Some Stuff About Me ......
- Martyn Price
- 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, but my heart truly belongs in the fells of Northern England, it's what I was made for. Please read about my adventures and experiences ....
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
A Brief Synopsis of Events ...
The ship itself (the Caribbean Princess) was very nice and we had a terrific stateroom with a big balcony (stbd side) and it was lovely to wake up to a new view every morning. Having boarded at San Juan, Puerto Rico, our itinerary was as follows:
St Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands)
Tortorla (British Virgin Islands)
I have no doubt that all these places are absolutely lovely, however the problem with a cruise is that you have very limited time to see them and that gets a bit frustrating. The best islands were the ones where we found a quiet beach and just soaked up the sun and ambience, I love that sort of thing. Also, diving/snorkelling was great fun and we went diving on a wreck off the coast of Aruba and off a coral reef in Bonair, which I loved. It was like being in a Jacques Cousteau movie only more colourful. Still can't believe that I swam with all those incredible fish (and turtles), it really was special.
Trying to keep fit onboard was a challenge .... I probably logged about 35 miles on treadmills over the course of the cruise and it wasn't particularly exciting, I dislike treadmills at the best of times. On the other hand, people-watching in the very well-equipped gym was highly entertaining, there were some real wobble-bottoms who came in there for some *very* limited workouts and in actual fact it was sobering to realise what poor condition some people are in. On the subject of people-watching, I did a lot of that while onboard this vessel. It's always interesting to see different social groups thrust together and there was lot to see. I would say the bulk of the passengers were American (a lot were quite elderly) with a smattering of Brits, Candadians, Germans and Scandanavians. There was also a very big hispanic contingent, mainly from Puerto Rico. I know it's wrong to generalise, but I think the following facts are unequivocal:
1. Geriatric old bags from Puerto Rico are possibly the rudest people
on the planet
2. It's wrong to drink Coke at breakfast time
3. Young hispanic youths are practically paralysed by their machismo and ego
4. When Americans say "excuse me" they don't mean it
5. If my muttered incantations have worked, at least a dozen
ex-passengers from that ship have been hit by lightening bolts
A lot of the above is in marked contrast to my experience with the Caribbean Islanders, the ones I met were invariably very polite, tolerant and well-educated. Anyhow, I'm back in the fold now and trying to shake off the lethargy and extra pounds I accumulated. Have a couple of injury niggles (no idea where they came from) so am not training full-bore, but I expect it won't surprise anyone to learn that I spent a good deal of my sun-lounger time dreaming about the Lakeland Fells and BGR training.
And Christmas is nearly here! Of course, we've done nopreperation for this and are both frantically scrabbling around trying to buy presents, placate relatives, write Christmas cards etc etc.
I'd better get back to my emergency shopping on Amazon.
Sunday, 13 November 2011
A Grand Morning For it ...
Felt lousy for the first few miles, couldn't get moving at all and was frustrated by seeing Mark zoom away from me. This was one of those races where footwear was a compromise, mudclaws were definitely called for as the conditions were seriously slippy, however once up on the moor it was fast running on a hard -packed trail and I could have done with something like my kanadias or roclites, those mudclaws just have zero cushion in them and I couldn't run as hard as I wanted. That said, I picked up towards the end and the last two miles were much better, I made a load of places up and had a good run in. Will have to go back here for some training, only 10 miles away and excellent terrain.
Friday, 21 October 2011
A Bit of an Epic ....
So, yes, the Three Shires race. This was actually on the 17th September and it should have been a truly enjoyable day out, but it turned into a bit of a nightmare. I arranged to meet up with some lads from my "new" 2nd claim club (Dallam A.C.) so drove up to Arnside in what I can only describe as Monsoon Conditions. One disaster seemed to lead to another ... we had delays, flooded roads, cars breaking down and it meant that we were late - and I mean WELL late - for the race start. Our driver opted to head for Tilberthwaite, as we could most easily run to Little Langdale from there. So, that's what happened: we screeched to a halt in this deserted little village, dumped car and then ran along a trail that took to the bridge at the bottom of the lane leading to the Three Shires pub. Not a good start to the race .... I was knackered before we started! As it was, we needn't have bothered - there was a huge queue for registration and the race was delayed for at least 30 minutes. Bugger.
