Saturday, 30 April 2011

Three Peaks Fell Race - 30/04/2011

Sprint finishes are hard after 23.5 miles!
This was a good end to the last six weeks, which have been somewhat frustrating with the on/off injury sustained on the BG recce back in mid March.

I finished the Three Peaks Race today in 5 hours 16 minutes... But crumbs, it was hard: more mentally than physically really.

I had a great chat with Manhar Patel (CVFR) at the start, and then got stuck in on my plan: 1 minute up half way up PYG, on top one minute down (48 mins), and the same at Ribblehead (2 hrs 1 min).

On the climb from Hunt Pot to Penyghent
By Ribblehead I was suffering badly with a blister on my right heel. I wondered about getting it looked at but it wasn't too bad and the next bit was uphill anyway (weight on toes and balls of feet) so I thought sod it and just kept going.

Crossing the wall after the long slog up Whernside,
but before the really steep bit

The two steepish bits between Hell Gill and the bottom of the very steep final ascent were hard. I didn't find the top bit of the Whernside climb too bad - it was the only bit of the course the easterly wind really helped on. I walked almost all of the way from Hell Gill. I did have jellied legs at the top though and staggered badly in the wind trying to cover the five yards to the marshall with the dibber thingy. I struggled a bit to get running on the descent and never really found a rhythm again. I made it to Hill Inn with about 5 minutes to spare on the cut-off and about 5 minutes down on my (5 hours ish) schedule.

The Ingleborough section was really hard - I lost a lot of time on the ascent, walking all of the flat bit about 200 yards behind Manhar. He must have made a very good fist of the steep bit and the descent to finish 10 minutes ahead of me. The spectators on this section were superb - I had several drinks of water on the way up (my energy drink was interfering with my guts) and just the general encouragement can carry you along for a bit. It was very hard running on the top, and also disappointingly difficult down the first part of the descent. I had a walk and a breather just before the ladder stile and then managed to run the rest of the way to the start of the limestone pavement at Sulber Nick. I had to walk almost the whole of the flat bit after the check point and couldn't work out why, reading the preceding posts it must have been the wind as well as just general knackeredness.

Anyway when the gradient steepened I got moving again and eventually managed a sprint finish in the field to skip in front of Nigel Crompton, who I'd followed much of the way down (sorry Nigel) and stay in front of David Timmins, without who's encouragement I'd have finished another minute and a half down. Anyway, despite falling apart a bit I did finish, in 5:16:26.

Sprint finish in the field - just overtaken Nigel Crompton (left)
It was brilliant to have completed the race: over 10% of the starters either retured or were timed out.

My feet are destroyed, no skin on either heel and various smaller blisters on the balls of my feet from having to midfoot strike from about 4 miles in. Crumbs, those paths were hard and rough! Other than that, I'm ok tonight and certainly learned a lot of things (mostly ones I already knew - don't race in untried gear, in this case socks, or use untried nutrition etc. etc.).

The thing that worked best was the simple form prompts from Danny Dreyer's "Chi Running" book which got me focussed on something other than the pain from my feet and ensured that my legs weren't totally destroyed despite this being the longest run I've done to date. I was also inspired by running in an area and on a route I've been familiar with since childhood, although I've forgetten much of the detail since I last walked the Three Peaks in 1991.

It was good to meet other Mercia Fell Runners at the race - Pete Vale (8th, 3:06:58) wished me luck beforehand, as did Andrew Hearle (316th, 4:23:03). I had a great chat with Dan Brazier (153rd in a great sub four hour time, 3:58:57) before the race, and again after (photo coming). Sadly I missed Jonathan Newey, but it looks like he had a good day too (42nd in 3:30:29).

I'm sure now I have experienced it once, I could do things better and improve significantly on my time if I run this race again, so I may even come back but let the blister heal first)!

All of the racing photos in this blog entry are (c) Sportsunday.

Thanks to Dan, Pete, Andrew, Manhar, Tim and Helen (and countless others) for their support. I've achieved one of the ambitions I had two years ago when I started fellrunning.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Wrekin Streakin' - 28/04/2011

Steve Cale leading at the turn; me marshalling and videoing!
Photo courtesy Brian Smith
... but don't get excited, I was only marshalling!

I knew I shouldn't run this close to the Three Peaks - running fast on the Wrekin always gives me sore feet and calves, so I just didn't want to go there. In order to stop myself doing anything stupid, I volunteered to help Dawsy by marshalling the summit (this meant I couldn't be at the bottom when the race started).

I collected the marshall's kit and walked up to Hell Gate with Al Tye and Brian Smith, who were photographing the runners. I had 20 minutes to spare so had a little jog round the summit area just to shake the cobwebs out my legs and make sure there were no remaining twinges from the calf and thigh problems. Al took the opportunity to check the lighting for his race pics - see photos below.

Downhill lighting test!

Uphill lighting - I was comfortable uphill (still keep thinking I should have run!)

