Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Year of 2011

A year that I got addicted with Adventure Racing and Ultra's and knows how lucky he is to have a understanding loving girlfriend. The year started jobless and too much time on my hands and so not wanting to let the fitness I had built up from The Dablam trip go to waste. we were signed up to do a couple of adventure races. But, what else could i do. I do run a lot but not very far. So I went out in February and ran 20 off road muddy cold miles and rather than putting me off i wanted more and after pouring over the limitless information on the web on off road running i came across a term 'Ultra'. I have never considered running a marathon let alone further but, the thought of getting out of your own personal bubble and comfort zone and challenging yourself with things that will push you excites me. So I signed up to do a 30 mile run in April. Once completed and being wearily content i now knew that anything was a possibility you just have to put in a little hard work and the rewards will follow.
With the AR's and an Ultra done I now knew that setting myself a goal each month would a) keep me motivated and b) open up more possibilities. Next, pondering what to do in sunny May I just decided one day to get myself over to the Isle of Wight and bike off road around it. I completely underestimated how tough this would be but enjoying a beer and curry later that day, again, I had pushed myself out of my comfortable bubble and felt better for it.
June brought a team effort of completing the Welsh 3000's. I love North Wales and trips like this just confirm why this is one of the best places. Although the legs took a battering and took a week to fully recover. The South Downs were July's tempter 133miles biking the SD trail to Brighton and back. Pure stunning scenery and just on my doorstep.
August brought the highlight, a mammoth task of crossing the country using multi disciplines (kayaks, bikes and running) over 4 days. Great experience.
I had busted my ribs from falling off my bike in august and this took a couple of months to fully heal and with a holiday planned as well things had to go easy for a bit. September I completed 26miles over the Jurassic coastline in the Purbecks. A fine day out with the best views but I had missed out part of the coastline due to military closure. So, this will have to be fully completed next year. I cannot wait.
October I managed to run over a 100miles in a week. Tough going and hats off to people who do this amount of training regularly. The realisation of how hard a 100mile race will take to complete sinks in after this week. But the ambition is to do one of these one day.
With things winding down for the winter in November i took part in a fun muddy hell run with friends and then went wild camping, another first and to make this into a challenge I ran all the 22miles back home.
So, after all that what for December. Well, after that kind of year you gotta treat yourself so I will be going skiing over xmas and new year and hitting the slopes and backcountry hard and mulling over what to do for next year, more ultras, more adventure races, more wild camping, try mountain marathons.....

But that's for next year what have I done this year. I like looking at stats and so I put some in below and contemplate the task ahead in surpassing what I have achieved in 2011.

212 days of training managing to run 1326 miles in 217 hours. Biked 565 miles in 80 hours and completed over 172 hours of other activities.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mud and Micro Adventures

Two events worthy of note this month. I was taking the month of November easy. After running100miles in a week late last month, and a niggling groin, my main aim was just to go to the Hellrun Turbo X and enjoy the day but after a friend had hinted at a chance to go wild camping the week after I just had to go and complete a mini micro adventure, which after thoughtful planning would include running home.

First the mud
The Turbo X is a 10 mile cross country run. It gentle eases you into the woods and then you are hit with an array of large puddles, rivers and swamps to fight your way through. Words hardly do it justice so hopefully the pictures will.

Micro Adventure
Having wanted to bivi outdoors all summer I thought my chance of wild camping this year was over with the winter months drawing in but there are madder folk than me and a quick chat later Rob had invited me to go wild camping somewhere in late November. Even I thought that this could be just a little late in the year but there was no deferring from the other guys so I was good to go as well.
There are few issues with going wild camping, which is the appeal, it's simple and you get off the beaten track. Wear some clothes, take a sleeping bag and bivi sack, food, stove and plenty of wine and you've bagged it. My main sticking point was getting to the start line,
 in Alton. It was near on 3hrs on a train to take me 20 odd miles. Railways! Luckily for me a friend was able to drop me off in Alton. Unlucky for me this was 3 hours before the arrival of the others and so after investigating the high street in 5 minutes I dropped into a local tavern for 2, maybe 3, cheeky brews. All part of getting into the spirit of the event! The guys soon arrived at the station and introductions were made. Rob, Steve, Neil and Greg forging the Southern Micro Adventure gang. A short detour via the Off License to stock up on more wine supplies and we were heading into the wilderness via the A31. Once off the roads and free of traffic we got into a steady rhythm on The St Swithuns Way. After 7miles of hiking we entered Old Down Wood, our destination for the night. The bivi spot took a little finding due to the isolated location but once settled and made comfy an enjoyable evening was had with good food (apart from the courgettes), plentiful wine and, after foraging the surrounding area, plenty of dry(ish) wood for a splendid fire. All topped off with a dodgy selection of loud music with the last 5 decades or so being played out. Bedding down around the fire I was warm, comfy and looking forward to a night under the stars in the tranquility of the surroundings. Although I couldn't see the stars I could feel the rain as it gently sprinkled my face. No one else moved so I decided to also hold my ground and soon enough the rain dissipated.
Sleep came with the continued noise of nameless persons 'letting em rip'. I was also to be awoken, thankfully not by these noises, but by at least 3 of the camp mates blissfully snoring me into consciousness. After the 3rd time I was woken up by the 'land whales' conversing I decided the best course of action was to move outta there and got a great sleep for the remainder of the night.
Waking up, the boys were already on the case of cooking brekkie and brewing up. Bliss. This was scoffed down and we were all packed and ready to move off in no time at all. The guys were heading back to Alton but I had decided to run home, turning this micro adventure into a macro one. After fond farewells I jogged off and it didn't take me long to get somewhat lost, a combination of a bleary wine head, identical farmers fields and no signs. Back on the right track I made good progress through Ropley and after more non existent signs in Bramdean Common I ploughed on, helped on my way by a group of horse riders. Back on track and zoning out, this run felt harder by carrying a full size rucksack, I neared Bramdean and realised yet again I was going the wrong way. No problem, I could just do a horseshoe back onto the track home, only frustrated by having to run on some roads for a short distance. From here, through Cheriton and to Cheesefoot Head was slow going. It was a constant string of ups and downs and my legs could in no way run the ups and so I had to resort to walking (which did give me time to eat and drink and enjoy the countryside). From Cheesefoot it was an never ending series of trails to Winchester and Twyford and finally down to the Itchen river. Good and flat here all the way to Otterbourne with uplifting, stunning scenery. One last hill to saunter over and then a quick home run to the finish line.
I covered 22miles in a little over 4 hours. This was a hard slog, although the terrain was no different to what I normally travel. So the lack of pace could be attributed to a fair bit of booze the previous day and I definitely underestimated how carrying a large (not heavy) rucksack would tire my legs quite considerably.

