Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Calton Crawl Fell Race

A few of us from the club headed over to a new fell race for us last night - the Calton Crawl which starts in the tiny village just between Ashbourne and Waterhouses. It was only last minute searching through the FRA calendar that lead us to this one as normally we'd all be up at Grindleford Fell Race but sadly this year it wass pre entry only and was fully booked more than a month ago... grrrrr!!!!

All smiles when we saw the amount of food cakes and beer on offer!
The race route takes us on the lesser trodden grassy hills between the Manifold and Dove valleys and has several sharp pulls on it as you can see on the route profile below.

It was a fantastic race and lovely low key atmosphere with one of the best post race beer, sandwich and cake spreads I've seen at any race. Huge thanks to the organisers. Certainly see you next year!

Calton Crawl Race Route
Route Profile

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

TINAT 300+km Welsh Epic Cycling Day (and night) ... Wykeham's Viewpoint...

It was a joy to take Wykeham round this stunning route through Mid Wales finest cycleways during the most superb weather. I was disappointed for him that he didn't complete it all in 24h but very impressed with his determination nonetheless. Next time - you'll nail it!

Wykeham’s TINAT write up

"After meeting Alan two years ago, I have been inspired to undertake multiple endurance activities from Fell running to Ultramarathons. The next big adventure he proposed was a 24hr gravel ride in Wales called 'This Is Not A Tour' (TINAT), due to my 'yes man’ nature, I agreed instantly. He sent me the route and I began dissecting what I had signed up to. It looked insane; Brutal climbs, gnarly off-road sections and a lot of distance. This would be the most extreme thing I have undertaken, previously 100 miles of road riding was the biggest ride I have done, this would be double that with much bigger climbs off road plus all of the bikepacking equipment strapped to my bike to make it extra hard.

The TINAT route, with Alan's extra off road extensions was just breathtaking. We set off Friday evening in the Campervan, stopped off for some vital chips in Ashbourne and drove on to Newtown to find a fantastic little lay-by  for a few hours kip, before we set off at 2:15AM. My bike was loaded with some fancy new Bikepacking bags from Alpkit, storing a bivvy in case I needed a power nap (which I did on multiple occasions) and lots of food, which made Alan's eyes practically pop out when he was just carrying a handful of bars.

SECTION 1- Newtown >> Beulah
After Staylittle, an added section to the original route

This section was an interesting start, the realisation kicked in, I had 210 miles, plus, 6000 metres of climbing ahead of me.  It was pitch black, apart from the lit path created from the bike lights, this made it difficult to judge the length and gradient of the Welsh hills, but, it was a fantastic experience seeing the unpolluted skies and the bright twinkling stars above me. However, I regretted listening to Alan's advice of 'you'll be fine in shorts for the day’, this section was freezing cold! But, once the sun rose, the beautiful weather stayed for the whole ride, which led to a ridiculous looking cyclist tan line, that was noticed and ridiculed by many peers at Derby University for the following week .

SECTION 2 : Beulah >> Tregaron via the Devils Staircase
The lead up to the devil stare case was incredible, we was in a beautiful valley watching the sunrise and the thick mist clear. The Devil’s Staircase is a well known climb in the UK with three sections consisting of some 25% gradients. My legs could definitely feel this incline and with my temperamental derailleur, it meant I had 3 less climbing gears to try and spin up with. Hence, Alan sped off (a common occurrence throughout the ride) to get a few photos and I slowly ground my way up the section while trying to smile for the camera (A hard skill to acquire and it was more evident, that a face of pain would be the common look in the photos compared to a happy smiley version I tried to perform) .

SECTION 3: Tregaron >>Elan Valley
This was a stunning part of the route with two off road sections, I was cautiously slow as I was afraid of a puncture on the razor sharp scree, whereas, Alan would speedily over take, while trying to resist a grin when he was smashing through all sorts of terrain on his fancy tubeless setup. But, at least I got to take in the views for longer than he did, as I became engrossed into my own little world! This was my favourite section, as it was remote, peaceful and picturesque. However, it did begin to take a toll on the body, primarily my arms, due to the constant pounding and vibration throughout the gravel, plus, it required 100% concentration or you would inevitably fall off. I will definitely revisit this section as its an area that needs to be explored in further detail, whether that will be through running or cycling. It was just an epic part of Wales!

