Monday, 3 December 2012

Open 5 - South Downs

Pre race plotting - 'if we go this way we could really make it hard for ourselves!'
 A very last minute decision to race saw me team up with Rosemary Byde ( for our first crack at the female pairs category of the open5. After picking up some elite tips at 'a night with Jessica Ennis' on Friday evening I was walking home when the joint of my right big toe started to really hurt - no apparent cause and by sat it wasn't too bad so I wasn't worried about it when I got to the event on Sunday.

It turns out, racing with a statistician means the course is meticulously analysed in every possible way, and that's before you even start! A slight change to my normal 5-10mins of roughly planning where I'll go.  Still, we had it sorted and were off a little after 10am.

 I set off in charge of the run nav and having adjusted the route now we had the control descriptions, headed off to no29. The first bit of the course ran through a forest with what turned out to be an intricate network of tracks. About 500m into the forest the track we were on bent round to the left and we followed it....however this was not the track I was following on the map, it was in fact a white line on the map - which I expected to be a forest clearing type track, not a massive obvious surfaced one. I started to notice things not really fitting but couldn't work out where we'd gone wrong, as far as I was aware we'd hit the track in the forest and followed it as the map suggested we should. On we ran - straight off the map.

So about 20-25mins and a lot of head scratching later we stumbled upon a forestry sign with a 'you are here' marker. Possibly the best relocation feature out there! Score! We were back on track....well to no26 at least as we were about 1.5km off track for no29. Not the greatest start....
Way too much water left in the bottle at the end! 
 The rest of the run went smoothly, although I was increasingly aware that Rosemary was not best pleased with my pace setting and was ready to get her own back on the bike. We hit transition in 1hour57 having picked up 165points, I'd just about scraped it back together.
Off on the bike, my legs took about 1km to warm up but then we were tearing along on the road. After 5-6km of undulating road however, hanging onto Rosemary and her 29er was starting to get a bit difficult. Thankfully it wasn't long to a bit of off roading - a breather for me :-). We discovered the thick mud covering the off road sections and had a great time flying down the hill from a beautiful viewpoint.

Sadly this wasn't to last with about 40km of road in our 53km route... Still, my legs were coping for the first couple of hours. After 2hrs 15mins we had a decision to make! There were 3 controls left that we were definitely collecting....and a fourth control on 'Titty Hill'. We could just about make it...maybe...and with such a novelty name we had to try!

How late are we? Doh!
We went for it. Towing ensued. My legs got heavier, with a little over 3km to go we hit the 5hour mark and this is where I really started to worry that my legs were no longer capable of turning the pedals...I felt sick but we had to keep going and minimize the disaster. 5hours7mins and we were on the road to the finish, Titty Hill had not been worth it! 

Somehow we made it across the line and a quick watch check showed we were 14.5mins late - We'd collected 510points but with a 45 point time penalty that became 465points. So, with 20mins lost at the start and 45point penalty we didn't hold out much hope that this was a successful race. It was a massive surprise when the scores were announced and it turned out we had won! 

Once my feet defrosted, I found my right toe joint to be massively painful. Today I spent the day limping around until I visited Kim. Turns out, yet again it all comes down to my SI joint. It was blocked again (and I suspect it had been for about 3 weeks) but this time I was strong enough to only get a bit of discomfort in my hip flexors and back. This allowed me to keep running and meant I'd been running round with a wonky pelvis and a right leg that was substantially shorter than the left, resulting in some bad loading through my toe. I'm all straightened out again now...hopefully it'll stay that way!

So, check list for next time: NO stupid navigation, NO mad decisions at the end of the course and NO wonky pelvis, hopefully = recipe for success!
Wrecked at the finish

Monday, 19 November 2012

Bit of a change

Been a few weeks since my last post. My blogging time has been spent expanding my skills to science/news writing:

As the observant among you might notice I've changed name! After 2 years with the team, I've left Team Accelerate, thanks to them and all the sponsors for the support over the last 2 years. Currently I'm doing just what the title suggests - fun running!

Contrary to the image that springs into your head, I haven't donned a giant oversized cartoon outfit and found the nearest marathon....
First on the cards was my debut at the South Yorkshire Cross Country League (I may be faster than I used to be but I still have some way to go with my top speed!), Leg it Round Lathkil followed where, having just regained my voice from a weekend of too much fun I managed a PB by a minute or so :-)

Biking the morning after the night before (weekend of too much fun)

 Most fun of all though, I've started hitting the fells by headtorch with the Pennine Tuesday night 'lite crew' - I've missed being out on the fells in the dark loads!

Hopefully there'll be a bit more excitement to report next time, but thats it for now...

Friday, 26 October 2012

Lis' Poem


I will put in his bag…….
The raucous banter of friends teasing one another as the start line lurches forward
The thrill and adventure of exploring new places, starting new races
Tears of joy and delight as challenges are conquered

I will put in his bag…….
Sharing a beer as there’s talk of new routes, short cuts, trods missed
The rhythm of feet as they dance across the mountain tops
The love and understanding of true fell running friends always nearby

I will put in his bag…….
An energy and determination to be marveled at by others
The purest blue skies that reflect an inner peace and harmony, at one in the wild
An ease of finding the strength and sparkle in whoever he met

Daz’s bag is fashioned from a mix of woven purple heather and vivid green moss
With golden bracken entwined on the top and secret stream pockets
It’s stitches are craggy with breathtaking surprise views
With a spark of an autumn sunrise to capture his mountain passion

He flew over rainbows with an open heart and his bag held tight
Touched souls, shared dreams, enthused all
With a smile and kind words, friends will always remember.

I will put in his bag…….
Love always……Love always….

A poem by Lis Bloor—written on 16th October 2012

Friday, 19 October 2012

FRA relays - Black Ribbons and Bike Caps

View from the hill
 Last weekend was the FRA relays from Church Stretton and Pennine were out in force (7 teams plus dedicated supporters!!), running in memory of Daz. Black ribbon and cycling cap in place, I was a bit aprehensive before the start as my lasting memory from the stretton hills race was fast unrelenting running  on steep hills and I was a bit tired for that! My legs didn't seem to want to move on the warm up and Jim told me to stop yawning in the start area.
Me and Claire before the start
 Thankfully as soon as we set off all tiredness was forgotten. Unrolling my map I quickly realised what Neil Northrop had meant when he said 'I don't know where to go' while running up the start was a lovely navigation leg, with enough route choice to keep you thinking but lots of runnable terrain as well. Thanks to the planner for that!
Just spotted Ambleside Ladies on our shoulder - photo courtesy of Al Tye
 I took a 'run as hard as you can and when it hurts run harder' approach, there was going to be no half measures today! From control 3 onwards we found ourselves in a tussle with Ambleside which helped keep the pace up and by the end I don't think we could have run faster!
I've always known how powerful the right mindset can be for long races, but Sunday proved the influence it can have over any distance. Any other day I doubt I could have run that fast!
Running in to control 4 - photo courtesy of Al Tye
I think everyone in Pennine found an extra gear at the relays with the V50s finishing 4th, the womens team finishing 5th, the V40s 12th and the Men 18th! I'm pretty sure Daz would have been blown away by the performances in his memory. Daz's parents got to experience what it was about the fell running community that he loved so much. Thank you to all the teams and friends who called out support to pennine at the relays, it made it a really special occassion and moving day that will not be forgotten.

