Friday, 29 October 2010

Wrekin Recovery Run - 29/10/2010

Autumn colours in Spout Lane Plantation

The aim tonight was just to get some gentle miles in to try to recover from Passing Clouds and the fairly hard session I had on Wednesday, and to free my legs up for a decent long run on Sunday morning (hopefully).

I took a nice easy start from Forest Glen, running along the road past the Buckatree Hall Hotel to the M54 bridge, and then back over the Ercall. When I got back to FG, I started off along the north side of the Wrekin past the rifle range and the bottom of the Heroes track, and the round the west side of Little Hill.

Coming up towards Spot Lane Plantation, I heard a stag bellowing off up the hill somewhere, then saw some movement in the trees to the right. I slowed right down and spotted another stag and his hareem of four does just 40 yards away. We watched each other for half a minute or so and then headed off on our respective missions. It's moment like this that add richness to all of the miles. I saw a white owl hereabouts at dusk this time last year - it was like a hole in the sky: they seem to suck all the sound out of the woods.

Anyway, back to the run. I continued back along the south side of the Wrekin and then up to halfway house. A fast descent of Beeches (picking my feet up again and upping the cadence) and I was down for my usual warm-down lap of the Forest Glen Reservoir.

Nice steady pace tonight, felt strong climbing (except a short section around the fourth mile), descended well and did the level bits and the switchbacks nice and controlled.

6.8 miles, 920', 1h 26m including a couple of brief stops.

Wrekin - Pace Run 27/10/2010

A fairly quick paced run at dusk on the Wrekin.

Started up the main path and then went straight on past the bottom of the Goaty and into the Little Hill col, running about an 8:50 mile pace. From here I hiked fairly hard up the steep ridge to the summit.

It was getting pretty dark, so I put the headtorch on and headed down to the top of the BMX track just under Hell Gate. I was glad I had my Mudclaws on as I went on down the BMX (fairly carefully - need a better headtorch for faster descents!)

I struggled a bit coming up Beeches back to Halfway House, probably due to my early pace, but had a nice run out from the cafe back to Forest Glen down the main path.

Total distance was 4.1 miles, ascent was 910'.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Passing Clouds Race - 24/10/2010

Me and Martin after I'd recovered but before the pint!

What a great day!

This is a superb route, out from Tittesworth Reservoir through Upper Hulme to Ramshaw Rocks, then on round to Clough Head at the top of Gradbach Wood and up and over the Roaches and Hen Cloud. The weather was fantastic too. I met a couple of fellow Mercians at the start (Dale Colclough and Mike Perry) and also a mate from college, Martin Shelley.

There were 195 finishers this year (151 last year) and this created a bottleneck at a narrow bridge in the first mile where I had to wait over a minute. Another bottleneck follow fairly quickly at the next stile, which was a bit frustrating, but then we were away and running. There's a good boggy section of single track from Upper Hulme up to a road crossing beneath the final climb to Ramshaw Rocks. I ran the singletrack, overtaking a few who were picking their way through the wet bits, and hiked most (but not all) of the remaining climb to Ramshaw. I pushed a bit coming off and gained a few more places, then kept the pace high through the boggy mile to the next road crossing.

The route then descends a little more to run along Black Brook. A nice rough section of path along the brook leads to a steady climb up the left side of the valley and onto the lane which leads to Roach End. I kept running (albeit slowly) all the way up here, and on to the trig at the top of the Roaches, except for a few steep steps near the road.

I felt quite tired on top and eased off a little falling back 50 yards from the group which was just in front of me by the summit. The descent comes off left 300 yards after Doxey Pool and is quite steep and rocky but very runnable. I attacked hard here, passed most of the group and then tripped and went flying. I cracked my left knee on a rock, but was up again straight away and back into a rhythm.

I crossed the col to start up Hen Cloud and found myself having to walk again, but it's over quickly and I could attack again on the descent and retake a couple of places. I shared a nice run-out with a guy from Ashbourne RC and a West Brom Harrier. My Mercian team mates had come back up the track and some encouragement from Dale and Mike kept me going over the last few hundred yeards. This seems much further than it is and I arrived at the finish completely spent and just behind the Ashbourne and West Brom guys and a lady from Shelton Striders.

