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!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Longstone Chase Fell Race 17th/163

After getting back from the Pyrenees a week or so prior and doing absolutely NO running, it was about time I got out on the fells again! So, after getting back I ran 4 steady days on the trot and unfortunately niggled my achilles. With hindsight, some stretching might have been useful!

Nevertheless, I wasn't going to miss out on The Barrel Inn Fell race, so I thought I'd share a car with the Harriers and head up to take some race photos and capture the Heather in all it's glory...
Eyam Moor after the Barrel Inn Fell racers had gone past...
Luckily, 3 days later it was the Longstone Chase fell race and my niggles had cleared up. After the stunning light  I'd seen on Tuesday I was very keen just to be out there racing even though I'd barely done anything in 3 weeks.

The race felt pretty comfortable even though I felt some way off race fit. Well done to Andy Watson for finishing in front of me - about time mate! Thoroughly enjoyable - especially with Nathan and Ruth both finishing second!
Nathan 2nd Male, Ruth 2nd Female
Results here

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon 2016, Martindale (SLMM)

Entering this was quite a big thing for me really - I'd entered the Fell Running world by doing Lakes Fell Races and Mountain Marathons and used to do up to 2 per year - mainly LAMM, KIMM (that was), the OMM and some Saunders too. The last one I'd done of these was two weeks before Lewis was born - since then, I've moved into Ultras and local fell races so these have fallen by the wayside. In fact, the last one I'd done of these was actually in exactly the same area and I was lucky enough to have won the KIMM A Class that time with Simon - lets hope the area would come lucky again!

Nathan and me had tried a local 3h Peak Raid event together last Autumn which we enjoyed, so after sowing the seed about doing one of these together, Nathan followed it up with a text in January and within a day we were booked onto the Saunders Bowfell Course. There's a range of courses mostly in pairs for safety. The easiest will be short and mostly on paths with controls not being above cloud level and the route to the midway camp being not too hilly. The hardest team events tend to have a lower %age of paths (we were almost entirely on tussocks, rocks, bogs, bracken and moorland), a high amount of climbing (2,000m+ normal for Day 1), lengths of 20-25miles on Day 1 and controls located at a higher average altitude - so the chances of them being in the cloud is therefore higher - all good! There are also 2 solo courses on this event - experienced fell runners only here please!
Day 1 Route marked with dotted line. Day 2 Controls are the Square ones.
Looking back on my Strava timeline, I've not run over 2h since about Feb, so needless to say I had to disguise this fact from Nathan for as long as I could - at least until the end of Day 1 I was hoping !

Nathan was new to all this never having done one before, but I knew he was made from the right stuff after I'd put on the kit list "Sleeping Bag - circa 500g" and I'd not heard anything back! "Pot Noodles" and "Mars Bars dunked in Custard" were also met with approval so I knew it'd be a great weekend!

Backpacks were down to sub20litres (mine felt quite empty but I never let on!) and I think walking to the start area at the bottom of the Ullswater hillside - we were both filled in equal measure with anticipation and excitement as we waited to find out where our 10 checkpoint locations were on Day 1.
We'd ran the length of the ridge in the middle of this - stunning stuff inc a herd of Red Deers. Can you spot Nathan?
Although we'd not discussed it specifically, I took on the role of main navigator and Nathan the "checker" - he's good with a map but hadn't done these before so I'd take the lead on bearings and contour work. The day started well - straight to Control 1 but then unfolding the map saw us faced with the longest leg of the Day. The leg had a choice - a longer route going up to the main ridge, along it on paths then a quick down / up / down and over to the control - OR - the route we took - over about 4 valleys through tussocks not on any paths and over to the control. Can you work out now what I'm gonna say with this one?!? Yes, we lost 20 mins here, but more importantly - we wasted so much energy. Never mind - we found it straight away and nailed the rest of the Controls. They were always very well located. I was going to say "hidden" but they aren't deliberately hidden - it's just that if you are more than 10 metres from it - you may not see it as it just sits on the floor. When located at a "Stream Junction" - it is amazing how many stream junctions you will find within the 100sqm that you are searching. Also "Crag Foot" - this is my favourite as there's always a range of crags and you can never see the foot of the ones above or below you!

Each control would take a similar theme - as we approached the previous one, we'd start making our route choice for the next one. Upon dibbing, we'd then head off as fast as possible in the agreed direction, maintaining as much pace as possible up across and down before having a prolonged chat about who was feeling the most tired! Heavy showers punctuated the high ridges and cols which coupled with some strong windy blasts meant that I had to reach for my waterproof a few times in the day, but mostly preferring to run cool in short sleeves and shorts. Due to the clear weather, navigation was little real issue so route choice was the main issue to separate teams.

As we approached the last few controls of the day, it became very clear that we were both equally wrecked already - especially when - after running the beautiful Gray Crag ridge with views to die for an a herd of Red Deer to boot, Nathan said "so the control should be somewhere at the bottom of the valley then". "No mate" I said quite clearly ... "it's right at the top of that hill in the distance". The few seconds silence said it all. It was a massive climb but at least I knew we had it to come. Nathan didn't - oh and what a climb it was - it's actually the one in the top picture with both Nathan and me doing large sections of it on all fours - we had no standards at this point in proceedings so damage limitation was the key. We both must have been moving so so slowly but we were wringing every last ounce of energy out of already tired bodies so we just struggled up in mutual silence.

