Monday, 10 July 2017

Blackfell Race

I was going to write a blog about the Whorlton Run fell race that I did about a week and a half ago, but I realised it was going to be an over-analysis, 'woe is me', beat myself up kind of blog, when in reality I struggled because it was simply too bloody hot (about 26 C) 
So I shalln't.

Instead, I will write about the Blackfell Race we did yesterday!
Oh my.
It all came about as Gavin's brother-in-law, Dean, has entered Ben Nevis race and needs some 'A-grade' fell runs to satisfy the entry requirements. Plus a bit of hill practice.
So he'd talked Gavin into doing it, who subsequently talked me into doing it and when Hilary and Helen found out about it, they decided to come along too!
This is a proper fell race, no markers, navigation across open fell required, 'local knowledge an advantage' it says on the Bingley Harriers website. Our local fell races are more like tough trail races if I am completely honest, so we felt a little out of our depth.

Here we all are, smiling before the start...

None the less, here we were on the start line. It was sunny and blustery in the registration field just outside the village of Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales.
Our mission was to get round in one piece, without getting lost. If we weren't last, that would be a bonus! Well, that was for us three girls anyway, the boys were here to race.

The start was a 2 mile hill climb, steady away on a good, wide stone track. It narrowed near the top, but the field was already very spread out (and only 57 strong!) so that wasn't an issue. First checkpoint at the crossing of Cam Road and the climbing continues but of the more vertical variety now! Steep slog all the way up to the ridge running along to Great Whernside. 

Now came the first section of open fell. A moment of hesitation to check the map, before crossing the stile and heading into the tussocks. We'd picked up a local Bingley runner at this point, so we followed him down down down to the checkpoint, losing over 500ft of elevation. It was very awkward underfoot and our ankles took a battering. Checkpoint 2 checked and we turned around for the climb back up to the ridge! Competitors were free to chose what ever way they liked, we followed the Bingley man as he seemed to know where he was going, as did another lady in yellow. In hindsight, there were more direct routes, but they involved a hands and knees scramble as the valley sides were so steep!! As it was, we had to stop once or twice just to stop our calves from screaming but after what felt like eternity, we were back on the ridge and the marshal at CP3 came into view. Now although it was better underfoot, the head wind was enough to knock you off your feet!! We headed onto the main footpath along the ridge where the ground was easier and ran on, unable to speak over the wind, not far to CP4. They advised we followed the fence line, which we pretty much did. It was a gentle downhill here, but again awkward under foot so we couldn't go as fast as we would have liked.
The yellow lady was still with us and between us we navigated the route. 

The next bit of open ground between checkpoints 5 and 6 had caused us to scratch out heads, the best route was not obvious from the map and here the 'local knowledge' comes in handy. We had overheard other runners were planning to 'stay high' so we decided to do this too. Going lower looked like it would involve crossing some nasty looking bog.
So, we contoured along the hillside, yellow lady leading most of the way. Didn't run that much of it as it was so tussucky and there were lots of little holes you could easily turn an ankle in. We made slow progress but kept moving, glad to be out of the wind. The Scout Hut was visible across the valley and that was CP6. We had to negotiate a steep bank to get down the path but nothing too bad and soon we'd dropped our last token into the marshals bag and we were on the short cropped grass of the final descent.
This is where my so-called running buddies buggered off and left me! Now they didn't need a chief navigator they were off like the clappers. Monkeys.
The last descent is still very steep, but lovely underfoot and I could hear the crowd at the finish line!

Yay! We'd done it! I was so proud of us all, even though they left me with less than a mile to go.
Both Gavin and Dean had great runs and really enjoyed it.
We rounded the trip off with a quick visit to the Blue Bell for a spot of refreshment

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

More Cowbell, less stitch please.

All races should have cow bells, takes me back to watching Ski Sunday with my Dad as a child.

Anyhoo, the Wetherby fixture was a week ago now. It was a warm night, again. Another good turn out of Harriers among the runners, I'll have to check how many there were.

