Monday, 29 November 2010

Around the Wrekin - 29/11/2010

A short headtorch recovery run, starting at Forest Glen, and going anticlockwise around the Wrekin, passing between the Wrekin and Little Hill (so the shortest option). I had to be a little careful down the last section on the "main drag" which is icy in parts.

I deliberately kept this very steady. I wanted just a gentle shake out after the Time Trial and I'm being careful not to overdo it this week before the Cardington Cracker. The conditions underfoot helped me keep a steady pace. By the end of the second mile my aches from yesterday had gone.

I really want to keep things fairly gentle this week so I'm aiming to get another couple of runs at around the six miles mark, each with no more than 1000' of ascent in either Tuesday or Wednesday and Thursday or Friday. I wasn't fresh enough this week to give the Time Trial everything and had to back off a lot on the ascent to Stiperstones when I could have been running if I'd been fresher. This can't happen in the Cracker - I've got to improve on my 63% from Ragleth Inn to get my score in the Mercia champs up as high as I can.

3.5 miles and 440' of ascent today (both probably underestimates, particularly the ascent - my GPS didn't even register the switchbacks on the back of the Wrekin tonight). Time was 43:39 for the record, or 12:26/mile.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Time Trial - 28/11/2010

Team Mercia - Paul Flinn and yours truly starting
Photo by Colin Williamson of Mercia and Shropshire Shufflers
(more of his time trial pics are here)

An excellent morning's run from a very cold Little Stretton to an equally chilly Stiperstones.

The Time Trial is a point to point with starts a minute intervals. We parked up at the Stiperstones Inn and took the coach back to Little Stretton, where we joined the queue and registered. Our start time was 10:10, giving me just long enough to get a Compeed over the blister from the Wrecker and then get over to the start.

We went up Ashes Hollow fairly quickly (for me) running pretty much all the way. Paul kindly let me navigate and in return I let him take it easy (he's a lot quicker than me). I didn't mess about with alternative routes at the top, just blasted out onto the road and used the short linking path to get onto the Bridges road.

Paul Flinn near the Shooting Box on the Long Mynd

We passed John and Geoff Sproson, organisers of the excellent Devil's Chair Dash, on this section. A little way past the Shooting Box, a good path leaves the road and cuts the corner down towards Ratlinghope. A few hundred metres steeply down the road led to a T junction where I nearly came to grief skating about on black ice. We cut down to the river where we met Pauline Richards, and then continued on past the turn to the Bridges pub (sadly shut at the moment).

On the next section, a short climb and then a fairly level road section to the Hollies, I felt quite low, probably as a result of overdoing the run on Friday. I had to walk some sections that were not at all steep. Soon enough we were off the road and jogging and hiking up onto the Stiperstones ridge.

The descent was pretty slippery and I felt best attacked fairly hard. I always seem to fall less when I'm pushing downhill. We passed another pair on the lane about 300m from the finish.

I was fairly pleased with the run, but it wasn't up to the standard of the previous week, despite the harder conditions. The total distance was 9.0 miles with 1,730' of ascent; our time was 01:40:23 for a 74%. We were fourth male pair out of twelve.

This week's totals (with maybe too much intensity if not too many miles after the Wrecker): 24.0 miles; 3,590'.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Championship Race Entered - 26/11/2010

This confirms my entry for my first ever Championship race. I wonder if I can get in the top 40 M40s and score a point? Probably not.

One thing to note - this is an amazing sport - the entry above me in the list is none other than fellrunning superlegend WENDY DODDS! How many other sports do you get to be in the same event as someone who's won almost every English Champs age group section she's been in?

PS: ran home from work - felt good tonight and this was quite quick for an easy run: 6.4 miles, 170 feet of ascent, 58:30.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Edale Skyline - 2011

This is absolutely the highest I will ever appear on any list relating to this famous race. Entries now open. I've got work to do to make sure I stay fit enough to get round to Mam Nick in time (done once) and add a bit of speed in case of adverse weather conditions.