Yesterday Daz's family and friends gathered at Bramcote Crematorium to say a final goodbye. There were so many people there, family, friends, runners and cyclists (complete with revolution kit and bikes - I think Daz would have loved that) that we filled the place and then some! Steve (aka was taken to ensure all forum names were referred to in the service) gave a eulogy to open before Daz's cousin gave a moving account of the two of them growing up. Andy (aka Loveshack) recited a great poem written by Lis, she put Daz into words so well! The final reading was of Josh's words, thoughts which I wouldn't have been able to put down on paper.
The unlikely gathering of family, friends and fell runners (suited and booted, a rare sight for some) then spent the evening recounting tales of races and memories of Daz. A fantastic dedication to such a great friend.

Finally, I'll leave you with Ewan MacColl's song 'The Joy of Living'. The song was played at the end of the service, it was meant for Daz:

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Laid Back Fell Runner

This has taken some writing. Like everyone else who knew Daz,  I struggle to find the words...

This weekend was the Ian Hodgson Mountain Relays and at a little after 10am myself and Claire Aspinall were heading up to the Knott from Hartsop. It was a beautiful day, crisp with blue skies, fantastic racing conditions. We shared the odd word with the other teams in passing and even got into a proper tussle with the Ilkley ladies heading down to the hand over. I found myself tearing down the hill from the final control, Claire in hot persuit, elated to be feeling (after so many months of being the injured spectator) the thrill of going full tilt over the rough ground, almost taking off a few times.

A couple of hours later and we were waiting in the finish field, elation gone, for what turned out to be the worst possible news. Darren Holloway had collapsed and died whilst running leg 4. That last sentence still doesn't really compute. Thanks have to go to all those who stopped to help, everything that could be done was done and it meant Daz had as much support as he could have got anywhere!

I was about 18 when I first met Daz, around the time he first donned a pennine vest. My initial memory being that of the vest I would tear off after at the start of a race, normally only for him to disappear a few minutes later, but always there at the finish with a grin on his face. I couldn't have been finishing too far behind could I? The plan was to inch closer each race....well that wasn't going to happen as Daz transformed over the last few years, setting a pace I could only dream of! And maybe I was finishing just behind.... but maybe this was just part of who Daz was, as interested in everybody elses races as he was his own, always encouraging and supportive, still always there on the finish line.

Much as I'm stealing this description from others, it sums Daz up: 'Hard as nails but with a heart of gold'.

We'll all miss you Daz, my thoughts are with Amanda and Josh, I don't really know what to say, I've tried to see it as you were doing what you loved at the time, but the time was just too soon. So I'll leave you with Daz's words after the Scafell race, this is why I run:

'Someone is telling me about the Wasdale Head show in a couple of weeks and I wonder if I can do that as well. So many events and so little time.
We are so fortunate to have this wonderful sport.
Only 99 runners today but I did not see one unhappy person and as I drive away I wonder where next. Where will this sport take me.
After hundreds of fell races the sport still has that magnetic pull that it had the first day that I wore a set of fell shoes.'


Been meaning to write this for weeks, I've failed so will driect you to Planet Byde:

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Lastminute.AR Sting in Stirling

Team Lastminute.AR at the end of the Terrex Sting in Stirling

This is going to be a long one, it's been a busy month and for the first time this year, due more to excessive amounts of exercise than excessive quality time with my computer :-).

Firstly, and pretty importantly given my plan to race the Sting in Stirling, I taught myself to run again. It had been so long since I'd been out on foot that the first four mile attempt left me grasping at the banisters in order to make it down cure this I went out for 9miles the next day....and then almost had to resort to bum sliding downstairs. I take back anything I ever told my cycling friends about running being easy :-).

Thankfully given a couple of days to recover my third attempt at running was less painful and by the following Friday I found myself running into the night, carrying an obscene amount of lucozade and fruit cake, as Wil completed his Bob Graham Round. Two legs of the BG felt like a good bit of training for the Sting.

Visiting Dollywaggon1....and Dollywaggon2...

I get all the best jobs!
 My next problem was having a team. With a late decision on the Accelerate Team, Lastminute.AR were formed 1.5weeks before the start date and met for the first time pre race on the Saturday. We also had an unorthodox line up with 2 guys and 2 girls, JD Eskelson, Jon Ellis, Vanessa Harding and myself. So it was off into the unknown....

We registered and got the maps, then came some plotting...made rather difficult by not really knowing or having any idea how fast we were likely to move!
After looking at the maps we decided our plan was to go for full course for as long as possible, expecting to be able to keep to this for stages 1-5 before making  a call on the long trek when we had determined our pace a bit better. Then came the kit faff..

So on Sunday evening we found ourselves at Stirling Castle, a pretty stunning location for the prologue to the Sting. The prologue consisted of a trail run (Vanessa), an Orienteering section with the added twist of the use of an 1898 dated map (Jon - phew, escaped any nav disasters..I can manage those on a 2012 map, never mind 1898 :-)), a MTB round the golf course (me) and a MTB to the Wallace Monument (JD). Teams had to serve a time penalty of 2xtime behind the winners later in the main race at Grandtully.
If this was a sign of things to come...well, it wasn't a good sign. Vanessa had a stormer to bring us back well up the field, Jon maintained this in the Orienteering, then I went out on the bike. By the bottom of the descent it was apparent there was something up with my bike, I thought I'd hit it on a drainage ditch during the descent, but when I checked my back wheel for looseness there was nothing wrong. So back on with it. Then I 'changed gear' or rather tried to.....I looked down in horror at what appeared to be a bent and non functioning front mech! After an epic effort to get myself back up the hill in far too high a gear my bike got a thorough inspection. Thankfully it wasn't bent, instead it had been shunted round when somebody caught my bike in their desperate leap for the start line. By the time JD got back my bike had a full range of gears again :-). Then bike mechanical no2. JD had come off whilst trying to avoid a dog and discovered his hire bike had a rather short seat post...and now a rather damaged frame....
Thanks to some incredible generosity from Team TriActive Stirling JD was sorted out with a lovely Scott hardtail to race on!
After all of that we didn't come off too bad, a 21minute time to be served at Grandtully.

Day 1
Stage 1: Run around the Wallace Monument, 8.64km 212m climb
Stage 2: MTB to Killin (full course), 88km2065m climb
Stage 3:Paddle to the run on Tarmachan

The start of the race was fast and furious and we tucked in to a comfortable group, just behind Mountain Hardware and got round the first run without incident. Onto the bikes and we were working well as a team and keeping the pace going well. We arrived at Doune Castle just as the leading teams were leaving. Here we got to explore in the castle itself, whilst doing good impressions of olympic race walkers!
Back on the bikes we headed for the Lake of Menteith, the only lake in Scotland where we jumped into a rowing boat! It was good fun and we even had time for a rendition of 'row row row your boat' with Mountain Hardware (heading in the other direction). Half way across we had a small hiccup when we didn't spot FGS heading towards us from the opposite direction and the two boats got intertwined. Thankfully no lasting oar damage!

The final leg of the bike over to Killin took us up a good steep climb or two. It wouldn't be Lastminute.AR if we didn't have a bike mechanical....Jon got a puncture that wouldn't seal just as I inadvertantly hit a ditch and got a good bruise down my left knee. A change to an inner tube and we were off...until the next climb when my crank fell off! That has never happened to me EVER! This was starting to take the p*!%.
The last mechanical for us for the rest of the race thankfully was JD's brake stopping working. This made for some interesting descents but we were at least back on the move!

Riding the bikes - all 3 working....JD hanging on round the corner with only 1 brake!
 At Killin I'd like to say we smoothly transitioned into the canoes, but this would be a bit of a lie....we did get into canoes, around 45minutes slower than the teams around us on the results....transitions it turns out were not our strong point.

