant to be a record of the day out, but more of a couple of thoughts about the Paddy Buckley schedule, especially that of leg 3.
The attempts I have supported ended up being successful - a 23:18, 23:19 and an 18:33. The most notable thing about all of them was just how hard leg 3 was, both in terms of the physical movement and the mental game - but perhaps most importantly, the battle against the schedule.
To be fair to Al, he didn't have a schedule for each peak, but rather had a time when he wanted to be at road crossings. We were up by 30 mins when we left Capel Curig, but were about an hour down on the 23 hour schedule by the time we hit Aberglaslyn.
Yes, we moved slowly, yes it was dark, but what the heck happened?!

At the Mines
With Jasmin, it was hard, hard work. I don't know if we were keeping to the 18 hour schedule that was written down, but on analysis, she was only just hitting some of the splits that would have (theoretically) got her a 23 hour schedule.

With Chris, we started the leg 15 mins down on his 23 hour schedule, and we were up and down on it by varying amounts from 5 mins to 55 mins depending on the peak. Clearly, the schedule is not quite up to muster, so I sat down and geeked out on the times between each round and came up with the following conclusions.

Up siabod.
  • Moel Siabod climb - you're looking at about 1 hour for a 23 hour schedule. Maybe a little longer.
  • Siabod to clogwyn bwlch y maen is just over 20 mins.
  • clogwyn bwlch y maen to Carnedd y Cribiau is about 10.
  • Carnedd y Cribiau to Cerrig Cochion seems to be where it seems to all go wrong for the timings - on a 23 hour schedule it gives you 34 mins. On her 18 hour schedule, Jasmin did it in 30. Chris and Al were over 50 mins on this section. The next few sections are also quite a bit slower in practice than in theory...
  • Cerrig Cochion to Moel Merch is given as 13 mins - Jasmin - again on the 18 hour schedule nailed it in exactly that. Call it 15 for a 23 hour schedule.
  • Moel Meirch to Ysgafael Wen - 18 mins is given here. Jasmin did it in 19... Chris in 22 and Al in 29. (I suspect we were having navigational amusements at that point, considering the dark and fatigue, so call it about 23 mins to be safe).
  • Ysgfael Wen to Mynydd Llynnau'r Cwm is given as 4 mins. If you can do that in 4 mins, you probably haven't been trying. Chris and Jasmin both did it in 6, and Al was 14 - again, a night nav thing, I suspect. Call is 6-7 mins then.
  • Mynydd Llynnau'r Cwm to the unnamed peak is given as 7 on the 23 hour schedule- considering Jasmin hit it in 4, and both Chris and Al did it in 8, that seems to be there or thereabouts.
  • The next couple are ok, but the time from Allt Fawr to Foel Ddu- 30 mins on a 23 hour schedule took 42 for both Al and Chris (using different lines), and 28 for Jasmin.
  • The only other split of any issue may be Moelwyn Mawr to Cnicht - 23 hour schedule says 52mins. You might find yourself lagging a little behind that depending on just how deep you've had to go in order to keep up with the previous splits.

At the start. No. These photos are not in chronological order!
That's probably enough of the numbers and stats for the moment. Perhaps the only other things I would note are these:
doing leg 3 in the dark is bloody hard. If you're going to do it, recce it as much as possible and know exactly which lumps you are going to summit at to save wasting time looking for the right one.
In fact, do that, even if you are going to do it in the day time.

If you're going to support, yes, it's cool to do legs 2 and 3, but if you want to be the best supporter you possibly can, I'd suggest getting some shut-eye and being fully compus mentis for the leg - someone needs to be sharp for the bog navigation, and being tired does nothing to help with that.

If you want to know more about detailed times, spreadsheets and GPX's drop me a line. I tend to keep an eye on the comments sections of the blog.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Hypothermia on Kinder

Trained hard through December and January, took February off running - mainly as I was in Tasmania, and anywhere I tried to run ended up being infested with snakes. The intelligent option was taken and I chilled out a bit, enjoyed the holiday, and subsequently didn't get bitten.

