Sunday, 30 January 2011

Gym (!) and Recovery Run - 30/01/2010

Wrekin Sunset
Today's Exercise (Part 1):
I took my stepson James to the local council gym today and we both did an induction and a good workout session. He wants to lose a bit of weight and tone up, and (obviously) I want to improve my fellrunning.

After we'd done the induction (thank you Andrew - you couldn't have been more helpful), we did about a one hour session, starting off with 10 minutes rowing and finishing with some time on the exercise bike. I between I did a set of fixed weights exercises targeted at leg strength and endurance and also some to strengthen by back muscles which get stretched with all the hunching over computer screens and running uphill. Generally I was doing 3 sets of 20 reps, starting with a load I was just comfortable with and reducing the load by one notch for each set. James did a more general workout with fewer reps but higher loads.

Despite my scepticism, I quite enjoyed it and I'm certainly feeling sore in some places I don't usually. I think probably the main advantage is that I can really isolate particular areas which will help with the running.

Today's Exercise (Part 2):
A very gentle run around the village at sunset: 6.7 miles and about 420' of ascent. I managed a very controlled gentle effort, and did a mile where I was concentrating on a higher cadence and a more forefoot based foot strike, similar to how I run when I'm barefoot.

Streaky Skies just after sunset
Summit of Lilleshall Hill (yet again...)
Weekly Summary
A good week in terms of volume, with some real effort put in on Tuesday night and Thursday and a rewarding long run on Saturday. Totals this week are 31.5 miles and 6,900' of ascent (big increase in the climbing volume this week), and the four week totaliser is at 107.8 miles and 22,190' of climbing.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Half Stretton Skyline - 29/01/2011

The last 60% of the Stretton Skyline Race Route
A much easier long run today, but a satisfying one. I was tired this morning and felt I might have a bit of a cold, but eventually managed to drag myself out of bed for a nice run.

I started at Sanford Avenue in Church Stretton and cruised up to the bottom of the steep ascent to Caer Caradoc, near Cwms. I ran all of this (gently) and then hiked the steep section. Keeping left near the top (above the steep bit) gives a nice steady runnable gradient. I took it fairly steady on the descent (the ground was frozen hard) and came out at Comley Farm.

As I started up towards the Lawley, Mark Deighton from Newport & District appeared behind me. We had a good chat going up the Lawley, and then he headed off along the ridge northwards for a longer version of my run, and I turned back at the summit to head down and across to Dudgely. The fields on the way were just frozen enough I kept my feet dry, at the cost of a little bit of roughish going.

On this run it has previously all gone a  bit wrong for me on the next (final ascent), but this time the recent training paid off, and I managed to run fairly easily up through Gogbatch and on up the road then track to the Gill Harris Finger Post. Today, I chose to continue up towards the road rather than turning left on the path that skirts Haddon Hill. This gives slightly better conditions underfoot. I turned down Mott's Road and cruised gently down, avoiding the patches of ice. A steady run down Cardingmill Valley took me through to the cricket field where the Skyline race finishes.

I reached this point in 2:15 - about five minutes faster than the last time I came this way, and much more comfortably. When I raced in September this section took me about 2:35 (admittedly there was seven miles of running before it). I think I'm making real progress now, and I'm sure I could go sub 4 hours for the whole Skyline, maybe sub 3:50.

I jogged back up to the car, giving (according to the gpx file): 11.2 miles and 3,420' of ascent. The profile below (using the DEM and not the GPS elevations) shows the ascent measure is probably a bit OTT, and should be more like 2,700'.

Profile: L to R are Caer Caradoc, The Lawley, and the slog up to High Park

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Canter Recce - 27/01/2011

Looking back toward the top of Calf Ridge
I finished work at quarter past two today (after a very busy and quite frustrating day) and drove over to Church Stretton to recce for the Cardingmill Canter race (it's on 5 Feb).

I felt quite destructive today and it was good to get all the negativity out of my system with a good hard climb up Calf Ridge. The path at the top here is along the lip down to New Pool Hollow - this is good runnable ground so I will need to get moving quickly as soon as I come over the top. Crossing over the road I took a nice line down to the Devil's Mouth and Burway Hill, and made a sensible but quick-ish descent to the cattle grid on the Burway Road.

I cut the corner off crossing Cardingmill Valley (you have to go round the fingerpost in the race), and headed off up the Stanyeld path, alternating running and hiking in a sort of micro intervals way. The slog up Stanyeld is very steep but over quickly. By this point my fell shoes were starting to hurt my heels again - I really need to sort that out one way or another. There's a nice run along the fence, then another short steep climb to Bodbury ring. From there, it's quick running ground to the corner of the golf course fence, where I went leftish and up, steeply at first, towards Haddon Hill. If I've got enough left I know the ascent is runnable after the first steep section now. I had one short recovery walk part way up.

The descent from Haddon comes down from the col between the two tops. It's astonishingly steep at the top! I made it down the first bit, but then attacked a little too hard and lost my footing, landing on my arse and then sliding head first down the hill a few yards. I was back up and running straight away though - you run most of these off after a couple of minutes. At the bottom, I leapt the stream and followed the Mott's Road path down the valley to the finish, which is just above the top car park.

My time over the race route was 72:23. The target for the race (allowing for the extra bit of running crossing Cardingmill Valley, but at racing speed) has got to be sub 65 minutes then.

