Tuesday 26 December 2017

My trip to Nepal

About 2 years ago, we got an 'invite' to join a trip to Nepal to climb Baden Powell Scout Peak in the Ganesh Himal (Langtang) region. I was assured it would be a 'strenuous hike' and not at all technical... Hmm.
I was excited but terribly nervous at the same time and spent a lot of time in denial that it was even happening.

My life became immensely busy before the trip and I just ran out of time for training as I needed to pack and sort out things like the Club AGM. We managed one or two trips to the bouldering wall at Middlesborough, but not enough.

It was however, time to drop the dog at my father-in-law's at catch our plane from Manchester Airport. We were on a huge Airbus A380, never been on such a big, luxurious plane, and that was in 'cattle class'. The trip was uneventful and fairly boring (which is never a bad thing when at 30,000ft!) we flew via Dubai and Delhi. Each time we changed planes, they got smaller and more dicey. When we landed at Kathmandu airport, we hit the ground so hard part of the ceiling fell down...

It was hot. It took a good 45 mins to get through the confusion that is immigration and found our baggage already on the floor next to the single carousel... As we left the building, we spotted a little Nepalese guy in a blue shirt holding the Venture Medical sign we were looking for. This turned out to be Prakash, our rep for the trip. It was a bit weird trusting our luggage to guys we'd never met and getting into a car in a foreign country with strange men...

Prakash took us to our hotel, where we were met by guards on the front gates. Again, our bags were entrusted to strangers. The hotel was rather nice, an oasis of calm in the middle of the madness that is Kathmandu.

We relaxed for the afternoon and met the rest of the team that evening for a meal in town.
The next day we met our mountain guides, Ambrit and Kishan who checked our gear, all good to go! We headed into town for a couple of bits we hadn't got, like rope and an extra sleeping mat. The afternoon was ours and we had a beer in a bar in Thamel.

The next day, the adventure began nice and early with our porters loading our stuff on the roof of the bus... It was a long hot drive, it took a couple of hours just to get out of the city!! We stopped for lunch at Jimbu it was so hot it was unreal, I almost burnt my arm on the metal railings. Back on the bus. About 10 hours later, just as it was getting dark, we reached Syabru Bessi and our accommodation for the night. We were already at a reasonable altitude and I felt dizzy as hell, although in hindsight, I think it was a borderline hypo from lack of food. I was surprised to find we had our own rooms, which were en-suite. There was a lizard in ours...

Up and on early the next morning for the first day of actual trekking. It was hot, again.
We trekked for about 8 hours in total, stopping for lunch at the Bamboo. We climbed the height of Ben Nevis that first day! The sweat was running off the brim of my hat, we all drank loads. We followed the Langtang River through forest, almost jungle, on good paths. Some of the climbs were steep and often we returned to river level. At last, around the corner through the vegetation we caught our first glimpse of the Lama Hotel our destination for the night, I was very excited to climb up the stone steps as the place looked exactly like it does on the internet, a collection of hostels and tea-houses lining the path above the river. We stayed in one of the first ones we came to. Again, we had our own room, the shower and toilet was across the yard this time though!

On the road again, more hot, uphill hiking. We gradually left the forest and the chirruping of bush crickets behind. Another 8 hours on the trail took us to Langtang village. We crossed the vast landslip that in 2015 wiped out the village and surrounding area. It was a little spooky crossing it, as it was clearly still very unstable. We wondered how many bodies were still underneath, unaccounted for.
The mist closed in a little as we reached the (new) village. We had time to have a wander round the village, there was lots of building going on, new tea houses going up. I was offered some drugs by a little wizened old man!! Our tea house was small but cosy and we enjoyed pasta for tea and a comfy bed. Inside toilets here, but I don't think there was a shower?

Eggs for breakfast, the hens looked healthy and the eggs were good!
Todays trek was shorter and much less strenuous, after an initial stiff climb out of the village. The environment was more like prairie now and we could see into the high mountains beyond, including our objective, Baden Powell Scout Peak.
We reached the final village, Kyanjin Gompa after just 4 hours so we had time for a nice hot shower and a walk around. The village was relatively large, again with lots of new buildings going up. The altitude now was considerable, about 3800m, and was having an effect.

The next day, we set off before dawn to tackle Kyanjin Ri at 4400m. It was relentless uphill for a couple of hours, we got to the summit without mishap and celebrated with coffee and snack bars! My OH was struggling, the other chap B wasn't much better. Me and the other two girls G and R were busy planning how to turn the walk into a ridge route! Turns out, that's what we were doing... The guys faces were a picture. Thankfully, it wasn't too much descent and ascent to the next summit point. Soon, we were on the path heading steeply downhill back to the village. To say it was frosty when we'd set out, we were now in just our T-shirts! The path was made of a silky fine dust, rich in mica and I fell over several times!!
We were back in time for lunch, egg and chips. Yum. We had the afternoon to ourselves to assist with acclimatisation. It was tough though and I said to my OH it would be a miracle if either of us made it to the top of the main mountain...

Another fairly early start for the push to high camp, it was very slow, my OH was really struggling and needed to rest every few minutes. The guides were very good and we took it slow. It took 9 hours to get there, but another 1000m climbed. The porters came down to meet us part way with hot mango tea to boost our spirits. Crossing the ridge into High Camp was like walking into paradise, we were exhausted. Asinja the chef had a 3 course dinner waiting for us, but nobody had any appetite. We spent the night in bright yellow expedition tents.

Another acclimatisation day. Before the trip, I'd wondered what on earth I was going to do at High Camp all day, now I was here, sitting in a heap seemed like hard work! My OH had been slurring his speech then later in the morning was sick. We had to face reality that he had mountain sickness and was going to have to go back to the village. I managed to hold it together and not cry, felt a bit wobbly though. He disappeared off with two of the porters and we had lunch.
After lunch, we went for a walk and practiced using the abseil devices and jumars etc. It was a welcome distraction. Dhal Bhat and cake for supper, before a very early night. I was surprisingly comfortable in my now huge tent, but I had three sleeping mats now. I could hear avalanches rumbling down across the valley. I got a message on the satellite com to say HQ hadn't heard from OH yet... Panic. After a few stressful messages backwards and forwards, it turns out he had arrived safely a couple of hours earlier, the message had just been delayed. I settled down to sleep at last.

