Monday, 10 August 2009

Two long weekends - 1!

One rainy and one sunny! The Lakes 100 and 50 occupied the rainy weekend at the start of August and presented me with the challenge of 50 rough miles that I knew would take well in to the small hours to complete. Having had the luxury of a couple of days off work I rocked up at Coniston to have plenty of time to put up tent, register, chill out and gossip (when Julie and Nicky arrived) before watching the 100ers setting off. Also got to meet a few people I didn't know although who's names I had seen on results, blogs - Shirley Colquhoun and Nick Ham).

The field for the 100 was fairly large considering, although a bit smaller than it started out due to a number of people deciding to swap from 100 to the 50. They set up in to murky drizzle, which as the night wore on developed in to torrential rain all night and through to the next morning. I lay in my tent all night just thinking that it must be so horrible for the 100 guys.

At the 50 briefing the next morning the event organiser's confirmed how awful the night had been by the high number of people they had to pull from the event. Shame, but better luck next time and let's hope tropical storm ultra doesn't hit.

The buses arrived to take us all to the start of the 50 and something blue started to appear up in the sky followed by something bright and orange that I think we might have seen earlier in the year. Yes, the sun came out and it was actually properly warm which meant last minute clothing adjustments all round.

The 50 started with a trot round the Dalemain estate. This felt like a 4m trail race and some people went hell for leather. I had my usual lethargic start, which fingers crossed usually means I suddenly perk up in the last part of the race! Getting on the route proper was great and most people soon established themselves in to groups of people they would to and fro with and run with. Running through Pooley Bridge was bizarre, it was like people there (apart from someone supporting a runner) were making a conscious effort to pretend there were no people running through there.

The first checkpoint came at Howtown and with it some ace cake, which was far to good to just be used as fuel to stuff my face with as fast as possible. However, would be rude to say no so I had some! The next bit of the route had some of the trickiest navigation and was a part I had not been able to reccy. Fortunately there were a lot of people round and at the crux points there was either some technically adept person with a GPS or someone who had reccied, to save the rest of us having to navigate! This descent to Haweswater involved locks of bracken and rough ground and a little bit of cursing from me. Lost lots of ground here, but reminded myself that there really was a long way to go and chill out.

The route along Haweswates was a nice undulating track, bit rough in places, but eventually Mardale Head came in to view. Was lucky enough for the coke (ps was well impressed with Morrison's coke - it does taste quite like the real thing and in a taste test when you are ready for a sugar hit I would not have known the difference) to still be available when I got to Mardale and refilled my water using the stream rather than faff with the water container. Took on a gel and a few other treats to fuel me for the big climb out of Mardale Head. Purple poles set me in a nice rythm and just picked my way up to the top. The view from the top of Gatesgarth pass was awesome and shame I had my " I can't be faffed to get my camera out" head on!

Dropped down Longsleddale and bits of the reccy back in March was coming to me. Remembered the big stile that Mark had to lift the dog over (really big stile - bigger than me - and medium sized dog with one of those big doggy harneses on with us when we did the reccy). Kentmere checkpoint was fab and for us 50 ers probably the first chance of a cuppa and some savoury offerings. That said, I took sugar in my tea and wolfed jelly beans (my new sweet of choice which tescos don't seem to stock).

Heading out of Kentmere on to the Garburn Pass I had that horrible feeling when you can't get going after a refuel break. Really just had to put my head down and keep drinking and nibbling lucozade glucose sweets (my dentist is going to tell me off big time). Did the trick though as started to come round on the descent off Garburn and by the time I hit the forest before Ambleside I really felt like I had a bit of energy and could feel the familiar second half surge I have if I run okay.

Caught up with a lovely lady called Mhairi just in Ambleside. She and I had been running close early on until my mincy descent to Haweswater. We were now fairly well matched. We ran in to Lakes runner together and agreed that we should try and stick together which was great, plus I actually knew this part of the race so could even be of use! Lakes runner checkpoint was brilliant and I loved it, plus there were some people watching an cheering so felt like an event. Was great to see some familiar faces there like and the boys deserve a massive thanks for looking after each and every runner so well.

