Sunday, 26 February 2012

South Shropshire Circular - 25/02/2012

In the lead group, traversing after SC2
This one wasn't exactly a target "event" on my list, I more intended it as a steady long run, but sometimes it doesn't work out quite that way.

The SSC is a Marches Area LDWA event which has a very strong following amongst local fell runners. Noel, Sandy and Terry had all raved about it, so I was pleased to remember to get an entry in on time and have a place for this year's event. The format uses a different area each year, with the route only being disclosed on the morning of the event. Each participant is given a route card with directions when registering. This also has the locations of each checkpoint on it. This year there were eight, six self clips (orienteering style checkpoints) and two manned checkpoints with water and sustenance.

The 25 mile / 3,600' course started from Cleobury North and took in a lovely traverse around the north end of Brown Clee and then up to the summit, then a further traverse under Abdon Burf down to the main road. Crossing this, the route up Titterstone Clee (there was a faster going around the hill option, but no self respecting fell runner would do that, would they?). A fast descent down to Cleeton St Mary led to a rolling section through fields and farmyards and on to the second manned checkpoint. From here a steady climb would take us to the top of Abdon Burf, and then down a beautiful descent, both picturesque and fantastic running, and a tough level 2km road section before the final drop back to Cleobury North and the finish.

I had a good start, feeling strong, and ran with the lead group until the first manned checkpoint. A quick bottle fill here saw me away as the front runner - something which has NEVER happened to me before in an event. I managed to hold on for at least a mile before the ultimate winner (or at least the guy who was first home - it's not a race) passed me as we moved onto the open hillside. Nigel Glaze and I navigated off the top together, and located the next self clip fairly easily, but we got caught by a couple of clever folk who spotted that the "around" option was going to be quicker than the "up and over". Never mind, it was a great view...

Walking to the start with Terry Davies (pic by Em) 
10 yards to SC2 at the top of Brown Clee - Lawrie Jones in front
Descending from CP2 - thanks to everyone coming up who
gave me a shout.

Weirdly finding myself in the lead, I thought I'd better take a pic for the
record. On Callow Lane after CP1.

Arriving at the top of Titterstone Clee, a few seconds before Nigel Glaze.

A short bit of disused road led to a rough boggy moorland section and the descent to Cleeton St Mary. The others from the lead group started to pass me here, and my poor patch continued across fields as I dropped off the back of the group, only to be saved when everyone went the wrong way at a farm about a mile short of CP2. This brought the field back together and helped me as I lost only a minute or two when some lost four or five. They soon pulled away on the farm track though, and by CP2 must have had a couple of minutes. I got some energy on board, refilled the bottle quickly and got going, although it was slow going...

Just after the farm where we all got a bit lost!
After a mile or so I had another problem as I'd lost visual contact with the guy in front of me (who was the guy who won, again). I didn't trust the instruction to turn half left after the Old School House and thought I must have missed it, so stopped at a crossroads the instructions didn't mention, and lost two or three minutes reading my map. This section was all uphill, and after a grim clayey muddy slime fest up a byway, we crossed the Ludlow - Bridgnorth road and started up Abdon Burf. I was still struggling, but round a bend the track straightened and steepened, and ahead I could see the lead group again.

This spurred me on and I climbed fairly hard right the way to the top, catching a guy called Richard who'd come up from Wiltshire to run, and nearly catching my friend Adrian Donnelly. On the way off the top I could see Noel, JT, and Dawsy too, maybe 300m ahead. I followed Adrian down to a lovely grassy descent through landscaped parkland, and flew this, passing Ad after a bit. There was a sting in the tail as the route cut left onto a fairly level tarmac estate road, Ad got a better line onto it, came out 50 yards in front, and I had jelly where my legs should have been. I kept pushing on, but the jelly was turning to lead, and I just couldn't catch him. However I held Richard off and ended up finishing in 4:32.
Twenty yards to go! (pic by Em)
JT, Noel and Dawsy coming in to finish. (pic by Em)

As I handed my tally over to the finish officials, I looked around and was very surprised to see so few people "home". In fact I was told I'd finished 7th. There was no sign of my three mates who'd been ahead of me at the top. Richard arrived shortly after me, then Noel, JT and Dawsy - they'd had a nav nightmare on the way down from Abdon Burf.

