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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Le Tour

The Tour de Helvellyn was everything I thought it would be and far more besides. Despite a mediocre performance I loved it loved it loved it and will almost certainly enter again in the future......

The forecast in the days leading up to the vent was poor. Constant heavy rain and severe winds, galeforce on higher ground. When I awoke on Saturday I couldnt hear rain outside,and as I mooched about the house eating breakfast and preparing my gear I actually thought it might be dry after all. No such luck. Once I got outdoors I realised it was indeed raining at a reasonable old rate, just not heavy enough to have heard it inside the house. At least the wind seemed negligible.

I collected Wes (Ste Weston) from his house and we made our way to Askham. Its only a 30 min journey so we were there by about 0745, still dark. I knew it would be light soon after 8 though and had planned to begin the run at 0815.

It was actually 0823 when I dibbed the control box and set off out of the hall. I was running with Wes because we were there together, but we hadnt made any plans to stick together for the duration, and indeed by about 30-45 minutes into the day I gradually crept ahead and away from him, as we both expected.

Also starting with us, and therefore running with us up through the village and across toward Ullswater was a lad who it turned out I had met once before, in 2008. Rick Aire was a good friend of Iain Kelly and it was on Iains first BG attempt we had previously met. Rick had completed his own BG in 2012 so I knew he would be a strong companion. Ideal.

Rick was familiar with the route in principal, if not the fine detail, and I like to think he was impressed with my microsecond-saving lines here and there as he eventually claimed 7th place in a fine time of 7hrs 10 mins. Neither of us had read the big map on the table in the village hall though, because at CP 1 (howtown Church) we both ran past the control point and up the church gates. Luckily a runner close behind us knew the location and we saw him dib in on the front railings. 58 minutes to this check was quicker than me and Wes had completed it a few weeks ago, but not by very much at all, perhaps 5 minutes.

Climbing out of the Boardale Valley I noted Penrith Stus car parked at the last farm. Then later on, as we climbed, I saw occasional flashes in the distance. No, he wasnt showing every passing runner his bikini line scars from the recent operation he endured, he was taking photos from near the top of Boardale Hause.... in the pissing rain. Stus photos turned out to be as big a talking point as Kim Collisons win and new course record..... and not cos they were any good.....

The climb up to Boardale also saw a number of earlier starters caught and passed. It felt good to be finally passing people, as we had been passed by two faster runners ourselves already.

I was running in leggings and waterproof overtrousers from the outset. An error. I dont like to wear more than shorts normally, I find anything long tends to fall down slightly as I run so I m constantly hitching them up, and I also feel very encumbered, unable to run properly, especially so with the overtrousers.  So as we descended to wards CP2 at Patterdale I mentioned my plan to stop briefly to take them off. Rick wasnt for stopping at all - he had with him everything he wanted in his bag. So i said I might see him later on.

1hour 41 mins (total, from start) to Patterdale was about 25 minutes quicker than me and Wes had done a few weeks ago - ideal for my planned 7hr schedule.

Faffing about trying to get my overtrousers off over my shoes took an age. Then, in a rush to get my packet of Kinetica energy powder opened to tip into a bottle, I spilled the powder and some flew up into my eyes. Still, perhaps a couple of calories was directly ingested into my bloodstream via my eyeballs as I blinked rapidly to regain vision.

In Glenridding I saw plenty of runners ahead of me. Ideal for catching. They all went in front of the bus stop then left up the main road. A short cut through the carpark and NHS clinic is another of my little favourites and perhaps worth 20-30 seconds saved. I felt much better running now without the overtrousers and felt I was making steady progress up the Greenside road, though I certainly wasnt pressing very hard on the pedals at this stage.

At the YHS where we turn sharp up onto Sticks Pass I could see lots of runners ahead. I also thought I could see Rick in his familiar orange raincoat. But I never caught him. Still on the early steep bit of the climb I was caught by Kim. I was walking, he was running. Not running fast but a nice relaxed looking style that suggested economy coupled with constant forward motion. I think my gait at that time would have been best described as 'speedy but troubled walking, with occasional stumbling and sideways motion'. I sped up and ran with Kim for a while. (15 seconds is long enough to be termed "a while" isnt it? ) Before he got too far away ahead of me  we had passed a group of about 4 or 5 runners. They halted briefly for a discussion about the route and then continue to their right (and flat) where we went left (and up). Pointing at Kim I shouted that 'he won this race last year, and was definitely going the right way'. They remained on their own course so I shouted "this is definitely the right way, I live here". Not to worry. Their path soon petered out to nothing and they scrambled up some rocks and fell in behind us.

Soon after the checkpoint 3 at the Swart Beck bridge the added height made me reach for my gloves which until then had been in my coat pockets, unworn. The top of Sticks Pass was quite gloomy and still icy in patches. It was soon left behind though as the descent to Stannah was enjoyed, and CP 4 loomed.

Thirlmere from the West side
The short section from Stannah to Swirls is little more than a mile as the crow flies. No crows had entered the Tour de Helvellyn this year though, so we all had to use the very awkward path that connects them. It took me 20 minutes to cover this mile and a bit, though I was often held up behind folk and I was also scranning a packet of Hula Hoops along that section too. *other potatoes based snacks are available but if I'm in line for freebies then plain Hula Hoops will be fine - ta.

South from Swirls is the forest road and path, quite straight but with plenty of ups and downs in it. Bearing in mind what Joe says on the course notes on the Nav4 website I had previously reccied the section up left through the trees. That path rejoins the main track and i'm still not sure if it is what was meant by 'do not use the forest track'. On the day hough everyone seemed to stick to the main track all the way, so so did I. I also passed the Ian Charters posse on this section and had a brief walk and chat before jogging on again.