We were up at about 1am, forced down some porridge and set off by 2. It took a long time to reach the snow line, the climb up the snout of the glacier and rocks was hard and scary. I was crapping myself from the start and the sounds of the glacier popping under our feet didn't help. B had also pulled out at breakfast, he'd twisted his knee so now it was just the two guides, Prakash, me and the two girls G and R. G has previous climbing experience, R was a novice like me. The guides looked after me as I quaked in fear on the ice. The sun was coming up when we reached the snow line and the first of the fixed ropes. The physical effort of climbing up the fixed ropes using the jumars took my mind off being scared and I was making good progress until I got stuck in a snow hole! The quality of the snow was awful and as we went over a convex portion of the snow it all just disappeared out from under me until I was stuck on my crampon tips in fluff. Kishan came back and with a lot of hauling from him and flailing from me, I got out of the hole and we powered up the rest of the slope. We roped together to cross a crevasse field, that wasn't too bad, until I got stuck in another bloody hole would you believe?! Got out of that one with G's help. Next was a fixed rope up to a snow bridge over a crevasse, I think I crossed the ridged bit on my hands and knees, I feared it was a cornice (I was later proved correct). Another steep climb, another fixed rope and suddenly we were on the summit!! 5860m high in the Himalayas. It was approx 11:40am we'd been on the go for 9 hours. And I was still shitting myself! The summit ridge was so steep and narrow we clipped onto a safety line just to take photo's. We were the first UK team to summit Baden Powell Peak and the first females EVER to summit this mountain*.
Now, once we'd taken the required summit photos, we turned around to begin the long abseil down. Oh, my poor calves were in bits from my earlier snow hole episodes. The abseiling wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared. To start with, looking down triggered my fear of heights, but in time I could manage it without my head spinning! Which was a good thing as we had to go around obstacles rather than just zip down in a straight line. About 3pm we stopped for food. First time we'd eaten since breakfast. The abseiling continued until we reached the rocks we'd climbed up earlier that day. Now though, the heat of the sun had destabilised the glacier so we had to descent the snow face instead. My legs would no longer hold me up and after about 10 falls, I slid the rest of the way on my bottom. Crampons went back on and we scittered across the rotten ice on top of the glacier and I was relieved to see Kishan setting up a belay anchor point. R went first as she was slowest, I went next leaving the more experienced R to descend by headtorch. I needed mine before I reached the bottom. Not technical, huh? It took ages to cross the boulder field at the bottom of the glacier back to camp, we were guided in by a couple of young porters. We collapsed into the mess tent to find B and Asinja had made us chips for dinner!! 17 hours. I was exhausted. It had been the scariest, hardest day of my life. I had been scared I wouldn't manage it without my OH but the guides looked after me well.

I slept well that night, but refused to get up in the middle of the night for a wee, partly as it was about -10 out there but mostly because I knew my legs wouldn't work to cross the rocks to the toilet tent...
We got our appetites back that day, breakfast was scoffed with glee! We packed up our stuff, the porters broke camp and we began the long descent back to Kyanjin Gompa. We took it steady, my legs were not happy, my calves were so sore. Actually hungry, I wondered when lunch would be, but we kept going through the scrub, then the forest and down onto the river meadow where we found Asinja and the porters waiting for us with plates full of pasta, cheese, spam, toast, veggies and tea!! We all had seconds. It still seemed to take a long time to cross the meadow but at last we were back at the village and found my OH waiting for us. He had been looked after by the Chairman of the village and was looking and feeling much better. It hasn't really sunk in what we had achieved.

The next day was OH's birthday! So we had cake for breakfast! Asinja had somehow baked and decorated a cake for the occasion and we all shared it. We set off on wobbly legs and hiked all the way back to the Lama Hotel, missing out Langtang village, although we did stop there for a cuppa.
We all had pizza for tea and shared a bottle of beer to help celebrate OH's birthday.

Final day of the trek, didn't seem as hot now but I think we'd just acclimatised to it. We had lunch overlooking the Langtang River at the Landslip tea house, Tibetan bread. We saw Syabru Bessi a long time before we reached it's dusty streets!! We had more beers that night and enjoyed a long hot shower at our guest house before sharing dhal bhat with the guides and porters.

We spent the next day doing the return trip to Kathmandu on the bus. When we were met in town by our English leaders (who never made it on the the trek...) it finally hit us and I think we got a little emotional. The next day, we got a guided tour of The Monkey Temple, Patan and got to meet the Kumari and we received a blessing from her! It was sad to be leaving the next day, didn't want the trip to end.

Nepal has left a mark on my soul, I feel different since I came back and I wouldn't hesitate to go again.

* The mountain was originally called Urkema Peak but was re-named as part of the celebrations for 100 years of Scouting. No females have climbed Urkema or Baden Powell Peak until us. Nice one.

Monday 10 July 2017

Blackfell Race

I was going to write a blog about the Whorlton Run fell race that I did about a week and a half ago, but I realised it was going to be an over-analysis, 'woe is me', beat myself up kind of blog, when in reality I struggled because it was simply too bloody hot (about 26 C) 
So I shalln't.

Instead, I will write about the Blackfell Race we did yesterday!
Oh my.
It all came about as Gavin's brother-in-law, Dean, has entered Ben Nevis race and needs some 'A-grade' fell runs to satisfy the entry requirements. Plus a bit of hill practice.
So he'd talked Gavin into doing it, who subsequently talked me into doing it and when Hilary and Helen found out about it, they decided to come along too!
This is a proper fell race, no markers, navigation across open fell required, 'local knowledge an advantage' it says on the Bingley Harriers website. Our local fell races are more like tough trail races if I am completely honest, so we felt a little out of our depth.

Here we all are, smiling before the start...

None the less, here we were on the start line. It was sunny and blustery in the registration field just outside the village of Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales.
Our mission was to get round in one piece, without getting lost. If we weren't last, that would be a bonus! Well, that was for us three girls anyway, the boys were here to race.

The start was a 2 mile hill climb, steady away on a good, wide stone track. It narrowed near the top, but the field was already very spread out (and only 57 strong!) so that wasn't an issue. First checkpoint at the crossing of Cam Road and the climbing continues but of the more vertical variety now! Steep slog all the way up to the ridge running along to Great Whernside. 