I jogged up from town at the start and back down at the end (just behind another fellrunner who headed off towards Little Stretton before I could catch him), so my total time and distance were longer than for the race route, at 6.8 miles, 1,962' of ascent and 1hr 28mins. The GPS track and profile are below:

Today's GPS Track - the little triangles mark the miles. and direction (the southern loop is first)
The Profile - the race has about 1,850' of climbing in 5.1 mles

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Club Run - 25/01/2011

GPS Track (see below)

 Another Tuesday night, another great club run from Church Stretton. Tonight we headed out up Ragleth Hill (Helen says this is the route to use descending in the Skyline and Long Mynd Hike). We made the mandatory return journey along the ridge to the post, then dropped down to Ragdon Road and did a bit of tarmac bashing down to the layby at the top of Sandford Avenue. From here we hiked up steeply to the Gaerstone and continued along the ridge to the highest top of Hope Bowdler Hill. We descended to Cwms under Caer Caradoc and then down through the very muddy field onto Cwms Lane and back into Church Stretton.

I experimented with a new GPS solution on the phone - this one is called Trails. It's a bit clunkier than RunKeeper but allows export of a GPX file and also uses much better mapping than Runkeeper (the OpenCycleMapTopo which has 10m countour intervals when zoomed in and shows a lot of the paths too). I had a problem with the recording in that it starts straight away, before a decent z co-ordinate is acquired, so the first two points had zero altitude and thus the climbing was over-estimated by about 600' (the altitude of the car park in Church Stretton).

One of the advantages of the GPX format is that it's very easy to look at the data and edit these points out. I did this and then imported the data into a web based app, This enables you to do track and profile plots with a good degree of control over the output. The track plot is at the top of this post, and here's a profile based on the GPS altitude readings:

You can see that there's a lot of noise arising from the errors in GPS readings, particularly near the start where we were close to buildings and under trees. The levels themselves seem to be within 30 feet or so of spot heights on the OS map generally, although one or two points have errors up to 70'.

A better way of doing profiles is to use only the x,y track data. GPSvisualiser can process the GPX file to replace the GPS measured altitudes with ones calculated using a DTM (digital terrain model). This gives a smoother profile which probably tends to slightly underestimate the amount of climbing:

Note that the profile line is coloured to indicate the speed. Red bits are where we stopped to regroup! The process of producing these is really quick and I like the degree of control you get which is missing in RunKeeper.

Another cool trick is that GPS Visualizer can produce .kml files to import into Google Earth from the .gpx output of the iPhone. Here's a sample, looking down into Church Stretton along the last mile or so of the track:

For the record today's stats were 6.9 miles and some ascent (variously about 1,850' according to the GPS, 1,820' according to the OS 1:25k map, and interestingly only 1,420' from the profile derived from the DTM). Call it 1,820' then.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Kinder Trial - 22/01/2011

Yesterday I drove up to Hayfield for the Kinder Mountain Trial. This race is a little different, the objective being to visit a number of checkpoints (in no particular order) and then return to the start. This year there were twelve checkpoints, arranged on the rough slopes above Kinder Reservoir. Several of the checkpoints were below the western edges of the Kinder Plateau, including on in the stream just below Kinder Downfall.

I was given the map two minutes before my start time and at 10:17 I was off. I had decided to go clockwise, concentrating the checkpoints more towards the end when I'd be tired and need more encouragement, and giving a good runnable descent from K7 (my last checkpoint) to Bowden Bridge and back to the start/finish. This also had the benefit that K12, K9 and K4, which I thought would probably be hardest to find, would be my first three checkpoints.

K12 was straightforward with a big gaggle of trialists all heading in the same direction. The Snake Path would have saved a minute or two over my route via Bowden Bridge I think. From here there was lots of heather bashing to K9 and then K4 (local knowledge would have helped - apparently there's a path not marked on the map I could have used for path of the climb to K4). Anyway the nav worked and I found K4 just ahead of four other competitors, but with no guidance in the mist. The last misty section was across under Mill Hill to the Pennine Way path. From here on (sadly) it was clear enough to see where everyone was going and most of the checkpoints could be spotted from some distance away.

My plan from here was to follow the bottom of the western scarp of Kinder Scout, taking in K3, K6, K1 and K10. The traverse was rough, rocky and slippery from melting frost and I made pretty slow progress (as did most others). K1 (an island in the stream below Kinder Downfall) was quite low relative to this traverse and caught most people out to a degree, with some very steep descending required. I took a better line than some, starting to descend before the ground got really craggy.

From K10 it was a good runnable descent along the stream to K8 (although I tweaked both ankles high up and then fell just above the checkpoint - thank you to the unknown runner who slowed and asked if I was OK). The climb to K5 across a rough steep field wasn't too bad, and I found the checkpoint OK.  The next leg was about 1km to K2, gently downhill. I thought about staying high where the ground looked a bit better and hoping there'd be some kind of track down across the field, but went for the direct option - bad mistake. What had looked like a nice field from K6 was in fact a truly horrible boggy tussock grass half mile of hell. I felt cramp coming in the back of my thigh when I was most of the way across - fortunately it passed and didn't bother me again until I was eating soup after I finished!

From K2, the route to K11 and K7 was straightforward. I got to K7 at about 02:40 running time so pushed hard on the last two miles back to Hayfield to get inside my 3 hour "stretch" target (I'd been told not to expect to do more than 3 to 3.5 mph in my first mountain trial type event).

