Sunday, 20 July 2014

Kentmere Horseshoe

Today was the Kentmere fell race where my other half was taking part in the English Champs fell race. I wanted to be on the hill supporting, but with a field of 600+ runners I decided that running the route backwards would be sensible. That way I could get out of the way of racers much easier, and see who was coming towards me. Joining me on my run was fellow Glossopdale Harrier, Alice - her other half was also racing.

The day was hot and humid. The rain that lashed down as we approached our final ascent was most welcome. I've learnt that handing out water to runners is lovely, but not when they drink my only supply. Next race I support my bottle will be mine, and mine alone. I was certainly feeling dehydrated by the end of the run despite being drenched through to the skin by the stormy rain! Enjoy the photos:

(don't have time to order or caption photos....sorry....I'm hungry! i will come back and do this asap!)

Friday, 11 July 2014

Lake District Fell Running Day 2

We afforded ourselves a lay in at YHA Helvellyn, mainly because they don't start serving breakfast until 7.30am. Our plans for the day were a route approximately 15km long but over breakfast our tired bodies reduced that to a stroll alongside Ullswater. But, we couldn't have that.......we were there for fell running (or as it becomes in the Lake District when you are carrying a and slow running the flat and descents - but shhhh, don't tell anyone!). 

With the lame plan to do not a lot dismissed we filled up on a decent breakfast, so decent that I wondered if I could walk let alone run as we set off up Glenridding. Today's route took in Catstye Cam (890m) from the lowly height of around 290m at the YHA, dropping down to pick up the start of Swirral Edge, scrambling up there to the summit of Helvellyn (949m) then across to Lower Man (925m), down and across the saddle to Whiteside Bank (863m) and then on to Raise (883m). I was starting to enjoy the freedom of moving faster than walking pace as we left behind walkers at each summit. I was even beginning to gain confidence on the rocky terrain I've previously done my best to avoid. Good news for future trips to the Lakes.

From Raise we headed on a bearing to pick up the first zig-zag of the path that drops eastwards from Whiteside Bank, above Red Screes and down into Glenridding. We'd had thoughts of staying high and heading to Stybarrow and Watson's Dodd but with legs and body weary from yesterday we knew that we shouldn't push ourselves to breaking point - we want to be able to run and train this week! Today was another glorious sunny blue sky day plus fluffy white clouds. Welcome cloud cover came as we left Raise though it remained very warm. Enjoy the photos from today:

Shoes being put on in the sunshine
Top of Catstye Cam
View from Catstye Cam to Helvellyn with Swirral Edge
View from Catstye Cam descent across to Raise and
zig-zag path we'd pick up later

Helvellyn from Catstye Cam

On Swirral Edge with Catstye Cam behind me

Scrambling up Swirral Edge
Looking right down Swirral Edge with Catstye Cam and Ullswater behind
Top of Swirral Edge looking to Helvellyn summit
Leaving Whiteside Bank with Raise ahead
Lovely airborne shot of me running with Whiteside Bank
behind and Helvellyn off to the left
Raise summit cairn 
Leaving Raise and heading to the zig-zag path
Water splashes to refresh myself!
Another super Lake District day, well morning actually. We left the hostel at around 9am and were back there for 11.30am. We covered about 11km with (the all important bit) nearly 900m of ascent. Pretty decent I reckon for a short run! The scramble up Swirral Edge was lovely, nothing that got me gripped or scared. I took plenty of time to stop and look around and importantly down to the valleys below and all was good in my head! With scrambling becoming a little easier I'm really pleased, there is however much training to do in general before those Lakes mountains get easier!

Lake District Fell Running Day 1

Panoramic view from the summit of Helvellyn
After an early start to drive to Glenridding we got underway with our first day of this trip at around 9.30am. The day was glorious, blue skies, sunshine and little wind. Ideal you'd think, but with a 30km (maybe longer) route planned it wasn't. While sunshine is preferable over showers the need to carry extra water is essential, and although we could have ditched some of our overnight gear from our rucksacks we were out for a two-day trip to a practice for future long multi-day runs. I reckon my rucksack weighed in at around 5kg.

Our route took us from YHA Helvellyn up to Striding Edge, Helvellyn (949m), Nethermost Pike (891m), High Crag (884m), Dollywaggon Pike (858m), Seat Sandal (736m), down to Dunmail Raise then steeply up to Steel Fell (553m), back down to the main road just north of Grasmere, then up Little Tongue to Hause Gap, then up to Fairfield (873m). From there we descended down Deepdale Hause and up to St Sunday Crag (841m), on to Birks (622m) then steeply down Thornhow End before the final ascent back into Glenridding to the hostel.

