Friday, 18 June 2010

Here Comes the Summer

After the mixed success of my last set of goals, I’ve put together my next set of goals to see me over the summer. As before I’m giving myself a 6-week window, but I’m making it slightly different in that the 6-weeks is the training period, geared towards getting me ready to hit my goals, but this will then be followed by a test week, in which I’ll tackle a different goal each day.

I’ve tried to avoid goals I can’t do/measure (unlike last time), but having said that... I’ve still included the bench press goal, my thinking being that I now have a bench that’ll allow me to do it, and BH has said if I’m good I can buy more weights which will mean I have enough to do the hundred in theory, even if my body’s not ready for it!

The weight thing, I’m not too bothered about now. I will try and weigh myself out of interest (if only to work out what weights I’m shifting as a % of bodyweight), but I think the training and continued focus on my diet will probably see my body go the way I want it to anyway.

So then, those goals...

Press Ups
Having hit the 100, I don’t want to lose it, so will be looking to maintain this and still be able to knock out 100 in the test week.

Pull Ups
Complete the 50 Pull Ups Program.

Bench Press
Bench 100kg over 5 reps

Break 7min/mi average over my 4mi run (will be a tough one this, at it’s a hilly one)

I may include a swimming goal. When I swim I tend to do 100 lengths crawl (2.5km). I might set a benchmark time in my first training week, and then set a quicker target time over the same distance for my test week

But that’s it. Simple. I’ve also attached my Week A/Week B training plans, as well as my test week. I may well vary from the training plan, as over the coming 6-weeks I am away with work for a number of days (e.g. 4 days in south Wales) which will throw me out a bit, but I’ll work around this somehow.

And all this kicks off week commencing 5th July (I’ve been ill this week so not trained at all; recovery/get back into it week next week; and then in Northern Ireland for a whole week the week after). I’ll just throw some stuff together to keep me ticking over until then.

Witness the fitness. Or failure, as the case may be.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Time Gentlemen Please

Blimey 6 weeks goes so fast!

Not blogged in a while, but I only ever blog when working from home, and I've been out and about quite a bit since my last post, so not had the opportunity. In fact, I even started drafting this post 3 weeks ago! My silence though should not be taken for inaction. No no, plenty of that. Let's see where it got me with a quick round up of how I did against my goals.

100 Press Up Challenge Completed

Check. Did this in the final week, and boy do I feel pleased with myself. This is an excellent programme for those that want to build more upper body strength, tone up, or just fancy being able to say they can do 100 press ups. Been attempting this on and off since Nov '08, and got up to 80ish before breaking my hand last March. Have since been maintaining at the top level.

50 Pull Up Challenge Completed

Well, not quite. As I said previously, I had started off able to do 15, but these were fairly lazy ones to the chin only. After a rethink, I now do them much harder than before and am making good progress. But because I have started much lower (after a wasted couple of weeks doing it the old way as well) I ended the 6 weeks only up to week 3. The main problem slowing me down, is that I didn't always have access to somewhere to do pull-ups. Press-ups, you can do anywhere there's a floor. With the pull-ups, I only had the staff rest room in the office (an old beam in a refurbished mill), which I could only use when empty (to spare my blushes), and when in the office. I do have a scaffolding pole that I use above the steps to the attic, but the bar is quite wide, and I find my grip tires long before my arms do. 

Since then though, I have found the garage roof, into the garage doorway very good, and at the weekend bought one of those JML door gym thingys that sit above the doorway and use your body as a counterweight. Great fun.

I am even now though still on week 3, albeit due to do the last session today. Towards the end of my 6th weeks I added a new goal which was: Get a New Job. In this time, I applied, was assessed, interviewed (twice) and finally got it. The preparation this required meant the spare time I would have dedicated to some of my exercises was instead spent reading up on industry news, my employers to be, and anticipating various questions.

Sometimes goals have to change to reflect different priorities, hey-ho.

Bench Press/Hitting 12.5st

Neither of these goals particularly well thought out: not enough weight or the correct bench to bench 100kg, even if I could;  and no idea what I weigh still, as I have no scales.

I now have a bench with a rack which will allow me to lift 100kg, but only once I get hold of another 30kg of weights!! Still a work in progress. Now I am maintaining my press-ups at Wk6 of the challenge though, I will alternate the high-rep press-up work with low-rep high-weight benching.

