Tuesday, 3 October 2017

What no reviews?!

Speaking to a few people recently, they mentioned that I hadn't really posted all that much up recently, or indeed this year. Although I may not have done all that much in the way of racing (partially to do with me being a bit on the injured side and there is another blog about rehab coming out soon)... what about the reviews?

To be honest, I haven't actually got all that much new kit. The idea of writing stuff and testing it pretty much til it falls apart means that I have some rather excellent kit which seems to be holding up admirably, and although it has been used and battered beyond belief, it is still going strong.

The stuff that has broken has fallen by the wayside, and although it gets reviewed, they are lost in the mists of time.
Just sitting here and thinking about it, the kit I use for running at the moment is pretty much identical to that which I ran in the Spine Challenger a couple of years ago.
Waterproof- OMM Aether. Exactly the same one.
Waterproof bottoms - Montane eVent trousers - exactly the same pair.
Insulated top for winter- Berghaus hyper smock - exactly the same one
Shoes- either Mudclaws, x-talons or, if it's icey, OROCs (funnily enough - the same pair)
Gloves- those montane Prism mitts are still going!
Watch- still the Ambit... (though I wish I could afford a new Garmin (shock horror)
I have the same helly hansen, the same shorts, my SOL bag is always in every bag I take on the hill, and on longer days out, the OMM Adventure 20 (despite being VERY battered and worse for wear) still gets used.

Kit for the OCT this year


Yes, I have an Ultimate Direction pack, and a Salomon Sense3 pack which I somehow managed to pick up from a shop about to throw out their test stuff, and beyond that, the only thing I have spent any money on in terms of kit has been getting a couple of t-shirts and replacing worn out trainers.

A cold recce of leg 2 of the PB. Oh look. Same Jacket. Same bag. Same Buff.
There is no way I'm doing a review on a t-shirt. I mean come on. Use some common sense. Thankfully the current crop of in one year and out the other trainers have stayed as close to previous designs as in the past, so that is great.
The only unfortunate thing is that the OMM adventure 20 has been discontinued. I bought a brand new one a few weeks ago, ready for the current one to basically fall to pieces, so that gives me, oh, another 5 years to find a decent replacement. The current crop of "replacements" for the Adventure20 are not particularly worthy - mainly because of the zip top- which frankly I just don't trust.

Vert K this year. Shock horror- a "new" bag. Well. I've had it 3 years now.
So there you have it. No gear reviews because everything I'm using appears to be wearing exceptionally well. Not necessarily good news for the gear manufacturers as they aren't getting my cash because of breakages, but good in terms of the economics of my pocket.

I AM going to have to replace my waterproof top at some point soon though - and the new Aether Smock has some interesting looking things on it... INCLUDING an outside pocket (woop) which was the main thing that made it a disappointing jacket... I might just have to wait for it not to be somewhere north of £200 before I commit to it.
watch this space. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Alan Kirk Memorial Padfield Scamper

This race was run in memory of a lovely and talented runner and climber, Alan Kirk, who will be sorely missed by the local outdoors community. He passed away last week.

This was to be the beginnings of my come back from injury. I have been off running since mid-June, and re-habbing in various ways, shapes and forms. A sub-10k run around the local area seemed like a nice way to break myself back into the running thing. Not too long so I wouldn't massively overdo the distance, and not so technical that I would end up cronking myself into a rock.
Not only that, but a decent enough distance to assess over the next couple of days how well my recovery is going.

Chatting with Jules pre-race
The Scamper was chosen as a local race for the Glossopdale fell champs as well. I need to do 2 more races in order to qualify anyway, and this is the shortest of them all, so it seemed like an intelligent plan to enter.

What a delight it is to enter a local race without all the bells and whistles. Since being injured I have almost closed off in despair at all the "gnarly" and expensive races that are popping up all over the place, promising medals and t-shirts and this that and the other. It was a true delight to pay a fiver, get a number and just go and race in the hills against other people in similar states of raggedy old vests and shorts.

The idea was to go out easy, enjoy the climb, because that generally doesn't hurt at the moment, and then not go too crazy on the downhill, as it seems to be the impact that is the driver for the hip tenderness at the moment.
And then Des told us the race would be run anti-clockwise. Great, so the downhill would be down a hard track, instead of nice, soft bog. Ah well, we'll just have to see how it goes.

