Saturday, 29 December 2012

Mid Winter Derwent Watershed (attempt)

Between Xmas and New Year I always try and get a 8-12 hour run in to kick start next years training and to help shed a few mince pies and Xmas cake from the waistline.  This years plan A was to help Saul reccie legs 1 & 2 of the Bob Graham. However with both Karl being poorly and my mum being under the weather, it was not to be so plan B was always to be a long peak district jolly.

To get around childcare issues, it was best if we ran from Midnight to midday which is the classic time that the Derwent Watershed race is held anyway so it felt 'right'.

Conditions had been very, very wet over the xmas break but it hadn't rained for at least a day or so so rather foolishly we thought conditions may not be as bad as they had been. It was to be a pretty important test for Saul too as he needed to nail his nutrition for stuff over 8 hours.

We set off just before midnight on a still warm evening making good progress from Edale YHA as far as Stanage. It was plastered in thick hillfog up over High Neb area and Saul's stomping ground may as well have been the surface of the moon with the visibility we had. Progress slowed, but we got to Moscar without getting too cold.

Predictably, once up on Derwent edges conditions deteriorated again in the fog with anything that wasn't flagstones being very tricky to follow. Nevertheless, we got to the Foul Clough control with spirits and energy levels still high. With hindsight this is where things turned. We chose a different route to that of the race by heading more 'west' of Featherbed Moss. The route was a slow walk but was ok, however the race route which is a direct climb from the clough reaches better ground quickly.

On our approach to Margery hill we found the small trod, but although we were moving sufficiently well, the wind had now turned to a strong wind and driving rain. We soon came across Cutgate and I was starting to feel chilled. I knew how bad the sections ahead would be, so I pointed out to Saul that if we did want to cut the route short that this would be the point to do it. Saul dismissed any option of cutting it short so we pressed straight on without another word.

The next section is some of the worst terrain I've ever had the pleasure of running in. Strong winds and rain at just above zero are enough to chill you to the bone quickly. And that's if you're doing a slow run / shuffle. We weren't even managing that. The hillfog was still as bad as before so all our headtorches seemed to do was illuminate the fog. All this was bad in the depths of a winter peak district night, but what really stopped us dead in our tracks was the house size bogs. We were literally back tracking as much we were moving forward and all the time cooling down further and further to the point where I knew things were getting desperate. This is clearly where all the water from the wettest year on record was sitting, just waiting for unsuspecting fell runners in the dead of night. Those bogs were the worst I've ever been in and - on a windy wet cold night with thick fog were just too much for Saul and me.

In an instant we decided enough was enough so we headed due south off the boggy hillside. Impenetrable peat groughs stopped us dead in our tracks though so it was ages until we actually warmed up at Slippery Stones.

There's not been many times where I've had to back out of a situation on the fell with fear for how cold I was, but I suspected that there'd only be one outcome if we battled on especially with the miles and miles of bog we had ahead of us before dawn.

Nevertheless, we managed 31 miles over 8ish hours and got some good running in during the run back over Alport Castles.  Back early, so lots of time to spend making meccano / lego / scalextric traks with Lewis.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Yorkshire Dales Top 10

Came across this long distance challenge run last night on the FRA Forum.

It's not one I remember reading about before, as I've read a few of the GoFar Yorkshire rounds before with lots of them taking my fancy.

80odd miles and 7,000m of climbing.  Lets hope this or something similar comes to fruition in 2013!

gpx file here
The Yorkshire Dales Top 10

Monday, 12 November 2012

Roaches Fell Race, 18 miles

Well, like many people who've done a Bob Graham, the period following it is a bit of an unknown. Well, that's not strictly true as I knew I was doing the 3 Peaks Cyclocross, but that's all I knew.

And to be honest, apart from regular as clockwork leg beatings on Tuesdays (Road Bike Chaingang) and Thursdays (14 mile headtorch runs), I've not really been arsed to do anything that looked remotely like racing
River crossing was fun (Photo edited on iPhone !)
And it's been great not racing for once. Just enjoying what came along really, family stuff, a weekend in Coniston drinking (with some running!) and other non serious stuff.

Now, I don't know what came over me Friday afternoon at work - I suppose it was the thought that I'd got another weekend of "not a lot on", just a few training bits probably so I thought I'd just check to see if anything was kicking off locally and there it was - shining out like a beacon of muddy pain - The Roaches Fell Race. 18 miles of out and back torture. Perfect !

I'd done this race back in 2008 and remembered it being surprisingly hard. It starts at Tittesworth Res (north of Leek) and runs north along the Roaches before descent, river crossing, climb, descent, climb, descent, climb (you get the picture) all the way to Shutlingsloe, a true proper mini mountain and most of it through very very boggy fields. Then it's a small matter of retracing the route finishing through some of the wettest muddiest fields I've ever encountered anywhere. About 4 of them!

First race since about July, so I thought I'd take it steady on the 'out' and attack on the 'back'.

Well after a substantial amount of 'steadiness' I didn't know whether to be worried or pleased when I found myself in about 20th place approaching Shutlingsloe. Adopting the classic felllrunners fast walk up it's steep sides, I found myself passing then overtaking 2 guys just before it's summit. Very surprising as I'd taken it quite steady. The summit marshall gave me the good news that I was in 14th place. Great I thought.

Starting at Merebrook (bottom) it's 18miles up to Shutlingsloe and back.
Turning south and heading off for the headlong grassy descent, I just took it steady and waited for the runners I'd just passed to come gliding past me on the way down. They didn't and even more surprising I actually overtook 2 runners on the way down ! Now that never happens!

"Right" I thought "time to go fast but not redlining it". The plan worked and I pulled away from most of the guys behind apart from one who kept with me until the climb after the river crossing. Clearly, not a climber (or someone who had underestimated this hard race) he backed off and wished me well. You don't get that in many sports now do you ?

I kept it hard but within limits for the next 3 mile climb and was very surprised to see 1 then 2 then 3 more runners come into view - this never happens either! Again, it just goes to show how easy it is to underestimate this race as I'm sure they'd all overcooked the first half and were just clinging on now.

Route Profile with the very pointy Shutlingsloe visible in the middle
Just a run over the summit rocks then now but soon I heard Ross Litherland come up then pass me at a very convincing speed. I'd not seen him at all in the race, so I guess he went off slow like me and speeded up. Fine running Ross.

The fields at the end really are horrific. Nature couldn't seem to decide whether to put a stream or a field there, so it decided to put both in one place. Very very tiring and hard work, but I knew about them, so saved a little back for them and with no one behind it was a leisurely cruise to the line.

Very pleased with 10th on such a beautiful Autumn day. Staffordshire looked absolutely stunning. I must say, I really did enjoy every metre of that race.

10th out of 134 finishers
Results here
Results 2008 here (2:26:57)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Three Peaks Cyclo Cross, 50th Anniversary race

Well, despite this being an absolute epic 1st race for me last year, my Bob Graham 3 weeks ago really overshadowed this and with all the best will in the world since then, it has played second fiddle in the grand scheme of things this year - not what I'd have chosen given a free choice!

