Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Dodds and Helvellyn

looking back to Calfhow Pike, little nub that can be seen from far away

Our planned route didn't quite go to plan today.  Paul had found an old fell route called something like The Great Western Frontier.  I haven't been able to find any details on it but the basic route is along to Threlkeld from Keswick, up Clough Head and along the Dodds to Helvellyn, drop down, around the back of Thirlmere over Armboth to High Tove, down to Watendlath, down to Rosthwaite, up through the old quarries (Dale Head fell race route) to High Spy and then down over Cat Bells and back to Keswick.  My heel was really sore and it got worse travelling down from Helvellyn so we ran back a bit through the woods and then hopped on the bus back to Keswick.

topping out at Clough Head, Derwent Water visible with Cat Bells behind, our intended final fell

looking over the Dodds towards Helvellyn

climbing up to Raise.  The ski lift can just be seen on the horizon

cloud over Browncove Crags and Thirlmere

Helvellyn summit trig

the way back

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hardly AC - Lords Seat from Whinlatter

on Seat How

Plan for tonight's Hardly AC run was a run from Whinlatter Visitor's Centre around the green walking trail (Seat How), taking in Lord's Seat and Barf.  I thought this would be a good run to do for those just getting to grips with head torch running.  Howard had set off around some of the other fells and had arranged to meet us at the visitor's centre.  He was on 19 miles when we met up with him.

After a short run from Revelin Moss car park, over the road from the visitor's centre, we gathered at the visitor's centre and met Howard.  He quickly filled up on water and caught us up as we set off up the green trail.

The trail starts with a steep climb, evening out after a few minutes and changing to an really nice, fairly gently undulating single track.

The track curves around teasingly looking as though it is heading for a summit before winding away and dropping back down.

We eventually got to Seat How, a summit within the forest.  We regathered here and took a few pictures.  Some keen runners eyed up The Grind, the steep way up and down Grisdale Pike.  There is talk of a future Hardly AC handicap challenge.

We decided at this point not to travel over to Barf.  Howard had already been that way and said it was very muddy.  So, from Seat How we carried on along the track, veering off at the point where we recognised the track up to Lords Seat summit.

We regathered at the summit, didn't hang around too long as it was getting cooler but, head torches were applied, some even turned them on!  They were not really needed at this point but as we ran back down through the forest they were.

green track, nice trail

Seat How summit

Seat How summit (The Grind behind)

Lord's Seat summit - fading light makes photos blurry

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Barf and Lords Seat

Gerard and Stephen up on Lords Seat

Jonathan smiling for the camera
We met later on on Saturday to have a look at the route directly up Barf via The Bishop.  A bit too hard for a Hardly AC run was the conclusion but we still had a really lovely run out in great conditions.

We parked at the bottom of the scree opposite the old Swan Hotel and headed straight up.  You soon get to The Bishop, the painted white rock which supposedly marks the point where the Bishop of Derry fell to his death in the 1700s after betting that he could ride his horse up the scree.

The Bishop is actually quite low down on the scree but the way up is arduous.  After the rock, the path splits into two tracks.  We have taken both tracks, they both lead to the same point, below the rocky ledge just below Slape Crag but on this occasion, we confirmed that the path to the right is much better.

Up one rocky ledge by taking the gully through and then you cross Slape Crag on the path.  There is one slightly difficult step to make, a scramble with good holds, just time needed to work out how to bend your body around the rock.  Jonathan was last up and I was a bit concerned when I called back and heard no response.  Eventually though, Jonathan emerged, rubbing his knee which he said he had whacked on the corner of the rock.  Ouch.  We obviously gave him lots of sympathy and made sure he was ok before carrying on.

Jonathan on the steep eastern slopes, old Swan Hotel below
The path then winds up to the final shelf which becomes grassy again just before the summit.  As Stephen and I got up there, Gerard was already on top admiring the views.

After a few pictures on top, we headed across to Lords Seat.  This area can be a little bit boggy at times but was dry tonight.

We were running into the sun but it was the time of the evening when the light makes the mountains even more beautiful.

Gerard and Stephen got to the top first again and we regathered here.

We then set off down through Whinlatter Forest.  

As it was late and quiet, we decided to have a run on the mountain bike route.

