Thursday, 29 May 2014

Fun Running in the Rain

Rain really doesn't bother me, if you've got the right gear on then all is good. Thankfully rain didn't bother today's runner who I was guiding around the hills up onto Bleaklow. Both well equipped for off-road running, and with a 10km/6mile route planned, we set off. As we climbed higher the drizzle got heavier, and visibility remained fairly good so we could see most of our route at various points. When running in a new area it's good to do a route where you can look back and see where you've been.

Looking down Dowstone Clough with Yellowslacks Brook in the bottom

Along the way we saw three herons flying above Shelf Brook, then curlews with their distinctive call singing out. Once up on Shelf Moor and skipping across the peat groughs and through the heather there were plenty of mountain hares to be seen...too quick for the camera though.
Shelf Moor

Shelf Moor

View back to the Pike and Shelf Benches where we've run from
Just before we got to Dowstone Clough there was a patch of fungi, most unusual looking with frilly edges.

Although it looked quite distinctive I've now flicked through my Mushroom and Toadstools of Britain & Europe book and am baffled by the array of options it could be. If you can identify this one please let me know! The largest ones in the pictures above are about 2-3cm across.

The path near Dog Rock, on the way to Yellowslacks

Guided runs on a one-to-one basis or for groups can be organised. Contact me for more information, and have a read on the Guided Running page. Organised Running Delights sessions will be posted on the facebook page.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Wreck Runs in the press

Running Delights in the press - featured here is an article all about our guided runs on Bleaklow to see the aircraft wrecks. Shown here in the Buxton Advertiser, and was also in the Derbyshire Times at the end of May 2014:

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

What's in my bag?

Some people love the freedom of fell running, being able to head out with no kit and just go run. I like the freedom too, but I'm a bit of a stickler for being prepared. It has nothing to do with being a girl guide (which I was), but everything to do with being self-sufficient on the hill, come what may. So, you might wonder what I take out with me on a run. If you do, read on.

Unless my run is only half an hour, in good conditions and staying low, then I'll always take out a full load of kit as shown below. Even on short runs I still take a bivi bag, gloves, buff and phone, and a jacket to suit the day. I'll also be wearing my Suunto Ambit watch and have some money/credit card if on a long run or away from home, and of course the house/car keys. For runs in warm weather or over a couple of hours I take a bottle of water, and more food to keep me fueled for the duration. This is all in addition to what I'll be wearing - often a pair of gloves or a buff will be worn but soon taken off and added to the bag contents.

Here's extra equipment I take on longer runs, or when the weather is a bit gnarly (or if rain forecast). 

On all guided runs I always have a first aid kit with me and a 2 or 4 person bothy bag (a group shelter).

I've reviewed a couple of bits of gear shown here, if you want to read more then click on the links below:
Mountain Equipment Ultratherm Jacket - review just after it was bought.
Mountain Equipment Ultratherm Jacket: Review
The Humble Buff - equipment review
Bumbag review: OMM Ultra Waist Pouch 6L

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A trig point & a cabin

The route for today's run took us over Chunal Moor, starting with the climb up to Wormstones crag from Gnat Hole. Views over to Glossop are superb from up there. On the way up we were joined by the cuck-oo cuck-oo call of a cuckoo down in The Twitchlins, a cluster of trees at the bottom of Whitehorn Clough.

At Wormstones crag

Continuing on we reached Harry Hut trig point at 440m, so a climb of about 225m in 1.6km...a superb challenge for us all and rewarded by views up to the Kinder Plateau.
Approaching Harry Hut trig point
From the trig point I took us on a little trod (sheep track/little path for runners delights) across the top end of Whitehorn Clough, and down Chunal Moor to the shooting cabin. Along the way we saw a few grouse and a few hairy caterpillars.

I think this might be an Oak Eggar? please correct me if you can correctly identify this little one.

Dropping down the moor to the shooting cabin we practiced our downhill aeroplanes - a great technique for giving you balance on descents.

Looking back to Wormstones from the cabin
From here we were able to enjoy the downhill path towards Brae Clough and back to the road at Derbyshire Level. The predicted rain didn't arrive - we even had to stop to take off jackets it was so warm!

View from road showing most of today's route on a sunny Chunal Moor

Summer Solstice

As the earth turns on its axis it also tilts. The degree of the tilt varies throughout the year - meaning different parts of the world are either closer or further away from the sun - and hence receive more or less daylight on a given day. It's because of this tilt and the changing daylight hours that we have seasons. During summer for the Northern Hemisphere the earths axis is pointing towards the sun, and we have more daylight hours than during winter. The summer solstice marks the day when we have the most daylight hours.