Soon we approached the final descent to the last control and the finish. As we neared the bottom, it became clear that there'd just been quite a serious incident and mountain rescue were on their way. The hill was seriously steep and very long. Mainly grassy, I was wondering just how much more dangerous it would have been had the conditions been bad? Anyway, after the event we found out that there were 2 incidents in exactly the same spot about 3 hours apart - we wondered why the rescue helicopter was hovering for about 5 hours in total!

We found out that at the mid way overnight camp we were in 9th place out of 45 entrants on this course. Quite pleased but tinged as always with so many "yeah but if only we'd have..." etc etc! It was over 2 hours after we'd arrived in camp that we saw Kieran Davis - a very strong runner and coupled with Neil Wightman we thought they would beat us into camp. It turned out they had a worse day than us navigationally and had also been badly caught out by just how hard day 1 had been. We were all dreading Day 2 so promptly headed to bed early, ate loads of food and generally rested the legs and feet.

The Control 6 to 7 Catastrophe!
Red Arrow = Our Bearing
Green Arrow = Correct Bearing!!
As it happened, we woke to a beautiful sunny dawn on Day 2 and a slightly kinder course - only 18 miles on Day 2 compared to 23miles on Day 1, but more importantly only 4,500ft of climb as opposed to 8,000ft on Day 1. Nevertheless, it was mostly on tussocks still so it was never easy. Route choice was 'nailed' for all controls (with us getting fastest splits out of all runners on 3-4 and 4-5!!) - well I say nailed - mostly anyway. Admittedly, for the final 30 mins of that second day I told Nathan I was running on vapours - the tank was empty. That's also when things started to go wrong for me / us. Finding control 6 was harder than it should have been without my full concentration. Control 6 eventually came (thanks Nathan) but when I thought 6-7 was just a downhill blast on a path it turned out to be our worst control of the weekend. Firstly it was through really rough marshy tussocky when I'd hoped it was paths. Next - we headed to the wrong place - and when we got to where we were heading - we had no idea where we actually were on the map ! Fantastic! At least another pair had done exactly the same thing so we shared problems and still really really struggled to find the actual control at the correct junction. If we'd have taken a rough bearing at control 6 we would have seen that we'd gone too far East.

Thanfully, the finish was only 1/2 a mile downhill in lovely sunshine - but blimey I was properly on empty by now! After finishing it was an effort to even get to the car, let alone climb another Lake District Wainwright like Ed and Helen from the club had done - harder course next year guys !!!!

All in all a fantastically hard weekend of running, navigating and camping in the high fells - not many better ways to spend your spare time now is there ?
Results here, 10th overall in Bowfell
Strava links here and here
Nathan's Blog write up here
Overall stats, 12hours of running, 12,500ft, 40 miles and 90-95% off path (which is what made it so hard)

Our Mountain Marathon Kit List
Alpkit Ordos 2 Tent / Pegs / Poles
Foil blanket under tent
Alpkit Numo thermarest
PHD Minimus Sleeping Bag 500g
Overnight Clothes - Waterproof
Overnight Clothes - Warm thicker Top (mandatory kit)
Overnight Clothes - Dry Socks
Overnight Clothes - Waterproof Trousers
Overnight Clothes - Gloves & Buff
Overnight Clothes - Leggings (mandatory kit)
Running Top
Running Shorts
Running Socks
Running Water Bottle
Running Shoes
Running Food - Mars Bars & Jelly Babies *2days
Contact Lenses inc xtra ones & Mirror
Pen to mark up map
Phone Waterproof Case
Earplugs for sleeping at night
Wet Wipes
Basic First Aid Kit - Plasters/Bandage/Paracetomol / ibuprofen
Asthma Inhaler
Pan & Lid
Thin Windshield
Small Gas Canister & Gas Stability Feet
Rucsac Liner to keep everything dry
Inflata Pillow
Starter - Pot Noodles (doubles up as a cup / bowl)
Main - Couscous & 2 Tins each Mackerel in Curry Sauce (40g protein)
Desert - Custard with melted Mars Bars
After - Peppermint Tea bags or hot chocolate
Breakfast - Protein Powder & Mars Bars

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Chrome Hill Fell Race - what an awesome race!

I'd never done this race but it had been on my radar since I read Darren Holloway's blog entry on it. And what a "must do" race it is! Low key, linked to a village fair, hard, terrific views - see photo below of Helen as an example!
Chrome Hill Fell Race Route
The route is far harder than the route profile suggests as everything from mile 0 to mile 1 is through grass / mud - often on trogs carved out simply by the local livestock! The village fair looked ace complete with Jazz Band (!), but I had to dash off to meet Teresa (and Cath / Neil) on a Matlock pub crawl. The race is now unfinished business as I had to stop for a comfort break halfway round! What a great excuse to come along next year - next year with the family too!
Chrome Hill Fell Race Profile
Helen on the Chrome Hill Fell Race Ridge - Parkhouse Hill in the background (race doesn't go over that)

Results will go here