SECTION 4 : Elan >> Llangurig.
After Staylittle, just after the shot above heading down a big descent

After a fantastic cafe stop at the bottom of Elan Valley visitors centre, we set off through some beautiful woods, once we concurred this short sharp climb, we got onto a small road that traversed the Craig Goch reservoir which was just stunning.

However, shortly after this,  my Satnav took us off the nice road onto cycle network 818 that was from  Cwmystwyth to Llangurig. Due to the nature of cycle routes, I thought great, a nice, traffic free, small road. It was definitely a traffic free road, it was the steepest section I have ever encountered, the road was eroded and only a small piece of rough tarmac ws left in the middle, that you had to try and weave your way up or you would fall off into the deep ruts or down the steep embankment. This is the only hill to date that has defeated me, my legs were screaming,  i had to walk for a good few hundred metres to regain a steady heart rate and clear vision, it was steep, technical and slippy, due to all of the loose scree. I will have to revise this section or it will always be at the back of my mind that a climb defeated me.

SECTION 5 : Llangurig >> Staylittle
This had been a challenging ride so far with some brilliant technical climbs and descents on and off road, we passed Staylittle which was around the  halfway point of the ride at about 100 miles. Any extra distance that I would now ride would be my longest ride up to date, I had jumped into the deep end with only doing my first ever ‘100 miler’ a month before,  which was 'the tour of the peak district’. It was quite demoralising knowing I was only halfway considering all of the scenery and distance I have previously covered that day. But the ride was just incredible, so these thoughts only crossed my mind for a few minutes. This section was an additional bridleway added by Alan, it was more grass and mud compared to the scree we have rode all day. We traversed a stream throughout a lovely  V shaped valley which brought us to Staylittle. This was a difficult section that i would have preferred a mountain bike on it but it still blows my mind, the capability a gravel bike has on all sorts of terrain.
Birds Rock Valley - on way to Dolgellau

SECTION 6 : Staylittle >> Machynlleth
This part included further additional loops that was plotted by Alan (a common occurrence that made this ride even harder than originally proposed on the TINAT website), it definitely pushed the limits of my riding skills and capabilities of my  bike. We was covering distance at a slow pace due to the terrain was technical, boggy and sometimes required to 'hike a bike’ up sections that was hard enough to walk alone without having a bike to haul up too. Once we got onto the road again, the descent was incredible, the roads throughout the route was as smooth as a velodrome compared to  derbyshire which made up for the rough off-road sections that took weeks for my hands to recover from the vibrations. And to top it all off, we practically had the roads to ourselves which made descending round corners a joy without having the worry of a car hitting me head on.

SECTION 7 : Machynlleth >> Dolgellau
This was a big stop in Machynlleth to fill my saddle bag with food (even though I could barely stomach a jelly baby at this point). Fatigue was really kicking in, my body felt surprisingly good, but, I was beginning  to yawn, which is never a good sign when I still had 80 miles to go. However, I carried on peddling until we began to climb through ‘Bird rock valley’, but, then I just needed to close my eyes as I was shattered. This would be my first bivvy experience, it wasn’t the most idyllic spot, it was next to the side of a road on a hill but I was that tired i didn’t care or even notice the cars passing me (I think we got some strange looks from people who passed, as I looked like I was in a body bag). After a prod by alan, I got back on my bike and kept climbing upwards towards Cadair Idris, he began to speed up which I couldn’t keep up with, the mist was thickening and the sun was setting but as we got to the top, this was the most memorable and fantastic panoramic view I have experienced. It was 9PM, we was in the middle of nowhere and the sunset was stunning over cregennan lakes. I had a short spell of energy and I was like a little child bombing down the scree decent staring at magnificent rolling hills and mountains. The national cycle route ’82’ should be on the bucket list for any keen cyclist, and its currently my favourite.

