315 Lancaster half Marathon

Sunday 7th December

A month after the Lancaster half I decided on having a go at this race as I had enjoyed doing the Lancaster half marathon so much. I thought maybe sub 80 minutes might just be possible. It is another fast course and feels flatter than the Lancaster half, but according to Strava, it has slightly more ascent in it. I had a good run, in good weather, and really enjoyed it. I missed out on sub 80 minutes, that will have to wait for next year. But I still managed a PB of 1 hour 21.04  which was 7th out of 165 and 2nd V40. Luckily for me a V40 won the race (1h 13.41) so I got a bottle of wine.

The Lancaster half marathon

Sunday 2nd November

As I can walk to this race it always feels like I should have a go at it. There is always the challenge of getting a PB as well. Although I do a lot of my training on the roads, I rarely do races on them. So doing local road races makes a lot of sense, it's also nice to mix up the races.

So, as is now tradition, on the morning of the race I walked there; this time with Phyllis. It was to be her 2nd half marathon race after doing the Great North run. The point to point aspect of which has always appealed to me, but I have never got around to giving it a go. Like the GNR the Lancaster half is a fast course, the only tough part being a reasonable sized hill at the 8 mile point and a gradual climb at 9 miles. So I set off at 6 minute 30 sec miles, with a PB in mind. I had a good run and maintained steady miles at around 6.20 min. The only time I struggled was on the 2 hills at the 8-9 mile point. After that I felt I kept the pace pretty well to the end.

I finished in a PB of 1 hour 22: 42 good enough for 15th out of 658. I was also 2nd V40 by 6 seconds. Phyllis broke her 2 hours target by a minute to set a new PB too.

The Ennerdale trail race

The Ennerdale trail race

Sunday 19th October
15.8   Miles
1,355 feet

It was to be my second try at this race, last year I was disappointed to just miss out on a prize due to being a year too young. So this time being eligible for the Veteran 40 category I was determined to do better, I knew if I had a good run I could figure in the top 3 of the V40 category.

Bill had other commitments to relays this year, so I drove up on the day with Mark and Phyllis. On the start line the weather was similar to last year; that is cloudy and showery; but this

time there was a keen wind blowing up the valley. The course is a lap of Ennerdale water but extended up the valley to the river Liza bridge crossing. This year 2 miles of the course had changed from a very fast farm track to a twisty turning tricky single track. This was on the first part of the descent after about 3 miles on the way back down to Ennerdale water. I estimate this to be about 8 minutes slower.

Soon enough 121 fellow runners and I set off. After following a lady runner for 50 meters, I passed her and ended up leading the race for about 500 meters. Long enough for me to contemplate being at the sharp end for the whole race. I even thought I may be a target for the whole race, then Christopher Armit passed me and my thoughts snapped back to my original more realistic ones, like top 3 in the V40. As we ran around the North side of Ennerdale water and Chris A slowly but surely opened up a large gap, I kept expecting to be caught. After about 3 miles I noticed another runner slowly catching me. I expected him to go straight passed but he stayed just behind me. We never talked partly due to the effort of climbing the rolling trail up to the Liza crossing, and this silence continued the whole race until we crossed the finish line.

We both kept a strong pace going, I briefly contemplated being caught by others, but rationalised that I had to just keep the effort high, and if I got caught there would be nothing else I could do about it. However this meant that Chris L would get a free ride if he wanted it. We both ran together, overtaking the 50k runners (2 laps) that had set off 15 minutes earlier. We then arrived at the CP, I took a quick drink whilst Chris L had a slower stop to grab some food. I gained about 50 meters and as I crossed the river Liza to turn for home, I tried to make the gap stick. But on the style crossings I noticed he was closing the gap, so eased back and let him catch me.

He continued to shelter behind me as we now faced into a strong head wind, which was funnelling up the valley. The route was mainly downhill now, but even on the downhill parts the strong head wind made it tough at times. I tried to make it harder for him to shelter by running on the inside or outside of bends. But I think he benefited anyway. He certainly benefited on the new twisty section. It was difficult to spot the flags as we were in and out of streams and bushes. Chris L could save energy by staying back a bit and following me, missing out the stopping and Looking around, and going slightly further than necessary, which is what I did. He certainly ran a clever race. I was just glad to be running in 2nd place, figuring even if Chirs L overtakes me I will almost certainly finish 3rd overall. Way better than I thought possible before the start.  All the time there being a slim possibility of Chris A having problems and us both overtaking him.