To eat, as well as various bars and gels, I had with me a plastic carton of cheesy bacon pasta, and had planned to eat it while tackling the steep climb of Willie Wife Moor up to Grisedale Tarn. To this end I hadnt bothered to put on my gloves (which I d taken off as the descent from Sticks Pass warmed again), and my hands had gotten  rather cold through the trees. Immediately after the checkpoint at Birkside bridge I left the obvious path and took a beeline through the small copse of trees, then continued in the same line up the fellside. I noted those I had recently passed and plenty ahead who I never caught up to were all still heading South parallel to the main road and I felt pleased to have reccied this section (twice) and saving myself time and distance.

Waterfall up Raise Beck
Eating my pasta was simple enough. I scooped out a big mouthful with my bare fingers, chewed and swallowed quickly then scooped some more. I did this until I'd taken over half from the tub then flung the remainder for the crows to find and squashed the empty pot into my breast pocket. What hadnt been easy whilst eating was climbing up the steep, rock strewn fell. I had slipped and stumbled and faltered when I'd only had one hand so was finally pleased to get rid of my food and get going properly. I needed my gloves on though as my hands were VERY cold now. So I wiped the excess mayonaisse from fingers onto the moss at my feet and as well as reaching for my gloves, I took out two of those chemical reaction hand-warmyuppy things which I had also packed into my jacket pocket. The combination of my buddy fantastic eighty pound gloves PLUS the hand-warmyuppy things created a mini furnace in each glove, and although my hands took an age to feel anything but warm to my brain, the sweat was obviously dripping from my finger ends, because the inside of the gloves became quite wet and therefore unpleasant.

Climbing the fell side I noted two other lads were also intent on the same plan. One of them I never caught as he was either too far ahead or going faster then me. The other lad seemed less sure of his route plan and was veering too far to the right in my opinion. If you go too far right you will 'pop out' onto the steep side of the ghyll which most of the runners used, but you will have to cross several streams, be constantly contouring at an oblique angle, and also negotiate boulder fields (I know this 'cos I made that mistake the first time I went there to recce).  My route sees only one small stream to cross, and although is not good running, I feel it is much bettter than taking the 'safe' option of the valley path which has a number of rock slabs to climb up over.

As I topped out at what I knew to to be the optimum height I could see many others climbing up the valley path to my right. Even once they topped out they would have to make to their left to join the path I was making a direct beeline for. Soon I was at Grisedale Tarn and in the company of lots of runners again as we all headed around to the tarn outlet.....

As soon as the tarn outlet is reached the marked and well established path to Patterdale begins. Thanks to a tip from Berni Gilmartin  I ignored the path and immediately took to the grass between said path and the stream. If you stopped to look down the grassy line you might be concerned about meeting steep drops or somesuch. But in fact it is excellent running all the way to the sturdy footbridge which then sees the beginning of the track out to Patterdale village.  Glancing back occasionally I noted three lads dressed in identical green/yellow jackets. I had ran with them around the tarn and made no progress ahead of them, but now with Bernis grassy line I was several hundred metres ahead and still gaining as they had to negotiate the awkward path with it s twisty-turny route and tricky rock hopping drops.

I reckon that the two good lines I took up to and then away from Grisedal Tarn got me past at least 40 people, maybe more. Obviously I would have passed many of them anyway as I was faster than 113 people in the event and the majority started ahead of me. But Im still pleased to have reccied and successfully found more of less the best route options for this tough section.

I had left Patterdale CP2 earlier in the day at 1005hrs. In my first recce of the 'loop' I'd taken 3hrs 50 mins. In my second recce I'd taken 3hrs 25 mins . So I hope to reach the CP again before 1330, thus beating the 2nd recce time. It was actually 1331hrs when I got there. One minute longer. This also meant that I had to complete that final leg to Askham in 1hr 50mins to get inside 7 hours for the event. Even though I'd taken about 1hr 42 to do that section on the way out, I knew 1hr 50 was unlikely. But I  also knew that barring disaster I would finish well inside 8 hours, which had been my original target (before I looked up Kims 6:01 from the year before).

The climb up to Boredale Hause was tough on tired legs and I was pleased to be descending into the valley and sighting the road home. I'm pretty sure I saw Rick again high above me too. Once the rocky part of the descent was over I tried to push on and stretch my legs on the good wide grassy track. Then the tarmac was under me and again I tried to capitalise on the gentle downward slope, for I knew that before long I would have to tackle the climb up to Martindale Church, then worse, the long rough drags after Howtown on that shelf above the lake.

It was in the Boredale valley road section I caught up to Berni who was running with Andy Thompson from Eden runners. We chatted briefly and then I naturally eased away ahead of them. But once that climb came I was unable to find the strength to keep running and found myself looking back, sure they would be catching me back up. They did catch me back up - but luckily not as soon as Howtown.....

Once I left the tarmac at Howtown and again felt the rough ground slow my progress I realised I was heading into self preservation mode. I knew I would get to Askham. I knew that even if I walked all the way I would probably even beat 8 hours. But I so so wanted to do better than 8 hours and I forced myself to jog whenever it was flat or downhill. The uphills were just too much though and all I could muster was a strong walking pace thereon. Finally I gave in, stopped completely, had a pee I had wanted since Glenridding (yes about 4 hours of wanting a pee) and ate my last packet of Hula Hoops and finished my drink.

