Review of 2011 and what’s coming up this year

At the end of 2010, which was a very good year as I had finished and won the JOGLE, completed the Lakeland 100 and ran pretty good all year, I took on the Spartathlon and it annihilated me. I knew I could do it, but just had to have good preparation in the proceeding months and get the fluid intake spot on, as this is what broke me. So as soon as I had failed in Greece in 2010, I was itching to enter the 2011 edition. My sights would be aimed at Spartathlon. Everything else would be just stepping stones that would ultimately lead me to the toes of the statue of King Leonidas in Sparta. My opening race for the year was the Thames Trot, a 50 miler held during winter which I was quite looking forward to. I had a really good run with Rob Treadwell, which is great for the pace. We finished together in 6:53. A massive improvement for me. Shortly after this was the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series Ultra. 33 miles along the incredible coast of the Westcountry. The finest trails in the country I think! I had a great day even if I had turned up over twenty minutes late! I ran hard and even though I had overcooked it near the end I had a good result. Next up was the Wye valley Ultra. Again I had a good race. I wasn’t overly happy with my pacing and nutrition, but I still finished pretty strong and came in joint 4th place. Next up was the Endurancelife Exmoor ultra. This ranks up there as some of the finest scenery and trails to run on. I was very happy to finish in 3rd place seeing as the week leading up to it was a very sickly one for me. The following week was the opening day of Endurancelifes new concept event, Trailblaze. I decided to run the whole thing and was the only person to complete it. In fact as I write this, I am still the only one. I had an amazing day where my parents followed me in the car, and I had support from the Endurancelife team who paddled me across the estuary mouths in a kayak. Awesome! The following week I was in Scotland for the Highland Fling. This amazing event was blessed with incredible weather, which actually became a bit of a hindrance causing dehydration making the end a real struggle. I was happy though to come in the top 40 as the race was a national trail race amongst others so had pulled in a real quality field. My next challenge was to run on the Cotswold Way solo to try and get a black band as this was another Trailblaze course. It was an incredibly tough day but hugely satisfying and successful. I managed over 100km with no support. Then it was the Grand Union Canal Race. I was happy with my preparation and calmness compared to last time and was really chuffed when I finished a whopping 8.5 hrs quicker than the first time I’d done it! A real boost for the ever-looming Spartathlon. Next up was my long awaited success at running the entire 103 miles of the Cotswold Way in one go. I did take just over 24hrs, which is a little frustrating and means I will have to do it again. Drew and I did a decent length run up on the Pennine Way a few weeks after which was awesome. Then maybe my best performance of the year, the North Downs Way. I really enjoyed the day and was very happy with my time and position even though my experimental fast start possibly cost me the win. Then it was Spartathlon. Even though quite a lot of the route is far from inspiring, the whole experience is second to none. I of course made it and had a really emotional finish in Sparta. I can’t wait to return. Last week I received the entry forms for this years race. I will be running across Europe at the time so can’t do it. It’s pretty tough as the race is so special. After this I had the Brecons Ultra. Had a tough day due to dehydration but thoroughly enjoyed it. Then recently there was the Tour de Helvellyn, which was a truly stunning day in the Winter Mountains with my good friend Dave. And my final day was possibly the toughest of them all. My Trailblaze on the Offa’s Dyke was epic and never to be forgotten. I could never have completed it without the tireless support from Lou. Listing out my year of running has made me realise that 2011 was almost certainly my most successful to date. 2010 wasn’t exactly a bad year with my scratch at Sparta being the only blemish on a year that I had my biggest, toughest and most satisfying event yet, my win at the JOGLE. I feel that I have matured as a runner a lot last year. I am in far more control with my training and this in turn feeds my ever-growing confidence to take on the next challenge with a positive outlook. I don’t know where my limits lie, but it has become far clearer over the year (though it will never be clear!). I look forward to gaining a little more wisdom and gaining another year of running under my belt making me a stronger competitor. The year saw me take on not just the races but the personal challenges