Heading off out of Ambleside I started to feel like this was going to be doable now and I was not going to have some meltdown. Tried not to get carried away and was nice to have some company. Mhairi had only a few weeks earlier done a sole unsupported BG round. What an acheivement!! We stuck together until about Elterwater when she had a bit of a bad patch and waved me on. Felt bad leaving her, although I had a feeling she would catch me up on rough ground in the dark. Also I thought if someone can do that solo BG they're well capable of looking after themselves and maybe they want to feel bad and not have someone chatting like an air head.

Chapel Stile checkpoint was very chilled out and a chance to faff before headin out with head-torch now on. Set off on this bit alone although in the knowledge that there was a group not too far behind. Had a lovely bit on my own down the Langdales before catching some 100ers before the climb to Blease Tarn. This felt like the spookiest bit and was a tricky bit of navigation to make sure you aimed at right section across the boggy ground. At this point "a bloke" caught me up and I quite rudely can't remember his name or open the results at the moment. However, we were well matched and so ran on together through to Coniston. Running down in to Tiberthwaite was fab as I knew we had one bit of navigation to negotiate then we were down and done. The next section basically involved staying on the left hanside of the beck and following track away from it, keeping faith with your line when the track goes faint on a boggy bit and then following the track all the way to a solitary tree and a right turn! Crack that and basically you follow your nose. We did, but then had the horrible wet, rocky and brackeny decsent to Coniston YHA. Off that though and on to wide track, Coniston and finish! Hurrah, now where can I get a brew? As it happened nowhere so had to make do with a shower and a recovery shake (and nearly passing our after shower) before trying to sleep.

Morning brought catch-up with Nicky and Julie G who had both done amazing and were 2nd women - 11 and half hours compared to my 13.15. Still I achieved goal of finishing and was probably in earlier than I expected! Think next year I'll have a go at the 100!

ps - Mhairi finished not far behind me.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Post Wasdale blues

Well after the high of completing Wasdale work soon brought me back down to earth with a bump. Couple of weeks of nose to the grindstone being a powerpoint monkey! Still had the welcome diversion of weekend in Wales for Snowdon fell race and then weekend in the dales (which ended with me doing James Herriot Trail race instead of being tired from supporting a BG).

Snowdon first up. Still peeling from Wasdale, turned up to Llanberis with some trepidation as every year I have done that race it has been bizarrely hot and there have been heat casualties (last year being the worst one I remember). The weather was much kinder to us this year, however unfortunately someone lost their life on the mountain through I think a hear condition. Very sad to think someone was loosing their battle for life while I was enjoying the descent without a really a care in the world. There were also some nasty tumbles, but fortunately the worst affected of those seem in good spirits (welsh harrier!) despite broken bones. The race was it's usual enjoyable event and managed to be 2 minutes faster than last year which I can only attribute to cooler conditions. Big thanks to all the organisers on what must have been a trying day and sympathies to the family of the runner who passed on.
Next day headed up north ridge of Tryffan. Had done this years ago, but think at section after the cantilever we ducked left and missed the main scrambling, because did not remember any of this! There were a couple of (for me) pretty scary moves and was thinking if that's grade 1 then struding edge is not even a scramble as they are just not comparable! Fortunately there were quite a few girls out who made it look easy so had someone to follow and Mark had the bonus of people being around to prevent me throwing a wobbly at him!
Hey ho! Anyway headed back home to spend the week filling in the time before could head out of York and into the hills. The weekend coming up was to turn out to be one of those ones where there were lots of races and things going on and could do with 48 hours in a day! Rod a speedy BG contended was looking for support and as there was a chance I'd be in the lakes said I may be able to help, although failry unlikely to keep up for a whole leg. The original reason I was to be in the lakes was for the old crown round, however a manic week at work had me binning my planned couple of days hols to meet friends in the dales so instead I stayed there on Fri night so I could catch up with them, intending to head to the lakes for sat urday evening to BG support and then head back to the dales as if I'd never been gone and ready to do James Herriot Trail race!
Most of the above went to plan except had trouble getting hold of Rod and knew he was lacking support on leg 3 and not the 5 I thought. On leg 3 I would not have kept up on the Scaffells as am such a girly descender, btu could have helped for a bit. In the event was struggling to be able to get over there and to sort car logistics and since found out that unfortunately Rod had to call it a day at 3. Hopefully he'll have another go and maybe I can be of help at the end when he may be a bit tired and a bit slower!
So to the James Herriot Trail Race. Fab race, the fell runners that like gnarly ground need not apply though as it's just 14k of fast non technical running. Although I wasn't fast, well I was fast for me at the moment I guess. The last few k were a bit traumatic as I went for it coming off the last hill, only to remember it was a long old run in. Robyn, my mate, did really well and came 2nd lady!! This is the firl who says she doesn't do much training really - hmmm......
Next up Lakes 50, although think will be tempted to do YVAA vets race on Wednesday as it's on my doorstep!

