Tuesday 25 November 2014

Harriers on Hindscarth

Our home for the weekend- the Bridge Hotel.

Sarah and I arrived at the Bridge Hotel shortly before dusk on Friday. After two days of sitting on my bum on trains and in conferences, I was ready for some exercise! We'd just missed the scheduled evening run round the Lake, so we took ourselves for a little wander around the shore. We didn't go far as it was soon dark and we needed to get showered etc before dinner.

At dinner time we sat with Bryan, Claire, Martin and Jane. I had prawn and salmon mousse, followed by roast duck and it was all lovely, the pudding however was too much and I struggled to finish it. A couple of beers topped off the evening before retiring to our cosy rooms.

Saturday - Up and on early ready for the pre-breakfast lake run. We set out before dawn heading in a clock wise direction around Lake Buttermere. The pace was brisk, the air surprisingly warm for both the time of day and the time of year! The fast lads took a detour with a sharp climb from the lake and back down which they all seemed to thoroughly enjoy!

The only problem with all this, is that we all pile into the shower at once... I'd got as far as applying soap before I ran out of water! Cue scraping it off with a damp flannel. I found out over breakfast I wasn't the only one! Sarah had the right idea and waited 15 mins or so and got a proper shower.
For breakfast I sat with John, Nicky J, Carol and Pat. I had yoghurt and muesli followed by smoked haddock with poached eggs, breakfast of champions!!
Setting off on our walk Saturday morning.

Little chapel near Little Town.

Surrounded by fells. Left- Hindscarth. Middle, foreground- High Crags. Right- Robinson

Next we got ourselves arranged into cars and headed over Newlands Pass to the village hall at Little Town for the start of our walk. We started out along the road until we reached the farm at Low Snab, here it all got a little uphill! We clambered up the eastern flank of what would eventually become Hindscarth. First ascending Pan Holes to reach Scop End. At times we had to clamber up wet slippery rocks, taking our time over hand and foot placements. Still, it was good fun and got the heart racing a little! It was easy to pick out the surrounding fells, Catbells and Maiden Moor to the east, the vast bulk of Robinson in front to the west.
Climbing up Scops End.

Steve B on the rocks!

Part way along the ridge.

Bit more climbing to go yet...

On the final push up to Hinscarth summit now.

Hilary is almost there.

We regrouped on the lower ridge before skirting around (thankfully not over!) High Crags. Here was a flatish area so we stopped for a bite to eat, in my case hot cross buns supplied by Sarah and a flask of hot chocolate. Here the weather closed in and we had to don our waterproofs and gloves. The final climb onto Hindscarth summit was straightforward. I thought this was a 'new' Wainwright for my list, but I have since realised we were actually up here last year, oops.

Hindscarth summit

John and Matt check out the views.

Claire and Bryan join us at the top.

Say cheese Hilary!

Sarah, Lorraine and Sarah!
Descending from Hindscarth to skirt around the head of Little Dale, before a stiff climb up and onto Robinson.

Harriers on Robinson

The long descent onto the sponge that is Buttermere Moss.

A little mist swirled around to create an atmosphere on the rocks high above the valley. It was quite cold, so we started off in smaller groups so no-one got too cold waiting. A long descent onto Buttermere Moss ensued, it was steep in places. The Moss was, as usual, very wet indeed. As I had made most of my journey by train, I hadn't brought my hiking boots choosing instead to walk in my trail shoes. While these are light and very comfy, they are not at all waterproof and very quickly my feet were totally numb from the icy water sat on the Moss. Thankfully, it's not far and we passed to the right of High Snockrigg and missed the main path down! To get back on track, we contoured around the edge of the bank, most uncomfortable on the ankles, before picking up the correct route. Gavin hung back so later parties didn't make the same mistake. The descent from High Snockrigg to the road above Buttermere is very steep, but we made it without further mishap.
Down the road and into the hotel.