that I set my self such as the Trailblaze events which have been immensely satisfying. Covering 100 miles alone with support is really tough but with the knowledge that I will recover pretty quickly has enabled me to shoehorn a few of these in wherever there was a gap in my racing schedule. One of these was the Cotswold Way, which was an incredible day. The other 100 was on the Offa’s Dyke just a few weeks ago. There have also been the shorter races I have done which have been loads of fun, and have taught me that doing no speed work for 6 years and just running long and slow hasn’t dulled my speed to much. I also ran in my first two fell races, which were incredible experiences and have added another fantastic dimension to my running. I will be travelling up north more I think! I have also begun to realise just how much running has added to my life and what a positive effect it has had on me. I want to give something back. I will aim to do some race support this year. At the beginning of December I started a lunchtime running group at work that was purely intended to hopefully motivate people to come out for a short run. There is a nice little group who turn up on Tuesdays and Thursdays now. It’s really good seeing these people getting out and enjoying it then coming back for more. I also really enjoy it as it pulls me away from my desk when I would normally mindlessly surf the web. Who knows how it will grow as the seasons change! That brings me nicely onto the year ahead. 2012 promises to be by far my most challenging yet. At the beginning of March (soon!) I have the Trans-Gran Canaria which is a 125km run that takes you in a meandering route across the island. The challenging part about this one is the 8000 metres of ascent that has been squeezed in. Then there is the Viking Way Ultra. This is a new race that has been designed by my friend and fellow JOGLE finisher Mark Cockbain. And in true Cockbain style this promises to be an incredible sufferfest! We’re talking about a ‘British Spartathlon’ type of event that will be similar in length and pressure due to tight time cut-offs. But with the added difficulty of being on a trail which means the possibility of getting lost! I don’t think there will be a very high finish rate on this one! Next is the historical Fellsman. This is the 50th holding of the event that is over 60 miles on the Yorkshire Dales. Really looking forward to this one. At the start of June I have the Hardmoors 110. I have heard great things about how hard this race is so can’t wait to get stuck into it, especially as I have recce’d the first 40 miles of it with Drew. Three weeks later I have the Ultra Trail South West. The UTSW is a 100-mile trail run on the South West coast path. I have been waiting for a 100 miler on the dramatic and absolutely brutal coastal path for a number of years so I was very excited when I heard that Endurancelife were going to put one on. Shame it’s not North Devon and Cornwall so I would be near my parents place, but still it will be an incredible experience. A few weeks later I have another Endurancelife event. This time it’s a little different for me, being a triathlon. It is long distance (Ironman) and off-road. So the 2.4-mile swim is in the sea followed by the 112-mile mountain bike ride through the night and finishing off with a nice marathon trail run. Should be quite a mad experience for me seeing as I’ll be doing it for fun and will not be able to really train for the other two disciplines. Then I will rest for 5 weeks before flying out to Denmark where my Trans-Europe race begins. The race is over 4000km long and is spread over 64 days. There are no rest days. The route takes you all the way through Denmark, Germany, France, Spain and finishes on Gibraltar. This of course is my target for the year. Nothing else matters in comparison. Not to say that I won’t put everything I’ve got into my races, as I find it difficult not too, but TE can not, and will not be taken lightly. The race has only been held twice before, in 2003 and 2009. I have heard that Ingo, the race director say that this will be the last. This is taking a lot to finance. I have the race fee, the shoes, then of course the fact that I won’t be working for around 70 days! I need financial support so please excuse me for putting this on my blog, but it’s worth a punt. If there is anyone who could support me in any way, then please contact me. As I say, shoes and money is what I need. I can wear logos if necessary. Anyway, that’s enough of that. Also, I am currently developing (in the loosest sense of the word) my blog. I have already added a shoe review and plan to add more as time goes on, maybe a gallery etc. I’m kind of enjoying it, as I don’t really know anything so it’s a steep learning curve. So, check out my shoe review. There will be another one soonish. I will write again soon. Happy running.

