Tuesday 26 August 2014

Inov-8 Grand Tour of Skiddaw

The Grand Tour of Skiddaw... In their words... '44 miles of fast trail taking in a climb up the might Skiddaw at the halfway point' ... Pretty accurate I reckon. Not sure how many people would call the ascent of Skiddaw fast, give or take a few seconds it took me about 45 mins, but on the whole it was a mix of good firm trail and a couple of grassy fields, with an odd mile or two of country lane. 

The route is basically a lolly pop shape starting nearish to Carlisle at the Hq, which was a sports hall with showers etc and large field for camping, some catering guys there to prevent an angry mob of hungry runners and Tony H was out in force ready for any last minute gear purchases. First 7 or so miles to the first checkpoint are following fields and rivers to Caldbeck, then off up High Pike which is a gradual grassy climb followed by a long fairly easy going trail following the Cumbria Way to Skiddaw Bunk House and along to the car park at Latrigg near Keswick.
A good 4-5km uphill to Skiddaw at, I believe 931m, descend towards Bassenthwaite down the Longside Edge to reach the 3rd cp at Peter House Farm before an undulating couple of miles along the Cumbria Way in places to reach the road down to Caldbeck before retracting steps to reach the first cp (now cp 4) and the final 7ish miles back to base and a finish line!

A cool start which soon warmed up nicely as we set off at 8. I was even at the start line on time! I had a pretty relaxed morning waking up about 7ish and wolfing down a couple of breakfast 9bars and some water and that was pretty much it, ready to go (kit check and registration I did Fri evening) The event had a very relaxed feel about it which was nice and the crew all over the course were fantastic! 10/10 for the crew and organisation! Nice one guys!

Seeing as I had done no recceing at all (except the first and last 3ish km - I entered last minute) I only knew about 5 miles of the course, but figured there'd be a group of runners on the first leg (which was also the last leg) so should be fine along with the really good map and directions we received. I took the gpx file on the handheld Garmin for a back up and used it quite a lot to keep on track without worry.

Cheers Sports Sunday for this one! Beware photographers hiding in the bracken! 
We set out at a pretty slow pace of about 7 runners near the front which soon became 3 despite nobody making a particular break it seemed. The trail wound along the river and fields although there were a few opportunities to get confused it was pretty straight forwards. I kept an eye on the gps and let the other 2 runners, Ian and Nick run ahead whilst I took some photos and enjoyed the sunshine. We rolled up at cp 1 and for some reason mine and Nicks cards didn't scan. I grabbed a bit of water and jogged on. It's a gradual uphill on the next section which had been marked out for us to an intermediate marshal taking numbers, I followed Ian and Nick up the climb, Nick had a fast walking speed and was local to the area.

Handy route guide

Enjoying the run out towards Caldbeck

The descent on the other side was a little bit thin on the ground and covered in ferns I took my time down and was surprised at how much gap had opened up I was sat about 3 - 5 mins behind the pair I guess over the next section that rolled along a good trail to Skiddaw Bunk House. I was happy at the pace we were running and just carried on at what felt pretty easy. (despite running easier than I normally would over the first half as a bit of an experiment I didn't actually feel any more energetic in the 2nd than normal - interesting)

The first hill there in the distance

After the bunk house there is a short run to Latrigg car park below Skiddaw where the 2nd cp was. I stopped to splash some cold water on myself in a stream and turned to start running again and I heard a voice shout from in the fearns! It was only David from Sports Sunday and his huge camera! Got caught with an arse shot good style! I said a quick hello and was on my way down to some smiley crew to chat to briefly before I grabbed a bit more water and heading back up Skiddaw. The front 2 runners had about 5 mins on me as I passed them, Nick looked most strong at the time, so I set out to catch them up.

