Friday, 6 August 2010

Osmotherley 33 The Return

A return to the Osmotherley 33 on the day before my 50th Birthday. I wanted to run this race well and beat my previous year's poor effort. However, I didn't want to push it too hard, after all it was only a training run for the Lakeland 50 in three weeks time.
I run the race really well in warm conditions managing to knock off nearly an hour from last year's time. I caught with some friends after the race and enjoyed post race re hydration beer, fish'n chips and tales. A excellent weekend's running.

The lakeland 50 12,000 ft of climbing through the lake district fells.

The lakes on a sunny day

I decided to camp for the Lakeland 50. Although the start was at 12 mid day I wanted to be up and prepared in good time. I set up my tent on the official camp site over looked by the looming hills of Rigg Head, Yew Pike & Yewdale Crag. It was Friday evening with a few hours of sunshine still left of the day. It was interesting watching fellow competitors milling about, checking kit, reading maps, generally chatting about the events to come.

I'd picked up a few cans of beer to share with CD post race, cracking one open I sat fairly chilled thinking about the 100 competitors (three of which I kind of know through these pages). They had left at 5.30pm and had already been running 4 hrs. Across the way there was a competitor dressed in his skins going through his evening Pilates ritual, This inspired me to finish off my beer and crack open another knowing the carbs would come in useful soon enough. Coniston proved to be very lively come throwing out time, with groups of youngsters shouting and screaming way into the early hours. Next morning I cooked myself a king size breakfast - Packet of Bacon and double egg sandwich followed by a huge bowl of pasta and 4 cups of tea soaked up with chunks of cake. I'd kit-checked, pre registered and weighed in the evening before, so all there was to do now was make up my supplies for the day and drink more tea.

'Collie Dave' turned up with Charlie his dog. Before we knew it we were on the coach taking us to the start at Dalemain an hour or so away. Sitting on the coach at 11.00 am my thoughts once again turned to the 100ers who had now been running 17 hrs. The coach seemed to take an age winding through the same big hills we'd be running through. Eventually arriving 20 mins before the start. It must have been a sight to see as a coach load of well hydrated competitors piled off and headed straight to water the trees. Herded into the starting corals the atmosphere picked up as we were to begin the 4 mile loop of the fields, this was a pain. A quarter of a mile up hill we came to a standstill as a small style into a wood had to be negotiated. I could have walked to that point, saved energy and not lost any time.

This happened 3 more times and became irritating. It was an obvious design to string the field out to the advantage of the fast guys and to the disadvantage of most others. At least 8 minutes lost to queuing so early in the race. Within the first few miles I picked up a runner I'd run with at last year's HP 40 we ran together in good weather chatting. On quickly through the first check point at Howtown. We’d passed one or two 100ers on the way and it wasn’t long before I caught 'Brit Nick' who was looking great at 60 odd miles and 20+ hours under his belt. Heading along Fusedale Beck climbing up to the first serious ascent of Wether Hill. Next 100er up, and just ahead of Nick was DE who looked a bit peaky but was moving well. As we topped out at High Kop a thick mist changed the atmosphere. There was group ahead debating which invisible track to take. I took advantage of having done my homework and led the way traversing at a decent speed to eventually drop down to Haweswater where I’d now left my previous group to catch another.

About 17 miles done and I was moving well along horrible ground underfoot, bobbing up and down along the edge of the never ending Howeswater. I picked off runners who were beginning to feel the effect of Wether Hill. Along here I caught another competitor who I’d recognised from previous races, our times had been close at Osmotherley twice, the last being in my favour. I passed and ran into Mardale Head Check Point. I knew now that I’d found my pace in the field. The runner I’d recognised ran into the Check Point as I was running out. We were to see each other time and time again during the race and eventually we’d ‘race’ over the last 7 miles.

Ok I’ve arrived at Checkpoint 2 Mardale Head 19 miles done. I’d felt the chill for the last couple of miles and it was time to ditch my club vest and put a long sleeve top on. From here we were heading high up through Gatesgarth Pass into some nasty weather (jacket soon on) which could be seen sheeting horizontally against the sodden slopes of Adam Seat to my right and Branstree to my left. I lost a few places on the ascent but was confident of gaining them back on the gnarly wet descent towards the ironically named River Sprint. I did my best along here to catch and hold onto a group of twenty somethings, but I wouldn’t exactly call it sprinting. I passed a tail ender from this bunch and desperately tried to hang onto the group. As soon as we came to the next little climb I decided to let them go or risk burning out with more than 30miles to go.