After the seemingly never ending twisty section, we finally got running fast again on the easy running track. Passing some of the quicker 50 K runners we soon started on the slippery rocks around the side of Ennerdale water and Anglers pike. Here I had a difficult time with a stitch, so I eased off a bit on this slower section and just tried to efficiently rock hop. Whilst expecting Chris L to overtake me. He didn't. I assumed he was saving his energy for a final push nearer the end. We finished the awkward section and I now knew we were just over a mile from the finish. So I upped the effort (not sure I upped the pace much though) a bit to try and pull away. It now started to rain quite heavily. I opened up a small gap then Chris L shut it down quickly and sped passed. I tried to up my pace, but I was at my limit. He was simply too quick, I knew 3rd was now mine as I looked back and couldn't see anyone near enough and couldn't catch Chris L. It was now pouring it down as a I crossed the muddy field to run over the line very wet and very pleased to be 3rd, 13 seconds behind Chris Lightburn and 6 minutes 36, behind Chris Armit, in 1 hour 56: 59. My best ever result in a race.

Mark would have taken some photos had it not rained at the time we all finished. Phyllis enjoyed her first ever trail race on the 10K lap of Ennerdale. I received (eventually after a long wait) my first ever proper prize for winning the V40 category. That of some Salomon Fellraiser trail shoes. Pleased is an understatement.

27th September The Isle of Man mountain Ultra

32 miles
7,500 feet

I'm still annoyed about my cathedral complete mess I made of this race. my misplaced trust in following two local(well to the Island anyway) runners on one descent cost me a probable PB. I will never know.

Unfortunately it was a day for low cloud. The weather was benine in every other way just dank. As I have only competed twice before, and with no real opportunity to recce, low cloud was my biggest worry. I started the race at a good pace and on the first big climb up North Barrule I counted I was in about 10th place. The climb and run along the ridge went well, and just on the descent to the road crossing at the bottom of Snaefell, I passed the guy who eventually came 3rd.

I caught and passed a few others then I took a long looping line in the fog off Beinn Y Phott. All went well and I felt like I was going to have a great race. I felt really positive about my effort. Then whilst following to manx fell runners vests off Colden it all came crashing down. In the mist I followed the 2 in front as he cut a corner off and tracked too far right. We carried on then scratched our heads but not before we had done a mile loop to end up back on Colden. I conservatively estimated this to have cost 15 minutes, but how much it cost in lost energy, hence lost time due to fatigue, and how much morale was lost was pretty impossible to say. But it surely cost me significantly more than the 15 minutes whilst doing a frustratingly pointless loop.

Back on track and I tried to motivate myself. Overtaking a few that I had already passed was both a boost and a reminder of my big mistake. So I battled on feeling pretty tired to on people of the best race finishes of any. The Cliffs that lead into Port Erin are really beautiful. A class runner called Charlie sharp had been closing in on me and I just about manged to maintain my position to finish 8th in 6:23.40, 38 seconds ahead of Charlie. Rob Sellors won in 5:34.23.

26th July The Lakeland 100

104 miles
23,500 feet

On my previous 2 races the weather was conjussive to fast times. This years race however was to be different. The heat was pretty oppressive for an event as long as this. Sheltering from the sun under trees before the start, and sweating profusely at the briefing in the school sports hall, is not an ideal way to prepare for a tough 104 mile race!

A quick chat with Bill Williamson and the usual gathering at the start line, and I was off on another long tough race. I set off at a good pace but it was hard to judge how I was doing compared to 2 years ago, as this year we set off from Coniston at 6 pm rather than 5.30 pm. I normally judge my progress by where I have to put my head torch on. However I felt that I made good progress through the first sections, of Eskdale, Wasdale and Buttermere. Nothing too fast, but steady, and close to my times of (25:11) 2 years ago. I had  tentatively  targeted a sub 24 hour race finish. But even at this fairly early stage in the middle of the night I knew that was very unlikely. A PB was going to be a tough ask as well.

During my preparation for the race I banked on; as I had in the previouse 2 races; drinking half a litre of water,  mixed with nuun salt tablets, between most CPs. But the heat was such that even during the warm night I drank 1 litre. I also, only needed to wear a sweat soaked T-shirt; no jacket during the night was needed this year. I had to rethink my strategy for the day ahead on the fly. My progress was good durring the night my new Salomon rucksack felt comfy and my feet held up pretty well.

