As a youngster, I would get home from School, get changed and go out to play with my pals.
Now I'm older, I get home from work, get changed and go out to play with my pals, but now I call it training.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Here I go again on my own, walking down the only road I've ever known.......

After a messy 2013 attempt, I once again completed the Lakeland 50 the other day, heres the story.....

first of all a brief recap of my previous 5 years of doing this event.
In 2009 I completed (just)inside 12 hours. 12 hours had been my target so I was pleased.
In 2010 I didn't enter
In 2011 I set a new pb time but I can't remember what it was, about 11 i think.
In 2012 I won the race outright in 8 hours 30 mins -happy days
In 2013 I had a free entry (part of my 2012 prize) so I entered, but only ran as far as CP1 then DNF'd.
(look back through this Blogs archive to read previous race reports)

This year I was ever hopeful of doing well and my original plan was to try to pb again. In truth I knew I was unlikely to pb because when I won, the course was mistakenly shortened by a mile, or possibly even 2. (for every runner, not just me, that not why I won) Then when I found myself running some tough races recently  (Snowdon and Skiddaw) on top of my usual road and fell training and no taper because the 50 wasn't a target race, I figured 9 hours should be my best hope

Race morning came and by 8 am it was already getting V warm. I don't really do hot weather running. Only 2 days prior to the 50 I was on the track doing some 400metre reps in +25degC heat and was struggling to hit 82 secs/lap (82 secs/lap would be about the slowest I would normally  expect to run for FOUR laps i.e. MILE reps). I therefore adjusted my target again and figured anything up to one hour longer would still be a good time.

I got near to the front and we set off across the fields around Dalemain. It was indeed roasting hot going through those open fields and I deliberately kept my pace V easy. At one early stage, perhaps about 2 miles into the race, I was able to count my position as we all turned a 90 degree left. I was 30th. Then as we began to lose a bit of height and hit the farm tracks I was overtaken by loads more and was only about 40th as we hit the CP area and out onto the course proper. I knew I would overtake people all day and be way higher than 40th by the end so I stuck to my plans and although I chatted to people I was running with, I made no allowance for them and whenever I felt it was comfortable to push on ahead and leave them behind mid conversation, I did so.

I knew it was possible to run all the way from Pooley Bridge up the Roehead track to the Cockpit bend without having to go into the red so I never even considered walking even though many people ahead of me were. I therefore passed a lot there and then another half dozen on the flatter and the  downhill sections of fell side track to Howtown (cp1).  I had actually passed almost 20 people by Howtown and was feeling good so I flew into the cp, dibbed and left within 5 seconds flat - no hellos, no drink, no food, no need!

My hydration plans included drinking one bottle  (water with a ZERO tab in it) by Fusedale waterfall, thus providing one empty receptacle to fill from said waterfall to drink if necessary, or to simply pour onto my head as required. By Mardale Head I had emptied the other ZERO tab bottle so I got them both refilled by the cp staff with water. But I had also emptied a sachet of Kinetica energy powder into each bottle prior to reaching the cp, thus now giving me a fresh, different taste which I enjoyed, and ensured I consumed (1 of) as I climbed out of the Mardale valley up the Gatesgarth Pass. At most cp.'s I also quickly necked at least 2 or 3 of the small plastic cups of coke or juice. At Kentmere I took on plain water as I knew the cps came closer together after that (just 2 cps in the first 26 miles then 4 (including the finish) in the next 24 miles), and would never be far from sustenance.

My eating plan was simple - eat a small deli style pasta after about 4 hours and have some snack items (tracker/crispy peanut biscuit etc) available in my various pockets at all times. I also had a small packet of sesame seeds with me. By accident I had omitted to pack them and they were in my shorts pocket with the plastic packaging rubbing my leg  annoyingly. So opened the pack, emptying the seeds directly into my pocket. This turned out to be perfect. I was easily able to grab a small mouthful most times I took  a drink. I shall implement this "plan" again.

Climbing Fusedale was tough in the heat. I walked! In 2012 I had caught the race leader going up onto High Cop and had descended to the Haweswater path with a lead I never lost. Very different feelings in 2014, only just in the top 20 I reckoned! But still moving well and passing people, and anyway, what did I have to prove?  I'd won the race previously and wasn't trying for a pb time today so why worry, just enjoy yourself Steve - running in the Lake District in the sunshine, this is what you do.

Descending to the Haweswater path the heat was torturous. And its ALWAYS further than you remember to get to the carpark at Mardale Head. But then I was there, and I was fuelled, and I was gone again. Heading up Gatesgarth I glanced back to see if anyone was closing on me. Nobody was even close. I had made it up into 14th place by the Mardale cp and thats basically where I would stay for the rest of the day.

As usual, the stoney lane down off Gatesgarth went on for an absolute age, but where I used to hate it for being so hard on the feet and legs, I can now generally skip across such rough unforgiving ground, even when tired, managing to pick out the best lines and find good flat surfaces to land upon.
Another smaller pass to climb and finally to drop into Kentmere. Kentmere, an oasis in a desert of lush green countryside.

I really fancied a cuppa by now and by heck it the best cuppa tea I've had in a long long time - hit the spot it did. Walking out of the cp I finished the tea and left the cup with a marshal who had handily placed himself 50yards up the track. I had also necked the pasta, (surely, much to the disgust of the young girl inside the village hall who witnessed a very sunburnt, very sweaty, ponytailed, middle aged man in shorts burst into the calm oasis, rush around giving  "fill these" & "I want tea" orders whilst simultaneously shovelling 4hours-in-the-hot-sun-congealed bacon pasta into his mouth at an alarming rate then hurling the remaining spoonfuls into the open bin bag on the floor before heading out the door again as quick as he entered, just about managing a wave of thanks for the help as his mouth now too full to speak, struggling as he was to contain said congealed pasta as he set about chewing it just sufficiently to keep it down for the remaining 24 miles of running), so I was looking forward to a fresh burst of energy and renewed enthusiasm about 30-45 minutes later when it kicked in.

