Tuesday, 27 April 2010

w/e 25/4 - Teenage Kicks!

Well another week of half-decent training done, which included a smashing weekend away in the Lakes, camping for the third weekend in a row!

And it included taking part in the inaugral running of what is destined to become a classic Lakes race!! As soon as I saw that the Teenager With Altitude had got the go-ahead this year, I fancied doing it - partly because it looked like excellent BG training, but mostly because it had the makings of a classic route to add on to what is already a great race weekend.

So I entered! And planned a recce or two, which never materialised.....until last Wednesday, 3 days before the race!! Nowt like planning is there!!

So on Tuesday night, still nursing a couple of niggly injuries from last weekend's 50-miler, I headed up to the hut in Langdale, for a smashing evening - only me and one other guy there! Up early the next morning, I zoomed up to the Newlands Valley and parked where the start would be on the Saturday.

It was a glorious sunny morning, albeit with a cold breeze and a hint of frost in the air. The plan was to pretty much walk the route so that I didn't trash the legs, and I could see how tight the midway cut-off was.

And I had a splendid day - toiling up Causey Pike and being a little spooked by the scramble at the top, but knowing that on race day I wouldn't even notice it! A smashing line down and up to Outerside, a choice then to Coledale Hause and I went over the top of the crags.

There was a chill in the air as I skirted the "ridge" and headed out to Grasmoor, but I warmed up by trotting around the edge of the corrie and onto Whiteless ridge, which is absolutely spectacular...wonderful views!

On to the top of Whiteless Pike and then the bit I really wanted to see....just how steep was the direct descent off the top? In fact, for someone who doesn't like the really steep stuff, I found it to be fine and runnable - heathery and cushioned rather than awkward and bouldery. Trashes the legs though...I could tell that! From the bottom, I contoured Ard Crags and arrived at Newlands Hause 3 minutes over the cut-off time, having walked almost all of it...no problem then!

The plan was then to take it very easy and walk back down the valley....but Ard Crags beckoned and I, of course, headed up and along the ridge for a beautiful end to the day out.

And so to the weekend. We headed up on Friday night and set up the tent at Braithwaite. Saturday morning dawned with a hazy sun, as we headed down to Stair to register me for the early start...and the nerves kicked in a bit as I saw the other runners and realised I could be last for the first time ever in a race!

Soon enough, a hardy band of 58 runners were gathered in the sun, Kirsten there to see me off and take a couple of photos, looking resplendent in her Calder Valley top. And then we were soon off, toiling for 30 mins up to Causey Pike. Things went pretty well from here, taking the upper line to Coledale Hause again, a good contour line to Grasmoor, and I quite went for it on the descent off Whiteless Pike, passing a couple of others (unheard of for me on a steep descent!). Unfortunately, as I reached the bottom, I realised how trashed my legs were!! :-) Plus an adductor niggle that's bothered me all week after the Woldsman, was really kicking in on the more runnable bits.

I made the cut-off in just over 2 hours, then faced the toil up to High Snock Rigg and Robinson. The climbing legs were there though, and I passed a couple more and started to gain on the Pennine runner. Unfortunately, the top of Robinson signalled the end of my decent pace....with the faster running that is possible on the Waltz route, the adductor strain just couldn't cope and I was having to shuffle rather than run.

Still, it was fun to blend in with the later Waltzers, and I took a couple on a decent line down off Dale Head. The bit from High Spy onwards was frustrating 'cause that's my sort of fellrunning, but I wasn't flying today. One Teenager passed me, and I then played cat and mouse with a Bowland guy all the way to Catbells, only overtaking him on the descent from there for the final time.

I really wanted sub-4.30, but as I hit Catbells with less than 12 minutes to spare, and now reduced to a shuffle, I wasn't sure I could do it. I shut out the pain and pushed as hard as I could, the pounding on the final bit of tarmac road reminding me that my legs were sore. I entered the field to a surprise and very welcome "come on Richard" from Sharon and Shaun, and kept going right through the funnel to finish in 4.29.32 :-) Not the greatest run I've ever had, but I'm pleased enough.

