Friday 16 December 2011

Lakeland 100 recce 2, Coniston - Keswick (dec)

Despite the awful but dry forecast aka, -20 windchill a possibility and incredibly strong gales, I parked the car at Windermere station just in time for the bus to Coniston... only I found out I had to change in Ambleside which would delay my start a wee bit. After I got off the bus was remaining at the stop for 5 mins and I waited on it out of the wind and asked about tickets for the return journey (Keswick to Windermere) later in the day. After a moment the driver asked how I planned to get from Con to Kes as the last bus was 19.25 (It was going to be almost noon when i reached Coniston)... 'What do you mean running!?' she replied. After telling her the places I would pass through she still seemed somewhat confused so I pointed at the map and gave up, hopped off the bus ready for bus 2!

Moving on I set off out of Coniston up the road towards the YHA crossing the bridge to find a group of walkers huddled behind a wall eating their lunch out of the wind. I pushed on straight into the wind to reach the top of the small hill then ran down to the car park at Walna Scar road. I stopped to put on a jumper and an extra t shirt beneath my jacket (first time I have needed so many layers on whilst running, maybe the steady stop start look at map stop start nature of the run and the relaxed pace contributed along with the wind?)  Before I passed over the highest point I had past bits of snow on the ground and been blown over once! The wind was incredibly strong going over the top, which was covered with a hard packed area of snow and I picked up the pace to get a bit lower out of the wind. The run down involved a good bit of boulder hopping to keep things interesting before hitting a road and a nice easy section all the way into Seathwaite where I got a bit enthusiastic and ran about 1km past the checkpoint, a quick backtrack and down into a flooded wood for some wet feet and I carried on towards Eskdale.

A bit of scenary, a nice bridge and a little more sheltered it seemed. A few kms later I came to a real boggy section! The ground had been wet before here so I ploughed through not really caring about the feet getting any wetter. Shortly after running through the tree plantation I was blown over a 2nd time bashing my ankle quite well luckily my elbow took most of the force and prevented the rest of my body from getting hurt. (ripped through jacket, jumper a long sleeve top and the skin!)  A bit of descending before reaching another farm and making friends with some cows, I followed the path around then was promptly rounded up by 3 dogs which were kind enough just to bark lots and not actually do any harm (I probably didn't look very tasty!) From there it was relatively easy going along the river and then following a road into Boot and then heading onto Wasdale Head.

This is one of the easier sections in the race, short and pretty flat (only 300m of climb). I followed the stream (bridleway) over the open ground to pass around Burnmoor Tarn which looked like the North Sea with all that wind! There was a bit of wading to do before I could get to the path again with occasional bits that weren't flooded. I've been to Wasdale before so that bit was quite simple. I had a good climb to look forward too around Kirk Fell, light was dropping so I dug out the headtorch. Although I was blown over once more shortly after then, the wind actually aided me up here near the top as it was blowing hard from behind me. At the top it was a bit snowy but I found my way down fairly easily under headtorch and came across Black Sail hostel.

I didn't enjoy the climb up to Scarth Gap the wind was howling through the fence and I was constantly being pushed sideways. After reaching the top I promptly began to get down into Buttermere on the other side where it was slightly more sheltered. It seemed a  very rocky path quite technical in the dark down to a nice easy path along Buttermere. The water was being blown off the lake and until I realised how close the lake was I thought it was raining!

At this point having taken just over 6hours at steady recce pace I decided to cut onto the road back to Keswick to ensure I didn't miss the bus in 90mins which required the 15km to be done at a reasonable pace. I followed the road and got into Keswick just under 1hour 20 later to see the bus pull in! I'd made it ok and  a good job as the bus was early. I had the bus to myself and was glad to chill out for a little while before arriving back at the car for the drive home. The bus door was flapping in the wind and I was quite glad it wasn't a double decker!

Another good section recce'd with some more awful weather. Surely it wont be so bad in the race?!