Indeed, although I was now very tired and had resigned myself to walking the uphills, even the little ones, I did feel quite good as I made my way to Troutbeck. A chap passed me coming down into Troutbeck. Perhaps because I had eased back a little to run with Ste Weston who was in the L100 and going OK still. But when it became obvious that I was holding myself back TOO much, even on this day when nothing mattered really, I left Ste behind and pressed on just a little bit harder. The guy never got far ahead of me though and I finally left him behind after the Chapel Stile cp.

Before Chapel Stile was Ambleside. A superb atmosphere with dozens of holiday makers, tourists, locals and race supporters all cheering us runners through the streets. At the cp I was keen to get some orange juice but they had none at the table outside and I wasn't going up stairs and inside for some so made do with water (plus my now customary 3 cups of coke). I also had a cheese and pickle sandwich here, just saying.

As I had come into Amblesode cp my pal Richard Ellwood was leaving. He was doing the L100. I caught him as we turned left up the climb to Loughrigg. He was actually returning toward me so it was a right turn for him - no idea where he had been........?

Richard is good craic at the best of times and was also moving very very well for a man who had ran 50 miles more than me already. So we walked the uphills together and I chivvied him to run whenever I felt it possible to do so. As we got through beyond Chesters and were on the flatlands approaching Elterwater I noticed behind us A GIRL was catching us up. There was zero possibility this was a L100 runner so it must be L50 runner, and she was therefore CATCHING ME UP!

Richard insisted  I pressed on at my own pace and by the time I reached the Wainwright pub I had not only put a lot of distance between myself and girl, but also caught the chap who had been just ahead since he passed me back at Troutbeck.

I spent a little TOO long in Chapel Stile cp to be honest and as I left I noticed girl was merely 20 yards off arriving at it. Within half a mile she caught me and passed me. Quite frankly I was amazed at how well this lass was moving along. There were no climbs as such around here but often small inclines, which she was running up! I made an effort to catch her back up and we chatted on and off for several miles. Me always losing ground on the uphill but somehow managing to claw back  on the flatter stuff.  As we left the Wrynose road to head over the short pass to Tilberthwaite there was a big ugly bull in the field near our path, and several cows actually on the path. Girl was ahead by 50 metres at this point but was V unsure of the beasts and waited for me. The next gate was only 20 metres past the bull so I just ran as normal, ignoring the bull, it therefore ignored us back (though it was having a good look).

5 seconds after bullgate, girl turned her head to speak to me, but I was suddenly incapable of keeping up with her any longer. She skipped ahead and in the 4 or 5 miles we still had to complete, beat me by 8 minutes! Well done Lizzie Wraith. as if 2nd place in the L50 wasn't good, she had previously WON the L100 in 2013!

I was utterly gone by the time I reached the Tilberthwaite cp. As I left it, I climbed those big stone steps, the final climb of the day, as if they were the steps to heaven and I was climbing them on the very last day of  a very long life. Just as someone might do who knows the end of their days has come and they have no option but to climb, I had no option but to climb. Its not that I didn't want to climb because climbing, as tough as it was to do, was now the easiest way to get to Coniston and be finished. Its just that it was really hard work and really slow going and not nearly as much fun as it had been when I had previously done that same final climb as leader and then winner of the race.

I must have been tired because even the final mile on tarmac and gently downhill took me over 10 minutes to cover. But cover it I did and I was soon in Coniston and running in to applause and cheering as I crossed the line again. Not as the race winner this time, just a reasonably well placed finisher. (Although the only officially crowned British Champions were the Male and Female winners, I was the first V45 to finish the L50 so am claiming to now be the British Ultra Trail running Champion V45 category.....any arguments?) Not that it makes any difference to the supporters, they cheer everyone, from first to last, just as loudly.

Thats what I noticed most about the UTLD this time - I noticed the event as a whole. Previously I had either turned up as late as possible to register then driven myself home as soon as I could after finishing, or I had gotten myself to Dalemain for the start, thus missing the camaraderie of the 'dreadful' coach trip from Coniston. Or I had omitted the compulsory race briefing (but did attend the L100 briefing so please don't retrospectively DQ me Marc) because I wasn't even in Coniston on the Saturday morning. I attended the prize giving at noon on Sunday this time, not because I HAD to because I was the winner, but because I wanted the whole race experience, the atmosphere, the EPIC event that is the UTLD to last as long as possible and to enjoy it all and experience all of it, right to the end.

Chatting to Marc Laithwaite  afterwards I mentioned how I'd like to do some of his other events but that they always seemed to clash with something else I was committed to. Without really explaining exactly what he meant he said "yeah but they're nothing like THIS". And I knew exactly what he meant.

He was referring to the fact that the UTLD is kinda special.

Its special to me because when I first ran it in 2009, it was the first Ultra race I had done and thus furthest I had ever ran.

And it's also special specifically to me and only 3 other people per year  because I have won it and my name will be on that trophy for every future winner to read when they get home after their own special day.

But its also special to the dozens and dozens of helpers and marshals who literally beat a path to Marc and Terrys door to volunteer year after year. They all work so hard and seem to do at least 3 jobs each (the lady who registered me was also the Tilberthwaite tea lady and would surely be there until the early hours of Sunday! and a chap who I saw directing cars for 5hrs+ on Friday night was also on a CP then also working all day Sunday helping in the presentation hall).

And of course it is special to EVERYONE who completes either of the courses. They are not high, they are not hard to navigate, but they are relentlessly tough, and few finishers medals are more well deserved.

I may do the 50 next year, I may do the 100. I may do neither. But if I do neither then there will surely be a very good reason why.  Thanks Marc, Terry, and the staff, and the volunteers. Please never stop inviting me back to your event - its bloody brilliant!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Taking the high roads

Recently I ran (ok, I admit, I walked most of the 8th) from/back to, Keswick, on a route that saw me visit all Eight of the Lake Districts 3000ft+ summits.....

Because I hate early mornings I had camped overnight in Keswick to save an hour, allowing the luxury of a 7am rise to eat then make my way over to Brundholme Rd at the foot of Spooneygreen Lane where the day would begin and end.

Craig Smith was there with Simon Veitch and Richard Ellwood. Richard, as I understood, was joining us for the day in prep' for his forthcoming Lakeland 100miler. The other two were just due to run up n down Skiddaw, our first summit.  Andy slattery was last to arrive. Slats had the Three Thousands on his 'to do' list and he was running the whole day too.