And then I looked for Kirsten. No sign. I wasn't sure if she was ahead of me or behind me, but Sharon said she'd not come through. As time ticked over the 3.10, I was sure she hadn't had a good race - she's easily capable of sub-3 on such a course. And then she appeared, looking rather pale, but still smiling, to finish in 3.13.

And my worries were confirmed as she collapsed on the floor, looking worse for wear and feeling very sick, as she had done all race....as she had done all week to be fair. My guess is it's still the effects of running 50 miles in the sun last weekend. I know I'm still feeling it. We both had a bit of heatstroke afterwards, and combined with the exhaustion, it takes time to recover.

But the main thing was she completed, when it would have been easy to dns or dnf. Sometimes you have those races, and you take the best you can out of them. I certainly had one last year at the Haworth Hobble, when a week of sickness meant I spent most of the day with my head swimming...but I finished and looking back, it was one of the most satisfying days of last year's training. The same will apply to Kirsten as she toils around the 105 miles in a few weeks' time. There will be plenty of occasions when the head's gone, when she feels sick, when she's in pain and when she feels like she can't continue.....and having pushed on to complete the Waltz will stand her in good stead then.

We headed down to the hall to chat. I ate some stew, Kirsten threw up a couple of times :-) and then we headed back to the car. Back to the campsite where she fell asleep in the afternoon sun while I watched my legs twitch! By the time she woke up, she felt a wee bit better, and even managed most of a risotto at the Pheasant, while I demolished a fish pie :-)

After a good night's sleep, Kirsten felt much better and was up for another day on the fells. My adductor strain was tight though, so it would be a walk, with a bit of running, rather than a running day. And the weather had changed in the night....low could, heavy drizzle and a strongish wind.

Wanting to recce some BG, we headed to Keswick and set off up to Latrigg car park, then up Jenkins Hill in increasingly bad weather. We entered the cloud and, as we headed towards the top, the strong wind kicked in big-time! No stopping, straight over the top, down a bit,a right turn to cross the fence and head towards Hare Crag.

We found the trod initially, but in poor visibility, it disappeared and I needed to take a bearing...which is when we found out the compass wasn't working very well!! We followed East, which turned out to be more North-East! I finally worked out that we'd dropped off to the left slightly too early, so we faced a bit of heather-bashing to get back on course.

We crossed the Cumbria Way and headed up Calva, soon back in the cloud. It wasn't a day for stopping up there either, and we crossed the fence and dropped down to the stream as quickly as possible, Kirsten running well. We made out way up to the Cumbria Way and decided to leave Blencathra to another day. A right turn, a trudge up to Skiddaw House and then a left to take us back around the valley to Latrigg car park.

It seemed rude not to detour up to the top of Latrigg, then we cut straight down and back to the car to end a smashing day. We zoomed into town just in time to pick up cake and coffee from Pedlars cafe, then headed back to Calderdale, where a couple of pints in the Fox provided the perfect end to another fantastic weekend!

Another weekend of camping coming up as well!! Off to Coniston, although neither of us is running the race. K's off scrambling up Jack's Rake (yikes!!), I'll do a couple of BG reccies (if I can shake off this new injury) and we'll no doubt be back in the Fox to celebrate another great weekend!

Totals for the week - 42.5mls & 16,242ft!!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

w/e 18/4/10 - Out Here Life Is At Its Essence

Our here life is at its essence,
and watches the world with innocent eyes;
far from grime, far from rushing people,
it seems that I have found a tiny peace

I've managed to get through 44 years of my life without ever doing a 50 mile event. Or indeed, for that matter, having felt the need to do one!! The furthest events I've done in the past have been the Calderdale Hike, at 37 miles, and the Old County Tops, which weighs in at about 36. Mind you, on last year's failed BG attempt, I did manage around 56 miles, but it doesn't really count because I didn't finish!

So, when we were perusing the calendar for spring training, taking into account both my requirements and Kirsten's need for long days ready for the 100, the Woldsman 50 jumped out at us from the page.

Just the right timing for K, coming as it does only a few weeks before the end of her training and start of tapering. Just the right timing for me, to act as some kind of a marker as to how the physical and, even more importantly, mental side of my training was getting on.

