Monday, 10 December 2012

Birthday Cross Country

The last few weeks since the FToP have been quite busy as I start upping the milage and training volume to ready myself for a proposed training onslaught come January.

In the last weekend of November I headed back Peaks and Sheffield way, taking in some fiendish Sprint Orienteering around Sheffield City Centre and the Park Hill estate, courtesy of my Alma Matter ShUOC on the Saturday. This was followed by an excellent pint or 5 at the Dev Cat and a broken down train on the way home. The Famous Grouse Fell Race provided Sunday's entertainment, where after shaking my fugg off on the first climb I dropped like a stone on the final road section to pinch 3rd place from Pennine team-mate Steve Knowles.

The entrance of December was celebrated with an icy parkrun, some 'boro sprintO and a drink or 8 with colleagues in York. On the Sunday I decided to take in my first local Fell Race of the winter series (alas I was busy for the first 3!) at Eskdale Eureka. It took me 2km to wake up, and by this point the front 2 had got ahead. It was a cracking day for fell-racing, chill, bluebird and icy, and I was happy to cruise around for a clear third place, looking forward to taking Cameron on early next year!

The weekend just gone I celebrated turning 24 with the North Eastern XC Championships at a Somme-like Summerhill in Hartlepool, a proper XC course. After mocking XC a few years ago I now have to eat humble pie as, in a perverse way, I really enjoy it.
Exiting the Beck - got a mouthful of muddy water! Credit sportypics(facebook page)
After last year's 41st place, I was aiming for a top-35, so was chuffed with 26th place after a tactically safe run. My result would have been good enough to count for the top 3 teams which is a nice. As a team, BMHH managed a good 9th place despite missing a couple of good runners who would be around me in the results.
From the ridiculous to the sublime, as the evening involved cooking for my parents, visiting Teesside for the first time, and performing Handel's Messiah with Cleveland Philharmonic Choir. This is the first piece of music I've performed for a second time, and it was nice to sing an excellent, well known piece with the confidence of repetition!

Sunday was another brilliant clear day, and I spent it on the moors above Great Ayton, with a bit of Orienteering followed by a run out to Roseberry Topping before lunch with the Parents.
expand for better image
Back home at the end of next week (after the work Christmas do, naturally). Looking forward to getting some hilly miles in from my doorstep and, hopefully, some snow!

Lets hope for some scenes like these from 2010! Best wishes for Christmas!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Full Tour of Pendle

All I really know about Pendle is that it's a hill, has something to do with witches, and my phone thinks of Victoria Pendleton when I type 'Pendle' into it. To be honest, I sort of think about Victoria Pendleton as well, but enough of that.

I'd decided to do the Full Tour of Pendle a few weeks back, remembering a post about the race from DazH's blog last year. I left Teesside in the gloam and pissing rain and headed over the Pennines towards Blackburn way, where it got claggy. Thankfully this soon lifted so I could see a few other members of Pennine had made the trip. Lots of people holding purple shirts made me think that Borrowdale had been on a recruitment drive, until I realised that these were the race T-shirts, and very nice (and purple) they are too! Perfect for the discerning Fell Running Gogol Bordello Fan.

Apparently Pendle looks like this. I didn't get much chance to look at it despite running all over it.
I was expecting a tough race (well, it is an AL race after all), especially after a ravaging cold courtesy of a lairy time a couple of weekends back. I was just over this and would have been well rested were it not for the fact that I've just started building up my weekly training ahead of winter training proper starting, so my legs were grumbling a little having had to run every day after a summer spent seemingly permanently resting up for some grand weekend excursion.

Looking at the race map beforehand I told myself that, even with 3 climbs to go, once you get to #5 you're almost there. Alas, these hills made me really suffer. I'd set off at a pace I was sure I could maintain for 2.45ish, but this was based on my summer fitness. There was a big group of us at #1 and, feeling good, I took the opportunity to stretch it out on the fast running to #2. I was still feeling OK coming out of #4 but immediately coming out of #5 I had to stop and remove something painful from my shoe (there as I last used them for orienteering in a bracken and bramble-infested Roseberry Topping on Wednesday). I lost little time but lost some impetus, and on the climb to #6 quite a few people came past me. I was still within touching distance of a good group as we started the final ascent from #9, but as I neared the top, swaying like a drunk, I had to really focus on the ground to keep going and I didn't see them disappear, but that they did.

I could have done with a broomstick for the last 2.5 climbs and 75 minutes!

Quads screaming I just about managed to get my legs turning over for the descent from Big End and along the road, albeit at a pace much less than normal, but I still managed to take a place to finish in 18th (15th after 3 DQs), a smidge outside 2hr45. a prize for 10th senior and 3rd team (with Dave, John and Dave), along with a free T-shirt, made it a very worthwhile day out to add to the standard enjoyable Fell Running experience. My GPS trace can, as ever, be found on the excellent Attckpoint (and now also on strava!). Carl Bell won in 2:27, just ahead of P&B's English Orienteering International Ian Nixon. This puts me at 112% of the winner's time, which is much better than I'd expected!

