Sunday, 26 April 2015

Kinder Downfall 2015

What am I doing?
2 races in a weekend? That's the kind of malarky that Chris and Caity get up to... not something for me, especially when the second of the 2 races is a Glossopdale champs counter. Yet here I am, waking up the day after the 3 peaks, staring down the barrel of the Kinder Downfall.
Its only a 10 miler or so... whats the problem?
The legs felt ok-ish after a 15 min massage, a decent quantity of food and a couple of beers last night. That being said, it was quite obvious that once we started up the road at the beginning of the race, fatigue would really kick in, and I'd probably end up walking fairly quickly.

Lynne, who is in training for a marathon in May decided that she would run over to Hayfield, to get a few miles in her legs before doing the race, so I set off in glorious sunshine - completely contrary to what the weather forecast was on Friday - to get to Hayfield in plenty of time for the start.
We got there pretty much at the same time, and ended up getting a pair of shoes each from the ever delightful Pete Bland travelling van, who always graces this particular event.
Despite the sun, there was a bit of a chill wind blowing - though at the pace we would soon be running at, it wouldn't make too much of a difference on the tops.

Having pretty much destroyed my x-talons yesterday at the 3 peaks, I ended up racing in my Salomon Fellraisers. A clear, dry day, I figured that they shouldn't be slippy at all, given the decent rock that is on the tops.
Pre-race banter followed, and we all headed over to the start where Dave gave us a safety briefing and a stern word to endure we were all back in time for him to get to the pub for the Arsenal match.
From the off, the pace was ridiculously high - Chris Leigh was out the front setting a stonking pace. Although Phil Winskill was down from the lakes, and Tom Brunt the perennial Holmefirth based Dark Peaker was also running, they kept their heads and let him have his head. A little further back down the field, I watched as Chris pulled out the stops on the first climb, and he pulled away from me quite easily, despite him having the 3 peaks in his legs as well. As much as I wanted to walk, I wasn't going to let him have a victory over me that easily.

Sharp left onto Snake path, and I found a shuffling rhythm that saw me get a couple of places, though there were a decent amount of runners strung out in front of me - Steve Knight and Chris, followed by Ben T from GDH. This was going to be a bit of a hard race just from our perspective, let alone everyone elses. I squeezed past Neil Mc and Caity, and started what should have been a very easily runnable ascent over the fields to White Cabin. The legs started to complain a bit, so I duely told them to shut up, and just get on with it, trying my best to keep Chris in sight. Steve, who hadn't handicapped himself by running 23 miles yesterday.... well, he could do what the hell he wanted.
Over to White cabin, and there were 6 runners in front of me, and behind Chris, including Steve Watts from Pennine. I figured I might gain a little on Chris on the easy run down the path towards the stream crossing, but it wasn't until the really steep rough descent that I made up time on him- and overtook all the runners in front at the same time.
These places were then promptly lost as they all came back past me on the flat and the beginning of the climb up William clough. There is a pattern here... if there is a steep, gnarly descent, I gain. Anything else, I lose. Now, how many more horrible descents are there on this race.... um, none.
This could get difficult.

Up William clough, Chris asked me if I was enjoying the back to back racing on a weekend. My retort was not necessarily lengthy as I tried my hardest to stay with him. All the way up the clough, different lines were taken by different people, positions were gained and lost, but in all, it was much of a muchness - with Chris eventually leading us out the top of the clough, with me following and Steve Watts in close pursuit. A little ahead of us was Dark Steve - having a stonking run - and we tried to catch him up on the steep climb up Kinder corner. Chris pulled away a little bit - his experience of double racing was showing through, and it was with great relief that we topped out, getting a quick drink from Simon and Jude who were out supporting.

Chris continued to pull away from me, and seemed to be reeling Steve in as well, so I dug in and continued running. Legs feeling heavier and heavier, but every step that I walked, Chris would get further away from me. Not going to happen.
Along the plateau edge we ran, trying not to stumble over rocks, trying to find shortcuts that should have been there if we were at all clear headed. I slowly managed to bring Chris closer to me along the rougher sections, and just before the Downfall was able to overtake. I then missed the cut across to the downfall and took a slightly longer line than necessary, but luckliy, Chris followed me. Steve Watts got the cut and ended up ahead of us, and he never looked likely to be threatened by us stumblers again.

