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!