Needless to say my legs were wrecked, but I'd said I'd turn out at the XC today at Croft race circuit near Darlington. Thankfully it was a flat circuit (not often I say that!) and, although I was obviously down on where I would normally be, for a first run of the season I was fairly pleased to be under 4min/km (32min for 8.3km) on generally soft going. My legs now feel better than they did before I started. They're still pretty wrecked though!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Winter Training

After coming 2nd on the B class with Andy Blackett at the OMM (could have performed better, but the winners were too good for us) I've taken a fortnight off to let the body re-equilibrate.

Fortunately the middle weekend of this mini-break (from training only unfortunately) included a visit to Sheffield for the annual SPOOK (Shef Uni O club olds) weekend. Beer was drunk at varying speeds, banana costumes were worn (OK, so only one), crazy dancing ensued, and we even managed to fit in a bit of Orienteering:

Despite a heavy night this was quite a standard performance for me - obviously buzzing with sugar still from all the Jaeger-bombs! I somehow got better as the course went on!
and Football. In Which I scored. There's no picture or celluloid evidence, but I DID score. You may not understand how big this is, but it's up there with an airborne pig. Even odder is that I should have had a hatrick. On the quagmire of Eccleshall woods football pitches (on which , unbeknownst to me, I was wearing 1 moulded stud and 1 astroturf boot) there was the usual display of air-shots, crunching tackles and players out of position, in which SPOOK prevailed 6 (or was it 7?)-1 against the much younger and fitter ShUOC students.

Into winter training now. The only thing I'm 'targeting' is the English National XC, but there's plenty of Fell and Forest action to be had before then!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The OMM 2012: A Preview

It's that time of year. As the nights draw in and we get used to waking and getting home in the dark, a sub-set of the population are busy removing the last vestige of label from their warm(ish) clothing, weighing, trimming then re-weighing their crepe bandage, making flapjack so sugary it would give a diabetic nightmares and explaining to their colleagues why they might be a bit useless on Monday. It's the last weekend of October, the clocks go back, and 3000-or so people will descend on the east-Cumbrian town of Sedbergh,  nestled amongst the Howgill hills, for the 44th Original Mountain Marathon, or OMM.

 Whilst not as tall or rough as their Lakeland cousins, the Howgill hills make up for their short (relatively, of course!) stature in steepness. Route-choice will play a big part in the 5 linear (OK, so C isn't entirely Linear) and 3 score classes. Generally runnable, there are areas of rougher grass, bog and slippery traverse - shoe choice could also be a factor in how people perform after the weather we've had recently!

Anyway, onto a preview of the racing, focussing on the Elite category. Of course, partner changes and withdrawals through injuries or illness make picking favourites somewhat of an inexact science, but here goes my slightly irreverent two-penneth and conjecture!

Elite: Bumper Competition on Open and Mixed.

2011's top three pairings return, hoping for less of the controversy that saw Birkenshaw and Lennox (not in attendance this year) deducted 30 mins for an incorrect control on day 1. There's fierce competition for both the Overall and Mixed titles.

The Reigning Champions.
Duncan Archer and Shane Ohly were not complete surprise winners in Perthshire last year, but other pairings were more fancied. They came through a tense finish on day 2 to win by just 13 seconds after 11 hours of racing! This year Duncan retained his elite LAMM title (with Jim Mann) by over an hour, whilst Shane oversaw the return of the Legendary Dragon's Back Race.
2011 winners Duncan (left) and Shane. picture from MudSweatTears

The Runners Up.
Chris Near and Tim Higginbotham ran the fastest time of Day 1 in 2011 from an earlyish start (therefore without the aid of pack running those starting later had), and were chasing Archer and Ohly right into the finish on day 2. This year they again have a fairly early start on Day 1, and should set the early pace.

The Young Upstarts.
Last year's third place team, GB Orienteers Doug Tullie and John Rocke combine the superpowers of British Orienteering - Sheffield and Edinburgh Universities. Both 24, this pairing have many years left of elite MMing, but last year's 3rd place at the first attempt on Elite shows the hunger they have. Of course, performance could depend on whether John's been on night-shift this week (he recently started as a Junior Doctor in Aberdeen)! Earlier in the year John set the world record for fastest half-marathon in a camel (1:40:14 at Sheffield on a hot May day).
John's in the back! (Photo Martin Ward)

The Swedes.
Their names may not ring any bells, but Bjorn Rydvall (4th Elite OMM 2007) and Aaron Price (former Kiwi Orienteering international), represent Team Silva and, according to their resumes, are well-regarded adventure race competitors and organisers. It'll be interesting to see how they cope in the Howgills, although with living in Sweden, this weekend's predicted chilly conditions should make them feel right at home!

The Vets.
The Dark Peak pairing of Steve Pyke and Jon Morgan may have many years on their competitors, but also have stamina and experience. Spyke is well known for his long days out in the hills, setting a new record for a solo/unsupported Tranter Round in early June. How he got on with his planned 24-hour Munro Record in late June (mentioned in this summer's FellRunner) I don't know. Jon is well known in long races and was runner-up on Elite in the Elan Valley tussock-fest 2009 OMM. (However, I did cruise past him in the clag at Great Lakes Race this year, just before slight-side!)

Other Pairings.
CompassSport editor and former GB Orienteer Nick Barrable pairs up with Darrell High.North Wales's Iain Ridgeway pairs up with Sam Smith, whilst (who I pressume to be) Leeds City's Adam Osbourne pairs up with Andy Thompson - although comments out of the FRA relays were about how good Osbourne was uphill, but that he can't descend for toffee.

