Thursday, 30 September 2010

Training - Run Home! 30/09/2010

Me car's broke, so I ran home tonight from Stafford Park in Telford to Lilleshall. Sadly this was all on tarmac, although at least some of it is separated from the road a bit. I felt generally quite good and concentrated fairly well on my form again, particularly on picking up feet from my thighs, and engaging my core muscles.

The run was 6.84 miles with 190' of ascent(!) - my overall time was 1:02:19. This included a 10k in 56:26, my fastest on the road even though this was only a fairly controlled pace run, so I'm pleased with the overall speed. My kilometre splits were all in the mid to high 5 minutes except for one uphill (6:05), one steeply downhill (Redhill Way - 04:56) and a bit of an effort on the 10th kilometre (5:09). In terms of pace per mile, the average was 9:07 - again quite pleasing - last time I checked I could just about sustain 10 minute miles.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Breidden Hills - 28/09/2010

I knocked off work early tonight and went for a recce of the Breidden Hills route with some route notes kindly provided by The Great Wanderer from the FRA Forum. Started off ok with the run round to Bulthy and ascent of Middletown Hill.

Moel y Golfa from Middletown Hill

Rodney's Pillar and the route just run (through the field on the right) from Middletown Hill

From there I got down to the road at the col with Moel y Golfa, but didn't go high enough in the first field and ended up double backing and losing some time up MyG.

Top of the ascent from the field onto the ridge of Moel y Golfa

There are nice views of virtually the whole route from the summit.

Summit of Moel y Golfa and Rodney's Pillar

I missed the right turn on the descent but double backed (again) and picked up a right (but don't know if it's the right one!). Down on the road, I gave the farm track leading towards "New Pieces" a miss as I wasn't sure it's a right of way (covered the map with red pen where I thought the route is and couldn't see!). Instead I carried on up the road back to the Middletown - y Golfa col, and then headed across the valley to New Pieces, picking up tracks uphill into the forest. Somewhere along here I dropped the map and route notes. It was very boggy on the ascent of New Pieces.

I reached the main landrover track up from Criggion as it started to rain, and darkness was starting to come too, so I stuck to ground I knew and ran up to the Pillar via the Rodney's Pillar race route, and then back by descending straight down for 200m and then a sloping traverse down and right to get back on the main track. From here it was a speedy descent, concentrating on my running form, mostly on relaxing shoulders and picking up my feet.

9.25 miles and 2050' today in a little under 2 hours running time.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Update - 27/09/2010

Two runs last week - both "Wreckies" for the Wrekin Wrecker fell race.

First (20/09/2010) was out along the bottom path on the north side to the gate about 1.4 miles in (well beyond where the Wrecker turns up towards "Heroes", then back along the higher path, up Heroes, down the BMX path, up the Beeches to Halfway and down the spur right of the scree descent (had my road shoes on and didn't want to go for a Burton. Lots of photo and navigation stops and a very measured pace: 3.8 miles; 720' (both probably a bit low because of the tree cover effect on my GPS); just on an hour.

Next (22/09/2010) was a start along the right track and deviation to check the correct start up to the middle level once I'd missed the right turn at the end of the firing range. I then carried on round through the gap between Little Hill and the Wrekin and up the Goaty path (or rather mostly to the left of where I think the path actually is). Mustn't go left through the crags - better to stay right. Descent from the summit was via the BMX path which was much easier in my MudClaws. 3.9 miles, 700', 55:04.

Not much running this weekend due to a weekend away with my hillwalking mates. Friday 24/09/2010 saw a wander in the rain down the new (and improved) path along Aberglaslyn Falls from Beddgelert and return via the pass between Mynydd Sygyn and Moel y Dyniewyd and Sygun Mine. 5.6 miles, 1000'.

Saturday was a bigger day out on the Carneddau. Starting at Helyg, up Pen Llithrig y Wrach, then on to Pen yr Helgi Du, down the steep ridge and up onto Carnedd Llewellyn. Diversion (jogging) for me but not the mates over Yr Elen, then Carnedd Dafydd, Pen yr Ole Wen and the east ridge descent back to the car near Gwern Gof. 13.1 miles, 4350'.

