Monday, 14 December 2015

Longstone Moor Orienteering, Blue 15th/40

Great event yesterday above Monsal Head - with Lewis doing the Yellow course (29mins) and me the blue - along with Dan taking his son Will on the Green and seemingly getting very lost!

New area for me - some very tricky micronavigation as most of the controls were in depressions that were so deep you could not see the control if you were more than 5m away from it - this was certainly the case for Control 12 - I was stood right next to it it seems but failed to spot it. Lost 5 mins
Results here
15th out of 40ish.
Oh - we love Orienteering!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Roaches Fell Race

Roaches race map (from MowCopRunners website)
I've done this race twice before (2008, 2012)and it's always a hard early winter fell race with 5 big climbs throughout the first and second halves of a race. This and it being 'out n back' (Tittesworth to Shutlingsloe n back) make it an unusual format.

Weather threatened to go bad all day, but never quite managed it.

I've not done much running apart from Peak Raid last weekend with Nathan, so was unsure as to fitness. Not cycled that much either !

First half was a struggle, jelly babies soon sorted that and I had a better second half - I think I overtook about 4 on the second half, but still felt like I wasn't running that well and should have been 5-7 places higher.

Nevertheless, a great local race and certainly still one of my faves.

19th out of 148, so top 13%
Results are here
Strava flyby here
Strava here
Roaches 2012 write up here (10th out of 134)
Roaches 2008 results here (2:26:57)
Roaches Fell Race route profile.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Peak Raid 3h. Round 2, Glossop & Bleaklow, Joint 2nd

It's been a while since I've done a Mini MM Nav event, so a gap in the diary was very quickly filled with this great looking event. It looked perfect for me as it ;

* Was in Winter, so conditions could be bad (ie great running!)
* Had a top quality map (as it's organised by the guys behind Peel Land Surveys) and
* The course goes over high level open access land, so running would be hard.

Nathan and Chris from the club had expressed an interest in getting into Nav style events, so Nathan and me decided to head up for this and enter as a pair so that he could get an insight into tactics and nav practice.
Peak Raid 3h, Round 2 Map - All controls shown with our choice highlighted
As it happened, the day turned out to be the warmest ever recorded in November and so navigation was never really a problem, although bearings were taken on several controls (especially 14 to the all important 15 which was 70 pts).

After we got the map, we headed straight off - making route choice whilst running up the road. We wanted to have lots of route choice at the end (to fine tune the time at the end as every minute back loses 50pts!) so we decided to leave the top left of the map to the end where we could add on or remove controls as time permitted.

Small Nav errors at 11 (wrong stream!) and 8 (overshot the stream junction) and 3 (the quarry was a nightmare!) lost us about 10 minutes all in which with hindsight would have been enough for us to add on control 5 which was 20 points.

All in all - a great day out - challenging course, hard running, great views, a great results, good nav practice and a great intro for Nathan. Great fun!

Joint 2nd overall (behind Duncan Harris of UK Ultra fame)
Results here
Explorer Events website here

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Bikepacking MicroAdventure - Lake District 2 dayer, 13,000ft 95 miles

Inspired by our Summer Bikepack Microadventure through mid Wales, Dave and me vowed to fit another in before the end of the year. There were 3 destinations I had in mind ;

* Mid Wales again - lots still to explore, riding was good but not techy and not much singletrack
* Yorkshire Dales - Loads of multi valley bridleways & tracks giving endless options
* Lakes - Our favourite riding trails. Plus lots of pubs and tea shops!
The 95 mile 2 day Lake District Bikepack Route
Day  1: Staveley, Jenkins Crag, Arnside, Claife Heights, Grizedale, Blawith Fells, Duddon Bridge, Dunnerdale
Day 2: Stephenson Ground, Walna Scar, Tilberthwaite, Blea Tarn, Gt Langdale, Loughrigg, Jenkins Crag, Garburn Pass
I think the pubs and tea shops sealed the deal plus its our favourite Mountain Biking area - trails are anything from ribbons of singletrack going for miles through remote scenery, to techy 4x4 tracks to trailcentre-esque forest routes.

So, armed with trepidation, 2 bikes, 2 seatpacks, 2 handlebar bags and a route which looked guaranteed to offer a challenge and great riding in equal measure - we headed to the start of our ride - Staveley and therefore the Eagle & Child Inn. I've given a bit more detail on how we managed to pack so light down the bottom of this post but in a word - Alpkit. Awesome UK products which perform well and don't break the bank.

