Thursday, 31 December 2015

Glossopdale Harriers 2015 Championships

In past years the format for the Glossopdale Harriers club championships has been that the highest finishing runner in a race is awarded 30points, 2nd highest gets 29 points and so on. My attempts at being competitive have been somewhat lacking, partially because my desire to race competitively isn't all that strong, and also because our club has some very competitive ladies. The outcome of which leaves me low down on the champs table, and no chance of a prize.

There was also the danger that the same few ladies (and men) would always be prize winners...and it's not that I race to win stuff (fell running prizes are often as glamorous as a pack of toilet rolls!)'s nice to be recognized for putting in effort throughout the year. It was with great delight (to me) then that the club committee changed the prize giving, with anyone who completed 7 races would be awarded a special prize in recognition.

Roll on the months and I just managed to get enough races in by doing the Oldham parkrun - it came down to either that or the Famous Grouse fell race. I had the opportunity to go to Oldham with a friend and help to pace her to a superb personal best time - very satisfying for both of us.

So, we had the club annual gathering and prizes were awarded for all the various categories, I received my print in recognition of completing the races through the year...and then...rather surprisingly I was called up again. This time, to be awarded the Vets Championship trophy in the Fell Champs!! I'm sharing the trophy with the male vet champ, but for the next six months the trophy is on my mantelpiece!

The 2015 champs definitely pushed me to do a few races and distances I wouldn't have done otherwise. Firstly there was a road race, Buxworth 5(miles) and most importantly for me was pushing my limits and completing my first ever ultra race - the 55km Long Tour of Bradwell on a very hot and sunny early August weekend. Kinder Downfall was also a grand run out - where I tagged on the run from Glossop to Hayfield before the race as part of my training for the Howgills Trail 26 Marathon.

I'm now eagerly awaiting the 2016 races to be announced so I can get some in my diary.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Peak Raid: Grindleford

With the first snow of winter on the ground myself and fellow Glossopdale Harrier John headed over to Grindleford for the 3 hour score event, Peak Raid. I don't know the area very much at all, so it would be full on navigation for me, rather than recognising features and bee-lining for them. I really wasn't feeling the love for running with the cold temperature, knowing we'd be running in icy wet conditions underfoot. I don't mind wet, but wet and icy are a sure way to numb feet, pain and reduced enjoyment. But, this race was a counter in our club championships so I put those thoughts in a corner of my head and applied Rule 5.

We were allowed to start early, a bonus since we'd arrived early. John was still sorting kit but I was ready so dibbed, was handed a map and off I went. The map was a 1:25k scale, but as is usual for orienteering style events the colours and markings on the map are different to OS maps. It took me a while to figure out what was path and what was a boundary we weren't supposed to cross, and with lots of lines around the start area it was a challenge to see a clear way onto the hill.

Looking back down towards the woods where CP1 and CP2 are
I chose check point (CP) 1 for my first target. Just get running, moving, and dib to settle the 'OMG am I going to find anything' nerves! It was immediately apparent conditions underfoot were horrible. The forest I was running in from CP1 to CP2 was a quagmire of icy muddy rock-strewn-tree-rooted horribleness. And, I'd lost the path between the two so ended up bashing up a short section through the same plus brambles and dead bracken. Nice. The RO told me later that the paths in the woods aren't clear at all, so I felt a bit better.

So I'm now about 15mins in and feet going numb. Not good. My body was warm enough, hands even sweating enough to take gloves off for a while. But feet....gone. Keep moving. That's all I could do to try and get some warmth back to my toes. This was the pattern throughout the event. Toes would get some feeling back, just to be plunged into more icy wet bog or marshy quagmire on the open moorland, or getting the calves cold as well as I bashed across the snow strewn heather to reach CPs or chose to avoid the icy paths by running in the heather to the side.

Climbing up towards open moorland for CP13
From CP2 I climbed up onto the moorland - no idea what its called as orienteering maps don't have names on! CP13 was my next target, a small standing stone at a random point near the path. With good visibility other runners were hitting the CP and making an easy CP even easier.

