Sunday, 29 June 2014

PDMRO bike ride

The jersey
Ok, so its not really a race report,  -and its not like I just cycled 250km in a day like a friend, but it was an epic enough day for me to think about writing a blog, and taught me a couple of things about mindset.

The basic premise is that it is the 50th Birthday of the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation (PDMRO), and as such, someone thought that a bike ride starting at one base, and visiting all the others would be a really good idea. Several versions of the route followed, ranging from a 250+km monster to the final route, which was about 145km. Further than I've ever been on a bike in a single day by quite a long way.

Despite it originally being destined as a race, it was decided that everyone should go at pretty much their own pace, and just see what happens.
Representatives from all the teams in the PDMRO rocked up at Oldhams base, with Woodhead arriving some 40 mins late as they had got their transport van stuck between 2 stone walls on the way and had to winch it out with a landy. (any donations of t-cut to Woodhead would most probably be gratefully received).

A few bits of toast, a cup of tea, and a whole load of faff later, we set out about 50 mins late, out of the Oldham base at Upper mill, straight up the hill to the Isle of Skye road. 35 or so cyclists of varying ability from people on TT bikes and deep section wheels to cyclocross bikes, to people just out for a "nice" day.
The long drag of a hill, made a bit less pleasant by the fact the promised drizzle had come. It was proper grim as we hacked our way up the hill, and by the time we had reached half way up, a group of about 8 of us had got such a long distance in front of the rest of the group that when we convened for a quick chat at the top, it was decided that we could either stand and wait on an exposed road in rubbish weather conditions, or we could press on in a small group to Woodhead base. I was surprised at the speed we had got up there, and was a little concerned that we might have burnt a few too many matches too quickly... Angie can ride all day, so no concern there, Al is a complete machine, and has no pain threshold... I was much more worried about the state of my legs and whether they would last the rest of the 80 miles or so.

Anyhow, we decided on the latter course of action, and got going.

As we went on, the drizzle got heavier, my glasses got so much residual water on them I couldn't see out, so had to take them off, we were all wearing all the clothes we had brought with us, and we were expending energy just to keep warm. I was very very glad of my raceblade mudguards. Unfortunately I was the only one with any type of guards, so if I was behind someone else road dirt and water and goodness knows what got flicked up at me. Enough of that - to the front.

We hammered down into Holmfirth, and 4 of us, Al, Angie (both from Glossop) and Dave (from Kinder) somehow managed to lose the other gaggle of riders through the traffic of Holmfirth, and made our way up the hill to Hade Edge, and into Woodhead base, where a warm welcome was extended to us. Cups of tea, coffee, cake and general happiness were very much appreciated as us cold and soggy riders came in.
Despite this, we didn't stay for long, with legs starting to seize up from not pedaling, so we climbed back on into the drizzle, and on our way out, passed another load of PDMRO riders just coming into the base, including Matt, our team leader, and Paul the Dog handler - good effort, all the Glossop MRT members were accounted for. Next stop, Holme Moss. Still raining, and we shot down the back roads to Holmbridge, hung a left, and very soon made our way up and over the Moss, Al showing his strength by grinding out some ridiculous gear for the vast majority of the hill. At the top, in an ill advised sprint for the line, my rear guard fell off and got tangled in the back wheel, so I lost the lunge for the top to Dave from Kinder.
It took a bit of time for me to get the bike back in working order, and I noticed that I really didn't have a
Glossop Base
whole lot of brake block left on the back wheel.

Still, we blasted off down the hill toward the main road, and over into Glossop, working well as a 4. Although there were some massive puddles on the road, the weather appeared to be brightening up somewhat. Along the reservoirs, and into Glossop, to a huge welcome from our team, again, we were plied with cake and tea. Apparently it hadn't been raining at all in Glossop, so a couple of us changed their sodden clothing for dry stuff which was stashed in base, and pretty soon we were going up over Chunal. Al and someone else had set off before me and Angie, so we launched up the road in swift pursuit.
My gears were skipping all over the place, which was somewhat annoying, evidently I hadn't quite fixed my bike perfectly on the top of Holme Moss - so figured I'd do something about it when we got to Kinder's base in Hayfield.
We overtook Al near the top of Chunal, and as we all crested the hill, I changed gear, and there was an almighty crunch as something drastic happened to my rear mech.
No pedalling, and I freewheeled to the bottom of the hill thinking I might be able to sort something out, waving the others on ahead. I would either fix it, and catch them up, or it would be so knackered that I couldn't carry on.

This bike be Borked. 
At the bottom of the hill, I got into a layby and assessed the damage. My mech hanger had snapped in two, and the rear mech had jumped around and was dangling in a mess in the middle of the wheel. How I didn't come off at 30mph, I don't know, but basically that was it for the bike for the moment. No cycling until I get it fixed, which is going to take some time on Chain reaction cycles, and some amusement at home with a load of tools.
I called in a support vehicle (Steve B from GMRT was just back in Glossop with the team transport for the day), so he came to collect me, and I decided I was very lucky to have this happen to me today when I could call on someone to pick me up within 10 mins, rather than on a commute, or a long solo ride. I stood there waiting, and a number of riders came past me, including Dave Yates of Glossop and Kinder fame, who had tagged on with the ride from Glossop, and was just going to ride to Edale.

