Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

January 30, 2012

Mountain Biking, Grand Canyon (of Gran Canary)

The island of Gran Canary isn't as steep as some of the other volcanic islands nearby.   We were soon to fly over to La Palma which is known as the steepest island in the world...not a place to ride a bike up, maybe?  Perhaps that's why I decided to mountain bike on this one...plus there was a wonderful bike rental shop called Free Motion in Playa Del Ingles.  They kitted me out out with a brand-new-looking 2012 Cannondale 29er mountain bike, and a map of a demanding but ridable route up into the mountains.   Since I ride a Gary Fischer Paragon 29er I was hoping they would feel about the same.  I wasn't disappointed, the bike was a dream to ride.  At least, once I got over my disappointment of not being able to rent a full-suspension 29er as those 2012 bikes hadn't arrived in the shop yet :( 

The wind was howling on the shore but once into the canyons is was sunny, warm, and calm.  My route took me up a paved road in a pretty canyon to Ayagaures, then climbed above a reservoir on a gravel track.  The wide dry track then wound in and out of the canyon, climbing and descending but too steeply, at around 500 meters a.s.l.  The area is known as the Grand Canyon, perhaps becuase we were on "Grand" Canary but it truly did look like the Grand Canyon in Arizona (ok, on a very small scale).  After 20 miles I reached the descent road back into town, but wanted to extend my ride a little, and so diverted up to Arteara instead.   That still wasn't enough mileage on such a beautiful sunny afternoon, so I retraced my route along the Grand Canyon, foregoing the gravel descent to town.  Once back at the reservoir and pavement, I climbed steeply up the other side to Los Palmitos, then it was a lovely fast descent all the way back into town.  As you can tell, I'm only half a mountain biker....I love the paved roads just as much!

January 29, 2012

Sand Dunes, Gran Canary Island

On the southern end of the island of Gran Canaria, between the ocean and the bustling tourist haven of Playa Del Ingles, there is a small patch of sand dunes.   I say small, but when standing deep down below the bottom of a crest of sand, nothing is visible except....more sand.   A few steps up the side brings the town, the mountain, and the ocean back into view, in some order. 

The area is only about 1 mile square, but the dunes themselves seem huge in comparison to the smaller bumps in the white sands of Fuerteventura.  

We had a few hours of calm sunshine to enjoy the dunes before the winds kicked up and kicked us out.   I was wishing for the sand goggles that participants carry in the Marathon Des Sables.  In fact this would be a great place to train for a sand marathon as it's got heat, wind, sunshine, and dunes...plus a beach bar waiting for you to stagger out later to refresh yourself!



January 10, 2012

Rab Mini Mountain Marathon, 8 Jan 2012

Following hard on the heels of the Old Crown Round was a Dark & White Mini Mountain Marathon on Sunday to make it a weekend double.  Now you see why I wanted to save my legs from the climb up Skiddaw?...or at least it made for a convenient excuse, anyway!

My adventure racing teammate Jon had signed us up for the 3 hour orienteering run in secret, in order to surprise another team of guys who don't like to lose, especially to women!   I warned Jon that I might be a bit knackered from the 20 miles in the Lakes, but felt suprisingly good the next morning, especially after Jon volunteered to carry my required gear and even give me a tow!   We ended up running into Jon's nemesis friends at the start, so everyone knew the race was on! 

The event was in Hathersage in the Peak District, an area that I had literally never visited except at night (see my Hike Peak Marathon night recce). So I was understandably excited to visit the Peaks in the daylight, especially as they are closer to my house than the Lakes and much easier to get to via the motorway.   I wasn't disappointed when the sun came up, as our route took us up and over Hathersage Moor, past Burbage Rocks (good climbing said Jon), and along Stanage Edge.  The trail over the cliffs was really breathtaking, and that wasn't just due to the wind!  In fact it was a beautiful day, cool and barely windy, not raining with good visibility.    I resolved to return to this area with Rob someday (I know I always say that but this time I really mean it) soon to enjoy a slower hike with time to stop and admire the views.  And take photos...definitely no time for a camera today.