The Mixed Competition.

Last year's mixed champion Jasmin Paris returns, although rumour has it that her 2011 partner Konrad Rawlick is replaced with Jon Ashcroft. Having been imperious in long fell races this year, winning Wasdale, Borrowdale, 3 Shires and Pentland Skyline (to name but a few), Jasmin seems to be in excellent knick, and I for one can testify to her strngth over the long distances, having watched her head off into the distance at the 3-hour mark at both Borrowdale and Wasdale.

Jasmin's Carnethy team-mates Andrew Fallas (2nd at Pentland Skyline) and Helen Bonsor (2nd at Borrowdale) will probably provide the main competition, having won the A-class at the LAMM outright - again I have personal experience of Helen's strength as she went straight through me heading up Dale Head at Borrowdale!

Steep-sided valleys await (picture from visit cumbria)

Mixed runners-up in 2011, Jo Inge Fjellstad and Wendy Fjellsted again make their annual trip from Norway and are competition not to be taken lightly.

The main curve-ball in the Mixed category is Dragon's Back completer and reigning LAMM elite winner Jim Mann teaming up, I'm lead to believe by those in the know (...), with Helen Skelton of Blue Peter/Kayaking the amazon/Cycling Antartica fame. However, her Wiki age and the age on the entry list don't match up, so it could be this Helen Skelton, who seems to have some long distance pedigree. What I do know is that a Helen Skelton is currently leading the UK ultrarunning championships outright, winning 4 of the 6 races entered (note - out of those entered in the ultrarunning series, not outright). On thing to say - there will be a lot of jealous men wishing they were in Jim's position on Saturday night!

With these 4 pairings and the experienced Bingley Pairing of Aly Raw and Ali Welsh, it really is a shame only the first mixed team get a prize!

Top of The Calf, north of Sedbergh, the highest point in the Howgills (picture from mypennines)

The Other Classes.

Naturally there's fewer obvious names in the classes A-D so it's harder to pick out challengers, but here's a few people to look out for on the lesser classes (I'm not going near the score class, as, having run LS in 2010, I know that anything can happen!)


The big names here start a minute apart, with GB Orienteer Rich Robinson and his partner Andy 'SLUDO' Llewellyn (LAMM B winner 2011) being chased down by Tom 'Kanye' Beasant (OMM B winner 2011) and Ali 'Spongey' McLeod (GB Orienteer). However, Rich and Andy have been suffering with Illness and Injury respectively, and I've yet to recieve confirmation that they are in fact toeing the startline.
2010 Dartmoor A - winner Ed Catmur teams up with David Hellard, but I'm reliably informed (if I've remembered the correct tip-off!) that the latter is a road runner who may not know what he's getting in to!
The evergreen Fell Legend Wendy Dodds also competes on A with former GB mountain runner Sarah Rowell.
Cautley Spout,England's Highest above-ground waterfall (according to Wikipedia), near The Calf. 


This is where I get to wrote my own name. I'm paired up with Andy Blackett and we're looking for a good competitive 2 days on the hills. Big competition will come from GB junior Orienteers Jonny Crickmore (C-class winner 2010, Short Score winner 2009 - both with Nick Barrable and both very comfortably) and Peter Bray. My 2010 LS partner and Plas-y-Brennin instructor Tom Hecht is paired with Tom Livingstone, whilst Britain's premier V55 orienteer, John 'Jethro' Tullie will be keeping us honest - starting 1 min after myself and Andy.
Unfortunately GB Junior Orienteer Tom Fellbaum has had to pull out due to a viral infection. Whether his partner Lewis Taylor (1st Bowfell 2012 in a 'sprint' with yours truly) has found a replacement I don't know.


ShUOC Captain Robert 'Treb' Gardner pairs up with his brother Willy in what could be the most entertaining/most likely to result in a murder partnership of the weekend. Jonny 'The Ent' Malley (1st Bowfell, SLMM 2012) is paired with orienteer Chris Owens, whilst former A or B-class winner (I think) Harold 'Warwick' Wyber is teamed up with Josh Jenner.

Anyway, that's enough for now - I need to go and pack my bag! Good luck to all competing and sorry if I've missed any obvious contenders, been rushing this a bit!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Not been here for a while/Mountain Trial

Try and keep this a bit more updated now!

First off, a brief summary of goings on since April(?)... what I can remember anyway:

10km: 36:20 (Maske Victorian 10km), then 35:46 At Middlesbrough Tees Pride 10km. Wanted sub-35 but the summer wasn't really conducive, as...

Wasdale: 4:35ish. Borrowdale 3:36ish (great for the first 2 hours though!). Great Lakes 33rd in a champs race, feeling really good in the biblical weather conditions.

2nd on Bowfell class at the Saunders with Wil Spain. We had a nice trot around, drank Whiskey at overnight and only really raced an hour each day. a 26mins deficient on day 1 turned into a sprint finish at the end of the 2nd day between us and Jonny and Lewis, but them being poor student we let them win the beer ;).

Helped out on my first BG. Helping an emotional candidate round the last leg (had done leg 2 earlier) should prepare me for childbirth if nothing else!

Went Orienteering in Tallinn for a week, which was pretty epic.

