Monday, 7 March 2011

Long Mynd Valleys - 06/03/2011

Getting my prize (a special T-shirt) for completing the Valleys weekend,
with Stuart Tromans of Dudley Kingswinford
Picture by courtesy of Alastair Tye:
I wonder how you sum this one up?

It's the first time I've run in a Championship fell race, and I nearly scored a point - 2 mins faster would have done it! I suddenly seem to be capable of running better than my 10 minutes per mile or per 1,000' of climbing rule-of-thumb suggests. For 11.5 miles and 4,500' of ascent that would give 2 hours 40 minutes, which was my target at the start of the day.

For the third race in a row I got the tactics close to right - I started fairly hard to be in a reasonable position where the single track paths start dropping to CP1, then backed right off. There was a lot of walking on the ascent from CP1 onto the Mynd anyway. I was a bit held up here.

I took it easy along the top, very slowly catching Ruth Stafford, but letting Terry Davies get away from me after a short chat. I ran down to CP2 at the bottom of the Barrister's climb very steadily.

Passing CP2 with Ruth Stafford - the strange expression is because
everyone seemed to stop at the stream and I had to take an odd line to
avoid crashing - this meant staggering up the bank most un-photogenically
Picture by courtesy of Alastair Tye:
I found the climb to Barrister's a bit frustrating as I know I can run a lot of it, but we walked all the way: it was hard going when I stepped off the path to pass folk. I nailed the descent nicely past CP3, although I had to run out sideways to lose some speed at one point, and then caught Terry up again by the start of the climb over the Minton Hill ridge. On top I followed everyone else like a sheep and made it a little harder for myself. Their line was more direct then the one I'd recce'd but heathery and only just runnable, I think my route would have been easier if not faster.

Dropping down to CP4 at the top of Minton Batch there was an injured Ambleside runner receiving attention - hope you're ok matey.

The run down Minton Batch from CP4 to CP5 is lovely, and the sun was starting to break through, but I felt a little jaded. Ruth caught me up, and I just tucked in and let myself be swept along for a while. I think the heather bashing might have taken a bit of spring out my step.

From CP5 the first of the bigger climbs took us up Windy Batch and then right into a side valley which is really steep. I felt quite strong and climbed this steadily but without easing off at any point, starting to leave Ruth behind and passing Adrian Donnelly near the top. I followed Kim Braznell (a local runner from the Halesowen club who was first LV55) over the shoulder of Packetstone Hill and down the descent to Callow Hollow. I don't really remember much of this bit except looking across at Callow, which looks impossibly steep from this angle.

The NT must have recently burned off some of the heather and gorse either side of the stream crossing in Callow Hollow - you could still smell it a bit. Once you get over the stream onto Callow, there's a reasonable path and even a few muddy steps, although the ascent goes on for ever (it's actually about 560'). I was quite suprised to pass Gary Gunner, Croft Ambry superstar supervet near the top. There were about 20 clippers at the top so you could clip your number to record passing CP6 on the summit. This was handy as several of us arrived at once. I had a quick look at the watch and realised sub-2:30 might be possible if I pushed on so clipped quickly.

I was the first away and ran hard down the gentle descent to the Callow-Grindle Col. Here I took the advice I'd been given earlier and ignored my recce route, preferring to run the "suggested route" up to Barrister's Plain along the good path. I mostly ran rather than walked and caught another couple of guys on the way up. The descent from BP into Ashes Hollow is awesome - so fast and with soft peaty ground to bang your heels into when you feel like you're slipping. Despite the distance and climbing done by now, I jumped the stream feeling quite elated. Al Tye was here taking photos, and got an excellent sequence of my jump.

This is the best valley crossing on the Mynd - one (large) stride!
Picture by courtesy of Alastair Tye:
A right in the bottom of the valley and a short section of track leads to the start of the Yearlet climb, initially up a side valley, and then a traversing ascent to reach the top. There was a long string of "runners" to guide us up, and a few locals I know at the top lending support, so the trig (CP7) was easy to locate. I passed several more people on this ascent.

From the top everyone drops off initially north east, but then almost all of the runners I was with headed direct towards the steep gully into Townbrook Valley. I decided to take a chance and stick with the recce plan, so continued east over the col and onto the Green Path down from Ashlet. There was no-one on this and it's very fast easy running withou too much strain on the quads, so I could fly down. I overtook someone I took to be an early starter just before the short steep bit into Townbrook Valley.

As I came round the corner I could see three runners on the traversing path above me and to the left, but knew I had the 40' "Little Sod" ascent to do and so I thought I wouldn't be able to catch them. As the paths joined, I tucked in 15-20 yards behind the group and gritted my teeth for the run-in across the Burway Road. 20 seconds later we were at the top of the death-dive towards the finish funnel and I was still a few seconds behind, so I just went for it on the last fifty yards, took my brain out and threw myself down the descent. Luckily I stayed on my feet and I managed to pass all three runners on the way down, just about cleared the river at the bottom and sprinted the 10 yards that were left.

Two runners passed, one (Stuart Tromans, see above) to go!
Photo by John Richards of
I'd done it! I was a bit overcome by emotion at the end (not me usually) and it took me a few minutes to get it together again. It was great to stand at the finish and see so many runners I'd passed in the last two or three miles finishing. The Green Path proved to be an excellent route choice as I saw many of the runners who'd been close to me or ahead of me on the way up Yearlet come in two or three minutes after I'd finished.

I wish I'd taken more notice of my splits, but I think I came through CP2 after 52 minutes and CP4 in about an hour and a quarter. I crossed Ashes Hollow between CP6 (Callow) and CP7 (Yearlet) at about 02:06, so I made it over Yearlet and down into CMV and the finish in 21½ minutes. That's pretty good by my standards for 2.2 miles and 680' feet of climbing at the end of a hard race!

My time was 2:27:26, which made me 265th of 378 finishers and 42nd vet 40 male. My percentage score was 65% but it's very hard to get a good score on the Valleys in a normal year, and even harder when it's a champs race. I'll take that. I know there's more potential to realise with a bit more training, and perhaps some speed sessions.

PS: Stuart, if you're reading this I didn't realise it was you I'd passed at the death until after the presentation, otherwise I'd have apologised for nearly flattening you. Sorry mate!

PPS: Week's totals (starting Tuesday, I pinched Monday for last week) were 24 miles and 7,420'. Low mileage is ok given it was a racing week. The rolling four week total is: 112.1 miles (up 1.9 miles) and 27,900' of ascent (up 1,850').


  1. Great account Jim and well done for putting in a sound effort and getting a good result. Some interesting comments there re tactics that i'll be bearing in mind next year.

    Saw you and would have introduced myself but we were heading off at the time.

  2. Matt, was it you finished in 2:25:07? I think you've scored a champs point!!!

    Well done - I look forward to seeing your write-up, now I've given away all my tactical secrets ;-)


  3. Yes that was me. Hopefully get round to writing up soon...