Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Kinder Dozen (variation on a theme)

A delightful day, looking down toward Kinder reservoir
The LDWA website mentions this route. 23 miles. 10,000ft of ascent. (and, incidentally, 10,000ft of descent, which isn't to be forgotten). It also states "A route only to be contemplated by the mentally deranged".. or some such nonsense.
How about doing it on one of the hottest days of the year? Yes. That sounds like a fabulous idea.

The short version goes like this.
Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Ohnonotagain Up. Down. Thisisgettinghard Up. Down. Slightly lost/misplaced Up. Down. Buggerwherearewe? How come we're here? Traverse. Up. Down. Cider.

The longer version is, well, longer.
Our support group coming up to the Nags head
The Kinder Dozen is one of those routes that is virtually in my back yard, and so is certainly one that I have been looking at doing since I moved up here. Last year at about this time I was involved in a rather amusing round of the 15 Trigs with some of my fellow club mates. This year, in the spirit of further longer distance challenges I've managed to get around the High Peak Marathon as well, and a couple of weeks ago I mooted the idea of the Kinder Dozen. Julien said he would be up for it, as was Alistair. Matt mentioned he might come along for a short time, but was racing Cader Idris the day before, so wasn't able to commit.
We did have a very vocal support group who were doing their own mini-circuit of the Kinder Plateau, meeting us at a number of our high points.

Smiles at the bottom  of Crowden Clough
The idea was to have a lovely day out across Kinder, not worry too much about the time and hooning off at ridiculous speeds, and give us some good uppy downy hill fun.

As mentioned in my previous blog, Julien didn't complete the race on friday because of a pulled/dodgy hamstring/muscle/thing, and so he also wasn't sure if he was going to do the whole thing. Not to worry, we were pretty much making it up as we went along, though had some idea of vague timings so that the Plateau team could meet up with us a various points.

Alistair, Julien and I set out from the Nags head just before 8, with Lynne, Bex and Alison (part of the plateau group) heading out behind us. Brae was also along for the run, with Julien not really expecting to go too far.
On the first ascent up to Grindslow Knoll, Julien realised that his leg wasn't hurting so much after all, and was quite happily climbing away. Alistair and I kept up quite nicely, and almost before we knew it, we had hit the top of the knoll, turned around, saw the girls heading up as well, and ran on. We chatted for a bit, and were very much into the feeling of it, when I stopped and said... "hang on, aren't we meant to be going DOWN?"

Climbing up Crowden Clough
Ah, minor issue, in our happiness to be out and about, we had just continued on a little way in a kind of zen running mindset, not actually thinking about where we were going. We hung a left, contoured around a bit, and then dove down to the bottom. Brae plunged into the river for his first soaking of the day, and then we continued up the hill to reach Crowden Tower. Juliens leg was certainly not hampering any uphill efforts in any way, shape or form. On any given day he is one of the strongest ascenders in the club. On this day, he was certainly the strongest of us. Even on the second climb he was leading us up. About half way up, figures appeared at the top of the climb, waving and shouting down at us. Ah. Sikobe has joined the plateau team.

Running to Kinder Low
Sikobe had run over to Kinder from Snake Summit, stashing some banana bread and a bottle of water at Kinder West before continuing to join up with the Plateau team. We stomped our way up to the top, said our hellos, and greetings and such. Lynne mentioned we were about 30 mins up on rough timings, which was fantastic, so we peeled off and dropped down to the bridge at the bottom of Jacobs Ladder. So far, so good and easy. Straight back up Jacobs Ladder, where, half way up, we came across one of the stranger sights of the day. A bloke sitting next to a tent- which had been erected by the footpath, which had obviously been brought up this rocky broken path on a 2 wheeled shopping trolley thing. Had we seen this later in the run I would have doubted my eyes... but there you have it. Nowt strange as folk.

The support team at Mermaids pool
Up and passed Edale Cross, and an easy jog down to the Ford before turning back up again to get to Kinder Low. Again, Julien in the lead, then Me, then Alistair. We were keeping together well, not much to separate us. The path stretched out before us, the sun shone down, and all was good as we hit Kinder Low trig. There were a couple of stones on top of the trig, so I took that to mean the Plateau lot had been here and gone and would see us at the next point- Kinder West.

