Sunday, 28 April 2013

Dark & White Mini Mountain Marathon: Rowter Farm

Hopping out of the car at Rowter Farm just to the South of Winnats Pass caused more than just me to shiver this morning. The wind blowing in from the south cut right through any non-windproof clothes with biting insistence. I was glad I'd opted for leggings+shorts and had waterproof trousers tucked in my rucksack just in case. Some of those in shorts were less than happy. It was so chilly that I did my final prep with clothes, watch, bag etc in the car with doors firmly closed.

Registration was in a shelter, thankfully out of the wind, which held me captive for a few moments while I braced myself for the start. I didn't have long to wait until the starting window opened, so by the time I'd finished sorting gear and taken an easy run up the track to the starting dibber it was close to 8.30am.

I was handed a map and did my usual trick of forgetting to start the watch...then the rabbit-in-the-headlights freeze gripped me for a few moments as I pondered which way to start. I decided on a vaguely clockwise route, seeing there may be more chances for me to bag a few late points on the east/south approach to Rowter Farm - if I had spare time.

Heading onto Lords Seat/Rushup Edge from Mam Nick
Heading north my first check point was CP4. I set off with a Pennine runner, just by chance, so we chatted a bit as we kept an easy pace. After Windy Knoll it was across the road and up to Mam Nick, then west to CP9 on the Lord's Seat/Rushup Edge path. I pondered whether to continue westwards to get CP10 worth 25 points but the wind was vicious. Hindsight blah blah....but it's done now, and at the time I didn't feel I could run into the wind. Walking at that point seemed like it would take up too much time while taking me further away from the start/finish. 

Back Tor and Lose Hill in the distance
So, I doubled back to Mam Nick and round the north side of Mam Tor to dib at CP15, then on to Hollins Cross and down towards Backtor Farm for CP20. That bagged me 25 points - I don't normally get any of those so I was quietly pleased.

By now I'd been going for about 45mins. Next came the climb back up to the Mam Tor ridge so I could traverse to CP19. Almost an hour in and it felt like I was now heading back to the finish....which was a good thing as I'd set myself a target of a minimum of 5 CPs and 2hours out. With no long runs done recently a 3hr event was a big ask. I don't like overstretching (as I'm liable to break) myself so was content with my plan.

Looking into the Edale valley with Grindslow Knoll framed between the trees - a pause as I climb towards the ridge

Looking west towards Mam Tor as I leave CP19
I wove my way through several groups of young walkers (DofE groups most likely) who seemed to be swarming around the place. Thank you to one group who anticipated my arrival and opened/closed a gate for me somewhere on the route, much appreciated.  I was now heading off the ridge on the south side, down to CP16 amongst a jumble of path junctions. Then it was down further and onto hard pack track and tarmac, past Hollowford centre and to CP17. I was tiring now, and annoyingly my x-talons (worn only once previous with no issues) decided to rub my left heel. I ignored the inevitable blister that formed over the next 8km or so...rule#5 commenced.

Castleton village with Peveril Castle on the hillside above
Down into the village of Castleton my route choice now ignored the CP8 out-and-back-option. I'd been out 1.5hrs and was thinking of getting shoes off and stopping. Not that I was about to give up, far from it. I just started to visualise the finish. I also knew that I still had to get up Cave Dale. But also, there were a few options to bag more points towards the disused quarries if I had time/energy/will power.

Looking up Cave Dale...and...Looking down Cave Dale with fellow mini-mm'ers ascending and descending to/from CP22

So, onwards and up Cave Dale, dibbing CP22 (and reattaching the flag to the iron gate before it blew 
Dibbing CP22 in Cave Dale
away). Then up and once again into a fierce headwind. This now slowed me considerably, though I cheered up on seeing fellow Glossopdaler Zoe and partner bounding downwards on their anticlockwise route. I clearly had tiredness creeping in, going a little off-route and requiring a compass to take bearings down a few walls - just checking I was where I thought I was - and yes, it was slightly in the wrong place. But, I'd put the error right before doing any distance and soon I was running towards CP3, back to the track and west to CP1.

CP3 looking towards Mam Tor

Closer view of CP3
Looking east from near CP1
Headwind struck again, forcing me to walk where I really should have been able to run. Let's say it was a headwind and tiredness combination. Now I'm heading to CP2 but miss a stile and have to back track slightly - no wall or fence climbing for me. I also needed to avoid a disused quarry. So, after 2:45 I'm within sight of the finish line and sadly don't have enough time to put right my slight errors and bag CP2. Not to worry. I dib to finish and immediately sit down.

CP1 looking west towards the disused Eldon Hill Quarries

I felt weary. I also felt (and still do) very happy. 18km and 150 points in 2hrs 45mins and 22secs. I shall sleep well. That is, after downing a good bowl of beef stew that's been bubbling away in the slow cooker all day - I knew getting up early to put that on was a good idea.