Monday, 13 July 2009


OMG! Wasdale fell race was so hard. I totally bonked just before Great Gable and want up there even slower than I shuffled up Kili years ago (to be honest I felt as crap too - just 5000m difference in altitude). Anyway gels saved the day and I didn't get timed out, although was pretty much one of the backmarkers. But, what a fantastic day despite all that!! Forecast bad weather did not come until later in the evening to route finding wasn't an issue and got the best view of Scaffel Pike and Scaffel.

Started the day setting off from York at 5 am (someone came up from Norfolk and set of at 3am - eek) and getting in to Wasdale before 8.30. Nice spot to hang round though! Race came round and in no time at all the field was straggling out up the first climb to Whin Rigg. Dropped down to Josh Naylor's for him to see us through - what a total legend he is. After that felt pretty good up until the trod skirting round Kirk Fell when I realised I was tripping and staggering all over the place and in need of serious sugar lift. Out came the gel, but unfortunately it took until the descent of Gt Gable to kick in, although at least that meant I felt a bit happier going up the pike. On bonus at top of Gable was seeing Chris Cripps and him not timing me out and the sweet bag the guys had at that checkpoint - not sure what sweet I picked, but it was lovely and nice to have a change from chuffin' jelly babies.

During the race had been running near one of the girls from Calder Valley, Thirza, and she always sounded in such good spirits whereas I always just sounded like I was about to pass out. Anyway, the few people about me raised my spirits and we were soon on to the nice grassyish but quad jarring (well it is the way I mince down) descent of Lingmell and saw friends Phil and Annette at the last checkpoint which was very good as they were so encouraging.

So with bambi like legs made my way to the finish wondering why there was so much clapping. Then realised I had finished mid presentation for the winners! :-( Great day out, despite only getting home at 10.

A four hour adventure race at the Cliffhanger event in Sheffield the next day was perhaps not the ideal gentle warmdown run for Wasdale! Great fun though, although am gutted we were over time so lost 25 points due to our greediness on the bike section.


So having not posted for a few weeks I now need to remember what I've been up. Will keep it brief if I can! After supporting Julie G's BG had a fairly easy week, although had a run out in one of the Yorkshire Vets series races at Meanwood. Was kind of fun, although a 4 mile fast (for me) furious run around the woods. We seemed to do lots of laps and at some point blew up because I'd gone off too fast (some speedwork, threshold work for me then).

After that was off out to Chamonix to run the Marathon de Mont Blanc (as a bit of prep for the CCC) and do some walking/crampon stuff. First up though was Mark doing the Mt Blanc Cross which is the half marathon that is all up hill (at least in the full version the extra climb gives you an enjoyable descent). With ideal weather (overcast) it was great fun up at the finish watching them come in and Mark finished well up the order in just over 3 hours, so setting the standard! However, he did at least have the decency to be knackered at the end.