Now choices. Go on, get CP 15, 14, 10 and then onto 11....and risk feet going silly cold? Or do a shorter route, get a minimum of 5 CPs (my mental minimum on these type of events) and get back a bit quicker to defrost. As I stood at CP13 weighing up the options the wind picked up. I'd got sweaty running up and along the moor, and now the wind chill hit and my body rapidly cooled. That decided it for me. A shorter route, enjoy the good visibility and get back to plentiful cups of tea in a warm room a bit sooner.

As I turned to retrace my steps and pick up the edge path (along White Edge I'm told) a herd of deer ran across the path only 30m ahead of me. Wow. If I'd pushed on to CP15 and the longer route I would not have seen them. Beautiful.

Deer on the horizon and right. Note the wonderfully inviting icy and boggy path in the foreground!

The edge path was decent running, treacherous in places with the boggy bits not quite frozen enough to trust running over, the stones skimmed with glistening ice, and the heather coated in soft wet snow. Pick your best line and go with it. The valley beneath had mist rolling in and out of it making a good distraction from the toe situation. There were more deer on the moors below the edge too, and some highland cows.

The path along White Edge...where it looks clear it was actually ice
I noted the next feature I needed to nav to and tucked the map away to enjoy the walk run, hop, bash toes, slip, fall, run walk....the rhythm went on. Knoll passed (my ticking off feature), I could see the trig point ahead and knew I now needed to bash across open moorland to a 'gulley' and CP11. Other runners once again made the nav too easy; it would have been much different if it were claggy!

Looking back from near the trig point towards CP12 and CP13
With plenty of time in hand I went up to the trig point. Now I can definitively say I have been to that trig...which on checking an OS map is on White Edge/Big Moor. From here I pondered going to get CP4 then CP3, or the other way round. I decided to drop down and across the open moorland to the edge below - Curbur/Froggatt, not sure which. I can safely say if I never cross that bit of land again it won't be soon enough. Horrible marshy, boggy, grass tufty-ness. Plus ice and snow. Yey! I bet it's lovely running there on a dry summers day....not yesterday though. At the edge path my decision was made. My feet were proper numb to the point I was kicking things and not realising until I semi-stumbled.

CP4 was away from the finish and through more forest. I did not fancy an additional 2km in the same stuff I started the run. I turned right and picked up CP3 without any difficulty, returned to the edge path then headed back to the finish. The route back wasn't entirely straight forward...the boundary lines and contours all blurring a little as the wind picked up and my eyes watered in the cold air. I took my time and hit each turn and feature bang on.

I finally got to a point in the forest I recognised, not too far from CP1 I'd clipped earlier and put the map away, with no rush in my legs going back to the finish. I still have well over half an hour to finish in. Then I realised that if someone else got the same points as me time would matter, I'd be best to push on and get back as quick as possible. So, a final lift to the pace and I'm running across the final field, across the bridge and dibbing at the end. 165 points gained from 6 check points, and with about 34mins to spare. Oh what I could have done with a warmer, less icy day. Never mind, I thoroughly enjoyed my run and would like to go back to explore the area again - seek out the deer that I'm told live around White Edge and Big Moor.

Results have now gone live, I finished as 7th FV40 out of 12 (class split results) and 88/115 overall (overall results).

A big thank you to John for driving us safely to the venue and back, and to the race organisers for a well-planned event with copious tea and biscuits afterwards. Superb.

Monday, 12 October 2015


So, this weekend was my first ever cross-country race. I always get butterfly nerves before any race, but this was different. My last experience of cross-country (XC) was at school. It's fair to say that my school day experience was horrendous. I hated running. I hated the whole thing from feeling cold (we only ever seemed to do the runs in winter), the pain in my legs and lungs as I run, having to cross the stream, to being at the back when everyone else had finished. But over the last four years or so I've learned to enjoy running; it's become an activity I've wanted to do for enjoyment and exploration in the Peak District and hills beyond our immediate 'back garden'.

The race on Saturday was held at Woodbank Park and was the first in the Manchester Area league. Junior races are held first and were pretty much over by the time we arrived. The women's race sets off at 1.40pm and men's at 2.30pm. At around 8.5km I was hopeful to be able to finish my race and see the men on to see if this plan worked out...

