Monday, 27 August 2012

Solo Wild camp

After a few drinks on the friday night. The idea of 'wasting' away this glorious weather was dispelled and a plan hatched. The misses understood. It's guaranteed there would be plenty of wet weekends to come.
We drove down to the New Forest and after a lovely lunch went for a walk and checked out some spots for me to stay. One was perfect. So after heading back to the car and picking up my gear, saying goodbyes, I headed back to my campspot.
After clearing my site up and collecting firewood, it soon became apparent that I was neighbours to a few billion midges. Now I wont be able to escape these totally but maybe there was a better, dryer place to camp. So I walked around for an hour or so, I did have a load of time to kill and after an exhaustive failed search I went to check out one last outcrop of forest which fortunately had an idle setting. So I went and collected my things for a second time and set up my second camp. Cleared the site and collected firewood again. All this was timed perfectly as it then gave me a little time to watch the glorious sun set.
Once this was down I then had a fair amount of time to myself. So I got the fire going and chilled out. It wasn't long before the peace and solitude was broken up by a far away party with the DJ screaming COME ON COME ON to the revellers to the tunes of Niki Menaj and Rhianna.
At this point I decided to test out my new torch and go for a 20min run in the dark. I love the torch (Petzel Nao) and would of run further but didn't want to get into bed too sweaty. With a few fresh logs burning on the fire I settled down to bed and star gazed for the second time in a week to a stunning Milky Way et al.
Although I didn't really get spooked over night it was a strange feeling being on your own in the middle of no where. I did though get startled in the morning with a couple of deer wondering into my camp. Who was more scared? Looking around the view was astounding with an early morning mist surrounding the countyside interspersed with the grunting/warning call from the deer. I soon nodded off for an hour but, awoke with the sun burning off the morning dew and as I slowly cleared camp I was joined by half a dozen wild ponies whom seemed set on sticking around and joining me for breakfast.
With the camp cleared and a full belly I set off on my way home. The main theme being getting lost but, this only added to the adventure. After navigating my way out of Bramshaw woods I was a lot further north and so looped back to Canada common and over several 'quaking bogs'. For some inexplicable reason I took a southward direction over Half moon common and ended up in Newbridge, way off course. Then decided instead of taking the looped tracked back on course I went off route and made my way cross country through farmers fields and over rivers. Just when I was thinking I was completely lost I could hear the screams of children far off. This was Paultons theme park and after a few more corn fields I was running through the golf course and back on the map. I took a deserved break in the local petrol station here and treated myself to a cold coke and chocolate bar.
After crossing the dual carriage way and somehow losing my sunglasses in the grass verge I got myself lost again in the small corpse. By now I think I was getting good at getting myself out of these situations and duly found a road to take me down to the Test Way. Following this path until it veered south after a bridge I starred agonisingly at the refreshing river with all access points signed 'Private No Entry. Sod that, I needed a dip. It was the hottest day of the year, over 30'C. So I snuck in below the bridge and jumped in to cool down.
Back on my way I negotiated a couple of minor roads to get me to Romsey Golf course and the path taking me through Nightingale wood and onto familiar territory. No more getting lost for the day as I ran known routes back home feeling surprisingly good.
Another cracking wild camp and run home and by myself. This was a nice test to see the night out on my own as if I end up doing some longer runs then these will entail overnighters and with my new torch I cant wait to hit my local trails at night.

Stats: 23miles in a little under 4hrs.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

54321 Running, climbing and Wild camping

Before Ultra

With the weather being too good to rest. We decided last minute to head down swanage on the friday to do a little sport climbing in Hedbury quarry. A couple of good climbs later we settled down to camp for the night. This being a quarry and on a sea cliff, wood was in short supply so a search around on the nearby hills brought us a bounty of dry rotten wood.
We started a BBQ and made a firepit and a few beers later we were enjoying mint burgers, sausages and ribs washed down with some fine beers and wine. The night was a beautiful clear starry night and I tried in vain to get some good exposure shots of the Milky Way but, instead had to be content with shots of us messing around with firewood etc which came out surprisingly well.