I put my tracksuit bottoms and the marshall's vest on and headed up to the summit with the first aid kit to await the runners. They were soon streaming past, led by Steven Cale, and with several Mercians doing very well - Mel Price led the ladies race comfortably with Polly Gibb second and Ruth Stafford fifth. I was impressed by the number of U16 runners turning out (10 boys and 2 girls, plus another couple of younger kids who'd run a short course to Halfway House).  By the time they'd all come past my arms were killing, one from pointing the direction round the trig column, and the other from holding my phone to produce a shaky video (also up later).

Video of all the runners passing the summit

After about ten minutes the last few had filtered through, so I packed the 'sac up and headed down, jogging past Al and Brian and catching the last junior near the top of the Heroes/BMX tracks. I jogged down with this lad, who was clearly struggling but determined to keep running until the end. I hope he felt some sense of achievement mixed in with all the pain!

The Shropshire Winter Series presentations were made after the race presentations, all at the Buckatree.

Main race results (ladies first):

Ladies Winner: Mel Price, Mercia (25th overall)
L45: Polly Gibb, Mercia (45th, and also 2nd lady)
LU16: Sarah Howells, Newport (69th)
L50: Jean Turner, Telford Harriers (72nd)
L40: Joanna Tansey, u/a (99th)

Winner: Steven Cale, Mercia in 17:42 (Tim Davies' record is 16:38)
V40: Paul Jones, Mercia (4th)
V45: Ian Grindley, Woverhampton & Bilston (6th)
U16: Kristian Edwards, Tamworth (a truly impressive 9th)
V50: Chris Penny, Mercia (15th)
V55: Graham Jones, Shrewsbury (26th)
V60: Andrew Davies, Telford Harriers (39th)
V65: Gary Gunner, Croft Ambrey (52nd)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Update (no running) - 27/04/2011

Pitchcroft Lane, between Church Aston and Lilleshall Hall.
I've not been running since Friday, despite the Bank Holiday on Monday. I've been trying to rest my leg following the problems I had after last week's runs, so I'm in shape for the Three Peaks Race on Saturday.

I went out on the bike on Sunday morning for a bit (photo above), and went to the gym early yesterday evening, instead of going over to Church Stretton for the usual Tuesday night run. I switched from high reps (12-20) of lowish weights to lower reps (sets of 8) of heavier weights tonight as I've heard that I should really be training for core strength in my upper body and not for endurance. We'll see how it goes... I also wonder whether the gym sessions have had any bearing on the injury, but I think not because generally I only work my legs on the CV machines. The other theory I've heard is that this is my physique (that's a joke) trying to catch up with the improvement in CV fitness I've made over the winter - perhaps improved VO2 max means I can push my legs harder than they can cope with yet?

Today I'm intending to do a few gentle miles on the Wrekin whilst marshalling or photographing the Wrekin Streak fell race. I need to hold myself down, be disciplined and not actually race because the Streak has very hard stony paths and fast running, and is exactly the kind of ground I'm likely to set off some problem in my leg again. I'd rather make the startline on Saturday in reasonable shape than risk it logging what would probably be a below par performance in the Streak: I'd only be going easy to try to make sure I can run on Saturday. I think it's better just to focus on some key events and try to do them well...

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Wild Moor Easy Run - 22/04/2011

Geese on Wild Moor Pool
Posting on a Sunday morning is never a good sign - I should be out running but I've another niggle in my left leg and I'm trying hard to give it chance to heal. I took it really easy after Tuesday's run to try to let the soreness in my thigh heal, and felt a bit better by Friday, so I took advantage of the good weather and the Bank Holiday to give it a tryout...

I parked up at Womerton above Gogbatch to avoid the crowds in Church Stretton. After a good runthrough the "transition exercises" from "Chi Running" I headed up the side of Gogbatch, then crossed the road and went on up to Robin Hood's Butts and down the road to Wild Moor Pool, all the time forcing myself to take an easy pace and trying to remember to run with good form. The pool was restored a couple of years ago by the National Trust, and is looking very nice now.

Wild Moor Pool

Overexposed flower, Wild Moor Pool
From Wild Moor I walked and jogged up sheep trods following the shallow valley up to the top.

The wide, wet valley that leads up from Wild Moor Pool to Shooting Box

Just below a structure I take to be some kind of pheasant trap, there was a sheep stuck in a deep looking pool. She had two lambs close by. I didn't want to scare the lambs and for them to go in the pool too, and I couldn't see an easy was of getting the ewe out either, so reluctantly I had to leave her there.

I headed on up to Pole Bank from the Shooting Box, and then over the top of Long Synalds to the col at the head of Townbrook Valley. I climbed straight up Yearlet here, running probably nearly half of the steep ascent.

Self timer shot at the summit of Pole Bank. OS Trig columns have a use!

Summit of Yearlet with the Lawley (left) and Caer Caradoc (right)

My thigh was now pretty sore again, and stopped me running easily down the green path, so I had to take it slowly. I decided to stop at the NT cafe in Cardingmill Valley, and reported the stuck ewe to the Trust warden there. I had a lovely hot sausage roll and cream tea, and then started back towards the car. I'd stiffened up badly in my thigh and had to walk pretty much all of the way back, via the ridge climbed at the start of the LMV and that route's descent into the Batch, and then up the nicely graded path to Plush Hill, along the nice grassy alp below the road there and back onto the track that skirts the edge of Gogbatch to the car.

