Monday, 16 April 2012

Coledale Engl / Brit Champs Fell Race - 14/04/2012

Starting to motor at the top of the final descent
Saturday saw me up bright and early to meet Pete and Mel in Walsall for the drive up to Coledale. This is the second English Champs race and the first in the British Champs series this year. We arrived in good time and met up with the other Mercia runners near the registration tent. Andy D had been up for the week and was able to give us a good briefing on the course before the start. My target for the day was to get a bit closer to David Malia than I was at Lad’s Leap, and to try to run under 150% of the course record (Simon Booth’s record was 1:11:25, so I was aiming for 1:47:07 or better).

Pete and I wandered back to the car to kit up and then walked back to the event field to see the ladies start – they were off about 15 minutes before the men to avoid perceived bottlenecking problems around the course. We watched them go and then it was time for a few last minute kit adjustments. It was pretty cool in the field when the sun wasn’t out so I went for a thermal top and thin tights thinking it might be cold on top. We’d been given a Buff at registration to celebrate the inclusion of the event in the Buff Mountain Running Cup, and I took that and my gloves with me, as well as the windproof and leg cover. I’d hydrated up, so didn’t take any water with me, just a gel and a few jelly babies. I noticed I had my headtorch with me and hoping I wouldn’t need it with about eight hours to dark, I got it out and waved it around a bit.

The start was very quick, uphill for 150 yards through the field to a gate where I passed my torch to Pauline and Joe Faulkner for safe keeping! From there it was down a stone track (very dusty) at some speed and then onto the village lanes, climbing to the steps which lead onto the Grizedale Pike climb. As promised there was a huge bottleneck here, and we stood pretty much stationary at times. One or two tried to push their way round – I hope they were road runners and have now been sent for re-education. After I guess a couple of minutes delay we were up the steps onto a runnable section of the ascent. I found myself about 50 yards behind David in a group including three Pennine runners I recognised from the Edale Skyline. It’s nice how you often end up running with the same people. Rick Ansell of Tring was there too, I’d last seen him at Mam Nick on the Skyline but he told me he’d sadly had to drop out after that.

The route soon steepened and I mixed walking and running to the top of Kinn, where there was about a kilometre of good runnable and fairly level path before the route steepene again. I had to walk pretty much all of the climb onto Sleet How and then up the well defined east ridge of Grizedale Pike. Just before we got to the top the wind got up and it started to snow gently. I grabbed my windproof (carefully positioned near the top of my bum bag with a bit sticking out to make unzipping and getting it on easier – I’ll do that again) and got it on before the checkpoint at the top (791m / 2,595’). Thank you to the three hardy souls taking numbers as we went through.

The next section was a good fast run contouring under point 739m and then down to Coledale Hause. I started passing the last of the ladies here and also started to feel I was moving ok having felt a bit slow on the big climb. The next stage was the ascent of Eel Crag. This was quite a steep scramble up bouldery grass and a bit of a gully towards the top. There was a bit of rockfall going on up here so I stayed over to the right away from the loosest section. Maybe with 500+ runners the danger here’s a lot more than usual on the race and it would have been better routed 300m up the gully from Coledale Hause before climbing to Sail over easier ground.

Anyway I managed to run all of the second section of the climb to reach a second checkpoint at the summit of Crag Hill (at 839m / 2,753’). There was a fairly steep descent over quite polished rock off here which I enjoyed and took a few places on. I don’t remember the climb to Sail but the race was routed over the summit and I presume I must have done it! Then we were away on the descent, down a good path, or in my case down the grass to the left of it, overtaking more ladies. I was still following Rick here but I’d lost touch with David on the climb up Eel Crag. After half a mile the path swung left to contour downwards under Scar Crags. This section looked narrow and rough, and I attacked hard as the group of 8-10 in front of me slowed, running past Rick and several other blokes with some of the ladies mixed in. Further down the path became rocky and rough but more gently graded on safer ground, and I kept putting the effort in, struggling with the path and trying to use the more level ground to the sides as much as possible. A couple of guys passed me here, and I was relieved to turn off after a mile onto singletrack to contour round to Barrow Door.

I tried very hard to keep running up to Barrow, and managed quite well with only a couple of sections of hiking. Rick passed me again near the top. I knew the descent was long and very runnable, so I got moving as quickly as I could at the top and fairly quickly had passed four or five men. From there on in there were only a couple of ladies I could see in front of me and I kept pushing on hard, using the ladies as a target to chase down rather than feeling any pressure from behind. This works better for me if I need an incentive to keep the speed up. Eddie Davies had climbed up to about halfway on the descent and gave me a great shout up “Bloody ‘ell Jim, well done lad, give it some welly” which was just what I needed. I passed the second of the two ladies a hundred yards from the event field gate and flew on in to finish in 1:43:55, over three minutes ahead of target. I didn’t realise at the time, but I’d also got a lot closer to David because he finished a single place and 24 seconds ahead of me. I reckon I can call that one a good run.