Unfortunately, this ‘buzzing’ feeling did not last for long, it was pitch black,  this was surreal that I have rode for nearly a whole day seeing both the sunrise and the sunset. we arrived in dolgellau, found a pizza shop, I order one but once again I couldn’t stomach it. I forced one slice into me and strapped the rest to my bike hoping that at some point I would regain an appetite (this never occurred and seriously impacted the rest of the ride)  

Section 8: Dolgellau>> Cemmaes road
Nearing the top of the climb above Cregennan

After Alan had finished his Pizza, we had a long gruelling climb out of Dolgellau. I was beginning to get myself into a dangerous situation, I was cycling half a sleep going down a few sharp decents. I was mentally determined to complete the ride and surprisingly  my legs felt great, but, my body didn’t. I had to admit defeat to alan, there was only another 25 miles to go of easy road riding but I just could not stay awake for any longer. Therefore, we found my last bivvy spot for the trip. I slept behind a village hall and i attempted to wave goodbye to Alan so he could complete the final section, but, I instantly fell a asleep once i slid into my bivvy bag. After a few hours kip, I woke to the sunrise, ate my pizza and waited for alan to return in his campervan. The wait allowed me to reflect on the ride, I was disappointed I couldn’t complete it, but, I was absolutely buzzing that I rode 185 miles in wales. Regardless of the outcome, I cannot wait to do another extreme event with Alan, hopefully next time I will be better prepared and learn what my body can consume for 24 hours of riding.


To conclude, this ride was a bunch of new experiences for me; Bivvying, Cafe stops, night riding, gravel/mountain bike tracks and navigating throughout. It was insane, difficult, brutal, but, it was just awesome. I can't wait to explore more of the stunning scenery of Wales and to experience many more bike packing trips. I have always had the philosophy that these ‘extreme’ events is just mind over body but, this time, the body finally gave in, which was a first time experience that i will never forget.

The TINAT route was just amazing, stunning views, traffic free roads and great provisions throughout. I was amazed I didn't get us lost when navigating and I would definitely recommend the route for any other adrenaline fuelled lunatic.

A big Thank You to Alan for the photos, support and progressing my confidence with all of the technicalities with bikepacking. You are an absolute animal, who eats as much as a nettle leaf throughout the ride and can ride up bonkers hills without breaking a sweat!

Tips for next time
To have more distance in the legs before attempting such long distances,
To do a ride in the night to experience sleep deprivation and perception of speed and cornering.

To find the right fuel that will suit my body for a full day of riding (A vital factor that I haven’t mastered which determines the success of such brutal activities) "

Friday, 1 June 2018

TINAT 300+km Welsh Epic Cycling Day (and night!)

Around spring every year I get a little niggle at the back of my mind to dust the bike out of hibernation and get out and do something decent - something worthy of a blogpost even!

I'd spoken to Wykeham previously about his plans to do LEJOG shortly and saw on Strava how he was cranking out some decent long backpacking rides so I knew he was getting the miles in. Whilst browsing through the web one day I came across this series of Welsh long Audax rides which were all dedicated to Mike Hall - the TINAT series. TINAT stands for "This is not a Tour" and as you can read in this article Mike Hall was very much the person who would just go out and ride - nothing organised nothing official just head out for a long day - and I believe he was from Wales too so often that would be through the Welsh hills.

So I menitoned the TINAT 300 option to Wykeham and to my amazement he agreed - with the caveat that he may well backtrack on it when he realised exactly how hard it would be!

* Our extended version of the original 300k ride was looking like about 210 miles.
* This would have approx 6,000m of climb.
* There would be at least 5 offroad sections

As we had absolutely NO idea how long it would take and to enter into the spirit of it being "one very long ride" and not "two day rides linked together with an 8h kip" we would take basic bivvy gear if we should need a quick kip at any point.