Alistair at Kinder West
The next downhill was quite tricky and technical- in comparison to what we had been running on before, going against the grain of most of the trods across the hill, but we managed to get down quite well, hitting a very pleasant spring just near Red Brook where we took the opportunity to refill water bladders, soak hats etc. while Brae lay down in Red Brook and cooled down a lot. We looked up and could see that the other lot had abandoned the edge path and had descended to Mermaids Pool, and were now hurrying back up to get to the top before us. We set off in pursuit. The hills were still ok, and legs not too heavy, and we caught them on the upper reaches of the slope, and were all together at the trig point. Water and Banana cake were shared out liberally, conversation was had, more sun screen was applied as the sun was getting higher in the sky, and we were still 30 mins ahead.
Toiling up Fairbrook
Excellent, Alistair, julien and I surged off down toward the Northern edge, stopping only to admire just how camouflaged Grouse Chicks are when they stand still, and plunged off the edge to the West of Upper Red brook. Down and Down, through bogs and over the Ashop, to hit the Ashop path which we followed until the bridge- where a group of surprised walkers were stopped for a snack as we dropped down the path, across the river and continued up again onto the lower slopes of Kinder. Now for Fairbrook. Its a long climb, relatively steep, but it is ok. Not to bad at this stage of the run. Up the lower and less steep slopes, and then over the fence to the murderous incline on the other side. I start walking but am soon using my hands to help me up. All in all it is quite fun at this stage, though I'm a bit wobbly on my feet as we get to the top.

The top of Fairbrook
Sikobe has to say good bye to us here, but not before taking a few more photos, and we drop down the Naze and across to the Ashop again. Beautiful running territory, bouncy underfoot, easy to make good time and a delightful place to be. We are more than half way round now, surely nothing can stop us now.

We stop for a short while at the Snake Inn Bridge as Brae takes his dip in the river, and then set off up the path. Not 500 metres up a familiar voice shouts at us from behind. Its Matt! After running Cader yesterday and coming a very creditable 20th, he is out today. (Apparently coming over from Chunal meeting with Lynne, Alison and Bex at Fairbrook, and deciding he was going to chase us on our down and up) All credit to the guy. I'm quite glad he was along, maybe he could engage Julien in conversation and slow him down!

He was able to for a while, but then Juliens legs decided they were going onto "climb" mode, and he outpaced Alistair, me and Matt, and we saw him again at the top. Wow. These hills are beginning to get... fun.
At the top of the climb, Matt mentioned he should be getting back as he was only meant to be out for an hour....  so he headed off back to Chunal. Everyone seemed to be getting in some good runs today! The next down looked heathery and a bit gnarly, but down we went into Blackden.
Matt admiring the view

I took a bit of time over the descent to take some photos of Ali and Julien, and then realised they were getting too far ahead of me and that I'd better hurry up. The dead ferns were all over the place and were causing quite a bit of an issue on the gradient of the slope, especially in 3/4 dead roclites (maybe I need to get some new shoes), and I had to really pick up the pace to get to the bottom at the same time as them.

Another stop at a spring for refill, and then a slog and a half up the hill. This one was hard, all I could think of was that by the time we got around to the south edge of Kinder, we'd be ok, and on the home straight. The hill took an age to get up, and the extra weight of the water in my bag probably didn't help, but I knew it would be needed at some point soon. To the top, and Julien and Alistair were waiting for me, I caught up and we jogged across the plateau to Kinder East trig, then on over to Madwoman stones where we met up with Lynne.
Alison and Becky had peeled off a little earlier on and headed off home. Lynne was continuing her round, but said she was now on her way back and we probably wouldn't see her until the end now. Not a problem, we dropped off and bashed through a load of heather, before realising that we should have stayed on the edge path for a good while longer before dropping down in a better place. Damn.
Contour around some nasty heather and general Moorland which wasn't particularly nice, and all of a sudden- another spring.
Descending into Blackden
Fantastic. A couple of sips, and Brae sits in the water flowing down the hill to cool off. By now its getting toward noon and he is quite a hot dog- despite having been shorn of a lot of hair in the past few weeks. We look down to Ashop farm, assess the ground and head off down. The descents now beginning to tell on the legs- to the bottom, and straight away, turn around and back up.

"This is the longest runnable ascent around here that I know" says Julien conversationally as we set off. Great. We start plodding up, and Alistair mentions a minor tweak that has just happened to his adductors. I suggest a slightly different climbing style, and it appears to be fixed. This is Climb 9 and the whole thing is beginning to get old.
I contemplate getting to the top and just giving up. Following Lynne back over the top and down to Edale. I think about drinking more, but I feel full of liquid even though my mouth is parched. I concentrate on placing one foot in front of the other up the hill. At some point, it has to end. I know Kinder has a top, and its not that far. This CANNOT be that hard.

Alistair and I get to the top, encouraging each other on. Julien is sitting there in the grass, shading Brae from the midday sun. As he sees us he jumps up, we have a quick chat about water as Alistair is running out and decide to descend via the spring. Setting off down Crookstone knoll I try and eat a Nutrigrain bar, but it is like chewing on cardboard. Nasty.
To the Spring and I sit down. It occurs to me that I'm taking every opportunity I can to not be on my feet at this point. The sun is beating down on us, and I'm glad of my hat, and the white arm warmers that I decided to wear. Yes, they may be lined with merino, but in the sun, they seem to be keeping me quite cool actually.
Brae getting a regular dunking

Water restored we plunge down into Jaggers, hitting the bottom, it is airless and the breeze that has been accompanying us most of the way around has died. We set off up a horrendous and un-inviting climb. Remembering the words of Mark Twight "it doesn't have to be fun to be fun" I weave up between the trees, hoping for a breath of the wind that has to be higher up on the hill. Julien has faded into the distance and Alistair and I climb together, eventually reaching the spot height, where the he has been waiting for us for, ooooh, say about 5 mins, shading Brae, and trying to organise a meeting up with Dave who is also out on the hill somewhere. (Despite abortive attempts over the next hour or so, we never did meet up with Dave, which was a shame- though apparently he did see us!)