Apart from the wind picking up strongly during the night I slept well and after a quick clear up we wondered over to the other side of the quarry to do a couple more climbs. These I found hard work, maybe a little too much wine last night. So instead of pushing on and doing more climbs we decided to call it a day and rest up before tomorrow.

Ultra Day

This would be my second ultra race. A 50Km run in and around Salisbury, superbly organised by the Fire Service with a 54321 theme. 5 Rivers, 4 Hills, 3 Country estates, 2 Castles, 1 Cathedral. After the usual flaffing before the race the 50k runners headed out at 9am approx 120 of us. The turnout was good for all the different events to day had to offer (5, 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50k races). One issue I guess that most trail races with good turnouts have is at the start everyone has to go down the same paths and through the same gates. This made slow going for the first half hour. But I was in no hurry as my plan was to do this within 5.5hrs so there was plenty of time left in the day to stretch them legs.
Not long into the race we had a strong downpour most welcomed as it cooled us down on this hot and humid day. We all started to spread out so the barefoot (sandles) runner I was chatting to sprinted ahead but i decided to keep to an easy pace and just let the day unfold. A castle and a river passed I soon saw a unique sight in a camel grazing in a field. What things you see when out running. After running the outskirts of Old Sarum Fort we took to the outer limits of the town and onto the Claradon Way but soon peeled off and headed south to track down more rivers and hills.
Just about to pour down
The middle section of the run was a pretty pleasant experience. My body felt good and strong. I carried plenty of water and food plus we had the added bonus of aid stations pretty much every 5 or 6 clicks. Around halfway I chatted to a very inspiring and funny guy called Danny. Danny was over 70 and taking part in his 453rd marathon, Legend. The ultras had by then done the additional loop and were joining up with the other runners and walkers doing the other various races. It was good fun running with Danny although I have to admit he was a little pacey for me. But I was enjoying our chat and just couldn't slow myself down, nothing to do with my ego at all, honest. Danny did seem to know all the other runners and walkers there and so when he stopped to hug and greet a few of them I said my farewells and wished him good times on his trip to Australia to run the Sydney and Melbourne marathons.
A couple of tough hills later and passing through Great Yews woodland, a very spookily enchanting forest. I met up with the barefoot runner again. Struggling with the hard terrain underfoot. A lot of hard ground, road and rocks doesn't fair well with the natural runners. Still he was grinning and bearing it and felt confident of finishing. I pressed on and seeing another runner with a UTSW shirt on I felt obliged to have a chat. He was not only running this ultra from start to finish but then turning around and completing it finish to start!! I look forward to the day when I will be ready to do that. Not only had he already completed a few 100milers but was in training for the Spartathon, one of the toughest out there. Courageous and I wish him well there.
The last third of the race things were starting to falter a little. The heat (or humidity) was taking its toll and my legs were heavy (probably sprinting too many down hills) but worse was that my calf just felt on the brink of cramping up. So I was just ticking off the miles in my head. 10 to go, 9, 8..5..3. hey that's about half hour. I could beat 5hours if i make myself push on. So no more walking or thinking about cramping up. Just get a shuffle on. These tactics seem to work for me as although I am no fast runner by starting out slow and then trying to pick it up at the end it certainly feels better tracking people and overtaking  than having a blow out and everyone overtaking you.
The last mile approached and boy was it one long mile that stretched out seemingly forever. I glanced down at my watch a few times knowing that I had to push but my legs just didn't have anything. Staggering into the main part of Salisbury and past the cathedral was good. but when you are tired and trying to be in a hurry, having loads of people walking and shopping in your way doesn't go down well. And after it looked like I had lost my way and a feeling of dejection was going over me someone shouted and pointed the way to go. This bouyed me on and again someone helped me out at a car park to ensure I carried on running the right way and not stop and scratch my head. Crossing the final road and hearing the cheers and music and Stu, Jake and Melisa cheering me to hurry to the line for a 'sprint' finish and beating the 5 hour mark. Knackered but feeling satisfied.
A tough race, a good race. Nicely set up, great aid stations and support and well organised by the Fire service.