I suppose that given the circumstances and my already tired legs, the race started reasonably well. We got a much better line up Wetherlam than on my previous recces, it was still a hell of a slog but no major problems. Swirl How and Great Carrs weren't a problem, but given the damp conditions (it had rained like hell the night before) I was finding it very tricky going as we went down Wetside Edge to Wrynose Pass. We got to the boggy bit at the bottom and I went in up to my thighs, causing me to do the classic full-frontal dive, totally filling my jacket with about 3 - 4 gallons of bog. Lovely. The climb up Pike O' Blisco went without drama and I very smugly got the drop off the top bang-on, crossing the summit plateau and finding the trod quickly, overtaking about a dozen other runners who were still messing about trying to get down the rocky crags off POB. It's good when that happens :-)
Now, I know the route down Wrynose Fell to Blea Tarn well, having ran it at least 4 - 5 times before this race, but it didn't save me on the day. Just before you trend right towards the drystone wall, I slipped on a rocky outcrop and am sad to say that I took a bad fall and really cracked my right shin against a rock as I fell. I got up to inspect the damage and was a bit shocked to see lots of white bone visible through a big hole in my shin - the first time I've actually seen one of my own bones, truth be told, and I'd have happily waited longer. My immediate reaction was one of anger, as thus far the fates really had been against me in this bloody race, but my bigger problem was how to get down from the fell as I assumed I was going to have to retire. A few runners who had been following me stopped and saw the mess, they elected to run to the next checkpoint and warn them I was on my way down in an injured state. Typically, the descent down to Blea Tarn is probably the worst on the entire route, steep, covered in bracken and lots of slippy rocks to trip you up. I made my way down (slowly), swearing and cursing like the bad-mouthed idiot that I am .... I got down to Blea Tarn and guess what? No marshalls .... apparently somebody else had got injured - worse than me - and they were taking the victim down to the finish for immediate treatment. I had to make a choice - it was retire and a long walk down the road, or carry on over Lingmoor Fell and finish the race. I went for Plan B (perhaps foolishly) and washed as much blood off my leg as I could in the tarn, then got moving up the fell, yes, it was painful but not impossible (nb - I'm told that a real fell runner would have had some gaffer tape to stick the skin down and plug the hole). As I was going up the fell, a voice behind me said "Is that blood I can see? Can I help? I'm a doctor" so obviously I turned round and showed the runner following me the damage. He looked at the gory mess and said "Well, actually, there's not much I can do - I'm a psychiatrist and the best I can do is tell you that you're f***ing mad, but I suspect you know that already". Not much use there then, but very funny in retrospect. I do like a man with a sense of humour.
It was a relief to reach the top of the fell, but I wasn't really able to take advantage of the fast run down to the finish, my leg was in agony and it was as much as I could do to stay upright .... I limped into the finish tunnel to some cheers from the Dallam contingent and advice to stop fannying around etc, until the mangled state of my leg became clear and I was carried off to the St John's Ambulance caravan. I won't bore you too much with the rest of this story, suffice it to say that it really, really hurt to have a syringe full of neat TCP squirted in the hole and that the drive back to Harrogate wasn't funny at all, despite the painkillers I'd been given. I should add that one of my Dallam pals is a GP and was responsible for the TCP blast-out, I hope he's more sympathetic to his daily patients!! Not much more to this story, other than I finished the race in about 3.10, so that's not terrible and given the circumstances and I should be happy. I definitely wasn't happy with the 5 hours I had to spend in A & E while they messed around, Saturday night is not a good time to be in such places. It was something like this: Inspect, X-ray, local anaesthetic, scrub out the wound to get bits of fell out then cut all the loose skin off - I believe it's called "debriding". Nearly 4 weeks later I still have a bullet-sized hole in my leg, although thankfully the fat-lass cankle (caused by all the swelling) has gone. If anyone is morbidly interested, there is a morning-after piccie in my Flickr gallery.
So enough of my moaning and I'll cut a long story short by saying I was back training within a week and that the X-Trainer was a great way to get all that fluid shifted from my leg and get my lymph glands working properly. I was relieved to be running again, as myself and Helen were focussed on the forthcoming Langdale Horseshoe race, but really wanted to get back up on the course to finish off our recce, as the last time we tried it was a bit of a disaster, getting as far as Esk Hause before we had to call it a day due to bad weather. Lady Luck and Dame Fortune smiled on us, we both had the Friday off during that lovely little Indian Summer ( Sept 30th) so quickly arranged for a final camping weekend up in the Lakes - this time we managed to get a pitch at the Great Langdale site and it was a real treat, much better than that bloody awful Bays Brown place in Chapel Stile. So, up bright and breezy on the Friday, we headed for Cumbria and as the dawn came upon us it was evident that we were in for a gorgeous day. We met our friends Mark and Emma at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, still pinching ourselves at the splendid panorama and bright sunlight ..... I've spent quite a bit of time up in the Lakes this year and I swear this was the nicest day, weather-wise, that we've had. Truly magical. We scooted round the Langdale course without too much problem, finding the proper line under Esk Pike and spent some time debating the right way down from Bowfell, which I think is tricky. I don't think I'm doing justice to describing what a glorious day it was, but the memories will stay forever.
We found the prescribed route around The Bad Step without too much of a problem, going up and down a couple of times to make sure it was firmly burned into our memories. I am indebted to Rich G for this info and have to echo his thoughts ... knowing this, why on earth would anyone try and downclimb the BS (or worse, jump it) especially in wet and slippy conditions? A lot do.
We had Magnum lollies back at the campsite to cool off, then Mark and Emma departed, leaving us to set up camp. I have to say it was a brilliant end to the day, I sat in my chair, sipping a glass of wine and watched the sunlight melt away over Crinkle Crags and darkness envelope Langdale. Does it get much better? I suppose it does, but at that moment I was in my special place and very happy.