Food "near" the "YHA"
Once more, we headed down. Down and down, got to the bottom where we assumed the YHA was, and stopped for a bite to eat in the shade. I thought it didn't look right at all, not from how I knew the path to look, and after the short rest, as we struck off up the hill, I was pretty damn sure we were not in the right place. Up and up, through some truly nasty terrain. I was cursing Julien and his route finding every step of the way. The path we should have been on was a path. Nice to walk along, runnable in places, and generally a decent ascent.
This was heather bashing in the extreme. This was contouring through baby bracken, this was not a fun thing to be doing on the 11th ascent of 12. This was really not what was meant to be happening. I couldn't say anything as Jules was already about 200 metres ahead of me up the hill. Next time, I resolved, I'm doing the damn map reading.

It was hot, tiring work. My mouth was dry, but I felt too full to drink. I couldn't work out if I wanted to eat, drink or throw up. My legs wanted to stop, my head wanted me to stop, but something else drove me on. 

After an age of thrashing through undergrowth on a vertical scale we got to the top. No sign of the Druid's stone. Odd. Its really obvious. Unmissable really. But the next descent was Ollerbrook, and that was where we were going. Bang down into "Ollerbrook" which looked uncomfortably familiar as the path we SHOULD have been ascending from the Youth Hostel. I followed Julien and Alistair, twisting my ankle, falling over, plunging my foot down holes and into rivers, and eventually they stopped.

I was in no doubt at this point. "This is definitely the path from the YHA!"- I declared, and yes, it was agreed that it certainly did look that way, but how could that have happened?!
Who moved the YHA?
Thats impossible!

We worked out that we had actually descended too early, hit Clough farm and assumed it was the YHA. It is actually LOWER than the YHA in terms of altitude, so we had climbed more than necessary, and then dropped down into what should have been the 11th ascent.
Great. Now what?

We decided to contour around until we were in Ollerbrook proper, and start the final ascent to Ringing Roger. Ok, so we hadn't done the exact route that was planned, but we did the ascent and descent, so its a kind of variation on the theme.
Cue lots of contouring around Kinder, with feet that are already knackered, twisting and torsioning in all kinds of uncomfortable ways, trying to find trods that are good enough to run on, whilst traversing across a slope that you'd be comfortable skiing down.
The planned route- with approximate timings

Eventually we got to the tree and the bridge at the bottom of Ollerbrook. Brae slumped in the river and we threw water at him. He had already had to be picked up and thrown over some fences and stiles which he would ordinarily have quite happily jumped over. That's a very tired dog we have here.
Still. Last climb. Ollerbrook doesn't have a path to speak of, so we had to thrash and bash and curse our way up it. Steep and unforgiving, it was a pretty monstrous climb, especially with the sun beating down on us at the hottest point of the day. It took an age, and with the faffing around and mistakes we had made, we had lost all the time that had been made up over the past few hours. We topped out on Ringing Roger at almost the exact time originally predicted. At that moment, we all ran out of water, pretty much simultaneously. However, it was only a 10 minute run to the bottom, and the river.
I would love to say the descent was joyous, but it was a long and dusty descent, all I could think about was jumping in the river at the end and plunging my head into the water.
Brae at the end in the pub garden. 

And that's what happened.
7 hours 35 minutes. 37km total distance, 3.2km ascent, 3.2km descent, and a lot of water.
(For those of you like Tom- thats about 23 miles and 10,000ft ascent and descent).
We then adjourned to the pub where we sat and drank some rather fine Cider, Brae flopped down and looked like he would never move again, and proceeded to ignore all comments about "Brae... ywanna go for a run?!"

I have a single blister, and I'm a little tired. Other than that though, not at all bad.
And the report wouldn't be complete without some heroic pictures of our very own Sikobe- in Mermaids pool...
Thanks to all those who came out to say hello to us, and feed us banana cake etc. Thanks also to the staff in the Wheatsheaf in Glossop who cook the best post run steak in the the world.
... and an alternative view of Kinder Low trig

All in all, a good day out.
(A quick note- I previously said it took 7:58- thats not right... 7:58am was the time when I started my watch in the morning, it actually took 7:35).

Saturday, 26 May 2012

May Queen 2012

The route
The sun was shining and there was a very pleasant breeze coming across the hill for this delightful little Race. Based over in Hayfield, historically it has been the closing race for the May Queen Championships. I don't know if the May Queen Champs are on again this year, but I've been in two of the races so far, so one can only hope!