We needed a relatively early departure on the Sunday, so went up Cnicht from Croesor, then on to the abandoned slate mines under Moelwyn Mawr and back to Croesor for a cup of tea and some cake. Cnicht is proper mountain terrain and very steep near the top - must try the fell race sometime. 9 miles, 2260'.

Total for the week: 35.4 miles, 9030'
Previous week was: 29.6 miles, 4420'

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Skyline Part 2 - 19/09/2010

Nearing the summit of the Lawley

Idyllic South Shropshire view from the bottom of the Lawley back to Caer Caradoc

I know - a recce after the race probably doesn't help as much as one before the event!

But... I enjoyed the Skyline route and wanted to see if I could do a better job of the second half with fresh legs. Given that I also wanted to fit in a decent long slow run this weekend I reckoned this was as good as anything...

Apart from a brief gear faff I managed to run all the way to the kissing gate onto the open fellside of Caer Caradoc, and kept up a decent hiking pace throughout the steep section, breaking back into a run before the summit. I don't think I improved on my descending from the race much, but will use the north slope for practise in future! On the descent I contoured left on a sheep trod just beyond Little Caradoc, and then down to the road at 484 963. This is steep and slippery in places and not as quick as the route I used in the race which trends right after Little Caradoc and descends through a field of bracken and nettles to 485 964 and saves a bit of road too.

I climbed the Lawley much better than in the race, running the last 400m or so to the top and coming down fairly easy. Crossing the fields to Dudgeley Farm was better too, the path clear from the passage of 100 odd runners the previous week.

I had a brief walk at Dudgeley to sort out some gels and swap bottles on the bum bag. I kept running up Gogbatch where I tried staying on the right of the river, but here getting on the road quickly proably saves a minute or so. I walked 300 or so metres up the steep section of the road to the cottage on the right, but then got running again for a very slow grind all the way up to High Park (mostly at only just above walking pace).

From High Park I took the left hand option which seemed long and perhaps not as quick as the straight on option which comes out by Robin Hood's Butts. This needs checking again though - it may all have been perception.

A gentle recovery speed descent from the top of Mott's Road got me back to the finishing field in 2:29:42 for what my GPS app reckons was 11.09 miles and 2,518' of ascent.

An analysis of the splits is quite pleasing in that I ran a fairly steady pace, the miles with steep ascents at 18 or 19 minutes, 15 minutes for the grind up from Gogbatch, 11 to 12 minutes for the flat sections and a gentle 9:30 ish for the descent of Mott's Road. I think this reflects the fact I was fairly comfortable for much of this run and managed to keep my form together most of the time.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

South Downs Way (Falmer to Hassocks) - 16/09/2010

The sign at Housedean Farm where I left off last time

The aim today (after a couple of meetings in Lewes) was to complete another section of the South Downs Way. I've already done Southease to Eastbourne (from Telscombe Youth Hostel) and Housedean Farm (where the Way crosses the A27) to Southease. I parked up by the Jack and Jill windmills between Pyecombe and Hassocks and ran down the well marked footpath to Hassocks station. I took the train to Brighton and then on to Falmer, and ran past the university along the A27 to Housedean Farm, where I filled my bottle from the handy drinking water tap.

From here, the Way climbs steeply up over Long Hill and drops down through Bunkershill Plantation to a dry valley.

Freshly ploughed field in dry valley by Bunkershill Plantation

The path climbs steadily from the dry valley shown above for a couple of miles, to reach the north escarpment of the Downs at some tumuli. I managed to run all of this (gently - it was supposed to be a recovery / long slow run). Turning left, I followed along the Way with great views to the north over the Weald.

View across the Weald

Following the escarpment for three gently undulating miles brought me to the Ditchling Road and then on to the summit of Ditchling Beacon.

Summit of Ditchling Beacon looking north across the Weald

Another two miles along the escarpment lead to a gradual descent to Jack and Jill, two windmill which dominate the down above Ditchling and Hassocks.

Windmill above Hassocks (this is Jill, I think?)

