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.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Blen Seven (Summit of my Life)

Whenever I have climbed up Blencathra via any of the many routes, I would often gaze across to the alternate ridges and perhaps plan to come back down that way, or sometimes even to make a second ascent during the same run.

One day I found myself counting just how many ways there were to go up....

The first and most obvious would have to be the 4 ridges/fells - Scales - Doddick - Halls and Gategill, as, from near or far, these are easy to make out as very obvious lines to take.

Then there's the famous Sharp Edge, and the Western flank of Blease Fell, and finally, the 'back door'  (Glenderamackin valley to the right of sharp Edge then hard Left to  Foule Crag.

So, theres 7 different routes to the top. I'd done them all but one - Gategill. So I went up that way a couple of times in the summer.  I discovered it to be a real tough climb - possibly as steep as any of the rocky ridges, but without much in the way of permanent rock it feels like you should be able to run up - no chance.

Right then. Seven ways to climb Blencathra. Seven ways to get to the summit. My summit.

I'd heard all about a certain Frenchman who was planning to speed climb 7 of the worlds biggest mountains. Kilian Jornets several year long project is named Summits of my Life.

I decided therefore that I would do Summit of my Life. Just the one summit, but I'd go up it 7 times. I wouldn't be going for any speed ascent records. In fact, I would probably stop for a cup of tea.

I devised my 'rules'. Very simply, an ascent was complete once the cement trig point was reached. A descent was complete once a road was reached. The ascents all had to use the main walkers footpaths (no shortcuts) and obviously had to be 7 different ones, but the descents could be any way I liked

How long will this take me then?... was one of my first questions. I knew that I could run up and down the Scales route in 45 minutes - FLAT OUT. I therefore figured that at half that speed (90 minutes) I would be just jogging along, taking it easy, and be able to carry on for several hours.

90 min x7 = 10.5 hours. I therefore based the whole thing on taking 10.5 to 12 hours to complete.

Not wanting to spend any time in the dark and with summer whizzing by I needed to finish by about 8pm so therefore start by about 8am to be sure not to.

So on Saturday 31st August I awoke in my tent in Burns Campsite and ate a hearty breakfast before driving the couple of miles to Threlkeld village where I parked the van up and prepared some bits and bobs in the rear for refreshment later in the challenge. (this was the beauty of this challenge - I could easily touch base several times so there was no requirement to carry lots of gear or enlist people to help me)

Next, I walked from Threlkeld to  Mousthwaite Combe carpark where I stashed some more food and drinks, took off my fleece, and then set off, at 0805, to run up Blencathra  Seven times.

At 0807, Scamp rolled in some utterly disgusting substance (I suspect fox poo or decomposed sheep etc)  - never mind - only another 10 or 12 hours in his stinky company to go!!

The first climb up, (via Glenderamackin and round the back) was the longest in distance, but it was all running so only took 50 odd minutes to reach the Summit of my Life No1. A heavy shower of rain saw me put on full waterproofs, but it was short lived and the rest of the day I made do with just a coat on and off - bare legs were fine. The descent back to my start point was very enjoyable, taking my preferred lines across the fellside rather than using the hard stoney path.

Summit of my Life No2 was via the famous Sharp Edge. Although I had been up this way several times before, I'm not keen on it to be honest and usually only go that way in dry hot conditions. Also, usually stick just to the right of the edge itself. But as I wanted to stick to the walkers routes wherever possible I traversed the absolute pinnacle of the ridge this time.

Scamp struggled a bit, crying when he couldn't see how to get to where I was. But once back with me I made him stay close and guided him exactly where to go. Once we were over the trickiest bit he was off ahead again and looking down on me, waiting for me to catch up. There were a lot of folk climbing up this way, some really struggling to move up/forwards at all, but one young lad of perhaps no more than 10 or 11 appeared completely undaunted as he was guided by his granddad. I think perhaps I am NOT cut out for this merely slightly dangerous stuff.

The Sharp Edge ascent took inside the hour (just) to the summit and I was soon dropping off Scales again, though this time I would swear I was on a completely different fellside as I seemed to hit every hole and dropoff and ended up wishing Id stuck to the path.

During the earlier, runnable bit of No2 my legs felt a bit tired and heavy. Perhaps not surprising given it was less than a week since Id ran the 44 mile GT of Skiddaw Ultra race, but not a good sign, and I was worried about the remaining 5 and a bit ascents yet to do!

Back at the stash I filled my bottle and then set about Summit of my Life No 3. Scales Fell.

There is surely an argument for going straight up onto Scales itself but as I always go first to the top of the Souther/Scales 'dip' before hanging Left onto Scales, that's the way I went. Essentially, the way I had came down twice already, but sticking rigidly to the paths as I climbed.

On this third ascent I started to recognise people I had passed earlier in the day. Even though this was my third, when I mentioned I was going up SEVEN times, even I still found it to be a bit unbelievable myself!

A different descent was welcome. Especially as it was Doddick, my preferred way down on the BGR.
Knowing how to avoid the steepish rocky sections I delighted in passing walkers by ploughing through the heather to the right.

Into the village to the van this time and I changed my top while tomato soup cooked (heated up). Then I was off again, straight back up Doddick Fell. At the lane end where you would go to get to Halls I passed two pensioners looking at their map. I asked if they were going up Halls fell. 'No, Doddick' they said, so I indicated that they should try to keep me in sight as that was the way I was going.