Winter Wonderland!

Last year, I noticed a race in the Lakes called Le Tour de Helvellyn. It’s a 38 miler that is held on the shortest Saturday of the year. I couldn’t do it last year as I couldn’t work out how to arrange the transport without it costing a small fortune. A little while ago when I was on the way back from the Yorkshire Dales I popped in to see my good friend David Miles. He said that he was doing it this year and that I should do it with him and come up the night before and stay at his place. Perfect, What a star! I didn’t need any more prompting. We both entered and I bought the relevant map and highlighted the route in. This race was totally unmarked and there would only be water out on the course so we would have to carry all our own food. A great deal of my big runs are unsupported anyway so this didn’t bother me at all. During the week the weather had at last turned pretty wintery and there had been some snow on the hills. There were due to be strong winds which could make it very interesting going over Stick Pass which is the highest point of the race. As the week raced by the forecast improved till it eventually reported much lower wind speeds and no snow. Even good visibility, which would be incredible.
As soon as Lou and I finished work on the Friday, we got into the hire car and begun the long journey up to Dave’s place in Parbold which is just off the M6. Over five hours later we arrived where we were warmly greeted by Dave and at the same time Jeanette, his wife and Jack his son returned from a karate class. I hadn’t seen Jeanette and Jack since JOGLE so it was great to see them again. We had an awesome lasagne that Dave had cooked and chatted lots about running and running and umm… running. We eventually got off to bed as we were planning to wake at around 5ish.
What seemed like minutes later we were wandering around eating breakfast and having some good strong coffee before getting in the car and driving to Askham which was just over an hour up the M6. When we arrived we parked in the village and had a 2 minute walk to the village hall which was serving as race HQ for the day. Jesus it was cold! I only had shorts on which I’m normally ok with but when I considered how strong the wind could be on top and how much colder it would be, my tights seemed like a good idea for the first time since the really cold weather last winter! The road was pretty slippy with a thin layer of ice. We registered and got a hot drink, before going back to the car to get our kit. The race didn’t have any single start time, instead there was a window of two hours. The people who were going to walk it should start at 7 and the mountain goats should go at 9. This would hopefully even it out a bit at the cp’s. Dave and I had planned to start around 8 and actually did end up leaving at around 0815. The first few hundred metres were on the road and it was quite difficult with the ice. We then got onto a Bridleway that I thought would be a little better but in fact was equally difficult. Eventually we were on the open fells and the footing improved. I had put on my tights and had two thermal tops on underneath my waterproof jacket with a fleece hat and gloves. I was toasty and knew that soon I would have to strip down a bit as I didn’t want to be getting kit wet with sweat when I might need it dry later on on the higher parts. We took a path that wasn’t quite right so I got the map out and did things properly by following the whole of the route as we progressed. We had really good visibility but could make out some heavy cloud over the tops of some of the hills in the distance. In the direction in which we were heading! Before we had set off we had overheard some people commenting on how much snow there was going over Sticks Pass. I imagine that with the high winds that we would probably experience up there it was certainly going to provide some entertainment!
We soon stopped and I stripped off one of my thermals and the fleece hat, replacing it with my cap. Much better! It was just up and over the shoulder of a hill and we were at Martindale where the first cp was situated. We clipped our sheets with the orienteering clippers and moved on quickly. All was good and the weather was stunning but still looked threatening high up on the tops where we would later be. The next leg would take us to Patterdale which was up a track which got steeper and rockier the higher you got. We climbed into the bottom of the snowline and when I turned while taking a breather I was rewarded with a stunning view of the green valley floor slowly turning white up the hillsides. We ran across the top in a couple of inches of snow before starting a long and fun descent down into Patterdale. When we arrived at the cp, Louise was already there which was a nice boost. We clipped our sheets, had a banana and moved on heading along the road to Glenridding. I had a quick look at the map and saw that we needed to cross one river before turning left up towards Sticks Pass. As we headed over a bridge, a runner behind informed us that we had just passed the turn. I checked my memory and realised that I wasn’t too sure whether we had already passed over a bridge or not and for some silly reason decided to go with the other runners judgement. Dave and I ploughed on up the hill. I was excited that we were nearing Sticks Pass. After around 10 minutes we got to a bridge and already doubt was creeping into my mind. I looked ahead up the valley and could see not another soul. I looked over the map, and, annoyed with myself, realised our error. We hadn’t gone over a bridge. I was right and should have trusted my own judgement. Never mind. It only added around 2km according to the GPS readout so not too bad. It would have been annoying had I been racing but today was all about being out in the hills with Dave. We soon go back onto the road and passed over the bridge we should have continued over before and soon came to the bridge at Glenridding where we took the correct path and slowly we started climbing. After a