Howgills Trail13 race

3,200 feet
13.4 miles

Last year I did the 26 mile version of this race. After being a bit frustrated by the amount of gates to open, and my poor finish, I decided to have a go at the half marathon race this time. The courses share the same start and finish with the Trail 13 effectively short cutting the 26 mile race by cutting down off the Calf via Cautley spout, to pick the route back up and circle back to the start finish area.

I had travelled up with my good friend Mark, we both watched the Trail 26 start. Charlie Sharp led out of the field closely followed by the first lady. I said to Mark that I doubted she would end up in 2nd overall. Well Charlie (3.37.16)  held on to a comfortable win, and Helen Bonsor emphatically proved me wrong, by comfortably holding 2nd position overall (3:49:24). That had to be the run of the day.
The Trail 26 start. Charlie Sharp, and Helen Bonsor leading it out.

So 20 minutes later, at 10 am. We were lined up ready for the 13 mile race. The MC pointing at 2 young looking lads and proclaiming "don't try and keep up with those". I later found out that one of them (Jonathan Cox) had won the race for the last 2 years.

Most of the 3,200 feet of climbing and descending is in the first half of the race. Then its an undulating trail run with a few gates to open. This year the route near the end was changed to bring the course back to the fell side, rather than out away form the fells to follow the river Rawthey. This included a bit of a sting in the tail in the form of an ever steepening climb. I hadn't recced that part of the course so it was to be a surprise.

Soon enough we were on our way out of the field and up the steep road.  Jonathan, and Richard Smith  (sponsored athlete) led followed by the other young lad "not to try to keep up with" (Jamie Ankle). So I tried to keep in touch with Jamie as we started climbing up Winder. He maybe had a 50 meter gap at first. But as the climb got steeper near the top I had closed him down and then overtook him. The lead 2 were now fairly distant, maybe 300 meters ahead. When I passed Jamie I thought that we would run together, but we never ran more than a stride together.

Without pushing too hard I pressed on, and by the climb around Arant haw I and the lead 2 caught the back end of the Trail 26. This made it difficult to see where I was in the field. So I decided that it was very likely that 3rd would be the best I could do today. Even the encouragement of some of the Trail 26 guys wasn't likely to improve that. But I decided to reassess when the routes split, and could see only our race. On the last part of the big climbs up the Calf, a spectator warned me that some were catching (or at least I think thats what he said). I did wonder how he could tell. But maybe the differential in pace gave it away to a stationary observer.

As the routes split I couldn't see the first 2. I descended for 200 meters then allowed myself a look back. I figured that I had a 90 second gap to 4th. I took it easy-ish on the steep descent down Cautley. Just before the (only) CP there is a 500 meter out and back to it. just as I started this, on the now rolling trails, Jonathan went the other way with Richard a minute or so behind. Looking at their cadence and feeling a bit of leg fatigue. It confirmed that they were gone.

7 miles in, getting back to tempo paced running 

I had a quick drink and a Gel at the CP.  On the way out I saw Jamie going the other way, maybe 2 minutes behind. I saw another 3 runners before I started the last 6 miles. The Gel worked and I ran well to the last (sting in the tail) climb. It was a tough climb, but I had a good view of the lead 2 at the top as I started it (definitely gone) and as I gasped my way to the top, I looked back to see the next 2 starting it. I felt pretty confident of 3rd now. Figuring I had a 4 to 5 minute gap. Then I started a bit of a descent, and missed a marker and descended about 200 feet lower than the wall that I should have followed. Luckily I knew the route followed a wall to the finish reasonably high up the fell. So I worked my way back by contouring the heavy going farm fields. I very carefully scaled a high drystone wall and was back on course. I figure that I lost 3 to 4 minutes.

The black circle (black line) is me rejoining the route, Just as 4th and 5th go straight down to the road! and Jonathan is about to win.

After the race I discovered that the 4th guy made the same mistake, followed by Jamie, but went all the way down to the road before realising and returning to the route. They eventually finished 15th and 16th (2.21.39), gutted for them.

Back on course I was fairly sure that they wouldn't have passed me. But still had a niggling doubt. On the last bit of fell before entering the same bit of road we ran up, I asked the Marshall's and they confirmed 3rd.  I needn't have worried as the now 4th place guy (Mark Tiptrot) finished over 8 minutes later (2.08.32).

