Wednesday, 17 July 2013

May - a month of fell races.

Build-up back to former fitness (and beyond?) continued throughout May with serial compulsive fell racing. I made full use of local weekday evening and weekend races plus the odd Parkrun. I began to realise why others are so fast because the same familiar faces were always there. I began to discover that there's nothing like regular racing to improve speed as a fresh flush of PBs came my way. It is also part of the reason for the lagging behind of this blog. I can either run or blog. You can guess what I chose.

Glossop 'May Madness' series, organised by Des Gibbons.

Sat 04/05/2013 - Chunal 3.25mi.

Registration was at the new improved location of The Grouse Inn between Hayfield and Glossop due to the closure of the O Sole Mio restaurant where it was previously based. The race began with a steep downhill dash and continued with ludicrous ascent and descent, taking in parts of the Herod Farm fell race before the steep haul back to the finish field. Conditions underfoot were very dry. Even the mud at the bottom was dried up. This was my second running of this race and earned a 6th PB of the year. Post-race dinner in The Grouse went down a real treat. All pictures are here.

Sun 05/05/2013 - Moorfield 5k.

This is a 5k road race with a big uphill finish, based from The Beehive pub in Glossop. If you want a 5k PB this is not the race to be doing. Stockport Harriers won team prize (3 fastest runners), thanks mainly to super-speedy teenager Alex Jackson and Robert Goulsbra. I just got pulled along for the ride in their wake. Alex won the race in 19:23, Rob finished 4th in 20:51 and I finished 10th in 24:28, which was still PB7 (for this course). My spoils consisted of 4 bottles of Corona Mexican beer. I don't usually win stuff, so thanks Alex and Rob. All pictures here.

Mon 06/05/2013 - James's Thorn 5mi.

Race leaders on the return leg.

This race also had a new base - Glossop Golf Club. What a massive improvement over the roadside pub we used before. The sun beat down upon the arid ground and the temperature rose for our slog up around the back of James's Thorn, over the top and back down to Glossop - a brilliant race and PB8, thank you very much.

I won a V45 prize for the three-race series. (2 prizes in 2 days? Whatever next?) The bottle of "Australian Red Wine Drink" contained such ingredients as egg white and milk in addition to the obligatory sulphites. I expected it to taste monstrously plonk-like but was surprised by its pleasant quaffability and the absence of post-indulgence migraine. I might return next year in the hope of winning some more. ;-) Pictures here.

Wed 08/05/2013 - Rainow 5mi.

The weather had cooled and was beginning to turn damp by the time this came around. I last ran it in 2011, when it was considerably more summer-like and I was 33 seconds faster. No PB this time; no excuses because the ground was still bone dry (just) and the temperature was perfect for speed. Even so it was still a comfortable top half finish, which used to be like hen's teeth for me where fell races are concerned. No more photos this time because the 8GB memory card was full after the above starting picture. :-0

Three Days In May, Hayfield.

All of these races were firsts for me. With no previous completions to compare against there can be no PBs.

Fri 10/05/2013 - May Queen 3mi. (race 4 of 10 in the 2013 Hayfield Championship series).

Hayfield Scout Hut was beginning to feel like my second home, most Hayfield races having started from here. This race was unusual in that the juniors and seniors ran the same race at the same time. It is humbling to be beaten by pre teenagers when you have just given your all to the top of Lantern Pike and back. I just squeaked a top half finish this time. Pictures.

Sat 11/05/2013 - Mount Famine 5mi. (race 5 of 10 in the 2013 Hayfield Championship series).

Back to the scout hut again for this cruel ascent-fest up and down the best that the Kinder foothills have to offer. The starting line was one person deep and as wide as was necessary to accommodate every runner. The race began with a hands-and-feet scramble up a steep, deeply vegetated and wooded precipice (see above). The whole race continued almost in the same vein and was tough. The showery outbreaks that blew on the wind served useful cooling purposes. I was pleased with a comfortable top half finish this time.

The photo on the right is courtesy 'finniganjones'. All of my photos are here.

Sun 12/05/2013 - Lantern Pike Dash 1.2mi. (race 6 of 10 in the 2013 Hayfield Championship series).