View down The Batch from the slopes of Haddon Hill

Towards Haddon Hill from the path leading out of The Batch to Plush Hill

Springtime in The Batch - two weeks ago the trees were bare
I had a proper warm down stretch, again based on the "Chi Running" book, and then drove home. The stats for today were 9.2 miles, 1,550' of ascent, and a very steady 2 hours 16 minutes moving (i.e. including the shorter stops but excluding major photo faffs and cream teas).
The thigh was pretty sore for the rest of the day. I spent yesterday (Saturday) gardening with only the occasional twinge and it doesn't seem too bad today, but I've got to be sensible and give myself the best chance of running at the Three Peaks next weekend. The plan is therefore to do most of my exercise this week on the bike, not overdo it, and probably only run on Tuesday (gently!)

So I'll be out shortly for twenty miles or so on the push bike...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Tuesday Night Run - 19/04/2011

Sunset over the Long Mynd, from the top of Caer Caradoc

Another eagerly awaited Tuesday evening, and what a wonderful night it was too. Super weather, sunny but with a nice gentle cool breeze on the tops.

We had 25+ runners tonight, all in the one big group. Mark and Tom decided we would go up past Snatchfield Farm and cut across the woods under Hazler Hill to the top of Sandford Avenue, then up to Gaerstone and along the main Bowdler Hills ridge to Battlestones.

Descending from Battlestones to Cwms

The pace was fairly swift and I found myself skipping along near the front on the way up, chatting with Mark, Andy, Helen and Ruth. From the Battlestones we headed down by the Cardington Cracker route to the Cwms - Willstone track, and then directly up the very steep east face of Caer Caradoc. On top we were treated to a glorious sunset, but the evening's delights weren't over yet...

Giz, and friend (I don't know this chap's name) on Caer Caradoc

Big gaggle on top of Caer Caradoc - there were a few of us not on this pic too!

We ran the grassy ridge to Three Fingers Rock very quickly, and then made an aggressive descent down to the footbridge - this is very steep and quite technical but its better taken fast than muckied about with. From here an excellent permissive path skirts the bottom of the woods under the west side of Helmeth Hill (you can go on the footpath round the east side, but it's not as nice...) Towards the end of this traverse there's a fantastic area of less dense wood which is full of bluebells. They're just coming into full bloom. The path comes out just above Gaerstones Farm, and we finished off down Hazler Road.

The route was probably about 7.5 miles, GPS says 2,000' of ascent, and 1 hour 36 minutes including stops (mostly short, one longer one on Caer Caradoc). I felt pretty strong but had a sore left thigh at the end which has stayed with me for the 24 hours since - but it's eased by some hamstring stretches. There's a 5 mile trail race over at Milford Common tomorrow evening which I might do as a pace session if the leg is better by then (see Stone Master Marathoners website).

It was nice to see so many friends out tonight, particularly Rob's return after illness, and also to have a good chat with Ruth about community hydro schemes amongst other things.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Stretton Skyline LSR - 17/04/2011

(LSR = long slow run)

Yesterday I hit the Stretton Skyline after a few days without any running (I did a lot of walking around on Friday though). My calf injury seems to be pretty much cleared up now, so I was hoping to pace myself a bit better than last week and get all the way round.

I started at what seemed a gentler pace, albeit running all the way up to Pole Bank. 33:10 to the top was about the same time as last week but felt more comfortable. I got a nice rhythm going taking it much more steadily than last week on the descent to Little Stretton, but never getting out of breath. It was hot and I'd drunk all my water, so filled up the bottle at the campsite in Little Stretton before crossing the A49 and starting up Ragleth Hill.

I think I pushed too hard on the ascent here, worrying about being inside the 80 minute cut-off, which is stupid because this was a training run - the point is to go long AND slow. I made the top in 77 minutes, 4 minutes slower than last week. The descent was better though, I nailed the route properly and soon was at the car, strategically parked on Watling Street (92 minutes).

I had a few minutes break, eating a KitKat and a Banana and geting some more water down, doing a few stretches (I had twinges down the outside of my left leg) and refilling the water bottle.

I ran nice and steadily up towards the Cwms Road, feeling the first effect of a little tiredness on the climb to Cwms. I forced myself to climb Caradoc a bit more steadily than I had Ragleth Hill, but was probably still a little too fast, getting to the top in 2 hours 2 minutes. The descent was good but controlled (it's easy to go very fast here), although I always feel a little tired when I hit the road near Comley.

Climbing up the Lawley I made myself keep it slow and steady, but I found it quite hard to get running on top. I paused for a minute or two at the top (2 hours 28 minutes) and stretched a bit, before a very steady descent.