Nevertheless, I've managed to get out for 2x4hr rides over the last two weekends including this great offroad one from Rowsley. Loved it and made me realise I need to ride the cross bike on proper rocky stuff more (instead of muddy playing fields).

Glad that Dave got an entry this year so we made a weekend of it with Teresa, Graham, Gary and Martin taking a long 2 day cycle tour up to Stainforth campsite via an overnighter in Holmfirth. Think they had a great time - not so sure Gary's ar*e would agree after two long gritty days in the saddle.

Weather forecast was bad and the morning dawned - bad ! It's always good to be mentally prepared for dire weather - plus it ensures you pack the right gear too - in this case my Icebreaker Mondo Zip Merino top plus windproof gillet. A perfect combo that sees me through most winters running and riding.
Dave & me just before the start, Stainforth campsite
The aim this year was 4 hours and although I'd not done as much riding this year, I felt my legs were stronger on the bike, however even on the start line I realised the weather looked more like "let's just get round" type weather !  I started right at the back of the field last year so remedied that by starting about 100-200 riders from the front. 930 and we were off. Pace was as I remember from last year - pretty frantic, but I soon got to just behind the guys following the leadout car.

Apprehension was high as we took the first left offroad up towards Simons fell. It very soon turned messy with all grass being very very sodden and hence proving running just as quick as biking over most of the lower fell. Both years now Simon's fell has been shrouded in thick clag. Probably a good thing - it seemed to unveil itself to us riders in 50m chunks - each of which was steeper and more insane than the previous one. 

This year we had a very very strong side wind too to contend with. Going up the really steep bit with "the fence", my climbing legs were in neutral and so I felt quite wobbly with the wind threatening to whip the bike from my shoulder at every opportunity. Soon we reached "the stile" and I knew it was serious as mountain rescue were there to take bikes from us as we stepped over the slippery stile into a headwind. Boy was I grateful for them as no sooner than you lifted the bike over your head than the wind took it away from you. Not good on a slippery stile in SPD's !! 

From there to Ingleborough, it was way more waterlogged than last year - all the way to the summit was a lot more of a struggle. I was 5 mins slower than last year plus the legs felt tired (two hard short sessions in the week should have been out of my legs but probably weren't, oh and two pints of top beer on Saturday night probably didn't help things!). 

Again, the descent to Cold Cotes seemed twice as long as I remember with very bad side winds blowing several riders clean off their bikes. It also became clear towards the bottom of the descent that riding my brakes on the hoods was not a good plan - on the drops was the only way on this race. I nearly got jolted off the hoods just as the crowds came into view. Not as embarrasing as these two guys in the picture below - I'm sure the organisers put the checkpoint right in a bog just for the photographers benefit and to keep the crowd happy!
Cold Cotes : Cries of "Keep left"
falling on deaf ears !
The tailwind to Whernside was a welcome respite although it took a minute or so for my road legs to kick in. I soon overtook everyone in sight on the climb out of Ingleton and worked with another guy most of the way to Whernside steps. Again here I was slightly surprised to find my climbing legs in neutral with me wobbling and tottering up the steep steps - not something I normally suffer from, but probably something to do with the BGR. I eventually caught up with Pat Higgins who put stacks of time into me on the Ingleborough descent not surprisingly.

Whernside steps
I remember the Whernside descent from last year - either scary or brilliant depending on your confidence and skill. I started riding it too cautiously, but started to relax into it as soon as we got to some rockier bits, but I misjudged a drainage channel and heard the dreaded hiss of a punctured rear tyre. Conditions now were absolutely dreadful with horizontal wind and rain. From last year I remembered a wall a little further down the hill so I ran down to that to repair in a more sheltered spot. Sadly it was way way further than I remembered and so I lost absolutely masses of time getting to the wall. The repair was quick and so after that I just loved the remainder of the descent to Ribblehead with crowds being even bigger than I remember from last year. Stream crossings were now of epic proportions with most riders opting for a bridge whereas we rode through it last year.

The road section to Pen y Ghent was bad - riding into driving rain for 5 miles or so with more uphill than down it seemed ! Again, I made up places here but they were only places that I'd lost on Whernside. Now, the ascent to Pen y Ghent is climbing bliss - I love it ! Rideable all the way to just before the very steep bit at the top, including a tricky section from last year which has now been regraded as easier so no dabs this year. Good to see Teresa, Lewis, Martin, Gary and Graham on the climb up there. I needed a mental boost ahead of what was still to come...

The upper sections of Pen y Ghent were atrocious. 50mph headwinds sapped every ounce of energy left in my body. I had to have a mars bar just 100m before the summit marshalls - I was knackered!

The descent started shaky as I was so tired, but as the slope eased, my speed picked up. Sadly my brakes couldn't stop me in time for a sharp hairpin in the path so I opted for a comedy over the handlebars moment into - yes, a bog.
The "puddle" on the Pen y Ghent ascent path
I was very glad to get back down to the road as my brake levers were now pulling back to my bars, so I knew I didn't have many brakes left. More headwind and driving rain before the finish came, 4h43 after setting off.

This was every bit as good as last year - it really felt like I'd been part of something epic. Every person who finished that deserved massive respect as it really was hard.

But I loved it ! And yes, I can't wait to get my entry in for next year !!

Bike Reminder for next year - ride on drops, so bars higher, not lower. Tyre pressure 55-60psi.

Results & Analysis here
2012 Splits
2011 Splits

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Lake District Mountain Trial Map

Came across this on Nick Barber's blog.
It was in Stair in Newlands this year and I ran past the event centre at the end of my Bob Graham.
A classic event - certainly one to look at for next year !

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Bob Graham Round, 66 miles, 27,000ft, 42 peaks

An amazing day which I'll never forget.  This was a big deal for me, so I'll split this write up into 4 sections ;

  1. Background - What it's all about and why it's been a big deal to me
  2. Prep / Training - Anything but Orthodox
  3. My Round - How the Belper Harriers got me round including 2 near death experiences!
  4. Detailed leg split times

I took up fell running back in around 1998, shortly after trying local orienteering. I loved it. My first race was Black Combe in the Lakes and I was hooked. Finishing in the top third with no particular training, that race told me that fell running was what I needed to do. Over the next few years, most weekends were spent in the hills and most of those were in the Lakes, indeed I knew every corner within a year or so and I've gone on to expand that with many social trips, backpacks, Mountain Marathons, Trailquests and family weeks ever since.

Predominantly, I run when in the Lakes - it's just so good for it. Terrain is hard but not too hard and the geography just lends itself to long days on the hills with sweeping ridge lines giving option upon hard option.

The lakes also lends itself to what I and several friends consider to be the best Mountain Biking in the UK - again with many, many Trailquests and MTBO events over the years since 1998 I've come to know every single Bridleway. There's many and most just put a massive smile on my face.

