Thursday 28 December 2023

Jim's Yo Ho O. 2023

 At the end of December there is a bit of a get together and a semi-unofficial orienteering event put on by the Pennine FR legend that is Jim. I did it a few years ago, but for the last couple of years have been otherwise indisposed on the day of the fun- normally driving back from the Isle of Wight or some such. This year, I was in Glossop and the weather looked... tasty. The tail end of Storm Gerrit was still mooching across the moors with wind gusting from Force 4 to about 7 or 8, and the promise of significant amounts of precipitation. Not so cold as to be *fun* precipitation, but just the right temperature to be *grim*.

Absolutely shorts weather then. 

The course is set out like a standard Orienteering map, with checkpoints and corresponding points, though this year, in tribute to a sadly departed stalwart of Pennine (and MDOC)- John Williams, 5 of the checkpoints weren't on the map. Oh no. You had to get to one of the checkpoints (numbers 1-5), where a small map was attached to the flag for the OTHER checkpoint, that was within 750 metres of your current location.... double trouble checkpoint action! Sounds fun? Absolutely. And with a 4 hour cut off, there really is time to run yourself ragged over some pretty gnarly terrain. 

Starting from Little Hayfield I took the option to go anti-clockwise, heading to Check1 at the bottom of Sandy Heys, wondering if I would have to double back on myself for the "bonus" checkpoint. Easy running along footpaths and bridleways giving me time to think about onward planning, got me to checkpoint 1 relatively easily. 

The paired check was further to the east, so that meant that a potential climb up Sandy Heys to Check3 was disregarded in favour of the direct climb to check 4 (which had more points) at the trig point. 

This was a slow leg and I think I've found some very good ground for practicing hill climbs on pretty tough gound! Despite the forecast, it was very clear at this point, and the wind was from the south west, which definitely freshened as you got to the top. The trig was easy to find, and the paired check was down on the fence line halfway up Upper Redbrook. However- there was another checkpoint further to the east up the grough line from Nether Redbrook. 

Being an idiot, I decided to kind of try to straight line it, despite the fact that I didn't have a compass out, didn't have anything to aim for, and was going off pure "I reckon it's that way". As I got further and further into it, I recognised that the other side of the coin that was previously disregarded- going to the Northern Edge Path, run along that to Nether Red and then go up the clough- was probably a better idea. So I kind of dropped a bit north until I got close to the path, spied the grough line, dropped into it and then followed it to the Control. 

Could have been a lot slicker with that one- might have lost 5mins or so with the faffage. 

Previously the idea as to whether to drop from there to the Footbridge at 15, or go to the Sabres at 11 was the question... with a paired checkpoint at Upper Redbrook, it was a no-brainer. To Upper RedBrook, the Sabres, then down the Ashop to 15. 

Easy pickings now, as the weather stayed clear. Along the Northern Edge and a significant drop down the brook to the stile. Pick out the Sabres in the distance and pick a trod to run along to get to the wreckage. By the flag there was a little box with a prize for those who got to this checkpoint, which was well received, and then about turn and down to the Ashop and a jog along the track to the hut ruin and Foot bridge- which is always futher than you think. 

The obvious next place was check 19, up Red Clough- on the map it seems pretty obvious where you should be going. The grough lines look huge. They are indeed deep- but they are not very obvious. It was here that I was starting to second guess myself and ended up wandering around for a while cursing the geography and my inability to find a stream junction. I probably lost a good 5-10 mins here with the faffage, but eventually got the flag after casting around for a fairly specific grough that should have been obvious, and following it. Got it- and then ... well- there's a 60 pointer to the North. It'd be rude not to go for that. 

So I've been going for an hour and a half, all good. I've eaten something, am jogging uphill and over Featherbed Moss, all is good. A couple of alterations of course to make sure I'm getting to the right place (and a change of gloves from Warm mitts to Waterproof mitts), and soon enough I'm dropping down towards Snake and the furthest checkpoint. I've been here before and know where it is. 

