Monday, 24 January 2011

The Hebden 22mi. 22/01/2011.

Carole and Alan and their army of volunteers did us proud once again. The Hebden has become deservedly popular with the runners, after the strong following it has built up on the FRA and Runner's World forums.

Calderdale can always be relied upon to offer an intense workout, no matter what the weather or ground conditions may be. This year was mostly dry and mostly frozen, but the hard knobbly mud added a new, ankle-twisting challenge. The route takes us from St Michael's Church Hall in Mytholmroyd and undulates quite violently through Old Town, Slack, Eastwood, Broadhead Clough, New Road, Little Scout Farm and back to Mytholmroyd. According to Tracklogs, the total ascent is over 4,650'. Back at the finish we were waited on by waitresses and plied with mulled wine. The event, which also includes a shorter option, was a sell-out with 400+ entrants. Its reputation has already spread.

I pushed my limits as always, which resulted in an average heart rate of 173bpm for the 4hrs 25mins duration. Maximum was 195bpm. I'm surprised I survived the ordeal. My exhausted clumsiness caused me to kick an unseen rock on the woodland path before the stream crossing and steep climp to Checkpoint 5. I launched myself onto the ground with such speed that I was still in the process of trying to save myself as I hit the deck, sending my left calf muscle into spasm. Too many seconds of writhing, groaning and massaging of the rock hard twisted muscle got it to switch off. I sprang to my feet, picked up my water bottles and shuffled gingerly onwards before anyone noticed.

Unfortunately, the self-imposed beasting meant that I was not able to take as many pictures en-route as I would have liked. However, Brian Fisher, who was far more sensible with his pacing, captured some brilliant scenes. I hope he won't mind me publicising his efforts via this link. My efforts are here.

The winning time of 3:04 leaves me speechless. The perpetrator of said impossibility was one Gavin Mulholland. Second was Ben Mounsey in an equally blistering 3:09 and Andrew Dobby was third in a no less scorching 3:10. First woman was Helen Hudson in 3:36. She set the course on fire too.

I was sad to hear at the finish that a man who was walking the short route collapsed and died before checkpoint 1. Condolences to his family, and well done to all those around him who did their best for him. I hope his family can get consolation from the fact that he went quickly, doing what he enjoyed.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Ramblings and plans for 2011

During the course of uploading my first video I discovered that my Blogger template was too narrow for the video window, and I couldn't adjust it. A quick look revealed the more up-to-date templates, which can be adjusted. I tweaked and this is the result. Hope you like it.

While tweaking I updated the header picture. I took it in 2009 at the start of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. It is there as a constant reminder to keep me on my toes, because I have just taken my place on UTMB 2011. I didn't get through the lottery in 2010 so I was one of the many who had a place reserved for 2011, subject to qualifying with sufficient points, of course (no problems there ;-). I am bricking it more than I do for any other event. It is an awesome race that commands enormous respect - even more so after I 'died a death' at 77 miles (Champex) in 2009. My mantra for 2011 will be 'take it slowly and fuel, fuel, fuel'. In 'brickability quotient' I rate UTMB 100 1st, Lakeland 100 2nd and Western States 100 3rd.

So, my schedule for 2011 is shaping up nicely, though many holes remain. This is what it looks like so far:
01 Jan - Giant's Tooth 3mi. fell race
09 Jan - Winter Tanners 30mi.
22 Jan - The Hebden 22mi.
30 Jan - That's Lyth 23.5mi.
05 Feb - Rombald Stride 23mi.
12 Feb - Anglezarke Amble 24mi.
20 Feb - The Lactic Acid Test 8mi./1,300'
05 Mar - Trollers Trot 25mi.
12 Mar - Wuthering Hike 32mi. (Rf1)
19 Mar - Hardmoors 55mi. (Rf2)
02 Apr - The Three Shires 29mi.
09 Apr - Calderdale Hike 36mi. (Rf3)
16 Apr - Grasmere Fells & Tarns 21mi.
30 Apr - Montane Highland Fling 53mi. (Rf4)
14 May - Marlborough Downs Challenge 33mi. (Rf5)
21 May - Might Contain Nuts Brecon 40mi. (Rf6)
28 May - Housman 100mi.
05 Jun - Shires and Spires 35mi. (Rf7)
02 Jul - Osmotherley Phoenix 33mi. (Rf8)
09 Jul - White Peak Walk 26mi. (we are allowed to run)
29 Jul - Lakeland 100mi. (Rf9)
06 Aug - Long Tour of Bradwell 31mi. (Rf10)
26 Aug - Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 100mi.
17 Sep - High Peak 40mi. (Rf11)
15 Oct - Rowbotham's Round Rotherham 50mi. (Rf12)
29 Oct - Snowdonia Marathon.