Now came the first section of open fell. A moment of hesitation to check the map, before crossing the stile and heading into the tussocks. We'd picked up a local Bingley runner at this point, so we followed him down down down to the checkpoint, losing over 500ft of elevation. It was very awkward underfoot and our ankles took a battering. Checkpoint 2 checked and we turned around for the climb back up to the ridge! Competitors were free to chose what ever way they liked, we followed the Bingley man as he seemed to know where he was going, as did another lady in yellow. In hindsight, there were more direct routes, but they involved a hands and knees scramble as the valley sides were so steep!! As it was, we had to stop once or twice just to stop our calves from screaming but after what felt like eternity, we were back on the ridge and the marshal at CP3 came into view. Now although it was better underfoot, the head wind was enough to knock you off your feet!! We headed onto the main footpath along the ridge where the ground was easier and ran on, unable to speak over the wind, not far to CP4. They advised we followed the fence line, which we pretty much did. It was a gentle downhill here, but again awkward under foot so we couldn't go as fast as we would have liked.
The yellow lady was still with us and between us we navigated the route. 

The next bit of open ground between checkpoints 5 and 6 had caused us to scratch out heads, the best route was not obvious from the map and here the 'local knowledge' comes in handy. We had overheard other runners were planning to 'stay high' so we decided to do this too. Going lower looked like it would involve crossing some nasty looking bog.
So, we contoured along the hillside, yellow lady leading most of the way. Didn't run that much of it as it was so tussucky and there were lots of little holes you could easily turn an ankle in. We made slow progress but kept moving, glad to be out of the wind. The Scout Hut was visible across the valley and that was CP6. We had to negotiate a steep bank to get down the path but nothing too bad and soon we'd dropped our last token into the marshals bag and we were on the short cropped grass of the final descent.
This is where my so-called running buddies buggered off and left me! Now they didn't need a chief navigator they were off like the clappers. Monkeys.
The last descent is still very steep, but lovely underfoot and I could hear the crowd at the finish line!

Yay! We'd done it! I was so proud of us all, even though they left me with less than a mile to go.
Both Gavin and Dean had great runs and really enjoyed it.
We rounded the trip off with a quick visit to the Blue Bell for a spot of refreshment

Tuesday 20 June 2017

More Cowbell, less stitch please.

All races should have cow bells, takes me back to watching Ski Sunday with my Dad as a child.

Anyhoo, the Wetherby fixture was a week ago now. It was a warm night, again. Another good turn out of Harriers among the runners, I'll have to check how many there were.

It's all on road this one, a very simple circular route. We were off quickly, too quick as when I glanced at my watch I was doing sub-7/min miles! That is not sustainable, not for me anyway! However, within a few strides of setting off, I started with stitch. Really bad stitch. We went into a downhill stretch and I had to slow right down, almost to a walk as the pain was so great. Right from side-to-side and up the middle of my sternum. Fellow Harriers were overtaking me as I struggled on.
At around 2 miles, we reached the turn around point, and the marshal with a cow bell!
I managed to get into a bit of a rhythm and the stitch eased a little. We started heading up hill and now I was able to run at last and powered my way past numerous runners, some of whom were walking up the really quite gentle slope! I can only think that as this is quite a short race (4.3 miles) that people try and sprint the whole thing then run out of steam on the hills. I have in previous years passed people who are on the grass verge heaving!
As comfortable as I was on the uphill, anything even slightly downhill caused the stabbing pain to come back. At last, with the second hill out of the way, I knew the finish was around the corner and I was able to stride out and finish well, despite being rather sore.

Not my best performance and way off a PB.

Monday 12 June 2017

A tale of Dragons and Oiks.

Another two races have been and gone.

The first was the HDSRL fixture at Yeadon hosted by the Dragons running club.

Another warm evening, we drove over to Yeadon near Leeds and got there in plenty of time for the race. There was a massive turn out of Harriers as it was Championship race. I've only done this once before and I could remember most of it, I had forgotten how much of an out and back it was though.

A narrow start, over 300 runners heading for one cycle gate is quite a thing! I'd put myself too far back on the start line and had to work hard to claw my way up the field. The first mile or so is on paths and good cycle track, then we enter Guisely Woods. The lane here is always wet and muddy and tonight was no exception! I made use of this and over took many people by simply ploughing through the mud and water. There is a fun down hill now, twisting down through trees over rocks and roots. The path is narrow and it's difficult to overtake.
We spill out onto a concrete road and my legs are failing, I'd gone at full tilt to this point and was now slowing down on the flattest, smoothest bit!! Sums up my running entirely!
Next comes the return climb, after all, what comes down must go back up, right?! This is again through the trees, I ran and sweated and huffed and sweated and swore and grunted but I didn't stop. The sweat was dripping off the end of my nose and the vomit was rising in my throat through sheer effort but I over took a few more people. Thankfully, the hill wasn't as long as I remembered and I gasped for air as I topped out. The rest of the run through the woods was undulating, I enjoyed flying the downs and kicking away on the ups.
We rejoined the muddy track, not many others here so I didn't need to take the muddiest line. All the way back, I was having a to-and-fro with a lady in yellow, but again on the smooth, flat tarmac path back to the finish she pulled away to beat me convincingly. I was on the point of spewing as I crossed the line and had to have a little sit down!
I was rewarded for my efforts with a PB of just 4 seconds...

Back at the cricket club, the Dragons had put on a splendid spread of sandwiches, snacks and cakes.

