Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A chocolate egg or a pickled egg?

It may be an odd title for a blog post, but both types of egg were on offer over my Easter weekend.....no surprises that I had a whole chocolate egg myself and left the pickled egg to the guys to fight over (though eating it did earn them a free steak and ale pie in the pub!).

My Easter weekend was rather varied in that it consisted of work (Good Friday isn't an NHS holiday in Scotland), catching up with old friends (some of whom I hadn't seen in 20 years), making new friends......and unsurprisingly eating, drinking and running!

Climbing up from Threlkeld
One of my GB trail teammates (Katie) was recceing the BGR (Bob Graham Round) over the course of the weekend, and so I decided to join her for Leg 2 on Saturday. This leg starts at Threlkeld and finished at Dunmail Raise. I'd thought of doing a bike/car shuffle by my friend Andy Jackson (credit to him for the photos) had the novel idea of us leaving our cars at Dunmail and running round to Threlkeld before returning along the BGR route.

I think I'm showing how cold I was...

The initial run was grand..... relatively warm temperatures and a nice sociable chatty paced run, but when we met Katie and her husband Casper at Threlkeld the pace picked up and the weather deteriorated. We chatted up the initial ascent but when we hit the ridgeline, the wind made it hard to hear each other. Not only that, but at times it was hard to make much forward progress.

Into the wind along the ridge
Unsurprisingly, there were few people out (how often are you alone on the top of Helvellyn on a Bank Holiday weekend?) and those that did commented on my shorts. In all honesty, my legs were nice and warm.....but is was a different kettle of fish for my hands and face. An "ice cream headache" might be the best way of describing the pain I had down the right side of my face/ear/eye etc.

Descending to Grizedale

I decided to duck out as soon as I could sensibly do so, but as it turned out, everyone decided to call it a day at Grizedale and so we all dropped down to Dunmail from there (luckily just as a bus was passing to take Katie and Casper back to Keswick).

Getting back to the warmth didn't help that much and my right eye and sinus streamed  all night and a lot of the next day so I sensibly opted out of a run.

Monday was the day chosen by another friend (Jon Whilock) for his Joss Naylor Challenge (Pooley Bridge to Wasdale in under 12 hours) and I was due to support him on Leg 2 (Kirkstone Pass to Dunmail Raise).

Leg 2 "The Doctors' Leg" support
 ready to go...
In order to avoid lots of car shuffling, I left my car outside Ambleside and "ran" the 3 miles up "The Struggle" to the Kirkstone Pass. I would say it's rather generous to call my forward motion running (especially as I fielded a phone call at the same time) but I managed to avoid walking the whole way up.

Simon and Jon climbing up
Jon was about 5 minutes down on his schedule at Kirkstone but just took a banana and powered on through (picking up myself and Simon - a fellow GP - for support whilst his  Leg 1 support came down off the hill slightly behind him. He was looking strong and remained so for the whole of that leg.

A nice runnable (if boggy) ridge

As usual I was worried about being rubbish on the descents, but most of them were grassy and so runnable (even for me). They dropped me on the scree path down from Fairfield but I caught back up on the climb up Seat Sandal. Between us (Simon was carrying Jon's water, while I had his food and clothes) we ensured he ate and drank well throughout the leg so left us for the next leg still looking strong.

Off Seat Sandal down to Dunmail
He was going so well that he actually left Dunmail 16 minutes ahead of schedule.....and he just got stronger and stronger, finishing the challenge in 11 hours and 20 minutes (well inside his predicted time).....great going and massive congrats Jon! Luckily I'm too young to even contemplate doing such a challenge myself (it's only for people who've turned 50) 😂😂😂

Friday, 14 April 2017

An accidentally busy weekend

The best laid plans of mice and men....
Enjoying an accidental race...

It started out with the idea of a nice bike ride out to help with the time-keeping for Screel hill race. This is a "local" one, so I'd forgotten that cycling out there whilst avoiding the main road where possible would be over 21miles. Still, we discovered a new cafe in Palnackie (ie en route) which served the most amazing chocolate cake so that was an added bonus.

Team DRC pre-race
A respite in the climb
On arriving at Screel, I changed into more comfortable shorts and shoes for wandering around in (the "nappy pants and cleats" look isn't the best!) and realised that I wasn't actually going to be needed for the timekeeping as there were 2 people doing it already. It was quite chilly in the shade of the trees at the start/finish area and I couldn't resist the draw of the sunshine higher up, so decided to enter the race, though I promised myself "no heroics"!

