Friday, 23 December 2011


"Why hello Peak District, you saucy minx you, I know what you want, you want me to run all over you, don't you? You dirty slut! Well, I'm going to run over you (point at Kinder), you (leers at Chinley Churn), you (drools at Brown Knoll), you (motorboats Mt. Famine and South Head) oh, and Lantern Pike, you filthy little thing, I'm going run up and down you soooo much and sooo hard you're going to be walking bow-legged until next Christmas!"

After a 2am Police raid on my Stockton residence (still non the wiser about that!) and a rather empty day at work I was pretty pleased to be heading home for Christmas.

I thought about listening to some Carols on Classic FM - normally I spend a lot of November/December singing Carols with choirs, but I've managed to miss that this year. However the piece they played first was enough to make your teeth rot - some kind of medley that made Rutter sound like Beethoven. So I opted for The Who's Greatest hits to guide me down the A1, then the Foo Fighters to guide me over Woodhead. It may have been that I was at the end of a long day but I was ridiculously excited about getting back home to the outskirts of the Peak District.

I stopped off at The Royal in Hayfield before going home, where I met up with Iain and a few of the family's climbing friends before Pennine rolled in from an 'epic descent off Sandy Heys' (the best descent not used in a race in the country?). I left fairly sharpish as I thought it better to actually see Ma and Sis at some point in the evening (Dad's in Congo over Christmas, after being in Chad last year). Back home to the Christmas Tree, a warm stove and my childhood favourite dish. 

As the great philosipher Noddy Holder once said: "IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT'S CHRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISTMAAAAAAAS!" (Thanks to my SLMM partner Bedders for that one!)

Kinder normally looks like this from the top of New Mills:

Unfortunately today Kinder looks like this from my bedroom window:
Needless to say I'll be out there at some point today, because even if the weather outside is frightful, the running will be delightful! (groan!)

Anyway, I'll leave you with a Frank song about coming home:

All that's left to say is Merry Christmas to everyone that might stumble across this page, hope you have a good one!

Monday, 19 December 2011

A Distinct Lack of Snow

The last 2 weekends have involved some racing not on the fells. 'For Shame!' I hear you call.

Last Saturday (having just hit the grand old age of 23) was the North Eastern XC championships. Despite this being only my 3rd XC race I've enjoyed my few forays into this dark art in the last few months - there's something quite purging about hammering it for upwards of 30mins with no excuse to slow down (and no stiles!).
Three well-sheltered 4km loops of Cramlington Nature Reserve north of Newcastle was the order of the day. I was expecting the atmosphere to be far from the jovial nature of Fell Running, and whilst it didn't compare it was much more festival-like than I anticipated, from toilet queue banter to the support all around the course ("Fantastic running lads, work together to reel [the group up ahead] in") - I was expecting it to be all cliquey and acrimonious. On the start line I saw Ben Abdelnoor from that well known North Eastern club 'WaiAimbleside', so I said hello and mentioned I was also a fell runner (though obviously well south of his standard).
The Course was fast but quite muddy. I had a fairly sensible race. I was passed by a group at the beginning of the last lap but managed to work my way back up to, and then through, them, before picking off a few more to finish 39th - the position I'd been counted through at the end of lap one when myself and 'The Reverend' were having a battle. The race was won some 8 minutes ahead by GBR squaddie Ricky Stevenson. 8 mins over 8 miles - ouch!

Yesterday I made my first tentative steps onto the start-line of a Road Race - the darkest of dark arts. In an attempt to salve the Fell Running Gods I'd chosen Loftus and Whitby AC's Poultry run which contains some climb and a couple of off-road sections in its 8-mile duration. I set off quite hard (harder than usual) and was pleased to be able to maintain my pace for most of the race. I lost 2 places but also gained 2 and finished 10th - unfortunately not quite good enough for a poultry-based prize. The race was again won by Ricky Stevenson, but this time I was only 6:20 behind. More promising was that I was within 3 minutes of 3rd place (and a big lump of Turkey).
Overtaking 1km before the finish. Courtesy Dave Aspin
(oh and it was freezing and windy so the gloves are warranted!)
As you can tell from the picture above, there's not much snow about round these parts. Needless to say I'm hoping some will descend on the peaks once I get home (Woodhead permitting) for Christmas late Thursday evening (first stop: The Royal to meet up with Pennine). I'm looking forward to some long days in the hills (and snow hopefully - the more company the merrier!), a roaring fire stove and some good food and beer! And maybe a satellite-delayed phone call from Dad in the Congo!

The FRA Calendar has hit the mat and I'm really looking forward to 2012 on this hills!

PS. I managed to win my 3rd Parkrun as well - 18:40 isn't a good time but not bad considering the park was an ice-rink. Speed-skating arms were de rigueur.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Eskdale Eureka

The latest race in the Esk Valley Winter Series didn't, despite its name, require one to strip bare, run through town yelling 'Eureka' - not that it would have made much difference in Castleton (North Yorkshire, not the caverny one at the foot of Winnat's in the peak) early this Sunday morning as it appeared no-one was there at all. Anyway, what with it now no longer being November I didn't really have the facial hair to replicate Archimedes' streak (not that I did at the end of a month of facial folicular floundering).
Who's this unsavoury looking character at the end of November?
Anyway, I digress.
It was a chilly morning with the mercury (or whatever the car dashboard uses) hovering just above freezing. The 8-mile race route heads east out of Castleton over Westerdale Moor before a lap of Baysdale and a return over Westerdale before the uphill finish (argh!). It's all very runnable with 4 short but sharp climbs.
Something like this but with a different start/finish making the race a bit shorter than advertised (Esk Valley)

Climb 3 out of Hob Hole in Baysdale (Mick Garratt,
  Stuck in the kind of cold which isn't really vicious enough to use as an excuse but definitely knocks 10-20% off your performance rates I was hoping for a nice pack run out to the far end of the race then start winding it up on the track run to Hob Hole. Cameron, however, had a different idea and made it an honest race setting the pace from the off. I managed to mark him throughout and he didn't break the elastic.

