Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Not the Ultra Tour de Helvellyn

The pictures here are from this last weekend, which I spent up in the Lakes running! Normally nothing out of the ordinary there, but this was the first weekend running I'd done in over a month! It was great!!
Its been quite a gap since the last time I posted, which was pretty much the end of racing for this year. I finished the season off with a third senior lady in Langdale Fell Race where I decided I needed some more speed for next year, and the navigation leg for the Pennine Ladies team at the FRA relays. I ended the FRA relays feeling in excellent shape and planned a couple of weeks off before starting into training for next year.

However, my doctor decided it would be a good idea to work out why I have been unable to eat gluten since May and so I embarked on a gluten challenge instead (trust me, just as difficult as any AR!). Every time I've eaten it by accident this year I 've taken a week or two off training or stuck to low key training to recover, which is fine as long as its only a couple of weeks. This time it was going to be just over 6 weeks before I got to head back to my GF diet, so realistically 9weeks before I was back on form. I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn't want to entirely loose the floaty feeling of being fit from the FRA relays, so made a mental note that I was going to get out and train, in some form, every week regardless of how little I wanted to.

Looking up the Valley from Martindale

 The night before my first sandwich, I headed out on the DPFR run and cruised around 10 miles with Helen Elmore. It was great to still be feeling fit and relatively fast :-). The first few days afterwards I got away without feeling a thing and completed the BUCS hill climb, my first ever race on a road bike... Next time I'm going to use a bike that fits me!!  Still second counter for the Sheffield Uni Women ain't too bad :-). On the fourth day it all went downhill, I went for a gentle run and within a few minutes had stabby stomach pains. By the time the DPFR weekly run came around I was amazed at the difference a week made! I not only had to run slower to lessen the stomach pain but I was dropping off the back of everybody!
Not that that put me off, I just revised the amount of exercise I was going to do and decided to aim for one group run of decent length a week and put up with it, so found myself running up through the parks with the ShUOC girls on a 2hr gentle run the following week. I struggled my way round which wasn't very enjoyable. This was it, I'd managed to keep 'proper training' for 2/6 weeks...
By week 3 I was pretty tired from doing nothing, but going out for some very gentle exercise didn't seem to make this any worse, it was just difficult to get out of the door. I then made a discovery, riding a bike was an easier way to do exercise - I guess it was due to me keeping my HR lower and being able to not pedal on the downhills. I'd like to say I got out on a couple of good rides to make up for the lack of running....however when 2.5hrs of a 5 hour ride is spent in a pub by a fire enjoying lunch you might suggest the pace was potentially junk mile worthy....
I got a bit borerd of junk miles with a HR av not over 135 and so went for it! A HR over 150...for an entire hour of MTB...wow! This wiped me out for 3 days and so I gave in and just did nothing for 2 weeks!
Well the 6.5weeks is up, and obviously the first thing I did was get very excited and go running...a lot! The first attempt was back at DPFR with a very similar result to the last outing with them! This time I got properly dropped and ran a good 5miles back alone, oops. I ran the route 10mins slower than last time with Helen, but my HR was also quite a bit lower, so i don't think all the fitness is lost :-).
I then couldn't resist this:

 By the third run I stopped feeling quite as sick, and enjoyed a headtorch run around Ladybower before heading to the Lakes for the weekend. I had hoped that by some miracle I would be fine to run 38miles in the Ultra Tour de Helvellyn, but was sensible (yes you heard me right) and faced up to the fact that it was highly unlikely I would get round and if I did I probably wouldn't enjoy it. So instead I went for a run with Rhys and Wil from Pooley Bridge, picking up the UTdH route to Martindale. Here we found Mike Robinson looking a little confused, but moving well. What we didn't know is that we'd just missed Kim Collison who was on for a flyer and won by a clear margin in a little over 6 hours...as you can see there was enough snow that it should really have slowed him down!
Running back over the tops I remembered how much harder running in the snow can be!

High Cup Nick
By the end I'd managed 2hrs of pretty comfortable running :-)
On Sunday we headed out again around Dufton (above), running up to High Cup Nick in even more icey snowy conditions. Another 1.5hrs complete, however I was back to feeling pretty rough. So not there quite yet, but only 7 days gf so far. This week has gone better than I hoped and I anticipate that in another 2 weeks I should be able to go out running as much as I like without a problem (well apart from sore and dead legs!).

Next stop Italy, for a bit of Christmas skiing :-)!!!

Monday, 3 October 2011

2nd in the Ian Hodgson Mountain Relays

Angle Tarn - We had weather more like this than the mist that descended for the rest of the legs :-)

Yesterday was the 2011 Ian Hodgson Mountain Relays and Pennine Fell Runners had a title to defend! Last year we had secured a tightly faught victory in the mixed catagory and this year provided just as much of an anxious wait at the finish line, with some hot competition from Bingley and Borrowdale. 

For the last few years the relays have been run in an anticlockwise direction, starting and ending from Sykeside Campsite. With bad weather in the last few weeks there had been some last minute alterations, the relay now starting/ending in Patterdale and being run in a clockwise direction. This meant I was now running the 4.5mile first leg (formally 3rd leg) with Edie Hemstock. The pace up the hill felt easy, however we were in the mix with most of the mixed and ladies teams. A couple of good lines across the top and then came the manic (fun) descent down to the Hartsop Valley. Here we met a track and Edie showed me how to run on something less rough than tussocks! Its always interesting to see the different strengths in relay partnerships, after spurring Edie on up the hill and down to the valley, she then pushed me all the way into the finish!

We thought we were in 2nd place in the mixed cat at this point, however there was one team we'd overlooked, having not seen them since the word GO!The Bingley mixed team with Sharon Taylor and Ali Raw had taken 3.5mins out of us!

Pennine had mixed fortunes on the next leg with our Men's team going for a small wander (by no means the only ones!)...and this left Muir and Paul ahead of them, storming into Kirkstone pass to hand over to Steph and Claire in 1st Place. Claire had a similar experience to the one I did last year, with Steph's enthusiasm exploding into a crazy speed up Red Screes and Claire yelling directions! This proved to work just as well as last year, with the pair running what looks like the fastest womens time for that leg and retaining 1st place!

Adam and Daz set off on the 4th and final leg knowing Bingley would be hot on their heals with Ian Holmes and Andy Peace setting off around 30-60s down! When the guys entered the finishing field we were all waiting to see which coloured vest would appear first. It was blue and white striped....Bingley had the lead however Pennine were right behind them, finishing 7s behind in 2nd place. Borrowdale were the next team in, taking 3rd and completing the 12th,13th and 14th overall places for the first 3 mixed teams! A great race and a great result, it was a fantastic day! Can't wait for the FRA relays now, but first will be a bit more Lakes running with Langdale next weekend!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Elite Mourne Mountain Marathon Win

Day 2 Start

On the 16th Sept I headed to Northern Ireland with Wil for the Mourne Mountain Marathon. Its taken us 3 years since coming 2nd overall (1st MIX) on the B to enter the Elite and this was my first Mountain Marathon in that catagory. After a nights sleep in the car, we had a very leisurley morning of registering and getting ready before heading onto the hills at 9:54am! We caught our first pair going to number 1, then it was off into the mist towards number 2. This should have been a straight forward bearing across a plateau, hit the edge, turn right, down first stream. Sadly hurricane Irene had created about 20 streams in the area of our stream and with no obvious relocation feature the pot luck stream hunting began....25-30minutes later we found the control....and lead 3 more teams into it doh!

We set off to 3 fast, racing Harold Wyber (my OMM partner of the last few years) and Mark Ford. Different route choices meant we didn't see them for the rest of the course, but only lost 10 more mintues to them! At control 6 the Mourne MM has a good section of free choice order of controls. It was difficult to decide on the best route choice, but we settled for one with what we thought was least climb, even though this meant one very steep climb! After this I was informed we only had 3miles to go so set a cracking pace along the first bit of 'path' we'd seen all day :-). As it turned out Wil had failed to spot the final traverse of a hill, so it was slightly further than we thought but we got into the finish in 6hrs 50mins, 1hr and 10 behind the leaders in 6th position. Considering number 2 we were quite happy with this.

