Some Stuff About Me ......

My photo
I live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire with my wonderful wife and soul-mate Helen. I have two incredible sons - Evan and Matthew - who are occasionally show up at home, usually when they're hungry or need money. The three of them are the best thing that ever happened to me and I love them all. I spent over 24 years in the Royal Navy, but since I packed it all in and got a proper job my life has gone from strength to strength and I've never looked back. I am a die-hard soul music fan and this remains a serious passion, but in recent years my life has been dedicated to running on the fells and trails of Northern England, it's what I was made for. Please read about my adventures and experiences ...

Friday, 1 November 2013

Chevin Shenanigans

Went to Otley last night to take part in the inaugural Chevin Chiller, an off-road, hallowe'en fun run that ended up being taken rather seriously by a good proportion of the local fell runners .  It was all a bit of a drama getting there, Helen was working late so I picked her up on the dot of 7.00pm and we bombed over there, mate Carol had collected our numbers for us already and we had time for a bit of headtorch/shoe adjustment, pee in the undergrowth etc before the start of the race. I charged off way too fast, for some reason I'd got it in my head that the course was less hilly than it was and I struggled accordingly. Actually no, that's not right - I recovered and paced the later part of the race better, but towards the end I knew the damage had already been done and 4 or 5 runners annoyingly passed me on the climb to the finish. Still good fun though, my watch said 36.41 and I don't think that's too bad for an off-road event event on top of a big chuffing hill on a dark and dampish night.  Must do a few more fast training reps though, my leg turnover is as slow as hell nowadays. There were quite a few decent off-roaders present there and I am curious to know the winning time, am sure it will be way under 30 minutes .... also interesting was the way the field seperated, fell-runners are by the nature of the sport inclined to run in the dark and there was a significant gap between these erstwhile folks and the runners who had come along for the fun of it and perhaps weren't as used to running by headtorch or throwing themselves down slippy descents in pitch darkness.  Good result for Carol (2nd lady I think), don't know where I finished - will be disappointed if it's not in the top half of the field though.

It was late by the time I finally got to bed and of course it's a swim day today ... up at 0530 to go and crash out some distance, actually I had a surprisingly nice swim. Emma wasn't there today, so I did my own thing in a nearly deserted pool .... ended up doing about 54 lengths, in a 30m pool that's just over 1600m, so far enough. It was actually good to have the leisure to focus on some technique, I have several flaws in my stroke that I'm struggling to iron out, however it did occur to me this morning that I'm much better in the water when I really focus on my breathing. I try and swim all my reps bilaterally nowadays (breathing both sides - not as easy as you'd think) and am convinced that I don't exhale properly, what I mean by this is that 1) I don't make best use of the oxygen I've drawn into my body and b) I'm not getting enough CO2 out in order to get a decent lungful in its place. Really did work on this during the session and was surprised by how much stronger I felt per interval rep (120m). A few more sessions like that would do me the world of good.
Helen out tonight with the girls, so I am an independed soul for a few hours:

Thoughts for the day:

- Spear the fish and put it in your pocket

- Pull, bite, suck
Something to consider eh?

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Robbed With a Smile

Had to take my car in for its second service yesterday, I knew that would mean expensive and braced accordingly.

I have to say, the team at Harrogate Audi are robbing b*****s of the very highest order but by golly they do it in a nice way. I bumped up there at 0800 and was met in the Service Reception by a whole flock of heavily made-up and mini-skirted girlies, all [apparently] desperate to make me a cuppa and escort my weary legs to a comfy seat. A brisk, professional exchange of keys took place - lots of lipstick and teeth going on here - and very shortly my appointed bimbette whisked me outside to my courtesy car, her high heels beating an impressive stacatto on the showroom flow. And what a nice car it was - a brand new Audi A6, less than 600 on the clock and enough buttons inside to baffle a fighter pilot. Naturally, I stood no chance and nearly caused a major pile-up in Knaresborough town centre due to my inability to operate the push-button handbrake.

Returning at 5.30pm, the smiles and lipstick had faded a tad, and I daresay the poor lasses were entertaining thoughts of comfy bunny-rabbit slippers, but it was still slick as you like and I had a couple of posh oatmeal cookies to accompany my gourment cuppa. My account was recited to me with a beaming smile and having parted with the best part of 300 quid, I was invited to rate my service. Naturally, I was "exceptionally satisfied". Anything less, I felt, would have been greeted with consternation and goings-on, but not resulted in a reduction in my bill and in reality kept everyone from their slippers.