Anyhow, we wanted to take max advantage of the weekend and although we were meeting Dave and Alix on Sunday for a Newlands Horseshoe outing, we decided on a trip out to Scafell on Saturday. Nothing strenuous you understand, although that's probably a contradiction in terms in this territory. Anyhow, we went up to Bowfell via The Band then cut across onto the Climber's Traverse, taking me past bits of Bowfell I haven't seen before like the Great Slab etc. Then it was over Esk Pike and the tourist route to Scafell Pike (very busy) then over to the Mickledore ridge for a poke around on Broad Stand, as I've never been up it before and wanted to make my own judgement prior to next year's BGR shenanigans.
So now I see what all the fuss is about. From a distance, it seems like nothing but once you've squeezed up through Fat Man's Agony and got onto the the platform, what seems like an easy climb takes on a whole new perspective and I wouldn't like to do this without a rope, though I know several who have free-climbed it. I'd hate to be just another statistic, AW had it right.
After this, it was back via Esk Hause and a long and fairly tedious slog down Rossett Ghyll, but I was starving and wanted to get to the pub before the afternoon got too far along. We fairly flew down the last few miles, diving into the ODG like it was an oasis. I suppose it was, in a way! A couple of pints of Yates' Cumbrian bitter and I was fully restored
We'd arranged to meet Dave and Alix at Newlands at 0930 next morning, so got as much stuff ready the night before and then hit the sack early. Bad news is that the nice weather was over and it rained more or less all through the night, meaning we had a very wet tent to pack up next morning, pretty much everything else got wet too. A bacon butty and cuppa in Ambleside perked us up a bit and despite some faffing around we weren't desperately late to Newlands. Dave had a plan to do the whole Newlands Horseshoe with maybe a drop down to Honister for a cuppa, so after a bit more grade A faffage we got moving. A funny day, from a weather perspective .... I mean, it was grey, drizzly, windy on the tops (it got seriously rainy later), but the air temperature was relatively high, making the whole experience a lot more pleasant that it could have been. After the initial slog up Catbells our legs felt a lot better and we had a tremendous zip across Maiden Moor, Bull Crag, High Spy and then down to Dale Tarn. A load of walkers saw us bombing past in the wet and the mud and I do believe we were the object of their amusement - you know - look at those daft buggers, what do they get from doing that etc. The answer was Quite a Lot, we were having a good time! I'll caveat that with saying it's a bit galling to slog all the way to the top of Dale Head and then go immediately back DOWN for a cuppa at Honister Slate Mine, but hey-ho, I know Dave had our best interests at heart and that cuppa and chunk of Mars Bar cake WAS nice. I think they must be used to people going in their like drowned rats and leaving a lot of water behind them Sooo, as you can imagine the next stage was a slog back UP Dale Head - yes, the one that we'd just climbed - but we stomped back up there strongly. Once we'd hit the top, a pretty good run followed to Hindscarth and I was reminded what a bloody good runner Dave is, he claims "not to have done much fell running" since his BGR in June, but he flew down from Hindscarth like Billy Whizz .... I stomped down after him, but truth be told I had approximately zero chance of even keeping up. He makes it look very easy, but it's really not.
One of the things I wanted to do was recce the alternate routes off Robinson (never done 'em before), so we dropped off the ridge path and headed down what is a pretty steep descent down to the path at the bottom of the Dale rather than continuing down Robinson Crags and heading across High Snab Bank. We've had a bit of a post mortem on this already, so I won't bore you with details, what I will say is that this could be quite a nasty descent on knackered legs and it gets very gnarly along the path. I will have to consider this route option carefully. It was raining quite heavily by the time we started this descent - "proper rain" - as we decided and I was wearing Roclites rather than my Mudclaws, so it was a bit exciting to say the least ..... I did a terrific mudslide and was very fortunate not to hit any rocks, I've had enough of hitting rocks if I'm honest.
Once down at Newlands car park there was a bit of a risque kit change with minimal towel coverage (we were all soaked and covered in mud) then into Keswick for cuppas. I'd been promising myself fish and chips from The Kingfisher all day, so resisted the gorgeous looking muffins that Dave and Alix had, it wasn't easy though! I have to say that I wish all my weekends were like that, but of course they're never going to be .... we had a great time with some great friends, covering over 40 miles and some serious ascent into the bargain. We got home late on the Sunday with a car full of wet, muddy and smelly kit but it was worth it.
This has turned into a bit of an epic and it wasn't my intention to waffle on quite so much, so I'm packing in for the moment. My account of the Langdale Horseshoe race will have to wait for a bit.
Thursday, 15 September 2011
Appealing Prospect ....