Still, my first foray into wild camping was hugely enjoyable (cheers Rob, Steve, Neil and Greg) and I am already excited about what the next micro adventure has in store. Bring it on and I'll bring the wine.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

2011 Completed challenges

  • November - Mud and a Micro adventure
Muddy Hell run The Bordon Turbo X - 10miles 1hr19mins
Wild camping + 22miles in 4 hrs
  • October - Running 100 miles in a week?
Completed 101.5 miles in around 15hrs30mins.
  • September 16th - Jurrassic Coast Run
26miles taking 5hours (+/- 3700ft)
  • August 26 to 29th - Adidas Terrex Coast to Coast
200miles in 27hours with +/- 25,000ft
(23miles paddling, 40m running, 36m Mtn Biking and 101m of Road cycling)
Placed 22 out of 48 teams.
  • July 8th & 9th - South Downs Mtn Bike
133 miles with over 15,000 feet of ascent and descent for 18.5 hours.
  • June 18th - Welsh 3000's - North Wales
14 Peaks in 14 hours over 40kms.
  • May 10th - Isle of Wight Off Road Randonee Mtn Bike
53 miles taking 9hrs.
  • April 30th - XNRG Pony Express Ultra - New Forest
30 miles - My first Ultra, competing on day 1.
Time = 4hr55mins

  • April 16th & 17th - Quest Adventure Race - Purbecks
2 day (12+hrs) challange of riding, kayaking and running (plus nighttime orienteering).
Came 5th overall (2nd for the last day).

  • March 26th - Quest Adventure Race - New Forest
6 hours of riding, kayaking and running.
Came 2nd in class (out of 34 teams) and 7th overall (96).

  • February - 20 mile winter run.
  • January - Winter climbing in Wales.

100 Miles from home

After returning from holiday and recovering from jet lag, a family bereavement  and my knee playing up. October was fast disappearing and I had yet to set myself a challenge. It came to me on my second consecutive run. How many miles could I achieve in a week? I had to abandon this straight away as I strained my calf muscle and so, spent the next few days frustratingly inactive. But, i still wanted this challenge, plus, I couldn't think of anything else.
The following week came and so i went for it. Again, this was badly planned as the previous night i had played squash for the first time in a few years and so had the dreaded squash bum and thighs to contend with. But, i was not trying to break any speed records etc and so took each day as it came and decided ad hoc on where to run and what distance depending on how i felt (which was generally pretty tired i have to say, not helped by having a groin strain by day 3).

Day1(pm) Baddesley, 8 miles off road.
One of my usual runs through uplifting wooded areas. Upset to see the loggers destroying another area of local forest - why do they do this?!

Day 2 River Itchen, 10 miles mainly off road (18)
Another favourite (in fact i love all these runs). A short road section to Otterbourne woods. Then down to the river, a stunning up and down loop of this breathtaking area.

Day 3 New Forest, 15 miles off road (33)
A superb rolling loop around Fritham. Plenty of deer, pony and donkeys to look out for to keep the mind ticking. extremely tired towards the end where i think i might of pulled my groin huddling the heath. My only run I drove to.

Day 4 Ampfield, 14 miles off road (47)
Sore groin but more energy levels (my yin yang). Weather still holding out perfectly on some great trails. Worried that evening that my challenge could be over depending on how it goes tomorrow.

Day 5 Winchester, 18 miles off road (65)
Got to Winchester via the Monarch and Claradon Ways and although my groin was stiff and unsettling it was no worse and so i pushed in an extra loop for extra mileage. Has to be one of my favourite runs (have i said that already?). It does take in all there is. Trails, woods, open land, rivers, hills, a village, a town and a city on a beautiful Autumn's day.

Day 6 Eastleigh Running Club, 7.5 miles road (72.5)
I have contemplated joining a running club for a while now. I run on my own and maybe it was worth trying to link up with like minded people. So i went down and the rain certainly came down. We ran at pace and stopped every so often for people to catch up. Not my ideal running with roads and breaks but the club itself is full of enthusiastic friendly people and so will be a good break from my routines especially through the winter.

Day 7 Southampton, 21 miles (93.5)
Stiff groin today due to the extra pace that was put on last night resulting in a very slow pace, but, I got the mileage in (and some hills). A great run, this has a strange feeling of solitude even if surrounded by 2 large towns and a city and with the fresh downpours it felt like a proper wet and muddy winter run.

Day 8 Chandlers Ford, 8 miles (Yeeha made it = 101.5)
Bread and butter run. Finished off with the run i do the most and made sure i did it before 5pm and so it falls into a calender week i have completed these runs and made my goal.

Totals : 101.5 miles in 15.5hours)

So, delighted that i had run over 100miles in a week, my previous best was around 40 miles. And now done something i know I could handle if I ever needed to do this sort of mileage again. Although next time with lessons learnt I would definitely not play squash the day before as this prevented me from doing a couple of double daily runs early in the week so that i could take in a much smaller run at some point and then maybe be able to go for an extra long run. For next time then, if i have the urge.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Vegas Trip

Video and Photo's of recent trip to the USofA.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Purbeck's running