I remember way back when I was first going to the Lakes around 1998 picking up a leaflet in George Fisher in Keswick (after a race, I think Causey Pike) on something called "The Bob Graham Round". I remember to this day thinking how utterly unachievable it seemed. It consisted of 5 long legs any one of which would be a big day out as a walker and hard for a fell runner. After leaving the shop though, I couldn't stop thinking about it. How the hell do people do that ? I wonder if I'll ever meet anyone who has done it ? Yes, the seed was planted and it just wouldn't go away.

I quickly managed to up the fell running mileage and by about 2003 I'd competed in 2 Saunders Klets classes in the Lakes - routes which are very very demanding both in terms of length and the terrain they take you over. A couple of years later, I was lucky enough to be partnered with Simon Richardson (a great Orienteer) and won the KIMM A Class in 2005. I think that was the turning point, where I had confidence that perhaps one day the Bob Graham Round would be within my reach.

A few weeks later Lewis came along and subsequently I had a patchy 6 year period dogged with ever increasing tummy problems which became so bad that by 2011 I'd completely ditched running in favour of Mountain Biking (less irritating on the tummy). All through this 6 year period I often thought how the Bob Graham now seemed like something I could have achieved before, but not anymore - the time had probably passed. So instead I set my goals last year on an interim stop gap - The Pennine Bridleway Double in 24 hours. 

I actually did this simply to see what going hard for 24 hours felt like and to see how my body would cope with no sleep in the hope that perhaps if my tummy problems cleared up that I could train for the Bob Graham next. I was pleased with the result and knew off the back that the Bob Graham was now achievable but only if I sorted my tummy out.  A change in diet including hospital "probings" gave me a transformation in my running around November 2011. Finally, I was able to run without having to look for bushes to duck into !!!

My first proper runs were in Feb of this year on the annual family trip to Coniston. I did 3*3-5 hour runs and generally felt good after. After this, I knew the BGR was back on the cards and felt relieved instantly. The next long run was a reccie in March of the Long Tour of Bradwell, then an Easter reccie of BGR legs 1&2, followed by the Calderdale Hike 2 weeks later. Then came the event I knew I had to complete comfortably if I was ever going to do the Bob Graham - The Fellsman which thankfully went well. After that it was just a matter of when, so renewed with vigour I banged out legs 3-5 2 weeks later following Duncan Steen round on his phenomenal 19h30 completion.

I seemed to be knocking out the Ultra runs with very little actual running training though. In fact, very little training full stop - a good thing as it meant more time for family stuff too, gotta keep Teresa on side !! Training really just consisted throughout 2012 of 1-2 hard road bike sessions for 2hours plus 1-2 hard offroad sessions for 2 hours never totalling more than 3 sessions per week. It seemed to be working well, so I thought why change it ? In fact it was working better than it had ever done as the road biking has done wonders for my quads and it's now rare for my legs to ache after an Ultra / fell race - weird I know !

The Belper Harriers Support Crew 1am: Graham, Alistair, Andy B, Me, Andy R, Krish
(plus Saul taking photo and Ian who arrived later on)
After a very bad sprained ankle early July, plans were rescheduled for Saturday 8th September. I really wanted to get it out of my system this year ! The support team was predominantly made up of Belper Harriers plus Alistair Robertson who would assist in legs 1&2 plus Broad Stand rope duties with Krish!

September meant 4 hours less daylight than mid summer, but I was confident that I could do it and so less daylight would hopefully just slow me up a little. A 1am start meant that if things went to plan, I'd be finishing about 9pm - just when it's getting dark. If things didn't go to plan, I'd be doing the last leg in the dark - not the end of the world.

We'd just had a week of wall to wall sunshine in the UK, so looking at the forecast I was in two minds whether to even pack a waterproof ! Suffice to say, I could barely believe it when we turned off the M6 at Penrith to be greeted with rain at Threlkeld !!! We got to Braithwaite Bridges campsite and grabbed an hours kip before setting off at 1am under dry but windy conditions.

Details of each leg are below, but really everything felt really good the whole round. I deliberately did not look at individual split times from peak to peak but had a general knowledge of my pace due to arrival times at road crossings. By Wasdale I knew I was close to 23 hour pace and was happy with that losing so much time on Bowfell and Broad Stand, but I felt good still despite my feet feeling battered.  I think I took some paracetomol for the first time there for my feet as I knew I'd need to be strong over leg 4 to not fall further behind.

Leg 4: Cloud Inversion forming out to see from around Red Pike
(courtesy of Bill Williamson)
Leg 4 really was the highlight of the round for me. From 4pm - 9pm Graham and me had non stop sun with some really fantastic running. Picking up the trods round unnecessary peaks meant that after Steeple I think we ran most stuff apart from the big climbs. It was a sheer pleasure - running doesn't get any better than that section - pity that Saul was behind us and we couldn't enjoy it with him.

Looking back on the pace expectations, 20hours was a little bit optimistic I think with the training I'd done. I ran 19h30 pace for 3-5 back in May but that was off the back of The Fellsman 2 weeks prior (perfect prep really). The Long Tour of Bradwell was all I'd done over 30 miles since May and I'd just got back from two weeks in the Alps with nothing over 2 hours in the bank.

Also, I think I underestimated how much the 8hours+ of running the first two legs would slow me for 3-5. Legs felt fine, but feet were definitely showing the signs of many hours over very slippery rocks and boulders.

Sharing the navigation with the pacers worked well. I knew most of the route and some of them had reccied some sections, so we just corrected on the hoof really with whoever was most confident. When things got a bit more patchy (leg 5) I was thankful that Graham took the lead as I wouldn't have wanted to have navigated after Honister really. Thanks Graham.

Also - thanks to the pacers. I don't know how these guys find time to fit my weekend into their already busy lives ? Especially a rescheduled weekend at that. I'm so glad that the weather was good for them - arriving in Wasdale to see the car and the campervan in dappled sunshine I was more than a little envious of the position they were in. I'm just so glad they didn't tell me they had plans of going to the pub otherwise that might have just tipped me over the edge !  I really cannot wait to return the compliment and support 1, 2 or 3 of them next year - I'm looking forward to it already ! Who knows, I might just start leg 1 and see if I can beat 23 hours !!


Detailed Excel splits are here

Leg 1 : Skiddaw / Blencathra 3h55
* Lost 25 mins due to clag and missed trod to Hare Crag plus Threlkeld 5 mins
* Skiddaw had basically zero visibility and hence we missed the trod to Hare Crag, knee high heather
* The line from Gt Calva was better than reccied, taking the path through the wooden gate at bottom of wire fence
* Went over on ankle after very slippy rocky descent from Doddick.
* Detour round the back of Threlkeld

Leg 2 : The Dodds Helvellyn & Fairfield 4h20
* Lost 5 mins or so on Dollywaggon, misty through whole section
* Generally ok, but didn't want to risk the Cofa climb in the thick clag so went round left of Tarn.
* Missed the trod down to the road from Seat Sandal. Apparently I need to head to west summit, then it's on the right.

