Monday, June 24, 2013

Where is the Viking Way - Part 2

This morning I had to take my car in to be serviced at the top of Lincoln. I decided to run out to Fiskerton then pick up the Viking along the River Witham back to Lincoln.

Bad mistake!

I thought my run a couple of weeks ago along the Viking Way in the Wolds was overgrown but this took the biscuit.

I'll take a machete with me next time.

It's in there......somewhere!
Note the handy Viking Way sign
I give up.....

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lakes 10 Peaks - recce's

A few weeks ago, in a fit of impulsivity, I entered the Lakes 10 Peaks race. This runs over the 10 highest peaks in The Lake District, covering approximately 73 kilometres with over 5,600 metres of ascent. It looked mental enough for me!

The peaks are Helvellyn (951m), Bowfell (902m), Great End (910m), Ill Crag (935m), Broad Crag (934m), Scafell Pike (978m), Scafell (965m), Great Gable (899m), Pillar (892m), and finally Skiddaw (931m)

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

I’ve only been up Helvellyn, Bowfell and Scafell Pike previously so I have been up to the Lakes for a couple of recce’s recently.


A couple of weeks ago, I checked out the route from Thirlmere (at the bottom of Helvellyn), through the bogs (not too bad), up over High Raise and on to Angle Tarn at the base of Bowfell. I had intended to go up to the Scafell plateau but the cloud had dropped down to around 700m and this was forecast to remain all day, along with heavy rain. As I don’t know the area very well at all, I decided to stay lower and just have a nice day out. A bit light weight, I know, but these days my safety threshold is lower.

Up from Thirlmere
High Raise
.......and downwards
I carried on to Sty Head and then down to Wasdale. There I picked up the Lakeland 100 route over Black Sail Pass towards Buttermere, where I had a great slice of carrot cake and a hot chocolate with all the trimmings. 
Then it was onward to Braithwaite and Keswick where I got the trusty bus back to my car at Wythburn on the south shore of Thirlmere.

A thoroughly enjoyable day out; 29 miles, 2500m of ascent. The weather had definitely been better below 700m or so; dry(ish) with reasonable visibility.

Part 2:

Last week I spent another couple of days in the Lakes. I drove up on Monday evening so that I could start early and from my overnight at Borrowdale Youth  Hostel

I left the YH in clear skies at 06:15 and climbed up towards Esk Hause.

 I soon was on top of Scafell Pike (via Great End, Ill Crag, and Broad Crag).
Great End
Ill Crag
Scafell Pike from Broad Crag
Scafell Pike
The Lake District on a sunny day - beautiful
Having descended into Mickledore, I knew that there were 2 possible routes up Sca Fell, Lord’s Rake or via Foxes Tarn. An inability to find the former, narrowed my choice! The climb up to Foxes Tarn is relatively short but tough. At the summit I decided to see if I could find Lords Rake from the top. I couldn’t. I ended up coming too far down towards Wasdale and had to hack across fell and then climb back up towards Mickledore, before picking up the corridor route.
Looking back at Scafell Pike from the top of Sca Fell
The corridor route towards Styhead Tarn
I then made my way back to Sty Head and rapidly climbed up Great Gable. On top I had a quick rest, a chat and a huge slab of flapjack from the youth hostel.
Looking back at Great Gable
From here, the route goes down to Beckhead Tarn then around Kirk Fell under Boat How crags, finally reaching Black Sail Pass and on to Pillar before returning all the way to Beck Head. 

Somehow, I found myself on top of Kirk Fell and bagged myself a bonus Wainwright due to poor navigation! Back on course, I reached the top of Pillar 
I retraced my steps, via the correct route to Beck Head, and then easily followed the route to Honister before making my way back to Borrowdale YH.

A lot of the day had been relatively unrunnable due to technical ascents and descents and the terrain. I was out on the fells for over 11 hours and had a great (but tiring) day out in perfect weather. Gorgeous sunshine with superb visibility. The perfect recce.

After a splendid pub meal including ice cream of course, I was treated to a magnificent sunset over Derwentwater. I retired early, ready for an early start.
Just gorgeous
Dawn broke and in blue skies again, I drove up to Honister with the plan to run the route to Keswick and then perhaps do Skiddaw, return to Keswick and catch the bus back to Honister.

From Honister, I climbed up towards Dale Head before cutting across some boggy ground to Dalehead Tarn. Here some wild campers were just getting up. I commented on what a great spot they had. From here it was all the way down to Little Town; the path at the top was not particularly clear but essentially followed the gill. Lower down it became hard-packed and was perfect for some good running.