Just past the Downfall, Mark Purcell, another Penniner shot past at a pace I certainly wasn't going to match, but the main concern now was keeping the pace up and keeping Chris behind me. Across rock and dust and mud we went, legs getting heavier, co-ordination going and sugar crash imminent, I planned to have a gel just past Red Brook. As we went past it, I ostentatiously pulled the gel from my bag, hoping that the image of me consuming sugar would put those off behind me, and sucked it down.
I'd like to think that I immediately turbo-charged myself and zoomed off into the distance, but to be honest, I don't think that exactly happened, as Chris got into conversation with me as we hit the next trig point, and we talked about the route we were meant to be taking... it turned out that my recollection was wrong, but last time I did this race was in 2012, and I had a migraine - which wasn't actually conducive to running very well.
Playing the invisible piano as I prepare to jump a stile in style. Thanks to Will Griffiths for the photo
However, I knew the descent got a little more fun towards Edale cross, so I opened up a bit, trying to get more of a gap on Chris. This worked well until I twisted an ankle, so had to back off a little, as a Macc runner barreled past me.
Not to worry, keep on as best I can.

Down, across and over the Pennine Bridleway, past Geoff who was marshaling, and across to the final fields. No time to relax as I was pretty sure Chris was still breathing down my neck, but my legs were close to cramping, so no real opportunity to open up, else I'd have ended up on the floor in writhing agony. The guy in front was pretty much long gone, no way was I going to catch him.... but this was about not getting caught.
Over a couple of stiles where my nearly cramping hip flexors shouted at me and made me shout as well, the long grassy downhill to Luvshacks, and then the road type section. Footsteps behind me, so just keep going. Keep going.
Des was at the bottom shouting "this is the hardest bit"... I know that Des, my legs feel like they've already fallen off. Its all I can do to keep going. We must be in the final 2 k by now, maybe even the last k. Dark Steve is gone, as are Steve Watts and Mark P. I'm stomping down the track now, as fast as I can, with no idea how close Chris is, the path goes on for a very long time before turning into the road... which again goes on for a long time before the sharp right left, into the play area that curves around into the final field.
Lungs burning and legs not entirely obeying my command, I muster a final surge to the line and come in 21st. Chris, 22nd.

Not entirely sure on the time, but I think about the same as the migraine time... so not all that bad.
Chris Leigh did indeed win, with Tom Brunt in 2nd and Phil Winskill in 3rd. Steve "the Dark" Knight was 1st GDH home in 13th, and earns 30 points in the Championships. Caity was first Glossopdale lady home, and 2nd overall, giving her an impressive 3rd in the 3 peaks and 2nd in Downfall the next day - an excellent weekend out by anyones standards.

It was great to see Julien and Matt Dawson out on the finish line, cheering us all in, and joining in the post race banter, and it was superb to see a long absent Matt Kieras doing his bit, racing on the Downfall after quite a time away.
And the sun is still out,

I'm going to have a bit of a rest now.
Oh, no. Actually, this afternoon is filled up with work. Nice. Recovery can wait til this evening.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

3 Peaks Fell Race 2015

3 Peaks Fell Race. PPP. Perhaps the most expensive race I've entered this year. Not necessarily one that I was entirely certain I wanted to do, but seeing as it has a particular pedigree, I figured I'd better do it at some point, and now seemed as good a time as any.
I hadn't really thought about it much, and only really looked at the map last night. Ive been to the general area
Breakfast table timings. (not a map)
once previously- that was doing a 12 hour adventure race in 2007 where we climbed Ingleborough in the clag and dark, ended up crawling through a cave and abseiling off a viaduct. Perhaps this time would be a little different.
At the breakfast table, Lynne and I sorted out my approximate timings for the race. Having heard a fair amount of detail about the route from other runners around the club, and others that I know, I was in for a few hills, a lot of flat stuff, and some tarmac. Shoe choice for the race? Well, with the recent rain, the idea of road shoes as had been mooted on some forums was definitely out. Once the rock was wet, nothing was going to grip to it... also, the only shoes I really have for racing at the moment are a pair of x-talons.