Leg3 : Martcrag Moor, just after Pike o Stickle around 1030am Trod Hunting!
Leg 3 : The Langdales & Scafell 6h40
lost 5mins at Thurnacar and lost 20mins on Broad Stand, very slippery round Bowfell
* Went well up to Thurnacar, then again up to Rossett
* Billy Blands Rake started well but ended in a chossy scramble emerging too far right
* Our return route from Bowfell we veered too far right instead of heading left to Ore Gap
* Rocks were very very slippery
* Visibility poor again
* Broad Stand was so so slippery. I used both knees, got a push up and a pull from above ! Saul went unroped and slipped. I think that another of his nine lives gone! Thanks to Krish / Alistair here.
* Crags above Broad Stand were no better but did not last long
* Scree descent was amazing !
Leg 3 : Scafell Screes Descent, 345pm
Leg 4 : Wasdale to Honister 5h
lost 15 mins regrouping with pacers at base of Red Pike, last 2 peaks in darkness
* Had to regroup with Saul / Graham after Yewbarrow, Saul struggling so lost 15 mins.
* Cloud inversions out to sea ending in a stunning sunset.
* Pace good, visibility good, ending in darkness
* Left Saul after Scoat fell who headed out to Buttermere but ended up running down Ennerdale!
* Gable felt hard, being so steep at the top

Leg 5 : Honister to Keswick 3h
starting to feel tired and all done in darkness
* Feeling tired for the first time, Dale Head felt hard but shouldn't have
* Good to have Ian's company
* Ian took a rather direct descent from Robinson, one which I don't think he'd wish to repeat !
* Road felt very hard then had more food and upped the pace for the last 3 miles.

Post Bob Thoughts...
Well, it's now 3 days later and I'm really pleased with my legs again ! My left ankle just keeps on getting bigger though so physio this afternoon. It really hasn't sunk in yet that I'm in the Bob Graham Club - something I've looked up to for so, so long.

I'm really not worried now that I've got nothing in the diary for the rest of the year apart from the 3 Peaks Cyclo Cross in 3 weeks. I really enjoy training for something big, then just doing whatever I fancy doing  whether it will be road biking, cyclo cross racing, Mountain Bike racing, Mountain Bike Orienteering or Fell Racing which fills my diary for the rest of the year.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Last 5h Run before the Bob Graham

What a day to take off work - we were out early, so low sun, heather still in bloom and the temperature warm in the sun and just right in the shade. Oh, and barely a cloud in the sky !
The First Half of the Climb up Fairbrook
I wanted to get about 5hrs done before next weekend and it just had to be Kinder. Now, although Kinder is the site of my recent sprained ankle, it is just so versatile and HARD ! 
Everywhere looked simply stunning today as Andy and me met up with Alistair in Edale car park. The climb up Grindsbrook  was despatched easily - taking the right fork at the top and then heading round to Crowden Clough and Edale Cross. Andy's apparent dizziness giving him some grief seemingly. Still, we progressed down to Coldwell Clough where we decided to split... Andy taking the shortcut to the res whilst Alistair and me adding in two very stiff climbs.

Once up to the top of William Clough, I was very pleased to have despatched 3 climbs almost at threshold with Alistair but yet having no problems with the legs at all. Alistair really showed me up on the final climb though - a natural climber clearly.

I warned folks that the descent was long to the bottom of Fairbrook but even I forgot just how long. We went down for ages ! All without a care in the world, legs moving freely, enjoying the company and lapping up the scenery.

Then came the Fairbrook climb - one I love. We thought it best that Andy shortcut up to Seal Stones whilst Alistair and me went for it.  I got half way up then stepped aside to let Alistair really push his training in readiness for the Snowdonia Half IronMan he's got in 3 weeks (which ends in a climb up and down Snowdon on the Llanberis path). He did well, making good ground on me and I wasn't going at all slow.
After meeting with Andy at Seal Stones we dispatched the traverse to Blackden and crossing of Kinder easily leaving just the Ringing Roger descent to Edale.

All in all, a fantastic day. My favourite Peak District training run of the year by far. Legs felt great at the end and everything is looking comfortable for next weekend.

Route : Edale, Grindsbrook, Edale Cross, Coldwell Clough, Hayfield, Shooting Cabins, William Clough
Black Ashop Moor, Fairbrook climb, Kinder Northern edge, Ringing Roger, Edale.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Long Tour of Bradwell, 33 mile 6,750ft

This was going to be a day I wanted to enjoy for many reasons. Firstly, it's the last big race before my Bob Graham Round (about a month away) so I needed to feel 'good' about my performance. Secondly, the weather forecast was awesome - perhaps too awesome. Thirdly and unlike every other Ultra I've raced this year I knew the whole route (or so I thought!) so no worryingly scratching around at maps which takes a bit of the pleasure out of a race IMO. Fourthly it was local, so no 3h drive home.

This was also to be Graham's first Ultra and his longest race by a long stretch. Graham's a great runner and I really did expect to get a good pummelling by him, but wondered by just how much ?

The day started cloudy, but I think we all knew it just had to burn off. Assembling in Bradwell at 855, announcements were made and a few familiar faces were around, then we were off - round past the cement works and up Pindale.  Graham slowly made about 20m on me by the time we got to Dirtlow Rake something I was more than happy with as I knew my pace was fast but fully maintainable.

Conversations started with fellow runners when it flattened out before Cavedale. By the bottom of Cavedale I found myself running with Jon Hedger. Jon had won the previous Ultra race in the series, the Osmotherley Phoenix, so I knew sticking with him might not be all that wise !

Almost immediately Jon pointed out that I knew him better than I thought as we had been grouped on the Fellsman in May but due to the dark / hats / headtorches and waterproofs, I had no idea it was him ! I congratulated him on his recent success and soon realised we were running similar pace both up and down.

Nav to the Druids Stone was spot on and we arrived with Graham who promptly left us for dead on the descent to the Edale Road. To be fair, our route was pretty dire and several runners caught us on the descent.

The climb to Lose Hill was the first to suffer the heat of the day so felt all the harder for it. The pace was now fast but comfortable which turned to a bit too fast on the decent into Hope ! I felt pretty shattered by the next control so thought I'd run my own pace from here, which as it happened was at least as fast as those around me!

Still with Jon, the climb up and round Win Hill was beautiful with the heather in full summer glory. We ran together now all the way to lower Burbage and I think we both pushed slightly too much as several times on Stanage I felt I had to just let him go, but managed to stick with him. As it happens, I think it was Jon that pushed too hard as he faded badly in the latter sections.

The Contol on the River in Bamford, Photo Courtesy of Nick Ham
All went well until after the Lawrencefield control. The route on the day took a completely new line to that I'd reccied. In fact, I lost the taped route within about 5 metres - seeing only 1 bit of tape ! Bugger. Looking at the splits I lost 5 mins here compared to those around me. Never mind, I soon settled into a very good pace on the hard section along the river to Leadmill. 

I was determined not to walk any of the next section which I basically managed. I did stop however briefly to chat to Jon as I re-overtook him on the climb to Stoke Ford.

