Monday, 12 March 2018

Haworth Hobble

The first race in the Runfurther series, as usual and the first important race of the year for me. It might be the only 'short' I can fit in so finishing was a must!
I have done some running since my NT recee but not as much or as many long runs as I would have liked in the 3 preceeding weeks. I am not quite sure why just think it was a mixture of weather, climbing and planning other events we are organising.

A 27km run over Totridge and the Bowland Fells was so wet and boggy that it lasted hours but didn't on one section involve much running.

It is one of my favourite areas though and always very quiet if not deserted.

That day I met a friend I had not seen for ages but very few others were out. I did have a 25km faster run over Longridge Fell and the Hodder area where I got icy cold feet in the first 500m and never really warmed up

 but where I explored a new to me path which is always nice and some steep steps for future Hardmoors training.

A run of about 20km from Tockholes with lots of climb up and down through the woods and over Darwen Moor followed this.

Spring was definitely on the way with catkins on trees, snowdrops, crocus swarms  and some very early daffs.

Then I managed to cram in a 40km from Brinscall which was lots of running until I ventured onto Anglezarke Moor and what I hoped was an interesting short cut. I should know by now to avoid the tussocks but the path I was on just seemed to peter out in front of me.

 There was a wonderful run in the snow and sunshine on Longridge Fell when I didn't dare to drive on the snow filled lanes and get to bigger hills. The tracks had a good coating but were very runnable and apart from one mountain biker I had it to myself.

and when everybody in the world seemed to be out running in deep snow and having a wonderful playtime. We rarely get much snow here.

 It was clearly daft to try to recee the North York Moors section of the NT when I had hoped to given the snow and the forecast so we came home and I had a long hard 4 hour run from Southport through Ainsdale to Crosby and back.

 It was ages since I had run here and I had forgotten how beautiful the pine forests and the sand dunes were.

 Yes west Lancs is flat but the dunes also mean there are lots and lots of  (small) hills and soft sand so it is not necessarily an easy run. I did see a red squirrel but was too late for any deer.

Looking back on this and reflecting that the time also included lots of climbing, some gym trips and two hard and fast Street O events perhaps my preparation wasn't so bad.
This would be my 10th Hobble and it where my ultras started. Driving over the moors from Colne involved some interesting lanes with banks of compressed snow restricting the road to single track but we arrived safely and put up the Runfurther banners in the dark before settling down to supper and our bed in the van. The forecast was not great but the rain reduced in volume at dawn and it was milder than in recent weeks. Having erected the flags, set up the display boards and handed over mint cake, prizes etc I wandered round chatting to friends. The event was a sell out again and I know about half the runners I think. As has become the norm I was anxious about whether my 'not a neuroma' would pan out and whether the shoes I have discovered would work out.
The route is ingrained in my mind now and the terrain is very mixed. Even in the first 8 miles or so of the 32 mile route there is a mixture of tarmac, track, gritstone path with rocks, peaty mud, flagstones and loose gravel trail. In total there is 1588m of climb according to my Epson gps watch and with all the recent snow and rain the ground was as waterlogged and muddy as I can ever remember.  Fortunately most of the snow had melted until we were on the last few miles over Top o'Stair and even here it was mostly easily avoided.
The start is a punishing climb up the main cobbled street in Haworth and then out on a short section of road before the track and path to Bronte bridge. I was being cautious here and other runners including Mark Dalton took some big falls. Withins ruin soon passed and then it was the flagstone path down towards Widdop.

At least the stones were not icy this year! I am becoming more and more of a wuss on downhill rock of any sort so I let people past me  but was also starting to suffer with my right glute/quad area. I had to let mark and others race ahead and plodded on towards the CP near the dam. The Bradshaws of SportSunday were out and so that made me smile and run (for the photo)

but I was starting to suffer and feel that I was useless. The climb up onto the moor seemed to drain me and even when it was slightly downhill my leg was objecting. Rachel and Tony ran by and I felt that I was rubbish. Not sure whether I needed to eat more or what? I tried to talk to myself and be more positive and by the time I reached Long Causeway I was in a slightly better place. I grabbed some food and walk/ jogged up the road eating.  A quick chat with Rachel as we passed the muddy farm and the next CP appeared very quickly. Things were improving so I grabbed a sausage and ran on. At long last I felt like I was getting somewhere and I was also starting to trust the grip on my shoes more. I started to overtake people and was complimented on having better pacing- if only they knew there had been no choice! and how low I had felt. The very muddy section before the golf course CP was no worse than usual and I ploughed on to the valley floor. I ate more food on the climb to Lumbutts and was rewarded with jaffa cakes and whisky at the YHA CP. There can't be many races where you can write that last sentence. Last year the race had been used as a trial for a trail team selection and seemed very busy.

