Monday, 22 May 2017

Old County Tops 2017

Chris and I were sitting the pub discussing his Paddy Buckley round back in February when he mentioned he didn't have a partner for the OCT this year. I don't remember actually saying "yes", but there I was, up at 4:15am having breakfast, waiting to be picked up for a dash to the Langdales and back in a day.
Despite being relatively nice and sunny in Glossop, true to form, as soon as we stepped out of the car in the Dungeon Ghyll carpark, it began to rain. Not only that, but as we queued for registration (not an easy task with 120 pairs of runners in a marquee), the heavens really opened, and all the runners that had already registered, headed back to the relative shelter of the tent, making things rather more crowded.
So it was waterproofs on for the start, and unsurprisingly Rob Jebb and Josh Jardine led from the get go. At the end of the first flat section, Chris and I looked over our shoulders and saw a huge gap between us and 4th place and began to wonder if we had gone off a touch fast... it wasn't like we were keeping up with Jebby and Jardine, but we were a lot closer to them than to the guys behind.

Waterproofs came off pretty quickly as we ambled down into Ambleside, and then cruised up the hill towards the tarn and Dollywagon Pike, we took a slightly hybrid line up the Pike - straight followed
by a diagonal trend, which worked as well as can be expected. (It's one of those eternal questions, which is the best line... straight or diagonal - the answer is, which ever one has the person with the strongest legs). From the top, we ascended into the clag where a bitter wind started to blow, bringing jackets and in my case, gloves, into play. We hit the top of Helvellyn at about 1:40, before bashing across and down to the second checkpoint, staying a little higher than I have done before, so getting a better grassy descent at the bottom. A team with sticks overtook us on the way down, but beyond that, nothing really exciting happened.

Up Wythburne, we took the line Caity and I took a couple of years ago, avoiding the bog in the bottom - which the guys with sticks ended up in (up to the waist), and after the traverse down to the Styx path, we took a slightly sub-optimal line towards Angle Tarn- where the sticks guys overtook us again.
We got to Angle tarn just as the weather began to break again, and put on the waterproofs on the move as we headed up into even greater murk, leaving the team we had been playing tag with slightly lower down, faffing with waterproofs.
From here on up, the weather deteriorated, I lost feeling in my hands, despite having Prism Mitts on, so getting food in, working compasses and taking photos were all a bit more tricky than normal. As you might expect, food and compass work got priority, so there aren't any pictures of the clag on tops... not that there was much to see there apart from us slipping around on the rocks.

Underfoot it was properly treacherous, so we took it steady over to the top of the Pike. Having not done the direct descent for a couple of years, we were not anywhere near as slick as I would have liked us to be, however, we got down without incident, and once down into Mosedale we began to warm up a little. Not a lot - mind you, there were clumps of frozen hail dotted around the valley floor, and there was no way I was taking my gloves off yet...

A bimble down Mosedale saw us get to Cockley beck for a well earned cup of tea and a sandwich as we turned toward the inevitable looming ascent of Grey Friar. Never an enjoyable climb, it felt like my legs were falling off as we went up. A slightly more youthful team from Howgill Harriers had caught up by now, and we went up and ontowards the Old Man of Coniston pretty much as a 4.
Again, the clag was down across the top. That, along with fatigue and general malaise meant that I was a little careless in my route finding, and we found ourselves dropping a little too low to the East on the way out to the final Top. Easily rectified, but it must have cost us a few minutes, and certainly expended energy that would have been better spent elsewhere.

The other team had better legs than us (perhaps it was finally our rather exuberant speed at the beginning of the race which was getting it's own back), and they went off into the distance ahead of us from the final peak. Unperturbed, we set off in pursuit, though a bit of a lacklustre one, considering that I was beginning to get stitch. Our line down to 3 shire stone was fairly average, the pain from the road descent was as bad as it always is, but finally the sun came out, and I was able to take off my gloves and get a little bit of warmth and feeling back into my hands!
A gel was taken on the way in, just to keep the legs going, and we finally crossed the line in 7 hours and 29 minutes in 4th place.