Hopefully there will be some photos to follow!

We stayed and nattered for a little while, but Pete (44th in 1:17:29) and Mel (8th lady in 1:28:27) needed to get back to their families so it was back to the car, the A66 and the M6. A long day, but an excellent trip! Mercia results below:

4 Anna Bartlett LV40 01:26:36
8 Mel Price L 01:28:27
52 Kim Braznell LV55 01:45:04

13 Steven Cale M 01:11:51
20 Tim Davies M 01:13:09
44 Pete Vale M 01:17:29
55 William Neill MU23 01:19:00
57 Andrew Davies M 01:19:07
62 Paul Jones MV40 01:19:57
81 Roland Stafford M 01:22:12
114 Tom Roo M 01:25:42
139 Andy Davies MV45 01:28:14
265 David Malia MV45 01:43:31
266 Jim Tinnion MV40 01:43:55
326 Ross Powell MV55 01:54:26

Friday, 13 April 2012

WOW Reccie - 13/04/2012

The Wrekin, from the Sheinton - Wenlock road
Managed to get away from work tonight on time and get a bit more reccie running in for this summer's Wenlock Olympian Walk. I decided to run the bit of the Ironbridge - Much Wenlock route that I'd missed on Saturday. This is roughly miles 50 to 55 (Much Wenlock to Ironbridge) and miles 96 to 100 (Sheinton to Much Wenlock) of the WOW 100.

I started with the latter, leaving the car at Sheinton and following the route up and across the Sheinton - Wenlock and Buildwas - Wenlock roads, then along the course of the old railway until a mile short of the finish, where the route joins the outbound leg to pass Wenlock Priory into town.

View across the valley dropping into Farley - this will be about mile 98!

Halfway through mile 99 - Wenlock Priory

Set into the pavement about 200 yards from the finish - should we amend
it to say "Wenlock Olympian Walk" just for that weekend?
I stopped at the Guildhall and snaffled a bit of food and drink, then walked five minutes back on the start of the 50 route. Then I started to run, first past a mill and through fields, then on a short steep climb, a gentle descent and another climb to Wyke. A steady climb through a few small fields and then on a lovely single track along the edge of the wood brings the route to the top of the Benthall Edge climb of the Tinsel Trail.

From there it's a cruisy, fast (but muddy today) descent past the power station to drop onto the course of the old Severn Valley Railway, which is followed past the Iron Bridge. I cut back across the new bridge and road ran along the wharfage to the Museum of the River. You can follow trails along the river most of the way back to Buildwas then. I was feeling fairly comfortable and kept running easily (10 min / mile pace) right through to Buildwas, and then on the road to reach the edge of the woods on the Builwas estate where a steady climb (and the only place I ran fairly hard) leads back up the hill to Sheinton.

River Severn at dusk
13.5 miles and 1,250' in 2:21 for an average moving pace of 10:27/mile despite a couple of very steady miles early on. I did a really thorough stretch when I finished, and another one back home later, to try to prevent any stiffness for Saturday's English/British Champs Fell Race at Coledale.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Training to 10/04/2012

The track leading down from Flounders Folly on the Hills and Dales Hike
A couple of fairly easy sessions to recover after the big day out in Snowdonia.

First a nice very gentle recovery run with Em on Wednesday night. It was pretty cold and raining on and off and I really couldn't be bothered, but Em got home from work and came out the bath with her running kit on so I felt obligated really. And I'm really glad I went out. We had a really steady run to Halford and then back across the fields and through the woods. I concentrated on good running form - short strides and up on my toes, trying to do it easy like Caballo Blanco used to say: "Easy, Light, Smooth, Fast". Caballo may be gone but as Em reminded me his inspiration lives on. We cruised round for a very gentle 4.7 miles and 550' in almost exactly an hour.

I meant to get out and run all day on Friday but didn't manage to leave the house until half past five. I grabbed Em's Shropshire Hills Visitor Centre leaflet on the Hills and Dales Trail which was supposed to be about 6 miles. I thought I'd cut up onto the route at Lower Dinchope and then run the end (into Craven Arms) first, then the remainder of the route, finishing from the bottom of Callow Hill via the bridleway back to the house. The run to CA was pleasant, only disturbed by a few brambles in Berrymill Wood.