The weather as we set off was settled and cool but not cold on the way to our Camp1 overnight spot just above Staveley. We just needed to get into the open fells tonight as the next two days was when the riding started properly.
This is the view we had on Saturday morning - what a great start to the weekend ! 
The only thing with packing so light is that getting all the stuff you need back into two small bike bags is quite an intimidating task - let alone battling with the bike to get them attached ! After a good gear faff and a healthy helping of porridge, honey and fixing Dave's slow puncture we set headed off to our target destination : Dunnerdale, near Caw.

Throughout Day1 we would pass through Troutbeck, Ambleside, Outgate and Grizedale for lunch then Blawith, Broughton Mills, Duddon Bridge, Ulpha and then to camp high on the fells. The riding was fantastic throughout - it was mostly offroad but had a great mix of rubbly paths, rocky singletrack ribbons and easy riding tracks. We hardly saw anyone until our first stop in Grizedale cafe.

It was wonderful riding, with the only issue being a lack of water. In all the years I've been going to the Lake District, I'd never seen the streams like this - they were non existent apart from the major ones (which were often lower down and therefore not ideal for topping up water bottles from). We had to pay a visit to some National Trust accommodation to get topped up as I was starting to get headaches.
Day1 : CW from Top Left : Black Fell, Claife Heights, Parkamoor1, Parkamoor2, Woodland Fell, Thwaites Fell
One of my favourite trails of the day was the Three Witches in Grizedale - normally done in descent, but we did it as a pretty hard climb - still very good fun and basically all rideable. Progress was good until we stumbled upon some rarely used Bridleways near Boad Hole, Duddon Bridge - in fact, the OS map showed a BW which no longer exists on the ground. A quick diversion soon found us pushing the bikes towards Thwaites fell for the final leg over to our camp whilst the sun was giving a lovely glow whilst starting to set.

Our Overnight Camp
Part of the reason for choosing this area as an overnight camp is the proximity of The Blacksmiths Arms - another fantastic Lakes pub which just oozes atmosphere whilst offering great beer (and food, although we managed on Noodles!).
Bikepack Day 2 : Lovely riding towards White Pike - just before Walna Scar, Coniston
Day 2 was looking slightly shorter on the map than day 1 - about 40 miles today. We started off with the path round Stephenson Ground and Jackson Ground - another of my favourites - before starting the climb up to Walna Scar and popping out on the high fells as you can see above.

We'd not ridden the Walna Scar descent for many years and it's now a ride of two halves - top half - nice n rubbly and techy - bottom half - sanitised. Disappointing really but I'm sure over time it will develop some character. A quick food stop in Coniston Lake side cafe before heading out through Tilberthwaite, Little Langdale, Blea Tarn and another sanitised track through Great Langdale - again this used to be a lovely bridleway to ride but is now almost wheelchair friendly.
Bikepack Day 2 : Blea Tarn
Although Day 2 was slightly shorter, the full packs and rubbly trails were starting to take the freshness out of both of our legs - that and the 13,000ft of climbing ! The last 2 trails were Jenkins Crag (push) and Garburn - the latter being more technical riding than either of us had found before on this trail.

To top the weekend off, we got back to Staveley around 515, just in time to find the local Artisan Bakery wanting to get rid of out of date sausage rolls and posh cobs - they didn't last long!

A great weekend of hard riding on perfect trails, with great pub and cafe stops. Just what a biking weekend should be.

As I mentioned above the lightweight equipment Alpkit offers has opened up new avenues of lightness and comfort for backpacking and bikepacking. None of the equpment is expensive either, plus they are based near Eastwood, 8 miles away.

Tent : Alpkit Ordos 2. Just over 1kg, spacious 2 man. Best backpacking tent I've ever used
Sleeping Bag : PHD Minimus, 500g
Thermarest : Alpkit Numo 450g - Again, the best packpacking option I've ever used. Folds flat
Down Jacket : PHD Minimus Pullover, 300g
Waterproof Jacket : Haglofs LIM Ultimate 240g
Lighting : Exposure Joystick, just awesome!

Seat Pack : Alpkit Airlok 13l Tapered
Handlebar Pack : Airlok Extra 13l
Velcro straps : Pair, long

Camp Stuff : Packpillow, Foil Groundsheet (reflects more heat than the footprint), Earplugs (tent can get flappy), cheapy 500ml Pan with lid which fits the smallest gas cylinder and stove inside it, Pan stability feet, wet wipes, contact lenses, spork, stove foil windshield

Overnight Clothes : LS Merino Top, Leggings, Socks, Tights, Buff, Gloves
Evening Meal : Posh cupasoup / Posh Packet Cous Cous / Custard & Mars Bars
Breakfast : Porridge with added sugar / honey pre bagged
Bike Stuff : Multitool, Tubes, Pump, Oil, Chain links, cable ties
Other : Camera, Tripod, Spare Battery, Phone in Ortlieb Case with Battery power pack

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Notts Derby Cyclocross, Shipley Park

No photo's from this one sadly so we've got the course map (from Strava)

Great race - very very fast and dry - 29th out of 120ish I think. Suited me really. Mum and Apps came down to watch Lewis in the under 12s race - I think he was 23rd out of 77 not bad as he's 8.