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Bullock Smithy 3/9/11 56mile

Bullock Smithy

I stumbled across this race a couple of weeks in advance. Its 56 miles with 14 LDWA style, generous checkpoints, 24hour time limit starting at noon, overnight accomodation aka floor space in a school hall,
and a cooked breakfast at the finish! The race has run since 1976!!!! with times ranging from the record 8.46 right upto the 24hours. For an entry under £20 it was cheaper than staying at home!
The race starts just south of Stockport around the Hazel Grove area and follows a large clockwise loop around Buxton.
I found the HQ pretty easily (makes a change!), just a short walk away from a car park, picked up my stamp card (for the checkpoint staff to hole punch, proving I went to all CPs in order) and checked out the route map one last time along with the`weather forecast on the wall. The forecast was something along the lines of 'low cloud and rain, deteriorating later' not sure how it would deteriorate from that much more? But thankfully it wasn't so bad. I made my way over to the start a couple of minutes away in a park.There was a quick (brief?) brief then the bell sounded we were off! People were running in all directions out of the park, being a few different routes to take, I had had a look at the route on the map in quite some detail beforehand luckily, but for anyone who might not have prepared so well, it must have been a big shock! Normally everybody goes the same way at least for the first part of a race!

To me this race was a key training run for Ultima Frontera 100miler. Having roughly half the elevation (about 2400m) and roughly half the distance (well, 10k over) I planned to take it at a steady pace hoping to replicate what pace I hoped to do in Spain 8 weeks later and see how I felt at the end. Kit wise I decided to use some old Saucony Triumph 7 road shoes that I only planned to drive there in having previously retired them but last minute decided to keep them on, I had quite a large backpack as at the time I didn't have a decent small one, I also carried my night gear and headtorch along with some trail shoes just incase. I wasn't in a particular rush so the weight just added an extra resistance.

As we left the park I set off down the road heading towards a minor side road which merged into a path crossing a few fields. I passed a few enthusiastic starters and we began to merge with people who took an alternate start route. We headed along a farm track and a public footpath creeping into the Peak District  heading mainly Eastward, after a couple of kms reached the first checkpoint which being about 4 miles from the start I didn't stop other than  to stamp my card.  There was some reasonable hills around and about but generally nothing horrendous! There was a decent descent down towards Edale after about 20km which was brilliant down Jacobs Ladder after Edale Cross, I did let it go a wee bit down there which felt great! I located the CP in a public carpark and had a bit of water along with a cup of cold rice pudding and tinned fruit cocktail! Delicious, I was having 2nd thoughts about 5 mins later wether I should run back for
some more!?
A little more plodding brought me into Castleton, a quick refil of the water bottles and a couple of sandwichs, can't remember what but im sure they were delicous! Out of Castleton is a steady incline for a couple of kms through the limestone rock faces and steep sidewalls which a young kid who had conqured one of said inclines decided to roll down a couple of basketball sized rocks down, perhaps as a bit of a dexterity test, or maybe he was keen on the idea of 'Total Wipeout' still, I passed unharmed. Moving on heading now in the direction of Buxton again along a few open sections of bridleway and footpaths. Road shoes coping totally fine at this point, it had been pretty dry although looking across you could see clouds smothering some of the nearby hill tops. Nothing too exciting until the next CP located in a barn I almost didn't spot the open door as I cruised past, I ducked in and grabbed a seat whilst I waited for some soup to heat up. It was pretty hot so I hung on and had a snack whilst it cooled chatting to the very friendly CP staff! After 5mins I decided to water down the soup as it wasn't cooling, although not in a particular rush I didn't want to spend the afternoon sat in a barn blowing soup! This was around 46kms in. I left the CP and begin a short climb up the next hill and at that point managed to reset my watch passing the 50km mark in a very easy 5 hours 30 about 17.32.