The weather in Yorkshire wasn't too bad, but the tops were clagged in. Drizzle was happening on and off, and there was no sun to speak of. Clothing choices revolved around wearing waterproof or not - it could go either way, and I opted for the waterproof on approach - not an approach that many people at the sharper end of the race were going for. The weather was forecast to get colder, but less windy as the day went on. With possible snow on the tops. Fabulous.

Kit Faffage!
After a kit check from Mountain (cave) rescue, and then mantadory race briefing we headed off to the start, - where I discovered that my somewhat dilapidated x-talons were even worse for wear than I thought, and the sole was really ripping off from the front of the shoe. Hmmm. Ah well - no time to be concerned about that now... and with a bit of a kaboom (fireworks), we were off, across the grass, out of the field, and onto a road for a while. The pace at the front was ridiculously high, sweeping along a good number of people who certainly weren't going to keep up for the whole race, along for the ride. I tried to keep my head and kept a decent pace, running with Stevie K from Pennine for a while.
Off up onto a track and I started to overtake a couple of people, but was aware that going to fast at this stage would certainly make me falter and not go well later in the race. I kept the running up going up the hill, and took off my waterproof... just as the mist started to come down and the wind rose up. Up towards the head of Pen-y-ghent Jez from Buckley came past me.
Off to the top of the hill, and then back down again, past a line of people going up. Down to the path that takes us on our winding way toward Whernside.  This was going to be a tricky one... its a long way along that path before you hit the second climb. It undulates, and it ducks and dives a bit, and if you shoot off too fast, again, there is going to be a whole world of pain once you hit Ingleborough.

So I maintained my pace, keeping at a distance behind a gaggle of Ilkey runners, and other hangers on. I don't tend to enjoy running in packs, and quite liked the semi-solitude in the midst of a race with nigh on 800 runners in it. We turned towards the next checkpoint, and started going a bit into the wind, so figuring it might be better to be in a group rather than battle on solo, only a short distance behind them, I opened up a bit and wound them in until I was firmly in the group, a downhill to a gate appeared, and all of a sudden I was in front and through the gate first and chasing down the guys in front of the people that were in front of me.
That wasn't entirely meant to happen, but I felt pretty good and went with it.
By this time, there was a little bit of tightness developing in the right Hamstring, and in my hip flexors. Really hoping that cramp wasn't about to set in at any point, I jammed down a gel and just got my head down.
For the rest of the trail we pretty much played cat and mouse as first I went ahead, and then others overtook, and generally everyone around me was going at about the same pace.
Then we hit the dreaded road section.

A pic from Racing Snakes - with me in it!
Jeez. As we took the slight rise towards the road, the Ilkey hunting party and other guys somehow managed to gain a load of distance on me, and the road section just seemed to go on forever. I'm pretty sure I commented to a couple of people that I was sure that I had entered a fell race at the beginning of the day. It was so long that it just seemed ridiculous. A runner came past exclaiming that he really wasn't a fell runner,. so was enjoying this bit.
I was very much of the opposite opinion.
So I ended up going through the Checkpoint before Whernside on my own wondering if I'd ever catch up with anyone that had passed me.
Thankfully, with another gel down me and the terrain underfoot getting worse and worse, I gained some time and distance over the Ilkey boys. I caught up with Jez again, and we chatted about how the bog wasn't nearly as bad as the leg sucking bog of the Moelwyns a week ago, and continued up the hill.
It was a bit of a battle of attrition as we surged and countersurged (well, walked, walked faster, walked slower, and attempted to overtake each other) - (surged sounds better).
Until we hit the steep bit.
Somehow, I still had a fair amount of strength in my legs and went for it. The people around me seemed to fall away, and I managed to catch and pass another runner in front of me. The climb went so well that by the time I got to the top of Whernside there was no-one in sight in front of me, so having dibbed at the checkpoint I kind of ambled off to the left and hoped that if it was the wrong way, some one would call me back....