Working my knackers off at work.

Anyway, main reason I'm back is I'm back Orienteering so need somewhere to post my maps!

Lake District Mountain Trial.

 Sunday's LDMT involved a tour around the Newlands Valley from Stair, taking in non of the summits - but many of the foothills - of Catbells, High Spy, Dale Head, Hindscarth, Robinson, Snockrigg, Sail, Crag Hill, Outerside and Causey Pike. It was cracking weather and I was glad to start fairly early so I didn't get too much sun. I started steady but was running well and making fairly good route choices, a slightly inopportune one to #6 and a daft one to #7. I was really pleased to finish 8th, albeit 40mins behind a flying Rhesus.
This was my first Moutain Trial and I'll be back! All the long races over the summer are obviously starting to pay off! However, I was glad that the course had been planned 'short' - I was finished in under 4 hours.

and a few more maps from the White Rose weekend I need to put somewhere...

Monday, 21 May 2012

Sexy Lakes Orienteering

So whilst people were flogging around the OCT, I was also in the Lakes - albeit based a bit further south around High Dam tarn near Finsthwaite on the south-western end of Windermere, for MDOC'S fantastic Twin Peaks weekend based on the excellent High Dam area (I did get a late call-up to Derbyshire's Intercounties team, but am not quite feeling up to a balls-out race after illness - now a target for next year!).

Apparently this is High Dam - I only caught a glimpse of it though (the view towards Coniston Old Man area was cracking - not that I got much of a view of that either whilst slogging around!)
I've only just started feeling confident on Lake District O areas as they're so much more technical than anything else you get in England, pushing the Scottish areas for toughness. I've found it's taken a while to pick up the mapping style used here (not all rocks are mapped as there's too many of them) and the wealth of contour detail here seems much vaguer than elsewhere!

I think the look of grim determination is mainly due to the fact I binned 90secs on the penultimate control of Sunday's Middle. Courtesy Wendy Carlyle.
Anyway, we were treated to a Classic Distance (The Northern Champs no less!) race on the Saturday and a middle-distance race on the Sunday. The quality of the area meant that both races provided excellent courses, challenging both physically and mentally whilst being immensely enjoyable and rewarding. As we were running on a top-quality area there were also lots of people from around the country to catch up with (even if I did catch up with them at BOC 2 weeks previously!)

Saturday's Northern Champs (11.3km/485m). Unfortunatly mu GPS played up, so I only have a trace from 19 onwards. Generally clean through to 10 before losing a lot of time on #11, I was then very hesitant from there to the finish.
As for my performances - at times I'm feeling like a proper Orienteer, running well through terrain, minimal hesitations and the kite popping out just where I expect it. Every now and then I don't have a plan and muck up a bit, although I am getting better at not doing this it still creeps in every so often, and towards the end of the course I get a bit tired and make some silly mistakes. 

Sunday's middle (6.1km/160m)

...and with my route
The UK O-season is coming to a bit of a close now, the Scottish Champs (and World Champs selection races) in a fortnight being the last major races. This coming weekend I'm running my first proper road race at the Sheffield Half Marathon - please donate to Leukaemia & Lymphoma research in memory of my friend Ed here, it would be much appreciated. After that it's back onto the fells - I'm now starting to feel more Like I was at the back end of last year and have some real impetus to get some good training in before the summer's objectives - Champs races, SLMM, Wasdale and looking forward to the OMM, IHMR, UKA Relays and hopefully Three Shires and Langdale to fit in a Lakeland Classics set, as well as as many other races as I can squeeze in!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Back in the Saddle after BOC

So last week I managed to get pretty properly ill. It doesn't happen often, so to have it happen whilst in a tent in the Lakes isn't the best of timings.
On the Saturday I'd raced the British Long Distance Orienteering Championships on the open Dalegarth Moor above Eskdale. Open moorland is the closest I have to a forte in orienteering, especially when it's gloriously sunny as it was last Saturday. I have been known to make big mistakes due to running too quickly and losing map-contact. This time, however, I slowed right down when I needed to, resulting in me losing minimal time (90secs over 112mins running) and finishing 16th in the Country. Granted this is only in the M21-35 age group, and a lot of quality runners were away playing in the Sedish night at the TioMila 10-man relay.
Still, I'll take that!

Anyway, that night wasn't overly comfortable, but I lined up on the start-line of the men's relay (Helsington Barrows, just west of Kendal) on the Sunday Morning looking forward to my first ever first-leg run. 
I wanted to stick with the quick boys for as long as possible, but by number 8 I'd been well dropped, and it was a real struggle to get the legs moving on a very quick area. I staggered up the hill to finish way down the pecking order despite having a pretty clean race. Next time shall be better.

Anyway, after a week or so taking it easy I'm getting back into shape. Just my guts need to catch up now - not great when you're a runner -but they're nearly there!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Map Hosting

Work's pretty crazy busy at the moment so week-to-week training volumes are quite erratic what with little time after work and time beforehand reserved for sleeping. The bulk of my hours are coming from weekend warrioring. Thankfully I can squeeze a fair whack of climb out of the edge of the Northern edge of the NYMs if I really want to (930m in 15.5km last Friday!). Last Sunday was a rather scratty orienteering area where I (and many others) went walk-about several times.
Anyway, I need somewhere to host my maps so I can link them into my training log for when (surely if?!) I look back on them. That's why that's there.