The 3 mile route- basically a shufty up and down Lantern Pike from the Scout hut has a nasty beginning an end on the road, and is a lovely little up and down loop route. Last year I came in at 24:34 and was 12th. This year, I didn't really care about the placing, but I did want to better my time.

The profile. Looks worse than it is.
As the race is on the same weekend as Jura, there were a few of the usual suspects missing. Jura does tend to pull the crowds away from little local ones like this, nevertheless, Pennine were out in force and there were numerous Red, Yellow and Black vests around. There were not as many Glossopdale about either, partially because of Jura, and partially because there is a good contingent of us heading over to Wales for the Cader Idris race today. I'm unfortunately working later on and so was unable to get over there for it. Ah well, Next year.

I recce'd the first section with Julien and Alex, Julien mentioning that he felt a bit tight across the Hamstrings- which is nothing unusual. We got to the bottom of the uphill (and indeed, downhill) and had a look at the technical bits, commenting that it was excellent running territory, and then heading back to the start. The sun beating down on us meant that there were a few runners already with no top on. Good thing Andy Howie wasn't here or he would have melted.
I took the chance to chat with a Penistone runner who was over for the weekend before the start, StevieK was also there and looking strong. Well, all I need to is the best I can, and beat my time, then I'll be happy.
After a brief pre-race briefing ("if you go over a wall, you've gone the wrong way") we were off.

Neil from GDH shot out of the start like a rocket, and the 2 guys who would eventually lead us most of the way around went off very fast as well. Julien was up there and I had to spin up my legs fast in order to semi-catch up with them. The route gets very narrow very quickly, so if you get caught behind a slow ascender, there are precious few opportunities to overtake. (as I found to my detriment last year).
Chasing Mark up the hill.
I blasted away down the road in the wake of the fast ones, also overtaking Neil in the process, and within about 400yards, Julien suddenly pulled up, limping and holding his leg. In a fit of caring I slowed up to check he was ok... (he wasn't running, of course he wasn't ok) but there was no blood, he wasn't on the ground writhing in agony and the leg wasn't detached from the body, so I guessed it wasn't totally serious, and carried on running.

The uphill wasn't all that bad. Up through the trees I was chasing after StevieK, who was a lot closer than I thought he would be, and we were both chasing a rather talented kid who I remember chasing down in last years race for quite a while. I knew we would overtake on the next up, and Stevie would probably zoom off ahead. Nothing else to do but keep the head down. Coming out of the wood I was overtaken my Mark in the Sunglasses from Pennine, we came up through a big field and I suddenly realised where we were- this field is taken in by another fellrace as well- then I saw Lynne and Andrea spectating high up on the bank and called out to them that Julien had pulled up a way back. At this point, Andrea shouted "come on Alex".
Ah- the younger Minshull can't be that far behind me then. Best keep up the speed.

Mark chasing me at the end.
Over a couple of stiles where I nearly caught Mark, and then he raced away uphill to catch Stevie, together they began to open up more of a gap. I was running very much on my own, but was I running all out? Across a stile and into the blessed wind cooling me off and stripping the sweat away. Past Rich Seipp, busy recording the race, who again, as soon as he filmed me, picked up his camera and jogged alongside me for a while. I need to get faster just to spare me the indignity of being paced out by a bloke with a camera and a backpack!

Last climb to the top, and it really wasn't as bad as I remembered it, ran all the way to the top and didn't get overtaken. Over the top and a plunge through the heather. I can see Mark in front of me, but Stevie has raced off into the distance- obviously an excellent and confident descender. I was a little on tenterhooks down through the heather, my descending mojo appears to have left me a little, and the whole brain off thing seems to need some practice. Down through the heather, along a spectacularly rubbly path and I seem to be catching Mark.
Hairpin bend, over a cattlegrid, and I'm still thinking about how far behind me Alex is. He is excellent on flat ground and very fast on tarmac, so if he is close at the end, there is no way I'll be able to hold him off. For now, I'm chasing Mark. Over a stile, and another, and down a steep hill, closing, closing. onto a path and I am closer still.
As we turn the corner onto the path we had come up, he lets me past, and we thunder down the hill.
Resting in the sun
Damn. Now I'm the one being chased. I try to moderate my speed, though I can hear him directly behind me. Ah, if I can't get some air between us, all will be lost, yet I can't gap him on this lovely path.

Then we hit the technical bit, I fly through the air, barely touching the ground, over lumps, jumps, roots, off camber stones and zoom out of the bottom. I can no longer hear him behind me. Great. Now I only have about 300 metres of road left.
Don't stop now.

Neil, Sikobe and the magic pizza
My legs feel leaden and I think how easy it would be to slow down and walk. My lungs agree, but something decides that is NOT going to happen. Lynne and Andrea are ahead, walking back to the start, shouting me on, and that I am 5th. 5th? I'll never hold on to that.
Lungs burning, I run the longest 300m there is on any course, looking at my shadow for the impending final kick from Mark. I see no other shadow, and push myself, hoping I haven't done myself in too early. The finishing cone comes in sight and I run through it, shouting my number out to Julien. (Who on not running the race decided to come back to help out with the administration- a proper fellrunner).

