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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hi Steve and Emma

Little round up of how things have gone recently....

Brampton to Carlisle race - 58:50. Not a super duper result, but not a terrible one either. THis was 2 minutes (12 seconds per mile) slower than the same race in 2011.

Up until September when this achilles trouble flared up I was hoping and expecting to run nearer to 55 minutes. But considering I ran most of the race on my own this year after failing to get in the right group  (the one with Milly in), it was a fair result.

It was something like my 16th consecutive B2C race. I'm hoping to run it for the next 20 to 30 editions too.

Midweek training is low key at the moment. A couple of swift 5 milers (which I am struggling to complete at 6:30 pace but dont wanna turn them into a time trial effort just to get a decent time), and a one hour run with Plucky which is probably also about 6:30-6:40 pace. This last week I also got out in the daytime for a very wet fell run.....

Me and Mark Sparky Ryan headed over to Seathwaite on Tuesday to check out the route for the Wasdale Tri whic Sparks is considering entering. It was a truly awful day though, with heavy rain constantly drowning our morale, and strong gales forecast too. We opted NOT to go up the Scafells but did nevertheless get a decnt run of nearly 4 hours including Styhead Pass (both ways) and most of the corridor route.

Today, in preparation for the Tour deHelvellyn, I again completed the loop section, (Glenridding-Sticks Pass - St Johns Vale - Dunmail - Grisedale Tarn - Patterdale).

I did this exact route two weeks ago in about 3hours 50 mins. Today it took me 3hrs 25 mins, due mainly to not having tried very hard previously, but also due to taking better lines now that I know the ground better. Next week I will again complete the out and back section (Askham to Patterdale).

Hopefully, come 22nd December I will be in a great position turn my recceing homework into a strong performance in the event itself.

I know you (I) cant have everything, but I'm a bit pissed off with having no real speed at present. Yes I know I have won 3 events of 26, 30 and 50 miles this year and I wouldn't trade any of those wins for a 55 minute B2C, but I want to be able to run my 5 mile evening loop inside 31:30 if not  sub 31, and the current 32:30 odd is making me feel old and slow. So much so that I have decided to renew my acquaintance with mile reps. I haven't done reps of any type since this injury flared up in September, but I reckon it will survive 4x 1mile efforts at just under 6 pace. So this Thursday will be a big day in terms of finding out exactly where I am in terms of fitness/speed and if the achilles can hold out for some faster work.

We continue.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wot no photos?

I said in the previous post that I knew the circular part of the Tour de Helvellyn route. Whilst that is more or less true, I had never put it all together in one run.

I opted to park, and therefore begin my run, at the junction where the St Johns Vale road meets the A591. There is lots of free parking there and I also figured that if it was an utterly wet cold miserable run, I could get a hot drink in Glenridding prior to the final push over Sticks Pass.

Unlike last week when I was keen to get some photos along the way, this week was all about the route so I didn't take any camera with me at all (hence no photos with this post). The forecast was for rain anyway so I didn't expect I would have got much opportunity to take it out of the drybag if I had (taken it).

From my parking spot I simply had to go up Stanah Lane and was soon at the footbridge that is checkpoint 4.  I jogged along South and soon found myself above Swirls carpark. To my left was one of my favourite routes, up past Browncove Crags to Helvellyn. However, today I had to drop down into the carpark and almost out to the main road before finding the path on my left leading out through the woods. I followed the route through the woods all the way to the next CP. All the way I spotted signs that say 'permissive route', so I'm not too sure whats meant on the official route description by and not use the forest road. As far as I could tell, the forest road WAS/IS the permitted route, I could see no other means of travelling South through the woods either on the map or on the land. I shall endeavour to seek clarification.

At the end of the woods I stopped a while and wondered best how to negotiate my way to Raise Beck, which I knew had a footpath running up the valley alongside it. One option was simply to carry on S until I met the beck then head up it. I decided instead to cut off the corner by making a beeline for Reggle Knotts which is a rocky outcrop on the skyline. As I neared the outcrop I decided to go below it then keep roughly even height until I naturally met the beck. This possibly wasn't the best option as the valley side was littered with rock fields. Given the chance again I might actually go above Reggle Knotts to avoid those pesky boulders and steep sides. Then again, if the weather is dire on the race day I might just follow the right angle and get into the shelter of the beck/valley ASAP.

