Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Derwentwater 10 and 2014 review

So, my racing year has come to a premature end with the ongoing hernia issues I’ve had since July.  I’m hoping I will be sorted out before Christmas.  Up until then I will be ticking over and enjoying some steady running.
My last race for 2014 was the Derwentwater 10, a week past Sunday.  I’ve ran this race twice before and it’s a cracker with undulations all the way.  I had a decent run, considering the inconsistent and interrupted training in the past few months.  I finished in 14th place with a time of 58:52 which clinched division 2 of the Morpeth Harriers grand prix.  It wasn’t an easy course, but I’d rather run a difficult 10 miler in a great location than a flat one in a not so appealing place.
I’ve had a fantastic year, surpassing all of my expectations.  I have achieved PB’s for 5k, 10k (NECAA silver medal), 10m.  Other highlights I can reflect on are running in the National Cross Country Championships, the Yorkshire 3 peaks, representing the NECAA at the Inter Counties Fell championships, a great result at the Lakeland 50 and second place at the Chevy Chase.  Also nabbing my first race win at the Thropton Show.
I’ve enjoyed the fells as always, and the challenge of the Lakeland 50 for the second time. The experience of supporting a friend on his Bob Graham success will be invaluable, what a day! Hoping to support on another attempt next summer.
I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed running fast on the road.  There have been some great tussles with my harriers club mates.  Specifically at the National XC, Blaydon, Blyth 10k and Wallsend 5k.  You know who you are, Mr Straughan! Coach Waugh’s training plans are paying dividends for all in the group which is terrific to see.
I’ve bagged the NFR grand prix and been promoted to division one for Morpeth Harriers grand prix.  I’m very pleased and proud of what I have done this year and shouldn’t feel too gutted at ending the year with injury, as frustrating as it is!  Some consistent training in the New Year should get me back on track, all being well.
My targets for next year remain unknown, or at least I don’t want to jinx them by making them public.  I do have some unfinished business at the Yorkshire 3 peaks (sub 3:30) and at Chevy.  It isn’t long until the ballot opens again for the UTMB.  If the TDS pops up as the only option, then I’m going to take it this time.  
With regards to road running and cross country, I aim to make the National (Parliament Hill) and also improve my 5/10k PB’s.
I will be turning V40 too, feeling old already……is that Bob Graham at the door?.…. Scalpel!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Two Breweries hill race, 27th September 2014

What a great idea.  A race from one brewery to another over some beautiful Scottish Border countryside, on a cracking September day.  I reiterate the word 'idea'.  Doing it should be regarded as bonkers.

This was selected as one of the Northumberland Fell Runners championship races and was located in an area which I hadn't visited before.  The hills were akin to the Cheviots.  Rolling, grassy, heathery and deceptively gentle looking.

The drive up took a good two and a half hours.  With little traffic on the roads, Emma Bain and I made good progress and arrived with plenty time to spare to get sorted and hop on the bus to transport us to the start at Traquair house.  It was a lovely setting complete with a marquee tent, it felt like we were gate crashing a wedding.  We hung around for a while before the start having a chinwag, good crack with the NFR's.  The kit check was rather regimental but good to see the rules being enforced.

The first couple of miles were a chance to stretch the legs before the first climb up Birkscairn.  The legs were heavy already, probably from last week's race at Thropton and no let up in training during the week.  Stupid mistake.  

Nice hillage - Cheviot-esque
The views were spectacular and I felt privile
ged to be running in such a place.  The first descent to Glensax was a killer on the quads, seemed steeper than the descent off the Cheviot.  My three week old blister reared its ugly head and began to irritate. The next two ascents and descents were a bit of a blur and by the time we reached to foot of Trahenna I was well and truly jiggered.  I clawed my way up, literally!  There were screams heard from runners ahead, I could sympathise if I wasn't in as much agony as them.

Last road section was quite nippy, although legs were like jelly.  I managed to cross the line on 3:30.  Emma Bain was the star of the day finishing in 3:34.  She's in fine form and strong! I got the points needed to secure the NFR champs so I'm well pleased. Time to ease off the gas before the British Fell relays, feeling goosed.

