Posts Tagged ‘climbing’


On Sunday I took part in my first Trigger Race a tough and demanding 21 mile fell race from Marsden to Edale over the Dark Peaks of the Peak District. This is my Trigger Race.

The day didn’t start great. It felt like I had, had hardly any sleep despite going to bed early on Saturday. I was thinking about the Trigger Race and wondering if I was up to it. If I should pull out and what could go wrong. In the end despite my reservations I got up at 3:30am and began to get ready for the biggest race of my life.

At 5:00am my mate Matt Fielding and me where off, travelling down to Edale to leave one car there before driving up to Marsden where the race started. The journey down the M62 to Edale wasn’t nice. Fog and rain on the roads just added to my already nervous state about what I was getting myself into.

We arrived at Edale in time to see the competitors getting ready to go in the Montane Spine Race http://thespinerace.com/. These runners were going the whole length of the Pennine Way, 268 miles over 7 days and I felt in awe of these amazing athletes who were pushing themselves to the limit mentally and physically in one of the most brutal and challenging races in the world.

On to Marsden and arriving at the cricket club we quickly got our kit checked and registered for the race. To my surprise I had race number 1! I did feel proud to be representing my club, Queensbury and wearing number 1.

Soon we were all outside having a last minute talk from the race organiser and then we were off! I quickly settled into a steady pace and felt good as we passed Butterley Reservoir and began to steadily climb towards our first trig point at Black Hill.

At this point it was terrain I was used to. We were on the Pennine Way and this part of it was one of the easier sections to run on and navigate. Then we turned off, left from memory, and began the first of our big climbs up Black Hill. I was feeling good, felt strong on the climbs and was passing people.

And then suddenly we were in the mist. The temperature dropped and the green grass was replaced by white snow. Now was the time to take care as the paths were wet, icy and dangerous. Care was needed as one slip could spell the end of my race.

And then the mud and bogs appeared. I went from running upright to slipping everywhere and falling into bogs. I’ve been very lucky avoiding most of the bogs where I run and not falling over. Today more than made up for my previous good luck.

It seemed to be my fate to fall into every single bog on the day. I lost count of how many times I ended up to my waist in a bog full of freezing cold mud and water or falling on my hands and knees onto the cold, wet ground. Within minutes I was wet through, wet mud clinging to my hands and legs making it difficult to keep warm.

I was still feeling focused and determined so put any thoughts of feeling cold and wet to one side ploughed on, upping my pace and passing more people as I raced to the summit of Black Hill.

And then I felt something hit my side. To my surprise one of my water bottles had come out from its pocket on my racing rucksack and was banging against my side. I tried to put it in on the move but it just kept popping out so I ended up carrying it in my hand.

This was far from ideal as it upset my rhythm and meant I was maintaining my balance with one hand. Around the same time I felt an ache develop in my right hand side. I wanted to stop and check everything was ok but there was no time. This was a race and I had two timed checkpoints to meet. Any delays could cost me meeting those times so I ploughed on as best as I could.

We made the snow covered checkpoint at Black Hill, the mountain rescue team standing out in their bright red jackets in the mist and began the descent towards Crowden the first timed checkpoint. We had caught up with some other runners and was making good progress. Despite carrying a water bottle in one hand I felt confident on the descent towards Crowden and made good time on it.

We arrived at Crowden in plenty of time but in my haste to sort out my water bottle issue I tripped over the entrance to the checkpoint tent and demolished the table the marshals were using! This was one of the talking points of the day as people where asking who the lunatic was who destroyed the table!

We checked in and carried on but to our dismay we had lost the group of runners in front of us due to me sorting out my water bottle problem. The two ladies we had been running with retired at Crowden and now we were on our own with only a map and a compass to get us to our next checkpoint at the top of Bleaklow.

We arrived at the bottom of our next climb thanks to Nicky Spinks pointing us in the right direction. We looked for an obvious trail to follow to get to the top but couldn’t see one and then I spotted what looked like a reasonable trail to follow to the top. How wrong I was.