From the off I was very much off the front group pace, with Ali Campbell and Si Pymm setting a bit of a level, with Chris Webb close behind. After the first bunch up at the bottle neck I noticed Paul Skuse was also ahead of me, as was Caity.
towards the end.
I mooched along with Dave Soles for a while, trying to make sure any gates that could be opened were opened - 95 people jumping over gates in quick succession doesn't do them much good. By the time we hit the stream crossing I had caught up with Skusey, and overtook him on the jump across, and then tried to stick at about the same distance away from Caity on the climb to Cockhill.

It was going relatively well until Rookie Error of the day - shoelace came undone. Talk about lack of racing - indeed any kind of running experience at all...

By the time I'd sorted it out, I was back with Paul, and we topped out and started the descent together. It was a bit fun underfoot, and eventually I distanced him, and caught Caity in pretty much the last field, holding her off for 10th place at the end.

Hamstrings are a bit shot, as is my left calf, but that's just lack of running practice. At the moment I can feel the hip a bit sore, so I'm off to sit down. The acid test is how/if it recovers/improves over the next few days.

Thanks muchly to Des for the organisation, and the last minute chance of direction. Always nice to have a bit of a change of plan.
I wonder if they'll do that at Jura next year?!

Monday, 4 September 2017

TDS race report

As you may or may not know, the main race I was aiming for this year was the TDS. 110km and 7000m of ascent from Courmayer to Chamonix. Quite an amazing route as far as I could tell. The points needed to gain access to the race came from the Spine Challenger 2016 and the Bryce Canyon 50 mile 2016.
Training started in earnest at the beginning of the year, and I was racking up the miles and ascent nicely, right the way through to June, having got a fairly decent time on the Old County Tops in May. All was going well, until in the first week of June I felt a little ache in my right lower back - just above my bum. Technically - in my Sacro-iliac Joint.

No problem. Ease off and let it heal.
Except the ache turned into pain, and then the next day I could barely put any weight on my right leg as it hurt so much. Oooh. Problem.

The next few weeks were taken as rest weeks - though I was booked to go out to Chamonix to have a look around some of the course where I would be running at night. I managed a day of reccying - about 20km, with a fair amount of pain relief, but the 2nd day, a planned 30km day, which would normally be a doddle - was called off after a mere 2km as I literally couldn’t walk.

2 months out from the race, and this was a bit of a bummer. There was the distinct possibility that I could rehab myself back to walking in time for the race - though 110km might be a bit of a stretch, I would probably be able to stumble my way around within the 33hour cut off. The possibility of running for that distance was not an option. I could barely run 100m, let alone 100km.

As the days and weeks rolled past, more and more people asked me about the hip, how likely I was to run, when I would make a decision etc. The idea was to get out to Chamonix a week before the race and make an informed decision there.
The idea of making an “informed” decision when you are surrounded by a load of psyched people, wall to wall sunshine and amazing scenery did seem a little out of place, though. That was not a situation which was conducive to being intelligent.

Having not run for 4,5,6,7 and finally, 8 weeks, the main thing I wanted to avoid was doing a single event and then destroying myself for the next 3,4,5 etc. months. That would be really silly. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy racing, but I would much rather have 5 months pootling around in the hills with friends than doing a single massive blow out in a race which I might not even finish.

And so it came to August. I had not run for 6 weeks, and to be honest, I didn’t fancy just walking the course. Entering it for it’s own sake was not on the agenda. The bullet was bitten and I withdrew my entry.
I’d much rather DNS than DNF.

We went out to Chamonix for the holiday anyway. We walked, we drank beer, I managed to get a short alpine day in with a friend, and we had an amazing time.
Was I annoyed that I wasn’t running the TDS? Yes. A little. However, I know that I still can barely run 5km without pain. Attempting a race of that magnitude would have been folly and stupidity. We’re home now, and the rehab continues. I’m hoping to get out for some shorter races soon, and maybe even dabble a bit in XC this winter. The hip is still not pain-free, but the movement continues.



Will I enter the TDS next year? If my points still stand, yes, I think I will. Not because it is unfinished business, but because I can’t see any other time that I will bother getting the entry points. We’ll see what happens.

Til then - I hope to see you on a hill some time.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Wincle Trout 2017

A race that changes character every year. The start/finish area has 3 options, one at the bottom of the hill, one midway up, and the last at the top of the hill. Each year the location is swapped around, for reasons that are not known to me.
This year was the start/finish at the top of the hill, so certainly the most brutal finish of the variations.
Lynne and I got to Wincle ridiculously early and walked around the entire route, which was very useful in determining where all the pinchpoints and stiles were. (and there were a lot of them). If you're Simon Bailey and 3 mins ahead of everyone else it probably doesn't matter, but that isn't me.