A fine meal of smash and fruit cake lightened the bags considerably....then the weather made sure there would be no light bag for day 2. We woke up to the sound of heavy rain and strong wind, I thought I was at the OMM! Eventually we had to get out of the tent or we'd miss the start. The weather forecast posted in the barn suggested cloud base was 2100m, we were camping above 2000m then (see pic).

Day 2 was a mass start and although we didn't know which team was 9 mins behind us, I'm sure they knew who they were chasing pretty quickly! Leg 1 and 2 were long and the leading teams got some time on us! Then 3 and 4 required some fine nav in thick thick mist and OMM conditions. We nailed 3, then Paddy Higgins and Johnny McCloy came hurtling past! We spiked 4 as well, and Paddy and Johnny came flying back past us :-). At control 5 we arrived pretty much the same time as them, to find 3 more teams stood scratching their heads....This was the team in 1st, 2nd and the team 9mins behind us. Control 5 had been stolen and so this bunching up created an effective restart. We raced with the team in 2nd place all the way to number 10 where they started to pull away to the finish. By the end of the day we were only 30 minutes down on the fastest time having finished in 4hrs 39mins (after leg 4-6 was removed to adjust for control hunting time), however this put us in 7th place! Tightly packed! We also finished 7th overall (1.5hrs down on the joint winners) as the team 9minutes down on us had stormed it to take 2nd fastest time on day 2!

  We won the mixed team catagory by a convincing 4hrs and 15minutes! A good end to my first Elite Mountain Marathon :-). Next time I'll be back to make my way up the top 10...

Friday, 9 September 2011

MTBO World Championships and Keilder 53/100

The evolution of biking at the opening ceremony
 3 Weeks after finishing the 6 days of Raid the North Extreme in Canada, I found myself on the start line of the Long Qualifier at the Mountain Bike Orienteering World Championships in Italy. I was a bit nervous that my legs might not make it up the hilly terrain after such a short rest period (filled with some less than restful activities), but an hour and a half later my concerns were put to rest! I qualified for the A final, coming 16th in my heat.
I was really looking forward to the Long Final given my training focus for this year. I started reasonably early which was good in the 38 plus degree heat that developed as the day went on. I set off and felt strong on the climb to the second control. Planning ahead things were going well, until en route to 4 I found some tape across the track I planned to take....this threw me, it really shouldn't have, but I decided I wasn't where I thought I was and lost time (around 5mins).

Rehydrating after riding in 40 degrees!

Back on course, a little flustered, I made it through the drinks station without incident, then onto some good fun singletrack before a small disaster going to 8. The heat was getting to me a bit here and, partly due to a track existing on the ground and not on the map and probably partly due to being too hot I made another mistake. This was a big one, 10mins binned! I didn't let it get to me, I knew the race I wanted was out the window, but I was riding well so got some good racing against Sonja Zinkl (Austria) when she caught me, and finished still feeling good (unlike a fair few people), in 2hrs38mins, 34th Position. This was my best World Championship result to date which I was really happy with, but it also highlights the annoying aspect of Orienteering, I knew I was riding much better than this but with big errors that wasn't reflected. Time to get my head together and eliminate the errors.
Riding through spectator in the Relay
 As I failed spectactularly to get my head together in the Middle Distance I'm going to brush over this and onto the relay. Emily had a stormer bringing us back in 3rd position, Helen handed over in 10th in with a pack of riders. I had a solid but not spectacular ride to bring us back in 9th, our best team result! I was still after that clean nav and fast ride that I felt I had in me and there was one more chance, the sprint distance.

Riding the steps from the spectator control in the relay
 In theory the sprint doesn't suit me, lots of controls in short amount of time and terrain that makes flat out riding possible - plenty of potential for errors! It has been described as 'like putting your head in a blender'. However I think my performance reflects the strength I've gained from riding as part of a team whilst adventure racing this year. I set off and it all went well - apparently i can concentrate for 30minutes!I was dropping the odd second here and there, which in a sprint isn't ideal but I wasn't making major errors! The first 11 controls were around the town so very quick riding (I had pumped my tyres up hard so I could ride faster), then came the hill and the deciding section (control 12-19). I felt the weeks racing heading up the hill to 12, but I think most people did... It was here I got in a race with two other girls who had caught me 1 and 2 minutes (starting just before the seeded riders I was happy with this :-) ).
Control 13 I took the longer road route which probably cost 30s, but control 14,15 and 16 which were packed tightly together on a steep hillside with a very dense path network (head in a blender time) went very smoothly - concentrating head on due to head to head racing I think...Then this happened:

Being patched up after the sprint...
 Head to head racing had it's down sides and the hard tyres on the loose ground down the steep hill resulted in me hitting the floor hard. Hole in my knee and a lesson about not attaching your si card to your handle bars with string when your ski lift pass zipper breaks....dislocated finger. I untangled myself from my bike and string, dusted off my map board, punched the control, noticed my finger was in intense pain then tried to focus on the map. All I remember thinking is 'where on earth is 18? Where is 18? Oh there it is, how do I get there? How do I get there'...eventually I set off without really knowing where I was going, I accidentally stumbled upon the control and then it was off to 19 and the finish.
I finished 35th, so my second best World Champs result to date :-). I will never know for sure where I could have finished and there is little point in guessing, but judging by the splits of the two girls I was racing I was looking at somewhere between 21st and 31st.
I am strangely most happy with my sprint result, it was the race I wanted, clean navigation and fast riding! I plan to concentrate on the nav a little more to bring it up to my new found ability to ride fast...

Mile 38 Kielder 100

Before crashing I had been really looking forward to the Kielder 100 mountain bike race which took place the following Saturday. I debated all week whether I would go, and as I could bend my finger enough to hold a handlebar by Friday I decided it was worth a shot. No 40 degrees this week, instead it was wet, windy and muddy, ah back in Britain! I set off and amazingly my legs were still able to go, even with the wound dressing/bandage/gaffa tape wrapped around my left knee. I learnt pretty quickly about getting up early enough to get a good position on the start line (there was a BIG queue at the first single track as I had been lazy in getting up at 5am). Still, I was on target for around 12hrs for the first 3hrs (good time for a woman in the conditions). I stopped off for a bit of food, bit of a mistake as it meant I got off the bike. When I got going again my knee didn't work quite as well, I didn't panic as I was still moving reasonably well all be it slightly backwards through the field! At 33miles we went through a water stop, again I paused...then came a climb and the start of the end. After stopping I could no longer ride comfortably uphill and when the opportunity came at 38miles I should have called it a day, however I continued to 53miles. After 44 miles I could ride nothing that required power from my left leg (everything excpet the fun singletrack) so it was  a rather slow 2.5hrs from 44miles to the finish.
This was my 3rd ever pure MTB race and I had been dreading the singletrack, expecting to hold up a lot of 'proper' mountain bikers. To my surprise I could keep up on singletrack and left some people behind on the downhills! I also loved it! Time to do a bit more MTB racing I think :-)!

And a note on British weather: my brake pads were gone after about 25miles, I would have needed a LOT more pairs than 2 spares for this race! MTB is expensive here... And when I took the gaffa tape off my knee I found my wound dressing packed with mud, it gets everywhere!!!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Raid the North Extreme World Series AR

The above picture doesn't quite do it justice....this was how my legs looked after 6 days of tough as it comes racing in the West Kootenay wilderness, except believe me they are actually more blue and purple with more scratches than it appears! I had earnt the nickname 'sexy legs' by day 2 of the race....

After the disppointing finish to the APEX race in May, I was on the hunt for a use for all the endurance training I have been doing this year. I had it sorted, a Bob Graham attempt on the last weekend in June should do it!
Then 4 days before this I got an email from Eoin Keith (Irish AR), who I had met at APEX, asking if I would like to race at Raid the North Extreme (RTNX) with him and Thomas Etter (USA). I said yes and joined Eoin, Thomas and Nick Harper (Team Accelerate) in Canada to form Team Breast Cancer Awareness (BRAT)!

This was a bit of an unknown in terms of racing for me. I had done up to 3.5/4days of non stop Adventure Racing (AR) before but this would be slightly different, a true wilderness expedition race..

