Sunday, 29 January 2012

Kinder Trial Fell Race

24 hours ago I was a little nervous. I was dressed for running, standing in a room buzzing with excitement, people studying a map with no controls shown, suggesting places the controls could be. We were all there for one common take part in the Kinder Trial, an orienteering fell race (listed as 18km and 650m ascent) with cake and soup at the end (a very important motivational factor once you're out on the hill).

The day was glorious, blue sky, a slight nip to the air, and snow on the ground. That final point was making my anxiety levels rise somewhat. I've only ever run on snow once before...never in a race....and I've never run this distance or estimated time before. I'd warned my running partners (Alison and Becky) and they were more than happy to run at my pace, using the race as navigational practice. They were fantastic throughout, pulling me along where I would have been slower, waiting patiently where I was slower than them (mostly descents which I must practice more). I really am very grateful for their company. I could have done the race without them, but it wouldn't have been half as much fun and that's after all why I'm doing races this year - to have fun on the hills.

the start...that's us by the door
10:07 was our start time...only then do you see the map plus controls. No two minute window to check the map this year - just grab it and review on the go. We were weirdly enough like giggling school girls as we took the maps and ran down the steps from Hayfield scout hut. The map revealed 13 controls scattered over the western side of Kinder, first decision is clockwise or anti?  We chose clockwise, favouring an approach to Mount Famine from higher up, rather than having to climb it at the start of the race.

Then we're off and running through Hayfield aiming for the shooting cabin and our first check point. With staggered start times it makes it impossible to know who you're racing against on the hill - only the final results once everyone is back shows your placing so it really is just you, the map and your feet.

Snow on the ground gave us easy trods to follow, even being in the early starters there was very little trail breaking for us to do. I was mildly disappointed with this as it made it more of a point to point race than true navigation in an orienteering race. But, it was nice not to have to wade through ankle deep snow for the whole time.

me at the front, though not leading!
We found the first six checkpoints easily, then hit a blank with CP8. It wasn't just us...there must have been 15 or so runners all scouring the gully, digging out snow in case the control had been buried overnight. Nope, can't find it. Just got wet gloves. We confirmed with several others we'd just bin it and hope we wouldn't lose out in the results if everyone couldn't find it. Off up the hill aiming for the furthest east checkpoint beyond Edale Rocks/Swines Back. Then we hear that CP8 has been found in a different gulley....and we're off back down the hill, losing all the height we'd just gained to clip the control. My heart sank. I was starting to feel tired anyway so really didn't want to face the uphill stretch again. I kick myself mentally for being negative and just get on with it. I'm cheered up by a bounding runner coming down the pointed at's Tim. He's running anti-clockwise and still full of energy as he snaps a few shots, tumbles into the snow, picks himself up and continues downwards!

We must be about half way I tell myself...keep going....check the map...just up the rise then it's down again. which must mean there's more uphill to come but don't think of it til you're there. Just get on with it.

The weather is still amazing but there's no time to stand and stare as I would normally. Today is race day and I'm somehow still going. I'm beyond my 12km/2hr boundary now. I keep taking a small bite of chocolate and a sip of water. I feel like I should be eating more but I'm not hungry. I've never needed to eat and run at the same time. This is all very new to me. Having the water bladder is helping me to keep fluids going in and I'm learning to eat on the uphill stretches so there's no stopping and faffage.

looking east from near Mount Famine
By the time we get to CP11 it's the long stretch to run up to Mount Famine and I'm getting quite tired. It's boggy on that bit; despite all the snow it's still wet bog, knee deep in places. Feet sink in easily adding to the tiredness with every foot step.  There's a lady on top of the crag at Mount Famine asking if we'll slide down the hill or run - what the heck, sliding will be so much faster for me. I'm off, on my bum sliding down past Sikobe and other runners slogging uphill. That slide made my day, I squealed with delight! We should have taken sledges with us for all descents!! It's here we make our only nav error in race. We drop too far down in the clough, spend time looking at the map and realise we'll need to climb back up. It turned out to be 90m of ascent. Now my legs moaned but I climbed up and up, through the trees and spot the rock outcrop and control. Clip, and back down again to regain the route on the more checkpoint left. I'm actually going to do this!

