Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Kong MMM Bethesda 2018

Thanks to Travs on the FRA forums who restored my toungue in cheek faith in my ramblings.
Lynne and I were over in Wales this weekend just gone for the Kong Mini Mountain Marathon. I got an SI dibber for Christmas so decided to enter a few nav events this year. It's also pretty good to practice my navigation away from the comfort of the Peak District, hence the Kongs.

Saturday was proper grim, and we were fairly pleased not to be running the race then. The guys putting out the controls on Sat must not have had an enjoyable time.... Sunday dawned beautifully and continued into a bright, but very cold day. We wrapped up warm, and I anticipated being out for the full 4 hours. A small niggle in the back of my mind said "you haven't run for 4 hours in quite a few months..." so I ignored it.

At the Start we got our maps and I headed on up the hill at a swift-ish pace (not quite as swift as Welsh/Calder Matt) trying to work out a bit of a strategy. Kong, it would seem, put out a boat load of checkpoints which only a superhuman would have a hope of clearing, so it really is a matter of being intelligent with route and checkpoint choice.
Unfortunately my maths is terrible and as much as I try and create different routes with different point scores, I generally go with gut instinct.

Snow was down to about 550metres, so a lot of the first few checks were in open green territory. I ticked off a few of them, clocking up a fair amount of ascent and descent, and getting myself creatively engaged in the navigation as well.... not exactly lost, just occasionally slightly geographically embarrassed.

All was going relatively well until I bashed across a hill in the right direction and then came across an unrelentingly steep, heather covered (infested?!) hillside that needed to be bashed through. Not fun. I did so with aplomb, getting warmer and warmer, took off a buff, checked I had everything, carried on, 2 mins later, checked again. No dibber.

1hour 50 into using my Christmas present, it is lost on a welsh hillside. So I stopped and searched for about 20-30 mins, covering and re-covering my steps, searching in heather and generally cursing, til I gave it up as lost. Dammit.

Right, consume food, look at map, work out best route home.
The option was a pretty formidable down and up, or a quite considerable round the valley, up and over. Had I still been racing, the direct would have won without a shadow of a doubt. Slightly dejected and downcast, chewing on a bar I made my way back around the valley, up and over Bera Bach and home, via, it has to be said, some pretty amazing views. The snow was crunchy and it was a delight to be out.

At the end, the guys on control took pity on me, asked where I had been and inputed the contols manually, so that at least I had a score. Not a very good one, but a score nevertheless.
Lessons learnt today.... put a cord on your dibber. Take more food. Don't underestimate a 4 hour run. The hills in Wales are a bit bigger than at home.

The soup, cake and tea at the end was well worth it though.
Bought a new dibber, and will be out competing at the next Kong in the Lakes. See you there.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Peak Raid Glossop 2017

I've been really enjoying the Peak Raids this year. Running through freezing cold bogs while trying to workout where you are and where you are meant to be going is really quite fun. The November edition from Glossop promised to be fairly amusing, not only because it is our local stomping ground, but also because it is the final fell race in the Glossopdale Harriers Fell champs for 2017.
 In order for anything useful to happen at the area in the table where I was, I needed to have an excellent day and Chris W needed to have a shocker. Any other combination and there would be no change at all.
So a good day or nothing then.

It was bright, cold and clear. Ideal if you weren't totally comfortable with navving on Bleaklow... it can be a challenge even in slightly less than perfect conditions. There were nigh on 200 people entered into the race, so there was never going to be much time when you were going to be out of sight of at least one person.

On dibbing and getting the map, a cursory glance was taken, noting high point controls at Cock hill, James's Thorn and out at Alport head. There were a couple of controls far out on rough ground -but together, they only gave 50 points... I might as well miss them in order to ensure I had enough time to accurately nav through the quarry at Cock hill to get a single 50 pointer and not worry about slogging through groughs to find the ones far out.
Anti-clockwise it was then.