Skiddaw was cool, cold even as we got nearer the upper gates. We each put on a coat and spoke about how we hoped this clag and low temp wouldn't be the order of the day. Good craic from the lads meant we hardly noticed the 67minutes it took to reach Skiddaw, summit 1 of 8, 3054 feet

The drop off Skiddaw was a bit of a sedentary affair, taking about double what it could be done in. Not that that mattered at all, this was to be a day out bagging the summits and to say we had done it, not how fast we could manage. Back at the cars we changed shoes for the 9 mile road run down Borrowdale. Craig kindly offered to drive there before then going home, taking all our packs, food etc (and my dog). This was a welcome saving - cheers fella.

On a rough schedule I had allowed for 9 minute miling  for the 9 mile road section. We were nearer 8 pace in fact, and even a stop in Rosthwaite to use the public wc's saw us arrive at Seathwaite only just after Craig had got there himself.

Taking 10 mins or so we enjoyed a decent feed before setting out again, this time with all gear on our backs which, combined with rough climbing, a full stomach and reasonable heat of the day, made the first mile or so toward Styhead quite an uncomfortable run. I walked on and off but Slats was having none of that. I had to catch up.

Incredibly, I had only ever used Stockley Bridge to get to Styhead. Slats took us up via Taylorgill Force, not that there was much force, or even much water at all in it during this dry spell. Chatting as we climbed higher, it turned out Richard hadn't time to complete the whole route with us and was going to turn back at Esk Hause. Turned out also that prior to meeting us that morning he had already been for a TEN MILE FELLRUN! Much later, as I first began to feel a little weary, Richard must surely have felt VERY weary? I didn't envy him his solo run back to Keswick.

Once past Styhead, (where Slats recounted the occasion he helped carry/build said box as part of MR team) we began to cross paths with competitors in the 10 Peaks challenge. They were coming down the corridor route as we climbed it. As we drew ever nearer to Scafell Pike we then deviated away from it, crossing the nadir between Lingmell and the Scafell massif to  reach the  Lords Rake which was to be our way up to the next two summits.

Immediately below the Lords Rake is a vast field of scree which is tricky to climb up at the best of times. Today we had the added danger of loose scree, stones and boulders constantly falling out of the Rake, dislodged by the myriad 10 Peakers who were going up or down the narrow, stone filled corridor above. (what are the odds that over the years, many people have used Lords Rake to reach Scafell then gone home believing they had used the Corridor Route to reach Scafell Pike?)

Once in the Lords Rake itself I was simply amazed by how many people were also there. Almost certainly all 10 Peakers. Some were making their way up, some coming down. A couple were stood filming on their phones and everyone was busy chatting.  Despite the perilously placed stone above you at all times which, had it fallen (as it surely will one day)  would certainly have wiped out everyone in that chasm instantly, I love being in the Lords Rake, it's great fun using hands to help grapple your way up the loose ground below feet, trying to find a hold on the vertical rock either side of the chasm to help propel yourself up. And once up near the chockstone you can take a look behind you, back  across to the summit of Scafell Pike, invariably with  a line of trudging walkers heading to or from it, all no doubt laying claim to having had the adventure of climbing as high as you can climb in England but little realising what extra adventure they could enjoy with just an extra couple of hours added to their day.

Near the chockstone I scooted up to my left to get into the West Wall Traverse, a couple of 10 Peakers asked where I was going. I told them and they asked if it was OK. "it's a lot better than the loose bit you have just climbed up so far" I said, and they followed me up. Unfortunately Richard either didn't know or didn't realise we were going that way and was away up beyond the chockstone when Slats called him back to the WWT.  I let the 10Peakers pass me while I waited for my two to come into sight then I was off again, relishing the easy climbing which is always a good way to help stretch leg muscles.

At the top of the WestWall Traverse you pop out of the gloomy rock chamber onto a always brighter, wide summit plateau. Although I had been here many times, I had never then gone on to any other place than Scafell. But slats had said we needed to go right and indeed I could see a small rocky summit to my right which I headed up. It had been about 3 hours since we had bagged Skiddaw but now we were at Symonds Knott, summit 2 of 8, 3146 feet

The next top, was much sooner coming. A half hearted path leads across to it, interspersed with big rocks but still runnable, then another small climb through desk sized rocks to reach Scafell, summit 3 of 8, 3163 feet

I had already said I thought Foxes Tarn descent was the way we should get off Scafell. And with all those people in the Rake I certainly wasn't keen on changing my plan by going back the way we had came. Well towards the bottom of the ravine that leads down from Foxes Tarn Richard said Andy had gone  across to the left to gain the climbers traverse that leads to Mickledore. I had never done this route before but Stustod had. He told me it was slightly tricky but nothing to be worried about.

I couldn't see Slats ahead on the traverse, he was too far ahead, but there is a faint trod denoting the line to take. In fairness, although I found it very easy to negotiate, there is at most times a pretty big drop off close to your right hand side and I admit I sat on my backside for one small section of rock which looked like it might be slippery and was angled ready to pitch me off to a certain helicopter rides followed by hospitalisation. I don't think I would use this route in winter or in wet weather, but it is a heck of a lot quicker than dropping all the way out from Foxes Tarn into the valley then trudging back up toward the Mickledore Stretcher box.

Richard hadn't been keen to try the climbers traverse so we had to wait a few minutes for him before we started the rock hopping ascent to Scafell Pike, summit 4 of 8, 3209 feet.

Slats showed me where to go on the Borrowdale race to get to the scree chute down onto the corridor route which saves having to double back to the nadir of Broad Crag/Scafell Pike. It looked like fun. (Little did I realise that 4 days later I would be there once again, going down it. It wasn't fun when a large stone the size of a shoe hit me at speed on the back of my calf) still hurting as I write this, another 2 days later). As Richard wasn't doing all the tops so we suggested he stuck to the path (not that its much of a path) toward Esk Hause while me and Slats bagged the next 2 which are outliers from the direct route. But when we then got to Broad Crag, summit 5 of 8, 3064 feet, he was right there behind us. He was persuaded to miss out Ill Crag summit 6 of 8, 3054 feet, however, and once me and Slats had bagged it we found him waiting just above that final bit of the Broad/Ill crag plateau area that then drops away sharply down toward Esk hause.