Ireland Cottage from the edge of Berrymill Wood
I went right to the visitor centre in the hope of a drink but it was shut so I set of back up to Halford Wood. This was pretty hard work after the Corvedale Road: two fields had been freshly ploughed and cultivated right to the hedge (so no path at all), and it's a steep climb too. There's a nice view from the top, particularly of Lower Dinchope nestled in the valley. It's a very quick jog down to the village, and then a pretty stiff climb up to Flounders Folly at the top of Callow Hill.

Lower Dinchope, with Caer Caradoc behind and to the left
Flounders Folly at the top of Callow Hill (locally known as The Tower) 
View across Hopedale from Callow Hill. The Wrekin is just visible centre right.

I came back down easy but fairly quickly via Moorwood Farm and through Strefford Wood. A lovely evening run: 8.2 miles and 1,250' in 01:24.

On Saturday morning (07/04/2012) I headed over to Ironbridge to meet Em, John and James for a bit of WOW (Wenlock Olympian Walk) Reccie. The section for today was the first and last few miles of the second 50 mile loop, so it's part of the hundred, but not the fifty.

In wetting drizzle, we ran from Ironbridge over into Coalbrookdale then up the Rope Walk to join the Tinsel Trail route to Little Wenlock. On over to the Wrekin and a slog to the top. This is going to be tough, long climb (it's continuously uphill from Coalbrookdale to the top of the Wrekin), especially 90+ miles in. We ran down through Garmston and Leighton then via fields to Cressage. There's a pretty long road section from here to Sheinton. At Sheinton, Em and I both had aches and pains and decided disgression was the better part of valour, so we cut the route short and left James and JT to head up towards Much Wenlock.

Em and I ran down to Buildwas (walking a lot of the road sections) and returned to the car via the footpaths on the north bank of the Severn and then up the Wharfage past the Tontine. The rain finally stopped about five minutes before we got back to the cars. 17.3 miles and 1,800' in 03:28.

Over the Easter weekend I didn't run but had a couple of nice short walks, around home on Easter Sunday and at the head of Lake Vyrnwy on Easter Monday (rain again). I went to the point to point meeting at Upton on Tuesday and left a bit late to get back for the whole Tuesday run. However Tom came to the rescue, texting me the rough route, so I knew I could intercept the group at Little Stretton.

As I pulled up the first runners came down through the campsite, so by the time I'd thrown a fleece and some jog pants in my running pack and put a shirt and a pair of shorts on, it was time to play catch up. Luckily for me the guys had given themselves a good working over coming across Ashlet, so I didn't have to go too silly to catch them. We went on up Ragleth Hill, then along and via the lane to Gaer Stone. I climbed pretty well and descended nice and easy, but fairly quickly down to Cwms Cottage. From there we cruised on down to Stretton via the Hike field. 5 miles and 1,100' of climbing in 00:58.

Big Climbing Snowdonia Day - 02/04/2012

Me and Andros on the way up Glyder Fawr
Had a really good big day out with Andros and Em, trying to get some appropriate training in for the CCC (Courmayer-Champex-Chamonix) race later in the summer.

We set out from Pen y Pass, climbing Glyder Fach and then dropping down via the Devil's Kitchen to Ogwen Cottage for a cup of tea.

Andros on the summit rocks of Glyder Fawr
Looking down from the north west face of Glyder Fawr to the Devil's Kitchen
Em and Andros at the tricky stream crossing under Idwal Slabs
The second leg took us back over the Glyders via Cwm Tryfan and the Miners' Track to the Pen y Gwryd  Hotel. Unfortunately I left my camera several hundred feet up the hill and only realised just short of the hotel, so I had to run back for it.

After a quick cuppa (slower for Em and Andros, they weren't collecting their scattered equipment), we headed down the pretty path along Nantgwynant, past the lake. The sting in the tail was the massive (ok, massive for England and Wales) ascent of the Watkin path. I was flagging at the bottom and we stopped for a final feed, before I trudged the whole thing in one big slow heave. Em and Andros stopped to gear up half way but beat me to the top by a few minutes. For some reason I was just in grind mode.

Running along above Llyn Gwynant
I snapped out of it at the top of Snowdon and descended well, mostly using the remnants of the old (i.e. prior to the most recent improvements) path - this is much more runnable than the hideous slippery stone of the new track. At the bottom by Llyn Llydaw Andros shot off, and I jogged back with Em who was by now feeling a bit sore in the calves after her half marathon the previous day...

First view of Llyn Llydaw on the way down from Snowdon
22.9 miles, 7,750' in 7:34. A fairly good result for a day off!