I made it round in 2 hours 55 minutes, considerably quicker than I had feared. This put me a surprisingly high 69th out of 152: I must be able to route plan and navigate better than I can run (certainly I notice two or three people who kept overtaking me). The route I took was 11.2 miles and included 2,520' of climbing over some really rough ground. Other folk had some interesting, possibly better, route variations, which are discussed towards the bottom of this page and on following posts on the Fellrunner forum. I've put my GPS track below:

I'm pretty satisfied with my time and particularly my placing (for a first go at a proper navigation event), although I always feel I could have done more running and less hiking after the event!

This week's totals are down a bit: I didn't go out on Sunday to top up the miles because I thought a recovery day or two would do me some good!!

This week: 20.6 miles, 4,750'. Last four weeks: 107.8 miles, 19,230' (down 4.9 miles, up 2,610').

Friday, 21 January 2011

LMV Radio Check - 21/01/2011

Radio relay station at Shooting Box

Just spent the morning helping out with a very small element of the organisation for Mercia Fellrunners' Long Mynd Valleys (LMV) race, which requires a lot more infrastructure this year because it's an English Championships race.

After a bit of a dicy drive up the Burway Road to the Shooting Box, I helped Colin, John the radio guy and his son (whose name sadly I didn't catch) to set up the aerial shown on the picture above. This was done in a bitterly cold wind, and by the time everything was ready I was pretty cold!

John gave us a briefing on how to operate the walkie talkies and then we split up to test the radio comms from the various checkpoints. I had CP2, in Ashes Hollow where the climb up to Barrister's Plain starts, and CP3, half way down to the bottom of Callow Hollow on the other side of Barrister's Plain.

I ran down to CP2 from Pole Cottage, messed about a bit finding somewhere the radio worked and then jogged back up to the Plain and down to CP3 and did the same. There's no radio signal at all at CP3 but it's only a five minute walk up to Barrister's where its good.

I jogged back to the car and returned the handsets to John and then went to find our RO, Pauline Richards, and give her my "report".

Total today 3.2 miles and 920' of ascent (or about 25% of an LMV!)

Tomorrow will hopefully dawn pleasant and warm with no low cloud for a gentle jaunt round Kinder. Or it could be clag down to Hayfield and four hours lost looking for a checkpoint that isn't there (there being where I think it should be)!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Stretton Club Run - 18/01/2011

Huge turnout tonight for Dave "Gizmo" Nicholl's sixtieth birthday.

We ran up Townbrook Valley (some detouring up Yearlet) and on to Pole Bank, where we wished Dave a Happy Birthday in song.

The return was via the green path under Yearlet and off the Ashlet ridge to the Townbrook Reservoir.

This was followed by a get-together in the pub (Ragleth Inn) with cake and drinks provided... I had a superb stack of bubble and squeak, bacon, black pudding and poached egg to top up the calories.

I went really well tonight which surprised me after the Gill Harris round on Sunday - maybe this was due to the nice gentle average speed of the long run? Or perhaps to having had a couple of gentle weeks (except for said long run) since the Cannock Trigs race.

The stats for today: 6.2 miles and 1,310' of ascent.

I think a nice slow jog is in order on Thursday evening (with a bit of steady climbing). It's the Kinder Trial on Saturday.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Gill Harris Round - 16/01/2010

Looking weird (apprehensive?), 07:09 in the Square

Today I managed to do the Gill Harris Challenge on the Long Mynd, despite some pretty dire weather for the last three hours. My total time was 5 hours 42 minutes, solo and without support. The distance was 21.3 miles and there was 4,910' of climbing.

Most of the route I took is on the previous recce posts:

Church Stretton to Shooting Box
Minton Hill and Round Hill (from the Portway)
Shooting Box to Haddon Hill
Haddon Hill to Stanyeld

The start was almost dark, so I took the Burway Road up to the cattle grid and then headed up the borad shoulder to Burway Hill (16 minutes). From Burway Hill I headed round the top of Townbrook Valley - slow going with a strong wind - and then up to the summit of Yearlet (20 minutes from Burway Hill). A short run round to Ashlet in improving light (7 mins) was followed by a descent which went exactly as planned down a re-entrant and into the valley between Ashlet and Yearlet.

In Ashes Hollow, about to start up Grindle

The ascent of Grindle is one of the highlights of this route, up a spur to a rocky outcrop which is like a stairway to heaven. It's only slightly let down by the last 300m on sheep trods through deep heather (26 minutes from Ashlet).

The summit of Grindle

The next top, Nills, is somewhat of a non-entity, lying just below Grindle with very little reascent. I visited both tops near the given grid reference just to be sure (4 minutes from Grindle)

Ashlet and Yearlet from Nills

Callow from Nills

A good path can be picked up which leads round the head of Small Batch down to the Callow col. This was slower than usual due to the wind. A short ascent leads up to Callow (12 mins from Nills).

Summit of Callow

From Callow, I took a bearing to find the top of the gully on the east face. This leads steeply down to Callow Hollow at the bottom of Sleekstonebank Hollow. Another wonderful spur leads up the right hand side of the gully to the col between Minton Hill and Packetstone Hill, which is easily reached slightly further south (26 mins).

Packetstone Hill - an indistinct summit!

A gentle jog down a good path, forking right after a knoll, leads down to Shooter's Knoll (8 mins). It was all going quite well here, the wind had dropped, but I'd not really noticed bad weather coming in.