I was feeling like I was struggling to recover and catch my breath and there was thick grass and rough dried mud in the first couple of the fields after Comley, so I walked these, then jogged to the A49 (2 hours 53 minutes), where I picked up my last drink and a choccie bar which I'd stashed earlier. I ran round into Gogbatch, but was still having difficulty with getting my breath, so started to walk on the road, and had to keep walking all the way up to the cottage at High Park. From there I managed to start running again, very slowly and steadily at first, but then getting up a bit more pace to reach the top of Mott's Road in 3 hours 42 minutes.

I realised 4 hours might be on but was pretty tired, so I forced myself to go steady on the descent into Carding Mill Valley, but just about made it to the football field in 3:59:28, totally blown out at the end. This included a couple of two minute stops on the tops of Ragleth Hill and the Lawley, but excluded the 7 minute break at the car.

September's race time was 4:16:34, so that's a good improvement. If I keep on getting better at the current rate 3:45 should be within reach this year: I just need enough aerobic fitness that I can keep running after the Lawley - the legs were willing but the lungs just wouldn't keep up!

Message from this run, despite the timings given, is that I really need to ensure my long slow runs are at a very steady output (if not pace), that is that I don't go anaerobic anywhere along the route, and that I keep the effort consistent throughout. A couple of minutes slower up Pole Bank and Ragleth Hill today might have saved several minutes between Comley and the top of Mott's Road...

Total distance today (including jogging up to the start from Watling Street) 20.0 miles; 4,680' of ascent; total time about 4:13:00 so my pace was about 12:48/mile.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Lilleshall Trail Run - 13/04/2011

Rape seed coming into bloom from the summit of Lilleshall Hill
Looking at commitments for the rest of this week I felt I should run again tonight to try to keep some intensity in the training. I intended to do a few efforts tonight, along the lines of the 400m intervals I was doing before the injury at the end of March. It didn't quite work out like that, but never mind...

I started at the Memorial Hall in Lilleshall and ran gently up the hill. The hillside has been subjected to another brutal vegetation clearance, which looks like it's just going to leave brambles - they're the only thing growing so far.

I went down over the school field and across the field to the main road, down Willmoor Lane and turned right onto the former canal. From here I followed the canal up the incline and then ran up Old Farm Lane and on to Lilleshall Hall, arriving just as the Newport fell and trail mob (well posse, there weren't that many of them today) were gathering. I had a chat with Noel Hogan (recent winner of an LDWA in the Black Mountains) and Mark Deighton, and as they were going the same way as me, I ran along for a while.

We wend back the way I'd come to Willmoor Lane, then the pace picked up as we followed the next section of the canal and on through the old lime pits at the back of Barrack Lane. I parted company with the Newport guys at the end of the lime pits and headed back to the Red House along the A518, then up into the village. There's a nice grassy footpath that leaves Limekiln Lane just uphill of the bit with no pavement and heads through a couple of lovely rolling paddocks to come out at the end of Hillside East, where you can go straight across the turning area and up the last steep section to the top of the hill.

Mission accomplished, I jogged back to the Memorial Hall. I'd done a good mile at some pace with the Newport guys, so that'll have to do in lieu of the intervals session.

Tonight's stats: 5.5 miles, 720' of ascent, 59 minutes. Map and profile below:

This is how the map appears on my phone app while it's recording...

Profile - speed in red. Most of the run with Newport done at about 8:45 pace.

Tuesday Night Run - 12/04/2011

Stanley, Terry, me, Helen and John at Pole Bank (Photo: Paul Flinn)
We had a select (i.e. small) group tonight due to Mark Bollom's Land's End - John o'Groats cycling oddessy passing through Shropshire and a lot of regulars attending his "celebration", and also with the school holidays.

We set off up the Rectory Field to the hotel, then up the hundred steps with a great view of a hot air balloon coming over, and onto the Green Path.

Balloon over Long Mynd Hotel

Terry and Helen off up the green path (this little bit at the bottom isn't green!)

Paul, Stanley, John and Terry at the top of the Green Path
From here we haeded up onto the col, traversed the north face of Yearlet, and continued on to Boiling Well. I suggested we went up the single track to Pole Bank. This was stupid: I was the only one in shorts and the path is getting quite overgrown with heather, so I have numberous scratches this morning. Ho Ho.

From Pole Bank we aimed to go down Lightspount, but when we got round to the path down, I had another brainwave and suggested we should go down over Calf Ridge (not the rocky Cow Ridge, which Helen vetoed on the grounds we go down it too often and it's better to go up it anyway). This runs fairly level for the first half mile and then descends very steeply (450' drop in 200 yards horizontally). The best way down is to use the path along the right (Lightspout) side for the first drop, then cut across left into the bowl for the rest. I was in my trail shoes owing to the dryness of the ground and slipped on the traverse into the bowl, so I've got a good bracken stem scratch up my backside today. 2 inches further over and it would have been painful!

We jogged back down CMV (no Rectory Wood this time) to the car park, in time for Paul to get his train.

6.3 miles, 1,330' of ascent in 1hr 19min including stops.

