Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Wincle Trout 2017

A race that changes character every year. The start/finish area has 3 options, one at the bottom of the hill, one midway up, and the last at the top of the hill. Each year the location is swapped around, for reasons that are not known to me.
This year was the start/finish at the top of the hill, so certainly the most brutal finish of the variations.
Lynne and I got to Wincle ridiculously early and walked around the entire route, which was very useful in determining where all the pinchpoints and stiles were. (and there were a lot of them). If you're Simon Bailey and 3 mins ahead of everyone else it probably doesn't matter, but that isn't me.

I also found that from the off, the field was rutted and dodgy underfoot, so a great chance to get ahead of the pack of road runners for the descent and not get caught behind people for the long run out along the side of the river.
Managed to get a decent start, and got away from people over the rutted fields, was in the top 10 going though the river and then settled into a pace. Overtook Jack Ross, who must have done an ankle as he pulled out injured soon after.
Then it was me and 2 Chorlton runners (soon to be joined by a Dark Peaker) who basically exchanged places for the entire race. I thought we were around the 7/8/9/10th place runners and was going pretty much as hard as I could, but felt there were a couple of gears missing that I couldn't access, especially downhill. That's the problem with focussing on distance and ascent covered, I'm just not training for short, hard races.

It all came to a head at the end, as you'd imagine. Final hill climb and I was pretty far gone. One of the Chorlton lot and the Dark Peaker got a length on the other Chorlton lad and me, and I wasn't going to let the other guy beat me. As it was we came 3/4/5/6th in the race.
I didn't expect that.
Pretty tired - more so than after the OCT, to be honest, but I guess it's a different type of racing.
And we all got a Trout for our trouble.

Great race, but if you want to do it, the entries open in feb, and it gets sold out in 4 days or so.

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.