At the Start (Clive from Esk Valley)

Cameron leads 2km in (Clive from Esk Valley). The gap stayed about this distance right until the end.

I took the lead with a better line to the Splash, but Cam got me on the climb out (see above picture). A few different lines on the way back across Westerdale didn't make much difference, but my new rubber told on the descent to the bottom of the final climb as we came together. However I knew what was going to happen and, sure enough, Cam pissed off up the hill and left me staggering up in his wake. Cam got a new record, about 30 seconds ahead of me. The boy's good!

New X-talons = can now run down hill like I want to!
An enjoyable day out, thanks to Dave for his usual organisational work. The weather turned just as the front-runners made it back so it was a bit grotty for those further back (some of whom were in vests only!)

More hill work needed!

Friday, 2 December 2011

We apologise for the delay

Leaves on the line (aka laziness) have recently caused a cessation in posts, but regular service shall soon be resuming (whether you like it or not!).

A brief update:

SPOOK Weekend: The usual shenanigans for the annual get together of Sheffield Postgraduate Occasional (old?) Orienteering Klubb. A bit of Orienteering, a lot of drinking, some football, some dancing and lots of hilarious happenings, few of which are broadcastable. I never normally get nervous, mainly as there's nothing to get nervous about, but being given a pint to down in the beer race as part of the SPOOK 1st team (one of the country's premier sporting establishments), I was bricking it. Despite not being on top form we thankfully won... just, courtesy of Mr. Northrop.
Classic SPOOK weekend (Emily Wood)

Fell Running: 2 races: Guisbrough 3 Tops late October, 5th, tired body, tired legs (but I did get to meet Daleside); Kirbymoor in the South Lakes, some top guys there (Addisons, Bell, Abdelnoor. Finished 13th, 3mins off 5th. Again tired and would like to be at the front of the group I was at the back of. Still got the descending though!
Guisbrough 3 Tops, top of the final descent (Dave Aspin) Maybe bigger shorts are required...
XC: Perversely I've enjoyed by 2 forays into XC in the NYSD (North Yorks South Durham) league so far this season. OK one wasn't very inspiring (4 laps of some sloping fields) but it's fun to gun it and actually race people (all too often in fell races I end up on my own). I've finished 8th in both my races - in the second one I helped the team to first place. It's also shown I do still have a sprint finish (albeit on that M50s can't handle, but it's a start).
NYSD Summerhill, Hartlepool, just before the sprint finish is unveiled! (Dave Aspin again)
Orienteering: Other than the excellent SPOOK Relays, It's been a bit quiet, a park race, a toddle round Ramsley Moor. The Tim Watkins Blodslitet Mass-start race on Silver Howe last weekend was really good fun though, long, rough and challenging, just as O should be!

Work: Is good, if leaving me a little tired every now and then.

A couple of races left this year, including my first 'road' race (shock!), I'm already into something which resembles winter training and I'm looking forward to making plans for next year (at the moment I want to do everything).
I'll leave you with this 'vision':

The return of the porno vest/uber porno shorts/headband combo at the SPOOK relays (Martin Ward)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

OMM 2011 - Tentative results.

The 2011 Perthshire OMM came down to a sprint-finish today. Duncan Archer and Shane Ohly, setting the fastest time of the day by 6 minutes to take the win from Chris Near and Tim Higginbottom. Doug Tullie and John Rocke finished 5 minutes down in 3rd place, a good performance considering Doug's illness earlier in the week, 4 minutes ahead of Steve Birkenshaw and Jethro Lennox.

From a brief glance at the splits (and Twitter!), Duncan and Shane appeared to run a controlled race, taking time out of Near and Higginbottom on 8 of the 11 legs (including finish) on the day 2 course. Birkenshaw and Lennox started hard with a slew of fastest split times, taking minutes out of the other 3 pairs over the first 4 controls and hitting the front of the race. However, a series of poor route choices from then on, losing 3-4 minutes to Archer and Ohly on at least 3 legs, put paid to their chances of another OMM victory.There's also talk of them punching the wrong penultimate control on day 1 (same feature and less than 100m away, tricky on a 1:40k map) for which they were penalised 30mins. More news on this if I find it.

Elsewhere, on the A-Class a 7 minute overnight lead became a 9 minute win for Peter Hodgkinson and James Taylor over Mark and Ashley Bown. Dave Schorah and Tom Beasant were again 34minutes quicker than their closest rival on the B-class, winning by the best part of 70 minutes. Andy Llewellyn and Rich Robinson showed that they really should man up, winning the C-class by 119 minutes. Alex and David McCann held onto 1st on the D-Class by 2 minutes.

Once there's some route-gadgets and training logs are up I'll post a slightly more in-depth view of proceedings. All there is to say is - Orienteers won all 5 non-score courses!