Running down the track is easier (requires less concentration) than on the hill but the hard packed ground is not good for my feet. We find the final checkpoint along with a few other runners and it's just a couple of kilometres to the finish...I'm pretty exhausted by this point and my water has almost gone. I get heaps of encouragement from Alison and Becky to keep going, there's no question they'll leave me behind. Thanks girls!! I go into automatic pilot mode and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm actually quite amazed I can still run as we pass cross the road and onto the final path up to the field and the scout hut.

at the end...leg pain commence!
Mild confusion there's no finishing funnel to run through...we just need to get up the steps and into the hut...control cards in hands we all rush through the door and throw them on the table. Sorry to the guys behind the desk if I didn't say anything. I was quite exhausted.

Once I'd stopped I felt a bit weird. I needed water badly. Tim to rescue. I can't decide if I want to keep moving around or sit down. In the end I do a bit of both, my legs are starting to cramp. I almost roll into the boot of the car in agony. Stand again. Tim goes to get keys for Carl's house so I can change...I lay on the back seats of the car and then it hits me. The fact that I've never had cramp before yesterday is becoming more and more evident. I can quite simply say its the most painful thing I've ever felt. I screamed in agony a few times. Punching my leg helped a little, squeezing it too. I keep gulping down water. The pain eventually subsides enough for me to stand, change and make an appearance in the hut. I'm still fairly dazed as I sip hot tea and eat garlic bread and cake. I'm just in time for the prize giving. Well done to Glossopdale - think we got 4 prizes!!

Here's my garmin track for you to look at...note the fastest kilometre is the 19th!!! I had pretty much ignored my time all the way round but now on the run into Hayfield I reckoned we could make it back in under 3h45...that motivation definitely accounted for the quick last kilometre.

This is the order we ran around: CP4 (shooting cabin) - CP3 (by large rock) - CP2 (stream source) - CP1 (crag foot) - CP5 (wall bend) - CP6 (cabin ruin) - CP8 (stream gully) - CP13 (stream gully) - CP9 (between walls) - CP11 (wall corner) - CP10 (below crag) - CP12 (rock outcrop) - CP7 (next to wall & pine tree).

Total time: 3hrs 44mins
19.25km / 11.96miles
866m / 2843ft elevation gain
Consumed: one chocolate bar and one litre water.  

I definitely should have been drinking more water, and given the level of cramp I suffered I need to start using electrolytes on long runs. Eating the chocolate bar was good...bits stuck to my teeth so I got the slow release effect!!

The preliminary results have already been posted here. Our official time is 3hrs 44mins 6 seconds, placing in 115th out of 147. (edited after final results published, we got bumped up one place, nice!)

All photos courtesy of Tim. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." Aristotle

In my never ending quest to better myself I have set more specific aims, this time with weekly and monthly targets.

3 runs: distance/time not important. I just shouldn't get to the club run on a Tuesday and realise I've not run since last week.
2 low-carb eating days: I'm keeping my target weight within reach but eating habits have slipped a little with the Christmas indulgence lasting longer than it should. Not that I'm eating unhealthily, but I could do better. By giving myself the target of 2 low-carb days a week it will remind me to keep focused.
1 new recipe: try something new, and include new flavours and foods to keep things fresh.

2 Glossopdale Harriers club runs. This can be part of my weekly 3 runs.
2 full days on the hill - hours in boots, exploring the local area and beyond.
2 half days on the hill - focus on micro-navigation practice will be part of these days.
1 weekend away.
1 bivvy night on the hill.
more of this....
I'll keep you posted with how I'm getting on. Stats for January are skewed since I've only just devised these targets. I think having considered the frequency of running hasn't been what I'd like it's pushed me to get these targets down on paper.

Saturday, 21 January 2012


I've been mulling over my 25km route (one of my aspirations for 2012) choice for a while now. I'm settled on running from Glossop (home) to the Woodbine (my second home) in Hope.

First choice route is Chunal Moor, Mill Hill, Sandy Heys, Kinder Downfall, Kinder Low Trig, Brown Knoll, Lords Seat, Mam Tor, across the ridge to Lose Hill and drop into Hope.

Second choice takes me the same route as far as Kinder Low Trig then follow the South edge of Kinder all the way to Crookstone Knoll, Hope Cross, Crookstone Barn, Hope Cross, Hope Brink to Twitchill Farm and drop down to Hope from there.