Because I wasn't stopping on this run, that's for sure.  Once we decided on a good route, Jon took off with the navigation and towed me along behind him like a house on fire.   It was all I could do to keep up with his pace, but the hills weren't nearly as hard or high as the day before, so it was an enjoyable morning out.  We ticked off a lot of controls, didn't get lost or have trouble finding the dibbers, so a good day of orienteering.  Our route was fairly circular with options to add or cut off points at the end to get us back on time.  In fact we ended up cutting out not a few points at the end, as the muddy fields and trickier nav in the valley slowed down our pace.   Or perhaps we (ok, I) was just getting tired and not running as fast.   We had about 2 kilometers to go with about 9 minutes left on the clock, and at that point Jon started running faster and I hung on grimly to the tow rope to stick with him.  We finished less than a minute late and I couldn't even talk for a few minutes afterward! 

It was worth it, though, as the posted points showed that we had beaten Jon's competition with 219 points to their 210.   Get in!  

However we came nowhere near to winning our division as evidently there are a lot of fast runner/navigator pairs out there.  It's all good practice for adventure racing, though, learning how to work as a team, navigate unfamiliar terrain, pace and predict arrival times, and eat and drink on the run.  Looking over our route choices, I was really pleased with our route and couldn't find any changes that would have resulted in more overall points.  So I guess the only way we (ok,I) could have gone faster was to grow wings, or (more honestly) eaten less cake over the holidays :)

January 9, 2012

Nav4 The (Partial) Old Crown Round, 21 Miles

With an open weekend on the cards and a wish to see the Lakes in winter, I agreed to take on an informal run of a classic circuit called the Old Crown Round.   Traditionally starting from the Old Crown Pub in Hesket Newmarket, our group, organized by Joe Faulkner from NAV4, would modify that with a start outside our night's accomdation.

We arrived at Hudscales Camping Barn to find a roaring fire and comfortable mattresses waiting for us for the night.  Sarah and I were so exhausted we fell asleep early to the chatter of the rest of the group.  It was chilly in the barn, but not nearly as much as the prior year, when the temps were well into negative digits!  Still, I was happy to have the generous temperature rating of my down bag to keep me warm.  We slept late, too, along with everyone else, and it was a leisurely 9:15 departure for our "8:30" start!

Having never visited this area of the Lakes before, I had no expectations of the route, but had brought plenty of warm clothing, as wind and wet are usually a factor in the fells.  In fact there was no snow on the ground and temperatures were well above freezing, but the high winds and descending fog meant that I wore more layers of clothing than I ever had before on a run.  And still wasn't any too warm. 

The footing was was locals would call "normal" and anyone else would call "atrocious".  Namely, the route consisted of pathless bogs and rough footing, with some steep ascents of 5 peaks, including High Pike, Carrock Fell, Blencathra, Skiddaw, and Great Cockup.  The recent downpours of rain meant that every bog, creek, river was bursting with water, with every step squishing water over my shoes.  Even with waterproof socks my feet were soon wet through, and that was before the river crossing.  Wait, what?   Sarah (who had cajoled me into this run) had neglected to mention unbridged rivers to me until we were well into the route....hmmm. 

Sure enough, after nabbing two peaks and descending to the Cumbria way, we scouted along the River Caldew until we found a section that didn't look like it would wash us downstream.  Pluto the dog wasn't at all excited about getting across, but we managed with water no higher than our knees.   Then it was a never-ending tussocky ascent to Blencathra.   It got noticably colder on the way up and the wind was starting to deliver frozen bits of fog sideways into my stinging face. Sarah was cursing her cold fingers, the dog looked miserable, and the 7 other guys were disappearing into the fog.   We found them crouching in the lee of the summit for a rest and a snack, but it was too cold to stop for long, even with Sarah's yummy cake on offer.  I added a pair of waterproof pants over my thick running tights for the descent into the wind, but a short time without gloves left my fingers numb. 