I sauntered down the hill, wondering if I was in fact going in the right direction, until out of the murk I ended up seeing another runner, and people clapping. So the speed picked up, and I managed to catch him before the going got a little rough. Thinking at all times I was going to get caught by the posse that I had managed to lose on Whernside I just carried on at a decent pace - only one hill to go now, but I didn't particularly want to burn out at this point, but the going was relatively easy. A bit under dodgy underfoot, but even at the pace I was going I was able to put distance into the people I was catching and passing.

Ingleborough was rearing in the near distance, and considering the form I showed on Whernside, I was actually quite looking forward to it. Past the checkpoint, up the road and right into a field, and a continuation of the trail that ended up looking a little like the flagstones across Bleaklow. And people were walking on them.
Not for me - another gel and although I wasn't exactly skipping across them, I was doing myself some credit by passing another few people on the run up to the steeps of the hill. The last climb of the day, and the real sting in the tail of this race. "inglebugger" as it has indeed been called.
It would be great to say that I romped up to the top without a care in the world, but that wasn't exactly the case. There were still people behind me, and there was still a great deal of work to do. Steep climbing is a good thing though, and by the time we came out on top before the plateau to the trig point and back, there was only me and one other guy near me. We hit the plateau just as Nick Barber was heading down... either he was having a bad race, or I was having a really good one (yup - I still hadn't looked at my watch, despite being most of the way through). Then Mark O appeared out of the mist - on the down path. Crikey, I didn't expect that.

We stumbled across the bleak, misty top towards the checkpoint, me being reminded of last time I was there - it was bleak, misty, and midnight... so at least we had a bit of daylight this time. Dib, and turn, as we ran back, we could assess just how far ahead we were of the other guys who were immediately behind us. It turned out we had a decent amount of distance, but not so much of a lead that we could get complacent about it.
The Bar at the end
The tops now done, it was only the run in to do. A 6 mile trundley blast down some of the least runnable tracks I have ever had the misfortune to "run" on. It was all I could do to keep upright, and to be fair to inov8, there is nothing that would have provided any kind of grip on wet limestone, so at least we were all in
the same boat.
There were a couple of lines in the grass next to the path which I took, but it was still pretty grim underfoot. Up ahead there were 2 runners who appeared to be slowly being reeled in by us. Funnily enough I passed them just as we were being cheered on by the only Glossopdalers on cheering duty-Tony Jackson and wife, I was still feeling strong at that point - but wasn't sure just how far it was to go.

The next few kilometres passed in a haze of impending sugar crash. Ground underfoot went slippy, muddy, slimey, limestone slippiness, and horribleness. The guy who was with me at the top of Ingleborough cruised past me with about a k to go. By this point I was holding on for grim death. The only food left in my bag was the emergency food, buried at the bottom of it somewhere...It couldn't be too far to the end now, so I gamely trudged on, up and over a final rise, teeth gritted, and down through someone's garden (or was I hallucinating.... I swear we went through a garden - and under a tunnel) and the happy happy sight of the finishing funnel.

I could barely stand.
My tag was cut off, and I wandered in a daze to the marquee where I sat down on the floor and felt, in technical terms "pretty bloody terrible" for a while.
Actual timings. Check them against the breakfast ones above...
Official time was 3:25:57. 41st. A "first class" time, which I was pretty happy with after I got over feeling nauseous and horrible, and I was only a couple of minutes behind mark O as well - which was quite astonishing.

Unfortunately we were joined soon after by Jo from GDH who had slipped and fallen, cracking her chin
open, and required first aid. Despite being covered in blood, and somewhat theworse for wear, she wanted to carry on, but was not allowed (somewhat sensibly) by the marshals.
She was last seen heading to A&E, and has been heard from since, so she's ok-ish.

