Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Saul, Bob, Graham : 45 miles, 4400m, 16 hours!

About 5am, Blencathra. Getting the smiling out the way whilst they still can!

Saul had been planning this religiously for months. And months. Probably years knowing him.

Saul and Graham have been my main running partners over the last 5 years. Most of my epics over the years have had one or both of these guys at the middle of them. We've done Knoydart, we've done Elite Mountain Marathons. We've done many, many freezing cold winter crossings of Kinder Scout and we've done my Bob Graham. We're all there or thereabouts in our ability too (well, if Graham's having an off day!) so I wasn't going to miss out on this one hence we'd had this in the family diary for months too firmly inked in.

I kinda wished that Saul, Graham and me had all done our BG's at the same time (last year) but the practicalities of that are always gonna be hard and I just couldn't wait. Anyway, the more excuses for trips to the lakes, the better! Original plan from about Jan onwards was for Saul and Graham to both do their BG's on the same day, but with work commitments for Graham taking a recent upturn then he's had to shelve his running training. So much so that his reccie with Saul a fortnight ago saw him struggling to get round even just leg 1.

Nevertheless, Graham wasn't going to miss out on helping Saul all he could so we assembled a small team of around 4-8 of us and headed up Saturday ready for the off at 3am Sunday. I took over at Dunmail as Saul's sole support runner which was fine - I knew the route well and looked forward to Saul's better line than mine to Bowfell and off it plus the West Wall Traverse to Scafell. Well, I was meant to be sole support but Graham was enjoying the perfect weather that much and his legs felt not too shabby so he thought he'd get to Wasdale too and see how things were going. I think it was about 7 hours to Dunmail so it wasn't slow and I told Saul there and then that I thought he'd gone off to fast and had better take care. 

The climb up Steel Fell saw Saul at a low point far sooner than I'd hoped. Positive words, patience and me taking his bumbag from him saw him getting back on track by Seargent Man. This legs a killer though, so Graham and me were slightly concerned at the enormity of what lat ahead and how Saul was still not talking utter drivel as per usual. Verbal diarrhoea was back on the cards by Thurnacar Knott which was a relief for Graham and me as much as it was for Saul I'm sure !

Lines were all really good through to Scafell Pike which was covered in tourists tottering around on the boulder fields whilst we skipped past. I really enjoyed Lords Rake which was still deep in snow and all new to me. We thought the snow made it easier than the scree would have been and soon popped out about 200m from the summit of Scafell. Again, the descent line was far better than mine last year, but more importantly felt way easier on the feet despite me having a bad blister this time - I remember mine being very painful last September.

Wasdale was a pleasure. A slow one. It was great meeting Andy and Trev in the late afternoon sunshine with I think 2-3 stoves on the go and a food choice which virtually brought tears to my eyes! Saul and Graham relished a proper top up on reserves though and spent 20+ minutes drinking, slurping and chewing through masses and masses of grub.

Graham's legs were still functioning and hence it was looking more now like a double Bob Graham attempt. Yet again, the climb out of the road saw Saul at another very low point. Not the ideal time either - possibly the hardest climb on the whole round : Yewbarrow. He got it together again though just before the summit and from then on did very well throughout leg 4. By the time we'd gotten past Gable, the sun was low and the wind had picked up substantially. I knew Saul struggled with cold hands so I lent him my windproof gloves knowing that when he arrived at Honister he'd need to focus on food and not warming his hands up.

Anyway, I'd legged it down to Honister so they could get the stoves on. Graham got there 5 mins later but we still couldn't see Saul. It turned out he'd slid on his arse into a grassy gully and just fell asleep there! Semi counscious he made it to the car but we knew he was in a bad way when he arrived, struggling to stand up straight. We forced hot food down him and I told him to grab a quick 10 mins kip in the car as sitting outside was absolutely freezing by now.
Graham still managing a smile at Honister, shortly before realising it was absolutely
bloody freezing once you'd stopped running! 
Trev set off with Saul up Dale Head and Graham and me followed after he'd got his top to toe windproofs on. Thankfully, Saul had picked up once again and peaks 40,41 and 42 were despatched with relative ease - passing the "Ian Hays Slabs of Death" on the descent from the final peak to the road. Saul was now proper struggling with pain in his feet and hence descents and flats were hard to run - climbs he seemed to manage! After about 22hours and 45 mins for them (16 hours for me!) we arrived back at Keswick Moot Hall with a double Bob Graham Belper Harriers completion on our hands - Saul showing enormous personal determination to put his body through complete turmoil several times and Graham playing it relatively cool not having hardly run in the last few months! Both impressive but in their own ways.

All this on top of a weekend that saw Krish attempt a Skye Cuillin traverse (aborted due to weather) and Ian complete his London to Brighton run too.