I had scarcely got going again when Andy and Berni caught an passed me. they asked if I was OK and I replied 'yeah I'm just completely wasted". Andy thrust a handful of Haribos into my hand and I gladly polished them off double quick. I also upped my pace slightly and kept pace with them for a few metres. Andy handed me another huge handful of sweets and I crammed them all into my mouth. It mustve taken about 10 minutes to fully chew and swallow them all, but they did the trick, for I then ran all the way back to Askham feeling buddy great and even managed to up my pace for the final few minutes to ensure I beat the 7hrs 30 mins mark.

In the hall my eyes found the soup first, then the seats, then the people. Rick called me over. He had had a great run, well inside the top 10. I wish I'd stuck with him after Patterdale, I reckon we would have ran all the way over Sticks Pass together and then up Grisedale I might even have edged away depending whether or not he had faith in my shortcuts. The checkpoints show he was....
under 2mins ahead of me at CP3 (probably the time it took me to faff on taking my leggings off at CP2)
3mins ahead at CP4 (Stannah)
almost 4 mins ahead at CP5 (Swirls)
less than 2 mins ahead at CP6 (Birkside)
approx 2mins 40secs ahead at CP6 (Patterdale)
just under 5 mins ahead at CP7 (Martindale church)
but then over 17 mins at the finish.
So if we had been together at Patterdale but I still fell apart to the same degree after Howtown I might have been 5 mins faster overall.

No matter. I was 15th fastest, had a great day out - didn't really notice the rain (apart from going up to Grisedale) and continued to learn more about myself as I have  throughout 2012.

Most important of all though is to express my thanks to Nav4 Joe and his team for putting on such a well organised event, especially so close to Christmas when I m sure most people have lots of stuff to do apart from stand around in the rain for 10 hrs plus.


Friday, December 14, 2012

With just inside two weeks to go until the Tour de Helvellyn I took the day off work and took myself up into them there hills for the final long run prior to the event itself.

I drove to Thirlmere and parked in the village hall carpark. I got changed and parked all my gear whilst sitting in the back of the van. As I emerged to begin I noted the 555 bus just leaving the stop opposite the road end..... Would have been V handy to have caught it into Keswick.

So I set off jogging North along the main A591. Its not a pleasant road to run along but at least theres a pavement for most of it and a wide grass verge for the rest, so no issues with vehicles coming close by.

Its a tad over 5 miles to the Keswick town centre and it took us (Scamp was with me) 50 minutes exactly. Not fast, but I was carrying a decent amount of gear and also stopped twice to attend to calls of nature and take photos.

At Keswick I stopped by the Moot Hall and made note of the exact time. Then set off toward Skiddaw. 81 minutes later I was on top of Skiddaw.

Skiddaw was V V V cold and windy and had about 10 metres visibility. I'd slipped and slid around since the first high gate. I didnt put on my Kahtoolah microspikes as I thought it not worth doing so as I would be descending out of the snow and ice soon enough. That was an error. I lost a lot more time after I'd crossed the fence and was going down toward Hare Crag.

Over Hare Crag is always very wet. This time it was partially frozen and I fannied about trying to keep my feet dry by avoiding the deepest, wettest bits where the ice would give under my weight. Of course I got wet feet anyway so may as well have ploughed through regardless. At least I didnt now need to wonder how to keep dry at the Caldew crossing later on.

Living in Cumbria means having to look at this kind of thing on a regular basis!!!

Gt Calva is largely uninteresting. After the summit I dropped down along the fence that naturally brings you to Wiley Gill. I would nomally take a more direct line off Calva, through the heather in a beeline for Mungrisedale Common. I took the fence route just to remind myself of it and now I remember why I dont like it......very steep and rocky, and holding the fence can cut into fingers.

I then took a terrible line across to the Caldew. Struggling through thigh high heather and reeds for a couple of hundred metres to reach the river. Although my shoes were soaked, my tights werent, so I rolled them up (a la uncle at the beach), and waded through. Halfway across I couldnt remember if I had stowed my camera in the drybag or just inside the top of my pack. As I didnt fall in it was of no consequence either way

Climbing up to Mugrisedale common seemed harder and more annoying than I ever remember. The tufty grass was surely never this long in the summer? And the boggy bits seemed to be strung together in a line matching exactly the one I chose.

On the common plateau there was enough height to allow the ice to return. I stopped and rooted in the bottom of my bag for the microspikes. I hadnt worn them once last winter and forgot how buddy brilliant they are. It was like someone had flicked a switch. Where I'd been walking and struggling I was now jogging with ease. No more skirting round the glassiest sections of ice - just run straight over through the middle.

I hadn't been looking forward to being up on Blencathra. Not if that awful wind was present again.
Turns out the day had improved. On Blen' it wasnt that windy at all and the sun was weakly shining through the clag. Near the summit I met an older couple who had come up Sharp Edge!! They had crampons, ice axes etc and were clearly well experienced people. But they were no spring chickens and certainly have more bottle than me for tackling that route in winter.

I left the summit and descended toward Scales fell. Foolishly I missed bearing to my right to gain Doddick and once I realised my error was reasonably far down Scales. I should have climbed back up to the correct path intersection but instead decided I could traverse the steep sided bowl between Scales and Doddick. This was almost certainly slower than if I'd climbed back up. At times, the only reason I was able to progress at all was due to my footwear getting a good hold in the small pockets of snow that remained on this South facing hillside. Anyway, eventually I got myself onto the proper Doddick path and descended to Threlkeld village.

