Monday, 15 September 2014

Lake District Mountain Trial, 2014 : Patterdale

I've had a bit more of a normal year this year for Fell Running - lots of local races and even some runs and races in the Lakes including Borrowdale last month. To complete the set, I thought it was about time I entered another Mountain Trial.  I've previously entered in 2005 (Tilberthwaite), 2006 (Seathwaite & Borrowdale) and last year with Krish but it was cancelled due to the torrential rain and winds when marshalls couldn't even make it to the checkpoints themselves. 

These really are classic events and are badged up as a "severe test of fellrunners’ mountaineering ability and staminaand that "competitors are required to traverse difficult and often dangerous terrain, rapidly but safely. Navigational skills and route choice have a direct bearing on each competitor’s safety".  There's 3 courses on offer (S/M/L) with pretty keen cutoff times on each. As an added bonus is it's mid September every year which is one of my favourite times of the year to race and visit the lakes too.

Again, minor niggles leading up the race (right hamstring, left achilles and right quad now) were quickly forgotten when I'd got my number on and it got to my start time (9:40). I'd opted to run with vest top and bumbag this time, so yes - I looked like a proper fell runner! We were sent off for 500m up the road and then into a field where we were given the map at the bottom of St Sunday Crag. I'll break down route choices for each with thoughts at the time and hindsight now I've seen where others went...

ROUTEGADGET NOTE : Before reading the details of each control below, I'd recommend you familiarise yourself with Routegadget (link here) as I refer to it a lot. This is a fantastic tool that allows runners on orienteering events to manually or via GPS to plot their routes on the course map to show which way they went. It then applies some clever stuff to allow you to 'replay' runners against each other showing where time was gained / lost. You can also select "Mass Start" or "Real Time" and choose one leg, the whole route or replay 'by each control'. You will waste hours!!
The Map without routes marked.

Start to CP1 : My route wasn't too bad although at the time I felt like I went too high as several runners were zooming along under me closer to the valley bottom, whilst I was tottering on scree high up on the slopes! Looking at route gadget (here) most runners DID go lower, with Steve Birkinshaw heading round to the East of Birks
CP1 to CP2 : Straightforward as there was a large wall marked extra clearly on our maps as handed out which is not shown on the map below. CP2 was at the "Hole in the Wall", right on the wall funnily enough! It felt a good route as it was mostly runnable on the down section before the long and very steep climb to the control. Looking at other routes on routegadget (here) again shows that a low of runners took a more direct climb up from CP1 to Deepdale Hause. No reason why I didn't - apart from there was someone in front so it was easier to follow them!

CP2 to CP3 : I felt like I'd run this reasonably well, but I'd overcooked the detour round Hartside going too far east and meeting the wall before I knew it! I think the optimal route was heading north after Wintergrove Gill (which I remember crossing). Truth be told - it was the first good running on a path I'd had for hours so I just got carries away and hey - there was people in front again to follow! I think had I been on my own and not seen other runners around me, I've had gone over Hartside then followed the stream down from the summit to the control at the waterfall via Coegill Beck. See my route on the bottom map to see just how carried away I got with my running!

CP3 to CP4 : Big cock up it seems. At the time as I was in thick clag for most of it and it seemed ok apart from a stupid detour just before the summit of Stybarrow. What I didn't spot was the more direct route most others followed heading WNW over Randerside via Lurge Gill.  As it turns out my leg was 5 miles. Pretty hard going too as the climb was not runnable, the contouring to Watsons Dodd was runnable but only just and I was getting too tired. 5 mile though - I've done many fell races longer than that this year !
3 to 4 : I went over Hart Side and Stybarrow Dodd. Most went west up Lurge Gill / Great Dodd. Bugger

CP4 to CP5 : Straightforward. Hard running up tussocks, but I overtook about 5 runners here.

CP5 to CP6 : Straightforward. I headed further south than others here as I could see the good path down the valley marked on the map and it had my name firmly marked on it!!

CP6 to CP7 : Again, slight cock up but I must get the "longest route round Great Dodd" award! At the time it didn't feel too bad a route choice (apart from Gt Dodd) but I was tired and my feet were tired and my legs didn't really want to descend over more tussocks path the Ski Tow from Sticks Pass but I made slow work of it and got the eventually. I think I made the marshalls at CP7 laff when I said "guys, I really hope that you're as glad to see me as I am to see you lot". Yes, proper tired and achy now.