little way on the Greenside Road, we arrived at the Helvellyn youth hostel. The view was getting better and better as the hills got bigger and the angles got steeper and steeper. The snow capped tops were getting closer too! It was an awesome sight to behold! We now came off the path and headed straight up through the snow heading into the unknown as the tops were still shrouded in cloud. As we proceeded the going got steeper and steeper. I was feeling really good and was really enjoying the moment and was just itching to get up into the deeper stuff. I was surprised at just how many other people there were out climbing up the hill and I’m not sure why I was surprised, but almost everyone had skis with them. As we got closer to the high point of the trail we were using, we began to feel the force of the wind as it howled over the top and we first felt the massive extra drop this gave to the temperature. Once we were fully enveloped in the cloud we had a visibility of around 30 metres at the best and a virtual white out. It was lightly snowing, but the strong winds were blowing it into our eyes which was pretty painful. I kept my head down so the peak on my cap provided some protection. As I looked around at the sight of the spindrift blowing towards me over untouched virgin snow with no idea of the surrounding scenery or horizon due to the white out, it gave a slight Arctic feel to it. It was shear beauty that I had never experienced before.
It was also pretty bloody cold so we really needed to keep moving. I had to stop in a little gully that provided a little protection so that I could change my gloves into my large Goretex ski gloves as my hands were getting really cold.
After a little while I was grateful when we begun descending. Soon we’d be back out of the clouds. It was a fun descent which saw Dave take a few comedy slides on his backside down the muddy snow. Suddenly we popped out of the cloud and were rewarded with the most magical view of the bright green valley below us. We dropped down to the dry stone wall where the next cp was located. We clipped our cards and moved on following the wall down the valley. It was really pretty wet and slippery along the path we were following but it was a fun, technical trail to follow for a little while before we followed the wall around to the right towards some woodland where I could make out the red jacket of Louise at the next cp. As we approached we heard the sound of cow bells and soon were greeted with father Christmas who had volunteered his services at the cp and was dishing out hot drinks to those who wanted them. I was nice and warm now and Louise gave Dave and I a hunk of bread with a flask of chunky soup each. We greedily wolfed it down before saying thanks and goodbye and shooting off towards the entrance to the forest next to the car park. When I looked over the maps of the route beforehand, I hadn’t really checked the contours. We were both now learning that this part of the route was actually pretty lumpy and was far from a real break in the race. What it did provide though was some snow free, beautiful single track that snaked its way through the trees. We caught and passed a few other runners on this section. When we eventually came out of the opposite end of the forest we swung left and followed a wall up a gully on the long climb that took us the other side of Helvellyn that Sticks pass had crossed over. The climb was nowhere as severe as Sticks Pass and we seemed to be pretty sheltered in comparison. The question was, would the pass take us into the base of the clouds before beginning to descend, or not? Shortly after beginning to climb we had left the green valley below and were back above the snowline. I could see that we were getting closer and closer to the cloud, but at the same time as I looked ahead and saw some other runners I saw that they weren’t in it yet. Maybe we would not quite enter it this time and face the harsh weather it would provide. The path flattened out a little and soon we were shown the beautiful shining Grisedale Tarn surrounded by the white landscape. I knew that we had to work our way down past it keeping it on our right before descending below the snowline again towards Patterdale. The descent was long and quite difficult with much slipping and sliding on the snowy top part and with equally difficult footing on the rocky lower slopes, but it was all good fun. Dave took a rather comical fall right into the bed of a stream, unfortunately getting the inside of his gloves wet in the process which would take a while for him to re-warm. After this really long descent we were back on familiar territory and soon arrived at the cp where I noticed that Lou wasn’t there. I half expected her to be here. Never mind. We got a coffee each from the ace crew before leaning against a wall and eating some food. Next thing Dave tapped me on the shoulder and pointed towards a car coming into the car park. It was Lou. Ace! We chatted a bit before shooting off, keen to catch as much of the daylight as possible. We now were just back tracking the first section of the race so knew what was in store. The first section was a decent ascent that just about took us into the snowline for one last time before a nice drop back towards Martindale. Once we arrived at the Martindale cp, I stopped and put on a warm hat and my head-torch in anticipation for the prevailing darkness. We set off with the scent of home in our noses. I remembered reading that the organiser had cooked up a load of soup for the finish. I was really looking forward to a massive bowl with some chunks of bread. The last of the course was over moorland and was relatively flat(ish!). As we came out onto the open moorland, the darkness became too much and we switched our torches on. After a little error on the trail which meant a spell of wading through deep, freezing cold water and bracken. After finally getting back on track we only had a couple of km’s left before we arrived back at the village hall to finish in a time of 9hrs and 20 mins.