As I ran the last bit of the road, I felt a tinge of disappointment that I was going to just miss sub 2 hours. But I was happy with 3rd overall out of 163. I felt that without the mistake my time would have been more like 1.56 instead of my finish time of 2.00.48.

The Route change makes this a much better course. I really enjoyed it. Jonathan Cox won for the 3rd time in a row in 1.49.33, and Richard Smith was 2nd in 1.52.19.

Wray Caton Moor fell Race : 1st May

6.8 miles
1,100 feet


Unfortunately, for optimum performance and no excuses, I only discovered that this race was on the night before. At this point i'd already had a few beers, it was late (or early in the morning to be exact)  and i'd had a fairly tough tempo run early in the morning, followed by a hard day at work. See what I mean the excuses are lined up now.

I work weekends so I don't get to do as many races as I would like these days. So when I discovered this local race on Bank holiday Monday, it was too good an opportunity to miss.


So feeling a bit groggy and tired I made my way to the Scarecrow festival in Wray village, which the race is part of.  Soon enough we were lined up in the centre of the village ready for the steep climb up the road. I felt I started ok. Although I was further back in the field than last year. The fell was dry and hard mostly but still patches of softer ground and bog. It was similar ground conditions to last year and I watched fellow Bowland Runner Mark Chippendale lead the race to the summit maybe 2 minutes and 15 places ahead. The descent was tougher than last year due to a stiff headwind for most of it. I never really got up to full speed on the descent, as I was still catching my breath from the ascent, and never really got on top of it.

I think overall the course was a bit tougher this year, mainly due to the headwind.  So I was pleased enough with a slightly slower time of 49.23 and 14th out of 106. Mark had a great run and held on to win in 45.36. His first win after 20 years of doing the race! Brilliant.

Trans Gran canaria Marathon : 24th Feb

26 Miles
2,700 feet  (8,000 feet descent)

Having started working weekends in October, I now struggle to get to many races. So this being part of a long time planned holiday with a race in it, meant I got to finally do a race. This time I decided on the shorter course of the Marathon. It is the last 1/3 of the full Trans Gran Canaria route. Starting at the major CP for the TGC race and following the same route. That is from the centre of the island at 5,600 feet, to climb 600 feet to the highest point at Pico de las Nieves and mainly descending to the south end of the island at Maspalomas. 2 climbs of about 1,200 feet each are the only exception to this mainly 8,000 feet of descent and 26 miles. My preparations had been hindered by an injury to my little toe. 5 weeks prior to the race I caught it on a very heavy pouffe and possibly broke it. I couldn't walk very well, let alone run, for over a week. When I got back to running it was too late to achieve the top end of fitness that I am used to.



An early morning start and a long bus ride into the hills, so us at the very cold (maybe 6c and drizzling) start area. With only the very light kit requirements with me,  I made the best I could of them to keep warm. Unfortunately we had a 45 minute wait for the start. I had a long slow warm up, then it was time for the off. It was cramped and chaotic for the first scamper on the flattish forest tracks, then a steep climb up to the highest point on the Island. The pack thinned out, and by the top my hands regained there feeling, after the numbness gained by waiting around.

































I descended well and felt powerful, on the long descent to Tunte, I climbed well out of Tunte. I felt good on the descent to Ayagauras but on the road into the CP I felt the first signs of tiredness. It was also starting to feel warm, maybe a coincidence, maybe not?  I climbed the very runnable track at more of a jog and felt ok on the first bit of the descent. Then came my nemesis, that of the dried up riverbed. I suddenly felt very tired. I was desperate for easier ground, but knew this went on a bit. I walk / ran part of it, and no doubt wasted a bit of time at a makeshift CP, as well as some more time at the last CP at Park sur. The race was fading for me. I tried to rally on the easy paths and roads near the finish. But didn't Quite make my sub 4 hours target. Finishing 52nd out of 800, in 4 hours 2 mins. I did however get a sub 5 hour wrist band.