I dropped back to the straggler who became my running partner right up to Chapel Stile some hours away. We worked well together my overall stamina and non-stop encouragement keeping us going at good pace on everything but the steep climbs. His strength dragged me up faster than I’d been able to alone. It was still very wet but not cold. Kentmere checkpoint was brilliant. The food was novel, someone thrust a freshly made fruit smoothie in my mitt and I ordered a tea and pasta. The guy handed me the pasta which I grabbed by the edge of the polystyrene plate. SPLAT! Another one please! I bent stiffly to clean up the splat but the staff would have non of it, one saying “you eat” ...”I clean” in Red Indian speak. Looking round I spotted a 100er mile 88 for him. He was slowly re-packing hi sack after a dry change – it was slow motion watching him. A quick nod to Chris and we were on the hoof again cheered up by the brilliant support from these guys.

Running into the checkpoint was my shadow and partner, they were right on my case. I needed to stick with Chris and get him moving faster along the flats and downhills to keep these guys off my tail. Next up was the Garburn Pass another big slog climb then the long ankle eating stony descent of Garburn Road into TroutBeck. This was difficult, tedious running yet I managed to make decent time. I was glad to arrive at the road into Troutbeck. More climbing and on towards Windermere and Ambleside. Before long we were running through the main streets along the path alongside a string of restaurants. I glanced in the window to see my sodden, tired reflection and through that to someone tucking into an expensive meal oblivious to the soldiers running by. How strange it must have been for those fat diners watching half starved runner after runner filing by and staring bug eyed at them tucking into dinner and pudding.

The locals on the street in Ambleside gave us a hero’s welcome as we passed pubs and doorways, what a lift that was. Once into the shop (Lakes Runner) we were greeted with more enthusiastic support and lashings of coke, soup and hot tea- fantastic and better than that rubbish they were eating in the restaurant next door! One of the guys worked hard on my jacket zipper which had jammed at the neck. My Vaselened and wet fingers had no chance of undoing it. This was about mile 33 and it had taken me over 8hrs to get there. 3 weeks earlier I’d run Osmotherley 33 in just over 6hrs. That’s how much tougher this run was. We spent too long in here and my shadow hadn’t let the opportunity go by, looking over my shoulder as I ran towards the Park which led to the next hill I saw my shadow following.

Over the hill towards Tarn Foot and down to the River Brathay. The river was running still, swollen with fresh rain like liquid glass it run deep. It was that kind of evening stillness you get occasionally after a lot of rain. The running here was flat and steady. I relaxed a bit along here allowing for young Chris who was beginning to flag a little. He kept asking me to run on, being only half a mile from Chapel Style I wasn’t going to leave him. We arrived at Chapel Style and through the village past a pub garden full of totally uninterested people. In complete contrast to the rowdy Amblesiders. Never mind, I was more interested in the Beef stew at the check point than applause from the locals.

It was here that my shadow and partner caught up. Being my chirpy cheeky self, I cracked a bad joke to the shadow - some thing like ‘You keep catching me up – it’s getting irritating!’ It went down like a lead balloon. I could see what was to come right then. Chris and I filled up and headed out of the checkpoint, the shadow and partner left 20 feet behind obviously rushing their stop. Along the flat of Great Langdale Beck I picked up the pace which killed off Chris (we were at 43 miles-ish, with two climbs to go.) it was now becoming darkish. I shouted encouragement back to Chris and said he’d catch me on the ascents. I didn’t see him again until after the finish. Pushing on, I began picking one or two tired runners off and didn’t really look back for the shadow and partner. I pretty much knew they’d be there, just out of sight somewhere.

A short fierce climb up Side Pike slowed me down again. It was now dark. I sensed footfall behind an stepped to the side expecting to see one of the guys I’d just passed. It was the shadow and partner. The race was now on. I was now the shadow, and I made sure I stuck with them. I was now able to observe for the first time how they were operating as a tight team. I tailed them for a mile towards Blea Tarn they were head-torched up, I was not. (Those who have read some of my winter accounts will know that I’m comfortable running in the dark without a torch - obviously on reasonable ground that doesn’t need navigating) The shadow however didn’t know this.