Summit of Shooter's Knoll, looking across Minton
Batch to the next big ascent

I descended from Shooter's Knoll directly to the farm in Minton Batch - this is very steep and slippery. A hundred yards down the valley is the footbridge that leads to the long climb onto Knolls. I made this fairly comfortable, a farmer moving straw at the bottom of the plantation being the first person I'd seen since leaving Church Stretton. As I jogged up the last few hundred yards, a gentle drizzle started. The top has a trig point about 100m south of the path (32 minutes from Shooter's Knoll).

The trig point on Knolls, with the first raindrops

I stopped and had half a chocolate bar and a couple of jelly babies, took off a thermal and put on my cagoule. Easy running down to and then along the Portway and past the glider station took me to the top of Minton Batch - I followed the path round to the north of the valley and then across onto the landrover track to reach Minton Hill (27 minutes). The weather wasn't too bad here and I nearly took my cag off, but (rightly as it turned out) left it on.

Minton Hill, looking north west

The rain intensified as I jogged up the track to regain the road. After about a kilometer I headed down across the top of Callow Hollow, stopping to refill my bottle as I felt quite dehydrated. Round Hill is pretty indistinct and I visited both tops just to make sure (20 minutes).

Murky weather on Round Hill

I was starting to feel a bit tired here, and the rain wasn't helping. I was encouraged on the way up to Pole Bank by running past a couple of guys on mountain bikes whilst eating the rest of my chocolate bar. One of them kindly took my picture at the top (16 minutes from Round Hill).

That's as much Mercia vest as is coming out!!

I think the rain was getting to me and so I was slower than I'd expected over the next few hills, losing a minute or two on the schedule over each. Long Synalds (10 mins from Pole Bank) is fairly indistinct, but somewhere between the path down to Townbrook and the road. This was the only (daylight) top I didn't get a picture at - it was just too wet.

Finger post near Long Synalds

The next section is almost entirely on the road, over to the Shooting Box top (8 minutes).

Shooting Box

Around here I saw a runner (presumably recce'ing the Long Mynd Valleys Route). Another short section of road leads down towards Wild Mord, which is reached after a short climb through thick heather (7 minutes). This finished the job off on my running tights, from here on they were totally soaked and needed hitching up every ten minutes.

Wild Moor (wet too)

Back onto paths again, and over to Calf Ridge (11 minutes). The initial path is poor, but there's a fantastic grassy path after the Portway is crossed. I reached the top a bit more easily (the remainder of the chocolate bar must have been kicking in).

Calf Ridge, looking on towards Haddon Hill

More grassy paths lead across Mott's Road and uphill through a boggy area to Haddon Hill (8 minutes), where the rain was heavier than ever. At this point I resolved to finish the round: I was quite cold, but the next three legs were mostly downhill and runnable, so I thought I'd probably warm up.

Top of Haddon Hill, wet with sad looking cairns

The next section runs down to the Gill Harris Memorial Finger Post (11 minutes). Gill was a very popular an well loved Mercia Fellrunner, with several wins and record times in the Long Mynd Hike, which passes this spot. She sadly died very prematurely of cancer a couple of years ago - I never had the privilege of knowing her, but I'm sure the Challenge is the kind of memorial she would appreciate.

The Gill Harris Finger Post at High Park

Another easy run leads down to Plush Hill (8 minutes), all of 40 feet of climbing after a mile's gentle descent.

View towards Gogbatch from Plush Hill

I was warming up now, although a kilometre steeply down on the road did make me a little sore. Castle Hill (9 minutes) is reached by a short steep climb on the left hand side of the road - and there's a lovely short ridge leading back down onto the road.

The Lawley and Caer Caradoc from Castle Hill

Looking down to All Stretton from Castle Hill

A short run downhill and a cut through via "The Row" leads to the bottom of Nover's Hill. I was knackered by now, but knew I was on the home straight, so walked up, just putting one foot in front of another. I couldn't really run on top, but the view into Cwmdale to the right is great, and I soon reached the summit (18 minutes from Castle Hill).

Summit of Nover's Hill

The descent is steep and was wet, so I took it gently to avoid a slip. Across Cwmdale, I was on the last decent ascent. This was again a real grind, struggling up a gully and across the golf course, then up another steep section (no path) to reach the top of Bodbury Hill (20 minutes from Nover's Hill). I knew I'd cracked it now!!

Calf Ridge on the left; Haddon Hill on the right

Very very wet, but knowing I'd cracked it!

I retraced steps to the edge of the golf course, and then followed the fence to the final top, Stanyeld (6 minutes).

Church Stretton from Stanyeld

The initial descent from Stanyeld is very steep and there are rabbit holes part way down, so I took it steady until I reached the path above the golf clubhouse. This is a wonderful track back into Cardingmill Valley. All that remained was a kilometre along the road back to the square and a quick photo...

Done it. Wet. Tired. Happy. Don't look it though...

The "Away from Home Toilets" in Church Stretton are brilliant changing rooms, and five minutes later I was in the Co-op in dry clothes getting something to refuel with.

I did well controlling pace and mostly sticking to my schedule (5h 45mins) through the very hilly first part of the route. The middle section along the main ridge of the Long Mynd was much harder than I expected, probably because of the exposure to the wind, and the increasingly heavy rain. From Haddon Hill, I moved better (helps that this bit is mostly downhill) and warmed up again. The final ascents of Novers Hill and particularly Bodbury Hill were hard, done at a trudge! I managed to free up and run to the end from there. Overall I'm pretty pleased with today's effort given the strong winds early on stopped me running some of the flatter bits, and also the effect of the rain.