It's all on road this one, a very simple circular route. We were off quickly, too quick as when I glanced at my watch I was doing sub-7/min miles! That is not sustainable, not for me anyway! However, within a few strides of setting off, I started with stitch. Really bad stitch. We went into a downhill stretch and I had to slow right down, almost to a walk as the pain was so great. Right from side-to-side and up the middle of my sternum. Fellow Harriers were overtaking me as I struggled on.
At around 2 miles, we reached the turn around point, and the marshal with a cow bell!
I managed to get into a bit of a rhythm and the stitch eased a little. We started heading up hill and now I was able to run at last and powered my way past numerous runners, some of whom were walking up the really quite gentle slope! I can only think that as this is quite a short race (4.3 miles) that people try and sprint the whole thing then run out of steam on the hills. I have in previous years passed people who are on the grass verge heaving!
As comfortable as I was on the uphill, anything even slightly downhill caused the stabbing pain to come back. At last, with the second hill out of the way, I knew the finish was around the corner and I was able to stride out and finish well, despite being rather sore.

Not my best performance and way off a PB.

Monday, 12 June 2017

A tale of Dragons and Oiks.

Another two races have been and gone.

The first was the HDSRL fixture at Yeadon hosted by the Dragons running club.

Another warm evening, we drove over to Yeadon near Leeds and got there in plenty of time for the race. There was a massive turn out of Harriers as it was Championship race. I've only done this once before and I could remember most of it, I had forgotten how much of an out and back it was though.

A narrow start, over 300 runners heading for one cycle gate is quite a thing! I'd put myself too far back on the start line and had to work hard to claw my way up the field. The first mile or so is on paths and good cycle track, then we enter Guisely Woods. The lane here is always wet and muddy and tonight was no exception! I made use of this and over took many people by simply ploughing through the mud and water. There is a fun down hill now, twisting down through trees over rocks and roots. The path is narrow and it's difficult to overtake.
We spill out onto a concrete road and my legs are failing, I'd gone at full tilt to this point and was now slowing down on the flattest, smoothest bit!! Sums up my running entirely!
Next comes the return climb, after all, what comes down must go back up, right?! This is again through the trees, I ran and sweated and huffed and sweated and swore and grunted but I didn't stop. The sweat was dripping off the end of my nose and the vomit was rising in my throat through sheer effort but I over took a few more people. Thankfully, the hill wasn't as long as I remembered and I gasped for air as I topped out. The rest of the run through the woods was undulating, I enjoyed flying the downs and kicking away on the ups.
We rejoined the muddy track, not many others here so I didn't need to take the muddiest line. All the way back, I was having a to-and-fro with a lady in yellow, but again on the smooth, flat tarmac path back to the finish she pulled away to beat me convincingly. I was on the point of spewing as I crossed the line and had to have a little sit down!
I was rewarded for my efforts with a PB of just 4 seconds...

Back at the cricket club, the Dragons had put on a splendid spread of sandwiches, snacks and cakes.

Just a week later and I'm stood on the start line of local fell race, the Ossy Oiks. Our club have taken this one on since Dave Parry passed away. Again, we had a good turn out of Harriers including one first timer!
Straight in to the uphill, 2 miles of it. I didn't manage to run all of it though, this is 'proper' uphill. The conditions underfoot were good considering all the recent rain we've had and it was (thankfully) much cooler this evening. I'd been cold hanging around at the start, but ran in just a vest.
The first climb over and the lovely run across Scarth Nick Moor, I ran with one of our coaches Sonja who is training for this years Mountain Masters, she is doing so well with her hill work.
Short road section before the next climb, Sheepwash. There is no good line here and I took a little walk break, only to be overtaken by fellow Harrier and running buddy Helen! I tried to push past her, but she upped the pace, I got past with some hard effort and ran hard to stay in front! With both Sonja and Helen so close the race was on! I got the advantage when it came to the beck crossing, the other two dithered, I just jumped in and was across! My lead was soon lost on the third and final hill, I was already maxing out to keep ahead of Helen and lost control of my breathing and could feel a bonk creeping up on me. I had to walk now and both Helen and Sonja came past me again. I felt too sick to challenge them and had to let them go. So frustrating!
The final stretch is downhill, the nausea subsided enough for me run on and I took the dreaded vertical descent. I quickly caught Sonja, technical downhill is not her forte, another guy behind me fell, but used it to his advantage and slid past us on his bum!! I thought that was a good idea so threw myself past Sonja on my backside and carried on. Another guy stood aside to let me by, this NEVER happens to me! A little further down I caught Carol who is very good at descending, but she was trapped behind a Stockon runner who wouldn't let us past. We moved quickly, but could have been quicker down the bank/cliff and when we got to the ditch at the bottom, Carol all but pushed him across. We hit the last little bit at speed, 4 of us now racing for the finish. I made sure not to start sprinting too soon, it's always further to the line than you think, the others kept pace on my shoulder. At last, it was time for the final push and my legs felt like they didn't belong to me, annoyingly as we round the corner the Stockton chap pulled past just feet from the finish and I think I may have yelled in anger, although I did pat him on the shoulder after. I'd held the other two off though.