During the lift home, various options were mooted between us. Give up and stop. Get another bike and get a lift with Steve over to Edale, and carry on from there. Or, get another bike and just go from home in Glossop.
I mulled it over, and decided I was having too much fun cycling today to give up. The rain had stopped, I would no longer need mudguards, so the nice bike could come out to play. I didn't want to go straight to Edale, that would seem like cheating. I'd just have to bite the bullet and go over Chunal again.
So we got home, I said hi to Lynne, and explained what was happening, left the broken bike in the garage, got the nice one out, changed bottles and pump onto the other bike, and set off up Chunal for the second
time of the day.

Setting out from home on Bike numero duo
By now, the majority of riders had gone through Glossop, including Matt and Paul, so I would have quite a lot of pedalling to do in order to catch up. Al and Angie would have been long gone, and no matter how hard I tried, there would be no catching them now. Especially as I had no idea about how to get from Edales base to Derbys base. I'd need to ride with at least one other person in order to get that right.
So on the new bike I blasted up Chunal, passing 3 guys on the way up. Down into Hayfield, and a quick stop at Kinder Base to tell them what had happened and that I was still moving and had not packed it in for the day. On and on, up the hill to Peep'o'day, overtaking another 2 riders, assuring myself that hills are my friend, despite the ache in my legs and the creeping fingers of fatigue. (a 5000m rowing timetrial the day before a big day on the bike is not necessarily a good idea).

Down into Chinley, and Chapel, up the A6 and over to Doveholes, Buxton's base, where I tanked in as fast as I could, and found, to my astonishment, Matt and Paul. Excellent. Though just as I arrived, a group of 3 others left. People to overtake on the next section? The water bottle on the bike got filled with some more electrolyte, and the route was explained - I kind of knew it, but just needed a fresh idea in front of the map, and back on the bike, chasing down Dave Yates who was still somewhere in front of me.
To the roundabout, up to Sparrowpit, and then the drag across to Winnats. Glad that I now had a bike with decent brake pads, I was happy dropping down through the valley, through Castleton, and into Hope, where there was a queue of cars, with Dave Yates at the front.
Admittedly they weren't queuing because of Dave, but we had managed to get to Hope just as the carnival was making its way down the main road. Quite a good carnival as well, but I didn't want to hang around until all half a mile of floats had gone past, so we sneaked along the pavement for a couple of hundred yards, turned right and went up and over to Edale base, where a lovely spread of food was set out.

The problem was, that from here, no one really knew the route. Yes, it had been emailed out at some point, but the various iterations had caused a bit of confusion. So we studied the route, and I tried to remember the main points of where to go and where not to go - taking a couple of pictures of the key points on the map with my phone, just in case. The problem was, it was now a long drag to Derby base, and I needed people to cycle with. I didn't fancy being lost, on my own, and a long way from anywhere that I knew. It took a while for people to start thinking about leaving Edale base. Al and Angie etc had all left at least 30 mins before I got there, and it took another 35 before we got anywhere close to leaving. If I knew where I was going, I'd have headed off straight away, but we ended up leaving en masse- about 15 of us of all different abilities.

Before we got to Hathersage, we had split up into numerous smaller groups, and I was with a couple of Edale lads, and 3 more guys. We managed to stay pretty much together through Grindleford, into Baslow and Chatsworth, but by the time the A6 was reached, the Edale guys and I were told to head off on our own, and have a blast.
A group of PDMRO chaps and chapesses at the end. 
My legs were well and truely toasted by this time, but we upped the ante a little, and maintained a pretty decent speed right the way down the A6, stopping only once to make sure that we hadn't overshot the turning at Little Eaton. By the final few climbs, the younger legs of the Edale crew (and the fact they seemed to be very at home on bikes) told on me, and they raced off ahead on the steep sections. We got through Little Eaton, and then the final killer hill to get up to Drum Hill scout camp - where Derby had decided their base was going to be for the purposes of the day.

I got in, battered, and knackered, barely able to pedal. But, I'd done a 60km ride in the morning, broke a bike, and then a 90km ride from there on. For me, the longest day on a bike ever (even if it was split into 2 sections) and it showed me that my comfortable biking territory is actually a lot larger than I think it is. I found that I could pretty much just keep going and grinding it out, even after 120km. Quite a revelation, as the furthest I've been before was about 71km.

Twas an excellent day out, thanks very much to all involved - Though I don't think I'll be up for a reversal of the route next year... 145km, backloaded with Chunal and Holme Moss might be a bit more of a challenge. Scuse me now, I have a bike to fix.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Inov8 300 - destroyed

This is what they looked like originally...
My original review is here....