Garmin upload

Not bad for a steady day out in the hills. I felt pretty good and was met by Lou who was waiting for us. The soup was as good as I had imagined. What a stunning day it had been.

This was my first real experience in the Lakes midwinter and I had been blown away by the beauty. Dave and I will most definitely be back again for this one. Whether I have it in my legs next year after Trans-Europe though is another question!
Next is Christmas. I plan to do nothing except for an attempt at the northern 96 miles of the Offa’s Dyke footpath which is a Trailblaze, supported by Lou. Could be fun!

Not so off off-season!

The Beacons Ultra

I was booked into the Beacons Ultra for a few reasons. It was relatively close to home which is pretty unusual. It was at a suitable date for an end of season race. It wasn’t too long at 45 miles. The fact that this race seems to fill really fast also attracted me. People were obviously pretty keen to be in this race. Months ago I had set up a reminder on my computer to tell me when the race was opened for entries to make sure I got my place. I got my place then pretty much forgot about it till after Spartathlon. I then realised that I would be needing a car to get there as there was no nearby train station. Luckily, Louise came to the rescue by borrowing a car from a friend of hers. Phew! The race started at 0730 and I of course needed to be there before to register, which meant another very early morning! 0430 I believe. We got there with plenty of time to register which made a nice change to my almost standard seat of the pants timing! How relaxing! We sat in the hall and watched the place slowly fill. During the briefing that followed, Martin the race director, informed us of some of the people who were racing. There was some real talent here! Today was going to be a fast day. Well, fast for some, I on the other hand was not going to take it easy, but was not expecting anything as I was here for my end of year bash!