British relays Leg 2 with James : 15 th Oct

A late call up to the Bowland  Relay team for the British champs relays, was always going to be a tough day out. It was made even tougher by its location in Luss, on the western shores of Loch Lomond. A long 6 hour round trip was part of the deal.  It was also tough as I felt a bit outclassed by most of the team. But as I reminded myself this was a team cobbled together because a lot of the faster guys couldn't make it. In a way I felt that the new star of Bowland fell runners had been let down, as he really deserved a better team to run with.

After a 3 hour drive I met up with the team, and got the feeling that James and I were reasonably well matched. We set off on the second leg and the first climb was good, but on the first descent we went slightly off line and lost maybe 10 places. On the second big and unforgivingly steep climb I struggled and maybe held James up a minute or so. I got my act together on the descent, and we probably took back those 10 places that we had lost.

The nav leg 3 went well and then Chris stormed the final leg (5th overall!) to pull us up to 26th place out 115 teams. Not bad for a cobbled together team.

Lakes In a Day : 8th Oct

51 miles

13,400 feet


Feeling fit, but in hindsight not particularly well rested, I thought that I may be able to compete at the front end of the race. But only 3 hours in, on the steep ascent of Clough head, I realised this was going to be less of a race, and more about getting to the end.

I had set off at what I thought was a steady enough pace over High Pike and Blencathra. I was however in the top 10 until Clough head. It was on this climb where I felt I had no energy. It is a tough climb, and one that I tend to struggle on, but I was battling hard and moving slow. Over the summit I tried to run off the heaviness
in my legs whilst descending towards Great Dodd. This didn't work and I ended up literally floored by cramping legs. I still had 37 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing left! This was to be a long day.

For the rest of the route I was flirting on the edge of cramping, and at times floored by it. I struggled to the end, but was very slow, and when it got dark, even slower. The Route is fantastic if a little boggy towards the end. But this point to point, North South traverse of the Lakes is set to be a classic ultra. I only wish id enjoyed it a bit more. I did however enjoy finally crossing the finish line in Cartmel, in 21st place out of 316, in 12 hours 32.03.




Whilst feeling ok on the first big descent, on Halls Fell ridge.








The Grand Tour of Skiddaw : 3rd September

44 miles

7,100 feet

I had high hopes for my second bash at this race. Feeling fit, and knowing I lost at least 20 minutes wandering off course last year, I felt I could at the very least get a PB. But I also wanted to be at, or near the front of the race.



After the first climb of High Pike I was in 5th place. Jacob the eventual winner, was already a speck in the distance, and Paul Nelson (eventual 2nd) wasn't too far behind him. I closely followed Andrew Morely and Michael Irving as we descended High Pike (above photo). I ran down Glederatera valley with Michael, Andrew had gained a 400 meter gap. On exiting the valley I started to pull clear of Michael as the weather got worse and it started to rain. On the climb of Skiddaw, close to the top it was very cold with driving rain, as Andrew put his jacket on I closed in on him and we ran together until near the end.


me approaching Lattrig CP

Andrew Morely (4th)


Michael Irving (7th)

We both closed in on 2nd placed Paul Nelson, but when he noticed us about 2 miles from the end he reacted and maintained his 500 meter gap. Andrew allowed me 3rd stating that he wouldn't sprint it out as he would probably have gone wrong in the race and finished much further back, if he wasn't with me. I Gratefully accepted his kind gesture and pushed on for the last 200 meters, to finish a satisfying 3rd out of 75 in a new PB of 7.53.46.




the finish line

Andrew and I at the Start

winner Jacob Snochowski near High Pike

Lakeland 100 : 29th July

105 miles

24,000 feet

I felt less than great in the lead up with a cold. Also, I had to complete the race within 30 hours in order to get some sort of sleep before catching a flight to a family holiday in Gran Canaria. My sister booked it without asking when the race was, so I had to forgoe the first 3 days and schedule a flight for (just) after the race. Not the best lead up to a long tough race!


I got as far as Wasdale feeling ok, then halfway up the climb to Black Sail pass I ran out of energy. My legs fealt dead and within the space of 20 mins my thoughts had gone from, feeling ok maybe sub 24 hours is on, to, well I'll get around in under 30 hours anyway, to, I can't do this. By the top of Black Sail a few went  past me with words of encouragement as the night closed in. Unfortunately their good sentiments were wasted, I had already quit in my mind. I struggled on to Buttermere vowing to have a long break to decide what to do.