Really happy with that, considering that Chris' aim was to finish in sub-8 and my aim was to finish in the top 6.

I have to say a massive thanks to achilli ratti for their organisation of the event - it was as good as it always is, and I shall be back next year for the 30th anniversary of the race.
Also, well done to all the competitors, not only those that had a horrendous time in the weather and managed to finish, but also to those that had a horrendous time and took the intelligent decision to bail at various points. Decision making in the mountains can be a hard thing to do, especially when racing - but the fact that everyone got back in more or less one piece indicates that as a whole, the racers made the right calls.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Teenager with Altitude 2017

I liked this race so much last year that I entered it again. 16 miles and 2000 and a bit metres of ascent and descent... whats not to like?!
Glorious day for it in the Lakes as well - started off a little chilled, with the promise of a bit of breeze on top, and continued throughout with blue skies.

The first climb was just as hard as I remembered, and my climbing has not improved on last years- in fact it has suffered a little. Off the first top, I was quite a way behind the first group (trailing behind the leaders) and was in amongst a few others. I followed Scoffer along on the low line from High Moss to Coledale track - which was the line I took last year and cronked my knee on.
This year - no knee cronkage. yay! Instead, I twisted an ankle - funnily enough within about 10 metres of where I did my knee last year. Wonderful.

Took a different line up Grasmoor this year- rather than the direct line, I went around to the right. I left Spyke at the bottom, and met with him at the top. If there was any difference in the times, it was totally negligible.
I ran with Spyke, swapping leads all the way over to Whiteless Pike, where there was the most spectacular view of Buttermere. The descent was one to be enjoyed, and after overtaking a few people down there, Scoffer was once again only 20 metres from me as we crossed the river to climb to Newlands Hause.

As is the norm, Scoffer et al. launched off upwards, and it was all I could do to look on and try to limit my losses on the ascent. By the time I'd got to the top of High Snockrigg (the best named peak in the Lakes, closely followed by Joppletey How), Spyke had once again caught and overhauled me.
Together we climbed Robinson by the path on the Right (again, different to last year for me), which is definitely the more efficient route, but my Hamstrings were letting me know they had had enough by then. Trying to follow Spyke became a bit like trying to follow a terminator as he marched his way upward.

I hit the top a little behind him, and as the hordes from the Anniversary Waltz appeared, I never quite managed to get back to him after that.

Down and up to Hindscarth was pretty fun as the quads were having a bit of a rebellion, though I picked my way through the Waltzers, keeping an eye out ahead for Spyke. Again, down and over to Dale Head, and a badly picked line off the top (waaaay too far right) saw me lose some time - so that going up and over the final ridge Jon Ascroft and a guy from Borrowdale caught me up.

The final tussle over High Spy, Malden Moor and Catbells saw us encouraging each other to make decisive moves against each other, and generally have a good old battle.
In the midst of all this, coming down off Malden Moor, I noticed a familiar figure, running down the hill with 2 sticks - could it be? Yup - it was Joss. We exchanged pleasantries as I passed - no idea how many others noticed him galloping over the fells today....

There was always a point where one of the 3 of us was ahead and one was struggling, with the other calmly moving in the middle, but it was not until the final descent when Jon had broken away, that I managed to gather myself and break from the Borrowdaler.

Finally, heels slipping in my shoes and blisters threatening, the final road section appeared and I stormed down to the end. 13th overall in 3:12. A minute slower than last year, but a place up.
We'll take that and see what the rest of the year brings.
It was an amazing day out, and once again, I'll swear that I'll go back and do the route when I can have the chance to fully appreciate the splendour of that bit of the Lakes - much less run and visited than the honeypots, but equally as glorious.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Paddy Buckley Support - legs 2 and 3 - and thoughts on timings.

I've supported legs 2 and 3 before. The first time was with Al. It was dark. I swore blind I'd never run leg 3 again. Then Jasmin asked me to help her on leg 3 last year, so I did.
Then Chris asked me if I'd do legs 2 and 3 with him this year. Not liking to let someone down, I said yes.
It was much the same as I remembered - dark, cold and windy on leg 2. (I wore waterproof trousers for running in for the first time since the Spine!), and leg 3 was a massive bog-fest followed by leg sapping climbs across the Moelwyns and Cnicht. All good fun.