Back in the UK, I decided to go for a bit of a bimble with a friend. We are fairly evenly matched in terms of running, though I realised that 3 weeks off it would probably set me back a ways - especially while trying to get over a 28 hour flight and 11 hour time difference.
How right I was, and how painful was the realisation!

We set off on the run, over Bleaklow and Kinder, picking off a few trig points on the way. I was pretty tired by the time we got to the top of the first hill - close to home - and was being nailed on the ascent by Matt. Still, even though I wasn't feeling amazing, I should really put some effort it, and so we continued over to Higher Shelf.
By this time, it was clear we were above the current snow line, the sun was still out, but it was a bit cold. If I turned for home now, it'd be fine, but Matt was going to continue on, no matter what I did- maybe heading over to meet up with some guys doing a Skyline recce. I decided not to wuss out and let him go on alone, partially because it wouldn't have been fair to let him head off on his own into what was to become pretty horrid conditions.

Things got better over toward the Alport, but I ran out of steam on the climb up to Kinder. Most of the bars had gone, and as we headed to look for 1957 trig the weather came in hard. Snow, sleet, wind etc. We stopped to put on insulated layers, but in the intervening period, my hands pretty much stopped working. We made the decision just to head along the north edge til we got home.
So I took the lead, and basically set off in totally the wrong direction for about 1km. Once we started recognising the places we had already been, direction was sorted out, and once again we set out along the northern edge. In a Westerly direction this time.

The edge path was horrible. Varying depths of bog and snow up to about1.5ft of each, snow falling - well, being driven into us, and slowly getting colder.
My brain was fixed on getting along the edge, ticking off features as we went. I slowly got colder, despite the various layers I was wearing and at some points my head was wondering about calling out MRT.
However, we were still moving. We were not injured. Stopping would have made it worse. We would have to wait at least 2 hours for MRT to arrive - at which point they would get us to walk off the hill anyway. The alternative was to keep running and get home in about an hour anyway. So we kept going through the mud and the grimness. Me fighting fatigue, jetlag and hypothermia, and eventually we dropped out of the cloud and into Glossop.
Epic over.

Well - nearly. I then spent about 3 hours in bed trying to warm up and get back to normal again... really running on fumes at the end there. 

Learning points -
  • It takes a while to get over jetlag.
  • I'm not a natural runner and need to keep practiced in order to stay good
  • Keep your head strong - it will drag you further than you think you can go
  • Carry enough fuel 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Edale Skyline - 2017

Lynne mentioned the other day that I hadn't written anything about Edale Skyline, and I thought I should get a a couple of thoughts down on paper before I totally forgot about it.

I hadn't raced at all between Mickleden and the Skyline, in fact, my training had been somewhat stymied by a 3 week trip to Tasmania. Although it was very cool indeed, and a fantastic laugh, I didn't actually get much running or training in while there. Once back in the UK, it was quite evident that I am not a natural runner as I got nailed on what should have been an easy run with a friend... more on that on another blog.

Me and Ben Naylor at the top of Ringing Roger
Essentially I felt like I was starting from scratch again. Luckily, the time off running had allowed my ankle to pretty much get back to being normal, however the Skyline came a bit too close for me to have got quite back to racing speed.
My first aim was to be in the top 10 out of the field, not get held back on the climb, and just see how the rest of the race went.
The weather was fantastic, so normal AL racekit was needed, as opposed to the significantly greater list on a bad year - so the race weight wasn't all that bad. As I hoped, I was in the first 10 out of the gate, and didn't get held back on the climb. Got overtaken by a lot of people, mind, including Chris Webb pretty soon after the first hairpin, but I just plodded on.

Across the tops I found myself catching up with the guys in front, and retook a number of places on the technical section and was with Chris and Jez as we went to Hope Cross. The new route now takes us down the Hope Wakes route, and we were told to stick to the paths, which we duely did. Other racers, it seems were not given that instruction and bashed through the woods on a direct line, cutting over fences... not entirely cool, and I wonder if more specific guidance may be given next year.