On Friday 22nd July we were all in Nelson, registering and packing! We got the maps on the Friday evening and immediately set to work. With the aid of some yellow highlighters and google earth we plotted what we thought would be the best route through the thick forests we had to negotiate en route. On Saturday it was time to leave Nelson and head to Kaslo, the pre race base. We were amazingly chilled at this point, boxes packed and handed in, maps and routes plotted, bikes fettled....what do you do the evening before a race without a last minute panic? Eat and sleep!

10am Sunday was start time! The first leg of the race was on bikes and it wasn't a gentle start with over 1500m climb and no descent! 3.5hrs later we had transitioned onto the first trek and this is where I got my first taste of 'bush whacking'. The trek started fast and I felt good, walking fast up the hills and trotting along and down. Nick was suffering a bit with the heat so we needed to make sure he was drinking lots and dipping his cap into every available river. Not long into the off road section we saw a team that Thomas got excited about, aparently they were probably going to do quite well so it was good to be up with them. The first part of the creek had a trail which made things relatively easy going. We caught Team Technu here and now I knew we were going alright!

Then came the bush bashing, we started into this in the daylight (just) at the end of day 1 and emerged from it well and truely in the light....The forest was made up of lots and lots of dense trees, some of them fallen, occassionaly sporting rhododendron type plants as well and where it looked nice going, it was actually covered in devils club, one of the tallest spikey plants I have ever had the pleasure of running through. We moved at less than 500m per hour that night - and that was good going!

Towards dawn we spotted the French team high above us on the slope and being tired figured it was time to climb. A slight nav error, oops, we lost a couple of hours here which possibly made the fight with the undergrowth worse, but eventually we made it out of the woods and onto the snow! Checkpoint 2 in 12th position despite the error!

After a long descent (on which I saw my first sleepmonster, a bus waiting to take us down the hill) and a transition not to be proud of, it was off on the bikes again. Another few hours climbing but this time we got to descend (very fast :-) ) down to a couple of ghost towns, the last sign of civilisation we would see for days! Next, you guessed it, up up up to Idaho Peak. By the top the weather had changed, we were soaked, there was snow on the ground so a few bits of hike a bike and day 2 was over. Early on Tuesday we were 'whizzing' carefully down the single track off Idaho Peak, it was such fun but to one side there appeared to be a bottomless pit, the ground dropped away quite dramatically! You wouldn't want to get a crash wrong up there! Looking at the photos of it in daylight there were some stunning views to be had!

(Idaho Peak descent)

At the next transition we rested for a couple of hours - aparently an alarm went off and a decision was made to leave it an hour so we'd start the fourth stage paddle at dawn...I was oblivious. We started leg 4 at about 4am as it was getting light. Our catamaranned up canoes worked reasonably well, but a couple of teams past us using kayak paddles...if only there had been some wind we could have got the sails out (No joke, some thought had gone into this..).

Transitions were much more slick by now and we left on leg 6 in around 10th position, hot on the tail of 2 teams, the French team from the first trek, and Team Checkpoint Zero. Before leaving we had a bit of banter with Geoff (Race Director) who promised us worse bush whacking in the aptly named Valhalla Provincial Park....I showed him my legs and his eyes nearly popped out :-P

This was the decider! The toughest thing I have ever done! The trek started off with 15-20km on trail up through the woods. We were moving well and caught both teams ahead, I was feeling amazingly good and strong at this point. At Beatrice Lake the decision came, which way round the lake to bushwhack? The French went left while we, along with Checkpoint Zero went right. We found a bear track for a bit which made life pretty good....but eventually it ended. Pete from Checkpoint Zero took the lead, I need to practice my bushwhacking skills! He can move through that stuff almost like it isn't there... If it was fern based, rock based or even thick fight based I could keep up, sadly most of the bush was fallen trees covered in devils club...and it was all I could do to keep up. This meant 8-10hrs of extreme effort with little or no time for food and drink as my hands were needed for climbing over trees! Then we reached THE river, freezing meltwater and a dodgy looking tree to slide over. On the other side the forest became fight, much to my relief as it gave me a bit of time to eat and drink! I wasn't last anymore!

However not long into this and it was time to make camp (10pm day 3) as Paul from checkpoint was hypothermic. A fire was made and I decided to change the plan of leaving my wet trousers on until we were out of the bush as I got pretty cold the minute we stopped...On with the dry fleece leggings!
We spent the next few hours getting thoroughly warm and watching headlights on the oposite side of the lake weave up and down and up and down and stop in a fire....

At around 1:30am we started to make a move - there were some steep climbs interspersed with thick fight to negotiate before, just as it was getting light, we left the forest for another challenge! There was another option around a lake. Right was a steep scree slope or 2 with some more bush to negotiate, ending it what looked like a silly climb without a rope. Left was some even steeper slightly melting snow which ended in the thickest forest to climb through imaginable.....We went right...thankfully the climb wasn't half as bad as it looked, although still a bit of a challenge. At the top we crossed the river and there were the French team who had gone the opposite way around both lakes, not much in it then...
(Valhalla - above the tree line..)

All three of our teams made it over the snowy col together then we took differing routes down the massive hill to Ice Creek Lodge - next checkpoint! Eoin got it spot on, spiked it and we took time out of both of the other teams. In the lodge was excellent! There was soup and a fire and beds, could have stayed there all day, some teams did!....but we limited ourselved to half an hour then it was off again!

This was where Nick started to have trouble. After getting out the bush I was feeling great, ready to tackle the next two massive snowy climbs! However it was soon aparent that we needed to stop again, so around 5mins from the Lodge we kipped for 40mins. After this Nick could move again so it was onwards and upwards, then downwards (weeee shoe skiing!), then up even more, before bumsliding into the next control! It took around 10-12hours to reach the next checkpoint, which was a nice relief after the 25hrs it had taken to get the last one! By now Nick was properly struggling, so we got some food into him and I got the tow out. We left the checkpoint with the French in joint 7th/8th place. 20minutes later and Nick bonked. Survival bag out, sugar and caffiene pumped into him, run tow out and we pushed on down the hill. Nick had been complaining about not getting to see sleepmonsters...well now he did....my shoes were apparently fish and were chatting to him all the way down the hill!

Then came the most bizarre bit of racing I have done. 18km of flat forest track - utterly shattered, Nick was towed by Thomas but it was too fast to keep up, I propped Eoin up as he was falling asleep, but then I was falling asleep....sleepmonsters in every bush! Then we hit a bridge, this woke me up, I knew where we were! I knew how far we had come (7km) and how far to go (11km) doh! I also knew that my feet were trashed. I hoped it was just swelling but it felt like a massive blister all over the bottom of both feet. It got worse and worse as we counted down the kilometers. My arms did most of the work through my poles...
Nick suggested we stop but I wanted more than anything to get to transition as I wasn't sure I'd be able to start on foot again...at least the next section was a bike!
At 3:30am we made it! Tent up, we all collapsed...the deciding leg over, we were out of Valhalla!

A couple of hours later and I had my feet inspected - thank god it was just swelling...although I got another comment or two about the colour of my legs!

I was sorted and ready to go! Nick looked like he was a gonner....he sat looking at the pasta meal in front of him, trying to work out how to eat it....
We were pretty sure this was it! But somehow he worked it out and the pasta made the world of difference! I patched up his blisters, we got him onto the bike and were off, next stop, zip line with bike! As we left checkpoint zero arrived in transition. A wrong turn at the end of the track meant they had bivvyed out.
(Zip wire with your bike)

Then came the, now classic, climb. Nick couldn't get himself and his bike up it, so we adopted new tactics, the guys took 2 bikes each and I got the run tow out and pulled Nick upwards. On the steeper sections I dropped Nick off as it flattened off and ran back to help push the bikes. Amazingly we didn't lose much time to surrounding teams here. 100m from the top Nick crashed big time! Food shovelled in again but it wasn't having an effect. After 15mins I suggested we move, I got yelled at, 5minutes later I attached the tow and we regrouped at the top. A bit more food and a sit and Nick was back on the bike. Down to transition in 8th position, where we discovered no gear boxes....