OMM Day 1 - brief update

Heading out to a race in a bit, but here's a quick look at the overnight leaderboard:

Oli Johnson and Rob Baker appear to have dropped out, hope nothing too bad happened. As you can see Oleg Chepelin DNS'd (foot injury from Senior Home International Orienteering champs last weekend I believe) and has been replaced by Al Anthony - another good runner but maybe lacking the nav skills? We'll see!

Day 1 Results:

1     6:01:38   35  Tim Higginbottom & Chris Near                             
2     6:07:38   59  Douglas Tullie & John Rocke                               
3     6:07:57   63  Duncan Archer & Shane Ohly                                
4     6:09:01   62  Steve Birkinshaw & Jethro Lennox                          
5     6:17:12   57  Tom Owens & Alasdair Anthony                              
6     6:36:40   67  Hector Haines & Jack Wood      

Anyway, the close gaps between Tullie/Rocke, Archer/Ohly and Lennox/Birkenshaw may result in a train pushing each other along, which could make it difficult for Higgingbottom/Near to maintain their current lead.

In the other classes:
A-Class: Peter Hodgkinson and James Taylor have a 7 minute lead over the Bowns (who are down as Military so I may have got people mixed up!).
B-Class: Dave Schorah and Tom Beasant lead by 35 minutes from 2 Scandi pairings. Come on boys, pull your finger out!
C-Class: International Pot-hunters Andy Llewllyn and Rich Robinson have, as predicted, blown the field apart, made the (highly generous 1 hour) chasing start obsolete and lead by 71 minutes. Andy needs to realise that 'not fit' for him is still a pretty high level.
D-Class: MDOC's McCann father/son pairing of David and Alex lead the way by 2 minutes.

Anyway, must dash, race to run! More news as I get it!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

OMM 2011 - A Preview.

This weekend 3000-odd soles, mainly hardy but in some cases not as hardy as they wish, will take to the Central Scottish hills for the 43rd OMM. I believe it's based around Lochs Tay and Earn but I wasn't paying much attention when I was told. After 2 years in the 'flat' boglands of Mid-Wales and Dartmoor, the OMM appears to be heading for the hills once again. As I'm not doing it this year I thought I'd insult people's intelligence. Watch out for me taking on Lawro on football focus next week!
How many people will be 'unaccounted for' this year?
Anyway, time for a bit of a preview of what I think will go down on the Elite course. I'll have a sneaky peak at the other courses but the start-lists are so bloody long and it'll be late by then so I'll probably go to bed instead.

Whilst the best of the best will only have to deal with bog, hill and their partner for an estimated 12 hours (on their feet, do partners get more annoying couped up in a tent?) over the 2 days, the real Hard Men and Women of the Mountains (or those without navigational ability...?) could be out there for 20 hours plus, covering much more than the advertised 80km if it all goes tits up.


The Experience - Steve Birkenshaw and Jethro Lennox.
With Steve a numerous times champion and Jethro not exactly lacking in this respect this pairing will start amongst the favourites. After losing 15 minutes and the lead on day 2 last year Steve and Jethro will be gunning to regain the title they last won in the Elan Valley 2009. With their multi-day event experience anyone who beats them will have earnt it.
Birkenshaw and Lennox Won OMM2009, Elan Valley (picture pinched from planetfear)
The Navigators - Oli Johnson and Rob Baker.
GB Orienteering international Oli and Marathon runner/part-time fell runner and Orienteer Rob showed how well matched they are by setting the fastest time on leg2 at the recent FRA relays, and training seems to have been going very well for the pair. Navigationally they shouldn't lose any time, but than again they lost 30mins on a relatively easy leg at the end of day 1 at OMM2009. Just a reminder that it can happen to the best, or that misplaced controls are a great (albeit unfair) leveller.
Oli and Rob will be starting 2 minutes before Steve and Jethro, so expect both teams to set off hard, but will someone blow up?
Rob and Oli in sync at the FRA relays (Picture pinched from Bingley)
The Young Upstarts - John Rocke and Doug Tullie.
ShUOC and EUOC collide with this pairing of 23-year-olds. Having finished 2nd on B in 2007 and winning A in 2009 the ex-GB Junior Orienteering Squad pair are now take on the big league. Doug is currently 'King of the Forest' British Orienteering Champion, whilst John was on the Nav leg for the victorious DP team at the FRA relays. Both love the rough stuff, but Doug is currently trying to shake off a nasty cold. Whatever happens they have plenty of time to win the Elite course and have every chance of doing so in the future.
John Rocke in his Natural Environment.
The Russian Connection - Oleg Chepelin and Tom Owens.
A member of the British Orienteering squad, Oleg is exactly what you'd expect from a Scottish/Russian cross hard as nails (hand up who said alcoholic...). Teaming up with Shettleston team-mate Tom Owens produces a ridiculously strong team who won't lose much time when it comes down to Nav.
Running on Bru Power.
The Promoted Pair - Ed Catmur and Anal Cherry (no typo).
Reigning A-class champions Ed and Alan are strong navigationally but maybe lack the strength of the pairings listed above. That's not to say they're not strong mind!
To be honest there's too many good pictures of Alan, but his fox outfit at BUCS 2010 was his defining moment (in my head at least). Here he is pictured with Tommy B (See B class below).
The Form Horse - Duncan Archer and Shane Ohly.
Duncan Archer is the current LAMM and BAMM champion. Him and Shane Ohly (Organiser of 2012's rekindled Dragon's Back) finished 5th at OMM2010, run together often in MMs and are also strong navigationally (Duncan's another one of those pesky Orienteer types).

