Things may go quiet for a while. Yesterday's Woodbank Parkrun gave me my last proper run for 3 weeks until this:
Tarawera Ultra Marathon 100k
Te Houtaewa Challenge 62km.
I depart this afternoon and may struggle to get on-line. In any case there'll be a lot of work to do in South Korea, China, Hong Kong and New Zealand with not many exercise opportunities (apart from the odd hour or two in hotel gyms) before I meet up with ex-pat Jan Danilo for some fun and games in Rotorua. I hope I don't go to seed too much.
Jan, if you see this, please prepare the rehab for the arrival of the sloth. I want to be race fit by March 16th. Can you do it in a day? ;-)
The Tarawera Ultra 2013 has the deepest, most competitive field of world-class ultra runners it's ever had in its young history (I expect zero race points in the FRA Forum Champs). This is its 5th year. It has built up quite a reputation because Race Organiser Paul Charteris modelled it on the big races in America like the Western States 100. Support is second to none and its reputation is now paying dividends.
[Paul and I go back a few years now. He was my first ever pacer on my first Western States 100 in that hot furnace year 2006. If he is half as good a R.O. as he is a pacer, I'm expecting great things next month.]
Following on from all that excitement I have packed a certain essential barcode because, if things work out, I might even squeeze in a Parkrun in Australia when I move on to there. Melbourne over Easter is looking difficult to pull off but the Torrens Parkrun is looking more likely a week later after taking care of business in Adelaide, just before I fly back to Istanbul for another week of taking care of you-know-what. I will return just in time for the Calderdale Hike and Kinder Downfall fell race the day after. Calderdale Hike will be my first 2013 Runfurther race as a member of Team Krypton. Oh, the pressure!
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
So, here we are after a 5-year hiatus. On the later 9am start there were more runners than I recall. The day was beautifully sunny as I always remembered it but the mud, traditionally 'entertaining' in places, was a real challenge in those places and more. I was lucky to hold onto my shoes during many of the field crossings. The walkers who had set off an hour before the runners, and the Parbold Hill race on the previous day, ensured that many parts of our route were liquefied to maximum effect, while trailing brambles threatened to trip us up and lacerated our legs as they did so.
How can a sloping field be so boggy?
Thanks to the underfoot conditions, times were reckoned to be up to half an hour slower than usual (fastest time 3:15 compared with sub-3hrs). It gave us better value for money and a better body workout to stave off the inevitable decline of creeping old age (speaking for myself of course).
I didn't take many pictures because of the 'supreme effort' involved in negotiating the mud and brambles. ;-)
Tuesday, 12 February 2013
There was fresh snow on Rivington Pike, Winter Hill and the moors to keep the winter feel alive. Hill cloud, combined with fewer direction signs than we had grown accustomed to over the years, caused some who weren't sure of the route to go astray. Some locals should have known better (shame on you, Ian ;-)).
It hadn't been cold enough for the ground to be frozen. Mud and bogs were as bad as they can get on this route. Great Hill is in a dreadful state now. I have seen it deteriorate badly over the past 14 years. How long will it be before the stone flags start to appear on the motorway bog-fest on our approach?
The forecast had improved by Saturday morning. True to prediction, any drizzle had died out before our 8am start and we enjoyed a precipitation-free outing. Ever optimistic, I took my camera but only took a few pictures at checkpoints because I was putting my foot down everywhere else. What I did take is here.
Many thanks once again to West Lancs LDWA for giving us this annual pleasure, whatever the weather.
Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Just frozen (bogs and puddles excepted)
Cold breeze on Ilkley Moor
Some didn't need a hat.
Lanshaw Lad to Whetstone Gate
Good or bad?
How high can you lift your feet?
Ice patches, gaps and lumps
Trips and falls, scrapes and bumps
Capture the moment. SportSunday.
Bouncy bog past Rombald's Moor
Now sandstone flagged, Borg awaits
Resistance is futile, you shall be assimilated
Bog Monster's Borg, Bog Monster wins.
Piper's Crag, where's the checkpoint?