On another note, Caity from GDH came in 3rd lady - which was a superb effort. No idea if it was a record for her, but crikey, thats good going. Mark O managed a PB by about 6 minutes, Chris knocked off a couple of minutes from last years time, Rich wasn't 3rd from last and didn't have the same kind of melt down as he had last week at the Teenager race, and Paul Skuse had a decent run on his first attempt at the PPP as well.
Thanks muchly to all the marshals - I said hello and thankyou to as many of you as I could, but there were just too many! It was also fabulous to be cheered on by so many people all the way around. Always nice to have some encouragement, even if most of them did insist on calling me "Lad". 
Knackered now.
Ready for club champs tomorrow. Kinder Downfall. I'm sure that's a good idea.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Ras y Moelwyn - 2015

GDH posse at the carpark

For the past couple of weeks I haven't quite been feeling myself. A little over training? A little too much stress from the last year of uni? Both? Something quite different? Who knows, but I really haven't been feeling it, and not been getting in the miles either. All good excuses, and indeed, enough of an excuse to miss a race, but no.

Ras y Moelwyn was one of the best races I did last year. It was a real cracker, and as it was a British Champs this year, I certainly wasn't going to hit the heady heights of 6th that I did last year - but its not about that... its about the fabulous route, its about the glorious views, and the truely spectacular setting of this race. In all, I was here for the ride.
Moelwyns starts at 2pm, so a late starter really. We didn't set off til 10ish from Glossop and got down there relatively smoothly. Considering the British Champs-ness of the whole thing, it wasn't as busy as I expected in terms of parking. The town of ffestiniogg had put on a proper show this year, with a fayre and all that jazz. We warmed up a little under the sunshine (but fairly bitterly cold wind) and looked at the start, which was a little different to last year- starting in the midst of the town due to sheer numbers, (as opposed to in the start/finish field as it did last year).
It all got a bit crowded at the start line, and I started a bit further back than I wanted to - quite a lot further, and in the first couple of kilometres until we got to the fell, it really felt like I was in the midst of a rather bizarre version of the London marathon. The guys who started just in front of me kept that lead, and a great number of them just increased it as well. Nothing to do but sit in, grit teeth and run as much as possible.

Down the main road, and then the little road that goes to the bridge over the railway... a bit of a hold up over the railway, and with Daz Fishwick right behind me we went over and up onto the first part of the hill. There was no spring in my legs today, and I felt pretty stale as we headed over the bog, the leaders disappearing into the distance. Jez from Buckley was just in front of me, as he was for the entire race last year, so I followed him up and over towards the steep climb up through the slate quarries. I managed to keep a semblence of a run up as we climbed up to the lake, and decided to take the normal line as a load of runners in front of me took a slightly different one that ended up going over a pole over a deep pool of water... not a short cut I would have taken, and not one that worked either.

Changing at the roadside. Stylish.
We continued up and around the lake - where I could see a steady stream of runners strung out in front of me for quite a way. Those front runners sure have a lot of speed in their legs. I was splashing through puddles already feeling like I had lead wrapped around my ankles. As you can tell, I wasn't having the best time of it, and the pain just got worse as I hit the ramp up through the quarries proper.
Hard doesn't even get close, but I managed to keep running all the way up. To be fair, Jasmin was up ahead of me, she wasn't walking, I didn't walk last year... so this year, I wasn't going to either. Flipping heck, it was hard work, but I got there eventually.... and then it kicked up again, and again, but gamely I continued on and got to the top, through the slate without walking.
I wasn't fast, it has to be said, and maybe I might have been faster walking, but that's by the by.
To the man eating bog- which the guy in front of me had found, over the stile (which apparently had an electric fence next to it, which a good number of people found out about in more or less painful ways), and towards the second bog of doom - which the same guy in front of me found quite spectacularly with a full on entire leg loss in the bog. Nicely done.

