Thursday, 30 December 2010

Wrekin Orienteers Choc-O - 30/12/2010

Knackered, after a long run and steep climb to CP5

This was the last run of the year (tomorrow's a rest day), and it was a toughie.

Wrekin Orienteers have set up two semi-permanent (here until the weekend, or maybe next weekend) courses up on the Long Mynd, starting from Womerton. The details are on their website:

I will not divulge too many details of the long course route I followed yet (I'll probably add more pics of the controls and details when the courses are taken down), but here are the main lessons learnt.

1. Remember what the controls look like when you're searching for them. I saw the posts for CP2 from around 40m away in the mist, but didn't realise what they were and then hunted around for about 10 minutes trying to find the bloody control.
2. Check routes carefully. I took on too much extra distance on the route from CP2 to CP3, trying to reduce the ascent. If I'd looked at the map carfeully I'd have realised there was a more direct route with little extra ascent.
3. Knowing the ground helps - I ran from CP3 to an obvious CP4 in dense mist without having to do any navigation.
4. Pace distances to navigation waypoints, especially at the start of legs. I went over twice too far on the initial heading from CP4, and ended up on a steep bracken down slope with an extra 0.3 miles of running too, when I should have been running down an easy grassy ridge.
5. Thumb the map - i.e. keep your thumb on your location - saves loads of time when fine navigating.
6. Quick decisions help - I made over 3 minutes on a couple of guys on the short course by moving from CP5 quickly towards a good path in roughly the right direction and then making a route decision on the run.

Hopefully I can put this all into practise on the Kinder Trail if my entry has arrived and there's room...

Today I did 12.1 miles and 1,500' of ascent. For the record I took 2:48:00 from the car park to the final control. It was nice to see many others out walking and running, mainly on the short course. I met Lawrie Jones and Brian Clough at the penultimate checkpoint - nice to meet you both and thanks for taking the photo of me.

The total distance run this month is 120.3 miles (up 15 miles on last month) and this month's climbing was a paltry 15,950' (down 2,160' on last month). The reduction in climbing is down to illness necessitating more runs from home; the increase in distance is probably partly due to doing easier miles. Best innovation this month - the Tuesday night runs from Church Stretton.

PS: Choc-O is so called becuase there are chocolates at the final CP and its O-rienteering.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Stretton Club Run - 28/12/2010

The post-Christmas run was just me and Mark Agnew yesterday night.

We picked our way up through the Rectory Wood (higher route - icy) and on up Townbrook Valley on melting snow with some ice patches. I found the going quite tough higher up and struggled a bit generally. We then went up to Boiling Well and onto the Portway, which was very slushy.

From the Portway we headed onto Haddon Hill, but lost the path in very poor (5 to 10m) visibility. From the point where we lost the path (just south of the north west top of Haddon Hill at SO 435956), we got disorientated surprisingly quickly, crossing the col between the two tops in an easterly rather than southerly direction. At this point we realised the fall of the land was on the wrong side of us and tried to relocate. Neither of us had map or compass, so we had to rely on the (poor) GPS in my phone. We headed south expecting to hit the steepening ground at the top of the slope down to Carding Mill Valley, and when we reached this we turned east and popped out right at the corner of the golf course fence (SO442953). A GPS track of our wondering in this area is at the top of this item.

From here we had a safe navigation handle (the fence) which we knew would lead us across Bodbury Hill and Stanyeld to the path above the golf club house. The descent of Stanyeld was extra slippery and more dodgy than usual.

When we got back to the car park and realised I'd dropped the car keys somewhere, so Mark kindly helped me search back in a few obvious areas, but didn't have much success. A very kind Mrs Agnew took me to Shrewsbury for the train to Telford and a cab home, and I retrieved the car this afternoon with the spare.

So the run was a good learning experience - keys need to be VERY secure (much better than in the clippy thing on my OMM bum bag), and the Mynd is a pretty confusing place in 5m visibility however well you know the route (I've run over the spot we lost the path three times in the last four weeks). ALWAYS take map and compass in poor visibility - we knew it would be murky and should have had one.

