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, February 28, 2013

Mmmm, hot chocolate

Since the long day over leg Four I have had a little less time in the fells.

With Andrew Martindale for company one Friday night we walked leg one. Andrew is struggling with an injury and unable to run much so a walk was fine by me as it was primarily to gain experience of being out in the dark, navigating and learning how best to deal with the monsters and bears that are to be found back 'o Skiddaw. We took 4hr 15 mins for the leg. Thats longer than a 24 hour round should take but it was icy on the tops which slowed progress a little.

I ran the Buttermere Round road race for the 6th succesive year. There was never any possibility I would run a good time. My 2hr 22mins of 2012 was a V hard run when I was fit and had lots of legspeed. Recently, although I think I am close in overall fitness, the lack of road running this year means no legspeed to speak of. So I kind of toured around the course and enjoyed a good craic with some of the other runners around me. The field was lacking in depth and although I ran 2:31, I was Fourth again, same as last year.

Speaking of roadrunning,  I'm still doing just one per week. On Tuesday I meet Plucky or Darren, sometimes both, and we run all the way to the edge of the city, up London Rd to the Carrow House Hotel (it has a different name now I cant remember what). With a loop added in along Eastern Way this is just over 9 miles.  I always run V easy until I meet the lads then we push on a bit harder until the end. The main section is about 7 miles and at the beginning of the year 6:45 pace felt a reasonable effort. The last three weeks have seen me get faster. 6:39 pace in early Feb', 6:38 last week. Then last night an incredible leap to 6:25 pace. I felt great at that speed too - it was a hard run, but only just edging into the 'hard' bracket from the 'steady' one.


Couple of Cross Country events of late too. Recently it was the National Championships in Sunderland. The course was blanketed in snow overnight and it was still snowing when we arrived there. It was a tough course with a couple of decent climbs on each of the three laps. I was pleased about the hills as usually a short steep bank is as much hill as a XC throws at you. Almost the entire course was a mudbath though and even the downhill sections were a trial of strength and careful footplanting to ensure shoes stayed on feet. Sparky beat me again, but not by far, and Milly was merely seconds behind me at the finish line.

 Days out to events like this are fantastic. The bus trip is great craic and once at the venue we all muck in getting the tent pitched. Then we usually walk/jog the course and shout out the younger lads who race first. Later, theres a chance to shout out the lasses as they race and we warm-up. And finally after our race its a mad scramble to get out of filthy wet kit and with luck theres a warming cuppa on the go  somewhere before we all pile back on the bus with the heater requested to be set at full blast.
Good times!

I've also been to the track most weeks and always do mile reps on my own. Progress has been slow but steady. I'm just edging under 5:40 (for 1600 metres not 1609 I admit) for the odd one, but hope to be nearer 5:35 soon and if I cant get inside 5:30 by the summerI will be disapointed indeed. Biggest trouble with the track session is that  my problem achilles hurts an awful lot - only easing off once I've done 2 or 3 of my just 4 miles.

Really excited about the coming year - theres loads of events spread right through til Autumn. Some old favourites like the Lakes 50 and some new ones too like Scafell Marathon and two new Ultras. and they are all in/on over and around my beloved Lake District tops.

We continue.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

a six legged leg four

I was planning to drive to Wasdale and run leg 4 of the 'Bob' as far as Gt Gable, then drop back to the start. I slept until 8am though, and didnt leave home until 9. Wasdale is a 60 mile trip, so to save time I went to Seathwaite instead and ran over Styhead Pass to Wasdale and thus begin the leg....

Yewbarrow was first on the list. It's incredibly steep, and loose in parts too, but it didnt seem to take long to reach the top. I must have verged too far right as I climbed because once I was on the summit ridge I could tell that left was higher. Only a couple of hundred metres along though, and I soon turned back on myself and was running North again. Red Pike was the next top but Dorehead was in the way. This was a slow struggle down a rocky face off the N end of Yewbarrow and I have subsequently discovered that if I'd gone to the left earlier, I could have avoided the vertical section and contoured around below it.

Once I was down to Dorehead I got running again and almost ran past Red Pikes summit cairn in the poor visibility.

Continuing NW I was able to follow a path most of the time, but then I lost it in the snow and so just ran due N until I reached the wall that runs  W to E. I knew I'd been bearing a little too far E so the gap through the wall to Steeple must be to my left. It was only a minutes run to the right place and I popped over the wall and ran the short out and back section to bag Steeple.