Night turned to day on the Old coach road, as I passed a friend of mine Ian Symmington, who seemed
to have had a bad time and was about to quit on the race. Normally he would be right up at the sharp
end. I was at the fairly pointy end but I figured that I was outside the top 10, maybe 16th or so. Normally daybreak is a nice feeling. Being able to see ahead takes less concentration, and ultimately moving faster is easier. But with daylight came heat.

I started to not only need to fill both half litre soft flasks at CPs, but also to refill them at streams, sometimes twice in between CPs. On occasion I even climbed down slightly off route wasting a few minutes to get water out of a stream I would never normally risk. But needs must. It was a tough day
in the bright sunshine and heat but at least being near the front meant the CPs were quiet.

After the tough climbs of  Gatesgarth and Garburn pass I knew I was going to at least finish. At the top of the Garburn pass climb I started talking to the eventual winner of the women's race, Debbie Marti-Consani. At the top she moved ahead but later I would catch her just as she left each of the last few CPs. I carried on at a pace that by now, at Langdale, I knew would not be a PB. I was thinking
sub 26 hours was the best I could expect. I caught Debbbie on the last climb over hole rake towards the final descent to Coniston. We chatted for a while whilst a fine mist threatened to cool us down. It was short lived and didn't. It was still too hot for this, but at least the finish was only a descent away.

I felt tired but my legs felt OK on the descent, and I knew from the CP staff, that we were battling for a top 10 finish. Having done so in my previous 2 races (2010  7th  28h 31), (2012  8th  25h11) I made an effort on the descent and managed to get a gap on Debbie. Which I managed to extend to 1 minute 30 by the finish line. Feeling very tired I was glad to see it, and ran through Coniston to the finish line  reasonably strong. My time of 25 hours 27 wasn't a PB but given the heat, and being slightly above my ideal running weight, I think it was a descent effort. Unlike other years my feet fared pretty well, I put this down to the Drymax ultimate protection socks that I decided to wear. This also aided a fast recovery, for my future races. Bill had a rough time with the heat and towards the end with the bad weather and rain that moved in. He toughed it out after a quick start, to finish in 32 hours 34.

17th June a run with Steve Birkinshaw on his Wainwright's record run

13 miles
3,700 feet

I decided to travel up with Mark to meet Steve on his amazing record attempt on the Wainwrights round. This is a consecutive traverse of all 214 tops as listed in Alfred Wainwrights lakes guide books. Joss Naylor's 1987 record of 7 days 1 hour was the the target. He aimed to beat it by resting less than Joss (3 or 4 hours sleep a day!), and using a more optimum line. Joss set his record by resting at pubs with a pint were possible. However admirable this meant a less than optimum line to do so.

On our arrival at Kirkstone pass I made my way to a likely looking camper van to ask where Steve was, it turned out he had already gone. Knowing there was 2 long out and backs just up from the pass, I set off with Mark to catch up. Mark stayed at the top of the first climb taking photos, whilst I set about catching Steve up. I caught him up just after the first out and back of Hartsop Dodd. I introduced myself and we had a good chat about his run and how he was feeling. He said he was ok apart from the obvious deep fatigue, and blistered sore feet. He was certainly keeping a nice steady pace.

We continued with another guy out to Gray cragg, then started to collect support runners all the time before 5 of us were running with him to Thornthwaite Beacon. The weather was favourable and not as warm as it was when Steve set off 3 days earlier. It was a great day for running in the hills, I was really enjoying chatting to Steve right in the middle of his epic challenge. He also enjoyed my fresh admiration and enthusiasm for what he was undertaking. A lot of his support were familiar to him and had helped a lot since the start. So a random guy turning up gave him a bit of a boost. Even if I didn't help in most other ways.

Froswick and Ill Bell were soon behind us then on the final part of Yoke, Steve felt a pain in the top of his foot. He stopped at the top to take his shoe off and rub it. But not for long. Steve hobbling a bit we soon Started the tough descent off Yoke towards The Tongue. A place I have never been it was certainly interesting, but rough terrain. We then climbed the tongue spotting a couple of deer as we climbed. Then it was a fairly long run out to Baystones on the side of Wansfell. This is were I wished Steve all the best of luck and started descending towards the Kirkstone pass road. A quick drink with Mark outside the Kirkstone inn and we were off home. My toal run time was 3h 20m.