The next few are interesting. Do I go direct West from here to pick up 17, and from there, again West ish to get 18? The ground is, at best, awful- and will be very time sapping. Do I go south along the Pennine Way to pick up 20? 

Considering the ground, I decided to go with an easy run to the high point on the PW and drop North West to pick up 17, retrace my steps (ish)- to the PW and then drop south to get 20, retrace steps AGAIN back to the PW to pick up the trod back down toward turfpits for 18. It seems a little round about and uppy-downy, but the trods were a better option (with more points) than attempting to contour through heather and bog. 

There was only a mild hiccup as I tried to run towards the wrong clough at check 17, and it took a while for my brain to compute that I needed to be in Span clough, NOT Holden. Doh. Must be getting tired. 

So 17, 20. 18, and now a horrible contour through heather, bog and goodness knows what to 5- where there would be a bonus checkpoint. It's getting colder now as I've slowed down a bit, taken on food and am heading into a headwind, and my brain is starting to think about stopping. 

The contouring is kind of uppy-downy and over to a section of Bakestone Delph that is very wet indeed. There are a number of ways out of here, but none of them are particularly pleasant. The paired checkpoint is DOWN, which is kind of annoying, but at least it means that I don't have to grovel my way up a full flowing stream, and it suits me well. The next checkpoint I want to get to is over by the Trig. Technically, I *could* fight my way across the bog, but it will be easier underfoot, and probably faster overall to drop to the path to the shooting cabin, up the trod by the grouse butts and across to the trig, even though it's longer. 

As I head to the paired check it rains. Then as I go off toward the shooting cabin, it hails, the wind comes in, hood up, both sets of mitts on. Grim- and I'm not moving fast- and there isn't a huge amount of time left. My brain is already planning routes off once I hit this final checkpoint. This is the longest I've been out in months and I'm starting to feel cold and unhappy. 

Stop in the windshadow of the hut for a gel and a quick talking to myself, and off up the hill to try to find the trod thay links this grouse butt line across 2 cloughs to the trig point. As I ascend the precipitation reduces a bit, and it is easy to see where I'm going. After a couple of false starts, I find the right line, and get to the trig, and from there to the control, where there is a paired control marked. 

Looking at it, it really isn't far away, but it's across a bog. I don't recognise that on the other side of the bog there is a fairly decent path- all my brain is saying is "there is a way off to the West- it goes down and out of the weather. It's runnable and you'll get another checkpoint on the way in". 


And I give in to the voice, and go that way. 

Looking at it now, it would have been just as easy, and just as fast to go across the bog to the paired checkpoint, and ALSO get the other, final point as well, but, as I say... cold, tired, wet, want to get off th hill, don't want to be out any longer in case I injure myself through fatigue- all contributed to the decision to just head off the easiest and most obvious trail. 

Down the hill and off- then a final up and down to the finish, and in with a generous amount of time left. I could *easily* have got that extra 20 points, ah well. 

Off and finished- what an excellent time out. Thanks to Jim and PFR for their kind hospitality, and of course to the Lantern Pike Inn (fishfinger sarnies and chip butties!). I wouldn't have been doing much else today, and the chance to get out for 4 hours of hammering around the general area of Kinder was jolly fun. I realise that I haven't quite got the endurance for a 4 hour event at the moment, but that's fine. Plenty of time to do a whole lot of training yet. 

Monday 4 December 2023

Where are you headed?

 Every year I tend to post a link to a previous blog- Go outside, sit down. Wait. It's a decent read, even if you've read it before. 

The reason why I'm writing a kind of new/semi-update is because this kind of happened over the weekend and it was simple fortune that the casualty happened to be in a place with some kind of phone signal. 

Backstory: Snow over night. Icy on the ground. A barmy -5 air temp, clear blue skies. A bloke goes out running in the morning on a route he knows well. Tells his wife "where he is going"- and what time he should be back- in about 2 hours. 

