Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Successful Bank Holiday Weekend

I got back last night just after midnight after a long day out on the hill finishing as the last light of the day was disappearing. I had planned originally to camp over and have another day out today, but my bed was calling.

I had been asked if I was available to support a Joss Naylor Challenge being attempted by Ed Swift of HRMI on Saturday, starting at 4am from Pooley Bridge. It was therefore an early start as I left the house at 2am on Saturday morning, en route to meet Ian Charters and John Swift at Patterdale. It wasn't the best sign for conditions on the hill as I was slowed going over Kirkstone Pass in the car, by thick fog, I had to keep my eyes open for stray sheep !!

We were away about 7 mins late as Ed was just finishing getting his stuff together but we made pretty good time despite the conditions, that deteriorated as we progressed down the ridge towards High Street. Ed, as always, was in good spirits and the conversation was light hearted and the miles soon passed, we were up on time as we reached Julie at Kirkstone in the pouring rain. A quick cup of tea and a nice slice of flap jack stoked the fire and we were underway again on the ascent to Red Screes. I was only running as far as Fairfield, and plans were to drop down off St Sunday crag. I decided due to adverse weather that it would be better to get off the tops and down to Grizedale Tarn and run out to Patterdale down the valley. I was back in the car for 11am and drove home, I did have to stop for forty winks at Forton services !!!

Tuesday I met Duncan at Keswick leisure centre at 9am and we drove up to Honister Pass to pick up Rhiannon before driving back to Dunmail to start the run over leg 3 to Wasdale. The day was pretty varied weather wise and we saw sunshine, followed by zero visibility, hail, snow, rain and high winds, all adding up to make an entertaining day. I followed the route from Dunmail over Steell Fell, Calf Crag and on to Sergeant Man and it felt very familiar now, almost like it is programmed into my feet ! The going was soft in places under foot but otherwise not too bad as we crossed to High Raise and continued onto the Langdale Pikes, the group of walkers on top of Harrison Stickle were suprised to hear that my end point for the day was Honister Pass.

Duncan and Rhiannon tried out the route via Stake Pass to Rossett Pike whilst I dropped down and took the ramps up to the ridge, I was taking it fairly easy but still got there abot 10 mins quicker so I think it make sense to stick with the ramps. I picked up the route up Bowfell easily, although I took a dodgy line off Rossett Pike, and we were soon at the top and into some pretty grey skies. On the way over Esk Pike to Great End it started raining, then snowing briefly, and cloud came well down and made the visiblity pretty poor. As we were on the way off Great End on the way to Ill Crag the skys then cleared and it was sunny again, three seasons in about 15mins ! suppose that's the Lakes for you. The top of Scafell Pike was quite busy, as we passed and headed down to Mickeldore and Broad Stand, it felt very greasy and after a few looks at the move we decided to skip it and use the traverse route round to pick up the Foxes Tarn path instead. The cloud was down again and the rain started, as you can see there weren't any great views from the summit of Scafell.

We descended to Wasdale, where Summer had arrived and the valley was bathed in sushine ! From here D&R decided that they would take a more direct route to Honister via Sty Head and I would follow the BG route and meet Duncan when he came back in the car to pick me up, Rhiannon only has a 2 seater so we couldn't all get in this. It seemed strange on my own on this part of the route as I haven't spent that much time around these peaks, an by this time it was raining again and the cloud was well down making route finding interesting but okay. By the time I got to Pillar the skys had cleared, again, and it was a beautiful evening, the setting sun casting long shadows over Wasdale and lighting up Ennerdale like a beacon.

The wind was quite chilling now and I stopped for a moment at the summit shelter on Pillar to change my top and put my hat and gloves on. I decide that I would probably be better to drop down from Black Sail Pass rather than staying high on my own over Kirk Fell and Gable etc.

I followed the coast to coast route (as recommended by Julia Bradbury) to Honister and the last bits of daylight. I still felt to be going well which is a good sign, and left my totals so far this week at 50 miles and 18,127ft of ascent so not a bad start. I'm on nights this week at work but should get a few more miles in.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fellsman Recovery

My mileage has been pretty modest for the last couple of weeks, for three days after the Fellsman my ankle was quite swolen and painful so I laid off the runing for a few days. I haven't suffered since and I suspect that it was just the mileage and pounding that caused the swelling and its nothing to worry about.

Running has felt quite sluggish but I have been moving okay, on the bike I am averaging a good speed and it feels a lot easier than running. This week my legs feel back to normal but not quite as light on my feet as I have felt lately. I have a big weekend planned for the next few days which should give me some good mileage, it will proabably be the last of my big weeks as it is getting to 4 weeks before my BG attempt now and the taper must begin.

I am out tommorow pacing for Ed Swift on a JNC as far as Fairfield, Tuesday I am out with Duncan Richards in the lakes running the BG route and part of his 50@50, from Dunmail to Keswick. Then Wednesday I am probably going to get another long run on the route, perhaps finishing the last two legs, or maybe something completely different.

Report to come after the weekend.

Monday, May 11, 2009

3rd Fellsman complete and a PB!

Fellsman Hike - 61 Miles, 11,000ft Ascent

Very pleased with my result on the Fellsman, I finished in 15hrs 19mins which is 2hrs 24mins faster than my previous best and over 3hrs faster than last year.

It was an early start on Saturday, up at 3:00 for the drive to Threshfield. I arrived at 4:30, half an hour before registration opened, so I spent a bit of time sorting through kit and wandering around to waste a bit of time. I checked in and picked up my bus ticket for the 5:30 shuttle to Ingleton for the dreaded kit check ! The rules are quite precise with the compulsory kit, and it would be a real shame to get this far and be disqualified for not having 4 safety pins in your first aid kit, no danger of that though I had everything I required and was looking forward to my third Fellsman Hike.