This was an intense burn in the rain from Little Hayfield up to the top of Lantern Pike and back. I just got across the last temporary ladder stile before the summit before the lead runner threw himself at the other side on his return leg. I probably overdid it a bit as I overtook others on the climb because I started to get overtaken on the return when there was not enough in the legs to really let myself go down the steep heather. After a few minutes, equilibrium was restored and I just about held my place for the remainder of the descent and final climb back up to the finishing field for another comfortable top half finish (getting a bit of a habit is this). Afterwards we watched the juniors run their shorter race around the lower slopes of the Pike. The speed of the front runners was phenomenal to see, even from a distance.

There aren't many of my pictures this time in view of the short intense nature of the race and the rain.

Wed 15/05/2013 - Shining Tor 4.32mi. (race 1 of 4 in the 2013 Goyt Valley series).

Although I have run this race before, later in the year with the midges in attack mode, it was curtailed this year due to land access problems; we were not allowed to the top of Shining Tor. It became a bit of a procession at times up and down wet, slippery, rocky footpaths. Heavy rain during the day had gone to leave a clear, cool evening, but the ground was still swilling. Despite the processions it was still immensely enjoyable and another good mid-week workout. The remote car-parking on the other side of the reservoir added to the evening's exercise. My pictures are here.

Sat 18/05/2013 - Bollington Festival 3 Peaks 5.6mi.

It was damp and drizzly with ground-hugging cloud for my first attempt at this one. It was based at the Bollington microbrewery and the race started on the Monsal Trail viaduct overlooking the brewery. The route took us up Kerridge Hill, White Nancy and Nab Head and took in elements of the Rainow 5 fell race and a tiny bit of the closing stages of my favourite Bullock Smithy Hike (in reverse). The finish field was suddenly upon us like a big surprise after a steep descent through the woods from the canal. Back at the brewery we enjoyed a free pint of our choice. There is no better rehydration. Post-race is the only time I crave beer. Since this is a beginner-friendly fell race I found myself indecently high up in the top half this time. Pictures are here.

At this point an infected fingernail bed that was doing its best to poison me and doing battle with antibiotics four times a day prevented my taking part in the Vanessa Chappell fell race on Wed 22nd and the Camel Teign Ivor's Dream LDWA 100 on the 25th - 26th. I was not going to risk driving poisons into essential organs by overdoing it but I did feel well enough on Sat 25th to risk a cheeky little Woodbank Parkrun instead. I didn't disgrace myself.

Wed 29/05/2013 - Kettleshulme >6mi.

Feeling much better now, I squeezed in another fell race before the month was out. This event was recently resurrected and it was my first attendance. The weather was wet and drab but the rain was just beginning to die out by race start. Race Organiser Julie Gardner sent us on our way just after 19:30 with a short advisory speech that ended without pause or new sentence: "..... and consider the race commenced." There was some hesitation. She's stopped talking. That means we go then.

The first grassy climb after the short out and down to the stream across soggy, un-grazed pastures was slow, one-foot-above-the-other staircase steep. After that it levelled out to just hilly and undulating terrain that was more runnable. Our route took us along parts of the Vanessa Chappell race I'd missed a week earlier in warm evening sunshine. Now we were struggling to see the route markers in the clag and low light levels. It was a complicated route with multiple choices and hidden turn-offs. There were some navigational errors and there was some floundering when markers were missed, which never usually happens on a short evening race. (I say 'short' but this was a very long 6 miles even without going off course, which thankfully I managed to avoid, but only just.)

Afterwards the winners' prizes consisted of garden plants instead of the more usual booze - much more healthy for elite athletes. The turn-out was surprisingly large at 127 - all no doubt hardened and committed fell runners, given the conditions. Another comfortable top half finish felt all the more worthwhile. There were no pictures outside this time on account of the dampness. What I did take is here.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

51st Fellsman 61mi. 27-28/04/2013.

Race 4 of 12 in the 2013 Runfurther series.

Two weeks back in Blighty trying to regain my fitness saw me rock up in Threshfield on Friday evening to queue outside the school to wait to be allowed in. Although dry, the air outside while we waited was notably frigid. Could it be a repeat of last year?