I think I'd maybe do 20 minutes or so faster in summer. If I was strong enough to do all the big hills at the end instead of the start there would be quite a bit more time to save by going anti-clockwise. That way the descents would all be runnable and the ascents much steeper and shorter on the valleys section of the route, which should save more time.

The split times were as follows:

07:11 The Square
07:27 (0:16) Burway Hill
07:47 (0:20) Yearlet
07:54 (0:07) Ashlet
08:20 (0:26) Grindle
08:24 (0:04) Nills
08:36 (0:12) Callow
09:02 (0:26) Packetstone Hill
09:10 (0:08) Shooter's Knoll
09:42 (0:32) Knolls
10:09 (0:27) Minton Hill
10:29 (0:20) Round Hill
10:45 (0:16) Pole Bank
10:55 (0:10) Long Synalds
11:03 (0:08) Shooting Box
11:10 (0:07) Wild Moor
11:21 (0:11) Calf Ridge
11:29 (0:08) Haddon Hill
11:40 (0:11) Gill Harris Finger Post
11:48 (0:08) Plush Hill
11:57 (0:09) Castle Hill
12:15 (0:18) Novers Hill
12:35 (0:20) Bodbury Hill
12:42 (0:06) Stanyeld
12:53 (0:12) The Square

I had a great day out despite the poor weather, and would highly recommend this challenge to anyone looking for a step up to some of the longer distance routes.

Totals for this week (with several days spent recovering from the Cannock Trigs race) are 27.5 miles and 5,580' of ascent. The four week running total drops back a bit on the mileage front to 112.7 miles (down 1.8) but the climbing improves to 16,620' (up 430')

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Gill Harris Round Recce - 13/01/2010

Running down to the Glider Station

Thursday, and the first run of the week! I've finally pretty much recovered from the Cannock Trig Points race so I took the last couple of hours this afternoon off work and headed over to Church Stretton to do a little more recce work on the Gill Harris Challenge.

I've pretty much sussed how to do the first 40% and the final 30% of the route, so I wanted to work on the middle bit today. It would also fit in with the recovery plan nicely - no big ascents, flexible on distance, and nice and slow...

I started by parking a bit south of Pole Cottage and working on the section from the glider club to Pole Bank. I've decided that the run round the head of Callow Hollow is too much of a detour so will pick up Minton Hill and Round Hill on the leg from the Knoll to Pole Bank. I ran down to the glider station entrance to check out the route. From there a good grassy path leads north west the east around the head of Minton Batch, and at 412920 another path links to the main landrover track which leads easily up to the top.

From here I tried a direct line to Round Hill. It was rubbish - rough ground until a path (used in the other direction by some on the LMV race) can be picked up down the side of a stream and into Callow Hollow. The ascent is typical Long Mynd - really steep and with no directly ascending path. 200m after the slope eases lies the indistinct top of Round Hill.

Pole Bank from Round Hill

I know that running north from the top and picking up what I call the Callow Path leads fairly directly from here to Pole Cottage, so I decided to try an alternative route for the climb of Round Hill. I descended due north for 200m which lead to a grassy path leading into the very top of Callow Hollow. By a pair of hawthorn trees (one fallen) some trods leave, climbing to another hawthorn by the very small enclosure east of the road at 411931. I can reverse this easily for the round, leaving the road 30m south of the field boundary on the left (west) side of the road.

With the route for this section now sorted, I bailed into the car and relocated to the Shooting Box Car Park. The Shooting Box top is the tumulus right next to the car park, and then I ran down the road to the hairpin and made my way north from there for 200m to the top of Wild Moor. Returning to the hairpin, I took the bridleway leading up to the Portway. A short distance after joinging the Portway a lovely grassy path heads off at a fingerpost. It looks like its going to descend into Light Spout Hollow, but links in with a couple of other tracks leading to the Calf Ridge top.

The path continues across the top and continues to Mott's Road. From here, a series of trod lead easily over boggy ground (springs marked on the OS 1:25k map) and over to the main Haddon Hill path just before the steep bit. The top is north of the track, and the easiest way lies 30m or so beyond the high point of the track.

From here I'll follow the track back to the main bridleway leading down to the Gill Harris Fingerpost, but for tonight it was getting dark and I felt I'd done enough, so I headed back to Shooting Box and the car.

I'm a tiny bit stiff typing this but my ankle hasn't reacted, so I think I've got away with it...

Totals tonight were 6.2 miles and 670' of ascent.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Not running tonight - 11/01/2011

Tonight I should be out at Church Stretton for the Tuesday night headtorcher, but I'm not. The blow of having no car has been considerably softened by the state of my left ankle/heel after the Trig Points race - basically I've trashed it. The Achilles is sore, and also there's tenderness and a little swelling around my ankle joint. I knew it was coming - it hurt last Tuesday. Never mind, a couple of days rest will hopefully sort it. It was better today than yesterday, and I managed to walk to town from the office and back in my lunch break.

This week's plan has therefore changed somewhat. If the ankle is better again tomorrow I'll go out and do three or four miles (flat, possibly some barefooting) on it to see how it reacts. Then, subject to results, I'll do similar (maybe round the Wrekin) on Thursday or Friday.