After Stoke Ford the wheels well and truly fell off. With hindsight this was a combination of pushing too fast with Jon but mainly not enough food. I took Jelly Babies and caffeine gels - the latter I really didn't want to overdose on for fear of not being able to sleep, hence I really only took Jelly Babies - this wasn't enough.

I can honestly say that I've never had to dig as deep as I did before during and after Abney. If anyone was watching me, I must have looked like I was about to die I think! Still, I knew that very soon it was one long slippery descent to the village and then a half mile run through the town to the line so I gave it absolutely everything I could.

Crossing the line I was pleased to find out I was 5th in a time of 5h 45, which was roughly the time I'd expected with Graham finishing in a stonking 5h 35. 

And yes, all my boxes were ticked in terms of enjoying the day and feeling good - especially as I'd not done anything at all long since May !!!

GPS track here
Results here
Nick Ham's write up and photo's here

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Sleepless in the Saddle, 24h MTB

Sheila and Teresa sorted this one out - quickly getting the mixed veteran team together including Dennis, Dave and me. Teresa was the only one of us not to have done one of these 24h events before (although she supported me at Newcastleton 24h solo).

The event at Catton Park started warm n sunny - just like last year. Course was basically the same, so generally fast and enjoyable. It also rained around tea time - just like last year too! Sadly, when last year dried really quick, this year it most definitely didn't!

A great event with no 'lows' so when other teams seemed to be dropping like flies, we just kept on going - to be honest having the Olympics on in the Campervan watching Mo Farah win the 10k with the heater on too certainly helped me stay motivated !

We finished 1st Mixed Vet Team which was quite a surprise.

Teresa checking out her new superwide rear tyre

Friday, 13 July 2012

BGR - deferred

Well, it's not often I get injured and even less often that it would make me change my plans.

Two wks ago at about 2am descending from Seal Stones on the Kinder Killer with Graham, I went over on my left ankle. Initial feelings were bad and in the proceeding days I had moments where I've thought " yep, its definitely better" notably after physio appointments.

Sadly,  late last week it took a turn for the worse. So much so that when I woke up last Sat morning walking round the house was tricky at best, geriatric at worst.  It was that bad, that my 'banker race' the Derwent River Relays hosted by Belper Harriers (20 mins tops) was completely beyond the realms of possibility. Teresa kindly stepped in for me...

To be honest, having to defer the BGR attempt has had me in complete shock - it's took me about 3-4 days to accept that I've gotta just reschedule it.

Mid September then now it seems, so after 1-2 months wind down of distance running, I've gotta get something back in my legs ! Going out for 15-30 mins tomorrow, then Sunday too if tomorrow OK. Final physio next Monday.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Midnight Kinder Killer Attempt

Kinder Killer Route Profile

The Full Kinder Killer Route, we started bottom right ACW
Graham fancied a midsummer midnight run and I'd always fancied the Kinder Killer and fancied one last 8hr+ run before the Bob Graham mid July. Sorted!

Well, cutting a long story short Graham and me were having a great time - setting off from Edale YHA at midnight and heading anticlockwise up Jaggers Clough. It was classic stuff - very hard underfoot and lots of water around mostly staying dry though. A few meanders on the route off Crookstone picking up a new section (to me) to Upper Ashop. We were not really on a path for the next bit to Blackden but it felt great as it was very hard, tussocky and rain in our faces! The climb up Blackden Clough was again a new climb (we'd crossed it many times but never gone actually up it) and seemed beautiful with lots of waterfalls and some occasional scrambling. On the top again then just before Seal Stones we headed down and very soon I went over on the left ankle.

As a fell runner, going over on the ankle is about as regular as a puncture on a bike. Within 5 seconds though I knew this was more than a normal sprain. After 5 minutes I could still barely walk which didn't look good.

Thoughts went immediately to my Bob Graham attempt and I felt worried. As the walk down to the River Ashop went on, things didn't get any better and I now knew that my Bob Graham was in jeopardy.

Writing this now the day after my ankle is massive. My legs huge and my foot is too with the foot and ankle being red.  I like to be realistic about things and realistically it will take a miracle for me to be doing the BGR in 2 weeks now. It looks impossible. Just gotta speak to my pacers now....

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Blacka Moor Fell Race

Great race last night 27th out of 200. I had the aftermath of a cold so legs felt empty all round which I reckon lost me 5-10 places. First time I've done this race and it really is a tough one.

Big climb, very steep descent through Heather, slow climb up to A road., long descent, another looooong climb followed by a climb of the steep heather descent earlier, long run down to finish.

Enjoyed it, but this was the first race where my legs didn't feel good. A few days off beckons !

Results here

Blacka Moor Fell Race Route Map

Blacka Moor Fell Race Profile
(steep descent 1.4miles, steep climb 4.6miles)

Edale Country Day Fell Race

Great race in Edale the weekend just gone - as it was the Country Day Lewis, Teresa and mum came along. Weather just about held out. Race went well despite a cold - I was around 20th at Grindslow Knoll but lost 10 places on the descent, so ended up 30th out of 200. Andy was 68th I think. Olivia Walwyn Bush put in a seriously impressive time finishing 1st woman quite a bit ahead of me.

2012 Results should be here

Edale Country Day Fell Race Route Map
Edale Country Day Fell Race Route Profile

Lewis (aka Batman) and the Sheep Shearing

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Fisherfield Round

Intrigued by John Fleetwoods recent Fisherfield Round, I thought I'd plot it on a map to see exactly where it goes.

This is the summary - pretty epic stuff ! 

60 miles, 25,500ft, 24hrs

Route goes CW from Dundonnell >> Inverlael >> Beinn Dearg >> Fannichs>> An Teallach

Friday, 8 June 2012

Tansley Fell Race

4.3mile, 7th out of 64

Tansley Hill Run Route : Clockwise
The weather over the last few days has been truly gruesome but - unlike Mountain Biking - running in the rain is actually just as pleasurable as running in the dry. I got there early and did a warm up half lap to loosen the legs. It was good to see Krish, Andy Rose and Craig along to make a 4 strong Belper Harriers turnout.

A small field meant I was quite near the front on the first few climbs.  This race with hindsight proved a good test as over the last 2 short races, I've teetered on the edge of going too fast but always kept it just in check. Last night I didn't keep it in check and pushed too hard early on suffering from burning legs then for the whole of the climb from miles 1.7 to 2.7 on the bottom gradient profile. As soon as it eased off (on the road) I eventually got things under control and started feeling strong again. I might have lost a place or so I think due to this error.

After 2 steep climbs at 1.6m and 2.5m,
all other climbs near the end are on road
A Ripley guy (must have been Dean Taylor who finished 2nd) came past me and as I'm normally good on the climbs, I thought I'd stick with him. Yes, I know now that was a cock up and I didn't know he was going to eventually finish 2nd!  I overcooked it big style so by the top of that climb, I felt like everything was difficult. I forgot what that horrible feeling was like! The deluge of rain turned the stream leading down to Lumsdale falls into a raging torrent, but it all added to the epic quality of fell running.