I hadn't seen any runners for a while despite being incredibly slow (especially for me) through CPs and that remained a trend for now at least. I didn't really pay much attention for the next part as I passed a few more fields and a couple of farms and before I knew it I had another runner in my sights (Nigel Aston on his 8th BS run!) as we hit a road section near to an incredibly fake looking hill, almost looks like it is man made as it looks shaped like a pyramid! I caught the other runner at the CP Earl Sterndale, had a bit of a snack and moved on down the road proceeding to overshoot a turning although I realised within a few seconds and backtracked to find myself with Nigel again. We chatted briefly he had completed the
race numerous times so I assumed he would know his way ok and I pressed on. There was a slightly slippery off road section before a descent which was just wet enough for the road shoes. I reached a small cottage (Cumberland Cottage) which was up the muddy hill, with a small gas lamp and some treacle sponge cake which I quite enjoyed while I changed my socks over and tipped out nearly enough gravel to redo a driveway.

I reached another road and switched on my headtorch and a little flashing bike light for the back as I passed Nigel for the final time. Although very, very quiet roads in the middle of somewhere I didn't fancy ending up like any of the roadkill around. I proceeded to take a couple more wrong turns, none costing me more than a couple of minutes although it would have been very frustrating had I been racing for a position! The route headed uphill and then uphill some, there were a few lights visible around and about in the distance but nothing resembling a town. Eventually as I passed over the hill there was the sight of, I guess, Manchester the orange glow in the distance. I descended quite quick to the Cat and Fiddle road near Walkers Barn and then moved on down a farm track and over a few fields weaving around a few gates, styles and fences before dropping down into a bit more of a town for some more confusion. I got myself in the right direction and proceeded on. After a few confused looks in the town I got myself onto the Macclesfield canal and began bridge counting upto the next CP which I found a long way around into. Some nice cake and a quick
stamp leaving me with one final section to the end.

The last section follows a good path, the Middlewood way for a couple of kms which felt like it was slightly uphill but nothing to worry about. I came off the path just in time to startle a young couple coincidently tucked away in a small, secluded layby, probably not the best evening for that being a steady flow of runners throughout the whole night! By now it was near 23.00 and I had a couple of kms to go. I picked the pace up on an easy unsealed road section before reaching the main road all the way back to the finish in 11hours 15mins 95km, 10th position with just under an hour of non moving time (ie eating like a pig at CPs). This left me pretty confident that I should expect to be under 24hours at the worst for Ultima Frontera 100miler.

There wasn't many other runners back to my surprise. Having not really exerted myself too much I felt ok at the end. I got some layers on and had my cooked breakfast (a little bit strange at half 11 on a Saturday night in a village hall kitchen!). I chatted to a few of the other finishers who had previous completions on the race and a friendly bunch. I had a shower using a bucket of water without getting the floor wet (figure that one out) and got changed. Although there was plenty of food going around for finishers I fancied something a bit more substantial so I jogged out of the hall and along the road in the direction of some sort of food. Being now past midnight there were a few takeaways that had already closed and I continued on for 2.3kms until I found a takeaway that was open! Even the yellow arches were closed (quite glad I wouldn't have been to enthusiastic to force any of that down even after running that far!) I settled for a good meaty pizza and jogged back to the HQ and I wasn't sharing with anybody! After another hour or 2 I called it a night and dragged my sleeping bag under a table and went to sleep for a few hours.

At around 6am I got up and drove home after a round of toast and wolfed down a good breakfast before nipping out on the bike for a steady 50km. Lunch at mums and a slightly shorter 44km ride home. A good weekend! Very keen to return one day and push for a decent time! Find the entries for next year here!

Thursday 1 December 2011

Lakeland 100 recce 1, Dalemain - Troutbeck

The first bit of a recce for the Lakeland 100 came about very, very last minute. It would be my longest run in a month since UF160  I had taken it easy running wise. Just as I was shovelling down one last feed for the day the phone buzzed with a text from a friend late one evening;
 'Guess who has an interview in Scotland tomorrow!?' and a reply from me
 'Great stuff can I hitch upto Penrith motorway junction? What time shall I get to yours?...Oh, and well done on the interview!' and it was sorted!
Next morning I popped out of bed at a time I tried not to notice involving the number '4' and packed up some gear in my 'Golite' pack, went into work for a couple of hours then escaped ready for action!
Anyhow just under 2 hours in the car and I was deployed just off the M6 at Penrith a couple of minutes before noon!