Other pairs to watch, Mixed, Vets, Female.
Jon Morgan (2nd OMM 2009) is on the startlist with Ben Rossendale. Chris Near and Tim Higginbottom are also paired up, I'd write more but I don't really know anything about them. GB Orienteer Hector Haines is paired with Jack 'bravest/stupidest man on Elite' Wood from Ilkley. Jack's good but maybe not in the same league as Hector. Al Anthony has some previous on OMMs and is paired with Ian Wellock.
So Nicky Spinks and Kirsty Bryan-Jones just have to finish to win the women's prize, although they're a pretty formidable pairing.
After finishing 2nd and 3rd mixed pair at the last 2 OMMs, the Fjellstads (Jo and Wendy) have a good chance at winning the mixed competition with only 5 pairs on the start-list.
I don't really recogninse the vets teams

The Verdict: Baker/Johnson from Cheplin/Owens from Birkenshaw/Lennox.

The Other Classes (basically Orienteers I recognise)
James Taylor and Peter Hodkinson (both GB Junior Orienteers, the later more prolific than the former) will be hoping to not get stuck in the wrong valley like on last year's B course. Peter was 4th on leg1 at the FRA Relays. Bristol Orienteering Klubb's Mark Bown appears to be teaming up with what I presume is his brother, Ashley. Mark's a good Orienteer, don't know about his bro.Janet McIver is teamed up with local(ish) Emma O'Shea. Fell Legend Wendy Dodds and GB selector Sarah Rowell are first starters.
James and Peter. At least if they don't win some booty they can re-enact Brokeback.
I know a bit about this as I came 4th on it in my first MM in 2009.
Dave Schorah and Tom Beasant are the only names I recognise. Winners of Kirkfell at the SLMM these two should win themselves lots of goodies as they are very good running and navigating. Fairly new to this MM business, unless some cheeky Scandis come pot-hunting (there are a few on the startlist) they stand a good chance of making the chasing start obsolete. Peter and Chloe Haines team up again as a mixed parent/child team.

Andy Llewellyn and Richard Robinson are playing Silly Buggers on the C-course. Andy says he's unfit but that doesn't say much. He's won MM courses (OK, not elite but proper manly courses) before with Sarah O'Neil (OK, Sarah carried his bag at times on Bowfell at SLMM2010). Rich Robinson is a cracking orienteer, recently making his debut (I think) for the GB Senior Squad. Actually this lot have a better chance of ruining the chasing start than the 2 above (although I haven't checked the startlist fully).
What Andy (left) normally gets up to in Central Scotland (pictured in the Vault, Aviemore)
That's it, cba to check the other classes. Be pointless anyway as who knows how to do a score course (I don't, showed that last year. Did get the fastest run-in split on the last day though :D ...not that there was one).

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

FRA Relays/HangoverO

This year's UKA Fell and Hill Relays (more commonly referred to as 'The FRAs') were held in sunkissed Kettlewell last weekend. I headed down on the Friday evening with Andy from Durham FR, and we bumped into many fell runners, and a rather bemused lad who was doing a road-trip and had stumbled into Kettlewell on race weekend, in the pub.
On Saturday morning I woke at 7.30 and couldn't get back to sleep. It was pretty chilly and the first proper frost of the year. I went for a walk in the direction of leg1 to take some photos.

Ducks Crossing

Cam Head above an inversion layer

I was running leg 3 (the Navigation leg) with Dave Ward, who said he was a bit ill. Dave tends to beat me in longer races, and I beat him in shorter races, so hopefully over the 7miles or so we'd be fairly well matched. Noel (Leg 1), Paul and Adam (Leg 2) had great runs and set us out in 18th place with Dark Peak Vets and not far off HBT and a Wharfedale Team. We picked up the map and both of us thought we had a score course. We asked the ladies handing out the maps if we could take the controls in any order and we heard her say yes.
Needless to say it wasn't a score course. We got to #1 with the other 3 teams then headed to #4 where we saw the race leaders (John and Rhys from DP) going through and were told by the marshals that we did have to take the controls in order.
Overall we dropped about 3 mins and 2 places. We were running hard but after the mistake all thoughts of nav had gone out of the window. We followed the other teams which lead to bananas at #3 and #4. Dave and I were well matched on the hills and through the terrain, but I was much quicker on the downs.
My route. Green=fast. Red=slow.
Overall our team finished a respectable 21st, but we were so close to the top 20! Pennine's other teams did well in their classes (V40 6th, V50 3rd, Ladies 9th). It was also nice to see many of my ShUOC friends do well in the Dark Peak senior teams - who finished 1st and 8th.

Compass Sport Cup Final.
After the FRAs I headed down to Sheffield for the Final of the UK Club Orienteering competition, which was being held on the Longshaw estate. My club (SYO) have won for the last 4/5 years. Last year I managed to place as a counter due to people being missing at the FRAs. Unfortunately this year's performance was hindered by the mother of all hangovers, I was pleased to just get round and I felt much better after doing so. I Orienteered quite well considering and it perked me up following the previous weekend's debacle at the UK Cup final. However it did rekindle my enjoyment in Orienteering after a few months off.
Brown Course at Longshaw
I'm now into a few weeks of rest before starting some winter training - going to have to be a bit better constructed this year as I try to maintain my upward curve over recent years.

Look out for an OMM preview (even though I won't be going), hoping to fit one in early next week!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Gorilla in the Mist - Cerebral Failure at Ian Hodgson Mountain Relay.