Todays stats were 7.1 miles and 1,200' of ascent. The Kanadia TR3 shoes go on impressing - I think the grip is better than the TR2s were when they were new.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Pace Run from Home - 27/12/2010

Just a quickie today. I thought I'd try some speed training, but conditions (rain, slush, ice) waren't too good for intervals, so I went for a pace run, aiming to do a fast 5k.

This was my usual route around the block, the first mile is across and along the edges of fields, then half a mile on partially cleared tarmac, and a mile and a half on icy unsurfaced road, before a warm down along icy tarmac road.

I made it to 5k in around 27:10 (pretty fast for me) and then jogged the last half mile back home.

Total distance 3.6 miles, 60' of ascent, 31:20.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Lilleshall, Boxing Day - 26/12/2010

Very cold looking Lilleshall Hill. It wasn't that dark really.

I was going to do the Davil's Chair Dash, but woke up with a pretty thick head and bad guts (the former due to a cold, the latter being the inevitable result of sprouts and stuffing). So I chilled in the morning, tidied up yesterday's debris, and headed out around the village just after two.

I varied the usual route a bit, going through Cheswell Grange to the Red House, then up through the clay pits to the incline and on to Lilleshall Hall. From here I headed along the golf course drive and down Abbey Lane, turning back into the village. I cut through the Churchyard and up Lilleshall Hill, where I took another pic, similar to one of Friday's.

Finally I headed home via the clay pits, Red House and Cheswell Drive.

I kept it really steady all the way today, hoping that I'd not slow down the recovery from my latest cold. That said, I felt pretty good and averaged not much over 10 minutes per mile. The total today was 11.6 miles and 640' of ascent.

This week's been busy, I've been under the weather, and I only got out three times, so I'm satisfied with 25.5 miles and 2,140' of ascent. I should be able to up the mileage and climbing this week, especially if I can finally start to beat the cold. I'm planning to get out for the club run on Tuesday night (probably around 7 miles), then run again on Thursday morning (hopefully the Wrekin Orienteers Christmas Choc-O course on the Long Mynd - around 9 miles) and then it's the Morning After race on Saturday (5 miles). I'll have to get out on Sunday for a longer one (ideally at least 9 miles).

The four week rolling total is 102.1 miles (up 1.5 miles) and 13,280' of ascent (down 1,450'). I really need to start building some more climbing into the routine before the longer steeper races start in March.

Lilleshall, Christmas Eve - 24/12/2010

Tiny bit chilly on top of Lilleshall Hill

I'm still struggling with colds and what-not, but wanted to get out after I'd finished work and got the last few bits of Christmas supplies in.

This was a good steady run round the village, with a few efforts on the short uphill sections. I took a couple of pictures on Lilleshall Hill, twenty minutes or so after sunset.

7.7 miles, 340' ascent in 01:20. The new Kanadia TR3s were very comfortable, and it's nice to have some trail shoes with decent grip again.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Stretton Club Run - 21/12/2010

I almost didn't go over to Church Stretton tonight when I saw the forecast for heavy snow starting at 6pm over there, but I'm glad I ignored it - we had a great run about tonight on fresh powder snow.

We went up through the Rectory Field and then up onto Ashlet. The traverse over to Yearlet was good, but the path on up to Boiling Well I found it hard to get into a rhythm because of the snow. The run over to Haddon Hill was fine, and I managed not to fall over in the col between the two tops tonight!

The descent from Haddon Hill to the golf course fence was sublime on fresh powder, slip sliding and galloping down. We came down the wider of the two ridges from here, which was slippery with some ice under the powder, but the view of Cardingmill Valley was amazing: we stopped twice to turn torches off and just gawp. This is why I run on the fells - you just get to amazing places at times and in conditions you would never experience otherwise...

A quick dash across the Burway and down through the Rectory Wood finished the run off nicely.

Happy Christmas everyone!!

6.2 miles and 1,160' in about 1:27.

PS: This was probably the last serious run for my over-worn Kanadia TR2s - the TR3s arrived today and I'll use them once I've had chance to check out the fit around the house.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Lilleshall Frosty Run - 19/12/2010

Very frosted tree quarter of a mile from home

Today it was time for a long gentle run, and I woke up to a winter wonderland after yesterday's snow, with the temperature around minus eight.