We began to climb and everything was fine. Then the climb steepened sharply and I realised I was out of my depth but had no choice but to carry on to the top. Staying focused, looking up and grabbing bits of heather I worked my way up steadily.

Then I put my right leg out and felt my calf muscle go. I was 100ft up the side of a short but steep climb with my right leg at 90 degrees, my right calf cramping up and me holding onto a clump of heather.

I looked down and realised that I had no choice but to go up. The line from the Killers song, ‘All These Things I’ve Done’, ‘when you can’t hold on, hold on’ played in my mind. Matt was now at the top, only 20ft above me but far enough away. I looked for footholds and clumps of heather to grasp onto and got myself to the top. I’m not a climber and I’m scared of heights but I did it. In situations like this before I’ve froze but this time I stayed focused and made the climb.

At the top we worked out which we to go and began the ascent to Bleaklow and it was here that the weather here took a turn for the worse. From a pleasant winters day at Crowden we were enveloped by cold mist, deep snow and the only visible trails had ice cold water running down them. We had no choice but to follow these water trails and soon I had lost all feeling in my feet as they went numb from the cold water running over them.

We made steady progress and found the waterfall that meant we were on the right route. But somewhere between starting the climb and getting to the head of the waterfall I started to feel the onset of hypothermia. My hands and feet were numb with cold and had no feeling in them. My shoulders and chest were starting to go the same way, the cold cutting right through my body. I was sweating but it was cold and clammy and my clothing felt heavy because it was saturated in sweat and water.
I had no choice but to carry on. I could feel the onset of fatigue and each footstep was getting harder to make, both my legs cramping up as I moved through deep mud and cold water. Making Snake Pass was going to be very tough.

Then we heard voices behind us and saw the mountain rescue guys who were acting as sweepers for the runners. I felt relived knowing that if I got worse I was with the right people to help me. I was carrying an emergency sleeping bag but in these conditions with poor visibility it would make finding someone difficult and time is of the essence if you’re in trouble on the moors.

We carried on with the mountain rescue guys guiding us to our next checkpoint at Shelf Moor at the top of Bleaklow. The conditions were so poor that they had problems navigating and finding the right route but they got us to the checkpoint. Everything looked the same. Mounds of snow covered earth with streams flowing through them. It really was as if we were in a whole different world.

At Shelf Moor my condition had worsened. I could feel my body and mind slowing down, moving was difficult, thinking even more so as fatigue set in. I was beginning to feel punch drunk but without the pleasure of having had a couple of beers. I knew I had reached my physical limit and all I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep but that would make things much worse. My only option was to carry on to Snake Pass.

The mountain rescue guys knew what was happening too. There was no point in asking what was happening. It was obvious to everyone.

I didn’t have the energy to unclip my racing rucksack and get some food so the guys gave me a cookie and some hot Ribena. It seemed to take forever for me to eat the cookie but I needed immediate energy and eventually I finished it.

I knew I had to carry on and get to warmth. There was around 3 miles to go to Snake Pass and I focused on getting there and put thoughts of coldness, fatigue and hypothermia out of my mind. My only focus was to keep moving, keep talking and keep making progress.

We had some more minor navigational issues but eventually we found ourselves on the Pennine Way footpath and the gate to Snake Pass appeared out of the mist. Matt and the mountain rescue guys let me lead and dictate the pace but I felt myself get a little bit faster towards the end and the feeling was returning to my hands.

At Snake Pass I retired. I had made this decision at Shelf Moor and I knew it was the right one. This was not the time or place for being a hero and I do not regret retiring at that point. It was the right decision.

Matt carried on and finished in around 8 hours 10 minutes. I got a lift back to Edale village hall and warmth. After a couple of hours I began to feel warm and I could reflect on my performance.

I felt very proud of what I had achieved. I had done things I never thought I would do when I began my running journey two years ago and I had pushed myself beyond my limits and achieved more than I thought I ever would. Talking to other runners they said this was the worse conditions the race had been run in and this made me feel better knowing I had run in such brutal conditions and given it everything I had on the day.

My experience has not put me off the Trigger Race either. On the contrary it has strengthened my resolve to come back better and stronger in 2018 and finish the race.