The catering was top notch at the village hall.  Soup, salad, cakes and all the beer you could want!  Good crack with JT, Paul et al.  Also with the men's V70 winner, legend!  There were some saying it was tougher than Borrowdale, I'd probably agree with that.  Having a climb so steep just two miles from the finish is cruel.

A brutal race but in a lovely place.  It really did kick my arse.  I will return.... one year! 

Well done to all NFR!

Team NFR

Monday, 22 September 2014

Simonside Fell race 20th September 2014

The good thing about a local show fell race is you don’t have to rush around like a mad idiot in the morning getting things sorted for an early start. The Thropton Show gates opened at 12 noon and the race started at 2:30pm. Plenty of time to fuel up and walk the dog. The
only debatable issue was whether to have lunch or a light snack. I chose the latter but ended up being ravenous by the time we gathered for the start.

The weather was muggy and moist in the morning, but began to clear on the trip over at a casual, fuel conserving speed. There was a definite autumnal feel with the falling leaves and rapidly changing colours of the trees. Beautiful. I parked up next to the show field and paid my entry fee.

I was quite tentative about running this race having a niggling hernia which I really need to get sorted out as soon as possible. Hills seem to aggravate it. Mmmm

Top organisation by Phil Green. Clear instructions were given out regarding the route and which areas were marked. We were off. We all had wet feet within the first mile having to cross the river Coquet. I was up at the front, too much responsibility on route navigation! It was a steady climb for the next two miles through fell, forest, heather and a bit of bouldering to reach the top of Simonside (ended up on a slight detour losing around 30 seconds). The descent was very technical with slippery rocks and roots to negotiate. Once through that section it was all out balls out. I was joint leader at the top and was determined to make this my race for the first time.

I retraced the route back to the Coquet and looked back to see how much of a lead I had, not a lot! I ploughed on hoping I wouldn’t lose it at this stage of the race. I reached the show field and knew I had done it, eventually my first ever Fell race win. A great reception from the spectators and a great relief.

Scott Gibson was second (flying!) and Rob Salter third (he did a Park run in the morning too). Winning lady was Karen Robertson. A special mention to Rob and Sam Hancox from Morpeth harriers. Their first fell race and did brilliantly. Sam was with me at the top of Simonside but understandably took it easy on the way down on that terrain. A bit more practice and he’ll be a fab fell runner.

A great race.  Thanks again to Phil and clan. A bit surreal getting my first win, better make the most of it.  Cheers!

Results on Phil's blog: http://thehottrod.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/simonside-fell-race-provisional-results.html

Proud moment - first win

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Chevy Chase fell race and the Lakeland 50


The Chevy Chase seems like a distant memory, even though it was only 4 weeks ago.  People who know me are aware that this is my favourite race and felt I was in good shape going into it - although there were nagging thoughts that I hadn’t done the mileage.  

With Emma B (Women's winner) and Steph Scott (3rd) Top folk!
The plan was simple.  Do what I did last year.  A steady start then have something left for the last ten miles from the top of Hedgehope where I can chase down those ahead of me.  The start was steady.  So steady that it felt like a training run.  I was up at the front for the first couple of miles along with Bruce Crombie (race favourite) and Simon Johnson (second in 2013).  It felt as though I was maintaining the same pace but somehow managed to open up a bit of a lead from Broadstruther.  I was out on my own, not looking back, but conscious that I could be caught at any moment. This didn’t bother me much as I was feeling strong, but I am not used to leading a race.  I passed through the Cheviot checkpoint and descended down the line I had recced a few weeks earlier. The drag up to Hedgehope seemed to be a struggle but I still managed to reach the summit in first position.  If I could maintain a steady pace from here on in I might win this thing.  

Alas, at Carey Burn, Bruce caught up to me.  I was flagging at this point, reaching for an emergency gel and a nakd bar.  Too late.  The legs were gone.  By the time I picked up, Bruce was long gone.  He had his race plan and stuck to it without any deviation.  I had a strong last two miles, and managed to finish second, one place higher than 2013.  Happy days! Congrats to Bruce, the strongest man won on the day.  I’ll be back, more determined than ever. Will I ever get a better chance to win my first race? Fabulous hosting by Wooler running club again.  I won’t forget my midge repellent next year.