Monday, 11 April 2011

(Almost a) Stretton Skyline - 10/04/2011

Today was the final stage in checking out progress with my calf injury. I'd done 8 miles on Tuesday and 11 on Friday with no real adverse reaction, so I wanted to get a proper long run in and do most of the Skyline route. I intended to cut the last re-ascent onto the long Mynd because that would have probably been a bit too much of a distance progression.

I parked up on Watling Street again, at the foot of the descent from Ragleth Hill so I could refuel, top up my drink and change shoes or clothes if necessary, then jogged up through the town.

I started my watch at the startline for the race near the cattle grid in CMV and jogged up the road. I was soon stopped as I bumped into othe Mercia Fell Runners, chatting first to Rob Court who was out with his family, and then Mel and Helen, who'd been out in the cooler early morning (how sensible) and done chuncks of the Valleys route. I staretd the watch again after a loo stop at the NT's toilets and ran up Lightspout past a lot of ramblers, and on to the top of Pole Bank (reached comfortably in 33 minutes).

I had a good easy descent down into Little Stretton, stopping a couple of times to take photos, and then filled my water bottle at the campsite, having got through half a litre of liquid already. On through the village and strongly up towards the top of Ragleth Hill, running rather more of the generally steep ascent than I often do, I reached the checkpoint at the south top in 1:13 (about eight minutes faster than in the race last year).

I tried the Newport patent descent route, but went a little too far right on the way down. I need to remember to go straight down from the obvious rock! Anyway I picked it up and the road section is gentler and quicker than coming off the end of the ridge. I'm inclined to agree this is the faster way.

I paused the watch and stopped at the car for a few minutes, removing the t-shirt and putting on my vest and lots of sunscreen. I had a Twix and drunk some water, refilled the bottle again (High5 energy drink this time), and set off towards Caer Caradoc.

I was feeling good at this stage and ran all the way to the kissing gate, then hiked quickly up the steep ascent to the summit, reaching this point in 1:53 running time.

I descended well too, but felt the effects on the road to Comley Farm and on the ascent of the Lawley, where I took it fairly easy, reaching the top in 2:18. Coming back down I realised my legs were quite tired and I'd probably also gone a bit too fast as I was struggling to recover. Two weeks of lost fitness to get back there, I think...

I headed across the fields to the A49, and then decided in view of my condition (very little fluid left, and a bit tight in my hamstrings) to head along the road to All Stretton.

I had a very welcome short break in the pub where the young barman filled my bottle with nice cold water as well as selling me a pint of squash, then returned to Church Stretton by the fields and Madeira Walk.

Stats for today were around 16.5 miles (including the jog up to CMV from the car), and about 3,350' of ascent in a total of about 3 hours 20 minutes (about 12:10 pace). I reckon if I could sustain my pace to the Lawley through the rest of the Skyline route I'd be at around the 3 hours 40 mark for the Skyline now, a considerable improvement on my 4 hours 16 from the race last September.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Easy Run on the Mynd - 08/04/2011

Yesterday I took the afternoon off and headed over to Church Stretton to get a medium length run in and see how the calf reacts. It was very warm and sunny, so I decided just to head off onto the Long Mynd and run at an easy pace until I started to tire, thinking aroung 10-12 miles would be the target. That way I'd have increased the mileage from Tuesday's run, still have something in my legs for a decent outing on Sunday, and hopefully not overwork the calf / ankle injury recovery.

I set off along Madeira Walk and across the Cwmdale road, through the fields to All Stretton, then started up the Batch (as we'd done on Tuesday on the club run). Here's the view as you drop into the Batch:

Instead of turning into Jonathan's Hollow I continued on directly up the main valley. There are sketchy paths up either side of the stream most of the way: it's runnable, but not as easy running as many of the Batches and Hollows on the Mynd.

Phone camera fighting with the contrast. Should have sun-screened up given all that sun!
At the top I came out onto the High Park - Portway path, followed that briefly and then turned left up to the west top of Haddon Hill. I dropped down to the col below the east top and then doubled back along a nice singletrack line which contours back round the west top. From the end of this I picked up the grassy line of to the left which leads over Mott's Road to the top of Calf Ridge.

I continued in reverse along the line of my Gill Harris round to Wild Moor and the Shooting Box, then headed up to Pole Bank.

Forced underexposure but hopefully you can see Cader Idris faintly on the skyline
I was pretty warm by now, so I finished my drink (High5 with carbs and caffeine and not too disgusting apart from the way you get loads of foam on the top!) and had a little snooze on the grass near the view marker.

Strangely still sunny when I woke up!
I needed to top up the water and didn't want to do more than about another five miles, so I jogged off down to Pole Cottage and picked up the path that leads down across Barrister's Plaiun and round Callow to Little Stretton. On the way down I practiced some of the descending drills I'd been shown at the England U16 coaching day a couple of weeks ago: pushing hips through, not leading with straight legs, looking up.

Callow looked nice but I was really in need of water so I went straight down without diverting via the summit.

Callow from the side of Grindle.
Down in Little Stretton the Ragleth was closed so I refilled my bottle at the campsite and then went up Ashes Hollow and into the side valley between Yearlet and Ashlet. I climbed this at a walk, feeling quite tired - I'm not sure whether this was the heat and slight dehydration or just not having much running in my legs because of the injury?