I'd reckoned on about a 6-6.5 hour day - we ended up being out about 7.5hrs, covering about 31km and more importantly did 2500+m of ascent. And that's the kicker....the ascent. We knew it would be a long run/walk, but the ascent just really slows you down. The Lakes mountains are steep....and not only did we climb up that amount but the descents are what really get your legs turning to jelly!! A combination of the hot sunny day, carrying a rucksack which I'm not used to, the distance and the ups and downs, made for a very tired pair of runners (who walked a fair bit!) arriving at the YHA for lots of water, a few beers and a decent amount of food to refuel. Enjoy the photos (there's a fair few of Striding Edge, mainly because that's the bit I was most concerned about and am most proud of):

Running along Glenridding with Helvellyn straight ahead
Red Tarn is just over the small raise ahead of me
Our start of Striding Edge
On Striding Edge
Striding Edge scrambling
Tim leading me on Striding Edge
Nearing the top of Striding Edge
A slightly airy section which I hardly noticed!!
The final section up to the top of Helvellyn
Looking back where we've just come along, Striding Edge
Helvellyn summit, 949m
Tim starting the very steep descent off Seat Sandle, looking across
to the even steeper ascent up Steel Fell from Dunmail Raise
Looking down Little Tongue - we've just come up that valley

Grisedale Tarn from the climb up to Fairfield
and looking up the climb to Fairfield
View of St Sunday Crag from Fairfield
The end of day 1....YHA Helvellyn
So we had a splendid day....very long, very hot, very tiring, but splendid and super. We learnt lots which will help us refine our kit, planning and plans for future trips too. I'm super chuffed with how I felt on Striding Edge, though to be honest, I think the hype some people give it is a little exaggerated. Yes it's a bit airy in a couple of places, and yes in wet or horrible conditions I wouldn't want to be up there, but there weren't any points I didn't feel unsafe. Tim's a super guide on stuff like that so having him there is very reassuring. In my head the nerves are gradually lessening. You never know, I might start to enjoy this scrambling lark!

Flora Focus: Bracken

When I'm out running this plant is one of my least favourite. When it's dead and dying back the stems are sharp, catching your shoes, tripping you up and scratching your legs. It does the same when it's in full bloom - only then it does a marvellous job at hiding holes and dips in the ground. It can be high enough to need parting with arms to work your way through it!! One book I own suggests it grows from 20-200cm high (see photo below) (book: Wildflower and where to find them in Northern England: Acid Uplands, by Laurie Fallows). That's one tall plant which makes progress through large swathes of it really slow, for me at least. I know other runners think the same. However, to look at from a distance it's beautiful, filling whole hillsides with glorious green swaying plants.

Bracken (also known as Brake Fern) is part of the dry acidic soil loving fern family, commonly found on woodland floors and covering hillsides. This plant doesn't produce any fruits but when the fronds are young (and called fiddleheads at that stage) they are sometimes eaten. Do not however take this as an invitation to go and grab some for your next salad as some types are thought to be carcinogenic (ie poisonous). The British Royal Horticultural Society don't recommend you eat this plant at all as there are links to cancer of the stomach and oesophagus.

The plant grows from underground rhizomes (a plant root, just like root ginger) which has, or has had various uses. In some countries it's ground to make a flour-like powder for making bread. The rhizomes and fronds have been used to brew beer, and the starch from the rhizomes has been known as a substitute for arrowroot. In Japan, the starch is used to make a jelly like sweet called warabimochi. Other countries (Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan) eat the fronds as a vegetable. More traditional uses include the plant being used for animal bedding, as a fertiliser and for garden mulch - it's actually harvested in the Lake District to make compost (here's one website I found on this).

As with most plants, animals make various use of bracken. Insects live on or eat the plant, and more importantly for us humans, ticks from sheep or deer use the plant as a waiting spot - ready for someone (or another animal) to brush against it and enable them to latch on to a host so they can feed!
Really tall bracken!!
A carpet of bracken under the trees on Shire Hill, Glossop

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tour de France 2014

The build up to The Tour had been great, lots of anticipation and excitement, lots of discussions about where people would be watching from on day 2 as the race passed over Holme Moss and up Woodhead (the closest point to Glossop). We opted for a 10 mile walk over Bleaklow, taking the most direct line, to bring us out at Woodhead tunnel, the eastern end of the Longdendale trail. We ended up being a party of 6 walkers....with 2 cyclists heading down the trail to meet up with us on the other side.

Approaching Bleaklow Head on the walk over to Woodhead from Glossop
View down to Woodhead as we descend Near Far Black Clough
Woodhead road from our vantage point on Ironbower Rocks
The reason for a big rucksack - real fresh ground coffee for our brew!
Waiting for the caravan
Helicopters - they were amazing, buzzing overhead and very low
Haribo caught.....and I got some Yorkshire The
Lead rider coming though
Chasing pack
and there they go...
After the peleton had passed us, and the remaining cyclists mixed in with the support car convoy, we packed up our gear and headed back over the hill. I was really envious of those who'd cycled over but looking at the photos later of the bike-traffic-jams down the road and on the trail our walk back home may well have been quicker! Apart from a short shower of rain as we headed back home the weather was superb, there was even enough wind to keep the midges away!! What an amazing experience. Vive la Tour!