Reading the service schedule, I've just parted with all that brass for what was effectively an oil change and a good look round the car - no remedial work was required. Of course, what I DID get was the service stamp in the logbook and maintained the integrity of the warranty, Audi know this and that's why they get away with it.

A licence to print money? I should say.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Old Enemy

So, last night I headed up to the gym to renew my acquaintance with the Jacob's Ladder machine, aka hill-climber or stepper. I used this device extensively during my BGR training last year and hate the thing with a passion, however it's effectiveness is indisputable and it helped me build the leg strength required to even stand a chance at a successful round. Anyhow, my usual session on this is 30 minutes broken down into 3 x 10m segments, at the end of every segment I coast down to the ground and towel off, quick drink and stretch, then back on - so maybe 20 seconds of recovery. When I first started I maintained around 80 feet of climb per minute, however as time went on and I matched it to aerobic heart rates I upped that to 90 feet per min and that was my target yesterday, the goal being to climb 2,700ft minimum. All went well to start off with, heart rate was nicely below my threshold and I felt like I was moving well, however by the third segment I was starting to feel it and was struggling to keep the 90ft cadence going while maintaining a sub-143 HR (or 75% WHR). It crept up inexorably and so I decided to just to hold the cadence and see how I finished .... it was ugly. Sweat was dripping off my face in torrents and my legs were crying for mercy, I just held on to the end before collapsing in a snotty heap on the floor. Final figure was 2,835ft in 30m, but I allowed my HR to get up to lactate threshold in the final segment and that won't do at all. I intend to work at this and get some leg strength back, I could do with rebuilding my "guns" a bit anyhow! It's all a far cry from last year when I clobbered the gym record with 3,000ft in 29.17m, that's an average cadence of 102ft/m. I won't be troubling that again methinks.

Good swim session this morning. My swim partner Emma has been selfishly absent for the past few weeks (away on courses and recovering from a couple of 50-mile ultras. Pffft), so it was nice to have some focus today. A good hour in the water and some very telling drills, I think I've identified some significant weaknesses in my stroke and we'll be working on that. A few more like that and I'll be well happy.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Surprise PB

Helen and I headed up to the Lakes early on Saturday morning, it was going to be a big day: Not only was it the Langdale Horseshoe fell race (one of our favourites) but it was also the bi-annual BGR dinner and I daresay wild horses wouldn't have stopped me going.

Anyhow, despite fairly poor weather in Yorkshire, things brightened up a great deal as we got closer to the west coast and it was clear that conditions were going to be pretty good. As we drove up Langdale, I could see just a little bit of cloud hanging over Crinkle Crags and although the summit of Bowfell was pretty much obscured, I knew I could navigate up and over it without too much of a problem. Well, we had a cracking race: It was the usual mad dash from the start as things start to bottleneck when you begin the long slog up to Stickle Tarn and everyone wants to get as far up the field as they can, but I honestly enjoyed every minute, it was one of those moments where I knew exactly where I was going and what I had to do, things unfolded much as I wanted. Yes, the traverse under Esk Pike was as horrible as it always is and I made a couple of minor navigational faux paus, but nothing worth writing home about.

My goal - based on a previous PB of around 3.37 - was to finish under 3.30, but as I reached the CP on the summit of Pike O'Blisco I realised that I was comfortably under three hours and that I was going to destroy that time. I belted across the summit plateau like a fool and soon picked up the runner's trod for the descent to Langdale. A mate from Horsforth Fell and Dale was on my heels all the way down and I believe we pushed each other to an entirely unexpected PB of 3.14.44, that's 23 minutes up on last year!

I'm over the moon with this. I don't expect PBs nowadays and run on the fells for the joy of it, not to chase rainbows .... however this result tells me I'm doing something right and all the work I've done this year on my descending technique must have paid off to some degree. Bobs wasn't too far behind me, she lopped 17 minutes off her PB for this race too so all in all we did pretty good. It's a curious thing though, you'd have expected me to do my best at this race off the back of all that BG training I did last year, but apparently not!

A quick cheer for the winners at the awards presentation (along with a few of the famous Langdale Horseshoe pasties) and we off to Shap for the BGR dinner, lots of mud to scrub off. Well, I did anyhow; I believe several people mistook a good layer of Langdale grime for Helen having a nice suntan from our recent holiday. 

I'm going to be writing a close-out BGR blog shortly, so details of the dinner will have to wait I'm afraid. Suffice it to say that it was a proper good 'un.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Getting Stuck Up Brenda .....