Great training for me though, carrying lots of food and water and legs feeling comfortable all the way round. Pleased, perhaps even wetting my appetite again !

Saul's write up here
Saul, me and Graham on Pike o Stickle, Langdales

"The full works please" : At Wasdale - Thanks to Andy Rose
Skirting Yewbarrow Sunday teatime, Red Pike looming in front

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Masson Hill Fell Race

Route goes clockwise from the school, bottom right
Another local fell race I'd not tried and they don't get much more local than this - 20 mins drive to the start in Matlock Bath with Andy B giving me a lift. Ed and Sean Ollier also along from the club. New route this year which was slightly longer apparently.
I'd got a few races under my belt now this year so was confident that if Sunday's Cat n Fiddle ride was out of my legs, then I'd run ok.

Great route - straight up (really steep start), then out onto fields still climbing all the way to the trig, then down, up, down, down, down. Lovely running in light drizzle with views over to Birchover from the summit and beautiful running through the woods with Bluebells and wild garlic. 

I was 7th and I think Ed was 3rd out of about 70, so top 10%. I went off too fast up the steep start and not surprisingly was then clinging on for grim death all the way to the trigpoint! On a positive note though, I felt strong at the finish and made around 50metres up in the last half mile. Given another climb I'd have caught Ed (erm, maybe!). Really enjoyed the race - such a hard beautiful white peak route.

Results here.
3rd, 7th, 12th and 16th for Belper Harriers

Thursday, 16 May 2013

BDL Summer League Race, Ilkeston 5:58/mile

First BDL in around 2 years.

The last one I did was terrible - went off too fast and just got slower and slower. Despite it raining last night, I really enjoyed the fast pace even though my legs (calves) are hurting loads now. I finished in 36th place (out of 240, so top 15%) which is lower than I used to finish (mid 20s) so I'm not sure if the other clubs have got faster or I've got slower. I'm sure it's the former - couldn't possibly be the latter!

Got an average pace of 5:58min / mile. I don't know much about pace, but I do know that's the fastest I've done on Strava - mainly because all my runs are normally offroad over hills. Don't think I could have kept that up for much longer though...

Results spreadsheet here
Strava link here

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cressbrook Crawl Fell Race

I'd not done this one before and seeing as Teresa was away from Sat afternoon onwards (in Swaledale) then I thought I'd sneak this one in whilst I could. Thankfully, Sean fancied it too so kindly gave me and official photographer for the day - Ed - a lift. Parking at the converted mill at the bottom, Sean and I warmed up much quicker than we thought with the very steep road climb to the Cressbrook club near the top of the hill.
Free Beer - what more excuse do you need to do a Fell Race ??
The race looked good - a big climb out of Millers Dale, plus lots of smaller climbs with no really rough stuff. It was a lovely club where registration was held - I think it could entice me to live there ! - and a nice relaxed atmosphere with around 100 runners on the start line. We were warned of overkeen cattle and horses enroute and then off we went, up the road then fast down to Millers Dale.

After last Tuesdays Burbage and a Chaingang on Thursday the lungs were getting used to this strange feeling of hard work. It still wasn't easy though - especially when you try and keep up with the guys in front who always just keep pulling away !
Starting outside the Phonebox (top right) going anticlockwise

The drop down through Brushfield to Monsal Dale was limestone and it had just started raining, so I took it a little steady - soon to hear fell shoes chasing me down from behind. The next section round to the Monsal Trail was far longer than I thought and just kept on going - gradually up hill!

Gradually, the guy in front got further and further away, but thankfully so did the guy behind. I finished 8th out of 101 finishers in 50 mins, so Top 8%. That free pint didn't touch the sides - and it was nice to help Sean out with his too as he was driving. Great race, some flat bits in the middle, but enough off road to keep the interest and great scenery to boot.

Write up and results here

Route Profile showing the long (hard) flatish stretch in the middle

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Burbage Skyline Fell Race

Brilliant race last night - enjoyed it so much. 

Thats what 356 runners setting off looks like
The Burbage Skyline is a race I've always wanted to do, known the course, but have never done. Well, this year it fell right, so 5 of us from Belper Harriers turned out on this balmy spring / summer evening to tackle what the area between Fox House / Higgar Tor and Upper Burbage Bridge could throw at us.

356 runners turned up so the start was a little frantic - I didn't get a good start by any standards, but soon got moving. As it was my first 'non Ultra' fell race of the year, the hard climbs certainly felt tough, but as ever the descents hurt more as I struggle to keep up with guys, hence I have to push harder to simply not lose places.

51st I think overall, so yes I could have done a lot better, but this is just about getting out there and racing when I'm not in tip top shape and just enjoying it. I certainly did that !
Clockwise direction from bottom, down to the stream to start off

2013 Results, 51st out of 356. Not bad for first race of the year !