Today I was alone on London road and could only see a couple of runners up ahead as I climbed to Stoodley Pike. Mick Plummer emerged from the mist and gave me a quick hug but I was now chasing a young male runner and shouting nav help for him so I could not stop long. We ran well together all the way down to Hebden and up to Heptonstall. Often I am timid on the rocky path down to the valley floor but today I was pleased to run it well. I had caught Alwyn and was determined he would not get away again. I refilled my water at Horse Bridge and grabbed more food. My young friend steamed off but even though I mostly power walked I kept up with Alwyn. The weather was improving and a merino wool thermal plus my cag was getting too much so I had to stop and take a payer off. It cost me seconds which would prove vital later but never-mind. Once over the crest I managed to run well to the final CP and then there is a steep road. Continuing my power-walk I left Alwyn and set my sights on catching others as we headed up Wessenden Moor. I was ashamed not to be running more, especially when I met a friend out supporting, but I was actually catching people. Avoiding the compacted snow took a few more precious seconds and I tried to make up for it as we descended the other side. That was fine all the way down the rocky track and gravel lane but when we reached the tarmac my legs just said' no more'. It was a slow slog up the road to Penistone Hill and I knew that trying to stay under 6 hours was going to be touch and go. I did run the whole of the descent and through the churchyard etc but arrived in 6:00:40. Ah well, another PW on top of last years although in the end only by about 6 minutes. Checking the results later it seemed many times were slower and the gap between me a slightly faster friends had not got any wider so that is some comfort. As I sat drinking tea and eating donuts I had to admit that my foot had behaved and so the shoes seem a success. Shame Inov8 don't make them anymore! I also had to admit that my legs did not feel as tired as they should and often do - ie. I should have been running harder. I did try but from Widdop to Long Causeway I just could not find the energy and on the last slog up to Penistone Hill muscle power deserted me again. I felt slightly awkward accepting my prizes as 1st WV50  (7th W) but I guess you can only beat those who turn up- which was fewer fast runners this year as Edale English Champs race was the next day. Some friends had tougher times and were even more despondant... I guess we are all getting old.
A bit of a rushed report but we have two O events to plan this week, plus a prize giving and we need to pack for skiing and climbing in Spain.
On a Runfurther note... the Mountain Fuel prizes were very well received in addition to the usual goodies from Ultimate Direction and Injinji. The Romneys mint cake also vanished very quickly.
Nick tried the MFuel and liked it so that is another convert. I had it in my water but as it was wet and cold I did not drink enough so a lesson learned there.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Northern Traverse just got real

I had been struggling to find the enthusiasm to do much about this race in May even though it was one my main targets for the year. Until my foot was resolved I had no idea whether I would be on the start line. Now I just have no idea whether I can get to the end! Time to start some recees.
I have plotted the whole route onto OS maps so that I can print out A4 tiles when I want to and I do have much of the route covered by 1:25000 paper maps too so I had spent some time deciding which bits were most important to recee assuming I could not just start at St Bees and do the lot. Most of the Lakes I should know or at least know where to be careful and also towards the start I am less likely to be totally alone- I hope. I should also know the Cleveland Way part but would be happiest if I have time to run this too.
First up was the eastern lakes through to Shap. I had hoped to do Kidsty Pike as an out and back from the end of Haweswater but our evening drive proved tricky and the road was icing over. We didn't want to be stuck there and I also guessed the steep edges coming off the Pike might be tricky too. It will all be thawed and gone in a week or so I expect so it didn't seem worth the risk.
Back to Kidsty Pike from Odendale