I ran from the house today to save driving, so set off for a tour of the village.

Another tree with hoarfrost on the farm lane

Telegraph poles, mist and sun at Cheswell Grange

In the woods near New House Farm

Looking north towards Pitchcroft

Finger post at Willmoor Lane

Looking back down the Incline (former canal)

Up by Abbey Lane

The Hill, from Wellington Road

After 8.8 miles, scenic as it was, I was not managing to stay warm and we needed to try to get out and about in the afternoon, so rather than put a fleece on, I called it a morning. There was only 400' of ascent today, but it's been a big climbing week before today. I had a great time out there though.

Just a few thoughts for the guys who were out overnight on Friday night trying to do winter BGs in pretty tough conditions. I cannot even start to comprehend how you could set off with sufficient drive and self confidence that you could get more than one leg donw, let alone push through as far as Bowfell. Awesome. Better luck with the weather next time guys...

My weekly total is 29.3 miles and 5,150' of ascent. The four week rolling total is 100.6 miles and 15,280'. I could do with upping the distance and the climbing a bit if I'm seriously going to have a chance at a BG in 2012, but the racing prep seems to be coming on well.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Stretton Skyline Part Deux - 17/12/2010

Climbing towards Caer Caradoc

Took Friday afternoon off - it was gorgeous sunny day with a thin carpet of fresh snow. I decided to do the second "half" (more like two-thirds) of the Stretton Skyline route I'd started on Saturday but had to cut short.

It all felt very comfortable and routine, taking things steady over Caer Caradoc and the Lawley.

Looking back from the Lawley towards Caer Caradoc and the Stretton Valley

The traverse across the fields to Dudgeley Farm was quite tough with all the meltwater from last week partly frozen and the field surfaces very rough. I'd decided the aim today was to try to run the whole route except the short steep pulls up Caradoc, at the bottom of the Lawley, and on the short really steep bit of road climbing out of Gogbatch. I took it easy up the path from Dudgeley into Gogbatch and then managed to run the entire ascent to High Park and the top of Mott's Road.

The descent into Cardingmill Valley was a little slippery, so I eased off a little, but managed a quick mile or so once on the road.

11.1 miles and 2,470' of ascent in 2:20:37, considerably quicker than the race time. If I can tie it all together, last week's time and this would take me under 4 hours (I did the race in 4:16) and I'm certain that in a race I could take another 5 to 10 minutes off that. It's really nice to be feeling like I'm making progress.

NB: My trusty Kanadia TR2s are pretty much dead - the uppers are both cut on both sides behind the toes, so I've ordered some TR3s. I hope they are as good - the TR2s have been super comfortable.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

All round the Wrekin - 15/12/2010

I managed to fit in a quick run tonight between work and the office Christmas do. Starting at Forest Glen, I headed up the spur left of the scree gully to Halfway House, and then descended Beeches to the Rifle Range.

From there I ran round the Wrekin, across the col between the Wrekin itself and Little Hill, finishing down the main drag, with a warm down loop round what I call Big Buckatree Pool.

The was very fine snow falling throughout the run. My new Petzl Myo headtorch is a huge improvement on the old Tikka Plus - thanks, Mum!

4.2 miles and 1,180 feet (from the 1:25k map contours). The GPS in my iPhone only recorded 484 feet of ascent though - strangely it gives a much better track in the x,y sense than it does for altitude where there's tree cover.

Stretton Club Run - 14/12/2010

Another club night at Church Stretton. We had more people out this week (12) but not such magical conditions (dull and slightly drizzly).

We ran what I'm told is the route of the "Morning After" race, which I'll try to get to on New Year's Day.

Starting, as usual, at the Co-Op car park, we ran up through the Rectory Wood to the Townbrook Valley reservoir, and then on across the Burway down into Cardingmill Valley. We went on up the path around the end of Stanyeld and across the golf course to climb the south face of Nover's Hill. A descent into the Batch followed by a short climb up Cwmdale brought us back onto the golf course and the Stanyeld path. We went back into the town past the finish of the Skyline on the cricket field.