The whole outing's running was around 10.5 miles and 1,200' of ascent (including the jog down from Jack and Jill to Hassocks at the start) and took about 2 hours 5 minutes at a nice gentle pace with a few stops for pics and gear faffs.

Intervals (Chilterns) - 15/09/2010

Just a very quick flat trail interval session on my way to stay at (the excellent) Jordans Youth Hostel near Beaconsfield. This was done on the Ridgeway path between Chinnor and the A40.

10 minute warm up at pace; 4 x 1:30 hard efforts with 2 to 3 minute recoveries in between; about 13:30 warm down (gentle). Total distance 3.7 miles, total time 38 minutes.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Winter Hill Recovery Run 13/09/2010

The road up Winter Hill

The day after the Stretton Skyline I was working in Warrington, so when I finished I went over to Horwich for a little recovery run up Winter Hill.

This was a very gentle 4.3 mile jog in 0:58:30 including some pretty boggy bits around the main radio mast - access shut off because of overhead work. Stopped to take a few pics on the phone so actual jogging time more likely around 0:53:00 or 12:20 miles - a nice slow recovery pace! Even so I was stiff after the drive back down the M6 and A519.

Slightly blurred photo of the summit in the gloom

View (!) north from the summit

Another blurry pic of the trig and some telecomms masts

Rivington Pike from the road - a fell race with a history is Rivington!

Stretton Skyline Race 12/09/2010

Leading the Early Starters up to Pole Bank - I'd just have made the cut-off!
(Photo by Phil Johnson)
Another pleasing progression this, with a long race that didn't leave me feeling completely drained - I've been able to train properly since the race.

I took the early start option with about 15 other runners, starting at 10:30, because I was concerned that if I went hard enough to make the cut-offs at the first two checkpoints I'd run out of steam later. I'm glad I knew my way around because there was only any direction signs at the roads (i.e. in Little Stretton).

I tucked in behind Linda Edmondson of Wrekin Roadrunners from the start up Cardingmill Valley and passed her just before the waterfall. I mucked up the navigation out of the side valley a little and stayed in it right until the road (very boggy) instead of cutting right, but this evidently didn't slow me down much because I had a good lead at the Pole Bank checkpoint (CP1 - round about 0:33:30, so I would have made the cut-off). The section down from here via the Callow path to Little Stretton is superb, and I took it fairly easy, recovering from the climb, until I saw Al Tye on the final descent into Little Stretton and blitzed it a bit for his camera. I was really enjoying the novel experience of being at the front!

Descending into Little Stretton
Photo by Alastair Tye (

Crossing the main road, I started to walk (fairly rapidly) to conserve energy, and kept to the same speed all the way up Ragleth Hill. This is very steep but the main ascent, even at the walk, only takes five to ten minutes. Rob Brown of Chepstow Harriers was fairly close behind me here, but must have faded worse than me later in the race. Still if I could do this when I'm V60 in 5 hours I'd be happy enough.

I reached the top of Ragleth and CP3 (about 1:13:00) still in front and set off along the ridge. About a third of the way along I heard running steps behind me and turned to see Steve Cale storming along. He was already 200 or 300 yards ahead, had caught my 30 minute head start up in about 45 minutes of running. Steve went on to win by miles (20 minutes actually, so around 3 miles!).

I mucked up the descent from Ragleth, seeing the frontrunners going off well to my left, and got "pulled" over that way from the route I'd recce'd into the wood. I had to cut through about 200 yards of low branches and rough ground to get back onto the route I'd recce'd, losing a minute or two.

From here it was a straightforward descent to the Sandford Road waterpoint (CP4) where I refilled the bottles. The route then picks up the downward route of the Caradoc Classic in reverse to climb Caer Caradoc. I suffered a little bit on the long steady climb across the field and up the lane, but pretty much managed to keep running, and then started to walk as I went through onto the open fell. This felt a longer ascent than Ragleth (thankfully it is) and I was being overtaken by a lot of runners from the later start at this point. I passed the summit checkpoint and jogged down the other side, but was being passed easily by people descending much more confidently than me... Must work on that!

