Posts Tagged ‘wet’


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/


last week it was warm and dry
no wind, no rain, no mud
i ran free, i ran with ease
leaping over rocks
flying down embankments
soaring over hills
splashing through streams

today my feet are wet and cold
covered in mud, heavy to move
running is slow as i fight the elements
wind rips the skin away from my face
the cold penetrates my clothes
laughing at my futile attempts
to keep it out

in a week summer has gone
and autumn has arrived

blue replaced with endless greys
clear skies with threatening darkness
dry, hard trails are now
thick with layers of mud
puddles litter the paths
leaves dance in the wind
as the autumnal opera begins


Ogden Water is a local nature reserve surrounding a reservoir local to Queensbury where I live. It is a lovely place to go for a run or walk and is very popular with people who visit it all year round. There is a path around the reservoir where you can take a leisurely stroll with children and dogs, or you can go for a nice run safe in the knowledge that there are no cars trying to kill you! Alternatively you can head up into the woods and run the trails that take you through them. This gives you the opportunity to try running off road in a reasonably safe environment without going too far too soon and getting yourself into trouble.

However as I have recently found out Ogden Water is also the venue for a New Year’s day fell race, the Giants Tooth, where competitors race up to the Giants Tooth from the carpark up the trails through the woods and on the surrounding path back to the carpark. The race is around 3 miles and is run at a fast pace.

On Monday 7th I decided to do a recce of the route. I printed off a map I found on the internet of the approximate route and familiarised myself with it. The trial up to the Giants Tooth is easy to navigate and whilst steeper than I realised should not present too much of a challenge for anyone who has been running. On trails it is not too dangerous either although care must be taken when ascending the first climb as there are some wooden sleepers that act as steps but in wet and muddy conditions can be dangerous is a foot is misplaced on them.

Once at the Giants Tooth most of the climbing has been done and you are treated to some stunning views over Thornton Moor, Queensbury and Halifax. If you are racing though you will not have time to savour the views as you will be too busy trying to get your best time! However this was the point where the familiar became unfamiliar and not for the first time I took a wrong turn and whilst not lost I struggled.

I tried to remember the route from the map and decided that out of the three paths in front of me I would take the one that took me furthest away from the woods assuming that this would be the route as the other paths may make the total distance too short for the race. So off I went running through water and mud as is the norm at this time of the year, following a vague trail through the marsh reeds.

Soon I came across a stile, not uncommon and climbed over it and looked for the next trail path. I soon spotted this and began a descent down a step and at times tricky path but one that was by no means unrunnable until I got near the bottom and the path disappeared. This was worrying as I needed to cross a stream at the bottom and begin an ascent back to the woods. I looked around for a stile but could see nothing. Not wanting to damage what looked like a newly erected barbed wire fence I looked for the safest descent to the stream and carefully began to negotiate a steep embankment where I had to create my own path as there was not one visible.

This was where the familiar became unfamiliar for me. I thought I knew Ogden Water and I thought I had walked and run most of the trails around it. However this was a new part of it for me and all of a sudden I felt very isolated from the outside world, hidden in the vee of a valley away from all other life. I was stood at the bottom of a small valley surrounded by nothing but marsh reeds, water and mud. I knew there would be others walking Ogden Water and the moors but there was nothing to indicate any sign of life.

This made me realise how dangerous running off road can be sometimes. You may think you know an area intimately and then decide to take a new path out of curiosity and find yourself in a place that is at once unfamiliar, dangerous and exciting. What is dangerous for me is that I never take my mobile phone with me on a run so if anything was to happen I would be stuck on the moors on my own with no way of telling anyone. If I had broken my ankle on Monday I may very well still be on the moors lying at the bottom of a valley.

Today was not to be that day and I continued my run which was now reduced to a crawl, up a steep embankment looking for anything that might resemble a path. I scrambled up the rest of the embankment and eventually found something resembling a path which led to a stile and back to the safety of the woods.