High Pike 'summit'

It wasn't long before I'd caught the pair and stuck with them for a couple of mins before jogging on up to the summit, as far as I can remember the first time I had actually been able to see whilst on the summit which was pretty cool! A quick hello to Joe and I even snapped a photo of him before the short backtrack to pick up the loose rocky slope to the ridge. A fantastic route down which I enjoyed and before I knew it Ian had pulled back up along side and there was no sign of Nick as we jogged into the 3rd cp. I had a quick slurp of coke and then topped up the water.

Mr Faulkner on Skiddaw

The next section had a few fields to weave through before a mile or so on the road. Running together with Ian I noticed his footsteps were getting heavier as I nudged the pace up a little. He dropped back slightly and apologised for putting the headphones on and battling on. We left the road and skirted around the fell towards the final cp for a few miles and Ian seemed to be pushing quite hard and stayed probably a minute ahead. I stopped at a couple of streams to tip water on myself and slid down a couple of gels in a bit of an experiment to see if I actually felt any more energetic than usual. I was thinking about the remainder of the course and decided that it'd be a bit silly to finish 2nd when I was feeling pretty strong still. I planned to put a fast descent in on the mile or so road downhill into the cp to close the gap up and so I would leave the cp with him, turned the corner and immediately saw Ian walking down the road, I guessed he must have been having a tough time and I slowed to check he wasn't injured before running on enjoying the downhill into the cp. I topped the bottle up one last time and set off back out the cp before Ian arrived. He had been going well all day it seemed so I didn't want to risk having him too close and making a silly error in the final 10km that could cost a win. I was running well still and just concentrated on the route. On the way out this morning I had turned back at major junctions so I knew what I was looking for on the return so had no troubles polishing off the final few miles. I had an interesting moment were I was swooped at by a buzzard running across an open field with nothing to really hide behind before hitting what I knew was the final 3 km from running it on the Friday night... steady to the end to break the course record and finish in 7.09 9 or 10 minutes ahead of Ian who finished well and Nick about 40 minutes later who, with no pressure from 4th had enjoyed the run in I think. 

All done!

After that it was time to lay in the sun for a while, eat soup and do some clapping before I got a shower and did some more laying in the sun and eating soup. There were finishers coming in up until nearly 4am (just under 20 hours I think) which must have been a tough day so well done to those guys especially! It was great to catch up with lots of friends and meet some new ones too as always!

Breakfast by 9bar! 

 The prize presentation was the following day at noon so a relaxed evening and morning went down well before that. I even got my photo taken with some famous running chap called Billy! What a guy!

Running Celebs! Gaynor Prior and Billy Bland!

All in all a great event with great support, the route is varied without being too difficult terrain wise. The relaxed weekend away with a bit of running certainly worked well. A few more mountains in the route would liven it up a bit although I'm sure there are enough people who think that was plenty ;)
I believe the next event being held is The Cumbria Way Ultra in September at 73 miles. I haven't really a spare weekend but if it's something you fancy jump on their website to find out more


Nice finisher medal, a t shirt and a pair of Inov8 shoes for winning! That'll do! Off to Switzerland for a run this week! 

Thursday 21 August 2014

Berghaus Trail Chase 2014

The Berghaus Trail Chase. First time the race has been put on by Shane and his team who has stacks of racing and organisational experience so it was bound to be a good one!  (organiser of The Dragons Back race - I'm in for 2015 and crewed it last time)

Basically the race is split over 2 days, 3 different coloured courses black - longest, red medium and blue was the shortest. All met in Osmotherly on the Saturday morning to register then the 3 different groups were rounded up and transported to the relevant start by bus. From there run the well marked course back to our overnight camp location which was a field with a village hall. Our overnight bags and tents were transported here so on arrival set the tent up and tuck into some food! I took a few dehydrated meals and breakfast 9 bars so made the most of the free cups of tea but didn't sample the veggie meals you could buy there on the Saturday night as nice as they looked. (I like animals - especially beef  ) ;)

So anyhow we started around 2.15pm somewhere in Yorkshire and ran 35km the first day on the black course. I led out the first couple of km on a single track path then 2 runners passed by local chap Duncan the overall winner and another runner David.

