Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

March 20, 2012

Blubberhouses 25 Marshall's Walk, 25 Miles


The Nidderdale LDWA holds two annual Challenge walks each year.  To make sure each route is still accessible and all of the checkpoint are still available, the club does a Marshall's Walk a few weeks before the actual events.

The Blubberhouses 25 route has a lot of memories for me, as this was the VERY FIRST EVENT I ever did in the UK.  Actually, I had only been here a week!   So this walk introduced me to route finding, map reading, high winds, fells, moors, bogs, dales, more bogs, and mud.    Oh, and the joys of required kit....
Rocking Hall checkpoint
I must have enjoyed the route, though, because two years later I am still getting out for muddy runs as often as I can.   But I hadn't returned to the trails of this Challenge, and I wanted to see if the route was as tough as it had seemed that first time.   In particular, I remember helplessly standing on a tussock of grass, with water all around me, wondering how I was going to keep my shoes dry!
The conditions this time around were much nicer, with sunshine and nice temps helping us doff several sets of outer layers by the middle of the route (only to put them back on again later in the afternoon when the sun got lower).  Our walk around took the five of us exactly 8 hours, but a slower pace gave me a chance to really take in the scenery.  We even found a sheltered grassy slope that was perfect for a lunch stop and a short nap in the sunshine.
So it was as nice as I had remembered...probably nicer because the weather cooperated.  We passed by rocks and forests, rivers, reservoirs, open moors with wonderful views, a few memorable bogs, and even an Abbey! 

I love these trails (I do say that about every trail I've been on) especially as they bring me out into the hills that are so close to home.   Welcome to my backyard!


Bolton Abbey

An old waymarker for the mule trail between Skipton and Harrogate

March 19, 2012

Night Biking, Yorkshire Dales

As Gavin, Tony and I met up at 8 PM on a Friday night for a long session of night biking, we all looked at each other and pointed fingers.  "This was your crazy idea!"   "No way, it was yours".   Tony was lamenting all the pubs he had passed on the way up to Settle, Gavin was missing another night with his new baby, and I was hoping it wouldn't rain and totally ruin what could only be classified as one long night. 

We fortified ourselves with supper at the local fish and chippie shop, under the assumption that we would work all those calories off climbing the first hill.  These are the hilly Dales after all.  We started off with half of a famous MTB trail called the Settle Loop, then diverted off  of it to add some more miles.  Our goal was 50 miles but we knew that the night might have other plans for us.   Malham Cove came and went, unnoticed in the night except for the steep hills we sweated up.  Yup, at that point it was warm and muggy and we were down to minimal layers.  

I had planned the route and had been wanting to ride the trail from Weet's Top down to Airton, as I had run the trail and thought it would be really nice.  Sure enough, it was gently curving downhill singletrack, elevated to keep us out of the surrounding bogs.   Even better than I had hoped.  Well, there WERE still a few bogs near the end.

After a short snack stop and a stretch of road, we were back on bridleways with the air turning wet.  So much for dodging the rain showers.  On went a few layers and we warmed up on the long climb to Malham Moor.  More rain and fog descended, along with Tony's derailleur getting stuck into his spokes. No idea how that happened.   His gears never worked quite right after that.   My brightest bike light suddenly stopped working at about the same time.  I was afraid it was the rain and hence put it into a dry pocket, but actually it may have overheated during one of our stops (in the rain, no less) as superbright lights have a tendency to do.  

So after another lengthy stop to get my headlamp batteries swapped to compensate for the dead light, we packed it in and headed home.  By that time we were wearing almost every stitch of clothing we had brought, the wind had picked up, and we still had 8 miles of headwind on the high moors to get back to our cars.   A few miles of muddy sheep pasture tracks were included there, and mentally I had almost clicked out of the game.  The cold and wet made eating, thinking, stopping, changing batteries, map reading, and navigation much harder than usual.   Taking off my soaked gloves to open a ziploc with wet fingers to eat something seemed like unnessary trouble, and we all just suffered until we were finished. Luckily the tarmac road appeared with easy riding back to Settle, and a final few miles of downhill. 

I think I have run faster than 30 miles in 6 hours, but darkness and fog can drastically slow down progress and the trails were pretty tough riding in the best of conditions.  It was a good test of my equipment, I'll make a few adjustments to my kit before I head out again at night.    Starting with riding on a night when no rain is expected!  