As for the weight, I have drastically altered my diet: stripped out masses of the fat I was eating, and replacing with healthier eats: big lunches of pasta (1.5mugs dry), tuna, mayo, sweetcorn and tobasco; snacks of nuts, fruits & seeds instead of chocolate bars. I also finished my protein course and am on the creatine: 1-2x3g in water each day, depending on level of activity. With all this I reckon I have probably gained some towards my goal, but really should make an effort to get weighed!


Wasn't able to get into this as much as I'd hoped, as my injury carried on long into my 6 weeks. However, am now up and running again, combining medium length road runs (4-10mi over some quite hilly roads) with short sharp hill sessions over Pendle (6-7mi with approx 2,200ft of climb).


Not the basis of any of my original  goals, but when it was clear I was going to be off running for longer than I thought, I decided to get down the pool. I can now do 100 lengths (2.5km) in good order of front crawl, in just under 1:15, though still with some niggles which comes down to technique. I will probably factor this in to the next set of goals.

My next post will hopefully not be as long coming as this one was, and will have another set of 6-week goals. The main focus of these will be on the running and the pull-ups, but I'm now going to scratch my head over what these will look like.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

On the Road Again

Back running last night and feeling fine. Great little run in the sunshine, even got away in just my vest. Mainly on the road, with a diversion over the local golf course and farmer's fields.

Anyway, how's progress toward them goals coming along? 

Goals Progress Week 1


After getting a bit ahead of myself following my initial exhaustion test of 50 (I jumped to week 5 column 3), and failing miserably, I pulled back to week 4 with much better results:

Day 1 (60secs rest) - 21/25/21/21/32, 120 total
Day 2 (90secs rest) - 25/29/25/25/26, 140 total
Day 3 (120secs rest) - 29/33/29/29/42, 162 total

Was supposed to do a max test after this, but this would have put the next week out so tonight I hit week 5 again, hopefully with better results after working through week 4. I have to do a total of 170 over 5 sets, with only 60 secs rest, so it won't be easy.


Again jumped too far ahead on this, but only because I was going for an easy pull up. I was finishing the rep once my chin was over the bar, now I pull further. For clarification, the technique is:
  1. Start position: full hang, arms just wider than shoulder width apart, over-hand grip
  2. Pull-up until chest touches bar/edge of gripping surface
  3. Return to start position, just keeping elbows short of locking at full extension
After an initial max test on the lazy technique (15 reps) and one day at week 3, I redid the max test and got 7 full pull-ups before I couldn't pull my chest up as high. I'm now on week 1 column 3 according to the programme and have got day 1 under my belt (5/6/4/3/5 with 60secs rest).

This will push my six-week goal to the test, as this is a six-week programme, so no room for slip up and repeating a week. In fact, I'm already down a week really, as I'm only just at the start of week 1 (in the programme) at the end of my first week (of my countdown to my goals). Confused? Yeah, me too.

Bench Press:

Very embarrassing this. I don't actually have 100kg of weights to attempt this!! I've only got 73kg of weight to put on my bar. Also, I realise I need a new bench that's got a rack to hold the bar as I hit these bigger weights. The most I can heft up from the floor from a seated position, and then manipulate up my body (without crushing my unmentionables, or my chest) into a lying bench press position is 63kg. Once there, I can bench these quite comfortably. So I need to get a new bench (I've seen a good one with a rack from Decathlon I'll treat myself to after pay-day), and 2x15/20kg plates.

For now, I'll just do what I can with the weights I can move after my press ups.

Hitting 12.5st:

Again, should have thought this through a bit better. I've got no way of measuring this, as we don't actually own a set of scales. However, diet is now heavy on the carbs and protein (mainly tuna/mayo/sweetcorn with pasta or baked spuds), supplemented with a post-training protein shake. Just need to track down a decent set of scales. 


First run since 17th March last night. 4.09mi, and kept a fairly consistent pace which averaged around 7.30mins/mi. It had 340ft of climb on it, so quite hilly for a little road run. Main thing is my knee felt fine throughout. Gonna give it a couple of days before trying it again, continuing to stretch and stregthen the necessaries in order to fend off future ITB problems. Also going to keep it on road (or at least away from fells with dodgy terrain) for the time being so as not to aggravate it again.

The running goals are the ones I'm prepared to be most flexible with, as I've got to nurse my knee back to health, and I'm not going to sacrifice my running for the sake of hitting a couple of goals. Will keep this one under review.