The next 2 weekends are filled with Orienteering (North Yorks this, then Lakes for the British Champs the one after). The NYM Evening Fell Races kick off next week and I'm looking forward to them, although maybe not so much racing after a full day at work. Next 'target' race is Mount Famine and a trip home. For once I'll be running this without having run the May Queen race the night previous, so am hoping to enjoy it for a bit longer (onto the Dragon's Back at least) than I normally do (half way up Elle Bank).

Scottish Relays (helped an injured competitor)

WOC Selection Middle, Inchmarnoc

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Trading Fell for Tarmac, and why this time I'm happy to.

At the start of this year, as I made mental notes of fell races I really wanted to do this year (mainly big chunky classics) there was one that stood out as not to be missed, one that I'd forgo anything to make - Jura. 2012 would be the year, free from deadlines, travel and financial constraints, I was hoping to make my first pilgrimage to this race I've heard a lot about.

So why, you may ask, is my name not on the Jura shortlist, instead turning up on the startlist for the Sheffield Half Marathon on the day after Jura?

Last year a friend of mine and housemate of one of my best Sheffield friends, Ed Mainwaring, died after an from Burkitt's syndrome. He was just short of his 22nd birthday. On the day Ed died his sister completed the Sheffield Half to raise money for the organisations which helped him. Inspired by this a group of Ed's friends will this year be running the Sheffield Half Marathon in memory of Ed, to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

As someone who runs regularly I find it difficult to ask people to sponsor me for something I do all the time, but in this instance I'd ask people to donate for the entire group, some of whom are not runners. The Just Giving page is here. Please donate.

I've set myself a target of sub-80mins. I feel a bit uncomfortable using this occasion to set a time, but I feel I want to push myself as hard as I can in memory of Ed.

Also, my fellow club-mates at ShUOC are also running the Sheffield half, in joint-aid of Leukaemia & Lymphoma research and Unicef. Several members are trying to break the world record for a 2-person pantomime costume in a half-marathon which currently stands at 129mins or so. Their Just Giving Page can be found here.

I feel a bit embarrassed to ask people to donate money to charity, as I'm sure many people do already, but a little help towards the targets of both groups would be fantastic.


Saturday, 21 April 2012

Coledale Horseshow

I was most disappointed that there was no Donkey Derby, dressage or any of this:
going on when I arrived in Braithwaite last Saturday.

Then I realised I'd misread the FRA Calendar and the 1st British Champs/2nd English Champs race of the year was actually the Coledale HorseSHOE.
The race was expertly organised by the Robinsons, the best Fell Race set-up I've seen after last year's FRA Relays (only just pipping Lad's Leap!). As much as I enjoy the low-fi nature of the majority of Fell and Orienteering events, it's great to show up to the big events like champs races for them to be a little bit special. And free stuff (like the natty Buff we were given) is always welcome - as I said to Wil (Spain, DPFR), the only thing better than Free Stuff is Free Beer.

Anyway, the race. My plan was to conserve energy up the Monster climb of Grisedale Pike, then put the hammer down for the remaining 5 miles or so back home on the running that suited me more. There was a good group of us together on the ascent and I hung on in there manfully. Off the top I lit the afterburners and was soon sending people out the back door. I passed people on the scrabble up Eel Crag, but not as many as I was hoping, and the final ramp to summit Crag Hill was quite tortuous - it would appear that a lack of regular training in hills may not have a massive impact on my ability to ascend, but does have an impact on your ability to recover quickly for the next ascent. However, there was no problem with running on the flat and downs, so after 20secs cruising to get out of Oxygen Debt I pinned my ears back and went for the final descent to Braithwaite.
not looking too good on the descent. At least I had my grippy shoes this time!
It was really useful to be running through the women's race at this point as I had people to catch (the next man ahead was a way away). Alas someone had put the normally-insignificant Sail and Barrow in the way. I normally motor through shallow ramps like these, but today, legs still suffering from the first ascent, I slowed to a stagger and lost ground, if not places. However once back on the negative gradient I let fly, and by now I'd caught up the group in front (who were seemingly too far ahead as the path bellow sail splits for Causey Pike) to finish 75th in 81:16. Pleased with this in a pretty loaded field. More to come though and I'm looking forward to Summer Racing! I'd like to know what position I was in at the top of Grisedale - I reckon I may have gained 50 places from then on? Although I could just be puffing up my descending ability.

Big respect to fellow SPOOKer Sarah O'Neill who shocked all our cohort at the end as we asked her where she'd finished - 2nd isn't much of a surprise based on MM results and the way she left me up the back of Grey Friars in 2010.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

JK2012 - Scotland

Gone are the days of Easter meaning, for me at least, 4 days in church serving the Altar. Nowadays over the long bank holiday I worship the Orienteering Gods at The Jan Kjellstrom - aka the JK, British Orienteering's most prestigious event outside of the British Championships in the 4 separate foot-O disciplines of Sprint, Middle, Long and Relay. The JK contains all 4 of these, with the middle and classic times cmbined in an overall competition. There's little recovery time between the 4 hard races and at time crucifixion seems the easy way out.