On my drive through that morning I had stopped down the track to Newsham House and left behind some food and drink, stashed away by some sleepers at the roadside. The savoury snack was buddy delicious, as was the milkshake. I began the ascent of Clough Head feeling great. I wasnt covering the ground particularly fast, but 61 minutes to Cloughy is just a little over the slowest BG schedule, and of course you would normally take 5-15 minutes stop at the A66 on a BG, where I spent probably just  2 mins getting my stash and putting away my spikes.

Putting away my spikes was an error. When will I learn? The descent off Clough Head toward Calfhow Pike was very icy, but also easy to avoid slipping by keeping wide of the main path where it was more grassy. As soon as the climb up to Gt Dodd started, the ice and snow was again a real issue. I reached the summit of Gt Dodd some 6 minutes slower than the slowest BG schedule and finally I stopped and looked out my spikes again.

Looking West from nr Calfhow Pike

Immediately leaving Doddy I was unable to walk properly. The snow was about 10 inches in depth and frozen. But not frozen enough to stop me breaking through with 8 out of 10 steps. This was not only then pitifully slow, but also hurt quite a  lot as shins clattered against the unbroken sides of the holes made by feet.

I decided enough was enough and didnt bother visit the next two Dodds summits. I probably wouldnt have found them anyway. The only way I could tell where I was at all, was to peer across to my left until the steep drop into Browndale Beck ended, then the drop on my right to Stanah Gill began. I also kept an eye on the compass to check I was going South, as I reckon it would be very easy to run in circles in such conditions.

Finally I reached Sticks Pass and headed West to drop into Thirlmere. I got back to the van at 1650hrs, having set off at 0910. I reckon it was probably 24/25 miles in total. Certainly the longest 'winter conditions' run I have ever done. Hopefully it will serve as good training/experience for the TdeH next weekend, and who knows, maybe for something longer in 2013......

Sunday, December 9, 2012

a la'al race

Because I'd already planned to do a long run on the Monday, (more on that later) I figured a race would be ideal training for the Saturday.

Kendal cross country was on, so I went along there to test my fitness.

Noting I am usually in about 40-50th place in the Mid Lancs XC meetings I reckoned top 75 would be acceptable on this occasion due to having done so little intense training in favour of all the long stuff over the fells.

I also was aware my achilles might flare up badly if I went crazy fast too soon so I deliberately started well away from the front line with the intention of picking up the pace once I was properly warmed up.

I only got about half way round lap 1 (of 4) when I grew tired of running under my ability. I pushed on much harder and constantly picked people off until about the end of lap 3 when my legs started to feel heavy. I still caught and passed a couple more in the last lap though and I was delighted to finish in 37th place from just over 200 starters.

In fact I enjoyed the whole thing  so much that I think I might do some more XC this winter. Yeah my achilles still hurts all the time but its not unbearable, so I may as well keep running, training and racing at the highest level I can while I still have what is obviously very good fitness.

Thanks to Gareth for the photos

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.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bad race > good race

Chester marathon, just like my previous two road marathon went badly! I figured that 6:30 pace would be easy to achieve and the 2hrs 50 mins result would see me finish well up the field. Apart from inexplicably feeling nauseous at 9 -10 miles I was bang on target. But then at 16 something went wrong, I began slowing up and at 19 that damned stitch came back to haunt me. I decided to walk a while and took 10 mins to cover the next mile. Then I jogged at 8 pace until Ste Weston ran past me. I tried running again and realised I could, so I caught him back up and helped him run home to his new PB of 2:59:02. I was a second behind him after the young bugger made us sprint the last 100m or so to try to get a 2:58. It was a grand day out in the sunshine and nice to complete another marathon in a time that many people would love to achieve but never will. For me it wasn't a good time though and I think the time has come to leave the road marathons alone for a while. Without an entry for London next year I've also decided NOT to enter any other road marathons next spring.

Time for a change.

My time on the fells and trails this year has been most productive - winning the Karrimor trail marathon and Lakes 50, best ever finishes at numerous fellraces, completing the 45 mile, 4x 3000ft English peaks and numerous other long days out and monster ascents

So after Chester I decided that offroad was where I want to be. I absolutely love roadrunning still, and will be competing at all my favourite races next year, but just not marathon. (I may enter Berlin in the Autumn as I still want to fulfill my goal of running in all 5 World Marathon Majors).

I'm still running with considerable discomfort in both achilles tendons. After 10 miles fast last week on tarmac I was hobbling for a full day, but a 90 mins fellrun up Blencathra saw it ease off. Another reason to run trails/fells until the problem is sorted. Since the first days of September I haven't really trained with much conviction, and I have missed a lot of days altogether. Not ideal considering I don't cross train at all.

I had entered the 50km trail event at Ennerdale quite a long time ago at the suggestion of Ste Weston. At just 2 weeks after Chester I knew it would be a bit soon really, but when things are going well I tend to feel invincible, like I can do anything I put my mind to.

I visited the valley in the only weekend between Chester and the Ultra to check the course out. Although 15 miles was a bit far to run in the weekend between two big races I'm pleased I went through as I discovered how tough the second half of the lap was (despite the overall descent).

My plan for the race was to run lap 1 nice n easy then on lap 2 run to the Black Sail YHA as hard as I could then hold on as well as possible for the final hour. I also planned that unless someone who I knew in advance was an awful lot better runner than me turned up I would run with the leaders from the start.

On the day it went a bit different to that, but the outcome was perfect.....

We began with a short section around the lake edge. Nice n flat. I ran chatting to Ste Weston in about 6th place. Within a mile or so things had settled out a bit and I was running alone about 100yds behind the first lady. As I caught her up and exchanged chat I was also caught and passed by another fella. I was in about 4th or 5th place I think. Although I hadn't ran with the leaders as planned I was running very easy and felt certain of picking up places as the miles were ticked off.