Red flag, bugger. Who would of thought that the MOD would be playing army on a Friday. So my best laid plans were scuppered. What to do? I was intending to run the Jurassic coast line to near weymouth and back to kimmeridge. Infact my Sept event was going to be a 50 miler this weekend but as we all know, what we want to do and can do aren't possible from time to time. With my rib injury i have done pretty little this last month (C2C in exception) and my knee was also playing up which stopped me from going out last weekend for a long run. So with this being my last chance to do something for sept i was now facing down what to do. Simple if i cant go west I'll go east. I had no maps but i have climbed swanage for years so i have a little local knowledge. Hang on. I'm in swanage on a beautiful day..why aren't i climbing..hold on, this is why i have never run the Jurassic coast as climbing the sea cliffs always favours a hard slog on the purbeck hills.
But I am here now with no distractions, unless i run into a tank. I turn myself around and head east to Swyre head and decide on making it up as i plod along. The ridgeline is superb with a couple of tough ups which i try to run up to no avail. Upon reaching Swyre head I only had 2 options, to either drop down to the coastline or head inland. Since I was planning on coming back via the coast I went inwards along the top of an amazing bowl. Unfortunately i then dropped down and onto a road, something i had wanted to avoid. but, i soon soon Corfe castle and figured out where i was, nearing Kingston and a favourite pub (Scott Arms). Here again I dithered on whether to take the road to Matravers or drop down into another valley via a path. Wanting to stay offroad I took the path and into the valley i went. Traversing beautiful farmlands and all types of farm animals, including a large pack of Alpaca's I ended up in Langton Matravers from which there are a multitude of paths heading to Swanage and the coasts headland. Once at the headland I took a break and ate a sandwich to try and ease a nagging stomach pain and take a painkiller for my knee.
The next stretch, which I know well from climbing, was a joy. My stomach aches lessened and my knee was forgotten as I meandered my way on the South West path only the old scattered quarry mines slowed the pace with hard ups and downs to pass them by. Approaching Aldhelms Head the inclines started to show themselves. With tiring legs these ups just got harder and with the wind battering me full on constantly my head was wishing for the end. When i turned the corner of Aldhelm I was taken aback by the Jurrassic coastline, although my heart sank a little more as i contended in my mind of all the hills i still had to hit. The end would just have to wait a while.
I decide to walk more and more here especially the hills I was incapable of doing anything apart from huff and puff up these now. But, I did enjoy the downs. I hammered these fast and my legs felt surprisingly strong. I wish there were more hills i could train on locally. Soon I was sprinting down into Chapmans Pool a beautiful idyllic spot for anyone to admire. Admiring soon turning to hurt as I made my way up over a 100m vertical for a km, ouch. More awesome views from the top though and I was sure I could see the end with no further big hills.
Another fast descent and I was 'cruising' past Kimmeridge ledges and could see the tower at the bay. Descending into Kimmeridge bay I took a break to admire the views and take a few shots. With still another 2km to go to the car I didn't linger long and taking the long way back didn't enthuse me at all. Arriving back I managed to buy a cold orange and lemonade from the cafe and take a seat after 5hours on the move covering around 26miles of tough terrain (circa 3700feet).

From 2011 Purbeck run

A great days running and I surprising felt good, tired, but in a good way seeing that my training had been low these last 6 weeks. I recommend anyone to run/walk the Jurassic coastline it is simply beautiful and whats best for me is that i still have the westside of kimmerigde to explore now - well maybe next month. And even better as i contemplate linking it all up with a run from Studland to Weymouth. Mouth watering.

From 2011 Purbeck run

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Adidas Terrex Coast to Coast 4 Day Adventure Race

Being fairly new at adventure racing it was with a little apprehension that we decided to sign up to a 4 day challenge. I blame Jiri myself after meeting him at a QuestAR event and sold it to us. He was coming over from Qatar and doing it solo, so, we couldn't exactly not do it. The months flew by and the training went well but every time we thought we had a 3 person to do the event with something fell through. With time running out Jake had found the perfect partner, Ben, an experience adventure racer who could show us the ropes. He also had a support crew for us in Gill and so, we were ready for this big challenge that awaited us.
Heading up on the Wednesday in the driving rain and a half comatosed Jake. Gill was having second thoughts on crewing for us. She had an option of racing instead. This caused all sorts of panic and confusion as Ben and Gill were heading up tomorrow in a separate van. The morning brought better news in that Gill was happy to crew and look after us for the event. Good news and the weather was perfect, so we headed out for a pre race warm up climb. We were in the Lake District after all. Little Chamonix is an easy climb but so enjoyable and doable in short time allowing us to head over to St Bees and go shopping and set up my tent. We also met up with Jiri and his brother Jan and enjoyed catching up over a couple of beers. I had thought driving up from the south coast was bad but they had just driven near on 24hrs from the Czech Republic. That evening we enjoyed a short walk and watched the sunset over the Irish Sea. Ben and Gill arrived shortly after to set up there gear and for us to have a 5 minute race preparation. Agree on who's doing what stage, good. Don’t get lost, good and no slacking, sorted. The Adidas Terrex team must be quaking in their spd's.
The day of the race arrived. I had yet another lacklustre nights sleep. I had busted my ribs biking 3 weeks ago and have struggled to sleep well since and sleeping in a tent did not help one bit (even with a mat and 2 pillows). Although today was a comparative lay in at 7am get up. We drove into Whitehaven fuelled up in eager anticipation of the race. Ben managed to deflate this with a 'Sorry guys I left the oars back at camp'. D'oh, back to St Bees to pick them up. Let's start again. We had finally arrived at the start of this amazing race. The atmosphere was buzzing, competitors were to-ing and fro-ing getting those last minute adjustments done. The setting looked well organised and professional. People were taking pictures of people and the cameramen were following James Cracknell around (he is a superstar I have to admit, full of admiration for what this guy has done and achieved). A quick race briefing and we were soon slotting ourselves into our kayaks for the off.