Having got my breathing technique sorted out, I'm going to time myself over 1km in the pool tonight, and from there set a time goal over the same distance for the end of the six-week period. Watch this space.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Eat my Goals

With the decision last week to get a bit more focused I've been having a think about my goals and have decided to give them a bit more structure. So all this to be achieved in the next 6 weeks:
  • 100 press-up challenge completed
  • 50 pull-up challenge completed
  • Bench press 100kg x5 reps
  • Up weight to 12.5st (from 12st)
Assuming my legs start running this week too (testing them out tonight), I'll be aiming for:
  • Sub 7min/mi average on a regular 7mi route of mine (quite hilly road route)
  • To be able to run all the way to the trig at Pendle following the Tour route up to CP1 (currently break into a walk part way up).
I might also add a swimming goal here too, but I need to sort my stroke out. Currenty gasping for breath at the end of my crawl stroke. I'm trying to use a 3-stroke rhythm, alternating the side I breathe out of, but think I might be either too fast/slow in exhaling in the water, leaving me panic breathing when I lift my head out of the water (and having to rest after every other length catching my breath). Will work on perfecting this stroke first. If anyone can help out with this, let me know.

To assist with all of these, I've changed my diet in the last week. With more activity during the week, I've been more reliant on cooking for myself. Until last week, this involved pizza, fish finger butties, and Frey Bentos pies. Last week, I started hitting the jacket potatoes or pasta, mixing up some tuna, light mayo, sweetcorn, and tobasco. 

I've also got hold of some protein and creatine supplements - there's an excellent offer in Holland & Barrett if you buy their magazine (99p) there's vouchers to get a decent sized tub of protein & creatine, both for less than £20. I'm only going to use these as recovery supplements, one protein portion after each session,  moving on to the creatine after this runs out.

At the end of the six weeks - assuming I've hit my goals - I'm going to set another set of goals. I'm not sure what yet, but have been inspired by an article in the afformentioned H&B magazine and like the look of the Gym Jones 300 test (a programme and test put together for the actors in 300, but a good focus on total body strength/fitness). Also been inspired by Ninja Warrior(!), a Japanese obstacle course based challenge, currently showing on Virgin (but also broadcast on Challenge, I think). Looks good for a laugh, but also quite tough.

Got six weeks to work out what goals I could build using these as start-points. In the meantime, I've got plenty to be getting on with.

    Wednesday, 31 March 2010


    With my knee out of action I need a new focus. In quite a timely way, just before my knee went I noticed I'd developed what could only be described as a runner's frame. Not quite a racing snake, but I'd defnitely lost a lot of my bulk up top. Since my knee fixed itself last August/September, 99% of my training has been for running, and all my upper-body work went out the window. So I'm now quite weedy again.

    Time to work on the 'big guns':

    Big guns

    In order to do this, I've restarted the 100 press-up programme, and my own 50 pull-up programme (essentially, just the press-up programme, with all the numbers cut in half). 

    So far...

    Max Test 1 - 50
    Day 1 - 118 total (28/35/25/22/8 - instead of 35!)

    Max Test 1 - 15
    Day 1 - 40 total (7/9/7/7/10 - but last set I needed a couple of rests to finish)

    Failed both my first days, but think I know why: in both cases, I may have got carried away after my max tests and moved too far ahead in the programme. Add to that the fact my first press-up day I did the day after my max test, and it all kind of fits. Will adjust my position in each programme throughout this first week, until I find my level, & then the only way is up. Will also dust off my weights and bench once I've cleared out the garage (a job for a bank holiday, if ever there was one).


    Still continuing with my Pilates and ITB work, and halfway through the second week of my enforced rest. Gonna try a little 3.5mi road run, possibly Monday. Watch this space.

    Saturday, 20 March 2010

    ITB & Sympathy

    Turns out my knee is still sulking with me for putting it through the High Peak Marathon.

    Following the race, and a bit of waddling about on the Sunday, by the Monday, I was walking fine. I went out for the Tuesday night headtorcher over Pendle with Clayton and was running really strong, up until my headtorch started failing and I planted myself on the ground after a fall at speed, cushioning the blow with nothing but my dodgy knee. Towards the end of the run I started getting a pain so eased off, but after a bit of poking and prodding in the pub afterwards, it turned out to be a bruising pain on the surface rather than the sharp pain just under the surface you get with ITB.

    So, given the all clear, I managed to get out for another run on the Thursday: a glorious run in the sunshine over Pendle. Shorts, t-shirt (first of the year), beautiful views, so a very slow one just enjoying the mild weather and the views, but ending once more with a pain in the knee. Again, poking and prodding suggested the bruising, but I might have been using a bit of wishful thinking here.
    [Pendle run]

    At this point, I think I'm in the clear, so start planning a run round Widdop. A nice 10-12mi loop taking in some dramatic scenery I've been meaning to explore for a while. I drive past this area on the way to the office regularly, and on Thursday it just looked so nice in the sun, I thought why not. So on Sunday, armed with a hand-drawn map (a copy of the 1:25,000 OS map from I start the run in great weather again eager to see somewhere new.

