Friday, August 28, 2015

Some Sale Fells (x4)

Sale Fell is the fell I visit the most.  I'm about a month behind with blogging and still want to use this blog as a record of all my ascents of the Wainwright fells so I have grouped a number of Sale Fell runs here.

29th July - trying out the latest trainers donated by Jonathan.  Inov8 Mudclaws 265

1st August was eventful.  I found a message which had been attached to a balloon and also freed a sheep that had its horns stuck in a fence.

the message.  I contacted her mum on Facebook to tell her I had found the balloon.

2nd August and we decided to conquer the other top on Sale Fell which has been created by the recent mass logging.  We called it Hardly Pike.

Finally, a little easy Sale Fell run as part of my taper for the St Bega's Ultra.  I'm without a camera at the moment so just the Strava link to post.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


climbing up to Lingmell summit with a view over towards Mickledore and the Scafells.

Lingmell's elegant cairn
There are worse places to head on a sunny day than the Scafells.  I fancied a proper mountain day and Dean was up for some exploration so I devised a route with plenty of climbing and scenery.

Lingmell's summit cairn
We parked at Wasdale Head.  I didn't realise but the Lingmell Dash fell race was on the same day so Wasdale was busier than ever.  We cut across towards the Brown Tongue path, cutting again directly up the side of the fell steeply onto the nose of Lingmell, joining the main path up Lingmell at the fence where a group told us we had taken the steepest route possible.  Start as you mean to go on!

Shortly after this point, I realised I had my watch set to swim and changed it over, Duh!

After a bit of dorking around on both of Lingmell's cairns, we headed over to join the throng making their way up to Scafell Pike's summit.  As we predicted, it was very busy at the summit.  Still this was Dean's first time up there and so we marked the occasion with some photos and then headed off towards Mickledore.

Lingmell behind on our way up to Scafell Pike summit

the summit comes into view

Dean celebrates being on top
On the way over to Mickledore, I discussed the three options for ascent with Dean.  The climb up Broad Stand wasn't really an option, being a famous blackspot for falls.  We thought we would have a look at it and Dean squeezed into Fat Man's Agony, the gap between the square boulder at the bottom of Broad Stand and the rest of the rock.

I enjoy Lord's Rake and decided to take Dean this way.  I thought about going along the West Wall Traverse but we decided to carry on past the famous dislodged stone and wound our way up to the summit.

There was a decent crowd up here.  The weather was a bit cooler and so we didn't hang around.  Heading off east, we dropped down the difficult path to Foxes Tarn and then on down the gulley to the climb back up to Broad Stand.  I'm always surprised at how much you drop down from Foxes Tarn.

We climbed back up to Mickledore and then back to Scafell Pike summit.  I only took one picture this time around - of my watch which showed exactly the right height at Scafell Pike summit.  It's good to know that it gets it right occasionally.  Unfortunately, it's usually difficult to know on which occasions it is right.

Fat Man's Agony
Lord's Rake
From the summit of Scafell Pike, we picked up the Scafell Pike Marathon course.  We headed over Broad Crag and then, rather than go around as the marathon course does, we went up and down Great End, bagging another Wainwright for Dean.

We then headed back down to pick up the route again at Esk Hause.

With somewhat tired feet, we followed the path down to Sty Head and then along the front of Great Gable and back to Wasdale Head.

Dean on Scafell

My watch gets the elevation right on top of Scafell Pike

Dean on Great End

and me on Great End

Friday, July 17, 2015

Gavel, Blake and Burnbank Fell

looking up the steep descent from Burbank Fell

Paul showed us a nice route around Loweswater.  I had some stomach issues so there were a few impromptu stops and not many pictures.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Souther Fell

Jonathan running off Souther Fell with the mighty Saddleback on the right

fast descent down to the footbridge

First post St Cuthbert's run.  Felt fine in the legs.  Me and Jonathan wanted an easy route so we went back to Souther Fell and attacked it in the opposite direction.  Much better this way, steep climb at the start but then very nice running all the way back.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

St Cuthbert's Way Ultra DNF

setting off from Holy Island

A DNF (did not finish) always takes a bit of time to take in.  I've had a few DNSs (did not starts) this year but, perversely for some reason, starting and not finishing feels worse than not starting at all.  it's worth saying at the outset that I truly believe in the maxim, what does not kill you makes you stronger.  I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from my own mistakes and reflect on the various aspects of the event that I did not prepare well for.