The running descent was the same way we came up (which really begs the question why we bothered going up in the first place!?!?!) and then over to the shelter at Skiddaw House to regroup.   Losing the elevation helped my wet feet and hands warm up slightly, but a look at the map showed Skiddaw looming next.  The fog was turning into proper rain, and Sarah, Stu, and I made the decision to take the low(er) route home via the Cumbria Way, as we had nothing to prove and digits to possibly lose to frostbite...?  The other 5 guys were determined to finish the round, having been denied several times in prior attempts. 

A few miles down the river with the wind at our back was easy enough, but once we turned north it was a serious muddy climb into Grainsgill Beck alongside a rushing stream.  It would have been beautiful if I had been able to see past the hood that was a poor shelter for the driving rain and wind.  I could think of nothing nicer than to lay on the wet grass for a few minutes rest, but knew the better decision was to keep putting one foot ahead of the other.

Back on the high fells, with only one map between the 3 of us (I know, slap our hands for poor preparation) we missed the turn to the north and found ourselves in boggy, howling nowhere.  Visibility was poor to say the least, and we could only guess where we were.   Luckily my GPS watch had a tiny map on it, and by lining up my current location and where we had started from, we forged ahead in that direction knowing we were only a few miles from our cars.   We had gone far enough off route, though, that we ended up on the back (and windy) side of High Pike, finally dropping onto a path that miraculously led in the direction my GPS was pointing us! 

After almost 21 miles we crossed the final bog in fading light to get to the barn. I think the dog was the happiest one of the group as he had been slowing down for the last few miles!   Extraordinarily, my Paramo waterproof top and OMM waterproof pants had actually done their job admirably and kept me dry inside, but the same could not said for my feet.  Granted, submerging my socks on the river crossing really didn't help! So it was really nice to change into warm dry clothes for the drive home.  We were on the road before the rest of the group finished, but finish they did, quite impressive for the conditions of the day!

January 3, 2012

2012 Race Schedule

My race schedule for 2012 is coming together nicely. It greatly revolves around two tough Adventure Races in June and August, the Adidas TERREX Swift and Sting.  Most of my training and races will be used as part of the buildup for these.  So of course the races listed below could be on the chopping block if my team needs to get together for some quality time preparing for the big ones. 

1 Jan - The New Hangover Challenge, 20 Miles, LDWA 
3 Feb - Dark/White MTB Night O - Cancelled due to ice
5 Feb - Open 5 Adventure Race, North Pennines
26 Feb - Dark/White MTB Orienteering
9 Mar -  Dark/White Night MTB Orienteering
10 Mar - Wuthering Hike, 32 Miles, Runfurther Series
17 Mar - Falcon Flyer, 20 Miles, LDWA
18 Mar - Blubberhouses 25 Marshall's walk, 25 Miles, LDWA (actual event is 1 April)
1 Apr - Brew to Brew, 44 Miles, Kansas City to Lawrence, KS
28 April - The Boonecrusher Adventure Race, IA (if I find a teammate in time!)
12 May - Brecon 40, 40 Miles, Runfurther Series (maybe)
2-4 Jun - 2-day Swift Adventure Race
9-10 Jun - Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (Ok, I'd have to be crazy to do this after the Swift, so...not)
23-24 Jun - Three Rings of Shap, LDWA (But one or two rings would probably be enough...)
30 Jun - Open Cycling's Coast to Coast in a Day
7-8 Jul - Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon
4 Aug - Hanging Stone Leap, 24 Miles, LDWA
18-25 August - Adidas TERREX Expedition Race Sting in Sterling
15 Sep - High Peak 40, 40 Miles, Runfurther Series (Or not.  Gonna be in pain from 4 days of nonstop AR)
*29 Sep - Hardmoors 60, 60 Miles, Runfurther Series
*6-7 Oct - Rab Mountain Marathon or Open 5
*13 Oct - Four Lakeland Passes, 18 Miles, LDWA
*20 Oct - Round Rotherham, 50 Miles, Runfurther Series
*27 Oct - Snowdonia Marathon
*5 Nov - Open 5
2 Dec - Open 5

      *I realize that there are 6 weekends in a row of possible events.  I'm not going to do them all, I'm not that crazy...I don't think.

Hmmm, this schedule looks a bit top-heavy with running events, not any biking or kayaking races planned except as part of an adventure race.  May need to remedy that...