With a nice early start the day dawned for the marathon and it decided it was going to be hot and sunny, great for the suntan - erm no not with my celtic type skin! Felt rubbish setting off, but was probably good as it meant I just toddled along at a nice easy pace and didn't go mad up the big climb in the middle (Col de Possette). The descent off there was a tiny bit rocky, but nothing like your average Lakes fell race and once on the zig zags it was nice to be descending and not feeling like the usual rubbish descender I am. On the last part of the race I felt really good, with early sluggishness having worn off and charged along (well for me), although the cheeky uphill finish was a bit horrible. Anyway, race in bag and beer in hand it was a great day and finished off by the awesome buffet laid on by the race - inc beer and wine (that's just so french). James who is one of the owners of the chalet we stayed in had a great day out and finished within his estimated time, no mean achievement considering he became a new dad that week (to the v.cute Theadora)!

Back to earth with a bump after this as we had 3 days with a guide doing some alpine stuff. I struggled a bit with all this and didn't really get over to the guide the type of stuff I could do and ended up getting dragged up Petite Aguille Verte which just scared the pants out of me as there were some tricky bits, couldn't really see where guide had gone and it was as busy as Striding Edge on a bank hols! Mark did really well and rounded the 3 days of on the Cosmiques Arrete.

Finishing the week off James took Mark off rock climbing and he is now officially a crag rat!

Monday, 22 June 2009

BG weekend

After a decent week of training and even a visit to Leeds climbing wall (if only to be reminded of what a wuss I am when it comes to coping with heights/ropes/belaying all at the same time) was time to head to the Lakes to support Julie Gardner's BG. Weather forecast was not good again, although we were all hoping that there would be no repeat of the snow that halted the first attempt two weeks ago.

The weather held for leg one and Julie got in to Threlkeld up on schedule. However, heading up Clough Head with me as one of her support (Dave being the other), my weather hex kicked in and the clag, wind and rain came in. So my dreams of a lovely star filled night on the Helvellyns were once again not fulfilled and instead we had nil vis making for very tough navigating conditions on those horrible dodds and not helped by the fact that I couldn't keep with Julie's descending off the pike's to be a beacon on Fairfield! After this leg we came in down on schedule and all Julie's grit and determination was going to be called on to get back on track.

This she did on leg 3 and 4 greatly assisted by easing weather conditions on leg 4 and local knowledge of the navigators on these legs. These legs saw her in touch with the Dark Peak crew a lot, which hopefully greatly aided morale when the clag was down. Julie came in to Wasdale only 20 mins down, taking even more time off on leg 4 to turn the deficit in to some contingency!
So on to leg 5 from Honistor and we could see the tops and views out the rest of the round were fantastic. We made good progress round the Newlands Horseshoe, but dropped a little bit of time coming off Robinsons despite the cheeky lines we took. Coming in to the road section Julie was very glad to be taking off her fell shoes for something with a bit of cushioning. Worried about time we didn't relax much on the road section as things were not quite in the bag. Portinscale couldn't come soon enough as I knew once we were there it was pretty much a case of a run across a couple of fields and in to town. As usual the pencil museum was my welcome marker, followed by the sight of Moot Hall.
Was great to run Julie in and get this done as she was always capable of doing it, and all things being equal would be a sub 23 hour round person (apart from the fact she attracts bad weather/supporters with a bad weather hex). We saw a lot of familiar faces at Moot Hall and really enjoyed seeing Kath and Greg of Macc Harriers as I'd not seen them in ages.
All in all we had a great weekend, finishing Saturday night in Gosforth thanks to the kind hospitality of Annette!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Back on the mountain bike!

..but only at Castle Howard, not anywhere gnarly - I'm not a gnarly girl! Weather held up and tracks were in good condition so all in all we managed to scoot round pretty quickly despite my lack of mountain bike hours. Got to get some SPD pedals though after having been on my road bike with them.

Next day didn't go to plan with training, but good job too as big weekend coming up with BG support, Tebay Fell race and if possible a bit of reccying of Wasdale. Training not going to plan on sunday did mean I caught countryfile or something similar with a feature on Joss Naylor.

Off now to try and get addicted to ironing!