Went back to Arnside YHA afterwards via Pete Blands where I picked up a small Platyplus water bladder, been after one for a while. A quick cuppa at the YHA and then it was round to mine host's gaff, an lovely home overlooking Morecombe bay, for a little soiree to celebrate Dallam A.C.'s 2011 BGR successes. Needless to say I had far too much of the red stuff and to say I had a baggy head next morning is only hinting at my abject misery. Helen was being heartless again - women generally are, in my experience - and kicked me out and into my wet fell shoes for a quick bash around Coniston Old Man and Dow Crag. I won't bore you with details, but it wasn't the happiest time I've spent on the fells and the weather was terrible. It was a relief to get into some dry clothes and get some hot coffee into me, I will never again venture into the hills in quite such a hungover state again ... it's not big and it's definitely not clever.
I will report later on how the race goes!
Sunday, 4 September 2011
Still Tripping The Light Fantastic ....
In the bigger and wider world I had a good time a few weeks back supporting Leg 4 of Ronnie Turner's BGR, also did leg 5 of Graham Briffett's BGR the following day, both successful, both loads of fun. I managed to mistakenly guide my pal Alix into a deep bog on the other side of Grey Knotts on Ronnie's round, she laughed about it, so I'm hoping that retribution will not be too severe :-) I'm sure she'll be comforted to know that the bog-monster got me while I was going over Great Carrs this past weekend, will tell all shortly!
BGR season is drawing to a close, so have been looking at other things to keep ticking over and ultimately get more experience for my own attempt next year. To that end have decided that I really must try and do some of the Lakeland Classic events, so have signed up the the Three Shires with some mates from Dallam and also the Langdale Horseshoe, quite a few folks I know doing this one, should be great fun. Anyhow, we (that's Helen and me) decided that a bit of recce for these races would be a nice way to spend the Bank Holiday weekend, so we packed up the car and last Friday headed for Langdale. I was too late to get into the NT campsite at Great Langdale, so had to settle for the other campsite thereabouts, Baysbrown Farm. I'll be honest and say I wasn't too impressed when we got there, it was absolutely heaving .... to be fair, I suppose it WAS a BH weekend, but all the same you expect a bit of peace and quiet don't you? Lots of drunken lads and screaming kids around, also it was a hell of a walk to the showers/toilet blocks, even the nearest tap was a half-mile slog up a muddy track. In the event it wasn't too bad, you get terrific views from this campsite and by the time we left it was a much more peaceful place, so don't be put off by my first impressions. Much cheaper that the NT site of course, just not as convenient for access to the fells.
I think we both totally wiped out by the previous week - that work stuff tends to get in the way of Real Life - so next morning we were up a bit later than we should have been, but managed to get out, fully booted and spurred by about 1100. That wasn't good actually, much faffage took place and we should try and make more of our days and get shifting in the mornings. The plan was to walk up Great Langdale, turn off through the NT campsite then up the track/lane to Wrynose/Hardknott in order to do a recce of the Three Shires route. This ended up taking a bit longer than we thought, truth be told, and by the time we'd faffed around and had an icecream at the pub that marks the start, it was getting closer to 1300. I must say at this point that we had an odd stroke of luck (and hence why we bought the icecream), insomuch it was one of "those" moments and we had to duck behind a hedge for a pee. Somebody else obviously must had the same problem, because as we sneaked behind the hedge I caught a glimpse of something metallic and there, amongst the grass and weeds was about ten quid in loose change! It was quite tarnished and must have been there for a while ... I have this awful vision of this dosh falling out of some lady's pockets and her getting to the Three Shires pub, intent on a glass of something cool and not having any money! I had a Flake Cornetto in her honour and, in a fit of conscience, put the rest into the Mountain Rescue collection box.
We eventually got moving and it was a nice, relatively easy start along a quiet lane and then rocky trail that leads you to the foot of Wetherlam. I don't mind saying that this was an absolute bastard of a climb, the ridgeline is very indistinct and the hillside covered by deep bracken with slippy rock/grass below that's very hard to negotiate. The Pete Bland race map indicates a direct line up the ridge, but I have to say I don't know if that's the best option for me. Come race day, I think a good route of ascent will be to carry on up the trail to the old mine workings then head due South from there to the summit. A steeper ascent for sure, but the going is much easier. Good views from the top of Wetherlam, I could see Skiddaw and the Helvellyn range without difficulty, although the unfamiliar angle fooled me a bit.
From the top of Wetherlam you head SW over some rocky up/down stuff via the curiously named "Prison Band" to Swirl How and then skirt around Great Carrs to the descent down to Wrynose Pass and the Three Shires Stones/checkpoint. It was while on Great Carrs that I came across this monument to a crashed RCAF Halifax Bomber (including wreckage), pretty sad-making stuff. I'd read about this in one of the Wainwright books but never expected to see it, apparently more of the wreckage litters the side of the fell.