Steve continued on in fine style and finished on Sunday evening to set a new record of 6 days and 13 hours, he also raised a large amount of money for MS. A truly remarkable achievement.

25th May Helvellyn and the Dodds Fell race

15 miles  :  4,400 feet

This was my first go at this race. Which is pretty much an out and back to Helvellyn from Threlkeld cricket club. It includes the tough ascent of Clough head then great Dodd,  Raise and Helvellyn lower man before the turn back at Helvellyn summit. I think I still had some of the OCT race in my less than fit legs. I found this race super tough even though the weather was perfect after some pre race showers. But it should have been a good course for me, as it is quite runnable. I think on the way back I ran out of steam. I managed a  decent pace until the penultimate decsent of Great Dodd. I then feared I wouldn't even make the finish. I walked a lot of the last runnable climb to Clough ahead then just tried to make it to the line. Mark took a photo revealing a bit of my fatigue. But after that I collapsed to the grass verge and didn't move for about 5 minutes. I can't ever remember feeling so totally knackered after a relatively short race. Maybe too many races too close together with too little fitness.

I finished in 32nd place in 2h 52.48, Morgan Donnely won in 2h 13.36.


17th May The Old Counties Tops Fell race

37 miles : 10,000 feet

It was a beautiful day, maybe too nice as the heat would be enough to have an effect. Bill and I partnered up again, only a week after he thrashed me at Buttermere I knew as in for a tough time. We started off well enough and summited Hellvelyn about 10 minutes faster than last time. But after a good descent I realised Bill was definitely in better shape than me. I succumbed to walking part way up Wythburn Bill was still ok running but had to wait for me. In a complete contrast to last time. This continued all the way around . I was simply going as fast as I dare, so as to make it to the end. Meanwhile slightly ahead of me Bill was having an easy time enjoying the scenery and targeting Strava segments!

Still we did make the end after summiting the other 2 tops of Sca Fell Pike and the Old Man of coniston in a best time of 8h 52.09 and in 21st place out of 78 starters. The winners Spyke and J Morgan finished in 7h 10.45.


10th May Buttermere Sailbeck Fell Race

9 miles  : 4,300 feet

After a long bout of colds and sinusitis over christams and into the new year, I felt as overweight and unfit as I have for at least 5 years. So my comeback at Buttermere Sailbeck was going to be a case of giving it a go, as I was still a bit Chubby and my cardio and strength wasn't great either.

It was a mild day but with a forecast for wind and heavy rain, there was an air of tension. The last time this race was held sadly a runner died. The weather turned out to be not too bad. After Ard crags descent we then started the tough climb of Causey pike where it started to rain. On the ridge to Whitless pike the rain started to get very heavy. One of the bonuses to carrying a bit of fat (there aren't many for this in fell running) was I didnt,  have to put a jacket on, as many did. As i descended crag hill I went too far left, this didn't help matters as I was already pretty slow. Loosing two minutes or so just made my result a bit worse. But at least I was back in the game. my friend Bill Williamson had a great run and finished 27th overall and 2nd vet 50 in 1h 53.25. I finished 41st out of 104 in 2h 01.42. The winner Phil Davies finished in 1h 34.21.

Catch up on races since August 2013

After another long hiatus from this blog I have finally got around to updating some of my runs since the BOFRA race at Farleton Knott last August. The only runs of much note were the Manx mountain Ultra and the Ennerdale trail race and the Three shires and Langdale Fell races, this was mainly due to a contracted bout of the pudgy over The winter period. So nothing of note this year apart from the odd trip to the lakes to try and get fit for the Buttermere sail beck race, the Old counties tops and the Lakeland 100.

21st September 2013
The Three shires fell race
12.4 miles. 4,100 feet

The week after the cancelled Lake District mountain trial, I travelled to little Langdale with Mark and Ian Cookson to have another go at this race. It was a tricky day this year with a low cloud base making for tricky navigation. But apart from going to far down wet side edge and having to run back up the road to Three shires stone, it was a decent race for me. I finished 52 out of 211 in a time of 2h 34:33. Ian finished 164th in 3 hours 18. Ben Abdelnoor won in 2 hours 5.

