Friday, 27 February 2009

Easy Week With a Winter Walk

Last Week: 56.2 miles (15.4 walked); 8350 feet; 13:39:06

The previous two weeks were hard, especially the last one and it a few days to recover from the Amble so I decided an easy week was due, probably overdue. We were attending the Rucksack Club meet at High Moss in the Duddon valley and so rather than “chasing miles” then or the rest of the week I was quite happy to enjoy the walk over part of the Duddon Valley fell race route and follow it with a sort run on Sunday morning. My mate, Keith, (the Kentmere one) brought a cold with him to the meet and I didn’t come home empty handed!

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In Upper Eskdale


Monday’s sore throat developed nicely through the week and I hope it peaked yesterday. Dry cough, streaming nose, what joy. Tuesday’s track session felt pretty good and I thought last last night’s hill session would be too much so I had a gentle road run that confirmed my chest is too tight for anything strenuous.


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Below Seathwaite Tarn

Next Week:

Initial plans to go the Lakes on Saturday have fallen through but the state of my cold it is no bad thing. I’ll have a gentle outing on Winter Hill and then Pauline and I are going to Pooley Bridge on Sunday to have a look at the start of the “Joss Naylor” route. It is not new to me; I have done it several times and once in the dark but I could still miss the first summit (Arthur’s Pike) in the dark of an April morning.

With the High Peak Marathon (, a “marathon” in the sense of a mountain marathon rather than the 26.2 version, a week tonight the rest of the week is going to involve a bit of resting towards the back end. We are team 25, the “Rucksack Youngsters” and are off at 23:22, Friday night.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Anglezark Amble Aftermath

Last Week: 55.0 miles; 4550 feet; 08:59:41

Apologies for the title, I couldn’t resist the alliteration. As you probably surmised from my account of the Amble I didn’t catch Albert but neither did I get caught by the chasing runners. I think the pair (having enjoyed their tea at Slipper Lowe) caught the Preston Harrier and may even have caught him by White Coppice, the last check point. I managed a PB by a few minutes, my sub 4 hour target and my best place but Albert & I weren’t the only ones from HRMI there. My wife, Pauline, and Nicole were the next RMI Harriers to finish in 4:58 for their second consecutive sub 5, Ray Stafford next in 5:06 with John Swift (Chorley) not far behind. Brother Ed SWift and Richard Longlands also finished as did Lola Smal (FV75)who completed the short (16 mile) route in 4:48.

We had a few beers and kettle crisps to celebrate (the High Life, eh!) and I managed a pretty slow 4.5 miles through Borsden Woods on Sunday. That was enough to make me decide to miss Monday’s morning run and try to revert to a normal week from Tuesday. About half way through Tuesday’s track session I felt like I was on my second pyramid. The rest of the week was a bit of a struggle and missed the Hill Session on Thursday because my legs had done enough – a final 5.5 on the road gave me exactly 55 miles for the week, one for each of my years and that was too good to miss.

That was my 9th consecutive week of over 53 miles, with only 1 less than 55 miles and had it not been for a cold in December it would have been my 12th consecutive 50+ week. I think an easier week is due or perhaps overdue. The last two weekends have shown, albeit with good conditions underfoot, my winter training is working and having avoided injury I am in better shape now than this time last year. I need to start increasing the miles, adding more climbing and getting out on Sundays with Pauline to have a look at the routes for this summer. I hope the weather will let us.

Next Week:

Rucksack Club meet at High Moss for a long “winter walk” on Saturday and if the weather holds we should get a short steep run on Sunday morning before coming home. The walk should provide plenty of climbing and walking rather than running should refresh my legs.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Anglezark Amble

This is the ‘year in 7’ when the Amble doesn’t fall on the day before the Winter Hill fell race and so I was expecting a field with a “keen front”. I think I have finished in the top 5 during the last couple of years I wasn’t expecting to do any better than, perhaps, top 10. Conditions still looked to be good but thawing and the section after Belmont still had the potential to be difficult and the climb up Great Hill would probably not be frozen at all.

Off with Albert Sunter at the front, off too fast and before the Pike I knew there was no point in trying to keep up so I dropped off to a nearly comfortable pace losing another couple of places to reach the Mast with three in front. Another 4 came past, very fast, on the descent and I began to wonder about a top 10 place. The next check point doesn’t record numbers, it only offers drinks and biscuits. It is also about 15-20 yards off the route and there is no need to visit it , as I found out last year. Not stopping there picked up 5 places and although I conceded 2 of them before crossing Stake Moss I was able to hang on to that pair and stay ahead of the rest. The rough ground slowed them and I started the climb to Turton Heights within sight of the second placed runner. Last year I didn’t eat or drink enough and wanting to avoid a repeat I sorted my check point strategy – refill my bottle, take food, say “thanks” and get away as quickly as possible, carry the food until the next climb and eat & drink then. This worked so well at the Strawberry Duck that I caught the second place runner (from Preston Harriers) almost as soon as we left the CP. Eating on the climb out, I reached the stile at the top of the hill just ahead of him and then stretched my legs to discourage him from chasing me down to the A666 and Cadshaw Valley.