40 mins later, the police get a call from the runner with a suspected fractured leg with a short description of what he has run past- though not his exact location, and pass the information on to Mountain Rescue. There is a further vague message, potentially from his wife that he might be on one of the lower level footpaths around here- but that doesn't match the description given by the casualty on the phone.... 

By the time the Mountain Rescue team get a team out of base, he has been sat in the snow (albeit with a foil blanket) for more than an hour. Although it is a bright, clear day, he is not in the sun and is slowly making less and less sense on the phone as he becomes gradually more hypothermic. 

He can answer the phone- but he can't use it to give us a direct location as he doesn't have his glasses with him. Why would he? He's going on a run.

Due to the information passed to us on the phone by the casualty himself, a team was on the hill and with him within 1.5 hours as he was going pretty hypothermic - with a very messed up leg. That's well within the time (2 hours) that his wife would have happily expected him to still be enjoying his run. 

What if he had just gone a bit further up onto the moor before this happened- and then snapped his leg in an area with no signal? 

When does the wife get worried enough to callout mountain rescue if he isn't home in the allotted 2 hours? Immediately? After 2.5? 3?- 

and when she DOES eventually call through- what information do we have? 

That he has gone for a run, potentially along a low level footpath that he wasn't on at all. (mixed messages? misunderstanding of potential route?- who knows)- but by that time, he'll have been in the snow with a snapped leg for 2-4 hours going severely hypothermic in an as yet unknown location.

And if you didn't know already, trauma and hypothermia as a double act are not a good combination. 

Now- I know that sometimes when you head out, you don't know exactly where you are going. Equally, it might be nice to know that people DON'T know exactly where you'll be. 

However, as one of the people that might have to put together a series of vague (sometimes incorrect) clues as to where you might be when you're ovedue/have fallen down a hole that is out of signal and snapped your leg etc. it would be really handy if someone knew at least where you were vaguely intending on going, and when you were planning on being back. 

Note- this is not just for runners- walkers are in the same bracket, and just because you *think* you're carrying more than an average runner in your rucksack, it doesn't make Mountain Rescue come any faster... in fact, you might have told someone you'll be 5-7 hours on the hill... that is a LONG time to wait before being certain that MR have been called.

Where exactly are you planning on going again?!

Whenever I go out I give Lynne a rough plan of where I'm going, what time I'm planning on being back, and a "pull the cord" time- when if she hasn't heard from me- call 999. Chances are, if I'm ok, then I'll have signal *somewhere* and should be able to tell her that I'm ok. If I'm not- then I know that there is a specific time when I *know* that MR have been called. 

If you don't know how to call Mountain Rescue in the UK- it's 999, and ask for Mountain Rescue through the Police. 

It's glorious out there. Enjoy the hills, be safe, have an escape plan, and know when you need to call it in.

Sunday 22 October 2023

Hill and Fell relays 2023- Leg2

 Originally I wasn't going to be running this. Generally speaking each person in the club apparently gets "1 relay run a year", though I wasn't aware of this. However, due to various people deciding to run, then not run, and teams being shuffled and reshuffled (as is always the case to the frustation and stress levels of those organising the teams) I ended up being partnered with Ben Tetler on Leg 2. 

Ben is a faster runner than me- kind of in the same league as how Chris is a faster runner than me, so I was under no illusions that this was going to be a fairly challenging day out. None the less, it was most likely to be a fun day out as well. It was useful to be on Leg2 as I had to leave early to get back for an MRT exercise- so that fell into place nicely. 

The Relays were held by Keswick this year, and so started in Braithwate, which brought  back memories of a hiking holiday I went on with Rob back in oooh- 2006 which is mainly remembered for waking up every morning with ice on the inside of the tent, seeing footprints in the snow of fellrunning shoes and thinking "wow- imagine living somewhere that you own a pair of shoes with spikes in *specifically* for days like this, and, on the last day, walking down off Grisedale Pike, being overtaken by a fellrunner and thinking "that's amazing. I wish I could do that- no chance living in London". 