This year we were treated to typical tough Scottish terrain and almost-typical Scottish weather in northern Perthshire. Thankfully the typical Scottish Midgies weren't on hand.

Anyway, the reason for this post - somewhere to host my quickrouted maps:

Friday's Sprint Race - Livingstone.
 An enjoyable race around a fairly trick albeit NED-ish area. an OK result in 42ndish (50th last year) but there were some mistakes in there. I did 17:40, the course was taken out by Murray Strain in 14:37. Blimey.

Saturday's Middle Distance Race - Dunalastair.
I like the idea of middle distance courses but you don't get many of them about, and when I run them I'm generally crap. As this was a World Ranking Event GPS watches were not allowed, so not even I know what happened when it took me 14,5mins to find control #1, an entire 200m away from the start kite. After that some bits were OK but a lot was bad. Mainly because I was mad.

Sunday's Classic - Craig a Barns (Dunkeld).
This was meaty. 2hr 16min for 11.6km (600m climb) tells the story - I was out for a long time and flagged from about 70 minutes in (as expected due to lack of rougher training of late), losing a lot of concentration and impetus, and thus time. However, similar courses in the past have seen me out for over 150mins, so I'm moving in the right direction. I also managed to head up a group of 4 guys who clocked times within 9 seconds of each other - ridiculous over this amount of time. The Course was won by Douglas Tullie (OMM Elite 3rd place) just shy of 87mins. A class run.

Monday's Relays - Newtyle (Dunkeld).
My first relay run for my new Klub, CLOK, I ran the last leg on the big boy's course. I was out on my own for all of it as we were well adrift by the time I went out, so I didn't get the head-to-head experience I enjoy, but was just glad of the run. My cleanest of the weekend as well, although my 42ish mins was still 10mins shy of Oli Johnson on my specific course (although he was fighting for the medals so had something to run for).

The O tech is improving but still more practise needed, and I should get it over the next few months. Next up - Coledale Horseshoe, then the British Orienteering Champs, also in the lakes.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Back in the Swing

First up, a bit of a plug for Team Accelerate's Shelf and his Big Alps Run. Take a look at his blog and twitter, and donate!

The cracking weather has coincided with a return to running on a regular basis. I've had a good 8 days solid running. OK, most of the runs were short and road-based, but I've started venturing out into the moors, what with having daylight after work. The good news is that my knee is being a lot more cooperative with the residual twinges becoming more and more dispirit. Many thanks to Tim's words of wisdom for getting me back on track - just need to remember to keep doing strength exercises on a regular basis now!
Needless to say I was disappointed to miss the Edale Skyline, but next year.

Instead I took in the British Sprint Orienteering Championships. Unfortunately I got a bit excited about being able to run fast again and made some shoddy shoddy nav errors.
JOSH BEEEECH! (Putting the 'Testes' in Test Runner)
I was no way expecting to pull a run worthy of A-final qualification out of the bag, but I was some way down on where I wanted to be - and the B final was, somehow, even worse! However, it was great to catch up with ShUOC and other orienteers you seldom see due to geographical constraints. My performances have given me some focus ahead of the rest of the season. It was also great to see SPOOKer Shminty pull a stormer out of the bag and win the men's race. I'm sure his performance has given lots of encouragement (and food for thought?) to a lot of the guys out there. Maps and routes are available here (17th on H1A) and here (a distant 50-something on FB1).

'Ector Anus, Shmint Doggy Dogg and OJ 
I took a lot of photos of the finals. Some of them were even OK!

Looking forward to the JK in Scotland over the Easter Weekend. I'll be testing against the best (terrain and runners), needless to say I'll be getting my moneys worth and I'm really looking forward to it. Hope the weather stays nice (but not too nice).

Bit of O today on Hamsterley Common:
Good heathery fun under Bluebird skies, a few mistakes but getting better. Was still 10mins down on Duncan Archer (who'd supported Leg 3 on DFR's Andy Blackett's 23:30ish BG the previous day - well done Andy!). It was all very civilized, especially as I had Bach's Mass in B Minor going round my head after last night's performance with Cleveland Philharmonic Choir.
I didn't see any Hamsters though.

Monday, 19 March 2012


Saturday, as many will know, was Lad's Leap, first English champs counter of the year.

I wasn't happy with my run. Needless to say my pre-race fears were realised - I'm not hill or fell fit. However, I managed to finish in the top 100 and my descending was pretty epic - even in my old worn shoes (my 'good' shoes were left home. oops) - as I gained a lot of time on the first descent and gained 4/5 places I had no right to gain on the last descent due to being so far back on the group ahead at the top. I'd love a downhill-only race...

There were also some cracking runs from fellow Pennine runners. Everyone seems to have come on over the winter and it's looking to be a tough season of racing amongst the guys (well, behind Daz at least!) in the battle for club champs points - and Relay positions!

Apart from the lack of fitness and dodgy knee the 'main worry' is my descending style. I mean, just look at it:
 (from Bryan Mills)
It makes the Winskill Arm look Manly! Still works though!

Also, I'll never see a result like this again:
92 Nicholas Barber Pennine 00:54:09
93 Rob Jebb           Bingley  00:54:10
It's early season and I wasn't the worst sufferer.