Big thanks to the guys at Woodhead Mountain Rescue. Without them the day could have been much worse.

http://www.marsdentoedale.co.uk/
http://woodheadmrt.org/


It is now Wednesday and I have had time to reflect on the Huddersfield Half Marathon which together with three of my fellow runners from Queensbury Running Club I ran in on the Sunday just gone.

 

The day started warm but overcast and this filled me with confidence as the Huddersfield Half is one of the toughest half marathons in the country and a lack of sunshine would save valuable energy for the climbs that the route is renowned for and prevent the possible onset of dehydration in the later stages of the race.

I was picked and soon all four of us were on our way to Huddersfield YMCA, New Hey Road. Luckily for us there was someone in the car who had a vague idea of where we were going otherwise we could still be driving round Ainley Top now looking for the YMCA!

At the YMCA we were pleasantly surprised to find a low key affair with relatively few runners around which made for a relaxed atmosphere and runners and supporters alike able to move around freely and not worry about bumping and jostling each other. We had also arrived in plenty of time which again added to the relaxed feel of the event and enabled us to pick up our numbers and take photos at our leisure.

Outside the temperature was slowly raising and our fears of a hot run began to come back to haunt us as we took to the sparse starting line. For a large town like Huddersfield this seemed to be a small scale affair but this added to the charm of the event.

And we were off! A nice gentle downhill start through the suburbs surrounding the YMCA. I watched as my fellow Queensbury runners went off at a decent pace into the distance and remembered that this was a half marathon and not a sprint and as a slow starter I would have plenty of time to get into my rhythm and stride and maybe even catch some of the other Queensbury runners up.

Soon we were out of the housing estate and into open countryside. I have never been to this area of Yorkshire but it is beautiful and stunning in equal measure and even as you run through it you have time to have the odd glance and look in awe at the sheer magnificence of Gods Own County.

And to the first steep descent. I love running downhill as fast as I can and seeing how fast I can go before I fall and lose some skin and blood to the unforgiving tarmac. Today I was fortunate not to fall as fast as I was running and I soon made up places on other runners and was sure I could see some of the other Queensbury runners not too far ahead of me.

What goes down must come up! Sure enough I was soon at the bottom of the first steep climb and being mindful that I had not been feeling 100% all week and did not know the area I opted to take the sensible option and walk up the climb as fast as I could. This proved to be a sensible option as this climb meandered its way up the valley and whilst not as steep as the infamous Trooper Lane in Halifax was considerably longer and took just as much, if not more out of you because of its length.

Near the top was the welcome sight of a water station and mindful of the ever hotter conditions I stopped and took a cup of water. Usually I will grab a cup and sip some as I run but knowing that this course was tough, physically and mentally and feeling the sweat starting to run down my forehead into my eyes I decided to take on board as much fluid as I could rather than risk the onset of thirst and dehydration later on in the race.

I set off again knowing I had lost valuable time at the water station and began to climb again when a man came out of nowhere and gave me a bottle of Lucozade, muttered something and run back to his car! I looked at the bottle, checked it had not been tampered with, although why anyone would want to stop me running when I would be just happy to finish is beyond me. But this thought did flash through my mind and having satisfied myself I could drink this Lucozade I carried on.

At the next water station because of my Lucozade I was able to carry on straight past it and make up some time. This allowed me to put some space between myself and the heavy breathing woman behind me which gave my ears some much needed respite! And so began the descent towards the M62 before the climb towards Scammonden Dam.

I had seen the climb as I descended and had already made up my mind to walk up it rather than run as I didn’t know the route and was unsure what lay ahead of me. At the bottom of the climb I slowed to a decent walking pace and took on some much needed fluids. The heavy breathing woman who I had left behind had now caught me up and she was much stronger on the hills on the day than I was. So rather than risk wasting much needed energy racing her for no purpose I watched her slowly go into the distance and leave me behind as I made my way up the climb.

I finished my ascent and there was Scammonden Dam bathing in glorious summer sunshine. I was filled with renewed energy and began to up my pace and pull away from the pack of runners who has caught me up and were now my competitors. This was fun until it happened. My feet began to ache. Not just one of but both and all over. It felt as if I had blisters all over my feet and the bones in my feet had collapsed. This was a new pain for me and something I had not prepared for. How can you?