Going into the Lakeland 50 I was in canny nick, although I had strained my groin somehow ten days before.  I took it easy and tried some strengthening exercises which did help.  And of course the taper helped!  I was running as part of a team with my brother this year and was looking forward to doing well.  Unfortunately he had a heel problem for some weeks and was unsure if he was going to be able to run.  We headed off to Coniston to pitch up and register.  It was very warm.  A mini heat wave had hit Cumbria and it was in the 30’s.  We saw the 100 mile runners off at 6pm and chilled for the rest of the evening.

No need to get to the front, early days!
We arrived at Dalemain on the Saturday morning via an eventful bus journey, basking in the heat for an 11:30 start.  Michael was going to give his foot a tester on the first 4 miles, a loop of the Dalemain Estate.  It would be at this point he would decide if he could carry on and do the whole race.  Unfortunately he had to stop and wished me luck on my journey to Coniston.  I felt really bad for him as this has been on our calendar for almost a year.  He’ll come back stronger once his foot is sorted.  I have no doubt.


It was steady running right through to Howtown where I filled up my empty bottles and collected some salted peanuts.  The liquid was going down so quick.  The drag up Fusedale doesn’t get any easier.  I was chatting with a guy who was unsure of the route and he mentioned we were in the top ten.  No way! Haweswater took an age to run along, it states 5k along the shore to Mardale Head.  Absolute codswallop.  Longest 5k in the world.  Once I had reached the top of Gatesgarth pass I knew most of the long climbs would be over so I pushed on towards Kentmere.  I knocked back four smoothies and a cup full of coke.  I hadn’t pee’d since before the start and was kind of thinking I should try.  Five minutes in a porta-loo without success.

Michael had managed to get the bus back to Coniston and then drive to Troutbeck to give me some encouragement.  He walked with me for a few minutes giving me a boost.  After last year’s route deviation through Skelghyll woods I was hoping to take the right path this time.  It was so much easier!  I dropped into Ambleside to a great reception from spectators and the general public.  Morale boost indeed.  Glancing at the spectators in the beer gardens holding some delicious beverages.

At Chapel Stile checkpoint I was craving something savoury.  The beef stew was awesome and set me up for the last stretch on to Tilberthwaite. I kept eating throughout the race this year, which made a hell of a difference.  I usually can’t get things down but I forced myself.

Welcome sight and finishing in daylight
A few orange segments and some haribo at Tilberthwaite, I climbed the steps of doom for the last climb of the day.  There was a gentle breeze at this point, thankfully behind me which helped me along.  It even started to drizzle a little.  Refreshing!  I stepped onto the road for one final push through Coniston to cheers from the crowds again.  Amazing.  I reached the end in 9hrs 15 and 12th position.  Michael was waiting for me, what  welcome sight.  Thanks for that! :o)

Top event, would highly recommend it.  It’s no picnic.  Even though it’s “only the 50” it’s one tough day out.  Well done to everyone and thanks for all the support/marshalls etc.

That could be me done with ultra’s for a while.  My last one could be the CCC in 2015.  To do the CCC has been my plan for the last 2 years and I hope to get in especially after last year’s rejection.  Stupid lottery system. 

I’m happier in the fells and running quick, short races.  20 miles and under.  I should stick with that while I can.  Speed doesn’t last forever.  Probably change my mind though.....

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Windy Gyle Fell race, 22nd June 2014 8.5miles, 1801’

This year, the Windy Gyle fell race is one of the Northumberland Fell Runners’ grand prix fixtures.  I was anticipating a good turn out on a warm, dry day in the Cheviothills and wasn’t disappointed.  Over sixty competitors out for a run around the Cheviots.

Windy Gyle stands at 2,031ft and sits on the border between England and Scotland.  One of the six Cheviot’s which top out at over 2,000ft.  Apparently it is possible to see the Northern fells of the Lake District from the summit.  I have walked some of the route before, starting at Barrowburn and along the Border Ridge.  I remember it being a steady climb up to the top with fantastic views of the surrounding hills.  God’s country.  It really is a beautiful area to run and walk in.