After 15 minutes refuelling at Buttermere CP (just in case I got food intake wrong, although I doubted it to be the problem) and a good chat with James Ellson, who was going through a similar experience, and decided to withdraw there. I decided to try again by getting to Braithwaite CP and reassessing. I struggled way more than I ever remember on any Ultra, I was moving at what should have been a conservative pace, yet I felt like I was pushing, as if near the end maybe 90 miles in. Halfway through the leg I decided to quit at the Braithwaite CP. I think the cold and Flemy chest had had a bigger effect on me than I realised whilst training.

I felt gutted to pull out only 30 miles into the race, but I know it was the right thing to do as I just didn't have it on the day. A long wait for the broom wagon ensued, and I got to see the entire (apart from the first 28 runners) field pass through. Night turned to day then we set off on the sleep inducing trip of shame back to the campsite.

I've already entered next years race, to put things right. Hopefully!

Looking on the brighter side. I got to see 4 hours in the life of a well organised checkpoint....





... and the start of the Lakeland 50 race.

                            

The Borrowdale trail half marathon : 10th July

13.1 miles
1,260 feet

My 2nd successive year at this race. Last year I came 3rd, so I had high hopes again this time. My training for the Lakeland 100 had been going well and I was feeling fit, if a little tired from high mileage.


The day was overcast and on the verge of raining all the time. But perversely, it was also warm and humid. So the rocks were slippy and it was a touch on the warm side once working hard. Never mind, as they say, it's the same for everyone.

Instead of a 25 minute walk around the eastern end of Derwent water, same as last year, I chose the boat across. I think it just adds a bit of adventure to this race. After docking I had A bit of a warm up and then we were off. Straight up a little slope. To the horror of some that had gathered at the top of the slope waiting prior to the briefing, before being moved down. I settled into what turned out to be a fast couple of miles. During the first few miles whilst opening gates and dodging some semi startled walkers, a guy went off the front and constantly pulled away. A lady runner also went off the front and slowly pulled a gap. Up to about mile 4 I had settled into the back of a pack of 4, a lady, 2 others guys, and me. Then I felt a stitch start to gather in its menace. I decided to ease off the pace a little, whilst hopefully still hanging onto the 3 runners ahead. On a  mile of road another guy past me, making me 7th place. This was not going to plan.


My mind was awash with thoughts of how strong I must have been last year, compared to how feeble I feel right now. I had to run smart, this wasn't just a case of going at a hard push all the way. I was going to have to listen to how my body reacted to the climbs to maximise this far from ideal situation.   As we left the road and started on the easy slopes of the climb around Castle cragg, I was surprised that I straight away past one guy. We then had to wait as the leader of the pack struggled to open a gate, after what felt an age, (probably actually only 40 seconds) we continued on the steeper slopes.

I had a good climb and past all but the lady. The stitch now a distant memory, as I pushed on. On the descent to Rosthwaite I overtook the lady to move into 3rd place. The flat run through Rosthwaite was awkward, as was the rest of the course from here, due to the slippery rocks. Apart from making the rocks slippy, the frequent rain showers were welcome to cool us down. At the start of the long climb up to Wattendlath, the lady and one of the guys were right behind me. By the top  she just sneaked past. But on the first small rough descent I overtook her to regain 3rd.

I then pushed on, never looking back. Thinking if I get overtaken they will have deserved it. I always thought that I would get a look at 2nd, but probably not 1st, I never got a look at either. It was made tricky anyway as we were now overtaking a fair few of the 13k runners that had joined the course after setting off 30 mins behind us on a shorter circuit. By the flat 1.5 mile run in, I felt that I was set in 3rd and eased off the pace a bit. Crossing the line I was pleased with 3rd overall and 2nd male, but not pleased at how much I had to manage my pace. Still it was a really enjoyable run out around Derwent water.


150 finished the race. Oliver Smith won in 1:40:07. I finished in 1:46:45.


Clougha Pike Fell race : 18th June

5 miles
1,260 feet


A nice day for my local fell race. Not my best effort at this race, and a quality field meant I finished 23rd out of 116 in 46,22.