The more astute among you may have sniffed a Grand Slam fantasy. Rf1 - 12 are the Runfurther series races.

Saturday, 15 January 2011


After the Winter Tanners I was privileged to take a test ride on one of the first ElliptiGO bikes to appear in the UK. Stuart has recently taken delivery of one of these American-made beasts, which adds a new dimension to self-propelled two-wheeled transport. The best way of describing it is that it takes the stepper out of the boring, static gym environment, moves it outside and actually takes you somewhere as a reward for your efforts. It's a real quad burner if you give it some, and great fun too.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Winter Tanners 30mi. 09/01/2011.

With the exception of the holiday fell races, I started 2011 as I'd finished 2010 – with an Ultra Marathon. The Winter Tanners is a 20-mile or 30-mile outing which starts from a carpark in Leatherhead. Thanks to Stuart's suggestion (and accommodation) I was doing an event I would never have done otherwise. The route is changed every year. It's organised by the Surrey Group of the Long Distance Walkers Association and it's low-key with minimal support, so it's embarrassingly cheap to enter too. I was to do the 30 with Stuart, while my brother and Stuart's Dad would do the 20.

After registering with Fiona in the carpark at the wallpapering table, we were off right on (our) schedule at nearly 08:30 into the frosty, sunny Sunday morning. The informal start-when-you-want arrangement helped with the low-key feeling.

There had been a lot of rain down south so we were soon diverted away from the banks of the swollen River Mole. The muddy fields would get us later. I became glad of my SealSkinz socks.

I won't bore the pants off you this time with an event description because I haven't got the time, and Stuart has already written an excellent account on his blog, so here's a short missive from my perspective.

This should be a low pressure saunter that eases you into a new year, but it wasn't low pressure for me. I can't help imposing a certain pressure upon myself to do my best (poor though it may be relative to others). The pressure was magnified because Stuart had agreed to run with me, but Stuart is younger and much faster than I ever was. It may not have been obvious without the occasional announcement of my sky-high heart rate (high 170s), but I was running beyond my limit for an ultra as Stuart bimbled along a few yards in front or waited for me at the tops of the climbs (and at the bottoms of the descents towards the end). I was grateful for the company but I was getting wasted.

The climb up to the final checkpoint was very steep. By the time I arrived, Stuart had enjoyed a cup of tea. I didn't want to delay too long (it was a good job I had my own Coke supply!) so we were soon off on the final 5 miles. As I devoted all my efforts to running and surviving (I was even relying on Stuart to do all the navigating now because I was too far gone to think), Stuart “Twittered” our progress to friends and family on his Star Trek communicator. The scenario so reminded me of the horse-racing sketch from the Harry Enfield show – one slogging his guts out to little effect and the other breezing past with no effort for the win.

At the final major road crossing with just over a mile to go, Stuart waited dutifully for me to catch up. He saw a small gap in the traffic and said GO. I couldn't. I could not trust my body to take me safely across within the 5-second window. The 30-second wait for the next gap gave me enough energy to cross safely, by which time Stuart had disappeared up the track to go for a sub-6-hour finish. I'd held him back for 29 miles and he was finally free to give of HIS best. He gained 8 minutes on me over that last 1+ mile for a 5:58 finish. WOW is all I can say.

I had a new camera and I used it a bit. Because I was slogging my guts out, there are only a few on-route pictures.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Giant's Tooth fell race. 3mi. / 400'. 01/01/2011.

The first outing of the year was a nice little leg loosener based from Ogden Reservoir, Causeway Foot, between Halifax and Keighley. The weather has become a bit chilly again and flakes of wet snow jostled with the light rain before the start, but any chilly thoughts were soon banished as soon as we were underway. The climbs certainly got the lungs burning and the body temperature up, so off came the headwear early on. The temptation to walk was avoided at all costs since it was such a short outing, and to do so would have wasted a golden opportunity to push the boundaries (something I don't do nearly enough).

The turnout of 107 was impressive considering it was New Year's Day. There were plenty of amazing performances as always, but I was particularly impressed by several juniors, both male and female, who finished way up near the top. It's good to see such natural skill and keenness to get out there and just do it instead of vegetating inside in the warm and dry.

Afterwards we enjoyed simple food, drink and a chat in the pub while we waited for the results to be worked out and prizes to be awarded. My time of 23:30 got me 51st place, a top half finish, which if I'm not mistaken is a first for a short sharp fell race like this.