So here we are. Vet40 team for Glossopdale. A pretty crisp day, but with a fair amount of rolling clag across the tops. Neither Ben nor I had had any time to get up to recce the leg, so we were just going to go with the safest lines, which were the ones on the map. Leg 2 is about 12.5k with 1000m of ascent (unless you recce it, take some sneaky lines, and then its only about 950). Jamie Helmer was on the first leg and set off circumspectly, gaining places over the course as other, more enthusiastic starters began to regret their decision to go out hard. Ben and I got through kit check and warmed up- reccying the first 300m of the course (oh how detailed), and went back to the start pen waiting for Jamie to come in. 


The general plan for the day was for me to go as fast as I could, and for Ben to be nice to me and not blast off up the hills at a pace I couldn't follow. Now- if you read the last blog about the HBMR relays, you'll know that I ended up with a bit of achilles tendonopathy after that, so for the last 3 weeks I've been concentrating on rehab and very much *not* running, in the hope that it would be ok for today. It had been getting better and better, but I figured that it might hurt today, but as I don't really have any more races after this, it didn't matter too much if it flared. So this could be interesting.

We saw Jamie on the last little slog up the hill to the final downhill blast and got ready in the start pen along with a number of other teams, and once tagged, we were off. The initial climb wasn't too bad- and was generally fairly runnable. Ahead of us we could see (amongst many others) the Dark Peak V50's and the Pennine V40s, both of whome seemed to be making pretty decent headway. Dark Peak were closer and we overhauled them just as we got to Barrow Gill, but Pennine remained stubbornly ahead. 

I was trying not to go too deep too soon, especially as I saw Outerside, the first actual peak, and was thinking- "well, thats maybe a quarter of the way in... don't go too silly- hold something back for the harder climbs". The initial running was very much Mudclaw territory. Plenty of sloppy bog and mud to sink the studs into, and you could see the people that weren't wearing shoes with that amount of grip as we passed team after team. However, on the climb up to Outerside, the bog gave way to stone where anyone with any kind of inov8 was immediately swearing at the ridiculous lack of anything resembling friction under their feet. This was going to be an interesting leg. Maybe I should have been wearing a mudclaw on one foot and a VJ on the other?

We bust up Outerside as fast as I was able, mainly trying to keep to the vegetation parts of the climb, avoiding people sliding across slippy wet rock, and managed to catch and pass Pennine V40's just prior to the top. Although the tops were still clagged in, I looked down and across from the Checkpoint and thought "this is pretty much the Teenager with Altitude line- I know this"- and off we clattered down towards Birkwith Beck overtaking another team, and seeing several others in our sights, who we caught up with, and then overtook along the rough traverse and down the steep descent to the main path up to Coledale hause. 

Yes- me on a descent- but not the one down to the beck (there was no-one there taking photos)

I'm not going to lie- this was not a high point. Ben seemed very in his element driving hard up the moor across the bends of the path- while I chugged a gel and held on for dear life. Taking the main path would have been less efficient, and at this stage I would have been going at the same speed over a zigzag terrain as direct up a moor, so in fact we gained on the teams in front. Ben had his eyes on the Bingley Vet team- the only way we could pass them was if they slowed down- I wasn't about to get any faster!

As we climbed to the Checkpoint at Coledale Hause I looked across and 99% of the teams ahead of us were climbing the main scramble up Eel Crag. There was a sole Keswick team traversing across the bottom of the crag- which looked like a decent line, but one that you'd only really want to take if you'd previously reccyed it (which, presumably being the host team, they had). It would have been great to take a sneaky line there, but considering the clag was still a bit down, and this was around an area characterised by places such as "Eel Crag", "Scott Crag" and "Scar Crag", it didn't seem like a good idea to start going off piste. 