Day 2
Stage 4: Run on Tarmachan, 27km 1819m Climb
Stage 5: Paddle down lake and River Tay to Grandtully, 38km
Stage 6: MTB to Mar lodge with Canyoning and Orienteering, 82km, 2029m climb

Here our plan began to fail. Transition faff left us with a hard tactical decision. We had to reach the river before 10am the next morning, we estimated 4hours to get there and wanted to allow an hour leeway which meant leaving on stage 5 at 5am. That left us roughly 8hours to trek.
Could we get all 4 controls? There were 2 on either side of the valley with a drop to a big climb between each set of 2. It was going to be tight and as such we chose an anticlockwise route as this offered the most flexibility, with easy access to a third and possibly 4th control if time allowed. As it happened we might just have got the 4 if we'd committed early, but as it was we got three, made it back to the boats and down to the river in time, now officially short course.
The river had some good rapids to negotiate and I'm happy to say we all stayed in the boats! Not bad for 4 people who had never met let alone paddled together before!
 The portage at the end of the river hurt, but it hurt Vanessa most as we were about to find out. Off on the bikes again we made quick work of the section over to the canyoning, however it became apparent that Vanessa had hurt her back whilst carrying the canoe. After a bit of medical attention it was decided it would probably not be best to go slamming her back into would in fact be much better to spend some time with a chiropractor!
The Canoying was ace, even if I did hit my tailbone on a rock whilst on film! Some good jumps into white water were pretty exciting!
When we finished, Vanessa was still in quite a bit of pain so after a short deliberation it was time to scrap the plan and make a new one. At this point there was an option to short course so we took it! Hike a bike into the second night felt like it went on forever but eventually we reached the top and after a mandatory pushing section were off down the hill. I wish I'd put more layers on at this point as my wet hair had made it hard to get warm again after the Canyoning. By the time we arrived at Mar Lodge I was freezing. Here we planned to get our first sleep of the race and the sleeping bag was more than welcome! A couple of hours later we were ready for some orienteering....until advised this was a silly idea as it was taking the leading teams almost as long as the time penalty. So plan revised again, it was now an easy decision on the long trek. The bike up Mount Keen just wasn't an option with Vanessa's back and it made much more sense to try and clear the trek from Glen Muik.

Day 3
Stage 6c - Mar Lodge to Glen Muik, 44km 818m Climb
Stage 7...a...Trek as far as Glenshee

The bike over to Glen Muik showed some good teamwork, with the weight of Vanessa's bag reduced and tow underway. We made it up there and were the 3rd team to go through the transition. The first 2 Munro's had 2 checkpoints a piece, one for the scrambles en route up and one at the summit. The techy scrambles were good fun and took the mind of the height gain. On the summit of the second scramble we set a good pace across to the next control, spurred on by the thought of getting all the controls before Glenshee in the light.

Then came a bit of a bog trot to the 6th control on the route...but thankfully a good route choice. Coming off the marshy tussocks was great! Just after the 7th control adidas Terrex caught us (having completed the full course of course). We had a bit of a chat before, at the 8th control we made the decision to miss the last optional control and head for Glenshee as it was getting dark...and we'd just inspected the second half of the trek properly...
Glenshee - a quick nap

 At Glenshee we were met by Nick and James with cameras that were blinding in the dark! Inside there was space to sleep and we met up with our 5th team member: Clive Ramsay, who did an excellent job of keeping us fed throughout the event! We planned an hours sleep, however I got a bit carried away at the 'coffee bar' chatting to Sally and Claire...Sarah had to send me to bed as soon as I'd finished my risotto (thanks Sarah ;-)).

Day 4
Stage 7...b..Glenshee onwards, total trek length 55km 2665m Climb.
Stage 8 MTB to Grandtully, 48km 929m Climb

The night air was cold, made colder by how warm inside had been. We headed onwards and me and Jon shared the nav in the dark, checking up on each other and meaning we got through the stage without incident. At least 3 more Munro's bagged I think....

Heading up the last one and 3/4 of the team were starting to drop. Somehow my brain was still functioning. I'd not had one sleepmonster yet and was still wide awake, especially now it was getting light. This was new!
A ten minute power nap while I surveyed our route down to the track and transition seemed to perk everyone up!

Although the thought of sleep must have been pretty strong at transition, we went straight through and back onto the long course route (not without a faff of course....oh and a bike mechanical). By the time we left  Terrex were with us again and we rode with them for the best part of this section, sharing the gate opening and closing along the way.
I was carrying a lot of stuff on this stage as we weren't sure at what point we'd see our bike boxes at Grandtully and once we arrived we were going to be timed out! Free Sleep! So I had the tent and half of Vanessa's stuff to lighten the load on her did look a bit ridiculous....
However it wasn't until we were collecting the last two controls on the route that I felt it. I must have forgotten to eat enough along the way bacause I was getting pretty tired, but ever time I ate a mouthful of sweets was fine. Here I had my first and only gel of the race.
Once on the road again we sped along to Grandtully, helped out by team mate number 6: Terry, the 10 year old on holiday who wanted to race against us just outside of Grandtully.

We arrived at around 5pm so had 13hours timed out. Of this time I spent 1hr sleeping, 1hr faffing and eating,3hrs hoping Clive was about to turn up, another 1hr eating and blogging, 5hours sleeping then some time eating at Clive's and taking boats and kit down to the water.

Day 5

Stage 9 Paddle to Perth and Orienteering 60km
Stage 10 MTB Perth to Sterling, 64km 864m Climb

We had a fun paddle down to Dunkeld, again with Terrex for a bit. At Dunkeld we flew round the orienteering, good to see the trek hadn't completely distroyed our running ability.
The river to Perth was loooong however a bit of fisherman slalam livened things up, as did the more rapid sections. 2 paddles and 0 swims!

Leaving Perth, those lights cost us ages! :-P
At Perth we transitioned. Yes that right, we didn't faff (well, not as much) and set off on the bikes! We rode strongly for the first half of the ride, it wasn't until just before the last climb of the race that the pace dropped. Here I found pushing hard in a big gear up the hill kept my back in a better position than twiddling away so injected occasion bursts of speed. Shame my legs weren't actually capable of pushing that gear all the way! Cam racers were moving off into the distance ahead, and in doing so consolidating their 1st position of the short course and 5th overall.
Once at the top we sped down into Sterling, catching back up to Cam racers and arriving at the finish pretty much together.
Punching the finish
We finished the race having covered a total of 518km and 11,400m Climb, in 6th position. This was more than we had hoped for on the start line and a well earnt result! Thanks to Open Adventure for another amazing journey, the added detail of Clive's van and the friendly volunteers at transitions made for an excellent race!

I have just about stopped eating twice as much twice as often now and have even made it out on the bike and for a run....and an accidental intervals session (my legs didn't thank me for that), but the plan for the next few weeks is to get ready and rested for the this space!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

5 jours O'VTT de Samois-Sud77

The run in - the only control I reliably rode well on :-)
 It already seems like ages ago that I was in France racing MTBO, but it was only last week!  It's been a week of many firsts, first head to head MTBO race, first time I have shot a knome with an air rifle at a wedding and first time I've had to present at a conference proper.
Since last Thursday I've travelled from Fontainebleau to Sheffield via York, down to Taunton for Shelf and Lorna's wedding (CONGRATULATIONS!) complete with welly wanging and air rifles! Then back to Sheffield and on to Liverpool for the launch of the Centre for the Integrated approach to Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing (CIMA) and finally home! Phew...

So, back to Fontainebleau, one of the most varied racing weeks I've ever done. Race 1,2,3 and 5 were a bit of a write off but race 4 almost made up for it!