    Attempt at a panoramic view over Widdop whilst I was still enjoying myself (they preview in line, anyway).

    What a miserable run it was. Started well enough on public footpaths, nice soft grass underfoot, great running. But my route soon took me off-piste and I ended up slogging for what felt like miles up this knee-high heather covered hill which just wasn't runnable at all until you hit a burnt patch here and there. I eventually made it to what was marked as a bridleway, but was just tussocks, with the odd line of bog marking the way. All of this slowed me down; and also, with footing being so uneven, and not being able to run with a regular rhythm and normal gait, ended up with a really sharp pain in my knee which was, this time, unmistakably ITB. Which slowed me down even more. So made the decision to cut it short (with a few miles still left to get back to the car), and finally covered 7mi in about 2hrs...which was our average HPM pace!
    [Widdop run]

    Next day, the pain was non-existent, so I decide I can run, but just need to take it a bit easier: avoid rough terrain, and anything too long, setting a limit of 15mi. With that in mind, Wednesday I hit the road for a quick but hilly 7mi route. Just shy of 2mi I pull up with my ITB again. Decide to cut it short, again, and shuffle my way home, again. Was agony making my way home, especially getting overtaken by...joggers!! Oh, for shame!
    [Aborted run]

    So, I've made my mind up: 2 weeks of complete rest, no running whatsoever. Just a focus on stretching my ITB this week, then introducing some strengthening exercises week 2, as well as doing more Pilates at home for my core stability. Then slooooowly back into it after that.

    Fellsman looking like a long-shot now. Maybe if I called it iTB I might enjoy it more? Make it sound young, and funky...

    Monday, 8 March 2010

    All This Way for a Lousy T-shirt?

    That's unfair. It's actually quite a nice t-shirt, though I could have made off with this without doing the race itself, seeing as I'd handed over my cash and been given the bright red tee before the start. Anyway, I stuck around, and this is what happened...

    High Peak Marathon, 5-6th March, 42 miles.

    After a last minute reshuffle which saw Emma join Clare's Pussycat Trolls (see last blog entry) we drafted in a late substitute: Kev. A solid ultra-distance runner who finished last year's Fellsman in 20th, and currently in training for this year's Lakeland 100. On the day then, team 34 - Traversers, was made up of myself, Brian, Andy & Kev.

    Turning up with a few hours to go before the start enabled Brian and I to get our kit together, and start scoffing some of the plentiful (and free!) cakes, malt loaf & sandwiches, washed down with plenty of sweet tea. Saw the other survivors of last week's recce, gave Clare some Gore-Tex mitts (part of my enhanced kit list after the wild weather last Friday), paid Andy for the pleasure of the next few hours, and got my t-shirt.

    I started getting a bit anxious as we neared 10 o'clock and Kev still wasn't to be seen. I mean, what kind of nutter would agree to a 42 mile night time run with just about 48hrs notice? Surely he'd seen sense? But luckily he did show (weirdo), bringing his son along to run with Ian's (our recce navigator) Nuns from Chinley. But at least we had a team. We dumped the last of the stuff we didn't need in the car, and one very thorough kit check later, we were good to go.

    Traversers before the off (from l-r): Kev, me, Andy & Brian

    The rest of the time was passed drinking and nervously chatting to our fellow runners. Then our team was called up, we dobbed our dibber*, and at 23.24, we were off.

    Andy and Kev settled into a fairly quick pace early on, and it wasn't long before we were passing other teams (I think 3 before CP1 at Hollins Cross). At this point the pace was bearable, but I did wonder how long I'd realistically be able to keep it up. I also had to abandon my chest pouch (see pic above) at this point. Bouncing up and down at home and in the village hall it was fine. Running properly, it just kept flapping up and down, so I shoved it in my sack, and redistributed some food to my jacket and the waist straps of my rucksack. Half an hour in, I really started struggling. I developed some bad stomach cramps. After a Paula Radcliffe moment on the climb up to Win Hill failed to alleviate things I was already thinking of giving up, wondering how I could possibly make it round the full route feeling like this. I decided to stick it out for a bit and gradually found myself running more freely, with a bit of nursing round by Kev. As we came into the food stop at Moscar it had reduced to a dull ache, and despite the sickly feeling in my stomach, managed to force some more malt loaf and a cup of tea down.