I also found that from the off, the field was rutted and dodgy underfoot, so a great chance to get ahead of the pack of road runners for the descent and not get caught behind people for the long run out along the side of the river.
Managed to get a decent start, and got away from people over the rutted fields, was in the top 10 going though the river and then settled into a pace. Overtook Jack Ross, who must have done an ankle as he pulled out injured soon after.
Then it was me and 2 Chorlton runners (soon to be joined by a Dark Peaker) who basically exchanged places for the entire race. I thought we were around the 7/8/9/10th place runners and was going pretty much as hard as I could, but felt there were a couple of gears missing that I couldn't access, especially downhill. That's the problem with focussing on distance and ascent covered, I'm just not training for short, hard races.

It all came to a head at the end, as you'd imagine. Final hill climb and I was pretty far gone. One of the Chorlton lot and the Dark Peaker got a length on the other Chorlton lad and me, and I wasn't going to let the other guy beat me. As it was we came 3/4/5/6th in the race.
5th.
I didn't expect that.
Pretty tired - more so than after the OCT, to be honest, but I guess it's a different type of racing.
And we all got a Trout for our trouble.

Great race, but if you want to do it, the entries open in feb, and it gets sold out in 4 days or so.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Old County Tops 2017

Chris and I were sitting the pub discussing his Paddy Buckley round back in February when he mentioned he didn't have a partner for the OCT this year. I don't remember actually saying "yes", but there I was, up at 4:15am having breakfast, waiting to be picked up for a dash to the Langdales and back in a day.
Despite being relatively nice and sunny in Glossop, true to form, as soon as we stepped out of the car in the Dungeon Ghyll carpark, it began to rain. Not only that, but as we queued for registration (not an easy task with 120 pairs of runners in a marquee), the heavens really opened, and all the runners that had already registered, headed back to the relative shelter of the tent, making things rather more crowded.
So it was waterproofs on for the start, and unsurprisingly Rob Jebb and Josh Jardine led from the get go. At the end of the first flat section, Chris and I looked over our shoulders and saw a huge gap between us and 4th place and began to wonder if we had gone off a touch fast... it wasn't like we were keeping up with Jebby and Jardine, but we were a lot closer to them than to the guys behind.

Waterproofs came off pretty quickly as we ambled down into Ambleside, and then cruised up the hill towards the tarn and Dollywagon Pike, we took a slightly hybrid line up the Pike - straight followed
by a diagonal trend, which worked as well as can be expected. (It's one of those eternal questions, which is the best line... straight or diagonal - the answer is, which ever one has the person with the strongest legs). From the top, we ascended into the clag where a bitter wind started to blow, bringing jackets and in my case, gloves, into play. We hit the top of Helvellyn at about 1:40, before bashing across and down to the second checkpoint, staying a little higher than I have done before, so getting a better grassy descent at the bottom. A team with sticks overtook us on the way down, but beyond that, nothing really exciting happened.

Up Wythburne, we took the line Caity and I took a couple of years ago, avoiding the bog in the bottom - which the guys with sticks ended up in (up to the waist), and after the traverse down to the Styx path, we took a slightly sub-optimal line towards Angle Tarn- where the sticks guys overtook us again.
We got to Angle tarn just as the weather began to break again, and put on the waterproofs on the move as we headed up into even greater murk, leaving the team we had been playing tag with slightly lower down, faffing with waterproofs.
From here on up, the weather deteriorated, I lost feeling in my hands, despite having Prism Mitts on, so getting food in, working compasses and taking photos were all a bit more tricky than normal. As you might expect, food and compass work got priority, so there aren't any pictures of the clag on tops... not that there was much to see there apart from us slipping around on the rocks.

Underfoot it was properly treacherous, so we took it steady over to the top of the Pike. Having not done the direct descent for a couple of years, we were not anywhere near as slick as I would have liked us to be, however, we got down without incident, and once down into Mosedale we began to warm up a little. Not a lot - mind you, there were clumps of frozen hail dotted around the valley floor, and there was no way I was taking my gloves off yet...