I reached the YHA at Black Sail and quickly filled my empty water bottle into which Id poured a sachet of Kinetica energy powder before the start. I swigged down a little and looked behind me to see a runner rapidly approaching.  It was my pal Carl Bell who was leading the 25k event. I was a bit gutted to have been caught for 15 minutes in 7 miles but I know Carl would be the best part of 1 minute per mile faster than me on the roads, fells by percentage therefore even more disparity and with him running just half the distance (lightweight) perhaps this was to be expected. Later, I discovered they hadn't started the 25k race a full 15 mins after our race anyway - more like 12.

Carl whizzed past me on the narrow path from the YHA to the bridge that marks the turning point of the lap. He was about 15metres ahead and just crossing the bridge when he slipped on the wooden planking and faceplanted like a sack of spuds. I was right onto him again and the next minutes as I asked if he was hurt I was being held up a little. Carl soon got over it though and was again forging ahead away from me on his way down out of the valley.

I put in very little effort on the long windy forest roads that took me back to the lake, preferring to try to stay relaxed and get some energy drink into me. Still on the forest roads I was pleased to see the course went through the trees at one stage before rejoining the road a few hundred metres later. this cut out a significant little climb which I had included on my recce.

Photo courtesy of
Before long I was through the fields and onto the toughest part of the lap - the rocky, uneven, wet, slimy, root infested semi formed path around the lake leading to Anglers Crag. I caught sight of a runner ahead and realised it must be third place. This spurred me on somewhat and I put in a decent effort to catch and pass him. During a  brief chat he told me he had been leading for a long time but had been forced to make a pit-stop and also that 2nd place wasn't far ahead, but the leader was a long way in front. Indeed, as I neared Anglers Crag I saw 2nd place Paul Watham, who I know, and usually beat, was walking up the short steep bit.

After Anglers Crag is still a bit awkward under foot and I took care not to go silly hard as I felt absolutely certain that I would soon catch and pass Paul for 2nd place.  I did catch Paul, just after the start/finish area. We chatted briefly and he said that the leader was 15 minutes up the road!! I figured that anyone 15 minutes ahead of me in 15 miles was simply a much better runner than me and that I would have to be content with 2nd place today.

By my watch I had taken 2 hours for lap one. 59:58 to the bridge beyond YHA then about 1:00:30 back.

Within a mile of getting onto the 'nice' forest tracks uphill to the YHA I started to feel awful. Really weak, like I was hardly moving. This lasted for 40 minutes. I know looking behind is irrelevant and I should concentrate on my own race and ignore everyone else but once things start to go wrong you also start to do things you shouldn't. Looking behind I noticed the fella I has passed to take 3rd place was catching me back up again and was only 100m or so behind. Then I had 8 minutes of feeling bloody great!! I pressed on really well and doubled my gap to the next runner.

At the YHA I felt ropey again - very thirsty. I gulped down the blackcurrant drink they had on offer and ran off again, knowing the easiest part of the course would soon be reached. The bridge turn point was reached in 1:07:30 - one minute per mile slower than the first lap. that's a massive slowdown and I was worried the likes of Wes would be catcing me back up. So as the track became smooth compacted gravel and downhill, I really stretched out my stride and effort. Id be surprised to learn I didn't go faster along this section than on lap 1. I still felt rubbish and sickly but my legs were good.

Somewhere near the herd of Black cows the drink I had taken at the YHA made the return trip. I had never previously vomited whilst running and have to admit that it was quite and impressive display. The dark liquid emerged to my right side and as I ran on forward was left behind to fall to the ground. I felt a bit better for that and knew the end was in sight. I was still a bit disappointed to be 2nd but had glanced behind me again on some of the longest straights and knew no one was closing on me.

As I neared the longish footbridge I thought I saw a figure run across it. I knew it couldn't possibly be the slowest runner from the 25k so it was either somebody out for a run and nothing to do with the event....... or the leader.....

Soon after was the section where we go through 2 fields. There was a young lad marshaling there and I asked him if the runner ahead was a blue number. He said yes, it was the 50k race leader. I was overjoyed. From feeling rubbish and thinking of jogging home to maintain 2nd place I was now surging across those fields with a race win now very much back on the cards.

Racing done, resting begins. (photo by Grahamo)
Once onto the tricky rocky section my progress up to the leader slowed a little as I now had very tired legs and was stumbling a lot where previously I had been hopping over and between the rocks. I caught him a few minutes before Anglers Crag and asked for confirmation that he was the leader. He said 'yeah, but not any more, well done'. I saw little point in more conversation and pressed on, figuring that every metre of lead I could gain would help if he was a faster runner on the flatter part to end with.

At Anglers Crag on lap 1 I had asked the young girl marshaling there how far ahead she thought the leaders were. On lap 2 I said 'I'm not asking about the leader this time'. I thanked her for helping with the event and struggled down the usually very easy drop over the rocks and ledges on my now cramping legs.

A minute later and onto the better running I glanced behind to see I had a gap large enough that I would not be caught and I finally allowed my thoughts to turn to what it meant to be winning ANOTHER tough long race.....

At Karrimor marathon I was emotional and had filled up in the final hundred metres. The loudspeaker system could be heard as I neared the field and I hadn't won a race for several years. I composed myself, wiped my face and ran into the field, through the race funnel and under the gantry to break the tape. It was the best day I can remember for a long time, with friends present to share the moment.