Anyway I've finally realised that Edale + Dodgy knee is asking for trouble. Throwing in poor fell fitness made the decision to drop out even easier so I've given my entry to a friend. I'm actually not that fussed about missing it at the moment, which is surprising me. The plan now is to get the leg sorted and enjoy the JK in Scotland and Coledale (well, after Grizedale pike anyway!) in April. After that I'll try and get towards where I wanted to be last weekend!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Knee injury of late, so I had to miss Black Combe and some Lakes O the other weekend - oh well, I had a swanky new pad to move in to.
My knee wasn't completely fixed but I was getting antsy from the lack of running (I even considered joining a gym. For all of 15 minutes) and headed down to Great Malvern with the intention of running the 2 Orienteering events down there - I was seeing Uni friends and helping out, but the lure of 2 UKCup races was too much to resist.

Saturday - Great Malvern Urban Race after several hours marshalling. Tired, leggy but knee held up OK. Made a few daft mistakes and it felt like a struggle all the way round. Off the pace but I know I'm better than this.
Sunday - Midland Champs, Foxley and Garnstone. Brambly, some silly silly mistakes due partly to tiredness and partly to getting back into 1:15k maps. A lesson.
Click for bigger images. The results for both can be found here.

 Lads Leap next week. I'm going into it with no form and very low expectations. There's (at least) 4 other English Champs races I'm doing in which I hope I can show myself what I can do.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Heading towards a Crazy March

Just a few lines to show I'm still alive.

On Saturday I set a new 5km PB at Middlesbrough Albert Parkrun by 25 seconds - I've now joined the Sub-17 club, clocking 16:53. I put a bit of pressure on myself for this as a few clubmates and friends have got a little close of late. The pleasing thing about this run is that I was carrying a bit of a curry baby from the previous night, and I'm still sure that 9am is not my optimum time to run.

Next target is a hard one - sub-16!

I followed the parkrun up (almost) immediately with some SprintO training around Teesside Uni, going at a fair pace.

That evening my 'recovery run' was some night-O around a Golf Course near Northallerton. Being a Golf dectractor I thoroughly enjoyed crashing around the woods and fairways and got a bit carried away. Then I was caught a minute by Lewis Taylor, a good young(ish) orienteer and we hammered the last 10mins or so to the finish. We made a few little mistakes due to the speed but I like to think I helped Lewis win, 50seconds ahead of me and 35 ahead of Peter Bray.
Head-to-Head GC NightO - really good fun!

Sunday was a short, fast race from Commondale in the Moors. Not much climb but the ground was quite heavy. Needless to say my legs were a bit on the sluggish side and I couldn't keep with the lead grupetto, but it was a lovely day and I really enjoyed myself en-route to 6th place (after a sprint finish) - much better than last time just because of the weather!

March is going to be busy but a lot of fun. I'll be in the Lakes this weekend for the Black Comb Fell Race and Whitbarrow Scar O event. Black Combe is going to hurt due to my lack of hills - think I'll start racing once we crest the summit for the first time, and really go for the descent split!

I'll then move into my new house and spend no time in it over the following weekends!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Fell, Road and Forest

Last weekend I had one of my worst runs for a while. OK, I still managed a top-10 at the Danby Beacon, and was running at a good tempo pace, but something was missing. I was knackered from a hefty week at work and trying to shoe-horn (too much) training into the week. I was rubbish on anything other than flat or downhill (wasn't as good as normal on these anyway) and even managed to get lost at one point, missing the tapes on the way back. oops!
Marking eventual winner Cam at the start - but not for much longer... (Photo: Esk Valley)
What doesn't kill me can only make me stronger. I'm still not too far behind in the overall Winter Series standings,  but really need to win all the races I can (think I can make 3 more) to finish atop the table - and with Cam in the form he is that's a tough tough challenge!

I headed back to the Peaks on Tuesday night to get in some much needed rest and see Dad (now sporting a rather suspect moustache as it's too warm in Africa for a beard) before he headed back to the Congo. I managed to get some good miles and hills in and was starting to feel good again. I recce'd Lad's Leap (rather unsuccessfully) and the second half of the Edale Skyline (me and Hobbs both went balls-deep in peat on Brown Knoll) before heading back North East.

Yesterday was the Signal Road Relays - effectively the North East 6 Stage Road Relay Championships. Billingham had 2 Male and 1 Female teams made up of runners of varying abilities. I ran the anchor leg for the 1st team on the 2x1.8km course. It was a really nice day and a good setting for road relays, the course around a lake and park having 2 drags per lap.

Banter Start (a photo taken by me for once!)

I pushed quite hard but felt comfortable throughout, passing our local rivals Middlesbrough & Cleveland 200m from the finish, completing the course in 11:55, which is the best Vdot (61.0) I've produced ever - according to Attackpoint. I was 7th fastest person on the last leg - although GB international Ricky Stevenson ran 10:09...

Tarmac! (credit Helen Johnson, BMHH)
 Maybe it's time to have a crack at a sub-17 5km, though I still maintain 9am is too early.

Sunday was the qualifying round for the National Club Orienteering Competition - or the Compass Sport Cup as it's also know, my first proper race for my new(ish) club (or should that be Klub?) CLOK. We had reigning champions SYO, as well as AIRE from Leeds and EBOR from York to compete against, but with only the top 2 to qualify we missed out in 3rd place. Oh well, at least we managed to get one over EBOR, and I'll just have to find something else to do on the weekend of the Final - in September!