The race began. I was near the front and instantly the pace was fierce. The first 5-6km were on a canal so it was flat and the footing was good. I thought I may as well stay with it as long as seemed sensible. Mark, the previous few years winner, had shot ahead at an incredible pace. I left him to it. I was pretty much on my limit here. The route was two laps of a 22 mile circuit. All I knew was that after we left the canal we went up a hill and down the other side.  I knew nothing else about the course. I wasn’t wearing my Garmin and these days I don’t use my heart rate monitor so was running completely by feel which felt pretty liberating. Soon we pulled off the canal and instantly began heading upwards through a field. The weather was really mild for the time of year, so much so that I was just wearing a t-shirt and shorts. I wasn’t even wearing gloves which is pretty good seeing as I have really poor circulation in my hands. As we headed up through the fields climbing over stile after stile, I saw as I looked up that the tops of the hills were shrouded in the low cloud. We were heading straight into it! The climb continued for quite some time before we eased into the cloud. It was really thick like pea soup! Visibility was down to about 20 metres so almost instantly, I lost sight of the other runners. The temperature also dropped considerably and my hands where feeling it, but I decided to hold off on getting my gloves out as hopefully the temperature would rise as I came down out of the cloud. This climb was a lot bigger and steeper than I imagined, but I was enjoying the severity for the warmth it provided and the downhill that would follow. My downhill technique is nothing special, but there are definite improvements. I don’t lose any real time now. In fact I will make up time on some people without expending any more energy!
Soon after hearing some voices, three figures and a tent came into view ahead. As I approached I realised that this was the cp at the top of the hill. I passed them and begun the downhill. It was a pretty fast downhill being relatively non-technical. Lots of fun but soon over. Fortunately as I came out of the cloud it got warmer and my hands warmed up again. The rest of the course was lots of fun and pretty varied. There were some really good downhills that were really technical due to some really awkward footing. I was having lots of fun on these and was also managing to stay upright which was quite surprising seeing as I was pushing it right up to the limit of my ability! It was pretty wet, muddy and therefore slippery in places, but again this just added to the fun. I passed through more cp’s but didn’t stop once, wanting to keep the pace high. I was feeling pretty good. Soon I was on a quiet country road, and still keeping a reasonable pace. I was tiring, but nothing unusual. I knew I must be fairly close to the end of the first lap as I crossed a bridge that spanned the canal then dropped down onto the path. There was still a few miles from the end though and it did seem to drag a bit as I starting feeling the first signs that I hadn’t kept on top of my nutrition. As I looked behind I noticed around 4 or 5 runners quickly gaining on me. I accelerated a little then realised that I should just stick to my own pace, and let them pass me. They did so surprisingly quickly leaving me for dust. I was now beginning to see that I needed some food, electrolytes and water in me and fast too if I didn’t want to just burn out only half way through! I slowly begun to load myself up but continued to crash. The second time up the hill wasn’t too bad but I just lacked the zip I should have had had I looked after myself better. Never mind. As long as I focused on getting back on track then I knew from experience that I could still have an ok race. I laboriously made my way down the descent and then hit the woodland road that is pretty long and this is where I hit rock bottom. I was staggering and struggling to run even though the footing is great and it was pretty flat. I was holding onto the hope that soon the food and drink I’d slowly been consuming would start taking effect. As I came out of the woods and begun the steady climb up into the cloud again I began to feel stronger. Nothing amazing, but a definite change, and with this my confidence grew. I now kept eating and drinking. I was in 9th place, and I would be happy if I could hold that, but I had no idea how far the other runners ahead or behind me where. I now felt how I would expect to feel after 30 odd miles. I now just had to keep the pace going for another few hours and it would be done. It was good to not have to concentrate at all on my direction having only been on the trail a few hours previously. I was pretty strong and didn’t see another soul until I was back on the canal for the final time with only around two miles to go. I stopped for a call of nature and looked behind me. I couldn’t see very far along the canal due to the bends, but there only a few hundred metres behind was a runner! I hurried up and bolted. I didn’t look back till I was on the road with only a few hundred metres left. He was nowhere to be seen. I crossed the line in 9th place in a time of 7hrs 20mins. Not as quick as I was hoping, but that will serve me right for not looking after myself. Overall though I was pretty happy with it and it was a really fun and pretty course which I would love to return to.
The Bath Skyline

The next day, Lou, James and I were entered into the Bath Skyline 10km, an off-road course that was just down the road. I was pretty stiff, but thought I’d just turn up and jog around. As soon as it started I found myself near the front and just went for it. It was an excellent cross-country course that was really muddy in places. Again, it was a two lap race that really was quite testing, pushing me to the limit at every second. So much for the recovery run! Who was I kidding! I finished in 7thplace in just over 44mins. I felt pretty good at the end too! James came in 9 minutes later and Lou just missing out on breaking the hour mark. This was the first of a new series which I’d say was a real success and it’s a shame that I won’t be able to make the next one. Then again the reason I can’t make it is because I’m doing a race in the Lake District.