At the Lakes 50 I had lead for about 5 hours but battled through the last 2 with cramping up and felt sure the final descent into Coniston was gonna see me caught and passed for the victory. Once I got onto the roads I realised I wouldn't be caught and was going to win a very prestigious event. The finish itself that night was something of a letdown. No tape to break, no photos of me winning, and I even had to stop to dib in prior to going under the gantry. Then afterwards, although lots of congratulations, no friends there - just a darkening night and a tired drive home. As I said previously in this blog - the best thing about winning the Lakes 50 was the eight and a half hours I spent winning the Lakes 50.

So how did I feel winning Ennerdale? Well I didn't feel emotional, perhaps because for the first time this year I not only wanted to win it, but also half expected to win it. I had spent 3hrs 45 minutes running along by myself thinking I wasn't going to win before I spotted the long time leader. So in those final couple of hundred metres when I knew for sure I would take victory #3 of 2012 I spontaneously started laughing. Laughing out loud. Why was I laughing? I don't know really, it just happened, just came out. I had endured bad patches - had kept on running when I wanted to walk, or stop. I had pressed on super fast when I was also throwing up. I had doubted myself a little at times but had always pushed on. And now I was being rewarded, again, with a victory.

Lots of friends around for me this time. A great couple of hours chatting, snacking on the excellent traybakes and cups of tea provided. A walk with Scamp who had waited patiently in the van for me to do the race. Then collecting my prize from the organisers who all seemed such genuine folk who were not only giving up their Sunday to help with the race but who seemed to enjoying every minute of it.

Now one day later - my legs are very tired, but not sore. I reckon I will be able to get up Blencathra one last time this week after work before the clocks change and make that impossible. Constant messages and Twitter comments congratulating me. Life is good. Life is great. We continue....

Many thanks to Dave and Laura  @Sportsunday for images

Saturday, October 6, 2012

In a world of pain

Every time I run it hurts.

The problem is my achilles tendons. The right one specifically but also the left one to a smaller degree. The physio says i should train as normal and as long as I do the strengthening exercises all will be well within a few months.

So I'm running, but not with the intensity of usual and to be honest my heart isnt really in it of late, not when it hurts so much. I know I am losing fitness and speed with each passing week but I am not too concerned about this because, although I was planning to throw everything into the pot to run a 55 minute 10 miler at Brampton, I AM still able to run, to run every day, and to be honest although it hurts, it doesn't hurt more afterwards. Sometimes it actually hurts less afterwards.

Plenty o' Helly to come this winter

Up the fells, my achilles pain simply vanishes. Perhaps its the softer underfoot conditions or the stretching of steep tough climbs or the ever varied position of footfalls. Whatever it is, I'm now intent on keeping up fellrunning right through the Autumn/Winter. Hopefully lots of very long days with many thousands of feet of ascent.

Two weeks from now I'm doing the Ennerdale 50k trail race. Then in December the 37 mile Tour de Helvellyn. Next year Im thinking of doing a lot more trail races, the longer the better. I'm doing the L50 again in July and will be aiming to beat 8 hours. I may NOT bother entering a road marathon until Autumn. That would make 2013 the first year since 2003 that hasn't included a long buildup from Christmas towards a Spring road marathon.

Theres a bit of an issue to all this fellrunning over the October-March period though. I prefer nice weather and light days.....   and Cumbria tends to have lots of poor weather and gets dark by 5pm  or sooner for months on end.

The small matter of Chester Marathon is tomorrow morning. My original goal was a low 2:40 or even sub 2:40. Following the injury and subsequent lack of fast determined running/sessions, I don't think the fitness is there to run that fast, and certainly not the belief needed to set off at 6:10 pace. So I'm gonna set off at about 6:30 pace (2:50 result) and see what happens.

Its felltime Champ

Friday, September 7, 2012

Didnt really train very hard in Lanza....

This was written day by day on my iPhone. I didnt try to upload until back home....

Day one of holiday.
3am breakfast (cereal) at home
6am breakfast (full English) in airport
10am breakfast (eggs) on plane
2pm dinner ( pasta) at hotel
4pm afternoon tea at hotel
8pm tea at hotel

So, six meals. The one 40 minute run I did was a decent la'al effort but overall I think a calorie surplus for the day.

Much too hot here for me to consider running in the daytime. I'll probably stick to 30 mins each morning before breakfast and 40-60 mins in the late evening once the suns heat has waned.

Day two of holiday
Slept very well. I'm not an early morning runner and couldn't face even a light jog before breakfast. I did get out and about though, and was pleased to find sunrise was quite late here compared to home- I'd missed it but not by much.
Cloud spoiled this sunrise a wee bit

Following a day of sunbathing and eating I set out for an evening run.
It's not too hot at 6pm and I was able to do some reps. 
2x 5mins into the famous lanzarote headwind then 5x2 mins with it on my tail.  
I've learned from previous visits to this island that training here has to be based on time, not distance. It's just too windy to hit your usual splits for miles or shorter reps.

Day three.
Decided to take a day off from running. Walked 25 mins along beach path to runway- took fotos of planes coming into land.

This man is about to begin his holiday

Short of time to get back for meal, I opted to jog. Camera is v heavy and certainly unsuitable to jog with so I went slow. After a couple of mins a lad caught me up. Suffice to say he was immediately treated to more views of my back.
Lakes 50 tee and the 5DII went everywhere with me in Lanza'

Day four. Long run day.
Long run in this climate is 60 mins.
At the turnaround I felt some stomach issues - luckily it was just wind (Lanzarote is famous for it apparently). But 4 mins prior to completion I again felt some discomfort so quit early. So, 56 mins for my long run this week. Mr Gofar.