 The first race of the week was a bit of a warm up for the World Ranking event the following day so I rode it with the aim of getting back into smooth riding with nav. It was all going so well for the first 4 controls, despite riding hard into a tree (oops), however control 5 was in a quarry and here I caught Chalie, looking in the same place as me for the control. We had both interpreted the map wrong (easily done in this section) and lost a chunk of time. Wouldn't have been too bad had it not been for the next control at which I promptly lost another 5minutes as there were far more paths on the ground than the map.
A bit cheesed off, I got back into the flow for the next few controls but my head was no longer in it and it was only a matter of time before I made another mistake en route to 14.
After this I chose to employ my age old tactic of 'If in doubt ride harder' and promptly finished the race off in style losing 3-4mins at control 15 before doing a superman impression over the handlebars on the way to 18.
It's fair to say I've had better races, however finished mid field...
I decided to learn from my mistakes and knew I was riding (and when fully concentrating navving) well.

 The next morning we arrived at the race just after 9am, I wasn't racing until 12:16 so there was plenty of time to prepare. Well there would have been if I hadn't accidentally been missed off the WRE start list. If I started at 12:16 I would have missed quarentine and not count for the WRE. So at 9:20 it was sorted out, I would start before the rest of the WRE riders at 9:39!

I ran back to the car, got changed, sorted my bike out and was on the way to the start before I knew what was happening. It was a few km to the start and I could have done with some tri bars and an aerodynamic skin suit to get me there in time. Sadly I had neither and the track was wet and sandy, bit of an effort but I made it with a minute to spare. Windy then kindly explained to the start crew, in French, that I needed to start whilst I caught my breath, then I was off! Adrenaline pumping like never before!

I was slow off the mark, not too surprisingly, and several of the tracks were basically overgrown, could have done with a few people through before me to break track....But the nav was smooth and all was well to control 9 this time. On the way to 10 my compass indicated I was on a different track to the one I had aimed for, so I corrected my 'mistake' and headed for 10....sadly there had been no mistake and so I lost about 3 minutes correcting the true mistake.

At 11 I learnt what it meant to be out first on this course, the track was so indistinct from the direction I came that I had to play it safe and ride 2 sides of a triangle to reach the control. Another minute lost but still feeling reasonably in control. 12 was a long leg and here I really felt the adrenaline had worn off!

Another mistake at 13 due to another overgrown indistinct track at a star junction cost me a minute or so but the rest of the course was reasonably ok. I progressively got slower, as did my mind and finished, more pleased than day 1, but still having made too many scrappy mistakes, in 14th position.

Team GB - 'there were 10 bottles of bubbly, sitting on the wall....'
The next day was the sprint which I was really looking forward to but I kept my disasterous streak going, losing well over 4 minutes on control 5 (amazingly only a fraction of the time lost by Ursina on the same control apparently) and making a small mistake 3 controls later. On the plus side I practiced track stand punching and made it on all but 3 controls, including an awkward spectator control :-). After the mistakes I just rolled around, knowing the game was up and enjoying the forest tracks.

The thing I was most looking forward to during the week was the second WRE, the long distance. This had a bit of a twist as it was a mass start event, basically the first leg of a relay if the relay was a long distance race. In essence perfect for me :-) in theory....
Before the start I noticed my compass was doing odd things but whenever I checked it appeared to be working. Thankfully for the race it wasn't needed anyway really.

I loved this race. It started with some long legs with a bit of route choice and I felt strong, overtaking all the way through the first 4 controls (my map folding abilities need some practice). This was the hilliest day in an all but flat area of france and I kicked on up the short but realtively steep climbs.

As I headed for control 6 I was looking ahead to 7. There was some  confusing marking of OOB on my preferred route and I was scrutinising it when I looked up to see Ingrid! I was still not far behind her as I swung into the track to pick up 6 :-). Sadly, concentrating on 7 instead of making sure I reached 6 meant I made a mistake, picked up number 1 again instead of 6 and headed off for 7.....I worked out my mistake when I stumbled upon the actual junction for control 6 and corrected but the damage was done....about 3:30 lost. Thankfully not a mispunch though, phew!

I carried on riding hard, only losing another minute or two on some less than optimum route choices. As I picked up the third  to last control I reovertook Pippa (she passed me at my number 6 faff...) and rode really hard for the penultimate control. Age old bloomin mistake, I reached a junction and turned left, thinking I should see my control. It wasn't there so I turned around, ah there it was, but Pippa had caught me again. I punched  and bombed it off for the finish. I only noticed my mistake by pure coincidence as i passed my actual penultimate control en route to the finish. I'd punched a 'paralell' control by mistake. Near mispunch number 2 avoided, numpty!

Ingrid went on to win the day and I finished in 9th position, however 35seconds would have got me 6th and less than 1.5mins to 5th. As I had visited 2 more controls than anyone else I'm not too disappointed by this :-).

Although I made mistakes I was happy with the race,  I loved the head to head aspect as it allowed me to see where I stand on both riding and nav. I learnt I really can ride well atm and I can't really complain about the nav as I just haven't been practicing. Up until control 6 I was in the mix and with a bit more training time my nav will improve.

Sat on the train back from Liverpool today I suddenly realised I don't have to do anything this evening. The string of deadlines that have meant some insane working hours and not very much training since January have come to an end. I'm shattered!
Tomorrow I can actually start training again :-) I'm going to ride a bike and go for a run :-). And I don't envisage any more deadlines least next week!!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Skedaddling Around Eastnor Castle - 3rd at Mountain Mayhem

Womens Open Podium - Saddle Skedaddle in 3rd
This is a bit of a long one, but then again, this was one EPIC race! I have finally found a MTB race that leaves my legs feeling properly tired!

In the middle of a looooong 14hr day of work a few weeks ago I found out the name for our mountain mayhem team 'Need a Skidaddle Holiday Now!'. Quite fitting  really!

Last weekend I raced for Saddle Skedaddle with Steph Fountain, Iwona Szmyd and Emila Zielinska in my first 24hr MTB race - Mountain Mayhem.
There have been a lot of firsts this year, but this one was the one I had least clue about. I knew I could keep going for a long time, for days in fact, but going, then stopping, then going again was a new concept. How fast could I push it and still be able to get out of the tent in the middle of the night to ride again? That was what I was about to learn!

One thing I had learnt from BUCS however was that muddy conditions really do require mud tyres, so I made sure I had some fitted! There had been ample rain in the last week or so and the weather forecast was for rain from 10pm to 4am...lovely

After a brief discussion about who could run, it turned out I the decision on first lap rider was sorted. I set off without knowing exactly how far it was, but knowing it was long enough to not be a sprint. I felt comfortable with the pace, but glanced at my watch after a while and was suprised to see I'd passed through a mile in under 7minutes, in a swamp, with a hill, in bike shoes! Too fast?
No, I jumped on the bike at the 1.2mile mark and felt good, phew. Also, I assumed job done as far as getting a reasonable position to avoid queueing at the single track goes, as Nick Craig was announced as crossing the start line as I reached my bike, 100m from the line.

I was 1st woman after the run but lost a few places on the stretch over  to the 'Kenda Klimb' and was sat just behind the first womens open team at this point. I was pleased to stop the flow of overtaking and take a few places back up the steep climb, staying with the woman ahead. The first bit of single track slowed everything down a bit, but the queueing wasn't terrible, I have now officially learnt where to start in a race after Kielder 100 - not at the back :-)!