    The gentle run down to CP6 at Cutthroat Bridge on the road seemed to do wonders: it allowed a steady running pace, and gave time for the food to do its work. By the time we hit the rough stuff again at Cutthroat Bridge (the start point of our recce), the stomach was ignorable, and I could just focus on keeping Kev or Andy's heels in view. At this point Brian was beginning to struggle, and he wouldn't really recover for the rest of the race. As he has described it since, he just couldn't take on and keep down the fuel needed, so he settled into a slower plod. The pattern of running then waiting for Brian began to establish itself. This was alright for me as it gave me a chance to get my breath back, or take on a bit of food, but because of the pace I couldn't really allow myself to hang back for Brian too much - I was worried that having found my rhythm I might lose it again - though I did run with him in patches.

    Looking back, I should have got Kev and Andy to slow down for Brian. I guess this highlights the danger of a last minute team on such an event: the gap between Andy & Kev, and Brian & me was probably too big. If they slowed for Brian too much, they got cold; by going too fast, Brian and I were drained.

    Anyway, the gap was never a dangerous one, possibly until later in the race. All across Bleaklow (which I saw more of by moonlight than during the day last week!) Brian was in touching distance and we were stopping regularly. The gap really started opening after the second food stop at the Snake Pass crossing. At this point Brian and I both insisted we walk while we ate our food: a Marmite butty, and a very tasty slice of some cake or other. After that the run started again on the first really runnable section since Cutthroat Bridge: over the slabs of the Pennine Way to Mill Hill. At Mill Hill I got my camera out for the first time since we started whilst waiting for Brian (not long this time).

    Photos from Mill Hill (CP16), c/wise from top L: Looking back towards Bleaklow; two of the typicaly chipper students manning the various CPs; ahead towards Kinder and beyond; Kev and Andy looking pleased with themselves, and annoyingly fresh

    I was feeling very strong at this point and I waved the team off to start without me while I finished taking pictures and mucked about with some kit. I then had a fairly pacey run to the base of Kinder where I caught up with Brian. Given I was feeling much stronger now, I was happy to stick with Brian knowing I could keep both me and him going. After reaching the top of the Kinder plateau though, this was more forced than a choice, as my knee decided this was the moment to pack in. My old ITB problem reared its head with (I think) 10 miles to go. Probably had a lot to do with the terrain we were running on: the first time it ever went was after running on surfaces where the foot 'squidges' from side to side before biting (like in mud, and ice, and snow), and to this point I'd been running over 30-odd miles of nothing but, well, mud, and ice, and snow! Every step now sent a sharp pain into the outside of my right knee. In particular on the downhill bits. Though on Kinder it undulates quite a lot, Kinder sits c350ft above Edale, with a couple of smaller climbs to (and therefore descents down from) Brown Knoll, Lord's Seat, Mam Tor and Hollins Cross. These last 10mi therefore, hurt. A lot.

    Once we caught up with Kev and Andy at Jacob's Ladder (CP17) I then just had to stick with them to get the run over with as soon as possible. Purely a psychological trick: Brian was the dobber, so it still wouldn't end until we all dibbed in at the CPs and crossed the line together. It was also a very poor excuse not to wait for him and it was at this point the gap started increasing, though Kev recognised this and so when the gap got too big, he ran back and stuck with Brian. I've since apologised for this, and my conscience finally made itself heard on the approach to Hollins Cross (the last CP, CP19), where I said that after this point we should all run the remainder of the way together.

    If you speak to Brian he was perfectly happy as he knows he can plod for miles and for him it was just a question of fuel, or lack thereof. I don't want to paint him as having suffered too much, but in a team event like this, I just think we should all have taken more care of him.

    Anyway, we did do the last bit together, with me swearing all the way down from Hollins Cross to the road, which gave us a nice final trot back to the village hall to warm applause, warm tea, and a delicious warm stew, cooked up by the organisers.

    Ian's team (which included Kev's son) came in 3rd in 9h37 - a cracking result (see the write up of this race in Laid Back Fellrunner, below).

    We sat and ate our stews, supping teas whilst we cheered home a few more teams, including Sir Ranulph Fiennes'** team, Poles Apart. After a while, it needed more than teas and story swapping to keep us warm, so we headed out to the cars to get into clean, dry clothes. At this point, Brian had the genius idea of heading off to a pub for a hard-earned pint instead of back into the hall. So we did. And by golly did it taste nice! We did get some funny looks from the patrons as we both hobbled in, and answered their curiosity with a brief outline of what the past half a day had entailed. Which resulted in even funnier looks.