Never having reached Grisedale Tarn from this direction before, it all looked a bit unfamiliar initially. But then I spotted a dirty brown streak on my lefthandside.... The BG route down off Dollywagon. At the tarn itself I decided to run around the Helvellyn side. The Fairfield side seems just a little further and includes a few metres of climbing (but is almost certainly dryer underfoot).

Once I was on my way down Grisedale Valley I put the map away as I knew exactly where I was going. Or so I thought....

I would normally always be going back to Glenridding and therefore keeping the river on my right. But going to Patterdale I needed to cross to the RHS. Looking at the map later I noted I should have beared R just below the Ruthwaite Lodge Climbers Hut. I crossed further down but it was a minute or so lost. They all add up. After a while the tracks turn to roads and the A592 is reached

On the event day I would be turning Right to Patterdale, but today I still had the significant climb of Sticks pass to tackle. It also began raining at this point so I stopped and put on wet gear and had a snack. Looking back up the valley I had come from things had changed for the worst. Previously I had been glancing  back at the splendour of the sheer valley sides. Somewhere up in the murk St Sunday crag and Striding Edge had been vague but discernible. Now....Nothing. 50 metres was the limit of visibility. The great Pyramids of Giza could have been 100m away and I would have missed them.

Through Glenridding I turned left at the first junction as I knew that running up alongside the river and campsite would be 'nicer' than up the road past the houses and pub. This does include a little backtracking though, and on the day I will cut through the carpark and clinic to directly gain the Greenside road all the way to the YHA.

Just above the village we encountered  a couple of dozen sheep coming towards us on a narrow road. They were fearful of Scamp but all passed by without incident. Then followed the farmer on a quad bike. He had 3 sheepdogs with him who all looked at Scamp as they ran past. If dogs could talk I reckon they all would have said

"how come you get Saturdays off work?"


"if you are having a day off why the fuck are you spending it still running up hills?'

When I reached the buildings at the top of Greenside I noted a couple of MRT chaps set off apace with huge packs. As I turned up onto Sticks Pass and quickly gained height I saw them on the main path below. I also spotted two different helicopters in the gap between Catstye Cam and Birkhouse Moor. I guessed someone must have ran into trouble on Swirral or Striding Edge and the copters were trying to evacuate them from the flattish area in front of Red Tarn. Indeed I read later that a man fell 100ft from Swirral Edge. Easily done.

Prior to setting off from the van I had made some rough guesstimates on how long this route would take to complete. I reckoned it was between 15 and 20 miles and would take between 3 and 4 hours. As I started to climb up Sticks Pass I'd been going for 3 hours. I wondered if I might get to the summit of the pass in 40 minutes and down to St Johns Vale in 20? Almost perfect estimating. 38 minutes and about 15.

So how long to complete the TdeH? Well, at 38 miles its about 10 less than the L50 was this year (remember it was a bit short due to error in the 4 mile field section). That 48miles took me 8 hours 30 mins. The terrain is similar, so on a good weather day (ie no ice or howling winds) I reckon just inside 8 hours. However, in midwinter we should expect poor weather conditions and I reckon it could easily take 10 hours if there is a lot of ice or if the winds are strong and sap energy.

Whatever. After 2 years of wanting to do it but thinking it was too close to Christmas and I should really be putting up the tree or shopping or wrapping presents, I cant wait to do it.... and know I know the way..... bring it on

We continue

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fun in the sun

Having entered the Tour de Helvellyn,  a 37 mile trail/fell running event in December, I decided it would be wise to spend some time on the route to familiarise myself.

I kinda know the circle bit from Glenridding over to St John Vale then to Grisedale Tarn and back to Patterdale, but I hadn't the faintest clue about getting from Askham, where the race HQ and start finish is, to Patterdale.

By coincidence, I had been to Askham a week earlier and took a walk up onto Heughscar Hill then down to the Cockpit. from there I know the route to Howtown, so its only really the stretch from Howtown to Patterdale I wasn't familiar with.