It's fast, downhill territory here so we upped the pace a bit and were flying down the side of the fell when I plunged my foot into something I can only describe as the mud version of superglue. I tore my foot out of the shoe, leaving it firmly bedded into the mud and causing me - on the next step - to completely lose traction and go sliding down the hillside. I suppose this was a fell-running equivalent of a motorway blowout, yes? Once Helen had stopped laughing, changed pants etc we were on our way and I promptly put my foot into one of those horrible concealed holes that you get on peat moors, you know, where the flowing water has simply eroded a miniture chasm. Ow. Twisted my knee doing that and suppose I was lucky not to break an ankle, could have been so much worse .... so we got going again and the dodgy knee was soon forgotten as we headed down the fell towards Wrynose and the Three Shires Stones. If you've not seen them before (I hadn't), then it's pretty simple - there are three stones set in the ground that are supposed to mark the confluence of Westmoreland, Cumbria and Lancashire (i.e. W, C & L). I should point out that this is a checkpoint on the race itself and also the bottom the climb to Pike o' Blisco (I love the name of this mountain) and to be honest, it doesn't feel that bad going up compared to say, Skiddaw or Yewbarrow but I suppose it's all relative. The problem with this top is getting the line right OFF it to the East and the Three Shires and Langdale Horseshoe maps are full of dire warnings about people going walkabout and ending up in horrible places. Well, I sort of got it right on my first attempt but actually ended up too far to the North and followed the wall line down rather than up, meaning I ended up at the Northern end of Blea Tarn plantation behind a high wall ringed with barbed wire (and no, I was not in some sort of prison). This pissed me off greatly, not just because of my mistake but also because I snagged my new Salomon 3/4 running tights on some bit of wood or other and I am mightily annoyed. We made it down to the plantation and it was at that point that the heavens opened, so a bit dispirited we decided to call it a day and wobble back to the campsite. A bottle of Copper Dragon and plateful of chilli sorted out my moral issues and it was straight to bed, I slept like a baby ... but then I always do when out camping, wish I could say the same at home.
We were similarly useless the next morning and didn't really get going until around 1030, at least this time we weren't too far away from our starting point for a Langdale Horsehoe recce. This starts behind the famous Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel, winds back on a rocky path towards the New Dungeon Ghyll and then it's straight up the side of Stickle Ghyll, more or less at the bottom of Harrison Stickle. New territory for me, I've been over the Langdale Pikes a number of times but never from this neck of the woods ... I was enjoying myself hugely. This is a bit of a long trog, but you eventually emerge by Stickle Tarn, zoom round it and the first race check point is somewhere up there at the northern end of the tarn. It's a steep climb up the side of Pavey Ark, coming out to the East of Thunacar Knott (a BG top). As per race instructions, we set off on a bearing of 280 straight across the incredibly boggy and wet Martcrag Moor, dropping down into Stake Pass and straight up a nice gully that led us behind Black Crags and then into familiar territory behind Rossett Pike. You know, this seemed fast and I have to wonder if this isn't the best option for BGR leg 3? On the 4 or 5 occasions I've gone from Pike o' Stickle to Rossett Pike (including one "proper" support leg) we took a much wider line around what could be considered the tourist path (very boggy) and looking at the Pete Bland/Harvey BGR map the shorter route seems to be correct, I just never noticed before! Weather was getting a bit crappy now, but we plugged onwards around Angle Tarn and up to Esk Hause (checkpoint 3). It was getting really nasty now, wind and heavy rain so it was on with full waterproofs and a chance for me to realise how useless my ultralite Adidas "not-waterproof" trousers are, they will have to go. The race map calls for a traverse underneath Esk Pike but it doesn't look good to the uninitiated eye ... we gave it a try, but I can't say I'm impressed, however that could have been compounded by the rubbish weather. I've had some good advice from Rich G on this and am going to give it a go on race day - perhaps dropping a bit lower and playing Follow-my-Leader - because the only other option is over the top of Esk Pike and that could be ugly.
Anyhow, it was at this point we decided to pull stumps. The race route takes you onto Bowfell and onwards to Crinkle Crags, but the weather was totally despicable and Helen wasn't feeling too well. I took a command decision to get us off the mountains and the quickest way was down Rossett Ghyll/Mickleden and back into Langdale/Chapel Stile. Have to say this was a hell of a long slog and we didn't enjoy it, however we eventually got back to the tent, grabbed towels and headed to the showers to thaw out. Note: if you ever plan to stay at Baysbrown, the showers are free but generally crap, it took a while to get the feeling back into my extremities and I'm not kidding. You know, it was one of those "f**k my hands won't work" situations, not nice. Back in the tent, Helen hit the sack while I sat in my camp chair, made sausage butties and drank beer Well, someone had to do it.
It was a really windy night and made for interrupted sleep, however next day (BH Monday) dawned nice and clear. A hurried conflab and we decided to try and fill in the blanks from the weekend's recces, so we drove over to Blea Tarn and parked at the NT car park (5.90 for the day, yikes ). The plan was to do the Three Shires route up to Pike o' Blisco in reverse as that had been a problem on Saturday (note my whining about Salomon 3/4 tights - I never thought I'd see the day where I would be complaining about laddering my tights!) and then up to Crinkle Crags and maybe Bowfell.