Pillar was next on the list and was simply a case of following the wall, then the path, E past Wind Gap. Or so I thought

I knew(!!!) I had reached Wind Gap when I was unable to stand still or run in the right direction due to the ferocity of the wind. I was worried for Scamp but he seemed unconcerned so we continued. Stangely, as height was gained the wind eased and I soon reached a shelter and cairn. Pillar.

I hunkered down in the shelter to check the map.... nothing much to do except descend ever Eastward and a bit Southward to the top of Black Sail.

But  soon after I set off again I was met with a steep climb in front of me.That wasnt right surely? I also had a drop off to the N and S. I checked the compass and convinced myself that up was correct so I went up. But after anly a minute or two I  lost confidence I was going the right way so went back down again and took even longer checking my map and compass.

I really didnt know exaclty where I was but figured as long as I went E I would be OK. So I went up again and carried on.

Quite soon after I reached ANOTHER shelter and cairn. This cairn was a properly built one with cement and everything.

So where was this?

The map didnt have any other major summits nearby so THIS must be Pillar. But I'd already been to Pillar. Hadnt I?

I pootled around on the summit plateau for a while  in the hope of seeing something to give me a clue where I was. But the viz' was probably no more than 20-30metres as it had been since halfway up Yewbarrow.

I decided that if I was indeed on Pillar summit then if I ran S for a few metres then E, I should get onto a path. Within a minute of leaving the shelter I found not only the path but lots of posts marking the fellside like a series of beacons. Another minute later and I could see Mosedale down to my right. and soon after that, Kirk Fell and Gt Gable in the distance.

So what had gone awry? How had I managed to spend so long not knowing where I was?

Entirely my own fault of course. When I left the hole in the wall near Steeple I should have known in advance roughly how long it would take to get to Pillar. The cairn and shelter I thought was Pillar was at scarcely half  the distance, and therefore half the time, it should have taken me. But I wasn't looking at times and hadnt taken a BGR schedule with me (or memorised one.) The horrendous wind I encountered was just that, a horrendous wind. I had wrongly presumed I must have then been at Wind Gap. So when I did reach Wind Gap (with the steep climb beyond) I was thrown completely and  began to backtrack and doubt myself.

I know fine well that my 'great mates' will be pissing themselves laughing at my reporting of my own failings on Pillar, but in my defence I will say this.

Prior to this day I had never previously set foot on Yewbarrow, Red Pike, Steeple or Pillar. The visibility was terrible, so no sight of any summits in the distance, and the ground was patchily covered in old snow, obscuring the well worn lines. To get myself back on the right track I took a decision, based on being on Pillar, and easily proved that I had been there by confirming on the ground and compass what the map said would be the case.

If I ever follow this same route again (which I might do one day) I will not make the same errors again, because I now know what Wind Gap looks like, what is on top of Pillar (and what the cairn and shelter that ISN'T Pillar is like.)

See Cairn and (828 in red). THATS NOT PILLAR

Anyway, I'd lost so much time backtracking and poring over the map that I had got cold.It was now 3 oclock, two hours till dark and I hadnt taken my headtorch. So, after putting on leggings and coat I decided not to bother with Kirk Fell and Gable, but to skirt around to their left. This meant some descent into Ennerdale and it was a damn rough route, tricky to move with any speed. With hindsight I reckon I would have been better tackling the climb from Black Sail to Kirk Fell, then enjoying what, on the map at least, looks like it would have been runnable ground over the top and down to the col with Gt Gable. I finally reached Windy Gap (different to Wind Gap from earlier) at the top end of Ennerdale and dropped down Aaron Slack > Styhead Tarn > Stockly Br > Seathwaite and finish

Combining map time, sorting/donning gear, etc I probably spent 20-30 mins in total not moving, so my 6 hr run wasnt quite as good as is sounds. But its still a good long day out and I learned much.  If my new GPS watch is to be believed I ran 17 miles and 8500ft ascent. I suspect this is indeed correct as the Bob Wightman (BGR guru) site says leg 4 is 10 miles and 6300ft.

Quick note from the day before this run....
Saturday parked above  Blencathra Centre and ran past Skiddaddle house and up to Gt Calva summit. then back to Skids house and beyond before bearing up the fellside to Cloven Stone from where I made a bit of a hash of finding the best line to Blencathras summit. Ran along summit ridge to descend Blease Fell back to top carpark. approx 2.5 hours but no real effort put in. Glorious sunny day with blue skies and dozens of folk knocking about on Blen'

We continue