Mam Tor ridge with Lose Hill in sunshine

The dilemma is that I want to do the Mam Tor Ridge but that route only works out at about 23.5km. 1.5km short of my target. I don't want to end up adding on a detour just to make up that distance and the descent into Hope off Lose Hill just comes naturally to me...any detours from the fields I know so well would just feel wrong and false. Choice 2 is a tad over 25km but doesn't have the ridge run. If I added Win Hill summit in it would be longer by about 1.5km. Not going to the summit would feel wierd. Or maybe I wouldn't care at that point. Hmmm. I shall ponder. Does 1.5km matter? Is the route choice more important? I shall return to the map and see what options there are at the start or along the way.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Early worms

"The early bird catches the worm"

Meaning: Success comes to those who prepare well and put in effort. 

I set some Aspirations for 2012 and here's how I'm getting on so far, 18 days into January:

#1 - 24 GDH runs
2 complete; on target if I keep up the same attendance rate.

#2 - run 3 fell races

#3 - cover 25km in one go
Max distance run to date in one go = 12km. 25km seems more feasible now I've broken the 10km point on 5 occasions since Boxing Day. I'm formulating a route for my 25km run - more to follow on that soon.

#4 - 10 body weight chin ups
Can do 2. Feel confident I could do 3 but training currently has me doing 4x2 body weight chins on Mondays and 4x8 assisted chins on Thursdays (assisted being with the help of a giant elastic band). Gradual progress is key.

In addition to my training and running I'm developing a morning routine to take me through foam rollering, stretches and mobility exercises. These are usually done prior to training at the gym, but I want to get them done every day to increase mobility, flexibility and strength.

Here's what I did today:
  • Foam rollering - quads, hamstrings, adductors, ITB, calves, achilles. I'm paying particular attention to troublesome and therefore painful areas...left ITB close to the knee, left achilles (I have a niggle on my lateral ankle)
  • Stretching - calves doing both bent and straight leg so I work the achilles properly. I'm focusing just on these lower leg muscles to assist the ankle niggle rehab. Main thing is I'm listening to my body and just holding the stretch, breathing deeply and feeling it until there is some sort of relaxing or ease evident before moving on.
  • Ankle raises & drops - on a step, hinging from my toes, doing them slowly to feel where there are areas of tension. Rotating feet a little to gain more stretch laterally then medially.
  • Mobility:
squats x10
hip rotations x5 each direction on each leg
mountain climbs x10
forward lunge x10
single leg RDL x5 each leg
pull-aparts with band - arms
arm dislocates with band - arms
  • Balance on hedgehog - 1min each leg 
  • Plank x30secs
  • Wall squats x10

All those take about 30 minutes. I feel the benefits immediately - I'm more awake and my body feels more supple and warm. A great way to start the day, and prepare my body for whatever is coming later on.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Into the darkness

It's last Friday night. Some will think I'm strange. Some will admire me. Which are you?

7pm on a freezing (literally) January Friday evening and we're collected by a friend, driven to the Snake Summit and hop out of the car. It's dark. As you would expect at this time of year. The cold is going to permeate every inch of us if we don't get moving. Our task for the night is to find a dozen or so features on Kinder and Bleaklow. We are out for a night navigation session.

And what a night. The sky is brimming with crystal clear stars. The ground is crunchy under foot - something of a new experience as we hike over the pathless moors usually more like boggy swamps than hard-packed tufts. There are zillions of ice crystals on the grass and as head torch beams flash over them it all glistens like diamonds. Beautiful. I'm now regretting I don't have a camera with us. That'll teach me. But it would just distract us from the task at hand....navigation practice.

Our walk goes very well...we wander over Featherbed Moss, down Ashop Clough, across the A57, up Urchin Clough, find 3 or 4 spot heights, a pond, a cabin, many grouse butts, a weather station and other features. Navigation goes really well...we're rewarded for our time out in the cold by stars to navigate by. What a treat.

icicles at the entrance to a cabin

Other rewards were sightings of several mountain hares, numerous grouse, and a fleeting glimpse of a short eared owl as it took flight. The moon rose as we climbed up onto Bleaklow, a glorious orange waning gibbous moon inching upwards into the frosty night sky. If only I'd had my camera, and a tripod, and more warm clothes to stand and admire it longer. Alas, that wasn't the aim of the night. By 2am we'd walked about 14km and my feet were ready for a sit down. As it was so cold we'd hardly stopped, pausing only to check map, take bearings and quickly forge onwards before Jack Frost could grab us.

I'll be out on the hills again at night soon, they're there to be enjoyed come rain, shine, day or night.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Headtorch Happiness

My second ever night run took place last night. It started with a gentle warm up run to the leisure centre with Tim then waiting to see which of the Glossopdale Harriers were coming out on the hills. I knew Alison was joining me, and we were meeting Becky in Old Glossop just after 7pm. I'd arranged a C group since me keeping up with either A or B at night was never going to happen. I worked out well; commenting afterwards Alison and Becky both said they were unlikely to have run if I'd not done so - I'm therefore very pleased I made the effort.