This worked out pretty well. It was easy to see our mistake and we made good progress up through the bracken and around the crag. It's easy up to Pike o' Blisco via this route and the drop off to Crinkle Crags is very well marked and obviously a popular route. We decided to go over the crags (South to North) and then try and find our way back via the circuitous route defined on the race map. Of course, this meant tackling the infamous "Bad Step" as written about by Wainwright, so given a bit of trepidation from Helen I thought it would be better going up than down! All negotiated without a problem and we reached decision point at Three Tarns (the most northern point of Crinkle Crags and the southern foot of Bowfell). Time was marching on, so we opted to miss Bowfell and work out the route back. Talk about a balls-up, I wish I'd read what it had to say on the actual race notes rather than just working from the map. It looked like you could contour right round to the West, but despite considerable faffage and messing about it was clear this wasn't working and we had to drop down a *very* dodgy scree to get access to what we perceived to be the correct traverse. FAIL. I'm not 100% and still have to refer to some info from Rich G on this this subject, but I think the correct thing to do is to go over the first few Crinkles and then there is an option to drop off to the West and come up behind Long Top, then either downclimb the Bad Step or skirt around it. Either way, we messed it up completely on Monday and emerged well South of the last "Crinkle", having to double back to the trail down to Red Tarn and bottom of Pike o' Blisco.
So, it was up Mr Blisco for the third time this weekend and this time there were no mistakes. We picked up the runner's trod straight away and headed down the fell without mishap, coming out exactly on as prescribed at the top of Blea Tarn Plantation. Of course, it's much the same descent for the Langdale race, only for that one you drop off to the North and come out by the cattle grid under Side Pike. From there, I expect it's a mad dash down the path towards the NT campsite and to the finish at Old Dungeon Ghyll. We'll see eh?
That was the end of our recce weekend and it was back to the now deserted campsite and a swift cleanup/packup of tent etc before heading home. I'll admit to hating these moments and I think Helen does too ... we've spent so much time in the Lakes this year that it's a real wrench to leave the wonderful fells and stunning scenery, journeys home tend to be quiet affairs, but that could be due to exhaustion as much as anything else. The story isn't quite over yet, because hunger set in pretty quickly and a swift detour to Ambleside and the Walnut Fish and Chip shop was in order. It was good, but not a patch on the Kingfisher in Keswick, trust me on this one please
I'd say that was a weekend seized and beaten into submission.
Sunday, 7 August 2011
Round Hill Fell Race & Baggy Heads
Saturday, 6 August 2011
A Busy Little Bee ...
Swimming in Ripon lake this morning, loads of weed ... God knows where that came from, appreciably worse than on triathlon day and I confess that at one point I was getting a bit fed up with it, I know I dragged enough of it back to shore with me.
Shopping in Ripon afterward, which I hated. Home, decided to do some painting - a particular door frame that has been waiting for at least a year - then laid a much-needed coat of polish on the hallway floor.
Massage on sore leg afterwards, the problem is a very tight vastus medialis - one of the quadricep muscles - that has been taking a bit of hammer lately with all these trips to the Lakes. It make it seem like my knee is sore, but it's just the area around it. Eva Braun's little sister got really stuck into and I confess that it was agony .... I hope it will stand the rigours of tomorrow's Round Hill fell race. We will see
Monday, 1 August 2011
The Bob Graham Round - A Truly Romantic Ideal ....
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 f***ing 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 (Calder Valley) support team for his successful BGR attempt, this weekend just gone I did the same for Neil Woods (Dallam A.C.) 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 and 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 it 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 back than I've put in and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Ripon Black Sheep Triathlon
Well, Saturday saw my first triathlon come and go and I have to say I quite enjoyed the whole experience. It all started about a year ago when, as a spectator, I watched the 2010 Ripon triathlon and thought "I'd like to have a crack at that" or something equally insane. Encouraged by a mate at work, I got a bike and slowly (very slowly) began to get out on two wheels, but only really got down to any serious swim training about 8 weeks back. I also joined North Yorkshire Police (NYP) Tri so I could swim in the racecourse lake and I think it's all paid off as I feel much fitter and have less aches and pains, although I confess I've ran fewer miles in recent months than is the norm.