Well. They've done 630km, and their last race was Jura, a race which tends to trash shoes that are even at the beginning of their life. I suspected they even in the state they were in at the beginning of the race, they might end up very broken indeed by the end of it. I then used them as my chosen footwear for guiding a group across the first 2 legs of the welsh 3000's.

I've not really spared these shoes in life. They've been battered across all kinds of terrain from the bogs of the peak to gritstone in the rhinogs, scrambling in the Lakes and North Snowdonia. They have raced, they have trained, and they have definitely been used. A lot.

I think they first got used at the FRA relays in October last year, so that's 9 months of use.
To be honest, even with the drubbing they've got, the uppers are still in pretty good nick, it is only really the soles that have suffered.
And now...
From the beginning, the rubber has been super grippy on pretty much everything (except wet rock... but nothing is), and I was a little concerned that the soft studs would end up being ripped off on any kind of rock that I ran across.

To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised when they stood up to the rigours of Wales and various other tests. But it wasn't until a month ago that I started to see the studs beginning to rip from the bottom of the sole unit. Jura was going to be the final test - and it tested them.
Studs are now either worn down, or as close to being shredded off as they can be without actually falling off. I suspect that the next decent run is going to shear off about 7 or 8 studs.
Still, they have been of good service.

Shredded grip on the outside of the shoe

Bits of the upper are a little worse for wear from Jura...
The centre studs are no more

One minor alteration that I made was the changing of the laces. I had a pair of Baregrips a while back, trashed them, but retained the laces. They are way better at actually tightening up around the foot, as the yellow laces supplied with the 300s are exceptionally stiff, and I find that once laced up, I have to run about 2km in them, they go baggy and I have to relace them to be race tight.

Relaced with Baregrip laces
Contouring in them never really got better (as in more comfortable... the grip was steady as ever) as they are cut a little high around the ankles, and the toe box appears to be quite a lot larger than other inov8s I have used before, so I can use big socks in them should the occasion demand. (like in winter)

To be honest, they've gone about the same distance as my X-talon 212's had when they got retired from "active service". (I still use them as flats for morning runs when it's not going to be muddy).
You can clearly see a dual compound type thing going on with the studs

So it would seem that Inov8s appear to have a life span of about 5-600km (thats 3-400 miles in old money). Somewhere around 22p a mile, if you want to be really cost analysis-y about it.
22p for amazing grip in the wet and mud, with good grip on dry rock, and passable grip on wet rock (ie. not entirely ice skate like- but at least better than some others I have come across), that's really pretty good when you consider the abuse they have gone through.
These shoes have done some decent races, and some good long runs... they'll now be put out to pasture, mainly being dry hill rep shoes.

I have another pair waiting in the wings - got them cheap from someone who no longer runs, so I look forward to breaking them as well.
Still good studs on the inside of the left shoe. I evidently don't use that bit of shoe as much as other bits. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Buying options

My lightweight, short race kit fits into a
2litre bag. The heavier, more versatile long
race kit goes in a 3 litre bag. 
This is an argument that tends to get an airing about once every month or two on the forums. The options, pros and cons of different types of kit when looking to be safe on the hill when fell running (or come within kit requirements), it all falls into 3 fairly broad categories.

Light is Right
The first is the hyperlight, racing snake approach. Getting the stuff you need (or are obliged to take) into the smallest and lightest possible bag... whilst, of course, keeping within regulations. 
The advantage of this is that you are able to carry all the stuff you apparently might need for the minimum possible weight. Brilliant, until you get caught out in some pretty foul weather. 

Yes, I know that you have a top which is labelled "waterproof" and has taped seams, and I know that those waterproof trousers are indeed "waterproof", however, there is a big difference between what it says on the label and how it feels out there on the hill. 
2 examples - 
the main parts of the kit unpacked. 
The first, being on St. Sunday crag with a mate, he in a lightweight race approved waterproof top, me in an eVent top, blowing a gale, hammering with rain. I was happy. He was not, and ended up buying the same top as me when we got back down the hill. 

The second, putting on a pair of waterproof trousers- again in hammering rain and gusty wind - me, slightly heavier trousers with heavy duty zips - boom - straight on and not a bother. Friend- pair of lightweight proof trousers - but with lightweight zips that got caught on the fabric every 4 cms - not a happy, or indeed, dry bunny by the time he finally got them done up. 

That being said, if every gram is precious to you, if you want to run fast fast fast, and generally get off the hill before the weather turns gnarly, by all means - light is indeed right. 
If you are going to be out in all weathers, and don't mind carrying a bit more weight and being slightly more bulky - perhaps the Functional is right is the correct approach

Functional is right
a decent zip
To be honest, this is the camp I tend to subscribe to, if only because I know I'm going to be out in all weathers, and no matter how fast I run, at some point, I'm going to be on a hill when the weather turns nasty. At that point, I'm going to want something heavy duty enough to be able to cope. 
To be honest, the stuff I take on the hill isn't all that much more heavy than the serious lightweight fanatic's stuff, however, a few grams here and there does end up making a fair amount of difference to the end heft of a bumbag, and I'm sure that if I shaved a few grams off my kit I might, just might run a little bit faster.