Looking back down the valley between Ashlet (L) and Yearlet (R)
However looking down it's pretty steep and maybe I was just a bit tired. I ran off down the green path, and was pretty slow down there too....

Church Stretton and Caer Caradoc from the Ashlet-Yearlet col
A jog through the rectory wood and I was back at the car. I had a nice chat with Terry Davies from Mercia walking through town to get a bit of shopping after my run.

Stats for today: 11.2 miles; around 2,400' of climbing; running time about 2 hours 27 minutes.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Gym and Athletic Support - 07/04/2010

Stepson and bike in perfect harmony - get that seat up, lad!
Went to the gym with James last night again.

Laddo is coming on well and ran for ten minutes at 13kph. I don't think I'm going to persuade him to come out on a hill though... but I'll keep trying.

I rowed 2,400m in 10 minutes on moderate resistance as a warm up, then did some work on the upper body to try to build core strength and endurance - three sets of 12-20 reps on upper back, ab crunch, chest and shoulder presses, arm curls and arm extension. I'm trying to do each rep at a steady pace rather than explosively to maximise the benefit - it's surprising how quickly you reach overload that way...

I then did 10 minutes of hill specific work on the stepper at high resistance (1.5km), and cooled down on the recumbent bike for 10 minutes - why does the seat alway wobble about so much on the recumbents? It's annoying.

Re: athletic support. It's not what you think - I'm not posting about underwear. More like financial support.
Hopefully easier to get money out of the Mr Osbourne

I'm putting a grant application together for our fledgling development programme at Mercia. Why does it have to be so difficult? I've spent hours and hours tweaking project plans, copying building society pass books, ringing people etc... It's the classic clash between the simple fellrunning ethos (ably demonstrated by one of our members on Tuesday - jump out of your car, run up a hill) and the unbelievable bureaucracy involved when any kind of quango or governmental body get involved. If this country was run like our races, we'd have colonised other planets by now.

Rant over.

Over and out.

UPDATE: nearly four hours later I have pretty much finished off the application form. Jeez!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Tuesday Night Run - 05/04/2011

Elevation profile and view down into New Pool Hollow from GoogleEarth
Way-hey! Running again. The physio said I could run tonight, so I was pleased to give it a go.

I'd been to Romford and London yesterday and had felt a niggle in the calf for a good part of the day walking round town. I was worried I might not be in shape to run today, but there was no more than a slight ache by 5pm; I was more bothered by having a headache than anything else.

So I got myself over to Church Stretton for the 7pm start, and we set off towards the Batch and Jonathan's Hollow, heading out via Madeira Walk and then the path around the bottom of the east face of Nover's Hill. I felt fairly comfortable, chatting to a few of the guys and girls as we turned into the Batch. Now it's daylight for most of the run I managed to avoid falling at either of the little footbridges on the way up the valley. I must remember I can take pictures now!!!

In Jonathan's Hollow, the ground steepens and so I climbed fairly steadily, with a bit of an ache in the calf but no more trouble than that. Reaching the top we came out into a strong headwind and a bit of mist, so carried on after a brief regrouping up to High Park and then on to the Portway.

We ran south west along the Portway to the Ratlinghope Road and then on south to meet Burway Road; then headed down that briefly before coming off down into New Pool Hollow - I never run down this way and it was a good descent, if a bit boggy. From the reservoir we headed along the pipe path which contours under Cow Ridge, crossed the nose of the ridge and went partway up towards to Mott's Road / Lightspout Hollow junction, then finished the descent into CMV with a good gallop down steep grass - may as well enjoy the absence of any bracken while it lasts - this slope won't be runnable in another month's time.

A quick jog up the ramp to the Burway Cattle Grid and down through the Rectory Wood got us back to the car park.

I didn't go too hard tonight but I was pleased to be able to run steadily up onto the Mynd and to descend fairly rapidly. I put a bit of effort in at the end and felt good. The calf was ok apart from the JH ascent where it was a little sore...

The stats for tonight were about 7.6 miles, 1,250' of ascent, and 1 hour 29 minutes.

Road Biking - to 03/04/2011

Vintage bike at Chatwell Ponds, both transport and location unaltered by the march of "progress"
I forgot to say in the last post that I got my road bike, a beautiful 1984 vintage Holdsworth Mistral, out of winter storage and had a 5.1 mile shake down ride on Thursday night before I went to the physio.

On Friday I rode to and from work, a total of 7.5 hilly miles.

Saturday was spent decorating with no real reaction to the physio or the injury - it was nice to have a fairly pain free day leg-wise. I was also pleased not to be so tired or have such a bad back as I usually do when I've been decorating - the training must be building my core strength!

On Sunday I got out on the bike again for a two hour ride round the lanes east of Telford. I headed out up through Muxton and Abbey Lane (a good sustained climb of about 250') to cross the Sheriffhales to Newport Road.