The rest of the run was on familiar trail paths and my pace picked up immediately, at some points surprisingly so according to Strava! And at the end I had done around 3 miles and felt a sense of accomplishment having discovered another part of Ogden Water. I completed the run in around 42 minutes which isn’t a great time for 3 miles but considering the descent and ascent of the valley I felt reasonably happy with it. If I go a different route I should be able to knock at least 5 minutes off that time.,

I’m sure that Ogden Water has no more surprises for me but you never know! Next time I do a recce of the Giants Tooth I will take a slightly different route that doesn’t go as far off the usual track and also have someone with me who knows the route. That should help me improve my time!

 


Yesterday, Sunday 31st May I went for my first long training run, the first of many. To be honest I don’t know many places where I can go on a long run off-road despite living in a semi-rural part of the country. This is as much to do with my knack of just getting out there and running or walking but not taking any notice of where I’m going as anything else!

However I do know Haworth, the world famous home of the Bronte’s and the moors are said to have provided the inspiration for Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights. I have walked these moors many times myself and so they are an ideal place for me to start my off-road training as I know the paths and trails and can vary my route every time.

So off to Penistone Hill Country Park in my car I went and soon I was sat there in the car park looking towards Top Withens on a wet and windy Sunday morning. The scene could have come straight from Wuthering Heights and I would not have been surprised to have seen Cathy or Heathcliff come walking by, hand in hand, two lovers forever trapped on the moors…

This is the view that greeted me as I parked up

Haworth Moor 310515 Wet and Windy

But I didn’t have time to sit there daydreaming; I had a training run to do! So off I set on a familiar path to the Bronte waterfalls, Top Withens, then the Trig point on top of the moors and finally Alcomden Stones. This is around 3 ½ miles but always seems a lot further. The route starts off on trail before turning to rock and mud and then finally open moorland above Top Withens and on the way to the Trig point and Alcomden Stones.

Today though extra care was needed as the route was slippy and muddy because of the rain but I still made good progress up to the Stones getting there in around 45 minutes. Alcomden Stones are an outcrop of ancient stones allegedly where prehistoric men worshipped. I think it is a spectacular place simply because it is one of the few places where you can go and experience freedom from all the stresses of modern day life. There is nothing around for miles and you can feel free here.

But when you get here you also have a problem. You can go back to Top Withens on the trail that is easy to navigate or you can try and get down to Ponden Kirk. The problem here is that the trail runs out and you are left on open marshland and bog with no clear path. I of course took this option and followed the stream as closely as I could. If you follow a stream you will eventually come out at a point where you will be able to make a more informed choice of route.

I knew though where this stream came out but this did not make the run any easier. My feet got soaking wet standing in water and covered in thick mud as I made my way as quickly as possible across the marshland. But I enjoyed this, far more than I enjoy running on roads. This for me is true, pure running, in the wilds with the elements against you and you need all your wits about you to avoid coming a cropper and taking a wet and muddy fall!

But I managed to avoid falling and after a lot of jumping around over embankments and avoiding muddy bog I made it to the end of the route and Ponden Kirk. Most normal people at this point take the path over the top of the Kirk down towards the reservoir. Me however being a bit mad go down the side of the Kirk, a steep and narrow path just so I can go back up it. Yesterday it was very slippy so I had to be careful or I might fall and if you fall here that could be it…

Back up to the top path and having avoided falling I ploughed on down towards Ponden Reservoir and on to the path that would take me back up to the waterfalls and the path back towards my car. Apart from getting a bit lost the rest of the run was uneventful but satisfying as I was building up my distance training now.

That was apart from on the path from the waterfalls back to Penistone Hill. The path is narrow in parts and strewn with rocks, but I had a group of older hikers in front of me that were slowing my pace. To get round them I took some risks and jumped over and off rocks with a pace and agility that surprised me! The best moment came when one of them said ‘there’s a fell runner, bloody idiot!’ I took this as a compliment! Nobody had ever called me a fell runner before!

And 9.3 miles later I was back at my car. Feet soaking, dripping wet, muscles already aching, tired but having an immense feeling of satisfaction and achievement deep inside me from having achieved so much more in my first proper training session than I thought I could. I already have a route in mind for next week. But that’s another story.