I'd been looking forward to this race for quite a while. After all the route and team changes I was paired with Noel on the Hartsop-Kirkstone leg. After camping in the lakes on the Friday night I enjoyed a good recce of the route on Saturday morning - thankfully getting back to the car as the day reached its hottest.
High Street, Thornthwaite Crag and Grey Crag (fore) from The Knott.
I'd been struggling all week with a cold but had just managed to kick it by Sunday. However the after effects showed as Noel strode away above Hayeswater towards the Knott - I was expecting us to be a lot closer together here. Once on the top I perked up a little and we were running well together - we'd passed about 5 teams by High Street, with only Staffs Moorlands passing us and a Bingley team (who started just behind us) still there. We missed the easier slope off Thornthwaite Crag but that didn't lose us too much time. Heading towards our attackpoint (wall junction) for the tricky tarn on Caudale Moor (especially tricky since the clag was down) I made a point of saying we should take a few seconds to check our bearings before finally attacking the control. We reached the wall junction and Bingley went right (North) when straight on (just south of West) was correct. For a reason unbeknownst to me I scotched rational thinking, went into race mode and followed Bingley. What followed was a 4 minute mistake compounded with another 4 minute mistake when we were within a stones-throw of the tarn checkpoint.
Where it all went Pete Tonge... my GPS trace in Quickroute. The southern tip of the tarn is the checkpoint.
A - Wall Junction. As you can see west is best, straight is great etc. etc.
B - I've had the nagging feeling for a while, but now it's confirmed - something's wrong, very wrong.
C - We find what could be a cairn but aren't too sure. It could also be the one to the east - looking back at this, this is a very daft assumption to make as there's no wall in sight!
D - Relocate off the wall but can't confirm our exact position. Howgill Harriers run past on way to control, join them.
E - Going south, very wrong. Find the wall, all is now painfully clear. Stagger bag up the hill as Glossopdale go sailing down. Cock.

Reach the Tarn as about 20 more teams do. Swear. Punch it and run like bloody murder for the last 12 mins of the leg.

I have to apologise to my team-mates: my partner Noel - due to last minute changes he was relying on me to know what I was doing; Dave and Ian on leg 1 who set us off in 18th; Steve and Dave who we handed over to in 21st with no discernible pack to work with; Darren and Dave on last leg who put in a good time, as well as all mammals who are capable of lone thought and don't just follow!

I can't blame anything else apart from allowing myself to lose my cool and reasoning. I don't mind losing time when on my own, but when it impacts on a your team's result it's quite sickening. 8 minutes is more than I lost on my big mistake on Creag Mhic on the classic distance at the Scottish Six Days. I wasn't the only one to make a mistake - A former GB junior orienteer lost about 15mins between High Street and Thornthwaite Crag for a team involved in the podium shootout.

What really rankles is that in my last 3 O relays I've always maintained or bettered the position in which I was sent out. You live and learn, and needless to say I won't be following anyone else again in a race if they're not doing what my plan says I should be doing!

To finish on a better note, the Mixed team (Lucy, Edie, Muir, Paul, Steph, Claire, Adam and Daz) had a really good run, only being pipped by Bingley's superstar team by 7 seconds after Adam and Daz took time out of the best descender in the business on the last leg.
Adam and Daz just behind Bingley, finishing in 13th place.
Looking forward to the FRA Relays!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

5km PB and First Fell Race Win.

After a few weekends on the road I had a weekend during which I stayed up north.
Saturday morning I decided to finally make it to Middlesbrough Albert Parkrun. Having finally filled in my membership form after Thursday's interval session this was my first run as a member of Billingham Marsh House Harriers (for brevity henceforth referred to as 'BMHH') and on the flat course I was hoping for a big PB, my previous Sheffield Hallam mark standing at 18:06. I set the pace to start with, one guy came with me and dropped me after 1800m but I managed to hold off a few chargers for 2nd place. I was pleased with my time of 17:21 as my legs felt far from fresh - at the beginning of the year I'd targeted working my way down towards the 17min mark so was pleased to be moving in the right direction (although the course profile may have aided this a fair amount!).

After the Parkrun I headed straight to the first race in the CLOK autumn sprintO series. Unfortunately my first run at an event put on by the club I'll be joining next year wasn't very successful, oxygen debt (with a bit of cockiness?) leading to some ridiculous mistakes on easy controls. The less said the better.

Sunday was the day I'd been looking forward to - the first race of the local NEHRA/Northern Runner Winter Fell Race Series, the Viking Chase 4 Peaks Race from Carlton Bank, hosted by the Cleveland Search and Rescue Team. Despite the clag being down and threatening drizzle the assembly field was a throng of humanity (OK, I embellish a little), this race being the final race in the English Junior Fell Race Championships - for once it was nice to see Jack Ross turn up and know I wasn't going to have to watch him disappear into the distance!
So there is a view then! The finish field (centre-left) from Carlton Bank, the first hill on the route (from Wikipedia)
...a different Carlton Bank(s)...
The race took in 4 summits in an out-and-back format with a difference - you went out over the summits but (thankfully) came back around them. At 7.8miles with 1800' ascent I wasn't really looking forward to the course's undulating nature.
The route - taking in Carlton Bank, Cringle Moor, Cold Moor and Wain Stones. 
There was a fairly large field and two guys set the pace from the off. I didn't let them get too far ahead (maybe 100m) but was aware of people fairly close behind me. The first descent off Carlton Bank was very slippery, rocky steps combining with the rain to create some rather treacherous conditions. Whilst the 2 ahead weren't getting away I was mincing a fair amount and could hear footsteps closing behind me.
'Anyone got some ice-skates?' New racing hair-cut at the bottom of Carlton Bank (courtesy Dave Aspin, Esk Valley).