Today finds me in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote and coming to the end of a two-week sojourn out here. It came just in time, Helen and I were completely frazzled by Life and everything that goes with it, so we made a very deliberate decision to chill and not feel obliged to do anything. In this, I think we've been pretty successful - I can't recall a holiday when I lazed around quite so much, the weather has been fantastic and we have taken full advantage of it. We're in the same villa as last year, a cracking place with a superb outlook over Playa Blanca and Montana de La Brena Chica ("Brenda") and of course I have had to renew my acquaintance with its rocky slopes, just as I have with the extinct volcano just down the road. It's been ace, I've ran, swam, read Mike Cudahy's "Wild Trails To Far Horizons" and drank a lot of beer and rioja.

Am mildly surprised it's been such a while since I last blogged - such a lot has happened over the past few months ..... our friend Emma didn't get round her BGR, a few things went wrong and while we're not 100% sure of the reason as to why she ran out of steam, the good news is that she will be going back and I'm confident that she will nail it. We've taken a bunch of clubmates out on BGR leg 2 for a bit of a Lakeland Fells experience, We've also ran the Yorkshireman Off-Road marathon, coming a creditable 4th mixed pair and just before flying out here supported our friend Stolly on leg 1 of on his successful BGR, so all in all we've had some quality time out in the hills.

On a completely different tack, my brother (who lives in Australia) decided to come and visit, taking us all by surprise.  He had originally come to Finland to visit his son/my nephew, so I suppose it was as convenient as it ever would be to hop over to England. I knew it was going to be stressful, despite my best efforts he and I don't really see eye to eye and as my mum wanted to come along and visit us in Harrogate - bringing him with her of course - I had to be on my best behaviour. It was very hard work indeed, he is clearly uncomfortable when not on home turf and sadly couldn't bring himself to indulge an old lady - that's my mum - and bury the hatchet for the day.  He blames me for a lot - some of it is justified I guess - amongst other things I joined the navy when he was just 14 and he therefore had to go through all the crap associated with my parents' divorce by himself ..... we haven't had much contact since he emigrated, much to my regret. I hope that one day we can be friends, because I believe that blood IS thicker than water, but right now it doesn't look like time has been much of a healer.

See what I mean by a lot going on? That's why we were frazzled and I don't mean by the sun. Slightly compounding this, we had to pack both boys off to University and that made long journeys with a car full of gear to opposite ends of the country. I tell, you it's not easy.  Helen will be pleased to have her house back though and I suspect that next week we'll be detoxing the place. They're a pair of proper grubs and I'm expecting the worse, particularly in brat #1's bedroom.

So my holiday has come to an end. It hasn't all been lazing around the pool though, as usual the most interesting part of any holiday is people-watching and we both do it, albeit looking for different traits. We Brits are crap out of are own country aren't we? I have been deeply distressed by the sight, sound and behaviour of a lot of my countrymen (and women) over the past two weeks and really, it's no surprise that we've got such a bad reputation. We're so easy to spot .... young blokes with grotesque beer bellies and a rolled-up copy of "The Sun", girls hobbling along with plasters on their feet because the holiday sandals were more show than go, overweight, middle-aged men with unintelligible (if you're not English) northern accents, belligerantly and loudly pontificating about how fuckin' shite the beer is, acres and acres of burnt, wobbly flesh, mostly adorned with faded and stretched tattoos .... I could go on.  It does strike me that perhaps it's just me that finds the behaviour of Brits abroad distasteful, so it's a good thing I could hide in our villa and only venture out when the need for food and/or exercise demanded it.

Helen is probably right, I really AM a grumpy old bastard.

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Day In The Lakes Triathlon

I did this triathlon a couple of weekends ago, my first at half-ironman distance. I suppose you'd expect me to come out with all sorts of superlatives when trying to describe such an event in the heart of the Lake District, however I think I'll have to sum it up thus: fooking tough.  I did quite a bit of training in prep, certainly I don't think I could have done much more without affecting other facets of life and on the day I suppose it served me well, but this wasn't quite the shining performance I'd hoped for. Silly really, if I wanted to do a good time I'd have chosen a race with a more benign course, however you can't blame me for wishing!
Swim - Helen told me that everyone left the water looking ashen-faced and I can believe it. In training the week before I swam jetty-to-jetty in Ripon lake (1.1 miles, half-IM distance is 1.2) in 31 minutes, so thought 36 minutes would be reasonable on the day. Wrong. There was a hell of a Southerly wind and we went straight into it on the outbound leg, it made for a lot of chop and was literally like swimming uphill. I got out of the water after around 42 minutes and was easily in the top third of my wave.  There followed a long run up to timing point where transition began, overall about 44 minutes - a bit disappointing really.
T1 - Severe faffage. Put on cycle top, armwarmers and socks. Messed up badly with the socks, having two with "R" on them. Momentary confusion until I realised that they weren't paired (I'll get her for this later), this came back to haunt me on the run with a poor-fitting sock. Anyhow, just over 4 minutes. Fairly crap, really.