If everything goes OK I will have a very slow go at the Gill Harris Challenge on Saturday or Sunday morning, with a nice early start. It's not much more than a Stretton Skyline so should be ok. I've updated and posted pictures on the recce I did back in November, here.

I promised an update on my plans, so here goes. The racing plan (approximate) is now in a sidebar to the right of my blog. My key aims are at the top of the blog to keep me focussed. I want to do some of the classic English AL fell races this year, so I've entered the Edale Skyline, the Three Peaks and Wasdale, and will enter Ennerdale and Borrowdale when they open. Part of the aim is to encourage me to get some quality miles in during training so that I can not only survive but enjoy these big tests of stamina. Getting some kind of score in the Lakeland Classic Trophies would be amazing on the fells I grew up around. I also want to build up towards something longer for next year, so I'm going to do the Long Mynd Hike too.

Other targets are to put together decent series in the local races:
  • Shropshire Winter will need at least one more decent score from either the LMV or the Cardingmill Canter - I'm on 139% from Brieddens and the Wrecker and would like to finish above 205%;'
  • Shropshire Summer is usually four scores from six but can be a bit of a lottery as the scores down the field depend a lot on turnout (if it pees down I'd better get out there!) - I'd like to have the full four counters this year, after I only managed three last;
  • The Mercia Champs is three from nice possible races, but I can only really run in four or five because of clashes with the AL's programme, and any score from the LMV will likely be low because it's a English Championship race.
Finally I'd love to attend the British Relays, and possibly run in a Mercia B or C scratch team (I'm not good enough for V40s unless loads of folk can't make it).

This is going to mean a sensible approach to training with a little more emphasis on quality rather than the less organised but nonetheless enjoyable approach I've adopted to date.

Anyway, I've laid down my marker, let's see if I can do any of it!!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Trig Points Race - 09/01/2011

I seem to be concentrating hard: coming
back through Moors Gorse at Mile 10
(Photo by Colin Williamson - more here)

Today I ran the Cannock Trig Points race. There is no set route, but 8 checkpoints (including the start and finish, the four trig points themselves and two visits to Moors Gorse, where the route crosses the Cannock - Rugeley Railway and main road). You have to visit the trigs in order: Rifle Range, Castle Ring, Brereton Spurs and the Glacial Boulder.

The race splits nicely into three with the bulk of what climbing there is at the start of each third. The first section is from the start over the Rifle Range Trig to Moors Gorse. I had slightly sub-optimal lines off the start (and started too fast!), over the last 600m to the trig, and in the wood south of the trig, but none bad enough that studying the map on the go would have saved time. I ran much of this section with Rick Robson and Arthur Clare-Hay from Mercia.

Splits 8:11, 10:01 (with climbing to trig), 9:24, 9:15, 9:54, and 8:28 (descent to Moors Gorse) - note I didn't start my GPS until we'd done 200m.

After Moors Gorse there's a steady climb up to Beaudesert and then a short drop before more climbing to Castle Ring. The main path up here was icy, and seeing runners struggling a bit coming down, I took a good line further right from the main path and could run properly down here. I caught up with Linda Edmondson (Wrekin RR) on the road to Brereton Spurs and, knowing she'd been out and recce'd, I followed her off this (third) trig down an excellent line which saved over quarter of a mile at the expense of a little climbing and rough ground. It could be refined, but even so we overtook quite a few folk as we got back onto the main path.

Splits: 10:19, 11:43 (climb to Castle Ring), 9:54, 11:09 (last bit of climb to Brereton Spurs and the rough short cut)

Climbing from Moors Gorse I took a breather and walked for the first 600m. Arthur, in front, was running, but no faster than me. A couple of folk ran past us, and then we were up. I caught Arthur as he had a drink and we ran together along the 2km road section (horrible) and then dropped into the head of Sherbrook Valley. Linda and then Arthur began to pull away from me here and I didn't have much in the way of an answer. Between the end of the road and the finish either I faded a little (not much looking at the splits) or others finished strongly, because maybe 15 runner passed me. I made another slight nav error near the Chase Road car park, and lost 100 yards doing two sides of a triangle, and I couldn't close back up on Arthur at all after that. I did manage to hold on though, running good splits over the last three miles.

Splits: 12:36 (ascent from Moors Gorse), 9:31, 9:14, 9:59 (including climb out of Sherbrook Valley), 9:55, 8:33.

I was glad to see the finish, and even happier to see my time which was 2:39:49 (74% of winner's time - I'm pleased with that). I was 87 of 136 finishers and 10th MV40 out of 17. I averaged under 10 mins per mile for the 16.3 miles and 1,500' of ascent, so I was pleased enough with my performance, but the route was really too flat and not anything like technical enough to give me any edge over the road runners.

Excellent organisation and nice tea and millionaire's shortbread at the end - thanks to Bob Dredge, his family and helpers - the race was excellently organised.

Weekly total was 28.1 miles and 4,960' of ascent, and the four week rolling count is up 5.5 miles and 860' to 114.5 miles and 16,190' of ascent (the best since the four weeks ending 07/11/2010 - so I guess I'm now pretty much over all the low level coldy virusy rubbish I've had lingering).

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ragleth Hill and Yearlet - 04/01/2010

Another club run at Church Stretton, which was much better attended tonight.