Look, I CAN cross a stile without stacking it! (courtesy Dave Aspin)
I sat in 3rd place over the next hill, legs feeling yesterday morning's effort, the leading pair disappearing into the gloam ahead of me. At the bottom of the 3rd hill I was significantly closer than before and made a move upto and through one of them. I then passed the leader, who came with me and led me onto the 4th summit. I re-gained the lead on the descent to Clay Bank, took on a mouthful of water and set off on the flatter return - a forest track which started with an uphill struggle. The path eventually flattened out somewhat and although I didn't feel as though I was pushing too much my legs weren't aching half as much as they did up the hills and I couldn't hear any footsteps behind me.
Now it was a case of maintaining an honest pace and not looking back or at my watch (I'm getting better at the former...) I was very pleased to win my first race, finishing in just under 61 minutes, 1.20 or so ahead of second placed Paul Butler (who won the previous summer and winter series). The race record of 58:20 is, I feel, obtainable with a dryer route, fresher legs and a bit more work.
My Garmin data can be found here.
Nearing the end. (courtesy Dave Aspin).
I won 8 tinnies and a nicely engraved 'Lord Stones Trophy' vase - my first prizes in a while after my recent slew of 4th places!
My new paperweight.
Next weekend's the Ian Hodgson relays. I'm really looking forward to racing over a similar distance with Danny Chan, I'm hoping we can put a few Pennine cats amongst the big boys' Pigeons!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Lantern Pike/I still haven't run the Stanage Struggle...

In need of another result to register my 6th counter in the Pennine Club Championship I headed down to Sheffield for the weekend to take in the Lantern Pike and Stanage Struggle races.

Considering it was the first day of Freshers' week I managed to persuade a whole car of my former ShUOC colleagues to come over the Pennines for Lantern Pike. We left Sheffield with blue skys and a favourable fuel economy; we arrived in Hayfield to pissing rain, much less fuel than I'd hoped and a rather sick Alex who was evidently doing freshers' properly!

I helped marshal the kids' races, pulled off a quick change and by the time we were ready to start the sun had come out. I had that nauseous/nervous feeling where you don't know if it's because you're feeling good or you've not eaten enough before a race and are sickening for something.

Off we went after a few words and no-one seemed to be taking it on - I was cruising with no-one in front of me. I was eventually joined by James Wood (Congleton), Kristian Edwards and a Springfield guy and we headed up to Matley Moor farm 4 abreast. Near the top I was gapped a little, but dug in to stick with them, and I lead as we passed Des at the top of the first descent.

You can just see the 4 of us at the front. Photo courtesy of ShaunP, Glossopdale.
Over the stile I've been over many times and onto the narrow slippery path. I head a curse as one of the other 3 evidently slipped on the stile. Knowing that it's impossible to pass on this section I kept it fast but safe on the slippy, well hidden stones. As I was imploring the walkers at the bottom of the path to get out of the way I lost concentration on the upcoming stile and slipped as my foot fell on the far foot-plate. I managed to arrest the body-slam but my knee took a lot of the force as it hit the gravel. Bugger, got up and started running again, fairly fast but I could feel the knee hurting. James came past saying we had a bit of a gap but I couldn't push on and Kristian and Tristan (the Springfield guy) came past and gapped me, soon followed by Martin Cliffe from Eryri.
I was in the the lead at some point that was't the start! Closely followed by Kristian, James and Tristan. Photo by ShaunP.
Onto the steep climbs up to Upper Cliffe Farm and Lantern Pike I'd lost it mentally after the fall. The first 3 got away and so did Martin. I hands-on-kneesed up a path I normally run quite easily in training. Once I hit the summit and the rain started to come down I started feeling much better but the damage was done. Thankfully I didn't look behind to see Noel and Mark - whom I normally have the beating of downhill - closing me down, and I managed to finish in 5th place, 1.45 behind Tristan who won, but did manage to get my first win in a Pennine Champs race.

Knees intact. Courtesy ShaunP.
Whilst the fall only affected my running for maybe 500m, the mental impact was quite shocking. I'd like to think I could have stuck with James and battled it out for 3rd as I was feeling pretty good.

Being on the first weekend of Freshers' week I've never been in a state to race the Stanage Struggle (poor, I know). This year I was determined to, and having offered lifts to some of the ShUOC guys there was no-way of getting out of it. Thankfully the 5 hours sleep gave me sufficient recovery time from the dancing and 8+ pints of the previous night (hey, I can still drink!), but the knee was giving me jip. As much as I wanted to race, and probably could have done, albeit with a reduced capacity, I decided the sensible (but in no way hard) thing to do was to heed the knee pain and nurse my slight hangover by taking some photos.