Cyclomonster from Spondon were down the weekend - sadly they had some lovely, lovely shiny cross bikes with them - and there was me - I didn't even need a new bike! Always the way tho...

Results here
Strava link here

Orienteering, Shirebrook Wood

Really enjoyed my first orienteering of the season - cycled there on the MTB too as it was such nice weather. Went for blue course and thankfully I didn't get lost otherwise I'd have got home too late!

Really enjoyed the mix of thick woodland, some wilder grassy sections and then the fast tracks too. Reminded me of some KIMM navigation from the Scottish Borders, which is high praise indeed !

3rd on the blue course, pleased !

Results here

Wingerworth Wobble Fell Race, 5th/80

Always try and get along to this low key local fell race - a really enjoyable shortish hilly course which goes round some lovely woodland and paths around Wingerworth, nr Chesterfield.
Wingerworth Wobble Route : Clockwise
I'd not really run much but had been biking quite a bit, so my running is normally ok when I do that. Luckily, this was the case - I knocked about 2 mins off last year's time despite feeling sluggish in the legs.

Pity this viewpoint doesn't quite capture how steep this final hill feels !
Strava link here
Results here

Monday, 21 September 2015

Lewis's First 50 mile ride - Cycle Derby Sportive, 80km 4,300ft

Yesterday I was a very proud dad. 

Lewis and me did the Cycle Derby 80km Sportive around the Peak District.  He's only 8 bless him but he's pretty strong - making light work of a lot of the climbs. And there were a lot of climbs as you can see on the route profile below. 

Well done Lewis - it was a pleasure riding with you yesterday and I hope the pizza was as good as you hoped !! Strava link here

Notts Derby Cyclocross, Alfreton Park

My first cross race of the season. I do love these early season races - so fast and frantic!
Alfreton Park is always a favourite of mine with two woodland sections, long climbs, swoopy descents and many twists and turns!

This year's course didn't disappoint - although a slow front puncture from lap 5 eventually took me out of the race in lap 6. Corners were starting to all get very sketchy and eventually I pulled over and found out why

Photo Courtesy of Steve M on flickr

Photo Courtesy of Steve M on flickr
Results for my race here
Results from Lewis's under 12's race here (he's currently 8)
Strava here

Ultra Tour of Matlock Bath : 4,600ft, 29 Miles - Painful !

I've not written this one up yet despite it being over a month ago. Couple of reasons - firstly, I did this run straight before we went off down to Devon for a week's hols and secondly - it felt the hardest out of the 4 or 5 times I've done it!!! It's always a hard route - even if I'm running well, but I put this attempts 'struggles' down to two things with hindsight. OK - three !

* New shoes. Not normally a problem and on the day and in the days after I barely thought twice about the shoes being an issue, but since i've been running with the club again on Tuesday's in September in my new shoes, I've been getting quite bad hamstring tightness. Just like I felt on this UTMB but on the day I put it down to 'lack of training'.

* Lack of training : I've not done that many runs over 25 miles this year and so this must have been a factor. However to counter this I was feeling great on the bike and I'd been short fell racing over the summer every week so this wouldn't be a big issue. Well, certainly a smaller issue than ...

* The heat ! I think I set off 5am ish for this one, but nevertheless, in early August it's only ever going to be either hot ... or humid ! I ran out of water halfway round and had to nosey through a campsite to try and find a tap - I do hope I didn't look too scary !

Strava link here
Ultra Tour of Matlock Bath gpx file here

Friday, 7 August 2015

Parwich Panoramic 5

We'd been to this race last year - back then we'd come down just for Lewis's race on a perfect summers evening. Parwich is such a lovely little Peak District village, with the village green with the swings n stuff on for kids being opposite the Sycamore Inn - doubling up as the village shop.

I'd read online that there was a BBQ after the race this year - well, that swung it for us! There was also a local BDL league race on the same night - but Lewis's race, the BBQ plus the mens race meant there was no decision to be made!!
"Mixed" levels of concentration on the start line

No messing about on the start line for Lewis!
I cycled there to warm up and got there just as Lewis had crossed the line to take the win - beating all the older kids too who had to do two laps. Well done Lewis ! Chris and Andy had also made the same decision - hills taking the preference for fast n flat for all of us. Chris had done well, bringing the whole family down to race - 2 kids plus Emma - he knows how to show his family a good time!