I debated whether to take part in the Honister head torch run. I have done it twice, I was a little tired, quite hungry and was comfy sat on my bed eating crisps and drinking hot chocolate...
I put my running gear on, still debating what to do when I was sat in the lounge with my trainers and head torch in my hands!! Ever the glutton for punishment, I thought it was best if I went for it!! My trainers had been stuffed with paper (thanks to the resourceful Booths!) and sat in the drying room so although they were still a little damp, they were at least warm when I put them on.
Rob and Sarah are both nursing ankle problems, but wanted to run so they headed off in the Ute and joined us at the far end of the Lake as the climbing got serious. The fast/stronger lads at the front ran most of the climb up the miners path, those of us further back walked briskly with the odd jog when we realised Rob was looking!! This path runs from the road at the far end of lake, around Warnscale Bottom before sweeping sharply uphill to meet Dubs Hut, an old slate miners hut now used as a bothy. I think in the day light, this trip would be terrifying, but the dark hides the big drop and rushing waters of Warnscale Beck below. We slower runners, made it to the hut pretty much without stopping. We had to have a nosey inside (and shelter from the rain for a moment) where Sarah produced a stick of liquorice which was shared between the group. The track is easier underfoot now, but still uphill as it winds its way through the tips and workings of the slate mine. Almost the last obstacle is a big heap of slate chips which we have to traverse, it's easy to loose sight of the head lights in front here and it's important to stick together. Once safely onto the mine road, we spread out as each runner took delight in the downhill! This is where we find the final obstacle in the form of metal draining gullies across the road... We all made it down without tripping over these structures and found Matt and Paul G waiting for us in the Slate Mine car park, heated seats on and ready to go!!
As is traditional, we all piled into the bar and downed a pint a piece before getting showered and warmed up. I knew it was the right thing to go on the night run!

While in the bar, I'd spied Mark tucking into pasta, I hoped it was on the restaurant menu and indeed it was! Vegetable linguini in a pesto and parmesan sauce, it was lovely and just what I needed. Followed by a lighter dessert this time of lemon tart with raspberry sorbet.
We retired to the lounge to while the evening away with beer and giggles.

Sunday - I greeted Sunday with the usual hangover. Sarah decided to miss the morning run due to her ankle, so I got dressed and slipped downstairs. My still damp trainers were waiting for me and we turned out into the pre dawn light for a hilly wake-me-up kind of run. Along the road to the little car park at the base of Rannerdale Knotts, then we pick up a bridle path which skirts the Knotts before a beckside climb through High Rannerdale. As usual my churning stomach, pounding head and weary legs made this fairly gentle ascent bloody hard work! One day I'll run this sober and appreciate it a little more... At last we reached the path junction on the flank of Whiteless Breast, after regrouping we set off on the fast grassy descent, straight down into Grassgarth Coppice. The last bit through the Coppice is my favourite bit, over rocks and tree roots hidden in the fallen leaves, gradually dropping to meet Mill Beck. At the bottom, myself and a few others went into the beck to rid ourselves of mud and ice our limbs. Steve had to go the whole hog with a swim under the bridge!!

Another quick shower and I was refreshed and ready for a fry-up!! Sitting this time with Sarah, Lorraine, Richard, Brett and Naomi.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Always sad to say 'goodbye' but we'll see each other soon enough at club!
Some people went straight home, a few stay on for a walk around Crummock Water to the pub at Kirkstile and Sarah and I decided to do our own thing. We clambered up the side of the falls at Sour Milk Gill to find a geocache. The GPS on my phone bounced around a bit, but eventually (much to Sarah's excitement) we found the pot of treasure under some rocks. Then we took a walk in the glorious sunshine around the lake, one last cup of tea in the café before finally heading home.

Looking down Sour Milk Gill

Geocaching - Found it!

Sour Milk Gill from below.

High Snockrigg from across the lake.

Especially for Coach Sonja- Sarah scooting on a log!!

Sunny lake scenery.

The teashop was full of baubles!

I can't recommend the Bridge enough, the rooms are really nice, the food is fab and the staff are really friendly and enjoy a bit of banter with the guests. Can't wait til next year now...

Monday 10 November 2014

Goathland Marathon - a return to the moors!

The forecast for today was foul. At 6am however, it was a cold but bright day. My friend Pat arrived early (as expected!) as we were car sharing. She had intended to race but has been plagued with injuries for several weeks and was now marshalling instead.
We had an easy ride out to Goathland and got parked and registered no probs, we were dead early so just sat about in the hall.
RD Jon introduced Pat to her fellow check point marshals and more and more people arrived.
Lisrun and MelH were there to run the marathon, along with Flip doing the half. My WLaC buddies DB and JC arrived, also running the marathon and along the way I got introduced to several WLaC group members and people from the Hardmoors page on Facebook.
By now Pat had gone off to do her duties and I was getting more nervous as the clock slowly ticked towards the start time.