I've since spent a lot of time thinking about lessons learnt and can summarise as follows:

The Course:
The course was more road based than I had expected.  I had no excuse for this as I had a map which clearly stated which bits were on road and which were off road.  On road running means going faster in general which also has an effect on nutrition, pacing and the type of energy used.  I wasn't prepared for the amount of on road running.  This was my fault.

we had our game faces on
As well as the road aspects, a lot of the off road, particularly early on was through fields which were rutted underfoot, some had brambles and nettles, there were muddy (as in cowshit muddy gate junctions) all not too pleasant to run on.  This got better after a while and, although immediately after the race, Jonathan and I blamed this significantly for our non-enjoyment of the course, I now don't believe it was that significant a factor.
Some of my nutrition mistakes are linked to me not preparing properly in terms of being fully aware of the course.  I read all sorts of stuff on nutrition but have quite a basic approach.  When I'm going slow, I take Nakd bars or other flapjacks.  To me, these are ideal as they are nutty (fat based), natural and should provide an ideal slow burn energy.  I usually try to have one per hour and then top up with flapjack, coke, sweets etc at aid stations depending on how they are spread out.  The disadvantage to Nakd bars is that I think you need to be going quite slow to digest them.  I usually plan to eat them as I am hiking up a climb so that, at the top, ready for the fast run down, it is in my stomach and settled and won't come back up as I jostle my body on the run down.  For faster stuff, I carry gels.  Gels give a faster boost and are easier to digest.  They seem much better to take in on the move and can provide a much needed boost when you know you have a big climb coming up.  The problem with gels is that they provide a relatively short burst of energy so they have to be timed correctly.  I have also had occasional stomach problems with them.  If my stomach is feeling slightly off, as it was on this day, I will stay away from gels.

I had worked out that it would take anything from 13 hours upwards to complete the whole course.  I made a decision to rely on the flapjack at aid stations rather than to carry lots of Nakd bars.  When it came to it, and I know this sounds ridiculous, the flapjack they had just didn't look appealing.  Aid station food is a significant psychological factor in ultra running and I had pictured (for several miles) moist, succulent, handmade flapjack peppered with fruit.  What was on offer was the cheap supermarket traybake.  I just didn't fancy it and so didn't have any.  Instead I grabbed a few biscuits and sweets and carried on.  This wasn't good nutritional planning and I knew it was likely to come back to, forgive me, bite me!

There was a very small field, maybe about 40 or so starters for the 100k.  This meant that the field soon spread out.  Jonathan started throwing up at about 18 miles and we walked the next few miles to the aid station where he dropped out.  I think it was probably a combination of the heat and the speedy flat course and him trying to digest lucozade and biscuits.  He was really very sick and I don't blame him at all for pulling out.  This meant me carrying on alone.  I thought I was fine with this but you can't beat having a mate with you egging you on, or confirming that, actually, the climb you are on is really difficult.  The other big advantage of some company is the two minds are better than one approach to navigation it can give.  I tried to run with some others.  I met a bloke who told me he had finished over 100 ultras and he could clearly navigate, but couldn't keep up with him for longer than a few miles.  I dropped back to run with another guy.  My main concern at this point was some navigational support.  We came to a point where the track clearly went through a wood.  I pointed this out to him on the map.  He looked vague and said something about the other track looking 'more like' it was the right track (despite going in the opposite direction on the map).  I decided this fellow wasn't going to be a lot of help.