It took ages to get a good feeling back in my legs (over a mile) but eventually they started talking to me. I overtook James Furniss on the road and I could hear guys behind me, but kept pushing - holding them all off...

...Until the final 30 yds where - despite a full on sprint from both of us - Simon Flitter (Matlock AC) showed to be a better sprinter and just took me on the run in.

Well done to Krish for finishing about 50seconds behind me and to Andy Rose and Craig. We all finished in the Top 20 which was good.

A few beers in the Tavern after and I got a completely unexpected surprise - the first Vet40 trophy! Very pleased. Overall - good race, learnt a few things, nice drinks after and a trophy to add to the collection!

Results here

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Bamford Fell Race 8:32/mile 1000ft

10th out of 135. Happy !

Great race yesterday on a course I thought I knew!
Last year, Teresa entered as her first ever fell race - she did quite well and me and Lewis supported. Lewis and me walked up the descent path last year and I thought this was the ascent path too - oh no!

It actually turned out to start for the first 2 miles or so along a dead flat disused railway - I could have been in one of the clubs road races for alll I knew!

It was bad - I hate flat stuff and really felt like I was chugging. The climb up Parkin Clough soon came round though and almost immediately I started passing guys. Think I took 3 up here. It then 'levelled out' a bit (only in fell running terms would the next section be classed as level!) and thought I'd better sit behind Gavin Williams for a bit as I knew he is strong. After 30 secs, this was out the window and I made a break for the summit making about 20m on Gavin. He soon took me within about 400m of the summit and pulled away gradually. Again, I physically could not have moved even the slightest bit faster for any step of that descent. I don't know how those top guys do it !!!

I was very pleased to not be overtaken again on the descent. I'm getting used to at least a few coming past me on descents!

Hitting the disused railway again and I actually felt alive with legs working well. I probably wasn't, but I really felt like I was moving twice as fast as at the start of the race - the climb / descent actually waking my legs up. Nevertheless, I didn't look over my shoulder and powered to the finish feeling very very good.  A big cheer went up from the big crowd on the sheepdog trials day and I crossed the line in 10th which I was very pleased with.

I really couldn't have ran one second faster I don't think.. Like the last fell race on Totley Moor, there was not one moment where I wasn't red-lining it.
Spot where the railway track finishes then starts again ?!?

Pleased with my legs on only my second fell race in years.

Results are here

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Fastest Bob Graham Round Splits

Most people take 13 hours to do half of the BGR.
Billy Bland was nearly in the boozer then!
Billy Blands' record is insane.

They even run relays where some of the countries top fell racers compete in teams of 10 (5 legs run in pairs) and no team has even got near it, although some teams have beaten some of the individual leg times.

Mark Hartell got within an hour and he's been recognised as the top of the tree for around 10 years at ultra mountain running in the UK.

To top it all - when you look at Billy Blands' record above, you will note that he even had the cheek to take nearly a quarter of an hours rest at Honister.

That's just showing off !

Monday, 28 May 2012

Mid Wales Weekend - Sun tastic!

Great family weekend in Wales timed with the best few days weather we've had all year. As the weather was good, I thought I'd take a day off work and cycle down again.
Strava snip of my 153 mile ride there.
Teresa did the Torq Roughride last year too and I cycled there on the MTB which was 110miles from memory, but the weather was dreadful. This year I thought I'd take the road / cross bike as it's now set up to fit me (!). Perfect weather and a tailwind made the ride an absolute pleasure - not a care in the world all day and mostly traffic free on B roads. This year I didn't get lost in Shrewsbury but struggled towards the end with lack of calories on board !

Friday night was a chippy rendezvous in Kington and then head to the Campsite in Walton (3 miles away) so shower and open the vino. Tired.

Saturday Morning : The Campsite in Walton
Saturdays planned walk was short, but in this heat that's no bad thing (5 miles) and had a pub half way in Gladestry. Lovely walking over the Hergest Ridge as we followed signs for Teresa's race tomorrow.

Saturday Walk : Lewis scrambling on
rocks on way to the Hergest Ridge
We were very lucky Saturday night stumbling across one of the nicest pubs I've probably ever been to - The Harp Inn at Old Radnor. Nice Mackerel Pate to start, good real ale, can't remember the main course (sure it was great and no - nothing to do with the beer!) and views to die for watching the sun set.

Pity we had Lewis jumping all over us - never mind !

Sunday was the Rough Ride. T set off early, so Lewis and me sorted the van out and met Teresa at a point that she would cross on the way out and back. It was an amazingly quiet valley - perfect for Lewis to ride a few sheep trods on the way to intercept Teresa. Fantastic day for Lewis and me, finally picking Teresa up in Kington.

Sunday - campervan in distance next to Lake

Sunday - Lewis riding sheep trods whilst
heading out to intercept Teresa

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bob Graham Round...

Date confirmed as 14th July or 21st July if weather's bad.

Krish / Saul / Graham and Andy Basey in support looks like a minimal crew which is what I want.

Can't wait - wish it was tomorrow !

Totley Moor Fell Race

22nd out of 242 finishers
First fell race for years last night, and I've got to say it was awesome ! Thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
To help - it was amazing weather (first we've had for ages). So amazing that I was actually worried about cramping up on this 5 mile fellrace. Thankfully it didn't happen.

So, how did the race feel ? Well, I was a little uncertain what pace to set off at as I've not raced on the fell for years and years. I set off at fast, but below threshold. Not a bad idea as we'd not started climbing !

Going up the climb 3 guys came straight past me - fine I though - let em go. And true to my estimate, I picked them off within a few hundred yards. It's a steep tarmac climb that then turns into gravel then flattens onto a Bridleway. The climb I took at just below threshold / threshold with me finding it easy to notice when I'd added the extra 5% to push me firmly into the red zone at which point I'd ease off.

Once it flattened out I made up ground overtaking 2 and again once we climbed up the steep singletrack to the summit I overtook another guy or so. After the summit it was flattish over moors for a mile or so and again I was absolutely convinced that guys would come flying past me but they didn't. I was nearly maxing out mind !

Then came the bit I'd feared - the descent. It started off down a tiny path and within a few hundred yds 2 guys had come past. I think that perhaps another 2 came past on the rest of the descent - and considering the path was quite long, I was quite happy with only losing 4 places. What a great descent it was though - fast , long and ever so slightly out of control !

Another climb overtaking 2 to the top of the final descent. To my surprise I didn't lose any here and instead overtook another 2 on the road to the finish line, 22nd overall.

Very pleased really and yes I was red lining it most of the way round. I was going as fast as I possibly could on the descent and these guys still came past me (not that much faster though). I was really having to work hard to go downhill. I had nothing in reserve come the climb.

First short fell race in years and didn't turn out at all bad. 22nd out of 242 is top 10% which is generally as good as I'd ever had gotten 5 years ago. Clearly if the terrain had been rockier I'd have struggle more on the descent, but that'll no doubt come later in the year.

Thanks to Andy B for driving too.