Saturday came and I'll have to confess that I was bag of nerves, don't ask me why - perhaps it was the prospect of the mass start for the swim and the inevitable maelstrom. In any event, I was up bright and breezy and off to Ripon by 0930, so after a bit of bnater with blokes in the car park and realising that there was no backing out now it was off to registration. My pal Emma was handing out the timing chips and took the opportunity to giggle at my apprehension, I suppose it must have been written all over my face. Back to the car, carefully assembled my bike and trundled everything over to the transition area, laying all my gear out neatly. Checked out my position and did a good recce of the area, there would be no mistakes in transition. That's what I thought anyhow :-)
Back to car (Helen was arriving later with her parents) for a cuppa and slow change, when the weather - which had been alternating between overcast and sunny all morning - took a change for the worst. I was just wriggling into my tri shorts when the heavens opened and within seconds it was torrential rain, it then started hailing. Clearly, someone up there had decided that certain individuals in the area had been very naughty boys/girls and this was retribution. It stopped, eventually, and I squelched over to transition to see how my gear was. Everything was soaked, my bike shoes and trainers were just full of water, my carefully prepared (with talc) socks were useless and so like everyone else it was all systems go to dry stuff off and prepare for the start. Fortunately I had spare socks and loads of towels, but it didn't do anything for my nerves .... I have no clue why I was so nervous, but I was. Going up a mountain range in total darkness - that's something to be jittery about, but not this. Perhaps it was just unknown territory and my subconcious was playing its normal tricks? Anyhow, by now Helen and mum/dad had arrived (who are about as un-sporty as you can get and know nothing about running/triathlon), some amusement and embarrassed faces as I applied chamois cream to my nether regions (very necessary with tri shorts, not much padding) and squeezed into my wetsuit, taking great care to ensure the timing chip/strap was under the leg of the wetsuit - I didn't want it snagging in transition. The race had been delayed by 30 mins by now, this was just adding to the tension but it turned out to be a wise move and allowed the roads to dry out.
Over to transition for the race briefing (1400) and I'm committed. The sun is coming through the clouds and steam is beginning to rise from the mountains of wet kit and bikes, the familiar smell of hot/burning rubber was evident from the assembled mass of triathletes and their wetsuits. In what seemed like no time at all the first wave was off and I watched as the melee of thrashing bodies attacked the water. I was in the 4th wave, five minutes between each and I was soon inching my way into the water and swam cautiously over to the starting buoys. Now, I've swam a few times in this lake and know that it's been very weedy (if you'll excuse the term) of late, NYP Tri obviously thought so too as last week they paid to have the weed trimmed. I don't know if this was a good idea or not, as despite the weed the lake is normally very clear, but the effect of trimming it was to have a good amount of weed debris floating about and a very distinct smell of rotting vegetation. Not like this normally, so on balance - bad idea. I trod water and tried to envisage my line up to the last island, this would be the worst bit. Off we went and it was mayhem: almost immediately I got clouted round the back of the head and then kicked in the face, but this was all par for the course and expected. I got into my rhythm and focussed on breathing, confident I could destroy the 30mins it's taken me in training to do this course. Well, things started to go wrong pretty much straight away ... my mask started to mist up (a posh Aquasphere model I'd borrowed from a mate) and with the sun straight in my face I couldn't see where the hell I was going! Mistake no 1 was to follow the feet in front and predictably, the body they belonged to went seriously off course and the canoeists had to nudge us back on course, but by then we'd gone quite a way off the best line and it took precious seconds/effort to get back. Held the line until the last island and, following my practice in training, I turned to go around. Wrong. This year they'd put a buoy further up the course to ensure that nobody cut the course short and with my obscured vision I didn't see the damn thing. More time wasted. The return journey was pretty uneventful apart from a couple of people swimming over the top of me to try and get a better line, what did become clear though was that I was a faster swimmer than those I was bracketed with and I just couldn't get past them. Should I have adopted a "barge through" policy? I don't know the etiquette. In any event, I didn't want anymore mistakes so I was content to stay on course. I should add that by now my mask had let in a little water and this actually helped, as when I was face down that water cleared the mist in the lens and I could see again. A bit of a pain when I turned to breathe, but not something I found a massive problem. So, we approached the landing stage and as instructed, I began to kick hard to get the circulation back in my legs and facilitate the exit. Disaster! This had happened before and in exactly the same spot .... about 20ft from the ramp I got a nasty knot of cramp high on the medial side of my left calf, God knows why. I hobbled out of the water with my left leg locked, cursing my stinking rotten luck. Focus. Ignore the bloody cramp. As rehearsed, it was mask up, wetsuit zip down and head for my bike, found it no problem. By the time I was there, the suit was down to my waist. Mask off, goggles off, wetsuit down to ankles as taught by Emma. Right leg came out after a bit of stomping, but the left foot wouldn't come out. Minor flap. Sat down to use hands, but it was really tight and I couldn't shift it, the neoprene was biting into my ankle. After about 40 seconds of frustration I realised that what I'd done was hook my fingers inside the the sodding timing strap - concealed under the leg of the wetsuit remember - and I was trying to rip it off my ankle. Bugger. Got the thing off, dried feet with hand towel, on with socks, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, grab bike and away! Total time in transition, 2.49 - should have been less than 2 minutes, but there you go.