The race was to start at 10:30am.  I travelled up with my Dad and the ever excited Jasper (English Springer Spaniel, 6 months old).  It was Jasper’s first time in the Cheviots and I knew he would love bounding around while I was off on the route.  My Dad knows the area very well, regularly hiking the hills with his chums so the boy was in good hands.

Phil Green (www.thehottrod.blogspot.co.uk) was organising the event.  He was disappointed not to be running it tooeven though he had done the Cyclone the day before£6 entry plus a quid for a map, terrific – all for a good cause.  I even managed to nab some safety pins from the boot of his car, gratis.   Thanks Phil.

We set off at 10:30am along the road for a few hundred metres before turning left onto the first climb.  I was up with the leading group for the first couple of miles and managed to pull away for a few minutes.  I realised I was unsure of the route at this point so slowed down to be directed.  The climb up to Windy Gyle was a struggleI think the effects of the weekend before, supporting a Bob Graham were still in my legs (well done again, John – epic!).  

Dad and Jasper
I dropped to fourth spot when we reached the summit, Bruce Crombie (Alnwickwas flying.  I was racing with Lee Bennett (Elswick), Jonny Malley (Dark Peak) and Adam Fletcher (Alnwick) coming off the Trig.  Jonny had the right lines having done the race before along with his orienteering expertise.  Adam was strong on the climbs and Lee was gliding on the downhill sections.   We were back and forth for a few miles, which was great to be involved in.  I was feeling much stronger now and managed to break away into second.  

Bruce was uncatchable, looking in fine form for the Chevy Chase.  I passed my dad and Jasper on the last descent, which gave me a boost.  I made it to the finish in second, and congratulated Bruce on a great race.  NFR won the team prize.  Steph Scott had a great run and finished first Lady.

Jasper had a great time tooI think he had my dad worn out! Looking forward to taking him for a run in a few months, it’s still a bit early for the little fella.

I’ll not forget the midge repellent next time, two weekends in a row of being munched on.

Many thanks to Phil for the organisation and great to hear the event had raised over £300 for Mountain rescue.  It was good to catch up with a few NFR’s, not least Steph Scott who hadsupported Steve Birkinshaw on some of his epic Wainwright’s challenge.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Blaydon Race 2014

The last time I ran the Blaydon race was in 2012, where I was running with undiagnosed anaemia. It was a day to forget. I found myself stopping after the first mile and had to take walking breaks on a frequent basis.  It was an odd feeling, not knowing what was wrong and watching streams of runners leave me in their wake.

Nevertheless, that's a long way behind me now. I was on the start line at Balmbra's waiting patiently for the 7:15pm kick off. The weather was good, although very warm. I couldn't help but admire the athleticism of the elite runners warming up.  I was pretty well placed at the start, uncomfortable for anyone with claustrophobia though. 25 minutes of waiting and unable to stretch the legs can't be good for you. But good crack with the other runners.

The gun went dead on time and we were off, runners coming from all directions jostling for position. It's a rather tricky start where you have to be careful not to get barged over and to avoid bollards. Once on the Scotswood road, it was nice to just focus on pace and enjoy the ride.

The first 5k flew by, moving up the field at a steady rate with a parched mouth. I passed the chap who beat me into second place at the Blyth 10k. I was thinking it was going well!  I ran with my training partner for a while, helping each other along, taking in the crowd and support which gave us a boost.  I paid the price for wearing my old inov8's when a blister appeared on the outside of  my left foot. #slinflint

By the 5 mile point I was starting to fade, the last section seemed to go on forever. I dug deep and crossed the line in 29:56, 17th place. One of my best races. My calf's can vouch for that.

Excellent turn out from Morpeth Harriers. Another grand pric race ticked off.  Well done to everyone who competed and for their support. Top ale too!

Windy Gyle next, after a Bob Graham Round leg this weekend. Hoping for good weather.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

CAU Inter Counties fell Championships, Witton Park 18th May 2014

When I was asked to be part of the team to represent the NECAA at the Inter Counties fell championships, I went through my usual lack of self belief panic phase.   "Am I good enough?", "will I be out of my depth?", "there are far better runners in the North East who could do a better job!".  I asked for some time to think about the proposal, to allow it to sink in and to seek some advice from my running companions (plus the Mrs!).