March 11, 2012

Wuthering Hike, 32 Miles, 10 Mar 2012

a.k.a. Howarth Hobble, with 4400 feet of elevation change, this Hike is not a race to take lightly. 

Photos courtesy of Runfurther
This is one of the few events that I have done before, so I had last year's time of 7:12 to aim to beat.  How hard could it be, that was only 4.5 miles an hour, well under the 5 mph average I kept up for 50 miles on the Round Rotherham?

The start of the race route was a blank spot in my mind...guess I had repressed those 4 miles of mostly uphill singletrack, battling against the wind and mist!   There was also a big clog-up at a couple of stiles...I had let too much of the field get ahead of me.  Oops. 

Low visibility in the first half of the race meant following the crowd around without having much idea where I was....too lazy to get the map out.   That came back to bite me later on, as a guy "who said he knew the route" went wrong in a key moment on the descent from Stoodley Pike.  Plenty of people followed us too, unfortunately, and I finally dug my map out. We had about a mile of forest bashing on minor trails to get back down to the proper road.   I carried map in hand the rest of the race...but the damage had been done.
Singletrack a few miles from the start

The day got really nice about after the first few hours, sunshine and warmer temps meant that the wind didn't bite as much as usual.  I was making good time though the halfway point, but after getting lost and losing 15 minutes or so, beating my previous time was getting harder to do.    The hills just kept getting longer and harder, too...nothing about the course is easy.   Three big climbs in the last 10 miles was a hard pill to swallow...luckily I had jelly donuts at the checkpoints to fuel me...or perhaps slow me down?

Still running at the finish although I looked like a gimpy pensioner by then. I finished in 7:03 so perhaps an improvement of 20 minutes or more on last year's time (if I hadn't gotten lost).   I won't even blame the previous night's bike race as possibly slowing me down :)

Had a nice chat with Mike before the race, and Nick afterward.  The steaming veggie stew picked me up enough for the drive home and inevitable crash on the sofa!

Results for 2012 Wuthering Hike are HERE

And if you "Like" the Runfurther Facebook page then there are tons of photos.

March 10, 2012

Dark/White Night MTB O, 9 Mar 2012

My first night mountain bike orienteering experience was part of the Dark/White Challenge Event series.   This one was held in Biggin near Hartington, in the White Peak area of the Peak District.  Luckily, I had been in that area once before, for the LDWA Six Dales Circuit, and loved the trails winding in and through the narrow dales.  Of course I wouldn't be able to see any of that at night, but hoped the trails would be ridable in the glow of my bike lights.

It rained on me all the way down to the start but the skies mysteriously cleared for the 2 hours we were out racing (it rained on the drive home, too, so how lucky can we be?!?).   Gavin and his teammate Onion showed up soon after I did, as a little friendly competition was in the cards.  The excuses started flying immediately, though, with the boys blaming a possible loss to me on Onion's lack of fitness! 

I set off with lights blazing, immediately hating how much my map board was rattling agains the lights but nothing I could do about it.   Nice to find out now on a short race...guess a new map board will be needed, bleh. 

The controls were all over the map (duh!) but I soon discovered a route that would pick up most of them, time permitting.  I noticed that I was riding slower than normal, as the reach of my lights limited my visibility and I didn't want to crash on a remote trail in the dark!   Happily, I was still able to see the map while riding, and with the descriptions tied to my forearm I could read those as well, so I could ride without stopping TOO often.   Navigation was much more crucial at night, as the normal vistas, sun angle, and visibility were removed.   Most of the route was on smooth bridleways and roads so it was fast and furious all around.

Most of the race went well, and then on the home stretch I found myself passing some trees that weren't on the map.   Why did I suddenly conclude that said trees must have grown rather quickly into a forest?!?   You got it, I was on the wrong trail.  No time to go back as time was fading away.  Luckily my mishap pointed me toward a different control, unluckily it was worth half the points of the original one. 

I finished ahead of the time limit (for once) and Gav and Onion were just a minute behind me.   We were quite happy to tie with 210 points each...although it must be said that I was faster overall so that must count for something!   I was happy to win my category as well (no need to mention that I was the only one in it!)