Glossopdale Harriers ladies before the start
Kirsty, Caity, Jane, Jo, me

Start line jitters weren't calmed by the sight of most other women wearing spikes. I'd turned up in fell shoes (Inov8 x-talon 212s) which were more than adequate for the conditions at Woodbank Park. Before long myself and Jo were off running together, somewhere towards the back of the pack and quite happy to be looking to finish without mishap. We completed the two shorter laps together but Jo was steadily pulling away from me so I cut the strings and let her loose. The pace was too fast for me to sustain for another 5.5-6km; I needed to slow it down a bit before crashing and stopping.

After the two flat short laps it was down through the woods for the first of the long laps. I felt like I could stretch out my legs (though my lungs didn't forgive me for not letting the pace ease) enough to overtake four or five other runners on the descent (something I never do!). I was however soon overtaken by them as we hit the flat, my legs just wouldn't keep the pace and desperately wanted to stop. I only allowed myself to walk as we hit the climb back up through the trees.

Oh my, another full lap to go. I checked how far I'd gone and realised I had another 3km to go. I really really wanted to stop. But I kept going, and could still see Jo not too far ahead, but far enough to be out of reach. There really is no place to hide on an XC race - many spectators scattered around the whole course, and superb support from the Glossopdale men who seemed to have a knack of popping up just as I wanted to stop and let my lungs recover. No chance. You can't stop when team mates are looking on!

So onto the final lap and the field of runners were well spread out. I was sure the first women were finishing as noise from the stadium seemed to pick up as I dropped down the hill for the last time. I was sure I was fairly near the back too. My word the flat sections were tough. I think I'd rather have more ascent and afford myself a walk to recover! Final climb approaching and I managed to push further than on the first lap (maybe because John S popped up cheering me on!). I walked the hill and my legs did not want to start running as the gradient leveled out. I tell the legs to shut up; even a slow shuffle would be better for the team result than a walk. I turn the final corner towards the stadium and as expected the Glossopdale men are shouting encouragement - thanks guys, I really needed it and it helped me up the final few metres onto the grass bank around the stadium.

Main note to self for future XC races - recce the end! I had no idea entering the track how far round I needed to run. It turned out to be almost all the way round and that's a long blinking way after 8km! From somewhere I managed to grab another place right on the line - sorry to the woman I pipped to the line, but it is a race!

My official time was watched showed a little over 46mins so I had only about 4 mins to catch a breath and go see the men leave on their race. there in time. And they're off and I can grab a jumper and drink then head onto supporting the guys on their laps. The fast runners look so effortless, and the men's field seemed to be massive (turns out they had about 200 or so more runners than the women).

I knew the XC races were well attended but with maybe around a thousand runners over all the races that's amazing. The best bit, from the front elite runners (first woman was back in about 31mins) to the last (finishing in 1hr21) there were loads of people out cheering and encouraging everyone. Nothing at all like my school runs! (no river either). I was especially pleased to see the results out quickly where I discovered I was 156th out of 257 runners, and 22nd out of 43 in my age category. I was also only 30secs behind target in the next race perhaps!

Our club is very social and it's on these occasions that it does show. We might only be a small club (120 or so members) but we had 14 runners at this race from seniors through to vet65s. Me running ensured we had a vet ladies team finish too, so I feel chuffed to have contributed. Also at the event was Duncan with his camera, thanks to him for the photos here. Thank you also to the cake maker....a delicious treat after the hard work.

Full results can be found here

Monday, 28 September 2015

Navigation Instruction for FRA, Elterwater

This is my third time instructing on a Fell Running Association navigation course and yet again it was a cracking weekend. Good students, good weather, good service from the hostel in Elterwater and good all round. It was good to have Tim along as an instructor this time too, and meet up with past and new instructors on the course.

The weekend schedule is:
Friday evening arrive, meet and greet followed by a classroom based intro to navigation
Saturday - early morning run, a short exploration close to the hostel and through the quarry
Saturday morning/early afternoon - navigation out on the hill
Saturday afternoon - solo navigation event putting into practice the skills learnt
Saturday night (after dinner) - night navigation exercise in pairs, 10 check points in a small area
Sunday - early run along the river, good views of the morning sun hitting the peaks high above the valley
Sunday - 10km solo navigation exercise, finding 10 check points on the open fell

I really enjoy the whole weekend, getting to spend time teaching map and compass skills. Even with a weekend it always feels like we need a week to really get the skills drilled in fully, and like anything confidence grows with practice and more practice.

essential kit for the weekend
check point
one of the good features to navigation from
working out compass bearings and setting the map
juniper tree
juniper berries - and yes they did smell just like gin!
view over towards Helvellyn direction
mushrooms! (tiny ones)
complex terrain to test out the navigation skills
glorious views like this all weekend
view towards Helvellyn on Sunday was even better
which knoll am I aiming for?
Good ole' Herdy sheep
and don't forget the bracken!