We liked the look of the original draft route but both felt there was a little too much A Roads and not quite enough offroad. Hence we added a few more offroad bits and lopped some road bits - I can't remember the changes now but perhaps the section after Staylittle was an additional?

To make it more "manageable" we broke it down into smaller sections which can be summarised here;

SECTION 1 : Newtown >> Beulah. This was mostly in the dark and was generally remarkably flat and on main roads. I say "main roads" but lets get this clear - this is Welsh main roads and they are about as busy as B roads in England! I think it was Wykehams first night riding and generally it went well apart from it still being bloody cold until the sun popped it.  The moon overhead was very clear and lots of stars were visible too. Towards the end of the section the sun started to appear over the  horizon - much to our pleasure as we were quite cold!

SECTION 2 : Beulah >> Tregaron via the Devils Staircase. This would be a new section to me and it looked lovely on the map and like most sections on the  day - it exceeded expectations. The lanes leading up to and after the Devils Staircase were truly stunning and as a bonus we had a lovely low sun as you can see from the two photo's below. There's only a couple of 25% sections on the staircase itself but it goes on for a little bit more than Wykeham wanted I feel!

Section 2 : Early morning mist as we left Beulah. We nearly missed this view until I looked over my shoulder!
Section 2 : We both had pained expressions on the Devils Staircase - it was only metaphorical pain though - just look at the view!
SECTION 3 : Tregaron >> Elan Valley. We would have two offroad sections here - a very gentle flat introduction to life offroad through some lovely marshy nature reserve (see first photo below), then a long climb up to the Teifi lakes before the Claerwen descent. I'd done the Claerwen section with Dave a few years back but this time it would be a descent not a climb. I'd also done a Mountain Marathon (running) round this area many years ago and distinctly remember the high level lakes at the western end so I thought I'd show Wykenham them via a small diversion. And what a diversion!!! As you'll see from the photo below it's a lovely spot to relax - very remote and very quiet - one chap had even driven his car up and erected a small tent next to it - no doubt having a very offgrid bank holiday weekend himself!

Section 3 : Our first gentle introduction to offroad of the day -
Nature Reserve near Tregaron
This was a good place to have  a break before we did the longest section of offroad on the whole route. The next two photos show Wykeham crossing the ford and then a nice panorama with the dam just about visible.

We ended the section at the Elan Valley Visitors Centre - again a wonderful place with large cafe and generallyt very quiet considering the weather and that it was a bank holiday.
Section 3: Minor detour offpath to the Teifi Lakes area before Claerwen. Highly recommended spot - especially as you can just about get a car here too!
Section 3: We certainly couldn't avoid wet feet on "The Ford" through Claerwen but then again, we were that warm it was almost a good thing!

Section 3: Descending the Claerwen Reservoir offroad section at the Western end of the Elan Valley area
SECTION 4 : Elan >> Llangurig. A truly stunning section that really surprised me and Wykeham. The tiny road going north from the Elan area alongside Craig Goch Reservoir in particular being one of the nicest sections of road I've ever ridden - it must have been good as the Triumph owners club were having their "Trans Cambrian Tour" down through there too and I bet they know the best roads!
This did lull us into a false calm though as very shortly after (out from Blaenycwm) we encountered some supersteep offroad following closely by the steepest section of tarmac I've ever ridden (closed to cars unsurprisingly). I think this section to Llangurig is now called a "Mountain Road" - not surprising as I'm not sure many cars would make it up it! I'm glad we hadn't gone any slower through this section as when we walked out of the cafe in Llangurig at the end of this section the owners put the closed sign up.
Section 4: Lovely dappled shade alongside Penygarreg Reservoir (Elan Valley)
SECTION 5 : Llangurig >> Staylittle - We added a large chunk of offroad variation to the original TINAT route here. And what a beautiful variation it was - alongside streams and then through woodland to pop us out just shy of Staylittle. See photo below. Staylittle was around the  halfway point of the  ride at about 100miles. We both had certainly felt fresher!

