Saturday, 24 September 2011

Whernside Fell Race 2011

When some of the lads asked me on Thursday what I was up to at the weekend I announced that it was back over to Penrith, sadly for the last time (work) and then on to the Lakes for a good workout at Whernside... ‘Maybe’s someone’s moved Whernside ‘cause the last time I looked it was in the Dales’. Mmmm. Maybe a quick look at a map might be a good idea; and so it was, just down there past Sedbergh and Dent, the village with the impossibly narrow, cobbled main street.

I rolled up early to let the dog have a run around and then dispensed with the warm up, recognising that 12.5 miles and 3000ft of craggy Yorkshire Dales would raise the temperature enough. The registration was being taken in a very orderly fashion and I passed over my fiver. It was sponsored by La Sportiva and we were each given a map.

There were well over 100 runners and we left the village and padded our way down a narrow tarmac road for a couple of kilometres to Mill Bridge before starting to climb up a gravel track. The ground was very wet but it was mild in the valley initially and the drizzle and low cloud came and went. However, the wind soon picked up as we climbed I made some ground up to Whernside and across past High Pike taking shelter where I could.
I couldn’t decide after half an hour whether to pull out my waterproof jacket, but I was running with a Bingley and a Kendal runner and didn’t want to become detached from them. I spent time running with another runner in a grey t-shirt (at the finish he revealed he was from Bingley-or was that Bramley) and just before the hour we were a little group of 5.

At 56 minutes we stopped at The Crag as we were faced with a craggy drop; I guess that’s why it’s called The Crag but we soon resumed the descent with the help of Kendal man. It was back onto the tarmac and then back off and a steady climb up another track of grass and green slate laminated gravel to Great Coum. After that it was all downhill via Gill Rigg and the mist cleared to reveal a patchwork of fields on the other side of Dentdale and a string of runners below. It was fast and boggy across the sphagnum, sodden peat and tussocks of rushes as we tried to catch the crew up ahead and no sooner had we made contact than another guy appeared from behind. He accelerated past and I stayed with him, in turn passing 2 or 3 on the way down back into the valley and as the air warmed I was happy to see the finish line. The wet, spongy terrain made me feel like I’d ran 20 miles even though it was only 1:48 on the line and it was a strength sapping, punishing run. Carl Bell looked like he’d been finished a while and I didn’t stay for the prizes. Talking of punishing runs, roll on Langdale (That is in the Lakes, isn’t it?!)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Great Westmorland Trail Race 2011

Another trip to Penrith, another race in Cumbria. This time the Westmorland Trail Race had the dubious pleasure of my company. It was advertised as a 7 mile stretch in the countryside with 1000ft of ascent. I parked up in the farmers field and signed on at registration at the Crosby Garrett Village Hall. About 4 miles west of Kirkby Stephen, it was a sleepy hollow but 140 of us had made the trip and I was advised that ‘not road shoes’ were the order of the day. Does that mean flip-flops will do?

The course follows rolling grassy and gravel trails around Crosby Garrett Moor and after the first long exposed climb the rain arrived and coupled with a strong headwind, I looked for some shelter. Carl Bell and a couple of others were well away at the front followed by a group of 3 and a group of around 8 or 10 which I was in. It began to fragment as we levelled out on wide expanse of moorland and I found myself with Hanna, an under 21 runner from the local club the Howgill Harriers. I tried to work with him to share the work at the front in the headwind but he didn’t hang in close enough behind me to get any benefit. On the other hand, I was so close on his shoulder when I dropped back that I caught his heels a couple of times and had to trust that the line he was taking was safe enough there not being any space between us for me to avoid boulder and hollows.

We ploughed on as we dropped into the Picturesque Potts Valley that sweeps down past Hazzler crags. Turning at 3 miles we had a powerful tailwind and worked hard to catch Garner of Cumbrian Tri. It was all good, fast running terrain with only a few boggy patches. The Ambleside runner just in front was proving more elusive and, slowly, a gap had opened up between me and Howgill, but I had to stay with him and told myself I was in running well. We splashed through a stream and then the track rose steeply up the valley end with a 350ft climb in front. The pace dropped to nothing and it was all I could do not to walk. Ambleside had 30 seconds at the top and Howgill 10 seconds as we began to descend. The route took us through a right of way between two grey, mossy drystone walls creating a sweeping narrow corridor perhaps half a mile long and 2 metres wide (called Ladybank and Ladle Lane. I hammered down the narrow track, the grey limestone walls high on both sides, the Salomons struggling to find traction in places on patches of wet rocks, cobbles and boulders.