Mountain Mayhem Route for reference:
This was going well, it was good fun! Then we hit 'Wiggle Woodlands' and I wish I'd never thought that....Here I found the 'Mud of Doom' which clogged my wheels. No worry, I scraped off the mud with a stick and set off running again, keeping the bike to the side to avoid the mud. 10m later I cleared them again...10m later I cleared them again and snapped the stick....10m later I cleared again...'insert rude word here'.

I shot backwards down the field, unable to move more than 10m in one go. The one womens team ahead turned into ALL the womens teams ahead, anyone with 1.95 tyres or less could still get by riding, riding with 2.1s like me and you were screwed! I slogged on thinking 'what if it's all like this, I am literally going to be here all day and be writing the whole race off'.
Thankfully it wasn't, I got out of the woods eventually, cleared the wheels one last time and got back on the bike, hooray!

I came through half way in 65mins including the run and headed off up the 'Niterider Grinder'. Legs back in it now I was on the bike I overtook and overtook again all the way up :-), this was more like it! The descent from 'Hope Shit Shifter Summit' was ace! The 'Weldtite Washout' at the bottom was a different matter and here started the chain suck of destruction...

One bottle of water over the chain/mech  later and the situation had not improved for more than a minute at a time. Water gone I was on the hunt for puddles to avoid snapping my rear mech. With none in sight I did a fair bit of pushing again. After a couple of puddles in the woods at the top I attempted to ride again. A badly timed bit of chain suck on a corner then saw me do a super man into the brambles much to the amusement of everyone behind me - I like to keep people smiling! Eventually I reached the final descent and had great fun down that and into the finish in 2hrs4mins! Wow that was a long leg!

Whilst Steph, Iwona and Emila rode I hunted down some thinner tyres and the wonderful Saddle Skedaddle support team had them fitted in no time! Iwona had flown round in 1hr36 and there were rumours it was getting nicer to ride...then Emila handed over to me with the words 'OMG, its horrible!'.

So off I went with no expectations on my second lap at all. Reaching 'Wiggle Woodlands' again I took a deep breath and got ready to dismount. Then turned the corner and found it rideable! Go 1.95 tyres! And thanks to all those nice people with wider tyres who suffered with me on that first lap, removing the worst of the mud and taking it with them!!

This made life much faster! I was through half way within 45minutes and off up the hill, where I even had enough time for a short chat with Rickie Cotter.  Then I found out what Emila meant....this side was definitely not as nice as before. Still, for a while I was moving well and it looked like I'd come in in a similar time to Iwona's last lap, but the chain suck of destruction hit again, earlier this time. The water ran out. By the end it was 5 pedals forward to 3 back to try and keep moving...however still a BIG improvement on the first lap (1hr48)! By now we were no longer last and were in fact 3rd! All to play for!

Skedaddle Corner! Beautiful conditions....
Dusk had hit as Steph went out and the heavens opened not long after. Met office was spot on with the forecast!
In a way this was a blessing in disguise. The whole course became wet mud and my 3rd lap at 2am was probably the easiest to move through. Slower on corners but a welcome relief from the treacle during the day!

I had a sing along with a guy in the woods and heard him move on from 'if your happy and you know it' to 'wild rover' at a doubling back of the course later on.

After coming through half way in an hour (which I was a little disappointed with) I suddenly realised why I was dropping off the pace. The tell tale signs of bonking arrived, I couldn't really concentrate on anything and keeping my legs moving was an effort, let alone engaging them in a coordinated manner. All I wanted to do was sit down. I stopped and crammed half a bag of sweets in my mouth, sit down? What was I on about, that was a bad idea! I then started pushing my bike, hoping my legs would follow. I'm not sure how long this lasted but  I managed to get back on the bike at some point and ride most of 'Niterider Grinder', even if my vision was a little bit wonky..whether due to the lack of blood sugar or lack of a left contact lens I just don't know! But I do know why the grinder name exists now.

I stopped half way up to eat the other half a bag of sweets. By the top they kicked in and I was away, enjoying the downhill, getting through 'Weldtite Washout' and up the hill without incident as long as I remained in my granny gear, loving the night riding! Given all of this, this was my slowest ride yet (2hr9) but it was great fun!

I finished at dawn, just as the rain stopped :-). This was where it all got interesting. The commentators announced us as leading, none of us could work out how? We checked the leader board, it confirmed it! Had both the teams ahead had mechanicals? An hour later we were demoted back to 3rd....our chip had somehow registered twice for Stephs

While Emila was out we worked out it looked like Iwona would get back at 11:40 after her 4th lap, so here came the decision - who to do the last leg? Neither me nor Steph were that keen so we left it to the brake pad gods. If a new brake pad could be found for Iwona's bike then I would ride the last lap. If not, Iwona would ride my bike and Steph would ride the last lap.

The brake pad stall was shut - yes! The saddle skedaddle team produced a quick fix - doh! At 11:58am I set off on our last lap still in 3rd. If either of the two teams ahead didn't complete this 14th lap, we'd move up! Always worth a shot!

With Mandy Faint from Big Bear Bikes and the quad bike back marker hot on my heals I rode through the wet mud after a quick manual gear change (front mech useless for changing down now) and up 'Kenda Klimb'. The first bit of forest we hit, which had been fine earlier, was now aweful! Mud clung everywhere, clearing it was impossible, my wheels didn't turn, 1.95 tyres now no longer doing the trick. I dragged my bike through the forest and attempted to clear it at the other side. I asked the quad bike driver what the second half was like, the reply: 'I don't want to tell you'....great! Nice then! He also confirmed these were the worst Mountain Mayhem conditions ever! I decided grudgingly that it was time to head back...

Then Mandy appeared having corrected a slight route detour...and when I asked if she really was going all the way she didn't even blink and replied 'yes, theres no rush for me to be back!'. Ok I'd carry on! It takes a lot for me to quit!

20m, 3 attempts as breaking my rear mech and 2 attempts at clearing my wheels later, a guy emerged from 'Wiggle Woodland', the worst part of the first lap, yelling 'Don't do it! It's not worth it!'. Alright. I turned around and straight lined it back, crossing all my fingers that the other two teams had completed 14 laps....

They had, we finished 3rd with 13 laps! Woooo!
Thanks to the great team of Steph, Iwona and Emila and team 'I'd rather be on a Skedaddle Holiday' for making my first 24hr MTB race a memorable and enjoyable one! What an epic introduction to 24hr MTB racing! And thanks to Saddle Skedaddle for all the support! It would have been a whole other story without their bike washing/mending and rider feeding facilities! 'I'd rather be on a Skedaddle holiday', including adventure frog, finished just behind us in 4th, so a great weekend all round!

Mandy rode in during the prize giving after an incredibly long lap! Hats off to her, I thought it was actually going to be impossible! (I think somebody needs to tell her that its ok to not finish a lap if you already know your position on the podium is not going to be altered by it :-P). Edit: Worth the effort to make sure they secured 3rd!

Adventure Frog

I can't finish without mentioning Julia Hobson winning the solo women's race. Amazing riding, 11 laps in 24hrs, with time to spare! The mental determination to do that in those conditions is astounding! Well done Julia, I would have sat down in the mud and not got up again well in advance of 24hrs!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Riding Without a Board - 4th at BUCS XC MTB

Erlestoke 12
A couple of weeks ago I took a deep breath and removed the map board from my mountain bike. It's been well over a year, maybe 2, since I raced a pure MTB race and the Erlestoke 12 would be my 4th attempt at it!
Me and my friend Becky were racing in the 6hr race as a female pair under the name 'Shé-velo'. I rode around the course early in the morning to get a feel for it and it was excellent. Dry and fast singletrack for the first half, then a big climb followed by a huge bomb hole and swoopy singletrack wiggly technical riding down (and up and down again) to the change over.
By midday and the start it was roasting hot! I set off a bit too low down the field and spent my lap sprinting the open sections then settling in behind a queue of people on the singletrack. Still - this proved to be my fastest lap in the end.
As the afternoon wore on it got hotter and hotter! By the end of my 3rd lap we knew we were in the lead (not the most populated race catagory tbh) but it was looking more and more likely I'd fit a 4th lap in within the six hours as Becky was coming through consistently strong! The 4th lap was tough, by the up/down singletrack fun my back was wrecked but I only dropped a couple of minutes all told and we held onto the lead :-). A good start to racing without a board! 