From 2011 Coast to Coast

Stage 1 Kayak to St Bees 7miles 1hr6mins
A mass start in Whitehaven marina. Couldn't have asked for anywhere better. The weather was perfect and this just felt like a big event. We made a good start in our double Necky kayak. A few argy bargys and we were not far of the lead. Once out the harbour we just got a good rhythm and only a couple of the lighter faster kayaks managed to overtake us. Landing in the surf of St Bees we waded ashore for Jake to dib out and get ready for his bike turnaround.
Stage 2 Cycle to Loweswater 25.0mi, 1hr19min ^1549 v1230' (Transition 5mins. Lost 20+mins)
Boys nailed it - transition team didn't - lost 25mins because we arrived late. Extremely annoyed here as Ben and Jake and ridden their asses of only for us to negate any benefit due to us flaffing around back at St Bees. Forget about it and make up the time was the superb attitude from all.
Stage 3 Kayak Crummock Water and Buttermere 4mi, 1hr5min (T: 25mins. Lost 5mins)
A quiet paddle interrupted first by a huge downpour and then a portage over to another lake. This was about 1 km long over rough terrain. We had brought some portage wheels for the kayak but after every 10yards they just broke away and so after the 4th attempt we gave up and carried this bulk of a canoe. I think Jake must of been peeved as we boarded the next lake he decided to tip me in! Accident, I'm not so sure. Another carry to the dibber and we had completed a great kayaking section.
Stage 4 Climb Robinson 10mi, 2hrs40min ^4000 v4000' (T:8mins. Lost 10mins)
After drying myself off and getting new cloths on it was all up. A steep ascent. This section not only had seemingly vertical ups but the downs were no kinder. For me this was one of the hardest stages. The endless steeps was a killer on the legs and I had been on the go all day (Even the transition drive was stressful). Ben even tested my ability to hold my stomach contents in by first dry retching for an age and then abruptly pouring gallons of his contents over the mountain in front of me. I quickly averted my eyes and managed to contain myself. Phew, I was alright and Ben quite rightly apologised :) It was all down from here to Derwent and Ben quickly gathered himself and was flying again.
Stage 5 Swim Derwent Water 500m and 1mi Run (T:7min)
The changeover and jumping into the lake was fun. But soon after the body was tiring and it was hard work trying to crawl in a wetsuit and sore ribs. It could of been worse we overtook one fella holding on to a support canoe in pain from cramps. The short road run into town was infact a mile mainly on rocky tracks, which killed my barefeet. Lost a load of time here, which was extremely frustrating at the end of the day. Although the finish was a good emotion running up Keswick highstreet with the supporting crowds.
Day 1 Whitehaven to Keswick 7hrs23mins 40miles ^5413 v5164'. A solid start only wishing we got the second transition right. With all things going for us we could of saved at least a half hour.
A relaxing evening with Gill cooking up some lovely pasta. I then had to leave them all to set up my tent. Both Jake and Ben were sleeping in their vans (I either need to buy a van or stay in B&B's from now on when I am out with them) and Gill just had a small pop up tent, which goes anywhere. I have to say that out of all 4 days this was the most knackering for me. I felt drained and only wanted my bed but we had to hang around for an age for the 9pm race briefing. After this I went to bed as it was up early for 3 consecutive stages for me.
Stage 6 Cycle to Thirlmere 5.56mi, 27min ^869 v446'
A 7.20am start and quick road cycle to the lake. Uneventful apart from one big hill.
Stage 7 Kayak Thirlmere 4mi, 46min (T:4mins)

From 2011 Coast to Coast

Wow, stunning scenery all around. An easy enjoyable kayak in the morning dew. Only incident here was Jake keeping hold of the dibber and so Ben having to run back up the slope to take it. Once we had finished the kayak it was a quick pull and carry through the boggy wetlands to the end of the stage.
Stage 8 Climb Helvellyn 8.5mi, 2hrs ^3100,v3100' (T:9mins. Lost 5mins)
Awesome section. A longer transition as we had to change into dry cloths for one of the tougher stages. The climb started near on immediately, steep and constant into the windy clouds of Helvellyn. At the top visibility was poor and we missed the cairn and so descended the wrong way for a 1/4mile. We made our way back up begrudgingly and descended down swirral edge. This was fast, exciting and non-stop to the end. My day was done and a deserved rest after 6 straight legs.
Stage 9 Kayak Ullswater 8mi, 1hr32mins (T:4mins)
The last and longest kayak and it was a great oar from the boys. And a deserved platter of goodies awaited them. What foods to have out is a difficult choice as on these races your appetite can change all the time. So rather than just leaving out a biscuit or banana etc it's always best to leave a big selection. On the table here we had Ham and Cheese rolls, Pot Noodles, a selection of cheeses, crisps, tomatoes, biscuits, pepperoni, coke, tea. The bonus here is that they don’t have time to eat most of it and so it’s left for me to polish off.
Stage 10 Cycle over Shap Fells 25mi, 2hrs29mins ^3400 ,v3100' (T:10mins. Lost 20mins)
What was looking like a great ride from the guys but unfortunately took a poor track over great Ashby scar, which put the breaks on their time. We ended the day in Kirkby Stephen high street and made our way to set up camp in the local school. That night we ate out to save us cooking yet more pasta. Again after the 9pm debrief everyone made quick exits to bed. Tomorrow was an earlier start of 7am.
Day 2 Keswick to Kirkby Stephen 51miles, 7hrs49mins, ^6500 ,v6100' A better day for me, just overall more enjoyable and I didn't feel beat up at the end of the day. Think the others were tired though.
Stage 11 Run over Nine Standards Rigg 11.5mi, 2hr37min ^2014,v1424' (Lost 10mins)
Another great run - hilly, muddy and boggy and great views all around. Ben aggravated his knee so had to take it easy on the way down from the top. Also took a minor wrong turn and so lost a few minutes, worse was that we had to climb back up a steep hill to regain the missed path.
Stage 12 MTB along Swaledale 15.5mi, 1hr51min ^2000 v2250' (T:3mins)
After a quick half pastie, it was on the bikes. This was a superb mtn section. Some tough hills but with great descents. Although I am still a little nervous on the steep rocky descents - I continually feel as though I will fall over. My ribs still hurt from crashing 3 weeks ago are a constant reminder of how easy it is for me to fall. I think I will bin my Spds technical sections in future. Lost time with Jake helping out a fellow competitor with a puncture. All in the good spirit of the event. The finish was at the spectacular Castle Bolton and a smooth transition - we were starting to get better at these - saw the guys fly out.