The race was more undulating than hilly which is probably why the pace seemed very fast from the off - no major climbs to slow the fast road runner types down ! As we approached the Tissington Trail (which we were told was about 30% of the way into the race) I snook a look over my shoulder - and sure enough Andy was there about 15 metres back. Bugger !!!
Clockwise, the Parwich Panoramic sneaks in just 500ft of climb - but it sure felt like more!
Bang goes my chance then of even thinking about relaxing! I had to really push on during this race to keep the other guy sitting on my shoulder from coming past - he was so close he was breathing down my neck! Well, after lots of ups and lots of downs and me opening every one of the many many gate for the guy behind - he only still tries to overtake me in the finishing sprint! I was less than impressed after holding every gate and him not trying to come past. Thankfully I held a bit more back for the final sprint than he did. Phew - 9th place and 13 seconds in front of Andy who I think ran out of his skin.

Lovely BBQ after including a well earned pint with Teresa, Lewis, Chris and Emma. Well done all !

Results here 9th out of 89, so top 10% again
Strava link here

Brassington Wakes Fell Race 2015

Another week, another new local race to me. Again, I've often wanted to do this race but never fitted well in the diary. Now Lewis is 8, I'm more happy to bring him along knowing that if he takes his football, he'll more than likely find other kids to play with in the village. That or play Minecraft on his phone in the van - grrrrr!
Brassington Wakes Race Route, Anticlockwise inc some steep contours out of Hopton!
Brassington Race Profile, noting what happens at 1.7 miles in !
I'd cycled the longer hillier route home with a bit of pace up some hills, so when Lewis and me arrived with Rachel in Brassington I was warmed up enough. Still - I had 15 mins to test out my new New Balance Minimus Zero Trail v2.0's.

I'd not planned on buying any new shoes at all the other lunch - I just popped in to Derby Runner to get some new running shorts. Alas, these grabbed my eye and - having a soft spot for New Balance anyway - after trying them on with them fitting perfectly I had no excuse not to buy them! They're a zero drop shoe with quite a bit of padding and protection - something I'd often fancied and now I found myself owning a pair. Walshes are great - but on the rockiest terrain (aka Paddy Buckley etc) they leave my delicate feet feeling rather jaded. More padding then please !

Around 70 of us assembled on the start line on what was a stunning summers evening. Nathan turned up (ahead of his Peaks Sky Ultra on Sunday) so I left Lewis and him chatting about biking!
I knew most of the route anyway, so was very wary of the second climb out of Hopton - I remember it being very very steep, then long. Craig Allen was down so I sat just behind him on the first climb, then passing him just before Hopton. I knew we were roughly the same pace so was happy here. It turns out Craig was feeling a bit jaded from a Llandudno half mara (or something). The climb out of Hopton was as bad as I feared - very steep then gradual for ages - all the way past the new wind farms up to the High peak Trail.  I'd overtaken the next runner too by this stage so just had to hang on for the descent through some old quarry workings then down a track, past Nathan and Lewis and back into the village.
The first climb out of Brassington

Another great new race on a perfect summers evening - outside a perfect village pub. I'd promised Rachel that I'd have her post race lubrication lined up for her after the race - and you can see below how much we both enjoyed it!
Results here: 6th out of 78, so top 8%
Strava link here

Some of us enjoying post race rehydration!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Mid Wales Microadventure - Bikepacking

Can't argue with that view to wake up to...
For some reason, despite all the cycle touring Dave's done and all the back packing and long distance riding that I've done - neither of us had never "bike packed".  What I'm referring to here is travelling overnight on Mountain Bikes through mountains carrying minimal gear (ie no panniers).

I'd got lots of lightweight kit as had Dave - we'd backpacked round the Alps / Pyrenees & Dolomites together many years ago, but there was one gap in our gear portfolio - something to carry it all in on our mountain bikes. So, earlier in the year I thought I'd start researching the best way of getting all the stuff attached without breaking the bank.

There were plenty of online options but only one really that was affordable - the Alpkit Tapered Seatpack 13litre and their 13litre Drybag for the handlebars. All for £25 !!
Starting in Rhayader, Clockwise following Trans Cambrian Day 2 then heading East to pick up TC Day 1
Now I just needed a quick scour of the web for a route which was ;
  • Completely new to us
  • Not too far to drive to
  • Felt quite wild
  • Had a good mix of tracks and bridleways
  • Was a circular or could be made circular
  • Allowed us to test kit properly for something bigger
It didn't take long to uncover the Trans Cambrian Way and in particular Day 2 of the TCW. It formed a loop which starts at Rhayader and ends a few miles up the A470 at Llangurig. Checking the map more closely showed that there were masses of Bridleways to the East of the A470 so we could make up our own route once over there, covering about 60 miles over 2 days.
Fun Filled post pub ride out to the Overnight Camp #iphone
Well, I say two days, but as this was a Microadventure then we really needed to shoe horn it in to as little time as possible. Plan was to leave after work, ride to camp spot, ride most of the ride the next day and head back late Saturday night. Juggling work, pleasure and family life is always a balancing act, so having Sunday with Teresa, Lewis & Mum seemed a good compromise. After arriving in Rhayader about 9ish we snook in a quick pint in a really nice pub before heading off out into the encroaching darkness in search of somewhere to spend the night !
Dave showing how weather sealed his hubs were !!
After a few miles it soon became apparent that Dave's seatpack had a mind of it's own - first sitting too high, then too low, then too loose. With the right straps this would be perfect - in fact mine didn't budge all weekend, so something to change for next time for Dave.

The original plan was to head out to some small lakes at the West end of Claerwyn Res, but riding in the dark is always slower than you think especially when you take into account ;
  • Getting lost
  • Refaffing with Dave's seatpack twice
  • All the climbing that was involved
  • Getting lost again!
After some really really nice riding (some pretty rough) we came across a flat patch of grass next to a stream about midnight. Perfect ! We soon got very cosey in the lovely and spacious Alpkit Ordos 2 tent on our Alpkit Numo mattresses. Those mattresses are really something by the way. That night was the best night's sleep I've ever had wild camping - by a long way !! I've tried everything from Bubblewrap, to thermarest, to balloon beds and nothing has come close to the Alpkit Numo. It packs small, is light and only costs £25. It also inflates so is very thick - something which adds comfort and warmth.  Having a hip flask of Dave's Penderyn Whisky really topped the night off well!

Day 2 dawned and we found ourselves in a lovely wide, open valley with the sun peppering the tent with early morning sunlight. It was lovely. No midges either! A quick Aeropress coffee and Pot Noodle and we were off again. This time west out along the remainder of Claerwyn Dam before heading north to Llangurig (handy cafe stop!) and then east to pick up the Trans Cambrian Day 1 route back into Rhayader.

Riding always felt really wild and miles away from anything. Trails were very varied and 99% rideable. The views and the weather were the icing on the cake.

Time to plan the next bigger adventure then !

Monday, 20 July 2015

BDL League Race : Carsington 6:32/mile

Carsington BDL is a regular fixture in our local league and it's normally typified by two things from what I remember. Thunderstorms and a course which is far harder than it should be. Thankfully - we only had the latter this year!

I was hoping for a good run this year. The preceding weeks had gone well - no niggles and lots of biking at weekend, plus one fell race per week. Following my recent trend, I thought I'd cycle to the race to loosen the lungs up on the hills on the way there so Chris and me headed over via a good few hills and I felt suitably "loosened" when I got there, Nice to see Marcus at this race - it was the first time I'd seen him since his Clif 10 Peaks race 10 days ago. Thankfully it went well (16hrs) and has now cemented in his mind that he's tackling the Bob Graham next year. Well done lad.

I'm also trialling delaying my breakfasts until lunchtime - my breakfast bowls are getting just way too big and often I don't find myself hungry at breakfast so I'm eating for the sake of eating. I was interested to see how the running would be affected if at all.

The race went well. I ran as good as I could have hoped - overtaking many who I normally finish with and not fading at the end. Finishing 25th out of 307 that's about as high as I normally place in these league races, so very happy! The course was slightly longer than previous years, so comparing times wasn't possible.

Can't quite rationalise me running 6:26/mile last year and 6:32/mile this year - I certainly felt faster this year although it was slightly longer with a bit more climb.

Last year's blog 6:26/mile
Strava link here
Results here

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Black Rocks Fell Race 2015

Another great local race last night and one I've not raced before.  Starting from Cromford Meadows, it goes along the canal, up the incline, round a few paths to the summit trig then back. Potentially a tedious route with the canal and incline in there but boy was I pleasantly surprised !

In theory, I should have been running well on this race. I'd cycled to Wales on my MTB the weekend and done a hilly loop to get to the race via about 5 hard pushes up some local hills. Plus, I'd had a couple of gels and I had no niggles. Strangely, I always run best when I've got my biking legs, so fingers crossed.

It was nice to see Andy Nash, Tom Moulder and Kath Beardsley all turning up to their first or second ever fell races along with Rachel and Steve who are old hands now!!

Quick warm up and we were off along a very sunny Cromford Canal. I settled in behind Kev Perry who I know is never far off my pace. Feeling comfortable I tool him near the end of the canal before we turned up the incline. As soon as the path turned upwards, Kev and 2 others came charging past me at a pace that made me look like I'd hit the wall ! I knew I felt good and I knew how long the incline was and I knew it got steeper after that and I also knew that I frequently go too fast early on, max out then do not recover in time. Not tonight !!!