That being said, I'm just as likely to run faster if I train harder - and that costs less. 
a light zip
Having dabbled with pertex, and been blown about quite a lot with it on, I tend to gravitate towards slightly heavier fabric options in terms of waterproofness here- eVent being a favourite. Not, I must hasten to add,
because it keeps me dry. I don't think anything will keep you dry in the world of fellrunning, except staying in the car and driving directly to the pub. 

However, when you're on an exposed ridge with rain lashing down on you, I found that pertex flaps about horrendously, and when wet, basically presents no barrier to the wind whatsoever, and you end up miserable and cold, no matter how much money you spent on your jacket. Something that slight bit thicker gives you that slight bit more added protection, and although you aren't necessarily dry, you are significantly more comfortable than your mate, who is in pertex. And that's what it is all about.
a cheap zip

Zip quality - as mentioned just further up is also worth looking at. If you're using a zip, you're likely to be
a) running, probably quite hard and 
b) in some pretty crap weather. 
Then is not the time to be faffing with zips for ventilation, weather protection or getting some food. Zips are a big place to save grams for technical clothing manufacturers, and they can get it severely wrong. A really decent jacket can be rendered useless by a rubbish quality zip. Check it when you buy it. 
Little things. 

However, all of this might be a moot point if you are sitting there thinking... "how much does all this cost?!" in which case, you are the right person for the final catagory here - 
Cheap is right. 
The pair of waterproof trousers I use for putting in my short race bag, the ones I know I am never going to use, cost me a tenner and weigh as little as a pair costing 10 times that much. Sometimes, cheap is right. 
waterproof trousers - for a tenner. 
I have to admit though, I am willing to go cheap if I am literally, never, ever, ever going to wear the gear. If the weather looks like I might actually have to put on waterproof trousers, the expensive ones go in the bag.
The cheap ones are for kit requirement only. 
That being said, you can probably get a waterproof and taped jacket, made from plastic from decathlon for £20. The trousers are definitely a tenner, and the bags they sell are pretty cheap, but of decent quality.

Personally, I'd rather spend a bit more on gear that I am going to be comfortable in, no matter what the weather decides to throw at me, and will last me for a good few years, however, for some, the inexpensive option is right. 

So take your pick. I'd love to be able to afford a set of crazy expensive lightweight gear for racing with, and then have a set of decent gear for when I know I'm going to use it. However, reality dictates that I go with functional and versatile. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Cwm Pennant Fell Race 2014

This time last year a couple of Clubmates (Rich and Tim C) came back from Wales gushing praise for a race they had just run. It was the inaugural Cwm Pennant race, only 40 people had taken part, but by all accounts it was a proper good race, and well worth the travel.
Despite early attempts to put it in the club champs this year, it didn't happen. Nevertheless, there was a good turn out from the Glossopdale massif, (Me, Chris, Caity, John H, Carl, Tim C, Alice and Rich) as we raided across the border to have a bash at this perhaps soon to be legendary race.

I was eager to put my less than glorious showing at Ennerdale to rest, but also, I wanted to just have a really good day out after the misery of trudging around Ennerdale water. As such. Lynne and I went down to Wales a couple of days early, taking in an evening "stroll" up Y Garn, and an early morning scramble up Y Gribin and across Llewidd, (followed by tree chopping). So a ridiculously fast one wasn't necessarily on the cards, but a decent day out certainly was.

Lynne, off for an adventure
As we got to Cwm Pennant Hostel, where the race was to be based, the top of Craig Pennant and Garnedd Goch were covered in cloud. It was still early morning, so we were fairly confident that it would be burnt off by the sun by the time we got around to it later in the day. We hung out with Chris and Caity for a while, drinking coffee, and then went for a bit of a recce of the final couple of km, and the first little bit of climb, noting that the final 500m or so was basically a bit of a climb right back up to the hostel. Not a nice finish, but one that, if necessary, you might have to really give it all you have to get back to the end. Useful to know.

Math, doing his stand up routine

We got back to the race reception after a while, the usual suspects were all there, Math, the organiser was limping around and greeting the runners into the area, and we all settled into our pre-race rituals- mainly trying to work out where the best lines were, and where time might be gained or lost on the course. Soon
enough we were lined up at the start, and after a superbly short and matter of fact speech by Math as to the dangers of the course (uh.. yeah, so at that point don't go west. Or North West. Or North North West. Coz then you'll be in trouble)... We were off.