Almost can't wit 'till March, but I need the time to get some fast miles in!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Kinder Western Edges - 24/11/2010

Not sure about that expression! Self portrait at Kinder Low

Well, a couple of days and a big Compeed have sorted out the damage from the Wreker, so it was out again this afternoon for a quickie on the way back from inspecting broken bits of canal in Manchester.

I drove round the M60 and out to Hayfield, parking up at the Bowden Bridge car park where the famous 1932 mass trespass started - kind of the home of the Right to Roam.

I ran up along the banks of Kinder Reservoir.

Kinder Reservoir

The ascent of Williams Clough is nice and steady, although with a rough path. There are steps at the end of the valley and that's the only bit I walked, although I was deliberately taking it as steady as I could. My route turned right and climbed another short steep section onto the edge of the plateau. A mile on from here is Kinder Downfall.

The light was no good for the classic downfall view, so here's one of the north side with Kinder Reservoir nestling in the valley.

Sunshine just emerging from beneath the clouds south of the Downfall

It's a mile and a quarter of undulating running on a rough path south to Kinder Low. I stopped to take a quick photo or two, but it was a bit chilly to linger as a breeze had got up here.

Trig point at Kinder Low with hoar frost. Ringing Roger on the skyline.

The route back to Bowden Bridge needed a couple of quick looks at the map, but is straightforward. I followed the main path down to the point where the Brown Knoll and Jocob's ladder paths meet, and turned right past Edale Cross initially up a short steep rise and then down a very rough cart track over Oaken Clough. The rough path continues on down to the River Sett, where a short section goes through a field with Highland Cattle to meet a paved road which can be followed back to Bowden Bridge.

Felt fairly controlled, not too tired after Sunday, but a little sore in the achilles and had a sore right shin in the car later. Good stretches after though (forgot on Sunday).

8.6 miles, 1,690' of ascent in 2h 1 min. A very steady pace but that included several minutes of stops and I was actively trying to take it easy and run at recovery pace.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Wrekin Wrecker Race - 21/11/2010

Recovering from the final ascent and preparing for
a very steep few hundred feet of downhill
Photo courtesy Al Tye (

Just back from another great morning's running - thanks to Newport & District Runners, who certainly put on a well marshalled event. The Wrecker has a pretty convoluted route, looping two and a half times round the Wrekin. It's 8.1 miles and 2,400' (AM) but visits every single rough gnarly bit of the hill.

Route and elevation / pace chart. The spike on the pace line is the very steep ascent of the Goaty path. The profile doesn't do the switchbacks on the runout at the end any justice at all. My GPS reads well under on distance, particularly under tree cover.

I started well enough (the start was from the Rifle Range this year) and put in a storming descent of the scree gully form Halfway House, overtaking at least 10 and maybe 15 runners on the way down. I was very glad I put on my Mudclaws as it's so slippery down there. I think I might have slightly overdone it because I felt very jaded on the next mile to the start of Goaty. This ascent is brutal, but easier when there are people to follow and you find the path.

As I reached the top something which turned out to be Steve Cale streaked past at almost supersonic speed, having already done the next climb. I love the descent of the BMX and passed three or four more. It's a superb single track which is often very slippery at the top. From the bottom the path climbs up Beeches which is steepish but runnable. However when I got back to Halfway House I felt very tired and had to hike most of the rest of the way back to the summit.

The final big descent is also very steep and I passed another couple of racers and caught the group in front of me, overtaking them on the way off Little Hill. It's single track for the first 200 yards so I waited and rested and then had them on the wider section lower down.

I had a very good runout, following Delwyn Williams who set a good pace and only walked a couple of the very steepest bits on the switchbacks. It must have been good because I stretched out between 15 and 75 seconds gap in a mile on the group I'd passed on the Little Hill descent. The finish was at the gateway onto the road, very welcome...

