Wednesday 20 January 2010

2010 plans go awry.

Oh dear. My best made plans for 2010 seem to be falling apart around my ears.

1. In the first year when we foreigners have to use this entry route, I fail to get picked in the Western States Endurance Run lottery. I won’t be jetting off to Northern California in June for the first time in five years.

2. Winter weather has resulted in the postponement of my first two events this year so far and disruption to others.

3. The Devon 100, which I was due to be plodding in April, has been cancelled.

4. Business travel commitments that are emerging from the woodwork at this very moment are threatening more events.

5. And now for the most unexpected blow of all: I learned yesterday that my application for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc has been refused. WHAT? There must be some mistake. I have more than enough points to qualify me. Perhaps I ticked a wrong box and the ‘computer said no’. I emailed the organisation for an explanation. Apparently there was a draw and our group was not picked. That’s some difference compared to last year when they opened entries again because they were under-subscribed. Ultra Running popularity has gone stratospheric.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. I’m told I can transfer my registration to “Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie”, or TDS for short. It is ~105km with 6.7km of altitude change compared with ~166km with 9.4km of altitude change for UTMB. So, a mere walk in the park then ;-) With this shortened event I might just have some energy left to run my favourite Bullock Smithy Hike the weekend after, but something tells me that will be most unlikely.
There is another possibility as well on the same weekend – Le Grand Raid des Pyrenees. It's another 100-mile mountain race that has been described as being even tougher than the UTMB.
Decisions, decisions.

So, the tattered remains of my schedule so far for 2010 look something like this:
Sat 09 Jan - The Tandem - 28mi. (postponed to 20 Feb)
Sun 17 Jan - Two Crosses Circuit - 25mi. (postponed to 21 Mar – can’t do)
Sat 23 Jan - The Hebden - 22mi.
Sun 31 Jan - That’s Lyth - 23mi.
Sat 06 Feb - Rombald Stride - 23mi.
Sat 13 Feb - Anglezarke Amble - 24mi.
Sat 20 Feb - The Tandem (rescheduled) - 28mi.
Sun 21 Feb - Beacon Bash - 21mi. (can’t do this now)
Sat 27 Feb - Myrtle Meander - 24mi. (can’t do due to business travel)
Sat 06 Mar - Troller’s Trot - 24mi.
Sat 13 Mar - Wuthering Hike - 32mi.
Sat 20 Mar - Hardmoors 55 - 55mi.
Sat 27 Mar - (rest)
Sat 03 Apr - Manx Mountain Marathon - 32mi.
Sat 10 Apr - Calderdale Hike - 36mi.
Sat 17 Apr - (any suggestions?)
Sat 24 Apr - (Devon 100 cancelled – alternative suggestions?)
Sat 01 May - (any suggestions?)
Sat 08 May - The Fellsman - 61mi.
Sat 15 May - Marlborough Downs Challenge - 33mi.
Sat 22 May - (rest)
Sat 29 May - Heart Of Scotland 100 - 100mi.
Sat 05 Jun - (rest)
Sat 12 Jun - Swaledale Marathon - 23mi.
Sat 19 Jun - (any suggestions?)
Sat 26 Jun - (WS100 denied – alternative suggestions?)
Sat 03 Jul - Osmotherley Phoenix - 33mi.
Sat 10 Jul - White Peak Walk - 26mi.
Sat 17 Jul - (rest)
Sat 24 Jul - Lakeland 100 - 100mi.
Sat 31 Jul - (rest)
Sun 08 Aug - Long Tour of Bradwell - 32mi.
Sat 14 Aug - (any suggestions?)
Sat 21 Aug - (any suggestions?)
Sat 28 Aug - (UTMB denied – TDS or GRP as alternative?)
Sat 04 Sep - (rest – resist the lure of the BSH!)
Sat 11 Sep - Pumlumon Challenge - 26mi.
Sat 18 Sep - High Peak 40 - 40mi.
Sat 25 Sep - (any suggestions?)
Sat 02 Oct - (any suggestions?)
Sat 09 Oct - (any suggestions?)
Sat 16 Oct - Rowbotham’s Round Rotherham - 50mi.
Sat 23 Oct - (rest)
Sat 30 Oct - Snowdonia Marathon - 26.2mi.

That’s as far as I’ve looked so far.

VFF update.
Boy, those fivefingers give you a right good work-out. I ran to work in them again on Monday and they got their first dose of mud, which squelched up between the toes. It felt wonderful at the time (the running, not the mud – although I don’t know ….). I thought I might have got away with it with the muscle trauma, but no. By Tuesday morning my calves were feeling sufficiently worked-over for me to run in my normal running shoes. As the day progressed the Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness began to make itself known in no uncertain terms, such that descending stairs was painfully laboured. Today they are plain trashed. Somehow, running (in normal shoes) is less painful than simple walking.
At the moment I can only manage one VFF commute per week. I shall persevere until I can get my muscles adapted for the daily commute run without any issues. I can’t wait for that to happen. It’s a great leg, foot and core strengthening exercise because of the way you are forced to run. Once I’ve acclimatised I may struggle to get my trousers on, such will be the circumference of my calves ;-)

Wednesday 13 January 2010

2010 week 1.

The beginning of 2010 ‘paralysed’ our world with a winter playground the likes of which I have never experienced.