Old Housemate Dave Schorah sets the early pace at Stanage Struggle.
I'm taking it easy now, hoping for a quickly healing knee so I can race at the weekend.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Coombs Tor Fell Race/Roseberry Topping

There are at least two 'Coombs's in the Peak District. This new race, run by Goyt Valley Striders in Aid of New Mills Primary School (one of the many New Mills schools I didn't attend), started from Little Mill next to Rowarth, where I used to work at the shooting range for a few months before Uni, only 3km north of my house.
The field looked fairly close - James Wood from Congleton and Lewis Banton from Clowne, both of whom are normally just ahead of me, were in attendance, along with my Pennine Team-mate Noel. On the fairly long drag up towards Combs Tor a bloke from Leeds City AC went off the front with James and Lewis getting ahead of me. We then dropped down before a steep ascent to the edge of Coombs Tor. I was suffering a bit here, dropping more ground than I'd have liked to, and with Noel gaining on me. Once on the top there were no more significant climbs, just undulating paths and some road for the last 6-7km of the race. Normally these are the bits I do really well on, but today I just wasn't quite feeling it. Noel caught me up and sat right on my shoulder, pushing me all the way. I finally managed to put a bit of a gap to him on a slight rise north of Lantern Pike, but after 1km+ of track I was only 8 seconds ahead! The Leeds guy won in about 44mins. I was 4th (again!) in 48 mins, Lewis 40 secs ahead and James 1.40 ahead, results I'm quite pleased with seeing as I wasn't feeling overly great (too many road miles in the previous 10 days having a slightly adverse affect I reckon). Still, it was good to have a really close race with Noel, who seems to be hitting some really good form ahead of the relays!
Hurdling a stile under the watch of Noel. Geoff Brigg's photo makes me look a lot more pro at stile-hopping than I actually am!
Despite the prevalence of track this was a really good, fast race, although I can't decide on whether running it anticlockwise would improve it or not.
Kudos to Tim and the other Glossopdale guys (+ a few others) who ran this race then ran to Padfield before taking on that race! His write-up is here.

Roseberry Topping.

Last night I managed to get away from the tarmacadam prison of Stockton and headed towards the North York Moors. I parked up at Newton-under-Roseberry and ran up Roseberry topping which afforded some spectacular views which more than made up for the tired legs and panting! I then did a bit of a loop around the back, taking in Codhill heights, some terrain and rough bearings practise before finishing in the gathering gloom on the topping, a golden penny moonrise over the North Sea to the East my reward. A fantastic evening.
The Trig on the Topping. C me
Panorama North East of the Topping.

A highlight of any week, let alone one which started pretty shittily.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Map in Hand

It's been noted, during races and on the FRA forum, that some of us like to have a map in our hand on long races, and some people can't seem to understand why: "You can tell the newbies, they always have a map in their hand" said one bloke at the Edale Skyline in March, who I promptly left and didn't see until about 50mins after I'd finished. After the race people also commented on how Oli Johnson (2nd in the race, good peak district knowledge and GB Orienteer) had a map in his hand; "doesn't he know the route" someone said on the forum.
Oli Johnson (DP, SYO, GB), at Edale Skyline 2011, map in left hand (Don't know who took the photo, will remove if required.)
I've done 3 long races (Grin n Bear it 2008, Edale Skyline 2011 and Sedbergh 2011) and I've had a map and compass in my hand for all of them, even though I've geeked over the route in the days beforehand, recce'd where possible, know the area quite well or there's quite a crowd to follow. But why do I have my map in hand and not in my bum-bag? Maybe it's a comfort thing, being an Orienteer as well as a Fell Runner? Maybe it helps slow me down earlier in the race - due again to the latent Orienteer in me - so I don't bonk later on? However, the best reason I experienced today - no matter how much you prepare you can always make a mistake which, upon checking the map, you wouldn't have made.

OK, so I wasn't racing, I was trying to get from my new place in Stockton-on-Tees to Albert Park in Middlesbrough for this morning's Parkrun. I had a good idea of where I was going (all on road and very flat  unfortunately) having looked at the 1:50000 OS map and Googlemaps - Across the Tees, over the A66, through a cinema car-park, over the A19, up the road to a cemetery, right there onto a road which lead straight to the park.
Only once I got to the cemetery there were 2 roads going right, both the same in terms of business, width etc. I took the first immediate right instead of the required more straight-right and ended up way too far south, adding about 2.5km to the run, stopping several times to check the map (which was now out of my bag). It took me a while to relocate and as I turned up to the park it was 9.10 and the race was 10 minutes old. Oops.

Just goes to show that, no matter how much you plan (or what level your nav is at) and think you know a route, it can all go wrong in the execution and you can make a mistake without knowing it. A quick check of the map today and I'd have realised that I wanted the other road and not spent 20 minutes touring Middlesbrough (albeit one of its more salubrious areas I imagine). Also, as Fell Runners are (fairly) notorious at having off days navigationally, a quick check of the map can confirm that they are correct or not so - this came in handy at Sedbergh where, after the calf a lot of people followed the fence-line whereas I could tell the path was quicker. I made a fair amount of ground on those around me during this section (although I did need a bit of help from a walker as to when to take a cut-off - I knew we were in the right place but as the clag was down couldn't see the trod.
Sedbergh Hills race, part of Calf-Winder leg. Red(top) =  Calder cut-off that several people missed. Yellow - route a lot of peple ahead of me took - rougher ground and more undulating. I stuck to the path.
Anyway, this morning wasn't a complete waste of time - I now know the way to Albert Park for next time, by chance bumped into the guy I've contacted at the Athletics/XC club close to work and got to see what a well-established Parkrun looks like - very impressive, with permanent markings on the grund and more helpers than they know what to do with!