"Two walls across", out-n-back
Distance, time, waste, loss
Do I care? Perhaps.
White Wells, walk-break, relief, rest
Rocky Valley, gradient eased
Start to run, slow to walk
Hang a right, over the shoulder
Cross the path to minor trod
Hang a left, descend, slip
Slide to conduit. Jump!
Rocks, mud, trips & stumbles
Pancake Stone to Coldstone Ghyll
Getting tired, take it steady
But not too steady, don't get caught.
Self clip to Burley Woodhead
Just the cake but no tea
Menston beckons with its snickets,
Hidden passages and alleys.
Wayward runners called on route
To climb the fields to The Chevin
They pull away but they won't win
I down more Coke to reel them in.
Up The Chevin we haul ourselves
To the clipper; head is light
Where do we punch, too much effort
That'll do, now get thee up.
Up the steps, through the woods
Still climbing, reach the ridge
Turn right, final checkpoint
All downhill, 2.6 to go.
Down, road, track, mud
Track, bogs, mud, track
Scandal, outrage, track, mud
Bog Monster doesn't belong here.
Out onto road, don't get caught
Descending, crossroad, crossing, pedestrian
Traffic already stopped, clear run through
Past the church, early finishers
Walking back, "Well done"
"Thanks", nearly there
Left to school, right to desk.
I even found time to take some pictures.
Monday, 28 January 2013
Snow lay thickly on the fells. The vegetation poking through led you into a false sense of security that it wasn't deep, but it was. The vegetation (heather) was already deep and the tops of it were only just visible. We would regularly go in up to our knees, while leeward slopes and hollows had us disappearing up to our waists. Race organiser Andy Howie had thoughtfully revamped his orienteering kites, giving them longer sticks. The stunted efforts of last year would surely have been buried out of sight. I had a bit of trouble last year.
With such a slow past record I was given an early starting time (runners were set off at intervals between 10:00 and 11:00). Having done a few fell races from Hayfield over the past year I felt comfortable with the route in and out of the village. This year I decided to go clockwise, for no better reason than I went anticlockwise last year and fancied a change. I was among the first few to break trail through K7, K5, K10 and up Hollingworth Clough to K3.
Taking the clough route was a mistake. The going was very rough and impossible to run (see picture at top). At times there wasn't much ground to stumble along. Multiple crossings of the stream were required. When I and the other two I was chasing finally arrived at K3 we found ourselves in the thick of a long line of runners who had taken the high level route along the fence line. I'll know for next year, at least I would but the route will be different.
The queue for K3.
From K3 we ran in line across the frigid, wind-blown fell top towards Mill Hill. The later-starting race-winning types began to overtake here. Overtaking wasn't easy to the side to the compacted single file right of way. A sudden descent into a deep soft patch was common for anyone who tried. I had done alright up to this point, going just slowly enough to retain a modicum of brain function for navigation. However, now that I was getting overtaken, my competitive instinct made me push harder, risking the removal of any vestige of rational thought that might have remained. I can't help myself.
After Mill Hill I kept reminding myself that we had to veer off-path to the right to pick up K2. I kept looking at the map to confirm but nothing was going in now. Still, I felt confident because I had remembered from when I was marginally more lucid. The line of runners in front followed each other down to the left, but I convinced myself that they were blindly following the leader, who was wrong. I wasn't going to be a sheep as well. This was an orienteering event. I would display independent thought and make my own decision, so I veered off to the right towards the col, ready to gloat in the nice lead I would earn myself.
I didn't find K2.
I went a few yards further down to the right but didn't see it. I ran back down towards where the others had run to and met some climbing back up. Were they going clockwise or anticlockwise? Where did I come from? Where am I going? I ran down a few more yards against the flow and asked a few runners whether they were going anticlockwise. I got blanked. I looked at the map again. Yes, they've realised their mistake and they're climbing up to find K2. That's why they blanked me. They're miffed. Mild feelings of smugness returned. I turned around and ran back up to the col. Goodness knows why because I didn't find K2 when I was last there. Headless chicken mode had set in good and proper, and that was with a line of runners to follow, footprints in the snow to follow and good visibility all around.