Day five. 30mins hard effort.
This began well. With headwind I ran for 16 mins then turned. But at 21mins my legs we're screaming in pain,  and my stomach was knotted up (possibly due to blood diverting away from it in an attempt to keep me cool). I figured 25 mins would be enough of this session given the conditions. The last minute dragged on and on and on. Eventually the 25 was up and I walked for 2 then jogged home.  I suppose I would get used to this heat if I had to. But as I live in Cumbria it isn't really such an issue.

Busy, but ideal seafront running path

Day six
Was supposed to be a slow one, 40 minutes I figured would do. For some reason, by the time  came to go I couldn't be bothered to run at all and took it as another day off. I also went to sleep quite early and so had no trouble getting up early on....

Day six
It's one thing getting up sharp. And leaving the hotel to get out and about is great seeing daily life of the locals begin. 
But running is not something I like to do early. I just always feel dreadful, heavy legged and slow. After about 10 mins of walking I broke into a run and then ran for about another 20 odd minutes. Possibly not worth bothering doing but it made me feel better for having missed the previous night.
Day six part two- headed out a bit later than usual. 5 minute jog then chose a long straight section of walkway. Choosing a spot to begin, I ran flat out  for what I hoped would be more or less 400 metres. After one minute I glanced at my watch and chose an upcoming spot to stop.64 seconds wouldn't quite be 400metres, I can't run that fast. But it would be near enough. I then ran this exact course 7 more times, making near as damn it 2 miles of hard work. I admit to taking 2 mins recovery between each effort. This is much longer than I would take at home (though tbh I never do 400s at home anyway), due to the heat and  inevitable buildup of lactic. Indeed, on my 8th rep I knew there was no more in the tank and I had done all I could for this session.

Nothing to do with running - Everything to do with Lanzarote

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just a normal bank holiday weekend really

The  Four Lakeland 3000ft peaks was for many years on the calendar as an organised long walk. Some runners would do it too. When Lords Rake became unstable it was no longer advisable to 'send' people up (or down) it in an official event. One day the rock will fall and anybody in the Rake when that happens will be dead - no question.

Scamp at Lords Rake 31/07/2012

I heard about the event a couple of years ago from George Nicholson who had completed it back in the day. I knew that summiting all four was something I would like to do in one day and drew up a vague plan to cycle between them. This, (along with my Bog Graham round over 2 days recce) never materialised and was all but forgotten about until last year when Penrith Stu started talking about it again. We were all but ready to go when Stus injury woes forced another abandonment.

So this year I was again thinking about doing it by cycling inbetween. Stu was keen to try and so was Ian Charters, but when Stu conceded he would not be able to do the fells it was back to just me and Ian. I knew that if I used a bike I would always want to  return and do it all on foot so we decided to it 'go for it' and complete the classic running/walking route of approx 45 miles. 

The main difference between doing it all on foot compared to using a bike/car is that from the  parking place at Seathwaite in Borrowdale, you do the Scafells then return to your transport to use the roads back via Keswick then to the Thirlmere area. Whereas by foot  you instead come off the Scafells to the East and continue across the fells until you reach the A591 (Keswick to Ambleside road) which puts you at the foot of Helvellyn.

Based on little more than Joss Naylor having ran this in about 8 hours I came up with a very broad plan that I should therefore be able to do it within 150% of that time, about 12 hours. A schedule was drawn up which, by the time stops were accounted for would see us start at 0700 and finish at 1909.

At 7 oclock precisely we began climbing Skiddaw. Good progress was made. It was quite wet at times but dry for the majority and quite mild and not at all windy. Based on a 24hour BGR being allowed 85 mins to climb Skiddaw I had given us 75 mins (I have never accompanied any BG contender who took the full 80). Summit number 1 was reached in EXACTLY 75 mins. We then turned immediately and retraced back to Keswick. Coming off Skiddaw is so familiar to me now and we were able to take every small shortcut and off walking path line that in the fellrace for example you must not do.  Even the bit from Latrigg carpark we used Stus shortcut to the lower path by aiming for the farmers cattle feed trough - (hope he never mooves it).

We reached Keswick one minute ahead of schedule and stopped for exactly the five minutes allowed.
At this time I removed my trail shoes in favour of road shoes for the 9 mile section to Seathwaite.
A comfort break in the public WCs added an extra 5 mins or so but this was preferable to an emergency visit to a field later on.

Once on the Borrowdale road in earnest it became clear that my slowest comfortable running speed was quite a lot faster than Ians. But rather than slow down, I got ahead then stopped every now and then to stretch my hamstrings (which had been very tight since Wednesdays race). Once we reached Rosthwaite I said I would just go on ahead and take the additional time at the car to sort my bag/gear ready for the long central fell section. Just as I turned left off the main road to the Seathwaite road it began to rain. Then waiting at the car it was very very heavy rain. 

Climbing up to Styhead was on off showery but by the upper recaches of the corridor route was wet enough that we took the decision to put on our waterproof trousers.

Ian in his waterproof trousers

There then followed a troublesome half hour which ended with a comedy moment of realisation.....