Such a fun weekend and great to see Pete and Andy (Becky's boyfriend) fight it out in the 12 hour race to come 2nd and Tom and Andy pull off 11th with only one working bike and the most layed back transitions I have ever seen (including time for a cuppa...well almost)! Great efforts all round!

After a week of excessive work I was ready for a holiday. So it was a good job we had one planned, after a quick trip to Horton-in-Ribblesdale it was off to the Isle of Man. 

80-100miles of cycling and a lot of tea, pub and watching fast motorbikes ensued. The only bit of proper MTB we fitted in was on our hunt for a pub on Monday - race day! We rode 14miles, found some fun descents, an indistinct river/ footpath, 1 inaccessable pub (whilst the roads were closed for the TT races), an ex pub ( close) and finally an open pub! One mile from where we started...

View from The Railway - Union Mills. A pub 1mile from where we started looking for a pub.

 Thoroughly relaxed I arrived back in Sheffield in time for my second MTB race without a map board in 2 weeks! The British University MTB Champs at Birchall Golf Course. I had no clue what to expect (except a wet mess after this weeks weather) or how to race it. The recce at 9am revealed a wet course but not impassible given a bit less tyre pressure. 2 races later...well..

This was the first time me and Helen would race each other without a map, it was going to be interesting. 4 laps but if you were lapped by the leader you finished on their 4th lap.

Helen shot off and I immediately realised I was in the wrong gear - massively. Rode the start probably in about 12th position. But then we turned the corner onto the golf course and I overtook very quickly - back past Helen and another couple of girls.
We set off about 2 mins behind the guys so caught them up just at the start of the killer hill. So boggy at the bottom it was miles quicker to run - which allowed me to overtake again.
The singletrack at the top was congested so I hung back accepting we weren't going to be able to overtake all the riders ahead until the short bit of open. The Manchester girl behind me thought otherwise and started yelling 'riders coming through'. I let her past to deal with the guys ahead.
She made it about 3 guys ahead. Then there was deep mud and running and I was right back on her tail. Somewhere in this mud fest singletrack she got a minute on me (according to lap times). I had real trouble with non mud tyres - own fault though!

Really enjoyed the last bit of the course with the bomb holes and proper downhill fun! Even got the comment 'your riding it better than a lot of the guys' hehe. I might have to admit I am a mountain biker one day soon...

If possible lap 2 was muddier. I was still in touch with the Manchester girl going up the climb and planned to dig in and try and stay with her at the top - then I got distracted by somebody saying they thought I had a flat (turned out not - just running low psi) and the few seconds stopped to check was enough to lose contact. Another girl overtook in the gloop at the top which I had had to dismount for. That put me back in a bit of a race mode and I overtook her and put distance between us quickly. Still, no sign of Manchester anymore.

By lap 3 the course had deteriorated badly - churned up unridable sections now clear though so I knew where to dismount and where to push through. No sign of girl ahead or behind. Towards the end I started to expect the first girl to lap me and when my chain came off in a bog I thought it was over. But no, got through finish without being lapped so off on lap 4...

The mud was now no longer wet mud but sticky mud. Got the dismount sections firmly in my mind but had to stop a few times to clear mud to keep wheels turning. Tyre tread completely saturated - just like riding slick tyres! But no sign of girl ahead or behind so dug in and enjoyed the descents at the end for the last time.

I was amazed to learn at the finish that I was in 4th overall! This is way more than I expected. Rode all the technical downhill well and only messed up the row of 6 bomb holes once when my tyre slid out on the mud on lap 3. Needed less than a min a lap to reach the podium (cough:mud tyres/being less clueless) - next year :-).

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Inter Counties Fell Running

Slieve Bearnagh
I was so happy with Slieve Bearnagh last weekend that when Des contacted me to confirm my availability to race for Derbyshire at Inter Counties I agreed to run. This race is the entire opposite terrain to the Mournes, fast with no let up, and it proved well and truely that I am 100% not fixed (or maybe just not strong enough to race twice in a week yet). I set set off feeling a bit tired in the legs. The rest of the Derbyshire women beasted off and I was 4th counter for about 300m, at which point I had worked my way to first counter and was running well up the first climb, again around Helen Fines - a bit of a repeat to the start last weekend.
Around the place where the gate you come through on the way back is I felt something in my back tighten a bit and must have slowed down  because Liz, Claire and Rachel all came back past in the next 100m. I stayed on their tail across Cats Tor but on the descent suddenly lost a lot of ground. My back was tight, knee was all over the place, I don't think I could engage R glutes at all (over worked a bit in the last week or so) and my achillies was hurting. All illusion from last weekend that I am fixed out of the window and I decided it was time to jog.
To cut the story short, I couldn't find a marshall to confirm only 3 people needed to finish for a team to count.  I jogged for a bit then jog/walked the rest, finishing in 73:36...incredibly disappointing and quite painful to compare to my 2010 time in this race of 55:22 (800m shorter route?).
Thankfully I can still bike so had a great days training from Sheffield with Team Accelerate today - replacing run legs with tea drinking (it's a hard sport, but somebody has to do it...).

Also had exciting news reports via txt all weekend from the Scottish Islands Peaks Race where Rhys Findlay-Robinson and Wil Spain were fighting for the lead in the monohull catagory and pulled it off! Finishing 3rd overall. Good work...I can see the next week being filled with waiting on Wil until he can walk again...

Monday, 14 May 2012

British Champs Fell Race - Ireland

Dockray Hartside

Over the last few weeks I've run a couple of races with the main aim of testing out running to decide whether to make the trip over to Ireland for Slieve Bearnargh British Champs Fell Race. First came Dockray Hartside - my first attempt at some rougher terrain. Interestingly I found the road comfortable and pretty easy going, leading the womens race onto the fell (shows where most of my recent running has been!)...I was alright with the ups, feeling pretty strong, but wobbled my way down the hills, losing places and eventually finishing 4th I think... Still - with 2 weeks to Ireland I thought it was a possibility.

I then ran the Trunce, finishing with my second fastest time ever despite high rivers making for a bit of a swim! My hip/back was still getting very tight post runs which wasn't ideal but I was still running fairly well.

The final test came at the Burbage Skyline and it wasn't good. My hip was very uncomfortable the whole way round, I didn't move very fast and I came in around 2mins slower than last year. I struggled to push myself having completely lost my 'race head' but had a lovely pootle around the peaks! I almost gave my entry to Ireland away there and then! I expected to be right back to square 1 with the hip the next morning!
Burbage Skyline - enough time for a quick Irish Jig!

However, when I woke up I couldn't feel even a niggle (weird) so decided to go for it :-)!

Slieve Bearnagh is a short counter in the British Champs, however anybody thinking they'll be fine as its 'only short' would be in for a shock. The 5mile race has over 800m climb in it...and its not smooth running.