Results have been posted - I'm 135th/165.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Hartcliff Hill Fell Race

The Glossopdale mid-week championship opened this year on Thursday evening with a short blast around the Penistone Footpath Runners & Athletics Club race, Hartcliff Hill. At 4km long (or not quite!) and only 150m ascent it was going to be on the more pleasant side of tough compare to Herod Farm yesterday. I stood a fair chance of gaining high points, just on the basis of turning up and there not being many other Glossopdale ladies...good tactics, only 3 of us so a minimum of 28 points.

A brilliantly detailed map showing all the different terrain we would encounter.
The evening was chilly, it had been raining in heavy squalls and the sky still looked threatening. Thankfully there wasn't as much wind as last night. Registration was at Langsett Barn and the start a 10 minute easy run away.  We'd been told the ground was wet, but not as bad as last year - epic wetness then I gather. As we wandered over to the start the fields were showing a few decent patches of shoe-sucking mud. I took the direct line point saving shoes as what was to come would no doubt be much worse. There was a delightful shower of hail which fell upon us...character building especially for Caity who was braving the elements in shorts and club vest only.

A few of us did a quick additional warm up along the start track, just to check what was coming up in the first 250m...just a gate, which would be open. Great. Gathering at the start we were ushered further down the track...the usual short speech and thanks for coming on a damp chilly evening and we're off...

I egg on Andy from Glossopdale, cheekily noting I'm about to overtake him (he is a faster runner than me) this apparently spurs him on and I don't see him again til the finish line. Caity has left me too...that was bound to happen given her speed. I'm not sure where Alison is...a glance behind as I gain a little height in the first field and she's behind. I wonder if I can keep it that way? I dig in, keep the legs turning, and ignore my breathing which is once again laboured. I accidentally see my heart rate and it's already 170+bpm. I must change the screens for racing, no way I needed confirmation of what I can feel!

Up across the fields the grass is really rutted from the hooves of cows or horses. Then there's the patches of really sticky calf depth mud that tries to suck your shoes off. My laces are firming holding on my shoes. Good. Up a little more and the angle steepens enough to slow me down. As I pass the mountain rescue/marshalls and turn left I'm walking a few paces, glance back...pick up the feet and start running again. The wind is directly into my face now, and having seen the route map I knew it would be for another 1-1.5km. Just when I need to recover my breathing on the traverse+gentle ascent. Rutted ground and protruding stones also means I can't relax my running, constantly needing to check where feet will land.

John S passes me and says something that's lost in the wind. I reach the short tarmac stretch, turn left and then into the heather. John has long pulled away from me and I'm sandwiched in between 2 other runners. My pace is now dictated by the person in front. I feel I could go faster, but to pass means proper heather bashing. Damn. If I'd known that was coming I could perhaps have pushed a little and got past her earlier. Race tactics are being learnt. I must recce if I can.

I finally reach the summit, the two marshals point me downwards and I spot the little sign saying "it's all downhill now" (or similar words) makes me smile. I've still not got past lady-in-front-of-me. She is definitely holding me up now and though I wouldn't have been much quicker on the muddy slippy steep bit of descent I do feel I could have gone a little faster.

The route opens a little and I pass her. Someone is still behind me. We go through a farm yard and he's still there. Then I almost go wrong, only by the chaps kind words do I get over a stile I'd clearly not seen. Thanks whoever you are, if you'd not shouted to me to go over the stile I would have been temporarily misplaced and definitely off the race route. Ever the gentleman he lets me go over the stile first, then promptly leaves me behind.

Caity and the Ladys winners cake - there were some impressive cakes
The running is easier now. Its downhill and on soft even grass which gives really nicely underfoot. My pace is only tempered by the patches of mud as each wall or stile approaches. Then finally I get a glimpse of the main road which is only a short distance below and parallel to the finish. Phew, nearly there. A quick glance at the watch and I'm still seeing 24:?? minutes....I wonder if sub-25 is possible. Not this time. The final stile and really few short steep steps up on to the final flat 100m just took too long, and disrupted my rhythm enough to put me at a finishing time of 25:30 (by my watch, and later confirmed on the official board results).

I see a few familiar faces from the FRA forum, Stagger and Fleeter - words are exchanged but I may have been a little incoherent in that post-race haze. A quick drink then its the 1km wander back to Langsett Barn with the first lady, Caity, and Alison who came in just after me. Good championship points for all of us, and a cake for winning lady Caity. It was a good turn out by Glossopdale too, good effort from everyone.

Thanks to PFRAC for putting on the race, and also for my spot prize - I think I ran in a time guessed by the race organiser. Whatever, I ended up with a bottle of wine, thank you! I'm pleased I ran this race, even with racing yesterday my legs feel really good. I'm gradually realising its my lungs I need to get working better. Leg strength and overall stamina seem to be doing ok - there's loads of room for improvement, but I know if my lungs worked better I could be faster! No surprises there then!