We ran from the Co-Op car park across the A49 and up following the Jack Mytton Way route to the Ragdon Road. From here we climbed up into mist on the north east top of Ragleth Hill. I struggled a bit along the ridge where the path is "lumpy". We descended to the A49 from the south top. and crossed over into Little Stretton.

From there we ran up the first half mile of Ashes Hollow and then turned into the side valley between Ashlet and Yearlet. After another quarter of a mile we turned north and climbed very steeply up to the summit of Yearlet. This was brutal and I really struggled today - probably I've done too much in the last few days. Still hopefully putting some hard miles in now pays back later in the year...

We ran round to the north top of Ashlet and descended to Cunnery, cutting through to the top of the Rectory Wood and back into town.

Todays stats: 5.6 miles, 1,560' of ascent, 01:19. I felt slow, tired and sluggish pretty much all night but still enjoyed myself and was glad I'd been out.

Monday, 3 January 2011

80% Wrecked - 03/01/2010

Needed to take advantage of the last day of the holiday today, so I got out to do the best part of the Wrekin Wrecker route. I missed out only the starting section from the rifle range up Heroes and down the scree gully, and made a slight short cut coming off Little Hill. Otherwise it was pretty much the race route.

I had a sore left achilles again, but managed to run steadily to the bottom of the Goaty path, which I climbed at 70% effort (hiking). Nice view at the top - the trees are vertical which give a better idea of the steepness of this ascent:

I then ran past the (very busy) summit and down to Hell Gate, turning onto the BMX track which is always a very rapid, technical descent. There'd been a frost and some heave of the mud so the surface was crunchy but grippy and yielding - perfect! I walked briefly on the two steepest bits of the Beeches track back up to Halfway House, but then managed to run (very slowly) right the way up the main drag to reach the top for a second time. Here's a view of the summit from just above heaven gate - loads of folks on the skyline with the sun behind them.

From the summit there's a lovely half mile gentle descent south west past Needle's Eye before the ground steepens. I took the steepest bit fairly steady today, but still ran with conviction - you really just have to trust your shoes and footing and descend positively here. Straight over the path and then the col and a short struggle uphill brought me to the top of Little Hill. I love it here - the Scots Pines give the place an eerie feeling, particularly the standing remains of one which looks as if it was probably zapped by lightning. I paused for a drink and to take this picture:

From here I descended to the east (the Wrecker route goes more to the south) because I liked the look of the track, but pretty soon it degenerates into a steep forest ride with nothing much to recommend it. It comes out about 50m south of the path junction at 617076 and saves around 300m of distance on the normal route.

I managed to run gently all the way back up the initial climb and over the switchbacks to return to the Rifle Range and Forest Glen.

I did 6.2 miles and 1,900' today (roughly - the GPS is dreadful in the woods round the Wrekin). This is a good start to the week - I need to get the climbing in early as Sunday is the Cannock Chase Trig Points race which is 16 miles, but with only 1,500' of ascent (info here). If tomorrow is the usual club run that'll be around 7 miles and 1,100', so I will only need to do a short run on Thursday or Friday with a few hundred feet of climbing to get to the 30 mile, 5,000' target.

I'm aiming to start building up for the Long Mynd Valleys and Edale Skyline races in March, so want to be covering this kind of distance and climb most weeks, but with a quality speed session (hill reps or intervals) around once a week.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

2010 in Summary

Rodney's Pillar Race

Key events:
  • Completing the Exe to Axe race in April;
  • Joining Mercia Fell Runners;
  • Starting to record my training and racing properly (mostly by use of this blog);
  • Completing the Stretton Skyline race;
  • Repeating the Passing Clouds race and improving significantly from last year;
  • Running a really controlled and quick Wrekin Wrecker;
  • So many joyful and extraordinary experiences whilst out training;
  • Starting to run socially on Tuesday nights.
  • 06/02/2010: Titterstone Clee [AS: 2.5 miles, 750'] - despite descending too far to the left and having to traverse a boulder field, I finished in 0:32:41 (70%), 01:42 faster than in 2008 (0:34:23, 63%).
  • 24/02/2010: Burway Burn [O: 2 miles, 1,000'] - so hard; uphill all the way in snowy conditions from the church to the top of the Burway. Magical jog back down though (0:23:30, 75%)
  • 28/03/2010: Lilleshall Monumental [Trail 10k with probably about 400' of climbing] - finished strongly in 0:57:23 (74%), and Rachel and Georgia participated in the fun run.
  • 04/04/2010: Exe to Axe [BL: 21 miles, 4,400') - travelled down the previous night and ran a good first 13 miles, but faded badly on the hills after that. Completed in 4:44:04 (64%).
  • 12/05/2010: Caradoc Classic [AS: 3.5 miles, 880'] - good climbing was spoilt a bit by a poor descent (0:36:34, 69%)
  • 16/06/2010: Rodney's Pillar [AS: 3.9 miles, 950'] - struggled on the road from the top of the main ascent to the bottom of the summit slopes, but a good quick descent (0:36:17, 65%)
  • 23/06/2010: Pontesbury Hill Race [AS: 3.0 miles, 1,160'] - generally a bit slow and a very poor descent, probably my weakest race so far (0:32:19, 64%)
  • 25/08/2010: Ragleth Inn [AS: 4.0 miles, 1,240'] - hard going on both ascents, slow on second descent because of horribly wet conditions and the wrong shoes (0:47:39, 63%)
  • 12/09/2010: Stretton Skyline [BL: 18.7 miles, 4,450'] - early start, good until Gogbatch, dreadful ascent to Mott's Road, reasonable finish to hold position (4:16:34, 68%)
  • 10/10/2010: Breidden Hills [AM: 7.0 miles, 2,300'] - a good run, helped by much more aggressive descending and a reasonable recce - good tactics near end (1:27:30, 68%)
  • 24/10/2010: Passing Clouds [BM: 9.8 miles, 1,850'] - another good one, sustained effort, took places on ascents and descents, fell coming off Roaches but no damage (1:47:27, 71% compared with 1:58:14, 65% last year)
  • 21/11/2010: Wrekin Wrecker [AM: 8.1 miles, 2,400'] - good controlled run, took lots of places on scree gully descent, had a bad time on the run out to Goaty but otherwise ran well and descended fast (01:31:24, 71%)
  • 28/11/2010: Time Trial [O: 9.0 miles, 1,730'] - a wonderful but very chill morning, ran as a pair with Paul Flinn also of Mercia FR, slow section past Bridges, but fast descent to Stiperstones Inn (1:40:23, 74%)