I lost touch with the guys in front of me and was a little disoriented when I reached the road at Comley, also struggling to make sense of the map because I'd come out at a different bit of the road than I'd expected, so had to hang around for 2 or 3 minutes waiting for someone who knew the way to the checkpoint. This was just round the corner!

The ascent of the Lawley was a bit of a nightmare - I kept moving, but at a pretty slow rate. I was really glad to get to the top and felt pretty good (for the last time in the race) coming back down. I managed to run/jog all of the field section across to Gogbatch, only getting passed by two or three more runners, but by the time I got into Gogbatch I was pretty much struggling aerobically.

I had to force myself to walk the whole ascent up to the Portway and was really disappointed with this, but every time I tried to even jog gently I had no breath. On the top David Gould from West Bromwich (I'm usually there and thereabout with him in the short races) went past me (he was on the early start too), and also a couple of ladies (Sally Mawhinney and Rachel Dearden) who were on the main start. I just had nothing in the tank. I walked most of the half mile to the Mott's Road junction, but fortunately looked around just at the checkpoint and noticed that Linda from Wrekin RR was only about 40 yards behind me - where did she come from?

I really wanted to finish as one of the best from the early start and so I pushed myself very hard on the steep descent, built a bit of a lead and passed Al with his camera at the ford. I wasn't looking so good now.

Last steep bit of descent on Mott's Road
Photo by Alastair Tye (
Crossing the stream at the bottom of Mott's Road - getting a bit ragged by now!
Photo by Alastair Tye (
The last mile and a bit down Carding Mill Valley was desperate - I just kept running but couldn't get far enough of Linda to relax until I was across the road and running the last 100 yards into the finishing field. Even then I was hoping we didn't have to do a lap of the field!

In the end I'm fairly happy with my time 4:16:34 - this was 68% of the leaders so will be a reasonable scorer for me for Mercia's champs. I'd predicted 4:10 to 4:30 so it was towards the upper end of that expectation.

I felt like I'd done better than at Exe to Axe in the Spring and I'd probably only walked a few hundred yards on the flat. However, without the couple of navigational errors, and with more of an aerobic base (the virus I had in August means I had less miles and less base fitness going into this than for Exe to Axe) I think I could go sub 4 hours. I must also work out how to work my watch so I can record the splits a bit better, but I did note the times at CP1 and CP3 so I know if I run the first section the same next year I won't be timed out.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Training - Wrekin 09/09/2010

This started off as a gentle run around the Wrekin - I started clockwise round and took the permissive path up into the gap between the steep south west ridge of the Wrekin and Little Hill. I jogged up Little Hill and then down (brambles are getting bad here) to join the path along the north west slopes of the Wrekin.

I intended just to run back round, maybe up to Halfway House, but mucked up and took the right fork at 623 082, which leads up to the zig zags under the radio transmitter. If you stick to the zig zags this is a long, sustained but mostly runnable ascent, so I continued on, scrambling the last 100' up to the radio station and picking up an impressive looking but superficial set of scratches on one thigh. (0:59:35 to the top).

I continued on to the summit and descended steadily to Halfway House then more aggressively down the spur to the right of the main scree gully. My descent was done in 10 mins 20 seconds, which I think could have been 09:00 if I'd run a bit harder down to Halfway House - so it might be a viable option if the ground's really wet underfoot in the scree gully as it was on Tuesday.

A couple of rest days now and then the Stretton Skyline!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Chasewater Training Run - 07/09/2010

I ran two slow steady loops of Chasewater tonight, on a lovely late summer evening. The water is now almost all out so it can't be long before British Waterways start on the dam repairs.

My ankles were a little sore, particularly the right one - I put that down to last night's Wrekin dash. I felt a little heavy and slow on the first 3 mile lap (30:40), freed up and felt better on the second lap (30:12). Overall this was 6 miles in 1:00:52, so 10:02/mile.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Wrekin Training - 06/09/2010

A quick session on the Wrekin after a long day in the office in Brum. The weather was absolutely wild tonight with squally wind and lots of rain - I love it when it's like that! It just makes you feel alive...

