Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Lakeland 50

I raced the Lakeland 50 mile race at the weekend. I was pleased to get a faster time than last year (my finishing time of 8h39m was 7 minutes faster than last year). I came 4th in the race. This was partly due to John Morgan and Andy James running incredibly quickly! My 4th place has earnt me about 900 points for the runfurther series. This score really doesn't cut the mustard as a long score for the series and so I'm now committed to running the Round Rotherham race.

Race conditions were pretty perfect. It was cold and drizzly for most of the race. These conditions are so much better for me than hot and sunny conditions (though I think I am getting better at those). I had to put on my rain jacket a couple of times, but I generally adopted my mate Tom's mantra: if you're getting cold, then run faster.

I ran with Martin Indge until Haweswater and then was pretty much running on my own. I caught third placed Marcus Scotney at Ambleside and stayed ahead of him until Langdale. The physios at Ambleside must have done a good job on his legs as after Langdale, he just shot of (doing 5 minute miles on the final downhill into Coniston!). I kept looking over my shoulder (which I always say to myself I shouldn't do) to see if Mark Hartell was about to catch me up: he usually does. It was different this time and I finished ahead of him for the first time in a UK ultra race. I was pleased with this. I must race Mark more often when he has a chest infection!

The one thing I was pretty annoyed about was going the wrong way in the valley out of Howtown. I knew deep inside that I shouldn't be running up to the farm in the valley, but I did this anyway. When I got to the farm, there were people having a picnic and laze about by the farm. We said "hi" to each other and then they told me that I shouldn't be there and should not have crossed the cattle grid (500m back - and downhill to boot!). This was all fair enough, so I had to retrace my steps. This cost me a good 4 minutes and got me out of contention with the lead pack, almost getting caught by the runners behind. I also had a minute of head scratching with map in hand on the way between Kentmere and Ambleside. I was at a Y-fork in the path and couldn't decide which way to go in the clag. I eventually chose the right way, but it cost me a little time.

The Lakes 100 runners did well this year. I was passing a steady stream of them all the way to the finish, showing that the standard and number of completions has increased from last year. It has to be said that I was wondering whether I should have been on the 100 mile race instead (it probably wasn't right for me this year).

There was a good atmosphere throughout the race. The checkpoint marshalls were all very supportive and all the walkers who were out and about were cheering us on. Even the lads downing pints in Ambleside seemed to have an interest in the race. It felt great running into the event centre in Coniston at the end. I got a big cheer and it made me feel really special. The physios did an excellent job throughout the race. It was great to have a massage after the race. It has to be said though that I would have been quite happy to lay down anywhere.

The whole Lakeland 100 / Lakeland 50 event seems to be gaining momentum. There were more runners in the race than last year, the standard seems to have improved and the whole aura of the event seems to be building. I wonder how long it will be before these races reach an equivalent stature to that of the UTMB races. I'm planning on getting my entry in earlier next year: just in case.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Camping sauvage

We made it over le brevent and are now very close to the end at les houches. We were going to end up in a benightment situation in the woods and decided to camp. The campsite is flat but tenuous as the pegs are not really on for going in. We have had a nice picnic meal with two bottles of swiss fendant wine which has been carried for 2 days and 3000m ascent. It tastes all the better. We have seen a lot of ibex and dodged thunder storms. All good stuff.

The next day, we finished off the walk down to Les Houches through the woods. We took just over an hour to get down and headed straight for a cafe (to satisfy Chris's hot chocolate fetish) and then to the boulangerie. We completed the Tour du Mont Blanc in under 7 days. For the following few days of the holiday, we hung out in the Argentiere campsite, doing a few day walks. Being a glutton for punishment, one day walk was from Les Houches back over Le Brevent and Lac Blanc to Argentiere. We had great views of the Aiguilles Rouges and the Mont Blanc massif: in contrast to our cold, foggy and windy experience on the Tour du Mont Blanc itself.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Le tour

We are now in le tour. We had a long walk over fenetre d'arpette and col de balme. The refuge de balme is operated by the transylvanian alpine club. We are not members and were not welcome. We then descended to le tour where the caf hut was full. After some discussion we were allowed to camp in their donkey field. The main hut is full. To show our gratitude we have run up a bar bill. Tomorrow we will finish. Tonight it rains and the thunder roars now and again. Today vindicates the decision to bring tents.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


We made it to champex today. We had a good long day from courmayeur via two high obscure passes with great views of the glaciers. We got to refuge elena at 8pm just as it started to hammer it down. I went ahead to order dinner which was a good job as it was last orders.
Today we went over the col ferret: a scene of previous utmb nightmares. The climb to champex also brought back grim memories. Maybe i have it sorted in my head now. I still have thoughts of utmb going through my head. The tents are pitched and we are heading for dinner and beers.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Into italy on TMB