Just a week later and I'm stood on the start line of local fell race, the Ossy Oiks. Our club have taken this one on since Dave Parry passed away. Again, we had a good turn out of Harriers including one first timer!
Straight in to the uphill, 2 miles of it. I didn't manage to run all of it though, this is 'proper' uphill. The conditions underfoot were good considering all the recent rain we've had and it was (thankfully) much cooler this evening. I'd been cold hanging around at the start, but ran in just a vest.
The first climb over and the lovely run across Scarth Nick Moor, I ran with one of our coaches Sonja who is training for this years Mountain Masters, she is doing so well with her hill work.
Short road section before the next climb, Sheepwash. There is no good line here and I took a little walk break, only to be overtaken by fellow Harrier and running buddy Helen! I tried to push past her, but she upped the pace, I got past with some hard effort and ran hard to stay in front! With both Sonja and Helen so close the race was on! I got the advantage when it came to the beck crossing, the other two dithered, I just jumped in and was across! My lead was soon lost on the third and final hill, I was already maxing out to keep ahead of Helen and lost control of my breathing and could feel a bonk creeping up on me. I had to walk now and both Helen and Sonja came past me again. I felt too sick to challenge them and had to let them go. So frustrating!
The final stretch is downhill, the nausea subsided enough for me run on and I took the dreaded vertical descent. I quickly caught Sonja, technical downhill is not her forte, another guy behind me fell, but used it to his advantage and slid past us on his bum!! I thought that was a good idea so threw myself past Sonja on my backside and carried on. Another guy stood aside to let me by, this NEVER happens to me! A little further down I caught Carol who is very good at descending, but she was trapped behind a Stockon runner who wouldn't let us past. We moved quickly, but could have been quicker down the bank/cliff and when we got to the ditch at the bottom, Carol all but pushed him across. We hit the last little bit at speed, 4 of us now racing for the finish. I made sure not to start sprinting too soon, it's always further to the line than you think, the others kept pace on my shoulder. At last, it was time for the final push and my legs felt like they didn't belong to me, annoyingly as we round the corner the Stockton chap pulled past just feet from the finish and I think I may have yelled in anger, although I did pat him on the shoulder after. I'd held the other two off though.

My rubbish hill work potentially cost me a PB but I am really pleased with how I handled the descent. It's only taken about 5 years to be able to move down it without crying!!

Unfortunately, the lady who's first fell race this was got lost at the beck crossing, not realising she had to get wet. She did find her way back and we met her up the track to run her in to the finish. The organiser had saved her a bottle of wine...

Tune in next week for the next race installment!

Summer racing starts here!

I have missed the majority of the various summer races over the last couple of years, due to a combination of ultra training and work induced knackeredness.

This year though, I have no such excuses!
The club takes part in 2 leagues, the Harrogate District Summer Race League (here after known as the HDSRL) and the Dave Parry Summer Fell League.
Tonight, the two leagues clashed (of course) but I chose the road race 'cos it have a free supper.

I haven't done a 'proper' race like this for a while, 6 miles, road, almost 500 competitors. I felt a little out of place in a starting crowd. It was warm tonight so I was wearing just my vest and new shorts, also out of character as I am used to layers and a rucksack full of 'stuff'.

We were off, very gentle uphill. I feared I may have started too near the front as an awful lot of people were over taking me! I plugged away and my legs hurt from the start. I passed a club mate Phillip, he is doing really well at the moment, but I would never hear the last of it if he ever beat me. Over the course of the run, I ummed and erred about whether to race him if he tried to pass me or just let him go and reel him in at the end..?

First of the two hills was soon upon us. Although the pace slowed, I didn't drop in effort and over took several people along the way. It didn't go on for anywhere near as long as I remembered and I was soon at the top and feeling pretty good now. It's only taken three miles to get into a rhythym...

Some of the people I'd overtaken on the hill came back past me on the flat section. I wondered if I could hear Phillip behind me, but each time it was someone else.

The next hill starts with a sharp turn onto a footpath and a very short muddy section, down a bank over a bridge then a long climb that starts out on a rough lane before continuing on tarmac. I overtook one girl on the downhill and several more on the rough section, my fell running feet taking me through the mud and wet while others minced around it. I think I hit the hill a little too hard as I felt a touch sick for the rest of the climb!! Still, it was over soon enough and several more competitors were behind me.

I continued to mostly over take other people as we headed for the finish now. I knew it wasn't far but resisted looking at my watch, I felt like I was running well and that would do. As I approached the last corner, I caught up with another fellow Harrier, Dave B. We matched pace for a while, but I kept directly behind him hoping he wouldn't see me and I could beat him to the line, that worked until I saw him do the double take of recognition, I upped the pace but he was faster and beat me to the finish! Little monkey.

Done in 48:30. I will have to check my previous times, although the course has been altered very slightly to allow for chip timing so it is a tiny bit shorter, also removed a horrible tight corner on the sprint finish. Pleased with that though, and overall I didn't hate it.

After cooling down and getting changed, we all piled into the pub for cake, chilli and chips. In that order.

Oh, and I beat Phillip by a good 3 minutes, so that's ok ;-) 

Edit: Yep, a new PB even taking the slightly shortened course into account. Nice one

Saturday 6 May 2017

Rest is bad for you!

Due to my cold (pretty much gone now) and the pre-planned post fellsman easy week (which I suppose I didn't really need) I have had the best part of 2 weeks off. 

Now, my knee and my hip are both niggling. They haven't niggled for months.

Only one thing for it...

Starting to feel a little better?

Since only getting half way round the Fellsman, I have been mostly resting up.
Sunday I slept til lunchtime, dragged myself round an hours dog walk, and power walked just enough to call it a streak saver.

Monday, once OH had slept off his night shift, we went to the seaside. Had a walk along the beach looking for fossils then had tea at the pub.
A late night power walk continued the streak, I also walked the dog to squish a few FetchPoint bugs.

Tuesday I coughed myself stupid on my mile, but I managed to go a bit quicker, a bit more convincingly like an actual run.

Wednesday, apart from coughing so much at one point I was sick (nice, ladylike) I felt quite good on my little jog and even did a tiny bit extra!! My legs have certainly appreciated the rest, despite 30+ miles of fells in the middle of it.

Thursday, tonight, saw my first proper run since Saturday. Thursday night Harriers On Tour were in Boltby for a (not that hilly) little route. Well, I didn't think it was hilly, some of the others would disagree! I stayed nice and relaxed, but still kept up with Gav who is running so strong despite completing the Fellsman less than a week ago. My breathing was fine, although I still had a coughing fit each time we stopped.
Felt like I could go round again when we got back to the car.

So that's a good feeling. My throat still feels funny though, not sore as such, but 'hollow' is the only way I can describe it, like the infection is still active. Taking a deliberate deep breath makes me want to cough, but it's in my throat, not my chest. It needs to bugger off as I have a busy 10 days or so coming up, friends party, 10 mile recce on Sunday and a trip down to Devon for work then finish off with step-daughter coming the following weekend.