I was a little disappointed initially with my 1:47:27, but when the results came out today I checked back against last years and realised I'd not gone 50 seconds faster as I'd thought, but 10 minutes 50 seconds faster! Way to go!!!

Todays run was 9.75 miles and 1,850' giving a total for the week of 29.3 miles and 5,360' of ascent. The rolling four week total falls back a little as my Snowdonia weekend drops out, it stands at 118.9 miles and 20,560'.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

South Downs Way - 22/10/2010

Self portrait at Devil's Dyke. A tad warm for October!

Another trip along the South Downs Way, before I drove back to Shropshire after a project meeting. I picked up where I finished last time, at the Jack and Jill windmills above Hassocks, and continued west along the Way to Devil's Dyke, then returned by the same route. It was another nice warm sunny afternoon - I've been pretty lucky with the weather recently.

Initially the way descends from the windmills past Pyecombe Golf Club into the village, where it crosses the A273 and then the A23. A nice steady climb of 370' in 0.9 miles leads to the top of West Hill - I felt good and strong on this and ran the whole climb. The Way then drops rapidly down through a field and down a lane to a farm at Saddlescombe where there's a cafe trailer open every day except Wednesdays to cater to hikers.

Ignoring the offer of food and drink, I continued across the road onto another steady climb up Summer Down and on over another road to reach the Devil's Dyke trig point (217m/712'), about a hundred yards north of the South Downs Way path. I felt good on this ascent too and was able to keep running, finishing strongly as the path levelled out.

Trig point and Pub at Devil's Dyke

Looking over the trig point towards Brighton

View west along the South Downs from Devil's Dyke

I took a couple of minutes at the top to take the photos and get some water and jelly babies on board, and then returned to the windmills by the same route, continuing to feel strong most of the way, but struggling a little on the last climb back up past the golf club.

8.5 miles and 1,310' of ascent in 1:37:40.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Long Mynd - 20/10/2010

I had some time in lieu due from last week so knocked off work a bit early today and drove over to Church Stretton. I wanted to look at some more bits of the Longmynd Valleys route, but didn't have time to do all of it (good job I didn't try this as it turns out), so I though I'd concentrate on the bit south of the Stretton - Ratlinghope road.

I started with the Skyline ascent up to Boiling Well (32 minutes from the Cricket field in town) and then dropped down into Ashes Hollow before climbing the runners trod to Barrister's Plain (19 minutes from Boiling Well). I'm not sure what the best way off here is so traversed right a little and went down the mini ridge on the north west side of the corrie. Not great - have to try some more variations.

Instead of using the path with contours round the south east ridge of Round Hill, I dropped straight down into Callow Hollow. There seems to be no advantage in this: although the contouring trod is rough, the path in the hollow seems pretty discontinuous. The ascent of Callow Hollow is rough and slow - I need to practise this, and I also climbed up the north face of Minton Hill too soon (by a big rowan) and ended up 300m east of where I should have come out. I then compounded this error by heading east to the top of a gully to check I shouldn't have come up that one. It was the wrong gully, and so I headed over to the right one (which is pretty close to the road. I need to recce and rehearse this section again over winter.

I got a bit cold messing about finding the route here so I put on my fleece, and in view of the time I headed for Pole Bank. I was pretty damn slow up along the road and almost ground to a halt on the path section, but there was a pony with a really tiny foal up here.

I crammed a few Jelly Babies at the summit and set off down to the Townbrook Valley track, whcih I descended a lot better than on Sunday, and then on through the Rectory Woods into town.

Total distance today 11 miles, with 2,200' of ascent and about 10 minutes of pratting about routefinding etc. Inclusive of the messing around I clocked 2 hours 20 minutes, which is ok for a recce I suppose. I was a bit disappointed with the section from Callow Hollow to Pole Bank - I felt very flat but perhaps that was not getting nutrition right or enough sleep!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Lilleshall Recovery Run - 17/10/2010

I did a brief recovery run this afternoon just to keep loose and shake out the miles from this week. Route was my 5k+ loop from home up to Lilleshall Hill and back via Cheswell Grange.

I've been re-reading "Born to Run" and am quite keen to give the barefooting a go, mostly because I hope it will help me to get a better running form, so when I got back to the house I changed my road shoes for an old pair of beach shoes (no padding at all) and did another 1.4 miles in these.