My rubbish hill work potentially cost me a PB but I am really pleased with how I handled the descent. It's only taken about 5 years to be able to move down it without crying!!

Unfortunately, the lady who's first fell race this was got lost at the beck crossing, not realising she had to get wet. She did find her way back and we met her up the track to run her in to the finish. The organiser had saved her a bottle of wine...

Tune in next week for the next race installment!

Summer racing starts here!

I have missed the majority of the various summer races over the last couple of years, due to a combination of ultra training and work induced knackeredness.

This year though, I have no such excuses!
The club takes part in 2 leagues, the Harrogate District Summer Race League (here after known as the HDSRL) and the Dave Parry Summer Fell League.
Tonight, the two leagues clashed (of course) but I chose the road race 'cos it have a free supper.

I haven't done a 'proper' race like this for a while, 6 miles, road, almost 500 competitors. I felt a little out of place in a starting crowd. It was warm tonight so I was wearing just my vest and new shorts, also out of character as I am used to layers and a rucksack full of 'stuff'.

We were off, very gentle uphill. I feared I may have started too near the front as an awful lot of people were over taking me! I plugged away and my legs hurt from the start. I passed a club mate Phillip, he is doing really well at the moment, but I would never hear the last of it if he ever beat me. Over the course of the run, I ummed and erred about whether to race him if he tried to pass me or just let him go and reel him in at the end..?

First of the two hills was soon upon us. Although the pace slowed, I didn't drop in effort and over took several people along the way. It didn't go on for anywhere near as long as I remembered and I was soon at the top and feeling pretty good now. It's only taken three miles to get into a rhythym...

Some of the people I'd overtaken on the hill came back past me on the flat section. I wondered if I could hear Phillip behind me, but each time it was someone else.

The next hill starts with a sharp turn onto a footpath and a very short muddy section, down a bank over a bridge then a long climb that starts out on a rough lane before continuing on tarmac. I overtook one girl on the downhill and several more on the rough section, my fell running feet taking me through the mud and wet while others minced around it. I think I hit the hill a little too hard as I felt a touch sick for the rest of the climb!! Still, it was over soon enough and several more competitors were behind me.

I continued to mostly over take other people as we headed for the finish now. I knew it wasn't far but resisted looking at my watch, I felt like I was running well and that would do. As I approached the last corner, I caught up with another fellow Harrier, Dave B. We matched pace for a while, but I kept directly behind him hoping he wouldn't see me and I could beat him to the line, that worked until I saw him do the double take of recognition, I upped the pace but he was faster and beat me to the finish! Little monkey.

Done in 48:30. I will have to check my previous times, although the course has been altered very slightly to allow for chip timing so it is a tiny bit shorter, also removed a horrible tight corner on the sprint finish. Pleased with that though, and overall I didn't hate it.

After cooling down and getting changed, we all piled into the pub for cake, chilli and chips. In that order.

Oh, and I beat Phillip by a good 3 minutes, so that's ok ;-) 

Edit: Yep, a new PB even taking the slightly shortened course into account. Nice one

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Rest is bad for you!

Due to my cold (pretty much gone now) and the pre-planned post fellsman easy week (which I suppose I didn't really need) I have had the best part of 2 weeks off. 

Now, my knee and my hip are both niggling. They haven't niggled for months.

Only one thing for it...

Starting to feel a little better?

Since only getting half way round the Fellsman, I have been mostly resting up.
Sunday I slept til lunchtime, dragged myself round an hours dog walk, and power walked just enough to call it a streak saver.

Monday, once OH had slept off his night shift, we went to the seaside. Had a walk along the beach looking for fossils then had tea at the pub.
A late night power walk continued the streak, I also walked the dog to squish a few FetchPoint bugs.

Tuesday I coughed myself stupid on my mile, but I managed to go a bit quicker, a bit more convincingly like an actual run.