A bimble down Mosedale saw us get to Cockley beck for a well earned cup of tea and a sandwich as we turned toward the inevitable looming ascent of Grey Friar. Never an enjoyable climb, it felt like my legs were falling off as we went up. A slightly more youthful team from Howgill Harriers had caught up by now, and we went up and ontowards the Old Man of Coniston pretty much as a 4.
Again, the clag was down across the top. That, along with fatigue and general malaise meant that I was a little careless in my route finding, and we found ourselves dropping a little too low to the East on the way out to the final Top. Easily rectified, but it must have cost us a few minutes, and certainly expended energy that would have been better spent elsewhere.

The other team had better legs than us (perhaps it was finally our rather exuberant speed at the beginning of the race which was getting it's own back), and they went off into the distance ahead of us from the final peak. Unperturbed, we set off in pursuit, though a bit of a lacklustre one, considering that I was beginning to get stitch. Our line down to 3 shire stone was fairly average, the pain from the road descent was as bad as it always is, but finally the sun came out, and I was able to take off my gloves and get a little bit of warmth and feeling back into my hands!
A gel was taken on the way in, just to keep the legs going, and we finally crossed the line in 7 hours and 29 minutes in 4th place.

Really happy with that, considering that Chris' aim was to finish in sub-8 and my aim was to finish in the top 6.

I have to say a massive thanks to achilli ratti for their organisation of the event - it was as good as it always is, and I shall be back next year for the 30th anniversary of the race.
Also, well done to all the competitors, not only those that had a horrendous time in the weather and managed to finish, but also to those that had a horrendous time and took the intelligent decision to bail at various points. Decision making in the mountains can be a hard thing to do, especially when racing - but the fact that everyone got back in more or less one piece indicates that as a whole, the racers made the right calls.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Teenager with Altitude 2017

I liked this race so much last year that I entered it again. 16 miles and 2000 and a bit metres of ascent and descent... whats not to like?!
Glorious day for it in the Lakes as well - started off a little chilled, with the promise of a bit of breeze on top, and continued throughout with blue skies.

The first climb was just as hard as I remembered, and my climbing has not improved on last years- in fact it has suffered a little. Off the first top, I was quite a way behind the first group (trailing behind the leaders) and was in amongst a few others. I followed Scoffer along on the low line from High Moss to Coledale track - which was the line I took last year and cronked my knee on.
This year - no knee cronkage. yay! Instead, I twisted an ankle - funnily enough within about 10 metres of where I did my knee last year. Wonderful.

Took a different line up Grasmoor this year- rather than the direct line, I went around to the right. I left Spyke at the bottom, and met with him at the top. If there was any difference in the times, it was totally negligible.
I ran with Spyke, swapping leads all the way over to Whiteless Pike, where there was the most spectacular view of Buttermere. The descent was one to be enjoyed, and after overtaking a few people down there, Scoffer was once again only 20 metres from me as we crossed the river to climb to Newlands Hause.

As is the norm, Scoffer et al. launched off upwards, and it was all I could do to look on and try to limit my losses on the ascent. By the time I'd got to the top of High Snockrigg (the best named peak in the Lakes, closely followed by Joppletey How), Spyke had once again caught and overhauled me.
Together we climbed Robinson by the path on the Right (again, different to last year for me), which is definitely the more efficient route, but my Hamstrings were letting me know they had had enough by then. Trying to follow Spyke became a bit like trying to follow a terminator as he marched his way upward.

I hit the top a little behind him, and as the hordes from the Anniversary Waltz appeared, I never quite managed to get back to him after that.

Down and up to Hindscarth was pretty fun as the quads were having a bit of a rebellion, though I picked my way through the Waltzers, keeping an eye out ahead for Spyke. Again, down and over to Dale Head, and a badly picked line off the top (waaaay too far right) saw me lose some time - so that going up and over the final ridge Jon Ascroft and a guy from Borrowdale caught me up.

The final tussle over High Spy, Malden Moor and Catbells saw us encouraging each other to make decisive moves against each other, and generally have a good old battle.
In the midst of all this, coming down off Malden Moor, I noticed a familiar figure, running down the hill with 2 sticks - could it be? Yup - it was Joss. We exchanged pleasantries as I passed - no idea how many others noticed him galloping over the fells today....

There was always a point where one of the 3 of us was ahead and one was struggling, with the other calmly moving in the middle, but it was not until the final descent when Jon had broken away, that I managed to gather myself and break from the Borrowdaler.