Obviously these tracks are not meant for running on and it's not something I would do at busier times as mountain bikers would be very unhappy to come across a group of runners.  On this occasion, we didn't see anybody else and enjoyed a nice run through the forest.

Gerard, first time at The Bishop
Gerard sat on top of Barf with Stephen about to go up the final bit of track to the summit

top of Bark

at Lords Seat

heading over to Whinlatter Forest from Lords Seat
We headed down once we hit the second section of forest track and then worked our way back to the track which takes you back to Barf.

We took the steep track down through the woods.  Head torches were needed for this final section which is very steep but brought us out at the car.

the last bit of the MTB trail.
7 or so miles

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gear and Safety

I'm very happy that my little running group Hardly AC has taken off.  We started in the summer months with a classic loop around Gowbarrow Fell and since then have put on a different route every Wednesday evening.  I didn't really have any aims for the group, I wasn't even particularly wanting it to be a group, I just posted on Facebook that I was going for a run and invited others to come with me.

It's been really rewarding to see new runners and runners new to the fells getting out and feeling confident about getting around our routes which sometime, yes I'll admit it, have a fair degree of climbing.  So far we have been blessed with daylight and good weather and these have been ideal conditions to get used to running in the fells.  I really want people to keep coming out on a Wednesday but it's time to take a serious look at safety and kit.  A few bits of essential kit can give you the confidence to carry on going out in bad weather and when it gets dark.  It will hopefully also make sure that, if something does go wrong, you are equipped to get down safely.

I'm not pretending to be an expert but I've learnt a fair bit with trial, error and the advice of others.

Please have a read and I would welcome comments or corrections:

For me, important planning factors to consider are weather conditions, route/terrain and distance/difficulty.  Gear for a crisp winter weekend is very different to a wet and windy winter evening.  I have a range of kit to choose from and to try to make sure I take what I need, I have a simple checklist:

I'm not suggesting you need everything for every run but if I go down this list and decide whether I need it or not for the run I have planned.

I've already seen a couple of omissions:

First is a headtorch.  I've just bought a brilliant one for £150 but they start at £10.  Go for the brightest you can afford (you will be more confident and able to go faster) and think about the need for spare batteries.

As well as this I will take a first aid kit.  Not a full kit but essentials such as a range of plasters and a bandage.  In a group I would say that it's not necessary for everyone to have a first aid kit but it's important to think that groups can be split up, choosing different routes.  

Going down the list, drink/food may not be required for the shorter distances we plan but if you stop, get lost or have an energy slump, you will be very glad of it.

Map/compass/gps.  I'm not a fantastic navigator, particularly at night.  Practice makes perfect and the group situation does give some security.  A GPS is a useful back up, it should tell you more or less exactly where you are.  Spare batteries are another consideration.  If you can't use a map and compass, learning to do so is very rewarding and empowering.

A phone is obviously useful if you do need to call for help.  I have been in situations where I have been absolutely fine but out on the fells for much longer than anticipated.  A text with a revised ETA can prevent unnecessary worry.  Phones can also have location aps, compass aps etc but I would say use as a back up rather than first option.

There are times in the winter where you can be confident that a waterproof is not needed.  However, a spare top and emergency shelter should be considered essential.  What I have learnt through experience is that if one person doesn't have something like a warm top or an emergency blanket/shelter, it makes the group vulnerable.  If you have been running (and sweating) you get cold very quickly when you stop.  If you give an injured runner your top to keep warm, you need to find a way to keep warm yourself.  Some people use a buff as a hat.  Buffs can have a multitude of uses including keeping your head/face warm or as an improvised bandage.

Spikes if the conditions warrant it and cash if you find yourself wandering into the wrong valley.

When it comes to buying kit, you pretty much get what you pay for.  Some of the more expensive equipment is designed to be superlight and aimed at racers.  Having said that, something like an OMM or inov8 smock jacket is a great piece of kit that will tuck away nicely into a back pack.

One recommendation I will make is one of these emergency shelters:

Shop around because I'm sure I picked one up for about £5.  The foil emergency blankets are pretty useless really.  This will sit in the bottom of your bag and hopefully never have to be used.

Cotswolds, George Fisher, Planet Fear, Needle Sports all have decent gear to check out.  If you're on a budget, some decent gear can be found in the discount shops like Mountain Warehouse, Field and Trek, but you do get what you pay for.