Esk hause is where we said cheerio to Richard as he hung left toward Sprinkling Tarn and Styhead again, and we hung right towards Angle Tarn and Rosset Pike.

So just me and Slats now. When I first mooted this day out he was first to sign up. Others said they would come along. Most pulled out for one reason or another. Some did come but only for certain bits, and now it was just the original two soldiers trooping Eastward toward the last big hill of the day.

I endured a right bad spell as we contoured around Rossett Pike toward High Raise, then on High Raise itself as we contoured around to Greenup Edge I was constantly playing catchup with Slats. It turned out that Slats was just keen to get this rubbishy section out of the way as quick as possible and had been pressing on to do so. I was probably not moving too bad at all myself in fact, just felt slow compared to him. One thing I was very much looking forward to was a fresh sandwich and milkshake at Steel End farm. The evening prior, I had placed various food and drink in a drybag which I had then hung by a shoelace over the wall alongside the road. Slats had done likewise but utilised a Morrisons carrier bag for the purpose. ( I admit it may have been Sainsburys but you get the picture right?)


I was stunned that this had happened to my food while Slats was fine in a flimsy plastic carrier. I was also loathe to eat the rest of the sarnie but I was V hungry and it was one of those that come in two halves, each in its own section of a plastic box type arrangement. So I risked the untouched half.

I had stashed loads of stuff as well as the sandwich and it weighed a ton. So I put Scamp on his lead and walked slowly up the road to Wythburn Church eating stuff and transferring other stuff to my pack. There was no way I needed as much to eat  for the final couple of hours and there was also no way I was going to carry it all for no reason. So I tore off half a malt loaf and fed it to Scamp, chucking the remainder across the hillside. A milkshake was emptied out so I only had the weight of the bottle to carry, and I ate an apple with haste.

Now during this short period of sorting stuff out we had both been walking pretty slowly. But now everything was done I imagined we would resume our previous brisk pace as we climbed the steps up away from Wythburn, ever higher toward Hell'y. But Slats was crawling along and said it was as fast as he could manage. I felt pretty good and could have gone a tad quicker, but not a lot so there seemed little point in gaining a lead just to then wait later on. So we toiled on up, sweat pouring out of our no doubt drained looking faces.

We knew we were tired and must look it. So when we met people coming down, we felt compelled to mention that although we both looked, and were, bloody knackered, we had already covered 30+ miles and 6x 3000ft summits, and hadn't simply just set out from the carpark half a mile below us.

The climb to Helvellyn took an age. But we knew it signalled the start of the end of our day and we were in good spirits as we glanced around the clear skies to see where we had spent the previous numerous hours. At the top we me two chaps who were taking photos. We took one of them together and they took me and Slats. Even though this was Helvellyn, summit 7 of 8  3118 feet and we still had one more top to go, it was only a couple of minutes running to get to it and with little about Lower Man save for a rough pile of stones marking the top, this, Helvellyn, felt like the end of our day, the accomplishment of what we set out to do, and it was a better photo opportunity anyway.

Minutes later we were on top of Lower Man, summit 8 of 8 3035 feet. Job done.

Descending to Swirls carpark seemed to take forever. Not because were were going slowly, but I think its just quite a long way and we were tending to remain on the stepped path a lot of the time which forces smallish quick steps rather than loping down at your own preferred stride length.
When we hit the main road we knew we had nearly a mile to do to the St Johns Vale road end where there is shortly afterwards a sign saying "5miles to Keswick".  Not a pleasant section of the Lakes to run along at any time, never mind when 40 odd miles already in legs.

Slats was on a mission though and kept a decent running pace for at least 3 miles before, upon my insistence, we took a small walk break. We then walked and jogged until the big hill into Keswick where we both seemed happy to walk only. Then a nice jog into the town and back to our vehicles where couple of people were stood waiting for 10 Peakers to come out of Spooneygreen Lane.

We had just sat down on the grassy bank opposite the Lane when a chap pulled up and asked if we had an OS map of the nearby area. He was wanting to look up where to go later that night, as he was part of a Coast to Coast relay run. Anyway, I said I had maps in the van and reluctantly struggled to my feet to get it for him to look at.

After sorting him out he asked how we had navigated our way around our own route. The simple truth was, we knew the way! Visibility was always good enough to see as far as we wanted or needed to.  Slats knew it better than me and had often taken us along a different line to one I would have chosen. I'm not saying I wouldn't use a map if I tried to do this route in poor visibility, but its great to be able to run so far as we did and always know where we were and what the next bit would look like. Perhaps not so challenging as some people would like but the distance/terrain/climbing were challenge enough for me.

I may do this every year from now on - I may never do it again -who knows

Craigs accidental selfie

The photo Craig was taking when he did the selfie - Seathwaite lunch stop 

Me waiting on the WestWall Traverse
Lingmell (and Skiddaw) from WWT
took photos while I waited

Richard making his way up  the WWT
Mickledore. Me pointing out Broad Stand and also some climbers on the Central Buttress of Scafell

Me nearing Greenup Edge. and, correct me if i am wrong but I think Bowfell - Esk Pike -Scfell Massif -  Gt End is the skyline?

Slats said the 10 Peaks was expensive but still drank the water the marshals lugged up there for those who did pay

Me and yer man Slats on Helly with Swirral Edge path on the left  and Catstye Cam  behind Slats broad shoulders

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

So good they named it twice

During these last 15 years or so of being a runner I have many great memories of places I've ran and individual runs I have completed;

  • My debut (and fastest ever) marathon in London 2004  
  • 2009 Boston marathon, 
  • the 2005 Derwentwater 10, 
  • my wins in Langdale Marathon 2007 and in the Lakeland 50mile Ultra 2012 
  • and of course more recently, my Bob Graham Round.

then last week one simple 8 miler sneaked its way onto the list.

I was enjoying a fabulous trip to New Yorks Manhattan island. It was a holiday first and foremost but as almost always, I like to run on holiday, if not quite train properly. 