The first couple of km are on the road - a single track road, but a road nevertheless, and soon climbs up towards the hills, and the real fellrunning starts. The hill starts gradually, and then goes up. And up. Simon Harding and a guy from Eryri led the way, and their lead got ever larger as the hill gained height. I astonished myself by being 3rd, with a Dark Peaker just behind me, as the rest of the field fell away behind us. The course deviated from last years course here, though not by a huge amount, so I believe, and soon enough we were at Check One - looking up to Moel Hebog - with Si and the Eryri bloke already about 200 metres in front up the hill.
Leading Chris and The Dark Peaker (John Hunt) up the hill
The Dark Peaker and I motored on up the hill, and Lynne, who had set out about 30 mins before us to spectate, was getting closer to the top. After a good few minutes of run/walking we got to the first peak, and then headed toward the second top, where the checkpoint was - the front runners had already gone by then, no sign of them at all. Crikey, they are Quick.
We passed Lynne, who snapped away with her camera, passed the Checkpoint and were faced with a superbly steep downhill section. I paused for a moment to take in the perspective, I really didn't expect it to be that steep, chose, a line, and then barrelled my way down, picking my way between the scree, occasionally taking a bit of an odd line through rocks, but generally managed to get down ok, apologising to the Dark Peaker that I really didn't actually know where I was going, and that it might not necessarily be the best thing to follow me.

To the bottom, where I took a tumble, rolled and came up running again, and then up through the gap in the rocks to head up to Moel yr Ogof. The first of the slightly more rocky scrambles of the day. I really enjoy
Me and John coming to the top of Moel Hebog
those bits where you know you can't run, but have to start using hands, feet and your head to work out the best and quickest way up. We didn't necessarily follow the path up, but mostly made it up as we went along. There were a couple of runners who were gaining on us, and I could feel a bit of a stitch coming on. Not  good when we were only about a quarter of the way into the race. That could put a severe crimp in my descending ability - and, more worryingly, slow me down a lot on the final 3km road run into the end. I told the Dark peaker that he may well leave me for dead on the next downhill, to which he replied, he didn't mind the speed we were going, mainly as he was V40, and wasn't actually racing me as I was too young. (he didn't actually say that last bit....).

We hit Moel Lefyn together and then descended down the rocky/slatey path to the Bwlch, where we were caught up and passed by Martin Davies - who in my head is a V40. So I told the Dark Peaker ... uh - you know he is v40 right? To which he replied, oh, no, um... ok. And shot off to catch him. I was now left on my own as they extended their lead over me on the hill up and over to Check point 5.
(I actually caught Martin up as he was adjusting his shoe and asked him... apparently he isn't a V40, yet...)

Checkpoint 5 is just before a bit of an epic climb. By this time, the sun still hadn't really come out properly, but it was one of those warm and humid days where it is cloudy, and you just know you're going to burn no matter what you do. Some food and drink was laid on at this point, but I just carried on passed, having my own food and drink on board, mentally preparing myself for the climb, and the people that were going to come past me. By this time in the race, my legs were feeling a bit knackered, although I was eating a bit, maybe I wasn't eating enough, and the speed I was going at was my speed. There would be no speeding up, and no slowing down. This was it now. Long race mode engaged. Keep going.

A few people came past on the way up that climb, knocking me down from 5th to 9th by the time we topped out at checkpoint 6 with a marshal in amazingly florescent pink waterproof trousers, we turned left along what is probably one of the most spectacular pieces of fellracing in the calendar. Along a fantastic ridge, at the same time as a mass of cloud was boiling up out of the valley below and cascading across us. What an experience to be thrashing across there at that time. Brilliant.
I followed the 2 Buckley runners that had passed me at the top of the previous hill, but could not hold on to them as they ground their way to the Obelisk at the top of Mynydd Tal-y-mignedd. My legs were beginning to go, and yet we had another stonker of a climb to come.
Round the marshal at the checkpoint, stuff some more food down the throat, and follow on the runners in front, now about 200 metres ahead.

Coming off the hill here, we go past quite a technical rocky section, I was too far behind to tell where the others went, I knew about this from the race description which said it could be missed out if you had "local knowledge". Of which I had very little. So I bailed left at the top of the rocky section, down quite a steep bit of grassy ground, not something a good few people I know would be comfortable on, hammered around the outside and down, and ended up about 3 metres in front of the guys that I was so far behind, not 5 mins ago. Good line. Happy with that.

However, the fatigue in my legs soon began to show itself as we climbed back up toward Craig Cwm Silyn. The top which had been in cloud earlier in the morning... it had cleared as we were on the first part of the course, and was now back under cover of cloud. Great.
The climb up was fantastic. Hands and feet, scrambling up really grippy rock. Try as I might to hold onto the coattails of the guys in front, I just didn't have it in my legs or lungs and they escaped from my view toward the top. Just as it was getting really misty. 3 locals, presumably with good knowledge, disappeared from sight.
No-one behind me either, alone in the mist. Great. I was that knackered, and that surprised that there was
Garnedd Goch in the cloud
no-one to see in front of me or behind that I ended up walking for a minute or so before getting my head together again and trying to stretch my legs out again.