Hope to see you there there somewhere, and happy training and racing in 2012!

January 2, 2012

Paragliding Barranco del Infierno, Tenerife

I had flown my paraglider over the Barranco del Infierno (Hell's Canyon) during our vist a year ago, but hadn't remembered to bring the camera with me.  I cleared remembered the shock of flying over the deep, narrow valleys in the area, and my goal was to bring the camera with me this time, to record a hopefully amazing flight.

Walk #34 from the Tenerife Rother Walking Guide

But first we took a short hike out from the town of Ifonche to see the top of the Barranco.   Actually we only did a very tiny portion of Walk #34, as the one-way hike continued on the path all the way down the valley into Adeje, whereas we turned around at the overlook and came back to our car.  But the trail we covered wandered through some pine trees, a few cactus, and past some pretty amazing views of the coast and Hell's Canyon.  The barranco was so steep that we couldn't see all the way to the bottom!  The best view of course, would be from the air, that was to come later. 

Then it was back to the car to drive over to launch.  Although there is a high launch very close to where we had parked, there was no one else flying there and I had never flown from that spot before.  So we drove to the lower launch in Adeje, quite a drive around but worth it as when we arrived there were wings in the sky and good conditions just past midday.  I managed to launch with the camera (usually a sure way to jinx my flight) and had a great soaring 2 hour flight over the canyons, around and over the distictive peak of Roque del Conde, and back to a safe landing below Adeje.  There aren't many bailout landing areas that don't require picking your wing out of cactus spines, so when the daylight started to fade I was quick to head out for safe territory.

However the highlight of any flight in the area is flying in, around, and through the rock fingers of Montana del los Brezos, just below the upper launch area.  The only good way to see these massive pillars of rock is from the air, and my wing floated happily through the gaps in the steady lifting air while I snapped shots with my camera. 

Here's a short paragliding video, with amazing views from overhead....

From the ground....

And from the air....
The rock fingers, with Roque del Conde in the background

Tenerife's resort coast

High above Roque del Conde looking back at the Barranco del Infierno

Barranco del Infierno

January 1, 2012

The New Hangover Challenge, 20 Miles, 1 Jan 2012

Happy New Year!  Well, I'm starting 2012 out the right way, with a long run the first morning while most people are probably still at home sleeping off the alcohol they imbibed in 2011.   My friend Sarah and her dog Pluto met us at the start, where it was a very low-key LDWA event with probably less than 100 participants.   The event went off at 9 a.m. local time, which is just when Alaska was celebrating THEIR midnight entrance into the year 2012.

I had been warned about the amount of muddy trails on this event, but it started off nicely with a couple of miles along the Calder and Hebble Canal towpath.  Our gloves came off quickly in the relatively warm 8 C temps, even with a stiff wind gusting in our face. 

The trails were a mix of field crossings, towpaths, quiet back lanes, and muddy forest trails...but not nearly as muddy as I had imagined with all the rain we've had lately.  In fact my feet would've stayed mostly dry except for a rain-soaked field of high grass to ruin that record about halfway through the day.  Since I classify outings based on how quickly I get my feet soaked and cold, this was a pretty good one!   Perhaps the extra layer of mud coating my shoes actually kept some water out? 

The checkpoints were loaded with good munchies, with one entirely devoted to Indian food.  Not sure if I've ever eaten samosa and pakora during a run before, but it went down well as most things do when I'm running easily.  Although we both did feel a little sluggish from the holiday overeating which seems hard to resist each year.  Definitely time to get back into the good habits again.

Rain and pain near the finish....
 Pluto the dog ran circles around us and kept finding sticks for us to throw to him, but by mile 15 he was looking pretty tired and quickly sniffed out our return route to the car.  The last 4 miles were back along the canal, on a flat and straight shot home, which I was inclined to walk at times, but Sarah kept the pace high to finish the route in 4:23.   Some motivation for the fast finish may be due to the rain which starting pouring down with about a mile to go.  We finished without digging out our rain jackets but only because there were dry clothes waiting in the car!  I managed to forget a spare pair of shoes so my wet feet had to endure the short drive home.