I looked at the map yet again in desperation. The slowing of pace while I faffed and dithered had allowed sufficient blood flow back to the brain to spark another cell back into life. Suddenly I understood. They knew where they were going all along. I should have followed like a sheep in the first place and I'd be at K1 by now.
I returned for the umpteenth time down the hill against the flow to quizzical looks. The path I had traversed a few times was getting compacted and easier to traverse now, (as long as we used the same foot holes). I found K2 atop its heather hag, down from the opposite side of the col to where, in my exercise-induced retarded condition, I KNEW it was supposed to be. What a sad case.
With K2 finally visited I turned around to climb that oh so familiar trod back to the col and left turn up into a wind-blown icy wilderness. Anticlockwise runners were now passing us. Julian Brown loitered contentedly at the top. Why was there so much ice up here when elsewhere was pure snow? Everything was encased and frozen hard. The descent from K1 towards K9 had us crunching through ice crusts into the softer snow beneath. It was hard on the shins, even with full leg cover. Perhaps the previous night's precipitation had fallen as rain here.
Hanno at K9.
I found myself running with Julie and Hazel after K4. Julie was obviously running well within herself because she was still navigating well (she'd taken the direct route to the right of the enclosure). Final checkpoint K6 came and went. I'd given up taking photos now; I was just hanging on to the finish. A magical mystery tour eventually brought us to the valley I recognised and the Snake Path back down towards Hayfield.
I returned to the scout hut in 2:53:51 and some welcome soup, tea and cake. A bottom 26.6% finish was a distinct improvement on last year's bottom 8.8%. I'll take that as an emphatic PB. The glow of success will be slow to fade. I may need an easing tool to fit my head through doorways for some time yet.
Some good came of it in the form of a few pictures (map just scanned and added to the album a day later). I would have taken more if I'd just been out for a bimble, but this was balls-out competition (we're talking eyes). There were some good views I had to miss.
Thanks once again to Andy Howie and team for the excellent organisation, care and attention, and thanks to Steve Temple for his informative website with results service.
That's the second in the Hayfield Championship Series done already, but a long gap until the next one in April (Kinder Downfall fell race).
Monday, 21 January 2013
Registration in the church hall looked packed, but numbers were apparently well down due to the alarmist weather forecasts. Wales and the south were getting the brunt while we further north were escaping relatively lightly. We were sent on our way by Alan along the pathways, across gardens and up the seemingly private driveways of Calderdale in light snow. It formed the majority of the fine powder on the ground, which had fallen for a day or two.
Running at lower levels through the woods, away from any breeze, soon brought on an attack of the overheats, so off came the featherweight waft-proof / spot-proof top to set the 1.5-layer scene for the day. Optimum thermal comfort would be maintained by Buff around neck for the breezier moor tops or Buff around wrist for the woods.
This was the seventh running of this event and the second time of an imposed diversion along the road after checkpoint 5 due to snow drifts. The wind-blown snow sculptures grabbed attention like they always do. Spot the smiley face:
Arriving at CP3.
The next steep, stiff climb from Eastwood brought the annual greeting of the SportSunday photographers, who were almost manic in their cheeriness. Is cheeriness the final stage before hypothermia and death? I pitied them having to stand still out there.
I was wearing my Kahtoola micro spikes all the way round. I was grateful for the assured grip they gave me but on balance I think they slowed me down. Running on snow-and-ice-free roads was skew-whiff knobbly crunchy noisy and not very comfortable, so the diversion after CP5 was where I got overtaken a bit more. After running more than usual in splendid isolation, I finished within 2 minutes of my slowest ever time. 4:34 compares with 4:08 fastest (frozen, no Kahtoolas, no snow) and 4:36 (the usual mud fest).
Many thanks once again to organisers Carole and Alan and all the willing, cheerful marshals and helpers. This really is the ultimate tough trail race for care and attention. Its reputation results in deserved popularity and selling out well in advance.
This is why we do The Hebden - F-O-O-O-D: