Thursday 18 August 2011

Dovedale Dipper 26.6mi. 07/08/2011.

Dovedale Dipper 2011.

Don’t worry; I haven’t taken leave of my senses. In the end I didn’t run this delightful yet challenging cross-country / trail marathon from Hartington. My body was still feeling a little ‘used’ and it was time for a bit of relaxation instead. Julian (my brother) was registered, so I would see him off and welcome him back, just like he did for me on the previous day. As this is (yet another) favourite of mine I was able to show him the ropes to hopefully ease his nervous excitement. I also took pictures and chatted with familiar faces. Another Lakeland 100 finisher (Ian Hodge this time) was there. You just can’t keep ultra runners down.

It seemed strange to be in a normal weekend setting for me (mingling with runners before a race), yet knowing I would not be running with them. Mixed emotions flooded through my mind, the principal one being that I was an imposter or pretender and did not belong there, or I was fraudulently claiming injury or illness and couldn’t take part when really I was feeling perfectly well (which I was). I sometimes get dreams like that, though goodness knows why. Does anyone else or is it just me? The multi-coloured sight of the throng as it set off down the hill to the sound of the air horn was an unusual one and strangely emotional. I wanted to be there with them but I had to be sensible and realistic; this was one event I did not need to run, by any stretch of the imagination.

Julian waits discreetly behind Ian.

I returned to the village hall to see if the organisers needed any help, which they did not. Matlock Rotary Club has got this down to a fine art with everything running like clockwork. Instead I chatted with a lady supporter who faithfully accompanies her partner to all his events. I joined the organisers for a pleasant brunch in the local café, which houses a very small post office – so small that the postmaster or mistress would have to be very slim (I’m not joking). I caught up with writing my Lakeland 100 running diary report. Then before I knew it the first 15-mile walkers were returning (they had started at 09:30, the 26-mile walkers had started at 09:00 and the 26-mile runners had set off at 10:00). Not long after that the first 26-mile runner returned. Time had flown by. We had prior warning of the imminent arrival so a small welcoming committee was outside to look out for his appearance on the hill opposite and cheer him back. It was interesting to observe running speeds compared to my survival shuffle at the end of such events.

Gareth Briggs just finishing.

Winner Gareth Briggs finished in 3:46. First woman was Adela Salt in 4:02, who finished equal second with Sean Ketteridge, Ian Corless and Peter Stockdale. My camera could not react quickly enough as the group of 4 raced into the village hall. The trickle turned into a flood as the walkers and runners continued to return, all of them cheered home by our little welcoming committee. Once again despite the forecast, the weather had treated us surprisingly well, with sunshine and only a brief shower.

In 13th place with a time of 4:41 was Karl Hinett. I glimpsed some writing on his shirt about running a marathon a week for a year. My interest was instantly piqued and I got chatting. As an 18-year-old soldier in Iraq in 2005 he had got badly burned in a mob petrol bomb attack. He was the human fireball seen on news reports around the world clambering out of his tank. The burns unit at Selly Oak Hospital has treated his burns and brought about amazing restoration. As a thank you for his care and treatment he has taken on the challenge of running a marathon every week for a year to raise money for the unit. (In fact, looking at his race schedule it works out at more than a marathon a week.) He told me that he’d just recently got a Personal Best after many months of weekly marathons. I was mightily impressed and took his details to make a donation.

Karl, if you see this, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re well over halfway and still going strong. I’ll see you at the Snowdonia Marathon, which I see is on your schedule. Unfortunately the JustGiving website lost my comment and rendered my donation anonymous, so I hope you see this.

If anyone reading this wants to make a donation, Karl's JustGiving page is here.

After 4:53, Ian Hodge ran up to the hall in 25th place. As he passed I heard him saying something like: “He’s just behind me.” I couldn’t work out what he was on about. Who could he possibly mean? I was chatting to another runner who had run from the last checkpoint in bare feet because his shoes had fallen apart. Suddenly before I realised it, Julian was running past me and into the hall to finish in 4:55. Frankly I was flabbergasted. He was never this fast, but he has been running most days and racing occasionally and selectively, in stark contrast to me, who never trains as such but who races most weekends and sometimes during the week on the odd fell race. His fitness has improved dramatically over the past year and he has now equalled my PB for this route, which I got in 2005. Now I’m really glad I didn’t ‘run’ this one because I would certainly have held him back something chronic.

Julian just finished.

Julian had been cramping (fortunately something I never suffer from) and needed electrolytes, rehydration and refuelling. Without the cramp that forced him to back off the effort on the final stage, he would possibly have been even faster. Well done Julian. Perhaps I should start taking this running lark more seriously now that I have some sibling rivalry.

Here are my pictures.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Long Tour of Bradwell 33mi. 06/08/2011.

Race 10 of 12 in the 2011 Runfurther series.

33.3 miles with 6,747' of ascent, according to Tracklogs.

I was spending another weekend away, this time in Wetton with my brother Julian, to run this race on Saturday and reserve judgement on whether to totter round Dovedale Dipper on Sunday. My brother would be running Dovedale Dipper.

My big toenails had settled down just in time for me to ‘toe the line’ (not the rocks) at 9am in Bradwell. They have been killed once again and are held in place by plasters and tape. I wonder how many more times they can grow back under such abuse; it takes over a year. Thankfully they are no longer painful as long as the plasters do their job.

I was not the only Lakeland 100 runner present. The other Runfurther Grand Slammer Greg Crowley was there of course, but so were Kevin Perry (who finished the L100 5th in 24:58), Stuart Walker (who finished 8th in 25:24!) and Mick Cooper, who always overtakes me and finishes strongly in every event we both do. Danny Aldus was also there, though he retired at Dalemain after 58 miles last week, so his legs would be relatively fresh. ;-) ;-) It was also good to chat to fellow bloggers / forumites Simon 'Fellmonkey' Green and Andrew Harris; and Jim Mann for the first time since Hardmoors 55; and Runfurther creator Mark Hartell, who was on flag duty as well as running the race. It goes without saying that the long chat with Runfurther Karen was as spiffing as ever :-)

For the second weekend in a row we would be using SportIdent dibbers to record our progress around the course for instant split times gratification at the finish.

The sky was overcast, heavy showers were forecast and we could smell rain in the air when we climbed out of Bradwell through the cement works and up Pindale. However the ground was dry and I ‘made hay while the sun shone’. That is, I covered as much ground as possible while it remained dry and non-slippery. Even most of Cavedale was dry apart from the lower reaches with the drainage trickle, at which point I minced my way down to avoid personal catastrophe, since my La Sportiva Crosslites grip like ice on wet limestone. (Yes, I was finally wearing the new Crosslites and guess what, they were dead comfortable. If only I'd followed my original instincts for the Lakeland 100 I could still have two viable big toenails now.)

Descending Cavedale gingerly.

CP1 at the bottom of Pindale, CP2 above the top of Cavedale, CP3 at the bottom of Cavedale and CP4 on the road out of Edale passed in dry conditions, but a slight drizzle mist on the wind made itself felt as we climbed the flanks of Ringing Roger to CP5 at the Druid’s Stone. It never came to anything. I later learned that just a few miles north was already getting a thorough soaking.

Drizzle approaches on the climb towards Ringing Roger.

From the Druid's Stone an off-piste steep descent across heather and down a rock face or two was required to pick up the wall down to Woodhouse Farm, where we had special permission to use the drive down to the road (this is not a right of way and is out of bounds at any other time). After that big descent to the valley we were soon hit by the climb back up to Back Tor, just along the ridge from Hollins Cross where we had recently crossed on our outward leg between Castleton and Edale. A left turn took us via CP6 to the summit of Lose Hill / Ward’s Piece. The forecast rain still hadn’t arrived.

A steep, initially technical descent off Lose Hill eventually took us across fields and past the farm to CP7 at Killhill Bridge. The race organiser was marshalling in the field to guide us across the footbridge and ensure we did not accidentally stray from the trodden path and enrage the farmer.

I found myself alone as I departed CP7. I had only done 14 miles but I had already slowed. I needed fuel so I guzzled an Alpro soya milk drink as I walked past the cemetery and camp site and along the cut-through to Aston. When I emerged onto the lane I saw a dead badger on the verge on the other side. It must have been a recent kill because it didn’t smell yet, and I can tell you there had been some pungent stenches of death from out-of-sight rotting carcasses as I progressed around the route.

I took the footpath left towards Win Hill and it started to rain properly, though still not enough to warrant waterproofs. All I needed was my cap to keep the rain off my glasses. I ran along the narrow path that contoured its way towards Ladybower Reservoir. The wet bracken with its characteristic ‘sweaty’ smell slapped against my legs. The well-marked CP8 that had been long coming signified the sharp right turn through the gate and down to the track beside the reservoir. Water levels were a little low and this shower would do nothing to replenish supplies. The rain was already easing off. The old quarry railway bed that was used to transport stone to build the dam provided the ‘easy’ run in to CP9 (17.6mi.). However by this stage on this event the run never comes easily. Today was a little more laboured than usual, for obvious reasons. I had been caught by other runners and I focussed on them to pull me along as I tried to ignore the heavy legs that were complaining bitterly.


CP10, situated in the middle of the multi-staged crossing of the River Derwent at Bamford, came very quickly. It was followed by the steep drag up ‘The Escalator’, officially known as Bamford Clough, which brought us up to the lane towards Stanage Edge. The sun was out, the ground had dried already and I could not believe how lucky we were with the conditions. I got into the groove and ran while the going was good. I looked at the expansive views to my right and felt utterly content.

On the way to Stanage Edge.

CP11, easily missed in a first running of this event, is set back to the left off our path and I was looking out for it. Once that had been dibbed I could switch off and walk/shuffle my way up to Stanage Edge and along the rocks among the walkers and rock climbers to CP12 at Upper Burbage Bridge (23mi.). I wasn’t the only one who was feeling depleted by this point. We sat down in the warm sunshine to refill water bottles and electrolytes before setting off on the final 10 miles. The left-hand route (track) might not be the shortest but it is the best graded and the most runnable. We soon arrived at the road and crossed to descend steeply to CP13, hanging precipitously in its usual place above a vertical drop down to Burbage Brook.

My legs were complaining but I really enjoy the next section with its interesting navigation, so I ‘ran’ as best I could in the familiar warm sunshine that has always blessed us on this event. I had eaten again so energy levels had returned for the time being. Running from memory I picked up the almost invisible path up to the right through the bracken and above the woods. I pulled away from the following group but before CP14 I was struggling to run and had to kneel down to squeeze the blood out of my leg muscles and get some relief. I looked back and saw the chasing group bearing down upon me. I’d only had 15 seconds of relief but it would have to do. I sprang to my feet and ran to CP14 above the old quarry workings at Bole Hill (26mi.), where I got caught.

Descending from CP14 to Bole Hill quarry.

Trees and grass have colonised the quarry now but man’s shaping of the landscape is still very obvious, with a terrace to run along and a steep ramp to descend (another escalator). We descended to and followed the River Derwent upstream (so that’s why I couldn’t run it all) to CP15 at Leadmill Bridge (27.9mi.). I killed two birds with one stone here by kneeling in front of the water container to refill my bottles while recovering the leg muscles. Who says men can’t multi-task?

CP15 - Leadmill Bridge.

The sun was beating down as I set off on the final 5.5 miles. I had another brief new lease of life and was able to run most of the way to CP16 at Stoke Ford (29.8mi.). The only time I wasn’t running was on a brief uphill section when I was passed by walkers going in the opposite direction. One of them said: “Come on, you should be running. The others in front are running.” She failed to recognise the fact that she was passing me on an uphill but she had passed the others on a downhill. I would be running within 30 seconds when I reached the downhill. She didn't understand. I am an ultra runner and ultra runners don’t always run, especially when they are clapped-out and it's uphill.

With 3.5 miles to go I climbed the long path to Abney. The trees provided welcome cool shade. I had to walk too much and thought I must get caught again soon. Where was Mick Cooper? He’s usually overtaken me long before this stage on an event. A left and right turn brought me onto the track up to the final high point. In the fields to my right I observed the creation of hay bales in one field from the cut and dried grass, while in the adjacent field I saw how they were wrapped tightly in black plastic sheeting (you know, that stuff that farmers abandon to blow around the countryside and get caught in fences).

I reached the top and turned left on the freshly graded track towards where the hang gliders fly. I tried to run but couldn’t. It was pained agony. I settled on an alternate jog/walk to the stile on the left. Over and across the fields to the top of the final descent with Bradwell and the cement works laid out before me. The sun was still shining, just like it always does, but this year there were no gliders. That’s a first. I missed their presence above me.

Final descent to Bradwell.

I began my descent rather painfully, still wondering where Mick was. I heard someone approaching from behind but I was too knackered to bother to turn round and look, then I heard: “By ‘eck, you took some catching.” I turned around and lo and behold, there was Mick.
I replied: “I wondered when you’d catch me. I knew you would overtake me before the finish. I’m suffering.”
“So am I”, he replied. “I won’t be doing any overtaking.”

We ran together as best our bodies allowed down to the main road for the final downhill drag to the finish. It never ceases to amaze me how uncomfortable running an easy downhill can be when you are not exactly brimming with energy. It was as much as I could do to keep running. I noticed Mick was humming to himself. Perhaps it was to take his mind off his personal torment. I should try it one day. (The UTMB at the end of this month might be a good place to start.) If he hadn’t been running beside me I would surely have had a few sneaky walking breaks.

As we entered the sports field my brother was there to welcome me in and take pictures. I dibbed my final dib and sank to the grass to sit cross-legged to commence my recovery, which comes pretty quickly as soon as I’ve stopped. I know Mick could have made up a minute or two down that finishing straight but he chose to stick with me instead. How uncompetitive is that. What a great bloke. Thanks Mick.

Recovery (courtesy Julian Ham).

My time of 7:46 was 17 minutes slower than last year. I'll take what I can get and be satisfied. No harm has been done after this toughest of doubles in the Runfurther series. Only two races remain now: High Peak 40 in September and Round Rotherham in October.

Of the other L100 runners, Kevin Perry finished 5th (again) in 5:47, Stuart Walker finished 6th only 23 seconds later and Greg Crowley finished 44th in 7:30 (virtually my time of last year as it happens). Danny Aldus finished 45th in 7:32. They are all faster machines than I. I was 57th, which out of 98 starters put me in my usual place firmly in the bottom half of the field.

Here are my pictures.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Montane Lakeland 100. 29-31/07/2011.

The Montane Lakeland 100 2011 experience, personal and observed in others, in a nutshell:

Scales: "64.2", black on yellow.
Kit checks.
Sobering, nervous, serious, pensive;
10-yard stares abound.
Hot sun.
Views to die for.
Camaraderie that can't be beaten.
Stick the dibber in.
Steaming tarns in the cool dusk air.
Bogs and wet feet.
Two very dark, moonless nights.
Big climbs that can't be run.
Trip hazards to give 'elf and safety' a heart attack.
Stick the dibber in.
Big descents that can't be run.
Trip hazards to give 'elf and safety' a heart attack.
Stick the dibber in; are they following on-line?
Rocks, boulders and scree.
Trip hazards to give 'elf and safety' a heart attack.
Toenails rammed into their beds.
Feet now hurt too much, so can't run anyway.
Sheep rescued and returned to the flock.
Physical and mental challenge.
A great leveller and destroyer of preconceived targets.
Just finish now.
Distant, mournful groans as stomach contents get emptied.

Pasta, Rola Cola, chocolate cake and custard;
Dalemain ultra-fuelling.
Best ever aid stations and support.
Medics observe for warning signs.
He's as white as a sheet and stopped sweating.
Confusion, nausea, vomit.
Out with the mop and bucket.
Physios tend to tortured muscles, medics to shredded feet.
Cheered by merry ones in Ambleside.
Swig of beer blagged off one.
Beef stew under the fairy lights by the chimenea.
Cheered by supporters night and day.

At 03:44 on Sunday another cheer rises in Coniston.
Stick the dibber in one last time.
34:14, 4 hours and one minute faster than last year; that'll do me.
Enter sanctuary and the stench of pure evil: wet socks and shoes-a-festering.
I proudly add to the fugg and get a cup of tea.
Scales: 62.0kg, 2.2 down, all's fine and dandy.
Drink, chat, chill, sleep, eat, drink, chat.
Prizegiving laughs, Marc should be on stage, so he is.
Sleep, PUB, drink, eat, chat, chill, SLE-E-E-E-E-P.

Starting pen.

Walna Scar Road.

Descending towards Boot.

Burnmoor Tarn.





The Lakeland 100/50 is truly an epic. It is now a world class event, take it from me.


9 down, 3 to go. Next one will be Long Tour of Bradwell on Saturday. My big toenails are so tender and will be lost once again. I hope they settle down in time. I only have myself to blame. I didn't wear the Crosslites in the end. What an idiot.