Adidas Kanadias for most runs. Inov8 Mudclaw 330s for mud and wet grass - really helped for Wrecker but blistered left heel. OMM bumbag is good except for the key loss incident at the end of the year. Montane Atomic DT cag is good although I do get condensation. Need a good windproof really.


Only the aforementioned blister, and occasionally sore achilles tendons. A couple of grazes from Passing Clouds and a lot of gorse dug out of my arse after the Ragleth race. Soreness after running on the road is not so bad when I use trail shoes, so the Omni 8 road shoes are now retired.

High Points:
  • Every single time I put on my running shoes and leave the car, home or work.
  • Amazing runs in the snow on the Long Mynd, particularly at night.
  • Descending the scree gully at the Wrecker.
  • Fantastic lighting and fierce or impressive weather (several times).
  • All the people I've met - you know who you are, but particularly Keith and Pauline Richards, John Nightingale, Andy Davies, Mark Agnew, Steven Cale, Helen Skelton, Al Tye, Paul Flinn, Charlie Leventon, our race organisers and marshalls, and everyone who reads this. Thank you all.
Low points:


I'll post something on this year's plans soon, but see the racing "menu" I've added to the right sidebar for an idea of what I'd like to get up to this year.

I hope you all have as much fun running in 2011 as I did in 2010.

Short Recovery Run - 02/01/2010

Just a jog over to the village, then three reps at a gentle speed up Lilleshall Hill and around Hillside, and then return home the direct way. My left achilles was sore to start with but loosened up after the first mile or so. I managed to keep all of this properly slow for a good easy paced recovery run.

Today's run was 3.8 miles and 280' of ascent. This week's total is therefore 31.1 miles and 3,940' of ascent, and the rolling total for the last four weeks moves to 108.5 miles (up 6.4 miles) and 15,430' (up 2,150').

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Morning After Race - 01/01/2011

Overtaking on the descent to Cwmdale and the bottom of Novers Hill
(all today's pics by Al Tye -

Morning After?? In my case there wasn't much of a night before - I spent the whole of New Year's Eve feeling grotty, with a thick head, sore neck and blocked sinuses. Thanks to the dual miracles of buprofen and sleep, I did manage to rise from my pit and get to Church Stretton in time for a run out this morning.

Limited tactics for this one - there are a lot of narrow trods in the middle third of the race, so go as fast as possible from the gun (whistle actually) to get a decent position, and then try to hold it all together later on.

The race starts with a cavalry charge up the High Street and into the Rectory Field (I jumped the gate rather than queue at the kissing gate). Then a short steep climb into the wood and a fast run up to the Townbrook Valley reservoir. Keep running up the steep 40' climb on the path round to the Burway Road, then across the road and down fast to the finger post in Cardingmill Valley. 200 yards on the road and onto the Stanyeld path and steeply up on single track. I got held up here and didn't get past the chap in front of me until the descent to Cwmdale.

Charging down into Cwmdale

Straight over the road in Cwmdale and onto the steep ascent of Novers Hill, but the momentum won't take you much more than the first 20 feet up the fell. I tucked in behind and climbed steadily, but on a short race I don't get as much chance to recover. The traverse of the top of Novers Hill is usually lovely on soft single track, but today I had to force myself to run. The descent steepens on slippery grass, I nearly went down, and then had to hurdle as the chap in front of me fell. Mudclaws would help here, but the trail shoes suited almost all of the rest of the course. At the bottom it's a sharp left onto the path up the Batch, but I had absolutely nothing in the tank here and got passed by several runners. I regrouped on the climb back up the west side of Cwmdale. This is the last "summit" on the route, from here it's downhill on good tracks and road all the way to the finish.

Glad to reach the top of the last climb

Beyond here the line cuts through another kissing gate to Madeira Walk before a left turn into the bottom of the Carding Mill Valley road, and a quick shuffle across the Shrewsbury Road and along the stream into the cricket field, where the finish is by the pavilion. I got overtaken by a couple of folk coming onto Madeira Walk, but managed to accelerate past the stream and get the two places back just before the finish.

I felt quite pleased with how I ran, given the near continuous cold I've had for over a month, but reckon now I really know the route I could have possibly pushed the pain barrier a bit on the road in the Batch and finished maybe 6 places further up the field. Time was 44:32, and I was pleased with a 74% of top ten time.

I've put a route plan below.