There seemed little point running along Haweswater- surely you can't get lost there. It left me with a shorter run from Burnbanks through to Shap.  I did first trek back to the lakes side path just to check it was as I remembered and was rewarded by spotting red squirrels at play. From here moving east the route took me onto new areas and it was good to explore. I started fairly early and much of the ground was semi frozen. Towards Shap I recognised bits from other races and as it got warmer the ground got more boggy.
Shap Abbey from the 3 Rings of Shap
I found it all without any errors but it was good to check some lines and be certain where gates and stiles were. It took less time than I had predicted so I found the van but no husband. Luckily the village toilets were warm and I popped into the New Balance shop. By the time Bob appeared and we had bought each other Valentines presents in the shop the weather had taken a severe turn for the worse.
Shap to Oddendale I know well and Oddendale across the tops to Orton I have done may times as training runs.
One of our favourite van stops and running areas
I had hoped to go up to Orton and run the next bit but there seemed little point doing so in gales and blizzard conditions. Still, a tiny bit of the NT was done and I had made a start. It also meant we were back in time to join Lostock AC for their Horwich Street O event and then after a day of chores to climb on Friday morning and set off again.
The plan was 3 days to do more of the NT. Friday afternoon was planned as Orton (the moor above the village) to Kirkby Stephen. It would be mostly low level and there should be plenty of time before dark even if I moved slowly. I made notes as I ran as this could be dark during the race and knowing to 'aim for the white house' etc helps when you are tired.

Writing little notes slowed me down but I no know this section is pretty runnable even in the dark and I sorted out a couple of dodgy nav bits.

Some was on deserted lanes and farm tracks but lots was on grassy paths that are a feature of this area where the bedrock is limestone. I had done the first couple of miles before but forgotten.

A highlight was the area around Smardale Bridge with views to the viaduct but also to the Howgills and high Pennines.

A fair bit was well signed with finger posts but by no means all of it. Dropping into KS was easy and I found the rugby club with no problems.

I was early after just 21km of running so I explored to Franks Bridge on the other side of this small market town.

I was pretty sure I would recognise it from The Yomp and I did. I was back at the van and changed before Bob reappeared (I had taken a key today). At Franks Bridge was a useful sign - 82 miles done and 108 of the Coast to Coast to go!
Saturday would see me climb into the hills. Sadly the forecast was not quite as good but neither was it awful. I couldn't actually see the hills in the morning and so was unsure how much snow or ice to expect. I made and early start and ditched my kahtoolas in the hope that I could avoid any icy paths on the way up to Nine Standards.

The first few miles were easy nav and up the lane that is a dead end onto the moor. I met a farmer who seemed quite surprised anybody else was up and about and even more surprised that I was on my own and heading to Reeth. The main track had a few icy patches but they were easily avoided. Higher up the path was obscured by snow drifts in a few places. Some of the snow supported my weight but in others I broke through to bog, icy streams of just heather.
Murky and cold on Nine Standards
The vis was pretty poor but the low cloud didn't really produce any rain, it just seemed to wet me from the air. It was chill but not really cold. The next section bothered me a little as I knew the tops were pretty featureless and snow was obscuring the paths. At one point I found the new flag-stone path but then as it twisted round a boggy section I lost it under snow drifts again. In the end I opted for running south ish on a compass bearing and picking up bits of paths the best I could. I knew not to go east into the bog and wilds of Whitsun Dale and knew not to go too far right or I would drop steeply to the road. It worked out fine and as I dropped slowly I found the pillar marked on the map and could see the road down to my left. Then there was a finger post and a shooting track. Even better the track led to a hut that was open. I stopped briefly for food before heading on to Ravenseat which seemed very isolated. I was now out of the murky weather and off the bog- although not off the mud.

 The path into the main valley of Swaledale was slow at first but then as I neared Keld it improved lots and my speed picked up.

 I also started meeting just a few people out walking. After Crackpot Hall ruin the path got smaller again and near Swinner Gill had quite a serious drop into the gorge. Hopefully I won't be there in the dark.

It was a  tough climb out of the gill at first but then I met the new flagstone steps. Nice grippy gritstone ones too!  There was some snow but it wasn't at all icy here. Towards the top of East Grain stream there was more snow but by now I was on a big track which dropped me into Gunnerside Gill. It wouild be easy to get carried away running down the track and I made careful note of the cairns and small path off to the left. Here I met deeper drifts of wet snow and footprints that on me were thigh deep. Fortunately it was a short section. Having crossed the river there seemed to be many paths going up onto the moor. I chose an early one to avoid dropping to the ruins and hoped this would be OK as far as James the RO was concerned.