Finally, heels slipping in my shoes and blisters threatening, the final road section appeared and I stormed down to the end. 13th overall in 3:12. A minute slower than last year, but a place up.
We'll take that and see what the rest of the year brings.
It was an amazing day out, and once again, I'll swear that I'll go back and do the route when I can have the chance to fully appreciate the splendour of that bit of the Lakes - much less run and visited than the honeypots, but equally as glorious.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Paddy Buckley Support - legs 2 and 3 - and thoughts on timings.

I've supported legs 2 and 3 before. The first time was with Al. It was dark. I swore blind I'd never run leg 3 again. Then Jasmin asked me to help her on leg 3 last year, so I did.
Then Chris asked me if I'd do legs 2 and 3 with him this year. Not liking to let someone down, I said yes.
It was much the same as I remembered - dark, cold and windy on leg 2. (I wore waterproof trousers for running in for the first time since the Spine!), and leg 3 was a massive bog-fest followed by leg sapping climbs across the Moelwyns and Cnicht. All good fun.

Chris heading up Cnicht
This isn't really meant to be a record of the day out, but more of a couple of thoughts about the Paddy Buckley schedule, especially that of leg 3.
The attempts I have supported ended up being successful - a 23:18, 23:19 and an 18:33. The most notable thing about all of them was just how hard leg 3 was, both in terms of the physical movement and the mental game - but perhaps most importantly, the battle against the schedule.
To be fair to Al, he didn't have a schedule for each peak, but rather had a time when he wanted to be at road crossings. We were up by 30 mins when we left Capel Curig, but were about an hour down on the 23 hour schedule by the time we hit Aberglaslyn.
Yes, we moved slowly, yes it was dark, but what the heck happened?!

At the Mines
With Jasmin, it was hard, hard work. I don't know if we were keeping to the 18 hour schedule that was written down, but on analysis, she was only just hitting some of the splits that would have (theoretically) got her a 23 hour schedule.

With Chris, we started the leg 15 mins down on his 23 hour schedule, and we were up and down on it by varying amounts from 5 mins to 55 mins depending on the peak. Clearly, the schedule is not quite up to muster, so I sat down and geeked out on the times between each round and came up with the following conclusions.

Up siabod.
  • Moel Siabod climb - you're looking at about 1 hour for a 23 hour schedule. Maybe a little longer.
  • Siabod to clogwyn bwlch y maen is just over 20 mins.
  • clogwyn bwlch y maen to Carnedd y Cribiau is about 10.
  • Carnedd y Cribiau to Cerrig Cochion seems to be where it seems to all go wrong for the timings - on a 23 hour schedule it gives you 34 mins. On her 18 hour schedule, Jasmin did it in 30. Chris and Al were over 50 mins on this section. The next few sections are also quite a bit slower in practice than in theory...
  • Cerrig Cochion to Moel Merch is given as 13 mins - Jasmin - again on the 18 hour schedule nailed it in exactly that. Call it 15 for a 23 hour schedule.
  • Moel Meirch to Ysgafael Wen - 18 mins is given here. Jasmin did it in 19... Chris in 22 and Al in 29. (I suspect we were having navigational amusements at that point, considering the dark and fatigue, so call it about 23 mins to be safe).
  • Ysgfael Wen to Mynydd Llynnau'r Cwm is given as 4 mins. If you can do that in 4 mins, you probably haven't been trying. Chris and Jasmin both did it in 6, and Al was 14 - again, a night nav thing, I suspect. Call is 6-7 mins then.
  • Mynydd Llynnau'r Cwm to the unnamed peak is given as 7 on the 23 hour schedule- considering Jasmin hit it in 4, and both Chris and Al did it in 8, that seems to be there or thereabouts.
  • The next couple are ok, but the time from Allt Fawr to Foel Ddu- 30 mins on a 23 hour schedule took 42 for both Al and Chris (using different lines), and 28 for Jasmin.
  • The only other split of any issue may be Moelwyn Mawr to Cnicht - 23 hour schedule says 52mins. You might find yourself lagging a little behind that depending on just how deep you've had to go in order to keep up with the previous splits.

At the start. No. These photos are not in chronological order!
That's probably enough of the numbers and stats for the moment. Perhaps the only other things I would note are these:
doing leg 3 in the dark is bloody hard. If you're going to do it, recce it as much as possible and know exactly which lumps you are going to summit at to save wasting time looking for the right one.
In fact, do that, even if you are going to do it in the day time.