Section 5 : Some nice varied river / grassy sections before woodland
SECTION 6 : Staylittle >> Machynlleth - Again this next section is I think an additional offroad section to the original route - a section which I've done most of before with Lewis and which I had good memories of. We headed over the ridgeline south of Dylife - now getting very warm (around 4pm) and views in every direction. We had a large drop (giving a suitably large climb out!) before the superb track riding past Glaslyn lake which then popped us out at the top of the superb descent into Machynlleth. Previously with Lewis I'd done this road descent as a climb so I'd not really appreciated the stunning views but I certainly did today. Whilst Wykeham shot off in front (as was the theme on descents all day!) I relaxed into the stunning descent. It really feels unlike any other descent I've done in the UK - you keep doing sections over rises which open up whole new vistas - there must have been about 4 or 5 new vistas that kept opening up to us. We were really lucky to see this in such beautiful weather. Oh - and as with all roads all day - virtually no traffic on it.
Section 6 : Nice track riding past Glaslyn before the superb road descent to Mach 
SECTION 7 : Machynlleth >> Dolgellau. We had a really good restock of supplies in Machynlleth as it was approaching tea time and we were about 130 miles in. We knew that when we got to Dolgellau most places would now be shut (probably after 9pm), so after much faffing, drinking and eating outside the coop we headed north through Corris and down towards the coast and Abergynolwen  where I treated myself to a pickled egg and coke - food of champions!!!

The next section was again impressive - I was particularly impressed with the "Birds Rock" valley however I'm not sure how much Wykeham remembered of this as very shortly after this we had to stop to give him a kip half way up Cadair Idris. And what a climb that was! Never ending and taking us apparently into thick cloud (when we'd been under perfect skies all day) my dreams of a perfect sunset photo were scuppered ... or were they!

After the 45mins had passed for Wykeham's kip, we set off towards the top of the old road climb in thick mist and eventually near the top I could see blue sky above us which we eventually broke through. After a short descent and reascent we were greeted by the scenes below which I will remember forever. This was coincidentally the viewpoint I'd most been looking forward to all the ride as I'd been to Cregennan Lakes before with Lewis so knew how good the area was. To top it all off this was BY FAR the best descent of the  day! All taken slightly too fast but why not when you're enjoying it that much.

We reached Dolgellau with our lights now on and luckily stumbled across a late night pizza / kebab place which was open. Heck - this beats a coop! Unfortunately Wykehams tummy had been playing up all day so I think he only ate 1 slice which as we would find out soon would not help his energy problems on the final section of the  ride.
Section 7 : Sure enough - we broke out above a sea of mist. A truly truly magical experience before the descent to Dolgellau.
Another sunset shot before the descent into Dolgellau...stunning

SECTION 8 : Dolgellau >> Newtown - After the most shockingly long and relentless climb of the whole route out of Dolgellau I was starting to worry about Wykeham's safety as he was now extremely tired and we would be taking the next huge descent at 30mph plus in the dark so I reassured myself that he was in a coherent state to take it - and he was. Once reaching the bottom though he had to stop for another quick bivvy kip before pushing on. Sadly the  combination of a massive ride, not enough to eat and not enough sleep soon got the better of him so we deposited him safely behind a village hall on the agreement that I'd pick him up after sunrise.

A huge well done to Wykeham - previous longest ride was just over 100miles. This was double that with offroad thrown in too (plus some kit to carry).

Also - big thank you to the organisers of the actual event. We couldn't do the actual ride as it didn't fit with our diaries but what a stunning long day out in the Welsh  Hills it was.

Strava Link here

Friday, 12 May 2017

Teenager with Altitude race, 16.7 mile 2,100m. Ace race!

This race had been on my radar for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I'd heard it was a toughy - always a good sign for a proper day out on the fells. Secondly, during the long Buttermere race 2 years ago, we did an absolutely epic descent off Whiteless Pike down and up to Newlands. This descent really is something else and someone said that "it's the same descent they use in the Teenager with Altitude (TWA) fell race. That particular descent off Whiteless Pike (Strava) is worth doing the race for on its own...