Towards the top I met posts and cairns so perhaps it was correct. The top was like a moonscape of old mine workings and rock waste.

A big track through this area made easy running and I was soon heading towards the pleasantly named barney Beck. All the buildings here were locked but some did have some shelter and seating. Immediately after crossing the minor road I made a small error (mainly because I was too lazy to dig out the 1:25000 map from my sack). I quickly realised I was too low and close to the river. Luckily there was a stile over the wall and I was able to get back on route and another good path then track that would lead me to the moor above Reeth.
Hard to believe it was the same day after the snowy tops
A walled footpath led me down to the village but again I missed a small path that cut the corner. It was warm in Reeth and The Green which I had expected to be fairly quiet at this time of year was packed. Bob had only just found a parking place for the van. I stripped off my wet socks and shoes and then we went exploring. It is a picturesque village.

 Even better though was the Dales Cycle Shop. We missed Stu Smith by less than 5 minutes but did have a very nice coffee and piece of cake. Not a bad day - some useful notes taken, 37km run and a whole new area explored.
Sunday was shorter and easier in that is was flatter. Knowing that if I started early we could get home before the end of weekend traffic I set off early. It was chilly. Luckily the first section was along a minor lane so I was able to up the pace and get warm. Then there was the ancient path from the ruined Priory up to Marrick leading me up into the sun and more warmth. A strange roundabout but well signed route got me through the tiny village and out onto grassy fields. There were boggy bits but mostly it was good running. The drop down the road to Marske was steep and just slightly slippery where the sun had not reached.

 Then more field paths led me to the limestone cliffs of Applegarth. The grassy paths were a joy but sadly ended and became a muddy track in the final woods before Richmond. In no time I was descending to the river and looking for the final paths to the main road and the side road up to the rugby club.

 It was freezing down by the river- the coldest I had been all day.

The lane up to the CP was steep but Bob had found space to park despite the rugby game. I stopped for a coffee and food - 17km or so done. I only had maps to do another 10km to Bolton on Swale. The paths here were ploughed and a total mud fest. I tried to run but was anxious not to fall and get coated in mud. Luckily as the route diverted away from the river (official diversion to avoid A1 roadworks) I left the fields and joined a lane. It wasn't great to run along the A6136 and over the A1 but at least there was a wide pavement and it wasn't long before I dropped back onto the river side path which thankfully was grassy and not more ploughed fields.

I found the van and stripped off my socks and shoes again. 28km done today and no major nav issues. It would have been nice to carry on to the A19 and the Osmotherly area but I had no maps and it would also be good to get home at a reasonable hour.

Monday, 19 February 2018

February update and moving on

So the MRI came and went and then so did the consultant appointment. No nueroma showed up and whilst the guy was polite, pleasant and apologetic nothing was really resolved. I didn't know whether to be happy or upset. No surgery was good and would mean I could get on and enter races, make plans etc but it also suggested no change from the discomfort and at times pain. All that waiting for much of Dec and all of January.........No alternative diagnosis offered and no solution.
So time to man up and move on!
Fortunately only two days later was the Anglezarke Amble and I had entered in the hope of running. I had not been out training as much as I would have liked and the forecast was awful but I was determined to run. It's fairly local for me and I know the paths from training runs. Now that they have separate starts for the walkers and runners I even got a lie in. I was still early and this gave me time to hand over a box of new Runfurther postcards to Nick and chat to people. The RO warned of snow and ice - just when I had decided not to take my kahtoolas. I was more worried about staying warm and dry. In the end I started with over-trousers on and it was a good call. Albert shot past very early on, then Josie and also Isaline. Nick was up ahead but in sight. I was very slow up through the Japanese gardens and not much better onto the Pike. It was chilly and wet but bearable. There was not enough frozen ground for kahtoolas but more than enough to make me wary and timid. I lost time on the big track to Pikes Cottage, gained some up to the mast on Winter Hill but then was a total wuss on the descent.
Sunny Belmont- not today
 I wasn't alone and could see Abi just ahead. My legs were struggling and I just wasn't fit enough. Using the gym to improve my upper body for climbing and also using the cycles and treadmills there is clearly no real replacement for getting out and running! I was despite the weather and being slow enjoying myself in that weird way that we do. I did contemplate switching to the shorter route at the marker post but knew that I would regret it later. My gloves were soaked but I wasn't really that cold and my smart wool base layer really seemed to be keeping my core warm. I got a good line across the last moor before the Entwistle CP and reached this with Abi, Wendy Doods and others. The CP had been relocated when their cars could not negotiate the lane early that morning but they were ready with food and even cups of tea. I grabbed some cake and plodded on. I lost sight of Abi when I stopped for a toilet break and spent most of the run through to Cadshaw and then up onto Darwen Moor on my own.
Lancashire's rocket in summer
The path was wetter than I had ever seen it (which is saying something as it is very rarely dry) and the deep puddles had broken ice on the top but also slimey slush on the bottom. I was back on home turf now and enjoyed heading to Darwen Tower.