Wednesday, apart from coughing so much at one point I was sick (nice, ladylike) I felt quite good on my little jog and even did a tiny bit extra!! My legs have certainly appreciated the rest, despite 30+ miles of fells in the middle of it.

Thursday, tonight, saw my first proper run since Saturday. Thursday night Harriers On Tour were in Boltby for a (not that hilly) little route. Well, I didn't think it was hilly, some of the others would disagree! I stayed nice and relaxed, but still kept up with Gav who is running so strong despite completing the Fellsman less than a week ago. My breathing was fine, although I still had a coughing fit each time we stopped.
Felt like I could go round again when we got back to the car.

So that's a good feeling. My throat still feels funny though, not sore as such, but 'hollow' is the only way I can describe it, like the infection is still active. Taking a deliberate deep breath makes me want to cough, but it's in my throat, not my chest. It needs to bugger off as I have a busy 10 days or so coming up, friends party, 10 mile recce on Sunday and a trip down to Devon for work then finish off with step-daughter coming the following weekend.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Fellsman- 32 miles of coughing followed by a DNF.

Slept better than I thought and was ready for pick up. Cold wise, I didn't feel too bad.

We got to the HQ, then caught a bus to the start. Linear routes are so complicated. The bus journey made me queasy, tried to sleep through it but it didn't help. So a combination of that and nerves (three trips to the bathroom) meant I struggled to eat my breakfast. Not the best start.
Managed to get through the kit check and registration without coughing too much and giving the game away that I was ill...

Eventually it was time to go and the field jogged through the village of Ingleton and pretty much into the first climb straight away, Ingleborough. It was on a rough stone track, we walked as was the intention. 

We started as a group of 5, Gavin, Brett, Steph, her boyfriend Mike and myself. I was at the back from the very start. Periodically, Gav would break into a trot yet I felt we were walking too fast...
Less than an hour to the summit of Ingleborough, the descent though wasn't any better, very steep steps and swarming with hikers, even at this time in the morning (just after half 9). The lads had charged down while I minced carefully, but someone higher up dislodged a rock and it fell the whole face and smashed Brett on the ankle.
Gavin waited for me and we trotted in to the check point for a quick cup of tea. Not much time to drink it, Whernside was calling. Another stiff climb, although my cold has not gone to my chest, I was struggling to get a satisfying breath and climbing was such hard work. I couldn't keep up with the others, at all.
Whernside was also busy with walkers, we wound our way through them and enjoyed the long descent and another cup of tea! I was already feeling sick and couldn't eat anything. The next climb was just ridiculous, Gragareth. I had been warned, but oh my! It was nearly vertical. I made it to the top, only stopping once to let the cramp out of my legs. 

I had lost sight of the others but Gragareth checkpoint was a short out and back from the main path, and we waved as we passed. I figured they'd wait for me further on.

I was now absolutely knackered and coughing, a lot. I trotted along the wall line from Gragareth to Great Coum, on my own and coughing. I kept straining to look ahead to see if I could see the others, but no luck. I checked in at Great Coum and started the descent. I knew this bit was potentially tricky, but couldn't remember what it said in the notes, so I just followed the crowd. Of course, that meant we hit the awkward rocky part of the escarpment and had to pick my way down. Then we followed a wall line. I wasn't sure where the next point was, so had to stop and get my map out of my bag. After a while, I spotted the check point and got my tally clipped. Now we could follow a stony lane down and down into Dent.
Now i had stopped trying to keep up with the others, I actually stopped feeling sick and was able to nibble at the 'trail mix' in my pocket. I was ready to have some food at Dent and I was going to tell the others to carry on without me, no point them wasting loads of time keeping waiting for me, I have a map and and can navigate and was happy to run alone.

I got into Dent, got clipped and went for a cup of tea. The check point was busy with helpers, spectators and other runners. No sign of my team. I checked with the marshals and they had arrived about 20 mins ahead of me. Clearly hadn't waited.
I had planned to to spend a little time here anyway, and now didn't have to worry about rushing. So I sat down with a cup of beans and bread and butter and a load of orange segments. I spent about 20 minutes at Dent and felt much better for it.
Couldn't run straight away as I was full of baked beans, so power walked along the road and found the foot of the next climb. There was a few of us, strung out along the path as it wound its way up the hill side. As it levelled out a little to contour I was able to jog and off. I continued to nibble sweets and bits out of my pocket.
Not sure if I veered off the path too soon or what, but I crossed open ground to reach a fence line, along with another couple who had their maps out and scratching their heads. I had been sort of following them, but keeping an eye on the map. We were in the right place, but too far along. *Rather than double back, we decided to cut straight across the open ground in front. We could see the trig point on the opposite fell which was our next objective, so we just went for it! One or two boggy patches to negotiate but otherwise it was fine and soon we were at the Blea Moor checkpoint. We split up on the way down, (couldn't keep up with them either it would seem) and the path down to Stonehouses was very pleasant indeed.