March 5, 2012

AR Team Training, Peak District

Got some long adventure races planned this summer, including the 2-day Adidas TERREX Swift and Expedition-length Sting.   These 4-person team races require a lot of teamwork, so it's good to get to know the guys and gals you'll be racing with.   Our team (Jon, Gavin, Tony, Sarah, and I) has a few geographical challenges, so it rare for all of us to get together at once, nevertheless, we managed it this weekend for some (big surprise) biking, running, and canoeing, the staples of AR. 

Photos courtesy of Sarah Keast
 Saturday started early with a long MTB in the Peaks.  We hit all the weather groups, including rain, fog, hail, rainbows, wind, cold, and sunshine.   Starting and ending in Glossop, our route included the infamous Jacob's Ladder descent, which I had no intention of riding.  I got down a little of it, then managed to upclip both of my feet from the pedals, resulting in saddle and handlebar contact points suddenly seeming quite tenuous with my feet dangling in midair!   Walking commenced shortly after I screeched to a halt.  Whereupon I noticed that my back wheel had almost come off, probably due to a rock hitting the quick release.   Narrowly escaped damage on that one, but the bottom of the hill was in view.  Whew!

Bumped into Clair Maxted in Edale, (who snapped this photo before sinking into the bog on Edale Skyline)
Gavin's route planning was excellent, lots of hills but mostly rideable bridleways (except for Jacob's Ladder of course).   We happened to come upon a checkpoint for the High Peak Marathon, which is a 42 mile night navigation challenge for teams of 4 through the notorious bogs of the Peak District.  With the fog of the previous night I was doubly glad that my team hadn't gotten selected to compete this year! 

I'm helping, really!
 Somewhere in the middle of the ride one of us (who shall remain nameless) lost a front brake, which ensured a few lectures on proper bike maintenance, and a quick stop at the bike shop in Hope.  I was very helpful and laid down in the sunshine, while the bike mechanic called the remains of the brake pads "the worst he'd ever seen".  In fact the brake fluid had drained out from the extreme wearing, so we were down for the count.  Our remaining route (of necessity) took on a flatter profile (we were all grateful) and we spent not a few miles along a canal towpath.  Where, I'm not sure, as I had no map.  One last steep hill, with great views of sun on the Peak District hills was still on order.  We finished off with a final "wheee" down the tarmac from Snake Pass into Glossop, managing to break the speed limit coming into town (on a bike, which must be legal). 

But the day wasn't done yet, first a quick change into running clothes for a fell run, which I was dreading.  I advertised my reluctance by not carrying a pack and hoping that would be a hint to get back quickly!   A couple of miles into the hills, Jon and Tony started talking about rounding out our 51 mile bike with enough distance to make 100 kilometers on the day.  I quickly added that up in my head and it sounded too long.   We took a vote, the team split up, with Sarah, Gavin and I sticking to the shorter route.  In fact, as soon as Tony and Jon were out of side, Gavin said "Right you lot, let's head back for early showers and a beer".  We didn't argue as the darkness and rain arrived simultaneously. 

After crashing in Jon's living room for the night, we had one last session planned, a canoe training day on Torside Reservoir.  Unfortunately for us, it was just above freezing and raining.  Wetsuit, full waterproofs, 3 pairs of socks, etc....didn't begin to keep me warm.  And that included the prior decision that falling into the water might be a bad idea.  Gavin and I paired up in a boat, I took the power position at the front, with less steering responsibilities.  Unfortunately Gavin's shouted directions of "power, power! Power!!" did nothing but make me hysterical with laughter, and my paddling suffered greatly with me rolling on the seat instead.  We did get down to business eventually (mostly in an ineffectual attempt to stay warm), and we managed several lengths of the lake in a more or less straight line. 

One by one we wilted in the cold, with first Sarah, then me, then Gavin calling it quits.  Jon was still gung-ho and managed 5 hours out on the water...I learned a few more pieces of kit that would have been handy to keep me warm.  Yet again (and probably many more times to come), I regretted the switch to canoes from kayaks in this summer's adventure races.  They are much harder to steer, much colder than covered kayaks, and a darn sight clunkier to carry around. 

But a good weekend together as a team for sure.  With a few more sessions planned before the Swift AR in June, we should be ready to go!