Anyway, as for my run, I'm improving with this O malarky, but there's still some prety hefty mistakes to be ironed out. I made 2 big mistakes - including one early on which lead to scrappiness over the rest of the first quarter of the course. I eventually got going again, losing bit here and there but not too much, only to make a big miss again from the end - I just saw a hill and set off up it, when I was nearly at the control - d'oh!
The 8km/310 course took me 72:43mins and saw me finish 10th - a quite pleasing run albeit a large 12mins down on James Logue (where have you heard that name before...), but closer than I'd normally be to the likes of Duncan Archer.
Spot the errors! (2 and 20 the biggest, 11 and 12 not quite as bad) - click for better image.
I should be able to get a useful amount of O in over the next few weeks ahead of the big races in the spring and early summer - there's still a lot of room for improvement. Now I just need some more regular climb in my training else I'll suffer come the early Fell season.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Review: The Ghost Runner

I'm no reviewer, but I'll give it a bit of a crack:
One of the books I got for Christmas was The Ghost Runner by Bill Jones. Strapped-lined 'The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop', it tells the story of John Tarrant, a phenomenal long-distance runner of the 50s, 60s and early 70s. It was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2011.

A brief prĂ©cis: John Tarrant spent most of his formative years in a Sidcup children's home during the Second World War, during which time his mother died and his Father relocated to Buxton. Two years after the Armistice, with his Father in a position to again provide a home for his sons, John and his brother Victor moved to Buxton. With not much going on John took up Boxing, competing in a few fight nights, in the course of which he was given £17 for expenses. Eventually it became obvious that John wouldn't make it in boxing, and he fell into running and loved it. However, there was one problem: During the 50's the Age of Amateurism was in full swing and strictly adhered to. With the £17 hanging over his head John was considered a professional and couldn't race in the amateur races he wanted to. So he gatecrashed them and took the UK scene by storm. The book follows his story through the 50s, 60s and 70s, his running, record attempts, attempts to race abroad, his personality and ethos, his family and his many collisions with the authorities.

The Ghost Runner, no number on his vest (from the Buxton Advertiser)
The book appears to be a labour of love for Jones, the subject matter being brought to his attention in 1984; the book only being released last year, with much time spent researching his subject matter - much material appears to have come from interviews with Tarrant's family and contemporaries, along with newspapers and magazines of the time and John's short self-written memoir.

In his introduction Jones doesn't hide that he's not overly interested in the physical competitiveness of running, more the characters which make up the sport. As such, this book covers John Tarrant's life, digging in to what made this running obsessive tick and how it affected and shaped his life. It is not a diary of races, training sessions and times, but a story of the sacrifices made by a runner and his family so the runner could partake in what he loved.

Warmly written, The Ghost Runner contains a great deal of analysis of the runner's condition through this extraordinary exponent of the sport, someone who's influence has transcended the years. Many runners, especially the young and enthusiastic, read books about how to train to achieve their maximum. This book nods towards this, but is more about the sacrifices that some people have had to take to enjoy what is now, mercifully, a much more lenient and welcoming sport. As such I feel it is a must for the library of all levels of runner, indeed anyone with a vague interest in sports or the indomitable characters of the post-war years.

In the time of pampered, preening, worshipped, idolised and over-indulged sports stars, The Ghost Runner opens a window on sport in the days of amateurism vs. professionalism, the ability for sport to bring different communities together before all major clubs and events had a charitable arm, whilst introducing some of the great names of UK Marathon and Ultra-Marathon running from the past.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A Snowy Double - O and XC.

I've been eating an inordinate amount of Broccoli of late. I don't know why, it's just there and cheap and someone's got to do it.
Mmm, Broccoli (courtesy the Internet)

Anyway, after the snow (just an inch here) roads were cleared (ish) overnight and today's activities were go! Today I'd venture into a forest with a map in anger for the first time since a rather hungover day in October. There was snow on the ground and an (almost) bluebird sky above - not that I saw it much under the canopy. I was running at my club CLOK's event at Hutton Mulgrave & Skelder, just west of Whitby.

The Brown Course was 7.3km/180m straight line. I ran 8.4km/186m (?!).
Map and Course

Map with my route
I took just under 60 minutes, winning the course by about 10mins. My main aim was to not make any big mistakes and practise running on bearings wherever possible. I managed the former, only 2 losses of about 1min I reckon along with some smaller hesitations. I did manage to drift of line a few times, I'm still not great at looking at my compass whilst running in terrain. However, I was pleased with my run as I was expecting to be a lot rustier than I actually was. More O over the next few months should see me right!

After the O I hooned it back to Stockton so Yasha could catch his bus. This left me with enough time to head out to the old Racecourse above Richmond for the latest NYSD XC Fixture. After the morning's exertions I was pretty tired but kept plugging away over the 9.5km/130m fast course (there was nowhere to hide, all very honest). Nothing spectacular but a good tempo run and I was 3rd counter for Billy Marsh House.
Epic Heel-strike. Courtesy Dave Aspin.
Needless to say I was pretty tired after all this effort, but I'm going to stay up as long as I can to watch the Superb Owl tonight. I feel well and am looking forward to some good training over the rest of February (work dependant).