I knew I was slower than usual but was feeling happier. There was no self clip at the Tower again (because it is a LDWA challenge event and not a race they don't see it as important but I do wonder how many take a short cut across the moor). Before I knew it I was heading down to Slipper Lowe and more food. A cup of tea and a quick chat with Jane and I was off. Standing still was too chilly and I felt for Alan who was waiting for Mick. One last major climb now - Great Hill.
The West Pennine Moors- wild but beautiful
Again, it was a bog fest but a lovely run down to White Coppice.
No puddles, mud or ice on that day
This must be one of the prettiest cricket grounds in the UK and the CP was well stocked. Friends marshalling here had asked what runners wanted and I had replied savoury! I left with cheese, potatoes and tomatoes. Fuelled up for the last 4 miles. This was mostly lower and sheltered although it was into the wind along the Anglezarke area. I was now actually overtaking a few people, including Abi who had jarred her knee.
Nearly back (and running the wrong way for this race)
I spotted Nick up ahead but never quite reeled him in. He finished less than a minute ahead of me. It was a PW but I was happy to be out, to have run the long route and not bailed to the short and to have taken care of myself staying warm and mostly dry. Clean dry clothes were some sorted and then the serious business of post race food which here is hot pot with all the trimmings, bread, gallons of tea and cake. As always there were loads of friends to chat to. Wendy appeared muttering about the cold and wet, she was recovering from the cold/flu bugs we have all had.
2017 had more snow
She thought it was as bad as the famous Hardmoors 55 whereas I really hadn't thought it so bad at all - just Lancashire in February on a wet day. By the time I left to return to the car it wasn't even raining so much. It was far too wet to risk my camera- I have ruined two in the last 3 years so the photos are what it can be like!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

2018 A year full of uncertainty

It is almost the end of January and I have not run much and have entered very little. I feel in a sort of limbo state. I know I cannot just ignore my foot but trying to get it resolved is making me wish I could just ignore it and hope for the best. I was told to expect an MRI appointment in early/mid Jan so we didn't go skiing, just in case. The NHS 'crisis' soon meant that date seemed unlikely (and I am not complaining as meant patients are much worse off). Then a date of 28 Jan appeared - but it is now too late to ski this month and the consultant appointment is 8 Feb so now space in between and then it is half term...... you get the idea. Oh and I had some sort of flu/chest infection that has left me weak and coughing. I have entered The Northern Traverse in May )as I had a discount from marshalling) and really want to do it but I have no idea if my foot will be solved by then, nevermind the lack of training in the run up.  Uncertainty is starting to get to me.
On the plus side... got to look for the positives.... my frost nipped toes seem to have recovered, we have joined the climbing wall and gym so can go daily for no extra cost. This means my climbing is improving and I am discovering exercises I should be able to do to stay fit even if my foot is operated on.
I have been out for a few slow runs- checking out the new Calderdale Hike route, checking street O map and controls plus an attempt at a long hill run when I had to sit down for a rest! Then I spotted a race entry for the Hebden on sale. OK, lets give it a go. I have done this twice before but not for 4 years. I looked up my times; 4hrs 13 and 4 hrs 22. Surely I can manage to run slowly for that long.
The forecast deteriorated as the week progressed so Bob decided not to come and I cannot really say I blame him. So instead of being in the van on Friday night I drove across early on Saturday. I didn't sleep well as I think I was worried about icy roads.  By 7am I was in a very icy Mytholmroyd car park and skating my way to the church hall. I was early enough to treat myself to tea and toast and still have time for a toilet visit before the queues.