The Green Man Challenge

The next weekend I had a go at something that caught my eye quite a while ago. The Green Man Challenge is the completion of the Community Forest Path in 24hrs. The CFP is a loop that circles the whole of Bristol totalling 45 miles in length. It is named the Green Man Challenge as it begins within Ashton Court at a large stone carving of the Green Man. The whole idea is designed and governed by the Gaveller, otherwise known as Chris Bloor. He came and met me at my chosen start time of 0630 to see me off. We chatted briefly before I ran off into the darkness through the deer park.

Before I continue, I will just tell you about the preparation that went into this run. Well, I printed out some strip maps that were designed for people to do recces with and I had an OS map that wasn’t great as it was in the wrong scale for any real accuracy in tricky sections. I barely even looked through the route properly. I had read a few other peoples reports and most people had recced the route. Some thoroughly! I made it out of Ashton court and was soon heading up the hill heading towards Dundry. Soon I was off course and was forced to crawl under some barbed wire before being back on the trail. As I ran along the trail at the top of Dundry towards the village, the sun was rising over the trees setting the clouds alight. The ground was wet, but it looked as though it was going to be a great day. I really was enjoying running around the city being surrounded by beauty yet being close to it all the time. The path threads it’s way through the rural areas and sometimes through built up areas, but always utilising what green areas there are. It is a really well thought out footpath.
All was going pretty well till I got to Warmley where I got a little confused and ran in circles for a while before finding the trail again. I must admit that I did expect to get a little lost due to having not been over any of the course before, so even though I believed that I could beat the course record of 7hr20mins, I knew that everything had to be just right with no time wasting. Already I had wasted lots of time, but I was enjoying the path a lot.
I next got disastrously lost around Kendleshire Golf course. Fortunately Louise came to the rescue here. She had decided to come and support me for the last half and it just so happened that she was pretty close when I was very confused. She found me running down a road and fed me a still warm sausage roll before pointing me in the right direction and setting me off again.
Next point of confusion was not too far away near Hambrook. I then didn’t spend too much time on the CFP till I got to Around the Parkway area where Louise found me again. She this time refuelled me with a flask of rooibos tea and then rode beside me for a while which was really nice. Although I like to run alone it doesn’t mean that I don’t like the company. She stayed with me right up to Aztec West where it again turned to bike unfriendly path forcing us to part again. I then travelled trouble free (amazingly!) all the way to Easter Compton where Louise was waiting for me. I didn’t hang around, except to get my torch out as the night was closing in. I made my way up and over Spaniorum Hill where it was really marshy. I had been going for many hours here yet was feeling really good. Even though I had been just running around in circles all day, I was really enjoying it. When I arrived in Henbury, Louise was waiting for me again. This time I was fed a sandwich which vanished before I ran off through the streets. The next challenge was getting through the Blaise estate. I saw it as a potential challenge as I had read that others had got lost here. What chance did I have! Sure enough, I lost it and ended up on the road before heading straight back into the woods to tray and intercept the path. I knew I was heading in the right direction so just continued, hopeful that I would exit the woods where Louise was waiting. Needless to say that I came out close to Louise, but not close enough! Around another wasted half an hour later, we met up again before I ran off through the golf course. From now till the end was free from error. When I got to the Downs, I called the Gaveller as promised so that he could meet me at the end. I also let Louise know where I was. The last section was really nice and the night view that suddenly appeared of the suspension bridge was stunning. As I crossed the bridge, Louise caught me up so we could finish together. Ashton Court was locked when we arrived so we leapt over the wall and made our way towards the light of the Gaveller who was already waiting for my arrival at the Green Man. It was good to be done. Even though it had been pretty disastrous navigation wise, I had had a great day running around like a headless chicken sliding around in the mud and was really feeling pretty good seeing as my Garmin informed me that it had begun 13 hours ago! 

Garmin upload for your entertainment!

