Friday, 20 August 2010

Elsecar Skelter 27mi. 14/08/2010.

Death by a thousand nettle stings, bramble scratches and rasps from files masquerading as fields of ripe* cereal crops. Was it wheat? I'd forgotten how jungle-like this event can be so I had the legs out as usual. I paid for it with burning, writhing, tingling, itching, throbbing skin well into Sunday.
(*By “ripe”, read brown, dry and HARD.)

Elsecar Skelter is a delightful event in South Yorkshire from the Market Inn, Elsecar, close to the Heritage Centre. It traverses old coal-mining areas that have been returned to nature. Some paths are little-used (a machete would have been useful) and, despite the comprehensive route description, navigation has its moments, with hidden stiles and secret footpaths. Previous route knowledge is a definite advantage.

There are three route choices – 15, 20 and 27 miles, with the added benefit of being able to choose which distance you do while actually doing it. I set out to complete the 'Full Monty' 27, which follows a tight figure-of-eight loop that extends to the outskirts of Rawmarsh on the east and Wharncliffe Crags on the west. This was the first time I had actually completed the full route. The last time I tried this (new) route in 2008, navigational woes resulted in a failure to reach the most picturesque westerly extremity. This time I (and those around me) suffered the same woes, and more, but perseverance got us on track each time. Unfortunately, early heavy downpours wetted my camera, which ceased to function around 7 miles. Pictures are limited and a little boring as a result.

The Vermuyden Group of the Long Distance Walkers Association hosts the event. I had forgotten the range and quality of food on offer, which is more common on much longer events, including the Hundred. In addition to the usual water, squash, cake and biscuits, our stomachs were wooed by sandwiches with fillings of jam, cheese & onion, tuna, salad and more. There was pasta, beautiful home-made cakes like caramel crumble and chocolate cake, tea and coffee. All was served by friendly, enthusiastic volunteers. This luxurious fare helped me shuffle my way round to a 5:24 finish, which was 10 minutes faster than my last failure to complete the route and leaves plenty of room for further improvement next year. The sun had finally made an appearance and I had seen some beautiful views from the Crags down to the River Don and beyond. Also we must not forget the Needle's Eye Folly, Hoober Stand and the very long frontage of Wentworth Woodhouse in the earlier (and wetter) stages.


  1. Short but very sweet Nick. You continue to reel off the Ultras. Whilst I would not swap my family life for anything im more thAn. A little envyous of your weekend jaunts into the hills.
    I may not be doing the hp40 now. We shall see but I've got A place in the royal parks half marathon 10th October so post the ridgeway next weekend will have to turn my focus to the shorter stuff. Hoping for sub 1:30 but with so little tempo work of late and milage in the legs it's gonna be tough

  2. Hi Nick, I was just wondering what shoes you use for trail running because I get blisters every time when it rains in my Goretex adidas trail shoes. Do you take any other precuations eg taping your feet?

  3. Hi Stu. It must be why I was always so slow: I never took running as seriously as you do, never trained as such and always went for quantity rather than quality. I would have squeezed in all those races - Ridgeway, HP40 and the half marathon, with additional events on the intervening weekends to stop me going off the boil. And look where it got me - a wrecked knee (it's got worse again). You do your own thing, stick to the quality and don't be envious of me.

    Hi 'Anonymous' (do you have a real name?) I have always suffered from broken-down soles (not blisters as such) when they are wet for a day or more of trudging. It's unavoidable if they get wet. I have never taped my feet. The most I do is plaster them with Sportslick before the event to help lubricate, waterproof and stick socks to feet. As for shoe choice, one person cannot advise another because feet vary so much. There is no shoe on this Earth that is foot-shaped as far as I am concerned. It's always a compromise involving a shoe that is at least a size too big. The most important general advice is to have a snug fit and no movement of foot in shoe, with no pinching points. I've squandered hundreds of pounds on shoe white-elephants in a vain quest for that perfect shoe. It doesn't exist. I could open a shop. My latest fave (in comfort and stability, at the opposite end of the scale to Inov8s) is the Walsh Spirit Peak, two sizes up to avoid the taper at the end. As long as I don't trip over the excess length, they are my most comfortable shoes - very stable and natural-feeling without the high-heeled clog instability of your typical trail shoe or off-centre, pronation-inducing heel instability of Inov8s. The few Adidas trail shoes I have had, I have found to be better than most, but that was a few years ago and lasts can change for the worse for fashion's and change's sake.

  4. God bless Ldwa cake and sandwich makers.

  5. Hey Nick,

    Hope you are well.

    What's on your radar from now until xmas? Having finished Grimsthorpe 70 5 weeks ago I am looking for a few jaunts to get life back into my legs.


  6. Indeed, sbrt.
    Hi Richard, I'm still plodding on thanks. I made a late entry to the Bullock Smithy Hike this weekend. Then I have Pumlumon Challenge on 11/09, High Peak 40 on 18/09, BGR support on 25/09, Round Rotherham on 16/10, Runfurther party on 23/10, Snowdonia Marathon on 30/10. I'll fill in the other weekends as and when I see fit. Do you fancy any of them? The High Peak 40 is a nice one.

  7. Hi Nick

    as an aspiring (short distance) runner i'd find it really helpful if you could give us a run down of your diet for any 2-3 given days?

    do you eat 'bad' foods and just run them off? or is it wholesome goodness all the way?



  8. Hi Barny,
    It's a bit of both. I eat good and bad foods (probably too many bad if I'm honest). The more I run, the more I eat because the appetite really kicks in, when I tend to crave carbohydrate. Pizza always hits the spot after a serious ultra. My body tells me what it wants and I oblige. It has an automatic self-regulation thing going on: fewer miles = reduced appetite = less eaten.
    When I'm not eating like a horse, typically I would have no breakfast apart from an Actimel drink; for lunch a load of fruit (banana, Kiwifruit, apple, orange, nectarine, grapes), hot cross bun and scone without butter; for dinner a large salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, beetroot, olives, bellpepper, cheddar cheese) and two thirds of a quiche or prawn cocktail on baked potato.
    Avoid too much bread, which stodges you out and sends you to sleep. Also avoid sweet processed food and drinks, especially in isolation, which spikes the blood sugar then leaves you feeling good for nothing an hour or three later.
    The less the human interference in its creation, the better the food.