By the time we got back onto the incline path (rejoining it after a nice detour into the woods) I went past them like they were standing still. I felt comfy so decided to take 2 more runners 100m in front, 1 of which was Tom!

As we got to the steepest part of the race - up to the trig - everyone slowed but I managed to keep a good pace taking Tom and catching some others. As ever though, I knew that if I took anyone near the summit they'd just come charging past me on the descent and tonight wasn't any different !
Andy, Dave, Rachel, Ed, Helen, Chris, Me, Steve, Tom and Katharine - all smiling !!!
The descent was much more fun than I'd imagined though - weaving through rocks then woods picking a route which was really quite hard at full gas! I think I only lost 2 places on the descent (inc one older DPFR guy who was significantly faster than anyone else - Andy Dickinson). Again, I had to hold something back as I knew how long and flat the canal was right at the end.

I finished in 15th place out of 178 having run the best I've done in any race this year I think. I'm sure the biking has helped again. Thanks to Nathan for taking the shot above.

It seems there was a big gap behind me though - apparently a canal barge had come through shortly after I'd gone over the bridge and halted about 20 runners for 90 seconds - likely story Chris!

Results are here 15th out of 178, Top 8%

Hope Wakes Fell Race 2015

I couldn't make this race last year and listening to how much Chris and Andy enjoyed it, it was high on my list for this year. Thankfully I could make it with Teresa being on days.

After cycling to last week's race at Riber on a stunning summer's evening, it sowed the seed in my head that whilst it's warm and light until 10pm - why not cycle to most peaks fell races ? Stick a lock in, stick lights in, job done. In the days leading up to this one I'd told a few people that I'd cycle there. What I'd not taken into account sadly was that the night of the Fell Race was going to be the hottest July day in 8 years ! Well into the 30's.
Win Hill - looking very ... distant!
I'd cycled to work and back then a quick change of top, pick up bag and head out to Hope. It genuinely was some of the warmest weather I've ever cycled in - easily comparable to towns in the bottom of valleys in the Alps and although it was pouring off me, I enjoyed every second of it. Cycling in the heat is a pleasure. Running in this heat ??? Hmmm, this wasn't going to be pleasant!

Nice to see Steve Meath on the start line - his first fell race of the year - but what a tough race to pick. I had my fingers crossed for him!

I'd been warned about the two big climbs on this route, so was more than ready for those. What I wasn't prepared for was the length of the track round the back of win hill - from when you enter the woods it must be 3 miles. Mostly downhill too, although the heat meant that I was in "just get round" mode instead of "race" mode. I think the heat was getting to everyone though as no one was really making ground on me and conversely I wasn't making ground on anyone else either.

Hope Wakes Route : "Just" over Win Hill twice then
Hope Wakes Route Profile
Whilst running along the track at the back of Win Hill I'd suddenly started to come over very shivery with goosebumps. Not a good sign ! I'd had this before if my body was running out of something or other, but I didn't know if it was water or food to be honest. If it was water, I'd be stuffed as there was a good way to the finish and I knew I'd be cramping badly before the end. If it was food, then I could just slow up and "enjoy" it. Thankfully it was the latter.

The views from the 2nd climb up Win Hill were truly memorable - back over Ladybower and all the glorious High Peak Moorland. I won't forget those views in a hurry and that's exactly why I fell race.

I crossed the line in 30th - higher than I'd expected as I'd gone into limp mode for the second half and didn't feel that strong on the first climb either. The finishing field was littered with bodies in all sorts of states - the heat had really taken it's toll on folk. It took me about 15 mins before I was in any state to talk to people! Thankfully, Chris and the other Harriers agreed I looked "knackered" and told me to chuck my bike in his boot. For once, I wasn't going to argue!

No team shots from the end - I was too tired to take any!

Results here 30th out of 215, Top 14%
Strava flyby here
Strava link here

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Riber Run

"Fell Racing Doesn't Get Much Better Than That"

First time I've tackled this race - always been on my radar, but I think it's always been the same week as Blackamoor. I've done Blackamoor the last 2 years now so this year it was time for a change.

There's not many fell races which start this close to my house - about 8 miles away, so with such a great evening, I thought I'd cycle there getting in a couple of climbs on the way.
Andy "Hand on Heart a Harrier" showing true allegiance!
Nice to see Dave Horton down to a fell race - Dave seems to have "done" the local fell race scene, but in a previous - pre kids - life. Lets hope we see a bit more of him after this teaser at how good local races are. Dave and me registered then a very quick leg loosener (where I bumped into Teresa and Lewis parking up to spectate on the course) a few more hello's and we were away.