When it came down to it, it was this lack of company and so lack of navigational support that swayed my decision to call it.  I was a few miles out from the checkpoint at 39 miles and I sat on a ladder style and had a long think.  I acknowledged that I was tired and in a slump energy wise (something I had the experience to know that if I just kept going and ate properly, I would pull out of).  From the next checkpoint, the distance was roughly 25 miles.  I knew I could slog through 25 miles if I needed to and that, at some point I would feel better and be able to run a bit more.  I considered the cut off times.  I could easily make the 47 mile one but thought it would get tighter for the next two.  I now think I was wrong in this and, time wise, I would have been fine.  What was clear is that I was going to be running in the dark.  I had already made a few navigational errors in daylight and with the lack of company, I really didn't fancy doing the last ten miles in the dark, tired and on my own.  I could have prepared better for this by recceing the course and by taking a gps unit that I could have downloaded the course to as a back up.  I made the decision sat on the ladder style to drop out at the next aid station.  It's true to say that my miscalculation on cut off points influenced this decision but the main reason was fear of getting lost in the dark.

Other factors:
I was tired but I wasn't hurting.  I had a run a few days later and felt fine.  I wasn't hobbling around Melrose afterwards.  I think if I had carried on, I would have probably picked up a hobble or worse.  I wasn't enjoying myself and did think that I could finish now at a reasonable time and still go for a pizza rather than finishing in the middle of the night.

It's important to say that I was happy with the decision and I enjoyed the experience.  It would obviously have been good to finish but I learnt a lot and will be back one day to bag a 100k.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Souther Fell

from the start of the track looking up towards The Tongue, Souther Fell is on the left
summit dork
summit dork

A bit of a change and a run I had been checking out for a while, always thinking about stopping off on the way back from Penrith.

This was a warm after work run. From Mungrisdale we ran up the road and took the track along the side of the River Glenderamackin crossing the river at the big path junction and turning back to run over Souther Fell.

After some dorking around, we carried on over, taking the steep track back down to the pub.  The last field is private ground so we were good and ran along the wall until the path joined the road then we ran the mile or so back along the road before having a nice cold pint at the pub.

Monday, June 29, 2015


great views from Dodd summit
Nice evening run out with Gerard and Jonathan.  Slightly different from the usual route up but a nice run down the singletrack through the woods.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Langdale Fells

Dean towards the end of Jack's Rake

Seven Wainwrights today plus Jack's Rake on Pavey Ark, some classic Lake District fells.  We set off from The Stickle Barn, straight up the steep path to Stickle Tarn, around to the right and up the thrilling Jack's Rake on to Pavey Ark.  From here there was a choice of either Sergeant Man or High Raise.  Whichever we chose, we would go on to the other one next.  We ended up going up to Sergeant Man and then on to High Raise, turning around to bag Thunacar Knott, not an impressive peak but seemingly the natural high point of this range.  Then on to Harrison Stickle, Pike of Stickle and catching Loft Crag on the way back.

across Stickle Tarn Jack's Race sloping right to left

great little scramble

Dean tops out on Pavey Ark

up on Sergeant Man

High Raise
Thunacar Knott

Pike of Stickle

Loft Crag, Pike of Stickle behind

Monday, June 22, 2015

A bit of Hadrian's Wall

After 16 miles of St Bega wonderousness on the Saturday, I was hoping for something a little bit different on the Monday.  Jonathan had also taken a day off from work but due to his lady needs, he needed to be in Dalston for a certain time.  Meanwhile, Howard's lady needs meant that he wanted to head towards Dumfries.  I should point out that I am referring to their needs to be with their respective ladies, not any particular feminine attribute of either Howard or Jonathan.  

I thought the perfect option would be a look along Hadrian's Wall.  Running guru Howard did the whole thing as one of his first longer runs, so he knew the area well and had several books and maps.  Jonathan is always asking to do "trail rather than fell" I think meaning less climbing, so I thought a two car linear run would fit the bill.