Results here
Strava link here

Friday, 18 May 2012

Training Hours Feb-Mar-Apr 12

Training Hours last 3 months Run & Bike (inc commutes typically 12 hrs / mth)
I've never looked at my training load at all before. Now I'm on Strava, it's a handy place to store all the info.
My natural instinct is to create a spreadsheet, but I wasn't that worried about training effort really, so I thought that if it happens to pop out of Strava then all the better.

Note that this is hours, not miles and it includes running and cycling (and commuting on the bike which is 12hrs per month typically). Hours is more representative as miles would not differentiate between bike and run.

The reason I'm more interested this year is that I seem to be doing less training than ever, but feeling stronger than ever running and on the bike. I can't help but feel that I'm training way too little - but conversely finding Ultras very easy so I can't be doing too much wrong. I think if / when I switch to short fell races again then I may find them hard. One way to find out....

Think I'll try and find out how much other people train and seem how I compare. Will update soon...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Bob Graham Round Reccie, Legs 3-5

Note the amount of Cars parked for the Keswick / Barrow run!
4,400m & 45 miles, 13h

Saturday I awoke to clear blue skies and the forecast was good all day, so I knew that it was going to be a great backpack.

First shock though was that it was the Keswick / Barrow (40+) run and I couldn't even park anywhere on Dunmail Raise - couldn't believe the level of support and just how many were cooking fry ups !

Intention for the day was to take it steady checking lines and get around Gable then get the tent out and carry on to Keswick the next day. The first opportunity to check out lines came sooner than I thought at Calf Crag where before I knew it I was heading to High Raise and not Seargant Man. Oops !

View from Steel Fell
I started running with Ray and Ian (attempt on 15th June) from High Raise so it was fun having some company and picking up advice on lines. Lots of small climbs and some good running up there with time for a photo stop at Pike o stickle. The ascent to Rossett Pike was the first opportunity for a mistake - we took it spot on but visibility was perfect and in clag it could be tricky - need to make a note of the bearings...

Rossett was where we started to encounter rocks and from there we eyed up "Billy Blands rake" - it seemed quite obvious from below but once you're on it, it never seems so clear ! The climb to Bowfell passed a lot quicker than I'd feared, and it was here that I bumped into Duncan and his support crew. I soon found out that he was on sub20 schedule so I hooked up with them as I knew they were doing all the route (and more) that I intended.

The pace could best be described as "keen" but manageable and with a full pack on I didn't know how long I'd last but figured it ought to MTFU and at least try !

View from Pike o Stickle
It was on Scafell Pike that Duncan and me got chatting and I found out that he'd finished the Fellsman 2 weeks ago just in front of me - 13hours vs 13h15 for me.  Handy for knowing at the back of my mind that we must be similar in pace... Not often you get to see all the Scafell massif so now I know the lines - I've got to memorise them for when I'm in the clag as it's nearly always in cloud up there. I also got a good look at Broad Stand which didn't appear too bad, but Duncan is a good climber, so I'm not sure how that would convert to me !

Summitting Yewbarrow - photo courtesy of Bill Williamson
I missed Scafell out simply as they'd taken the rope up with them and if I'd done Foxes I'd have been well down. Leg 3 down, now for a 10 min break in the sunshine at Wasdale before leg 4.  A new support crew for Duncan now - Bart, Chad and Matt. Yewbarrow was bad, but there was a path all the way. What I had wiped from my memory however was how huge Red Pike, Pillar, Kirk fell and Gable all looked. This leg was a major undertaking in it's own right !!! We all ran out of water coming off Kirkfell and I've since found out there's a spring on the Wasdale side of Black Sail pass which may help next time.

Energy could best be described as "adequate, could do better" as the guys descended the rocky stuff a lot better than me (partly due to full pack, partly due to being crap at rocky descents) so I used up more energy keeping up with them.  The gable climbs and descent were both very rough - going up a scrambly gully then down through lots of rocks - lovely!

Buttermere about 7pm
Once you're past Gable on the Bob Graham it's in the bag really as the rocks convert into grass after that - a huge relief as it was my toes (again) hurting and not my legs. No pain killers taken though and I know I'd take them on the day. Lovely running again to Honister and a biggish crowd for Duncan - truly putting in a heroic performance now as he had not slowed at all.

No one was really clear on the schedule that we may hit and it wasn't for a while that we knew he'd be well under 20h and closer to 19h30. He only hit one tiny rough patch up Dale Head on the whole of the round, and after that was as spritely as ever ! The climbs never cease with Dale Head being big as was Robinson but as Robinson was the 42nd and final peak it didn't matter how big it was. The sun going down over Buttermere had to be seen to be believed - no time for a camera stop now sadly ! A 'keen' descent from a tree off Robinson meant my toes were well and truly mangled just in time for the 5 mile road run home. Nice.

Pace was then very slowly upped all the way back and thankfully my energy levels didn't dip below "good" so I found it comfortable. 19h 32 was Duncan's final time at the Moot Hall - very very impressive and I think I'd been running for just over 13 hours.

So - gotta be pleased with that - the stats...

45ish Miles, 14000ft of ascent and descent, 19h30 schedule and a full pack on, 13h+ on my feet.

In my mind that day was harder than the Fellsman 2 weeks ago - simply due to the pack I was carrying - so that probably makes it the hardest run I've ever done. Glad I felt good at the end of it, with virtually no lows all day. The difference here was that I had enough food - I didn't on the Fellsman.

Just gotta sit down with a map now a try and remember all of those damn short cuts I should have remembered !
BGR 3-5 : Starting far right, around Wasdale,
then heading north to Keswick

Monday, 30 April 2012

Fellsman 2012

61 miles, 4200m, 13h17m, 12th out of 500

Summary Report :
Very pleased, few downs but felt very good at the end. Extremely tough if you don't know what it's like! I did. 20 hypothermia cases lead to the event being stopped at 2am.

Full Report :
1. Believe the Hype
Even in ultra fell running circles, the Fellsman is regarded as one of the toughest races on the UK calendar. It's a race that you can't just plod through. It's too hard. You can't just wing it - some 30-50 mile races you can.

The 61 miles is misleading, as it is substantially harder than the Long Mynd Hike (50 miles) which I did around 5 years ago. I did that in 9hours, it took me 50% longer to do this which is only an extra 10 miles.

Often 50% of the entrants drop out. Some can't hack the 14,000ft of climbing mixed with the tussocky bog combined with running potentially into the night.

There's also the fact that it covers two of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks before the racing has even got going. Oh, and then it puts an even steeper one in straight after (Gregareth).

Starting Ingleton (left) then taking a big horsehoe round
to Threshfield (bottom right)
On a more positive note, it is a route which encompasses the high tops of much of Yorkshire grandest scenery - Upper Wharfedale and into Dentdale / Kingsdale. We saw the Lakes and the Howgills. It also boasts legendary checkpoint feed stops manned by local Scout groups.

2. The Race up to Dent (~20 miles)
If there was one thing in my head going into this race it was ... "gotta be very very fresh at Dent"

The Calderdale Hike gave me confidence going into this one and lets face it I needed it as I've not really trained over 15 miles in a week for many years !  4 years ago, I'd reccied all of the sections from Fleet Moss onwards with Saul and Graham (but never started then due to my tummy problems), so I knew the kind of terrain. With hindsight, that was invaluable as that section is hard, very hard.