The prizegiving was very good, mainly for the reason that I got a prize... Lindsay from GDH won Vet Female, and her daughter won the Girls prize- and of course Alex won the Juniors prize as well. Sikobe also managed to spirit a Pizza out of thin air, which was quite impressive. I'm hoping he can do the same thing on top of a hill in the rain next time.
Lins, xena and Dave

The results came out within a few hours of finishing, I was 5th and came in at 23:18. Very happy with that, though a little concerned as I'm not entirely sure how I can make myself go faster. Alex came in 7th and bettered his time from last year as well. StevieK outdid himself and clenched 2nd in the final stages of the race, only 22 seconds behind the leader. However, as we know, 22 seconds is quite a distance when you measure it out on the ground.

Surprise prize.
An excellent, low key race, thanks to all the marshalls- there were a lot of you out, the course markers, and the Race Organiser. A brilliant evening out. Thank you.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Why run?

I have sometimes been asked why I like running.
Thats what its all about

Aside from the delighting in being outdoors, moving across landscape in all types of weather and the genuine freedom that I feel, I suppose a part of the answer comes from the fact that you can't hide behind technology, upgrades and money.

Oh sure, you can spend horrendous amounts of cash on a new pair of shoes, you can spend hundreds of pounds on a new fantastically breathable waterproof or a ridiculous amount of money on the latest and greatest of graduated compression baselayers, but in the end it all comes down to one thing.

On a competitive scale, all that it really boils down to is how far and how fast can you carry your body over terrain.
Thats it.

There is only one real way to upgrade your capaility, and that is to practice. Once you have practiced a certain amount you hit a plateau, and you have to think again, you have to engage in some kind of training and over-reaching. At some point after that, you need to think a bit harder, think about your diet, tweaking your regime so that you can get those minor incremental increases in speed and power.

There is no short cut. There are no "power ups".

There is hard graft, or the knowledge that your efforts have been lacking.

There is no "oh, I bought THIS and its 7 grams lighter so it will make me faster". There is no way to reduce friction on moving parts to gain efficiency, there is no real advantage to having more money to throw at the sport, and thus, no way to "cheat" your way to being better.

There is you, and your willpower to train in order to get better and faster. If you don't go fast, you cannot say someone else has a better this or that. They are simply better, or have trained harder than you. End of story.

Talk of this, that and the other are all stripped away when you run.

Me, enjoying the feeling of running competitively. You can see the enjoyment all over my face.
It doesn't come down to if you have the willpower to win.
Its whether you have the willpower to PREPARE to win.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Glossopdale at the Calderdale relay

Up at 5am to go racing. But not just any old racing, this was my first relay event. Not wanting to jinx proceedings by saying who was going to do which leg beforehand- there has been quite a high drop out rate in the past from our club- Julien didn't tell anyone who was doing which leg until the beginning of the week, and travel arrangements were still fairly liquid even last night.

The day dawned brightly, and it seemed that all was good as I was picked up by Julien. Our team was one of the best that Glossopdale has fielded in recent years (despite a number of us hammering it out on Mount Famine yesterday). Andy O and I were the leg 1 runners, first up and responsible for getting a good lead out. Julien and Alistair were on leg 2, Carl and Charlie on the shorter leg 3, John H and Matt D on leg 4, Andy A and Andy F leg 5, and Gwyn and Mark O providing a rocketship of a final leg 6.

3 cars, 12 people, organisational amusement and logistical chaos. Excellent.

After quite an atmospheric drive over the M62 (yes, its possible) Julien, Andy, Alistair and I got to the start with plenty of time, wandered around and I noticed that a lot of the other competitors had long sleeved tops on under their race vests. It might have been cold then, and there might have been quite a breeze, but fairly soon it was going to heat up quite a lot. Andy and I recced the first 200 yards, and there were quite a few pinch points. Also, we knew that the next part of the race was a thin trail with no chance of overtaking, we knew that we needed a good start or else we'd get stuck behind a slow team, which would knock us out. The reason for needing a decent start was because we wanted the team to get around without being caught up in any mass starts. Only once has Glossopdale not been in the mass start on the 6th leg... the answer was to go fast.

All too soon, the warming up was over, we gathered at the start and then there was a whistle. No speech, no directions, nothing. A surge forward, a half hesitation - not sure if that was actually the signal to go, and then a surge at the realisation that it was. I thrashed up the field thinking only to get a decent place, and then thought... I wonder if Andy is with me... looked around, and saw him sprinting up behind me, around a couple of other runners. Well, at least we were together. He had the baton, I had the map. Up through the park and into the wood.