And make no mistake, with not much ascent on the route, the Woldsman was as much, if not more, of a test of mental strength to keep going. There was a lot of running....and I'm not used to it!! The muscles are now trained to deal with walking up hills and then letting gravity guide me down them. They're not at all attuned to shuffling along for 50 miles on gentle gradients. I thought the days of DOMS were over! But sure enough, this event got me........

So off we drove on Friday evening, heading east, bound for Driffield. As we neared the area, we were both perturbed by just how flat and dull it looked...we had visions of a tough, uninspiring day. Anyway, we set up camp on the showground, popped into a local pub (a very strange place...webbed feet and six fingers!), then settled down for a chilly night, with ice on the inside of the tent in the morning.

Up nice and early, and ready for the off at 8am. Already the sun was up, and there was the promise of a long, warm day. The first part of the route was relatively gentle, and I settled in with a few others at a fairly brisk pace. A nice chat with Steve the BG hopeful passed some miles, and soon enough, we were passing through checkpoints, stopping briefly to nibble some goodies.

After a fairly dull start, the route headed into beautiful dales and valleys, with lovely countryside to look out at. The only downside was that the going was either tarmac/gravel roads or hard-baked solid mud...ouch! But there were some real highlights on that first half, including the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy.

The pace was still good, and I trotted down the hill and into the halfway checkpoint in 4.08...which seemed a tad fast if I'm honest! And I was just starting to have a bad patch. With the marathon distance covered in 4.19 (how DO people take 5+ hours to "run" a marathon?!?!?), I suddenly felt a bit the worse for wear....tiredness creeping in, a slight headache and phantom pains in my achilles.

But I soldiered on the checkpoint at the scout hut, where I sat for a few minutes, had a gel and then (whisper it) took some ibuprofen. Fifteen minutes later....I felt on top of the world (on top of the Wold?!). Suddenly running was easier again, the pains had gone. Just as well really, as we headed towards the only real climbs of the day....and what a relief they were!! It was noticeable how I left others behind going up the hills, but they caught me on the flatter bits.

The gel and the pills carried me through to around 40 miles, when the accumulated damage to my joints and muscles started to kick in. But I pushed on, playing games counting down the distance, and calculating the possibility of a sub-10 hour finish. It was also helped by running with Neil from Ilkley for a while, a smashing guy.

The long, flat tarmac then gravel section to the 46 mile checkpoint was enough to break anybody! I somehow managed to keep shuffling, and with 4 miles to go, I had over 55 miles to get under the 10 hour marker.

On that last stretch, I was joined by a young lad, running with no kit bag, in t-shirt and shorts carrying only a water bottle in his hand, who was well out of it. He had no idea where he was and kept asking me which way to go. Hmmm....I know it was a warm day, and I know we weren't in the high fells, but it still grates that some people rely on others for their safety and navigation.

Anyway, with the odd walking break now, I shuffled along, back through the park and into the welcome sight of the showground. Back into the hut, and a decent finish time of 9h 45mins....relatively pleased with that!

I slumped into a chair...then immediately had to go outside as the world spun and sickness threatened! 15 mins outside, and a milkshake sunk almost in one, and I was able to go back in and face some food....lots of it in fact!!! A nice chat with Neil, then Steve when he came in, then I waited for Kirsten........who of course exceeded expectations, and knocked over an hour off her Norfolk 50 time, to come home in a marvellous 11hr 41mins....fantastic again!!

So, reflections....well 50 miles to me was quite daunting, despite Kirsten taking it in her stride and having no nerves! But, in fact, I handled it better mentally on the day than I could have hoped, adopting an "every step forward is one step nearer the finish" approach whenever I felt tired. If I can adopt that come BG day, that will stand me in good stead.

The legs have been trashed though! That's because of the running, and the hard surface. I'm used to neither. I was a sorry sight on Sunday....which at least gave K a good laugh!! But I'm recovering now, and shortly heading off to the Lakes, for a recce of Saturday's TWA.....now THAT is daunting :-)

For the record, I only had one other run in the week, partly 'cause I wanted to be tapered for the 50 miler, partly 'cause I was taking it easy after the previous weekend, and coaxing the achilles into recovering.