Nice to see and chat with Rick Robson (in the first mile - he must have lit the afterburners after the top of Heroes because he finished 15 minutes ahead of me ); Keith Campbell, a colleague of mine who made a very fine fist of his first (I think) fell race and gave me a scare when I looked round at the top of Goaty and he wasn't far behind; and John Nightingale (Lightning of these parts) who's been on the beer not the trails otherwise I wouldn't have beaten him.

The presentation was fun, and I had another good chat with Steven Cale - an all round nice guy who always has time for the also rans like me...

This is a hard race, and I was pretty satisfied with 1:31:24 for a 70%.

8.1 miles and 2,400' giving a weekly total of 30.4 miles and 5,350' and a rolling four week of 106.9 miles and 19,620': up 1.1 miles but DOWN ten whole feet :-(

Supposed Recovery Run - 20/11/2010

I wanted to get out and stretch my legs after doing a lot of jobs around the house and just to keep moving before the Wrekin Wrecker. So the aim was a gentle run around the village. I didn't have enough discipline I'm afraid and ended up enjoying being out too much. I got a tiny bit lost round the fields at the back of Willmoor Lane. I followed a few margins around to reach the main road at a stile just south of Pitchroft Lane, then came back via Cheswell Grange.

5.1 miles, 200', 49min.

Long Mynd - 18/11/2010

Looking down the valley between Yearlet and Ashlet

Finished work early on Thursday and took a bit of leave time partly to get some daylight training in over on the Mynd.

I ran in fairly constant rain up from the town via the bottom of Carding Mill Valley and the Burway to Burway Hill, and then around the head of Townbrook Valley and up to Ashlet. I think I've finally found a good way down into Ashes Hollow. Double back from the top heading north, and find the top of the re-entrant about 300m away. I actually went about 700m and went down the main valley, but the re-entrant looks goood from the bottom. Much better than the gorse further along the west face or the really steep south ridge.

I then headed up Ashes Hollow right to the top - this dragged and I felt weak but kept running (just about...). As I topped out of the hollow, the rain finally stopped. I continued on up to the top of Pole Bank where a tiny gap in the cloud opened and I was bathed in sunshine for about a minute!

Sunshine and dramatic light, Pole Bank

On over the summit of Pole Bank and past the Shooting Box to Haddon Hill (always forget this has a short but steep ascent between the two tops), Bodbury Ring and finally Stanyeld. I fell on the way down Stanyeld, but as usual had no trouble and was up and running again very quickly. Must find some comfortable shoes with a bit more grip though now the winter's here. The path round from Stanyeld to Carding Mill Valley is superb and very fast...

10.1 miles, 1,790' and 2hr 09min.

High Peak Trail - 16/11/2010

I was in Matlock for an interview for a new project for Derbyshire Council, and managed to get in a run as it got dark before heading home. I parked up at the Middleton Top visitor centre and ran the final bit of the High Peak Trail I'd not done - Middleton Top to High Peak Junction.

This goes down two steep (about 1 in 8) inclines to reach the canal in the Derwent Valley, with a fairly level section in between. When I got back to Middleton I topped the distance up to six miles and then swapped into the minimalist "almost barefoot" shoes and did another mile.

Nice running on a good trail: 7.1 miles, 960' in 1h 17min.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Stretton Training - 14/11/2010

I had been intending to do the Roaches Race but circumstances conspired against and I popped over to Church Stretton for a long run instead.

I started with the first two acents of the Stretton Skyline - Pole Bank and Ragleth Hill. Felt pretty strong, ran well and was within myself all the way round. The descent of Callow was particularly pleasing. I'm really attacking the steeper bits now and reckon I could take at least a minute off the Ragleth Inn race pace from August just at training speed.

I got back into Church Stretton eager for a bit more, but didn't want (or have time) to go round the whole Skyline so I popped up through the Rectory Wood and climbed Townbrook Valley. This is pretty much relentless and the last half mile to the col west of Yearlet ramps up considerably, the whole climb being sustained and climbing about 720' in only a mile and a half. Again I ran all of this (some effort required towards the end) and managed to keep going on up to the summit of Ashlet fairly easily.