Bike - Went off feeling strong and tried to keep a steady pace until Kirkstone. That same Southerly wind was straight in our faces and made for an interesting climb, lots of expletives and rude words employed. Fast descent. Things went OK, climbed Shap Fell reasonably well, a hell of a fast descent from there and I surprised myself by being flat over the handlebars with the speedo indicating 45 - 48mph, this is quick for me. New Mavic wheels make a difference.

 I faded in the last 5 miles, should have had a gel or something to push me along, I have no idea why I didn't do this! Into transition in 3.48.

T2 - much better. On with trail shoes (yes, and two right-footed socks), off with armwarmers, grab bumbag and away. About 2 minutes.  Am not sure that a cycling top is a good idea for running, but there you go - live and learn.

Run - Felt dreadful to start with, the climb out of Pooley Bridge was agony. I know this piece of the Lakes well, having ran it on L50 recces and also on the Tour de Helvellyn, but it made no difference. Legs took at least 5 miles to wake up, I wasn't being passed but also wasn't making any ground up. Finally got going towards the top of the climb up Wether Hill and bombed down the fell into Martindale, overtaking loads.

You could easily spot the non-fellrunners, there was lots of fannying around going on on the descents. The last three miles were on road and it was pretty painful, I did what I could and caught my last target (guy with Soreen cycling top) and sprinted the last few hundred yards. I knew it would be close ..... my target was sub-seven hours ....... final time 7.01.25.   I was annoyed at the time, but it's all part of the experience I guess.

I've got a better idea of what it takes to do one of these races now and despite some disappointment with the final time, I really did enjoy it. After a quick cuppa we headed back to our rather nice B&B in Pooley Bridge, then it was over to the neighbouring pub for some celebratory beer.  I feel I will be back to give "A Day In The Lakes" another go, I can do better.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Murky Depths

So, I went to Ripon Lake last night for my last training session prior to my dubious participation in the Day In The Lakes Triathlon (a half-ironman) this forthcoming Sunday. Swimming isn't my weakest discipline (cycling is) but paradoxically it's the one I've put most work into this year. I was determined to become a better swimmer, so since January/February I have been doing three solid sessions a week and taught myself to breathe bilaterally i.e. on both sides - harder than you might think - dramatically improving my front crawl stroke into the process.

However, for one reason or another, predominantly weather I suppose, I've been slow to get into Open Water and in fact only ventured back to Ripon Lake a couple of weeks ago, however since then I've been about 6 - 7 times and I'm glad, because to be honest OWS is a completely different matter to swimming in a pool. It's hard to swim bilaterally in the lake, your sighting goes all to pot and now I understand why so many elites breathe unilaterally, also you can get a lot more air in that way and believe me, you need it. Soooo, last night was a try-out for the big day .... Ripon lake is in the middle of the racecourse and the NYP Triathlon club (NYP = North Yorkshire Police) have the rights there. Starting from the landing jetty and swimming around both islands, it's about 1.1 miles so, given that my swim target is 35 - 36 minutes I thought it would be good if I could get back in around 32 minutes. As it turned out, I had a belting swim, my sighting was much better than in recent swims, and I got back in a touch over 31 minutes. If I can swim like this or better on the day, I will be very happy.

I have to be philosophical about it though. Ullswater will be much, much colder than Ripon Lake and there will be a lot more bodies splashing around and trying to punch/kick and swim over you. Realistically, if I do it anywhere under 38 I suppose I should be grateful. Also, there are diminishing returns here .... I will really have to up my stroke rate to get in a fast time and this is a LONG race. I should really save my best shot for the bike, that's where the real time savings are.

On the subject of bike, I have fitted my new wheels (Mavic Ksyrium Elite) and the difference they make is astounding. I went out for my last long ride over the weekend, getting totally soaked into the process. The bike seems to leap forward much more eagerly, I suppose they ARE considerably lighter. I've still got to face up to Helen's wrath when she sees the credit card bill, but hey-ho. I've weathered that storm before. I may buy flowers and chocolate in advance.