It's not often one is given this kind of opportunity, I ain't getting any younger.  The advice was unanimous in that I should grab it with both hands and give it a right good go and not worry about where I came in the field but to enjoy the experience.

The Yorkshire Three peaks deflated me somewhat, following my bonking episode.  It even crossed my mind to contact the organiser of the inter counties team to pull out.  I was talked around by my coach at the club who told me to move on and focus on the next goal.  So I went for it.  I will give the three peaks another go and get under the magical 3hrs 30 time.  Maybe next year.

I was quite nervous on the journey down to Blackburn with my Dad, piling the pressure on myself again unnecessarily and lacking self confidence.  It's easy to say not to worry, but I've always looked at the negatives rather than the positives.  I tried to think of the good races I've had this year (and last).

Start of the ladies race
I arrived at the Witton Country park.   It was hot and sunny with quite a few folk milling about.  There was even a fun fair.  I met the other members of the team, some of whom I knew from Northumberland Fell runners.  I was handed my vest which can only be described as a small small.  Nevertheless, it was a proud moment to get my hands on it, albeit for an hour or two.

There was plenty time before the race so I chilled out a little and watched the start of the ladies race.  It was at this point I noticed how few runners there were.  I was expecting a couple of hundred, but there mustn't have been more than 80.  Once the ladies were off, I had a joggle around the first part of the course to see what was awaiting.  The ground was firm and as dry as sticks. A cracking trail climbing up to the forest at the top.  It reminded me of Bothal woods near home, but with hills!  There were to be three laps.  I hate laps....

A small small
The start of the men's race was delayed following the collapse of one of the ladies at the finish area.  It looked like she was dehydrated.  Not a good start.  Fifteen minutes later and we were off.  I held back for the first mile and tried to settle in so I could make some progress.  By this time my mouth was as dry as sandpaper and would only get worse with the very still, hot air.  The shade of the trees did nothing to help.  Another seven miles to go with a couple of thousand feet to climb.

After the first lap I felt good and was racing with a guy from Northern Ireland.  I was catching him on the climbs, but he caught me on the descents.  It was a great duel until the finish.  I noticed a few runners dropping out, probably the heat.  I wish I had given my old man a bottle of water to hand me when I passed him, but too late.  I was gradually moving up the field, a far cry from the last descent at the three peaks!  This gave me a boost, also the support from the ladies NECAA team spectating.  I even managed a sprint finish, just pipped by the Irish chap mentioned earlier.  I found out afterwards that he is a 32 minute 10k and low 15 minute 5k athlete.  Wowza.

I finished first counter for the North East Counties.  a cracking day and one I won't forget.  Shame I couldn't keep the vest as a memento.  I am so pleased I took my chance.  You don't know if you don't try!

Thanks for the opportunity!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

60th Yorkshire 3 peaks fell race; 23.2m, 5276ft

The past couple of months have been rather good running-wise.  I have achieved two new PB’s in 5k and 10k and also been part of a winning vet’s team at the Elswick road relays on Good Friday.  Oh, and the “small” matter of the Coledale Horseshoe fell race which cannot be underestimated in terms of effort!  During this time I have neglected my long runs in the hills which probably wasn’t the best preparation for this classic race.

The 60th Yorkshire 3 peaks race took place on Saturday, 26th April.  I was looking forward to the event but also conscious that it may be a step too far in terms of the distance and cumulative ascent/descent. 

On arrival at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, it was rather bleak.  It was raining, cold and there was low visibility which dimmed the mood from quite keen, to “I’m not looking forward to this!”  There was a lot of talk about what footwear would be most suitable prior to the race.  Some were saying road shoes and some saying trail.  Given the weather I opted for my Mudclaws and they turned out to be a wise choice (lucky!).