Anyway I had an unexpectedly good result after a poor third quarter to the event, but I've learned something: you have to get in a good position in the race, but not to panic when things don't go so well because if you keep pushing on as best you can, things sometime go badly for other folk as well, and at different times. You have to be there and thereabouts to capitalise though...

Training update to 23/02/2012

Right! So the week after the Pilgrims' Challenge was pretty much a write off, I really tried hard to stay off running as I didn't think it'd be a great idea after 2 x 33 mile ultra marathons...

Finally on Saturday 11th I managed to get up for doing something. I needed to get my coaching supervised practise sheets signed off, so I volunteered to help Colin with the Saturday training session for his kids' groups. We did a good warm up (1.5 miles), then the kids did two one mile efforts at 5k pace. I joined in the next element, which was four 100 second hard efforts with 150 second recoveries. I ran about 520m on each effort. We finished off with another mile round the field to warm down. (approx 5 miles in 43 minutes moving time)

On Sunday 12th I ran on the Mynd with Tom, Naomi, James, Noel, Paul and Dave W. We did a variant of Andros' route from a fortnight earlier, popping in and out of Ashes Hollow and Small Batch before crossing Callow Hollow and running up Minton Hill. We turned towards Pole Bank and I left the group at Pole Cottage running down to Medlicott and Bridges and then doing a loop out to Ratlinghope as I was a little early to meet my friends for lunch. Found it hard going today... (11.2 miles and 2,420' in 2hr 20mins).

On the Tuesday night (14th) I ran in Birmingham with Zoe, doing a good steady run of 5 miles with about 200' of climbing in just under 40 minutes. I felt quite tired still but wasn't moving too badly according to the Garmin track.

The following day, I had a real head cold, but managed a run home from work. This is around 4 miles with again about 200' of climbing. I felt pretty bad but pushed on and got my reward when I checked the watch and had made it back in just over 30 minutes, so 4 x 7:34 miles which is a really good pace for me.

On Thursday 16th I had a gentle jog around the Ercall with James and Em by way of recovery from all the fast hard miles on the tarmac. We did a very easy 3.6 miles and 630' of climbing in 42 minutes.

After all the relatively flat runs I needed something hilly at the weekend, and I had to get out early, so I was pleased when Gareth posted on Shropshire Fell Running that he and Nathan were planning a run over the Valleys route (but in reverse) starting on Sunday morning at 7am. I set the alarm and woke at 5:30 to a blanket of snow. I'm glad I decided to get moving and go anyway, the snow was worse in Donnington than anywhere else and when I got over to Stretton we had a great run in lovely snowy conditions that didn't really last into the afternoon. Again I didn't feel tip top, but who could not enjoy being out on such a fantastic morning with bright sunshine and soft trails in the snow. We saw Noel and JT out on their Mistletoe Meander run off in the distance, and evidence of David on his dawn Canter recce, but no one else was out until we'd pretty much finished. 12.5 miles and 3,680' (more probably, that's the Garmin) in a nice steady 3hrs 5mins.

21/2 Grindle and Yearlet Tues night

23/2 SyTri Track sesh

Pilgrim's Challenge - 04 and 05/02/2012

A full write up of this amazing 2 x 33 mile ultra run will appear shortly!

Training update to 31/01/2012

Also coming soon.

Anglesey Coastal Trail Marathon - 25/01/2012

Woah, brilliant day!! Full write up and some pic coming soon.

Training Update to 19/01/2012

More training update to follow.

Tinsel Trail - 02/01/2012

First run of 2012 was with James D, Noel, JT, Em and Andy C. Noel and James took us round the route of the Tinsel Trail...

Training update to 31/12/2011

Coming up!

Christmas Gill Harris Round - 25/12/2011

As I didn't have any responsibilities to please anyone other than myself this year, I thought I'd celebrate by spending some quality "me time" on the Long Mynd, doing an anti-clockwise Gill Harris Challenge Round. Rising early meant I could enjoy a cooked breakfast and open my presents over coffee before heading over to Church Stretton to start.

Glad the men in white coats didn't arrive at this point. What the *** do I
look like?
The weather was mild, but quite windy, as I headed up onto Stanyeld (via the road up to the golf clubhouse this time). I'd soon got over to Novers Hill where I wondered whether to knock it on the head in view of the strong southerly wind which would be in my face all the way along the highest part of the route. I decided to press on and tried to discipline myself to focus on the next objective rather than the whole of the round, which seemed a little daunting at the time.