Chris heading up Cnicht
This isn't really meant to be a record of the day out, but more of a couple of thoughts about the Paddy Buckley schedule, especially that of leg 3.
The attempts I have supported ended up being successful - a 23:18, 23:19 and an 18:33. The most notable thing about all of them was just how hard leg 3 was, both in terms of the physical movement and the mental game - but perhaps most importantly, the battle against the schedule.
To be fair to Al, he didn't have a schedule for each peak, but rather had a time when he wanted to be at road crossings. We were up by 30 mins when we left Capel Curig, but were about an hour down on the 23 hour schedule by the time we hit Aberglaslyn.
Yes, we moved slowly, yes it was dark, but what the heck happened?!

At the Mines
With Jasmin, it was hard, hard work. I don't know if we were keeping to the 18 hour schedule that was written down, but on analysis, she was only just hitting some of the splits that would have (theoretically) got her a 23 hour schedule.

With Chris, we started the leg 15 mins down on his 23 hour schedule, and we were up and down on it by varying amounts from 5 mins to 55 mins depending on the peak. Clearly, the schedule is not quite up to muster, so I sat down and geeked out on the times between each round and came up with the following conclusions.

Up siabod.
  • Moel Siabod climb - you're looking at about 1 hour for a 23 hour schedule. Maybe a little longer.
  • Siabod to clogwyn bwlch y maen is just over 20 mins.
  • clogwyn bwlch y maen to Carnedd y Cribiau is about 10.
  • Carnedd y Cribiau to Cerrig Cochion seems to be where it seems to all go wrong for the timings - on a 23 hour schedule it gives you 34 mins. On her 18 hour schedule, Jasmin did it in 30. Chris and Al were over 50 mins on this section. The next few sections are also quite a bit slower in practice than in theory...
  • Cerrig Cochion to Moel Merch is given as 13 mins - Jasmin - again on the 18 hour schedule nailed it in exactly that. Call it 15 for a 23 hour schedule.
  • Moel Meirch to Ysgafael Wen - 18 mins is given here. Jasmin did it in 19... Chris in 22 and Al in 29. (I suspect we were having navigational amusements at that point, considering the dark and fatigue, so call it about 23 mins to be safe).
  • Ysgfael Wen to Mynydd Llynnau'r Cwm is given as 4 mins. If you can do that in 4 mins, you probably haven't been trying. Chris and Jasmin both did it in 6, and Al was 14 - again, a night nav thing, I suspect. Call is 6-7 mins then.
  • Mynydd Llynnau'r Cwm to the unnamed peak is given as 7 on the 23 hour schedule- considering Jasmin hit it in 4, and both Chris and Al did it in 8, that seems to be there or thereabouts.
  • The next couple are ok, but the time from Allt Fawr to Foel Ddu- 30 mins on a 23 hour schedule took 42 for both Al and Chris (using different lines), and 28 for Jasmin.
  • The only other split of any issue may be Moelwyn Mawr to Cnicht - 23 hour schedule says 52mins. You might find yourself lagging a little behind that depending on just how deep you've had to go in order to keep up with the previous splits.

At the start. No. These photos are not in chronological order!
That's probably enough of the numbers and stats for the moment. Perhaps the only other things I would note are these:
doing leg 3 in the dark is bloody hard. If you're going to do it, recce it as much as possible and know exactly which lumps you are going to summit at to save wasting time looking for the right one.
In fact, do that, even if you are going to do it in the day time.

If you're going to support, yes, it's cool to do legs 2 and 3, but if you want to be the best supporter you possibly can, I'd suggest getting some shut-eye and being fully compus mentis for the leg - someone needs to be sharp for the bog navigation, and being tired does nothing to help with that.

If you want to know more about detailed times, spreadsheets and GPX's drop me a line. I tend to keep an eye on the comments sections of the blog.