Now with a comfortable gap and Albert in sight I lost he plot completely, thinking it would be a good idea to catch Albert I started pushing a bit harder going up Cadshaw – what a plonker! Not only could I not catch Albert I should have been eating and drinking on the long steady climb. When it became obvious I wasn’t reducing the gap I started eating and started suffering for my impetuousness. The leg to Darwen Tower was going to be a long one and a long one it was. By the Tower, I had taken a heavy fall and spilt almost all my drink, lost two places and had another runner right behind me but I had managed to keep eating and I did drink what was left after the spill. Not long after the Tower the woman behind overtook me easily and, seemingly, without having to try too hard. Dropping off the moor she followed the zigzag track while the straight path allowed me to get in front of her and close the gap on the pair in front. Reaching Slipper Lowe CP just behind them I heard them ask for “Tea or anything warm, please”. so they had suffered in the cold wind too. Grabbing some malt loaf, topping up my bottle, saying hello to John Crook and setting off immediately meant only Albert was in front of me. Great Hill was going to be wet and slow so I enjoyed the malt loaf on the way up. Looking back I saw the pair just leaving the road as I started the steepest part of the climb but I also saw the Preston Harrier much closer but walking the first part of the climb. Now all I had to do was reach the top and stretch out the gap on the descent. Having been down here a couple of weeks ago I knew where the “good running” would be.

As I reached White Coppice I saw one other runner appear over the skyline and leaving White Coppice I saw one of the pair three quarters of the way down the hill. From here to the end there were “short route” walkers to chase and the route twists and turns so that it is difficult to see very far ahead. As long as I was in sight I pushed on as hard as I could (which probably wasn’t very hard). I would like to be able to say I paced it to the end to finish in sub 4 but I didn’t – with ever increasing panic I watched the seconds tick away and only as I reached the last field before Rivington did I realise finishing in under 4 hours was possible.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Week Commencing 7th February

Last Week: 59 miles; 8160 feet; 11:27:04

Saturday round the Kentmere Horseshoe with Colin was a fantastic day, We got some strange looks from walkers (runners do anyway although some walkers nod or say “hello” but not many) who clearly thought we were irresponsible being out without boots & crampons. Strange thing was, we were the only ones actually carrying ice axes (with one exception) – those other few who had an axe with them had it secured, safely out of the way on their rucksack so that if they slipped they couldn’t reach it – even those walking on crampons. Crampons, as Colin observed, seem to have become fashion accessories and, in the process, people have forgotten that crampons make things easier but an axe makes things safer.

Tirade over and a good race on Sunday, great conditions underfoot and I doubt I’ll ever get round that race as fast again because those conditions are so rare. I wasn’t looking forward to it much and coming off the last fell on Saturday I wondered why I was doing it. It is the big local fell race, it has a great atmosphere and even in good conditions it is a tough outing. I felt pretty good all the way round although I had little left for the last climb even there I wasn’t reduced to walking. Much to my surprise, at the end, I found I had enjoyed it – for the first time. Thanks Tony for organising it and thanks too to the marshals for making it all possible.

I missed the track session on Tuesday because The Rucksack Club persuaded Colin Prior ( to give an illustrated talk on mountain photography. He is relaxed speaker with an inspiring portfolio and an ability to explain clearly what he is trying to achieve as well as how he is trying to do it. An entertaining, insightful evening exploring the chasm between ‘point and press’ and making a living from taking photos in the mountains. I have just signed up for his “helpful tips” but don’t hold your breath – it will still be “point and press” on here.

Finishing the week with last night’s hill session completed my 8th consecutive 50 mile week. I have probably averaged about 58 miles a week since having a cold in mid December and there were a couple of 50+ weeks before that. At the moment, I feel pretty good, any niggles are very slight and I am just thinking about increasing the miles a bit and increasing the climbing because that is what makes the difference.

Finally, on Twitter, I met Gordon Scott from Tiree who is going to Everest Base Camp in April and blogging his experience. His blog is worth a read and there is a link below.