Gateway near the Sheriffhales road - you can see Cannock Chase from here!
Next I headed towards Great Chatwell (the Red Lion used to be good for food, but haven't been there for a while), stopping to take another photo (at the start of this entry) by the ponds on the way down into the village.

From Church Eaton I headed towards Brineton and then picked up the line of the watershed between the Trent and Severn catchments - it's not obvious here, but it's an important dividing line - rain falling to the east ends up in the North Sea at the Humber Estuary, to the west in the Atlantic at the Bristol Channel.

Junction on the watershed - not as impressive here as in the Pennines!
I turned off the watershed after a couple of miles and rode downhill to the Shropshire Union Canal at High Onn Wharf. It's pleasing to see that after about 15 years' work by British Waterways to get moorings at the wharf, finally the landowner has either relented or changed and there are now boats at the wharf by the characteristic small warehouse again.

High Onn Wharf - the building is a fairly typical Shropshire Union Canal Co Warehouse
I rode on down to the Royal Oak pub at Church Eaton. They were doing breakfasts, but I wasn't that hungry, so I started back. On the return journey I used a more direct route, via Moreton and Pave Lane, coming back into Church Aston by Pitchcroft Lane and then climbing through Lilleshall Village to get back. I moved a bit quicker on the way back, with no photo stops - rain was looking fairly imminent.

Proof of my (or at least the bike's) arrival at Church Eaton
I had a good ride at a reasonable pace with no mechanical problems, although I hope the Kool Stop brake pads I've ordered are a bit better than the 1980s era Weinmann cartridges which are on the bike at the moment. It's a pleasure to ride though, very comfortable because of the 531 tubeset and the generous 27 x 1.25" wheels and tyres.

My ride was 24 miles and about 1400' of climbing, in 2:05 (including a few photo and snack stops). When I got home, it was back to the decorating, which we finally finished around 7 o'clock...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Physio, gym and more physio - 31/03/2011

After my break down at Edale, I rang Lilleshall Sports Injury Rehab and made an appointment. Rob Sharp, who'd previously helped me with a shoulder problem, had an appointment that evening, so after work I changed and drove up to see him.

After a chat about the symptoms and some diagnostic work, Rob reckoned I'd put my fibula out of alignment. I think this was when I had the first problem on the BG Recce, nine days before Edale. The misalignment can apparently reduce the amount of blood reaching the calf muscle and also disrupt the nerves in the muscle. I think this is why I felt I had cramp and dead leg type symptoms in the calf. Rob showed me some stretches I could do to help the healing process and advised me on exercise while the damage was healing. I made another appointment for Thursday 31st.

I did very little on the Tuesday apart from the stretches, and hobbled around a bit at work. By Wednesday, the leg was feeling much better, almost right, so I went to the gym with James. I stuck to non-impact CV exercise, doing a half hour row of 7.5km, and then sessions on the upright and recumbent bikes, pushing my HR up to 156 on the upright doing some hard efforts. I'm impressed with how quickly I can recover back to a much lower HR nowadays - this is a useful adaptation for fell racing, particularly the longer events.

On Thursday my leg felt almost OK. In the evening I went up to Lilleshall again, and Rob did some pretty heavy duty physio stuff to the calf, looking to flush it, and work the muscle a bit.

Edale Skyline Race - 27/03/2011

I arrived in Edale just after nine, having had a nice drive down to the Derwent Valley from Leeds. I registered, bought a bottle of "Rescue Ale" (named for the Woodhead MRT, and excellent), and went to prepare with plenty of time.

After a nice calm pre-race I wandered up to the start, arriving about five minutes before the "off". My calf was still sore, although not as bad as on the previous day, and I was doubtful I'd get round, but I felt I needed to try.

The start was fairly fast and frenzied but as the gradient increased on the zig-zags up to Ringing Roger, I found myself climbing past people and feeling quite good. I reached the checkpoint in 17 minutes and got moving along the path, keeping up with those around me but taking it fairly steady. Jagger's Clough came and went, and I was running well, albeit with a bit of soreness in the bad calf. I did jar it jumping off a rock and that hurt, but I managed to run it off and was moving really well at Crookstone Barn.

I crossed the col and started the long steady climb up towards Win Hill, then on the first steep grassy rise something just went wrong in my calf and all I could do was hop to a halt. Bugger!

I knew straight away that I wasn't making it anywhere quickly, and I couldn't get running again despite a couple of tries. I hobbled back to the marshall on the gate at the col, and let him know I was retiring. I managed a kind of jog / hobble down the path to the Youth Hostel and back to registration, where I had a welcome cuppa, and then headed up to the start / finish in time to see the leaders finishing.

Lloyd Taggert was in sight first followed fairly closely by Ollie Johnson and then Mercia's Pete Vale. Tim Werrett came a very creditable eighth. I've a couple of video clips of the lead guys coming in that I'll try to add to this post later.

There were some positives: I was comfortably inside my 4 hour splits, and was well up on the speed I needed to do to avoid being timed out (this would be about a 4¼ hour time if I kept to the 2:20 timing for Mam Nick all the way round). I felt strong in myself and very in control - it was just the injury which found me out. I was pretty disappointed stewing over my first DNF on the way back to Shropshire, but probably more worried about how much damage I'd done and how long it might be before I'm running again.