There was a good strong wind on the day and running on the tops of the moors for the majority with a few ups and downs was basically how it went. Generally the tracks were pretty good under foot, the biggest issue was some of the descents that had ferns growing over the narrow tracks meaning you couldn't see what was on the floor, I slowed down a lot on these sections and had my hands outstretched in front to try and break the way through. Even on these sections the markings were easy to follow, it was rare that a flag wasn't in sight unless on a straight path with no potential turnings at all.

It was great to see Mr Corless popping up all over the place hiding in the bracken and jumping out with his camera, he took some awesome shots and they're up on here http://iancorless.photoshelter.com/gallery/Day-1/G0000r7A1PugutGw/C0000R0U4V260Jl4

After about 10 miles there was a gentle climb up onto the next track and I rapidly caught up with then 2nd place, we said a few words and I carried on past when the path opened out and that was the last I saw of any runners on the black course until the end of the 2nd day! I think in the middle of the pack there were some exciting chases going on but it was a little lonely out at the front end. 

There was a few km maybe 5 or 6 along the top of a ridge on a stony track with a meaty cross wind and just as I was thinking hmmm it'd be nice to have some good climbs, the route went off into the bracken covered track around the end of a valley and dropped into a ravine, pretty exciting, a quick crossing of a river then wading through some more ferns to a small climb and then looking down I could see the camp and finish area for the day, a little more climbing through the heather to then enjoy a fast descent for a couple of km into the finish. With 3 different length courses starting at different times from different places it was quite exciting looking out for the next finishers. I finished day 1 in 2nd about 10 mins behind the leader and about 14 minutes ahead of 3rd.

After finishing it was a case of whipping the tent up and recovering for next day for us all. I've had a bit of practice recently with the multi day recovery from Spain and lots of back to back trail marathons and long runs in the past few months so to be honest this was pretty short for me and one of my lowest mileage weekends for a while but it had a good bit of intensity keeping up with these fast ones!

 In the AAUT I had stuck to breakfast 9bars x2 for breaki so I went with the same for today, besides it was only 13 miles so pace would be quite high and the 7.10am start felt a bit early for a cooked breakfast! Despite not having to prepare breakfast and simply just open and eat I still managed to dordle about enough to be late for my start! The Chase part of the name is due to the fact that runners set off on day 2, in the order they finished on day 1 and with a time delay too! So first runner start at 7am, me in 2nd 10 mins behind started at 7,10 (well a minute or 2 later oops) then 3rd starts 14 minutes after me and so on....

Cool idea but a 10 minute gap or a 14 minute gap is a minute or mile or more to make up on only 13 miles on what was really good fast tracks with a few short sharp climbs. I think it would have been great fun mid pack with more runners close together or if the distances were reversed. So the 13 mile the day 1 would mean the gaps would be smaller and the longer 21 mile on day 2 so there is more time to pull those gaps back for runners. Also in 21 miles it's long enough to notice a bit of fatigue and make for some exciting chases towards the end! Maybe it's only me that thinks that, I had a fantastic weekend and race as it was, to me that would make it more exciting. The only problem with a chasing start is that runners nearer the tail end may be a bit disheartened if they focused on the leader nearly finished when they are setting off... Although they do get a lie in and I think the key is to focus on the runners near you time wise instead.