If you can't wait until the next FRA course (March 2016) and would like to have some navigation instruction then get in touch - Tim and I are available for one-to-one or 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, we've both raced mini-mountain marathons, orienteering events and many fell races. Our navigation courses are tailored to what you want and to compliment the level of knowledge and experience you come with. We are also course providers for the NNAS (National Navigation Award Scheme) and can provide courses to help you gain your Bronze and Silver Awards.
Tel: 07985 251185 or for more information.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Ultra Challenge on the Pennine Way

Our holiday was never going to be a typical sit-on-the-beach-and-relax type. That's just not us. After mulling over a few options what to do Tim and I decided to pack light and head north on a running holiday along a section of the Pennine Way. Tim is running the Spine Challenger Mountain Rescue race in January (108 miles non-stop in 60 hours or less) next year so we decided to recce a decent section of route. We started at Wessenden Head (thanks for the lift Caity) and made our way to Horton In Ribblesdale.

Our pace was going to be steady (120km over 4 days), and a good test physically and mentally for me. I've never got close to running that distance in a week (I think 65km was my max to date). But I was up for the challenge and determined to do it. So far this year I've pushed myself to complete my first ever marathon (the Howgills 26 trail marathon in May) and first ever ultra race (the Long Tour of Bradwell in August). These four days would double the distance I've ever done in four days and get me out running around 30km on consecutive days. Oh, and to be clear, when I say running, I obviously mean running mixed in with walking.

Day 1: Wessenden Head to Mankinholes
32.2km - 545m ascent - 5hrs 3mins
The weather was pretty grim as we were dropped off at the road side. Proper claggy and raining. So with waterproofs on we got going. The forecast was for mixed weather and I only hoped it wouldn't be this damp all week. There was never a thought of curtailing the trip, just fingers crossed for decent drying facilities! The easy path down to Wessenden Reservoir soon gave way to a steep down and up onto moorland. Navigation was pretty straight forward even on unfamiliar ground for us, and with the clag drastically reducing visibility. It's fair to say we didn't see much on this day. The route crosses a few major roads, one of which had a very tempting smell of cooking bacon but so early in the day we resisted and pushed on. Before long we were at the M62 crossing, and rather dauntingly only half a bridge visible.

where's the rest of the bridge?

It wasn't until we reached the edge approaching Stoodley Pike that the cloud lifted a little and we could make out Mankinholes below and our first overnight stop.
Tim approaching Stoodley Pike monument

It was still really early, maybe around noon, so we pushed on along the ridge to the monument and had a snack. We added a few kilometres on along the Pennine Way so we could avoid the big climb back to the ridge in the morning. The rest of the day was spent having brews at the hostel, drying our clothes and have a decent meal at the local pub, Top Brink.

I was nicely surprised at how good I felt after the distance, and importantly my first time running with a decently packed rucksack. No matter how light you pack there's still going to be a good amount of weight with spare clothes, extra warm running kit, water and food. At the start of the day my pack had been 6kg - so easily 3kg more than I'd run with before.

Day 2: Mankinholes to Cowling
33.3km - 1107m ascent - 6hrs 18mins
After a lot of rain overnight it was good to start off dry. Not so on the feet, the ground was sodden. The day was a set of decent ascents and descents, and it seemed to be that every time I looked back where we'd come from the monument at Stoodley Pike it was gradually shrinking, but still dominant on the skyline. I imagine going the other way that the monument taunts your southward progress. The reservoirs along the way make good features to track your progress. The day stayed dry and blustery, but warm enough to run in t-shirts interspersed with arm warmers being pulled on. The skies were dramatic and it was really enjoyable falling into a good rhythm of running and walking.