I registered in the marquee on got prepared, debating whether to start in my waterproof jacket or faff around getting it out of my bum bag when I really needed it.  I decided to wear it from the start and within ten minutes I was beginning to regret feeling like a boil in the bag ready meal.  The first peak, Pen-y-ghent, was soon upon us.  The climb wasn’t as bad as I had feared and felt in a comfortable place.  So much so I neglected to acknowledge my pal John, who wasted no time in getting my attention :o)

First peak done then it was a long and undulating section to Whernside.  A good opportunity to stretch the legs and get some miles ticked off.  The trail was good with some muddy and quite rocky sections with great support along the way.  The checkpoint before the viaduct at Ribblehead was superb with a loud speaker shouting each runner’s name as they came through and a good sized crowd to give you a boost before the ascent of peak number two.  The ascent of Whernside was on fell rather than rocky path so it was down to a hands on knees job.  I scoffed my first Nakd bar, although with a dry mouth it was difficult to get down!  I reached the top greeted by the race marshalls and checked in, wasting no time to head off on the descent.

Reaching Chapel-le-dale checkpoint I was beginning to feel quite tired so stopped for a minute or two to get myself together.  The quads were beginning to ache from the fast descents.  Arriving at  the bottom of Ingleborough, I began to bonk and took on some food immediately (shame it was too late).  I was on for sub 3:30 at this point which was way above what I expected.  The climb up was brutal, and I think everyone at this point began to struggle.  I ploughed on slowly, telling myself that once I reach the top it’ll be all downhill.  Unfortunately it turned out to be a very long and painful 4-5 miles.  At Sulber Nick drink station I was in shock to hear “only 20 minutes to the finish” when I was convinced it was only ten.  This was bad news.  I reached the finish to a great reception in 3:43 and in 61st place.  I had nothing left and collapsed to the ground with relief that it was over.  Looking back at the splits I had got up to 23rd place.  Next time I will have to pace it better so I can finish stronger.


What a fantastic race and first class organisation.  I shall return and will be gunning for sub 3:30!  A grand day oot.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Off monkey back my

Two races on consecutive weekends, a 5k and 10k. PB's on both with a bonus silver medal to boot. Mission accomplished. Back to the fells!!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

National Cross Country Championships and Brough Law fell race

National Cross Country Championships, Nottingham, 22nd February 2014

Wollaton Park, Nottingham was the destination for this year's National Cross Country Championships. A three and a half hour 'entertaining' journey on a sunny, cool day was well justified. The event was fantastic and a great experience being my first one.
Wollaton Park

It was a lovely setting and the course had a bit of everything. Mud, trail, long grass, hills and even a large tree trunk to leap over on each lap. The mass start was a joy to be part of, all in starting pens and aiming for the same corner at the top of the first climb.

Three Musketeers
You had to be very careful here, not to be trampled on and not go off too fast. I got away with both and eased into a steady pace which I maintained for the rest of the race. Needless to say, the mud was like running through treacle by the final lap and was energy sapping.

I was well pleased to finish 233rd out of a field of around 1600 and ninth counter for Morpeth. I'll be back for next year's, wherever that will be.

Brough Law, 9th March 2014

Great conditions greeted the competitors and spectators at this year's Brough Law fell race at Ingram.  It was mild for this time of year, around 9 degrees with a bit of a wind on the tops. Sunny intervals though with no rain and the ground was quite firm with only a few boggy areas. What a turnout too, record number of 120+ and a Northumberland Fell Runners Grand Prix counter so lots of NFR vests milling about the start area.

First climb

As always, it was a very well organised event with very supportive marshalling throughout. The weather was so good that kit wasn't required!

On a personal level, I was chuffed with 4th spot, second counter for NFR so I have some GP points on the board.  The first mile sets the tone for the rest of your race as it is a canny climb for just short of a mile before the horizon opens up to the tops of the hills. I felt reasonably ok until the second climb and felt quite tired but was spurred on by the oncoming NFR vests behind me. 

Well done to all competitors and thanks again to Will H and John T for a great morning.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Short, sharp shrift

It is now one week before the National cross country championships in Nottingham. My first time at this event which I'm told is all about the experience!

January and February have been good to me so far, I'm training well and have already competed in four events. Hillforts and Headaches fell race, Durham cathedral relays, Wrekenton cross country (now in the fast pack) and the Hetton road relays. This is a far cry from the beginning of 2013 when I was fully focused on high mileage preparing for my first ultra and avoiding any kind of competition.