Sunday 30 April 2017

Fellsman- 32 miles of coughing followed by a DNF.

Slept better than I thought and was ready for pick up. Cold wise, I didn't feel too bad.

We got to the HQ, then caught a bus to the start. Linear routes are so complicated. The bus journey made me queasy, tried to sleep through it but it didn't help. So a combination of that and nerves (three trips to the bathroom) meant I struggled to eat my breakfast. Not the best start.
Managed to get through the kit check and registration without coughing too much and giving the game away that I was ill...

Eventually it was time to go and the field jogged through the village of Ingleton and pretty much into the first climb straight away, Ingleborough. It was on a rough stone track, we walked as was the intention. 

We started as a group of 5, Gavin, Brett, Steph, her boyfriend Mike and myself. I was at the back from the very start. Periodically, Gav would break into a trot yet I felt we were walking too fast...
Less than an hour to the summit of Ingleborough, the descent though wasn't any better, very steep steps and swarming with hikers, even at this time in the morning (just after half 9). The lads had charged down while I minced carefully, but someone higher up dislodged a rock and it fell the whole face and smashed Brett on the ankle.
Gavin waited for me and we trotted in to the check point for a quick cup of tea. Not much time to drink it, Whernside was calling. Another stiff climb, although my cold has not gone to my chest, I was struggling to get a satisfying breath and climbing was such hard work. I couldn't keep up with the others, at all.
Whernside was also busy with walkers, we wound our way through them and enjoyed the long descent and another cup of tea! I was already feeling sick and couldn't eat anything. The next climb was just ridiculous, Gragareth. I had been warned, but oh my! It was nearly vertical. I made it to the top, only stopping once to let the cramp out of my legs. 

I had lost sight of the others but Gragareth checkpoint was a short out and back from the main path, and we waved as we passed. I figured they'd wait for me further on.

I was now absolutely knackered and coughing, a lot. I trotted along the wall line from Gragareth to Great Coum, on my own and coughing. I kept straining to look ahead to see if I could see the others, but no luck. I checked in at Great Coum and started the descent. I knew this bit was potentially tricky, but couldn't remember what it said in the notes, so I just followed the crowd. Of course, that meant we hit the awkward rocky part of the escarpment and had to pick my way down. Then we followed a wall line. I wasn't sure where the next point was, so had to stop and get my map out of my bag. After a while, I spotted the check point and got my tally clipped. Now we could follow a stony lane down and down into Dent.
Now i had stopped trying to keep up with the others, I actually stopped feeling sick and was able to nibble at the 'trail mix' in my pocket. I was ready to have some food at Dent and I was going to tell the others to carry on without me, no point them wasting loads of time keeping waiting for me, I have a map and and can navigate and was happy to run alone.

I got into Dent, got clipped and went for a cup of tea. The check point was busy with helpers, spectators and other runners. No sign of my team. I checked with the marshals and they had arrived about 20 mins ahead of me. Clearly hadn't waited.
I had planned to to spend a little time here anyway, and now didn't have to worry about rushing. So I sat down with a cup of beans and bread and butter and a load of orange segments. I spent about 20 minutes at Dent and felt much better for it.
Couldn't run straight away as I was full of baked beans, so power walked along the road and found the foot of the next climb. There was a few of us, strung out along the path as it wound its way up the hill side. As it levelled out a little to contour I was able to jog and off. I continued to nibble sweets and bits out of my pocket.
Not sure if I veered off the path too soon or what, but I crossed open ground to reach a fence line, along with another couple who had their maps out and scratching their heads. I had been sort of following them, but keeping an eye on the map. We were in the right place, but too far along. *Rather than double back, we decided to cut straight across the open ground in front. We could see the trig point on the opposite fell which was our next objective, so we just went for it! One or two boggy patches to negotiate but otherwise it was fine and soon we were at the Blea Moor checkpoint. We split up on the way down, (couldn't keep up with them either it would seem) and the path down to Stonehouses was very pleasant indeed.

I was still coughing a lot and bringing up lumps of solidified gunk, quite grossed myself out! 

I reached the Stonehouses checkpoint in good spirits and was served pasta by a team if Vikings! Only spent 10 minutes or so here as I wanted to crack on.

I don't know what happened, but as I left the checkpoint, my mood just turned. It was a long long drag out of Stonehouses and I was tired of coughing, my poor throat was raw. Eventually, I got to the turn off to do the out and back to the summit of Great Knottberry. The faster runners were coming down off the hill and I hoped to see my teammates. I didn't.
Great Knottberry went on FOREVER with several false summits. I though, this is a shit hill. It's not even a nice hill. Why is there a check point up here, this is pointless. etc. it was getting cold now too, a wind had whipped up out of nowhere. After getting clipped, I put on my jacket and gloves. 5 minutes later I fell over in the mud and got my gloves wet. ffs. Comedy fall, managed to get cramp and struggled to get back up! Thankfully no one saw me!
Crossed over the track we'd come up and headed onto open fell. This was one of the bits I wasn't sure about. There was no path marked on the map and following a wall or similar would take me too far out of my way. I could see other runners ahead and walked briskly to keep them in sight. As it was, there was a faint quad track through the grass and periodically I spotted trainer prints in the mud which was very reassuring! Having not recced this bit, I didn't realise this quad track went all the way to the gate, so I left it a little early. I didn't lose anything, but it was more awkward underfoot. Through the gate and onto better ground.

I was ready to call it quits. I'd walked since Stonehouses and it had taken ages. In theory, I could still manage a 24hr finish, but I'd had enough. Running through the night wasn't going to help my illness.
I was still disappointed and cried all the way down the hill to the checkpoint.

Once inside the tent, I had another cup of tea and sat down to eat a hot dog. I didn't know if I could stomach it, but it was gone in a few bites. I was aware the marshalls kept looking at me. I was taking ages over my tea, had tears in my eyes and was shaking. It was only 10 minutes to go before grouping started (You get grouped just before dark on the Fellsman due to crossing open fell) and if I left now, I could get to Fleetmoss before being forced into a group.

I didn't want to run in a group. I didn't want to have to bust a gut to keep up with people I didn't know. I didn't want to run in the dark.

One of the mini buses turned up and I had to just blurt it out, I was hoping to do it quietly while there wasn't anyone in the tent but now there wasn't time for that. I had no voice due to my cold and then being choked up with tears I could barely speak enough to articulate what I wanted. The check point lady gave me a big hug.