I went up via the spur left of the scree gully, walked only the steepest bits, and walked them quite quickly, probably sustaining 90% RPE most of the way up. Time to the summit was 17:35. Rested for two minutes at the summit. Descent was via the scree gully. This was very slippery and probably cost one to two minutes, as I had to do the top two thirds of it at pretty much walking pace to keep my footing maybe the spur would have been better. The descent took 09:41.

The whole outing's pretty pleasing and definite progress in performance in the 12 days since the Ragleth Inn race, during which I've done a long slowish 8 miles on the first section of the Skyline Route, and a long slow 9 miles up Bleaklow. It seems to be working - I recovered pretty quickly after tonight's hard effort, and jogged around the little reservoir to warm down.

The total time (excluding the break) was 27:16 which would have given me 71% in the 2010 race - I reckon a bit more practice/training and we should be looking at 25:00 for the Streak next year.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Training - Bleaklow 04/09/2010

Wain Stones, near the summit of Bleaklow Head

This was my "long" slow run for the weekend - a gentle jog up Bleaklow from the Torside Car Park in Longdendale, and also potentially a recce for the Marsden to Edale Race in December. The very pleasantly warm weather with a slight breeze was a lot better than I can expect for Tanky's Trog though.

I felt a little stiff running out along the Longdendale Trail (not unusual - I often feel stiff in the first mile or so) but loosened up a bit after that. I took it fairly easy on the one steep section up onto the high ground above Torside Clough.

Looking up Torside Clough from the initial steep ascent

Above the steep bit, I felt quite good and ran (gently at times to try to stay at a conversational pace) up to Wain Stones and then the Cairn. Approx 4.5 miles and 1,400' ascent from Torside car park to the summit, which I reached in 1:04:30.

The summit of Bleaklow Head, 633m (2,077')

After a five minute rest and a KitKat, I returned by the same route, again taking it really steady, to reach the car park in a shade under 50 minutes from the top.

Looking back across Torside Reservoir from the top of the only steep section of descent. The car park is near the wooded promontory on this side of the reservoir; behind that is Crowden and the valley that takes the Pennine Way up to Laddow Rocks and on over Black Hill.

The total distance was about 9 miles and around 1,450' of ascent in 1:59:30 including the stop. Hopefully this will help a little with the aerobic conditioning which I had right early in the season but is pretty much gone after very little activity in July and the first three weeks of August.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Stretton Skyline Recce (1) 01/09/2010

The Clee Hills from the south summit of Ragleth Hill

Yesterday night saw me in Church Stretton again for a recce of the first section of the Skyline route (the race is a week on Sunday, 12th September).

It was a really warm pleasant afternoon and I was suffering a little from spending most of the day out on site and also being a tad dehydrated before I started, but nonetheless I needed to check out the route and see how I could manage with the fairly tight checkpoint cut-offs.

I checked out the finishing field and then walked the few hundred yards to the start just above the cattle grid in Cardingmill Valley. The route follows the road and then path up the valley and forks left at the main path junction off Mott's Road to follow the valley up to Light Spout. 200 yards further on the route start to climb up a side stream towards the road junction at Boiling Well. There's some possible variation of routes at the top of this valley - I went probably too far right and had to follow the road for about 200m. Frome here it's plain sailing up good paths to the summit of Pole Bank.

I went a bit too slowly up the easy section low down in Cardingmill Valley and probably walked a little too much of the ascent either side of the waterfall, so made the summit in 36:45, a little over the allowed time. Lesson learnt - go out a bit faster.

From Pole Bank the route descends past Pole Cottage and onto the wonderful path which winds around Round Hill, Grindle and Callow to the campsite at Little Stretton. A short road section leads to the A49 where there's a footway on the Little Stretton side which is followed for 200m. Across the main road a short bit of side road leads to the well signposted ascent to Ragleth Hill. This probably looks worse than it is, but is walking terrain above the top field fence.

I reached the checkpoint location on the south summit at 1:29:22 total elapsed time (this included about 1:45 resting).