From 2011 Coast to Coast

Stage 13 Cycle through Vale of York 28mi, 1hr29min ^1000 v1750' (T:2min)
The boys were thrilled with their ride. Minutes away from the top elites and this was on mtn bikes and not highly specialised cross bikes. Take a bow. This awesome ride gave us a sniff that we could win our category tomorrow, we were now only 15mins down after being over half hour at the start of the day. Finishing in Northallerton town centre parking was hard so I just did a pick up and run with the guys and the bikes as we were staying at the leisure centre a mile away.
We ate out again that night in which I had a 3 course meal so that I wasn't lacking any calories for tomorrow’s final day.
Day 3 - Kirkby Stephen to Northallerton 54miles, 6hrs, ^5000 v5500'
From 2011 Coast to Coast
Stage 14 Cycle through Vale of York 10.5mi, 41mins ^984,v860'
Easy morning ride to get the legs going after 3 hard days racing and another early rise for a start time at 6.32am.
Stage 15 Run over Carlton Bank 9mi, 1hr42min ^2100 v1950' (T:2min)
Jake took over running duties with Bens knee not 100percent. And for a person who didn’t want to do any running he sure did start out quick and didn’t let his pace slacken at all through the stage, especially as I was trying to take it easy as I was dreading the next mtn bike section.
Stage 16 MTB across North York Moors 19mi, 2hrs9min ^2000 v2000' (T:3min. Lost 25mins)
I was not looking forward to this ride. I expected a lot of tough hills and unnerving descents. thankfully there were very few. Hard hills but all extremely enjoyable and with this being my final leg I pushed my legs hard to stay with Ben. It was all going to well, overtaking teams and being in a fine place for biking. We then went to far down a road and then choose a poor route over the moors. this cost us twofold in that it took us to the top of the hill (could of been avoided) and then the path disintegrated into a bog and so was unridable. It took an age to regain a decent path by which time most of the riders we had overtaken were now back in front. So valuable time lost and realisation that we wouldn’t win our category. The end of the ride was all downhill, fast and fun. A good way to finish my work.
Stage 17 Cycle along Esk Valley 14mi, 1hr11min ^1400 v1250' (T:27secs. Lost 10mins)
Final leg. Ben and Jake are fast but not enough to catch any of the teams above us and by missing a turn added distance and time to their journey. Once they did arrive we all donned shoes and sprinted to short distance to the finish in Robin Hoods bay. An exhilarating finish in a breathtaking location with great support from all around.
Day 4 - Northallerton to Robin Hoods Bay 53miles, 5hr51min ^6400 v6400'.
My post analysis/lessons learnt.
We did well there is no doubting that. For a team put together and meeting up at the last minute organisation and pre planning would always be inadequate and proved a major factor in losing time and frustrating us all. All in all with what we had I'd say we could of been 2 hours quicker if things went for us on the days. As for the disciplines, I was heading into the unknown, untried and untested. In hindsight now (and for future races) and to give us a better competitive edge I would for the kayak - use a lighter fibre glass one and we wont be far off the elites. Running - hill training hill training hill training (hard when you live in Hampshire). Mtn Bike, get more confident on faster descents. Road bike - boys smashed this but get road tyres, could and would overtake the elites. Navigation - more pre planning, lost a load of time on missing turns and using wrong paths, local knowledge was a massive benefit for a lot of people. Transitions, probably our worst discipline - could of and should of been an hour better. Again better organisation on getting the right foods and equipment ready to get us out the blocks fast and not to be late at any CP.
Still it was an unknown race style with a new group of people so all in all plenty to improve upon, which is also a pleasing factor but, what a great experience and superbly run by Open adventure. I race with Jake and we work well together but it was a pleasure to race with Ben, very motivated and a great person to be out in the hills with, totally dependable. And Gill, who crewed for us. Always a word to keep us going. Like a drill sargeant she keep us on our toes and never slacking off. Thanks for the help and support you gave us all during this race.
We just missed out on the prizes this year but I would like to give out some in-house prizes:
Jake = best beard.
Ben = best puke.
Gill = best socializer.
Andy = best moaner.
Adventure racing allows you to train hard in a multitude of disciplines and then complete against great athletes, professional teams, likeminded teams, yourself both physically and mentally. To sum up it is intensely satisfying. Next years event is a non-stop 4 dayer in Scotland. Sign me up.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Training weekend in North Wales