The Old Counties Tops race : 21st May

35.2 miles
10,171 feet

This was the fourth time out of the last 5 for Bill and I. This really is a brilliant race. As Bill said "the T-shirt was earned this year". This is one of those rare races where you have to complete the race to get the t-shirt; I like that Ideology.

The day was to start with periods of showers, and was fairly cool and cloudy for the 8 am start. Bill and I progressed well to Helvellyn, on the descent I noticed Bill was a bit more tentative. I waited for him a couple of times, but we both rallied on the next climb up to Greenup edge. As we approached the col the weather turned ugly, and light rain became heavy severely wind blown rain. Straight in the face it felt extremely uncomfortable and cold. I said to Bill that it was the first time I'd considered dropping down stake pass into Langdale, for the quick, no t-shirt,  way back. We toughed it out and ascended to Sca fell pike well. On the decent Bill got cramp in the same precarious craggy spot as last year. At least the weather had improved.


From now on it was just a case of getting to the finish. We had a long refuel on the lovely sandwiches at Cockley beck, plus on departing a slice of Wynnes chocolate brownie was a fantastic desert! It was  a bit of a trudge up to Coniston old man. This is a tough climb, and I felt for Bill, as I took it easy, then waited enjoying the views whilst taking some photos.


We descended the Old man fairly well, and made up a few positions on the run in down to Langdale. That weather earlier on certainly meant that everyone that finished earned their T-shirt. Well done to good friends and fellow Bowland fell runners, Steve Cliff, and Yiannis Tridimas on winning the Vet 100 category.


Bill and I finished 38th out of 93 in 9.37:56. Paul Tierney and Matt Reedy won in 6.53:51.

The Howgills Trail 26 : 15th May

26.3 miles
3,672 feet

This was my first try at this race. The route is an up and over the high points of the Howgills out of Sedburgh, dropping into Ravenstondale, before a less steep and easier up and over back to Sedbergh. The first part is on familiar training ground, and  It was a nice day for it, not too hot, but sunny. Prior to registering I bumped into Michael (curly) Irving, for the first time since the Grand Tour Of Skiddaw race. It was good to catch up, and note his unusual warm up technique of having a cigarrette prior to the race. Still, it seams to work for him.

After nearly missing the start due to queuing with the Howgills 13 runners (set off 10 mins later) for the toilet, we were off. The first 2 miles are a steep climb unto Arrant Haw. I climbed ok, probably in the top 7 or 8, but felt I was working a bit too hard. I eased back after the summit and continued at a steady pace. Unlike a lot of fell races this had a lot of swing gates that had to be opened and shut yourself. It really does slow down the momentum, I would guess in total that there were about 30 in total. Apart form this slight frustration I felt my race was going ok. Just before half way I caught and chatted to last years winner for a while. after the halfway CP I pushed on and left him. On the long climb I was struggling a touch but managed to keep running up most of the road. Then kept a decent pace on the trail down to Cautley, and the 2nd CP.


Not long after this I felt the fatigue. My lack of appetite was beginning to bite. In the last 2 miles I really slowed to a point where 2 passed me and I just couldn't respond. I trudged to the finish, feeling a bit disappointed. At one point, 5 miles earlier,  I was running in 3rd, and with the guy that came 3rd. Still it was a good day for a nice race. Not sure I enjoyed the sheer amount of gates to open on the  route though.

I finished 6th in 3.55:06. Allen Smalls won in 3.39:13.

Buttermere trail race : 17th April

10miles
590 feet


A really nice day for this beautiful little loop around Buttermere. This was my 2nd consecutive year. I felt I had a decent run, and fished in a similar time to last year. Albeit the conditions were a bit better. On the run in towards the finish I closed in, then ran alongside, a guy for the last mile or so. I tried to save a bit for the inevitable battle as we neared the finish. Just as I was about to up the pace, he did. this continued until about 200 meters before the line. I then dug in to keep with him, and with 50 meters to go managed to just about out sprint him for the line. I was never ahead of him except for the last 5 meters. It proved worth it as I ended up with 3rd place because a lady won the overall race.