From Little Town it was a short run to Skelgill, before picking up the Cumbria Way back to Keswick. I then made my way across farmland and along country lanes to Millbeck at the foot of Skiddaw. By now, my legs were feeling the effects of the previous day and looking upwards, I decided to give Skiddaw a miss. From all accounts, the Skiddaw loop is a bit of a motorway and a ‘long drag’.
Back towards Keswick and some of the previous day's route
I made my way to the back of Latrigg and picked up the last couple of miles of the route along the Cumbria Way to Keswick. The bus to Honister wasn’t for 45 minutes, and given my dislike of queuing (there were already several people waiting), I got the Borrowdale bus to Seatoller, from where it was one last climb up the road to Honister.
Just how fast are these little animals?
A very useful few hours out. It amuses me that these days 15 miles feels like a short run!

I’m really pleased that I have done these recce’s. Some of the route is a bit tricky to follow and there are a few route choices to make. The sheer quantity of ascent/descent and also the terrain, promise to make this a very tough endeavour.

In fact, it’s going to be brutal

There’ll be no racing for me; a finisher’s medal is all that’s required.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A lovely weekend on the Dales High Way

A couple of weekends ago, Jenny & I spent a lovely 2 days walking from Skipton to Settle on the Dales Highway. I’ve run just about the whole route this year and wanted to share this great route with Jenny.

We had a lovely weekend despite being thrown out of a pub for the very first time ever, thanks to one of the rudest men I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. More on that in a bit!

We left early on Saturday morning and parked at Skipton train station. Our plan was to walk to Malham, where we’d booked a room in the youth hostel, Then, on Sunday morning, make our way either to Settle or Horton-in-Ribblesdale, depending how the mood took us, and get the train back to Skipton.

We were walking by 10:30, and made good time out of Skipton. As usual I had to slow Jenny down on the flats. She only has one walking pace and it’s fast. This is fine in flat Lincolnshire but a little pacing is required once in the hills.

Nearing Sharp Haw, I persuaded Jenny to get her new poles out and, after a bit of coaching, she found it noticeably easier going up hill.

After Sharp Haw, we had a pleasant walk down to Flasby and along the beck to Hetton. Here we decided to stop for a drink at the Angel Inn and have our sandwiches, and here our day became ‘interesting’. Our visit went something like this:

I approached a barman (B1) serving outside:
R: Is it Ok to eat our sandwiches at a table outside if we buy a drink?
B1: I’m not sure but I’ll ask someone.
I went inside to get a drink and some crisps.
B1: I can’t find the person to ask, but I’m sure it’s OK. I’ve got your back.
We sat down outside and started to eat. The crisps were brought to us in a bowl. A few minutes later another barman (B2) approached us in an angry fashion.
B2: There’s an £8 cover charge to eat you own food here. There’s clearly a sign by the door
            R: Oh sorry, we didn’t see the sign and we did ask the other waiter.
            J: We’ll pay then.
After some deliberation, we put our food away.
The second barman reappeared.
B2: I’ve decided to waive the charge, but just drink up and leave.
He turned to go. I have to say that I was amazed by his tone and immediately wondered if we were actually allowed to eat our crisps; which remember had come in a bowl.
            R: Excuse me, but……
He left the table.
            R: EXCUSE ME!
No response, so I followed him into the pub.
R: Are you saying we can’t have our crisps which we’ve paid for. We did ask the other barman if it was OK for us to eat our sandwiches outside.
B2: He said he’d find out – that’s not permission. I just think you’re incredibly rude to eat here. Just leave.
R: He said he thought it was OK. And most pubs on walking routes are OK with this as long as you buy something
B2: Just leave please
He turned his back on me and walked away
R (in a somewhat louder voice!): Thank you. I’ll make sure I recommend your pub!

We left.

I was absolutely staggered. I have never, ever been thrown out of a pub before. If we’d been told that we couldn’t eat there, we would have walked a bit further and eaten on the path. Perhaps we were a little in the wrong, but his manner, or complete lack of it, was staggering. The whole situation would have been avoided with a simple, but polite statement. As it was, it left a very sour taste in our mouths.

We wandered on for a few minutes and sat down to finish our lunch! There was a very sick looking cow lying down on the path. We were very concerned but couldn’t get a mobile signal, so as we are such rude and uncaring people, I walked back to the village to notify someone. At the first house I came to, an elderly couple said they knew the farmer and would phone him. They were very grateful for our concern.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful as we made our way up to Weets Top, past Gordale Scar and down into Malham. Just before Malham, we met a man who was obviously doing the Pennine Way (he was carrying a very big rucksack!). He was very pleased to have got from Edale to Malham in 4 days.