If you're going to support, yes, it's cool to do legs 2 and 3, but if you want to be the best supporter you possibly can, I'd suggest getting some shut-eye and being fully compus mentis for the leg - someone needs to be sharp for the bog navigation, and being tired does nothing to help with that.

If you want to know more about detailed times, spreadsheets and GPX's drop me a line. I tend to keep an eye on the comments sections of the blog.


Friday, 14 April 2017

Hypothermia on Kinder

Trained hard through December and January, took February off running - mainly as I was in Tasmania, and anywhere I tried to run ended up being infested with snakes. The intelligent option was taken and I chilled out a bit, enjoyed the holiday, and subsequently didn't get bitten.
Result.

Back in the UK, I decided to go for a bit of a bimble with a friend. We are fairly evenly matched in terms of running, though I realised that 3 weeks off it would probably set me back a ways - especially while trying to get over a 28 hour flight and 11 hour time difference.
How right I was, and how painful was the realisation!

We set off on the run, over Bleaklow and Kinder, picking off a few trig points on the way. I was pretty tired by the time we got to the top of the first hill - close to home - and was being nailed on the ascent by Matt. Still, even though I wasn't feeling amazing, I should really put some effort it, and so we continued over to Higher Shelf.
By this time, it was clear we were above the current snow line, the sun was still out, but it was a bit cold. If I turned for home now, it'd be fine, but Matt was going to continue on, no matter what I did- maybe heading over to meet up with some guys doing a Skyline recce. I decided not to wuss out and let him go on alone, partially because it wouldn't have been fair to let him head off on his own into what was to become pretty horrid conditions.

Things got better over toward the Alport, but I ran out of steam on the climb up to Kinder. Most of the bars had gone, and as we headed to look for 1957 trig the weather came in hard. Snow, sleet, wind etc. We stopped to put on insulated layers, but in the intervening period, my hands pretty much stopped working. We made the decision just to head along the north edge til we got home.
So I took the lead, and basically set off in totally the wrong direction for about 1km. Once we started recognising the places we had already been, direction was sorted out, and once again we set out along the northern edge. In a Westerly direction this time.

The edge path was horrible. Varying depths of bog and snow up to about1.5ft of each, snow falling - well, being driven into us, and slowly getting colder.
My brain was fixed on getting along the edge, ticking off features as we went. I slowly got colder, despite the various layers I was wearing and at some points my head was wondering about calling out MRT.
However, we were still moving. We were not injured. Stopping would have made it worse. We would have to wait at least 2 hours for MRT to arrive - at which point they would get us to walk off the hill anyway. The alternative was to keep running and get home in about an hour anyway. So we kept going through the mud and the grimness. Me fighting fatigue, jetlag and hypothermia, and eventually we dropped out of the cloud and into Glossop.
Epic over.

Well - nearly. I then spent about 3 hours in bed trying to warm up and get back to normal again... really running on fumes at the end there. 

Learning points -
  • It takes a while to get over jetlag.
  • I'm not a natural runner and need to keep practiced in order to stay good
  • Keep your head strong - it will drag you further than you think you can go
  • Carry enough fuel 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Edale Skyline - 2017

Lynne mentioned the other day that I hadn't written anything about Edale Skyline, and I thought I should get a a couple of thoughts down on paper before I totally forgot about it.

I hadn't raced at all between Mickleden and the Skyline, in fact, my training had been somewhat stymied by a 3 week trip to Tasmania. Although it was very cool indeed, and a fantastic laugh, I didn't actually get much running or training in while there. Once back in the UK, it was quite evident that I am not a natural runner as I got nailed on what should have been an easy run with a friend... more on that on another blog.

Me and Ben Naylor at the top of Ringing Roger
Essentially I felt like I was starting from scratch again. Luckily, the time off running had allowed my ankle to pretty much get back to being normal, however the Skyline came a bit too close for me to have got quite back to racing speed.
My first aim was to be in the top 10 out of the field, not get held back on the climb, and just see how the rest of the race went.
The weather was fantastic, so normal AL racekit was needed, as opposed to the significantly greater list on a bad year - so the race weight wasn't all that bad. As I hoped, I was in the first 10 out of the gate, and didn't get held back on the climb. Got overtaken by a lot of people, mind, including Chris Webb pretty soon after the first hairpin, but I just plodded on.