Chatting to so many friends meant it was very soon nearly 8am and time to move outside. The start is now round the corner in the station car park. It  was nippy but not freezing. I probably had too much clothing on but was worried that I might not be moving very fast. It wasn't long before Albert came skipping past and then Josie and Tony shot off too. I settled into what I thought was a comfortable pace for me but was struggling a bit even this early. As we climbed towards Old Town I felt better and ran more, except where I feared black ice or slippery bits.
Love LDWA events and cake

Somewhere on the next section I skidded a bit and pulled my groin. I stopped to rub it and bending over set off what we think is a hernia, twice. I tried to run but it was run a bit, walk a bit all the way down to Hardcastle crags and along to Gibson Mill.
I was going so slowly that I ignored the stepping stones and went to the bridge
People I can usually beat came running past but there was little I could do. I thought about stopping but I was sort of enjoying the snowy scenery and decided to try to jog round the best I could. It was interesting running with different people for a change.There was a guy in shorts with tattoos and I made a plan to stick with him.
I almost went wrong as I missed a sneaky left turn but luckily a runner shouted. Then on the concrete track down to CP3 I had to stop for a pee.
The best stollen!
 My groin and abdomen still felt a bit dodgy at the CP so I grabbed a piece of cake and dashed off before I could decide to retire there. Shorts man was still in sight and I worked hard to keep it that way. He got ahead as I stopped to chat to Dave Bradshaw who must have wondered why I was so slow, walking and even happy to stop and chat.

Climbing up onto Stoodley Moor I started to reel in a few runners and this lifted my spirits a little.

The tops were snowy but I was cosy and concentrated on chasing the shorts as I wasn't sure I could remember the way into the woods. The woodland path was a bit slippy and shorts man got away. I left the CP where the two routes diverge alone and hoped I could remember the way. Luckily yes and then I caught my friend again. We ran together through to the pub at Crag Vale and up onto the final moor. Julian was taking numbers at the CP and I was starting to feel better. Then as I rounded the track bend I spotted orange fluro shorts and a white cag. It had to be Nick.

This gave me another boost and so after a quick photo I shot off running.

Next I spotted Wally who had earlier commented that I must be taking it very easy if he was overtaking me. I managed to stick with him all the way to the end but couldn't quite bring myself to try hard and overtake him on the final road.  As we started to descend to the valley the snow vanished and the thick mud began.

Contouring along the final scarp edge was interesting as was the final footpath before the cycle track. Here I spotted Linda ahead. I was now boiling but too close to the finish to fret about taking a layer off.
The time was a PW by almost 20 minutes but at CP3 I expected a PW of over an hour so I guess I did make up for some lost time. Tony finished in 4hrs 13 (my fastest time) and Josie in 4hrs 20 so perhaps the mud slowed us a bit. Given how much I walked in the middle section I was surprised not to be further behind.
I took my time eating, drinking and chatting in the hall. Where else can you  have mulled wine, pie and peas, a huge apple crumble and custard and also have your empty plates whisked away. I was finally introduced to my double.

I knew there was another Karen Nash and I knew we even had the exact same birth date as it had caused confusion with results and a race entry in the past. It was lovely to meet her and chat.
I couldn't face walking back to the car for a shower and then back to the hall to eat and then back to the car to go home. A quick change into warm dry clothing on the stage had to do. Driving home the sun came out! and then my foot started to hurt. At first I was worried the frost nip effect had returned but it seems it was just the mortons neuroma? and a very bruised big toe nail. I seem to be collecting injuries and if I was a race horse they would have put me down by now. Still, I enjoyed my day out and was glad I hadn't given up. Something about being out on the hills even in iffy weather always makes me feel better about everything. Putting climbing shoes on tomorrow should be interesting though.I think I have missed Rombald's entries but the next LDWA should be Anglezarke Amble and then maybe Peeler's and Two Crosses.