I had a good chat with Helen Skelton about the Newport & District Fell section and her (rapid) progress since she took up fell running. It was nice to chat with a few of the others too.

Not a very heavy evening this week, with only about 5.2 miles and 1,100 feet of climbing.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Cannock Chase Fast 5k - 12/12/2010

A quick run on the way back from seeing my brother's family in Leicester.

Mum's given me a new Petzl Myo headtorch for Christmas, which (sorry Mum) I opened early because I really need it now!!! I thought I'd try it out...

I started at Beaudesert and ran across to Castle Hill, doing a couple of laps of the fortfications here and returning. I felt strong climbing - there's no need for walking now - last time I was here was in the Spring and I was still having to walk sections...

3.4 miles and 520' of ascent in 33:10.

This week's totals (not helped by resting from Wednesday to Friday) were 22.6 miles and 4,200' of ascent. The four week total goes up, to 101.7 miles and 15,480' of ascent.

Next week's aim is to do a couple of mid-distance easy runs with good ascent, and a decent weekend long slow run. If I can get back to the 30 miles and 5,000' mark that'd be good.

Truncated Stretton Skyline - 11/12/2012

The wonderful path down past Callow with Ragleth Hill right in front.

I thought I had the day to myself so had planned originally on trying a Gill Harris Challenge run, but then didn't get up particularly early, so realigned my training idea for the day to a steady paced Stretton Skyline. With all the running I've been doing recently I should ba able to improve on my race time of 4:16 from early September.

I set off at a nice steady speed up Cardingmill Valley. There's still some ice on the paths, particularly by the Lightspout waterfall (I scrambled up the heather here). Just at the turn into the side valley I got a call that I was needed back in Telford, so I decided to cut the session short after Ragleth Hill which'd get me back to town in time.

I kept running right the way on the climb up to Pole Bank, making this point in 34:23, just inside the cut-off, but with some comfort. I took it steady coming down the Callow path too, stopping to take a couple of pictures.

Centre frame are Caer Caradoc and the Lawley, ascents 3 and 4 on the Skyline

I ran the ascent of Ragleth to the stile, except for the steepest 20 yards, and hiked the rest pretty quickly and with no stops. The time to the checkpoint here was 01:23:12, three minutes outside the race cut-off and the easily the fastest I've done to date. If I keep training I'll have no problems here next year. A quick and committed descent got me to Sandford Avenue in 01:37:12.

Distance today 7.9 miles and 1,670' of ascent. I also jogged just over a mile from the car on Watling Street to the race start, so call it 9 miles.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Stretton Club Run - 07/12/2010

Another really excellent evening run tonight, mostly on snow, with the odd bit of ice.

Eight of us met up in the Co-Op car park at Church Stretton. We headed out up onto Burway Hill, trying to stay on the ridges to avoid the worst of the black ice on the busy paths in the batches.

We followed the path on up to the top of the road and then onto the Portway, across to Haddon Hill. I had a minor spill in the col between the two tops but luckily rolled and was straight up and running again. The drop down from Haddon was a bit icy - I whacked through the heather and soft snow in preference to the path.

We wound our way down gently through the golf course using their tracks to reach the path which winds round the end of Stanyeld into Cardingmill Valley. Andy D had a nasty spill on the black ice here. We picked our way carefully back down to the road and jogged back to the car park.

I really enjoyed this night out, feeling reasonably good all the way round. The mudclaws seemed to give me less grief than on the Wrecker - maybe the preventative Compeed is the answer.

7.3 miles, 1,200' of ascent, lots of the running on ice and some soft snow.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Awesome Iced Wrekin Night - 06/12/2010

Sometimes it just takes your breath away...

Not the running (there was too much ice for much of that) but the amazing variety of nature. Tonight I was treated to ice crystals suspended and glinting in the night air, the tips of tree branches so hoar frosted that they almost shone, a temperature inversion so noticeable I could feel it getting warmer as I plodded up and much colder as I jogged down, and creamy mist hanging over most of Telford like dry ice.