Having been to the city twice previously, I had only ran there once - in the NYC Marathon, which, was a fantastic experience I will long remember. But it was a poor performance by me that day so doesn't rank so highly in my all time list.

Having grown up seeing the skyscrapers of New York on TV, when I first got there and saw the city skyline from the aeroplane window I was somewhat excited to see it for real. Then we took a cab from the airport and saw very little more until going out onto the balcony of the hotel, when 


Times Square was right there in front of me. Electronic billboards flashing, so many, so bright, they dazzled. And leading away into the distance was Broadway and 7th Ave, lined with high rises.  

I was so excited!

Later, when running the marathon through Brooklyn, I looked across to my left and noted the Manhattan skyline again - The mass of tall buildings  downtown then a bit of a lull as you looked North, until midtown where the Empire State Building stands proudly above all others. North of there  toward the Park and once again the towers are numerous, filling the sky. 

In Manhattan I am the absolute epitome of a tourist. Craning my neck as I gaze upward on every corner, camera clicking away endlessly at yellow taxi cabs and iconic buildings.

But one thing I hadn't done was set foot off the island of Manhattan. And although I had seen the famous bridges from a distance and had been driven below their massive on/off ramps on a bus tour, I knew that more than anything else this trip I wanted to run over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.

Earlier in the holiday I'd been in Chinatown and noted the start of the long ramp up onto the Manhattan Bridge, so I knew exactly where I needed to go to leave Manhattan. And I presumed that once in Brooklyn I would easily locate the 'on' for the Brooklyn bridge to get me back again.

It ended up being the final full day of the holiday when I got to do the run. I had been for one run already, a superb 12 mile tour all the way around the Southern half which saw me finishing as it grew dark - the buildings of Manhattan becoming illuminated one by one to my right as I ran North, whilst to my left was the Hudson with the Jersey shore across the water.  A fantastic run itself, but nothing compared to my Two Bridges run.....

I set off at 0630 to allow better progress through what would be very busy streets if I had waited til later. It had been well below freezing overnight and was not due to raise above zero at all that day. I had a hat and gloves and also my lightweight waterproof but no tights. My legs were very red very quickly.

It was about 3 miles to Canal St in Chinatown. 40 odd streets to cross but luckily only about 2 where I had to wait for traffic before crossing. There were very few people around. The sun hadn't yet shown its face but it was light. This 3 miles was itself was a memorable route as I ran right past the front doors of the Empire State and the Flatiron buildings. New Yorkers were few and far between at this time on a Sunday, and apart from those couple of busy roads it felt a bit like the Will Smith movie where he is the only non zombie person living there. 

Despite being on the pedestrian walkway over Manhattan Bridge, it was an age before I was anywhere near the water it crossed. Looking down through the fence were 3 and 4 story buildings with windows facing the bridge, which if a person should look out of, all they would really see would be a mass of ironwork towering way above them, blocking out the sun. 

Getting onto the bridge proper coincided with my first glimpse of the sun that day. It was to my left through the iron girders of the bridge so was constantly dazzling me then disappearing as I ran on. It was to be a beautiful sunny day with blue skies and scarcely a cloud  - thus, the reflections in the building of downtown Wall St area were blinding as I looked out to my right across the water. 

Then a subway train came over the lower deck which was at the same level as my walkway. It seems almost ridiculous now to talk about it but even this was incredibly exciting at the time. I was awestruck (as well as quite cold) and in my excitement managed to 'video' the passing train without pressing 'record'. oops!

Then I began the second half of the bridge, downhill into Brooklyn. I was leaving Manhattan, on foot, but only briefly.

In Brooklyn it got much colder due to absolutely no sun managing to get between the buildings to light and warm me up. I stopped to check the satnav on my phone and quickly found the pedestrian start point onto the Brooklyn Bridge. 

It curves around gently left until you suddenly get your first glimpse of one of the stone towers that hold the whole thing up. There was a sense of anticipation within me. Would it be as good as I hoped? Would it be everything I expected? or would it be like the Manhattan bridge where you can only see properly in one direction and then only through the wire?

And then I was on it. I was running across the Brooklyn Bridge!

It was absolutely fantastic! Much better the Manhattan Bridge. The walkway was the highest deck with cars passing either side and below. The sides were about waist height, so apart from the suspension wires I had clear views in every direction. The deck was reminiscent of a pier, made of thick planks with some decent sized gaps between them. It felt very old fashioned compared to the utilitarian narrow concrete fenced in access across the Manhattan bridge. 

With still very few people around, perhaps about 4 on the bridge the whole time I was on it, I realised that by propping my phone up on a seat  I could then video myself running. I've no idea how busy it might be in the middle of a typical day, but I don't imagine it would be a wise idea to leave an iPhone in plain sight then run off into the distance.

It was almost a sadness to finally run off the bridge and back into the streets of Manhattan. But it had been incredibly cold, and continually taking off gloves to use the camera meant my hands were close to numb. So it was nice to get running properly again and be warmed a little.

The few miles retracing back to my hotel were still weirdly quiet with just the occasional shopowner setting up. Back in the hotel lobby I must have looked like a crazy Englishman with my bare red legs and short shorts when it was minus whatever outside. But hey, I didn't care, I had just completed a run of my life, had just fulfilled an ambition of the last few years and it had been everything I imagined and much much more.

It may come as a surprise to learn that a through and through Cumbrian fell-loving chap like me could bear to run at all in a city like New York. But much as I love Cumbria, I love running, anywhere. And to be able to do it in such an iconic place, a place I have spent my whole life seeing on TV, films and magazines was just the most amazing thing to be able to do.

Running frees you. Running opens up possibilities.  90mins of running exploring a new place shows you what might take 4-5 hours by walking. Running is so much more than a way to keep fit.

and New York is so much more than a big American City.

The Strava GPS for the run is here

and below is a la'al video I made from my running clips and some photos. (handily, Jay Z and Alicia Keys were sat picnicking on the Brooklyn Bridge when I was there so I asked them to sing that song. He was a bit off with me but she couldn't have been nicer and duly obliged).............