Across the tops I found myself catching up with the guys in front, and retook a number of places on the technical section and was with Chris and Jez as we went to Hope Cross. The new route now takes us down the Hope Wakes route, and we were told to stick to the paths, which we duely did. Other racers, it seems were not given that instruction and bashed through the woods on a direct line, cutting over fences... not entirely cool, and I wonder if more specific guidance may be given next year.

On the climb up to Win Hill my legs decided to say "nope" and I lost a number of places. My ascending is *still* the weakest part of my race, even 5 years after starting to race. Maybe I've got stronger at everything, and yet climbing is lagging behind by the same amount?
On the descent I grabbed a place from Ben Naylor and managed to stay ahead of him on the ascent of Lose Hill. About 3-4 of us were exchanging places and good humoured banter up the hill and across the ridge to Mam tor, but once past the checkpoint, my legs ended up really going "definitely nope" and I lost touch with them as we headed over Lord's seat.

Just before the new checkpoint at the bottom of the hill to Brown Knoll, Lynne was there with a drink, which I was grateful for, and then started the long flagged climb to the Knoll. Those slabs are great, in terms of not wading through bog, but horrendous in that they just keep going. Especially when you have runners breathing down your neck.

A couple of guys overtook me along the Southern edge of Kinder, and I could feel a blister coming on inbetween my toes (grit in socks?) and there was another one waiting to overtake me, who didn't quite have the speed over the slightly more technical terrain towards the end. I then totally lost him on the descent and came in a good minute in front of the next finisher.
20th overall, and 3:25. Not bad, really, but with some serious work to do on my climbing.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Mickleden straddle 2017

Just a couple of thoughts. Started out after about 6k of warm up. Maybe too much? Was fairly far down the field at the beginning and had to fight through about 40 people before being able to open up. Spent about 4km chasing down Chris, so I wonder if I burnt a few too many matches in the opening few km? Was happy going across the tops and was in 7th by the time I hit Slippery stones.

Was getting quite tired down the resers and then had to stop to tie a shoe before the ascent. The ascent was long and hard, couldnt justify walking, but my "running" wasn't really up to much and by then Chris had caught up to me and was neck and neck with me. Up to the top he gained about 10 metres and then I twisted an ankle and had to stick my foot into a bog for a minute before I could get on with attempting to run again.
The descent was long and it was a good few minutes before I got overtaken by a load of chasers. Ended up 13th which is pretty annoying considering without the ankle mishap I'd have easily been top 10. Not sure I'd have managed to beat Chris as I was feeling knackered, but there you go.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Review?

I've just looked at the last blog I wrote- it was a report on supporting Jasmins Paddy Buckley... it just didn't get published, so I'll do that a little later on. A few months late, but whatever.

It snowed last night, and the Spine Challenger starts today. I am not doing it this year, looking back at my blog from the race last year, I can still remember the pain. During the race it crossed my mind what kind of a running year I might then have, whether it would be good, bad or indifferent.
To begin with it was pretty rubbish. I couldn't really string days, let alone weeks of training together. A few races came and went - Teenager with Altitude, helping Jasmin out on her Bob Graham, that kind of thing, but various tweaks and problems came and went.
Through the year I had pre-entered a number of races, but they ended up being a bit rubbish, or I had to pull out and DNS them. My ankle twisted and kept going over through the summer months, and it seemed like I just couldn't keep myself together.

August saw Craken Edge where I ended up pulling a hip flexor which put me out of fast running action for a fair while, and to be honest, I'm still feeling it. I rested for a good few weeks - to no avail, so I trained a little- to no avail, and through into December I just decided to train properly for a few weeks just to see what would happen. Nothing nasty, so I've just decided to ignore it and continue.

To be fair, although that sounds like a litany of bad luck and grumbly-ness, I have had a decent amount of good form. The Spine Challenger was hard, but I was 4th overall, and 1st Mountain Rescue home. I managed another sub-4 at Jura, and in very different conditions to the Spine, I came in 3rd on the Bryce Canyon 50miler... very different extremes of weather and temperature. Not a bad to-do.

This year should be fun- as there is no horrendous winter race to contend with. However, I have just had confirmation that I have a place in the TDS in France at the end of August. 73km and 7000m of ascent. So thats probably going to be the main aim of the year, with other bits and pieces jammed in around that.

The main thing is going to be trying to stay injury free and enjoying being out there.
That's what its about. Being in the hills with friends.