In this way I made pretty good progress until just after Calf Hill, where I turned off the Portway a bit too soon and gave myself a few hundred yards of unneccessary heather bashing on the way over to Wild Moor. I soon got my spirits back up with good lines over the very indistinct tops of Long Synalds and Round Hill, before the long trot out to Knolls. One advantage of a Christmas Day round was that there was no flying at the Glider Club, so I was able to run the lovely grassy Portway in both directions on this leg.

Looking very uncertain, not sure why, at the summit of Knolls.
Back at the Glider Club gate, I forked right and ran along the Minton Hill ridge down to Shooter's Knoll before retracing somewhat and joining the Valleys race for the descent from below Packetstone Hill and the climb of Callow. I took a poor line up Grindle from about half way up the path and gave myself more heather bashing, and another bad line off Nills (too far right) and had to traverse through deep bracken to reach the path down to the footbridge in Ashes Hollow.

I climbed Ashlet via the Callow race route ascent which was tough going at the bottom and windy towards the top, but the summit did eventually come. The traverse around and up to Yearlet was very windy and this was the only time I was reduced to a walk on relatively easy ground. It's strange, but it seems to me that the wind can often be very strong on the Grindle, Yearlet and Haddon Hill, and in Cardingmill Valley, and yet quite gentle on the main spine of the Mynd…

I looked at the watch on top of Yearlet and realised that I would probably break the five hour mark, so set off fairly rapidly down to the col at the top of Townbrook. The wind was mostly behind me as I streaked round the easy ground towards the Devil's Dyke, really enjoying the running. A little rise over Burway Hill, and the one an only fall of the day just above the cattle grid got me to the road for a quick final effort into town. I was back in the square 4 hours and 44 minutes after I started, 58 minutes faster than my previous effort!

As I sat on the pavement panting and a little emotional, a lady came over looking concerned and asked me if I was ok. I think she was a little non-plussed when I smiled up at her, said "Never better", and wished her a Happy Christmas.

Thanks as ever to the creators of the route, and also to the friend who's gift of a "We can do it" mug for Christmas gave me the inspiration to stick at it when things got a little tough early on and again on the Callow and Ashlet climbs.

Training Update - to 24/12/2012

training update to come - gotta get up to date!

Cardington Cracker - 04/12/2011

race report to come...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Training Update - to 03/12/2011

Just three activities to report for the week between the Time Trial and the Cardington Cracker.

The Tuesday night run was an ascent of New Pool Hollow, followed by a run up to Pole Bank and back over Haddon Hill, with a descent by the gully next to the Valleys ridge, which was pretty darn slippery!

7.3 miles, 1,540' of ascent and 1 hour 16 minutes.

On the Thursday I took the morning off and ran a really nice recovery run all around (but not up) the Wrekin. Em had planned this one and it turned out to be a great route on a lovely clear morning.

7.8 miles, 1,200' of climbing and one and a half hours.

Finally on Saturday I felt I needed to turn my legs over so I got out for half an hour on the Tricross and cycled 7.3 miles.

Time Trial - 27/11/2011

Just getting into my running in Ashes Hollow
Photo: John Richards, 
So after a couple of days of rest I headed over to Stiperstones to pick up Em, and then back over the Burway Road to the start, passing many of the early starters on the way.

With the novelty of computer timing this year I kicked off just before Em and headed up Ashes, using the main valley almost all the way to the top and then trying to pick up the Valleys trod. I missed it and had a heather flounder for a minute or two over to the road. I saw Giz on a much better line on the way up and will use that next year...

Down the grassy path from Wild Moor I was really flying, passing Dawsy coming back...

Unfortunately I ran out of steam a little over the hills between Ratlinghope and Hollies Farm, and had to struggle to catch Phil Blatch on the way up to Shepherd's Rock. Em came storming past me just before the top and I couldn't stay with her on the way down, but I had a good run nonetheless and took 11 minutes off last year's time.

Achilles still slightly sore and weak on the last couple of climbs, but improving!

8.7 miles, 1,970', 01:29.

Time Trial Recce - 24/11/2011

Nice steady run over my normal route with Em.

8.8 miles, 1,910', 01:42 (pleasingly pretty much the same time as last year's race time but much easier and with a couple of stops).