So, totals for the week - 57mls & 4,500ft

And for anyone else who's got to my age, but never done a 50-mile event, I'd just say this:

You're never too Wold! ;-)

Monday, 12 April 2010

w/e 11/4/10 - Welcome to the Jungle....

Or at least that's what it seems
You never see the cages, the illusion is you're free
Every day's a lesson, delivered with a smile
To remind you there's no future on this planet for a creature truly wild..........

In a week when every time I turn on the radio, there's more inane and meaningless chatter and discussion and arguments about the election, it's been great to have our first proper weekend of the year up in the Lakes, and our first night of the year under canvas!! Somehow it all puts it into perspective, demonstrates what's TRULY important, and strengthens my belief that somehow I don't really feel part of this "modern world" and the future is in moving back from it, and keeping it at the periphery of my life.

It's been another splendid week, with the injuries responding well to the increase in training. The knee problem seems to have completely vanished for now, despite the pounding the knees got this weekend. The ankle is healing well and every run where I don't twist an ankle is a step on the road to full recovery. Even the achilles seems to be responding to more exercise.

Great to catch up with Andy K this weekend as well, and for him to recall that he had a similar (or larger) lump on his achilles for even longer, and got rid of it through some exercises which he demonstrated - I'll be doing them religiously from now on!

So the training week started with a fantastic club run out on Tuesday night, away up to Erringden Moor, Dicks Lane, Stoodley, down to London Road then back via various paths. I started off feeling quite awkward in my gait, but a "race" up to Stoodley with Barbara saw me putting in a reasonably hard effort, and it's amazing how your running style loosens up when you push yourself! I thoroughly enjoyed the run and it was great to be pushed by a couple of people. Fair play for Kirsten hanging on in there with the group quite easily as well!

Thursday's run was a lovely trot out with Kirsten and Jo, doing several up and downs around Stoodley...I think they enjoyed it ;-) A beautiful evening, took it relatively easy but felt good.

And so to the weekend, and a marked change in the weather.....snow mostly gone from the tops, blazing sunshine and soaring temperatures!!! A great weekend to pick to go to the Lakes!!

Saturday saw us arrive at lunchtime and set up camp near Rosthwaite. Then we parked up at Honister, trudged up the BG route to Dale Head in glorious hot weather, dropped down to Dalehead Tarn on a pretty much perfect grassy line which we'll need to replicate on Anni Waltz day. Then down into the valley from there, to Low Snab Farm, then Newlands Church, before heading up Robinson, taking the left hand line past the reservoir and turning up by the waterfall...much quicker I think!

From there, we contoured out to Hindscarth, ran back along to Dale Head and dropped down at a reasonable pace to Honister. A smashing day out, but very warm in the sun...our bodies aren't acclimatised yet!!

Back to the tent for a delicious bbq, then along to the Scafell Hotel for a couple of pints with Emma and Andy, before crashing into our sleeping bags, to end a great day.

But Sunday was even better!! An early start to trot down to Rosthwaite village hall and register for the Lakes, Ridges and Wainwrights LDWA event. Although there was cloud cover at this stage, the forecast was for warm sunshine later...and it didn't disappoint!!

At 8.30am, we were off, initially taking a bad line right at the bridge instead of left, which lost us a few minutes straight away!! Doh!! But once back on track, we climbed up through the old mines and soon enough were heading up to High Spy and along that ridge. Great running on good terrain, then a good descent down to Low Snab Farm for a doughnut and the first of many drinks during the day!!

I was starting to wake up and feeling good, and while Andy and Emma were still scoffing and nattering, I pottered off for the climb up Hindscarth, assuming they'd catch up with me at some stage.

And what a long slog of a climb, although an interesting one. I passed a lot of people here, the "runners" who'd gone off too fast! Also passed and chatted to the Irish guy I've seen at lots of these LDWA events.

Eventually the top of Hindscarth was reached, then a good descent and re-ascent up to Robinson on the BG trod. I was surprised Andy and Emma hadn't caught me up by now, but I guess I was actually going at a reasonable pace.