Dibbed at the Hause, and then a scramble up Eel crag. Again, anyone in inov8s was cursing the lack of any kind of grip on stone. If you put your foot on any kind of rock you could guarantee that you'd slip. It was genuinely ridiculous. I might have slightly rose tinted specs on here, but about 10 years ago you could get a pair of shoes that gripped on mud AND rock, these days, it seems like that ability has been lost- which is really weird. Anyhow, a slog to the top of Eel crag, and by now, my legs and lungs are really starting to feel it. A Keswick team (not the one we'd seen earlier) came past us, and a Helm Hill team that we had just overtaken, and so at least we had someone to follow a little way to the top of Eel Crag in the mist. 

Then came a fairly technical descent down and across to the ascent to Sail. Ben was wearing Walshes, and so had a totally different grip to mine. Stepping where he stepped didn't necessarily mean I was going to get the same stability as him, so it was quite interesting to notice how we descended differently according to what gripped and what didn't.

Up to Sail- a dib, and then down to Sail pass in the cloud that slowly cleared as we descended. My legs were shot, and this was amply demonstrated by Ben quite happily skipping down the hill where I would have normally followed without a second thought. Having been on the edge for 40?50? mins or so, I just couldn't keep the power down, so got to the bottom about 10 seconds after him. On the climb to Scar crags the Keswick and Helm hill teams slowed a little, and we passed them both at the top and had a beautiful ridge run down- looking ahead to the next gaggle of teams who were just dropping down off Causey Pike- a fair distance ahead. Gotta keep running....

Dib at the path junction and a hard left down what would be, in a lesser state of fatigue and cardiovascular stress, a beautiful descent. Still, despite my legs not working quite as well as they should, we were making time on the teams ahead. Over Stonycroft Gill and onto the main path where I got a little respite before heading to Barrow Door where, just before the final climb, I turned my right ankle. Dammit. Not something I wanted to do right now. It wasn't desperate, but it still hurt a fair amount. 

The final climb to Barrow *should* have been utterly runnable, but along with that recently twisted ankle, there were times where I was having to power walk- slightly annoying as Ben could certainly have gone faster. Final dib at the top of Barrow, and the final descent. Again one made for Mudclaws. A couple of teams were ahead of us, and I was confident we would catch them before the end. Ben, who was running at seemingly a lower level of intensity than me was still able to barrel down hills at a speed that I should have been able to keep up with, but I was losing ground due to fatigue and the ankle. 

The final sprint down to the finish


We passed a team at the bottom of the hill- just as we climbed to the final descent to the event field, and then passed another team, despite me having to walk at the top- with a final ripping downhill to finish, barely slowing for the fence where we tagged Rick and Neal who headed off on the Nav leg. 



What a great route! I'm certainly going to go back and run it at leisure at some point, but crikey- at the end of this EVERYTHING was just tired and battered. 

Looking at the results now, we finished in 1:31, which put us 35th fastest overall, and 8th in the V40 category. Our run brought the team into the top 10 V40 teams, which Rick and Neal on Leg 3 and Steve Brown on Leg 4 managed to hold on to until the end- 9th V40, which was pretty decent. 

Thanks to Keswick for putting on such a fantastic event, truly a great day out. Thanks to Ian and Neal for herding cats getting the Glossopdale teams together. It really is a monumental task of management- though it really shouldn't be. Congrats to our other teams- 2 Open and a Supervets team for getting out there and running some pretty tough legs. Impressive, big hearted running. Thanks also to Clare and Sean for the use of their photos and video- much appreciated.

And yes, I got back home with enough time to spare for a shower, some food, got changed and went straight back out for the Exercise. Great fun. 

Oh- and the achilles feels fine. It'll still need a bit of rehab and tender care over the next few weeks, but the running didn't seem to affect it adversely. Happy days.