A logistical nightmare with 2 teams needing rescue from Beatrice lake resulted in 12hrs of sitting in transition without gear bins. A good rest later and we levered Nick into a canoe. We left the catamaran bars behind opting for the 'faster' kayak paddles....mistake...Nick was cooked and Thomas had to paddle them both down the 8-9hr leg...me and Eoin got to look at the pretty sunny views :-).

(I think we could have all done with JD's paddle for the second lake..JD Team SOG)

We lost some time (20-30mins? probably more...) to the other teams on this leg which was disappointing, more disappointing, but not unforeseen, when we got out of the boats Nick's first words were 'I can't carry on'. However it was an amazing effort that he had gone further than the end of Valhalla. We had made his body move for 2 stages further than it was actually capable of, amazing! The three of us then set off on the last leg - a very long bike leg as we were now waaay too late to make the trek cut off.

We flew round this leg, I don't know if I have ever ridden a bike as fast! When we reached the seven summits - the final climb and single track - my stomach gave up and I felt very rough for the rest of the route (6.5hrs). Still the views at dawn on the seven summits route were fantastic! A blast down the forest tracks (after we added in a last bit of extra climb by accident oops) and into Trail for the finish. The best feeling in the world was getting to the end!

It was a bit of a case of so close yet so far, but this race has given me loads of confidence for the longer, tougher races. I found I felt stronger as the race went on, which is good to know, and although there were some very low points, I came through them and got to that finish line.

When I got home I found our new house was pretty much an adventure race, you had to climb over things to get anywhere and sleep on the floor....Now we have a bed so proper recovery can begin...in between building the furniture that is :-). I can't wait for the next adventure!

Pictures courtesy of Raven Eye Photography.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The APEX Race

(Me with the Eiger)

On Saturday 21st May I flew out to Switzerland with John Cunningham, Alasdair Bruce and Stuart Walker to race at the first edition of the alpine expedition race (APEX). The base of the race was Interlaken, from which we could get a good view of the Jungfrau, and what we were in for over the 4 day non stop XPD race!

It wasn't until the Tuesday that we got the race maps, so we spent a few days organizing kit and speculating with the information we already had about the course. When we finally saw the route it was very exciting!

The course started with a 10km run through Interlaken to the Brienzesee lake where there was a 30km paddle. Out of the kayak and onto the bikes, the route then went into the hills and to Kandersteg for a short trek, before hitting the climbs (and descents!) on the bike to take us over to Lauterbrunnen for stage 3, a proper mountain trek up the Schilthorn from just over 700m to just under 3000m! With a few more controls bagged on the trek the route then went over the Eiger Traverse on the bike.

Next came a trek with some canyoning, followed by more trekking back down to the other side of the lake, a 25km paddle down the lake and finally another trek (and paraglide if you timed it right) back to Interlaken.

Before any of that however, there was the prologue to deal with. 4 activities, 1 trotti biking, 2 treks and some rafting with restarts for each section every 90minutes. Our aim for this part of the race was to be within 45min-1hr of the leading team overall.
We started with trotti biking and it was clear fairly quickly this wasn't our finest discipline....We finished about 7mins down on the Scandi team who most certainly knew what a trotti bike was before they turned up!

Next came the shorter of the 2 treks which we hit hard! It was over 30degrees by this point and we hammered it round, I don't think we lost too much time to any teams on this one! A short sit in the shade and it was out on to the longer trek. This is where the heat really started to tell. By the end we had had another good section but I was verging on heat exhaustion and desperately needed to sit in the shade....but no time, it was rafting next, so instead I put a wetsuit on. I didn't come back to life until the first wave hit my face but from there on it was great fun, paddling well as a team to overtake the other 2 rafts going down at the same time :-).

Overall we had smashed the target, finishing 32mins down on the leaders. 40minutes after finishing the prologue, we started the main race! The run over to the lake was uneventful and a much more steady pace (phew) although I think Stu was feeling having raced in the heat at this point. In the kayak it was me feeling the exertions of the prologue, every hr to hr and a half I felt terrible, but then within 10-15mins was fine again. One thing I was glad of was that, with plenty of strapping and a tiny feathering of my paddle, I got through relatively unscathed! Arm intact!

Onto the bikes and I felt really good going up the first hill, good to get the legs moving again! We flew down to the valley on the far side (here I was finding it hard to stay awake when peddling wasn't required) and started the undulating riding along the valley. This is where things went wrong. John stopped suddenly with a pain in his hamstring. We had a rest, debated what to do and had John on Als Tow for another 3.5km before coming to the start of the climb proper. Here we happened across another team, one of which was a physio. As John couldn't stand, walk or pedal without great discomfort it was apparent he was going to have to stop. We called for a van and set the tent up to wait. It wasn't quite cold enough to fit the 4 of us into the 2man tent :-).

Whilst waiting team Quechua came past, I had to confirm this wasn't an early sleepmonster as they had been 4th when we were paddling! Then we realised there was only 3 of them left as well.

A couple of hours later we were off again as a 3. It was a loooooong climb and by the top we were cutting it fine to do the trek and get back over the hills on the bike to the Schilthorn trek in time for the 14:00 cut off. As I was also finding it hard to keep my eyes open even now it was light, we put the tent up again and slept for 40mins. It made the world of difference! I think I still hadn't recovered from the 2nd trek in the prologue until this point!

We then took an ad hoc route, via Interlaken to see JC had clothes and food etc, round to the Schilthorn!

Here 3 became 2 as Al decided he would protect a slightly dodgy ankle. So me and Stu set off just before 2pm. What a trek! We took it steady, stopping for photos, food and to shelter from the random hail thunderstorm that happened 2/3rds of the way up. We had timed it perfectly, getting to the control below the summit (at a closed restaurant) as the hail started, so we stayed dry! We made it to the top in 6hrs 44, the 10th fastest time which we were more than happy with...
At the top it was beautiful sunshine once again, complete with rainbows. Great views of the Eiger and Jungfrau!

We had 30mins to decide whether the carry on before they stopped allowing people across the traverse to the next control. This was quite an easy decision as we hadn't intended to be out at night for any length of time at 3000m so hadn't taken as much kit as was needed. We slept for a couple of hours at the James Bond restaurant before getting the telecabin down again - well it wasn't like we were even vaguely in the race anymore, having missed controls on the bike, and the previous trek!

In the telecabin we came across Irish AR and Team sleepmonsters/likeys.com who were down to 3. It was decided on the stroll back to transition that Stu should carry on with them as a 4 as continuing any further would mean I had to do the final paddle, and my wrist wasn't perfect. So I waved them off on the bike and went to bed, end of the race for me.

Stu and Team sleepmonsters/likeys.com (can you have a shorter name next time please :-P) continued and were looking good, if not a little tired after the bike, canyoning, trek and paddle. They made it most of the way round the final trek before Gary got hypothermic and was helecoptered off. They arrived back having done all but the last few Km of the course! Irish AR came over the finish line around midday Sunday as a 2! It was straight into the hot tub from there!

So, whilst the race didn't go anyway near plan, I learnt a lot from the part I did and will be back next year to finish it! Thanks to Staffan and co for putting on a fantastic race in a stunning area!

Friday, 13 May 2011

The run up to the APEX...Fell racing wins and MTBO selections

Over the last 5-6weeks I have had one main target, get the use of my right wrist back. After kayaking a couple of times in training I ended up with tendonitis which has ruled out biking and kayaking...and typing on a computer, spreading butter on toast and many other things that used to take a lot less time to do!

Training wise it was down to running! So after the British Champs race in Ireland, an attempt at the Kinder Dozen with the APEX team followed the weekend after. We set off a little late and so completed 8/12ths of a kinder dozen, getting in a good 2000m climb around kinder - the Swiss alps are going to be big! I will be back to complete that at some time, so much of it is through proper terrain it's a good tough training session!

Herod Farm fell race came next where I went eyeballs out from the start thinking there was somebody in the race I recognized as rapid! The three mile race has a fair bit of climb which slightly counteracted my lack of short running recently and I finished 1st Lady by nearly 3minutes, with a PB by a minute! It turns out it wasn't who I thought I had spotted at the start...