The exact time and date of the solstice varies each year, but it always falls around 20 or 21 June. This year it is at 10:51am on Saturday 21 June 2014.

The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (meaning sun) and sistere (meaning to stand still). This is the point where the sunrise and sunset appear to reverse direction and after this point daylight hours begin to get shorter again. That is until the winter solstice on 21 December, when the cycle returns to lengthening daylight hours.

Running Delights are celebrating the summer solstice with a gentle off-road run from Old Glossop. We'll leave from the turning circle at 10am. See our facebook page to book on (£5 per person) and for more details closer to the date.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Mountain Equipment Ultratherm Jacket: review

Ultratherm in action on a Welsh beach at Easter
I wrote about the Mountain Equipment Ultratherm Jacket not long after I'd bought it, back in June 2013. Since then, it's been used on virtually every run I've been on. Based on my strava activity (which is likely to be fairly accurate), since buying the jacket, I've done 284 runs and 2322km. Each time I use it I'll be wearing either a bumbag or a rucksack. It's been washed numerous times too. It's still going strong.

So why have I worn it so much? Quick answer: it's bloomin' great. That's why.

I really don't like feeling cold when I'm out in the hills. In fact, I'd rather run hot than feel a slight chill. So even on warm days I still go out with the ultratherm on. In summer I'll still set off running with a windproof gilet on, unless it's balmy hot. Over the past 6 months I reckon I've only headed out a handful of occasions without wearing the jacket from the offset. A couple of times in recent weeks, because it really has been warm enough for just a t-shirt, and other times because it was raining so heavy I needed my waterproof OMM smock. I've only used the hood a handful of times but have been happy with how it's performed. For a lightweight garment, having the draw cords to rack it in tightly on a windy wet day is a bonus.

I do a good variety of runs - some fast paced, some slower guiding and with runners new to off-road running, some hill reps where I'm pushing hard on steep climbs, getting sweaty, then waiting during the rest period. I'm impressed that the ultratherm jacket keeps me warm when I need it, yet not overheating when I'm pushing myself on hill reps or a fast paced run.

What's it like?
microfibre lining
Comfortable. The microfibre lining is really comfy. I mostly just wear a vest or t-shirt under it and it's lovely and snug. No cold feeling on my arms as the wind buffets it. The collar fits fairly snugly, enough room for a buff worn as a neck warmer when needed, but not too roomy that it flaps around.

Windproof. To a point, but I often forget it's not totally windproof as it acts like it is. There are panels in the arms and sides which aren't windproof, but it does take a very windy day for it to penetrate when you're moving. It's only really when I pause or stand around for a while on a breezy day that I feel the wind blowing through the non-windproof panels.

Hard-wearing. As mentioned above, I always run with a bumbag or rucksack. On close inspection the jacket is still looking almost like new. These next few photos show the condition after almost a year of use:

side panel - just a few ruffles but not really noticeable that a bumbag/rucksack worn on every outing
cuff, showing no signs of wear
inside collar - a tiny amount of balling-up showing
front panel, a few minor 'pulls' on the fabric
I had to look hard to find these!
no signs of wear and tear the back either

Niggles? (I really am picking at tiny little things here)
zip in collar to release hood

  • The zip fastener on the hood rattles. Such a minor point. But it niggles and rattles in my left ear. After a while it annoyed me so much that I tucked the fastener in so it didn't rattle. A few runs later and the heavens opened big time, I was in panic mode with gloves on really struggling to unzip the collar an reveal the hood. Lesson learnt the hard way. A very soggy neck and back. I now have the fastener rattle rather than risk a cold wet head on the hill. I should just put some tape over the fastener, see if that quietens it.
  • The vent panels on the arms. Noted above - not designed to be windproof. I'm not sure how much extra weight or breathability you'd lose by having the whole garment windproof. To me it would be worth giving it a go because there are occasions when I still carry my OMM smock in case it gets really windy/rainy/cold on the hill. I've been out in some gnarly weather in the ultratherm and it's performed great. However, I wouldn't want it to be the only jacket I took out on a longer run, or when I'm heading out on gnarly wet weather days.
  • Sizing. I tried a size 10 but it didn't seem to give me enough freedom and room in the arms, so I ended up with a size 12. In reality I need a size 11. The 12 is baggy around my body; just a small niggle. If I didn't wear a bag of some sort I'm sure the bagginess would bother me more.

Best test: a few weekends ago in the Lake District...heading up Kirk Fell from Ennerdale YHA. We had a 6km run along the valley bottom to Blacksail YHA before heading up the hill in anger. It was drizzly when we set off, so ultratherm not waterproof weather. Part way along the track the rain started in earnest. By the time we reached Blacksail I had water dripping around my elbows, that really soggy feeling through all my clothing. Knowing I'd be on the hill a good few hours to come, and climbing up another 500m+ to the summit, I put my OMM smock on over the ultratherm. I could have taken off the ultratherm, but the thought of needing the warm layer later on, and having to put it on wet didn't enthuse me. I chose to be damp inside the waterproof layer, and hope I didn't get a chill.