With less than a month to go to our 4 day Coast to Coast adventure race, we thought we would get ourselves to North Wales for a few days training. So finishing work and flying up the busy motorways we managed to get to Idwal Cottage for around 4pm. The weather was perfectly stunning and we kept the plan easy of just doing some easy climbing on Idwal slabs to get back in the grove of rock climbing - it's been a while. And so we ticked off Hope (VD 450ft), Lazarus (HS 150ft) and Grove Above (S 100ft). 3 Superb climbs each above each other and so we finished 700ft above the valley floor enjoying the beautiful summers evening (shame the midges could enjoy our company this high up).
Enchainment Day (Travelled over 10km with 1400m of ascent and descent)
We awoke to a grey morning but were excited about the day’s big plan. An enchainment of the Glyders, linking in 3 or 4 climbs on different peaks. We headed up into the Devils Kitchen and scrambled up Idwal Buttress (D 300ft) and then traversed over to the base of Glyder Fawr as the wind and rain started to pick up. With some interesting greasy pitches we topped out from climbing Central Arete (VD 650ft) and found a small cave to shelter from the driving rain whilst having our lunch. Getting cold we made our way down Y Gribin undecided on what to do and jumping from choice to choice - keep climbing, go biking, maybe running or just go home. At the bottom the weather cleared significantly for us to take the gallant approach and carry on climbing we were ,after all, in the midst of the mountains. We deferred on climbing a route on Glyder Fach and moved over to the east face of Tryfan where Grooved Arete awaited us. I have wanted this climb since I had started climbing years ago and Dave would bring me up to Wales time and time again and with an endless list of reasons we never got around to climbing it. And so, each time I now visit Wales it’s at the forefront of my mind. With the weather brightening things were looking hopeful. That’s when Dr 'Jinx' Jake piped in that he would be doing this climb on his very first attempt. Thanks Jake. We found the heather terrace and the heavens opened up. We huddled up in another cave and had another lunch but it soon became apparent that things weren't changing soon and so we descended. On getting to the bottom the weather gods gave us one last dilemma and with Milestone Buttress right there in front of us we decided to have a go at another climb, Direct Route (VD 200ft). I started the first pitch not feeling it. I liked the climbing but constantly thought I was going to slip on the smooth polished limestone, which didn't sit well in my mind. Most of the way up the pitch the first drops of rain started to fall and that was my ticket to get the hell of this crag. And as Jake was belaying me off the rain hurtled down and kept us company all the way back to the hostel. It also kept me up and wet all night in my soaked tent (hmm another route I will have to complete one of these days).
Coed Brenin (Biked/Ran 40+km)
Wet and tired we awoke to another dreary day in the mountains and headed south for some biking. This wet weather won’t hinder us riding, I so wrongly assumed. Within 2 minutes of starting on the trails I had fallen over twice and by wearing Spds (clip ins) and not releasing quick enough I took a couple of hard knocks. We did a short circuit and returned to change to normal pedals. I was not liking the wet terrain and being stuck in the pedals, which I had, only used a couple of times previous. We hit the next trail a 20km black. My mood was downbeat and I was still massaging my confidence, so it was hard going in mind and body. I took a couple of half falls, one of which raked the back of my calf and put me in a fouler mood. Nearing the end I bumped down a steep and as per usual I just couldn’t seem to turn the handle bars the way I wanted and I careered straight into a boulder and tumbled head first. Initially I was just peeved of but, then was concerned with my arm but it was just cut up. It was the knock to my chest, which would be the most hindering and still today, days later I struggle to breath fully and get a good nights sleep in. So with battered confidence I took the short cut home while Jake continued his ride. Which he was loving. Back at base I reflected and decided it stupid to get back on the bike after lunch. It seemed I was just getting myself into accidents no matter how I rode. This I could ill afford with me dependent on being able bodied to work. A good plan was hatched in that Jake could continue to ride and I would run the trail. We took on another 20km black, MBR. With things brightening up we both enjoyed the trail. Good things couldn't last though and at one point I took a short cut, which turned out to be a bad choice. An old track I followed soon disappeared, so I headed directly up the very steep forest embankment. When I popped out of the woods thick brambles and thorn bushes confronted me. I waded my way up through this never ending bush cutting experience and finally came upon a track and feeling hacked off I powered my broken body home. The only things I can take from this day is that it was one of Jakes best - so at least someone enjoyed themselves and I can put it into that character building bracket.
Taking the long way home that evening turned out to be a refreshing end to the day. Sat in the evening sun on a bar terrace in Abersoch listening to live music from a guy singing acoustic feel good tunes.
Half Enchainment (Travelled 6.5km with 600m+ of ascent/descent)
After a nice dry nights sleep in the hostel, which was damn good. What was bad was being in a room full of snorers. Still it beat being in the wet tent with sore ribs, arms etc etc. It was a familiar day. It sucked. Grey and threatening to chuck it down at any time. So our plan of a long day on Amphitheatre buttress in the Carnedds was scraped and we decided to stick fairly close and to do easy climbing. So back up Cwm Idwal to find the start of Sub Cniefion (VD 300ft) and get that deju vu feeling of arriving at the foot of the climb and it begins to pour down. Undeterred, I sent Jake up for what was a great lead in awful conditions. I was soaked and frozen by the time he finished. No, I am not having a go at how slow he went, just to point out what the climbing was from my perspective (just do it quicker next time Jake). My lead was an easy zig zag who’s only difficultly was the rope drag I had to contend with. When Jake joined me we could not fathom where the route went and so he went straight up the face. Another good lead but again I was pretty cold by the time I started and within a few metres I could see where the original route went off to the right. Oh well, a first ascent for Jake. On finishing this climb we headed up the Cwm in ever worsening conditions. At one point I questioned where we were but in negligible visibility it was hard to pin point our position. A gust of wind faintly showed the outline of Cniefion arete (M 400ft). Jake again lead (in trainers, climbing shoes seemed pointless by now) in what can only be described as a heavy downpour. It was a good easy short pitch and I followed up an enjoyable chimney pitch. After this, to quicken things up as we were getting a little tired of the wind and rain, we simu climbed the remainder of the route.
Again the weather brightened in the evening all to late to dry our soddened gear. But our training weekend was over it was time to get back to work. Something I was pleased about, as I do not think my body would be able to do much more. R&R until I am able to breath more easily.
With the usual poor weather in Wales I think we were able to at least get out each day and cover a lot of terrain, do some different disciplines and be out for long days. So it was not wasted, as we are now a little more ready for the Coast to Coast at the end of the month.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

South Downs Riding July 2011

I had wanted to ride the south downs for a couple of years but either the weather or finding a partner got in the way or just some other excuse at the time. So with trying to do something big each month andmissing out on the good weather last weekend I said to myself this was the weekend to finally get around to doing the South Downs.
Waking up in the morning I was far from motivated to carrying out my challenge. I was just not up for it, my body felt tired and my mind was uninterested on being on a bike for 2 days and it was raining heavy on and off. Maybe the Youth Hostel is full and I would have my excuse. Nope. I found myself booked in for the evening so I quickly focused on getting my gear ready. With the rain and me just going slow I didn’t leave the house till 10.30am. Let’s hope for an uncomplicated day, as delays would surely drag me into riding past dark.
The plan, which was hatched up lastyear, was to leave my house in Chandlers ford and head to the South Downs trail (which leaves out of Winchester and travels over 100miles to Eastbourne) and follow to Truleigh Hill YHA, which was approx65miles away (I thought this to be a good distance to travel). Sleep and head back the next day. So 2 big demanding days of endurance.
The first section to Upham was mainly roads, although this at least made good time and warmed up the legs and body. From here instead of cutting east along moreroads to join up the SDW (South Downs Way). I went north on the Monarchs Way trail, although longer, I could at least get off road. Half way up here the gamekeeper stopped me and highlighted that this was a footpath so I begrudgingly took to my feet. It was only a mile and it was all uphill so I was happy to have a stretch.Although I did have an extended stop talking with her husband on the trail about Hungarian Vizlas (he had one and I want one).
Gaining the next bend I was on the SDW. It felt good to be on the trail and hitting my first proper slope up to Beacon Hill. A fast ride down to Exton where I had an early lunch sheltering from a downpour. Then it was back riding up an endless hill to Old Winchester Fort. This was going to be a common theme for the day, lots of hills, lots of ups and downs and not enough flats to get the pace going.
After an age (3 and a half hours I think) I arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park (a southern mecca for Mtn bike riders). This was one of my daily targets as it’s basically a third of the way. I was still feeling lethargic and unmotivated and getting here had been hard and slow going. So my self doubting instinct was telling me I had no chance of getting this done in 8hrs (my aim). Over 10hrs was looking realistic, ouch. A dog walker and 3 rain showers had though held me up so the only positive light I could shed was that I get on with riding and not stop forany chats or rain. Finding my way through QECP proved frustrating. Lots of trails and lots ofsigns and looking back I took the longer, hillier way through (a horse route).
Looking up from my front wheel I did start to notice the breathtaking countryside and the ever-present brightening skies. Feeling better I was enjoying a long down nearing Beacon Hill when I got caught in a chalk and rock rut and trying to pull myself out the back tyre slide out from me impacting me hard on the greasy chalk incline. Grazed and bruised I brushed myself down. My own fault going too fast on a slippy uneven surface using my untried and untested clip in SPDs. The worst to come out of this was that I had busted one of the rucksack shoulder clips and so had to carry on with my sack swinging unevenly over my back.
Obviously not thinking clear I then took a wrong turn down an extremely steep road and not wanting to climb back up I managed to traverse down some back roads to Cocking. Where I managed to get a cold bottle of coke and a chocolate cake. I met Nick here, a very interesting traveller with a good view on life, not only was he hiking the SDW and wild camping each night but he had done an amazing amount of travelling. From hiking through Mexico to Canada to planning to do the Continental Divide, with an ultra marathon in the middle. Great stuff, I wish him well. As much as I could have stayed talking, push on I must as I had already broken my policy of not talking to anyone.
Feeling refreshed and knowing that I was more than over half way I set off upwards again, 2kms and 800ft of ascent, which killed off what renewed energy I had. In-between the steep valleys of the South Downs are the ridgelines you gain access to. These vary but in the main span severalmiles linking up many hills over vast undulating terrain allowing you to see the vast countryside all around. With the body tiring, the weather cooling and time accelerating by I ambled past a water tap and eagerly filled up my water bottle.The tap had a sign stating the next water station in the hamlet of Botolphs 6miles away and reviewing the map showed the YHA only 2 or 3miles further. The end was close.
The next ridgeline was noticeable for a couple of things. First, that you could see the high-rise buildings of Worthing and Brighton on the coast and second, the wind. This had been in my face for what felt the whole journey. Now, with the sun setting it was not only hampering meforward but also was getting under my skin and making me feel pretty cold. This was the last ridgeline though as looking across the valley I could see a number of radio masks which had to be Truleigh hill. So just one more hill to go, appropriately called Beeding hill.
Day 1 : 68miles, 8000ft Ascent and Decent over 9.5hrs.

