Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Mam Tor ridge running

On my list of runs to do has been the ridge from Mam Tor to Lose Hill and back. It's only just over 8km long, and has the most spectacular views down into both the Edale and Hope Valleys. I had no idea how long it would take me; the day dawned hot yet again so I planned for an easy run, enjoy the views and see how I coped with just a small amount of water. I had no problem going out with just 150ml as the ridge is popular with walkers whatever the weather and day of the week, so should I get into problems I'd just scrounge some water from a passer-by, plus I had a full bottle waiting in the car.

I'm not a fan of starting a run with ascent immediately, but on this one there just isn't a choice. I settled into a rhythm and was really pleased to run all the way up the field to the start of the steps. I then alternated with easy run and walking with a purpose, never letting my heart rate drop too much. I reach the summit in 6:30, at just 0.7km it has 85m ascent on the uneven and oddly spaced steps up to the trig point.

I took no time to pause at the trig, noticed the murky haze towards Lose Hill (views into the valleys obscured by the haze) and recovered my breathing as I descended down to Hollins Cross. I took the higher path from Hollins to Back Tor, then up the steep climb. Once more I was really chuffed to be able to run up some of the steep ascent. I've been practicing counting paces, not allowing myself to stop before I reach 100...I think I got to 120 before switching to a strong walk up the final steep part of Back Tor.

On the flatter path I stretched my stride out, and tried to work out just how far up the climb to the summit to Lose Hill I could run. I picked a random stone and got to it. Then switched to a purposeful walk again. Would I have got further if I'd picked a more distance stone? Not sure, my heart rate was above 165bpm when I changed to walking, and I know I can't sustain much higher than that for very long. The good news is it took me just 21:15 to get from trig to trig; 3.3km with 125m ascent (it feels more than that!).

I paused to take a couple of photos...

Looking from Lose Hill towards Mam Tor...it really was quite murky up there, but very hot and humid
time at the trig point on Lose Hill, 3.89km done so far
...then headed down Lose Hill to pick up the path back under Back Tor, through the plantation and along the lower path to Hollins Cross. It was somewhere along this flatter section that I wondered if a sub 1 hour run would be feasible. This thought spurred me on and I managed to push on the final climb to Mam Tor trig, reaching it in just 56mins. Now for the final descent....and I did that in 3mins30 to get back to the car in 59:30. Actual moving time for the 8.25km was 56:23 with 362m ascent. I'm pleased with that, and will be back at some point to see if I can shave any time off in cooler conditions.

My Kentmere Horseshoe

Sunday arrived, the day of the Kentmere Horseshoe fell race and a gathering of Glossopdale Harriers descended upon the tiny village in the Lake District. My plan was to have a low level run to Kentmere Reservoir and perhaps get a glimpse of the runners on the ridges way above me. It was a hot and sunny day, following the theme of the past few weeks. A few fluffy white clouds provided some occasional welcome relief from the heat, but it was the cooling waters of the river (where I had to cross, as I'd missed a footbridge), then the reservoir, and the river again at the end which proved most refreshing. Here's a few photos from my run:

The horseshoe in the distance
Horseshoe getting closer
Approaching the reservoir
Reservoir just over the near rise
Cooling off my feet
Looking up to the ridge, scanning for runners
Nearly at the top end of the reservoir
Looking up to the valley head
Looking down towards Kentmere over the reservoir
Heading back to Kentmere, cloud cover very much welcome

My run was a total of 14.4km and I was out about 2 hours, though with stops for cooling off in the reservoir and taking photos I was only moving for 1hr37mins. I may not have reached the lofty peaks that the racers did, but I had a thoroughly enjoyable run in the hot midday sun. I seem to be coping well with about 500ml water for a couple of hours, providing I'm not pushing the pace.

Tim's write up from his race can be found here.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Hot hot hot

A few photos from my morning run...almost too hot, but too inviting to not go out exploring.  I did about 14km in 2hrs so a steady pace.
James Thorn looming above me...
A rather hot me, with Kinder off in the distance
Looking down into Yellowslacks Brook from The Pike
In what is usually a brook but now a trickle....looking up Dowstone Clough
and looking down  Dowstone Clough towards Dog Rock 
Running along the North side of Dowstone, down towards Yellowslacks
picking up the line of the James Thorn fell race, where it's normally ankle/knee deep bogs we just have cracked peat now

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


I have to confess. This isn't my first blog. But, the others I've kept were just journals, diaries or memories for me to treasure in private. I do have a poor memory for the finer details, so writing blogs has been a way to pin down some facts and thoughts through my life. I've been wondering of late, how much has my running improved? The feeling that it 'never seems easy' always seems ever present. So, I thought I'd have a flick back through some old blog entries and look at what I've done. I am pleasantly surprised with my progress.

It was in April 2011 that we moved to Glossop. In London I'd done some running, mostly around Greenwich Park or Blackheath. I remember being quite chuffed at reaching the vast distance of 5km. My motivation to run was similar to what it is now - to be fitter and healthier. But the motivation to run wasn't yet ingrained. It was a physical activity that caused pain, and I used numbers (stats) to get me to the next corner, the next lamppost, the top of a hill (usually walking). It all seemed like bloody hard work and I know looking back now that it was.

It wasn't until I moved north that I started to enjoy running. Yet pleasure for running didn't come immediately. I was excited to be able to move quicker than walking pace in the hills. The motivation was to be in the hills, seeing birds and mountain hares, listening to the sound of the wind and not hearing any sirens or traffic. It was the pleasure of just being out there that got me inspired to run more, to improve my running and see where I could get to.

