Monday, 29 September 2014

Instructor on the FRA Navigation Course, Elterwater

I was delighted to be asked onto the instructor crew for the FRA Navigation Course in Elterwater, perhaps the ultimate praise anyone could give me about my skills. A special thanks to Chris Knox, the organiser, for inviting me, along with Margaret and Jenny for their super organising of everyone, and Ian Winterburn for putting me in touch with Chris.

The weekend is made up of indoor map and compass instruction on the Friday night, an early short pre-breakfast run on Saturday, a solid 4-5 hours on the hill having practical nav instruction and testing skills along the way. On Saturday afternoon the attendees are given a new map and sent off on an orienteering style course with 10 check points with instructors are dotted around ready to give a hand if necessary.  The evening is a paired night navigation exercise and then Sunday starts with a de-brief of the night nav, a talk about the FRA and then onto the hill for a 10k mountain marathon style solo event.

Having spent no time on the hill around Elterwater I decided to head up early on Friday and wander about with a map and compass to familiarise myself with it. The weather was ideal for a recce; blue skies, warm, brilliant sunshine and little wind. The map used on the course is a 1:10000 scale, one I'm not familiar with on the hill. I spent about 4 hours wandering around, reading contours, finding features (knolls seemed to feature quite a lot!) the attendees would be searching out. The level of detail on this scale map is amazing and really intricate for micro-nav.

Looking down onto Chapel Stile
Herdy sheep and the amazing view
Silver How
Lunch spot for me on Friday
Pre-breakfast run briefing from Ian Winterburn
and leaving the hostel on the pre-breakfast run
Paths were often very hidden by the bracken
Navigating a short leg between the many knolls
Route choices being discussed
Marshy areas were used as handrails
Solo nav event through the woods

Check point 3 on the mountain marathon style 10k
event. Sorry to anyone who got wet feet, at least
the dibber wasn't in the middle of the tarn!
The weekend was so enjoyable for me as an instructor, attendees were really keen to learn and took on board all the instruction really well. With any nav course there can be an overload of information, but clearly a good chunk of it sunk in as everyone completed all the mini-events in great time. A very special thank you to Elterwater Hostel, a brilliant base with great food and facilities and super friendly staff.

The next FRA course is in March, and I'm pleased to say that I'll be there. If you're thinking about doing this course stop thinking and get booked on. It's wonderfully social, you'll learn lots and spend time with other runners who might be just as nervous as you about nav, but you'll leave confident and with new friends.

If you can't wait that long and want to have some nav instruction then get in touch - I'm available for one-to-one or small group tuition in the Peak District, Snowdonia or the Lake District. As well as leading guided fell runs and taking runners out on race recces, I've personally raced mini-mountain marathons and a few orienteering events. My nav courses are tailored to what you want and to compliment the level of knowledge and experience you come with.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Park Run 5k

I set myself a target earlier in the year to do a sub-23min 5km run, and just to make things interesting I chose my closest parkrun to do it at. I'm told it's not the fastest parkrun, and if wet underfoot you can easily put yourself at over a minute disadvantage. Oh well, no point taking the easy option to get a pb, may as well really work for it!

"parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all." (taken from their website)
The concept is simple. You register online, print out a barcode (or buy yourself a fancy plastic tag one), turn up and run. It is just you against you. It's social, it's motivating and wherever you finish I can guarantee there will be people at the end clapping and congratulating you on a great run. The marshals are all very encouraging, as well as being volunteers (anyone is welcome to go help out).

When you've completed the run (it's 2 laps at Marple) you enter the finish funnel, are handed a ticket which is then scanned together with your own barcode. Results are published online and you receive an email with your results usually around lunchtime the same day. Here's mine for today:
Marple parkrun results for event #120. Your time was 00:22:41.
Congratulations on completing your 3rd parkrun and your 3rd at Marple parkrun today. You finished in 34th place and were the 4th female out of a field of 135 parkrunners and you came 1st in your age category VW40-44. Congratulations on setting a new Personal Best at this event! Congratulations on your fastest time this year.
You achieved an age-graded score of 67.82%.
The stats are all online for you to geek over if you wish, with the ability to sort by any column and compare your efforts against other runners on the day or just from your club. For me today was all about going and seeing what I could do. My previous parkrun pb was 25:40, and I knew from non-parkrun runs that I should be able to comfortably get under 25mins. My aim of sub-23mins was for by the end of this year so today really was all about seeing if I could keep a pace to get me close to that.  I ran to pace and feel, only having current pace on my watch so I wasn't tempted to start any mid-run calculations. I only allowed myself a look at overall time when I was about 400m from the finish....quick calculation and I reckoned sub-23 might go! That spurred me on just when I was wanting to stop, or at least slow down considerably.

Many thanks to Dan for the company on our warm up lap, and fellow Glossopdale Harriers....firstly Kirsty who I chatted with prior to starting. She was hoping for around 21mins so I could only hope to keep her in sight for as long as possible. I was on her shoulder for about 500m, then she just pulled away gradually. Thanks also to Andy F who ran, he passed me somewhere on lap 2 and while I had no chance of staying with him it was good to have someone there to pull me along. There were a couple runners just ahead of me for most of the second lap, and one close behind...all motivation to keep close to their heels and not let the one behind past!  Time for some R&R now!