Exhausted, I slumped into the YHA which was strangely full of Chinese tourists and booked myself in and ordered dinner. ‘Sorry, but we have just finished food’. Bugger. ‘So what other food do you do?’ I asked. ‘We have nothing!’ Despondently, I saw the booze on sale and got myself set for a wine and a snickers dinner. Then, she pepped in that I could order from the takeaway menu. Just 40mins to wait for my Chicken tikka masala. Perfect timing to get cleaned up and settled in.
I slept pretty well seeing that I was sharing with 5 other blokes, must of been the bottle of red. A nice full english and I was on the trails again for 8.30am. I couldn’t hang around today as I had an evening wedding bash to get to. With this in mind I decided that I would take a few road detours to try and save a little time here and there.Weather wise today was looking more promising. Although in the morning sun the first major hill was a strength-sappingevent. But once on the ridgeline I was definitely feeling much more up for it today and powered along the way.
Today was more noticeable with people on the Downs, yesterday I literally saw a few people. But today there were all sorts of riders, runners and walkers enjoying a summer’s morning out in the countryside and I was ticking off the hills in double quick time.
Passing the third of the way mark I approached a steep hill and ridgeline that I had missed yesterday and so had to do it and not take an easier road by pass. The hill was long and arduous, not helped by the unnerving crunching noise my leftknee constantly makes after 5 minutes of peddling up hill and the only seemingly way to stop this is to get out of my saddle and straighten and stretch my leg. This has 2 downfalls, one I slow down to a wobbly meander and two I have to sit down again on my ever so sore backside. So, after a great descent and missing another turn (nearly the same place as yesterday, d’oh) I popped out of the woods to a secluded pub. Noexcuses needed and after a nice pint (of orange) and bag of nuts I was again off climbing uphill to get back onto the SDW. It was during this nice meandering section that I came upon Nick again. He couldn’t believe I had got to him so soon and I couldn’t believe he wasn’t in Winchester. But he had time on his hands and had found a nice dry barn to sleep in the previous night, to good and opportunity to miss. After another pleasant chat it was time to push on. I had thought it another hour to QECP and so was pleased to get there in half that time and so treated myself to a sandwich and coke.
From here on it was all about getting home the quickest and easiest way. Sounds simple, butwhen you only have a map covering the SDW then the details on any shortcuts will have to be from imagination. The country lanes all tend to span anage and having no idea where I was I took a southerly turn to Soberton (sounded a good place to head to) and talking to one of the not so sober locals in the tavern. They sent me back the way I came. A little downbeat as at the junction I went back to I had contemplated which way to go for a while and it’s always a bugger to know you got it wrong. Onwards you go and with a couple more questionable turns I was back on my map and on the Morestead road and taking the pleasing turn to Upham. I spoke to a local here who was impressed in what I had down these past 2 days and couldn’t quite believe when I said I was nearly home. 11 road miles is but a short ride in comparison.

Day 2 65miles circa 7000ft of Ascent and descent over 9hrs

It was good getting home, especially to be out of the biting wind, it was incessant throughout the two days and was an ever-present factor on getting on my nerves. But a great trip that I have wanted to do and now I have done it. I started with a little apprehension and was pretty downbeat starting off. But a better second day and completing it feeling both physically and mentally in good order have made the trip wholly worthwhile. Testing myself over an unknown distance over unfamiliar terrain now gives me more scope on being able to contemplate further multi day challenges. As a bonus I had ample time to rest up and go out for the evening reception, though I did come home early.