It's quite a hike out of transition and because of the rain, a bit muddy. My bike shoes aren't designed for running, but there was no way I could have done it barefoot like a lot of the more serious guys did, leaving the shoes clipped to the bike. I got to the mount point and could I get my cleats into the pedals? I could not, of course they were caked in mud - now you can see why some prefer to run through transition barefoot! I got away in the end, much to the mirth of HH clubmate Kirsty who was refereeing for the BTF at the mount/dismount point. I was in unknown territory from here on, I don't mean the course - which I'd practiced on - I refer to the fact that I had never been in a bike race before. As expected, a lot of people overtook me in the early stages, but as time wore on I began to claw a few places back, a lot of green numbers (ie. my swimming wave) came past after about 8 - 10 miles, proving to me that in triathlon you have to focus on everything, these guys were obviously slower swimmers but came past me like I was standing still on the bike. It was hard work, but I was getting into it and my trip computer told me I was going alright and well on course to get in under my 1hr 30 min target. My next calamity was at the roundabout before the turnaround at Dishforth: I was approaching the roundabout and the marshall waved me across, then this idiot in a BMW decided (without indicating) that he'd chosen the wrong exit and continued round, forcing me and the bloke alongside to anchor up hard. Of course, we were stuck in high gear and levering off once he'd cleared caused my stupid calf to sieze up again, Jesus it hurt. Fortunately the exit off the roundabout was slightly downhill so I unclipped and rolled down the hill with my leg stuck out and toes pushed back until it cleared, must have looked really stupid. Lost about 5 - 6 places and more time I reckon. Fortunately, that was the last of the problems with that calf although it niggled all the way and I can still feel it now despite a good workout from t' missus. God knows why it happened ... I had two bottles of electrolyte on the bike and glugged them both, maybe that helped keep it at bay? Anyhow, once around the turnaround we hit a headwind and it was really hard work to keep on pace. Up until then I'd been reckoning on around 1.25 as a finishing time, but that wind killed the prospect completely. The last two miles to the racecourse were into a vicious wind, everyone complained about it even though it was downhill. I've ridden it before and on a nice day it's pretty fast. Didn't feel like it on Saturday though and it was with some relief that I came to the dismount point and jogged into transition, legs feeling like lead.
Did a pretty fast transition (considering), pulled Garmin out of my running shoe and was on my way as fast as I could. This wasn't fast, as it happens. It's wierd, you come from a relatively fast-paced evolution (bike) and given that the last time I ran was a 3-mile club PTP where I averaged 6.50 pace, it felt very odd to be moving so slowly, my legs felt totally dead. I had done a couple of brick sessions in training, but nothing like this ... but still, I headed out onto the 10K route and have to say I was overtaking a lot of people, despite my perceived lack of speed. Splits look very average for a 10K, but I suppose they're not bad when considered alongside the preceding two evolutions. From 3K out I could see and hear the racecourse, the sun was beating down and I wanted to finish badly, my batteries were flat. With hindsight, I think I was under-fuelled for this, I had a gel on the bike at 2m and another at 20m, but a bit more energy would have helped I feel, I guess I have no clue about triathlon fuelling strategy. Came into the last kilometre and was overwhelmingly glad, this felt like finishing a marathon. Big cheers from Helen as I crossed the line, triathlon DONE.
My final time was 2.55.59 and I'm pleased with that, despite all the screw-ups and miscalculations. My final results were 30.22/444th T1=2.49 1.30.55/598th T2=1.11 50.42/354th. Can I do better? Oh yes, much better. Particularly on the bike, much room for improvement there. I will plug away, but seeing as my focus really is going to be on Lakeland BGR recce for the rest of the year it will have to fit around that. I've totally enjoyed this whole triathlon thing and will be back for more ...
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
A Bit of a Drama ....
Changing subject, am looking forward very much to supporting Dave A's BGR attempt on Friday and will be getting camping gear etc ready tonight, Stuart is picking me up early on Friday morning so camp should be all set up by midday. Hope Thirlspot is not too crowded, rumour has it that Dark Peak FRC are descending en-masse, so decent pitches will be at a premium. Weather forecast looks like we're going to get rain which is a bit disappointing, but hopefully that won't be accompanied by high wind. I refuse to believe the weather could be as bad as it was the last time I did BGR support.
Sunday, 12 June 2011
Bed Race Victory
Fortunately - and I don't know what happened - a team pulled out and we were allocated their place. Not perfect, as we were fourth on the grid and that means it's hard to overtake .... I am told there was an amount of pushing, shoving and near-temper losses, but in the event, our team's time was 2 seconds faster than Ripon, so once more Harrogate Harriers are the Great Knaresborough Bed Race champions. TV was there too, check out Trans World Sport for an interview with the winning team!
Have been messing around for most of the day, catching up on BGR news from the weekend etc. Repaired bad paintwork on front door frame, website updates, am now contemplating a run. And it's raining.
Exploring the possibilities ....
I feel I should point out that I did this race off the back of very tough BGR support leg on the Friday Night/Sat morning and a jaunt round the AW route on the Sunday! I was limping a tad .... [best whiny voice]
Thursday, 9 June 2011
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Johnny Mae Mathews
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Running on Empty
I am exhausted and eating everything that is not nailed down or foolish enough to stop moving for more than two seconds. I'm going to keep at it - maybe with a rest day thrown in at some point - but taper back for supporting my friend Dave's BGR attempt on the 17th June. Really looking forward to it.
Sunday, 5 June 2011
I Think I'm Beginning to Understand .....
Just found this on You Tube. What a lovely chunk of soul, please enjoy ....