I was still coughing a lot and bringing up lumps of solidified gunk, quite grossed myself out! 

I reached the Stonehouses checkpoint in good spirits and was served pasta by a team if Vikings! Only spent 10 minutes or so here as I wanted to crack on.

I don't know what happened, but as I left the checkpoint, my mood just turned. It was a long long drag out of Stonehouses and I was tired of coughing, my poor throat was raw. Eventually, I got to the turn off to do the out and back to the summit of Great Knottberry. The faster runners were coming down off the hill and I hoped to see my teammates. I didn't.
Great Knottberry went on FOREVER with several false summits. I though, this is a shit hill. It's not even a nice hill. Why is there a check point up here, this is pointless. etc. it was getting cold now too, a wind had whipped up out of nowhere. After getting clipped, I put on my jacket and gloves. 5 minutes later I fell over in the mud and got my gloves wet. ffs. Comedy fall, managed to get cramp and struggled to get back up! Thankfully no one saw me!
Crossed over the track we'd come up and headed onto open fell. This was one of the bits I wasn't sure about. There was no path marked on the map and following a wall or similar would take me too far out of my way. I could see other runners ahead and walked briskly to keep them in sight. As it was, there was a faint quad track through the grass and periodically I spotted trainer prints in the mud which was very reassuring! Having not recced this bit, I didn't realise this quad track went all the way to the gate, so I left it a little early. I didn't lose anything, but it was more awkward underfoot. Through the gate and onto better ground.

I was ready to call it quits. I'd walked since Stonehouses and it had taken ages. In theory, I could still manage a 24hr finish, but I'd had enough. Running through the night wasn't going to help my illness.
I was still disappointed and cried all the way down the hill to the checkpoint.

Once inside the tent, I had another cup of tea and sat down to eat a hot dog. I didn't know if I could stomach it, but it was gone in a few bites. I was aware the marshalls kept looking at me. I was taking ages over my tea, had tears in my eyes and was shaking. It was only 10 minutes to go before grouping started (You get grouped just before dark on the Fellsman due to crossing open fell) and if I left now, I could get to Fleetmoss before being forced into a group.

I didn't want to run in a group. I didn't want to have to bust a gut to keep up with people I didn't know. I didn't want to run in the dark.

One of the mini buses turned up and I had to just blurt it out, I was hoping to do it quietly while there wasn't anyone in the tent but now there wasn't time for that. I had no voice due to my cold and then being choked up with tears I could barely speak enough to articulate what I wanted. The check point lady gave me a big hug.

The bus was full, so I wasn't able to have the good cry that I wanted. I coughed and coughed all the way back to HQ, which was a full hours drive.

I realised now that I had a long wait for my team mates. I spent a long time getting showered and changed, then forcing down a jacket potato which had smelled amazing but then couldn't stomach. My limbs were twitching with tiredness, so I hunkered down in the the corner of the hall, using my holdall as a pillow and went to sleep! It's very odd trying to sleep in a hall with people coming and going, but somehow I managed it! Only problem was when people dropped their cutlery into the washing up buckets...
A couple of times I got up, went for a pee and read the various posters in the halls, then came back and had another snooze. I heard the wind get up outside and hoped the runners were all ok. 
I expected my friends back between 2 and 4am. Shortly before 4am I saw them arrive, I greeted them with ''You abandoned me, ya bastards!'' and a big hug. I was so pleased they'd finished, and they were relieved that a) I was ok and b) I was still talking to them!!

In less than an hour, we were in the car on the way home. Took the drive very slowly and got home to fall into bed about half 6. I slept til 1pm gone.

Now it is time to get over this bloody cold, the life span of which I have probably increased by 2 or 3 weeks...

Gav says we'll do it again next year, I'm not sure I want to. Out of the 32 miles I ran/walked, I only enjoyed about 10 of them!

*Turns out, that's what everyone else did.