I thought I knew where I was going, but got out a compass, to ensure I wasn't drifting off too far. But didn't actually take a bearing from the map. I headed toward a promising looking bit of hill, with visibility shifting and changing as I ran. Still no sign of anyone in front or behind. The promising bit of hill wasn't quite as promising as I hoped, so the map came out - the first time I've ever actually used on in anger on the hill (except on nav events), Took a bearing, got back on track and ran - voices were appearing in the mist behind me, so I kept my head down and went for it, found the wall, sneaked over it and ran over to the final hill checkpoint on Garnedd Goch - still under cover of cloud.
Pouring a gel into my mouth, I thanked the marshal for being there, and started the long, torturous and amusing descent to Cwm Ciprwth. It is a downhill nightmare of tussocks, bog, rocks and low lying long grass and heather. High speeds don't really seem to happen there as you'd end up crashing into a hidden rock. Yes, there are indeed trods down there, but they go horizontally, left to right, crossing your path, not going in the correct direction. It is simply a case of do your best, pick a line, and see what happens.

Water Stop
I got most of the way down towards where I thought was the right place, but couldn't see a marshal, so I stopped, took stock of the situation, got the map out again, any by the time I had done that, the marshal appeared exactly where I thought he should be... must have been sitting down having a brew when I was looking for him before. A couple of moments wasted, but nothing too serious - coming to the final part of the race now, so the key is to just keep going - not stopping for anything, least of all fatigue.

From the marshall at Cwm Ciprwth there is a footpath to follow down to the road, mostly marked, but still its quite a way off. I could only hope that I was maintaining enough speed that no-one could catch me at this point. There was no way to go faster. At the road was a drinks table, so I threw one over my head and carried on running. From now on it was pretty much all road - which should have been ok, seeing as I had done alright at Jura, which is infamous for its final 5km along the coastal road.
From a running perspective, this is worse.

That final bit of track
At least Jura is flat, this undulates. Not even just a little, but a whole lot. All I could think of was to not stop.
Keep the feet moving. Keep breathing. The stitch which had been promising since the beginning of the first descent had been kept at bay by slowing down a bit and breathing easier. Was anyone close enough to catch me? To be honest, if I got caught and passed here, doing the speed I was doing, good luck to them. Going faster was not an option.
An eternity in a heat sink later I came to the stile, and the final section that I had recced that morning. A Kilometre to go, and I know every step of the way. Through the bog, over the stile, through the farm, no looking back, and the final straight uphill towards the end. 200metres to go and I let lose on the legs, powering into the finish in 2:59:47. 9th place, and 4th MU40.
As ever, most of the course run on my own, at my own speed. I think I need to actually need to learn to try and race a bit more - especially on the second half of these long ones - despite being with John Hunt and Mark Davies at CP5, they both gained about 10 mins on me from then on. I guess more long, fast days out are needed.

Not long after I got in, only a couple of minutes, Daz Fishwick came dashing into the finish, swiftly followed
by Chris Jackson. That was close! Not even 2 mins later was John Hewitt, who had his best race of the year, coming in 2nd V50. What was more, with us three in the top 15, Glossopdale won 2nd team prize after Eryri (who had 3 in the top ten). Twas nice to beat Dark Peak for once though!
The winner was Si Harding, and the prizes were given out with excellent humour by Math, in a somewhat novel order, which would have very much pleased the female section of GDH, who often, and rightly, complain that prizes are always given out to the men first.

Here is a link to the results.

Second Team (first team from Derbyshire)
So. What a race. It has it all. Steep ascents. Steep descents. Crazy no-path nightmare heather bashing, excellent views, scrambly bits, runnable climbs, non-runnable climbs, sneaky local lines and an horrific final section along the road.
You could almost call it the Jura of Wales. A race of real character, and I feel proud to have done it this year, the second year of its running. Math has done well to create something that could well become a real classic of the calendar. There were 40 runners last year, 80 this year. I suspect there may well be a few more next year.
Fantastic day out.

Thanks again Math, and to all the volunteers, marshals, and to the hostel who so generously hosted the race, and thanks to Math and Lynne for the various photos.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Doing the stuff you dont want to do

I never realised just how much peoples ego came into training, and how much it affects what they do and what they do not do.

As a demonstration of this, imagine a person, a runner, with somewhat dodgy knees, and has done for a good few years. He has been to see a number of physiotherapists in the past, all of whom have given him exercises to do which concentrated on corrective muscle training.


All of these exercises are difficult, they do not come easily to him, and he feels weak doing them.

Because they are difficult, he decides not to do them, but rather, decides to randomly cherry pick an exercise "plan" that means getting to 100 reps (sits ups, pressups, whatever) instead. All very laudable, but they are movements that he enjoys, finds easy, and, above all, it is something that he can boast about to his friends that he has done, but does it make him better at running? Not really.

Wait a sec.
This guy wants to get better at running.
He has been shown, several times, what it is that can make him better at running.
He then chooses to go and do a completely unrelated exercise so that he can boast about it to his friends.

What the hell?

Is his ego so fragile that a few weeks of working on an obvious weakness, a few weeks of hard graft of very specific and precise movements which will stand him in good stead for what he claims to be his sport, is too much for him?

It would appear so.
This person came to see me. I suggested some things for him to do in order to strengthen his legs and help with his running. I impressed upon him that what he was doing at the moment might feel good, and might be good for short term bragging rights, but all in all, it isn't going to help his running one little bit.