But I pushed on in the hope that the pain would subside but it got steadily worse. Turning right towards Golcar I saw a sign for Scapegoat Hill and my new found enthusiasm evaporated as the realisation of climbing another hill this time with painful feet hit home. I carried on and was soon rewarded with yet another stunning view of the Yorkshire countryside resplendent in glorious sunshine as the road flattened out and I was able to relax slightly and enjoy running for what it is and forget that I was racing.

This didn’t last long as a lady came up on my shoulder and for a mile or so we kept pace with each other going as fast as we could, following each twist and turn in the road, each undulation, me not daring to look behind me in case I lost those valuable seconds that can make the difference between winning and losing.

The road began to drop steeply into Golcar and I speeded up despite the pain in my feet and toes getting worse. I was passing people who had passed me now and enjoying running down through the streets of Golcar. Some people were even clapping and cheering us on our way and offering jelly babies to boost our flagging energy levels, which was a lovely touch and made our effort feel appreciated and respected.

And then I got to the bottom of the final climb. I already knew that the finish was uphill but for a first timer running the race nothing could prepare you for it. I grossly underestimated how long it was and at first I was running up it, in pain and at a slow pace but I was running. Parts of the hill were shaded by trees giving us all a welcome respite from the midday sun.

The climbing continued up and up and up. It seemed relentless, going on forever. I looked at my watch and there wasn’t far to go yet I was still climbing, feeling as if I was as far away from the end of the race as I was at the beginning. I was in agony with my feet now and the thought of just stopping there and then briefly crossed my mind. But I knew it would be a shame to stop now, so near to the finish and I remembered some encouraging words a friend of mine had said to me and this spurred me on despite the pain I was enduring with my feet.

I was walking now and everybody had stopped racing each other and were saying words of encouragement and support to each other instead. As a group of runners we had come together and all we wanted to do was conquer this hill and finish this race. Beating someone to the finish line didn’t matter anymore. All we wanted to beat was this hill and the inner demons telling us we couldn’t do it and we should stop.

And we had done it. We had got to the top of this seemingly never ending climb to be greeted by a cheery old man sat on a bench telling us the finish and relief was only round the corner through a small underpass.

I went through the underpass and was greeted by the sight of some downhill at last! My legs had nothing left in them but I put a spurt on as best as I could and soon the marshals were in sight directing us to the finish.

I rounded a corner and two of my fellow runners were there waiting for me, offering words of encouragement to go as fast as I could. I duly obliged and used up the last ounce of strength in me to give everyone a grandstand finish.

And then it was over. I crossed the finish line in an official time of 2:21:06, 40 seconds off my PB for a half marathon. On a course considerably tougher than my previous half marathon I was proud of this. The Huddersfield Half is a tough race but it is one that gives you an immense sense of satisfaction and achievement and makes you a tougher runner mentally and physically. I highly recommend this race to anyone who wants to challenge themselves as a runner and a person and just prove to themselves what they are really capable of.


Another cracking blog about fell running from the amazing Ben Mounsey

The secret fell running diary of Ben Mounsey aged 38 and 1/4

HOW IMPORTANT IS A RACE RECCE? 

Fell running is becoming an increasingly popular sport. These days the racing calendar is so heavily saturated you could race a couple of times a week if you wanted to or even twice in the same day like my hardy friend Darren Fishwick of Chorley AC. However, it’s almost impossible to find the time to practise every single race that you intend to do. So just how important is a recce?

This year I’ve had to think very carefully about choosing which races I want focus on, everything else has to fit in and become preparation for these key events. My first major goal is to try and prepare for Black Combe, the opening race of the British Fell Championship. I’ve competed on this course once before in 2008, the last time it was a Championship fixture. Unfortunately for me I don’t…

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Wow what a day, Sunday 13th December was! My very first West Yorkshire Winter League (WYWL) meeting at Dewsbury and it is a day I will never forget!