On the climb up to Win Hill my legs decided to say "nope" and I lost a number of places. My ascending is *still* the weakest part of my race, even 5 years after starting to race. Maybe I've got stronger at everything, and yet climbing is lagging behind by the same amount?
On the descent I grabbed a place from Ben Naylor and managed to stay ahead of him on the ascent of Lose Hill. About 3-4 of us were exchanging places and good humoured banter up the hill and across the ridge to Mam tor, but once past the checkpoint, my legs ended up really going "definitely nope" and I lost touch with them as we headed over Lord's seat.

Just before the new checkpoint at the bottom of the hill to Brown Knoll, Lynne was there with a drink, which I was grateful for, and then started the long flagged climb to the Knoll. Those slabs are great, in terms of not wading through bog, but horrendous in that they just keep going. Especially when you have runners breathing down your neck.

A couple of guys overtook me along the Southern edge of Kinder, and I could feel a blister coming on inbetween my toes (grit in socks?) and there was another one waiting to overtake me, who didn't quite have the speed over the slightly more technical terrain towards the end. I then totally lost him on the descent and came in a good minute in front of the next finisher.
20th overall, and 3:25. Not bad, really, but with some serious work to do on my climbing.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Mickleden straddle 2017

Just a couple of thoughts. Started out after about 6k of warm up. Maybe too much? Was fairly far down the field at the beginning and had to fight through about 40 people before being able to open up. Spent about 4km chasing down Chris, so I wonder if I burnt a few too many matches in the opening few km? Was happy going across the tops and was in 7th by the time I hit Slippery stones.

Was getting quite tired down the resers and then had to stop to tie a shoe before the ascent. The ascent was long and hard, couldnt justify walking, but my "running" wasn't really up to much and by then Chris had caught up to me and was neck and neck with me. Up to the top he gained about 10 metres and then I twisted an ankle and had to stick my foot into a bog for a minute before I could get on with attempting to run again.
The descent was long and it was a good few minutes before I got overtaken by a load of chasers. Ended up 13th which is pretty annoying considering without the ankle mishap I'd have easily been top 10. Not sure I'd have managed to beat Chris as I was feeling knackered, but there you go.

Saturday, 14 January 2017


I've just looked at the last blog I wrote- it was a report on supporting Jasmins Paddy Buckley... it just didn't get published, so I'll do that a little later on. A few months late, but whatever.

It snowed last night, and the Spine Challenger starts today. I am not doing it this year, looking back at my blog from the race last year, I can still remember the pain. During the race it crossed my mind what kind of a running year I might then have, whether it would be good, bad or indifferent.
To begin with it was pretty rubbish. I couldn't really string days, let alone weeks of training together. A few races came and went - Teenager with Altitude, helping Jasmin out on her Bob Graham, that kind of thing, but various tweaks and problems came and went.
Through the year I had pre-entered a number of races, but they ended up being a bit rubbish, or I had to pull out and DNS them. My ankle twisted and kept going over through the summer months, and it seemed like I just couldn't keep myself together.

August saw Craken Edge where I ended up pulling a hip flexor which put me out of fast running action for a fair while, and to be honest, I'm still feeling it. I rested for a good few weeks - to no avail, so I trained a little- to no avail, and through into December I just decided to train properly for a few weeks just to see what would happen. Nothing nasty, so I've just decided to ignore it and continue.

To be fair, although that sounds like a litany of bad luck and grumbly-ness, I have had a decent amount of good form. The Spine Challenger was hard, but I was 4th overall, and 1st Mountain Rescue home. I managed another sub-4 at Jura, and in very different conditions to the Spine, I came in 3rd on the Bryce Canyon 50miler... very different extremes of weather and temperature. Not a bad to-do.

This year should be fun- as there is no horrendous winter race to contend with. However, I have just had confirmation that I have a place in the TDS in France at the end of August. 73km and 7000m of ascent. So thats probably going to be the main aim of the year, with other bits and pieces jammed in around that.

The main thing is going to be trying to stay injury free and enjoying being out there.
That's what its about. Being in the hills with friends.