  • Virtually all runnable (despite the top section being over 45 degrees and through heather)
  • It has a convex slope so you get the technical steep bit out the way first then can relax and enjoy the fast bit at the bottom
  • Views are terrific coming up to it and whilst on it.
  • It's non technical !!!! Grassy most of the way with the bottom half being super fast (well, not in my case but it's all relative hey!)

Teenager with Altitude Route

A very quick WhatsApp discussion with Nathan way back in Jan and we're both booked on. We had to book on quickly as it only had about 60 spaces due to National Trust restrictions (so I understand?). Funnily enough you will see the race results show about 130 runners finishing, so I'm not entirely sure what happened there with the numbers restriction??

As this race fell at the end of our Easter School holidays, this was a great excuse to shoehorn in another long family weekend in the lakes in the campervan. We decided to stay at Castlerigg Hall campsite - somewhere we'd tried to get in previous years but it's often booked up and it's easy to see why. Absolutely stunning place to stop, views, cleanliness, tranquility, near to Keswick and we even had TV reception in the van which was a very unexpected surprise!
TWA Route Profile
Race day dawned and seeing as I never miss an opportunity to get out with my camera, I found myself up before sunrise heading out on my MTB with tripod and filters capturing some lovely quiet shots down at Tewet Tarn and Castlerigg. Managed to avoid the crowds at Castlerigg (loads of tripods down there for dawn) - I didn't fancy jostling for position whilst they all waited for the sun to rise so I snook to Tewet first to see noone, then an hour after sunrise went back to Castlerigg when they'd all gone to see noone. Just how I like it!

I cycled to the race start with Teresa and Lewis heading down slightly later for Lewis's kids race (which was epic in itself) and very soon bumped into some friendly faces - Steve Burt, Nathan and Graham. Nathan and Graham had camped in Grange with Graham soon to move to Aberdeen and managing to get a last minute entry to the shorter race on the day - The Anniversary Waltz.

The Whiteless Pike descent "TWA Plummet" on Strava
The race went as well as can be expected with only having done two 3 mile races all year! Well, to be fair it went better than could be expected. Started ok but got better as the race went on finishing pretty well in about 3h54. A couple of unplanned "calls of nature" could have saved me 5 mins but I'm not splitting hairs on my time - it was an absolutely fantastic day out! Certainly a race I'd do again and maybe not in such quite idyllic conditions next year - I was always dreading gettings cramps as it was so sunny but they never quite materialised! The only thing I would have done different is use different shoes or ones with better tread. Within a few metres of descending the first trig point (Causey Pike) I slipped on a descent which lost me confidence all the way through the descending sadly. New walshes with tread please next time! I used my New Balance MT00's which are lovely but they need replacing soon.

Results here
Strava here
Strava flyby here - sit back and relax whilst humming the Benny Hill music to yourself!

Early on race day - Castlerigg Stone Circle after everyone had gone!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

New Dungeon Ghyll (Harrison Stickle) Fell Race. Awesome!

I always like to try out new fell races and especially new fell races in the Lakes! I'd got "executive clearance" to go away for the weekend, so the choice was Muncaster Luck, Kong Mini MM in Coniston or this. When I told a few folk I was heading to the Lakes to run a 3 mile race people couldn't quite believe me. They started to believe me when I said it would take me nigh on 1 hour, but enjoyment of races is sooo much more than stats!

By all accounts this is a classic short fell race and it really lived up to expectations. Low key start (in Sticklebarn), a very small field (only 61 runners but some top names out), change out of £5 and a route profile that would get a double take from even a mountain goat!

The simplicity of running to the top of a mountain and back down is what got me into fell running in the first place and this race certainly ticked that box - all 736m of it!
Approaching the summit of Harrison Stickle. Way steeper than it looks!!
The terrain was as expected - very steep and semi-path on the climb (up to 736m!) and rocky / grassy and slippy on the descent - really exhilarating stuff. Legs and lungs felt fine on the climb despite not really running all year but as ever it was the descent that caught me out! Nice to see Kieran and Neil there too from Erewash.