It soon became apparent that the teams in front of us were a bit faster than us- keeping about 20 metres ahead. No need to worry about needing to overtake anyone then, and the teams behind, were about that behind us as well. Excellent. We had unconsciously sorted ourselves into the right place.
I could feel fatigue from Mount Famine in my legs, and at several times was a bit concerned that I might have started off just a tad fast. Andy was running well, and I nearly called him to cool it as I might not be able to keep up the pace all the way around the 10 miles. But I held my tongue, got my head down, and ran.
Up onto the moor, we had a team keeping pace with us, and using us as a windbreak against the fierce headwind. Not great, but then neither of us really provide all that much protection from anything really.

Over the moor and down past the MRT landrover, and a plunge down into Ripponden. We left the shelter-seeking team way behind, and on the climb up to Soyland, we were overtaken by another team. Not to worry, we are still going strong.
There were a few stiles around this area that were VERY thin. We just about managed to fit through them with bumbags on, but more generously built competitors may well have had problems!

Over and down the hill, following swiftly in the footsteps of the ones in front. A bit too swiftly in their opinion, as one of them told Andy to back off on the steps- Too much pressure.
Its a race, isn't it?! That's the idea.
Anyhow, up and onto another moor, making excellent time, and then, disaster.
With no-one around us, a wrong turning, followed by another, and a complete numpty attempt at correcting it. Down a slope, back up again... Calm, breathe, its not that bad. Work out whats going on, and then rock on down a road to hit the right path. 7 minutes later than planned, and in amongst a load of teams that we were literally miles ahead of. Damn.

Nothing to do now, but go for it, last hill down, a blast and then into the handover, nearly throwing the baton at Julien and Alistair. What a cock-up. Still, we ran our best, and there is nothing to do now but wait to see what our fellow team-mates can do to make up for it. To the car, chatting about it, a swift change and then drive to leg 2-3 changeover where Charlie and Carl were waiting.
I navigated and took us on a somewhat magical mystery tour, eventually coming into the area from the wrong direction, but we got there in plenty of time. We stood and chatted with an increasingly jittery pair of runners as team after team ran on out. After what seemed like an eternity, Blue and Orange shirts came tearing down the road, and with shouts and whoops, Carl and Charlie shot off into the distance.

Jules and Ali had done well, overtaking about 10 or more teams, really giving their all, despite their efforts in Mount Famine yesterday. A brilliant run, and they looked like they had had quite a run. We packed up and went on to the transition of 4-5, missing out the 3-4 as there probably wouldn't have been time to get there before the runners did.
Sitting in the car above the transition point we wolfed down some food, and waited for Andy and Andy to turn up- they had been delivering the leg 6 runners before coming back to this transition with the car. After a while, and about 50 mins before we calculated Matt and John would run in, they arrived and registered. We had a chat about how things were going, and the navigation of the next leg. They went off to get changed and to recce the first part of the route.
Ali went off to have a look down the way, and it was getting to about 10 mins or more before we expected Matt and John in at the earliest. We saw Andy and Andy heading off down the track. For a recce? That's quite a speed they're going for a recce... Out of the car, and who should come staggering up the path like two battle drunken veterans but John and Matt with a widely grinning Alistair.

Carl and Charlie had a fantastic run, taking back a number of places, and John and Matt had worked really hard to take a few more. They looked ruined. Pleased, but ruined. Wow, at this rate we still had about 1:15 before the cut off at the 5-6 transition, we've never been in quite such a good place as this as a team. Things are looking good.
Matt and John were stowed safely in Andys landy with supplies, and the rest of us bundled off over to the final transition. On the way we saw the 2 Andy's at a road crossing, catching another team and going strong, I texted Gwyn to be ready as they looked to be on the warpath.

We got to the final transition to find Gwyn and Mark ready and waiting. To be fair they had been ready and waiting for about 2 and a half hours, and were quite glad of the company. We saw a couple of other teams head on out and thought that it would probably be another 10 mins or so before Andy and Andy appeared for the transition. All of a sudden- "Team 38".... "TEAM 38!" That's us- Gwyn and Mark threw their jumpers at us and ran.
The Andy's had had a phenomenal leg, Andy F doing a sterling job of navigation, and Andy A giving the moral support (or so he said). Glossopdale team was off out on leg 6 a full 15 mins before the mass start. As far as we could think, the best we'd ever had before was about 3 mins before it in the past, and we came about 27th that year.


This is where the logistics got a bit complex, and I had to wait at a petrol station for a while before getting picked up, but suffice to say that Carl, Charlie and I got to the end in time to watch what was (we think) the 7th team come in. Then the 8th.
Then a LONG gap.

Then... is that Gwyn? Yes- and 2 other teams, and Mark. All of them covered in salt where the sweat had evaporated as they ran. One team just managed to gather together and lead in to the end, Mark caught Gwyn up and they surged ahead of the third team in the group, but couldn't quite muster the power to beat the ones in front.
A superb effort. By our reckoning, (and also Carl looking over the officials shoulder), 10th. Completely unofficial, and maybe wrong, but if that is right, a brilliant result. (John's response on hearing this was "what?! What?! No?! Really?! What?!" - which I think was a positive response).