Very hardcore running shoes - I think these were £3.50!

The speed was much the same, no more effort either, but I was running with shorter strides and a faster cadence. I didn't feel sore anywhere, and went over a short section of quite rough broken road without hurting my feet.

Total today 5.1 miles, 180' ascent, 51:00. The week's total was 33.4 miles and 4,970' of ascent and the rolling 4 week total is 125.0 miles and 24,230' of ascent.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Skyline Long Run - 16/10/2010

Stretton Hills from the climb up Caer Caradoc

Another lovely morning in Shropshire... and I find myself answering the call of the Skyline again - this really is a great training route. Having done a straight second half on the 19th September, and a shortened one on the 2nd October, today I did a slightly lengthened route, continuing along the Portway rather than going down Mott's Road into Cardingmill Valley. I went on as far as Pole Bank and then double-backed and went down Townbrook Valley and through the Rectory Woods back into town.

Willstone Hill and the Cwms area from the climb up Caer Caradoc

I went gently today, taking it fairly easy but was pleased to see that with relatively little effort I'd nearly matched my time from a fortnight ago to the summit of Caer Caradoc (27:30). From here to Comley I had easily my fastest descent (10:41 - this had taken over 16 minutes last month).

I was a minute and half slower than last month on both the other ascents (15:52 today from Comley Farm to the Lawley and 40:17 from Dudgely to the top of Mott's Road), but I was going easier.

I ran the descent of the Lawley nearly two minutes faster than last month though (6:06 to the farm). The work on descending style and form is really paying off.

The extra effort of going on from Mott's Road to Pole Bank was surprising and I was pretty tired and slow on the descent of Townbrook Valley. I ran down through the Rectory Field and town back to Sandford Avenue and then had a stroll and a stretch.

Today's totals: 13.2 miles, 2,640' of ascent, 2:45:21 including three very short (1 min) stops. The weekly total for this week will be 28.3 miles and 4,790' unless I can get out tomorrow for a short recovery run.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Malvern Hills - 13/10/2010

View south from Pt.357 towards Herefordshire Beacon

I diverted on my way back from a work awards ceremony (CPRE Gloucestershire ranch award for our project at Saintbridge Pool in Gloucester) to another favourite car park for training runs, at British Camp on the Malvern - Ledbury road.

I started with a quick run up Herefordshire Beacon (338m). I didn't walk at any point, and this impressed some American students on top enough that they actually said encouraging things like "awesome" and "keep it up". This is nice. Usually Brits just look at you like you're mad. Buoyed up (the "keep it up" girl was pretty good looking), I hammered down the descent across Millennium Hill and back round the hill to the car park.

I crossed the road and ran a constant rate over Black Hill and Pinncale Hill to the highest point of this section of the Malverns, Pt 357m (it doesn't seem to have a name). There were three short steep sections, but I found a nice rhythm and managed to run it all. I took a moment to enjoy the view and take the pictures, then jogged back to the car. The quick cadence descending, concentrating on picking up the legs is working I think - I certainly feel more confident of my footing and it seems faster).

Looking north from Pt.357m towards Worcestershire Beacon

Only 3.9 miles and 710' of ascent, in 43:30.

Dove Dale - 11/10/2010

The Dolomites (sorry, no, it's the last sun hitting the top of the Tissington Spires)

After racing at the weekend it was nice to be able to fit in a longish run early on in the week, taking advantage of the drive back from Newark to stop off at one of my favourite haunts, the Dove Dale car park near Thorpe north of Ashbourne.

This time I decided to make a round trip of the session, starting off up Dove Dale as far as Milldale, then via a short road section to the Alsop car park on the Tissington Trail. The trail returns to Thorpe where a path leads over the Thorpe Cloud col with surprising little ascent back to the stepping stones near the Dove Dale car park. For good measure I threw in an ascent of Thorpe Cloud at the start and end of the route.

Mostly felt pretty good on this, although I wouldn't recommend the path parallel to the road climbing out of Milldale. In shorts, this is a very nettley hell with quite a bit of mud too. At the top of the steep section the road forks. Stay right and then take the path across the field past a huge tree and barn to reach a crossing of the A515 Asbourne-Buxton road right opposite the Alsop car park on the Tissington Trail.