A quick run along Doctors Gate towards 8, and a whole horde of people were climbing the heather laced hill toward the approximate point. I joined them, making sure not too much height was gained, and contoured around to the CP. Done - from here to 9 was really rough ground - but there is a trod on the edge of the hill that runs along a series of butts. It doesn't run all the way along the hill, but it gains some time. That done, past the clough and drop down to another trod I could see that led me to the re-entrant. Bang on

CP10 was next, figuring I could take the trod, or I could just straight line it, I decided on the latter, which was good fun. Not sure it was all that much faster than taking the White Clough trod, but I gained time on others around me. The control was a little sneaky in that it was in another re-entrant, and not around the rocks, which you might assume with a quick glance at the map.

From there, a contour around the hill -it was fabulously clear, so you could see for miles. To be honest, I climbed a bit more than I needed to as I knew where a decent trod to Herne clough was, but I wasn't certain of hitting it at a lower level... should have been, but there you go. Climbed, hit the trod and zoomed straight to Herne, followed by a bit of bashing around looking for a pond. Fell in a bog most of the way up my legs, and eventually found the ice covered pond and associated Checkpoint.

From there, I was astonished to have more than 1.5 hours left, in fact, it was nearer 2 hours... excellent. The checks to the south east of the map were discounted and I headed up around the drainage to Fork stones and around Alport head. The point was on a stone, and after careful reading of the map, it appeared that it was a stone that was not in a grough... a look around and a likely candidate presented itself, lo and behold, there was the checkpoint. Excellent.

From there to the one north of Bleaklow head could have been done on an accurate compass bearing, but having been lost up there previously, the non-potential time-wasting option was taken. Run north west through the groughs until you hit Bleaklow head, and nav from there.
On my way over there was another guy standing on top of a grough in a sea of groughs looking confusedly at his map, the compass and the ground... No real features to be seen - not a great place to be stopped and wondering where you are.
Bleaklow head was gained without too much drama, a bob north to the fence line and a simple 200m bearing saw me bang onto the Check.
Loads of time left. Might as well head to the northerly most CP and curve my way around and get as many of them as possible....

A blast to and along the Pennine Way saw me pass a few club mates, I took the old PW rather than the new one which landed me most of the way up the grough that I needed, dibbed and surged to the quad track around the summut of Glossop Low. Down the track zoe and I had a quick snatched conversation as we dropped to 1, and then the slightly concerning part of the quarries towards the high pointer.
I needn't have worried. The cartography was excellent and the CP was exactly where it said it was going to be. Instead of following others, I read the landscape and ran straight to it... crikey, still more time than I anticipated.
Maybe I can finish the last 4?

Over to check 3 Shittern/Small clough and a contour around to pick up the path towards Dog rock, before diving down the hill to an easily found 5.
Here I *should* have gone a lot more east into the clough and ascended to get the 60 pointer at 6. However, fatigue was taking over a bit, and I was kind of running out of time, having glanced at my map I thought that I had 1 CP left - number 7... so bee-lined it. The ground was horrendously rough and the climb up to Shelf benches and beyond was so energy sapping. I might have to use it as more training - it was horrible!
Constantly checking my watch I was thinking that as soon as it hit the magic 20 mins to go mark I was just going to have to turn tail and head home without getting the point.

Thanks to Lynne for the pictures
Waaay before then the top of the plateau was crested and I stormed across to get the check (which was sneakily in a bit of a different place than I thought.... just about to turn, put my map away and head home with about 25 mins to go, something caused me to do an idiot check... pulled out the map and did a tot up....

Hang on. Thee is a point just up the hill from me worth 60 points. Double check.... damn. I forgot about that one! Do I have time? 25 mins left, its 700m away and up a steep bit of hill.... but I know how to get off the top, and I KNOW I can get to the finish from a lot further away in about 20 mins. The CP has to be done.
A lot of people were coming down from there, and I pretty much blindly followed sheep trods up the hill to approximately the right place... 50 yards away from the point I could see it, so I packed the map away, shoved a gel down my throat and prepared for the run off.
Dib the point, timecheck... should be loads of time. Turn and run.

The upshot was that I got back with 8 mins to spare. Very glad that the idiot check was done, without that I'd have finished with plenty of time left, but 60 points down! Valuable lessons learned even in my own back garden.
Overall, 4th, which I'm more than happy about.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Peak Raid Totley Nov 2017

I was  a little more prepared for this one - in that the alarm went off and I got up, had breakfast and went... as opposed to being woken by Lynne 45 mins before the start saying "were you going to do that race....?) so, bonus there.
The area around Totley is not all that familar to me. The fact that there are a number of bogs, lots of reed and rushes and an awful lot of turks heads is well known, so the going underfoot was going to be a little challenging, especially when still on the way back from injury. The idea of the day was to have fun, enjoy the nav, and maybe to put myself under a bit of pressure. If I lost points because I was late, that wasn't an issue. There is nothing riding on this race, it is a time for experience.