The bus was full, so I wasn't able to have the good cry that I wanted. I coughed and coughed all the way back to HQ, which was a full hours drive.

I realised now that I had a long wait for my team mates. I spent a long time getting showered and changed, then forcing down a jacket potato which had smelled amazing but then couldn't stomach. My limbs were twitching with tiredness, so I hunkered down in the the corner of the hall, using my holdall as a pillow and went to sleep! It's very odd trying to sleep in a hall with people coming and going, but somehow I managed it! Only problem was when people dropped their cutlery into the washing up buckets...
A couple of times I got up, went for a pee and read the various posters in the halls, then came back and had another snooze. I heard the wind get up outside and hoped the runners were all ok. 
I expected my friends back between 2 and 4am. Shortly before 4am I saw them arrive, I greeted them with ''You abandoned me, ya bastards!'' and a big hug. I was so pleased they'd finished, and they were relieved that a) I was ok and b) I was still talking to them!!

In less than an hour, we were in the car on the way home. Took the drive very slowly and got home to fall into bed about half 6. I slept til 1pm gone.

Now it is time to get over this bloody cold, the life span of which I have probably increased by 2 or 3 weeks...

Gav says we'll do it again next year, I'm not sure I want to. Out of the 32 miles I ran/walked, I only enjoyed about 10 of them!

*Turns out, that's what everyone else did.

Pre-race nervous ramblings.

Friday 18th April.

It's 10 past 10 in the pm.
We will be almost 14 hours into the Fellsman, hopefully going strong. Maybe on Fleetmoss, even better, beyond it...

I am struggling to make any kind of prediction to be honest... I'll just try and keep an eye on my watch...

I've packed my bag, had a massive plate of (rather disappointing) lasagna for tea and got everything ready for the morning. I am being picked up at 4:20am apparently, so I will be taking my breakfast with me!! Can't eat at that time of day, *shudder*.

Hohum, going to bed but I bet I don't get much sleep.

Ultrarunning is a funny thing. I am looking forward to this being over and getting my life back a little, while at the same time Googling the next adventure

Tuesday 25th April.

Got a cold.
It's not too bad a cold, I've had a lot worse.
My neck feels like it's full of tennis balls, sore throat, varying degrees of headache.
I am over the feverish stage, but still have the elevated heart rate thing going on.

Resting (apart from satisfying my stupid streak) and trying to eat, but I have no appetite and can't sleep.

Three days left to get better.


Sunday 16 April 2017

A Week in Motion

Training has been in the 'medium' category this week!
I wrote my last entry on Monday, that was a rest day and I only did a mile to satisfy the streak.

Tuesday, Gavin, Brett and I went up to Sutton Bank. It was cool and breezy up there, but otherwise quite pleasant. My legs are battered from the weekend and training in general, no spring left in the muscles and my tendons feel like they're been stretched to the limit. I clumped along at the back, assuming we were doing a simple out and back route. Instead, we turned down the zig-zags... I don't mind going down the zig-zags, but it always means a return climb. Today, this was up through the woods of Town Pasture, above Boltby. I managed to run all the way up, my legs actually felt better as the effort transfered to my glutes! I didn't run the slightly tougher climb from South Woods up to Thirlby Bank, it was very dry here, normally it's a complete mud fest. We dropped down the bank to Gormire (just because) and took in a lap of the lake before the tough slog back up the nature trail.
My legs felt better at the end of the run than they did at the start, 8.5 miles covered.

Wednesday, skipped club (interval training isn't going to help me now!) and went to Sutton with Gavin, Helen, Hilary and Brett. We ran from Brett's house up to Gormire and carried straight on up the nature trail, somehow got a new PR for that route! Short flat section along the bank top and down Thirlby Bank, across the fields back to Brett's.
No time for pub stops, had a committee meeting to get to!

Thursday, Harriers on Tour. What we thought our legs would like, is another hilly run out... We rocked up to Hawnby church and yet another uphill start, a full mile to the summit of Hawnby Hill. Duncan was with us tonight, along with Gavin, Hilary, Sonja, Paul Snr., Alan W and Alan S. It was again windy and cool so it was jackets on, jacket off, gloves off, gloves on all the way around! Once over Hawnby Hill, we crossed pasture and rough moorland to join the single track which contours around the base of Easterside, this is our favourite bit and there was no stopping til we reached the next tough climb, up the shoulder of Easterside. I had Gavin right on my heel and made it to the top in one go, although I had to fight hard to keep my tea in my tummy!! Thankfully, it's all downhill from here, rough to start, then a long grass field to the road.
We had the time for a swift half in the Inn at Hawnby and a good chat.

Bank Holiday weekend has slowed me down rather, with the visitation of Step Daughter. Not so much running but we have walked for at least an hour each day, Friday on the Swale, Saturday at Robin Hood's Bay and Sunday in Boltby Forest.

Monday 10 April 2017

Another catch up.

I do this every now and again, don't write for ages then need a bit of a catch up!

What have I been up to since the HM110 DNF? Well, not a lot to be honest!
I took a long time getting going again last summer, had a bit of time out after twisting my knee quite badly. An MRI scan showed wear and tear but no serious damage. Eventually, once Autumn came I was able to get going again.
I stalled a little over Christmas and New Year, I twisted my knee a second time, then got a cold which quickly escalated into a chest infection and peaked with me cracking my own rib through coughing!!

By this time however, I had already entered the Fellsman for April 2017 and my training was at a standstill.
I had managed to streak through Christmas, but the cracked rib put an end to that and I had to quit after 98 days. Very frustrating.

The only races I have done since the HM110 are Levisham Limping, which I don't remember much about, other than crashing about half a mile from the finish as usual and not being able to eat my cake! And the traditional Captain Cooks Fell Race on New Years Day. I really enjoyed that, I was nursing my knee and 'taking it steady' but was only 30 secs slower than my PB.

I am streaking again, it will be day 70 once I have been out. My training has been hit and miss at best for this forthcoming Fellsman and to be honest I am shitting myself at the prospect of it! The longest run I have done this whole year is 18 miles, and that was yesterday. I have had some good 30+ mile weeks, but not enough of them. I am still struggling to eat on the run, I seem to have lost the ability to even swallow now. I have done no cross training what so ever, bar a few Harriers circuit sessions.
I am running as part of an unofficial team along with Gavin and Brett and I am really worried that I will let the side down.