The run route is pretty familiar, as it forms part of the both the Tour de Helvellyn and Lakeland 50/100. Basically, you start in Pooley Bridge and head out to the Eastern shore of Ullswater then follow the trail down to Howtown and Fusedale. It does part of the climb up Wether Hill before turning around, through Martindale and then back along the road to the finish. By fell-running standards, this is pretty benign. Of course, I will be knackered by the time I come to it so am not expecting any miracles. My last off-road race of any consequence was the Wharfedale Half and I had a terrific run, so hope springs eternal.

I can still smell neoprene on my skin. I obviously didn't spend enough time in the shower. Perhaps I should have used soap.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

From Grassington to Chamonix

It's been rather a relaxing weekend by recent standards and a good thing too - I endured last week in a kind of sonambulistic haze (look it up) and only started coming to life around Friday lunchtime. This was entirely due to my participation in the previous weekend's Fellsman. This is a 61-mile slog across most of the high ground in Yorkshire and designed to make grown men cry. Full marks to the designers then, but to merely call this event a Fell Race or an Ultra is not really telling the story.
So yes, the weekend: Friday night I took Helen to a rather posh Chinese restaurant in town (Harrogate). The surroundings are not exactly oriental, in fact they're nothing like it if I'm honest, the establishment is housed in part of the old Royal Baths building, presumably that's why it's so bloody expensive. The fabric of the building was extensively restored at some cost a few years back and since the chogie restaurant took up residence, people have spoken with bated breath about the fine grub on offer. Totally overrated if you ask me, way too expensive for what you got and I won't be going back. Here, have a look:
Anyhow. The rest of the weekend was consumed by loads of sadly-neglected DIY tasks that have built up into a fairly formidable list and an easy run Saturday (which wasn't easy), a nice bike ride on Sunday and a very good pool session on Monday evening. I think I'm just about bouncing back from the Fellsman now, I don't suppose it's any surprise that I've been knackered - just thinking about it makes me tired.  The race itself started at 0900 on Saturday 27th and you have until around 1600 the following day (ie. about 33 hours) to complete it, though most will be aiming for under 24 hours at the very least. Just over 400 of us started the race, I was told that the average attrition rate is about 1 in 4 and that proved to very accurate as there were 95 withdrawals.  It was cold to start with, bitterly so on top of Ingleborough and I did fear the worst for a while, however the day warmed up and by the time we were running the ridge between Gragareth and Great Coum the sun was shining and all traces of snow and ice had disappeared. Before I forget, I must mention the incident I saw when descending Ingleborough via the Swine Tail: It was very icy/slippy and while everyone was being careful, the whole situation was exacerbated by a group of walkers coming UP the path. Some silly tw*t decided he couldn't wait and tried to cut a corner, the result - predictably - was that he lost his footing on the icy ground and flew down the slope, colliding with one of the walkers who was slowly picking his way upwards, He smashed into the (quite elderly) gentleman with both feet, all I can say is that it was a miracle that nobody was badly hurt. It's this sort of stuff that gets fell runners a bad name .... the least he could have done was apologise, but he didn't even do that! Sigh.
Anyhow, apart from Helen falling into a deep bog on the aforementioned ridge leading to Great Comb, it went pretty well, we reached Dent for the first big checkpoint (there are 24 in total) and I was surprised to see so many ashen-faced runners waiting for transport to ship them back to the start. I suppose there will have been a multitude of reasons for the various withdrawals, but from what I hear a lot of them were from runners with no background in fell running or mountaineering and I guess they just underestimated the severity of the terrain. We pushed on, making good time up the Craven Way to Blea Moor and onwards to Stonehouse before climbing Arten Gill and Great Knoutberry. This is where it starts getting serious, it's late afternoon and everyone wants to push on as far as they can before being grouped. This is a safety measure, basically you are required to spend the dark hours as group of 4 people minimum and there are different time deadlines for this. Bobs, my mate Mark and myself were aiming to finish somewhere around the 18-hour marks and I was pretty sure we were going to get grouped at the Fleet Moss checkpoint and so it turned out. This was a bit of a worry, as navigationally the part of the Fellsman from Fleet Moss through to the Middle Tongue checkpoint and onwards to Hell Gap is possibly the most difficult part of the course and we didn't want to be grouped with anyone who was at odds with our proposed route. As it turns out, we needn't have worried and we were grouped with a decent bloke (Pete from Retford) who was quite happy to let us take the lead.
It was now getting dark and the temperature fell accordingly, I can think of few places in England that are lonelier that Fleet Moss at nightfall .... however, we pushed on and found Middle Tongue easily, we were still moving well and started to overtake other runners as headed off towards Hell Gap. A good push onwards to Cray and we were suddenly within 10 miles of the finish - just the small matter of a lot of rough ground and, worryingly, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside to get over. Buckden Pike came and went with no problem, it felt like familiar territory, so all the recce work paid off. It was pitch dark and I knew I was enjoying myself, we pulled into the Park Rash checkpoint and after fuelling up, set off on the last major climb of the Fellsman. A few weeks previously I had climbed Great Whernside in deep snow, but today there wasn't a trace. As we climbed, it got steadily colder and I could feel the ground beneath my feet crunching as the ice began to form. It was a cloudless night and the moon burned a magnificent orange to illuminate our way, I felt truly privileged to be able to do this. I know I've waxed lyrical about mountains at night before, but there is something truly special about running in the hills at night. I don't know what it is, whether it's the freedom or simply the insanity of it all, whatever, I was in my happy place and will always remember how brilliant it was. All too soon we were down at the Capplestone Gate checkpoint and there wasn't much more to go. Down the muddy trail to Yarnbury and the final, quad-crushing descent down into Grassington before a sharp right turn to Threshfield and the finish. My final figures were 61.5 miles, 11,550ft of climb in 18hrs 31, though this doesn't take into account any time rebate for grouping at Fleet Moss. I can't say I'm unhappy with that, though I am convinced we could have easily taken 30 minutes off the overall time. Perhaps next year eh?
Next on the list is the Day in the Lakes triathlon, followed by the Lakeland 50. Never a dull moment round here
I was considering what's coming up when I realised with a start that with the Fellsman over I must be close to 2014 UTMB (Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc) qualifying criteria. A quick check reveals that I actually have 8 points right now from 3 qualifying events (Bob Graham Round, Tour de Helvellyn, Fellsman) and if I successfully complete the Lakeland 50 will have 10 overall. You need 7 to enter the UTMB ballot.
Dare I?