I wanted to try to recce a better way of Ashlet and into Ashes Hollow for the Gill Harris, so tried heading just east of south from the top and going down the fenceline to Ashes. Once the fence is joined, it's gnarly, steep and very slow going for nearly half a mile (although there are sketchy bits of path aroun 50 yards right of the fence). Now convince the best option is to double back towards the col with Yearlet and go down the valley between the two. Rather than going up the east spur of Grindle and then on to Nills I think from Ashes a better approach may be to take the footpath marked on the 1:25k OS map up onto Nills and then do Grindle. Anyway, forewarned is forearmed or whatever...

I also managed to find my way onto the path from the ford at the bottom of Ashes Hollow to the bottom of Cunnery Road - this avoids any road bashing between Little Stretton and Church Stretton, at the cost of a couple of short ascents (each around 120'). A nice jog back down the Rectory Field and through town to the railway bridge finished the morning off.

13.7 miles, 2,800' of ascent in 2:53:15 (would have been probably 5-10 minutes faster if I came off Ashlet via a less deperate route).

It's been a bit of a disappointing week in terms of time out etc., but then I reckon I could have done with a light week. Total this week is 17.2 miles and 3,190'; and the rolling four week drops by 16.2 miles and 1,780' to 105.8 miles and 19,630'.

Hill Intervals - 09/11/2010

The one and only midweek session this week - rubbish, due to being way too disorganised.

I did two "circuits" up and down Redhill Way near the Donnington Asda, late on in the evening. The first was a warm up, and on the second I did three hard 90 second efforts on the climb and jogged back down to warm down.

Pace on the efforts wasn't particularly consistent (08:00; 06:56; 08:30), but I did do 90 second recoveries in between UPHILL. I had sore shins afterwards. This was the first occasion I'd run entirely on tarmac or in my road shoes for some time.

Overall pace was almost exactly 10:00 per mile (some very gentle jogging to warm down). Distance 3.7 miles, ascent 390'.

Gill Harris Recce (2) - 07/11/2010

Long Mynd Ponies near Boiling Well

I spent a lovely day out on the Stretton hills doing a recce for the Gill Harris Challenge mentioned in a previous post.

I parked up on the Mynd at Boiling Well, just in case I needed to return to the car for supplies or to bail out. The aim today was a recce of the southern two thirds of the Gill Harris Challenge Round.

I dropped down Townbrook Valley to the Square in Church Stretton, then ran up the Burway Road past the cattle grid and hiked up Burway Hill.

Devil's Mouth from Burway Hill
(I think the checkpoint properly is the top of Devil's Mouth)

From here I used the lovely trod to skirt Devil's Mouth to the south, and then took the path around the head of Townbrook Valley and picked up good sheep trods direct to the summit of Yearlet.

Cairn on Yearlet, looking north

Ashlet is a short run away on good paths.

Callow from the summit of Ashlet

From here I aimed to drop into Ashes Hollow and then climb to Grindle. There are no good descents from Ashlet summit itself - even the gentler eastern slopes lead to a horrible final 100m of descent into the Hollow. Today I tried down the west side and very rapidly got slowed down by the very steep ground and extensive gorse. The best answer is to go back north along the path 200m then head west into a re-entrant that leads down into the pretty valley between Ashlet and Yearlet, then to follow this south into the Hollow. One to try next time.

A spur just north of a stream leads straight up toward the summit of Grindle.

Looking back down the spur on Grindle
to the west and south faces of Ashlet

The last couple of hundred metres are a bit heavy going through heather.

Cairn at the summit of Grindle

I'm not 100% sure where the next top, Nills, actually is. I opted for the higher of the two mounds east of Grindle - this certainly ties in with the grid reference given in the article about the round on the Mercia website.

Summit of Nills, looking towards Yearlet and Ashlet

I then picked up a good path heading round the top of Small Batch, crossed the main path up from Little Stretton and jogged up to the top of Callow.