It was still sunny when we left the village and headed across fields towards Beck Hole. Following West Beck to Mallyan Spout was once again spectacular, although I seem to have forgotten about all the steps and the slippery wooden board-walks. The beck was much higher than last year and more water coming over the Spout too. I really MUST come back here for a walk with OH and doglett. We left the beck for a stiff climb, first up muddy steps then on grass, over a road and then onto moor track as we skirted Two Howes Rigg. As we dropped down towards the check point at Hunt House, the front runners in the half marathon were catching us up, they were flying along!!
Just beyond Hunt House was Pat's marshal point. She and Roy were directing the halfers right across Wheeldale Beck over the steeping stones (the stones were 6 inches underwater apparently) and us and the 10km runners up Howl Moor to the Simon Howe check point.
We chatted on and off as we clambered up the steep climb, of course the professional photographers were here too.
At Simon Howe the route splits again, with the 10km runners heading north back to Goathland, us marathoners on the other hand headed South as we still had a few mile to go...
It wasn't too bad running along Simon Howe Rigg, narrow paths in the heather with plenty of mud, but it was ok if you watched your footing. The gentle downhill was welcome after the climb up.
The boggy bits were getting worse though and as we crossed Wardle Green, the girl in front went right in up to her thighs! One of the men had to help pull her out! We were glad to be running in a group, about 6 of us at this point. As we squelched across the fields, the halfers came by in the opposite direction, still flying! They managed to get back before it rained.
Rough forest track took us to the next check point, but not before I stepped into a puddle and did a good Doctor Foster impression up to my knees! Oops. At the check point, DB and JC caught me up and we chatted and ran eating Jaffa cakes, bananas and Pop-tarts! the forest drive drops down very steeply and I walked/trotted down as it's this descent which set my knee off last year. Lisrun and MelH joined us too. We stayed on the good track, undulating through the forest until we crossed the railway line at Needle Eye (I think, I haven't marked my map correctly here but it was ok as the route was very well marked with tape) through the spooky trees and into a stiff muddy climb above Havern Beck.
I'd felt great right up until this point. The exertion of the climb made me feel sick. Dam.
We ran in small groups along Levisham Bottom. My tummy was not happy and it was hard work, I took quite a few walk breaks. Before the hunting tower came into view, the rain started. we all pulled our coats out of our packs and got waterproofed up. I couldn't run with my hood up, so used my buff as a hat instead, kept my ears nice and warm against the wet.
A soggy marshal directed us up another stiff climb I knew this was coming and was dreading it and felt really sick again. I walked from here to the next check point, watching the others, Lisrun, MelH, DB and JC as well as the little group of Quakers all run on I felt a little sad. I had a drink and some sweets at the check point. I figured I'd go a bit further, see how I felt, but maybe think about pulling out at the next stop.
I was also desperate for a wee! There's not much privacy in this part of the world, and I didn't know the group of people I was with well enough just to squat behind a bit of heather!! Now though, as I shuffled through the deluge alone, I found the ditch running along the path was deep enough to hide a desperate runner so I jumped in and answered the call of nature!! Getting wet leggings back over wet skin was an interesting task...
I was hoping this may relieve the nausea, but it didn't and I still had to walk a good few times before finally reaching Gallows Dike. We went along the roadside footpath a little before crossing the surprisingly busy A169, made more dangerous by the mist. I still felt a bit sick as I got to the check point, but I had a cup of water and the man had grapes! Yummy! As I spent a few minutes fishing them out of the tub where they were floating in rain water, I chilled to the core. I was too cold to stand still long enough to explain why I wanted to quit so instead I carried on. I ate the grapes and walked along, then I fished my gloves out of my pack (never thought to keep them to hand when I put my waterproofs on) and a miracle happened. As I thought I must keep running to keep warm, the sickness subsided and I started to feel ok again. Down a steep concrete road, I caught up with DB and JC once more and once over the stile at Newgate Brow I managed to gain a bit of a lead. There was a lone lady running slightly ahead of us, I'd almost catch her at each gate or stile, then she'd pull away again. This continued all the way along the edge of Hazelhead Moor and through the bogs around Fylingdales. At Fylingdales, we turn East onto a good dirt road. It goes uphill, then sweeps down and up again over a beck before a long, long drag along Worm Sike Rigg. for the first 10 minutes you think 'Yeah, easy running' than you quickly get bored. This is the only bit of the route I don't like. I ate my fruit puree as I walked/ran