    Once home, it was in the bath, finish off my two uneaten slices of gala pie, and then to bed for a couple of hours. A big chippy tea and a pint of Snecklifter and I hit the sack again. A couple of hours in the local Spa on Sunday and I was just about getting back to feeling human, and with my knee/feet/leg/underarm(chafeage)/back pains easing off. Remains to be seen how serious my ITB problem is this time, though the last time it went properly I couldn't bend the knee for a few days, so the fact I could from the day after gives me hope. Fingers crossed.

    Overall this is a fantastic event, with some great organisation, and well supported by the students of Sheffield University; bravely manning the checkpoints scattered across the moors through the darkest hours, and in the freezing cold. Big thanks to them all. I think I would look to do this again, possibly a bit quicker, but definitely with more of a team ethos. For those into this kind of thing, it comes with my huge recommendation.

    Well done to all who made it round, better luck next time to those who didn't. I'm off to put my feet up and wonder why on Earth I chose to put myself through it all...whilst looking up the entries for the 61 mile Fellsman in May!!

    For other accounts of the race see here:
    Laid Back Fellrunner
    Tea & Cake
    Donning Studs in May
    Just Us and a few friends

    *Each team is given a dibber, which at each CP, and the start/finish is dobbed by putting the dibber into the dobber which results in a bleep. You have therefore been dobbed and can continue running. The person with the dibber, is known as the dobber.

    **Sir Ranulph Fiennes suffered a bad car crash on the way home from this event. Luckily no-one was seriously hurt. Report here.

    Monday, 1 March 2010

    I'm Going Outside...I May Be Sometime

    Route details: 

    I hadn't particularly intended to write anything special about the High Peak Marathon recce beforehand. However, the 18 or so miles from Cutthroat Bridge to Snake Pass was such an epic adventure it deserves its own little slice of the blogosphere.

    The plan was just a run around the top half of the HPM route, trying to get a feel for the tricky Bleaklow section. There were warning signs from the start that things might get interesting when we first met up at Snake Pass, the we being Team Traversers - myself, Brian, Emma and Andy - Dave the dog, and Clare from Pussycat Trolls (which definitely trumps our team name, but hey, I had no input into that). At this point Snake Pass was open, but the snow was falling quite heavily and beginning to settle on the ground. For this reason, of the 3 cars there, we decided to leave Clare's Land Rover Defender as this would stand the best chance of getting back down the hill, so we chucked our warm, dry gear in the back of the Landy, and off we went. This was a good call, as I could only just get my car off the layby and back onto the road at this stage. We then carried on to Cutthroat Bridge, where we met the Ray Mears of the area, Mountain Rescue member, and all round good-egg, Ian of the Dark Peak Fell Runners.

    We got into our watrproof gear straightaway, as it was clear it was going to be pretty wet: at this lower level there was a fairly heavy sleet. So off we headed up Derwent Moors and had quite an enjoyable, uneventful run for the most part, until we reached Howden Edge.

    The photo on the left is of me running down Sheepfold Clough, if only to offer proof that despite the poor time we completed this recce in, we did try to run.

    At the bottom of Sheepfold Clough; some fairly fast moving water, which was wider than it looks on here. We crossed using a one-in-one-out human chain. This really put my GoreTex trousers to the test, and they passed with flying colours. Apart from the chill from the water - which went in the first 20m or so of the hill-climb out of the Clough - I was completely dry (apart from my feet, which took a bit longer to thaw).

    At Howden Edge you are completely exposed and it was at this point we felt the full force of the wind that would give us a good indication of what was to come. The wind was hitting us hard (from the west?) and driving the snow right into our faces. I was still feeling this sensation later that night when I closed my eyes in bed: a tingling right across my eyes, nose and cheeks, exactly like the snow and wind earlier that day.

    We did find a sheltered spot before getting onto Bleaklow though to bivvy and get some food inside us. A very sensible decision as it turned out, as there was no real opportunity to do this at all later on. 

    Navigation at this point started to get harder as the horizon – nearer by some considerable margin due to the blizzard - blurred with the sky. Picking out landmarks was nigh on impossible. As we hit Bleaklow it got even worse. This is a notorious section to run across at the best of times. A mixture of featureless wilderness; maze-like groughs; and energy-sapping bogs. However tiring the bogs are though it would surely have been easier than the reality we faced. Snow drifts that very often came above the knee, hidden hollows that you would get lost in up to the waist and have to be hauled out of…all made running tricky. The fact that the last four miles were taken at about 1mph should illustrate this.