As we entered the village, Howgill and I were together and it was flat out to the line where I got the decision, but there was really nothing in it. Had a quick clean, cake and tea and a nice chat with the cheery ladies who were overseeing the catering. Checking the results board which was at the finish line as I made my way back to the car, I noticed that I was first vet (8th) and with a little more scrutiny also saw I was in line for first lady as well. This gender re-assignation was evidently going to be rumbled at the prize giving so I thought I’d better put the organisers straight. Waited for the prize giving and got a nice voucher to add to my little (and now old) collection of Pete Bland tokens for when I’m next in Kendal. The Howgill runner was one of three who made up the winning male team and got a bottle so that seemed a good result all round. This is a great trail race, scenic and not too demanding with markers every 50m or so and probably one of the best routes I’ve ran. A good result always adds of course to that positive feeling.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Tynedale Jelly Tea 10 mile Race 2011

A touch warm but otherwise perfect autumn running conditions for this years Tynedale Jelly Tea 10 mile race from Hexham to Ovingham. Enjoy the photos. More on the flickr site NOW (click on gallery image on right) and results soon.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Grisedale Horseshoe Fell Race 2011

It wasn’t a day to take an O.S. map in your bum bag unless you were trying to make papier mache, never mind being given someone else’s map to borrow for this 10 mile sojourn.
Finishing some work in Penrith, I drove to Glenridding in the Lakes with a notion of running (not racing) this 5500ft leg-bender. I’ve had virtually no hill racing in the past few months but was looking forward to the workout.

The clag was down and the grey sky was emptying itself across the glum hills. I arrived in the usual state of disorganisation and was happy to make the registration and bag check in the Village Hall near the banks of Ullswater. I didn’t have a map though and it took some kind gent to fetch one from his car. I hope he wasn’t too fond of it.

I set off right at the back with just over 100 runners, many of whom had their hoods up and jackets zipped up, making their way anonymously up the steep staircase of slippy and greasy boulders. Pouring rain. Puddles everywhere. Having pretty much walked up to the top, I broke into a run with a couple of runners ahead. The visibility in the murk was about fifty metres and I thought it best to catch the guys ahead. Safety in numbers and all that. The rain was relentless and like needles in places and as we ran through the mist I was careful to watch where I was putting my feet with some very technical and rocky outcrops and jagged, ragged edges that would have opened your knee like a can-opener. We ran along the wet gravel track and the pace was pretty easy after the first checkpoint. But as we started to descend I struggled to keep up and one lad beside me went for a full on dive through the grass about thirty seconds before I lost my footing and slid several metres in the super-lubricated conditions. I think my dive was more dramatic and, for a moment, as I slid along, I was wondering if I was going to come to a halt anytime soon.

We had a loose group of five but in the cloud someone went for a shortcut and we went too far right after Dollywagon Pike and missed the Tarn by a long way. I had asked Colin Valentine (Keswick) who was bouncing along in front of me if he was familiar with the route, but I guess it was just one of those things. Personally, I had no idea where we were, but that's not unusual.
We doubled back after compasses and (soggy) maps came out and we lost a lot of time pondering where we went wrong. We trooped over the moor and along the side of the little lake which emerged out of the mist like something from the film 'Excalibur'.

Finding the next checkpoint, it was up somewhere near or over Helvelyn (though I didn't really notice it) and across to St Sunday Crag which was a bit of a trog but we were soon over it and, as we descended, we bumped into around 10 or 12 others, a big group beginning the tricky, wet and slippy descent down a scree filled gully which then opened out to a vista of thick grass, ferns and grey boulders down into the valley floor. I lost some time coming down, but was trying to enjoy my ‘early afternoon out’ so there was no going into the red.
We crossed the Beck at the bottom of the valley which was quite exciting and a new underwater experience for my Garmin and then we were faced with the steep wall and ascent over Grisedale Brow, a mean test and it was hands and knees up through the reedy grass and ferns for most of the way. It was a steep slow slog but I had to time to sup some water from the stream and then developed my technique on the way up electing to go for the ‘knuckle gorilla walk’, this being better than ‘splayed fingers routine’ when on all fours.

I had lost the Keswick runner down the gully somewhere but he popped up at the crest of the Brow from a different direction in front of me and I followed him down into the finish.
It was a mid-table position and it was a wet, noisy and animated crowd who stood around the tea table. I had a quick chat with the only NFR runner I saw and after digging out what was left of the borrowed map and placing it on the radiator, I made for the car.

It was a good run but with very little sight seeing and I finished around 2:40, not too bad having lost probably around 10 or 12 minutes and by the Garmin I had run an extra mile or so.
Carl Bell (Howgill: 1:56) won from Cornforth (Borrowdale) and Addison (Helm Hill). Natalie White (Kendal 2:16) won the ladies race from Robinson (Ambleside) and Roberts (Kendal). Pleased to finish in one piece !