After a couple of run cancellations leading up to Christmas I had not been getting my usual exercise for too long. My appetite had vanished as a result and I was not able to enjoy the overindulgences of Christmas as much as I would have liked. Something had to be done. I forged a plan.

Saturday 2nd Jan.
I was all set to run the 16 miles up to Buxton and meet up with friend and family for a meal and (more) drinks, but the sky turned black and snow fell with a vengeance as I was about to leave, so I thought better of it. I got the train instead. I was very glad I wasn’t driving because mostly only pedestrians were moving in Buxton. The snow turned to rain in Stockport but it remained as snow in Buxton.

Monday 4th Jan.
I was glad to get back to work and some kind of routine. The ground was covered with slush, on top of black ice from the melted remains of the pre-Christmas snowfalls, so it was very slippery. I decided to walk for safety reasons, but at least I was getting some exercise.

Tuesday 5th Jan.
We had been dumped on in a way I had never known before. Snow had fallen since 7pm the previous evening and it was still falling. Everything was plastered including telephone wires, which were now 2” in diameter and sagging alarmingly. It was deathly quiet when I emerged from the house, just like it would be on Christmas morning when everyone is still in bed. What sound there was from idling car engines on the main road, was being absorbed by the snow, so I heard nothing. I was glad I didn’t have to drive. I ran. Fresh, dry snow is much safer to run on. The scene before me was breathtaking. Six inches of snow had fallen in one go, something I have never known in my 46 years here in Stockport.

Wednesday 6th Jan.
I took my Vibram fivefingers for a spin today – my first run in them. The fresh snow provided the ideal nursery conditions to break out of heel-strike mode and adopt the forefoot running demanded by them. It felt so good and natural to be in such close contact with the ground, but forefoot running somehow felt less efficient and seemed to slow me down. More importantly, it really tires the calf muscles when you are not used to it. Two miles there and back finished me off and I needed a few days’ recovery before another run in them, or the calf soreness I was feeling would have become a total calf trashing.

Thursday 7th Jan.
Back to the normal running shoes today to allow the complaining calves to recover. The air was calm yet biting when I emerged from the house. The snow was still fresh with not a hint of melting as I creaked my way to work in the deep powder. My legs were all a glow by the time I arrived (I was in shorts as usual). I was informed that the temperature had reached minus 18°C in Woodford, just up the road from where I was. It was still -13°C in our work car-park at 9am! It didn’t rise much higher all day.

Saturday 9th Jan.
I was due to run The Tandem today but the severe weather forced its postponement until Feb 20th. The temperature had remained well below freezing since Monday night and the air had remained calm. The ground, trees and shrubs were still thickly smothered or hidden by at least 6” of snow even at the low levels where I live, where an inch of snow that lasts for a day would normally be regarded as a significant event. Now would be my last chance to run the 16 miles up to Buxton and take in some frozen winter wonderland views.

And so, at 08:45 I found myself jogging up the A6 towards Lyme Park and Disley on the most direct road route to Whaley Bridge. I decided to avoid the countryside route, where progress would be difficult. The roads should be more runnable. The section over the top from Whaley Bridge to Buxton via the track would be a different matter – much more remote and potentially dangerous, so my rucksack was loaded with spare warm clothes, survival bag, first aid kit, whistle, mobile phone, food and drink, just in case.

I made good progress on the roads, which had been well cleared. I encountered the first signs of the easterly wind and blowing snow on the old road from Disley to Whaley Bridge. I expected much worse after Whaley Bridge.

I had not done this route for well over a decade. The last time was when I was just getting into long distance walking. It was great to activate my distant memories again and get to see the route in a completely different - more like unique - way.

The track out of Whaley Bridge had been ploughed and remained runnable for a surprisingly long way, as far as the Whitehall Outdoor Pursuits Centre just past the left turn down to Combs. The snow was very thick and even the gorse bushes were completely hidden underneath the white blanket.

After the Whitehall Centre, where access was no longer required, the scene changed instantly to one of wild, desolate isolation with not a soul in sight or earshot, where the easterly wind and Nature were now in charge. It was like a desert but the ‘sand’ was blinding white in the sunshine. I was in a world of dunes, snow sculptures, drifts, buried features and even a snow cave. I was standing tall, much taller than I should have been, yet I was up to my knees in it. My face was getting ‘sandblasted’ as I looked around at the rare, beautiful sight in utter captivation.

A good mile of serious trudging and post-holing eventually brought me down to Long Hill, the main road that rises out of Buxton. My legs and feet were amazingly dry and warm. The dry powder had not ventured too far and must have remained frozen. A mile's down-hill run brought me into Buxton for my 1-week-delayed dinner date at The Old Clubhouse. Even with all that trudging and stopping to gawp at the views and take pictures, my journey time of 3.5 hours was half an hour faster than I’d ever done before. That’s the difference between only walking and running a bit.

I went to the train station to meet my fellow diners. The railway was buried, save for the two exposed lines in grooves in the snow.

After a quick change into ‘civvies’ and some more comfortable footwear I was relaxing with a pint, looking out on a snowy Buxton scene and relating stories & showing pictures of what I’d seen.

What a week! What an introduction to 2010!!

All 78 of the week's pictures are here.