CP7 to CP8 : Felt weird at the time as I saw no other runners until just before the tarn. Lots of paths too just before the tarn so quite a bit of map checking to a control which looked so easy on the map but just dragged on and on.
Overall, I think I was 34th out of 75 starters and was only 30 mins or so from the cutoff at many controls. It was great to say hello to Joss out on the route and gobsmacking to see Rhys and Hector zoom past me on the way up to the hole in the wall. Much gratitude to all marshalls - especially the old guy at CP4 who just had his sheepdog for company - oh, and "one of the best views you could ever wish for" as I told him.

Had my right quad not been niggling (from last week's exterminator) I'd have been running very well at the end, but as it happened climbs and lifting my right leg was painful. Ran out of food, but the fine post race food soon sorted that out - including cakes with a dollop of whipped cream on top !
Where the 9,000ft of Climb came from!
Route gadget here
Results here

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Totley Exterminator, 16.6mile, 3,100ft

This has been on my radar ever since I first heard of it earlier in the summer - a longish race over familiar terrain and it's classed as an "AL" Fell race too. What's not to like ! Oh, and it's not the Edale Skyline...

I don't know how, but I managed to convince Marcus to turn up to this one. Although he's not raced for years, he's often pretty fit and he's in training for HP40 and Karl is away - so an ideal time for him to sneak in additional race miles while he's not around.

Along with Chris and Andy, the four of us headed up in Chris's car on what looked like a scorcher of a day.  Andy Parkin was along too and seeing as he beat me at the rover, I'd have a good pacemaker at least. After the pain of the Rugby Rover before my holidays, I was keen to right those wrongs and have a decent race before the Lake District Mountain Trial next weekend.

Major climbs are ; Up to Totley Trig, Up Blacka all the way past Burbage to Higgar, over Stanage, out of Hathersage chuch and up out of Padley through Longshaw to Totley Trig again.
Last Tuesday's club run (pub special through Sweetcorn fields) didn't go well - my left achilles was hurting (not niggling) and my right hamstring was also niggling as much as it's ever done. So again, this would be a good yardstick to see whether I should even head up to the Lakes next weekend.

Chris, Me, Andy and Marcus enjoying the fantastic post race spread. I'd have paid £7 for just that !
I thought I'd try and set off slower than I did on the rover and the plan seemed to work well. On this race, the first two climbs and up to Higgar is when the majority of the climbing is done - after that it's pretty much plain sailing. So, by Higgar I was running comfortably but ahead of Andy P still. From then on I seemed to slowly pick off runners in front which is always a good thing, well all the way until the final descent where I was overtaken by the 3 guys I was with - my left big toe was telling me to slow up on that final toe bashing, so I took it steady. Finishing in 2h36 and 22nd place felt about right (200ish running)
3 cock ups on route to remember for next year ;
* Millstone Edge - don't follow other's guidance - stick to the old railway track
* Padley - up from the pumphouse, then on and down looking out for path on right over river.
* Totley Moor - follow track, don't go through heather again !!!

Reckon I lost 5 mins on those, so 2h30 target next year then?
A great race with an even better spread laid on post race.

Results here
Strava here

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Belper Rugby Rover

The Rugby Rover is a classic local race. It's offroad and it's hilly which is why it has often been on my shortlist. Despite me regularly training on this route, I've only raced it once before back in 2010 where I'd run it in a reasonable time of 2:17. Having a previous time on a race can be a good thing and a bad thing - good in that you've got a benchmark and bad in that you've got a benchmark !
Rugby Rover Route Map, clockwise
Prep wasn't ideal this year - in fact far from it. My drinking game induced hamstring injury of Jan 14 is getting worse and my left heel has been just niggling for a month or so now but not enough to stop me entering. Plus, I was on holiday for a week or so after this so it would be good to go off with a hardish race in my legs.

Race day was perfect conditions and Chris and Andy were down too along with many other regulars from the club - inc Shaun and Jack.
Rugby Rover Route Profile
Now although this race is "hilly and offroad" it's not until you've got to the highest point of the race that you suddenly realise "it's not that hilly after all and is really runnable". Can you see where this write ups going ???

Yes, the pace seems to get faster every year and in reality it is really a trail race, not a fell race so it was no surprise to see the fast guys leaving me for dead on any flat sections. I really didn't feel able to push off with my heel either so I just thought it best to settle into the "fast but enjoyable" pace which later turned into "trying to be fast but is probably quite slow" pace. The latter half of the race saw my niggles get worse and so on the run in down Wyver Lane people were bombing past me who I'd overtook several miles before!

Overall, it was an enjoyable blast with generally great weather (although more headwind than seemed reasonable!) and fine views but I really died after the high point of the race at Alport Heights. My time was 5 mins slower than 4 years ago (2h22 vs 2h17) so can't be that bad.

Nice to see Saul, Ian and Tom out taking photo's and mum came to cheer me on at the finish line too.

Full Results here
Strava link here