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Brampton to Carlisle race. Recent History (2011 - 2012)

2011. 23rd place 56 min 52 secs.
A full year of injury free running and I was in decent nick once again. I can remember this being a real race between several of us with myself, Chris Neil, Harry Earl, Josh Hebson, Ste Hebb' Plucky, George Thompson etc all being in an early group together. One by one we were spat out with Hebb, Harry and Geo leaving me, Neil and Josh behind. Plucky had fell off the pace much earlier, and then me and Josh traded blows until I eventually got the better of him and narrowly edged Neil to the line.
A great race and surely much to do with a decent result.

Jared Hagos won in 47.51. The fastest winning time since I began running this race in 1998.

2011 result CLICK

2012. 32nd place in 58mins 50 secs.
A good year pre- Brampton. In June I won the Karrimor Trail Marathon then also won the Lakes 50 in July. But at  the end of the summer I suffered an injury, which, didn't stop me running but which hurt an awful lot. Both Achilles tendons suffered after I ran a silly and uncharacteristic  speed session whilst on holiday in August. Back home, one day in September they hurt so much that I stopped running and walked 7 miles home, taking two hours. Handily, it was a nice day weather wise if not in terms of my mood by the time I got home.
I never had to stop running/training, and handily I was ok when running slower and on soft ground so I even won a 50k trail event in October.
I be honest now and say that I have no recollection of the race merely 50 weeks ago. Yet I can remember almost every mile of the 2004 Derwentwater 10.

2012 result CLICK

2013. ??nd place in ??mins ?? secs.
This has been a good year so far, one of the best actually. I completed the Bob Graham Round in June and a couple of marathon under my belt too. Track mile times and my 10 mile training route have been recorded as the fastest I've managed for a year or two so fingers crossed for a good Brampton.
As things stand right now, with 14 days to go to the Brampton to Carlisle race 2013, I think I am in decent shape and I have every confidence of being at least a couple of minutes, and hopefully 3 or 4 inside the hour.


Brampton to Carlisle race. The Wilderness Years (2005-2010)

2005. 21st place 56 minutes 27 secs.
A proper injury finally stopped me in my tracks in 2005. The glory days were behind me and I would never run as fast again. But that didn't stop me trying.....

The injury was with me in March, but I didn't know what it was until May. Until then I had simply been missing lots of running and enduring pain when I did run. The 8 week layoff I was then advised to take to let my injury clear up was at least partly helped by the fact it was by then summertime and I could ride my bike to try to keep fit. The day the 8 weeks was over I had entered 25 mile Time Trial and managed to slip inside the hour by a handful of seconds. Immediately afterwards I ran up Skiddaw in celebration (and painfully hobbled back down as it was really still quite sore).

Once I was back into full running and training mode it was a case of damage limitation and a 56 was a fair result given the previous 6 months of interrupted training. Plucky beat me this year, by two seconds!

Mike Scott took a second victory with 52.22 and in 7th place was a certain Mr R Lightfoot with  53:42. Very good Ricky, but not quite up to my standard yet.

2005 result CLICK

2006. 30th place 57 minutes 08 secs.
My overriding memory of the 2006 race was the competition with Plucky. In the end he beat me by 2 seconds (yes, again).
It's obvious from the result that neither of us was fighting fit at that stage, but we were certainly well matched and ran the entire 10 miles together. In the 2007 London Marathon magazine there is a superb full page colour photo of the two of us running past the pub in Crosby on Eden. We didn't know the photo was to be used and were both delighted to discover it, in London, as we were flicking through the mag' after we had picked it up with our number at the Expo.
Its perhaps no surprise that Plucky outsprinted me. He is a year younger after all. Not so much more to say about 2006.

2006 result CLICK

2007. 35th place 58 minutes 32 secs.
I'm not sure why I didn't do better in 2007 really. It was , after all, the year I ran a 2:43 Dublin marathon and won Langdale marathon. Perhaps those both being in Autumn meant I then eased right off training, or perhaps I had had more illness. Whatever. It was a nondescript result  and would immediately be glossed over if not for the fact that I can also remember this being the year young Graham Milly was keen to do well.....

I said I would do everything I could to help him to a fast time. I remember front running as hard as I could manage whilst ensuring Milly was safely tucked into the group. This was a tactic I knew would see me blow apart and get dropped. That is exactly what happened but Milly got his pb (58.16), so all was good.

Plucky remained very consistent with 56.08 and a certain Mr Marcus Scotney popped up in 10th place with 54.59. Ricky matched exactly my pb of 53.07 this year. So in 2007 the now World Champion was only as fast as Steve Angus (had been 3 years earlier)

2007 result CLICK

2008. 81st place 1hour 4 minutes 5 seconds.
I know exactly what happened in 2008..... I didn't do any training!
Well, I didn't do any training in the week and on a weekend I usually ran about 20 miles.
So when in the April I ran 3hrs and seconds in the London Marathon and decided that if I could run 3hr marathons without training properly I would just settle for that and enjoy all the extra free time not training provided me with.
But then in New York, (2 weeks prior to B2C) I ran to halfway in 1:29:59 but then took 2HOURS to complete the rest of the marathon.

"No Steve, you can't be a 3hr hour marathoner unless you train a bit harder than 20 miles once per week"

It was too late to do anything decent at Brampton and that's why I took so long to run it. I think it must also have been a really slow day for the race because only 33 people beat the hour (its usually about 60-70) and Ricky won in 53:29, which still put him after me in the all time list.
Plucky ran a 57 and Milly a 59

2008 result CLICK

2009. 29th place 53 minutes 3 seconds.

What a year! everyone ran fast. 145 under the hour!
The course was short due to flooding.
The results say it was 0.7 miles short of 10. If this is correct then Plucky and George Thompson ran times equal to sub 55 minutes. With respect to those two - that seems unlikely, so maybe it was actually shorter than 9.3.
In no doubt though is that I ran about 2 mins slower than Plucky, so not a very good run by me.
I had spent the year since B2C 2008 training hard and most importantly, training regularly and had then been pleased to run well inside 3 hours at Boston Marathon. Things were slowly picking back up and I have Milly to thank for training with me almost daily throughout this time.