Postscript:  I dared!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Getting The Miles In ....

My training log tells me that last week we covered 72 miles over a six-day period, all of it on fairly tough off-road terrain. That might not be a great deal for some of the mile-munchers out there, but it's quite a lot for us. I think the fact that we (ie. Helen and myself) survived and are feeling okey-dokey is testimony to the recent training regime and I think we're looking forward to the Fellsman with a bit more optimism.

We got a good chunk of those miles during a Fellsman recce on Tuesday - and I have to say I picked the right day to have off, the weather was glorious - we parked at Ribblehead then took the 3Ps route up Whernside, from there it was down to Kingsdale, up Gragereth (steep!) and along a very nice ridgeline to Great Coum and then down to Dent. From here, it was a bit of a slog up to and across Blea Moor and then we called it quits and took part of the Dalesway back to Gearstones and then Ribblehead, around 25 miles and 5,000ft of climb in total..

On Saturday we did the Haworth Hobble (aka "Wuthering Hike"), this is a 32-mile off-road event that takes in a big chunk of the Bronte Moors and is pretty tough. It was my first time at this race and although I knew some of the route, we were on our own for a good part of it and so navigation was required here and there, this was exacerbated by snow showers on the higher ground .... not one for the faint-hearted, you definitely need to pull up your big boy/girl pants to get round this with your faculties intact.   Saying that, I hugely enjoyed it, this was one of our planned steps towards the Fellsman and it was a good exercise in pacing and taking on food/water at regular intervals, this is something that Helen doesn't do so well and I think the penny is beginning to drop. We carried far too much food with us of course, I wish I'd listened to a pal's advice in this respect because the various checkpoints had plenty of food - you were even offered a shot of whisky at the Mankinholes CP! It was great to see so many friends at the finish, lots of Dallam runners showed up and I am seriously impressed at some of the finishing times. My friends Emma and Carol (running as a pair) finished as first ladies in 5.44, a terrific performance and one to be proud of. DT and Stef had a good run too and looked relaxed and happy at the finish, all looking good for Stef's BGR attempt in May I think.

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Truly Romantic Ideal .....