Climbing up we were gaining body temperature, and luckily sheltered from the wind for a good part of the ascent. Topping out I'd vented the OMM smock but not unzipped the ultratherm underneath. At some point on the run (maybe on the way up) I had started to dry out on the inside. I no longer had that soggy wet feeling inside and was even starting to feel warm and comfortable once more. The rain put paid to any decision about removing the OMM smock, but had it cleared I would have been back to just the ultratherm - and a pretty dry jacket too.

Overall opinion after this run: blinking fantastic piece of kit. I will replace it (when necessary) without a moments doubt. I had no doubt prior to this run that it was a great jacket, but this run proved it's worth in really gnarly conditions.

Ultratherm mountain running in Switzerland, Aletsch Glacier up ahead
Thanks to Vicki for this photo, on Bleaklow at the B29 plane wreck
New the jacket RRP is £120. Expensive but definitely worth it. I have seen them at half that price online, but in tiny or XL sizes only. From a quick look around the internet it seems you should be able to get one for £90.  For all the technical info head over to the ME website.

For Tim's review of the same jacket, well his jacket...the men's is orange inside whereas womens is red, head over to his blog, TestedToDestruction.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Three Sunny Trigs & Tortuous Tufty Tussocks

In my diary I have a plan for my upcoming runs. They track alongside the goals I have set for myself this year. One thing that's slipped recently has been the fortnightly long runs. Two weeks ago I did a 16km run (including an ascent of Kirk Fell in the Lake District so lots of walking), the week previous 15km, then before that we have to go right back to the middle of March for a 20km run. These facts did not please me, as my aim for the end of June is to run (as comfortably and strong as possible) around the Edale Skyline (35km), and I'm aiming for under 5 hours.

A review of my goals for the year was just the wake up call I needed.

It's no surprise, and I don't mind at all, that my own training has taken a back seat. Since qualifying as an off-road leader in running fitness, and qualifying as a personal trainer, I've been taking out groups and doing one-to-one runs with clients on a very regular basis. Because of this, my average weekly distance is about the same. I'm just not getting my own long runs in. It's all part of the settling in process to my new line of work.

But, to reach my goals I need to push outside of the comfort zone. And that's what today was all about.

For today's run I only had a vague route in mind, and had only roughly worked out distance. I didn't want the constrains of knowing I had Xkm to do, and a specific set route to follow. The only things to tick off today were time (around 3-4 hours), distance (20km would be good, 25km superb), rougher ground than I normally run on, and finally, more ascent than I would usually plan into a long route. I was going to be pushing myself outside of that comfort zone.

The run was tough. My whole body feels shattered. But, I am thoroughly pleased that I continued to push throughout the run. There were several points where it would have been easy to cut the route short and head home. This was compounded by the searing heat and sun beating down on me. I had no shade except for the very first kilometre and a small pause by a beautiful rock formation on the North edge of Kinder.

I'll share the photos now, I think you'll agree it was a grand run out onto Bleaklow, Kinder and back to Glossop. 22.2km with 1096m of ascent in 3hrs 18.

the first climb from Spring Cabin to James Thorn
Nearing Lower Shelf Stones, looking back to James Thorn with Glossop in background
Higher Shelf Stones trig point (621m)
Already feeling hot, just 6km done. Higher Shelf Stones in background as I run along Crooked Clough
Waterfall in Crooked Clough with Higher Shelf Stones in background
Signposts at Snake Summit, looking South
Featherbed Moss
Thousands of cloudberries on Featherbed Moss
Dropping down  into Ashop Clough, Kinder North edge looming up above....I'm about to go up that!
The North edge of Kinder a little closer
But it's hard going as I'm contending with knee high grass tussocks
Nether Red Brook - I'm aiming to the West of this, you can see the steepness of the climb I'm facing 
I made it....I'm on the North edge of Kinder - from here I bashed across the moor over many many peat groughs and boggy dammed groughs. Proper hands pulling on heather in parts, and slip sliding down steep groughs. Loads of fun.
Sandy Heys trig point (624m)
Superb running on the drop down from Sandy Heys towards Kinder Reservoir
Then the long climb back up to Mill Hill via William Clough
William Clough
My third trig point of the day, Harry Hut (440m)
Glossop nestled below Chunal Moor
If you want to see the route I took head over to strava - there's a link to my stats at the right hand side, towards to top of this blog.