The day started with my car covered in ice, not the most encouraging of starts but when it’s cold in December you have to expect anything. Then it was time to have breakfast, get dressed and go and pick my mate up. Always happy to give someone a lift and even more so when they know where they are going. I’m legendary for getting lost even when it’s close to home. So my mate was a welcome addition to the journey.

And so with my mates excellent directions we arrived at Hopton Mills Cricket Club, Mirfield in plenty of time for the start and we were soon enjoying some friendly banter with our team mates from Queensbury Running Club (QRC). The party atmosphere was evident at the club with runners from eleven different running clubs all milling about the place getting ready for the start.

When the call came to start I went to the back and joined some of my team mates there. I do this because I’m not that fast and don’t want to get swamped by the faster runners and there were some seriously fast runners at Dewsbury on Sunday. The field was full of quality runners throughout who, irrespective of finishing position would put their heart and soul into doing their very best for their club and team mates on the day.

The starter gave the order to go and I set off steadily remembering that I have a long, tough race ahead of me and I would need lots of energy to get round the course in one piece. However after a couple of hundred yards this was soon forgotten as I started passing people and moving up the back of the field.

Immediately it was obvious that this was going to be a very muddy race as you couldn’t avoid it so I ploughed on going uphill through the mud and soon I was climbing the first serious hill. I had already decided I would walk up the hills in an effort to save energy for the flat and downhill sections. This would turn out to be a very good move.

The first hill came and went and soon I was keeping pace with the group in front and breaking away from the group behind. We hit some open country and I felt comfortable with my pace and form and then came the first mistake of the day. The woman in front turned right and for some strange reason I thought she was going for a pee! Unable to fully understand the broken English from the marshal I headed for a farm and because the road split in two I turned back to the marshal to ask which way to go.

The marshal pointed towards the field and I muttered something under my breath and set off after the pack I had been following. This pack though was now out of sight and in a field of nearly 300 runners I found myself in the middle of nowhere on my own! So I carried on running through mud and cow shit and even encountering the occasional bit of path.

I just kept going and still felt quite good. Stopping never occurred to me once. My only aim was to finish. I came down a hill and all of a sudden there was road, buildings and lots of runners! I was confused as to where to go but after asking some of my team mates in my usual direct way I was at the bottom of the final hill. I had also noticed that one of my team mates was catching me and fast so I decided I needed to put some pace into the final climb and create a gap for the finish.

At the top of the climb I looked back and could see nobody. I had done it and created the gap I needed on the final climb. I set off on the trail path but again I was lost as there was no marshals or markers to indicate which way to go. So in my usual way I just went straight forward and luckily there was a man with his son who pointed me in the right direction. I had to double back and head down the hill but by now two of my team mates had caught and passed me so I started to chase them.

But I had nothing left in my legs that would enable me to catch and pass them. I did my best and caught one of my team mates up but the other was too far in front. I did my best to sprint and thought I had done enough but then I heard some of the QRC runners who had finished shouting her name and realised she was very, very close behind me.

I thought the finish was two orange posts and I only just beat her here but apparently the finish was round the corner and because I had slowed down she beat me to the finish. I will say though that she is a great little runner who I have a lot of respect for and I couldn’t wish to lose to a better runner.

In the bar afterwards I felt light headed and I knew then I had given everything and some more on the day and I had nothing left at all. This was a good feeling and on reflection I believe that this race has made me a better runner mentally and physically. Added to this feeling was the fact that even the top runners took some wrong turns and found it very tough. When you know it’s not just you it does make you feel better in yourself and a part of the running community.

The next WYWL race is January 3rd at Idle and I feel ready for it and I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping I can do better but it is how it is on the day but I now know I can run and race cross country so I have nothing to fear.

 


Well if Tuesday was wake-up call tonight was a real slap in the face. In fact so much so that I’m going to have to finish this blog tomorrow. I am absolutely shattered and my introduction to off-road hill climbing has been a tough one, but strangely enjoyable too despite not being able to run the whole distance. My legs have fallen apart, parts of my body ache that I never knew I had yet something deep inside me wants to run this course again. I must be a glutton for punishment and pain.