The weekend after I was back in Ireland for the JK orienteering festival. With a highly competitive elite field on the W21E this year I was very pleased to finish 20th overall. I surprised myself with 19th in the sprint as my legs felt like dead weights, an ok middle race on sand dunes and I finished 28th, then I was 20th on the open fell long course on the final day of individual racing. This was sooooo much better than last years 2nd and 3rd to last in the middle and long (after which I gave up orienteering officially...).

To finish the weekend off I had the race of my life in the womens premier relay, back on the sand dunes area from the 2nd day. I came back in a pack in 6th position, ahead of many people I've never even got close to beating before! Anwen came back in 5th after having pulled up to 3rd at one point, then after Laura came through spectator neck and neck with 3rd it was a tense wait. This time it was a bit much to ask, 25seconds to be precise and we came 4th, missing out on that podium spot...

Last weekend was the MTBO world championship selection races and British Middle and Sprint. Sadly I headed down to Cannock without a bike as I still couldn't ride. I ran the sprint on the Sunday and discovered that running is faster than biking.....until the straight line undergrowth becomes too brambly and thick to battle through....I finished 7th on foot :-)
Today the selections are out and I am off to Italy in August :-)

This week I ran burbage skyline fell race, my favorite evening local race! By -Higger Tor I was really feeling the bad left over side effects of having been on diclofenac to reduce the inflammation in my arm. I almost cut straight back to the finish, then somebody shouted '2nd lady' so I had to carry on really. I finished 2nd and missed a PB by 15seconds which, considering how much easier this felt than last year I am very happy with.

A strategy meeting last night highlighted the to do list before we fly to Switzerland next weekend, so this weekend is last min shopping and bike packing...Oh and the ShUOC ladies relay team are out in force at the British Orienteering Relays this Sunday, on home ground! Watch this space :-)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

9th at Mourne Peaks Race - British Championships

(My old descending skills, coming off Slieve Donard in 2009 - courtesy of Zanthe Wray)

The Mourne Peaks Race is a long counter in the Fell Running British Championships. At 12 miles, you might be forgiven for thinking its an easy counter.....but the terrain makes up for that! It has everything from grassy runnable parts (although fairly scarse) to leg eating bog and plenty of tussocks with some good rocky ground thrown in for good measure. And oh yes, there is very little of the course that could be described as a 'flat' section....most of it is steep up, or steep down making it a tough race.

I wasn't sure how this weekend was going to turn out as last weekend my legs had completely gone and I'd finally done as much as my body could take by the open5 with a disappointing (but not unexpected) result. I'd accepted that 5 days is not really enough recovery time, a 3mile jog on Friday wasn't great and had nowhere near 2000m climb... I was fully expecting to have to take it steady and just enjoy one of my all time favourite race routes! Another 'training' race for the APEX adventure race.

However, somehow, as soon as we set off I felt like I had a completely new pair of legs :-).
I took the first climb steady but found myself in a position I hadn't expected at all. On the first descent me and Ali Raw went back and forth a bit, I wasn't descending like I normally do at all, guess my legs were a bit tired after all, but I still felt reasonably strong! Then Jackie Lee came past, I caught her up again on the next climb and the three of us were together until it became a bit more runnable. This is where I could have done with more than 5 days rest, as I discovered that I just had one pace and that pace was the same whether it was steep and rough or slightly less steep and runnable.

Thankfully coming off Doan it all gets rough again then there is the biggest climb of the race, so I caught a fair bit of time back up here and Ali was back in sight. All the way round I had Slieve Commedagh in the back of my mind. 3 years ago I got to that final beastily steep climb and the top just never seemed to get any closer! This time, it was over before I knew it. All that was between me and the finish was one looooong descent. I kept with the theme of the day and didn't pull it off particularly well....although the person behind me thought I didn't do too bad. I finished in 3hrs 1min, 30minutes faster than 3 years ago, just outside my aim of sub 3hrs but I can live with that for now. I was 9th lady (best senior result to date) and 1st U23 (although that wasn't the hottest competition of the day :-) )

I'm glad I went to Ireland in the end, I almost thought twice about it last Sunday, but the Mournes are definitely still my favourite mountains!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Open 5 Final - and how to pedal a bike when your legs are destroyed part 3

After Edale I was able to walk almost properly again on Wednesday, on Thursday it was the final bike testing and it probably won't surprise you that I did not make it to 23km this time. I made it 20.9km in 30minutes at 30 degrees not wearing skins. Whether this was down to the skins (or lack of them) or the lactic acid in my legs I wouldn't like to comment...

On Saturday the APEX team got out in kayaks on Windermere - it seams I had forgotten everything I ever knew about paddling, but after a couple of hours was getting back into it (was much more natural the following Tuesday so hopefully the technique has stuck). After this I was nackered and should really have taken this as a sign not to start the open5 the following day....

Sunday morning was lovely and warm, I set off to the start with my bike at the ready. Sadly my dibber was not ready, nor was my inhaler. A hired dibber solved the first, and I chose to ignore the second problem. The route choice was a great challenge and I think I picked a good route for the bike. It was a shame I couldn't move fast enough to get the final control I wanted but I don't think it was too much of a disaster...As long as I could get a half decent run in.....Well the effort I had had to put in to cycle reasonably showed here and my legs finally gave in. I ran about 10% of the route, walked a large amount and shuffled the remainder.

Overall I got 445 points which was a little disappointing, but you can't race everything well :-)

A week of little walking/running/biking seems to have improved my legs a fair bit, off to Ireland later for the British Champs Fell race, it may go well or it may be a nice holiday in Ireland, we will see. Either way I will get some good climb practice in for Switzerland!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Edale Skyline - and how to really destroy your legs on a bike...part 2

(Running round to Grindslow - Picture courtesy of Lizzie Adams)

Last Thursday I did the second part (of 3) of the dissertation study that involves cycling as far as you can in 30minutes. This week there was a twist, it was 34 degrees in the environmental chamber. I also had to wear full length skins...

I set off and boy was it hard to keep the rpm above 125! The first 5 mins I tried to keep over 120rpm which was hard as the hot air felt like it was burning my throat. I quickly settled to a less fast rpm, probably averaging 110rpm overall.

I had a target of 20km in mind as previous performances in heat have not been good, but I surprised myself by getting to 23km, 0.3km shorter than last week! Apparently my core temperature shot up at the start, but progressively came down as I went on, showing I can actually adapt to/cope with heat!

2 days later and I was stood on the startline of the Edale Skyline which originally had been planned to be a race I would target as my first long race of the year...ehem...

The minute we set off I thought 'oh dear' as my quads were not happy with uphill! The start up Ringing Roger was fast and I almost set off too fast until I heard somebody say 'Hi Nicky', turned round to see Nicky Spinks and so slowed down....
I found the edge running ok and downhill fine, my legs felt well rested, but the minute it got even slightly uphill it was a battle with my quads.

I was happy to be within a couple of minutes of Judith at Win Hill (she was coming off the top as I was heading up), with Nicky and another woman between us. The descent to Lose Hill went well however on the next climb I was aware we were not even half way and my quads were screaming. So I had a nice chat to Robin from Pennine all the way up.

When I glanced behind Sandra Cooper was gaining at speed, so I ran fast down and along to Hollins Cross. My legs still felt fine for flat or down. The climb up to Mam Tor however seemed to go on forever and I really struggled to keep moving which was worrying, there was a stream of people coming past me including Sandra.

Thankfully by the time we reached Brown Knoll, the quads were happier with the softer ground so I started gaining a few places back. I hit the edge path to Grindslow and for the first time felt my legs were a bit tired for flat running. I forced them to keep moving trying to keep relaxed and by wool packs had caught up most who had overtaken from Hollins Cross.

This was decision point, nobody was taking the cut through behind wool packs so should I play it safe and stick to the path, or go for it anyway......
I went for it and for a moment worried I'd got it slightly wrong, before seeing the target exit from the groughs! I came out ahead of where I had been and Sandra was back in sight :-).