We had a very pleasant cold drink at Buck Inn and then wandered up to the Youth Hostel. We had a comfortable twin room (bunks) with a shower/toilet ensuite for £33. The YHA has made a considerable effort and investment to modernise its hostels and make them more “family friendly”, and they have succeeded.

The Lister Arms was recommended for dinner but was fully booked. We had a very acceptable meal at the Buck. Looking at some of the meals coming out, this is the place to come if you have a large appetite!

Back to our bunk beds and we were soon asleep.

After a good night’s sleep we had breakfast at the youth hostel. Most acceptable it was too and only £4.99 each.

We set off up the Pennine Way towards Malham Cove. 

We had already decided to have lunch in Settle and get the train back from there, so we were looking forward to a pleasant morning’s walking. Up the Cove and along the familiar Raven Scar. We soon reached Langscar Gate
Not for 'larger' bottoms
No, it doesn't darling!

Then it was the long but picturesque walk along Stockdale Lane past Stcokdale Farm and on to Settle. We barely saw a soul between Malham Cove and Settle.

In Settle we had a quick browse in Castleberg Outdoors before having a really nice lunch at The Kitchen Café.

A quick stroll to the station, back to Skipton and the drive home.

A lovely weekend.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Where is the Viking Way?! A catalogue of misfortune.

Being bored with running around here, and as the weather in the shires was forecast to be a little brighter at least until lunchtime, I decided to get the early train up to Barnetby and then run down the Viking Way to Horncastle, where I can get the bus back to Lincoln. This is generally a very pleasant route and is more undulating than Lincoln central.

Fortunately, I checked the train times when I got up as the train goes 20 minutes earlier on a Saturday (05:38!). This was the high point of the day.

The first couple of miles were nice enough but then I hit the soaking wet, overgrown jungle of the Viking Way. Now, I know I'm not a giant but at times I was battling through nettles, brambles and general flora up to chest level. Hugely unpleasant. 

Very quickly, my knees and thighs were scratched to shreds and on fire thanks to the nettles. I was only glad on the partial protection of my calf guards otherwise I would have probably just sat down and cried. I was soaked as if it had been pouring with rain.

It then poured with rain.

I decided to bail out at Tealby before I had an anaphylactic reaction either to nettles or being p*ssed off! From there I could make my way to Market Rasen and get the next bus home.

Going through the woods near Rasen, the path was completely inpenetrable. I had to detour by over a mile. I missed the bus. At least I can get the train from Rasen too.

Having waited for the next train, the single carriage arrived - completely full. The guard said he would get on who he could. Luckily everyone fitted but it was similar to the underground in rush hour. I was standing next to a lady with claustrophobia!

Obviously the guard hadn't been able to get around the carriage to collect fares so we presumed we wouldn't have to pay at Lincoln. Guess what, we did! One man collecting all the fares on the platform at Lincoln station. We queued for 10 minutes. I expressed my opinion that we shouldn't have to pay and was told that he didn't have time to discuss this as everyone was waiting to pay!! Some form of reverse logic? He used the word 'great' several times and I explained that I didn't think it was particularly great all. I paid.

A thoroughly miserable morning. 

From now on I will sit on the sofa, eat pizza and get fat!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Why I Run

People often ask me why I run.

My standard answer is along the lines of "Because I can, because I enjoy it, because it makes me feel good, because I like being outdoors."

They look at me, slightly bemused. "So you like running? OK, I sort of get that even though it just causes me pain. But why don't you just do a 10k or a half marathon or even a marathon?"

I sigh. 

"Because city marathons are boring. I like being out in the countryside, in the hills and mountains. I like the solitude, the escapism and the sense of wonder as I look around. Sometimes you just get those sublime moments."

They grin, a little more bemused. "I get the hills bit; they can be very nice. But why run up them? And why not just go for a few miles like normal people."

"Because I like to push myself, test myself, push the envelope."

"Because I like the sense of camaraderie during a race."

"The sense of well-being and accomplishment after a day out, and the boost to self-esteem after finishing an ultra-marathon, a big event, is so great, so acute."

"Oh really!"

"Well, you either get it or you don't!"

Here are some more pictures and these are just from this year. Just a few captured moments in time but they are why I run.

Ok, so there is one more reason why I run.......

Happy days!!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Hardmoors 110 - race report

The bare facts are that I finished in 7th place in 27:25:38. Of course the bare facts are just that; very bare. A lot happens in a day and a bit on the trail, both physically and mentally; from euphoria to abject misery, total alertness to overwhelming fatigue, running with ease, then pain, then more pain.