Now comes the fun part...running with others and getting used to doing that with torchlight. Weirdly it was fine. That however is partially down to me taking a rather bright light which is designed for cycling. Holding that light in my hand and using a headtorch as well proved a good combination. I was still commenting about how much difference it made as I ran back through the park on the return leg. I think if I do more night runs I'll need a brighter headtorch - while the alpkit one is ok to walk with, in comparison to the cycling torch it was next to useless for running (at least for me!). There's no doubt it added illumination right in front of me, just not as much. Having a slight concern the batteries were going I have replaced them this morning and they appear to have been fine...the cycling light must just be very very bright!

Our route took us up from Old Glossop, along the stony track to Mossy Lea Farm, up the path towards Doctors Gate then veered left up to Spring Cabin and on above Shelf Benches. There was a short stretch where the A group caught and overtook us, so we were briefly running as 10 or so, but were soon back to just the 3 of us keeping a decent pace as the A group stretched out ahead. Poor Becky was running with blisters on her heels...very brave if you ask me, but admirably completed the run. If she's not mentioned it I would have never known. I was pleased I kept up with the others as we climbed up the grassy path. I ran further than I have ever done before switching to a walk. I know the route well so was mentally prepared for the underfoot conditions - this also helped.

We continued up a trod until we reached a small pond...we know we had done so, not because we could see it - the clag had descended upon us, but because we reached the fence, the stile and we know the path, the twists and turns, the marshy bits, the bit with the hole you have to avoid! There was a certain height we reached when we hit cloud base...and then torchlight started to reflect back, the drizzle was persistent and the wind picked up. It was fun!! Wild conditions make the run have more purpose, feel more of an endurance training session and I loved it. I was somewhat cautious of the downhill return leg, but no need. I told my brain to switch off and my legs (especially ankles) to relax. It worked. I kept up with Becky (Alison was long gone...but she kept waiting as you do on social runs) and I started to enjoy relaxing into the pace. Running back along the undulating fields and track I still felt strong and breathing was easy.

Having the others there meant I ran further than I would on a solo run, pushed my pace harder, and found the experience a whole lot more enjoyable. That voice in my head which tried to scare me on my first headtorch run didn't utter a single word all night. Even the wind noises couldn't tempt it to speak up. Brilliant. I'm really glad I insisted on going out last night. I would have run even if I'd been alone, it just wouldn't have been so enjoyable. Thanks girls!

So, there you have it. Running at night can be fun. I'm already thinking of routes to do next week. And that's one Glossopdale Harriers run for the year complete....23 to go! If you want to see the route here's my Garmin track.

Sunday, 8 January 2012


I aim in my training week to include 3 hard days, 2 recovery and 2 rest. It worked out that my 2 rest days this week were together, something most unusual. What I realised today was that I was missing doing some form of exercise. Tim went out for a run and I was itching to go out too. Instead I stayed in, rested and let my body recover from the week that has just been - 12km fell run on Monday (my longest run to date), strength and conditioning training Tuesday and Thursday, a 'recovery' run on Wednesday (more on that in a bit) and a short navigation walk plus 45 mins for recovery on the turbo on Friday. I knew I needed rest - without it muscle fibres continue to break down and eventually I'll get injured. Now that's something I don't want. And just because I feel like I can go out there and run doesn't mean I should, or that it will be good for me.

Wednesday's run was supposed to be an easy 6 or 7km road run, the focus on keeping an easy pace going for the duration and relaxing my breathing into a rhythm. Well that was the idea. The wind however had a different idea. Oh, and it was raining too. Not ideal conditions for a relaxed leg stretch and lung conditioning session. Part way along a back country lane the road levels out after an initial steep climb - I normally aim to run up that but on this occasion I walked the second half, keeping breathing steady. As the road levelled out the wind hit me with full force - you may have noticed it's been a tad blustery of late - even on the gently undulating road the strength of the wind was such that I was forced to walk at one point. My inhaler (for asthma) was no use, walking was the only option. I even contemplated turning round but determination drove me forwards, knowing wind would be behind me for the latter part of my run. Turned out the wind was blowing head on the whole way round - most odd since I did a circular route! Not to worry, I got round, but not in the relaxed level I'd hoped.