A plan was hatched. I would be dropped off in Askham with my dog, food, drink and camera, and be collected several hours later in Glenridding. Yes, this was to be a do or die excursion....... either I'd navigate successfully through the great mountain ranges and valleys of the East of Ullswater fame..... or be forever lost in their midst, and fall prey to the hungry Eagles and Roe Deer that hunt therein.

Alighting the motor car  I was immediately confronted by the cold of the winter. I donned my waterproof top and £80 gloves and set off up the same track as I had first set on a week before.

Although my plan was to run to Glenridding, this wasn't so much a training run as a day out with camera for any photo opportunities, and map, to continually check my progress. So I stopped within a few minutes to revisit some shots I'd taken the week prior. The location was sheltered in trees and I wondered why so much dripping water was landing on me. The photos weren't up to much and as I ran on again I realised the weather had changed significantly. It was snowing. Cool.

Within minutes the pretty snow had become a complete white out and I ran at pace down to the track that connects Pooley with Helton. At the cairn that marks the right turn in the L50 or the DITL race there are currently some huge bails of harvested bracken. Sheltering between these bails I unpacked my waterproof trousers and mentally prepared for cold, wet couple of hours ahead.

As we set off toward Howtown poor Scamp had white sides where the driving snow stuck to his bony ribcage. He seemed oblivious however, and kept up his usual habit of finding sticks of various dimensions for me to throw for him. Scamps attitude to sticks is hilarious. It can be so small that it doesn't stick out the side of his mouth, and so thin that it snaps in two as he bites it... or so large that he is unable to carry it properly and is forced into a funny sideways motion with a metre or two of branch following behind. A stick is a stick in Scamp world and must be given to Steve to throw for his retrieval.

It was a near blizzard. I WASN'T CHUCKING ANY BLOODY STICKS.

As I ran I constantly shook the snow from one arm. Just the one. One sleeve of my jacket was neatly gripping the outer of my £80 gloves. But once I had donned one glove it was then impossible to similarly arrange the opposite sleeve in the same manner because of the thickness and mitten-style of the gloves. This meant water and snow (same thing really) would potentially run down my sleeve into my glove. Unless I shook it.

We battled on thought the blizzard for what seemed an eternity. In such conditions you tend to lose track of both time and distance, but I suspect we covered at least six, if not eight or nine hundred metres before the storm abated and the sun came out.

After that it was gloriously sunny for the rest of the day. So nice in fact that I then stopped so frequently for photo opportunities that it took about 3 hours to cover what I reckon is only about 10 miles.

First photo stop and its my old  friend Miss Blencathra looking rather sexy in her winter coat

Most of my stops were along the section to Howtown........

Stop #2 - So much better than last weeks (Joke by B. Forsyth - see below)
Last weeks

Running without a tripod and full range of camera gear, I knew that all the photos I was taking would be compromised in various respects. A lack of depth of field necessitated by handholding speeds. Noisy image from higher ISO used to counteract. Camera shake still evident on close inspection. Filter ideally needed for the range of contrast.  Typically, the next day, when I had all my gear on a short walk up from Keswick, the snow had melted a little, and the light was much less special.

90 secs after packing it away I rushed to get camera out again for stop #3

Eventually I reached Howtown. Studying the map I realised I needed to get over the wee pass into Martindale. The road to Martindale is the zigzaggy one that rises up steeply from Howtown and looks a bit like it should be in the Pyrenees. Theres also a good pathway to Martindale which is the route at the end of the offroad section of the DITL run. I took the path which saw me arrive in Martindale and another choice.... go up the Howe Grain valley a short distance then sharp right off  to climb over Howesteadbrow, or use the main road into the Boredale valley? I was wearing my fellshoes so opted for the off road footpath. Looking at the map it would be shorter to use the tarmac road from Howtown all the way up into Boredale, but  at present I dont know if the route is strictly off road when available, or if you can choose your own way between the checkpoints.

Boredale. Never been there before, unless you count those 50 times with Penrith Stu. Oh no, hang on. Time spent with Penrith Stu isn't BoreDALE, it's BoreDOME.