Barn and tree on the field crossing near Alsop car park

The run down the trail was generally fast, and the only bit of navigation required was checking the point I had to leave the road (just before the Peveril of the Peak Hotel).

I ran the entire ascent of Thorpe Cloud at the start (first time I've done this), although not quite at racing speed (0.6 miles, 385', 10:03). On the way back I hiked it, but it was the only section I didn't run.

Sunset and moon across Dove Dale, 6.30pm

The entire route was 11.2 miles, 1,400' of ascent and 2 hours 8 minutes.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Breidden Hills Race - 10/10/2010

Sprinting away from the bottom of the crag on Moel y Golfa
Photos all courtesy of the amazing Mr Alastair Tye

An excellent race with some really varied running conditions from deep stick mud, through forest trail single track to the gnarly descent of Moel y Golfa.

I started fairly quickly with a good 80% effort up the main track, but lost a little ground on the short descent and the run across to the bottom of Bulthy Hill. About half and half walking and running on the way up Bulthy Hill and on to Middletown Hill, and a fairly concentrated descent kept me in reasonable shape at the start of the ascent of Moel y Golfa. I hiked all of this apart from the last hundred yards, again holding my place and keeping up with the guy in front who was mostly running.

The descent from Moel y Golfa is as gnarly as it gets on the Shropshire series, with a couple of low steep rocky sections, some single track, and a steep wooded gully.

Descending the small crag below Moel y Golfa.
More of Al Tye's excellent pictures.

I benefitted from the recce, spotting the tape on the right at the top of the gully, and knowing the ground was forgiving and I could belt down.

The next section up through New Pieces and across towards Breidden Hill is great - mostly narrow tracks and should be runnable throughout but this was the only part of the race I felt tired in so I hiked the first few hundred yards (this is the steepest bit), tucked in behind John Hart from Loughton AC. I got a gel down and some drink and this must have lifted me a bit, becuase I felt fresher on the higher bit - there's a wonderful 300 yards of dreamy path along the edge of New Pieces.

I kept close behind John up to the final scramble to the top of Rodney's Pillar, where I managed to pass him. I knew he and a couple of others behind were faster than me on the easy descents, so I belted off the top and really hammered it on the steep section down to the main track. This was enough to build a lead over John and the others behind me, and it was enough of a buffer for me to keep the place I'd come off Moel y Golfa in.

This was probably my best race so far in terms of how I felt about my performance, so I was happy enough. My descending seems to be improving since I've started concentrating on lifting my feet and concentrating on turning my legs over faster.

The numbers were: 7 miles, 2,300', in a time 1:27:30 for 68% of the leaders score, against my pre-race expectation of 1:30 being a decent run (and I beat Lightning for the first time, although my hat's off to him for coming and racing again a day after he did the Langdale race!)

This week's totals are 30.6 miles and 6,130' of ascent. The rolling four week total since 13/09/2010 is 121.2 miles and 23,680' of ascent.

Edale Skyline Recce 07/10/2010

Fence post near Ringing Roger checkpoint

Coming back from meetings in Manchester, I took the opportunity to recce for the Edale Skyline race in March. I particularly wanted to see if I could get round to the checkpoint at Mam Nick in the required two and a half hours.

I hiked about two thirds of the first ascent from Grindsbrook Valley to Ringing Roger, and then ran along the very edge of the Kinder Plateau to the Jaggers Clough checkpoint, which appears from the grid ref to be some way beyond the crossing of the stream. From there it was a fairly easy trot down to the gate on the main bridleway near Crookstone Barn.

Win Hill (right of centre) from Crookstone

Lose Hill from the start of the long climb to Win Hill

The next section starts with a really rough farm lane, but much of this can be a voided by running on the short grass next to the track. I made a really good fist of the long but steady climb to Win Hill, passing a shooting party about a mile before the top. Despite my cheery greeting none of them said hello (just as I expected).

Summit of Win Hill, part of Ladybower Reservoir behind

The descent from Win Hill to Hope is fast and a bit of commitment is required, particularly on the grass section above Twitchill Farm.

In Hope I had a false start, opting for the footpath shown climbing from Lose Hill Lane. This seemed a dead loss, so I backtracked, reset the watch and used the fenced paths leading from just north of the railway bridge past Crimea Farm to Lose Hill. This section really dragged, I had very little energy and found it hard to run even the gentlest bits of uphill.