Training to 31/03/2012

After the Edale Skyline, I ran with the group on Tuesday night, feeling strangely very strong. I've noticed this has happened once or twice after big recess, but I don't know why. Anyway we did a recce of the Mynd Mac race, adding on a run through the Rectory Wood in each direction. I climbed very strongly and did the final descent down the gully to the bungalow strongly too. 6.7 miles and 1,950' in 1:20.

I felt a bit tired the rest of the week and was very busy with work, so it was Saturday 31st before I ran again. The plan was to go out with Zoe and do 24 miles on the roads around Corvedale and Apedale. I started quite well and we maintained our target pace of middle 8 minute miles for the first seven miles until I started to feel a bit sore in my psoas area again. I kept at it and felt better dropping down into and climbing out of Beambridge. Another mile and a half though and I knew I was struggling. Zoe and I decided to cut the route a little shorter, and to slow down, so we jogged up the bridleway to the head of Hopedale at Wetmore Farm. I managed to jog down the road to Middlehope, and then we walk / jogged to Westhope. We walked the last two and three quarter miles home. 18.8 miles, 1,500' in 3:14.

Edale Skyline Fell Race - 25/03/2012

To follow...

Training to 23/03/2012

Working away up the scree gully on the Wrekin
So, after the excitement of Lad's Leap I headed off to stay with Zoe in Upton. She's doing the London marathon on April 22nd so she has been building her mileage with long weekend runs at just slower than marathon pace. We aimed to do 20 miles at 8:53/mile, but I got the pace wrong so we ran at 8:13. This pretty much did for me - after the previous day's race I was feeling tired by about mile 9 and just about managed to keep going to a HM PR of 1:49:41 (but it was pretty damn hilly!) Anyway I ducked out at her brother's house after 15.2 miles and 400' of climbing (total time 2:10). Zoe had a really good one, powering on to her 20 miles still at 8:13s.

That took a little out of me, but I turned out on Tuesday night, where Dr Tim volunteered to lead the run on a route of his devising. This seemed to take us over/round the Bowdler Hills and into the area I would technically term "out back". I wasn't quite sure where we were, I know we crossed the Wenlock Road a couple of times, but it was a nice steady run, cruising along chatting most of the time. I'd do the route again in delight just to work it out! Thanks Tim for a good 7.2 miles and 1,200' in 1:26.

Tim's route - the numbers are quarter miles so 24 is 6 miles in.
On Wednesday I managed to get away early enough to reccie the Wrekin Fell Race route with Em. We had a lovely steady run, just cruising around and messing about. Em was trying her new Merrell Pace Gloves (a very minimalist shoe) out. We ran over the Ercall, not quite getting the route spot on as we descended, but noting where we should have gone for the return (it's an out-and-back race). Then a steady churn up the scree gully and then the main drag to the top...
At the summit with Needle's Eye Rocks behind
Em doing the palm tree yoga pose on the view indicator
Erm, yes, we're not brave enough to try this on the trig column!
A nice steady run down an a bit of a blast of the top of the Ercall led us to this amazing tree, lit by evening sunlight. We both had a bit of a climb around...

x-Talons are excellent tree climbing footwear
... then ran down to the Wickets for a cooling pint of lime and lemonade. 5.1 miles and 1,500' in 1:09.

Deadlines were pressing at work all week, so it was good to knock off at had five on Friday and head back to Stretton, getting a quick run in on the way home. I went up Townbrook and then down the first mile or so of Ashes, before doubling back up the side valley to Pole Cottage. From there it was over the top and out past Shooter's Knoll to the summit of Calf Ridge and on down to Mott's Road and CMV. 7.7 miles and 1,500' in 1:20. I felt just about prepared for what was to come after this...

Lad's Leap English Champs Fell Race - 17/03/2012

Climbing up the first ascent (photo: Ian Oates)
Crumbs, mid March and this was my first fell race of the year! I went up with Colin Williamson, who might be having another crack at the MV65 champs. There was a great Mercia turnout, and we watched our four ladies start before warming up by running round the bottom loop. As I was coming down from the warmup the ladies were finishing so I gave Mel a good shout up as she came in.

We got ready to start, and we could see Susan and Kim finish for the ladies just before we were off. I probably lined up a bit too far back, and David M and I were both held up a fair bit on the first ascent. Tis was pretty steep but one of those half and half running and walking slopes, although today it was pretty much all walking :-(

Long train of "runners" heading for the skyline - I'm in there somewhere,
stuck in traffic (photo: Ian Oates)
Once on top it looked like there was going to be some good quick running on a peaty single track. This was quite firm in places but quickly degenerated into ten yards of running followed by one stride into a deep hole of black peaty water and a desperate thrutch out to try to maintain a bit of momentum. After a mile or so we descended slightly to Lad's Leap, where the path crosses a stream at a gritstone notch. There was a very short climb out of this and then I found myself 50 yards behind one group and 30 yards ahead of another for another mile across the rough wet trail.