Jenny and I set off for Helmsley after lunch on Friday arriving just after 15:00. I had felt good in the days leading up to the event but Jenny was very tired having been away in France with work all week. On the drive up I was feeling guilty about taking up another weekend, and the forecast of persistent rain during the evening didn’t really help. For the last hour of the journey, I just wanted to turn around and go home; the thought of running for 113 miles wasn’t filling me with a huge amount of joy.

Once we arrived there was no turning back and I busied myself with registering, sorting out kit and eating. It was great to see so many friendly faces: Jon and Shirley, fellow Spiners Andrew, Annie, Gary, Jonathan, Mick and Jackie, Robert, and Tim. Also Ben and Ricardo from the Viking Way, Lakeland 100 and others.

The provisional plan was that Jenny would meet me at Osmotherley (23 miles) and then catch up with me in the morning somewhere on the coast. She was staying at the Saltburn CP (Spa Hotel) but she needed a good night’s sleep, so I had arranged to have a drop bag there. She was under strict instructions to not let me drop out unless I had bone showing or an arterial bleed!

As I readied myself, Jenny began to get into the swing of things and into ‘support mode’ – she really is very good at looking after me. She quickly decided to also meet me at CP1, White Horse.
113 miles to go!
It was soon time to start, and after a short briefing (a brief briefing just doesn’t sound right) it was the off. A group of about 10 runners set off at 10k pace; I let them go. I have learnt a lot from all my DNFs last year, particularly at the Viking Way, where I should have finished, and went into this race with 3 strict rules:
  1. Run my own race – totally.
    • Don’t try and keep up with anyone, and don’t slow down just to maintain company
  2. Go from checkpoint to checkpoint
    • Break the race into manageable segments; 10 miles to next CP, not 30 miles to the finish.
  3. Always go forwards – relentless forward progress
    • Pain is temporary, failure lasts forever
With these in mind, I set off at an easy pace!

The first few miles seemed to take forever. My legs felt really heavy and I was feeling progressively more guilty and beginning to fight some serious mental demons. I even suggested going home at CP1; Jenny told me to get a move on!
I continued to fight my body and mind, all the time fighting a losing battle, convincing myself to call it a day at Osmotherley. However, I got a bit angry after a significant detour around 20 miles and suddenly was into my running.

At Osmotherley, I collected my night gear and poles, and had a bit to eat. I discussed my thoughts with Jenny, who said that she was starting to enjoy herself. This put my mind in a far better place, and munching on a peanut butter and jam sandwich I set off into the night with Ricardo.

As we chatted the miles rolled by. I love running at night and I felt great; I barely felt tired going up the 4 consecutive climbs. Visibility was extremely poor at times due to thick mist, which made running tricky even on the flat. Even though I’d recce’d this section, it was still full concentration on navigation.

Coming down from Blaworth crossing, I began to pull away from Ricardo and 3 others that we’d met up with, including Karen Nash who was doing her first 100 miler. I then had a wonderfully peaceful and soulful 2 hours, running on my own in my own bubble of light. It’s nice to have company, but sometimes one’s own company is all that is needed.

After Roseberry Topping, with continuing poor visibility, I took a wrong turn but quickly realised I was heading downhill too soon and having consulted my map, headed back up only to meet Boris who had done exactly the same thing. I managed to convince him we were both wrong and we were soon back en route. Boris was also doing his first 100 in preparation for the UTMB. It was early dawn by now and I really enjoyed his company as we neared Saltburn at 58 miles.

Reaching Saltburn just before 06:00, I was met by the amazing sight of Jenny waiting for me. She was meant to still be asleep! As I changed shoes and socks, and discarded tights for shorts, she informed me I was on 26 hour pace. One very good decision I made here was to continue with poles; I had planned to discard them at Saltburn, but they were to prove invaluable on all the steps. Alistair Stewart, crewing for Tim Bateson, said I looked sickeningly well and I have to say I felt remarkably untired. 
"Sickeningly well" at Saltburn CP
Boris was planning on a longer stop so, munching on my breakfast of a salami and cheese sandwich, I was soon off on my own.
A glorious morning at Saltburn
The route was now almost totally down the coast to Filey, 55 mile to go, but I was only thinking of the 12 miles to the next CP of course! I was enjoying the early morning sun with the accompanying sights and sounds of all the sea birds swarming off the cliffs, and made good time to Runswick Bay (70 miles), passing through some lovely seaside villages via plenty of steps. 
The picturesque Cleveland Way
Another quick stop with Jenny again sorting out water, electrolytes and food and I was off towards Sandsend (79 miles).

