Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Highlights

Another great year to be alive.  Here are my month by month highlights.  In summary, a baby, preparing for the GL3d, completing my Wainwrights and recovering from the GL3d.

7th January about 2am
I had already done the 'work' some nine or so months earlier for the first big achievement of the year.  Our second daughter, Lucy, was born on the 7th January.  Hannah was very excited to become a big sister and I'll have to admit, she's pretty cool.

Athletically, I had a number of different objectives: coming back from a knee injury, trying to build my fitness for the GL3d and bagging more Wainwrights.

I get a week of paternity leave from work.  It was at the end of this week that I had one of the best walks of the year, with my good walking mate David who has a Facebook Photography page, Wainwright Fellwalker.  It was a beautiful day with spectacular cloud inversions.  We took in Bowfell, Esk Pike and Rossett Pike.  Not a bit of wind in the air, we couldn't believe our luck and spent a lot of time marvelling at the various cloud formations.

One of the highlights was phoning my boss from the top of Bowfell to ask if I could have another week of leave.  He said that, under the circumstances, he felt that this would be ok.  I presume he meant the 'dad' thing, rather than the beautiful clear skies and cloud inversions!

David took a fantastic photo of me on Rossett Pike which ended up being featured in Trail Magazine.

thanks to David for the pictures

There were plenty of other highlights in January.  I had a really good run around Coledale, taking in some of the familiar classics as well as picking up a few yet to be visited Wainwrights.

heading down from Sail up to Causey Pike on a Coledale Run

I also enjoyed a lovely day in Patterdale with Fix the Fells, fixing and bagging Place Fell:

more cloud inversions in Patterdale

I was getting better at navigation and was enjoying practising but on a run up Gray Crag, I lost my confidence in white out conditions.  It was a good learning experience and it's always better to be safe than sorry.

across Hayeswater, The Knott and High Street collecting cloud.  A few minutes later, the cloud would drop completely and I panicked and dropped down to the valley.

David and I had another walk.  This time up Helvellyn in the snow.  I remember being very cold standing around waiting for David to get the perfect photo.  It was worth it though:

on the top.  Photo by David Harrisson.  Check out and Like his Wainwright Fellwalker Facebook page

Final highlight for January was my first fell race.  The Blakes Heaven Fell Race, a short little race, designed as an easy start to the fell running calendar.  I had a great time despite still having some knee difficulties on the descent.

Blakes Heaven Fell Race

February saw more fell running.  A day out with Gerard, Jonathan and Andy and three visits to Knott was fun and funny.

climbing up to Meal Fell (as opposed to Knott)

I had a great walk with David and a few other mates in the less visited valley of Eskdale up to Pen.

blazing the trail up Little Narrowcove

On the other side of the valley, I had a walk with David where we found the Eskdale Needle.

the Eskdale Needle, looks like it is falling into the valley

I had pulled out of the Grizedale Forest 26.2 race and transferred my entry to Rivington.  Jonathan and I had a recce run around Rivington.  It was an enjoyable day out, all the more so for being finished off with an all-you-can-eat curry.  I can eat a lot.  Jonathan let the side down a bit... 

The best fell run of February though was a run from Langdale in snowy/icy conditions.  I went out on my own to practice navigation and test out my knee and did well on both counts.  I can remember running on hard packed snow (with microspikes) down from Great Carrs towards Grey Friar, it was like combining road and fell running, a flat hard surface but on a fell.  Great stuff.

Lingmoor Fell summit.  Swirl How and Great Carrs to the left.  Pike O' Blisco to the right above the trees.

With the GL3d looming, I was trying to get my distance up a bit.  Jonathan and I had a great twenty mile run with a rather amusing end to it.  This blogpost wrote itself.

"Having fun?"
"Legs ok?"
"got your car keys?"

I had a good solo run from Grasmere to Dockwray.  Looking back it was good experience of dropping down to the flat and then climbing back up again, something that would feature heavily in the GL3d.  I also planned a route that would take in Dowthwaitehead, which had been announced as the base for the GL3d.

Frozen Grisedale Tarn from the ski down Seat Sandal

A definite highlight was a run with Jonathan, Lee and Paul up a snowy Great Gable.  Jonathan lost his hat early in proceedings but soldiered on.

Paul and Jonathan heading down from Great Gable, a skilful and controlled descent.  If you look carefully, you can see a delicate grove in the snow made by my bum!

I was itching to get some camping done.  I wanted to practice running, camping and then getting up in the morning and running again as this would be something I would have to do on the GL3d.  I had a few goes at doing this and learnt a lot from the experience. 