Summit of Ragleth Hill looking north along the route

My overall time (albeit at an easy pace) was too slow by nearly ten minutes. Again I could have pushed more on the long easy descent from Pole Bank and also on the flat section through Little Stretton - I'll have to hope that I can either start early or make up those ten minutes by running faster without doing too much damage to my ability to finish.

I took the very pleasant ridge of Ragleth Hill and the descent to Church Stretton fairly easy, reaching the bench at the bottom of Sandford Avenue in about 20 minutes. I've done the ascent from here to Caer Caradoc in less than 25 minutes (albeit in a race), so I should be able to cover the section from Ragleth Hill to Caer Caradoc roughly in the allowed time.

The second part of the recce (Caer Caradoc, the Lawley and the long reascent of the Mynd to the top of Mott's Road) - is planned for early Sunday morning other commitments permitting. If anyone knows how lenient the cut-offs are or whether 10:30 starts are allowed this year, please comment!

Ragleth Inn Race 25/08/2010

This was the final race in the Summer Series, and having missed three of the five previous races I was desparate to make it, despite having only been out once in the previous month due to a virus.

The rainy weather didn't put me off as I drove over to Little Stretton after work. In fact I was hoping that the rain would put some other runners off and reduce the field size a little which would help me maximise my meagre points return in the series. (I should explain that the scoring gives the winner 125 points in each race and each successive runner a point less, so I'd only scored 29 points in the Caradoc Classic even though I'd run a fairly good 69%, but had picked up 52 points with a less convincing 64% run at Pontesbury because of the smaller field).

Anyway, the race route went from Little Stretton straight up Callow, then down to the head of Grindle Hollow to rejoin the main path around Grindle to the twin trees at the south east end of Barrister's Plain. From here there's a steep descent into Barrister's Batch, and then a thin path leads down Callow Hollow past the bottom of Grindle Hollow. A few trees mark the start of the very steep reascent of Callow, and the outward route is retraced from the summit.

This all sounds very nice, but only the first half of the initial ascent ascent is runnable (at least for me), the big descent off Barrister's Plain is very slippery when it's wet, the path down Callow Hollow is thin and very slippery with a drop of about 20 feet into the stream, and the reascent of Callow climbs about 100m at a gradient of around 30°! The rest of the course was merely a bit slippery...

So it was a case of struggling up the first ascent, which went quite well, and I managed to keep up with Lightning and not get too knackered. I lost a little ground on the short descent and traverse to the top of the big descent, then decided to go for it in the light of how much time I seem to be losing on the downhills. This just meant that I fell over sooner than many of the others on the descent. Three very fast glissades (OK bum slides - it's only a glissade if it's controlled and on snow) later and a shouted warning to one of my fellow competitors, I hurtled across the stream to pick up the path down Callow Hollow.

Normally I enjoy this kind of single track and can move almost at full speed, but this was horrible. There were some really wet slippery sections, overhanging trees, and the ever present threat of faceplanting into the thick gorse 10 to 20 feet below the path and lining the rocky stream bed. I was almost relieved when the route turned to reascend Callow, but by this time had lost maybe a minute on Lightning and the other guys I usually chase.

I lost more on the ascent, being overtaken by one chap and pretty much running out of steam two thirds of the way up, but did recover quickly on top and took two places as the hill rolled over into the descent.

Coming down was ok until we reached the path (which is usually a doddle). However even this was pretty slippery, and Cliff Larwood (Telford Harriers) was hot on my heels. I put in a couple of spurts on the bits I thought were least slippery and managed to haul myself across the line 4 seconds ahead of Cliff.

I'm relatively pleased considering the total lack of recent training, but I could have probably moved a bit faster from the summit of Callow to the top of the big descent and down Callow Hollow (fear was a factor here I'm afraid). The main learning point (thanks Steven Cale for your advice and well done on the Series win) was that if the Organiser says it's slippery, he's probably not joking, and full-on fell shoes rather than trail shoes would help!

All in all this was yet another fun evening out - thanks to all involved with organising and marshalling.

Hopefully I can add a photo later...