Tea and cake followed, and a group photo which is on Juliens phone, so I'll try and get that off him at some point soon to put on this rather non-photographic blog, well dones all around and then a journey home.
All in all an excellent days racing around the Calderdale way. Thanks very much to the organisers and well done to Wharfedale for winning.

The team. Jules, Andy O, Andy A, Andy F, Carl, Charlie, Mark O, Gwyn, Matt D, - Front, Alistair, John H and me.
But most of all Well Done to all involved in Team Glossopdale for a fantastic day of running and camaraderie, and thanks to Jules, the team captain for organising us herd of cats.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mount Famine 2012

Kit requirements
It is now a year on from when that headless photo of me (to the right of the page) was taken in a sprint finish at the end of the Mount Famine race. Time flies when you're having fun.

This weekend is a good one, as we have Mount Famine, described as "probably the highest pain per mile quotient of all the Hayfield Champs races". That may well be true, for some runners it is a real nightmare of Achilles heels, one after the other, for others, its a great race with some excellent and technical terrain.

A number of Glossopdalers prepared for it in excellent style by heading over to OB1's house the night before for an Ugali party. The theory being "eat like a Kenyan, run like a Kenyan". A wonderful time was had by all, and I'm very much looking forward to the next one, (take note Mr. Kenobi)!

Today dawned beautifully, lots of fluffy clouds, but none of them obscuring the sun, not too hot, not too cold, and with a breeze to help us along the way. Brilliant. Once safely registered and wandering around we started to notice who else was running today. You tend to go to a race thinking, "well, if no-one else turns up, I'm going to be first". Then you see Julien and steviek, and think, well, ok, 3rd if I'm on form. Then you see Jack Ross. Ok. 4th. Tom Brunt. hmmm at least 5th then. And so on and so forth, counting down the places that you definitely aren't going to get to an approximate position if everything goes right.
The problem being, you almost psyche yourself out by doing that, which is never a good thing.

Me having done battle with a tree
Julien, Matt and I wandered over to the start. There was a good turn out of Glossopdalers and Pennine (I think it was one of their champ races, as well as being "their" race anyway) so we ended up being fairly sociable.
The start was, if anything, more slippy than last year. The virtually straight up ascent of Elle bank looking fairly exciting anyway, I had a quick wander up the lower part, and for every footstep I took up, I slipped back half a foot. This could be more exciting that I thought.

On the start line I met up with OB1, who had used his Ugali powers well by thrashing around a 5k Park run earlier on in the morning, and was now lining up for his second race of the day. Respect, sir, and to Neil as well, for doing that AND providing the transport!
As we were given race directions and general information, the slipperiness wasn't the only thing that was treacherous, there were also a load of trees that had been blown down along the route- so we had to be careful of that as well. Excellent, this was almost sounding more like an obstacle course than anything else, this could be fun. As we readied for the off I noticed people nudgling (no thats not a typo) ahead of me, and then at "go" I was already a few places back from where I thought I was going to be. Well, its a mass scramble uphill, not the worst place to be.
Then we started up the really steep bit, and I nearly got kicked in the face. Ok. Not the best place to be. I put on some speed, looked up, and Tom Brunt was only just in front of me. That's a bit odd. I looked further up the hill and Julien and Alistair had rocketed off and were leading the field up the hill. Ooooh. That might have been foolhardy of them. We'll see.
Up the hill, pulling on sods of grass, trees, real hands and feet stuff. I began to feel like my legs were tiring, not a good thing this close to the start of a race, and tried to ignore it, knowing the top was coming soon. We got there, a left and then along a path. I was in line with a couple of other runners, and was vaguely chasing behind Julien and Alistair, but thinking about how far we had left to go, being careful not to burn out too fast. I thought I'd left Matt way behind me on the first climb, but who should pass me within about 300metres, but Matt.

Crikey. I'd best start thinking about getting a shift on. Judith Jepson was somewhere up ahead as well, and I saw Matt overtake her. Coming up onto the Dragons back I knew I needed to keep up with him, or risk losing him completely, but my legs had nothing in them at all. I realised that I hadn't really prepared myself for the race in the slightest. Thought I knew the route, and what it was going to be like, just because I'd run it a year ago. Not so. In hindsight I should have put a bit more thought into actually looking at it and preparing body and mind as to what was going to come. Going up onto the ridge I just wanted to stop and walk back down the hill, fairly certain I was having a shocking run and it was nearly pointless to carry on running, considering how tired I felt and how little energy I felt I had.