If something is hard, it is hard for a reason. Generally its because you suck at it. Good, mindful practice is the way to get better, to learn the movement pattern that you will need. The re-inforcement for good technique isn't an instantaneous feedback mechanism - and so isn't satisfying for the ego. The result is over the long term, the better quality running, the knees not hurting.

Until the "now, now, now" ego driven psyche of the "must have immediately" personalities recognise that hard work on things that are difficult are the way to really improve. Counting half reps and skimming the surface of what they really want to do is simply a way to continue living half life, blighted by injury and, ultimately disappointment in their inability to plumb the depths to which others are able to reach within their sport.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Ennerdale - English Fell Champs AL

Sometimes things go to plan. Sometimes they don't.
The weather forecast for Saturday had looked pretty gnarly for the week leading up to the race. Not in terms of rain and wind and stuff - no matter what happens with that, we'd still be running. It was the lightning storms that were more of a concern. Running a horseshoe route basically means you're going to be on the tops for most of the day, running across the high points around a valley. Not a good place to be in the midst of randomly stabbing lightning - either as a runner (moving target) or a marshal (stationary target). A lot of people had decided not to turn up for the race because of the conditions, which, theoretically meant that getting a good placing might be an easier thing to do!

As it turned out, the forecast stayed the same right up to the event, and so some quick thinking had to be done by the organisers. I'm sure that they had a contingency plan in place, but it wasn't until the legend that is Joss came over from Wasdale saying it was particularly nasty over that way that the plans really started to be implemented.

The rumours of cancellations and changed routes were rife around the race control, and I satisfied myself by listening to Daz Fishwick and Tom Brunt extol the virtues of various service stations up and down the country until the details of what was going to happen was announced.

The new route - photo courtesy of Jo Bowen
Soon enough, a new map was put up with a number of new checkpoints. It was still 19 miles long, and had
nigh on 1400m of ascent, so counted as as an AL, but it kept mostly to paths and climbed over cols as opposed to summits. We all hastily gathered around the maps with pens, hastily attempting to scribble down the new checkpoints, and in my case, finding that my cut down sized map only had about 3/4 of the actual route on. Not to worry. It was all on major paths, so navigation shouldn't really be an issue. However, the fact that it had just been changed from a long, slow grind of a race to essentially a fast trailey race with a couple of steep climbs really changed the entire feel of the whole thing. Tactics went out the window and I started to feel a little less comfortable with the idea of this as a race. I'd run a section of it a while back, and it was basically a massive fire road, not something that I'm generally comfortable running on. hmmm. As to who would win - All bets were off.

The rain came down, it got muggy and the mozzies started biting. There was much milling around, and eventually we were called to the start. A field of tussocks that we were to sprint over to gain the path where the route proper started. I was ridiculously close to the front of the pack, still with a waterproof on - I had got quite cold in the wait, and there was still a lot of pre-race chat going on within the pack as the race organiser stood at the front and said, 3,2,1 go - cue a little surge of the front 3 ranks of runners, followed by much swearing and exclaimations of surprise from the latter ranks as we charged across the start line. Over the tussocks, and to the path, a turn left and good, easy running.
Me in the middle- again thanks for the photo Jo.
I was utterly surprised when about 2 minutes later Morgan Donnelly dashed past me - a man who ordinarily would have been right at the front at the start. I settled into what I felt was a comfortable rhythm, somewhat behind Nic Barber of Pennine. I realised I was pretty close to the front, but thought that wasn't too much of a problem as I checked my pace. Along the flat part of the beginning, I was ok, and then up onto the hill I sensed a bit of tiredness in my legs, which shouldn't really have been there.
Since Jura 2 weeks ago, running hadn't really got a look in. Partially because of the Pre-patella bursitis that had been picked up, and partially because of the final 2 weeks of term being crazy busy. Theoretically I should have been rested. This little hill was proving to be a little more difficult than it should have been.

I lost a couple of places over there, and then gained them back down hill into Buttermere, not too much of a worry, as that generally tends to happen, lose a few places uphill, gain them back on the descent. nothing to worry about - but there was still that persistent feeling of something not being quite right. Maybe it was time to eat, that should sort me out. Half a Geo-bar. The group that I was at the back of started to pull away from me, and we were just about to hit the trail alongside Buttermere as Spike came past, easing into his race pace.
It was no longer raining now, and most people had shed their waterproofs a long time back, I still had mine on. Maybe it was the increased heat of that which was slowing me down~? As we battered along the shore of Buttermere, I managed to transfer most of my food from the pocket of my waterproof back into the bumbag, and take the top off- tying it around my waist, still, something wasn't quite right. I was losing time on the guys in front of me, and was being passed by person after person after person.
This was not meant to go like this.
Ennerdale was meant to be my triumphal attack on the English Champs, and maybe gain a single point by being in the top 50. The further into the race I went, the less likely it appeared to be.