As I said, I'm no expert.  This is some of what I have learnt.  I don't want to scare anybody away but I think the group responsibility thing is important to emphasise.

If you're unsure, there are plenty of people in the group who can give gear recommendations.

It is invigorating to realise that you can go out in (almost) any conditions.  Have a look at the photo's below to see:

one of my favourite days out - worth a read here.

Blake Fell in very different conditions to last week

Jonathan, about to get cold and rained on, for fun.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hardly AC Blake Fell

the gang on top of Sharp Knott about to tackle the last climb up to Blake Fell

Our Wednesday evening runs with Hardly AC continue to be a great success.  We had a run around Blake Fell and some great running ground in the West of Cumbria.  We definitely had the sense of racing the sunset tonight so head torches are going to be mandatory for the next run.

Nice to have a few new people turn up.  Hopefully, they enjoyed themselves and found a good balance between a challenge without it being intimidating.

Next week, we're looking at Whinlatter forest with the option of heading on to Lords Seat and some of those fells if the weather and will is good.

just setting off down the Cogra Moss track

first climb up from the tarn to the forest track

Blurry selfies

climbing up to Sharp Knott from the end of the track - Blake's Heaven Fellrace ground

top of Sharp Knott, the group reassemble

looking back on the climb up to Blake Fell

Blake Fell peeping through to Buttermere, Fleetwith Pike visible mid right behind the water.

about 6.5 miles

The run down from Blake Fell was great downhill running.  Two of the party had gone back the other way and we were a little concerned when we got back to the car park and they were not there.  A good chance to try out my head torch and we headed back up the track to see them coming towards us after a few minutes.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love my little running group.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gosforth 10k 2014

right near the end, me in the yellow,  I had a bit of a speed spurt and was able to make up a few places

The Gosforth 10k is a local run seen as a fast course with many people heading there looking for a PB.  I've stayed away from road running and particularly trying to go fast for a while now as I've worked out that it aggravates my plantar fasciitis.

Jonathan was heading down to the race and I thought, why not.  We had done the SBU35 on the Saturday and this was the following Tuesday.  Jonathan and I agreed to have an easy run around but once we got going, we felt pretty good.  Our planned 9 minute miles turned into a 7 or so minute mile.  After a few miles, I told Jonathan it was a bit fast for me and dropped back with him surging on and coming in a good two minutes ahead of me.

It was a beautiful night and the course covers some gorgeous ground.  Towards the end, I had a bit of strength left and started to pick people off.  I was pleased not to be overtaken at the end apart from by one person who had a real sprint finish and came in just before me.

Considering the miles in my legs, the finish time of:

was very satisfactory.  Afterwards, we had a pint and hung out for a bit at the pub.  Good times.

Joss Naylor was there for the little award ceremony afterwards.  I didn't harass him.

Hardly AC infiltrating Cumberland AC at the start

photobombing Lucy's picture of her sister Rachel, who got a PB

game face

me and Jonathan sporting his and her inov8 jackets

Thursday, September 11, 2014

St Bega's Ultra 2014

at the finish with my girls

Up until recently, The St Bega Ultra (SBU35), a 35, actually 37, mile run from Dodd Wood to St Bees along the St Bega Way was going to be my longest run this year.  However, a little while ago, I won an entry to The Cumbria Way Ultra, a 73 mile run along The Cumbria Way.  The Cumbria Way was two weeks after the SBU35 which meant that the SBU35 would fit in well as my last long run.

Through the regular Hardly AC runs, I had managed to persuade a few of the regulars to sign up and we agreed to run as a group with an aim of finishing rather than racing.  This suited my needs well.  All was looking good.

The race HQ is at St Bees School, a pretty famous private school.  Once we were signed up and had our kit checked we were put on coaches and taken to the start in Dodd Wood on the side of Bassenthwaite Lake.  The start of races, or the time just before the start of races, is usually a nervous time but I was quite relaxed, looking forward to a good day out with friends.

Lucy, Rachel and I pre-race

Stephen (There's no I in TEAM) Brown

There was a bit of nervous chatter on the bus and it's quite a long bus journey which did make you realise the distance we were about to cover.  Immediately off the bus there was a queue for the toilets and then we walked up to the start point.