28th September 2013
Manx mountain Ultra September 2013
31.1 miles   8,052 feet

I really love this race, it is like going on holiday combined with competing in  a great mountain race. It is an adventure just getting to the start line, and it is always good  to take a ferry to your destination. So that and my intent to not make mistakes on navigation this time and better my result of last year, made this a must for me.

I decided to start the race in a committed fashion like last year, but hoped not to go wrong and
maintain my pace better at the end. The weather was good , and not as windy as last year, although there was a stiff breeze when we made it to the top of the first climb, that of North Barrule. I enjoyed the run along the ridge this time , last time it was a fight against the wind, this time a pleasant ridge run with views back to Ramsay and a panoramic view of the sea and hills left to climb. It was a perfect day for running. No excuses not to beat last years time.

I followed some manx fell runners vests along the ridge ( never a bad idea) and occasionally overtook some of them, but I was more confident of the route this year, so I wasn't too hung up on following. The clear visibility also helped. The hills came and went with me just keeping a steady push pace going, mindful of the long distance to cover and the tough sting in the tail along the cliffs near the end. I overtook Mark Murphy, a quality local runner not, long after Snaefell then just concentrated on the correct route. I had no problems and passed through half way in good shape.

But I did worry about a new section that had slightly extended the route to avoid a long piece of road. But this was ok and flagged anyway. Next came the out and back to South Barrule, this was interesting as it gave me a chance to see who was in front, as I entered the field at the bottom the 2nd place runner was just leaving the field , followed further up by the 3rd,  4th, and not too far in front of me the the 5th.

After visitng south Barrule and continuingg along towards the cliffs I closed in on 4th placed Simon Halliday. We ran almost together until the penultimate decent , where he pulled away and finished 2minutes ahead of me. But I ran the end fairly stron and was pleased with 5th of 54 in 5hours 58 : 14.

12th October 2014
The Langdale Fell race
14 miles    4,600 ft

Just about recovered from the IOM race I decided to have a first attempt at this race. My photographer friend Mark accompanied me, and as usual took some great photos. He had a better day than me.

 I was having a reasonable run until near the end, on the descent off Crinkle crags. Towards the end of the decent just as I neared Pike o Blisco I tripped at high speed and was going head first towards rocks in that awful foreboding silence that comes before impact. In a desperate attempt to push myself away from the rocks, I impacted my hands very hard, particularly my right hand. I thought I had broken bones, but a trip to the hospital that night confirmed it was just badly bruised Meta carpels in my wrist. It was very sore for the next 2 months. I finished the race a bruised and battered, and at a slow pace. So wasn't too bothered that I finished 102 out of 382 in 2 hours 46 : 57. I was just glad to be getting off the hills under my own steam.

20th October 2013
The Ennerdale trail race
15.9 miles  1,456 ft

Hand still badly bruised, I decided Bills invite to stop over at his house and do this race was to good to refuse. Besides that I had already entered 3 weeks earlier. I knew this was my type of race, mainly uphill and runnable to start, with a mainly downhill fast finish.

Bill and I lined up with 117 others at the start of the 25K race. First we saw the start of the 10K, then the 50K. That built the tension, then we were off. Bill set off very fast around the southern shore of Ennerdale water. After about a mile I caught and past him. I then worked hard on the rolling wide
trails down the side of the water. The trail then heads up from the lake to the head of the valley just Beyond the Black Sail hut. A quick drink at the hut then it was a fast decent back to the opposite shore of Ennerdale, I overtook a few faster runners and a lot of slower ones, they were clearly on the 2 lap 50K race. Along the shore of the lake again and Bill had warned me that it is rough, he wasn't kidding. After 12 miles of nice running terrain this was very tricky on very slippery wet rocks. There was also a few inclines. Which when tired were tough. But by this time I knew I couldn't catch the guy ahead and the last guy I had passed was a long way behind. So I eased off slightly to finish in a pleasing, and surprising 4th place in 1 hour 54:17.

Bill finished 11th in 2 hours 10, and got a V40 prize , which was a rather nice Salomon rucksack. If only I was a year older. Never wished for that before. Chris Steele won the 25K race in 1 hour 39, and Ricky lightfoot set a new record time for the 50K, and amazing 3 hours 24.

Not to forget the cancelled 60th Lake District Mountain Trial in Borrowdale. A 140 mile round trip to find it had been cancelled due to severe wind and rain. My only trip to the lakes where Ihave not even had a walk. Ah well roll on next years.