Yesterday, we went over to the Dales to meet up with Hester and Brian (and the two dogs of course) and run part of the Fellsman route. We did a car swap and started from the road side check point at Fleet Moss.
We crossed Fleet Moss without too much hassle. It is not the 'death soup' I have been led to believe, but it is tricky from a navigational point of view as there is nothing to see. Especially when you consider we will probably cross this in the dark...
As soon as we set out, I knew it was going to be a long day and I spent most of my time pretty much at the back.

From Fleet Moss, we crossed over to Buckden Pike. I hadn't eaten much, a little malt loaf and some slices of apple, and the climb really sapped my remaining energy. It was very steep! Thankfully, Brian knew a better route along the top than the one Gavin and I had taken back in Feb, and it was almost pleasant to run along. The problem is the stupid tussock grass, that stuff is hard work.

It was along here somewhere that Gavin voiced his concern over my pallor and I was nearly sick trying to eat some more malt loaf. Bloody stuff wouldn't go down.
Brian gave us (me) the option of bailing out rather than climbing Great Whernside. It was very tempting, but no-one else was bailing, so I said so long as no-body minds me walking, I'll carry on. I could see the climb up the mountain ahead and wondered if that was a sensible decision... The next mile or so of grass track was quite nice to run on and I kept my concerns to myself.

Everyone walked the climb, I had to stop a couple of times to catch breath, even Brett caught me up at the top. He was running out of water. We shuffled along the ridge and eventually caught the others at the main summit cairn. While I still felt rough, I didn't feel any worse than I was before and I knew it was all downhill. Literally.

It was probably a couple of miles downhill, still on tussocky boggy ground and I nearly fell so many times, I swore at the top of my voice more than once. Brett was talking about ice-cream at the Scout Hut (there wasn't any) and Hester waited for us a little lower down.
Somehow, we all ran together back into Kettlewell.

I was so pleased I had done the last climb and Brian congratulated me on 'toughing it out'. The boys did another car swap and we finished the day with soup and chips at the pub.

I have to keep resisting the urge to say I enjoyed it, 'cos I really didn't!! I am not filled with any more confidence than before...

(Almost) ready for the off! L-R Me, Gavin, Brett and Hester, with Teasel the terrier and Harry the Collie.

2016 - Hardmoors 110 DNF

I actually wrote this almost a year ago. I have enjoyed reading it back and feel it's relevant.

The day of the 110 finally dawned, an early start as my support crew picked me up at 5am. Got to race HQ at Filey dead early and got my number. Then we went for breakfast at the cafe. Well, my crew had bacon butties, I had the PB+J pitta and a banana that I'd brought with me. In the cafe we chatted with other runners and I wondered if this is what a condemned man feels like, waiting his turn at the gallows.

At last it was time to gather for the race brief, time to leave my nice warm coat behind (it was cold and breezy up on the Brigg but gloriously sunny) and move out to the gate way marking the start of the race.
We were off!

The pace right from the start was very gentle. I love listening to other runners chatter, it's just as random as mine and my friends when we run.

My watch was set to 30 mins run/5 mins walk. The idea being to also eat a little and drink on that 5 min walk. My watch was beeping before I knew it, I was still full of my breakfast, so just had a bite of a cereal bar.

It was getting warm and I had to shed my coat as we got close to Scarborough. Annoyingly I dropped my bit of paper with my emergency numbers and cut off times on so I had to back track to find that. I didn't stop at the CP at Holbeck Hill, part of my plan was to spend as little time as possible at check points to try and keep my time under control.
My crew said they'd meet me on Scarborough front, I wasn't sure how that would work, but as I came up the little slope from the beach near the Spa there they were! I walked with them for a few moments before running on.
Scarborough wasn't too busy, but it was still early. Not many runners said 'hello' or even returned a smile, but one lady did run alongside me for a while and asked lots of questions about what we were doing.
The beach and surf on the North Bay looked very inviting in the sunshine.

I did have a cup of water at the next CP at Crookness, but didn't hang around. The first cut off was at Ravenscar, 22 miles in with a time limit of 6 hours. Totally doable, but I still needed to keep moving. 
As usual I hit a mardy patch around 15 miles, but I ran with Jo who I sort of knew from FB and her friend for a little while and we had a good chat about random stuff.
When I thought to myself, it's 20 miles at Ravenscar, that's less than a hundred to go, it kind of hit me just what I was trying to do. Scary.

It's a long drag round to get to Ravenscar, and the CP was slightly off the Cleveland Way. I saw my crew, then carried on to the CP and visited the loo, I hadn't dared trump for 22 miles (never trust a fart) but it was just wind and after that I allowed myself to vent freely. I had a quick cuppa with my crew mates before cracking on. I was well ahead of schedule and felt good. My knees were already sore, but to be honest I wasn't too worried because they always are.

Alot of ups and downs between Ravenscar and Robin Hoods Bay. I took the steps slowly and enjoyed telling bemused day trippers about what we were doing. I caught up with some of the people doing the HM160.
Quick drink of water at the top of the big hill in Robin Hoods Bay then back out onto the cliff tops. The weather and the views were just amazing. I was so pleased the weather was fine, after the recent snow and sub zero temperatures we didn't really know what to expect.

Legs were tired and I just focused on getting to Whitby. First I got to the fog station, I knew it couldn't be much further after that. At one point I looked up and there was Saltwick Nab, a childhood haunt and it meant I was nearly there. It was really quite warm, while running it was anyway, and I saw a child with an ice-pop. I wanted an ice-pop. I spent a bit of time digging some money out of my pack while travelling along the tops. My watch beeped for a walk break, but I knew I'd have to walk most of the way through Whitby, so I ignored it and carried on to the Abbey. There was a coffee van instead of an ice-cream truck, grr. There was also some sort of battle re-enactment going on within the Abbey grounds. Here I picked up an American girl running the HM160 and I guided her through the town. The sheer number of people in Whitby was crazy! We weaved our way through the crowds, I was happily munching on swiss roll until the smell of the docks made me feel a bit sick!!
I continued walking once we'd climbed all the steps onto the West Cliff and passed under the Whale bones, the American girl kept pace. She asked me if I knew the way, as she obviously didn't. I was a little unsure, but once we reached the path through the golf course, I could remember. She followed me all the way to Sandsend. I tried to make conversation, but she didn't seem to want to chat. Now, the sun had gone in and I put my gloves on. Perhaps a good thing I never got my ice-pop!!
Gavin was waiting for me at the far end of Sandsend, I told him he had to run, I wasn't stopping!! Straight into the check point. The marshalls offered me a chair, but I didn't want to sit. Instead, I had a Muller Riceand a cup of tea. The American girl looked a mess, she had no crew and not enough food. To add to this, she was a vegan. We spared some grapes and another supporter offered some chopped fruit and a banana which she ate like she was starving.