The little climb up Grindslow nearly finished my quads off and it felt like I was barely moving along the edge path back to Ringing Roger. But I was overtaking all the way and gaining slowly on Sandra! I suddenly realised how many people had set off too fast!

Heading down from the last checkpoint was almost too much for my legs and I lost a place, it also meant I was not going to catch Sandra downhill like I'd hoped....

I came into the finish in 3hrs38 in 5th position, very happy to not have blown up en route!

For the last two days I have found walking difficult, so have managed to destroy my legs much better than last week! Whether I can cycle on Thursday for the final study visit...well watch this space...Would quite like to be able to move for the Open 5 on Sunday :-)

Monday, 21 March 2011

3rd in BUCS relay - and how to destroy your legs on a bike part 1....

(Images courtesy of Chloe Haines)

This weekend was the British University and Collage Sport (BUCS) orienteering championships hosted by Edinburgh University (EUOC). The individual was held on Balkello Hill and the relays on Gullane Dunes. My preparation for the weekend turned out to be less than perfect as so far this year I have definitely concentrated on long distance (with 2 ultra races in the last two weeks), have done zero hours intervals and 70mins foot orienteering in total!

It's fair to say I was heading up for a bit of a run but, with a couple of new faces in Sheffield Uni Orienteering Club (ShUOC), had no expectations what so ever!

By Thursday plans were changing a bit as the start lists for Saturdays individual race were out and I was off second to last, a strong position to be in for someone who can run fast but not think fast! Hollie Orr was starting 2minutes behind me and it was inevitable that she would come past at some point, so my new target was 'how many controls can I get before I see Hollie'. This was a good target as it required me to concentrate and not mess up the first few controls!

However, before Saturday came I had to get through Thursday and a cycling test at Hallam Uni - how far can you get on a stationary bike in 30mins. This formed part of an undergrad dissertation and this first session was just an orientation session, no recordings would really be used. Helen looked a little exhausted after finishing and the guy before me sounded like he was working really hard when I arrived. So I decided to be sensible and save my legs for the weekend so as to get the most out of my start time.

This plan lasted all of 10minutes (warm up) as then I was told the distance other riders had got....and set myself a target. The max anyone had got was 20km and the girls seemed to be getting 18-20km so I told myself that if I could get near that I would be happy! Once I set off staying over 125rpm seemed easy...well for the first 5mins anyway...things steadied out to around 115rpm average over the 30mins I think and when I hit 20km at around 24mins I knew my plan of taking it easy was out the window, so thought I might as well see how far I could get! I managed 23.3km taking a comfortable lead on the study....

Needless to say this impacted on my leg speed on Saturday so I set off steadily up the hill thinking 'ow my quads'. I was very tentative with the first 2 controls but got them pretty accurately, sped up to 3 and then, en route to 4 Hollie came past! We both fluffed 4 a bit but I got there just ahead, then off to 5 and it was time to try out the staying in contact with the map whilst chasing Hollie part of the race. This lasted until control 8 where I couldn't see her, we must have taken different lines, but I was pleased with how I was navigating and keeping my head as I spiked 8 and headed off to 9. I lost a bit of ground on this leg as it was a long hilly one which my tired legs did not enjoy, but was about 200m of heather behind at control 9. Then came more leg abuse with deep heather all the way across to control 14 and that was it for keeping Hollie in sight!

My legs didn't really want to lift high enough to run over the heather well - a combination of tiredness and lack of terrain running recently - so I concentrated on the nav and spiked the controls, taking some reasonably fast splits along the way even though I felt like I wasn't moving. Control 14-finish was suddenly easy running again but I made the mistake of going a little too fast as the nav was slightly tricky here, I lost about 1.5-2.5mins on the last loop which was disappointing, but tore into the finish to take 8th place, 8 seconds ahead of Hazel Wright and 39 seconds ahead of Anne Edwards. If you had asked me before the race if I would be happy with this, the answer would have been a resounding YES!

It was a good day for the ShUOC girls with 2nd and 3rd place going to Laura and Anwen and me being third counter, we narrowly missed beating EUOC in the points race! A vast improvement on the last few years! And this formed our 1st relay team for the Sundays race.

Gullane Dunes was a big contrast to the previous days heather, it was fast runnable sandy terrain with lots of spikey greenery and densely packed wood....this got me nervous as this is a prime location for me to mess up - big time! Previous mistakes on such areas have ranged from 8-36minutes....so the girly briefing of 'take it slow, especially in the green and don't make any big mistakes' had me a little worried. I could either make or break the teams chances on first leg. I decided to make them and set off with the aim of not worrying about speed (not that my legs had much of this left) or anyone else, but just getting round cleanly, regardless of how long it took....it would be better than 36minutes of hunting on the wrong sand dune....

The pack set off at a very comfortable speed and after opening my map towards the back of the pack and working out where I wanted to cut off the beach I found myself swiftly up at the front with the EUOC 1st and 2nd teams. It appeared their target was the same as mine for leaving the beach so we raced up the dunes, turned left, approached the control.....and all simultaneously turned round 180 degrees and headed from number 2 to number 1.....doh!

At least everyone had followed us but it was a stupid mistake, especially with how confident I was that it was right....
Anyway, it meant a fast split to number 2, then from control 3-5 we (Euoc 1 and 2 and myself) got a gap on the rest of the field. I made a small miss on 4 of about 20s which meant I had to speed up to catch Euoc2 again. A couple of less than perfect line choices kept me just behind EUOC 2, and losing 10-20s on the spectator control followed by an extremely slow but accurate final loop (as I was paranoid about making mistakes on the last 3 controls) meant I handed over in 3rd, 2.5mins behind EUOC 1 and 1min behind EUOC 2.

I was very pleased to have kept it together on an area I normally would associate with a disastrous run, especially as I targeted the controls I thought most likely to be a disaster and concentrated on being slow and accurate. I had seen practically nobody out there, EUOC 1s gaffle was so different I didn't see them after the 4th control and I rarely saw EUOC 2.

Anwen was next out and was going well, pulling ahead into 2nd until the 13th control which proved to be the unlucky number (the main one I had targeted for caution) and she lost a few minutes. She stuck with EUOC 3rd team, handing over pretty much at the same time in 4th! Laura had a stormer of a run and at the spectator was about 200m ahead of EUOC 3rd team, not that she knew given the lack of sightings of other runners. Anwen looked about to explode for the next few minutes until Laura came into view still ahead, we had prevented an Edinburgh 1,2,3 on their home turf :-) finishing in 3rd!

I haven't really enjoyed orienteering properly in about 3 years, and as I enjoyed it this weekend it made concentrating for the entire course seem easy! This is usually where I fall down, but I'm hoping to keep on enjoying it for the JK and British champs which I think I will try and have fresher legs for!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Wuthering Hike

On Friday I was up in Darlington for my friends wedding (above). I left a happy Mr and Mrs Spence in the evening and headed to Leeds in preparation for Wuthering Hike, 32miles of moor and hills from Haworth. I think 3hours sleep on Thursday and copious amounts of pink champagne made for the perfect preparation!

The morning was pretty warm, as I discovered after setting off wearing far too much, and from the word go the pace was pretty fast. I tried not to dash off too much and soon settled into a comfortable pace for the 15miles across to the long causeway. This seemed easy! If it stayed like this I didn't know what all the fuss was about :-).

It didn't stay like this....there was some hard packed descent into Todmorden which my shins didn't enjoy too much and then 3 big climbs in the last 12miles. Between 17 and 22miles I seemed to go backwards through the field, but I'm not sure if that was because I was having a bad moment or if everyone suddenly sped up. Anyway, the final big climb came at about 22miles and there was no way I was walking it - would take far too long, so I settled into a trot up the track and slowly started reeling in everybody that had passed me since 17miles. I passed them all, overtaking the final 2 women at the top of the climb, turned my map over and suddenly it looked like no distance to the finish! Looking over my shoulder Stoodley Pike looked miles away - I was there an hour ago!

I suddenly found I could still run at a similar pace to the start and pushed on to the finish, finishing in 5hrs 36mins and 10th lady, just behind Helen Allison and Karen Nash who I hadn't seen since 10miles (and assumed had left me for dead...).