It's a downhill start and pretty soon everyone was at the first stile and it was gridlock. People appeared from all angles trying to jump it and once over it, it was single file through mud down to the stream. Soon we were on to the first climb. I'd done this climb as a descent a few Sunday mornings ago with Karl and Marcus and we commented then how good that path would be on a race.
Starting Lea - Up High Leas, down to Cromford Station, Up Through Riber Woods,
 along Hearthstone, Down High Leas
It's a long gradual climb through about 4 fields. Unrelenting stuff all the way to Hearthstone Lane where Teresa and Lewis were cheering me on.  Nice fast descent to Starkholmes road from where it was another longish steepish climb to Riber Castle area.

I'd been running behind Rachel Chambers all the way up the climb and her partner Rob D took me on that last descent. Both these guys are strong runners (Rachel often wins Peaks fell races for women) so when I took them near the top of the next climb I told them "I think I'm gonna regret this!" as I thought I was past maxed out already!!!

Thankfully the flat run along Hearthstone Lane and then up and over the high point felt easy, so I was able to keep pushing all the way. It could have gone either way as I've done some races this year where the second half has been a struggle for survival - not this one thankfully! Not sure what to put it down to - three possible options
  • I had energy drink on the way there
  • I'd been MTBing the weekend (cycling's always better for my races than running)
  • I'd not run for 10 days
Perhaps a combination of all 3 ! I was just closing in on positions 19 and 20 as I crossed the line, but there wasn't quite enough time to take them.

All in all an absolutely fantastic evening. Classic fell racing with hard climbs and fast descents, perfect weather, lots of harriers and Teresa and Lewis to cheer me on. Plus a lovely cycle home too along the Cromford Canal with Andy W.

As I said to Chris afterwards "fell racing doesn't get much better than that".
Note the two Big Climbs ! (and two great descents)
Results here 21st out of 140, Top 15%
Strava Flyby here
Strava here

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Buttermere Horseshoe (aka Darren Holloway memorial race), 23 miles & 8,500ft

Well, lets be upfront about this. That race was ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC. I'd go as far as to say it's my favourite race I've ever run. {Post Script : Joint Best with Fellsman}

Clockwise from Top Left. Route choice was generally easy but my route at the end off Ling Comb should have gone to the left of Scale Force. Think I lost 10 mins there

I've always liked long Lake District horseshoes. Anything from my 2nd ever fellrace - Fairfield Horseshoe, up to longer ones I've completed like Duddon and Borrowdale and then onto the Super Longs which I'd not done yet - Wasdale, Ennerdale and this one Buttermere. I ranked Borrowdale and Duddon as two of my favourite races. They're just long, hard and stunning. So, surely a super long would just be more of the above?
THE Buttermere cheesey shot
I'd not entered anything of note really this year yet, but thoughts were turning to something longer later in the year perhaps with the 3x3 Ultra in October? I had unfinished business there after last year. I'd also pledged to myself that I'd try and get one Lakes Long under my belt each year. Teresa's work schedule seemed to coincide with most lakes longs - apart from this one. Perfect - a quick text and my entry was in the post.

This race appealed more than many others for a couple of reasons - it looked really hard and was in an area of the lakes I love - we often stop at The Kirkstile Inn normally on their winter break deal. It was the place I proposed to Teresa 13 or so years back. Also, it looked like it was more grassy than a lot of the other lakes super longs - suiting me as descending on rocks is my big weakness. Tick!

I headed up Friday after work and parked up in Gatesgarth for the night. Second plan for the weekend was to get some nice early morning shots of Buttermere or Crummock. I was up about 6ish, but sadly the cloud was just a big grey blanket so lighting couldn't have been much worse. Nevertheless, I got some nice shots including the reflection above and my breakfast (iphone shot) left.

Race started at 11am so several leisurely photo stops by the two lakes before parking up just down from Loweswater Village Hall. Unpacking the car - everyone was in running vests and I had to borrow some suncream from a fellow runner. Things couldn't be looking any better! Talk at the start was of two fell running records which were being tackled this weekend - Jez Bragg having broken the Ramsay Round in Scotland (circuit of Ben Nevis, Aonach's, Grey Corries, Outliers plus the whole of the Mamores) and Adam Perry tackling the lakeland 24hour record - currently at 77 peaks. He was aiming for 78 peaks. To honour Adam's record attempt - the previous record holder and fell legend - Mark Hartell headed back from California to run the Buttermere Horseshoe and go on and support Adam's attempt later in the day. Nice to see him on the start line! Simon Booth (UK Fell champ and course record holder) was also out but I didn't expect to see much of him !
Inspirational Stuff - We ran everything you can see - and quite a few in the back that you can't!
I took this shot above on the start line - it always fills me with awe that I'm about to run over everything I can see - and then some. Just after 11am Darren's dad sent us on our way and there was some friendly chat and banter on the way to the first climb. Even the first climb up Whiteside was relatively social - meeting Kieran from Erewash RC (who knows Andy W). Taking care to not approach anything like the red zone, I was cautious to keep things 'under control'.