I felt pretty good and was soon on my way again. I had been told it was four miles to Runswick, hmm. It was a long four miles. It was sunny again, with a fair bit of climbing along the way. My feet were starting to hurt.
I could see Runswick now, again ignoring a walk break as I knew the start of the steep descent into Hob Hole wasn't far. I wobbled down the steps with another two ladies. At the bottom, just before the beach, the path drops sharply into a shale gully it's wet and very slippy so you have to be careful at the best of times. I met another runner coming the other way, and he jumped the little stream so I could get by, then fell in when he went to jump back! I felt guilty, but he insisted he was fine. 
I moved slightly down the beach onto the wet sand and ran across the beach, then began the long climb up the big hill to the CP in the car park at the top. My watch said 6 miles since the last CP.
Here Hilary had her running gear on and was raring to go! She had to wait while I had a drink and a quick feed, then we pressed on. I told her there wasn't going to be much running, I was getting tired.
It was a short up and over to Staithes, Hilary was in love with the little cobbled streets and funny shaped houses.
The crew decided to meet us outside Staithes, and we found them on the track to Rockhole Hill. We were moving slowly so Hilary picked up some warmer layers before we carried on.
I had to give in and put my buff and coat on too as it was getting cool. My feet were really sore now, and I can't have been much company for Hilary as we power walked along. When we got to Skinningrove, we got our head torches ready. I voiced my concerns about my feet, thinking I would inspect them at Kildale (indoor check point).
We had to run the last mile into Saltburn just to keep warm, now it was dark the temperature had dropped dramatically. My feet were in bits now and I wasn't going to be able to wait til Kildale.
The CP in Saltburn wasn't quite where I thought it would be, but we found it and the rest of my crew. I was well ahead of the cut offs and my own schedule, so I took the time to sort out my blisters, change my socks, get some warmer gear out of the car, eat Pringles and drink tea. My crew were brill, wrapping me up so I didn't get cold, Hilary pulling off shoes and socks, Paul in charge of hot drinks.
On the cliff tops, the general trumping had started to feel a bit more 'dangerous' so I was gutted to find the public toilets in Saltburn were locked up for the night. Ho well.
It was Gavin's turn to run with me now, and we stepped out into the night. Up the cliff steps, then down into the Valley Gardens. These are tricky enough to navigate in the daylight so in the dark we had to keep a good eye out for the little acorns.
Once out of the gardens, I'm afraid I had to nip through a gateway into a bush and make like a bear. Quite embarrassing knowing Gav was waiting just down the track... Even more embarrassing, when I realised I'd left my gloves on the ground and when I went back, some disorientated runners followed me to the scene of the crime. So much for being discrete...

We stalked on through the little villages of Skelton and Skelton Green, the American 160 runner had caught up with us again. She had no idea of the route, I assume she had a map on her, but didn't seem to know how to use it and was relying on keeping pace with someone who knew the way. Currently this was alternating between us and the two ladies from earlier. Thankfully she seemed much better than she did in Sandsend.

The comfort of the Compede on my feet hadn't lasted long and the steep descent into Slapeworth almost had me in tears. DB and his crew caught us up and I was having a tough time hiding my misery.

We crossed the road, not many cars at this time of night, and entered Guisborough Woods. This was the one bit that I was worried about navigationally, Gavin wasn't too sure on this bit either, but as it turned out so long as you kept an eye out for the acorns it was ok.
My feet weren't ok though. Anything other than flat and smooth was agony. There isn't much flat or smooth in Guisborough Woods. At one point, the blister on my left foot popped and it was like stepping on a knife.
Thankfully, that white hot pain subsided and I was able to shuffle on.
As we, I, got slower in the woods, I realised I wasn't going to finish. The pain was too much, I was moving too slow. I tried to have a cry in the dark, but nothing came out. Gavin and I walked on, mostly in silence, Gavin occasionally asking me questions to try and make conversation and reminding me to eat and drink.
We realised the other other ladies and the American had gone off course, too far away to shout and neither of us in a fit state to chase after them, we just had to hope they could find their way.

The paving slabs across Hutton Moor hurt my feet some more, but were no where near as bad as Roseberry Topping. Oh my. I slipped so many times on the way up as I couldn't get secure footing on my tattered feet. We checked in with Chia Charge Tim the summit marshal and began the excruciating descent. We passed DB and friends coming up as well as the American girl, who was still asking for directions. We also passed the other two ladies, they'd been very lost in the woods but were gradually clawing back time.

Somewhere along the way, Gavin asked if I was ok. For the first time, I said 'no'. I'm sure the teeth-sucking and swearing had given away the fact I was suffering, but I hadn't really said anything about pulling out. He asked me what my gut feeling was. I said I wanted to pull out at the car. He told me to think about it, but he and the rest of the crew would support my decision, whatever it was.
Secretly, I'd been hoping to time out so I didn't have to make the decision myself, but here I was. I got to the car at Gribdale Terrace. Hilary had met us up on the bank and Paul was at the car making a brew.
The American had already over taken us (getting directions off Hilary this time!) and she was soon followed by the two other ladies who I think were pleased to see the back of her!

I said I was calling it quits. Nobody argued.
I'd taken 6 hours to do 11 miles. There was no way I was going to make the cut offs and no point torturing my feet any more. 
I was bundled into a sleeping bag and given sweet tea and we drove to the CP at Lord Stones to hand in my number.
Just to add insult to injury, I was car sick on the way home.

I fell into bed, at home at 5am and can't have been long before I was alseep.