Race stats : 50km, 31miles in 4hrs59mins.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Micro adventure (#3)

Climbing in Swanage
The friday evening Stu and myself sped down to swanage to get in a little deserved climbing. From being a little downbeat beforehand, a couple of climbs in, one involving traversing into a cave and climbing up the back of it and traversing the ceiling to exit via a blowhole, my spirits were back up again. You have to question why you put off things you love doing. Don't. We finished climbing as the sun set and headed off contented and for a couple of well earned beers.

Stu on 1st Corner
The usual morning chaos of piling stuff up and then deciding what to take on our micro adventure arrived. This was a  meet up with fellow adventurers then a hike to a discrete spot to wild camp the night under the stars then run home the next day. So my dilemma, as usual, was what could I not take so that weight was minimal. The 3 litres of wine was a must, so was the 5 litres of water, camping stuff, extra cloths (although summer its fairly cold at night at the mo) and food. Hmm, but how much food did I really need for my run (I ditched a load and again I still had a bit when I got home the next day, so more can be dumped next time).

Arriving at Overton, I met the rest of the gang. Rob, Greg, Steve, Duncan and Mike, whose 40th it was and was suitable attired with a large fluffy hat with dildos (or candles) hanging of it. We made our way into the countryside not before first getting lost just out of the car park! We hiked a loop for a couple of hours passing some buffalo meaning we were nearing Laverstock farm. Stopping for refreshments tasting the delicious local hops and buying some local produce we reluctantly staggered away to find a home for the night.
mmmMMM Buffalo Steaks
An hour later and having hiked 11ish miles we arrived at our destination. A friend of Rob's, Graham, was allowing us to camp up in a corner of one of his fields. We settled down and gathered wood for the fire pit. Once the embers were charred enough we threw some potatoes in and opened up the wine and relaxed. Life feels good in these situations, so how can it get better? By staking the buffalo steaks into the fire and dinner is served. Amazing all round. The night was nicely rounded off with Graham and his family joining us with some fine bottles of wine (one a '73 for Mikes Birthday), which neatly sent him packing to his sleeping pit. A shame I didn't pass out as quick as all too soon we heard the rumbles and snorts not from an escaped buffalo but by Rob and Steve (named and shamed).
Morning headaches
We awoke gingerly in the morning and slowly tidied up as Steve fired up the burners to cook us a fry up. This beautiful setting highlighted with a couple of young deer wondering in very close to camp. We soon said farewell to Graham and to his stunning home and grounds and not long after I was wishing all the others well as I started my run as they hiked back to the station.

The run started slow. 'Hangover' aside, my rucksack took an age to get right, then I had to retrieve my mp3, not long after I wanted some food. Still there was no rush and this was all about enjoying getting home and the whole body needed a slow wind up. Just getting into my stride and realised that there seemed to be no easy way over/under the motorway so ended up running along some roads and the heavens opened up which truly drenched me to the bone. Lucky that the day was going to be interspersed with blue skies and heavy downpours, so things soon dried up once I was soaked.
No rain?
Back on track and on the Wayfarers Trail which takes on some breathtaking scenery, although the overgrown hedgerows, hills, wind and rain did there best to put me down just as the heavy spells of thunder rumbled on. Heading down into winchester I joined the Itchen Way or 3 castles Path? or St Swithuns Way? or was it the Kings Way?. This area is blessed with amazing footpaths to explore. Through Winchester I took my usual run home, highlighted by a fox popping out in front of me before scurrying away. Then passing St Cathrine's Hill which I choose not to do my regular sprint up. The river atmosphere was in stark contrast to a few days early which I ran in strong heat and hundreds of people sun bathing and swimming along the banks where today there was no-one to be seen. Moving away from the river I finished the last 2 miles with a little pace in trying to get under 5 hours for the trip. No one can stop being a little competitive in any situation.
A great weekend. Another entertaining and successful micro adventure. These really are good and recommend any one to try it.
Stats: 11mile hike on the saturday followed by a 29mile run on sunday.
The route 29miles in 4hrs59