By the time we hit the first major climb of the day my legs were already complaining. They felt like lead, and I simply couldn't move them fast enough. My breathing was fine, but the legs just couldn't go any faster. More people passed me, maybe it was too early in the race? Maybe I'd feel better in a bit? Struggle on to the top.

It took an age. I ate more food. I drank some water. Nothing seemed to help - there was just nothing there. The Jens Voight "shut up legs" strategy was not working and the legs were dictating the pace, not the head. At the top of the pass, just as we were about to head down to Black Sail, Dave Ward caught me up. I quite happily kept him behind me for the ascent, and overtook a good few people who had decided to keep to the slippery path, by taking some lovely grassy lines, but once we hit the bottom of the hill, by the YHA and before the climb up toward Green Gable everything deserted me.
The temptation to just turn right and wander morosely back to the start as a DNF crossed my mind more than once.
That long climb took a long long time. Dave passed me early, followed by a load more. And then some more. Jackie Lee passed me, then second lady, Jasmin was not long after.
I could barely even walk up that hill, something that 2 weeks ago, on Jura, I would have stomped up with glee. Everything was falling apart and my dream of 50th had long since passed. They say that 90% of running is mental. Well. Today I didn't have the physical, or the mental. Somehow, I had crushed myself.

Even the descent down Blacksail pass I managed to mess up, taking a terrible line, and being caught up by another 20 runners who took a much better one than me. We passed poor Tom Gibbs who had come a real cropper on the descent - apparently he had broken his kneecap into 3- we found out later- but he already had a gaggle of people helping him out. I would have gladly ditched the race to assist, but would probably just have been in the way.

What was worse, was that this wasn't the worst bit of the race, or the worst I would feel.
Getting to Black Sail YHA on this new route basically means that you now have to run all the way back along the track to the other end of Ennerdale water. It doesn't matter if you run the race, or if you retire. The route is exactly the same.
That dreaded bloody path. 

Things picked up for about 10 seconds as I realised the bloke holding the dibber point at Black Sail was Joss, and then they looked down again as we were faced with mile upon mile of track. Normally, stretching out and going fast isn't a problem. But it is if you get stitch. We hit the hard path, and I found that I couldn't stretch my legs out - If I did, I got a massive pain in my diaphragm which stopped me breathing and then slowed me down to walking pace. I effectively had a speed limiter attached to me, and ended up shuffling along at a ridiculously slow pace.
People came past.
I wasn't despondent, I was just mystified. How could it all have gone wrong? I was so strong at the end of Jura, 2 weeks ago. I had massacred the road section and overtaken a couple of people. Now, I couldn't even manage the same speed as then. What I didn't know was that there was worse to come.
The path took an age to go by as I continued to be a sitting duck for anyone that wished to pass me. At least that was semi-easy and non-treacherous running.
As Ennerdale water approached, we crossed the river and ran along the south side of the lake. A slippery
mess of rocks and tree roots.
By this point, I really didn't care. Chris and Caity were somewhere close behind me, and I could only hope that they were having as bad a time as I was. However, I certainly wasn't going to fight for places along that kind of terrain. One false step and you'd be over. Twisted ankle, gashed knee, anything really, and if I had no hope of getting a decent place, it was pretty pointless.
Slow and steady- a tick over pace. As runners came up behind me, I let them through. No point in holding them up, I certainly wasn't going any faster.
Right at the end there were 2 runners behind me. I invited them to overtake about a Kilometre from the finish, they declined, and I got that feeling that they were going to use me as a windbreak until the bitter end and overtake. I wasn't having that, and managed to hold on to some vestige of my pride by maintaining enough of a pace to keep them at bay for 500 metres. But at the end I really didn't feel like I was in the land of the living.
On a dry day, when I was in better condition, I'd have been skipping across these stones. Today was a different story. Bedraggled, bested by a lot of others, I limped in toward the end in 3:34, tail between my legs and truely knackered out.
Chris came in at 3:38, Caity at 3:40 and Carl at 4:02. I have no idea about placings.

What happened?
I have no idea.
Perfecting the thousand yard stare with Carl
Pride, as they say, comes before a fall. Maybe I peaked for Jura, and then having not run for a couple of weeks (though I have been cycling), my fitness just wasn't where it should have been. Maybe being ready for a long slow race, and then being presented with a long fast race threw me out. (the same thing happened for those that beat me - they didn't get caught out...). Maybe my nutrition before and during the race wasn't good. I really don't know, but it is something that I am going to mull over for a while. The amount of times I nearly quit, just turned around to wander home were numerous. But I kept going. The experience of being in that much of a hole, and just grinding it out was horrible. But equally it was humbling.

It is good to have those races where you really get your butt kicked. It makes you re-think, re-plan and re-evaluate. It is a chance to recognise shortcomings, rebuild and come back stronger.
Get knocked down 7 times, make sure you get up 8.

Thanks very much to the organisers for making the best of it that they could. Admittidly there were no Storms on the day, but with the forecast the way it was, there was no other option.
But Lordy. It was horrendous on the legs.
Best thing to do after a race like that. Cake.