Summit of Lose Hill, finally!

Reaching the top of Lose Hill I'd gone from 2 minutes up on my calculated schedule (which should have got me to Mam Nick in 2 hours 23 mins) to nearly six minutes down. Fortunately I recovered quite well on the downhill and over back tor and kept running right the way to Mam Tor, getting back three minutes. There's a cutoff path to the left which avoids the need to do maybe 40 or 50 feet of ascent at Barker Bank, and looks more runnable.

Summit of Mam Tor with paragliders

A quick yomp down to Mam Nick got me home in 2:26:50 (3 minutes 10 seconds to spare), although I did stop the watch and take a minute or so to rest, navigate and take pictures at most of the checkpoints.

A nice bridleway leads down from Mam Nick to the valley road almost opposite the main Edale car park.


Ringing Roger 0:18:39
Jaggers Clough 0:32:13 (at the stream, a minutes or two more to the checkpoint)
Win Hill 1:17:01
Hope (Edale Road) 1:30:05
Lose Hill 1:59:02
Mam Tor 2:23:30
Mam Nick 2:26:50

Overall distance (including the false start up Lose Hill Lane) was 13.8 miles and 2,990 feet of ascent.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Ridgeway - 05/10/2010

Just a gentle run along part of the ridgeway, from Lodge Hill near Butler's Cross. I followed the waymarked route over Coombe Hill (where the monument's being rebuilt and I saw a red kite) and Bacombe Hill and down into Wendover. Had a few indigestion problems after too much food (pork pie) an hour before my run!

Coombe Hill view indicator

Coombe Hill looking west towards Pulpit Hill and Bledlow Ridge

Along the river in Wendover

A good steady run back up the hill from Wendover made me feel like I'd had a reasonable workout.

5.5 miles, 650', running time about 1:02:00 (jogged the last 10 minutes to warm down).

Monday, 4 October 2010

Run Home (again) - 04/10/2010

Oh, the advantages of having a pile of scrap metal when I used to have a car.

Ran home again tonight (well actually to my mother-in-law's, but it's nearly as far). All roads, not much climbing, but took it consciously gently and tried to do a "form intervals" session (see Danny Dreyer's excellent Chi Running book - it must work because I've done 20k on roads in the last five days and my shins and ankles don't hurt!

Ran at just over recovery pace which is now around 09:30/mile. 5.3 miles, 190' of ascent, 50:26.

Stretton Long(ish) Run - 02/10/2010

Another nice slow run around the Skyline route (second half). I was a bit short of time because I had to get the car back to Telford for half five, so I missed out the Lawley. Got the descent route right coming off Caradoc this time, and made a good fist of the ascent up to High Park.

I found myself running through the tail end of the Long Mynd Hike field, which has wetted my appetite for next year (buggered up getting registered in time for this year). The tracks across the fields from Comley to Gogbatch were pretty muddy. At Gogbatch I saw Keith Richards and had my photo taken by John Richards of I stopped for a brief chat.

Further up the hill, the marshalls at the High Park checkpoint were quite keen to get me to check-in, and I had to avoid being mistaken for a hiker and manhandled into a tent!

A nice comfortable run today, with no real stresses. 9.5 miles and 1,860' of ascent in about 1 hour 54 minutes. Comparing splits with the run a couple of weeks ago there's a distinct improvement for what I reckon was about the same effort, although I may have been a bit fresher as I'd missed out the Lawley ascent this time. Across the fields from Comley to the railway in 11:05 (previous 13:35), from the railway up Gogbatch to the road junction 13:49 (15:21 before - using the road is quicker), from the road junction to the junction of the paths above the fields at High Park 12:52 (15:19 before), and from there to the top of Mott's Road 11:16 (11:52 before).

I plan to run the full route probably the weekend after next (around the 17th) to see how much difference the increased mileage and climbing has made in the five weeks since the Skyline Race. I also need to do a full rehearsal for the Wrekin Wrecker soon.

My total for this week was 25.6 miles and 4,100' of climbing (the easiest week for five weeks), and for the four weeks since 6 September of 124.1 miles and 24,010' of climbing (including some hillwalking last weekend).