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

Monday, 15 June 2015

BDL Summer League Race, Denby

Every year Belper Harriers volunteer to host one of the local "Booths Decorators League" summer races and for the last few years it's been down at Denby. It's actually a great course as it mixes flat / climbs, road / offroad in it's 5 ish miles.

When you've done a race for the last few years, there's always a tendency to compare times to previous years - well, a slight course change to last year stopped me doing that (thank god) but I still like to compare average pace to previous years.

This year, I'd been out with Karl and Marcus last Sunday sneaking in 22 miles and 3,400ft in prep for Buttermere Horseshoe next weekend (I'd not run for over an hour for absolutely months so needed to see if my legs still worked !). Needless to say, my legs weren't fresh for this race then, but they didn't feel as bad as I feared, so Chris and me headed down on our bikes on what was a perfect summer evening. A quick leg stretch warm up and things seemed to be functioning ok!

Everything seemed ok along the first flat section - running comfortably. We then turned the corner and headed up Street Lane. I could still see Trev Wilson just in front and - with Andy Parkin taking me and him -  I thought it was time to close in on Trev too.

This is where it all went wrong !

I didn't realise it but I was maxing out already up the climb so to overtake pushed me way way WAY into the red. So much so that about 3 or 4 people overtook me on the next 1/4 mile. I think my legs must have been more tired than I realised after Sunday's efforts which is why I felt emptier than I thought I should have been.

On leaving the Denby pit tips area, I felt the runner behind me clip my heels - whooooa, hold on - you don't need to run that flipping close to me - "overtake me if you're that close" I thought ! Anyway, it was only Chris - lurking on my shoulder and trying to take me out of action !!! He claims not - I'm not convinced ! Anyway, this is where I started to get my breathing under control again so slowly pulled away from both Trev and Chris on the down / flat section to the finish.

Well done Chris for being so close! Not my best performance on the course but I still enjoyed running with 30 odd other Harriers on our home good on such a great evening.

41st out of 316

2013 pace : 6:05min / mile
2014 pace : 6:11min / mile
2015 pace : 6:17min / mile

Last years blog write up here
Results here

Calver Peak Fell Race

This was the 2nd time I've done this race and I have to admit it wasn't my favourite from last year by any means. There's a fair bit of 'big tracks' on this (first climb, then all round the quarries in the middle) and I much prefer to run on small trods / paths. Tansley was the following day this year, but I couldn't make that due to childcare issues, so it was Calver or nothing this week. Easy choice then!

On the First Climb : Courtesy of JenReg
I'd not really run or done proper training for 2 weeks as I'd been on the Isle of Mull at Calgary, so this could have gone badly. Well, in truth it went as predicted - badly ! I felt comfortable on the first climb, but as soon as it got to the second climb my legs were full of lactic (or that's how it felt). I just started going backwards from the end of the contoury fields.

Starting Top Right, it takes a clockwise route
Stunning views under perfect weather made for a lovely enjoyable run - even if a little bit out of race shape ! We had a full car again with Nathan, Lily and Rachel coming from the Harriers and Rachel and me even managed to drag Nathan and Lily into the pub for a beer after. Good choice !

Race Profile. That middle climb sure felt harder than that !
Results here
This year 30th out of 259
Last year 25th out of 230