The first time, I had a run over Glaramara (almost as difficult to climb as to spell), along to Allen Crags and then back via Styhead pass.  I was just running out of light on the way back but managed to get a decent ten or so miles in.  I camped out and then woke up in the morning to meet Jonathan and Gerard for a run to Seathwaite Fell, then up to Scafell Pike, down and back up to Great Gable and then back, another twelve or so miles.  This run gave me a lot of confidence.

at Seathwaite Fell on day two of my run-camp-run experiment

The second time, I camped at Wasdale Head and had a run over the top of Illgill Head and Whin Rigg.  It poured down all night and in the morning, the cloud was only just over the top of the Wasdale Head Inn.  I elected not to head out running but it was good experience in camping in the wet.

just escaping the cloud on day one

The GL3d.  This is the event I had been gearing up for.  It was fantastic.  There's a full write up here but the video is worth a look, especially with my cameo at the end:

Once the GL3d was out of the way, I turned my focus to completing the Wainwrights.  The rest of May and June, July and August involved plotting routes to allow me to bag the remaining tops.  One of my favourite runs in June was the Duddon Horseshoe.  This is a challenge walk or run (challenge meaning it can be done at any time).  The full distance (including the extra fell I added in) was a challenge.  I ran out of water on Dow Crag.  I promised myself some chips and a pint at the Newfield Inn where I had parked my car but when I got there, I just wanted to head home.  A really good route to walk or run this.

from Great Carrs looking over to Swirl How on the left.  Swirl How is the next checkpoint and then Dow Crag, the pointy fell middle right.

David and I had also been doing a bit of camping.  The light at the end and beginning of the day is the most dramatic for photographers and I just like getting out.  After a bit of a practice run on Lanthwaite Hill, we went for another camp out on Lingmell.  It was a nice sunny evening and I was up early and in work the next day.  It turned out David would get another picture in Trail Magazine:

in front of the Scafells and in the front of Trail Magazine

The highlight of July was probably the Skiddaw Fell Race.  This might have been the last time I was able to beat Jonathan in a race.  It was a very hot but enjoyable day.

The Conistathon was a soul triathlon event I had planned.  It involved one of the only times we had a lake swim this year - need to do more of that in 2014.  It also involved fighting through a lot of midges to bag my 210th Wainwright.  My plan to complete the Wainwrights on my birthday was looking good.

on Green Crag (Wainwright 210 for me)

I started August needing two more Wainwrights to complete my round.  First though, my big girl wanted to get number 6:

that moment when you can see the cairn...

Ling Fell bagged.

Then it was time for the big one, Fleetwith Pike and my final Wainwright.  Memorable for so many reasons.  Jonathan's first, and so far only, wildcamp.  Waking up on my birthday morning and bagging my final Wainwright and from having a slight hangover from having three beers the night before.

41 years old exactly and 214 Wainwrights completed (Photo: David Harrison)

Also in August, a special purchase meant that the whole family could head out for a run/bike.

the three women in my life

on the go

By September I was really starting to struggle with some Plantar Fasciitis.  I managed a nice run up Skiddaw from a different direction, returning down Longside Edge in the dark.

Skiddaw summit - light fading

We also had a nice run out around the Whinlatter area taking in Barf and the Bishop:

atop the Bishop of Barf

I was deep into heel misery by now and even took the extreme measure of buying some Hokas.  I tried them out on a trail run around Dodd Woods and they did seem to help.  Overall, sticking to softer ground and long slow rather than fast short runs seemed to help.

running up to Long Doors in my fancy new shoes with Bassenthwaite Lake behind

The purchase of some new Salomon Speedcross 3 reinvigorated my running.  They seem to have just the right amount of cushioning as well as grip and a great fit.  Hokas have plenty of cushioning but the grip is no good on anything but dry trail.

I got a number of great runs in during November.  The first was a Newlands Round variation, continuing on from Robinson, taking in Ard Crags and Knott Riggs.

looking down into the Newlands Valley from Dale Head and my route of ascent along the ridge from Catbells

Jonathan now had his marathon out of the way and was expressing interest in the Bob Graham Round.  I know that I'm a long way off being fit enough for this and Jonathan really struggles not to race every run he goes on (I've told him this many times!) but I thought I would enjoy a few recce runs.  We had a good day out messing about on the first leg, looping back along the railway track to Keswick.  The conditions were somewhat challenging in parts.


I've had two really nice long runs around Ennerdale in November, the first one by myself, running along the valley track before climbing up to Pillar and back along the tops to finish after about 22 miles.  The second was with Paul, a fell running mate who is a bit of a distance specialist.  We set off to do the Ennerdale Fell Race route but both agreed to cut it short due to flagging light and energy levels.  This was another 22 mile run but much more difficult due to the climbing involved.

Paul descending the scree down Gamlin End

The other good run in November was a run involving the Great Gable Remembrance Ceremony.  Very atmospheric and a great scree run down Wind Gap on the run we had afterwards.

Great Gable Remembrance Ceremony

And that's it, a great year!  What?  Oh yeah December.  December kind of fizzled out.  I started with manflu and never really got back on track.  Rotten weather dampened my desire to get out on the fells.  I had a nice run over Sale Fell, but it was dark so no pictures.  I also had a walk out over Hen Comb which I found very hard.  Other than that I enjoyed some family time and resisted getting talked into running a marathon again.

So I think 2014 will be focussed on long easy paced fell runs, some cycling and maybe a triathlon or two.  Once I finally kick this manflu of course...

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