On race day - amazingly after a week of non stop rain, we woke to blue skies.  Very strong winds, but blue skies.  Nice to sit next to Stuart Walker on the bus over - nice chap with a fair bit on his plate over the next few months !

After gathering on the sports field in Ingleton, it soon became apparent that the wind was from NE and it was bloody cold standing around. Still, the organisers promised us 100% that it would not rain, so that was fine then (!)

The pace up Ingleborough was fast, so I stuck with Chris Davies who I knew was a good climber. A group of 20-25 in front clearly fancied their chances with Jez Bragg and hence there was a big group around him. Near the top, I stopped to looked back - an awesome sight seeing 500 people (well, 475) lined up behind me snaking down the path with views all over Yorkshire under clear blue skies.

Ingleborough is steep and gets steeper. I knew that going over the summit would be 'bracing' as we were currently sheltered from the NE wind. Going onto the summit it was bad - very bad actually, eyes watering and struggling to see where I was treading on the rock strewn summit. No worse than any other race though, so down to the Hill Inn. Again, getting up the Whernside ridge into the wind was very hard work. I think I was in about 25th here and still running with Chris, although he was going faster than I'd have liked !
Yes, we had amazing views like this
ALL DAY !!! (and tussocks like this too sadly)

The next monster climb is Gregareth which is a beauty, getting steeper and steeper. 500m over to the trig control and off again into a 2.5 mile run uphill through bog into the wind - a feeling which I'd get to know very well by the end of the day. But what a run !!!! A lovely ridge run with views to the Lakes and Howgills. On another day a proper horsehoe ridge to explore, not today though. On the way up to Great Coum I knew that Chris was actually running faster than I was so I started to let him pull away.

Looming large in my mind was what I told myself on the start line "gotta be very very fresh at Dent". Dent wasn't now far away - just a 2 mile descent ending in a very rough stony track - Flinter Gill. Now, I felt alright - quite good infact, but was not bristling with energy. My worry was actually the amount of food I was carrying - or lack of it. I'd got

* 14 gels (2-3 per hour so 5-7 hours worth)
* 1 bag jelly babies (3 hours worth) so 8-10 hours worth in total.

I was actually gonna be out for 12-14 so why is it only now that I'd calculated I'd not got enough food on the run - looking back with hindsight it was due to the fact that my new shiny Haglofs rucsac (thanks Pete) could fit ;

* 14 gels
* 1 bag jelly babies

in the well sized waist pockets. I'd also started to notice that all the feed stops were stocking stuff which had wheat in them - something I can eat, but which does give me an upset do I get enough food on board...surely some would stock sweets ???

3. The race after Dent

The Dent checkpoint -
a bit busier than I saw it.
No checkpoints that I saw stocked sweets. Not good news, but some stocked sultanas so I topped up on them but it wasn't enough.

Heading up to Blea Moor with Kev Perry, running was only just about doable when it flattened out. I still pulled away from Kev so I knew he must have been suffering - I think Chris had pulled both of us along slightly too fast on the previous section into Dent.

One thing for it - knock a gel back even though I'd just troughed a load of food at Dent 20 mins ago. The climb to Blea Moor was bad - yes, this was a bonk coming on as I officially reached the first low of the race. Heading up to the summit I was almost seeing stars. Schoolboy stuff really.

Right - neck another gel ! Sadly my water bottle was also low and gels don't really work fully without water. The summit was a bit of a blur so I headed off with Kev 50-100m in front. He pulled away rapidly now, but I knew I had to let him go. Next problem - cramps as I climbed over a fence. I'd not had cramp for years ! Down through tussocks to the woods and finally I lose sight of Kev in front and no one behind so I actually stop to fill my water bottle up from a stream. Now that's exactly what I would have done if I'd been training and not racing. And with hindsight it was exactly the right thing to do - step aside from the race for 2 mins and gain much more time over the rest of the race.

I was pleased to see the Stonehouse checkpoint and I thought I'd try Digestive biscuits to see how they faired on the tummy. Half an hour later and no problems, so I necked two more.

Checkpoint at Dodd Fell, 30ish miles in
You can't see the very strong wind here
This was the turning point in the race for me - well, the top of the never ending Arten Gill was. Energy levels eventually got back to normal and even though Kev Perry had now got 500m on me by Gt Knoutberry, I felt under control. Tussocks and bog seemed easy again - long climbs didn't. I then ran with another guy - Dave until Snaizeholme where he seemed to be struggling, so I started to run with Mark who looked very strong, both of us just behind Simon (Deakin). Coming off Dodd fell Simon went one way and Mark the other - oh no ! I went with Simon, no idea why but it was a good move.

He'd done it a few times before so we followed his normal route. It was absolutely awesome (see track below). We ran 90% of the section from Fleet Moss to Middle Tongue - if not 95%. I was so impressed. Approaching Middle Tongue it was clear that Simon was feeling better than me so I let him go. It was at this point that we overtook Chris who must have been having a bad time as I thought he'd be 30 mins+ in front by now. By Hell Gap, Simon and me had passed about 5+ runners, with Middle Tongue to Hell Gap being 100% runnable - keeping low.

I knew all of the section ahead now and apart from 2 monster climbs, that was it - just energy levels to maintain. Again, I was doing the maths and calculating gels + jelly babies and working out if I had enough hours food left. I did and as soon as I knew that my confidence sky rocketed. God was I pleased ! Cray was a joy - bathed in evening sunshine and a bevvy of smiley faces. Sorry about eating the fruit cocktail out of the saucepan guys - I was pretty focused as I knew it was effectively sugar in syrup - dreamy!
Fleet Moss Summary - we made up at least 5-10 places
with this route - thanks Simon !

I ran with Mark now from here to Park Rash where we got grouped with Simon, Kev and another guy who was doing it for the first time like me. We were so lucky with the grouping as we had no weak members in our 5some. The cold at Park Rash was very bad and the sun hadn't even gone down yet. It was good to get moving up through Gt Whernside and through the snow.

The final section was dispatched comfortably with those beacons being so welcome through the final fields. Nice to see we all held something back for the final sprint (yes, another sprint finish!) to the school - well done to Simon and Mark - cracking pace guys !

4. The Apres Race
It turns out that the race had to be pulled at 2am with 20odd cases of Hyperthermia. The decision was seemingly made at Fleet Moss. Reading around now, lots of people were suffering at all control points with the marshalls making a veyr good decision. We were cold and we were moving pretty fast at dusk. Hats go off to those finishing after us.

Looking back now, I'm very pleased. 13h20 with a headwind for most of it was good and stands me in good stead for sub 13 next year. Nice to have a beer with the 'big guys' at the end too - never thought I'd be in that elusive club !

Results here
Some great shots of the Fellsman here on Nick Ham's blog
Fellsman gpx here (I didn't start it until half way up Ingleborough!)