Callow, looking across Nills to Yearlet and Ashlet

Weather closing in on Callow

From Callow I decided to sacrifice an increase in distance to reduce the climbing - lazy, and a bad choice. I should have dived off across to Packetstone Hill instead of running back up the ridge to Round Hill, never mind, I know for the real deal.

Summit-ish (it's vague) of Round Hill 

I got back on the main path up to Pole Cottage (another navigational mistake costing lots of extra distance - I should have cut across the top of Callow Hollow). Picking up the road, I headed south for three quarters of a mile and then out along the next ridge to Minton Hill, another vague rise in a sea of heather, but fortunately close to the path.

Minton Hill, looking towards Pole Cottage and Pole Bank

Looking across to Yearlet, Grindle and Callow

From here it's five minutes down the path to Packetstone Hill.

Shooter's Knoll from below Packetstone Hill

Another short jog mostly down leads round a few rocks and up a short rise to Shooter's Knoll. 

Strange object in foreground, Shooter's Knoll

I retraced my steps 100m to the head of a little vally north of the top of Shooter's Knoll and descended this into Minton Batch. Following the batch down past a very scruffy looking farm, I crossed the stream at a footbridge and took the bridleway up past a cottage and through a wood into a steep pasture. Aiming for the trees works here, and a gate leads into forestry.

View back to Shooter's Knoll from the top of the pasture

I followed the forestry tracks up from here to reach the Knolls trig, which is 150m east of the path as it leaves the wood. From here I ran directly along the Port Way (and it's little alternative at the glider club, the Starboard Way, back to the road. A long slog took me past Pole Cottage and up to Pole Bank.

I then headed past Boiling Well to the top of Long Synalds (between the Burway Road and the path), and cut back past the car to the Shooting Box top. By now I was heading away from the car and I decided to call it a day.

The recce was useful, and I'm settled on the following order for an attempt at the round:

Burway Hill; Yearlet; Ashlet (descend to Ashes Hollow)
Grindle; Nills; Callow (down to Callow Hollow)
Packetstone Hill; Shooter's Knoll (down to Minton Batch)
Knolls; Minton Hill (cross top of Callow Hollow)
Round Hill; Pole Bank; Long Synalds; Calf Ridge; Shooting Box; Wild Moor; Haddon Hill
GH Memorial Post; Plush Hill; Castle Hill; Novers Hill; Bodbury Ring; Stanyeld (see previous recce)

The total distance today was 18.2 miles and about 3,500' (my phone ran out of battery so the GPS track stopped a bit before I did). The weekly total was 30.2 miles and 5,540', giving a rolling four week total of 122.0 miles and 21,410' of ascent (down 0.4 miles and 590' on last week's rolling totals).

Friday, 5 November 2010

Gill Harris Challenge mini-recce - 05/11/2010

The Gill Harris Memorial Fingerpost at High Park

On leave today, so went over to Church Stretton to have a look at some of the Gill Harris Challenge route (see link here). The route is named in memory of a longstanding Mercia Fellrunners member, and visits 24 hilltops around the Long Mynd, plus the fingerpost above.

The area I'm least familiar with is the northern end of the route, which included three (minor) hills I'd never visited: Novers Hill, Plush Hill and Castle Hill, all close to All Stretton. I made a reasonable trip of it by including the hills immediately north of Cardingmill Valley so I could recce the links.

My route was from the car park in Batch Valley near All Stretton, up Novers Hill, then across and up Stanyeld and on to Bodbury Ring and Haddon Hill. It's mostly downhill from there past the fingerpost and on down a lovely grass path to Plush Hill (very close to the road near Jinlye). I went on easily down the road to the edge of All Stretton and up the very short but steep slope to Castle Hill (there was a Norman motte and bailey fortification here). A little jog took me past the Yew Tree Inn and up into Batch Valley to the car.