Now for the first climb. Long and grassy, semi steep, closing into an almost not steep bit, followed by a proper kicker that has the vast majority of us hands on knees, and some of us on hands and knees...  I kept my place fairly stable throughout the climb, and what with the following breeze, I felt bouyed up to the top. We saw the group in front of ours running back down the hill, away from the trig point, but there was a fair gap between me and the next person in front, so once we'd hit the turn around point there was no-one to follow. Much the same story as last year... so I pretty much made it up on the descent, jumping off rocky bits, and generally aiming to get to the bottom as soon as I could without really thinking about trying to catch anyone.
The problem with this was that I reached the next knoll, and still with no-one really to guide me, and no real knowledge of the nuances of the route except my last years experience, I trudged up and over the knoll, past a mountain rescue bloke, who I figured was some kind of marshal, and down the other side - all with Daz Fishwick in close pursuit. He asked me if I knew where I was going, and quite truthfully the answer was "not entirely. This probably isn't the most efficient route, but it'll get us to where we need to be".

A monster descent later and we were directly behind a load of people... either we had made up a load of time, or we had lost a load.
It was of course the latter. Those behind us, and in the know had skirted the knolly outcrop thing, and had gained about 40-50 seconds on us. Ah well.
Up to the next top, and I set about reclaiming lost ground, and overtaking those that had been more sneaky (or indeed, followed a better line) than me.
Towards the top was about the right time to gulp down a gel as the descent coming was a real treat, and I intended on enjoying it as much as possible - without a sugar crash. The turn at the top, and then an easy run down to a few boulders, hard left, and a descent through a bit of a rock cleft, and then overtaking a few more people as the ground became rough, gnarly and boggy all at the same time. Brilliant for descending on if you are confident, not so good if you aren't. I picked up 3-4 places here, and had a great run in down to the dam, overtaking Rob Little as well- which isn't normally something I get to say in a race.

Across the dam, and this year the feeding station was at the other end, with a few runners stopping to gulp some much needed water. This gave me the opportunity to catch them up, having a small amount of water in a bottle which I downed on the next steep ascent away from the dam. Hands on knees, and hands on the ground, we trudged up, and then across a bog, before going down the long solid surface ramp to the bottom of the final - and as mentioned last year, horribly runnable climb.
I say runnable, and indeed, if you were to do it fresh, I think it would be totally and quite happily runnable, but this far into a race, my legs were just shot, and even on the slightest of gradients it was all I could do to bring out a slight shuffling parody of a run. Rob Little overtook me on the ascent (unsurprising), and a couple of others got their own back - Daz was no doubt closing me down as well, but the final descent was a bit of a trump card for me - as long as I could hold it together for the final 2km after it!

Final descent, and straightaway, the people who had caught me, I recaught and dispatched, sliding/surfing down the steep muddy bog, I was having a great time, and wished that the race could finish at the bottom of the hill so that I could really give the descent full beans... but unfortunately I really had to hold back, knowing the final part was coming, and that I was going to lose some places down there no matter what.
After coming off the final bit of bog, the long hard packed trail back down through the quarries appeared, and those more suited to road running showed their heads. I managed to only lose 2 places down through there, and held my own across the final off road part over to the final railway bridge.

We skirted alongside the houses at the end, and I could hear feet bearing down on me - but this final part, I knew. I was also pretty much exactly the same distance behind Jez from Buckley as I was this time last year - about 2 seconds... up the final slope, down and around the houses, and a final sprint across the field to the end, holding off those feet behind me.
1:29:16. 67th
Although I originally thought I had done much better than last year, it seems that I was a good 4 mins slower this year - and that isn't just due to the slightly longer start... all the segments around the race, I was a good few seconds slower on as well.
Still, in the face of it, I had a good day out, time on my feet, and I can start to look at why I was slower this time. I already have an inkling, and that information is going to help me understand how to work more intelligently to get better.

Thanks to all the marshals - you had a great (if breezy) job of it - the views from the tops are some of the best around, and congrats to Caity - picture at the top, for doing Moelwyns and coming about 7th female, and then Manchester marathon the next day and smashing out a PB of 3:09. Machine. 

Sorry- about the lack of pictures - I'm trying to get hold of some to make this look a whole lot prettier - but had no time to take any pics myself.