The plan for the day was to recce the section between Dalemain (halfway point) and Ambleside, mainly steady jogging and walking to try and remember the route as much as possible rather than race past all the turnings and not remember any of the course! A short jog down the road and I came across Dalemain estate. Jumped over a style and set off following what I figured to be the course. At the time the weather was pretty average, a bit of wind and dull and cloudy. I enjoyed a relaxed jog along the fairly wet ground for a few kms before arriving with wet feet in Pooley Bridge, weather temporarily looking a bit brighter! Apparently my trusty Saucony Triumph road shoes aren't very waterproof when you cross a boggy field, who would have known!?

There is a road section from PB up a small road that turns into a good track after a couple of k's on a slight gradient (so that's why I came in road shoes?). It was pretty straightforward at the time and all going well. I imagine it will look a bit different around here during summer probably covered in ferns etc! I descended steadily down the stream (bridleway) all the way to Howtown, it had begun raining quite enthusiastically! Grip wasn't really an issue on the stoney path. On arriving I had a little wander around trying to guess where the checkpoint might be before heading off to being a good bit of a climb, which looking at the profiles was to be one of the biggest on the course and certainly the biggest for my afternoon plod!

As I progressed down the valley I could see something in the distance resembling a huge, illuminous orange, sausage! When I got close there were a couple of well wrapped outdoor pursuits instructors tucking into their sandwiches with a stack of about 20 backpacks. It was some sort of survival bivvy the nippers were testing out, hiding from the rain and ever increasing 'stiff breeze'. Carrying on up the climb it lasted a bit longer than I expected but found my way upto the top without any issues. The wind was pretty intense slowing progress but I wasn't in a particular rush so didn't get upset about it.

Next up was generally a good open section down towards Haweswater with a few spongy patches and only one instance of leg disappearing into the ground. Things got a bit more slippery on a wet grassy slope just before joining the lakeside path, resulting in a spectacular display of my gymnastic abilities although my extension and style in the air might have lacked any technical skill, required for a high score! As I got to the lakeside path which is mainly stoney and at the time wet, light began to fade. As I was approximately straight over from the Haweswater hotel I contemplated swimming across the lake, hoping my credit card was as waterproof as my phone. I resisted although it might have been drier in the lake than running around it! Again no major trouble as I reached where the Mardale head CP would be, in total darkness. I couldn't really see the climb out so I trudged up hill and onwards for Kentmere over Gatesgarth pass. I was really battling into the wind and even walking up the hill I was finding the gusts almost stopping me. It became a bit of a miserable section as before the top of the hill I reached clouds sending my visibility from 'limited' down to 'pretty bad' and then later, just 'bad'.

It was not much good really as I couldn't see anything apart from blackness, no sign of lights in the distance even until I reached Sadgill with a little bit more of a climb before Kentmere. Progress was pretty slow around here as I tried to look out for as many landmarks as possible to help remember the route, luckily I should be passing here in daylight! There is a bit of a climb up Garburn pass, short and sweet followed by a nice easy descent into Troutbeck. At this point I decided there was little point recceing when I couldn't see anything more than the ground infront of my feet and ran at a good pace along the road back into Windermere ready to get the train back to Warrington.Plenty of confused looks from the other handful of passengers waiting at the station as I stand there covered in mud changing my top for a slightly drier one and doing my best to wash the mud off with said wet t shirt from earlier.  Due to a slight error in timing I ended up with a bit of a wait in.... errrm...... Oxenholme (well known for having the coldest waiting room in the world!) for the connecting train.

I didn't manage any photos on this trip but to be honest the majority of the time I couldn't see anthing and relied heavily on the map and compass to confirm I was on the right lines. I deliberately didn't use the pre marked gps file as I would rather practice not relying on it, just incase.  Come race day this section will be so much easier despite the previous 50miles I will have run as I will know the route, hopefully have some visibility and surely the weather wont be so bad, right?!