We were on Scafell Pike summit but still had Scafell to reach. For any (of the three) route choices this means first  descending off the Pike toward Mickledore. Because we had got onto the Pike from the E, essentially the route from Esk Hause which we popped out onto from a steep gully, we just passed over the summit and its hundred of visitors, continuing in the same direction. Once the path split we took the left one and lost height. After a wee while Ian shouted to ask if I knew where we were going. This was a troubling question. I thought I did.  But I am quite hopeless at navigation, preferring to only go to places I already know well from being there previously on clear days. I waited for Ian to catch me and we discussed the possibility we were actually heading back down toward the corridor route. Through the mirk and rain I thought I saw a glimpse of what looked like the Mickledoor Hause but to be honest everything looks the same when only glimpses are snatched and its very easy to mistake west for east and north for south. So we bore off 90 degree left, crossing the boulder field, hoping to reach the correct path. We could see far enough that ahead lay some steep rock faces and drops and that didnt seem like a good way to go. So we retraced and got back to the path we had been on 10 mins earlier. Another brief conflab and we decided the best thing was to continue downwards, figuring when we got to the path for Lingmell we would skirt around and join the route up to Mickledore from Wasdale. 

Approx 30 seconds after making that decision and walking downhill for about 50 metres we then saw....


so we had been going the correct way in the first place and had just lost at least 10 minutes for no good reason. Ian had even mentioned binning the day off as it was so wet and we would surely have lost a good hour by dropping so far down. As it turned out we took one hour to get from Scafell Pike to Scafell. The schedule allowed 45 mins so not too bad after all.

On Scafell the weather eased and the sun threatened very weakly behind the cloud. I took off my trousers and coat and never needed them again.

After Scafell Pike number 2visit we had great visibility and took the decision to also bag Broad Crag and Ill Crag (as they are also over 3000ft). This meant we took a lot longer then scheduled to reach Esk Hause but to be honest the schedule was gone by this time and there was little point breaking our necks to try to gain time back - fair enough if it were a 24hr BGR but this was just two friends bagging 4 (6) summits to say they had done it - no pressure - no point.

Crossing the Cumbrian Way to begin climbing High Raise we skirted around both HR and Low White stones to arrive at Greenup Edge without having climbed any higher up than necessary.

 I be honest now and say I disagree with Ians idea of contouring in this manner. I like to strike out hard up the hill no matter how steep, gain the footpath and hopefully better running along the ridge. But then I do feel I am becoming exceptionally strong at climbing nowadays, and contouring has always been a pet hate of mine.

From Greenup Edge 'all we had to do" was drop into Wythburn Valley and follow it out to the A591.
This is far from good ground - in fact it is so poor, so rough, so twisty, so boggy, that we scarcely ran at all despite the gradient in our favour. I have since considered that a direct line to High Raise followed by another to Brownrigg Moss then small climb up to the plateau above Calf Crag and Rough Crag then onto Steel Fell and off it's Northern nose might be worth checking out.

The Wythburn valley took forever and in the final 15 mins before reaching the main road I was seriously hungry, tired and ready for it to be over. I had plenty of food still in my pack - but had been getting by on Hula Hoops (yes please @KP Foods I'll have a free case for the free advert - ready salted only though) and energy drinks and nowI longed for something savoury and substantial.

At the car I removed my fellshoes and put on an old worn out pair and some fresh socks. Then I had a sit down and demolished two egg sarnies, more Hula Hoops, can of coke cuppa tea and big slice of xmas cake.

So off up to Helly, the final hill of the day. Never had been on this route in my life I had made a pure guess of 75 mins for this climb, based on it looking a bit less than Skiddaw but also being more tired.As soon as we began climbing in earnest I realised that the bad time I had endured in Wythburn was only due hunger and not general fatigue or end of my ability for that day.  was climbing up Helly like it was 7 am again, and enjoying it immensely. Ian suggested I forge on ahead which I did. 

Climbing Helvellyn - Wythburn woods - Thirlmere and Skiddaw

With 100% visibility, once I neared summit ridge at Nethermost Pike and could see the Y shaped shelter on Helvellyn I realised I was going to smash the 75 minute schedule. I had been walking very strongly up to now but with the incline much less severe I reckoned running was possible again. So I ran all the way to the trig point, easing up about 50 metres short to look around and savour the final moments of taming the 3000s. 

I know lots of people have done much harder things. Taking longer, climbing higher, enduring more pain, but that doesn't detract from my feelings of achievement on this challenge. I'm just a skinny lad never knew no good from bad... no hang on that Freddies line.  I'm just a skinny lad who never did anything sporty at school and now finds himself not only setting and achieving  tough targets but also realising abilities as never before. It wasnt a small tear - the sun was in my eyes.

The evening sun on Helvellyn was silhouetting the Western fells beautifully and glistening on Thirlmere below. Magic.

Angela Rippon may do the evening news, but Helly does the evening views!

As Joss would say - absolute magic

I put on my coat at the summit as it was quite windy for the first time. The altitude, wind and late hour meant it was getting pretty cold so I reckoned it better to jog back to meet Ian coming up than wait stationary for him. Ian completed the challenge exactly 15 minute after I had. And only a few minutes over my guesswork 75 min schedule.

Of course just because we had topped the summits didnt  mean we were yet  finished for the day. The challenge was to complete the loop so we still had to run 6 miles on road to Keswick. Coming off Helvellyn to Swirls carpark we changed into road shoes and set off for the final time. It was soon dark and the road wasnt pleasant in any way shape or form. It was to be endured rather than enjoyed.  Eventually Keswick was reached and we were done.

14hrs and 36 mins - or was it 38 mins? I cant remember and the small piece of paper with the schedule, upon which I had been writing the actual splits had long since degenerated into mush in my pocket.

Lakes 3000s DONE. Whats next? BGR has been mooted but not really by me - Stu's crazy idea. If I could do it in about 20 hours then another 6 added to this run would seem do-able. But,  if it went badly, another 10? Seems beyond imagination at this time. But not as ridiculous as winning the L50 seemed 5 weeks ago......

#We Continue

When it falls it will just keep going -  Tsunami in Wast Water will be inevitable