Saturday, 15 June 2013

Herod Farm fell race 3mi. 17/04/2013.

Three days after Kinder Downfall was the first local midweek evening race of the season. It simply had to be done. The Joe Barber Herod Farm fell race (it's sponsored by local plumbers merchants Joe Barber) is based in Charlestown, near Glossop. It's very hilly around these parts and it goes without saying that, being a fell race, every possible hill was included. Conditions were mild, bone dry and very windy.

Afterwards in the Reliance Garage car-park where it was based, we ate home-made cakes and drank tea at 50 pence a go, while our legs got sandblasted by the dust whipped up by strong gusts of wind. It got dark as we waited for the results to be worked out and the prizes to be announced. I finished 58th out of 93 finishers. Let the build-up back to speed and fitness continue. A top half finish is my target. I haven't had many of those in proper fell races. I did win a prize though - a spot prize of a free adult swim at a High Peak swimming bath. I don't swim. :-(

All the pictures I took are here.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Kinder Downfall fell race 10mi. 14/04/2013.

Race 3 of 9 in the 2013 Hayfield Championship series.

I wouldn't normally have chosen to do this on the day after Calderdale but it was part of the Hayfield Championship and I had set myself the target of doing most (all?) of them this year. The fact that I was decidedly off the boil after just returning to the UK added an extra challenge. I felt tired and in no mood to even start. I'd just revert to 'get round mode', Ultra-stylie.

The forecast was for rain and more rain, so my camera stayed at home. In the event we just got wind instead. By 'wind' I mean extreme gale that forced us to waddle falteringly along Kinder edge like geriatric gorillas to maintain balance; that blew our right foot into our left and tripped us up as we attempted to 'run'; that turned Kinder Downfall into Kinder Upfall to give us a frigid power shower as we passed above it; that one runner accused of causing him to slap himself across the face when he went to wipe snot from his nose (snot that undoubtedly was created and harvested by said gale).

Here's Kinder Upfall looking back, as taken by 'finniganjones' during the race. That's almost 100% water recycling.

Oh how we toiled but how I toiled some more; depleted and weak as a kitten I was as runners overtook me along the plateau and descent to Edale Cross. I had just eaten my emergency rations and expected to pick up after the right turn to descend (eventually) back to Hayfield, but the body was 'avin' none of it. I continued to get overtaken as I could only plod hopelessly downhill.

Upon crossing the finish line 16 minutes slower than I did last year I fell to the ground exhausted for a recovery lie-down. Shortly afterwards in the scout hut at the presentation, soup, bread roll, 3 cups of tea and 2 pieces of home-made cake did little to bring me back to life as I slumped in a corner. People asked if I was alright. "I'll survive." I drove back home and went to bed, too tired even to shower. Did I mention somewhere that business travel ruins fitness?

Here's an impressive video of the Upfall by 'martincorbetuk':

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Calderdale Hike 37mi. 13/04/2013.

Race 3 of 12 in the 2013 Runfurther series.

I arrived back in the UK just in time to take part in this, my first Runfurther race of the year and my first as a member of Team Krypton. I had expected to return to the bright green shoots of Spring. Instead what I saw from the aircraft as it descended into Manchester was a brown landscape that looked as though it was in the grips of drought. In fact it was still in the grips of winter death. The taxi driver told me it was the first day almost since I had left in February when the temperature had risen above freezing and he didn't have to scrape ice off his windscreen. It seems I had returned at just the right time. Perhaps I had brought some of the unseasonal warmth from down south with me to begin the thaw.

By the time I rocked up at Sowerby for The Hike, the sun was out and things were looking a lot more familiar. There was a fly in the ointment though: rain was forecast for later. It would encourage us to run as fast as possible. In reality we could only run as fast as our bodies allowed. In my case it took 5 hours and 22 miles for my body to realise what was expected of it and I finally fell into the groove. Shortly after that the rain began.

Things that struck me about this year's Hike:
- Snow, the first drift of which was at the side of the road as we climbed out of Sowerby. Big deep drifts and remnants of snow sculptures would later be encountered at the high point over Top of Stairs. I was amazed.
- Arriving at the Stoodley Pike checkpoint and one of the marshals holding someone's tally, seeming at a loss to know what to do with it. It had just been dropped and he asked me if I would take it to reunite it with its owner. I duly set off running down the steep side in pursuit of whoever might have lost it. I asked every early starter (walker) I overtook all the way to the next checkpoint at Lumbutts Church, where I finally found the owner just as he was about to be clipped; caught in the nick of time to avert a disqualification. I departed feeling uplifted by a job well done.
- Scrapes and gouges along the lanes, left from snow ploughing operations.
- A stark contrast between dry and sodden ground. On open areas and exposed moor tops where the snow had been blown clear by the incessant icy March wind, the peat was dry and cracking. Reservoirs were also looking somewhat depleted. In the areas where snow had drifted very deep and was still releasing melt water in places, the ground was sodden and the paths were streams.

Walshaw Dean Lower Reservoir.

I'm standing several feet above the path on the climb to Top of Stairs.

I don't think I will experience another Calderdale Hike like it, with such a contrast in conditions.

After starting in bright sunshine, clouds had rolled in by Top Withins (21 miles). Not long after that I began to feel like an ultra runner and started to overtake others for the remainder, instead of vice versa. The first rain began after the turnaround from the furthest checkpoint at Tom Stell's Seat. After that came the serious snow drifts over Top of Stairs that had to be climbed over. They were like glaciers with melt water streaming from underneath. The rain had set in good and proper by the New Bridge checkpoint. Poor memory on my part screwed up my approach to Pecket Well but I carried on strongly to finish only 5 minutes slower than last year. Without the deviation it might have been a PB, which isn't bad considering the inauspicious first 5 hours. I hope they keep the same route for the third year so I might get to do it properly.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn at the post-event presentation that Team Krypton won the prize for fastest running team of 4 thanks to Darren Graham, Will Harris and Colin Duffield.

Fastest running team Team Krypton - Nick, Colin, Darren and Will (absent).

I took quite a few pictures (apart from when the rain had set in properly after New Bridge).

Parkruns unite the world....

In addition to the runs I managed to grab on hotel gym treadmills, along the Auckland seafront and around the big man-made lake adjacent to my hotel in Adelaide (see above), I managed to squeeze in a couple of Parkruns in Australia - Albert Parkrun, Melbourne on Easter Saturday and Torrens Parkrun, Adelaide the week after. I'd made sure to take my barcode with me on my travels just in case.

The Parkrun format is the same wherever you go - the same timing system with the same familiar beep, the same friendly, all-inclusive atmosphere. Runners are the same the world over - a big, happy family - and Parkrun is doing a good job in expanding that family like never would have happened otherwise. It's a brilliant concept that can do no wrong, in my opinion.

Albert Parkrun was a little more competitive than I'm used to, with quite a lot of speedy club runners. Torrens Parkrun, on the other hand, was much lower key than I'm used to, although it was still very young as an event. The route around Torrens Park was modified due to building works and was beautifully picturesque. I particularly enjoyed the post-run coffees and banter at the kiosk beside the weir (see picture below just before sunrise). I hardly need add that they were proper coffees, proper quality. Yes, Aussies know how to do good coffee as well.

Albert Parkrun, Melbourne. 30/03/2013. (My photos here.)

Torrens Parkrun, Adelaide. 06/04/2013. (My photos here.)