    The intrepid crew in the relative shelter of a huge drift on Bleaklow. Note the smiles.
    L-R: Clare, Dave, Emma, Ian, Andy, Brian

    Even our local guide ended up getting lost, and finding what should have been an easy run out of Bleaklow via the slabbed Pennine Way took numerous wrong diversions (you’ll see from the route we took we don’t follow the HPM course exactly), and required crossing a fairly steep clough. This wouldn’t have been so tricky at any other time, but with the heavy snow, it had steepened the sides, and made finding a footing difficult. When we finally did find the Pennine Way, it wasn’t the slabbed path we’d been expecting, but a 2ft layer of snow. So no easy run out. We did eventually slog our way through it to find our way back to the Landy, 7h10m later, exhausted and frozen. (A compass that had been flapping loose round Brian’s neck on the way round was encased in a solid block of ice.)
    Job done: back at the Land Rover at Snake Pass
    C/wise from top: Me, looking spaced out; Brian, looking, er, reflective; and Andy looking chuffed, and well he might.
    As we drove back down from Snake Pass, a couple of our number started getting very cold, and by the time we got back to the rest of the cars at Cutthroat Bridge, we nearly had a hypothermia case on our hands. Not even Clare's stash of Bakewell tarts coud help with this! Luckily, with Ian - Mountain Rescue, remember - on hand we were able to take the appropriate steps to look after our comrade, and in a matter of minutes we were sat in the warmth of Ladybower Inn in lots of dry layers, sipping hot chocolate and eating crisps. In conversation with some nearby diners, we explained what we had just done and were met with a mixture of awe and bemusement. When we told them we were doing the same again, only longer, and at night...

    Well done to my fellow 'runners' on that day, good luck to the High Peak Marathon-ers on Friday, and to the rest: you just had to be there!

    Back home after these type of escapades I get very little sympathy - it's all seen as self-inflicted and very much avoidable. A question I was asked after this particular run, was "why didn't you just turn back?" This got me thinking about why we do this, and why, despite everything, I ended our jaunt with a grin on my face and looking forward to more of the same this coming Friday. I remembered reading this article (below) about the infamous 2008 OMM, and thought it goes part way to explaining it, so I have shared this here for you:

    Thursday, 25 February 2010

    Snow Pictures

    Just thought I'd finally get round to adding some of the snow-related pictures taken since Christmas while there's still some on the ground and it is vaguely topical. Would have had more, but on the best day for photos I had in the hills (where the first picture comes from) I left the memory card at home limiting me to 3 pictures. Doh.

     Nearing the top of Pendle from the Downham side - early morning climb

    Me looking very unsteady on my feet - probably trying to stay on the surface of the snow

    Snow-bound socks with the beginnings of snow-burn/chafage on my shins

    A later picture of my scabby shins - doesn't really do it justice

    My lovely featureless cankle after turning it numerous times under the surface of the snow.

    Friday, 19 February 2010

    A Bit Peaky

    I'm in!! Luckily 3 runners in a High Peak Marathon team got themselves injured or ill. When I say luckily, my thoughts are with them, obviously, but it does mean that with only a few weeks to go, I'm gonna get to have a crack at this event. The proof's here. We're team no. 24: Traversers.

    A 42mi run over boggy, featureless wilderness, in a circular route out of Edale. Added to that is the difficulty of starting the race at 11 at night. So all mileage (and more importantly navigation) completed by headtorch-light. Really looking forward to it, and will be a great session to have under my belt given my ultimate aim of a BGR. An added attraction this year is the chance I might be able to speak to Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who is competing in the race with another team. Though whether I will say anything meaningful, or just stare, giggle and jibber like a schoolgirl at a [insert contemporary pop reference here] concert is another matter.

    Soon after the euphoria had kicked in there was another feeling that started to creep into my mind. Took a while to identify this as panic. As I said in my last post, my training so far this year has been a bit hit and miss. I've since been out with my club on one of their headtorch runs over Pendle and found myself really struggling to keep up, whereas before Christmas, I was holding my own.

    So with only 3 and a bit weeks to go between getting in the team and the race starting, I was desperately wondering where I would get my fitness back from. I had another week away with work, which limited the miles I could get under my belt. Had some really good CV sessions (e.g. 40min run/30min bike/20min row) but nothing really compares with hitting the hills for a few miles.