Running was still hard. I hated hills. I didn't trust my feet on the uneven ground. Anytime I ran with someone else I always felt like I was holding them up. I felt the struggle and every step of exertion. And the thought that one day my running would be as effortless as the other people around me kept me going. It must get easier I kept saying. To some degree I know now that those thoughts are false. Running is never 'easy'. But I'm now happy with that. If it were easy then everyone would do it and there'd be no overweight or unhealthy people in the world (not that running alone will solve those issues!). But it takes months and months, and years and years of consistent running and training and hill reps and early pre-breakfast runs and bloody hard work (yes there's been sweat and sometimes tears) to make even a small dint in it gaining the status of being 'easy'.

Thinking about this over the past few months has fixed in my mind that it doesn't get easier. The goal posts move. You just get more used to suffering. More accustomed to the pain and effort needed to get you up a particular hill. Most of my pain is in my head. Though lately I've learnt where the mute button is. Most of the time. I think it's this ability to switch off from the pain and suffering that a lot of people don't push through. They give up. Stopping and starting on a run programme in fits and bursts just compounds the issue of pain perception and I genuinely think that a lot of people don't want to suffer. They want quick fixes from minimal effort. Well it just doesn't work like that.

So, returning to my initial thought that provoked the writing of this blog, I looked back through the old blog posts and I've found a few snippets I'd like to share. They've helped me realise that my running is better now. I'm running faster, further and yes, sometimes easier than I used to. I've just pushed the level I'm aiming for so what I'm doing now won't feel easy. Here's snippets from my blog entries from around the time I started to think about running being something I might do to get fit...

"did 200m walk; 500m run x 5. so 2.5 km running total, and total time about 32 mins...." 7 Sept 2010

"I shall keep doing the 2.5km runs for a few weeks, build up to not needing a rest" 8 Sept 2010

"5 sets of 1 min walk/3min run. first 2 sets a tad difficult. legs felt stiff and awkward." 24 Sept 2010

"[1min walk/4mins run] x 7 sets.
sets 1&2 at 7.30/km.
sets 3&4 at 7.30/km with 1.0incline.
sets 5&6 at 6.30/km.
set 7 at 7.30/km.

rest walking to cool down. hit 5km at about 39 mins.
total time 47 mins and 5.38km" 26 Sept 2010

So, from small beginnings I've managed to do a 25km run, run some fell races, win a few random prizes, break a sub-50minute 10km (check out the last line from 26 Sept 2010 so see how chuffed I feel on this one), and generally get lots of consistent running done.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Refreshing Refresher

My other half was meeting friends to go climbing at the weekend so I grabbed the map and looked at where I could run from the crag, which turned out to be Yarncliff Quarry, Grindleford. I didn't really want to be bothered with route finding too much, just wanted to concentrate on a long steady run of 2-2.5hrs. It's been ages since I've been to Stanage or Burbage, so they were my targets. The route planned was across Padley Gorge to Surprise View, then whichever path took my fancy over to Stanage, returning back via Burbage and down Padley Gorge.

Higger Tor from near Millstone Edge
I figured with the smallest loop I'd be doing about 12km, or if I ventured as far west as High Neb I'd be looking at 19-20km. Having an out and back segment turned out to be good, because while the day was gloriously sunny it was energy and hydration sapping in the shadeless 25+degrees path across the top of Stanage. I was trying out a different bumbag (the INOV8 race elite 3) which has a bottle rather than my preferred option for long runs - my osprey 5.5 rucksack plus 3ltr bladder. In the heat I really didn't fancy wearing a rucksack, and I knew there'd be an ice cream van for refreshments at Stanage and/or Burbage to top up on fluids.

Looking down the valley
Carl Wark behind me in the distance
The route took me on a gradual uphill drag for the first 5km, until reaching the far side of Higger Tor. Running along the top of Stanage was delightful, I even managed to find a few puddles to soak my feet into and splash cool water on my legs, much to the bewilderment of passing walkers!
Stanage and plantation

Stanage plantation from near causeway
I ended up turning round on Stanage at the point where the Long Causeway cuts across. High Neb was visible, but meant some more ascent for maybe 1.5km, totalling an additional 3km. I just didn't want to risk running out of water in the heat.

High Neb in the distance
Only carrying 500ml of water would normally have been enough for a 2 hour run, but in the heat it wouldn't be. I consciously sipped rather than gulping each time I took a drink, but ensured I sipped regularly. By the time I reached Burbage I still had about 100ml of water left, just in case the ice cream van wasn't there....but it was. I figured with the water left, my route being downhill and following a river, I could enjoy having an iced lolly with my feet in the river. To my surprise they were only £1, so I bought two and wandered over to the stream. Feet nicely cooling off, I opened the first lolly but it was teeth-breakingly-rock-solid-ice. No way I could eat it reasonably quickly so I put both lollies in the water bottle and reckoned I'd be drinking slush before I reached Longshaw. Wow, it was delicious, if borderline-too-sweet. It was a neat trick though; next time I'll top up the bottle with water so the orange was more diluted.

Welcome coolness in Burbage Brook

Ice cream van behind me at Burbage North

Cottongrass in the Burbage Valley, Carl Wark in the centre horizon

Burbage Valley and the plantation which may not be there for too much longer
The run back down Padley Gorge was lovely, if a little crowded - to be expected with the beautiful weather and it being a weekend. It was a family paddling mecca! Entering the woods back to Yarncliff was very welcomed, and before I knew it I was back at the crag. 16km in 2:03:34 with 377m ascent. I coped really well in the heat on such little water; a good test to see how I'd react but with the safety of water/a river close by should I have needed it. Sometimes it's good to test your body and listen.