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.