Saturday maintained my impression of the Mourne Mountains as having beautiful weather. The race started with the steep climb onto the ridge of Slieve Meelbeg which summits at 708m. The climb becomes steadily more runnable, over wet boggy ground becoming more and more rocky as you reach the summit.
I set off and was surprised to find myself running alongside Helen Fines. This lasted a until we hit the ridge, but the more runnable it got, the more she pulled away until by the top I was following Helen Elmore, with Helen Fines about 150m ahead (the last I saw of her as she moved her way up to finish 2nd!).
The race then has its first descent down to the Happy Valley Col, technical by many races standards but not a patch on that to come. I reached the col having caught up to the three women who had pulled away right at the summit and passed them heading for the main peak of the race, Slieve Bearnagh which is 727m at the summit. This climb is steep!! Hands on knees to begin with followed by climbing with hands pulling on the heather by the top! The descent follows the same side of the hill as the ascent however over rockier ground, a minefield of potential injury!
At the base I was less than a minute behind Helen Elmore, by the top the gap was less than 30s, however I just couldn't catch her on the descent (I had no intention of crippling myself here), remaining 30s behind.
The final climb of the race was Slieve Meelmore, at 687m its a walk in the park ;-).
This was where I first really felt my back tighten up. I couldn't stride properly uphill anymore so the group ahead pulled away slightly and Helen Elmore was storming up the hill. By the top she probably had well over a minute on me!
Thankfully I took a great line off the hill, catching back up to the group ahead, passing through the old finish line about 40s behind Helen, 4 women between us. I was happy to glance down at my watch and note the time - 59:01. over 5mins faster than 3 years ago.

The finsh has now changed. Instead of the lovely descent to the finish that suits me down to the ground there was now another 1.5miles of traversing along relatively easy running before a sprint down (and up argh!) a track to the finish. I lost about 2mins to those ahead of me here, traversing to the right was just not what my hip wanted. Thankfully we had a big enough gap for this not to really matter. Our group was 8-12th at the old finish and I finished still in 12th, in 70:25, with another 2mins before the next woman appeared. It would have been nice to race the last mile or so but never mind!I had raced properly (my mind can still do it :-)) and had come away without aggrivating things too much (my hip can still do it :-)).

I'm not sure if the Great Lakes race will happen just yet, but fingers crossed! Saturday was the second longest I've run for since Feb (and the other run was very low intensity. I upped the longest to 2hrs on Sunday (a quick saunter up a very blustery Slieve Donard with Helen and a superb descent!) and although I can still feel my hip and back, its no worse than it was. Just have to work on not feeling it at all before running Great Lakes I think!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Herod Farm - a proper test of running

No pretty pictures this time, my camera battery died before I took any...
Over the last couple of weeks I've slowly started to reintroduce running into my training. Mainly on a track, with limited success, although things didn't seem to get worse with it, they weren't feeling normal. Then I ran up a hill (bit of a loose term 'run' in this instance) to watch the Coledale Horseshoe (after rinding round to Keswick from Langdale) and with relatively tired legs felt pretty good on the up! Downhill was another matter but I figured I'd address that one another time...
It was a lovely day to be out spectating...well it had been when we set off, a brief snow and hail storm followed!
Watching the women descend, me and Zanthe tried to make out who it was in 2nd. We couldn't work it out from the vest, so waited until she got a bit closer and suddenly we realised it was out friend Sarah, running for HBT and flying down the hill after Lauren Jeska! An excellent bit of running! Can't wait to see what the rest of the year holds for her, doubt I'll get a glimpse of her vest in any races... although I think the BG is top of her list!
 So, after successfully getting up and down the mountain I decided I might try running Herod Farm race the following Wed. I had to return the trophy so it would be rude not to race ;-).
I kept the pace comfortable, concentrating on running properly and watching out for any niggles in my hip. At the top of the first climb I was with 2nd woman and could see Judith not far ahead. The descent was a shambles and I had to jog to prevent jarring my back, I waved goodby to the women ahead, but then came the beast of a second climb. I took out some BIG ground on them at this point, the only part of the race I put some effort in (it's one of my all time favourite climbs as most people forget it's coming...or foget how steep it is). At the top I was around 1.5mins down on Judith and 5-10m behind 2nd lady. I got to the top and relaxed back into my jog down the hill, happy to know I've still got some strength and speed in the legs! To give you an idea of my speed going down, Judith took about 2minutes out of me on that last 0.6miles of descent...probably about the amount of time I'd gained on the final climb.
At the finish, the guy I had raced up the hill with commented 'you need to sort out your descending' and was probably a bit disappointed to hear I'd turned the gas off intentionally.
I finished in 3rd, which was great, but better still I had run all the way and there was no signs of a locked SI joint! Half way round somebody had shouted '3rd woman, dig in, you can get her, she's not far ahead' and I realised I was having too much fun to bother trying to catch anyone! You know it's been too long without a run when that happens :-).
Since then, it's not been smooth sailing, but the SI joint is still moving! I just need to stop my back tightening up if I don't stetch it every few minutes....Watch this space - 3 weekends to Ireland British Champs race and I have every intention of being there and being able to run downhill!!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Open 5 - 2nd in the peaks and the series!

Open 5 Female Solo Winners: L to R: Rosemary, Me , Karen
Yesterday was the final of the Open 5 series and it was down to a showdown between me and Rosemary Byde ( for the  series win. If either of us won the event then we got the series win too!

But thats only half the excitement of the last month, I'll start by setting the scene properly (you can skip to the open 5 report by scrolling down 2 pictures):

Last year our research unit lost funding, with the final day of the research unit having any money being 31st March 2012, the day before the last open 5 (no pressures there then). Just before Christmas I learned I had not been successful in securing funding for the rest of my PhD.

What this meant for me was, along with finding alternative funding, writing grants and getting a rush on knowing what my data meant, that I needed to fit as many patients in before the end of the unit as possible for maximum thesis writing potential!

A small list of disasters followed:
1) Our surgeon (quite key when implanting strain gauges onto peoples tibia) moved his clinic
2) This meant a substantial amendment to my protocol (read 2 month delay on patients)
3) There was only one more available date before we ran out of money (One more shot to get it right!)

So, I've been walking round looking like I'm in the middle of an XPD for the last month or 2, with the finish line being Wed the 14th of March when, now we are well practiced, I would get a full set of excellent data from my patient (strain gauges have proven tempromental when in peoples legs)!

Somebody somewhere had other ideas, and was aparently in control of the 14th March so:
1) My patient was 1hr15mins late
2) We had failed to get insurance in time to use one of our machines.
3) My notebook laptop battery broke as my patient entered the gait lab and no longer held power (we need to unplug the laptop to remove noise from the signal)
4) My new laptop has windows 7, my software doen't work on anything later than vista.
5) We set up windows xp to run on my laptop as still didn't like the strain gauge
6) I missed lunch (big disaster as I had been at work since 6:45am after having a yoghurt and got home at 6pm, )
6) Reverting back to the original notebook we took 12 recordings (of 100) and the strain gauge broke.

To finish the week off I gave a seminar and then collapsed into recovery...which seemed to take as long as after an XPD :-P.

On top of that, I had been injured for well over a month and even with following physio advice to a T, running seemed a long way off. Once I had my brain back together enough, I realised lifting my leg was no longer just an issue when running, walking around was getting increasingly difficult! Also, sitting, standing or lying wasn't very comfortable either. So I made a last minute appointment with Kim who gave me the news I kind of knew deep down. My SI joint had not remained free moving after my last physio appointment at the end of Feb and my pelvis was sort of 'wonky' (for want of a better word) which meant all the stretching I'd been doing wasn't working. When your SI joint locks, your glutes forget how to work so you lift your leg purely with hip flexors making it almost a hinge joint action. Kim put me back into place and sent me away with lots of strengthening (and digging fingers into hip flexors) to do!