We chatted with Chris for a few minutes in the dark at the Green Man stone Carving I had left early that same morning. Chris had already offered me a lift back but I wanted to run. It only felt right for this to be a true door to door venture. I will of course run the CFP again and probably many times as it is on my doorstep and is a great distance for a long day out. I’m not sure that it will ever be quite the mad adventure that this was though!

Hardmoors 110 Recce

I next had plans with Drew again to do a recce. This time the recce would take us to the North York Moors, on the Cleveland Wayto prepare for the Hardmoors 110 we are both entered into next year. The race is the Cleveland Way in it’s entirety. All 110 miles of it. I’ve heard some good stuff about this race. It is supposed to be really tough. I like to if possible recce any route that will be long enough to take you through the night so to take up this opportunity with Drew was valuable for race confidence. I got the train to Coventry where Drew picked me up and we drove on up to the edge of the North York Moors where Drew had booked a room for two nights at a hotel. We didn’t get there till after 10 so just chilled out in our room and sorted out our kit for the next days early start. We had booked breakfast for 0515 and the cook serving us looked like he wasn’t going to wake up for at least another two hours. We had our breakfast then drove to Thirsk where we left the car and got into a taxi and directed it to Helmsley. This is where the end of the Cleveland Way is situated, and where Drew and I spent 5 minutes hunting for it! The weather was atrocious with very strong winds which would be a lot stronger when we got up onto the exposed moorland. We ran off up the path skirting a woodland in complete darkness. We decided to start in the dark so that we could have every bit of daylight we could get. The path was really easy to follow and for around the first 30km, although it is actually slowly climbing for a lot of it, is actually really pretty easy running. We were going well and I was feeling great. Drew had mentioned that he hadn’t felt great on the drive up but seemed to be going well at the moment. Our target for the day was Saltburn by the sea, which would take us onto the coastal section and the half way point at 55 miles. I was carrying the map, and as I looked ahead to what lay ahead, I noticed that it got a little lumpier up ahead which would slow us down considerably. No problem. I get a bit bored with to much flat running!

As the trail got more challenging, I kept noticing that Drew was uncharacteristically slowing down a bit. Drew and I have a pretty even pace so I knew that he wasn’t going well and slowed a little. This wasn’t a race.
As we plugged away at the ups and the downs, the mileage was getting higher but not quick enough. Then as we got onto the open moorland towards Bloworth Crossing, Drew begun walking and said that he wasn’t going to make Saltburn, and that we were soon to be at Kildale where there was a train station. We decided that we would stop there and catch the train back from Kildale. We had covered 40 miles so had still done a pretty good recce! 

Garmin upload

We arrived at the tiny village of Kildale and found the really nice and cosy family run tea shop. I had a couple bowls of soup and some coffee, whilst we waited for the train. After much waiting and a couple train rides later, we arrived back at the car and Drew drove us back to the hotel.

Eskdale Eureka Fell Race

We had checked to see what fell races were on the Sunday and discovered that the Eskdale Eureka  was. It was 8 miles with not too much climbing. I felt pretty good but Drew sensibly decided to spectate as the weather was pretty harsh being very windy and only 2 degrees Celsius. I had a great race, really enjoying the madness of it. I of course did not know the route at all, but had some runners ahead of me who clearly did, and chose to follow them as they would just turn off the path and begin leaping through knee deep bracken and gorse as they tried to find the fastest route! Fell racing is just so intense physically and mentally. I never imagined that running could be so exciting! I felt strong to the end and managed 9th place. 8 minutes behind the winner. My descending is definitely improving, and stuff like this will really push it to a different level. Overall a great weekend again. Shame Drew wasn’t feeling up to it, but I would say 40 miles is pretty good for feeling under the weather!

Garmin upload

Today is the 13thDecember and on Saturday I’m entered into the Tour De Helvellyn in the Lakes. The weather all around the country is abysmal at the moment and doesn’t look to be much better at the weekend so being the shortest Saturday of the year, could really be a tough one even though it’s just a 38 miler. I can’t wait to get back up to the Lakes. I will be running with my good buddy Dave again which is always a pleasure.
Will write again soon to talk about Helvellyn.
Happy running.