With this in mind, I started midpack (of the small select field), but found myself constantly passing people on the way up - you start straight a gravelly forest road, then move onto a rocky single track, followed by an open felled area with lots of stumps and roots, a muddy section in the trees, then a steep heathery climb to the first summit cairn.

I probably reached the sunny summit in about 5th place overall but that was really my run over. I headed along the rocky ridge path up and down to the next cairn, but realised that most people knew the area better than me. There was a boggy path that skirted round just below the ridge which appeared to be much more runnable, as guys seemed to shoot past and appear suddenly in front of me. When I finally crossed over to it, I found the going to be much better (if filthier) than scrabbling over rocks.

Not windmilling too much
 on the way down!
The last time I ran this race, there had been a lot of storm damage and so we descended steeply off the summit ridge and down to the forestry road for a longer run in along it (which suited me), but now the course has returned to closer to it's original line. This means that just before you reach the forestry road, a marshal sends you back up the hillside again. There is a faint trail, but it does involve some interesting scrambling - I found myself having to get my feet up to waistheight at certain points, and trying to find foliage that I could safely use to help haul myself up. Still, this climb meant that I could close back up to some of those that had shot past me on the ridge and descending, but all too soon it was more steep rough downhill.....and I waved "Byebye" to position after position.

The final run-in...
Fell runners are so friendly that you don't mind being overtaken - the guys always have a kind word as they barrel past you down the hill (while I pansy around trying to find good foot placements!). A last little run in down the forestry road still takes it out of quads that are tired even if the race itself it a very short one, but I was happy to finish in one piece, 17th overall, and in time to help serve water and drinks for thirsty runners. Not a fast time by any stretch of the imagination, but an accidental victory due to there being no speedy ladies there this year (I think I've been second on every other occasion I've run it!).

It would have been rude to pass the cafe again on the way home without a stop for an amazing lunch (that we eyed up on our first visit) but even that didn't make the hills seem easier on the way home!!

I hadn't realised how much I'd worked my calves until I almost fell over when getting out of bed the next morning....not the best thing to happen when you're about to head off with your clubmates to a 10 mile road race!

We were going to new event just east of Carlisle - the "3 Villages 10" - which you'll be unsurprised to hear is a 10 mile road race that goes through 3 villages (well, twice actually as it is a 2 lap course).

A brief warmup still left me feeling lethargic and as if I was going to tear my calf muscles any minute, so I started slightly off the front as the hooter sounded.
We started on a downhill slope of the main road through Wetherall, past the green and then up out into the countryside.
After some roadworks (the signals were kindly set to red so that we could run throguh without worrying about traffic coming the other way) we reached ran down and up into Scotby and then it was on to Cumwhinton before returning to Wetheral.

Ready for the off
Downhill starts seem to make people hare off as if it was a shirt track race, so it took me almost all of the first mile to catch up to and pass people I would usually expect to be in front of. By that time, the field had stretched out quite a lot and I found myself running mainly alone, gradually reeling a couple of guys ahead of me. I felt like I had little spring in my step, and it was rather hot as well as "undulating", so I knew that I wasn't going to run a great time. I caught up to a couple of guys at about 3.5 miles and one of them then came with me - actually running so close behind me that he almost took my shoe off on a couple of occasions.

It was very tempting to stop after the first lap, especially when I saw several friends out on the road both marshalling and supporting, but I knew I was then on a countdown to the finish. The next pair that I reeled in also tucked in behind for a couple of miles, but although we tried a bit, noone was up for much chat!

Finally finishing....
By the time I got to the 9 mile marker I was solo again - and it was very tempting to just jog it home as I didn't think there was another female close behind and I didn't see much point in flogging myself to move up a place or two in the overall results. Not wanting to be a pathetic woos, I forced myself to keep going right to the finish (the last mile was a good 1.25miles, which made up for the very short 9th mile to give an accurate distance overall) and was absolutely astonished to find that although the lead two men had been way ahead of the field, the two that I'd seen in front of me were actually 3rd and 4th overall.

Team DRC (with bling)!
As I said, not a time to write home about, but a good solid hard run on tired legs (and if it's a new race then it must surely be a course record) so definitely worthy of cake in the Village Hall afterwards!!