Total: 133miles 15,000ft of Ascent and descent over 18.5hrs.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Welsh 3000's (The 14 Peaks) Challenge

Who was it that said Yes we must do this. We had been walking up Snowdon for the last couple of hours in the pouring rain. It was nearing 10pm and the summit was a long way off and we were not enthused about getting there in this weather.
'Over there' Stu pointed. He was one of the ones who had said Yes to the trip along with Jake. We had driven up earlier from hampshire in the hopes of biviing on top of Snowdon to start our challenge.
The Welsh 3000ers or The 14 (or 15) Peaks Challenge is to summit all the 3000 ft mountains in Wales. Something not to be underestimated and although i had been thinking on doing this for a couple of months, both Stu and Jake had less than a months notice to get some training in. But both were keen - they both said Yes when the weather looked bleak and Stu had had the experience of doing this a couple of years back and so knew what he was letting himself in for.
There was a disused old miners building. No roof but the walls would give us shelter from this driving wind and rain. No sooner had we set the tent off and removed all our wet gear and snuggled into our dry bags did it seem that we were awaken at 4am to put the tent away and slip our wet cold gear back on, the socks were a highlight for me.
In gloomy and uninspiring conditions we were off to the summit of Snowdon (Peak 1 3560ft).

Time 5.30am our adventure had started with a burst of pace down to the saddle and up to Garnedd Ugain (P2 3495ft). Moving carefully on the sharp ridge line with steep drops on either side going was slow and precarious due to the trying nature in this wet and windy atmosphere. Passing the last peak in the Snowdon range, Crib Goch (P3 3027ft)we headed down the unfamiliar ridge trying to guess where to drop off in this zero visibility. Coming down a fun steep scree slope a clearing in the clouds did confirm we were heading in the right(ish) direction. I had been up Cwm

Glas before and so rather than risking taking a direct route down the mountain and risk getting stuck on a cliff face we took a slight detour where i knew there was a path down. Finally at the roadside we stretched our legs with a run into Nant Peris accompanied with a short lived downpour.

Stage 1 Snowdon range 8kms 2hrs15mins Ascent 820ft Descent 4000ft :Breakfast 45mins

We had a van here where we were able to dump our large sacks for small sacks and exchange our wet cloths with dry cloths and enjoy a hot breakfast (well Stu had left his in the other drop bag so had to make do with a few spoonfuls of ours). This seemingly short break turned out to be 45mins (shows where time can be lost). But we were dry, rested and ready for the next section : The Glyders.
This starts with a grueling 2700ft of climbing to the top of Elidir Fawr (P4 3029ft). From the top and back amongst the clouds we enjoyed a run and a steady climb to Y Garn (P5 3107). On the descent Jake started to lag behind, unfortunately his knee had started to play up. The only options available up here were to head down devils kitchen to the road and call it a day or to take the pain and carry on. Difficult, especially when the next summit was starring at us nearly a 1000ft up. But carry on we did up the never ending steep scree slopes of Glyder Fawr (P6 3279ft). At the top we enjoyed a ham roll and with the weather threatening to break for the better we moved swiftly over to Glyder Fach (P7 3262ft) and took in the beautiful scenery on this pleasurable rock plateau.

Heading down to the tryfan saddle was an agonising thigh burning 850ft descent on a badly worn scree run. This hurt and Jake was looking non to pleased as we pushed him and scrambled up to the top of Tryfan (P8 3002ft). From here we decided to back track and head down the heather terrace rather than risk going down one of the numerous gullies on Tryfan and getting lost. A high possibility as we even couldn't even find the Heather terrace but descended down a boulder field to a path at the bottom. At least this was easy going to the road side at Ogwen and where we had stashed some gear the night before.

Stage 2 The Glyders 17kms 6hrs 20mins A:5750ft D:5150ft (Lunch 30mins)

After a 30minute well deserved rest we took on the imposing mountain of Pen yr Ole Wen. Happily Jake had decided to carry on although i am sure he had more than a few thoughts of calling it a day. Still, it was onwards and upwards. We had been on the go now for around 11hrs and had 2200feet of incline to the summit (P9 3209ft). Tough going but we were setting a good pace and the hills were not as painful an undertaking as the descents were. Once on top we knew that the worst was over it was just a

matter of peak bagging in the Carnedds. The views and weather were also inspiring. The sun was out and we could see all around from the Glyders to the Irish Sea and to our finish in the all too distant distance. A gentle up slope brought us to Carnedd Dafydd (P10 3424ft). Following the ridge line the dreaded realization that it was here that we had to cut away from the ridge and go nearly 2km out of our way just to tick another hill off Yr Elen (P11 3156ft). On returning back the weather again worsened and we were soon in a whiteout and at the mercy of the howling wind. The plateau of Carnedd Llewelyn felt very eerie in the clouds at one point we thought we had lost Jake to the natural elements until he popped out and we had bagged another (P12 3491ft). From here,

although visibility was nought, the going was straight forward and we also managed to put on a spurt on the moorland flats especially when the realisation that we were 13hrs in and with only a couple to go we had an opportunity of posting a good time. A little encouragement later we were atop of Foel Grach (P13 3202ft). In what seemed identical to the previous section we approached what is known as the fifteenth peak, we decided to tick it off as technically it is a 3000ft summit. Ganedd Uchaf (P15 3038ft). Moving swiftly on with one more to go. We pushed ourselves painfully on thegentle down and on reaching the saddle a stone wall went up towards the summit. Which side? We crossed over, mainly to hide ourselves from the wind and with the clock

ticking we all put in one last burst of energy. At the top we couldn't see the trig point. It must be here, we kept looking jumping up to peer on the other side of the wall. Eventually in the distance we could see the trig. typically it was on the other side so after crawling over the high wall we sprinted to the finish, Foel Fras (P14 3091ft) in a time of 14hours. Great effort Stu and Jake and we were all suitably chuffed on achieving this.

Stage 3 The Carnedds 15kms 4hrs08mins A:4250ft D:2250ft

The walk out took a further intense hour and a half taking in another summit and a long descent to further punish the weakening thigh muscles. Still the clouds had disappeared and views over the carnedds and over to Colwyn Bay and the wind farms were amazing. Dreamy thoughts of beers we soon dashed with the realization that our near perfectly planned days outing had hit a snag. Our van was not in the car park!! Where had we parked our van? As luck would have it this challenge is popular and so there was another couple of groups close at hand and after talking to one of them they kindly agreed to help us find our lost van - phew, drama over. At the car park we studied the map and found out that we had taken a small trail road further down the hill and so Stu got a much needed lift and before long we were all heading back to Nant Peris before closing time.

Total Stats :
14 Peaks in 14 hours travelling circa 40kms (Ascending circa 11,000ft and descending 12,500ft).

(Car to car 16.5hrs circa 50kms and over 15,000ft of ups and downs but not too many tantrums).