The race starts with a gentle climb up along the forest track before dropping off to the right and then steeply down through the woods to the road.  There is a short road section before crossing the flat farmland at the south of Bassenthwaite Lake to get to Portinscale.  As you cross these fields, you can see the Lakeland fells in front.  Beautiful.

crossing towards the fells

The route then goes along the side of Derwentwater to Rosthwaite.  This is familiar ground, having been on similar routes on recent runs including the Scafel Pike Marathon.  So far, we had been taking it pretty easy, sticking together as a group, waiting for people who wanted to go a bit slower.  The route around Derwentwater and along to Rosthwaite is nice running ground.  I knew it would get harder after the checkpoint at Rosthwaite so was happy to chat away.

trail selfies - me and Lucy heading along the edge of Derwentwater

the rest of the gang

We continued on, but as we were going into the woods where Dalton's Cave is, one of the gang ran off ahead.  I am not going to dwell on his actions, suffice to say that he broke the golden bond of running friendship, something deeper than blood and that bond can never be repaired.  There were a few terse words among the rest of the Hardly clan.  As we got to the checkpoint at Rosthwaite, we saw the traitor on his way out  "See ya later" he shouted sheepishly over his shoulder as he nicked off.

Shortly after Rosthwaite, the course gets much more difficult.  There is a steep grassy climb which also marks the start of the long climb over Honister to the steep descent down Loft Beck.

steep climb up at the start of the climb to Honister Slate Mine

continuing over the Slate Mine and then over the fells to Ennerdale

fake happiness for the camera

looking back to the rest of the gang, crossing the open fell

Rachel manages to get across the river

It also started to rain as we headed over Honister.  This is the highest and most exposed part of the run.  The descent down Loft Beck was also going to be more difficult in wet conditions.  Jackets on and we forged ahead.  We met Hardly AC member Phil on top of Honister and posed for a few pics before carrying on to that descent down Loft Beck.  I had chosen to wear Hokas.  I was to find out that this was not the best choice but they were surprisingly good for grip and I got down to Ennerdale without difficulty.  I waited at the bottom for the others and then we pushed on to Black Sail Hut.  After this, the terrain becomes very different.  It's a forest track, undulating but runnable.  The track is actually really hard on the feet though with large stones which can be felt through your shoes as you run along.  The cushioning of my Hokas really worked here.  On the recce, I had wore Speedcross 3 which hurt quite a bit.

We pushed the pace on here.  Lucy is a racer and I could tell she was finding it hard to hold back.  We did some fast miles but we were still stopping to wait for the whole team, well almost the whole team - one had already nicked off, if you remember...

Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre, about 22 miles in, was the location of the second aid station.  I took my shoes off here to try to apply some plasters over hotspots on my feet.  My feet were far too wet for the plasters to stick and I didn't want to hang around too long so I put my shoes back on and we set off.

The rest of the run along Ennerdale went in quite quickly despite me remembering it as one of the long sections of the course.  Before long we were running around the bottom end of the lake, peeling off onto the track to Dent.

Hardly Train rolls on

After a bit of road, which involved walking up the hills, we dropped down to the track to Dent.  The top of Dent is a nice marker, you can see over to the coast and St Bees and you know you are on the last stretch.

Jonathan dropping down to the track towards Dent.

Before you get up Dent though, you have the steep climb known as "bummers".  It's a steep climb with switchbacks, tough at the best of times but when it comes at 30 miles into a run, it's not fun.  This is the point that Lucy surged ahead to try to catch up with you know who.

Dent towards the sea

There is a nice descent off Dent, leading down to forest tracks and into the village of Cleator and the last aid station.  We stocked up on food and drink and waited for the rest of the party.  The people at the aid station told us that Lucy and the person who nicked off, who I am not going to go on about, were at the aid station at the same time, they had only been there a few minutes before us apparently.

From the aid station, the course goes along the cycle track and then over a few fields to the finish back at the school.  We took it easy on this stretch, running but going slowly.

As we got to the edge of the school fields, we heard an air horn, then ran down the grass bank and along to the end.  Very happy to have finished.  My family were waiting for me and I got some pictures with them, then I had a pint, then a smoothie, then I went home for a bath.

"we've done it mate!"

"Fx@k Yeah!"

"Cheers"  If you look at the top right, you can see Hannah and Fiona in this picture.