Anyway, sorry about the rambling, but there's no races to write up this week!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Barrel Inn Race

Earlier today I headed out for a walk with Mum to put our names in the August Calendar Box. After reading some accounts of long hunts at the location I was expecting to be out a while, but I somehow managed to walk straight to the box's hiding place after only 2 cursory glances in likely-looking holes - the thought that I might be channelling Neil is quite a formidable one, but thankfully I've not started BOO-ing or looking like a Monkey yet.
The Box is in here somewhere! (image from Fran Halsall)
This evening was the Barrel Inn race from Eyam, a Pennine Champs counter which, as it's looking likely that I'll be missing Grisedale Horseshoe at the weekend (another champs counter), I needed a good result at as I push to reach those with races in hand (6 races needed to count, I currently only have 4).
With a record set by Steve Vernon it was obvious that this would be a fast, not very technical course, and with Glyn, Jack Ross, Adam and Jonny on the start line, it looked like there'd be some good competition to be had. After the lap around the cricket field these 4 pulled ahead (Adam eventually) up the first hill, and I was in a class of my own, but maintaining the gap Jonny had on me to 30m as we passed the eponymous Barrel Inn and did a loop on Sir William Hill (possibly not of bookmaker fame). On the climb to the top of the hill I started to close a bit on Jonny, but couldn't keep the pace going and he pulled further ahead on the road past Mompesson's Well. The only bit of technical descending was through the dingy Hollow Brook woods at the end of the course, but I was too far behind to make any ground up and cruised the short final climb and run-in to finish 5th in 44:34. Glyn got his own back from previous races to beat Jack, although I don't know their times (around 42 I'd guess).
The Track on Sir William Hill. This could be considered 'very rough' for most of the race route! (from Flickr)
It was nice to see Tom Jackson (Glossopdale) back on the local scene after some time galevanting down under, although suggesting he looks up ShUOC for training when he moves to Hallam next month could result in him soon being able to kick my arse once again.
This result, whilst pleasing, was much the same as other results this summer. The way Adam and Jonny pulled away suggests I need to do a bit of work on races which are over 6km in length, and I need to develop another gear for fast running sections. I'm looking forward to putting in some quality winter training (I'm going to do some XC and track in the North East, and I might actually plan a rough training schedule! When did I get so dull and conventional? :S) and seeing what happens next year. But there's still plenty of races to be had this year, along with a new area to explore from later this week!
At the top of the first climb - photo courtesy of Lynne at globaltherapies

Some food for thought - just read this great article by Andrew Steele, very promising British 400m runner (edged under 45secs in 2008) and his battle with Epstein-Barr/Chronic Fatigue.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Sedbergh Hills Race

Whilst I'm racing fairly well in short races recently, I'm fully aware that I don't do enough long stuff - even medium races are quite rare: most of my races are over well within 50minutes (often 40!), and out of 19 fell races this year only 4 have taken over an hour (Kinder Trial, Edale Skyline, Kinder Downfall, Coniston). I said at the beginning of the year that I started wanting to go longer but it's not quite happened to the level I wanted. With this in mind, and it being a Pennine champs race I decided to head up to Sedbergh in the Howgills for the Hills race. Also a counter in the British and English championships (my first champs race), at 14 miles the distance wasn't really a problem, but the 6000ft was!

As started the ascent to Arant Haw (CP1) the sun came out and I was wishing I'd put some sun cream on - but thankfully the cloud cover soon returned, with clag touching the higher summits. I started slowly as I was fully aware of burn-out on the mainly runnable (cropped crass) but unrelenting course. By the summit I'd reeled in Steve and Muir, but couldn't shake Muir as I minced a bit on the descent and he went away on the steep climb to Castley Knotts (CP2). By now I was at the back of a group and didn't want to be dropped, as the next group were quite a way behind. I managed to stay in contact but it was much harder work than I would have liked. The paths to CP3 undulate more than you think and I was having problems getting into a rhythm. We then hit the main cross-country leg, 3km with 3 substantial ridges to cross to CP4. There's some route-choice but most of us did the same thing with only a few minor deviations in line. The contour-trods here (and throughout the rest of the course to a lesser extent) were a little muddy and so really slippery, I'm very surprised I didn't stack it, the amount of slips I had. Towards the end of the leg I took a slightly different route to those around me so as to not gain too much height, but got caught in a land-slip area before ending up too high above the control.
The slippy trods towards CP3 (From NFR Website). Easier than the ones to CP4, which are at an angle downhill.

Before the race I'd decided to start pushing from CP4 on the long, steady climb up to the Calf (CP5) after a pee-break I overtook a couple of guys straight away but couldn't make any ground on Muir's group up ahead. Two guys pulled away, but by the end of the climb I'd managed to get back to him - driven on by cheers of 'C'mon Jackie' for the first Lady who was just behind me. Off the Calf I knew it was basically all downhill and I managed to dig in as planned (although not to the extent as I'd like), catching people and running through them. Looking at my watch I knew that 2 of my loose targets before the race (the sub 150mins and beating the women's record at 2:28ish) weren't going to happen today, but if I kept catching people a top 70 was on the cards. Off Winder (the final summit and CP6) I knew I had to be careful in getting the right line off, but I drifted too far right. I didn't lose much time or any places but it sort of summed up my race - OK, but not quite there.
However, I managed to get into the top 70 (69th, whay!) in my first attempt at a Champs race - a placing I'm pleased with considering I felt OK, but not great.
The route with my GPS trace on it (Quickroute). There's a gradient-colour bar in the top RH corner, but basically the darker the green the faster I'm gong; the darker the red the slower I'm going (Dark green = 3.5min/km; Dark Red = 9+min/km).
The race was won by Morgan Donnelly in 2:02. I took 2:31:49 and was 4th Pennine with Adam (2:23), Dave (2:28) and Muir (2:31) ahead of me.
Next up - a few weeks rest before building up to the Relays (hopefully I'm selected), then on to winter training!