The road up the centre of Boredale is quite straight and eventually at Boredale Head gives way to an equally straight path. You therefore get a long long look at the inevitable climb out of the bowl of the valley to Boredale Hause. From a distance it looks like it will be a killer climb but to be honest its a gentle enough slope and on a wide path until the very topmost section.

At Boredale Hause there is a myriad paths crisscrossing the fell. Which one to take to Patterdale? I checked the map and noted the bearing for the path I wanted. Also, as long as you go to the right, and not uphill, you will be going the correct way. Also also, I asked a runner coming up toward me if he had come from Patterdale - he had.

So I dropped down to Patterdale, stopping before I lost too much height for the final photo of the day......
Patterdale. Grisedale Brow in the sun - the famous 'Hole in the Wall' route to Striding edge. Also just visible is the pointy top of Catstycam
The rest, as they say, is history. Drop down into Patterdale village, pop up the valley half a km to meet the runners coming toward me as they neared the end of the Helvellyn trail race, then follow the race route to Glenridding, bump into Phil Windchill and Dobbo, (Cumbrias 2nd best race photographer) for brief chats, all in perfect time to wash Scamp in the (bloody freezin') river and get my lift home.

A quite superb way to spend a Saturday.


Sunday was the Derwentwater 10 mile road race. Having missed so much hard road training of late I wasn't really interested in 'racing' this race and planned to get round in a half decent time without putting myself too far into the red, then build upon the effort in a bid to race much harder at Brampton two weeks later. The first 2 miles actually felt quite hard as I tried to stay on Millys heels. I wsa distanced but fought back up to him by mile 3. By mile 5 it all felt much easier and we were heading for I reckon about 60-61 minute result. I took it real easy for a couple of miles then pushed on harder again until mile 9, when I eased down considerably to avoid getting into a contest to beat or outsprint anyone. About 62:30 result is nothing special (and about 7 mins slower than my course pb).

Pre race walk up to "the landing" on the Latrigg path for some tripod/filter work
ISO 100, f/11, 1/40sec, 100mm prime on Full Frame

This photo (above)  is so sharp you can actually see Pete Richards making a cuppa tea on his boat in the Nichol End Marina (disclaimer - it may have been a cuppa coffee or even hot chocolate)

Razor sharp results but less snow, less drama than Saturday.
ISO 100, f/11, 1/15sec, 100mm prime on Full Frame

Joke Explanation - Compere of the long running ITV hit quiz show Play Your Cards Right, Sir Bruce Forsyth used to say every week how lovely the audience were and how they were  "so much better than last weeks".
The reason this is funny becomes obvious once you know a little about how TV shows of this type are made....

Despite the show screening on our TVs  just once per week (Friday night I think it was), they would actually record several 'episodes' of the show during the course of a day. This allowed a full series to be filmed in a week or so, saving on not just production costs, but it also meant Sir Bruce could appear on British screen throughout the winter, thus keeping up his fame and status as Britains favourite all round compere/comedian/light entertainer (though I personally preferred Bob Monkhouse (RIP)), whilst only having to commit to a weeks filming in August.

Bear with me - I'm about to get to my point. 

The assembled audience for the show would also sit through all these multiple recordings, changing where they sat after each episode was completed. (so that blue rinse Betty in the front row didn't appear in the same seat again and give the game away to the once weekly TV audience at home).

So when Brucie came on set to rapturous applause and delivered his line, with that tongue in cheek roguish playboy manner, mixed with deadpan sincerity only he can truly pull off, the audience would literally fall about laughing as they realised the cleverness of his gag would be lost on the millions but made complete sense to the couple of hundred seated special ones who may not have previously known how TV world works but were now very much a part of that magic.

If, like myself you take great interest in how films and TV shows are made/directed etc you may now be wondering why you just wasted the last 30 seconds of your life reading this. 

But on the other hand, if you have lived for the last 30 years with a little niggle buried deep inside your brain, wondering why Bruce said the same apparently quite weak joke week after week, and why it went down so well in the studio. Well now you can rest easy - no need to thank me - always happy to help.