I was still running all the flats and downs, and walking the ups. However, my definition of an ‘up’ was beginning to lessen! There were lots of steps.
At Sandsend, still at 26 hour pace, I was re-joined by Boris who was still looking very strong. Moving through Whitby and on towards Robin Hood’s Bay via lots more steps, I was still moving well.
Whitby Abbey
However, as we began to climb out of the Robin Hood's Bay I began to slow. As we approached Ravenscar CP (90 miles) my legs suddenly decided they didn’t want to run anymore and I was forced to walk the last couple of miles to the checkpoint, with Boris moving ahead. I knew Jenny had a hot meal waiting for me and I probably hadn’t eaten enough since the last CP.

At Ravenscar I had a good sit down and a lot to eat. I was tired but the thought of stopping never entered my head. One step at a time, one check point at a time. With that in mind I left along with Boris feeling much better.

Within 2 miles, my legs didn’t want to run again. Boris soon moved off as I settled in a solid walking pace. I knew this phase would go…..eventually! A few miles from Scarborough, and probably after more steps, Karen passed me at a steady pace, looking focused. We exchanged a few words but she was soon out of view.

At this stage, I wasn’t having a huge amount of fun but I still had an unshakeable believe in my ability to finish whatever. I made my way down to Scarborough North Bay thinking I’d be able to run now. Not a chance! I ended up walking all the way round both bays. After 24 hours of eating trail mix, sandwiches, muesli bars and suchlike, my mouth was a little on the dry side and I decided that an ice cream was called for. A three-scoop tub was sensational and I arrived at the checkpoint with tub in hand, much to everyone’s amusement. It was great to see everyone there especially Jenny and this gave me real boost.
Ice cream....mmmm
Fuelled by ice cream I felt much better, and left on the final leg. Navigation out of Scarborough was interesting due to high tide but after much checking of map I made my way up some steps along the detour before picking up the Cleveland Way again at Cayton Bay, and made my way down and up yet more steps. It did occur to me that this was like spending 12 hours on a step machine at the gym!
Looking back towards Scarborough
I had now settled into a gentle jog as I made my way across the cliffs towards Filey Brigg. I soon saw the marker signifying the end of the Cleveland Way in the distance but as I neared I realised that it was actually a large bush. This was, at the time, completely demoralizing. Soon enough though I was at Filey Brigg. I self-clipped and then turned down into Filey with just 3 miles to the finish line.
109 miles done!
Having recce’d this section, I knew exactly where to go. A few people congratulated me as I ran along the seafront, and soon enough I approached the finish at Filey School. Jenny was waiting outside and, with a big smile on my face, she directed me to the finish, and I crossed the line in 27 hours, 25 minutes.

It was great to finish and sit down. I had a couple moments of contemplation and emotional relief. The last 20 miles had been fairly tough and it was nice to now be able to relax, physically and mentally, and have a quick massage!

Job done!


1. A great race, really well organised. It follows a lovely route in 2 very contrasting parts; moors and coastal, both tough and picturesque. I would totally recommend any of the Hardmoors series of races. Jon and Shirley do a superb job, the races are all great value and still relatively low key.

2. This was a race that I had to finish and from Saltburn I had an unshakeable belief, that barring injury, I would. Last year I DNF’d at The Viking Way after 113 miles. Essentially, I had just had enough and fought a losing battle with my mind. The thought of 30 more miles overwhelmed me; I should have broken it down into manageable chunks. This was my first 100 mile finish, and hopefully I have now banished most of the demons of my DNF at the VWU. My nutrition and hydration were good, but more importantly my mental attitude after Osmotherley was spot on, I broke the distance into manageable chunks and tried to remain positive at all times, even when the going was tough. I stuck to my rules.

3. Support. Logistically, I could easily have done this race unsupported. With drop bags at 23, 58 and 90 miles, and several CPs in between, there would have been no problem replenishing fluid, food and kit. However, I can’t express the value, the uplift, of seeing a friendly (and most lovely) face at regular intervals. At no stage beyond Osmotherley did I need persuading to continue, but the boost to morale that I got every time I saw Jenny was immeasurable.

As I said at the time, “If Carlsberg made wives………..”

Thank you Jenny

4. Enjoyment. People think we are mad, and to be honest, the idea of running 100+ miles is pretty stupid. We run for all kinds of reasons but first and foremost it has to be enjoyable. Yes, there is pain and innumerable highs and lows, but there are also those moments when I look around and am in wonder at nature, and the opportunity to experience it in such a way. Living the dream!

I enjoyed this race as much as any for a long time. Perfect weather, lovely and contrasting scenery, the sounds and sights of nature, great company interspersed with moments of great solitude. 

Loved it!
What it's all about