The 'Clam'
So, I spent a week doing the 'clam' and multiple other exercises like my life depended on it. Still, on the Sunday before the race (3 days post physio) it was an effort to walk up to Mam Nick to watch the Edale skyline so I decided not to enter the Open 5. I was massively disappointed, if I'd had a bit more time I would have had a return visit to a physio sooner and have had everything sorted. Now I would have to sit it out and instruct Rosemary to win by a country mile to keep me in the top 3. Realistically, Mandy was going to improve her lowest percentage making it hard for me to stay in that position!

Then, after two cross trainer sessions, it stopped being so clear cut. My glutes were working again, I went for a run.....YES! Not perfect, or fast, but the first run in 6 weeks! On Sat 31st I rode a MTB.....and that sealed the deal...I was going to go afterall as all I needed was to improve on the diabolical score of the last event. If I could get 82% of the winner I should stay in 3rd!

Proof - I can run (but please ignore the heel strike)!!

So, back to the event! I took my usual tactics and set off on the Mountain Bike. I decided to go with the normal 3hrs bike, 2hrs run and if the hip hurt too much, call it a day. I also took the precaution of putting pretty pink tape over my hip flexors.

I even managed to start well before 10:29am, now that is organisation!
Even though I was planning on being conservative with speed, I set off like the clappers, but slowed down en route to the first control as that was definitely too fast for my hip. This also allowed me to look at the pretty views and take in the glorious sun that was now out!
I picked up a 35 and a 20 pointer on the road before heading for the old railway line. At this point I started riding into a headwind and was really struggling. I couldn't believe how hard it was riding into this headwind, I got overtaken by a male pairs who seemed to be making easy work of it. 5km and 2 controls later I turned out of the wind.....and it got no easier! Doh! My rear brake had become misaligned and was effectively jammed on. I did a quick fix....which was just that and lasted all of about 3 minutes so stopped at my next control properly (after riding up another hill with my brake on = numpty). 3 realignments later it was acceptable and I looked like I'd been in a fight with a bike chain! What a difference! Now I was back on track.I picked up another couple of control at this far side of the map before heading back towards the start. My hip started niggling a little bit, so I slowed right down en route to 18 and for the rest of the ride. I had accidentally folded 2 controls off the map (not 1 as I thought), so after picking up the high pointers around Hulme End and Wetton I had got all but 20 points on the bike.

I was off on the run with about 1hr 35 left after all my bike brake faffing.

I found this a lot more difficult to judge than normal. I planned a route of 9 controls that I normally would have got round no problem. The first control dropped me into the valley and I knew there were going to be some serious climbs about! I experienced the only hands on knees one going to my 3rd control though! Running through Milldale I got de ja vu, who can tell me which relays have been run through there??

On my way off the steep hands on knees hill I went over on my left ankle, which normally isn't ideal but actually stopped me concentrating on my hip, watching for any little niggle. Still, I wasn't really moving anywhere fast, so I decided on my second climb out of the valley to miss a 10 pointer. At the top I had a decision to make, get 2 more controls to make my total 485...or go for a 15 pointer as well to make the 500! I probably just had time....didn't I?

No, no I didn't. I got the 15 pointer and had 20 minutes to get 2 more controls and back to the finish covering over 2 miles and some climb. If I could just stride out properly...
I upped the pace a bit but couldn't lift my leg quite as well as normal yet. Still, only 8minutes late! I finished with a score of 482 points which I thought was enough to keep me on the series podium but I knew today should have been a 500+ points day. And I was right, Rosemary got 506 points winning the day and series! What a great race to the end :-)!

What I didn't expect and made me extra happy was to finish 2nd on the day, giving me a total of 295.2 in the series and moving me up to 2nd overall!  Worth the gamble of racing I think! :-)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Open 5 Dorking

A Smile as I complete all of the bike controls
 Over the last month an old injury from a couple of years ago has reappeared, I won't bore you with the details but will say, if you ever fall over sideways in a fell race, get your hands down first, not your hip. The end result is that riding a bike is ok, running is not.

So at the Open 5 on Sunday I had a plan. A bit of maths had revealed if I cleared the bike I only needed to get 4 or 5 run controls to get a similar score to normal. This should take me 40-50mins and as I normally get all but 4 bike controls (ish) I figured I should be able to clear within 4 hours.

The weather forecast was for 8 degrees and heavy rain so I set off to the start with full body cover and pretty well wrapped up. On the way to the start I was boiling so I decided to take my leg warmers off but leave the other layers on.

The bike started well and I really enjoyed the single track between my first few controls. I then committed to clearing the bike by heading for 3 x 10 pointers that, in normal circumstances I might have avoided.  After a couple of hours I felt my back niggle a bit but it seemed to be alright. I might have subconciously slowed down a little bit as not long after I remember thinking 'I wish I hadn't taken my leg warmers off' and 'My baselayer is soaking and cold'. I also glanced up and did a double take, was that snow??!? Yes it was. The weather had changed from its original plan and was now more like 1 degrees and snowing. I was not dressed for this!

Looking back the signs of getting overly cold were there, I started having to think harder for every step of the nav and in order to make sure my legs were still peddling. My breathing went all over the place, breathing very fast and shallow and I lost the feeling in my fingers and wondered if when I took my gloves off I would find a mangled black mess. However I am stubborn and ignored all of this, but was disappointed it took me 4hrs 16minutes to clear the bike! Still 350 points bagged and I had 40minutes to run right!

In transition I was so cold I didn't notice it. I concentrated on getting my shoes off which took 5minutes and I even recruited James Kirby to help as my overshoe was refusing to budge from my right foot. I nearly set off with one bike shoe on but eventually wrestled it off and set off aiming for a loop of 4 controls worth 85points.

This picture captures my run perfectly - 'How do I use a compass again?'
What actually happened was this. I set off and was wondering why I seemed not to trust my map was the right way up. Nothing seemed to be fitting too well, but i stumbled across my first control and assumed I was being silly. On the way I had found a fluorescent hat that somebody had dropped so I put it on. I then set off to the second control and for the next 20minutes I can't tell you where I was. My brain just wasn't working. I had no rational thinking and certainly no navigational skill. I do remember thinking stop being daft and go back to the finish, but I only had about 25mins left anyway! Eventually I stumbled upon the original control I had been to which took me entirely by suprise.

As I seemed to be struggling with following paths I decided to follow the road to the next path and my final control. I knew I was going to be late at this point but still got it. I made it back with 4minutes of penalties so still worth the 20 point last control.

Now I had stopped I was thinking a bit more rationally and knew I wasn't in a very good state. So left Wil with my bike repair kit to fix his puncture and headed back with Nicola. It sounds like we both had as much luck as each other with finding run controls!
After download I quickly got to the showers, but after 5 minutes of standing in the hot water I still wasn't warm so I gave up and got wrapped up. Apparently my lips were blue at this point. I then spent an hour or so shivering violently and spilling cups of hot drink everywhere.

I was amazed to find that, even having only got 2 run controls and having taken an age on the bike I was still 4th! Rosemary had a stormer and removed any hope of an ok % score, so it all comes down to the Peaks race for the series now! Exciting! :-)

Lesson of the day, my normal plan of getting lots of bike and lots of run controls works better than clearing the bike and picking up some run controls!

Finally, this is close to winning the 'Coldest I have ever got myself' award. It's a toy up between this and the OMM in 2007 where we had to abandon on day 1. I'm leaning towards Sunday getting the award though as at the OMM I managed to navigate us back to base without mistake....