Friday, 19 September 2014


Ever heard of geocaching?
If so, excellent....I hope you have fun caching like I do. If not, don't is quite simply a treasure hunt. There are hundreds of boxes (various sizes) hidden around the country for you to find, log your visit and maybe swap some 'treasure'. According to the geocaching website there are 2,495,792 active geocaches worldwide.

It's an excellent activity to do with kids, as there is always a purpose to getting them active. There are urban and hill caches, so you don't need to be uber confident with hill skills to get started. I use geocaching sporadically partly as motivation to see new places and partly to test my navigation skills.

Now, you can do geocaching the modern day way, using a gps device to guide you pretty much right on top of the cache. I however prefer to note the grid reference and description of caches, then head out with map and compass onto the hillside. Whatever method you use, it's fun and will get you out and about.  There's also the option to place your own cache (following various rules) for others to find, and in fact I have two out there somewhere...a jointly placed one with a friend and one fairly close to home.

If you're interested in geocaching have a look at the website There is an app you can use on your phone too, it's one you have to purchase so perhaps give caching a go before spending any money.

view from one of my placed caches in Glossop
and the path to the same cache
Hidden geocaches around Glossop
If you'd like to give this a go and want some company drop me a message, I'll happily show you a few caches around Glossop. I'm also available to teach navigation if you'd like to be more confident out on the hills. Navigation training is set up on an individual or group basis; prices vary according to numbers/time out on the hill.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Kinder Downfall Run & Scramble

A lovely dry, warm September's day dawned and we had plans to head up to Kinder Downfall via River Kinder. We parked at Bowden Bridge and ran along to Kinder Reservoir, along to the bottom of William Clough then beared eastwards. The path along here was overhanging with bracken....and then something red caught our eyes....


My knowledge of mushrooms is more or less limited to those you by in the greengrocers, are edible and tasty. I do however know that wild mushrooms are usually poisonous, or at best to be avoided unless an expert says they're ok. Identifying mushrooms is fraught with dangers, many looking similar. In this case, I think I'm safe in naming these as Amanita muscaria, or Fly Agaric....and yes, they are poisonous. Please do let me know by commenting on this blog if I'm wrong - or to confirm I'm right!

After this delightful distraction looking at the numerous mushrooms and taking pictures we continued on our run, around past Red Brook and into the River Kinder.

Looking back down the river
Sandy Heys, with Kinder Downfall hidden round the corner
Still a few bilberries scattered around here
The downfall now in view
That slab was harder to get over than it looks,
but I did take the interesting route up river
The Kinder Downfall - at least the trickle of water was
falling,  not doing the famous blowing back upwards!
Nearing the top of the scramble
and right under the downfall
Looking towards Mount Famine and South Head
As we topped out onto the edge path we came across three stranded sheep on a ledge, clearly they'd eaten all the vegetation on it and the only option down was about a 20ft drop. We've got photos of their tags and will be seeking out the farmer so we can let them know.

Three stuck sheep
The run back along the edge, down Sandy Heys and back to Bowden Bridge was lovely. I'm really enjoying the combination of a run-scramble-see new areas kind of outing. Believe it or not, we both went to areas on the ground neither of us had been to before. Even though we've both run around the area loads there is still places to explore and find that give you new views and experiences.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Inov8 X-Talon212s

Pair #1 nearest....#4 at top
My first ever fell shoes were Inov8 X-Talon212s and I really got on well with them. I've had a few other models of fell and trail shoes, but I keep reverting to the 212s. The fit is good for my feet and I love the responsiveness with the ground underfoot. Since doing more barefoot running (in vibram fivefingers) I've learnt to tolerate the minimal soles on tarmac too, especially with my first pair which have much less rubber on the studs now! I've managed to not destroy any of this model, despite doing over 700km in my first pair, unlike the Mudclaw 300s

Pair #1 - 665.5km (though I suspect there's easily over 100km not logged from my time pre-strava)
Pair #2 - 552.5km
Pair #3 - 129.4km
Pair #4 - 0km

The third and forth pair were recent purchases, still the old yellow/grey model, which I found online at a knock down price. I'm all for rotating shoes anyway, so getting two pairs at a bargain price was super....I probably now have over 18 months of life in these four pairs still. Here's photos showing the various states each pair are in:

#1 - stitching coming apart ever so slightly
#1 upper degrading slightly but still holding together
#4 so far unused and still in box
It's pretty hard to tell much difference between pairs 1 to 3 - so much so that I have to be careful not to put odd pairs on when I go out running as the grip is different, especially between pair #1 and 2/3. I've heard there are differences in this old model and the new blue/orange one....Tim has reviewed this on TestedToDestruction if you want more about his thoughts on that. I would imagine at the rate I wear shoes out there will be an even newer model out when I come to replace pairs #3 and #4.

One thing I certainly advise is proper care of shoes, to prolong their life. I reckon its the care of shoes after I've been out running in them that helps to keep them in such good condition. If the shoes are dirty they get a wash, if they're wet they get stuffed with paper and dried out naturally. More about shoe care on this blog I wrote a while back.

pair #2 saw me round the Edale Skyline in June, 34.5km in 4hrs 16
The run around Edale Skyline in the 212s was a good choice, and it was only towards the end of the run that my feet were starting to hurt, mostly because the distance was my longest to date and due to the heat on the day.