Sunday, 24 February 2013

A slight pause then something big

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

and this:

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

Beacon Bash 21mi. 17/02/2013.

For various reasons beyond my control it had been 5 years since I did this event, organised by South Lancashire LDWA. It was such a firm favourite I did every one from 2002 until 2008. Prior to 2002 it was a different route called Lancashire Plain Plod. I did two of those as well but this one's much better because it has more undulations in it, including the obligatory ascent of Ashurst's Beacon.

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?

Based out of Newburgh Sports Club on the outskirts of Skelmersdale, the convoluted route doubles back and forth on itself through checkpoints at High Moor, Hunter's Hill, Appley Bridge Community Centre (halfway), Jollies i'th Dean and below Ashurst's Beacon. The final section to the finish changed a few years ago to eliminate the run back along the main road, but this was the first time I'd done it. It became a magical mystery tour as I navigated my way alone along rarely-used footpaths that are probably only used during this event, and having to backtrack to search out hidden stiles that I'd missed.

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

Anglezarke Amble 24.5mi. 09/02/2013.

It was somewhat less icy than it was last year (that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience). There were no ice-encrusted reeds this year to caress the ears with their massed delicate tinkling of breaking ice rods as we ran through them. Instead we enjoyed the frigid feel of snow-dusted reeds brushing against bare legs (at least I did; I think I was the only one wearing shorts).

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

Rombald's Stride 23mi. 02/02/2013.

Glorious blue sky and sunshine
Just frozen (bogs and puddles excepted)
Cold breeze on Ilkley Moor
Some didn't need a hat.

Flagstone highway
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.

14th FINISH!
Sub-4; PB.

I even found time to take some pictures.