At the top of Robinson, I joined up with a group of 4 lads and 2 lasses, who led me a cracking steep descent down to High Snockrigg and then over and down into Buttermere, and the delights of CP2, where rice pudd and fruit salad was being served....a godsend! I sat and ate for 5 minutes.

As I left and headed around Buttermere, I met up with a walker (who lives in Kendal) and, in the spirit of these events, decided it was much nicer to walk along and chat with him than run this section. An interesting conversation ensued about how fellrunners (generally) aren't very quick ascenders when walking, and how he seemed to be catching them on ascents. So, of course, I had to make sure I put in some effort up to Scarth Gap ;-) but he's right - it was noticeable how many folks I passed on each ascent.

From the top of Scarth Gap, Haystacks still looked enormous, towering above, and this was probably my "low point" of the day, where the distance, ascent and, more importantly, heat got to me a little and I had a few wobbly leg moments!

But soon enough I was trotting down towards Honister and peeling off left to take a grassy rake rather than the awful slate path! Into Honister and another check point where I sat in one of the chairs, enjoyed a drink or two and a nice chat with the marshalls.

Then off up the BG route to Dale Head in baking hot sunshine, but on a mission to put a decent effort in. Sure enough, the top was reached in 32 minutes, quite happy with that! Then the descent, where I missed the line slightly, probably being cursed by the guy who was following me and seemed to slow to a walk! :-)

Met up with another guy at the tarn, who is training for the Lakeland 100 and had done 80 miles in the previous 3 days! I took him along the trod to the stile, then zoomed down the grass as he followed the path...no contest! I followed a couple of runners down the very runnable lower slopes, knees now complaining a lot, before crossing the river and heading back into the hall for some welcome food and drink, finishing in 6hrs 12mins. A smashing day on the fells.

I welcomed Emma and Andy back in shortly after that, then decided I'd put my shoes back on and go back up to meet Kirsten....but of course she chose that moment to come trotting in, looking fresh as a daisy and with a beautiful, beaming smile on her face! What an absolute star she is!! It's alright for me, I'm BG training and I've got years of climbing my legs. But for her, to put in a weekend like that with only a year of running under her belt is astonishing. Future BGer? If she wants it enough ;-)

After feeding Kirsten, we headed back home for the obligatory pint in the Fox with Rufus, before devouring a chinese and collapsing into bed to mark the end of a fabulous weekend :-)

Things are back on course at the moment then. Who's to say how long that will last, but I'll take it for now! BG for the 19th? Yep, I think so at the moment, as long as the next couple of weekends go well. Woldsman 50-miler this weekend, then the Teenager with Altitude followed by a BG recce the weekend after. Crunch time approaches.

Oh, and this week's special mention goes to Emma...another remarkable lass! A really tough day's BG recce on the Saturday, but she was still strong at the event on Sunday and ran Dale Head in 24 minutes!! Nowt can stop you Emma, the BG is well, well within your grasp!!

Total for the week - 50mls & 14,500ft

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

w/e 4/4/10 - Evidently Goldfish!

Evidently goldfish
Never questioning environment
self-evidently goldfish
We swim in circular experience

It's true. We are, in the main, quite evidently goldfish, returning to situations, places and feelings which are familiar and safe. And generally, as a race, I'd say human beings are becoming more and more like that.

So many people for who a bank holiday means sitting in front of a square box, open-mouthed, expressionless. And for most of the rest, the same expressions as they sit in long queues of traffic on their way to some bland retail park full of material goods which nobody "needs" yet which their ever-shrinking brains convince them are "vital" and "desirable" for life.

And yet......am I (are we?) any better as fellrunners? Returning to familiar places again and again. Everyone has their favourite runs. How many times do we push beyond those boundaries and decide to go off and do something totally different?

If there's one thing that's become clearer to me these last few months, it's that I don't want to settle back into a life of "sameness", heading to the familiar places, the same old races, year after year. There's so much to explore, what excuse is there to go back somewhere again and again?

So, as a consequence, I'm pleased with our weekend :-) Two completely new places visited, both of which were splendid and which have encouraged us to go back to those general areas and explore the vast ranges of fells which we observed from our chosen routes.