At registration we were presented with a quality Fellsman Buff, courtesy of sponsor The North Face. Once fed and watered we retired to our spacious overnight accommodation, which is so much better since the new sports hall was built.

I was due to run the event with Stuart Blofeld, who had blasted a sub 3 hour finish at the London Marathon on the previous weekend. I would soon find out if it had slowed him down to my speed.

Apart from a couple of brief squally hail showers in the early stages as we ran the reverse of the Three Peaks Fell Race route, the weather calmed down and behaved itself - cold and sunny without the gales of last year. Grouping at Fleet Moss in the bright evening sunshine brought about a slowing of pace just when I was fit and raring to 'give it some' after that miraculous veggie stew infusion at the checkpoint. It was seriously good. (We arrived a few minutes before grouping but they insisted on grouping anyway.)

By the time we arrived at the next checkpoint at Yockenthwaite Moor the photo-taking had stopped and it was time to don head torches. There was no gale like last year but the air was frigid. Taking away the chill factor, I would say the ambient temperature was even lower than it was last year. Later on through the night as we trudged through latent snow drifts, the freezing ground and my freezing drink bottles without the wind chill confirmed that it really was colder. That's carbon taxable "global warming" for you.

Here follows a pictorial record of our adventure.

Stuart gets his itsy bitsy teeny weeny backpack and kit inspected on Friday evening.

Early morning bus journey to the start at Ingleton. Note the absence of any spring growth. Winter hasn't yet ended, even nearly into May. The tops are sprinkled with fresh snowfall.

Wrapped up against the cold on the starting field at Ingleton.

Final assault of Ingleborough summit.

Stuart at CP1 on Ingleborough summit.

The precipitous descent off Ingleborough.

RFID-equipped tallies at the ready at CP2 (Hill Inn). Our previous descent from Ingleborough is visible in the background.

Waiting for the first Three Peaks Fell Race runners at the summit of Whernside.

Approaching Kingsdale via the 'Fellsman trod'.

Flapjack at CP4 (Kingsdale).

Steep haul to Gragareth summit.

We get video'd at CP5 (Gragareth). A rather excellent production (not just because we appear in it, I hasten to add), the video is embedded in the equally excellent Grough report.

Fellsman dignatory tries to ignore the Fellsman washer-woman at CP8 (Dent).

The 'Fellsman trod' to Blea Moor.

Departing CP9 (Blea Moor). Distant hail shower never caught us.

'Blue' huffed and puffed and was getting quite agitated at all the runners passing through its domain en route to Stone House.

CP10 (Stone House) is manned by a bunch of cowboys and hoodlums.

Leaving CP11 at Great Knoutberry summit. Another hail shower in the distance missed us.

First summit Ingleborough is still visible in the distance as we approach CP12 (Redshaw) at centre left of picture.

Teatime in the Redshaw oasis.
Beginning the climb of Dodd Fell. The Dodd Fell glacier was born in 2013;-)

CP14 on Dodd Fell summit.

Next target Fleet Moss somewhere down there.

Grouping time at CP15 (Fleet Moss).

Our last glimpse of Ingleborough on the horizon on our dry circumnavigation of Fleet Moss.

Circumnavigating Fleet Moss by the light of the setting sun.

Turning towards CP16 (Yockenthwaite Moor) in the fading light.

Navigation from CP16 to CP17 went less well than it did last year despite the lack of gale. Peat cliffs, bogs, ravines and grass tussocks all played their part in causing a deviation too far to the left. (I still cannot believe how well the following of the compass bearing went last year.)

Stuart arrives at the finish. (Yes, the previous weekend's London Marathon did slow him down - eventually!)

Many thanks to The Fellsman team for putting on such a big, well supported, well catered for monster of an event in rugged and remote terrain. Taking part in this always used to fill me with fear and trepidation. Now it just commands my respect and gratitude. I shall return once again.

SportSunday were out in force taking their pictures at Ingleborough and Whernside. I got a bit deeper into the route with my 'snaps' but the quality isn't a patch on theirs, what with the size of their equipment compared to mine. See here for the full set.