I looked back often once I was on the main climb but I never saw them. No wonder though, I actually met them again at the top of the first little flatter section, perhaps less than a mile from where Id seen them initially - but when I was returning back down!

So now I'm at the van again for a very quick stop. Summit of my Life x4 completed but with two real brutes to climb next.....Halls then Gategill

Halls has a redeeming feature in that its the shortest way from the village to the summit - scarcely even 2 miles. So even though I was obviously tiring now, and without any runnable sections once away from the farm etc, 30 minutes per mile was still well within me, and Summit of my Life No 5 was done and dusted.

I had been looking at my times per up/down and was always gaining a few minutes on 1.5hour (therefore 10.5 hour) pace. Even with the soup stop (8 minutes) I was ahead of that schedule.

Something I was dreading though was the walk up to the Blencathra Centre prior to the final,  Blease Fell ascent. It was almost 2 miles of decent uphill on the tarmac and I knew it might take me 20 to 30 minutes, or more if I was only walking by then.

But then as I cooked up a bacon butty and the remainder of the soup and a cuppa tea, and wandered through the village, past the pubs with customers relaxing in beer gardens, my face and fingers smothered in brown sauce, I realised I'd been somewhat remiss in my planning. After Gategill I didn't need to run back to the village at all, but merely down Blease Fell to the carpark above Blencathra Centre, from where I could U turn and go back up the same way.

This revelation buoyed me somewhat, and I started up Summit of my Life No6, Gategill, with a renewed spring in my step. The spring didn't last long. Gategills angle relieved me of that quite quickly.

Then before long I was atop that section of the mountain and running East for the first time, along the summit plateau to reach the trig. Another first for No6 was taking more than one hour to get there. 65 minutes. This was solely due to having walked through the village from van to the start point. The climb itself was inside 60.

As with many a long distance event or route - once I was coming off the summit for the 6th time I felt like I had the thing in the bag. Felt I was all but done and dusted. A bit like starting leg 5 of the BGR with 7 hours in hand and knowing it would only take well inside 3. But I still had a significant part of the day to do - all the way down then up and down again. As I dropped off the West end, Blease Fell, I met the first person I knew - Keswick based Adventure Photographer and general fell enthusiast Stuart Holmes. Then at the carpark area just above the Blencathra Centre I met Huw and Sarah Massey just as they were finishing a run. I explained what I was doing and that I was almost finished. Sarah grabbed a quick snap of me and Scamp and checked I was OK for drinks & gels etc.

Then I was off again. One to go. Summit of my Life No7. My mood was great now, I knew I was close to the end and nothing was likely to prevent success. I met Stuart again as I climbed Blease Fell and we exchanged a few words. He knew what I was doing (having read it on Twitter), and it felt good to be talking about this big challenge as I was all but finishing it.

Climbing Blease Fell was tough going. A strong wind meant that the zigzag path was alternately headwind then tailwind. Alas, I was too knackered to run even the tailwind occasions and I walked all the way to the ridge. I did then manage to run along the ridge though and as I ran the final 100m or so to that concrete ring for the 7th time I felt many emotions.....

Amazement! I had just climbed Blencathra 7 times! In one day!!
Pleased - to be finishing a long days running/walking
Proud - to be completing something I'd wondered was possible
and also a little bit sad - There are fewer places in the Lakes I prefer to be than atop Blencathra and now I was about to leave her behind after a day long visit.

As I made my way off the summit toward Doddick for the final time I was still well inside 10 hours. It was a slow descent and I finally reached the tarmac and stopped my watch at 10hours 13minutes. Job done.

Back at the campsite I  showered, (myself and (Scamp under a cold tap)) cooked up some pasta for tea, fed Scamp too and very soon after I fell into my sleeping bag  and slept very well until next morning. But while I was busying myself cooking etc I glanced across at the auld lass, in the fading light I could still pick out a couple of ridges and I thought to myself "I went up there today, and up that other one, and another, and another four that you cant even see from here"

And now, every time I drive to or from Keswick I look across as I drive along from one end of the mountain to the other and I look, again at all those routes available to get to the top, and I remind myself that, yes, I really did do them all in one day, one continuous run.

Some people have asked me why I did it? Was I raising money for charity? No. Was I trying to beat some record or other? No.

I did it because I thought of it and wondered if I could do it. So I planned it, tried it, and completed it. I wasn't doing anything else that weekend and Scamp needed a walk anyway.

In the planning stages I heard that there was once a fellrace that went up and down 4 different ridges. And that Colin Valentine once ran up 5 times in 5 hours. But this was my challenge and my rules. I'm not claiming to have now done the biggest or longest or fastest Blencathra based ultra run. I'm just saying that I ran up and down Blencathra those 7 ways and that's how long it took me.

What I am claiming though, on behalf of my la'al Border Collie is this...

Scamp is the current canine record holder for running up Blencathra 7 times in one day
Well done Scamp - Blen' 7 record holder

Some stats of the run
Distance - just over 30 miles
Ascent - approx 15000 ft
Time 10hr 12 minutes
GPS trace Click here

I wore Salomon Fellcross 1 on my feet, a Montane Minimus pertex smock to keep me dry and carried a few essentials in the Ultimate Direction Peter Bakwin race vest.
I ate bacon roll and tomato soup at the stops, and 9bar on the move.
For drinks it was mostly High5 Zero tabs, plain water, and one very welcome cup of tea.