On arrival at the gate into the wood at Blea Tarn the shadow stopped and invited me to run ahead (Obviously because it was pitch black in the wood and heading to a tricky navigating section looking like I didn’t have a torch) I declined the very kind offer! There was no advantage to gain either way it took me seconds to pop my head torch on and regain their tails. On exiting the the wood they had now come to a standstill. I made a point of taking the initiative and forging a path through the initial horrible boggy mush and a million crisscrossing sheep tunnels through the bracken. I didn’t need their torches. A small group soon gathered here as it was slow progress through the blanketing mist and horrible ground.

The road was soon found with no one at an advantage. I must admit to feeling little annoyed at the head torch ‘gamesmanship’. The group were strung out again as we climbed a few stony lanes just right of Little Langdale Tarn. The shadow and partner were making a push along here and I needed to make a plan to compete. Only a matter of minutes before Tilberthwaite and the last check point. I decided to drop back a few hundred meters, take a breather and arrive at the check point as the shadow was leaving. Let them go ahead and then once over the top of Yewdale Fells. I figured there was enough nasty descent for me to regain the advantage. I felt good about the plan. And strong enough for a fast flat finish. I Dibbed and Filled. And set off up the steep steps. 2mins or so behind. 3 plus miles to go.

On from the last checkpoint and a steep climb up the side of the working quarry avoiding paths right and definitely paths left which would have been a free fall into blackness. I could see no torches ahead but a glance back saw many torches strung out to the distance with a noticeable concentration gathered at the nasty bog section of Blea Tarn. The memory of the slog through there inspired me to push on and up. The path faded into open fell here. A slight hesitation as I checked the road book. All was correct, however I was solo now with no torches in front, nobody to cross check with and no obvious path. I moved on looking for the path to pickup again.

Some bobbing torches appeared behind and I decided it would be worth checking with these guys. They were a bunch of friendly young southern lads, without breaking their stride they assured me all was right. I made an instant assessment of these guys and had decided on the one I was going to run in with. We soon arrived at an obvious stepping stone crossing with a lone tree. All that remained now was a simple skip across the stones and on to catch the shadow and partner on the gnarly descent. But hang on? wasn't this the FALSE crossing? you know, the one a trusted friend had said to be aware of - as many who had recced had crossed here wrongly? Yes this was the one, we needed to avoid this crossing even though it has a huge neon arrow sign saying 'VICTORY & HOT TEA THIS WAY' I convinced the lads of this and off we went following Crook Beck for another 200 meters up to another lone tree and gully.

A quick cross here, another 200 meters and we were in no-mans land. I felt like one of those movie cops who's been chasing a villain through streets and gardens only to run up a blind alley with the villain well gone laughing. Map out for the first time (the road book was useless now). for all my prep I'd not figured out that I couldn't read the Harvey's map without my recently required reading glasses, they were at home in their nice little leather case wrapped in their comfy soft lens polisher fast asleep. A quick compass bearing and a plan to pick up the path lower down and we were away. Too much sand had slipped through my fingers sorting that one out. BALLOCKS! Lessons learned. Race over.

Never mind, it had been a great run. I decided to run in easily with one of the lads and enjoy the last two miles reflecting back over the day knowing that a recce would have seen me knock a huge hole in my time of 12hrs 53min. The Shadow and partner had gained over 15 mins in the last 3 and half miles. Well done them. Next time. The weigh in at the finish reported a 3.5kg weight loss. They asked me how I was feeling, I was fine, no blisters, no cramp just my usual lack of appetite. I'd run the 50 on the food that was available at the Check Points and only 1 energy gel at 30miles. One bottle of SIS energy drink and three Nunn electrolyte tabs. I felt like I had more hours in me for sure. May be a good sign for the 100m? As dawn started to break Collie Dave and I shared beers and packets of Cheese and onion crisps outside my tent, what a feast. Until we were told to Shhhhhhh! by a knackered runner trying to sleep off the miles.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Cadair Idris Fell Race

Cadair Idris - 'The chair of Idris' From Welsh mythology- Idris was a Giant who sat on the mountain's lake (Llyn Cau) with his arms up on the crest like a giant arm chair.