I had bumped into an old Fellsman friend, Roger, at the school and we travelled on the bus together, he had grabbed a good spot on some comfy chairs when I came through from kit check so I joined him. We were soon joined my Ian and Pauline as we sorted through kit, discussed routes and applied essential vaseline to those delicate spots !! I also met a few guys from the forum, Stolly, Merrylegs and Britnick which was great to put faces to names, I also saw Iain Kelly and a few people who I know from previous Fellsmans including Jess Palmer and his wife. There was a great air of anticipation in the hall as 9 am drew ever closer and my bladder became ever weaker !

The 382 starters gathered on the field ready for the off as Chris Driver, the organiser, read out an email from Mark Hartell, my main competition was out this year so a chance of a win .............I wish! We were soon off running through the narrow streets of Ingleton and onto the path to Ingleborough, at this point I knew I was running too fast, I could see on my Garmin that the miles were going past too fast, I needed to take it a little easier but waited till the slope reared up before settling into a steady walk, soon I was off Ingleborough, through the Hill Inn checkpoint, flapjack in hand, and in about 10th position at the top of Whernside having averaged 12:30 a mile, I definitely needed to slow down. I passed a couple of familiar faces running back down Whernside and then to the Kingsdale checkpoint. The climbing was feeling pretty easy, even the steep climb up Gregareth passed with not much trouble, and I wondered if I could keep this pace up all the way round.

The wind was well up on to of Gregareth and it was like running into a wall getting to the checkpoint, I slowed down a little along the ridge to Great Coum to get some recovery in before the long descent to Dent via Flinter Gill, I resisted the sausage roll this year and headed off pretty quickly. After a slight detour for a wrong turn on the road (concentrating on eating too much!) I was caught up by a large group including Jim from Gateshead and Ian Kelly, we headed into some bad weather on Blea Moor and after the checkpoint retreated to the safety of the tent at Stonehouse, the rain was battering down and the wind was blowing hard so that it felt as if the rain was being blown straight through every opening in my coat. I was just eating some pasta and Jess came into the tent, I wasn't keen on going back out into the weather but he just said "you coming?" and I followed. We made good time to the top of Great Knoutberry and ram off pretty quick to get out of the wind and hail that had now started, I decided that at Redshaw I was going to put some long trousers on as my legs were cramping with the cold and it was feeling hard work. Jess set off whilst I was putting my Ronhills on and I said I would catch him up, as I headed out of the tent he was well ahead and I wasn't moving as fast as before, in fact I was starting to struggle, I couldn't eat anything as I couldn't swallow I was just chewing food then spitting it out on the floor, this was my lowest point on the whole event and it lasted till the checkpoint at Fleet Moss.

At Fleet Moss I was feeling pretty bad when I arrived, but after some warm rice pudding and some tea with an energy gel mixed in, I felt strong again and ready for the tough crossing of Fleet Moss and Middle Tongue. This part of the route is notorious and it is miles of man swallowing peat bog, I went up to my knees a couple of times but I was moving well and reeling in a group of 4 runners out in front. I thought I may get through Cray prior to grouping but I was 4 mins too late and I was teamed with Mike, Ali, Nigel & Paul, Buckden pike seemed like a breeze and the BG training was starting to show now as I felt stronger, we picked up the fast line I had reccied the other week and were soon down at Park Rash where we picked up two other runners for the ascent of Great Whernside. One of the guys who joined us at Park Rash was Ted Adamski running his 32nd Fellsman, he ran his first Fellsman at 27, the same as me so hopefully I'll still be going as well at his age. We were soon over the top of Great Whernside and down at Capplestone Gate, the route from here follows flashing beacons to Yarnbury, in the past this has seemed to go on forever but it just flew by and we were at Yarnbury and running down through Grassington before I knew it.

A shower and a bowl of chili later I was in my sleeping bag and well away chucking out the Zs I was tired but felt great, like I could have carried on and had plenty more climbing in my legs. I definitely think I went out too fast and could have paced myself better but I am very pleased with my time and it has given me great confidence for the BG.

Thanks to all the organisers and staff on the route they really do make the day enjoyable and create a great atmosphere, a great event and one I will be back for again next year with a new PB to beat !! Photos here including the one of me leading Sarah Rowell at the start !!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A quiet couple of weeks tapering

Well not done loads for the last week or two, a few runs and walks and a few bike rides to work to keep the engine ticking over in preparation for the Fellsman this Saturday. I've just been taking it easy really making sure I am well prepared for the challenge.
My target this year is to try and run under 15 hours, my previous fastest time on this event is 17hrs 43mins in 2007 but I feel like my preparation this year has been far more substantial than my previous years, so fingers crossed it should all go to plan. Just been packing my stuff tonight ready, all my food is sorted out, there are plenty of refreshment stops en route but I will need to supplement this with things to eat on the move, I have tried to get a good balance. My snacks during the day include nutrigrain chocolate oat bakes, frusli bars, marzipan, salted peanuts, brazil nuts, honey stinger energy gels, mini peparamis and the old favourite jelly babies. I have tried quite a few things in training to eat whilst I am running so this will be a good test of whether they will work on the BG. Plus this will be my first ultra using Nuuns so I will be interested to see what difference they make.
Will post a report on the event next week, fingers crossed for my target time, I'm looking forward to seeing a few familiar faces from the last couple of months on the starting line and a few others from the FRA forums and Blogs that I read.
Weather forecast isn't great for the weekend but fairly mild with showers so I shouldn't suffer with the heat like last year !!