So here ends my 8day ultra running career....well for now anyway!

Monday, 7 March 2011

A silly weekend of fun :-) HPM 2011and 4th at the Open 5

(Somewhere on the edge of kinder - still smiling! Picture courtesy of Willy Kitchen)

Back in November the Pennine/Lakes ladies team failed to get an entry to the High Peak Marathon (42 mile night time nav race around the Derwent watershed) and by January I was quite glad as I was still getting ITB twinges and hadn't trained much. So when asked in Jan whether I wanted to run it with Accelerate I was sensible and said no.

However, 3 weeks of having a cold and finally feeling fit again last Wednesday meant I had spent enough time sitting still that when I got a phone call on Thursday asking if I wanted to run....well of course I said yes!

The Rucksack Club Vets team - resembling 1/4 of a rucksack club vets team - finally made it to the start line as: Andy Howie (captain), Helen Alison, myself and Wil Spain (agreed to run at 19:30 on Friday evening).

We set off at 23:10 on Friday night, the night started off clear but not too chilly (so we all knew the bog monster would be out in force...) and we made good headway across Hollins Cross, Lose hill, Win hill, High Neb and to cut throat bridge - in fact I was wondering if we were moving a little too well! I had a few problems with being able to eat between 1.5hrs in and getting to the A57 the final time, thankfully after 3hours I could force stuff into me as it was a long slog across the bog. From Lost lad onwards the pace slowed considerably. The clag was down but thanks to the marvellous navigational effort from Andy we made it across Bleaklow without incident! The marshals were extremely cheerful which made getting to checkpoints excellent! It was a good game, playing 'spot the high peak member I know' in the fog!

At the A57 I tried a piece of cake and suddenly thought it was the best thing I had ever eaten, so promptly ate 3 more pieces! Then, out of the tent behind us emerged 3 of my friends who we hadn't seen since cut throat bridge.....they had used the A57 as a relocation feature for Wainstones...oops....made me very glad we hadn't gone too crazily wrong!

The cake had an excellent effect on my legs and I felt like I hadn't run anywhere yet! However Andy's feet were paying the price of being frozen blocks of ice for 6hours and we couldn't get going across the final section. We lost a fair bit of time just on this stretch (maybe 1hr) and finished in 13hrs 35ish. It was a shame not to be able to run the final stretch (13 ish miles) but an excellent experience....can't decide just yet if I'll be back next year but if Helen has anything to do with it I think I might....I'll just block out the memory of the bog monster for now :-)

Seeing as I hadn't planned to do the HPM, I already had an entry for the open 5 adventure race in Bakewell on Sunday. I couldn't really put it to waste as I could still walk on Saturday evening, so was up bright and early Sunday! I decided to MTB first to 'loosen the legs off'. Even having missed a nights sleep on Friday I managed to plan a good route, taking in the fantastic rocky section and long steep mud slope both in the downhill direction = much fun! I got all but 2 bike controls in 3hrs, then headed out on the run.

How nice it was going from 1:50000 to 1:25000, I soon found I had well under planned the route, so adjusted it and continued. However throughout I couldn't stop thinking 'you're legs could go at any minute' and I didn't want that minute to be miles from home! So I played it a little safe, sadly a bit too safe, and got all but 5 controls with 18minutes to spare! I could definitely have got another in that time!

I finished with 525 points in 4th, 15points behind Karen in 3rd - very happy with my performance appearing unaffected by 42miles/13hrs on my feet! This weekend has been great fun and given me a lot of confidence that training is going well for the APEX race in May :-)

I'm still waiting for my body to realise it has missed a nights sleep....I'm sure it will soon!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

MOD Stafford MTBO

Today was Stodge's Mountain Bike Orienteering head to head sprint at MOD Stafford - It comprised of a prologue race (to decide starting order) followed by the main event of 3 gaffles with 3 riders setting off on different loops at the same time.
It was a cold but dry morning until we got to within 5 miles of Stafford....then it got decidedly more wet! Perfect conditions to try out my new, white, Lichfield CC kit :-) (one machine wash down and the shorts are brown splattered still..)
I set off on the 5.4km prologue in between showers and had a reasonable clear, yet steady ride finishing in 27mins. I accidentally went to number 8 again instead of 21 just before the finish though therefore mispunched.
This wasn't a chasing sprint however so all that mattered was the main event! And a mp meant I got to set off sooner than I would have had I finished properly, which was a bonus as I was a bit cold by the second race!
The second race didn't start that well, with me folding half my first route off the map.....This lost me a minute or so, but I was clean technically and riding ok, then on my 2nd loop I noticed I'd folded the map wrong AGAIN! Another 30s lost but now all remaining controls were in view! I managed 2/3rds of the course well and made no major navigational errors, then the cold I have had for the last 2 weeks caught up with me and I lost time in the last third having to think every step through in slow motion :
'I need to go over there, How do I do that? That way, right, go....how do I do that? Clip in and pedal...ok....'
The outcome of 45mins racing on the 8.8km course was what normally happens to me after 5hrs and not enough food :-) Hat's off to Stodge for providing an excellent challenge!
I finished in 15th overall (3rd Lady) which I was happy with as in terms of times that was possibly one of my best races to date...I'm looking forward to the rest of the MTBO season already!
I think I need to do a few intervals before the summer, for now I need to get rid of this cold properly (next weekend is actually 5hours of racing) ....and maybe some origami lessons would help with the map folding...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Hilly Run in the peaks

Today I met up with JC and Shelf for some hilly training in the peaks. It looked like it was going to be another wet and windy training session but, by the time we had sorted out a route and made it around Ladybower and up to the top of the woods near Win Hill, the sun was out!
We set off from the A57, contoured round Ladybower res then headed up the hill to the corner of the forest. Next we lost all that height and dropped into the Edale Valley before heading straight back up to the edge path of Kinder. We headed round to Ringing Rodger then dropped into Edale, straight across and up Mam Tor, along to Lose Hill via Hollins Cross, another big descent and then finally, the last climb of the day was up Win Hill. Here we discovered JCs camera had no battery and so I had to make proof we were there....The total route was a little over 18miles with more than 1200m climb - got to get a fair bit of climb in ready for Switzerland! My legs were a little tired at the start, but soon got into the hills, shame my lungs had a few problems after 2 hours as the inhaler I took was on the empty side and that made my last few climb attempts a little rubbish....
We outran the weather though and got the best of the day! There was even enough time for a cuppa in Shelfs new van upon return to the A57 before the rain started!

Monday, 7 February 2011

2nd in the Open 5 - Kirkby Stephen

Yesterday was the open5 at Kirkby Stephen. After a break in the weather on Saturday which I made the most of, running Wansfell fell race (to 'test out' the ankle) and finishing in a close 3rd, Sunday saw the return of the gales and downpours....
Riding to the start it was already clear it was going to be a tough day! I really enjoyed the run which I did first and felt good despite the wind trying to push me off hills, getting all but 3 controls in a little over 2hrs, then came the bike. By this point I was already soaked right through, but was glad I didn't waste time changing any clothes at transition as within 800m of leaving transition I had found a river that was marked as a road on the map.....I got my first control then turned around into the headwind.
The ride continued much in this way except with bigger headwinds for a fair bit of it. I thought I had completely lost it by the time I'd reached my second bike control in just over an hour and was really not enjoying 'riding' into the wind so nearly gave up... but I got a 3rd control, then decided to carry on with my planned route. Half way to the next control, for the first time ever I decided to turn around instead of trying to get it. I thought there was not enough time in the conditions to ride the 1km left to the control...I was right! I took the straightest route back which happened to pass through another high pointer and rode down the river/bridleway finishing in 4hrs58 (incidentally the first time Ive made it back within 5hrs, maybe I should think more about how long biking takes me in future)!
I thought it was a good run but only 4 bike controls had removed any chance of me doing well, so was very happy to discover others had got just as many bike controls as me and I finished in 2nd :-)
A successful weekend and great fun (I can say that now I'm dry)....

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

It was bound to go wrong somewhere...

Last Wednesday I ran the Wart's night race from Burbage Bridge....well I ran all of the tough heather anyway....then hit a track and immediately crashed! This resulted in an egg shaped ankle and a couple of days off.