Results here 40th out of 61
Strava link here
Strava flyby here
New Dungeon Ghyll Fell Race Route

Yep - that's about how steep it was!

Monday, 30 January 2017

Tigger Tor Fell Race 2017 41/380

Always been one of my favourite races this one. Third time I think I've done it now and it never disappoints. Highlights of this race for me ;

* Always muddy - lots of the route is on trods
* Lots of the route is on small trods and not on big tracks
* There's climbs all the way through the race
All smiles after the race - thanks no doubt to Helen's nuffins!!! (Helen had dashed off in this shot)

I seemed to feel very good yesterday despite not being at all race fit. Not run I don't think in January due to knees aching and heel hurting but the time off has helped me recover so I could tackle this fresh. Lots of biking including a 108 miler to Rutland last weekend so legs are fine.

The weather was the best I've run this race in - misty to start then blue skies. I probably should have took a little water / more food as I was flagging slightly as we hit the final road - not much of a spring in my step when last year there definitely was! Special well done to Wendy - this being her first proper fell race and loving it by the sounds of it! Thanks to Nathan for driving

Forgot to start my Strava so it didn't record. Doh!!!

Strava Flyby here
2017 Results here 41/380, 1h25:59 (slightly shorter course)
2016 Results here  23/341, 1h26:41
2016 write up here
2010 Results here 21/307

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Eyam Moor Orienteering, Blue course

Lovely morning out in the blustery winter-ness of Abney Moor. Meg's first event too and she did really well navigating to all the controls using compass alone. My first two controls were a disaster but once I got used to the scale I was there or thereabouts. Control 5 - should have trusted my instinct and not stopped short of it! Control 13 - I was standing next to it for about 5 mins it seems. Annoying I should have checked the map again. Control 14 - was following the other guys heading up the hill - blissfully unaware that they weren't going for my control. When I realised I'd they weren't I was already near the top of the hill - Doh! Control 8 - pleased with that as it was full on compass bearing territory! Loved it.

Results here
Full splits here

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Roaches Fell Race 2016. 23/214

As I was running over big climb number 4 on this epic race, it suddenly dawned on me... I'd actually done this race more times now than I'd run any other race. This kind of thing doesn't just happen by accident with me. I tend to only to races that I consider to be 'great races'. So this one's now top of the list - lets work out why!
Just leaving the start line, up the first track to the farm
November is a bit patchy when it comes to fell racing - there's never that much about really - and to make it worse - Christmas is just around the corner. Surely it's best just to unwind after a summer of racing and enjoy some quality family time? No chance! Running in winter is just way nicer than running in summer.

Yes you get muddier.
Yes you can get colder.
Yes you can get hypothermic if it rains and you're not wearing enough

but if you get past all those hurdles and you get glorious autumnal weather like we did this year - the feeling of satisfaction at the end is better than any summer race - and who knows, as an added bonus you might be able to relax for a few weeks after this weeks until Christmas with the family!
The Roaches Route. Out n Back from Tittesworth

The Roaches Fell Race Route Profile
This year Chris Jordan, Dan Page and Steve Burt were all heading up too which made a change as there's never normally any familiar faces at this race for me. Glorious weather was set in for the day as Chris drove us over to Staffordshire. It looked set to be a real treat for Chris who'd never been to the roaches let alone raced there. My prep for the race was "modest" at best. A bit of biking, not much running so at least my legs should feel fresh even if not race fit! The features on this race that I really remember go a bit like this...
  • The interminable first climb. Bogs, then several fields, cross the road then round and onto the Roaches proper with so many false summits before the trig you lose count. This was a hard section for me this year not being race fit
  • The descent to the river crossing. Starting on flagstones, cross the road then grass and boggy boulders to the woods which are fast on narrow rooty paths.
  • The river crossing.  Every race is better with a river crossing!
  • The climb from the river out. First steep, then relenting slightly through two fields, cross the road then up the steeper track and out onto some tussocks and along a track to the main road.
  • The main road to Shutlingsloe summit. A lovely section of grassy fields with some rough bits thrown in, slippy bridges before road then a steep path up the ever steepening summit.
As it's an out and back you get all this fun twice! It really has got everything - views, fields, paths, rough bits, steep bits, flagstones, boulders, and ridge running. After the first climb my lungs eventually came back to me and I picked off about 6-8 runners between there and the end - feeling increasingly strong but very nearly running out of water (again, I do this every year!) in the autumnal sun. Highly recommended, not to be missed!
All smiles at the finish - pleased Chris had a good race and loved it as much as I did!
Results here 2h34m52
Strava link here
2015 write up here
2012 write up here
2008 result here (external link to Macc Harriers)