After Whiteside was Gasgale Crags (shot at bottom) - fast ridge running on the way to Hopegill Head (I'd forgotten there was a control here so was gobsmacked to see marshalls. MUST CONCENTRATE!

First climb up Whiteside (707m)

From Hopegill Head things started to go off path. Contouring round Sand Hill then down through nice fast shale to Coledale Hause and off up the long climb to Grassmoor. Some folks took a northerly route along the edge more. Me and a few others in front took a more direct(?) line south of the ridgeline. Splits show I was slightly down here (30secs) so may try the ridge (and trod) next time.

After Grassmoor it was all really good running to Whiteless Pike. It's hard to picture sizes of peaks from a map, but I expected Whiteless Pike to be a nobble at the end of a ridge. In reality there was fantastic ridge running including a descent / reascent to a really impressive peak that at first was way way in the distance. "That can't be my peak way over there" I though. Check map. "Bugger, it is"! The views here were sensational with the top drifting in and out of cloud.

After Whiteless the fun really began. We took the south east descent line (which apparently this race shares with the Teenager with Altitude fellrace) which is an absolute classic. First very steep, then steep, then fast all the way down to Sail Beck before the pull up to Newlands. What a classic descent !!!! My phone was in my waterproof case by now and I regret not taking shots of Whiteless Pike and that view of the descent. Absolutely fantastic stuff.
Nice ridge running on Gasgale Crags from Whiteside to Hopegill Head (770m)
From Newlands it was a very steep climb up to the right of the stream around Buttermere Moss. An area I'd never been to before. Proper middle of nowhere stuff, great. Reminded me of the Fellsman. Hard bog as far as the eye could see! Compass out, it was a bearing to pick the least painful route I could to Littledale Edge (which actually turned out to be pretty painful with a stiff climb at the end and becoming quite rough underfoot).

Littledale Edge to Dale Head was lovely ridge running. The Bob Graham route now in reverse. Great memories. I remember the view down to Buttermere from Bob Graham reccies and had to keep looking right just to see how good it really was.  I was enjoying this properly now. Legs felt good. Views were great. I was maybe just inside the top 10 (I was probably about 6th here but I didn't know it) and I had a lovely descent from Dale Head to Honister ahead of me. What's not to like! Well, there was something I was a little worried about - water. I'd carried half a small bottle of water inside my pack for emergency use only - only to be used if my main bottle was empty and I was on deaths door. I think I used it around Butteremere Moss! I was now getting twinges of cramp, but it wasn't getting worse and I knew / hoped that the streams dropping to Honister I remember from my Bob Graham would have plenty of water in. They did and what a relief. After topping up and necking a whole bottle, I must have had smiles from ear to ear.

Lovely running now up to the Fleetwith Bothy then across rocky paths to Innominate Tarn off Haystacks. My route from Innominate lost me a few minutes (2?) as I should have followed the fence down more but instead got nearly cragbound on big boulders. Just a bit of down scrambling then and I was on the horridly steep climbs up to Seat and High Crag. Not pleasant at this stage in the race, but I knew how bad they were so I'd got them dialled in my head.

I also knew how rocky the traverse of the High Crag / Red Pike / High Stile ridge was and yes I probably lost time on here, but I just kept on running wherever possible until I saw the marshalls at 806m. The next descent was a bad one for me - the only bad one in the whole race really. Feet were very sore by this point and I wasn't exactly sure of the best line but I went way too far east with hindsight. There was no path, then some path and it took me about 100+ metres further down than I needed to be. I got took by two guys here, so I went from 6th to 8th. Nevermind, I wasn't here for placings, just to have a great day out.

Just Mellbreak now then. JUST MELLBREAK ! Of all the climbs I've done in races, this has to be one of the steepest. It felt like Clough Head on the Bob Graham, but I don't think it was. Relentlessly steep grass. Boy, was I pleased to see the marshalls on top !

Quick drop down the gully to the W of Mellbreak then a gentle run down the path, past the Kirkstile and back to finish at the villlage hall. There was still a nice amount of people there to cheer me in. Phew! Thoughts turned to Cake, then catching up with fellow runners (yes, in that order) Which lines did we like ? Which did we blow up on ? Also nice to thank the kitchen staff who'd layed on a massive spread. They must have catered for 100-200 runners. Wow - that meant each runner could have about 5 cakes! I tried my best!

Stunning race on a stunning day. Nice informal feel to it at the start and end with good camaraderie on route. Yes, I'll definitely be back next year !

8th out of 31
Strava link here
Full Results with splits here