At the end of this a marshall directed us down a short steep descent, where I finally got myself moving a bit and caught the group in front (I could see David at the head of this). After a nice technical half mile of running under a rocky edge, we headed up a wide forest track. This was a really tough ascent, maybe around 1:6 and so rather runnable. I finally ran out of steam a couple of hundred yards from the top and had to let the group I'd caught up go while I walked a short section.

Running along under the edge
(Photo: "Shaun")
At the top we joined the outward route for half a mile and then launched down the final descent. This was really good, and I ran it pretty quickly under pressure from another runner. Shame someone walked across my line right in front of me at the stile and straw bales, I had to wait and yer' man ran right past. Anyway I was happy enough with the result of a not-quite full on effort: 1:05:58 for the 6.1 miles and 1,650' of climbing which put me in 237th out of 309 men.

Training Update to 15/03/2012

An interesting couple of weeks!

Started off the day after the Circular (Sunday 4th March) with a nice run around Little Stretton with Lucy. We ran over to Little Stretton along the woods path from her house, then up Ashes Hollow as far as the Valleys Descent. Then we climbed up the south side of the valley a hundred feet or so and took Andros' Trod round to Small Batch. We took a nice little traverse out to the Callow / Grindle col and then the path up to Barrister's Plain. Lucy wanted some descending practise so I led down the Valleys ramp fairly quickly - she made a good fit of that despite it being pretty cut up and wet, and then we sailed down Ashes via the ravine rather than the easy higher path and back to Lucy's for a well earned cup of tea and a warm up. 6.5 miles and 1,200' in 1:11.

Tuesday night's run was a trip through the woods to Little Stretton, then the climb up Ashes, but forking left near the top into one of my favourite side valleys to come out at Pole Cottage. We ran over Pole Bank and back via Boiling Well, the top of Synalds and Townbrook Hollow. 7.5 miles and 1,450' in 1:25.

On Wednesday 7th I made a bit of a training cock-up. Em's been experimenting with minimal foot ware, so I got my beach shoes out for a short run, heading up the bridleway from Affcot and then along the road to Upper Dinchope and back down to the ford, thence home. Unfortunately it was all going swimmingly in the woods and I went a bit too fast on the road to Dinchope (about 7:30/mile pace) and got a twinge in my left calf on the way down. It got worse, I stopped and stretched it and jogged the rest of the way, but the damage was done and it was very stiff and sore the following morning. 3.4 miles and 350' in 0:33.

So the rest of the week and the weekend were a write off in terms of running, I didn't even really get out on the bike, but the calf had settled down enough for a trial run on the evening of Monday 12th. I headed up to Dinchope and then down to Halford in my Peregrines (the kindest footwear I have for my lower legs and feet). On the way back I lost my way in the fields a bit and ended up on a 2 mile steeplechase, but not to bother too much. I passed a few bonfires near Strefford where the landowner was burning brash. Why don't the offer it to people as fuel / kindling rather than just torch it in the fields?? 4.9 miles and 400' in 0:44.

On the Tuesday night, we headed out to Pole Bank via New Pool Hollow, Synalds and Boiling Well. I climbed well up the Hollow, quite pleased with that. On the run out along the Portway we missed the Haddon turning altogether (how do 30 people miss an obvious junction?) and ended up doing a couple of bonus miles, returning to Stretton via Jonathan's Hollow (we missed the top of The Batch by about 50 yards), Cwmdale and Madeira Walk. 8.7 miles and 1,450' in 1:37.

I had a massage session with Dianne on Wednesday 14th, and managed a quick run around and then up Middletown Hill on the way over. Just jogged really, but felt quite pleased with my climbing. I got a bit disorientated on the way down and had to ask a guy at the quarry directions. Moral: take a map even when you go for a short run somewhere you don't know that well. 3.5 miles and 850' in 0:39.

Finally I managed to get to another Sy Tri track session on Thursday. This one was 3 sets of 3 minute, 2 minute and 1 minute intervals, with the 3 & 3 done at 5k pace (whatever that is for me - I did sort of 5:50 to 6:20/mile pace) and then the last one "flat out" (for me this was 5:05 to 5:20/mile on the first, 5:40 to 5:55 on the second - who did the first set too fast again? - and 5:00 to 5:20 on the third, pleasingly). Another excellent session, must try to get up more often, although this may not have been best prep for the race coming up on Saturday. Total of 6.6 miles in 0:51.