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!