It made the effort of dodging the black ice worth it...

A very slow 2.9 miles and 710' of ascent, but an amazing experience out on the fells.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Cardington Cracker Marshalling - 05/12/2010

Steve Cale, leading Andy Davies narrowly at Comley

Still feeling a bit rough from the cold I've had this week, so I decided to help out and marshall at this race.

The RO asked me to look after the road crossing at Comley Farm, so I jogged over from HQ at Cardington, arriving at about 11:05, which gave me ten minutes to get sorted out.

Runners descending the Lawley toward me at Comley

The runners come off the Lawley down a farm lane with a sharp left hand bend about 30 yards before the road crossing and this was absolutely black ice, so I stood on the corner for the quicker runners, shouting warnings about the ice and asking them to take care on the road crossing. As the field went through I reckoned the road was the greater hazard for the slower runners so I moved down there after a bit. I managed to take photos of many of the runners, and they are posted here.

When the last couple of runners came through I decided to follow them through to the next checkpoint and collect the flags and signs up. The next check was at the road under Caer Caradoc and was manned by a lady and her daughter, so I thought I'd carry on with the back markers and remove the flags on the ascent of Caer Caradoc.

Caer Caradoc from Comley - you can make out runners near the top

At the top one of the back markers decided to call it a day, so he went down with Chris, the summit marshall, by an easy route, and I continued on down the race route to collect more flags.

Collecting flags on the summit of Caer Caradoc

At the bottom, I picked up the path through Cwms and jogged back over the col to the road at Willstone and back into Cardington.

I ended up running 7.2 miles and 1,510', but mostly at a very slow pace, following the tail enders and carrying a fairly heavy sack.

My total distance (24.7 miles) for this week is ok considering most of it has been wiped out with a head cold, but I haven't been able to get the climbing in (only 2,340' this week, about half the quota). Next week should be better!

The rolling four week total includes a couple of poor weeks and is the worst it's been for some time at 96.3 miles and 14,470' of ascent. BUT... the Christmas break is coming up soon, and I may have a go at the Gill Harris round on Saturday if the weather's ok.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Lilleshall Hill - 04/12/2010

Almost a monochrome Monument

Well, yesterday was a complete write off - you know how it is on the worst day of a cold. Today I'm with a cough and a bit bunged up but I don't have the headache and runny eyes any more.

I decided this morning that the Cracker was probably a write off so I'll have to settle for 200% on the Mercia Champs. However, I'd like to put my bit back for the year so I rang Paul Sanderson and offered to marshall. I'll be standing at Comley Farm watching the road crossing there from about 11:20 until 12:00 (hopefully that'll be the last runner). I may then sweep through part of the remainder of the course.

This decided, I thought I'd go out for a bit of a run today, just to keep things ticking over and get some fresh air. I set out to run for an hour around the village.

I was aiming for an easy pace but was presently surprised to be doing 10 minute miles (despite slush, ice, and slippery trails) and feeling pretty good. I did the last 1.5 miles in the minimal neoprene beach shoes. I almost regret the decision not to run at Cardington, but I think I should look after myself just this once.

7.0 miles, 260' in 1 hr 10 min.

Short snowy run - 02/12/2010

That's be the Wrekin on the skyline

Just the same circuit as yesterday, but in reverse!

Felt worse today - on the downward slope with the cold I think. Hope it's gone in time for the Cracker.

3.50 miles, 70', 36 minutes.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Pace Run in the Snow - 01/12/2010

Last couple of hundred yards across the field

Aim today was two-fold: firstly just to get out, with a bit of a head cold, sore throat thingy going on. Secondly to do a steady and fairly easy pace run at the kind of speed I'd do in a longer race, but without the hills.

Just ran around the fields and lanes near home. 3.5 miles; 60' of ascent (well, it is pretty flat if you don't go over Lilleshall Hill way); 34:25.

PS: Last month's totals were 105.3 miles and 18,110' with two races (Time Trial and Wrekin Wrecker), compared with 131.9 miles and 23,860' for September, also with two races.