This was the main challenge of the Cadair Idris Fell race which climbs 3,000ft over 10.5 miles from the main square in Dolgellau. I'd been injury plagued on the run up to this race which had interfered with my preparation and prevented me from losing just a couple more pounds so I could break the 12stone barrier. Having got over the injury problems during the lead up, I couldn't believe it when I put my back out the night before the race. Anyway there was no way I wasn't going to run this race, so I packed the car, dosed up on pain killers and drove to the start line. Arriving with only a few minutes to spare, I was running around the second I got out of the car. The race was soon heading up, and out of town towards the mountain. The weather changed from sunny to horizontal rain and clag as soon as we hit the lower slopes. I was a bit slow climbing wanting to conserve energy for the down hill which was wet and very steep. With the back problem I couldn't afford to fall. I managed to gain a lot of places on the descent and come in with a respectable 2hrs 5mins 35secs which placed me 107th out of 214 finishers - Sub 2hrs is on for next year. A great atmosphere and a very well organised race. Time to get my back sorted now for the next one in a few weeks - Osmotherley Phoenix 33m. Time to 'up' the mileage for me and Dot.

Monday, 10 May 2010

No harm in a bit of X training

Donna smiling before her 47mile Tour.

My first race date of the year is coming up in a couple of weeks. It's only a short 10-11 mile mountain race. I say only! it's still near 2,900ft of climbing and a 'balls out descent'. I'm having a little trouble with my left patella not tracking properly which has affected my descending confidence and consequently rubbing off a bit of speed in recent training. Having said that I have put some fast (for me) training times in recently, running 11.5 miles over 1,400ft in 1hr 52min just last weekend. Ran it comfortably, even with slow descent speed (due to the problem knee) This bodes well, although I'm just picking up a cold which is going to force me to rest for a couple of days. I've also been putting in a bit of cross training with the odd road cycle ride (I've bought my other half Donna a road bike for her 45th birthday) We both enjoy following the Tour de France on the TV this time of year, so now we have bikes we can get a few decent rides in as a bonus. Donna's first ride was 33 miles (hilly) and her second 47m a bit flatter but a fantastic effort for someone who's never ridden a roadbike in her life! For me, I've iInevitably set myself a 'distance challenge' - The ride from home (N.Wales) to work (Cheshire) is about 50miles one way - I've been thinking of riding into work and then riding back home which will be a nice round 100m. Maybe I should throw in a lunchtime hill run in the middle!

Monday, 22 March 2010


Looking out from Llandegla forest to Eclusham Mountain

22 in fact. Miles that is. First decent, longish run this year. I decided to run East along Offa's Dyke instead of West. I started out a bit late in the day after a very frustrating day's struggling laying a bathroom floor. The floor won. I got my kit sorted out in a rush, which usually means forgetting something essential. Slapped two sandwiches together (Ham and cheese for Dot, cheese and mayo for me) I popped two small bottles of fluid in the sack and off we headed East. I followed my regular route for the first 10 miles not really enjoying it, I hadn't cleared my mind from the DIY pain from earlier in the day, plus a tad too much red wine the previous night. I knew though that as I pushed on and clicked off a few more miles my mood would change for the better. At 10 miles we stopped for a top change and to take on a bit of fuel. I then decided the run needed pepping up a little. I had about an hour of twilight left, the weather was warm 'claggy' and misty up high with occasional drizzle. I decided to follow an unfamiliar narrow moorland path which wandered up and across a hill to the summit of Cyrn y Brain Only a small hill which was easy running with great views when the mist allowed. I must take more pics! Navigating by common sense I ran a big loop back to familiar ground and found it just as darkness fell. 7 miles home to do in the dark with only Dot's super-white coat glowing out of the darkness, no torch. Less than a mile from the car we happened upon a family of Badgers out enjoying the beginning of their evening feasting. I grabbed Dot quickly and led her away from a possible head on with the Badgers. They would have had her for breakfast.