I finished 4th out of 173 in 1.13:43. Heidi Davies won in 1.11:29. Cracking effort from her to win the race overall!

The Trans Gran Canaria race : 4th March

78 miles
26,000 feet

Wow what a seriously tough race. It's always difficult doing a long challenge or race having never set foot on the route (Paddy Buckley 2007 for me) . Especially so when the ground is unexpectedly very tough. But recceing a race that's 1,800 miles away isn't too practical. Although the race winner did actually make a trip out to do just that, proving how useful reconnoitring is!

The race name would suggest a bisecting line across the longest line on the Island. But in reality it starts on the North West coast, and zags in land up and down towards the islands high point of Pico de la Nieves then heads due South to the finish in Moleneras. The race is point to point so a bus journey to the start line is required for the 11pm start. For me this entailed a 4 mile taxi ride from Playa del ingles to the finish at Moleneras, to catch the bus. Luckily I met with Matt Neal , Steve Rhodes and their friends, to while away the time on the 90 minute bus journey. One of these friends was top UK fellrunner Kim Collison. It was good to hear some of his plans, and aspirations for the race. But on this bus journey I felt a bit of indigestion. Tthe first time I had felt like this 5 days into my 2 week stay, bugger.

On our arrival at Ageate, Matt Neal being a veteran of many of the previous editions of the TGC, knew there was plenty of time to "relax" in a local cafe, prior to the 11pm start. So we had a chat and a few brews. Me not having any money meant I stretched their generosity a touch.


After a while we left and found a carnival atmosphere of runners and supporters all filtering through the queue for the start. A confusing scene, but exciting, given the general enthusiasm for this race. A DJ was whipping up a frenzy on a very loud PA system. Whilst I was trying to remain calm, as I know it's not a good idea to waste energy on anything at this point.

Finally the countdown and we were off streaking up the first 4,700 feet climb. I would go on to give a detailed description of the race but feel it's not worth it. I absolutely loved the race, the atmosphere, the organisation, and the way the locals really champion it as a big day for the Island....But I had a bit of a shocker. I started well enough, but on the 2nd climb I felt I needed the toilet, the indigestion was having its say. After this I never felt quite right, and didn't have much of an apetite.


I tried to just get on with it and enjoy it. The combination of extremely rough trails and a brutal course, along with my weekened state curbed my enthusiasm bit by bit. Even the daylight didn't really lift my spirits. A bit of drizzle at dawn meant putting my jacket on, whilst doing this I took a photo at the CP.


At this point I was still on for my sub 20 hour target despite feeling a little off. I, along with most left a drop bag at the base of the last climb at Garanon. Most of the climb is completed at this point, with about 3,700 feet of ascent and 6,400 of descent left. I had a good rest here and when I got back up my legs had stiffened up. I can never remember this happening in all my previous ultras.

I just got on with it and my legs freed up a bit as I crossed the road just before a long line of Ferraris. On the steep climb to the high point of the island at Pico de la Nieves I felt increasingly tired. This was the signal that sub 20 hours was now extremely unlikely. The damage was too great, I was too brutalised by this course. On the descent I kept stepping aside for other runners to pass (some on the 80k and marathon , some not) , I felt this would be my strong point. It would have been, despite how rough it was, but the course had beaten me. I was now on "survival get to the finish" mode. The heat was noticeable as I dropped height  towards sea level.

As the sun was fading I trudged through the remaining checkpoints as best I could. Feeling a bit pathetic I reached the finish, in just enough daylight to avoind needing my headtorch. A little convoluted up and down the road in front of a cheering crowd and I'd finished. Not pleased with my effort, but pleased to have done such an amazing race.

After lounging around in the expo centre, I could hardly walk enough to get in a taxi back to the hotel. My idea of walking back, was now just a pipe dream.




I may return next year. But to do the marathon distance. Which starts at the drop bag point. It would fit in with a holiday a bit better, and i would struggle to get enough specific training done for a course this long and brutal.
Matt Neal finished  298th In 24.38:10.  Steve Rhodes finished  320th In 25.11:53. And Kim Collison finished first Brit in 20th  15.45:39
I finished 132nd out of appx 800, in 20.36:28. Didrik Hermanson won in 13.41:48, simply awesome.