All Stretton from the start of the climb up Novers Hill

Ragleth Hill, Church Stretton and Cardingmill Valley from Stanyeld

Bodbury Ring from the top of Stanyeld

R to L: Caer Caradoc, the Lawley and the Wrekin from Plush Hill

5.3 miles, 1,130', and a satisfyingly slow 1:18:50 (I was really trying to take it easy after yesterday's fairly quick effort).

Truleigh Hill Pace Run - 04/11/2010

Devil's Dyke

I found myself in Sussex again with an hour or so to spare so did the next little bit of the South Downs Way. I've already run the section from Eastbourne to Devil's Dyke, so went on west from Devil's Dyke as far as the next significant rise, Truleigh Hill.

This was a straightforward route starting with a series of gentle grassy switchbacks over Fulking Hill, Perching Hill, Edburton Hill and then a steady pull up to Truleigh Hill Barn. I turned around here and headed back, maintaining pretty much 10 minute mile pace throughout despite a nature stop and taking the pics here.

View from below Devil's Dyke towards Truleigh Hill (with the comms masts)

Looking back along the downs to Devil's Dyke

Edburton Hill (which has some significant fortifications on the north side) from Truleigh Hill

Nice steady progress today; felt pretty good: 4.5 miles, 590' of ascent in 0:46:09.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Wrekin Run Cut Short! - 01/11/2010

I only intended to do a lap of the Wrekin just to stretch the legs after the Skyline run yesterday, but had to go and taxi folks around at short notice, so I only managed to get as far as the switchbacks and then come back to Forest Glen.

Colder tonight. 2.2 miles, 320' in 26 minutes.

Stretton Skyline Training - 31/10/2010

The Pole Bank view indicator was redundant today

Today's activity (my weekend long slow run) was a gentle trip around almost all of the Stretton Skyline race route, but missing out the Lawley.

This started off cool and misty with the first (restricted) view being from the top of Pole Bank. I'd managed to run all the way up in reasonable comfort, starting down by the social club. I reckoned a breather was in order, and took a quick photo. Time to this point was 34 minutes from the start line, so just inside the race day cut-off time.

Mist starting to clear over Pole Cottage on the Long Mynd

The next section is the lovely run-off down past Bachelor's Plain and Callow into Little Stretton. The path's so nice I tend to go a bit fast here and felt a little weary after crossing the A49 road. I did very little running on the ascent of Ragleth Hill but kept it together at a reasonable hiking speed with no rests (1:19:45 to here from the start line, just a few second inside the race cut-off time). On top the views were starting to open out a bit.

Near the top of Ragleth Hill

Finger post on top, with the path onwards to the left

I followed the descent line I'd seen the frontrunners take in the race, which is much better, and got down to Sandford Avenue where I'd left the car quickly and easily. I took a brief break and topped up my water and energy drink from the boot of the car. Onwards and upwards to Caer Caradoc. I felt unusually strong on the gentle climb across the field and managed to keep it together, although a bit ragged, up the lane and out onto the fell where I eased off and hiked fairly gently up to the top (2:05:40 from the start, 4 minutes 20 seconds inside the cut-off).

I had a bit of an interrupted descent to Comley with the phone going several times, and had not intended to do the Lawley (I'm trying to build up the long run mileage steadily and my previous couple were around the 13.5 mile mark). I stuck with the plan despite feeling OK and was vindicated after the railway crossing when it all fell apart a bit.

Gogbatch and the climb to High Park were a bit of a nightmare, ground out very steadily, running mostly but with more and more walking towards the top. Mile 12 crossing the valley had been the last decent one (11:25), and I struggled with two miles at around the 15 minute mark before I got to the Portway. I managed to gradually wind the pace up along here with a 12 minute mile, and then ran the Mott's Road descent and the run out into Church Stretton steadily but at a reasonable pace (9:09 and 9:29 for the last two miles).

Total distance 18.2 miles, ascent 3,710', time 3:45:15.

Week's total is 29.1 miles and 5,540' of ascent (down 0.2 miles but up 180' on last week). The rolling four week total is 122.4 miles and 22,000' of climbing, up 3.5 miles and 1,440' on last week's rolling total.