Update and Coaching Session 26/03/2011

Apologies for the lack of posts recently - I've been busy and injured. For the full story on the injury, read on!

On Wednesday (23rd March), I took James to the gym again, and had a pretty good session, with a 3000m rowing warm up, then three sets of 12-20 reps on upper body/core weights, finishing off with 3.5km on the crossramp machine.

On the Thursday and Friday I had increasing problems with my left calf, after the "cramp" I'd had in there on the Bob Graham recce the previous Friday. I didn't bother too much about it, being busy at work, and I'd planned a rest prior to the Edale Skyline Race on Sunday 27th.

I spent an interesting day on the Saturday, oberving and assisting with a coaching day at Mytholmroyd for the England U16 fell running squad. I arrived just as the icebreaker session was ending, but in time to sit in on an interesting sports psychology session delivered by Duncan Richards of Helm Hill, who was the psych for the GB swimming team leading up to and at their very successful Beijing Olympics.

Initially we looked at how we'd like to feel at the start of a race, and how we actually feel. Being nervous is a natural reaction to an impending challenge, but how can we channel and control our fight/flight/freeze response to get a good performance? Some positive reinforcement in the form of noting previous times we've felt really good or done something well helps here - Duncan suggested keeping a list of all these occasions in our training diaries - I guess the blog's a bit like that.

We then each wrote down a few goals for the season. In my case this was:
  • 75%+ scores in the summer series counters;
  • Completing sufficient races to score in the Lakeland Classics Trophy series;
  • Running the Stretton Skyline in less than 03:50;
  • Completing the Long Mynd Hike.
Most people's goals were similar - some looking to win things or place well. Duncan told us how these goals can break down to different levels. These headlines are "outcome goals" - things we can influence but can't control. Looking at what I would need to do to be able to, say, complete the Long Mynd hike, would give me some "performance goals": e.g. train for at least 3-4 hours each weekend, build stamina, practice running at night, increase hill strength. We have some control over performance goals. For each performance goal there will be a number of components we have total control over, for example getting up early on a Sunday morning, ensuring the weekend calendar is clear enough for a long run, etc... These are "process goals". By executing the plan defined by the process goals we can achieve many of our performance goals and this will allow us to influence our outcomes.

The next session, uphill and downhill runnning, was led by Nick Harris from Rossendale Harriers. We had a short theory session in the classroom.

Key pointers for uphill running are looking straight ahead, maintaining an upright posture, and driving with hands and arms in a similar manner to sprinting. If you speed your arms up, your legs will follow. A helpful insight was that uphill running is effectively a jumping exercise - think about how a high jumper approaches the bar. We also discussed foot plants, here we should be aiming to get the whole foot on the ground, pointing forward to maximise traction, although it's accepted that on steeper slopes we may end up on our toes. Running uphill on a 6% gradient (not steep) uses a quarter more energy than running on the flat, so other keys to uphill performance are pacing and conserving energy.

For downhills, we need to remember that most of the bodyweight is above hip level, so if we can keep our bodies in front of our hips on the downhills, gravity will help. Again foot plants should be with the slope of the ground and feet need to point down the fall line to maximise traction. Looking a little ahead will help - it's suprising that the brain will remember the ground immediately in front of you and sort out your foot placements.

The practical session started with a warm up with a few drills thrown in, and then we looked at downhill technique. One good exercise was to get the athletes to run downhill (grassy surface) with their arms outstretched behind them - like flying down - to build confidence. Whilst they did this Nick had them look at his gloved hand as he ran back in front of them; making them keep their heads up. After a couple of goes the athletes descending became more confident.

We then split into groups and used a hi speed video camera to video each athlete on a short descending run. The coaches checked running form on each run and advised the kids where they could improve and what they were doing well. The final exercise was to repeat these runs, but with another runner "chasing" a pace or so behind, to try to ensure that the kids maintained their form even under race type pressure.

I worked with Phil Bolton of Rossendale, an enthusiastic and knowledgable young coach who's studying sports science (I think) at Leeds Metropolitan University.

In the afternoon, Denise Parks (who writes in Fellrunner), gave an introductory session on sports physiotherapy, outlining her work both treating injuries and preparing fit athletes for the England Mountain Running squad amongst others.

We then moved into the gym for a session on drills and pliometrics. Phil demonstrated a series of drills starting with simple lunges and working up to box jumps. We also did some measurement work on the young athletes jumping skills.

My leg was giving me serious trouble (like a dead leg, only in my calf) now after the morning's practical when I'd been scooting up and down videoing the kids, so I asked Denise to take a look and it did feel a bit better after a quick massage.

We completed the gym session with some more jumping, and I had a nice chat with Jackie Wynn of Ellenborough, who had an interesting take on the procedings.

I then had a chat with Graeme Woodward about the FRA's fell leadership in running fitness course (LiRF), which Mercia will be hosting, probably in July.