Monday, 24 October 2016

Peak Raid 3h. Round 1 : Edale. 8th/124

Peak Raid Edale : The Map given out at the start
These are great events - probably my favourite events of the year as they have all the essential elements : Hard, in Winter, Navigation, Offpath.

I'd only managed to get to one in this series last year - the Glossop round that Nathan and me did here and we were very pleased and surprised to come 2nd overall in. The weather last year was a mix of autumn / summer (too hot really) however peering out of the car windows this year it looked more like a cross between autumn / winter as we all drove up together (myself, Steve Burt, Meg and Ian Adkin).

I'd packed the mandatory full kit not expecting to wear any of it, but as soon as I'd set foot outside the car, I couldn't get my waterproof/buff/gloves on quick enough! Record entries apparently for this event and no surprises why - this is a fantastic area to run in, the maps are super high quality and they are ideal for beginner navigators as you can do as much or as little as you want in 3h. The objective is to collect as many points as you can in 3h returning to base in the alloted time. Going over incurs penalties, coming back early perhaps means you could have collected more. Its a fine balance!

Can you guess which Control this was
by looking at the map?
See below for answer...
After being handed the map on the start line it was clear that the challenge was to clear the top and get round as much of the bottom half as was possible in 3h. I noticed the cluster of controls in the bottom right and decided to leave those to the end deliberately knowing that if I had time in hand (!) then I could fine tune there the number of controls I visited to get back bang on time. Yes, you guessed it - I had nowehere near enough time so had to miss 3 of those out! Thanfully, everything else went well on the day really - perfect visibility, legs felt good, no nav issues, good route choice. Quite pleased with 8th overall out of 124. Loads of whipper snappers out from Dark Peak so they pushed me down in the final knockings!

Well done also to Meg who tackled this area only having completed a 2h event previously in a much easier location. Respect!

Results here. 395/500pts
Results by class here
Full Results with splits here
View other peoples routes here in the fantastic Routegadget
No Strava link as I forgot to switch it on!

Peak Raid Edale : The controls I visited
The control in the picture above is Control 6 worth 25pts. Crag foot

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Curbar Commotion Fell Race 32/216

I've never been able to make it to this race - always been busy. But seeing as I've been loving the late summer races and the weather recently has been ace I thought I'd give it a go. Although I'd not raced since the Longstone Chase about a month or so ago, I'd given the club BBH handicap a go on Tuesday and nothing felt too painful so it was game on!
Photo Courtesy of Front Runner
About 8 of us headed down from the club (Me, Meg, Danielle, Kath, Helen B, Ed, Ruth, Andy Case) on what was a slightly chilly but clear morning. The start had moved this year so instead of Cliff College, it was from Curbar Primary school - a route which it later turns out added 0.8 miles.
Legs felt ok despite not racing but I certainly didn't feel race sharp. Still - this race was all about enjoying the autumnal sunshine and remembering just how good fell racing is in the Peak District!
Special note too of some of the best post race refreshments I've seen for a while - loads of good coffee and free cakes with donations to the school - top stuff!

32 out of 216 so 14.8% down the field.

Strava here

Results here

All smiles after - Meg, Ruth, Helen and me with Danielle, Kath and Ed around somewhere!

Last years Curbar Commotion Race Route

Curbar Commotion Route Profile - some lumpyness at the end!