Day 2 was much more enjoyable route than day 1 to me personally, just seemed more varied and it was great following the line of hills along. The route set off gradually uphill and onto the Cleveland Way which I believe features in the Hardmoors races somewhat (not done any of those events yet. Maybe next year?) I managed to trip in a hole on day one which I didn't see as it was whilst following the track through ferns so despite the legs feeling fresh and no noticeable aches I was just a bit cautious initially to check all was ok which it was. I snapped a couple of piccies. The purple hills went by quite quick and it wasn't long before I was nearing the end. I glanced at the watch just as I was heading towards a hill to see the distance... 19km... hmmmm I thought 'worse case' scenario is we run up and over that hill, 'best case' is we turn right before it and go down the valley and a medium option would be skirting around the hill with a little climb, although I wasn't expecting to catch 1st place I knew there is always a chance someone can run off course or take a tumble so whilst I wouldn't wish it on anyone I kept the pace on hoping we might get one more good climb where I might be able to pull some time back. After a very fast descent we took a right turn down the valley and I was flying, suddenly around a bend the flags for our route were now accompanied by blue and red flags indicating the point where the 3 courses shared the last mile or so back to the finish (I knew roughly the distance from a peek at the map at registration) so I pushed on down and got a glimpse of the marquee at the end and kept the pace on all the way to the line. Duncan had been back about 10 mins so didn't gain any time on me on the 2nd day but held tight at the front end.  There was a tasty veggie meal and piece of cake for finishers, luckily I smuggled some beef jerky in my car too haha.

There were some impressive runs all round for many this was the longest they'd run in a weekend and for some it was the chance to race hard and get a great introduction to multi day trail  running events which is fantastic! Being a variety of distances well marked and organised also makes it accessible to most, so definitely one to look out for next year!

Thanks to all the extremely helpful marshals and well done on the organisation! For me it was great to do something a bit different rather than knock out long runs every weekend! Nice wooden engraved trophies too! I think a medal would be nice for next time too and showers at the overnight camp so I could wash my hair would be perfect or is that just me being a bit of a diva? ;)

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Peak District Sky Race 2014

The first running of the Peaks Sky Race organised as a joint effort between Beyond Marathon, Billy Craig and Mr Bethell, between the 3 of them they have thousands of miles worth of racing experience all over the world and each know the Peak District like the back of their hand! It was bound to be a great day from the start!

The route was marked, 30 miles, starting and finishing in Buxton with a decent amount of elevation considering there are no huge mountains in the Peak District. The markings were pretty good on the whole just a couple of places where they had perhaps wrapped around things with the wind and made them less obvious but aside from a couple of extra km all was good! I entered very very last minute and so hadn't even looked at the route on the map until the day of the race. I did Lakeland 100 the previous weekend so this was just a steady run really for myself, I had no intention of trying to chase anyone at the front end.

200m in and we go uphill
 I've done over 1000 miles of running in the Peak District myself in the last few years and still hadn't come across the majority of this route so it was great to explore some new areas! A casual start meant I got to catch up with a few people I hadn't seen in a while which was great and it was fun to be able to be running in such a big group without smashing my legs up the first climb.

Due to a few bits of missing markings here and there I bumped into various runners on more than one occasion. Had I been trying to race I'm sure I would have lost places not knowing the course! If it's an important one to you - best recce as much as you can!

Some highlights on the course included Axe Ege, The Roaches, Shutlingsloe - very funny the ascent is a bit steep towards the top , Shining Tor - quite the opposite to Shutlingsloe, very gradual uphill, perhaps made more famous with The Hill Ultra, and Burbage Edge one of my favourite routes through the Peak District!

Bag pipes on the first slope!
 After a couple of cp's I settled down to a similar pace to John Danahay who's a speedy guy by the sounds of it working his way up into the longer distances a photo of us here crossing the line
We ran the last few miles together and came in around 6th and 7th or 7th and 8th I think? No sprint finish required

Mr Frank enjoying himself!

Just before reaching the Cat and Fiddle

Out 'n back to Mam Tor

At the end it was nice to get a hot shower and plenty of food and cups of tea followed by a massage and lots of laying about in the sun. Overall a great day out and a nice medal for finishing too! One to look out for next year!

Monday 4 August 2014

Lakeland 100 mile 2014

This years Lakeland 100 was fantastic! Same great organisation, checkpoint support was awesome once again with various teams taking over checkpoints (such as running clubs, shops, pink fairies) to look after around 300 starters in the 100 mile and 600 in the 50 mile race. I had a perfect weekend, catching up with friends from all over the country who had descended into Coniston on Friday ready for the briefing and 6pm start.Oh.. and the weather was perfect (aside from a smidge of rain Saturday evening though I was tucked away in my tent then) some say a little hot though after the AAUT in Spain 2 weeks ago where temps passed 40C this felt nice.