along. I could see the lone lady up ahead and further on the group of Quakers, DC and JC were also visible in the mist behind. At long last, a signpost directs us to Lilla Cross and back into the mud. It was misty up here, but the path is quite distinct through the mire. A lone, damp marshal loomed out of the mist, offering soggy Pringles, and points out the turn onto Lilla Rigg. Again, it's wet, muddy bog hopping fun, join a nice track for a short distance. Here I could see ahead to the next crossing of the A169, I think I must have zoned out a little as I took a nasty stumble and nearly fell. I reminded myself to concentrate as I turned back onto the moor. A wrong footing here could be disastrous, it was open bog often with no clues as to how deep it was. I worried if I went in deep, I'd have to wait for DB and JC to catch up to pull me out. Not a nice place to be alone. Anyway, such gloomy thoughts were uncalled for and the ground became firmer (but just as wet!) as I reached Eller Beck. I remembered having to jump the beck last year, and it was tricky then, today it seemed a raging torrent! I had seen other people on the far side so it must be possible and I worked my way along the bank until I found a likely spot and went for it. I made it across without getting any wetter and squidged along in the sticky mud down towards the road crossing and the next checkpoint. My other knee was sore now, but nothing like last year and I was in good spirits, I knew once over the road I'd cracked it. I started to think about the finish.
Before that though, was another crossing of Eller Beck. This one was wider and deeper, a little test of the bank revealed it to be unstable and it took several minutes to psyche myself up for the jump, one wet foot this time. The chaps at the checkpoint offered me tea, but I said I just wanted to finish now, only 4 miles left I'm told. I couldn't stomach the gingerbread man I'd picked up, despite feeling hungry, and set off through Fen Bogs Nature reserve. A steep drop, over the railway line again and another beck crossing, which had been improved since last year. Then it's a long but shallow uphill slog through mud and water to reach the Simon Howe check point once more. The lads marshalling here were remarkably chipper as they pointed the way home. Just two more miles!
I had it in my head it was downhill all the way, nope. Only a shallow gradient, but my tired legs felt it, plus of course the continuing water both underfoot and falling from the sky. I'd had enough now. In my head I told myself 'Only two miles, you can do this, it's only a time trial.' Out loud I said 'More like a fucking ordeal.' I stamped and sloped and trotted along at last we turn off to cross Two Howes Rigg and it really is downhill and the ankle deep water was flowing with me for once instead of against. I swore at my sore knee some more and gradually through the murk I could see the village down below. Such relief flowed through me, soon I could be warm and dry. On the final descent before hitting tarmac, I heard the slap slap of feet in water, a quick glance told me two blokes were closing in on me. I prayed it wasn't DB and JC, I prepared to shout that if they over took me now I'd cry, but I realised they wouldn't do that and if it had of been them, they'd have carried me along. As it was, I've no idea who it was! They flew past and bowled on through the village. My feet hit solid tarmac, I spotted a lone orange figure and it was Pat who'd come out to cheer me on! Spirits once again lifted, I ran on. 'Fuck' shoelace came undone for the THIRD time, but I wasn't stopping for that now! I ran a little carefully, I feared if I fell now on my lace, I might just smash into little pieces. Flip was also out in the rain, he took my picture as a flailed past and at last I was crossing grass and into the village hall so Shelly could record my time. I must have looked a mess as several people asked me if I was ok, in a genuine concerned way rather than 'wasn't that fun?' kind of way. I was fine, just a little bewildered now it was all over. I got a cup of tea and wandered back outside to find Pat coming down the road. It was only on going back outside I realised just how cold and horrid it was! I drank tea, chatted to Ultrarunner Moorsman who I'd missed earlier, and to Lisrun and MelH and gradually got changed. Some dry clothes, hot tea and a bit of food made such a difference and I felt vaguely human again. DB and JC made it back too and we congratulated each other.

I do remember last year writing a blog about this race and saying what a lovely route it was, but it would be very different on a wet day... well, I was right! It's still a wonderful route and has been my favourite marathon so far. Well, it must be as I've done it twice now!

Now it is Monday and I can report that I feel pretty good. Obviously a bit stiff and sore which is to be expected, but even though I had soaking feet for over 6 hours, I don't have any blisters, and the soreness is not excessive or worrying at all. Indeed, I'm planning on jogging down to club tonight, but we'll see what happens closer the time.
So, I must have done something right, even though becoming an Ultra Runner is still a work in progress, Just need to work on this nausea business 'cos it's down right unpleasant.