Nottingham ULTRArace 50km

Nottingham Ultra 50k

This was the last race of the series and one of the 'short' ones. Not a whole lot longer than a marathon really, well, only another 8km! I travelled down the day before did a steady 10miles with Natasha
and met up with the gang for a good feed, I settled for a lasanga and a large pizza, one or 2 slices survived and became the pre race breakfast! After a quick look on the championship table beforehand
I realised that I would have enough races to qualify for the championship and could potentially become 3rd overall after my previous win at the Peaks 40mile ultra. Training had been going well leading
 upto the event, a hilly half marathon and a 10k race the previous weekend along with a few speed sessions here and there for good measure.

The race was smoothly organised, typical for an ULTRArace event. Meeting the bus at the finish line on the morning of the race and the bus whizzing us all up to the start line in Blidworth just north of
Nottingham following the Robin Hood way for a large chunk of the route! We all collected our numbers and had a bit of last minute breakfast in the form of a 9bar, before lining up at the start ready for
'battle' it looked a little like a scene from Braveheart as 108 runners spread across the start line.
After a quick pre race briefing we set off at a steady pace although I don't really pay much attention to what is behind me but there was 2 runners infront of me that I kept up with quite happily as we moved steadily along the course. The official photos!

Shortly before the first checkpoint 2 chaps caught me up with quite an enthusiastic pace down a small hill though their pace slowed back down on the flat and I moved past once more. I passed the first checkpoint swiftly, there was a lot of support and encouragement from quite a lively CP! After travelling around a country lane following the tape and UR stickers I turned up a small path to hear a runner behind shout 'Hey its this way'. I shouted back something along the lines of 'follow the signs' as I was on the right path.

Quickly arriving at the 2nd CP which Jen had under control I passed through quite swiftly and we moved through some woods where I caught up with the leader Mark Davis, who was familiar with the area being relatively local but wasn't feeling 100%.We chatted for a few minutes and the path entered some more open fields before hitting Kimberly. I moved on ahead to the next CP which was just on a short road section.

There was an incredible amount of excitement which was great to see as I grabbed a handful of gummy sweets and carried on at a comfortable pace.The course was straight forward to follow then I came to a bit of a trickier section nearing CP4 still managing to follow arrows through another wood before spotting the CP at the bottom of a small grassy hill and moving swiftly through not really needing to stop for anything, so, I didn't.

The final 10k cut through some houses and into a park, there was a long straight section down a tunnel of trees after skirting around Wollaton Hall which could have made a good postcard! There was a short section down a main road to the canal which was then to be followed until about 2km from the finish.I relaxed a little by now as I didn't expect anybody to be all that close behind. My mum had come down to watch the finish and for a weekend away so i gave  her a quick call saying I would be up at the castle in about 10mins. Just then I heard something coming up behind me, just as I was about to wake up from my lazy pace and pull away I realised it was a cyclist who informed me there was nobody behind. I turned off the canal and followed the last km or so to the road leading slightly uphill to the castle.

I reached the line to see Rory and Jen along with the folks at 9BAR and Jo Kilkenny along with some other families waiting for their runner to get home! Final time was 3hours 43mins averaging about 4.20 something per km and around 20mins clear of 2nd place apparently 10mins quicker than the previous years course record.

It's quite a quick course no major hills to worry about and it was pretty well marked too!

After the race then the fun and games started!! I was hitching a ride home with mum who decided instead of bringing the car over to the castle and using the free parking, left the car on the other side of Nottingham. About 25mins after I finished I noticed she had vanished, I gave her a call and told her to come back for the presentation for the end of the Champs. Instead of bringing the car, she somehow drove it further away rather than closer to where the finish was and parked it in a side street to prevent getting lost driving into the one way system. Only problem being she didn't remember the road name or any nearby features and left it in a 'home made space' IE not a propper spot!

The result.... I had to jog up and down each street systematically until I found the car with a big fat parking ticket on it for creating a space! What a day!!
Results below