2009 result CLICK

2010. 103rd place 1hour 4 minute 40 secs
It is probably unfair to include 2010 in a chapter entitled Wilderness Years, because I sustained another injury which saw me forced out for 8 weeks (stress fracture, same injury as 2005 but in other leg this time). And in the same vein it might also be unfair to have included 2005 too. But only the recorded times will be my judge and jury when I am 90 and by then looking back on 60 Bramptons.
I suppose I have actually been very lucky with injury and illness in relation to the B2C in that none of the problems shave stopped me running it.
This years race fell about two weeks after my 8 week layoff had ended. I had resumed running only very gradually and on grass mainly. I'd probably ran 5 times and got up to about 6 miles. Running 10 on tarmac was therefore quite inadvisable really and more than a little bit risky. But by this time I had long since noticed my appearance n the result sheet was a very long consecutive one and I wanted that to continue.
The first 5 miles of the race were fine - running at about 61/62 pace. But then things got tough and I dropped off the pace and struggled home. The injury wasn't exacerbated and I was able to continue my mini comeback.

In 2010 Ricky Lightfoot finally got that monkey off his back and moved ahead of me in the all time list with his 52.08 (3rd). And Graham Milly recorded a superb new pb of 56.53 (17th)

2010 result CLICK

Friday, November 1, 2013

Brampton To Carlisle Race. The Glory years (2002 - 2004)

2002. 18th position in 55mins 05 secs
The 2002 race was another 10 mile pb -thats 5 in a row. Only a little faster than in 2001 but a small nibble off a pb is the best way to do it - leaves you thinking you can take another small nibble off again in the future. Writing this in 2013 I can't recollect anything in particular about the race day itself but I do know that 2002 was the year I really began to make inroads with my running, when I started to get plenty of third and second places in races. And, as Plucky said one day when he saw me outsprinted by a 17yr old... "blimey! if that lad hadn't entered this race YOU would have won!!" Winning races wasn't something I had any experience of. I think I might have been about 8th in a cycle road race in 1996.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the 2002 event was THREE lads running inside 50 minutes.
2002 result CLICK

2003. 14th position in 55mins 46 secs
It had to happen. Nobody can continue getting faster every year, as I had done for the previous 5. The annoying thing was I SHOULD really have done. I was fitter than ever and on target to run a 54 minute Brampton. This is based  on my 56:39 result in the  hilly Derwentwater 10 which always falls 2 weeks prior to Brampton. The DW10 can be reliably considered to be 2 minutes slower than Brampton, so a 54 something seemed reasonable to me - it was 2 mins quicker and would also be a shaving off my pb. But disaster struck. After the DW10 I got a bout of sickness. V & D.  It had all cleared up by the time Brampton came round, but I hadn't trained, had hardly ran really, and had been severely depleted of fluids, bodyweight, and morale during the bad spell.
Although a long 55 was disappointing to me at the time, it was still a 55. Still 5:34 per mile pace. Well up the finishing order.

Notably, and certainly worth more of a mention than in the footnote, Mike Pluckrose ran 57:03!

Plucky had listened to me banging on about minutes per mile pace for several years. He'd seen the success I was enjoying, and had also taken up running a year or two earlier. I had paced him to beat the hour on  a lumpy course based out of Abbeytown and now here he was following in my footsteps, literally!

A few weeks after the 2003 B2C I decided that perhaps I would run a marathon the following year. Scotty had been doing them for a few years and would be training specifically for a marathon. And as we trained together I may as well too. I thought I'd enter one quite close to the London Marathon, but couldn't actually do London, because this was now November and its full by the summer.

Then at Christmas I found out that Border Harriers get given club numbers for their athletes to run London. They had three and only two people wanted one so I got the third....

I was going to run a marathon!!
In London!!!
The London Marathon!!!!

I could easily become side-tracked and spout on ad infinitum about the highs and lows of my 9 years of marathon running. But that would be to digress from this Brampton to Carlisle blog. Suffice to say  that the London Marathon (or more specifically the training I completed in preparation for it) defined the whole of the following year and certainly helped me achieve what I believe  was my ultimate potential, in 2004.

2003 result CLICK

2004. 9th position in 53mins  07secs
Theres a lot to write about the 2004 race - pull up a chair....


Unlike some of the previous (now 15) years of running Brampton to Carlisle 10 mile race, I can remember quite a lot about the 2004 version. The story of 53.07 can be traced back to a winter of marathon training which then culminated in a superb (in my opinion) debut performance exceeding every expectation. After the marathon I found racing to be much harder work than before it. Legs had nothing to offer - even a month afterwards! The summer came and went, and the ideal, cooler running conditions returned and so did the big 2 autumn 10 milers.

Despite feeling off form I had still been trying to race, and certainly training hard. Even so I never imagined I was in shape to run  a short 55 minutes at Derwentwater. But I did. 55:13! I only had to knock 9 seconds off that time on the proven-to-be-2-mins-quicker Brampton course to record a new pb.

I actually ran quite poorly. I set off TOO fast and really struggled the final 2 or 3 miles. The toughest part of the B2C is the 8th mile which includes the long drag up to the the filling station,  but at 7 miles the average pace was still indicating  a sub 52 minute result was on the cards, so to lose over a minute on that pace in the final 3 miles is a sign of poor pace judgement, despite that drag to come.
If any proof were needed to support my statement that this was a poor run by me - Eddie Simpson of Preston beat me by 3 seconds in the DW10, and by about 70 seconds this day.

But hey, they only take your time at the end of the race and that was 53.07. I'm really proud to have ran that time. it was an astonishing amount of time to knock off my pb and its a pb which still stands up very well against some of the top local runners nowadays. In fact, in the B2C since 2004 my time has been beaten by Border Harriers just four times, by two men....
Mike Scott 52.22  (2005)
Mike Scott 52.28 (2006)
James Douglas 50:33 (2010)
James Douglas 51:04 (2011)

In the era of the running boom my time would not have featured anywhere, but I can't help when I was born or that I only took up running after those glory days were over. 53.07 is a very good time for 10 miles. I can't see how I could ever run as fast as that again so I'm milking it for all its worth.