Just for the record, my gps has recorded 183m of ascent.

Herod Farm Fell Race 2013

Wednesday evening found me helping out on the registration desk for the Glossopdale Harriers club race, Herod Farm. The wind was ever present, insistently threatening to blow forms and bank notes away (I think the gazebo did lose out to the wind later on). We held on to the papers tightly and with 93 runners registered, at the start line we (yes, I ran as well as helped out) were given the race organisers speech....and we're off...

I'd kind-of-reluctantly run this race last year for the first time. Having a couple of steep climbs in it makes it something of a challenge, and for me something to dread. Not only do I not ascend very quickly, but my downhill technique could be improved. So using last year's time as a benchmark I'd added this race to my list of aspirations for this year - I wanted to improve, even if by a few seconds. I wanted to show that all the hours of training, all the hill reps, all the turbo sessions, had all been for something. And this was the race to test myself. At only 5km it might seem like a nice short race to start the midweek races off. But then there's the 335m of ascent. That's going to hurt.

From the start: I'm No.3. Winning lady is Zoe, No.2.
Back to the race...I've been doing some of my hill reps on the first ascent so know the track well. I know where the steeper bits are, the bits where I might potentially recover a little, push a little. All the training definitely helped. I paced the first part of the first climb much better. I didn't have to walk until the farm. Great. Going well. So what if lots of people passed me. I'm out, racing and only have another 4.25km to go.

Onto the grass I'm walking...but not stopping as I did last year. The terrain levels out towards the top then the wind kicked into my lungs like daggers. I can't recover my breath across the top and am still panting like a steam train as I round the top-most marshall and head down the first descent. There's no Glossopdalers or runners I know around me. I'm running my own race, against the clock. Stealing a glance at the time I'm more or less the same as last year as I reach the bottom of the first descent. I feel stronger, if only that wind would bugger off and let my breathing calm down a bit (is that possible in a race anyway?!).

The second climb...before the really steep bit.
Across the fields, I'm so focused on foot placement on the narrow track I nearly embed myself into a thorny bush. A lucky dodge to the left and I avoid it...onwards and towards the nursing home. A sense of dread enters knowing the steepness of the second climb. I walk a bit, run a bit, keep up with a couple of runners close by. Looking up the hill I see the horses are behaving, neatly tucking themselves in to the side of the field, and beyond a string of runners stretched out, marking the route I'm about to take.

Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Don't stop. Up up up. Still with the chap in a blue top. Up up up. Breathe. Up up up. Where's that gate. 1...2...3..4..5......  .......98...99...100.... Up up up. This pattern continues. I reach the gate and haven't stopped. Good. Up up up. Don't stop. The blue top guy is still there. Good. Keep going. Up up up. Steeper now. Keep counting. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. It's levelling out....oh my word I have to run now. And the wind hits me again. Breathing struggling.

Now I know it's all down hill. I open up and stretch my legs as much as I dare. My in-built fear of falling is still a stronger pull than that to let go. But I feel strong. There's someone behind me and I'm determined to reach the stile first. I get there....and beat him to the second. I made up ground on the chap in front and have to shout "I'm right behind you mate" as it looked like he was about to stall at the stile. I would have piled into him had he not moved, the momentum wasn't being totally controlled.

In to the heather I pick out the line on the right to avoid some of the ruts. Onto the tarmac. I open up, but the chap behind me goes off faster....then slows by the farm and I catch him, overtake, but he retakes me as he turns on the gas again. Tim and someone else are encouraging me on in the final 100m....and there's the finishing funnel. I can stop. And breathe.

I had glanced at my watch just after reaching the tarmac and saw the time was quicker than last year. I stopped my watch at the end and it was around a minute less. Brilliant. I've done it!!  That's goal #3 for the year ticked off. Looking at the stats at home I can see I made up most of the minute in the final descent. So it's my ascending I need to get quicker at!! Or maybe running on calm, wind-less days would help.

The full results can be found on the Glossopdale Harriers website. My time this year is 39:17 (last year it was  40:12). And here's a video from just after the start...I feature in the group that passes after 1 minute...I'm in the middle of that group with a blue buff on my head.

Thanks to Ian, Tom, Gordon for the video and photos.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


Had a little wander today looking around a local nature reserve. It's not very big, but there's plenty to see and much more to come once flowers start to blossom, grasses grow and the temperature warms up. Here's a few photos; if you know any of the species do share - and please correct me if my guesses are incorrect!

Parmelia, crottle lichen
Xanthoria parietina, yellow scale - a foliose or leafy lichen
some sort of moss...?
Sphagnum palustre, blunt-leaved bog-moss
need to learn the trees!
xanthoria ucrainica?
campylopus introflexus, heath star moss
bluebell? wasn't in right place for them but...?
mushroom....edible or not? species?