After kit check (it is actually checked) you go through a little funnel of being weighed and collecting race packs etc then I had the afternoon to get some food and catch up with friends before the briefing at 4.30pm
There was a male singer at the start line to add to the atmosphere and the first 500m or so through Coniston was lined with people, I set off steadily to the side and apart from ducking and dodging all the Ipads people were filming on all was well.

There wasn't any really fast starts this year apart from Lee who seemed to be pushing quite hard initially, a small group of about 10 of us behind him and as we passed the Coppermines YHA had already started to spread out a little bit, after a couple of km heading up Walna Scar Rd at a gentle pace I found myself in 3rd with Lee and Marco just a few seconds ahead. We ran together chatting a bit for the first few Cps, running towards Wasdale as the sun was setting, not a breath of wind simply perfect running conditions! At the Wasdale Cp Lee had dropped back a little bit and I was first to dib in, a cup of coke and we set off towards Black Sail, I ran up and at the next gate I turned to give it to Marco/ Lee and there was nobody there, I'd just run from the cp chatting but there was nobody there! Felt a bit silly but carried on enjoying the run up and out of the end of the valley on my own. A good descent down to Black Sail YHA and ran on up and over to Buttermere. Darkness just hit on the descent to Buttermere so I whipped the torch out (had packed it in the very top pocket of my pack this time and not in the bottom!) a quick photo shoot on the way down followed by the easy run around the lake to the cp.

Thanks Thomas Loehndorf for the pic up Walna Scar Rd

Thanks Andrea for the pics! 

A steady run along towards cp 5 at Braithwaite this section weaves around a few little streams and is gradually climbing, I caught a flash of a torch behind in the distance and was still moving well and remembering the route was pretty easy from last year. I was looking forwards to the first bit of food at the cp but when I got there I didn't really feel like the rice pudding so I had a handful of grapes and filled a water bottle with cola (which I did for the majority of cps from now on) from here the route is fairly flat and not very technical, some gentle climbs but nothing like the ones just tackled before Buttermere and after Howtown. The night section went pretty smoothly, just kept running along at a steady pace, sipping away at coke and water, keeping on the course and enjoying the clear starry night.

Thanks Kayleigh for the photo! Yummy!

Just before the 45 ish mile cp at Dockray Marco who was running strong came past and took the lead, I got into the cp and had a few peaches and set out again still just before sunrise. I filled up with some apparently flat coke only for it to explode in a huge jet that reached across the road a few moments later (haha who flattened that?) I managed to follow the next section without any detours, aside from a bit of confusion in a short section with a few cow fields where I couldn't spot the gate and ran around looking for it, all was good, a nice quick few km along the road and into the Dalemain Estate where the halfway point was (about about 55 miles I think 'cos it's actually 105 miles total I believe) I got in and got my drop bag, grabbed a bottle of lucozade out, downed a cup of tea, had a mouthful of custard and filled my bottles up then straight on for Pooley Bridge, quite a fast section which is relatively straight forwards too.

Thanks Laura at Sport Sunday for the photo! 

I usually think about what I'm going to do at the cp when I'm approaching eg what do I need to do/ eat or drink etc, for some reason I decided to take both bottles with water and didn't take any cola, I set out from the cp looking forwards to getting on some good climbs again to make a good push on but after a couple of km my eyes were shutting, I stumbled along up the climb and found a Mr Corless taking some action shots. Not sure if it had been the caffeine or the sugar in the cola keeping me going up until now but I was struggling to keep the eyes open.

Thanks to Delamere Spartans for the photo and a fab CP!

The top section seemed to drag a little before descending down to Haweswater track pretty well and dipping into a couple of the streams along the way woke me up nicely and I made my way on to the mighty Delamere Spartans cp at Mardale Head where there was plenty of energy! I topped up with coke again and pretty much just headed straight off I think?