Julien and Steviek showing what 2 seconds looks like
Carry on going. Just keep on going up. Its all a bit of a blur, but I overtook Judith, kept Matt in my sights, and then saw another Glossopdale vest in front of us- its Alistair. It can't be Julien, he won't be wearing a vest by now. We slowly, agonisingly slowly catch up to him, climb a steep part, and Matt blasts off ahead, overtaking him. I take things a little more circumspectly, and eventually overtake a little later. Looking over to the top of the hill, I am happy that we'll be going down soon.
But no.

We had just reached South Head, Ba-ba was there taking photos and saying "look over to the left- you'll see Simon Bailey pretty much at the bottom of Dimpus Clough". Flipping heck. Its almost like he's running a different race to us, how the heck did he get so far ahead?! That's just ridiculous. Does that man exist on Irn Bru and weetabix? I have no idea. If you know, let me know.
Thanks to Chris Calladine for the photo
Ba-ba offered some encouragement, and I could see Julien (shirtless, as ever) and a gaggle of Penniners heading up to Mount Famine. At this point I thought I'd hit the furthest point away and was ready to go down and back, and I was mentally devastated that I still had ANOTHER hill to do before.
Keep on keeping on. (ok, maybe devastated is a bit over egging it, but I was a bit surprised that I had another hill to go and that didn't sit well with my legs at all).

Down and up, chasing Matt, I know that he is faster on the ups, but surely I'll catch him on the down. Over the hill and down. Matt still going well, and Alistair somewhere behind me, I need to make sure I'm covering ground well. Down the hill, it gets steeper, and I'm still not making up any distance on Matt.
The sneaky git must have been putting in some downhill practice.

To the bottom, a sharp turn around and then a look up to the impending hill. I could see Julien and the Pennine Gaggle heading up there, not too far ahead, and Matt seemed to be in touching distance. I just need to keep myself going. But my legs have other ideas.
I try to run, I try to keep good pace, but all they respond to is a walk/run type thing, and I see them dwindle into the distance. Try as I might I can make no time up on them. Halfway up is Rich Seipp with a camera. He fires off a few shots and then walks up the hill next to me, commenting on the weather and general stuff. I try to keep a conversation going but there is no spare air. (I'll be more coherent next time Rich). By the time I'm getting to the really steep bit at the top of Dimpus Clough my legs don't seem to be working despite my constant mantra of "Shut up Legs". (Thanks Jens Voight for that one). I have to crawl up the slope almost crab-like to stop everything in my legs from attempting to cramp up and generally stop working. I forgot how much FUN this race was!

I hit the top, not much after Matt and a couple of Pennine guys, or so I thought. Getting over the stile I could see no-one behind me, and looking forward, no-one in front of me either. They must have gone off like rockets. I give chase. Over the humps on the Dragons back, no-one. I can see nothing in front of me. Wow. That's some serious speed. Am I slowing down? Is Ali catching me? Faster legs, faster legs. I know they don't want to work- shut up legs.

The Dragons Back seems to go on for a long time. Longer than I expected, and it was like I was the only runner out there. In a class of my own. Not quite in the same way as Simon Bailey, but a class of my own nevertheless. Down the steep slope to the bridleway and a long section of hard path greets me. I have to keep the speed up, goodness knows who is going to be breathing down my neck by the end. I've managed to get all the way up Dimpus Clough and along the ridge with no-one overtaking me, this is the last 1k or so, I can't let anyone take me now.
The finish line
There is a biker who I pass- on a cyclocross bike- going up one of the less straightforward sections- nice one indeed, and shout out a greeting, and now to dig in and go as hard as I can. No-one to see in front of me, no-one behind me. I know I got 54 mins- just under 55 last year, so I fix that in my mind as the target as I have no-one to physically race around me.
Onto the short road section at the end and I'm feeling at the end of my energy levels, I almost feel like walking, but know I cannot. Not with a couple of hundred yards to go. I know I'm fading, but have to finish strong. Through the playground, (where Simon has been playing with his kid since finishing the race about 10 mins earlier) round the corner and a final surge for the line. I don't feel good, in fact I feel trashed, like I have just run a very hard race.

Water, recovery, congratulate Matt on a race well run- coming in 3 places ahead of me in the end, and cheering on the rest of the finishers as they come around the final corners.

Consorting with the enemy
I came 15th, in 51:23. 3 mins ahead of last years time. I still need to work on my hills, but at least I have that in hand now.
Julien won the V50, in a time 2 seconds faster than he managed last year, and that was when he wasn't recovering from an injury. I think I have some way to go yet, as it appears that I'm still not within touching distance of him or Steviek, even though they are both recovering from injury. I think a bit of patience with the current training, give it some time to see how it goes before making changes.

So now its an afternoon of rest and recuperation, and Calderdale relay tomorrow.
I'm on the first leg, so an excellent chance to recover! Now to look at the map, and actually prepare myself for it. A cunning plan I think.
Well done to all involved, a well organised and executed event. Thanks muchly. 

I think there may be a few more photos of me out there on the course, drop us a line if you have any (baba/rich) and I'd be happy to put them up on here with credits. As ever.