The day was bright and cold, and although all the more experienced orienteers tend to start later in the time period, I decided that I'd start earlier, get some time on the hill by myself and not follow other people around. Start time was about 8:30, and off I set into the sharp, cold air.

Somewhat excitingly, my navigation started off terribly. The first checkpoint was bang where I thought it was going to be - but unfortunately I had a bit of a crisis of confidence about 30 metres away from it, turned round, ran back where I came from for about 5 mins before telling myself I was an idiot, and then going back and finding the CP in exactly the place where I thought it was going to be. Lack of confidence and a little bit of inaccuracy as well. Ah well, thats 5 minutes down the drain, nevermind. Crack on.

So far the terrain had been track, track, turks heads, bog, turks heads, bog. So in order to give my legs a bit of a rest, I tried to make the next bit as smooth as possible by following some trods.
No such luck into the bombhole of my next CP. No, no turks heads, but instead heather, heather, reeds, river, reeds, heather.
Great, no rest for the wicked then.

By this time there were a number of others out on the course, and we battled through the heather to the nearest path to get down south on the Clockwise round that we had put ourselves on. There was a fairly decent path right over to within about 400m of the next CP, and once that track ended it was again, bog, bog, reeds, knee deep water and a fight through some bracken before getting to the sheepfold.
So far, so good. No-one was following me, I had a decent amount of time left, and my nav was getting me to the right places. The next CP was going to be a little more fun as it was "on the edge of the wood" with no real identifying features to attack it from, so a bit of accuracy and cunning was called for. Not only that, but it was across the way, through what can only really be described as a sea of heather.
Bash Bash Bash. Through another boggy river and a load of reeds, and through the trees I can see the kite. Marvellous. Punch, and onward over more heather until a lovely path going towards the next CP. Across to my left were a herd of deer running away from some brightly clad runners on the other bank, and I wondered if I'd see them later. (I didn't).

Up to the boundary stone, dib, and then a bit of a complex one to find my nemesis - "small re-entrant". I really hate these things. It took a while with me furtling about in various places, losing a good few minutes. To be honest at some points I was really confused about where I was, and now looking back on it, I was really too far north and didn't take note of the several changes in contours around me (and the big stones that should have been a clue....).

From there, Northwards and then west to the next obvious one in the sequence, and then North again along some really runnable paths - feeling good picking up the one between 2 boulders, and north again, taking some fun and complex paths in order to stay within the rules - not running on the road where it was hashed out.
2 hours gone. 1 hour left.
Choice time - go a long way out for a 50 pointer with the prospect of another couple on the way back, or go safe for a 40 pointer, but which takes me pretty much into a dead end (all the other points near it had been got...)

Now is the time to learn. Go big.
I set off to the other side of the map from the race HQ and as I was running there I was thinking "this is probably not going to work... run faster". It took an age to get to the vicinity of the CP and another age to find the damn thing. I must have lost another 5 mins rooting around in heather and rocks for it and nearly gave up. It was another of those which if you found direct, would have been fine... but faffing and having to find and re-find locations to get to it really ate into my time.

Got it. 30 mins to go. 8km direct to get home. This could be tight.... especially as direct wasn't going to be a possibility, and there were a lot of workarounds to do.
Knocking back a gel and some bloks I headed for home as fast as I could (which after 2.5 hours was not all that fast). At one point I worked out I needed to do an 18min 5k to get back in time, which wasn't going to happen. Eventually I got back 10 mins late, so a penalty of 175 points.
54th ish.
Had I played it safe and gone with the 40 pointer at that crux I would have been joint 9th. If I got there with enough time and I could have gone for one of the others a bit closer to home I might even have come 8th or 7th.
Ah well. Experience in the bank. Good to know.

It was a 30km day as well, with 900m of ascent, so a decent day out by any standards. Fabulous.