    With that in mind I did have a couple of runs lined up this weekend. I was doing the 2nd half of the Full Tour of Pendle this morning (10mi, 3000+ft), then doing a route I've contrived called the Pendle Monster: the Pendle Cloughs and Full Tour routes combined (27mi, 7000+ft). So far so good. This morning though, get to Barley for 6, and whilst just listening to the end of a report on the Today program I fell asleep. I awoke 40mins later, still shattered so without having even set foot outside the car I turned around, got home and got back into bed. I reckon the last few weeks of driving and early starts has caught up with me. So I'm having a rethink. 

    I may yet do the Pendle Monster, but with a 20mi recce of the northern half of the HPM route lined up next Friday, I might just satisfy myself with a few more modest runs, saving the Monster and another target - a Double FTOP - until after the HPM. Will no doubt update on here.

    Kit latest: Looking back over previous posts, I made reference to a decision over a jacket. I plumped for a Rab Momentum jacket made from Event fabric. Very breathable, very light, and keeps me dry.  Not soft-shell, as there seems to be a fad for at the moment (these materials just remind me of cheap polyester tracksuits I remember wearing as a kid in the 80s - see 2010 OMM Kamleika), so it does rustle a bit when running, but this doesn't bother me. It's also got a hood that clings to your head like a cap, so it doesn't get blown off in the winds. Very useful this winter on the top of Pendle. Doesn't stow in the jacket when not in use, which is strange, but not a major problem. Absolutely loving it so far - even the mushy pea/baby poo green colour - but a proper review should wait until after the HPM where no doubt it will be thoroughly tested.

    Before I disappear for now, if there's any missing Ls, it's not because I can't spell, but that particular key is highly strung and decides not to work sometimes.

    Monday, 8 February 2010

    Ain't Nothin' Gonna Break-a My Stride...

    ...well except for, er, quite a few things actually.

    I've not done a lot of running since the last blog entry, and this entry is basically a litany of excuses. (You have been warned!)

    It all started [cue dream like flashback with harp playing effects] at the Forum's Xmas On The Fells (XOTF). Was a bitterly cold run towards the end, and I was a bit too slow in putting on my warm gear at the last stop-and-wait-for-the-others point. I then decided to wait and run down with the backmarkers, which meant running a lot slower than I'm comfortable with and so I didn't get my body temperature up again. As a result I was sat in the pub, curry house and finally, the club that night all shaky and shivery. Not only that but my body seemed to take a while to recover from this.

    Other than this what was there? Oh yes: 

    • I missed an opportunity for a couple of decent length runs over the holiday period whilst at the family's, because I forgot my headtorch;
    • I missed out on quite a few Sunday runs because Pendle was inaccessible (snow on the roads);
    • Running on the roads as an alternative, or as part of my mid-week training wasn't feasible as the roads/pavements/lanes near me were lethally icy;
    • Once the snow had gone, weekends were spent decorating our bedroom;
    • Weekdays were spent mainly away from home - so I've not been to a Tuesday night headtorcher with the club since before Xmas.

    It's not all been doom and gloom: between access to Pendle being granted and the snow going completely I was able to hit it a couple of times. Got quite a few pictures which I will get on here at some point. Absolutely loved running in the snow. Such a great training effort required as you go between running on top of icy, crusty snow, and falling through the crust (up to the calf/knee/waist). Ended up with shins totally shredded of skin where the crust took the top layers away on the way in and on the way out of the snow. Also ended up with an impressive cankle where my foot would sink beneath the snow and would turn on whatever bumpy, uneven terrain there was underneath. Brilliant fun!

    I've been able to salvage something whilst I've been away with work as well. I've been in hotels with gyms so I've been hitting the treadmill (soul destroying, but necessary) and putting together some mad circuits for a total body workout, but really hitting the legs hard with some strength and plyometric work. Using the treadmill as a warm up then destroying myself on the circuits has been oddly satisfying, and a really good alternative to the running, and will probably try and use these more in my training in future.

    However, all of this has meant that the momentum I was building up before Xmas has been lost, and as many of you probably know, it's the first steps back on to a structured programme which are the hardest. 

    But not to fear. It begins again this week. Tonight a hilly road run with a weighted pack, tomorrow I am around for my club run over Pendle, Thursday I might be hitting Pendle for an early one. A bit further down the line I've put together a big 25mi run round Pendle (Sun 21st Feb), I'm still hoping for a place on a High Peak Marathon team (which to be honest has been a bit of a spur to get out of this funk), and am toying with the idea of a double FTOP in March.

    So it all begins again. Bring it on!!