The climb up from there seemed longer than I remembered I kept a good pace up and over and I knew the rest of the route from memory a lot better which meant I could relax and just run along enjoying the sunshine and look forwards to a fruit smoothie at Kentmere! There was a lot of energy at Kentmere too, Jenn was racing around sorting out my water bottles and bounding about looking really enthusiastic! I enjoyed the smoothie then set out up Garburn pass which is another great bit of the Lake District. I really enjoyed the section down into Ambleside and was feeling pretty good although perhaps got a bit too relaxed and noticed I hadn't been pushing very hard in the last few miles. I had run the section from here to Coniston with Julie a client who did the 50 though other than that hadn't been on any chunks of the course since I ran in 2013.

There were lots of people out enjoying the weather as I followed the route along the river and could see all people playing in the river, which looked incredibly tempting! I had been tipping water on myself along here quite frequently and before I knew it I had reached the Chapel Style cp when it was getting towards the warmest part of the day. All the water and drinks seemed to be warm and I was just ready for something cold, anything cold, just in time one of the marshals dishing out ice cream for themselves so I had a scoop which was simply fantastic! Sitting out on the sofa in the middle of a field in the Langdale valley, what could be better on a Saturday arvo?

Thanks Lois for the photo at 95 mile ish?

Anyway I got up and ran on towards the FINAL CHECKPOINT!! It was a mixed feeling, I was enjoying the run that much that I didn't want it to end I ran on and worked my way along some of my favourite parts down to the penultimate climb, got to watch a few 4x4s negotiating their way along the rough track as I was ascending slowly... Didn't spot the highland cows today but could see the final cp as I began the short descent through the farm at Tilberthwaite. Last year I didn't hang about at the cp becuase there was only a 10 min or so gap between me and 2nd (which I managed to make up and gain my own gap to take 2nd) I enjoyed a few strawberries and a chat to the crew before I took the final 4ish mile? section up and over into Coniston. No sprint finish needed this time, just a steady run down into the town and into the finish for another 2nd place in 22 hours 40 odd minutes. Aside from getting a bit lazy in the later stages all went well and I had a fantastic weekend!!

Thanks Thomas Loehndorf for the photo

There were some fantastic performances all around from the front end right the way to the guys coming in after nearly 40 hours, I think that's even more impressive! I've run for that length of time in longer events a few times and it's tough! Especially heading into a second consecutive night with no sleep!

Post race I went for a dip in the lake and lay on the beach for a bit... the perfect way to cool down, then it was out for dinner which I managed a soup and about 3 mouthfuls of a main before getting a takeaway box!
Sunday morning there were still runners finishing in all kinds of states from sprint finishes to painful shuffles. The prize presentation is definitely worth staying for, with a video of the weekend that had been made and edited already, some funny competitor stories and of course the trophy and prize bit! Some amazing runners out there over the weekend! Same time next year? Who knows!

One last thing... What did I eat?
half a tin of peaches at Dockray, a few strawberries at Tilberthwaite, a few grapes at Braithwaite, a mouthful of custard at Dalemain, fruit smoothie at Kentmere and some ice cream at Chapel Style cp.
along with 2 breakfast 9bars just before the start....
I think... that was about it. I had 400ml of cola at 7 checkpoints and a cup of cola at 3 others. I put Elete electrolyte into my water which I had about 500ml at probably 10 checkpoints and a bit out of streams.... and a tescos own lucozade after Dalemain.
from memory that's about the lot, should have had a cola again at Howtown as shortly after then was when I got a bit sleepy and relaxed the pace a little it felt like although I haven't actually any garmin data to check I was enjoying the run probably a bit too much!

 Massive thanks to everyone that helped out, organised, ran, cheered, clapped, took photos and got involved with the event in any way. Also obviously well done to all the runners too! There is a fantastic video floating around of the whole event, try searching it out on youtube it's worth a watch.