My whole running picture changed when I failed to get a place in the CCC. Discussions with friends and most importantly my coach, I now have a plan. Next 'big race' is the Yorkshire 3 peaks in April. Really enjoying this short stuff though, and the comarardery of club mates. If I'm lucky to get into the CCC next year then so be it. It is something I intend to do no matter what. Never stand still.

I'm writing this post on a train journey down to Lincoln to meet up with my wife (who is visiting her sister). We then travel to Southport to pick up our new springer spaniel puppy. A bit of a life changer! A long day of travelling ahead....

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Down’s, up’s and a lottery

Part 1 – down’s

Just before Christmas I aimed to participate in the Tour de Helvellyn race.  A 38 mile loop starting from Askham and taking in Martindale, Patterdale, Stick’s pass, Thirlmere and Grisedale.  I did participate, but unfortunately this was to be the first race I have ever had to pull out of, notching up my first DNF.

The weather on the drive over to Askham the day before the event was what can only be described as horrendous.  Gale force winds, rain beating against the windows and chilly temperatures.  We were praying for the weather to improve as I hunkered down on the Community centre floor for a night’s kip, along with thirty or so others taking advantage of the cheap accommodation with porridge for breakfast thrown in.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much.  A combination of the wild weather and the snoring/farting combo at frequent intervals put paid to that.

I set off at 8am sharp and it wasn’t raining at this point.  I caught up with Mr D Troman and Mr M Wilson early on who both knew the route so I could get a good start and on the right path.  I was familiar with part of the route from the Lakeland 50 along Ullswater to Howtown.  Other than that, I hadn’t reccied any of it so was hoping there would be plenty of runners to follow so I could keep my rubbish nav skills in my back pocket….

I was going well up until the descent of Boredale Hause.  Everywhere was saturated.  I lost concentration on the rocky path down to Patterdale and slipped and fell onto my leg.  The force of my body weight pressing my leg into a rock.  I got up straight away but looked down and my thermal legwear had torn, exposing a large swelling of my outer shin.  It didn’t look good but a fellow competitor advised me to walk for a while to assess the damage.  I reached the Patterdale checkpoint and felt sore but confident I could keep going.  It looked like it was a damaged muscle which was petruding out, and not bone (thankfully).  Was I doing more damage running on it?  I carried on until the Swirl How car park where I was intending to eat and drink then head off again.  The marshall at the checkpoint spotted the injury and advised I pulled out.  I was gutted, but resigned to the fact that I had another 20 miles to go on an injured leg.  It wasn’t going to improve by running on it, stupid to carry on.

The organisation of the event and the route were excellent.  I hope to return one year to do it justice.  Thanks to Joe Faulkner for the lift back to the start!

Part 2 – up’s

Having rested for a few days after the TdeH disappointment, my leg had improved a lot and I was out having a bimble in the hills with my brother on Boxing day.  I was back training at the club and thought about entering the Hill forts and headaches race on New Year’s day.  A 3 mile blast from the Newcastle Hotel at Rothbury up to the top of Beacon Hill.  I had run this the previous year and really enjoyed starting the New Year with a great fell race.  Four quid for a race and cracking soup at the end.
As usual I set off too fast but kept with the leading two of Lee Bennett and Phil Sanderson up to 1.5 miles.  It was a bit of a struggle after that, the clag had come down and temperatures dipped the higher we climbed. 

I was over the moon to finish third, but I was thinking I was going to be caught at any moment.  A bottle of ale for third and a chocolate orange for first team.  Cracking start to the year and a boost to the confidence. There were mutters that this could be the last Hill forts race unless someone steps in to take over the organisation.  It would be a great shame if nobody came forward.  I can imagine it would be a lot of work involved.

Part 3 – Ultra-trail du Mont Blanc – the CCC lottery outcome

I am, without doubt, hugely disappointed with the draw - “refused”.  There was the opportunity to transfer my entry to the TDS, but I would lose my co-efficient for the CCC next year.  My goal for the last 18 months was to be selected for the CCC, so I will re-apply next time.  I will be focussing on representing Morpeth harriers and Northumberland Fell runners over the coming months and look forward to the Lakeland 50 with my brother in July and perhaps helping out on a Bob Graham round attempt. A few road PB's to aim for too