Grey skies
The coming week is returning to my usual routine of strength and conditioning on Monday and Thursday. I'm running Tuesday night with second head torch run and fingers crossed I'll have some company this time. Wednesday is a rest day, Friday will be recovery on the turbo and I'll do a longer run at the weekend - weather and taxi duties for the Trigger will dictate which day. The other weekend day wil be rest. I had contemplated doing Lambs Longer Leg this coming weekend but decided against it, it doesn't feel like I'm ready for the up-down-up-down-ness of the route and I want my races to be enjoyable not put me off so early in the year.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Brilliantly Bogtastic

I took my mudclaws out for a bog bashing session today. What I hadn't bargained on was icy conditions underfoot! But then Bleaklow is quite high up, and the wind was pretty chilly. With Montane smock and gloves on I set off....waving my lift (Tim & John+dog) goodbye as they headed onto Kinder. My route was northwards.

Icicles, bog and a bit of snow
There were a few places where the paving slabs along the Pennine Way were of no use on them making it more dangerous than bog trotting at the side. Sorry conservationists...I applaud your work (and do normally stick to the paves) but today it just wasn't safe in mudclaws to teeter along them. I turned West and across to Hern Stones - wanting to check out the trod between there and the Wain Stones. I swear I saw two walkers heading South towards Hern...never saw them again though so perhaps a bog ate them.

Random stones close to the Wain can't quite see the ice on that feet certainly knew it was cold up there as they broke through countless ice covered bogs!
The kissing Wain Stones which offered little shelter from the blustery wind
Here's me somewhere on Bleaklow....near Wain Stones!
From Wain Stones I picked up the shooters track curving round in a vaguely Northwesterly direction to John Track Well. It was this trod that forced me become more adjusted to bog running / surfing / hopping. It's a decent trod but in such wet conditions many places are either flowing river-like or calf deep bogs. After a "hello" to 2 walkers having a picnic on the stones marking my point to head west I picked up the trod across to Torside and onwards to Glossop Low. I noticed a small trod up onto Torside, paused, then left that one for another day knowing I was already going to be out 1.5hrs+ - enough for my training today.

Here's the view looking back towards Torside, with James Thorn being the high point just right of centre.
The path from John Track Well to Glossop Low is pretty much one gigantic bog....interspersed with a few wooden board aimed at making the crossings easier. However, today they had ice on them, so their natural greasy slippery tendencies were exacerbated and left me no choice but to avoid them completely - with the exception of a couple that were crossed in comedic tottering fashion.  I've heather bashed across this area before and that isn't a great deal easier so bogs and board dodging were called for.

All these bogs I was deliberately (yes you read that right - I'm working on confident foot work) and mostly without choice bashing through were not doing any favours to my feet - they'd been cold since somewhere on the Pennine Way, and I was wishing I'd opted for my sealskin socks rather than just thick socks. It did have one advantage - it meant I was determined not to stop or they'd just go numb, at least while moving there was some chance they'd warm up. I can gauge the temperature level by how soon my gloves come I kept them on for the entirety of the run - hence it was chilly.

Cock Hill Trig Point looking back towards Torside and John Track Well
At this point was feeling good, my feet had stopped being cold - perhaps they were just numb so I couldn't feel them. I ran down past the plantations and into Old Glossop feeling pretty good. I've not run this distance or duration before so I was pleased I was keeping a good pace. I know most of the run was downhill, but on the terrain it doesn't always feel easy!

Mudclaws post-run...somehow they've managed to partially clean themselves - a miracle. The double knots are interesting to undo with cold hands when all you want is to be in the hot shower!!

I ran with my osprey 5.5 rucksack today because I wanted to carry a few extra bits of warm clothes plus a full map. I can't carry the map in my bumbag (race elite 2) and didn't fancy grasping onto the map for the duration causing my hand to ache. It's niggles like that which start to annoy me after a while. What did bother me a little was the rucksack. I've not had this problem before....I just couldn't get it to sit tightly on my back no matter what combination of strap tightening and loosening I did. It always felt like it was riding up and down - perhaps it was the water bottle I had in it, instead of the water bladder? When running the waist strap rides up, however tight I have it around my pelvic bone so I normally just tighten the shoulder straps and it sits comfortably. I'll try the water bladder next time, see how that goes on a long run.

Here's my Garmin Track if you're interested. I'm very pleased with 12km in 1hr 45mins - think that's my longest duration on the fells to date.