Is it wrong to repost one of you own blogs?  I was reading this entry from 2011 in my "other" blog forum.  At the time, the Bob Graham Round was just a fanciful notion .... it's worth reproducing here, if only to make me realise how much water has gone under the bridge since then.  It also gives me a lot of satisfaction of course!
I don't suppose my preoccupation with The Bob Graham Round is much of a secret to those who know me, however I've tried to keep it low-key and deliberately not blogged much about it, or indeed, said much about it outside my immediate circle of friends or to family. Of course, this has been nothing more than a protection mechanism against the realities of the enormous challenge that is the BGR; those who know about it - and if you don't, please Google it now - will be aware of the difficulties and dangers, the physical effort required and the inevitable blood, sweat and tears that are part of the package. Since my interest was first kindled I have not wanted to publicly commit to any kind of firm involvement, just in case it turns out I don't have the desire, nerve and commitment needed to embark on a regime that would ultimately see me attempting to cover the best part of 66 miles over 42 Lakeland summits with a culmulative ascent/descent of around 28,000ft, all within a 24-hour window. Sounds hard doesn't it? It is, pardon me, unbelievably fucking hard.

With all that said, the truth of the matter is that I don't think I can keep stumm much longer and it's time to come clean. Several weeks back I was I was fortunate enough to be part of Dave Almond's support team for his successful BGR attempt and this weekend just gone I did the same for my friend Neil and this, coupled with a signicant amount of time spent up in the Lakes lately has turned a wavering desire into a firm objective, a life-goal that I desperately want to achive. Believe me when I tell you that not a single day goes by without my dreaming, scheming or thinking about the Bob Graham Round in some way or another and it's all wonderful.

I first heard of the BGR a few years ago, when I heard that one of our club members - a good runner - was taking a season off from competing in local races because he was training for something odd called a "Bob Graham Round". I was curious and eventually (like so many others) read Richard Askwith's "Feet in The Clouds" where everything was explained in very graphic detail. The seed was planted and it came at a time when I was getting thoroughly bored with road running and moving to more off-road stuff, even dabbling with the odd fell-race. You see, I've reached the point where the road has totally lost its appeal, I'm tired of constantly chasing rainbows and the repetitive impact has caused me all sorts of injuries, because biomechanically I am not that good. Off-road I seem to cope much better. Also, it's just like the Inov-8 advert says - once it gets in your blood, off-road running is a very powerful narcotic. If that's true, then fell-running in The Lakes is the most addictive of them all ....

I'm the sort of bloke who has to have a goal to aim for and as a result tend to jump feet-first into things that interest me. I've indulged in various obsessions over the years, but I've stayed passionate about a couple of things since I was very young. One is [soul] music, the other is The Outdoors and by that I mean camping, mountains, orienteering, backpacking. It's always fascinated me, but as a young lad I could never really afford all the bits and pieces I needed. School holidays would come round and we'd pack all our stuff up into some tatty old rucksacks and my dad would dump us somewhere up in the Peak District, we'd walk for miles, camp without permission, wonder if we'd ever dare to do the Pennine Way and wonder who the hell this Wainwright bloke was. So, fell-running and the BGR fits that particular passion very well, the difference this time is that nowadays I am a) considerably older and much more breakable and b) Have more common sense.

Alright, b) is debatable.

So I have committed to the cause and am truly loving the time I spend up in The Lakes, but must confess that until the last few years I hardly knew the area at all, most of my outdoor experience was gained in Snowdonia and The Peak District or wherever the military establishment chose to send me. I've spent a lot of time up there this year, almost to the point where Keswick seems to be a second home and I'm on nodding terms with the lady who runs the Kingfisher fish and chip shop. It has been fantastic, I look forward to every dash up to the Lakes and feel a thrill of excitement when I see those mountains. My life has a new focus and I consider myself fortunate to have met some truly wonderful people into the process. This is not just me, of course. My infinitely better half (Helen) loves the outdoors as much as me, so a lot of the BGR recce stuff we've done has been a joint effort and she has began to accumulate a lot of the BGR lore that is vital to a true understanding of the Round's mystique. It also makes it much easier if your wife is quite willing to spend all weekend in a rain-soaked tent and get up at 2.00am to convey her insane husband and his mates to a pre-arranged rendezvous point.