2004 result CLICK

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Brampton to Carlisle Race. The Early Years (1998 - 2001)

The Brampton to Carlisle 10 mile roadrace is coming up very soon. I love it. My favourite race. Why? Probably because it was the first race I did properly (though I had also completed the Cumbrian run in 1994) way back in the late 90s when I was still doing cycle racing as my main discipline/activity. And also because of the 'magic' one hour marker, which, if you can beat, certainly makes for better reading than sixty plus minutes. 'Beating the hour' was especially pertinent to me as a cyclist because sub 1 hour is also seen as a benchmark for 25mile time trial, and one which, it could be argued, takes a similar amount of training/hard work/talent to achieve.

Not an avid record keeper or training diarist save for on this blog, the earliest result I found online for the B2C is from 1998. I have a vague recollection of running 65 minutes, but 1998 I took 62, so perhaps I also ran in 1997?

Anyway, here is the story of my 15 (soon to be 16) consecutive Brampton to Carlisle races, in chronological order, with supporting info where available from my old fuddled memory

1998. 97th position in 1hr 02 mins 08 secs.
The reason for running at all at this time of my life was because it fell in the period following the end of the cycling season. Having been used to training more or less daily for the preceeding year, I did a bit of running of an evening to try to remain fit (cycling wasn't really possible in the dark in this era when EverReady Night Rider lights were about as good as it got for cycling - certainly none of the super systems that are available nowadays which are as bright as a moped headlight).
I cannot remember much about doing the race but I can remember the results were printed in the Evening News the following week and I was especially pleased to have made the top 100 from nearly 450 finishers.
With only 2 and a bit minutes quicker needed to go under 60 I contemplated for the first time the idea of 'beating the hour' in a sport which wasn't even the one I was properly training for and involved in. So I decided that instead of quitting running once cycling started up again in  1999, I would run just once per week, every week, in the hope that it would give me a headstart come October and I would be able to progress to sustaining 10mph.

1998 result CLICK
other notable names on the 1998 result sheet include Dave Farrell in 17th (53:38), Steve Murdoch in 4th (51.21) and Mike Scott in 5th (51.23)

1999.  90th Position in 59 mins 49 secs.
This was huge. This was the big one.  This was hard work. VERY hard work. For many many years I could recall vividly just how hard I tried during this years version of the race. In fact, there are only two other races I can remember being tougher, trying harder, suffering more, (they were my 10k pb and my 55minute result at Derwentwater 10 in 2004)
Prior to the race I had been training a lot more than for previous runs. After the cycling season and my one run per week I had ramped up the training with the primary objective being to run inside 60 mins.  I had enlisted the help of Plucky and I can picture to this day, him riding alongside me going up Stanwix bank at the end of a dark training run telling me how fast I was going. Back then, without any measured routes to run, or GPS available, all I could do was have a cyclist riding longside tell me whether or not I was doing 10mph. I don't even think I had figured out that if I measured out a mile I could return to that place during a run and time it to see if I was on target pace.
On the day of the race Plucky came along too and now and then rode alongside me giving the all important  'current miles per hour' report.
Early on in the race I was ahead of the magic 10mph as witnessed by checking my watch against the mile markers. I remember having about 45 seconds in hand at the most. Then later on I began losing time. I can remember running along past the Linstock roundabout and Plucky telling me I was doing just 9.7 mph. Again and again I forced myself to run harder, faster. Then finally I reached the line - I'd done it! 11 seconds inside the hour. I was elated, I felt like an absolute superhero the next day on  the Border City wheelers Clubrun when people asked why I hadn't been on the Saturday ride.
I know now that having a cyclist help in this manner would be likely to see me DQ'd from a race. But way back in 90th place and with no particular aspirations to get into running properly, my only concern that day was to get the time.
Following the '99 Brampton I went back to my usual bike training and racing. But what I didn't know at the time was that the 2000 season of cycling was to be my last.

1999 result CLICK
Other notable names on the 1999 result include Alan Bowness, 2 places behind me (1:00:06) Stuart Robinson ahead of me in 86th (59:35) and a young Graham Millican taking my 1998 97th spot (1:00:08). Steve Cairns had a great run in 2nd place (49:30).

2000.  29th Position in 58 mins 29 secs.
As in 1999 I ran throughout the cycling season of 2000. I didn't  make the switch to running yet, but I did complete an evening 10k race in the summer and quite easily beat '6 pace' on just my one-run-per-week training (plus obviously my considerable fitness from cycling all the time). So when it came to the end of the cycle races and I again ramped up the run training, I was certainly expecting to beat the hour again and did so with ease. Following the race I was contacted by Border Harriers Road Relays captain about joining the club. It had been noted that if I had been in BH I would have been their 4th finisher in the race. So I joined the orange vest brigade and embarked on a new path that saw me tour the country running track and road

Nothing to do with the B2C but afterwards I decided NOT to continue cycling any longer. I would switch to running full time. 12 years of cycling had been great and I still enjoyed it much of the time. But running was a brand new challenge and also, I seemed to be reasonably good at it.

2000 result CLICK Other notable names on the 2000 result include a win for Steve Cairns (51:48) and Young Graham Millican again narrowly failing to beat the hour in 51st place (1:00:13)

2001.  21st Position in 55 mins 24 secs. 
It was surely guaranteed that I would go faster again at the end of my first full year of run training and racing. I had spent that year slowly increasing just how far and how often I could run. Two days in a row was too much at first - my bones hurt deep inside and I felt rest was vital to let this ease. But eventually I was able to run as often as I wanted. Mostly with my good friend Mike Scott, I was travelling around racing, doing intervals, longer runs etc, and also competing for Border on the track.

I had learned that whilst I could race  my bike twice per week without issue, racing a 10k or longer etc every 7 days was much too much for my body and I would actually get slower. I came to the decision that every 10 days was about right to race. So, a weekend event, then the midweek of the week after, then the weekend 10 days later etc etc.

By B2C though I was obviously well rested and I suspect it must have been a reasonably favourable wind too, because the 5:32 per mile I achieved was quicker than I was doing for 10k races at that time. I don't remember anything about that particular day to be honest. But I  sure  wasn't expecting knock over 3 minutes from my pb of 12 months earlier. A 55 was unthinkable, was never in my sights, but a 55 is what I did. I had somehow or other transformed myself  from  a very average cyclist into a considerably-above-average runner.

2001 result CLICK
In 2001 Mike Scott finally won the Brampton 10 in 50:26