That was a few weeks ago and the draft has been sitting in the drafts folder since. I've managed no long runs since, only managing to squeeze in shorter 'tick-over' stuff.
With only a few weeks to go before Cadair Idris and not so long before Osmotherley Phoenix and the Lakeland 50 I need to get some distance runs in. I was briefly tempted to join 'Collie Dave' on his Coast to coast challenge just short of 200 miles of cross country running. If you're reading this CD - sorry I couldn't join you and all the best for the run. I have to focus my efforts on getting the house finished which in turn will free me up for more running. I'm going to be dusting my road cycle down for the summer and getting out with my wife (Just bought her a nice road bike too - hope she takes to it!) not sure the cycling will add much to my running fitness but it surely won't hurt. Latest run was yesterday early evening. I did a 2000ft 13 miler across my local hills, the view out to the west was different a snap photo wouldn't have done it justice (that's my excuse for not taking them!) UK and Europe's been under the shadow of a volcanic dust cloud which has come down from Iceland. Apart from affecting air travel across Europe it made the sunset turn a deeper red than usual, above a blackened sky line, and below a blackened upper atmosphere sat a dull red slash of colour. It was a strange sunset, once again the power of nature. I've decided taking pictures is a problem for me when I'm out running because I only stop to lift Dot over gates etc. I do like to get on with it and not get distracted. I'm a bit muscle sore today proving that I really must be getting on with it!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Winter, say hello to spring.

Since my last post time's flown. Fresh on the back of the thinking and planning I've been doing for a future attempt at a PBR I decided to log how much climbing I was doing a week, something I never really thought about during the training for last year's ultras. I kind of knew I would have to get some hill work done but didn't record or think too much about the amount. In fact I'm pretty sure I didn't get enough consistent miles or height in prior to the Phoenix 33, that along with the heat is why I suffered on it so badly. For the PBR I've been reading that some say that 10,000ft a week's needed! My local hill run gives me about 1,000 - 1,200ft from the start the the first summit, then once on the top I can roller-coaster up and down a chain of connected hills. I can rack up some height without 'repping' the same hill via the same route which keeps it nice and interesting to run. For a few weeks I started clocking 4,400ft - 5,000ft over 30-40 miles a week. I think it caught up with me early last week though, as I had a poor run. There again it could have been an unpleasant encounter I experienced with a mutilated sheep that ruined that particular run. I won't go into detail but the thing suffered longer than it should have at the hands of nature.

I'm picking this up a couple of weeks on. Still aiming to clock the height as mentioned above. We're moving into a bit more sunshine and spring at the moment, so my feet have actually been dry of late! It's time to lay off the red wine a little now and think about shedding a few more pounds and get myself at a decent running weight. I need to drop 8lbs fairly quickly. Vince my occasional running partner is back from a second injury and pushed me hard- this last weekend, he led the way over 16 miles of 3,000ft. I also need to rearrange my running week in order to cope with the extra effort that's going to be required over the next few weekends as I increase the LSR's in distance, height and effort. Winter running up on my local hills has been brilliant this year, now I'm looking forward to spring erupting under my feet as I run the trails and passes. Time to keep an ear out for the first cuckoo. And on the subject of Sunshine...

...Welcome Little Miss 'Mary Sunshine' - what a lovely name.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Have I got a plan?

A few days have passed since the thought of doing the PBR entered my head. I've had my head down gathering information on the route, and have read a few accounts and even watched a poorly made but sunny home video - which to be honest only served to disguise the harder realities of the challenge. (No disrespect to the runner in it intended) I've now got the route in my head in terms of how the mountains fall according to the downloadable suggested timing plan. I've matched photographs from different angles of each of the 47 peaks as they appear on the timing plan. This with a little knowledge of parts of the course gained from my mountaineering days has given me a clearer picture to visualise. I've also studied the OS map in detail of each leg. It's a lot of very rugged ground!. It's also 3 times more running climbing than I've done in one session to date. The plan at the moment is to develop my current Ultra running experience with a couple more Ultras in the late spring and summer this year and maybe add another towards the end of the year. Next year all being well, I'll aim to do the Fellsman in May which is 11,000ft over 62miles and then for the run up to Autumn 2011 I'll spend time on the PBR course itself. I'll also look at covering the first leg later this year, after that I'll know if I'm capable of a serious attempt or not. The more I look at it the more I can see putting a reliable pacing and support team together being an equal challenge to the run itself. As I progress this year and speak to people etc this problem may sort itself out. Meanwhile its back to nosing around to see what i can find on the subject.