As it turned out, Jonathan decided he needed longer to prepare himself for said lady union and eponymously didn't come, an activity known as #ashworthing among my little group of running buddies.  Howard was still game but having just the one car meant that an out and back was the best option.

We parked at Greenhead, just away from the wall and then followed the track.  As it was a Monday, we saw a lot of people coming towards us, more than likely finishing a long weekend trek of the whole wall.  I think Howard said it was about 80 miles.  As we set off, Howard said something like, "I think we'll only have time for about 24 miles."  I grumbled some non-committal response and we headed off.  It was a bit weird because I think the people coming the other way thought we were perhaps running the whole way.

It's a very nice and well marked route along the wall.  There is a event, The Wall.  It doesn't get good reviews.  The trail goes right next to the wall (actually on top of it at one point) and there are mile castles, forts and other ruined buildings along the way.  It has quite a lot of steep up and downs but the elevation each time is fairly small, making them more manageable.  We went along to the big fort at Housesteads and back.

It's fair to say that Howard pushed the pace and I was flagging on the way back, taking some of the lower options as he continued on the higher path.  Back at the car we had 20 miles under our belts, I dropped Howard at Carlisle train station and then headed home.

we had pretty good weather all day.  You could see distant rain moving all around.

these ladder styles get a lot harder to climb later on in the run

at the highest point

a lot of up and down

the famous tree

Howard pushing on

Thirlwall Castle, near the start/end of our run.  Not in bad nick for about 700 years old.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

St Bega's Ultra Recce run

climbing up through Honister Slate Mine - biggest climb of the route

all set.  Jonathan forgot his PE kit.  Lined up in heigh order, I'm the small fry on the right

the face of innocence
The St Bega Ultra, our local ultra race and one which my little fell running group Hardly AC have a special connection with.  We count amongst our ranks a previous winner, nervous first timers and those that have ardently stated that they will never again undertake such a momentous task.  It's touted as an ideal first ultra race at a mere 35 miles (psst, closer to 37) but you can make it as tough, or as relatively easy as you want.  Today we had planned a recce of the hilly middle section.  From the end of the first flatter section at Rosthwaite (although we actually got dropped off a bit earlier at Grange) over the main climb of the route at Honister Slate mine across the open fells, descending to Ennerdale along the valley and then to our cars at Ennerdale Bleach Green car park at the far end of the lake.  

Today, race director, Jon had managed to squeeze us all into his camper van and we enjoyed a cosy ride and interesting conversation to the start point.

This is a good bit of the race to recce.  There are a few little turn offs that it's worth knowing about, like the route out of Rosthwaite through the youth hostel and the turn up the steep grass bank onto the bridleway.  Once you are on the track across the fells and have found the drop down Loft Beck, the navigation becomes a lot easier.

drop off point in Grange

we're a serious bunch

Just outside of Rosthwaite is a steep short climb up a grassy bank onto the bridleway up to Honister.  We tried to tire Howard out by sending him back down to run up again, supposedly to get a better photo.  It didn't work.

The bridleway goes alongside the road at Honister, crossing the road to the Slate Mine.  This picture is taken at the start of the climb through Honister Slate Mine.  These two reprobates still having fun.

the weather closed in, as it often does, over the tops.  There is a good track and cairns to follow but some basic navigation ability is needed.

the entrance to the steep drop down Loft Beck.  Ennerdale Valley below.  This is a steep descent but there is a decent stepped path so should pose no real problem if you take your time.

looking back up

The track is a lot nicer along Ennerdale valley and it's an opportunity to get a few fast miles in, but a lot of people are caught out by how long this section is.  Trail shoes, rather than fell shoes, help to dampen out some of the sharper stones that can hurt your feet after a while.

The whole team got back to the cars safe and well.  It was certainly nice not to have to ferry people back to Rosthwaite.  It had been a hot and muggy day so we went our separate ways for refreshment and rest.

Thanks again to Jon for the lift (and the SBU35 in training shirts).  This really is a great event, get yourself entered before it's too late.