Next Week: Saturday is the “Anglezark Amble” a 25 mile run over Winter Hill and its environs. A thaw seems to be beginning so perhaps the ground won’t be as good as last weekend. Last year I did in 4:02, about 30 seconds quicker than my previous best but I did the last 12 miles or so with a torn calf muscle – I know I shouldn’t have and I didn’t run for 3 weeks afterwards. I hesitate to make predictions especially when the weather makes such a difference but I should be able to get round in under 4 hours.

As February draws on and, encouragingly, the days get longer I need to start planning the next few weeks to ensure we get enough time on the long routes planned for the summer. The main ones are, in April,  “Joss Naylor Traverse” (48 miles), in May “The Fellsman” (62 miles) and in June the “55at55” about 75 miles and 30,000 feet of climbing in 24 hours. Before that, in March, I am racing as part of the Rucksack Club Vets team in the 42 mile “High Peak Marathon” but more of these in due course.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Winter Hill Fell Race

Despite, or because of, yesterday’s fun on the snow and ice in the Lake District the good conditions underfoot and a relatively sensible start allowed me to take 9.5 minutes off my previous best time so I am pretty pleased with the outing. Pauline took the photos.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Kentmere Horseshoe in winter conditions

Most of Thursday’s snow had been blown away by the wind leaving old, compacted snow and plenty of ice. The descent into Nan Bield pass was treacherous and made more difficult by spindrift blown by a ferocious freezing wind – probably the only place where the wind hit forecast strength, fortunately.

Elsewhere Colin and I encountered near white-out conditions, only briefly but long enough for us to miss a turning on High Street. Another fantastic winter day out and the first time I have run carrying an ice-axe. Perhaps not ideal preparation for tomorrow’s race but days like this are too good, and rare, to miss.

(All the pictures should open full-size in a new window on clicking)

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Colin just below Shipman Knotts and the views up Kentmere valley(Above)

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Kentmere Valley (left) and view back over Kentmere Pike and my axe on its first outing of the year


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Kentmere reservoir and me at the south end of High Street in black so that Colin could see me

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Kentmere reservoir from the other side if the horseshoe

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Finally, my mate whom we met on the way up Kentmere Pike much our (and his) surprise

Friday, 6 February 2009

Winter Hill at the end of January

Last Week: 67.4 miles (10 walked), 6600 feet, 13:14:04

Long run over Winter Hill on Saturday morning, intending to run round the “Four Peaks” (Healey Nab, Great Hill, the Pike and Winter – this is a charity walk that takes place in the summer starting near Healey Nab) the strength, temperature and direction of the wind in Horwich persuaded me to reverse the order. Good call. With the wind behind me over Winter Hill and Spitlers Edge it was so much more pleasant than it would have been in the other direction – Denis and I know, having done into an icy wind the last time. Leaving Great Hill I wondered about the best way on to Healey Nab, Coope’s Dozen doesn’t “require” White Coppice but I was too far down the hill to think about going straight to the Waterman’s Cottage so I would go to White Coppice. I decided on a an unfamiliar path and saw the deer which was wonderful. I followed Albert’s route off Healey Nab which should help for this year’s Coope’s Dozen and made my way back to Horwich, pleased with the 19 miles.2009-01-31_Winter_Hill_ 007

Sunday was an easy day. 10 mile walk with Westmorland & North Lancs LDWA group before our last Xmas Lunch of the season. Four early morning runs, a good track session (16 x 300 reps – 300 metres is my second favourite distance. 70 miles is my favourite and I have trouble with everything in between) and a hard Hill Session last night to finish – there are no easy ones but the short intense sessions are the hardest. Have now added Single Leg dip reps a couple on nights a week to strengthen my quads and generally just increase the pain and, hopefully, the gain.

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The contrasting clouds in the two photos taken from almost the same place was interesting – the exposure range on the lower one was probably just too much for the camera as the sky is beginning to burn out. The sky was almost metallic and becoming threatening when just to left, above Winter Hill there were only very high clouds and blue sky beyond.

Next Week

Sunday is the Winter Hill fell race on the 1 in 7 years when it takes place on a different weekend to the Anglezark Amble. I have been hoping for much more snow so that it covered the old icy snow here and on the Lakeland summits. This hasn’t happened and it doesn’t look as though it will which jeopardise Saturday’s run in the Lakes – now looking like a last minute decision. One year I will prepare properly for the Winter Hill FR, I think.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Deer on Healey Nab

Yesterday on a long run over Winter Hill I took an unfamiliar path or two on the north face (as it were) of Healey Nab and finding myself on a track heading back down the side of the hill I turned right into the woods. The going was a bit slow and I looked up and saw two deer standing watching. As soon as I stopped one trotted off but the other, with new antlers, stayed just long enough for a photo.


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It seems a pity to build a mountain bike track here but that is what is happening, perhaps though, it might help reduce the damage to the ground on Winter Hill and the Pike.