Saturday saw us head up to Arncliffe, park the car, then head over the fells to a beautifully still and calm Malham Tarn. Then a turn uphill and up to the summit of Fountains Fell, via the Pennine Way. From there, we headed steeply down (looking out for the many mineshafts!) into the valley between that fell and Pen Y Ghent. I'd been here before, on a run-walk over PYG and Plover Hill, but it was lovely to be on the other side of the valley and heading in the other direction.

As we made our way along the track, we were dive-bombed by a lapwing, as we strayed to close to the nest. What a gorgeous bird, and watching them in flight is truely awe-inspiring. Soon enough, we were heading back east along a farmed valley towards Arncliffe. Just time to pass through a field of very young lambs :-) before arriving back in the village in beautiful sunshine.

A fantastic 16 mile day out, in lovely conditions, enjoying each other's company but, just as importantly, enjoying the splendour and quietness of the fells...we saw no more than a handful of other people all day :-)

And then Sunday....one of the best days I've had out for a good, long while. And somewhere I've been meaning to go for so long and never managed to get to.

We drove up to Sedbergh, and parked our car in the shadow of the towering Howgill fells. From the town, we followed and old packhorse route, contouring eastwards under the fells, before turning towards Cautley Spout.

And what a very special place. The fells towered above us, the waterfall crashed down the rocks at the head of the valley...and on a bank holiday sunday, there were no more than a handful of people here.

We toiled up a steep path, stopping for a smashing chat with a guy supervising a group of army cadet lads on their DofE Silver expedition. Onwards and upwards, until we were up above the waterfall and on the main ridge of the Howgills.

And what a great place! What views! And perfect running terrain, short grass, even underfoot and undulating.

We headed off towards the main top, The Calf, but cut underneath and west towards the far tops which dominate the view from the M6 as you pass through Cumbria. Having gone out to the far top, we made our way back, Kirsten flagging a little but still pushing on, bless her.

Back up, and this time to the top of the Calf, which we had to ourselves. Then down on a newly constructed path (which seemed at odds with the surroundings!), over the top of Arant Haw, then down to the top of Winder, perched over Sedbergh.

In glorious sunshined, we headed steeply down, stopping for a photo of the wild horses grazing on the hillside, then down into town, back to the car, and a well-earned mug of soup. A wonderful day - wonderful fells, wonderful weather, wonderful company, and a wonderful sense of freedom being back out on the fells.

And, of course, with 31 miles and 5,500ft in two days, it means I'm getting back towards where I want to be. The knee recovery is miraculous...nothing at all from it (touch wood!). The ankle's healing pretty well, and this weekend's runs on soft, easier terrain have really helped it. The achilles is the only nagging worry. It flared up again, a little, after the steep descent. But it's certainly better than it has been...and if truth's told, probably the same as it has been for months now, it's just that I'm more aware of and focussed on it. Exercises are being done religiously (how appropriate at Easter! :-) ) and anti-inflamms go on whenever I feel it flaring up again. Hopefully, I can manage the problem away, through sensible training, massage and stretches.

Earlier in the week, I'd had a lovely club run on the Tuesday, up onto Midgley Moor. Only short, and in wet conditions, but enough to convince me that the knee was better. And then, on Thursday, I'd headed out with Kirsten after work for a lovely evening run around Erringden Moor and over Scout Rock.

Things are getting back on track, but I'm not daft enough to think I'm there yet. I am consciously and unconsciously favouring my left leg significantly, which is going to lead to problems at some point unless I can convince myself to "let go", which I hope I will be able to do.

I've got some big weekends coming up. This will be make or break. I've already got a date a month later than planned in mind, as back-up in case I feel I can't get back into training quickly enough, or I suffer a relapse.

But for now, all that is secondary to the love of being back out on the fells, exploring new places and having wonderful days out and breaking the circular experince. What could be better?!

Total for the week - 40.5miles & 7,400ft

Beautiful views of the Howgill Fells from near the saddle above Cautley Spout
Cautley Spout Waterfall

Kirsten heading back across the fields towards Arncliffe, in glorious sunshine
The top of Fountains Fell, looking out at the Dales fells