We were very fortunate to be up there during that spell of nice weather in May and it was probably the most enjoyable time I've spent with my clothes on in recent years, armed with a handful of OS maps and a dubious sense of direction, we got some serious miles under our belt, covering hefty chunks of the BGR at a time. It was glorious ..... I remember we were on a leg 3 recce (Dunmail to Wasdale) and we'd done an out-and-back thing, parking at Dunmail for the day. It was getting towards evening and we were on our way back to Steel Fell and the steep drop back down the fell, so we stopped for a breather and watched the distant horizon bathed in the early evening sunlight. It was incredibly peaceful, I felt like we were the only souls around, the summits of Bow Fell and Esk Pike soared high above the rugged scenery and I knew I was in the right place. It seemed a quintessentially British place, somewhere unique and worth fighting for. I knew I was in a privileged position to even be there and all of a sudden it seemed very important to quantify that, to earn my right to walk these fells and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men and women with whom I would be proud to be mentioned in the same breath. The BGR would be my rite of passage.

Of course, it's not all glorious weather and inspiring scenery, but I never expected it to be. A couple of weeks back Helen and I went up to Wasdale for what was meant to be a week of relaxed camping and multiple BGR recces, however in typical fashion we got monsoon conditions. We endured, however, and still managed to cram about 70 miles and 20,000ft of climbing into the week, including that bloody awful climb from the back of the Wasdale Head Inn up to the summit of Kirk Fell. The point I'm making is that I know it's going to be hard and I'm prepared for that. 2012 will see me attempt the Bob Graham Round and it will be in the wake of a lot of training and planning. If I fail - and a lot off attempts do - then I will try again, but in the end it won't matter because the BGR has already given me more than I've put in and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Footnote:  for those who don't know, I succesfully got round the BGR in August 2012

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Lovely Morning .....

It seems a bit paradoxical to use such a title when outside it's snowing heavily, however it absolutely was one of my better mornings. I was up early for pre-work swim training and 0630 saw me ploughing up and down the pool at one of Harrogate Tri's coached sessions and it didn't go at all badly: my bilateral breathing is definitely getting better and I'm feeling stronger generally. Had no problem keeping up with swimming mate Emma, although she definitely has the edge when it comes to drill work - I sort of make up for the difference with brute-force and ignorance.  A swift change and off to work, it had snowed overnight and the roads were just clearing and the skies were blue and all around was that crystalline, winter clarity that makes you glad to be alive. I always find the view down into Nidderdale inspiring, if conditions are good you can see Great Whernside in the distance and Barden Fell and Rocking Hall are usually there, tempting me to go and run over them. Maybe it's the endorphins that result from a concerted hour of swimming, but I was seriously full of beans and happy to be alive, even though the next thing on the agenda was work! There are other reasons for this actually: i) I was back under my fighting weight this morning (10st 9lb) and that makes me happy, a bit more of that and I know my run performances will improve. Also, last night I got back on my gym hill-climb regime for the first time since August (ie. since my final session prior to BGR) and all in all, it wasn't bad. I didn't expect miracles, but managed the best part of 2700ft in 30 mins and the very fact that I stayed on the thing for 30 mins is proof that all is not yet lost. Training on this machine is VERY hard ..... I once did 3000ft in 29.17 so have a way to go, but this is a good start. Home for a quick change then off to pilates, I do believe that things are on the up in this regard too - I still struggle with some of the core strength routines, but given that I'd just done that hill climb session I thought that things went pretty well.

Reading the above, that might sound like a lot of training in less than 24 hours (true) - particularly if you consider that I intend to go interval training with the club tonight .... I have no doubt that I will find this very hard, but it will take me forward and that's what I need. The truth is, I had a bit of a wake-up call on Saturday at the Rombalds Stride, I had an absolutely f***ing TERRIBLE run, finishing 15 mins slower than last year. I can't explain it, conditions were great for running and all things being equal I should have been looking at a sub-4 finish (one of the guys I beat at the Tour de Helvellyn in Dec did exactly that), so what went wrong? I really don't know - I had no energy, my hip flexors hurt and the cold air was rasping in my chest. Doesn't sound good does it? I was running with Helen and mates Em and Carol, but just told them to leave me as we started the climb on the final section, I wanted to be grumpy in solitude. Ironically, I started feeling better on the steep climb up The Chevin, but the final run down into Guiseley was still painful. Common sense dictates that I shouldn't be too harsh on myself, I had only finished a course of antibiotics on the previous day and the preceding few weeks had seen me in a pretty poorly state - but that's not human nature of course and particularly mine. I was very pissed-off and it came as some surprise that I felt so good the following day - I certainly didn't feel like I'd done a tough 22-mile fell race.

Anyhow, this has all been a convoluted way of me explaining why I've been training so hard over the last 24 hrs. The time has come to stop fannying around, I have goals for 2013 and I'm not going to achieve them sitting on my backside.