We are now in italy on the tmb. Yesterday we walked from the auberge du truc to the refuge des mottets which thankfully had space for us as we arrived in a hail storm with thunder hitting the surrounding peaks.
The walk up to the col du bonhomme was hot but we stuck at it and made it there as the thunder clouds were building. There was a nice suprise at the refuge as dad had left us a present of a bottle of champagne when if was there a week or so ago. This was a nice suprise. We carried it all the way over the col du fours to the refuge mottets by which time it was well fizzed up and went everywhere when we opened it!
The col du fours was really snowy. Where it was not snowy there was scree that was liquified with the snow melt: not a nice combination. The route was pretty enough though and we saw a magnificent male ibex on top with huge horns.
Today we are heading for courmayeur or preferably beyond. It is downhill all the way now to the town. I am seeing bits in the daylight that i never say on the utmb race as the race crosses this bit in the dark. It is pretty scenic. I am having thoughts about whether i should be doing the race next year.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Tour du mont blanc day 1

I arrived in geneva with my brother and sister after a white knuckle ride to luton airport. We are out here to do the tour du mont blanc. I would naturally want to light pack this but this time i am team porter. This suits me as lugging a big rucsac over alpine passes is good training. I am trying to pack as much team lit in my pack as possible.
Today was the first day and we walked from les houches to auberge du truc: a very quiet little refuge above les contamines. We've had great weather and views. At the col du tricot we admired the ascent line of mont blanc that we did with my dad about 5 years ago. We have had a nice meal with the domes de miage as a backdrop. Tomorrow we will walk as far as the fancy takes my bro and sis and then i might see about ticking off a side objective before camping.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Surprised at Osmotherley

I came third at Osmotherley in my best time yet: 4h45m. This was a bit of a surprise for me.

The Osmotherley Phoenix is at a bad time of year for me. It is too close to the Three Peaks Yacht Race and the Cotswold Way Relay and (most importantly / destructively), it is at the hottest time of the year. Part of the reason for doing the Osmotherley Phoenix is to test myself in difficult hot conditions. I have to admit that the other part of the reason is that its a great race, crossing some brilliant scenery with a great atmosphere. I don't expect Osmotherley to count in my final series result, but I suspect that it will this year.

The 2010 race was run under beautiful sunny skies, but the temperature was only in the low twenties and there was a good 10mph westerly breeze. These conditions were almost perfect, especially for those who could finish before things really started to heat up in the afternoon. At the event centre. there was a graph showing the number of entrants over the years: this had been steadily increasing, to the extent that the 2010 event was a sell-out: 400 people gathered on the start line in the centre of Osmotherley. This is a testament to the increasing interest in ultra-running in the UK and the effect of the Runfurther championship (I feel).

Having not run for a week before the race, I was actually a little unsure how it would feel to put one foot in front of the other when the village church bell chimed 9 o'clock. The answer was that it didn't seem totally natural. I felt I struggled a bit for the first couple of miles, before getting into my stride. I was in something like 10th place when I saw Adam Perry go up Cringle Moor instead of taking the (legitimate) route below the moor. At this stage, he had established a lead of several minutes over the chasing pack, but he was caught by the lowlanders after his (unnecessary) descent.

I ran pretty well for the next 10 miles or so, always in contention with the leading pack, but always about 2-3 minutes behind. At least the gap wasn't increasing. I had a good run across the rougher terrain of Noon Hill / Wether Hill and was quite close to the leading pack by the time I arrived at the Wheat Bridge checkpoint (CP6).

The navigation from checkpoint 6 to checkpoint 7 is really desperate. I think it is impossible to navigate this section at speed (I tried that in 2007 and ended up wallowing through forests, blocked by 10ft high pheasant fences) - unless you've recced it. Neither Martin Indge nor Adam Perry (the leading pack) had recced this section and their navigational nightmare allowed me to finally catch them up (after shaking off a pack of "excitable" farm dogs). I saw them run off down to the river, off the route, and called them back. We then essentially ran together through the navigationally difficult section to checkpoint 7.

It has to be said that neither Martin nor Adam showed me much mercy on the final run into the finish. The Drove Road across the Hambleton Hills seems to go on forever and seems to rise forever. Maybe the heat was beginning to affect me here, or maybe I was going through a low patch, but Martin and Adam pulled away from me. I tried my best from Black Hambleton on in as Adam pulled away from Martin and Martin pulled away from me. I think that Martin was held back a little in the final couple of miles by the bursting of a painful blister (he thought he'd broken his toe - it was that painful), but Adam probably "had" the race won by that stage anyway.

The final run into Osmotherley is always great. It's always a party atmosphere as the Summer Games are on (coconut shies, win a goldfish, egg and spoon race... : all great traditional stuff). To add insult to injury. Martin and Adam were having a friendly chat at the finish while I ran into the shade, collapsed under a tree and felt both sorry for myself and pleased with myself at the same time.

Adam Perry won the race in something like 4h40m. Martin Indge was second in 4h44m. Nicky Spinks was first lady home, not long after the first men were through the finish. This "sorted out" her second place in 2009: maybe she doesn't like the heat either!