I tested it out at the weekend with a gentle run on Saturday revealing the large amount of strapping required for me to run offroad. On Sunday I ran Tigger Tor fell race, this '9.5' mile race (actually just under 9) took in similar terrain to Wednesday and I so I ran hard on all the places I am worst at running i.e. gentle uphill/flat/road and went very carefully on the bits I'm best at i.e. heather/tussocks/steep downhill. Songs were replaced in my head by 'concentrate concentrate concentrate' and 'don't race that woman even if she overtakes you' in order to prevent further crashes.

I made it round 8minutes faster than 2009 (although there is some question over which route is further...I think they are pretty similar tbh) and finished in 10th place which wasn't all that bad considering that was the first time I'd pushed my HR over an average of 157 since October....

My ankle is fine on the egg shaped bit - in fact was less egg shaped by the end of the race, however my tibialis posterior is a bit inflamed which might mean more rest....maybe 4hrs45 of biking and 15mins running at the next open5....hopefully I'll be ok to run a bit more than that!

Monday, 24 January 2011

2nd in the Kinder Trial - 22nd Jan

(Image - and route shown - Courtesy of Nic Barber)

Last Saturday I headed back home to run the Kinder Trial, a 12mile navigation event as much off the beaten track as possible! It took in all that Kinder has to offer, with controls spanning from Low End to The Knott via the Downfall.
Controls could be visited in any order and Andy had thrown in a nasty route choice at the bottom of Kinder river to make you think. I decided the minute I saw the map I was going anticlockwise so that I hit the tough heather running over to The Knott at the end, and essentially in the downhill direction (Route - 7, 11, 2, 5, 8, 10, 1, 6, 3, 4, 9, 12).
I set off at a comfortable pace, remembering last year when my legs gave up before the last 3 miles of running back to Hayfield. Soon I had caught the person who set off 1minute ahead of me and by low end had caught another couple of people. We formed a sort of group, with the two guys ahead of me running faster yet us all turning up at the controls at the same time, clearly I was hitting some good lines navigationally.
Just after the Downfall, Dave Ward came flying past and injected a bit of pace into the group, I took a bad route to the next control, however made up the deficit quickly, catching back up with everyone, back at a nicer pace, by Mill Hill. Half way to Mill Hill a Pennine runner came pelting past in much the same way as Dave....he then came pelting back past having missed the control by around 500m....

At Mill Hill I suddenly realised I only had 3 controls left and I was still feeling very good, I sped up a little bit through the heather, finding a good line to the Knott. After the last control I ran as hard as I could past the shooting cabin and down to Hayfield, proving in the process this is faster than the flat road running that the rest of the group took(minus Nick having recovered from his navigational blip).

I had left my watch at home by accident so it was nice to find I was back in under 2.5hrs, a feat not achieved since I was 17.....In fact it was nearly an hour faster than last year!

I finished in 25th overall, 2nd placed woman behind Kirsty Bryan Jones by 1min 11seconds (finally lost the label of eternal 4th place in that race!)..... and I could still walk afterwards which is a great improvement from last year :-) (although 3hours MTB on Sunday soon put an end to that...)

I think my winter long distance slow training is starting to pay off!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Roving Box and Team Beach Body

(The first time I visited the roving box - without the wind and rain but with snow!)

After success at the open5 last weekend, I couldn't wait to get out for a long day again this weekend. It was decided that me, Nick JC and Rach would head out from Edale at 10:30am on Saturday (as I needed a lie in) and do half of the Edale skyline/part of the HPM, then if there was time, head for the 'January Roving Box'. The box is an invention of two rather competitive DPFR runners who spent 2010 running to and from an ammo box on kinder in order to be the one who visited it most in a year. As this seemed repetitive they have planted a 'roving box' that will be at a new location each month, and the only way to find out where it will be next month is to go to this months location!

The weather was rather windy and, after heading round from hollins cross to brown knoll and grindslow, the rain set in.....the north edge was even more exciting, requiring some low crouch running to run away from the edge. The wind made me look like a very fast runner when it picked me up and pushed me (entirely in control of course) along the path....so we made a quick retreat after reaching the roving box, covering a total of just over 16.5miles, at least 16 of which was into the wind (or it felt that way!). Excellent fun!

On Sunday we had biomechanics testing with Holywell health. Thanks to the new orthotics they have made me I am no longer wonky! My legs still need a bit of getting used to them (running over 2hrs leads to an achey ankle), I'm using muscles I've not used for years! JC also introduced us to 'Team Beach Body' extreme plyometric workout thingy - I can confirm eating a sandwich just before doing it is not the way forward - I made it through the warm up.....however made up for this with a nice run through rivelin in the dark later in the evening - a good end to a fun weekend :-)

Next weekend will be my first fell race of 2011 - the kinder trial. I've done plenty of distance in preparation this year, hopefully I will anticipate where Andy has hidden the controls and I won't spend too long searching under rocks for them....

Thursday, 13 January 2011

3rd at the Open 5 - Sutton Bank

I've been a bit quiet over the last month or so....and that's because I've basically done nothing (well apart from sit in a room, read papers and write a review with the very occasional run/bike). So I set myself a target - lit review to be finished an entire 5 days early so that I could do the open5 without thinking about bone metabolism every 2 minutes.

Friday at 7pm it was finished! On Saturday it was time for a leg stretch - I ran up fairbrook to find the first of DPFRs 'roving boxes' - a new challenge for 2011 involving running, navigation (of sorts) and a fair bit of looking under rocks! Oddly I felt like I'd never seen a hill before and my descending skills had completely disappeared! My balance and coordination had gone out the window - I think my brain capacity for the month had been used up!

A good nights sleep and my brain was back in gear, just in time!

It was a bit chilli up at Sutton Bank, with ice covering a fair bit of the ground. It was the first outing for my skins tri shorts, but I had to put some long tights on as well in the cold. I decided to run first as I'm more confident with distance judgement and route choice with running. There were two key climbs in the route (and a bonus one if I was feeling good), but for about the first hour I managed to run on the flat or downhill. I felt strong on the first big climb, so on the second added in another control before going for a bit of descent and the third climb.
I was out for just over 2hours, only missed 3 controls and covered just over 10miles. The route wasn't perfect, mainly because I thought a track was entirely out of bounds when it wasn't, so ran into and out of my first control the same way, adding on a fair bit of unnecessary distance....

After a brief stop to eat a sandwich and take a picture of another team, it was onto the bike. I had a much better route planned than the last Open5 I did, it was just a matter of which way round to go....I decided to head anticlockwise which, in some ways was a good choice as it meant I didn't reach the icey track unexpectedly at the end of my ride, but also meant I spent 45minutes getting to my first control. I heard somebody say 'I've seen glaciers with less ice on than that track'.....

After that bit of hike a bike, I picked up another icey control before deciding to go only for controls close to the road....the next control, although on a road, was also extremely icey and by this point I'd been out for over 3.5hrs out of the 5hrs.
The steep climb to the next control resulted in my legs almost giving up, but I decided to ignore them and hammered it round to my final two controls. Again I found myself pushed for time
and rode as fast as possible to the finish, ending up 2mins 25 over time - 6 points deducted but worth that last control! Just over 16miles covered...not my quickest pace ever but not bad given the ice...I found the riding very tough!
I'm undecided if my route choice was a good one or not on the bike, if I'd gone clockwise I would have got more of the high pointers at the end of my ride, but might have gone for number 18 anyway and found myself stuck on ice and extremely late back, who knows!

The choice of skins tri shorts was a good one as it removed some of the faff from transition, as well as being comfortable on both sections! I can see a new favourite garment being chosen.... It was also the first time I'd raced in new balance 749s which were great on the trails, just cushioned enough without being high enough for me to go over on my ankle in rougher sections (as I've found happens with some other shoes...).

My total was 404points putting me in 3rd position - more than I could have hoped for with the amount of time off recently! I mainly need to improve my route selection ( it has never been my strong point but is getting better) as fitness is coming back quite quickly! The best way to do that is do the rest of the open 5 series! :-)