We stayed in a B&B and had a super meal at the local pub, Bay Horse. It would have been good to stay for the quiz, the landlord was bound to be a great character, but we had an early start planned so retired early, safe in the knowledge that our socks had been washed and were being dried by the B&B owners - bonus!

Day 3: Cowling to Malham
29km - 844m ascent - 4hrs 56mins
Bags packed, arm warmers on to combat the cooler morning and we were on our way. We'd been told that today promised a good few ups and downs early on, then easy running into Malham. That was about right. There was a superb inversion in the valleys to our east. The grass under foot was damp and in places muddy from all the cattle.

glorious skies and rolling hills

After the summit at Pinhaw the day was indeed on fairly rolling land. Looking at the profile it does however hide the fact that we were gradually gaining height all the way to Malham. That might have contributed to me starting to feel the distance in my legs and the pace slowing.

Pinhaw trig point

We had a nice relaxing afternoon around the village and hostel and I resisted coming away from the pub with a bundle of kittens.

Day 4: Malham to Horton In Ribblesdale
24.6km - 876m ascent - 3hrs 49mins
Final bag pack of the week. All the dry bags and stuffing things into the rucksack had fallen into a system and it seemed like we were on the way for the last day before we could blink. The route north to Malham Cove was nicely straight forward, as you'd imagine with it only being about a mile from the village. A popular tourist spot, but at 8am on a Thursday we had the path virtually to ourselves.

early start so sun not yet reaching Malham Cove

Two big hills now stood between us and the finish. Fountains Fell and Pen-y-ghent. I'd start to actually believe I could do this four day run trip yesterday, but now reality was sinking in. The limestone paving on top of Malham Cove took some careful negotiating, it would be easy to trip and fall; thankfully the rocks were dry. After Ing Scar we were soon making steady progress around Malham Tarn and across to the ascent of Fountains Fell. The route doesn't actually take you to the summit of this hill, rather it goes around the end of it and down to the road. Pen-y-ghent came into view early in the day but as we reached the high point on Fountains it really dominated the skyline.

Pen-y-ghent from Fountains Fell
Approaching Pen-y-ghent from Dale Head

The weather was forecast to be dry until around 1pm and over the morning the cloud was encroaching from the south. That along with a train to catch at 1.24pm gave us a good sense of purpose to continually putting one foot in front of the other. I was really excited to be climbing up the final hill of the trip, and now well into the realms of building mental strength. My body was doing fine as long as I ignored the toe pain, the quad discomfort and the tightness in my calves. Oh, and the sore bits on my back where my bra and rucksack decided to rub. There's bound to be some form of pain on a long trip, I now needed to push on and ignore it. Nothing was so bad to stop me, but I did feel the need to apologise for my moaning to Tim. He was very patient!

Onwards and upwards (and up some big steps towards the top), and finally we made it to the trig point and superb views of the hills beyond and down to Horton. Now it was just down down down (and more ignoring of that toe pain!).

final section climbing up onto Pen-y-ghent

Final trig point of the trip....Pen-y-ghent

We pulled into the village around 12noon and enjoyed a lunch in the cafe then wandered to the train station for the journey home. What a superb trip. 120km and 3371m of ascent in 16hrs 31mins, or thereabouts. Not really an ultra in terms of a single event, but certainly my biggest week for distance by a long way and consecutive running days. I'll be back for more.

Key learning points:

  • we packed really well, only two things in my bag went unused (peaked cap and waterproof over-mitts) and both would have been used if the weather was worse
  • one hostel pillow is never enough
  • a good drying room is very welcomed (Malham wins the gold star on this trip)
  • you can do more than you think you are capable of
  • 30km no longer feels like a long way, especially when you share the journey with your best friend
  • using two different scales of maps for navigating is useful at times

Monday, 7 September 2015

Shelf Moor Fell Race 2015

Time once again for the local Shelf Moor fell race to be organised by the Glossopdale Harriers. I'd volunteered again this year to help put out the flags on Saturday and then sweep the race route on Sunday. Both days had glorious weather and the views onto Bleaklow, Kinder and beyond with the blazing purple heather were fantastic. I hope the racers took a brief moment to glimpse the beauty on race day!

The Saturday Flagging Party:

Sunday's race day - not many pictures as I was too busy running at the back of the race:

And a final photo to show off the beautiful heather, taken on a guided run I lead about 10 days before the race: